Saturday, December 01, 2007

Don't make "statements." Make art.

AS FOR NEW YORKER critic Peter Schjeldahl's characterization of Chicago as a "receptor city" (Chicago Reader, November 29), what else is new? It was a New Yorker essayist, A.J. Liebling, who in the '50s penned a famously snotty work titled "Chicago: The Second City," painting this city as a dull, boorish backwater forever doomed to orbit the Sun of culture situated on the Hudson. I put it down to egomania coastalis  -- a curious delusion of many NYCers and LAngelinos that everybody wants to be them. If Chicago's greatest export is talent, surely New York's greatest export is hype about New York. Maybe we should cede the "Windy City" moniker to them?

But enough beating up on them. Schjeldahl was right about this: "The major product coming out of art schools is artists' statements." After seeing one conceptual installation show several months ago I was moved to write that "art needing lengthy explanation probably isn’t good art. ...Perhaps some of these folks should focus on writing statements full-time."

I say this from the perspective of a self-schooled artist (now "retired") and musician who taught myself drawing and piano and singing and composition because I loved doing those things and I wanted to be really good at them. Back when I was really into drawing, I did it purely from the love of creating. Want to make statements? Start a blog. Write letters to the editor.

Too much emphasis on theory, "concepts," and self-referential-statement-making at the expense of actual craft or substance, turns art into onanistic self-parody, the so-self-serious butt of jokes by regular folks who, despite their lack of sophistication, have a point. Kudos to Schjeldahl for reminding the emperor to cover up before he catches cold.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Dead beats, or the death of melodies and chords

ON A RECENT NIGHT I pulled into a Borders parking lot and the radio was playing that classic house anthem "The Music's Got Me," with that "ooh ooh ooh ooh ooh" refrain, and it reminded me of how I once hated house music.

It was the late '80s, my freshman or sophomore year in high school, when house exploded. While I grew up appreciating lots of different types of music (pop, classic rock, hip-hop, R & B, easy listening, classical, and on it goes), I didn't like this house stuff for several reasons:

1. I was on the tail end of my Beatles/Zeppelin phase.

2. It was also a clique/conformity thing: You see, I was a bougie. My family were like the Huxtables, okay? I was well-educated and "proper"-speaking and spent most of my life around white and Asian kids. I was also kind of Urkel-esque to boot. I didn't fit in with the "real black people." And as they were all into house, I had to be against it.

3. At our football games, the househeads would bring out a big-ass boom box on the sidelines and form a dance circle and start jackin' all over the place. At the time, I thought that was ghetto. It embarrassed me.

4. I couldn't dance. Since house is made for the express purpose of dancing, I didn't see the point.

5. Frankly -- especially when it came to the less melodic stuff -- I thought it sounded like jungle music.

Now eventually, in a couple years' time, I got into the house. I made more black friends. I got in with the clique a little more. I started learning some dance moves. Hey, this is fun! I came to be a househead too.

But back to Borders. After "The Music Got Me" goes off, I head into the store. Lo and behold, there's a book on pop songwriting by one of the masters, Jimmy Webb. (Title: Tunesmith.) And in that book Webb quotes Dick Bradley on the black influence in rock music, and practices that served to create "the abandoning of the tradition of melody which had characterized earlier light and popular musics in Europe and America."

Bradley, sadly, is right to some extent. It's not that the African-American tradition didn't add lots of value to American music at the same time: where would we be without syncopated rhythm, without funk, without crunk, without call-and-response, without blues, without soul, without hip-hop, without house? But just as European music was in a way incomplete without the African input, music from the other extreme -- all rhythm, no melody or harmony -- is equally incomplete. And that's what we are approaching in pop, R&B and hip-hop today (save for those songs which sample the melodies composed by better musicians in a better age such as the '80s or '70s). It's time for notes to stage a return and share the stage with beats. Unfortunately, using notes intelligently and effectively isn't nearly as easy or cheap as making a drum loop on a computer.


Sunday, October 28, 2007

Awesomely bad music

ALL THE BAD '80s ballads VH1 can muster up have got nothing on this Aussie, a member of a songwriters message board I belong to. He's an awesomely bad music factory. Although not totally lacking in melodic flair, he tends to blur the line between "artistic" and "autistic," bringing to mind a geriatric Australian Wesley Willis with a fetish for blues, overdramatic vocals and 19th-century poetry. Some of his latest hits: "Thanks to Bagpipes and Poverty," "Death Watch Cat Blues" (about the nursing home cat that knows which patients will die), and of course, "Prostate Blues."

