1.25.2010


www.ourstage.com


Yes, it's me. I know it says "Bambo Syndicate", but that's only because the OurStage account is in that name, and garageband is acting all screwed up these days. Besides, they don't give you an option to embed. Just about the only thing they've got going for them is that you can upload songs that are very, very lengthy. And you can upload a LOT of them.

This song is ery much a work in progress...I'm writing some more lyrics and will most certainly pull a few from this version. Hopefully I'll get to record it on some better equipment with a full-fledged musical arrangement sometime soon. Hoped to do it Saturday, but the weather isn't going to cooperate. At any rate, I do like the song, quite a lot. It will be better when the revisions are made and who knows but that it might inspire me to write some more stuff along these lines. Better than the mopey-dopey melancholy shit I usually come up with (that's not counting the Bambo Syndicate stuff, which is in a league of it's own).
I'm bored as hell this morning, with no real reason to believe that I won't be bored as hell all day long. Not that I don't have anything to do...I could read a book, listen to some music, surf the Internet, write some lyrics and maybe even a song to put them to, pull out the bass guitar and play it, or maybe the guitar...God knows there is plenty I could do in regards to house work. And yet I can't seem to get motivated to do ANY of it. I've been in a kind of "dumbed down" state of emotional health lately. No feelings... Maybe that's going a little too far in describing it, but not by much.

I'm in this stage between depression and mania...which is probably exactly where I SHOULD be in the grand scheme of things. Only problem is that my emotions tend to be limited to one or the other of the extremes. I start to get anxious wondering which way the pendulem is going to swing. If it goes back into depression (as it generally does) then I've got that whole shit-mess to deal with. But if I start feeling pretty good, the way I'd like to feel all the time, I worry that it will get out of hand and escalate into the realms of the psychotic. Almost as bad is the certain knowledge that the good feelings, what I have no doubt are the NORMAL feelings a man should have, simply WILL NOT LAST. I don't know how long they will be around, but I do know that it won't be long, and this drags me back down, probably even a little further, into the depression. Nothing helps, because it's not a choice I make. It's a chemical fuck-up in my brain. I really need to find some kind of perspective from which I can successfully deal with this. I should probably find some kind of group therapy and, at the least, a psychiatrist or psychologist I can visit on a regular basis. Too bad I get bored with the former and scared that the latter will resort to more medication to deal with these issues. I'd almost be willing to get on some really strong stuff just to smother all the thoughts that constantly whirl around in my head, but I can's abide the idea of someone else having to wipe drool from my mouth and shit off my ass because I'm too drugged up to do it myself.

I hate to bring marijuana back into the flow of the last two weeks worth of posts, but for anyone out there who has a problem with my history of pot smoking, I would only like to say that one of the primary reasons (if not THE most important reason) that I ever smoked pot was to calm down the barrage of thoughts that plague me. Of course I like the way it makes me feel (I would like to say MADE me feel, but at this point, despite New Years resolutions and such, I can't rule out it's therapeutic benefits). It lifts me out of the hardcore depression...lately it's seemed to lift me a little TOO HIGH, up to the verge of psychosis. But that can be regulated. Finding a happy medium is key, and I have yet to do that. Plus, it's a drag keeping it secret. My son does not need to know about my smoking...but he knows what it smells like on the breath and clothers etc., so I can't be sure that he doesn't ALREADY know. I hope not...not because I want to hide anything from him or that I think he would take it badly (he probably would, but I think it would pass when he came to comprehend what it's for in my life). I only want to wait until he's older. I don't want him to think, "Well, Dad does it, so it must be okay if I do it, too"... I really, really don't believe that would be his reaction, because he's firmly entrenched in the anti-drug mindset (which is EXACTLY where I want him to be). In a few years I'll have a talk with him (unless something happens that will require the conversation to take place sooner) and let him know WHY I use(d) marijuana. Hopefully it won't be a big deal.

Alas, I did not mean to speak at such length about the subject. I was going on about my bipolar, wasn't I? Well, it sucks. That's all I have to add to what I wrote earlier. It's a drag. It bruises the psyche.

I'm going to have to start watching my diet a little more closely than I have been. The low-fat diet seemed to do me good, but I haven't had any luck sticking to it. Juana's Mexican food, donuts, brownies, brisket, all-you-can-eat buffets at the Golden Corral...all that and more. I've had a series of chest pains over the course of the last few weeks and though I don't know if the "bad food" is the cause, it may well be, in which case I should (and WANT TO) scale 'er back and suffer hunger for the sake of my heart. Just yesterday I bent over to pick something off of a table and WHAM! It felt like my heart was being stuck with several needles. That can't be good. Obviously I have not come to the point where I think I need to go to the emergency room or even make an appointment with a doctor (as if they would be able to see me in the next couple of weeks, anyway). Most of the pains seem like they could be related to GERD, like muscle pain. But if I have another one of those "needle prick" episodes I will most likely give the doc a call.

I'm probably going to do some recording at my friend's house this weekend, unless the weather gets bad. Jonathon Conder said there may be another big ass winter storm coming this way on Thursday, and that might curtail my plans. I ain't gonna drive on no ice. I hope that's not the case, because we had planned on going to see my brother's band play a gig at some bar. Both of us, my friend and I, used to play in that band. I bowed out gracefully almost 2 years ago, citing continuing hearing loss and the disruption of essential sleep patterns. My buddy wanted to leave on his own accord, but they let him go themselves before he had a chance to defect. It was kind of funny, actually. He'd told me that he was only going to play with them for one more month, then leave for (what I consider to be) legitimate reasons. 3 weeks into that month and he gets a call..."Well, we know you don't like to play 'one-night-only' gigs, so if you don't want to come out tonight, that's okay. We'll understand." Ha! They'd played another show just a month or two before and for whatever reason he wasn't asked to come along. Whatever. The long and short of it is that we both played with them. Neither one of us holds any kind of resentful feelings or grudges against anyone in the band. On the contrary. We like just about everyone in it. Personally, I'm just looking forward to hearing what it sounds like without my buddy's keyboards in the mix. And I would be lying if I didn't say that I'll be critiquing the bassist's style and technique. They are down to a quartet, with one of the instruments being an alto saxophone, so you might as well call them a trio/rhythm section. Should be fun. If we're real lucky a bar fight will break out. And if we're REALLY, REALLY lucky, it will be a cat fight.

