Saturday, April 25, 2015

Let A Fresh Beginning Wash Over Me!

I don't keep a lot of "secrets" but there are some things I hold close to the vest and I just don't feel the need to share with a lot of people. There are things in each of our lives that we need to battle alone or at least work through without having our point of view or direction influenced. As much as we rely on family and friends, there are some walks you have to take alone or with limited support. 

With that said, I have reintroduced myself to a more "zen" approach. In recent years I fought to get out of the influential trappings of my past and I feel it has worked well in some areas of my life. I drifted away from that, as I suppose I was sort of content with the progress I made, but really never pushed it further. I am trying to do that now. More, now than ever, is a time when I need to let go. I had given my ego back about 80% of what I had claimed a few years ago. I'm going after it again. 

I know, in my heart of hearts, that my life is a very short blip on the time line of humanity's existence. I know I have a finite time. I know it's all bigger than me. Yet, at times, I feel like I have been cosmically wronged or that life isn't fair. Well, it's not, because there is no fair. It's all just part of existence. Your (mine actually) version of fair isn't what fair would be to the parents of a dying child. Nor is it the same as fairness to a teenager that doesn't get to stay out past midnight. It's all relative to your own existence, so, fairness really doesn't exist in any practical sense. 

If you stop and compartmentalize your mind and realize that no matter what is going on in your life, there is a world that keeps moving and functioning. If you died this second, it all motors on. Without you. I realize I have a role to play. This life is my experience. It's my duty to the universe and you for me to fulfill my role. There is no need to fret, get angry, or depressed over any situation. We are human, so it will happen, but it's best for us and the people we know and come into contact with (if only briefly) if we can let go. Just do what you have to do to make your situation better or even just tolerable. It's all you can and will do after all. No amount of anger, worry, or frustration is going to change a situation, so you have to accept it and move forward knowing that this is what I have to do. This is my reality and I have to play it out. You are a character in everyone else's movie, just as they are in yours. I'm going to live up to my role. I'm going to let my character (who I am) emerge and let the chips fall where they may. Have a problem? Work on fixing it, but no need to get crazy with emotion over it. That won't help anything and it only serves to cloud judgement and impact others negatively. Why feel bad over something that is out of your control in a particular moment? In other words, I should strive to work on my problems when I'm dealing with them and not worry too much about them when there is nothing I can do. For example; feeling bad on Sunday night because work looms the next morning is wasting the present time on a time that hasn't arrived and is beyond your control. 

It's all happening and it's all out of our control. Knowing that is a big step for me. Things work out they way they work out and that's all there is to it. There will be emotionally compromising moments. There will be set backs. I just hope I don't forget where I am right now. There is only one way to deal with life and that's by staying in the present as much as possible. Work towards future goals yes, learn from your past yes, but you can't live in that future, just as you can't live in the past. Now is always the time. And we can spend that time aimlessly looking at what might be or looking over our shoulder at what was. In either case, it takes us out of the now and the now is all we really have. It's all we have ever had.

Some ego stuff from the great philosopher Alan Watts. It's not necessarily relevant in a direct way to my previous words, but it's solid thinking. 

Sunday, December 28, 2014

My Favorite Entertainment From 2014

The year 2014 was a year in which I didn't really pursue much in the way of new music. That's kind of odd for me, because I generally buy 6 to 10 new albums every year. I still went out and got a few, but they were from bands that had either already established themselves as bands I want to hear or they were artists I heard live and wanted to hear more from. 

So, of the albums I bought it was pretty easy to find which ones were my favorites. 

Jenny Lewis- The Voyager
I knowingly heard Lewis for the first time at the Forecastle Music Festival and it was a revelation. Solid, sensible songwriting and a sweet, yet experienced voice that had me swooning for a couple of weeks after purchase. "The Voyager" still has a few songs that are getting played by me weekly. It's a good effort. The pop melodies just suck you in and she has a way of painting a picture in your head with her stories in song. "Slippery Slopes" is one of the catchiest songs I've heard in a long time and "Just One Of The Guys" is right there with it. 

Christopher (Crash) Richard- Hardly Criminal
This guy was a total surprise for me. I saw him at Zanzabar in Louisville with about 40 other people and was just blown away. It didn't hurt that he covered "Treatment Bound", but this guy was excellent and so was his original material. I bought "Hardly Criminal" from him and put it on the turntable a couple of days later. Really solid record. "Motion Animal" may be my favorite song of 2014 and if I had to list 100 songs of all-time, it may sneak in there. An infectious tune to say the least! 

I had the pleasure of seeing quite a few films this past year and I have to say this was a pretty good year for movies. Among the best were Gone Girl, Intersteallar, Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes, and Night Crawler. There were two that really stuck with me though. 

