Photos

X

X

 

Moonlight 2

Moonlight 2

 

1100 Miles

1100 Miles

Advertisements

Death, Taxes make it official

In a move that failed to surprise industry insiders, pessimists, and doomsayers, Death and Taxes announced they will merge to form a new company called Inevitable, Inc.

“Too many people focus on positive synergies,” the parties announced in an official statement. “Since everyone knows Death and Taxes are inevitable – perhaps the only inevitable things in the world – we decided to form the ultimate double-negative. And last we checked, two negatives make a positive.”

First order of business? Litigation.

“As a merged powerhouse, we’ll have the legal muscle to trademark the phrase ‘death and taxes’ itself,” said Death, with obvious glee. “Anyone who utters those three simple words will pay us $10,000 for starters – or else.”

To that end, Inevitable, Inc. plans to use notorious law firm Bag, Tag, & Bill.

“We’ve got 500 lawsuits ready to hit the courts when the deal goes down, ” said the firm’s founding partner, Lawrence A. Bag III. “In fact, we’re looking forward to reading your blog entry.  If you’re not careful, you’ll rack up $50,000 in penalties within the first 300 words!”

Taxes adds, “That’s why we love that law firm. I mean, making pipsqueak blogs pay through the nose just for reporting about us? Priceless!”

Death chimes in, “It’s ‘win-win’ for us no matter how you slice it,” he says. “You pay for mentioning us; we get even more free publicity.”

When asked whether the strategy could backfire and cause media outlets to go silent about the merger and the company’s subsequent activities, Death responds with his trademark evil-genius laugh. “Ah, hah-hah-hah-ha! Resistance is futile! No one can resist bad news, so we expect thousands of stories from all outlets, to be followed by corresponding lawsuits that will rake in millions for us. Ah, hah-hah-hah-ha!”

Wall Street insiders expect the company to go public almost immediately.

“Who wouldn’t invest in Death and Taxes?” says E. Howard Bigger, Vice President for Consumer Exploitation at Goldman Sachs. “I mean, it’s in the name – Inevitable, Inc.  In a business where nothing is a sure thing, we’ve got a solid-gold exception,” he adds.  “Betting on death and taxes is a no-brainer!  Oh, did I say ‘death and taxes’?  You’re not recording this, are you?”

For the good of all mankind

I’ve had an awakening! This blog has wasted far too much time and energy on music, media, and even breakfast cereal. It’s time to impart the true wisdom I’ve gained over these forty-eight years, the knowledge that can help others as they wind their way through life, the kind that inspires people to find their own special path and see where it leads.

Yes, that’s my new mission. Real wisdom. We need a lot more of that.

So that’s what this blog is about.

Open the floodgates!

I can’t wait!

I’m ready.

Inspiration!

Shouldn’t be long now.

Deep breath.  Ahhhhhhhhhh!

Just get into that quiet place, that peaceful state of mind, and let it happen.

Patience.

As I said, I’m ready.

Like lightning, it strikes.

Instant. Like, one second there’s nothing, then suddenly the shining light of spiritual wisdom flows into you, cascades through your consciousness, and comes back out transcendent, translated into words, sentences, paragraphs that open your eyes to a new, better world, filled with the clarity and truth we’ve all been seeking since we first opened our eyes!.

Or maybe not.

Love

I can learn about a lot of things by talking to people, reading, and observing.  But love is not one of them. With love, I can understand what people tell me, I can grasp the concepts, I can empathize with books and music about it, but I can’t truly learn about it until I experience it first-hand.

And even now, at age 48, I am but a mere apprentice. I suspect I’m not alone in this situation. After all, love is messy, physical, spiritual, intellectual, sustaining, destroying, joyful, sad, and a hundred other things.

Todd Rundgren’s song “The Meaning of the Verb ‘to Love'” (dating from, of course, the middle of the self-actualizing 1970s) ends only with a question: “What does it mean to love?”