As for the recording we're hoping to do earlier in the day, I'm not sure what I want to play. I'm kind of getting tired of trying to lay down tracks of the stuff I've had floating around for years. I never seem to have much luck with them. Maybe I should write a couple of new ones in the next few days and "get them on tape" while they're still fresh. Or perhaps I should just throw something together on the spot? That could be fun. No matter. I just want to accomplish something, however I choose to do it. I wrote a silly song a few days ago about a death row inmate, but I'm not sure if that's something I want to pull out, for a couple of reasons. Number one: I don't know that anybody other than myself would find it humorous. The subject matter is, indeed, rather grim. Number 2: I want to record a SERIOUS song. I don't want to gain a reputation of a clown who only writes goofy shit.

We shall see and what will be will be. I'll write the words to wacky death row song and post them BELOW this one.
"DEAD MAN TALKING"

Well, I'm sittin' here in this dirty cell
Just waitin' for the preacher man to send me to hell

It was a county law man put me here
He had a judge in his pocket and a bug in his ear

Now I swear to high heaven I'm an innocent man
I done been framed with a gun in my hand

So a man with a badge slapped the cuffs on my hand
I was fixin' to use 'em 'til he fucked up my plan

So the long and the short's that I wound up here
They give me an appointment with the 'lectric chair

CHORUS:

Now I'm just a dead man walking
But I don't need a crutch
I'm just a dead man talking
But I'm talking too much

Missionary man said he'd give me some hope
I said, "No thanks, sir, give me soap-on-a-rope"

Now my days of bar-hoppin' been nipped in the bud
All the blood and the guts and the beer and the mud

Now the only bars I see anymore
Are the bars on the windows and the ones on the doors
(...and there ain't no bouncer to kick me out, now)

REPEAT CHORUS

Now I ain't too dumb, I'm quite well read
I got a stack of dirty magazines under m'bed

My cell-mate's a good 'un, he's in here for life
He calls me his husband and I call him my wife
(...that's the arrangement...ain't too worried about Adam & Steve)

Well, the food in here, Lord, it ain't too good
Water's gone bad and the bread tastes like wood

I don't ask much, but I'll make you a deal
I want the GOOD kind of brownies for my last meal

REPEAT CHORUS

Don't want nobody to sing me back home
Tell Porter and Hag I'm just too far gone

They say Ol' Sparky he's a terrible thing
Sometimes at midnight you can hear him sing

The Warden don't like me, he's a son-of-a-bitch
But I'll sure enough respect when his hand's on the switch
(...though I somehow doubt the feeling will be mutual)

There ain't no denying that day's bound to come
Say goodbye to my wife, say goodbye to my sons

REPEAT CHORUS

Sounds mighty hard but it's the stone cold truth
Eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth
(...and I took a man's LIFE!)

Yes, I took a man's life and I still don't care
When I get down to hell I'm gonna see him there

When the juice starts to flow through that killin' machine
Your eyes'll pop out and your shorts will turn green

I done seventy days down in the hole
You can take my body but you can't have my soul

Yeah, I sold it cheap and a long time ago
Devil come to collect, put me here on death row

So don't pray for me, mama, the Lord don't hear
He's on the Warden's side, don't you waste no tears
(...He's on the side of the law now
He ain't showin' no favoritism
I can't be forgiven
For the life I was living
So carry me away
And use a silver spade)

REPEAT CHORUS

1.15.10

1.24.2010

I watched this show every week when I was a youngster. With all the subliminal drug references you would have thought I'd be a hardcore junkie by now.


1.23.2010


This is happening tonight at the Farmer's Market in Oklahoma City. If I weren't so broke I GUARANTEE you I would be there.

1.21.2010

Jónsi on WNYC / Soundcheck by Jónsi
"How you experience everything is up to you. Your reactions need not be automatic or similar to ones you have had before." - Neale Donald Walsch

I need to memorize that.

Last night marked one year since the passing of our beloved dog Simba Limba Louie. Even now we have not quite become used to him being gone. He is missed.

A very thick fog descended upon our neighborhood earlier this week. The view from our lawn was quite nice. It reminded me of the cover art from William Ackerman's "Passage" album, so I decided to take a few photos. Here are three.





It would appear that Oliver, the stray cat we "adopted" a couple of weeks ago, has moved on to find greener pastures. I haven't seen hide nor hair of him in 3 days. I'd been leaving dry cat food in a bowl for him, and it kept coming up empty, so I thought he was at least swinging by to get a bite or two. But now I know better...

I opened the front door last night to see if he might be outside on the porch. I didn't see him immediately so I looked down at where his food bowl was. I saw a tail pointing away from it and thought he had finally come "home". I started to open the door just a little bit. It took me a couple of seconds, when the animal turned around, to realize that it was not "our" cat after all, but a rather large raccoon. It was feasting on the food I'd left for Oliver. It didn't seem to spooked at first, and we had a bit of a staring contest for at least a moment. I was fascinated, because I'd never seen a raccoon so close up except maybe at the zoo. I wanted to take a picture, but the batteries in our camera are dead so I was out of luck. Don't know why I opened the door a little more...raccoons are rabid, after all...but I did and that finally put the fear of God in him. He shuffled off into the night.

He came back not too long after that. I'm sure there was food he knew he'd left behind. It didn't take much to scare him away this time, as the novelty of his appearance had by now given way to a cautious reluctance to keep him from making these visits a regular habit. Taking on a wild kitty kat is one thing...I don't need or want a raccoon. It's bad enough that they get into my trash cans and scatter garbage all over my back lawn as often as they do.

Now that I think of it, leaving a bowl of cat food on the front porch is a REALLY dumb idea. Last night it was a raccoon up by my front door. Tonight it could be a skunk.

