Thursday, May 31, 2018

Music Is A Drug

I am fascinated by this track "Hidden" by Rival Consoles (the nom de musique of English electronic musician Ryan Lee West), from his fourth studio album "Persona." It reminds me of a conversation I had with a friend a bit ago about music...

West says on his website:
"My music is generally inward looking. I like finding something about the self within music, that doesn't have to be specific but maybe asks something or reveals something. This record is a continuation on the self through electronic sounds. Like Legowelt once said ‘a synthesiser is like a translator for unknown emotions’, which I think sums up what I am trying to do. I think all these emotions we have make up our persona. So in a way by finding new ones you alter or expand your persona. And that is what I want my music to try to do. I deliberately aimed to be more sonically diverse with this record. I wanted to experiment more. I wanted to create new sounds and new emotions."

In my aforementioned conversation with a friend, I tried to outline my relationship with sound which has always been rather abstract. I took piano lessons briefly when I was young but it didn't take...reading music proved to be much harder for me than others in the class. They say "music is math" and I was horrible at math. There was clearly an intellectual component to learning and playing music that I did not relate to. But I do not respond to music intellectually. And intellectual music does not touch me. The complexity of Bach or Mahler--for the sake of complexity--does not move me. Instead, music for me is something...savage...holy...or I should say rather that I respond best to music that is savage and holy. Music that touches me moves me beyond intellect.

I like music with repetition (I loved disco when I was young)...but I also like a lot of other kinds of music too. I have realized that one of the things I like about rhythmic music is that it induces in me a kind of trance. I used to work at a metaphysical bookstore long ago and I had access to a lot of different types of spiritual traditions. One of the ones that drew me was the earth religions of Native Americans--there is a tradition of shamans who induce a trance in themselves to "journey" as it is called, which is sort of active imagining. It is used to gain insight or wisdom into a topic. It became popular with people in the New Age community as a way to get in touch with one's own psyche--and this is done to a single drum beat on a round Native American drum. I did a lot of reading on the subject and neuroscience research concluded that shamanic drumming does something to the brain called "driving" which means the brain is provided with a steady rhythmic stimulus, in this case sound but it can apparently also work with vision. This driving --in which neurons in the brain fire off again and again from the stimulus--produces a light trance or ALPHA state where creativity and imagination strengthen, fears ease, and one feels a well-being. Considering that information, I realized why I like dance music when, to many people it is seen as something silly and hedonistic, and that the music is empty, vapid, pointless, too simplistic. But I like it because it produces alpha waves just like the shamanic drumming. I have been in many dance clubs over the years where I have found myself on a dance floor, moving, moving, moving, into a kind of Maslowian peak experience. It is a hyper-experience, and I did it all completely sober, without ANY drugs.

Then I spoke about all the other music I like--and I see that there is a common thread that runs through music I respond to. There is a heavy emotional component whether through lyrics (lyrics about these things matter too--I respond to the written word and the subject of a song which also can shift my consciousness by making me think about something...transporting me somewhere.) or through arrangement of chords and notes. I can't tell you what it is, but I know it when I hear it--whether minor (usually) or major, the music that touches me has something to do with that meta-state, with something beyond, with extreme joy or extreme sorrow...with transcendence. It is emotionally truthful. The music I like takes me to a deeper place in myself. And THAT place is savage, holy, pure emotion. Instruments and arrangements support this sense immensely as well, and I find I respond much more strongly to music that is, as Ryan Lee West commented above, non-traditional. "New" sounds give way to things that are not of this world. I like it when instrumentation is unidentifiable, full of sounds that are not connected to existing percussion, woodwind, string, brass. This is not to say that I do not respond to any symphonic or orchestral music across the board--I have been moved by symphonic and orchestral pieces but I like sounds that are otherworldly, that take me inward (and thus outward...and you know what I mean). I like distortion in instruments and vocals, to approach that wordless state of pure being that can be stimulated with sound vibrations.

So I don't want to break music down to its parts and learn how to make it. I don't want to approach it intellectually. I want it whole. I want it mysterious. I want to feel it like I feel a meadow at the base of a mountain. I want it to connect me to more of what life is, good or bad, up or down, high or low. I don't want it to be "notes"--I want it intravenously. I love woeful, trembling music that is like a thin sheet of ice about to break. I love roaring, storm-like music that is rage and power. I love shimmering, rushing music that is ecstasy. I want to touch the vibrations themselves, to experience the universe and reality, the primal sound, the sound of a circle that symbolizes a beginning and an end. The sound of transcendence.