Well, the answer sure as hell ain’t in a song.

I’ve learned bits and pieces over the years, starting with innocent walks to school in the sixth grade, continuing with pain amid one or two bright spots through the end of high school, college failure that eventually made me a better person, a marriage during which my wife determined she was a lesbian (perfect for the old Jerry Springer show), and a much longer marriage that’s ending in a difficult, drawn-out divorce process despite the best intentions of two good people (confirming the cautionary tales I’ve heard for many years).  Whew!

Today, then, love for me is extremely painful.

But when I concentrate on doing what’s best for our  two children, I learn about the love that comes with parental responsibility.  In words taken from another Todd Rundgren song (and context altered), that’s “the most beautiful love of all.”

That Feeling

Y’know that feeling when you’re sure some aliens who can see only ultraviolet light are going to swoop down and snatch you? And they use some kind of flying carpet to transport you to their ship, which looks a little like a spherical television screen? And they sing by rubbing a couple of appendages together to make a high-pitched, whiny sound that somehow captivates you and makes you think of a bowl of Corn Flakes with milk and a couple of teaspoons of sugar? And the aliens are, like, laughing at you in a way you can tell is not charitable? And you’re offended because they don’t understand your complex inner life? Yeah, that feeling. That’s the one…

Nah. Neither do I.

World War III

“Did I do anything wrong today, or has the world always been like this and I’ve been too wrapped up in myself to notice?”

So says Arthur Dent, hapless Earthling, near the beginning of Douglas Adams’ Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. Tonight, I’m asking myself the same question.

You see, when I was in fourth or fifth grade, I was terrified that World War III would break out at any second, in the form of horrible atomic bomb devastation.

This obsession continued through high school, abetted by helpful TV movies such as “The Day After” (1983, first aired on the ABC network here in the USA) and “Threads,” the UK’s darker and much more disturbing take on the subject (1984).

In 1986, my brother Matt and I – both aged 18 – were talking about life choices, and he said something like, “It doesn’t matter. Everything will be dust in seven years anyway.”

To me, Matt didn’t sound unrealistic. I get the feeling lots of people coming of age in the ’80s held similarly dire opinions about the future.

Of course, we were wrong.

But maybe not as wrong as it would seem.

Today, war is all over the place. And, in the same way an atomic blast in the middle of a major city wouldn’t discriminate between soldiers and civilians, today’s wars kill civilian men, women, and children of all ages along with military and police forces.  Certainly, countless civilians were bombed to smithereens in World War II.  But today, it’s different. It’s personal and unpredictable – and there are hundreds of “sides” involved in today’s multiplicity of conflicts.  Clearly, this is not your grandfather’s war.  If you think in terms of “us against them,” “good guys vs. bad guys,” you are monstrously naive, if not delusional.

In a perverse way, maybe we in the US should be thankful that, after 9/11, virtually all the Ground Zeros of today’s random attacks, skirmishes, beheadings, and civil wars pop up thousands of miles away from our beloved homeland.  Of course, our unjustified hell-on-earth war on Iraq, which began more than a decade ago, effectively set some early front lines smack dab in the Middle East, focusing the “war on terror” far, far away from us.

And Afghanistan, where we actually had some justification for action, keeps shifting from sideshow to continual war to a steady state of unending unrest.

Now I’m no expert on international affairs (as if this post doesn’t make that fact abundantly clear), but I get the feeling the levels of tension and conflict around the world today are markedly different from those of the Cold War, with its pitting of Communism against Capitalism, the Soviet Union against the United States … These days, I can almost get nostalgic about how clear-cut those divisions were.

Today, it’s much more complicated.

And it might not be a stretch to say we’re in the middle of World War III – quite a different animal from World War II, Vietnam, or Korea, but certainly widespread, tragic, deadly, and unprecedented.