[Update 2:53 PM: Coaxed Oliver back to the house a couple of hours ago, having spotted him in the lot behind the back yard. Gave him a can of WET cat food...went ahead and fed him the whole can, since I don't know if he'll be back again and I don't want to be stuck with an extra can of "Special Kitty" (even if it DOES smell just like Spam and might actually be tasty).]

1.20.2010



...from POST REJECTS

Music Video of the Week: Richard Wagner

I know, I know. I posted a MVOTW by Wagner not too long ago. So I did. So what? I've listened to the Ring cycle so many times in the last couple of months it's a wonder I don't have it memorized...okay, maybe no "wonder"...after all, it is an amazingly complex work. At any rate, this performance is a good one. Those of you who don't appreciate opera (yet) are advised to take it in with an open mind. It really is the true "alternative music". Takes a little getting used to, but rewards.


scene from "Siegfried"
Richard Wagner

Searched facebook for people with my name. Here are five of 'em, and I think it's safe to say that not a single one is my doppelganger (at least I hope not).








Goodnight Vienna - John Lennon And Ringo Starr Tv Commercial -
Having broken my New Year's resolution over the course of the last 48 hours, I thought I would list the pros and cons of this latest experience. Perhaps this will be of use at a later date when I reconsider all the options again.

PRO: This particular bud smelled and tasted very, very good. That's usually a good harbinger.

PRO: It's effect on my enjoyment of music was typically remarkable. I don't think I've ever heard Mahler's sixth symphony like I did Monday night. Wagner's "Siegfried" sounded awesome. Also "grooved" to the classical and opera channels on Sirius XM. I don't know how many stoners out there dig the old school music when flying high, but I love it and prefer it to any other genre.

CON: My sleep patterns kind of got shaken up. This happens quite a lot to me when I mix Ambien and THC. Woke up at 5:00 am yesterday morning. Couldn't go back to sleep. It was 4:30 this morning when I woke up (with the aid of my wife's peculiar brand of snoring). I was able to fall back to sleep this time...but I had to put one of Rick Wakeman's New-Agey CDs on the stereo to help lull me back to my dreams.

CON: The dry mouth was pretty bad both Monday and Tuesday night while I was trying to sleep. Unsavory as it may be to contemplate, my breath reeked. Tasted awful.

PRO: Pickles tasted real, real good. The munchies made even the most "blah" food items in the house taste wonderful. This was actually a good thing, seeing as how we're pretty much down to JUST the "blah" food items.

CON: I ate WAY too many pickles.

PRO: Guided by the Weed Muse I produced and effects-laden re-mix of Henryk Gorecki's "Totus Tuus". I must have listened to that thing 10 times, it was SO beautiful. Listened to some of my other, more "ambient" Bambo stuff with a friend and found myself in a real nice zone.

CON: Noticed a new sound that has become manifest in my tinitus and it drove me crazy...well, ALMOST crazy. I could tell I was on the dividing line. I just started thinking how I would ALWAYS have this sound in my head, that it would NEVER go away. I was afraid that I would never be able to "get used to it" like I have the other ringing noise (not that I've ever been able to completely take it for granted, but what are you going to do, eh?). The noise was really noticeable while listening to the lower volume portions of the Gorecki re-mix and it distracted me. I was afraid I would never be able to listen to this kind of music again. I had to keep telling myself that it is a part of me, it's part of who I am, that it should be normal for me by now. But that thought alternately comforted and depressed. This has happened a few times in the recent past (though without the new sound), so at least it wasn't something new.

I guess that's about it. I'd say the pros and cons more or less cancelled each other out. Nothing worse than the stuff I'd originally thought would help me kick it. Nothing so incredible that I'd want to go back to being an everyday stoner. We'll just have to wait and see what happens. It seems like every time I do make some kind of commitment, though they obviously have not been 100% honored, I use less and less...so maybe there will come a time, sooner or later, when I'll just lose interest entirely and the end result will ultimately be the same. Even now, though the care package is long gone, I'm not feeming for more, and that is NOT normal for me.

1.19.2010

It's five-thirty and I've snuck out of bed because I can't sleep. My head is killing me...my mouth is tundra-dry. All symptoms that come with the territory of...

Well, I don't want to talk about it in too much detail. Suffice to say that if you read my posts from the first couple days of the year you will know what I mean when I tell you that the New Years resolution turned out to be something I wasn't able to pull off, despite the truth of everything I said, every reason I had to try it. I wanted to prove wrong the old saw that "New Years resolutions are only made to be broken". Alas, my determination proved fleeting. There is likely an almost universal truth to the saying, because I don't think I've ever been consistent about them and I can't say I know anyone else who has, either.

Besides, it's not as if I actually totally reneged on it. I don't think I ever out-and-out set-in-stone laid down the law about NEVER doing it again... No, I left behind some loopholes, and that will be my excuse. When I said I wanted to stop doing it, what I meant was I'm going to stop BUYING IT. I'm going to stop blazing through a whole bag until I'm numb. But I suppose it's okay to accept the generosity of good friends, even to the extent of accepting a couple of buds to take home. Keep it regulated, you know? Don't let it get out of hand. Surely that's enough to keep me from feeling like a loser when I contemplate the failure of the first resolution of a new decade.

Fuck it, eh? Just fuck it. It's kind of like that episode of "M*A*S*H" where Hawkeye bets he can go without a drink for 24 hours. By the time 23 of them had past he was driving everybody crazy. He was wrecked. Just as the time limit is almost over with he finds himself in the officer's club ordering a shot of something strong. The other guys are sitting at the bar and the responses range from "Oh, Hawkeye, you were so close", to the standard, "It's okay, son, a place like this would cause any man to need a little something to keep his head on straight". Hawkeye rationalizes and fidgets and then rationalizes some more until he eventually says, "I need this drink". This admission quietens down his friends, and he places the glass to his lips...but he doesn't drink. As he lowers the glass he says, "I'll drink this when I WANT to drink it, not because I NEED to."