You gotta hear it to believe it.

Friday, October 05, 2007

Max von Bush: New World Order

ANOTHER INGENIOUS VIDEO mashup from Tim Jones, loaded with subversive truths. Check it out.



(DISCLAIMER: THIS VIDEO CONTAINS CERTAIN "911 TRUTH" MEMES I DO NOT NECESSARILY SUBSCRIBE TO, SUCH AS THE NOTION -- VERY CONTROVERSIAL WITHIN THE MOVEMENT -- THAT WORLD TRADE CENTER LARRY SILVERSTEIN WAS "IN ON THE PLOT" AND EVEN WENT SO FAR AS TO ADMIT I T ON NATIONAL TELEVISION. I, FOR ONE, DON'T THINK THAT THAT'S WHAT SILVERSTEIN MEANT WHEN HE SAID HE GAVE ORDERS TO "PULL" BUILDING 7. I DO, HOWEVER, THINK IT'S QUITE OBVIOUS THAT MODERN STEEL SKYSCRAPERS, SUCH AS BUILDING 7, DON'T JUST FALL DOWN -- AND THAT WE ARE STILL OWED A REAL EXPLANATION OF WHAT REALLY HAPPENED ON THAT DAY.)

"Live"? "Active"?

YEAH, DUH -- I REALIZE the name "Live Active Culture" doesn't fit this blog. Originally I'd intended this blog to preview/review events happening around the city that I'd been to, or planned to go to. Of course, I strayed from that purpose very early on, finding it easier to just do pop-culture commentary. I've been looking for a new name, but so far on Blogger, all the names I want are taken by do-nothing blog-squatters. (Yeah, I know that sounds like a fictional Roald Dahl creature...) I'd rather stay here on Blogger than pull up stakes altogether. I'll come up with something soon.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Party like a mock star

WHO'D'VE THUNK THAT a stupid rap song would engender such controversy -- and not about promotion of drugs, or violence, or sex, but because it transgresses some imagined boundary between the "real" and the "poseurs"?

On message boards like this and blogs like this a lot of black punk-rock kids vented their indignation that a bunch of crunk-rappers would dare rip off, and thus cheapen, their social signifiers and costumes without understanding the profound meaning behind it all!

On a blog at "Unofficially Afropunk," Chachalila gripes:

"I just hate the fact that the same style that I really love is now being viewed as some crappy fashion fad."

Cinnamon_girl complains that because of this trend:

"What's the noticible difference between me and the average 'rockstar partying' hoodrat these days? Pretty much just my double 0s til I open my mouth."

BLACK*STAR*LINE says:

"F@$K posers and the Hot topic they came out of!"


It's amusing how 20-year-old kids are yelling about how “the mainstream” is going to “destroy our culture”! To a Gen-X-cusper like myself, this is the same hair-tearing that was going on back in the early ‘90s over the mainstream "taking over" “alternative culture.”

The funny thing (to an ancient 33-year-old such as myself) is the tremendous importance youngsters put on music and fashion choices: for all intents and purposes it takes on religious significance. Might I suggest that these folks are lacking something that bands and costumery can’t supply?

This is not to denigrate rock, or punk rock, or the afropunk community -- heck, I'm at least an associate member: I listen to punk rock, I've been to an Afropunk party, I joined the Afropunk message board. That's why I know about these sites to begin with. But this highlights the difference between people who view music as entertainment, and those who view it as identity.


BY THE WAY. As for the actual song  "Party Like a Rock Star," well, I know one shouldn't expect too much artistically from crunk rap. But still, I can't be the only one to notice the half-assed way they try to signify "okay, now we're doing rock" by pasting a single looping electric guitar riff over an otherwise standard crunk beat. But the riff is one of those minor key, faux-classical things that have been R&B/rap cliche for the last ten years. In other words: the kids making this music are all mixed up; as one might expect in this subgenre, their musical vocabulary is trapped around preschool level; and they don't even know what rock 'n' roll sounds like -- they're just aping the sound everyone else in the rap game is putting out. They wouldn't know a blues scale from a coke scale. (Which might be appropriate, actually.) If you asked them, they'd probably tell you rock 'n' roll is a white music form and always has been.

Monday, September 17, 2007

If "shiftless" is bad,

The n"shifty" must be good. Right?
And how come you never describe a really kind, altruistic person as ruthful? Or a really responsible person as feckful? How come you never hear of someone getting in low dudgeon?