So ultimately what I need music to do for me is to shift my consciousness. I use music like a drug.

Here is Mark Pritchard's enigmatic song "Beautiful People" with vocals by the otherworldly frontman of Radiohead, Thom Yorke.

And here is another whopper for me: "Lower Your Eyelids To Die With The Sun" by French outfit M83 (previously here and here).

Monday, May 28, 2018

Memorial Day 2018

Today is Memorial Day in the United States, a day for remembering the people who died while serving in the country's armed forces. And I want to honor two of my own relatives who died in World War I and World War II fighting Fascism.

I am sure my relatives are rolling in their graves, after giving their lives--on a battlefield in WWI and in the air during WWII--to make sure that Fascism did not spread around the world and to the Unites States. That was a time when Republicans thought Fascism was a bad thing, unlike today. I know both of these men (one of them an Italian immigrant), if they survived and were alive now, would be appalled and outraged that Fascism is being institutionalized by the current administration and welcomed and encouraged by this administration's supporters. My relatives died so the very thing that is happening now, wouldn't. And it makes me infinitely sad and frustrated that these men seemingly died for nothing...and that segments of the population of this country support the Neo-Fascism coming from The Monster. It's shameful.

I honor my brave relatives and all who fought Fascism. I truly hope that we can turn the tide and ensure that they all died for the noble, uplifting principle of humanism.

Saturday, May 26, 2018

"Trump's sustained attacks on American rights" by Joan Biskupic

Trump's sustained attacks on American rights
Analysis by Joan Biskupic, CNN legal analyst & Supreme Court biographer

Updated 2:15 PM ET, Sat May 26, 2018

(CNN)Two years ago Sunday, then-presidential candidate Donald Trump derided US District Court Judge Gonzalo Curiel, hearing a lawsuit against Trump University, for his "Mexican" heritage and complained of being "railroaded" by the legal system.

It was shocking, Democrats and Republicans alike condemned Trump's racially intemperate criticism of the Indiana-born judge.

Turns out, it was nothing.

Over the past 24 months, Trump has scorned judges, derided the American court system, and trampled on all manner of constitutional principles. Trump has especially ridiculed due process of law, the bedrock against government's arbitrary denial of a person's life, liberty or property.

Critics warn that denunciations that once seemed so aberrational may be seeping into the American psyche and influencing how government operates.

This week, Trump suggested immigrants at the border could be summarily deported without any hearing to determine if they deserved asylum or were US citizens wrongly apprehended. In a Fox News interview that aired on Thursday, Trump flatly deemed the system of immigration judges "corrupt" and said, "Whoever heard of a system where you put people through trials? Where do these judges come from?"

The administrative system, in fact, is part of Trump's executive branch, run by the Justice Department; the attorney general appoints immigration judges.

In the same interview, Trump responded to the NFL policy prohibiting kneeling during the "Star-Spangled Banner," with a message for players who refuse to stand for the anthem: "Maybe you shouldn't be in the country."

Such an attitude inflames controversy over league rules for players protesting racial injustice to intimations of government rejection of its citizens - for speaking out.

Due Process. Citizenship. Racial Equality. Trump's targets seem to merit none of these. It is not lost on Trump's detractors that he routinely takes aim at immigrants and racial minorities.

At the same time, the President expresses outrage over what happens to the men of his world.

When his former staff secretary Rob Porter was accused by two ex-wives of domestic violence, Trump emphasized in February to the news media, "He says he's innocent." Then in a tweet, Trump wrote: "Peoples lives are being shattered and destroyed by a mere allegation. Some are true and some are false. Some are old and some are new. There is no recovery for someone falsely accused - life and career are gone. Is there no such thing any longer as Due Process?"

In April, Trump referred to an FBI raid on the home and office of Trump's personal lawyer Michael Cohen, executing a court-approved subpoena, as "an attack on our country ... an attack on what we all stand for."

If Trump's norm-shattering derision of the courts and constitutional principles has only accelerated in the past two years, public responses appear more polarized. Opponents are overwhelmingly Democratic. Trump's approval rating among Republicans remains high.

There also may be fatigue. Trump is constant. His questioning Thursday of a legal process for people apprehended at the border drew scant public response.