Sounds like your typical Alcoholics Anonymous line, huh? Then again, come to think of it, my situation is not really like that at all...Pierce didn't take that drink. He admitted that he may have wanted it, but that he didn't need it. Yet if you dig a little deeper you might find a similarity or two with my predicament. The main one being that I don't really feel like I NEED my vice, but that I want it. In other words, I don't feel like I'm "mentally addicted"...just thought it might be fun to spend an evening looking at the pretty lights behind my closed eyes that dance to the beat of the music. Still a little freaky, I admit. But I don't think I've run out of ways to keep it in perspective.

So, for better or worse, my aching head and early morning insomnia are the direct result of my inability to "kick a habit". Of course I'm disappointed that I couldn't ride it out full steam ahead. Still...what the hell, you know? A little break from the norm is a good thing, I would think.

1.15.2010

Standing in line at the Golden Corral tonight and this guy behind us is talking about Haiti. He ends by saying, "Oh, it's not so bad there...I saw the pictures." Surely, I thought, the guy was only joking. But one look at him convinced me that this was not the case.

A couple of rows over an old lady choked on her food and was receiving the Heimlech manouver while those around her table rubber-necked. I thought how awful it would be if the procedure failed and the paramedics had to be called in. Having someone carried out of a restaurant on a stretcher would be enough to make anyone lose their appetite. Thankfully it all worked out just fine. She expelled the offending morsel and was well enough to walk out on her own accord.

The fog outside tonight is thicker than I've seen it in years.

I bought a gallon of "Best Choice" brand Extra Hot dill pickles a couple of days ago. Let me tell you, folks, they weren't lying when they called 'em "extra hot". Whooo, boy. My tongue throbs with pain by the time I'm 3/4ths of the way into one. I'm not even typically a huge "hot stuff" eater, but I love these suckers.

1.11.2010

"Let's trade in all our judging for appreciating. Let's lay down our righteousness and just be together." - Ram Dass

"Everything changes once we identify with being the witness to the story, instead of the actor in it." - Ram Dass

"As long as you have certain desires about how it ought to be you can't see how it is." - Ram Dass

An Unsolicited Memory (Number One in a Series)

When I was a sophomore or junior in high school (can’t remember which) I attended the Stan Kenton Jazz Clinic during the summer. It was a 5 day camp that took place at the University of Texas in San Antonio. They put you up in the dormitory and during the day you would go to classes that were taught by people associated with jazz legend Stan Kenton’s big band. His band members, his arrangers, people like that. You’d be assigned to one of several bands according to how well you did at an audition, then the best band got to open for Kenton’s band in a concert that took place on the last night. I’m not sure if Kenton himself was there or not. He was pretty old by then, but I had seen him play a show not too long before this, so there’s a good chance that he was, in fact, present.

Which is all fine and good. Loads of fun already. But the real good times took place in the late afternoon and evening when all the “educating” was done. It’s not hard to strike up a conversation and/or a “temporary friendship” with members of the opposite sex when you share a common interest in jazz music and you both play a musical instrument (extra points for actually playing the SAME instrument). So that was great but, even so, it’s not what I remember most vividly about the week.

The college had an Olympic size swimming pool, complete with diving platforms and the works. I don’t know how many of you have seen the diving boards used in the Olympic games, but they are TALL. There are two of them, and the highest is so tall that only the university’s swim team was allowed to use it. Not meaning to say that the one in the middle didn’t look intimidating…it’s just that it wasn’t quite as ominous, being about halfway between the ground and the top board.

Oh, it did look intimidating, and perhaps that’s why I thought it would be a cool experience to jump from it. The key word being “jump”, because I was no diver. After all, I always had a great time jumping off of the “high board” at the Municipal swimming pool in my hometown. So what if the platform was two and a half times higher than the board at the pool?

So I climb up the steps. If memory serves there were actual steps, not a ladder, as I was accustomed to. That was probably something that emboldened me. I never would have climbed the rungs of a ladder to get up there. But stair steps was another story.

I got up there and looked over the edge…at which point I had to ask myself, “What the hell have I done?” What was I thinking? I knew I had a fear of heights. I guess the idea of water below made me temporarily forget. But it all came flooding back when I judged the distance between where I was and where I would land. I don’t think I was even afraid of hitting the water the wrong way and getting hurt, though I’m sure that crossed my mind as well. This was an irrational fear, I understood that, but I wasn’t able to process the “irrational” part.

I decided I couldn’t go through with it. No way. It didn’t take too long to reach that decision. I turned around and headed back for the steps, letting other, braver souls pass by. But when I looked below to take that first step I saw something that made my heart sink…

The steps were drenched with water from the wet feet of divers returning for another jump. So wet that they glistened in the sun. They looked so slippery that I doubted a ladder would have been any easier for me to climb down. You see, I don’t really have too much of a problem with climbing up…it’s the going down that scares me. And I was scared, I tell you. Terrified at the prospect of slipping and falling to the concrete. Plus, there were other swimmers climbing up, as if they were determined to use this particular platform since the higher one was off limits. Squeezing by them not only increased the danger level, it would also make me look like a yellow-bellied chicken.

So the choice was cut-and-dried. Either walk down the slippery steps or jump into the water. If ever I was between a rock and a hard place, this was the time. Another glance over the edge into the water and I made my decision. It all came down to this: water or concrete. Which would cause the most damage? Hypothetically, of course. And I decided, taking into consideration the distance between myself and the water/concrete, that I would have to grit my teeth and take the plunge.

So that’s what I did. I did everything in my power to remain in an upright position so the jump wouldn’t turn into what my friends and I used to call “a belly buster”. I’m sure, from this height, a “belly buster” could have easily become a “head buster” or a “back buster”. At any rate, I did all I could to avoid a “buster” of any sort. I’d have hated for my parents to have to drive all the way down from Oklahoma to San Antonio, Texas, to visit me in the hospital.

As it turned out I was very lucky…and “luck” is all it was. I went into the deep end without a hitch, re-surfaced, looked up at the diving board and thanked the gods that I was okay. No fatal “busters” this time around. I thought, “What the hell was I thinking???”