Name every guy would love to have:

Dick Bangham

And as far as faux-bluesman stage names go, Root Boy Slim ain't bad. Neither is his music. ("Dare to Be Fat"?)

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

siamese band names

YOU KNOW -- TAKE names of famous bands or musicians and combine them for hours of fun! A few examples I came up with (most are doubles but some are triples -- and one of these I managed to cram together five artists):


Kool Keith & the Gang

Little Cliff Richard

Johnny Cash & Eddie Money

Mos Def Leppard

Notorious B.I.G. & Rich

Ice-T. Rex

Teena Marie Turner

Vanilla Ice Cube

Johann Sebastian Bacharach

Hal David Hasselhoff

Olivia Elton-John Oates

Ziggy Stardusty Springfield

The White Stryper

Ne-Yo Yo Ma

Danzig Sig Sputnik

New Mint Condition Edition

Diana VandRoss

Rick James Taylor

Widespread Panic! At the Disco

Modest Mouse on Mars Volta

Stray Cat Stevens

Boy George Michael W. Jackson Browne

B.B. King Crimson

Pink Pink Floyd

MCJanHammer5

Lil Wayne Kramer

Gang of Four Tops

Right Said Freddie Jackson

ABC/DC

Master P.eabo Bryson

Clap Your Hands Say Yeah Yeah Yeah

TV on the Radiohead

Smokey Robinson & the Miracle Cure

Living Colour Me Badd

Henry & Sonny Rollins Band

Talib Kweller

Broken Social Distortion

Roger "Muddy Crystal" Waters

Velvet Underground Revolver

The English Beatles

The OK Go! Team

Loretta Lenny Kravitz

Right Said Freddie Mercury

New York Dolly Parton

LL DeBarge J

AC/dc Talk

Madonna Summer

Swing Out Sister Sledge

Blood, Sweat & Tears For Fears

Weird Al Jarreau

Kill Hannah Montana


Go ahead ... Create your own!

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Screwed up people make great art




If that's true -- and I don't doubt it is -- the members of Groovelily must be real screwed up. The name might conjure up the girl in the peasant dress doing the twirl dance in the parking lot at the Phish show, but they’re anything but that. They are just a high-quality pop band fronted by a girl who's a great singer/violinist (and who also happens to be a hot redhead), who make incredibly musical music without a lot of artifice, without trying to be arty. They take their art seriously, but not so much so that they forget that it's also fun. I discovered their site a few years ago while searching, I think, for the name of a long-lost friend. I don't know why I've not written about them until now.

While we're at it, here's some more violin rock to piss off rock purists.

Damn, that's cold

FOR SOMEONE WHO hails from such icy climes, Inuit throat-singer Tanya Tagaq is pretty hot. She has the "exotic"-culture thing going for her too, which in the abstract, seems like an irresistible combination. But her actual singing, as presented at her website, leaves me cold. It reminds me of a collision between a pack of wild dogs and an army of angry dwarves on a really hot day. What a shame. I really wanted to like her.

Friday, July 27, 2007

"I don't know why we make art"

AYA IS THE beautiful, fragile, lost soul who writes the column "Home Far Away" for Lumpen Magazine. She's actually living in the Netherlands now. Back when she was still around town, I met her at a Lumpen shindig, but I had to leave early so we never really got to know each other. Anyway, her diary-style column in the mag sometimes contain unexpected gems of existential insight.
Late afternoon, after all the students tucked their black portfolio folders away, their chins pointed this way, curious to see what this big-mouthed Asian girl with an American accent has to show. I looked at my hands. "...I don't mean to be difficult." Then continued, "but I have nothing to show you. I left my works." And went on, "I am not an artist, and I don't know why we make art. For decoration? To sell? For the class? To make ourselves happy? To change the world? What does it mean?"

After a brief pause, someone asked, "Then why are you at an art academy?"

An accident no longer waiting to happen

GOD, I HATE to sound like I’m ghoulishly gleeful about this, because I’m not – but wasn’t it inevitable that stupid news coverage of a stupid police chase would lead to a tragic news chopper crash? It was just a matter of time.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Beautiful music matters --
beautiful singers don't

POP MUSIC, POPTIMISM, and finding a way to enjoy and champion good music without getting wrapped up in overwrought politics and class warfare -- those things have been on my mind a lot lately. (There could even be a book in there somewhere?) Thus, my recent comment to this blog post in which Las Vegas Weekly columnist Frank Kogan sticks up for vapid pop music by pretty people.
I agree with you that the Backstreet Boys shouldn’t be ruled out because they’re good-looking or mainstream. But they’ve “got a better beat”? Than who? Than Axwell? J Dilla? Kennedy even?