Boyhood-  Richard Linklater
This film was shot over a 12 year period. A very ambitious undertaking. Anything could have gone wrong when trying to span time like that. It totally worked though. We got to follow the characters of the film as the actors actually aged. There is a documentary feel to it that gives it some weight. It's difficult not to equate some of the points of the film with my own childhood and early life. It stuck with me and I wasn't immediately able to even put my finger on why it was so good, other than it just struck a chord with me on how much influence our parents, peers, and experiences have on us. Those things can turn us away from goals, change our perceptions on what we think we know and see. It's easy to see the parents in this movie as being stifling or even villains when it comes to the influence they hold, but they are really just people (like you and I) trying to have their own lives and trying to find out who they are while doing the best they can by their children. For better or worse. It's something that isn't pleasant to relate to at times, but it's a part of a parents reality that isn't readily apparent in day to day life.  I highly recommend this to anyone that loves nuance and intelligence in their movie going experience. 

Birdman- Alejandro Iñárritu
Part reality, part fantasy, part mental illness....this film throws it all in the pot and leaves you to figure it out. It's not an easy movie to understand, but that's part of what makes it so interesting. The director seems to create one long stream of consciousness and that doesn't lend itself to trying to understand the film as it's playing out. I think there is definitely an indictment of the visual entertainment system (as well as the fragile ego of those entrenched in that system) at some level and it takes a shot at all participants. From those in control, to the actors, the critics, to the folks behind the scenes and all the way down to the ticket buying movie fan. Self expectation and projected expectation lay heavy over many of the "scenes" (even if the director tries to get you to take the film in as one long scene with a series of events). What can you be satisfied with? Is it wise to let your past success and failure manipulate the person you are today? Are you doing what you are doing for you or to prove something to others? Can you find happiness running from a past that jogs just one step behind you? Questions that Michael Keaton is dealing with, even if he isn't totally honest with himself about it. 

By far the highlight of my year in entertainment was seeing The Replacements at Forecastle. I truly enjoyed other acts also, including a stellar set from Beck, the hard driving rock of Jack White, and the surprisingly solid efforts from Jenny Lewis and Brett Dennen. Experiencing Paul McCartney for a second time was certainly a highlight of my year. Seeing and talking to Pigeon John was fun and I really dug the experience of seeing Christopher "Crash" Richard, but again, The Replacements topped my list. They put on a lively show and didn't just go through the motions. The wall of sound they created with the added guitar of BJ Armstrong set it apart from the show I saw in Chicago in 2013. Lots of fun and a "life" moment for me! 

Most people would expect me to have a book or two on the list, but I didn't really dig into reading quite as much as I have over the past few years. With that, I will just say that the two most memorable reads of my year (neither book is new to 2014 though) were "Gonzo", which is an oral biography of Hunter Thompson compiled by Corey Seymour and Jann Wenner and "Room Full Of Mirrors", a biography of Jimi Hendrix by Charles Cross. 

My favorite TV shows, once again includes the always relevant South Park. Justified and Game of Thrones were also programs I binge watched and really grew to enjoy. I look forward to the return of those programs in 2015. 

There were several stand up specials that struck a chord with me this past year. The best of which was Bill Burr's "I'm Sorry You Feel That Way" which is on Netflix and is being released on vinyl also. He is the most consistently funny and spot on comic working in an era that I consider to be a revival of great stand up. I also enjoyed Jim Jefferies "Bare" and Tom Segura's "Completely Normal". 

So, there you have it. A few of my favorite things from this past year. I write this to document my year in entertainment, but to also....hopefully...pass on something to anyone that may read this. Perhaps you will enjoy some of this as much as I did. 

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Lamenting The "Lost" Magic of Christmas.....

I'll keep this brief. I'm sitting here working on a hot mug of apple pie moonshine and reflecting on the evening thus far. 

In past years I, admittedly, wasn't thrilled with Christmas. Tonight, I feel a bit melancholy. I wasted a lot of time and a lot of moments wrapped up in my own self induced misery and selfishness. I've never been at a loss for love of my children. They are the most special things to me. Out of a handful of things that I have gotten positively, absolutely right in my life, they are the main ones. That is in conjunction with marrying my wife. My life would be devoid of meaning without them. Honestly, a life not worth having lived. 

To the point, there were so many years that I should have held more dear. More precious. I never realized that I would miss them being little more than I do right now. Yeah, I am tearing up and I just can't help it. There was amazement and wonder in their eyes for years and I neglected to play the role of the vampire during that time. I should have been sucking up that anticipation and joy and I let it slip away. Now, the magic of the unknown is gone. It's missing from their Christmas Eve and it's never coming back. We have shared some wonderful moments tonight, with my mom sharing her gifts with them, with making craft plates and the traditional reading of "Twas The Night Before Christmas". Magic has loosened its' grip though. It's now on to tradition. 