I wish I could remember whether or not I wanted to do it again after it was all over. Looking back at the experience now I would say probably not. Surely not. What kind of a fool would put himself through that again, even if the successful attempt had emboldened him? Surely I didn’t think that my fear of heights had been conquered by this one occasion?

But then again, I don’t know. There’s every chance in the world that the only reason I didn’t give a repeat performance was prevented by a lifeguard insistently pointing out that the boards were for DIVING, not for JUMPING.

There’s GOT to be some kind of metaphorical significance in all this…

1.10.2010

I get old. I get ugly. I get weak. I'm not sure that "my best days are ahead of me." It doesn't seem that way. I'm tired. I'm lonely. I'm bored. All states of mind that I have chosen to put myself into...each one of them easily remedied, and yet...

17 years of smoking pot, not caring about what it was doing to me, emotionally, physically, maybe even spiritually. I will give it credit for opening my eyes to new ways of perceiving my inner world. But the other stuff? I'm only just now realizing the extent of the damage.

For instance...music is my first love. No one who knows me can think of me without also thinking of music. It has always been a huge part of who I am and my personality is informed by it. And yet, now I have to ask myself what it is I like about whatever it is I'm listening to. I have to mentally search out ways to enjoy it...and I know that sounds odd. The point is that I am afraid I'm losing my ability to appreciate it.

And the reason for this, I believe, has everything to do with my consumption of marijuana during the last one-third of my life.

When I first started getting high I only did it because of the way it seemed to make music sound so much "better". I now realize that it didn't make it sound "better", only "different", and I was ready for that. From the time I began smoking until now I've always kept "listening to music" on the list of things I will do EVERY TIME I get stoned. Unfortunately, in this quest for "new sonic experiences" I found myself not wanting to hear the same album twice. I didn't feel like I needed to. But the fact is, in the real world a piece of music demands repeated listenings before a full appreciation of it is possible. I've always known this. But I ignored it, because I wasn't really looking to "appreciate" the songs/albums...I only wanted to "experience" them. Nothing wrong with that, I suppose. But it's not the way a true music lover should approach it.

Now that I'm not putting myself in that state-of-mind I find that I've lost my ability to hear music as I, deep down inside of me, know it should be heard. And I'm trying to get that back, but it's hard because I fear the damage is done and irrevocable. I pray not, because it is like air to me.

And what has this to do with getting old and ugly and yadda yadda yadda? Probably nothing. It just seemed like the thing to write about...sort of an example of how everything is changing, and how I'm not convinced that the changes are for the better.

You know what's really fucked up about it? I'm only 47 years old. That's not exactly ancient, is it? Why do I feel so wore out? I won't blame THAT on the pot. I believe it's the mental toil that comes from having bipolar disorder. Only lately have I come to truly realize what it has done and is doing to me. It frightens me to think that it will get worse before it gets better, but that's what I was told when I was first diagnosed with it. I can see why that would be, now. I recognize how it can take it's toll. It's not scary. It's frustrating. It's tiring. Up and down and up and down then up and down and up and down and you can NEVER get comfortable with it. Just think...how would you like to get excited about something and know, in the back of your mind, that you won't care about it the next day? Knowing also that you'll get excited about something else a few days later, but then, again, you instinctively know that it won't last long, either. So eventually you come to the point where you think, "Why bother?" Maybe I'm not explaining it well. It's just so frustrating to really fall in love with something knowing that you can't hold on to it, not even because you DON'T want to hang on, but because you've got this mental illness that's going to steal it away from you...or, better, it's going to take it away from you then MAYBE give it back at a later date. You can't even be grateful that you've got it back, because you know it's only gonna steal it again.

Alright...I've got nothing more to say about it. I don't want to think about it. When I was in school I was taught that escapism was a bad thing. Which is true, in a way. You can't exactly have a successful pragmatic society if everyone is walking around with their heads in the clouds. But escapism is all I can hope for. It's a necessity for me. You've probably heard it said that one of the symptoms of depression is that the victim finds it difficult to enjoy the things he normally does? That is TRUE. And it's one of my issues. How can I find escape when I don't even like to do the things that have always brought it to me?

God damn, it's frustrating.

1.09.2010

Jónsi mixing Animal Arithmetic from Jónsi on Vimeo.


Not a bad looking pussycat, eh?

This feller showed up on our porch about a week and a half ago. He seemed to be a little hungry so I gave him a bowl of milk. I figured I would go ahead and get some cheap cat food and see if he would come back around. We can't have an "indoors pet", but there's nothing stopping us from adopting one that stays outside. As expected, he gobbled it up, so the wife gave him a name: Oliver. Don't ask me where it comes from or what it signifies (if anything)...I kind of like it, so that's what he's called.

He has been making a couple of appearances every day now that he knows he'll get fed. But who knows? There's no reason to think that he doesn't have several other houses in the neighborhood where he begs for chow. He's not exactly a skinny cat.




1.06.2010

Music Video of the Week: The Damned


"Alone Again Or"
The Damned

I don't think I've mentioned it here, but my son won a chair in the OBU Honor Band. He was miffed because it was 4th chair and he'd wanted 1st. First off, I told him, 4th out of NINE doesn't sound too bad. Plus, most likely all the players in the first three chairs practiced their asses off to pass the audition. Bryan sat down with the music maybe four or five times and still passed. He's teaching himself how to play piano, guitar and bass (quite well, I might add) so he's "got a lot of irons in the fire". And that's just his MUSICAL pursuits. When you try to learn so many instruments it's hard to master just one.

The Honor Band concert was last night, and it was quite good. I wish it were not so, but I am a very critical listener. As such I tend to notice intonation problems more than your typical listener. Intonation is, I have found, the biggest hurdle band members have to deal with. As an "honor band" the issue was not so prevelant, but nonetheless apparent. And that's not meant to be a critcism whatsoever. Both the Junior High Honor Band (in which Bryan played) and it's High School counterpart had very few issues with it. In fact, their strengths made up for it. The High School Honor Band performed a piece called "An American Elegy" which was commisioned to commemorate the victims and survivors of the Columbine shootings 10 years ago. Simply awesome. The introduction reminded me of the overture from Wagner's "Das Rheingold", with it's gradual build up of tones. These kids had a real command of the dynamics of this song, and I was surprised at how deeply I was moved, especially by the introduction.