Long before he was a candidate, Trump was known for complaints about the justice system and incendiary rhetoric. He railed against five black and Latino men accused (and wrongfully convicted) for a 1989 rape of a jogger in New York's Central Park. Trump bought full-page ads in New York newspapers proclaiming, "Bring Back The Death Penalty. Bring Back Our Police." Even after the men were exonerated, he suggested they were guilty.

The difference now, of course, is that he is America's top leader. So last fall, when he tweeted that an Uzbekistan man who was charged with killing eight pedestrians and bikers in New York City "SHOULD GET THE DEATH PENALTY," some law professors and analysts wondered if the President's comments would hurt the government's legal case.

Trump sets a tone for the whole country - a reality that spurred Republican op-ed columnist Michael Gerson, a former aide to President George W. Bush, to pen a scathing assessment earlier this month.

"Whatever else Trumpism may be," Gerson wrote in The Washington Post, "it is the systematic organization of resentment against outgroups. His record is rich in dehumanization. ... This is more than a disturbing pattern; it is an organizing political principle. And it has resulted in a series of radiating consequences."

As one of many examples, Gerson pointed to West Virginia GOP Senate candidate Don Blankenship's statement that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell was creating jobs for "China people." (His wife, Elaine Chao, was born in Taiwan.)

"The Trump era is a renaissance of half-witted intolerance," Gerson concluded, urging Republican leaders to challenge Trump. (The President endorsed one of Blankenship's opponents and Blankenship lost the primary.)

If such protests from the right are rare, the left has tried to remain energized.

The stream of Trump rhetoric against due process "is exhausting, yet requires us to remain vigilant," said Vanita Gupta, president of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights.

Gupta said an overriding concern is that dehumanizing language and attacks on minorities influence administration policy "The daily hits to due process are real and it is dangerous for any of us to accept this as normal," she said.

Irrespective of how responses have evolved over the past two years, Trump has not deviated from his personal script.

As he declared in May 2016, when many of his comments were rallying fans and roiling critics, "You think I'm going to change? I'm not changing."

Link to original article

Friday, May 25, 2018

Currently listening to...

..."Missing" by Everything But The Girl (previously here), a song that makes me nostalgic and heartsick every time I hear it.

Everything But The Girl was how musician Ben Watt and singer Tracey Thorn (previously here, here, and here) styled themselves and I adore them. The group started in the neo-jazz groove of the mid-80s and morphed into a spectacular dance band in the 90s. But it is Thorn's voice that has always been front and center, no matter what the music style. Watt and Thorn wrote some stunning lyrics but I have a soft spot for this particular song for several personal reasons. It came out around the time a very influential and important friend in my life died. After her death I would drive past her house in Berkeley and think, just like the lyrics to this song, "...but you don't live there anymore."

And to make matters worse, there is another layer. I stayed here in California when my parents moved back to the east coast in the late 90s; my mom wrote me regular letters and closed once with a quote from the song: "I miss you like the deserts miss the rain." She and my father passed away a year later.

Yes, in "yearning for," but also as in "disappeared."

I step off the train
I'm walking down your street again
And past your door, but you don't live there anymore
It's years since you've been there
Now you've disappeared somewhere like outer space
You've found some better place

And I miss you, like the deserts miss the rain
And I miss you, like the deserts miss the rain

Could you be dead?
You always were two steps ahead of everyone
We'd walk behind while you would run
I look up at your house
And I can almost hear you shout down to me
Where I always used to be

And I miss you like the deserts miss the rain
And I miss you like the deserts miss the rain

Back on the train, I ask why did I come again?
Can I confess, I've been hanging round your old address?
And the years have proved
To offer nothing since you've moved
You're long gone, but I can't move on

And I miss you like the deserts miss the rain
And I miss you like the deserts miss the rain
And I miss you

I step off the train
I'm walking down your street again
And past your door, I guess you don't live there anymore
It's years since you've been there
Now you've disappeared somewhere like outer space
You've found some better place

And I miss you
And I miss you
You found some better place

And I miss you like the deserts miss the rain
And I miss you, yeah, like the deserts miss the rain

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Porch Weather 2018

Here in Northern California we are experiencing the winter that won't die...days are still chilly and grey...if the sun does come out and the day warms up, it might get to 65*. But then nights are back to 49*.