We won't be tracking Santa tonight on NORAD. Some other kids at some other house will be doing that. Some other parents will be waiting for the kids to go to sleep as they gaze at the Christmas tree, silently enjoying the spectacle and each others company with a sparse word to be said, yet still perfect. Somewhere else, a couple of young girls will be trying so hard to go to sleep so Santa won't pass them by. Somewhere else, those young girls will not be able to find slumber as they hold so much anticipation and excitement in their hearts. Somewhere else, Christmas is full of magic. 

Not that our Christmas is bad or ruined. I don't want to project that. In many ways, this has been a fantastic time. My girls are more mature and more understanding of the moment and don't just go through the motions of our traditions. They are active participants. Still yet, something is lost for me and I will not regain it. It went by way too quickly and I didn't stop and embrace it. When my daughters have daughters and sons of their own, I can only hope they will appreciate and cherish the moments they have and be truly present and appreciate the true magic that can only be experienced through the perception of a child. 

Appreciate time. It's slipping away and it's unforgiving to those that do not respect its value. 

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Terrorism Works! "The Interview" Not Being Released By Sony Pictures

Looks like terrorism really is the way to go if you want to thwart someone else's freedoms. Hey, it works! Just look at all the overkill in the destruction of our personal liberties in the aftermath of 9/11. Snatching cell phone records, drones flying all over the place, you can't cross into Canada without a big deal being made of it, and you can pretty much be subject to search without much if any provocation at all. Now, we can't even go out on Christmas day and enjoy a movie, because it makes light of some meat headed idiot in North Korea. If anything I thought we would have reveled in ripping that idiot. Instead, we have shown fear. We (or more to the point, Hollywood) turned away in a staring contest.  

"The Interview" is a comedy about the attempted assassination of South Korea's leader, Kim Jung-Un, by a TV show host and producer. The trailer for it looked pretty funny and anyone that enjoys the comedy of James Franco and Seth Rogen in "Pineapple Express" was probably going to enjoy this film. WAS going to enjoy it. Hackers have vowed to release internal Sony emails that would apparently be very damaging or embarrassing to people in and around the studio. Also, there were threats of violence against theaters that would show the film. 

So, Sony and theaters all over the nation stood up like proud Americans and said "Fuck you, we don't give in to terror in this country!" right? Right? Ummm, wrong. They caved. Sony announced that it has shelved the 42 million dollar film, and as of now, has no plans for a future release. The buzz that has been created would have made a great publicity stunt. The backlash at such a stunt would be tremendous, so I just can't believe that's what is happening. At this point, we pretty much look like scared rabbits. Just a mere anonymous threat has stopped a nationwide release of a comedy film. Sony could really save face and say they are going to move forward with releasing the film. Houses would be packed to see it and it would be a wonderful "Up your ass!" to hackers, terrorists, and anyone that wishes to stifle our way of life. I hope that happens. I just don't expect it.  

This isn't just about giving in to terror, it's about giving in stifling artistic expression. Now, "The Interview" may not be high art, but it is a piece of artistic expression. To stifle that, in the United States, of all places, is beyond disappointing. Once art is compromised by changing it to suit a target audience or if it is withheld from experience, it is just a product. The work and care that went into it means nothing now.  It may as well not exist. 

I would hope that Sony reconsiders this decision at some point and sooner rather than later. I would go out and see it on Christmas Day simply to show that I"m not going to live in fear of a threat. All of us reject fear every day when we get out of bed and start our lives. Going to and from work. Shopping and visiting restaurants. Taking vacations. We get on airplanes. We, the citizens of this nation, have rejected the fear of terrorism (or criminal activity against us) in our daily lives by going about our business. 

The worst possible thing that could have happened in the face of these threats has happened. Capitulation to fear. Honestly, I would have laughed  it off if someone told me a comedy movie would be held from release in the United States of America, because of some threats from an unknown and unseen entity. I can only imagine this further emboldens those thinking of pulling antics like this. This sets a precedent for the future, does it not? What's next? Are we to pull "Naked Gun" from Netflix because it makes fun of the Queen of England? This is the country that stood up to people trying to ban "The Last Temptation of Christ" and we are going to let a goofy Hollywood comedy get pulled from theaters? This is the country that stood for "Death of a President" being released while the president that was depicted as being assassinated was still in office!

This is a sad day for Hollywood (but they have a lot of those don't they?), American movie goers, artistic freedom, and our national image. Sony and theaters all over this country have knelt down before the terrorists. We buckled a little bit today. At least I know we are gonna get a great South Park episode out of this at some point!  

Thursday, October 16, 2014

The Replacements: They Satisfied.....

Our heroes with their hero.....before the "Tonight Show" appearance.