All in all, fine performance. Left Railey Chapel (where the concert took place), drove to Taco Bell, said "fuck the diet" and consumed 2 & 1/2 5-Layer Burritos from Taco Bell. Stopped at Conoco on the way back to put gas in the car and buy some anti-freeze. Should have known the anti-freeze would be sold out. Stopped at the Dollar Store when we got home, where, amazingly, they had plenty of the stuff in stock. Got to the house, very glad to get in out of the bitter cold this wacky state is experiencing. Spent a little time on the computer, listened to some Mozart, got in bed and tried, with very little success to fall asleep. I must have got tired trying because I did eventually doze off.
Haven't written much about my post-emergency health here lately. There hasn't been a whole lot to write about. Losing a lot of weight, even though I've taken several liberties with the diet I put myself on. Currently at 236, which is about 5 pounds down from this time last week. And that's with absolutely no exercise at all. I hope to start walking a couple of miles a day, but the weather of late has not permitted it. It doesn't look like it will let up any time soon, either. My doctor wants me to slim down into the 220s...that sounds to me as if it would be difficult to do, but then again I never would have thought I'd lose so much since all this began.

I am concerned now, though, about what's happening to me. There have been a couple of occasions in the last week or so where I had a bit of chest pain. I didn't think they were serious enough to warrant a trip to the emergency room, but then again, how would I know? I don't have a standard with which to measure the severity of each individual episode. Most of them seemed to be GERD related, but my medication seems to be effective in keeping me from having heartburn, so I just don't know.

Yesterday, however, was a little different. The pains lasted for longer periods of time. I thought maybe it was because my back was hurting very badly. A pain that feels like extreme soreness in the middle of the back and lower shoulders. No doubt the chest pain is caused by the soreness in the muscles in the immediate vicinity, but I worry because it seems to be centered in the immediate vicinity of the heart. As I said, they lasted longer than has been usual, but it really kind of scares me that they were recurring. The discomfort would settle down and then another 30 minutes or an hour they would return.

If it gets this way again I will probably break down and do something about it. So far, so good this morning.

1.05.2010

A blast from my past...

HO HO THE CLOWN



A legend in Oklahoma television broadcasting, I actually had my photograph taken with him back in 1988. I was wearing a cool Joy Division t-shirt with the cover of "Closer" on it. Jeez, I wish I knew what happened to that picture.

I WAS ON "THE RANT" LAST NIGHT!!!!"

"The Rant" is a public opinion spot on the local Oklahoma news broadcast from KFOR channel 4. It's basically a forum where people can e-mail short comments about a predetermined topic. 6 or 7 of these opinions are aired just before the weather forecast. It's the creation of news anchor Kevin Ogle, son of legendary news reporting pioneer Jack Ogle. His brother Kent, a superior anchor IMO, works the morning and noon shows. He also has a brother named Kelly who is the chief anchor at a rival station, KWTV. Kelly is well known for creating his own op-ed piece called "My 2 Cents". "The Rant" is almost certainly Kevin's attempt to steal some of Kelly's thunder. The only difference is that his "Rant" is made up of audience's responses (to be fair, Kevin almost always gives equal opportunity to both sides of any particular issue). Personally I prefer the "Rant" over Kelly's 2 Cents, because, face it, there are rarely occasions when I give a flying flip about what Kelly Ogle has to say, no matter who correct he is or how eloquently he presents his point of view. "The Rant" shows both sides of the coin, and a lot of the time the participants display just how backwards a lot of us Oklahomans really are. Who knows...the fact that they included my "rant" last night could very well place me right square in the middle of that category. That's fine by me! I've wanted to be on "The Rant" for a long time, and I do believe in what I wrote about.

The topic:

Trouble between cellmates at a prison in England. One prisoner is an atheist - the other a Christian. The atheist inmate complained that the Christian prisoner is a Bible thumper who won't quit talking about God. Authorities ended up moving the Christian to another cell. A bad precedent - caving to one prisoner's complaints? Or was it the right move to keep the peace?

My wife, quite unhappy with my answer, pointed out that I had dodged the actual question of whether the move was the right thing to do under the circumstances. She takes a very common (and reasonable) view: if a person is in prison they don't deserve to have ANY rights whatsoever, by virtue of the fact that they are incarcerated and shouldn't be pandered to. I can see how that makes perfect sense insomuch as a guilty verdict and a prison sentence strips a man of many of the rights he enjoyed as a free citizen.

But I think that viewpoint only stands from the outside looking in. Prisoners DO have rights, within the system. One of those rights is Freedom of Religion. I imagine they have Freedom of Speech up to a point. One might say, "But the Christian was only exercising those freedoms...religion and speech." And they would be absolutely right. But isn't it also true that the atheist has freedom FROM religion? Why should he be subjected to incessant proselytizing? Surely people from both sides can see the foolishness of the prison authorities in housing the two together in the first place. Take it a step further and imagine cells shared by a Muslim and a Christian, or a Satanist and a Christian, a Hindu and a Christian...there's a common denominator developing here...but then again, I'm sure those kinds of pairings happen all the time with no incidents. In fact, I would bet that solid friendships are likely forged in such situations by people who can respect others' faiths and mind their own business. You have to remember that the culprit in this "Rant" situation was "a Bible Thumper", and we all know what that means. The ONLY people who should have to live in a cell with a Bible Thumper is another Bible Thumper. Otherwise it should be considered cruel and unusual punishment. It sounds like I'm mocking, but I'm NOT.