Or maybe, along the lines of what Douglas Adams’ befuddled Arthur Dent said at the beginning of his unfathomable galactic adventure, I’ve just been too wrapped up in myself to notice that the world has always been like this.

Deafening at Any Volume: The Flaming Lips’ Sgt. Pepper

Never a band to shy away from the impossible or ridiculous, the Flaming Lips raised some eyebrows late last year when they dared to release With a Little Help from My Fwends, a song-for-song remake of the Beatles’ 1967 landmark Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.

Founded more than 30 years ago in Oklahoma City, the Flaming Lips have championed musical experimentation and derring-do while maintaining a healthy following among fickle rock fans more likely to disown a group for a slight change in hairstyles than to dig in for the long haul. For this Sgt. Pepper remake, they tempted fate by inviting dozens of “fwends” to join in the festivities. The band used a similar strategy on an album of new material in 2012, where different guest artists appeared on each track.  This time, however, collaborators appear and re-appear in varying combinations throughout the album, resulting in some startling style and sound mash-ups.

01013 - The Flaming Lips - 7 Skies H3 - 01 - 12 Jacket (3mm SpinParticipants include the hyper-liberated Miley Cyrus (stop sticking your tongue out, Miley; we get it), the ever-humble Moby (electronica’s cool vegan alternative to Pat Boone), J. Mascis (indie rock guitar deity who’s been shredding longer than Hendrix roamed the Earth), versatile Canadian twins Tegan and Sara (Allmusic describes their sound as “a blend of punk pop and acoustic folk”; I give up and say “eclectic”), and many, many more.

The end result is a tasteful, exacting recreation of an iconic ’60s cultural watershed.

Just kidding – this is pure sacrilege; we’ve got laptop squiggles mocking the Beatles’ guitar flourishes on the title track, vocal scramblers derailing the most tuneful moments in “With a Little Help from My Friends,” dizzying tempo and pitch shifts everywhere, and an apparent commitment to offend even the most open-minded disciple of the Summer of Love’s reputed crowning achievement.  I mean, how dare they take a masterpiece and mangle it to bits?  To make matters worse, my copy has one of those “Parental Advisory / Explicit Content” warnings on the cover, and I think that’s just for some racy drawings – certainly not the lyrics.  This just gives the Beatles a bad name.

Why, for heaven’s sake, didn’t they record this version as just the Flaming Lips – one band – without a flood of unruly guests poking in and out at all angles?  Heck, screw the Lips.  Bring in Super Furry Animals – that admirably loopy psychedelic squad from deepest Wales. We know they would treat the Beatles’ signature statement with the respect it deserves while injecting it with enough 21st Century invention to make it interesting.

Look at the Amazon.com ratings for this Flaming Lips travesty – it’s like a reverse Bell Curve.  You’ve got your hardcore freaks (probably on meth or whatever it is the kids inhale these days) loving every minute of it, nearly the same number of people giving it the finger, and a few lost souls somewhere in the middle. Anything that’s this divisive can’t be good. Right?

Wrong!

I love this album.  It’s crazy, it’s irreverent, and – most of all – it’s a lot of fun.  In fact, I prefer two of the songs here to the sacrosanct originals: George Harrison’s “Within You (Without You)” benefits from the lack of instrumental formalism and stiff ’60s-soundtrack-exotic strings, and the nifty rhythms in “She’s Leaving Home” lift it out of ponderous melodrama quite nicely.

Don’t get me wrong.  Nothing replaces the Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper.  It’s a milestone – a culture-shocking, groundbreaking statement unleashed at just the right time.

And this Flaming Lips thing?  It’s not afraid to take the Great Work of Art off the shelf and subject it to all kinds of present-day technological indignities, silly reinterpretations, and digital demolition.

I understand the people who hate it.  Parts of it sound deafening and oppressive even at low volume.  But I don’t mind a little high-spirited drug-free brain-scrambling every once in a while, and I recommend it to anyone with an open mind, a healthy sense of humor, and a taste for adventure.