Well, here I go again....talking 'bout The Replacements. I may as well devote the blog to them, right? I had the chance to see the "new" Replacements twice this past year (Chicago/Louisville) after having not seen them at all for the first 44 years of my life. I had seen Paul Westerberg four or five times, Slim a couple of times and had a near miss with Tommy with Bash & Pop when my transmission went out on the way to Cincinnati. Fucking Pontiac! Still hurts me. 

I've written about not knowing what to expect out of this "reunion" of Paul and Tommy with my "man crush" drummer Josh Freese taking his seat on the throne and Dave Minehan taking over for Bob and Slim on guitar. I then wrote about how my expectations were exceeded by them playing live again. I won't rehash it. I do want to say, now that the announced dates have all been played, that I believe the best thing to ever happen to The Replacements was them "breaking up" some 20+ years ago. They had hit a wall. They weren't going to be a commercial success, Tommy needed some freedom and was growing as an artist and Paul needed to find out if he was really going to be the "voice of a generation". Which he was. It just wasn't the generation that was hanging out at the mall. He was the voice of the loner. The misfits. Those that were awkward in many different ways socially. He was a voice for those that felt alone, even in a crowd. A voice for those that really CARED about the music during an era that changed rock and roll forever. He wrote real alternative music, not the contrived bullshit that became it's own marketable genre off of his and others backs. How the hell can alternative music be played on a mainstream radio station? The point was missed....badly. 

A kick ass version of "Valentine", Dave and Josh really let it go.

All that has gone to history now and Paul and Tommy have concluded a journey that has lasted more than a year. They have toured all around the country and played before audiences of 20,000 plus. They didn't have to spend time in shitty hotels and in a van for days on end. It didn't have to become a burden for them personally. I love going to club shows. They are definitely more personal than a festival, but Paul and Tommy had been there and done that. It was time for them to get paid and do it in a comfortable setting on their terms. Bringing in veterans like Freese and Minehan was the right thing to do and it really started to show in the last few gigs they played, particularly on back to back weekends at the Austin City Limits Festival. 

If these are the last two shows they ever play, they sure the hell went out on a high note. I have watched both shows, via the magic of a You Tube downloader and DVD creating software. I have to say that they may have sounded tighter at other shows, but they were more like THE Replacements than in any other show I've heard or seen. At times they were a mess. At times they were brilliant. At times they were funny. At times they played with raw emotion. At times they looked like they didn't know what the hell was gonna happen next. They appeared to be totally in their element. Paul Westerberg looked like he was finally in his own skin being who he was born to be. I am probably dead wrong about this, but from a fans perspective it really looked like Freese and especially Minehan had finally reached the status of real band members. I sensed a look of reservation in earlier shows. In Austin they really cut loose and played their asses off! This was a real band. Freese and Minehan can now take their place along with Chris, Bob, Slim, and yes, even Steve. We can call them Josh and Dave now. They are no long replacements for Replacements. They are Replacements. This version of the band wasn't just rehashing the old favorites, this was a band hitting on all cylinders in only the way The Replacements could and in only a way a Replacements fan can really understand. 

They didn't phone anything in. They weren't the Rolling Stones playing "Satisfaction" for the hundred millionth time, oh so perfectly, but without passion or attitude! The songs were given life and vitality. They still hold up, they are still relevant, and they still can give this fan a chill. Especially when they are played the way they were created. Ragged glory. Warts and all. Hearing Paul sing "Unsatisfied" with Dave playing with the slide just got to me. I didn't hear it from the perspective of my youth anymore. It didn't lose anything for me. It was fresh and alive again. I hear it as a 45 year old man that can look back on some of his life and still feel "unsatisfied". It's fucking art and not everyone likes it and not everyone understands it, but it's a fulfilling reward if you do. 

If this is the last song they ever play, it was a fitting end. Paul put it to bed in way that may only make sense to him.....he trashed his guitar and walked off the stage, with Tommy smiling in the background. 

 I just don't know if they had stayed together another 5 or 10 years if they would be where they are right now. There were too many swings and misses that wouldn't have happened to shape them into who they are now. We missed them though. Apparently, Tommy and Paul missed each other. What came out of that two decade long drought was an awesome year of seeing these two "alternative/punk" legends reach back into their souls and pull out the music that made them who they are and along with two fresh members, taking their fans, not for a walk down memory lane, but for a full fledged flight of redemption and affirmation. We were right. This was and IS a great fucking band. A real band. I don't see them as Paul, Tommy and two other guys. This is The Replacements. I can only hope they will continue to play once in awhile and possibly record some new music. If not, I think the comeback was all anyone could have ever hoped for. I'll take it and not beg for anything else.

"....and if I don't see you there, in a long long while.
I'll try to find you, left of the dial."
"Left of the Dial" - The Replacements

Some other shit I have written about The Replacements....