That's what the atheist convict deserves, the majority insist. I say it's not for other prisoners to mete out punishment above and beyond what the prison system is capable of doing as it's duty, even if they don't think of what they are doing as "punishment"...just as I have no doubt that the majority would never admit that a continuous, endless bombardment of "God talk" should be considered as "punishment" in the first place. This is a point to which I disagree. Just think of it this way: how would you like it if the only television station you could get in your house was the Trinity Broadcasting Network and you had no way of turning the set off or the volume down? I think your ideas about this being "punishment" might change after a few days (I realize that there are those who watch absolutely nothing but TBN anyway, and I don't mean to offend these folks...but you have to admit that when you get to that point you have crossed the line into fanaticism).

But I suppose I should tell you my "Rant" response. And then I will try to defend it. Hopefully I won't/don't come off like one of the less tolerant "Ranters" that are always good for a chuckle or two.

Where's the "Christian compassion" in driving a man insane? I say preach the gospel, shut up and let God take care of it.

Okay, so I don't address the issue straight up. But as I see it, if the Bible Thumper had respected the atheists wishes, reasonable as they undeniably were, there would BE NO ISSUE. Sure, the Bible tells followers to go out and preach to all the world. But I've always been of the opinion that to "preach" does not necessarily mean "to speak". A man preaches the gospel by the life he lives. Think about it. I'm not saying that Christians shouldn't "preach" in the accepted use of the word. But to do it that way with someone who has already rejected the message seems disrespectful, especially in light of the fact that a "true Christian lifestyle" would have been much more persuasive at that point than the blah blah blah of a self-appointed prison evangelist.

Go ahead, I say. Preach your message. Extend the invitation. But then it's time to LIVE the message you preach, which is (or should be) "Love Your Neighbor as You Love Yourself". Treat him the way you would want to be treated. I doubt very seriously if this Bible Thumper would have appreciated repeated readings from the works of Bertrand Russell courtesy of his atheist cell mate. Or a pin-up poster of Madelyn Murray O'Hair hanging on the wall. Or God's name being used in vain constantly.

And maybe he got just that. Just maybe the separation wasn't at the sole instigation of the atheist. Which brings me back to the topic of last night's "Rant". I admit I sort of skirted the issue, but I thought that the underlying reasons were a lot more thought provoking than whether or not the prison folks did the right thing in separating them. The right thing? I wouldn't venture to say. The HUMANE thing? Absolutely. It seems like a winning situation for all involved. The atheist got some peace. The Christian got a whole 'nother soul to try and convert. The prison officials avoided a potentially serious situation...

...and I FINALLY got my e-mail shown on "The Rant"! I can't seem to wipe the smile off of my face! he he

1.04.2010

Springsteen Hammersmith Odeon 1975 DVD

It goes without saying that the 1975 Hammersmith Odeon concert DVD is essential viewing for any serious Bruce Springsteen fan. It's staggering to think that not only did the man command the stage so early in his career, but that he continues, 35 years later, to do the same. He never turned into the kind of artist who rests on his laurels, going on tour every couple of years so his great-great-great grand kids can pay for college tuition. The only artist I can think of who compares is Bob Dylan and, face it, Zimmy has not been nearly as consistent in releasing top notch albums as has the Boss. The Rolling Stones can boast of more longetivity, but their shows are so huge and lucrative only because all rock and roll lovers born between the years of 1962 to the present want to say, "Oh, yeah! I've SEEN the Stones!" Never mind that their performances are sloppy and they seem to be even a bit bored with themselves. They don't love the audience like Bruce Springsteen does.

A fact which was evident even as early as 1975, touring on the heels of his 3rd record, the established masterpiece "Born to Run". Even if he seems somewhat guarded it is still quite obvious that he's feeding off the vibe of the crowd. A gathering who, I might add, express their appreciation with the vigor and zeal of the newly converted. It didn't take too many years afterward for Springsteen to lower his guard and embrace his fans in a much more transparent manner, but make no mistake: that night at the Hammersmith Odeon he held every one of them in the palm of his hands and the regard was mutual.

Some have complained that the lighting in this DVD recording is too dark, insufficient. Maybe they're right up to a point. Personally, I think the spotlights playing on the deep shadow give the concert a nice ambience. Then there are those who have bitched and moaned about the "film quality". Please. It's a wonder (and a blessing) that this footage even exists at all. Besides, it's not THAT bad. It was filmed in 1975, for crying out loud, what do they expect? Blu-Ray picture quality? Surely no one, however, can complain about the sound. The DTS 5.1 Surround sound is awesome. Maybe the best 5.1 mix I've ever heard. If you close your eyes and wait until a song is over you can almost believe that you're sitting right in the middle of the crowd.

My only real complaint, and it is so trivial as to be laughable, is that STUPID HAT Springsteen wears during most of the performance! Maybe it was the equivalent of a security blanket. I guess that's all fine and good, but he reminded me of that doofus Adam Duritz (of Counting Crows), with his ridiculous thick dreadlocks...and I seem to recall Duritz gallivanting on the stage with a similar hat in some televised show I caught back when I actually liked his band (which is to say, before they started releasing shitty albums).

The musicianship is exactly what you'd expect from the E Street Band: top notch. It goes without saying that the songs, at least most of them, are just about as good as it gets. I've never cared all that much for Bruce's debut album, "Greetings from Asbury Park, N.J." but he infuses those tracks with such new life and relevence that I want to listen to it again to see what I've missed. In particular, "Lost in the Flood", which even I have to admit was probably the high point on "Greetings". This version takes it almost to the level of "Backstreets" and, gasp, even "Jungleland", both of which appear here in majestic versions. He takes, in my opinion, just a few too many liberties with the vocal part of the former, but "Jungleland" is almost perfect, especially Clarence Clemons' saxophone solo toward the end (as far as I'm concerned the Big Man is the only rock and roll saxophone player worth paying attention to...for more proof listen to his fragile, haunting solo in "Secret Garden").

Lots of songs from the second album, "The Wild, the Innocent & the E Street Shuffle", the best of which is probably the extended rendition of "Kitty's Back". Pianist Roy Bittan and the late, great keyboardist Danny Federici are given ample time for solos, both of which are jaw-dropping. "Kitty's Back" has a build-up and release that makes you want to stop whatever you're doing and just start dancing. It is that effective even in it's studio version (not an easy task to achieve, I assure you), but here, in the context of a live show, it is nothing short of exuberant.