I am longing for porch weather!

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

"Darling" by Douglas Dare

I'm a bit blown away by this amazing, one-take live performance of Douglas Dare signing "Darling."

Darling, darling, darling, you look divine
Resting like a bird ready to fly

Twelve flowers surround you, placed on the shelf
Chrysanthemums, roses… did you pick them yourself?

No one does it like you
No one does it like you

Darling, darling, darling, you look sublime
Your eyes, alabaster skin in the fluorescent light

Show us your best side, your make up perfectly applied
We’re all by your bedside, and with such pride

No one does it like you
No one does it like you
No one dies like you
No one dies like you
No one dies like you

Blackened sockets, did you paint them yourself?
Crisp hospital bed, did you bleach it yourself?

No one does it like you
No one does it like you
No one dies like you
No one dies like you

You will always live on
You will always look young

You will always live on
You will always look young

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

BEAUTY: Illustration--Owen Gent

Illustrator and artist Owen Gent (previously here) makes lyrical, evocative images for an on-going project:

Ongoing personal project, interpreting the remaining written fragments of ancient Greek poet Sappho (c. 630 – c. 570 BC).

Chosen fragments taken from Fragments of Sappho, translated and arranged by Anne Carson

Monday, May 21, 2018

"Hank" by James

Celebrated English band James are releasing a new album on August 3, 2018 called "Living In Extraordinary Times" and this track "Hank" is a knock out. It's brash, loud, pounding, urgent, like a heartfelt speech shouted out at a political rally--because that is exactly what it is.

RESIST! THIS IS NOT NORMAL! There ARE Fascists in the White House!!!

This crack head’s tiny fingers
Accusing you of what he’ll do
White fascists in the White House
More beetroot in your Russian stew

Blinds roll down in the ghetto

Power’s out all over town
Jim Crow rules in the crack down
Bend your knee, stand your ground

Our weapon is a stand up

A jester prancing like a fool
In jest digest The Monster
This President’s a dangerous tool

Blinds roll down in the ghetto

Power’s out all over town
Jim Crow rules in the crack down
Bend the knee, stand your ground

Democracy sells easy

NRA high fives
Orlando, Sandy Hook, Columbine

CCTV’s grainy

His rapture's our decline
Hookers, hotel showers, dollar signs

Suppress the vote, electoral lies

Black Lives Matter, shoot on sight
We exist in multiple denials
He just says what they would hide
Rulers rule by divide
Why put your faith in facts when you can lie
Now every possibility exists in everybody’s mind

I'm in the story business

This Tower falls without a sound
Only our carbon footprint
Suggests an empire here unwound

Blinds roll down in the ghetto

Power’s out all over town
Jim Crow rules in the crack down
Bend the knee, stand your ground

Saturday, May 19, 2018

BEAUTY: Photography AND Hair--Luke Nugent and Lisa Farrall

After seeing "Black Panther," I was smitten with the absolutely gorgeous costume designs and the glorious women warriors of Wakanda. So I was thrilled when I found English photographer Luke Nugent...he photographs the amazing, jaw-dropping work of Award Winning Hair Session Stylist Lisa Farrall who shares the same powerful approach to African style and image as the women--and men--of Wakanda. Just feast your eyes on the gorgeous women and their GORGEOUS hair below!

Friday, May 18, 2018

Rise & Win Brewing Co. BBQ and General Store

Located in Japan in Tokushima Prefecture, about two and a half hours outside of the Osaka area, the Rise & Win Brewing Co. BBQ and General Store is a charming site visually as well as intellectually, as recycled materials feature prominently in the design of the structure. Of course the main feature is the double height wall of mismatched windows!

While it is indeed a brewing company (newly appointed brewing director Ryan Jones is American and they boast that he "he studied craft beer making in the real American...immersing himself in making beer until he was stoic"...clearly something got lost in that translation), the general store section, created from discarded wood, offcuts, recycled bricks, and old bottles for a chandelier, is dedicated to an eco-friendly way of selling and purchasing as well. Their website states:

"Old winning department store has been reborn as a general store.
As a proposal for excessive packaging and shopping that does not emit garbage coming from an inappropriate amount, we are doing selling by weight.
Please bring your favorite containers, pack nuts, dried fruits, seasoning such as pasta and rice, as much as you want.
Of course we also sell craft beer. Enjoying shopping leads to zero · waste."