Of course there was no way he wasn't going to do "Born to Run"...35 years later it's the same, only substitute "no way he wasn't going to" with "no way he COULDN'T do". For better or worse it is his signature song. That's not exactly a bad thing when you consider that it is very likely the PERFECT rock and roll song. That's just my opinion, based on my standards, of course. But surely if you disagree you still have to at least admit that it's on the short list. Sounds really good in this set, fresh off of the printing press, as it were.

"Thunder Road" is presented here in a stripped down version. Great songs hold up to such deconstruction. The version on the overlooked "MTV Plugged" live album features Bruce and Roy Bittan all on their own in a version that I almost think is better than the original. So, obviously I like this song preformed in such a sparse manner. That's what you get with the Hammersmith Odeon version.

I know...I know. I sound like a raving Bruce Springsteen fanatic. Sometimes I feel like that's exactly what I am. But most of the time I'm fairly realistic about what he's done, what he's capable of, where his music fits into the grand scheme of things... If I seem to go overboard just a little with this DVD it's because I am so excited about getting to see such a historic performance by a man who, regardless of what anyone may think of him, is an American icon and one of our countrie's great treasures.

If I may make a confession: when the terrorists attacked the Twin Towers on 9/11 it was something so unbelievable that I just couldn't bring myself to accept the full impact. Call it denial. I've no doubt I was one of many who had that reaction. But a week or so later Bruce Springsteen sang '"My City of Ruins" on the "America: A Tribute to Heroes" broadcast... what can I say? It broke the floodgates. In three and a half minutes he showed me all that was lost and could never be regained. He broke down my resistance and then, with the song's "Rise Up" finale he offered so much hope... hope in such a time, in such a situation. Can you even imagine that? The man stood there with guitar in hand, but Bruce Springsteen got out of the way so that the message could get through. Such strength to sing this overwhelming song when I'm sure every fiber of his body longed to just cry, weep, wail. And the message? Do not forget the pain. Never let the feelings fade from memory, hard as they are to bear. But even more importantly, don't forget that hope does not die, that faith is more than just a word in a book, that when all is said and done we really ARE in this thing together. And that we WILL "rise up".

So yeah, Bruce Springsteen is my hero. One of them, at least. I won't deny it and I'm not ashamed of it. There is something working through him that speaks to me, that moves me. His Muse must know me pretty well to give him words and lyrics that I can identify with so closely... that Muse must know a LOT of people, if you get what I'm saying. And it's sort of comforting to know that so many people have so much in common with me. I was going to say, "even if it's only the man's music", but it's not just that. We can relate because of the things that he sings about, important and real, threads that bind us all together. Lots of common denominators in there.

But where was I? Oh, yeah. The Hammersmith Odeon 1975 concert. Great show. That's about all I wanted to say about it. Great show.

1.03.2010

Heckle and Jeckle! I can't believe I forgot about these guys!




So, I’m sure you’re all wondering how my “quit smoking pot” New Year’s resolution is coming along. Admittedly it’s only been 3 days, but there was a time when I couldn’t make it even that long without a sack in my pocket.

It’s been fine, thank you, though I did have to toke until noon on the first in order to eradicate the quarter ounce I had received 3 or 4 days earlier. I’d been given a couple of bowls to tide me over about a week and a half ago. I could have just stopped then and there…I was more than prepared to do just that. But the deal was already in the making and the lure of a final hoorah was too much to resist.

The “charity” bowls were…I want to say “really good”, but I’d have to add that such a description only implies that the weed was incredibly potent. It brought me to the point where I was actually frightened to take another hit. I really wish I could explain the feeling/mindset…maybe that’s why I’m alternately fascinated and terrified by it. I cannot comprehend it or understand it at all. After all the years of getting high I automatically look at it as an adventure, and I suppose it still is. The only difference is that I can’t handle it like I used to. Because I’m older? I don’t think so, though that may play a role. Is it because of my bipolar and the medications I take for it? Again, I have doubts. Whatever the reason, I think it’s time I took it seriously before I go mad. And that is exactly what I fear will happen. I would go so far as to say that I believe I’ve skirted the edges of madness a few times while under the influence. Sounds really cool to put it that way…very Jim Morrison-esque. But every time I’ve “been there” it has been a mortifying experience. One that I don’t want to repeat…I mean, I’ve had times where I doubted my own perception of reality without the aid of narcotics. But I don’t have any control of when those occasions rear their ugly heads. I do know that they are magnified when brought on by chemical influence. Why do I take the chance, then?

The last bag was about the same. Unlike the usual routine, the first night was kind of “blah” and the second night the stuff kicked in pretty hard. I knew it was gonna get wild about 5 songs into the Bruce Springsteen Hammersmith Odeon 1975 DVD. I became caught up in listening for individual cheers in the audience applause. In the time between songs I would listen to the people who yelled…the whole intensity of the show itself, the idea (fascinating to me) that this show was recorded 35 years ago…ah, as you see I am stymied as to how I can convey it. It was GREAT, but at the same time I was freaked out by just how awesome it was. I had to turn it off, go into the bedroom, lie down and listen to some really challenging classical music just to occupy my brain and get it off of what had just happened.

Maybe that’s what makes it so weird. I LOVE the way it’s making me feel, and yet for some reason that very thing scares the hell out of me.

At any rate, it was pretty much the same thing until 12 o’clock on the first day of the new year/decade. I look back, even so early in the resolution, and I can’t figure out why I didn’t stop getting stoned the first time I thought I was going to die that hazy afternoon at Sam’s Club (see my previous post). It was never the same after that. Not that there weren’t some decent times between then and now (even if I CAN’T remember most of them). But the glory days were over. Marijuana has been like a traitorous lover who I’ve become so used to that I wouldn’t abandon her, even though she would like nothing more than to drag me down.

I’m sure, three months from now, I’ll start feeming again. I’ll have forgotten the power of the things that have made it so easy to consider quitting. I suppose I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it. For now I want nothing more than to be drug free.

Until the shit is legalized, that is! J