Musically, I’m about as as poptimistic a populist as there can be, but by that I don't mean jettisoning standards; I mean the standard should be "is the music well-crafted, creative and enjoyable?" rather than getting all sidetracked in image and social signifying. So I dislike the Backstreet Boys and the like, not because of their image but because the quality of their music is closer to recycled plastic than platinum.

I’m the most passionate defender of “beautiful” music there is – whether it’s Debussy, or Bacharach/David and their contemporary disciples, show tunes, phenomenal R & B and disco and soulful pop by white boys, whatever. Body-moving polyrhythmic beats -- certainly beautiful. But the plink-plunk Backstreet Boys crap, and most of the other product of the Swedish assembly line that could be produced by any five-year-old in possession of a Casio keyboard, or the hot “minimalist” (i.e. lazy) producers of the moment -- the Timbalands, the crunkists -- I just find irritatingly vapid.

Pretty does not automatically mean dumb. Jewel is a pretty girl, I think we’ll all agree, but also possesses astronomical talent and integrity and writes her own stuff. Feist is another pretty girl who makes beautiful music, including covering the Bee Gees. Miho Hatori, okay, she's a bit more of an acquired taste, but she's pretty but also fun and – how often do we hear this quality in mainstream pop? -- unpredictable.

Britney, in contrast, makes crap and thus has to give us a million dancers and pyro and fog and peekaboos of her junk in order to make up for her lack of – perhaps not talent, but judgment as to how to use it.

As for Kelly Clarkson, she's not only hot (though I liked her better when she was a little chubby), but vocalwise she can blow away most female pop singers. If she keeps on honing her writing chops she'll have my respect 100%.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

What not to watch

EVER SEEN THAT TLC show “What Not to Wear”? I have had the misfortune to view it a few times. Yeah, I know, I’m sorry. I’ve been between jobs (again) lately and I’ve had time to kill. Anyway, it’s one of those shows I love to hate. In addition to being fashionazis, style snobs, champions of narcissism and unrelenting cheerleaders for craven conformity and needless consumption, the Jewish-American Princess and
fashion-queen co-hosts of this show are woman-hating, slash-happy hair vampires. All they ever want to do to women with long, beautiful hair is lop it off. What is it with the “Fashion” universe's fear of feminine women? 


Long hair is one of a woman’s most beautiful attributes -- especially for those not especially gifted of face or figure. They are proud of their flowing locks. You'd be hard pressed to find a heterosexual male, at least, who doesn’t like long hair on a woman -- even long and plain.

And then they have to ruin your face. Even for women whose real faces are beautiful, the show’s default position is that every woman must be painted up to look like a generic store
mannequin rather than just be their naturally beautiful selves. The one redeeming fact about Stacey and Clinton is they are not sizeists; even they have the sense to not totally alienate  their audience, which is composed of real women (and men who like real women).

Today’s victim, Lynn, got nicely dressed up (although all the Paris Hilton-worthy gear was totally inappropriate for her job, which is nannying) but the foundation they slapped on washed out her face. Happily, she had the cojones to say no, firmly and repeatedly, to the hairslasher.

“I took a stand,” she told the camera proudly. “I’ve always considered myself to be a unique individual ... at the end of the day, this is who I am.”

Well you go girl. Who knows. One day this being-who-you-are thing might actually become ... fashionable?

Saturday, June 02, 2007

And the crunkest!

AROUND MIDNIGHT ON SATURDAY, and I've just left this opening at the Flat Iron Building, where I've been hanging out with the phenomarific painter and musician * Kevin Moeller and co. Before heading home, I stop to roll up a cig with some of the street guys outside the quickie mart. Then I go to my car and just sit there awhile listening to the radio and smoking and people-watching. I'm on North just east of Milwaukee, and of course, the traffic is jacked up like crazy since drunk pedestrians are spilling out of clubs and restaurants and everyone's hailing cabs and whatnot.

And on the other side of the street creepin' my way is this black Toyota something-or-other, and inside is this white chick with ghetto-braided hair and those oversized bug-eye sunglasses -- you know, the ones that make you look like a giant fly.

And she's got her system boomin' away to some Unk or something like that, and she's jukin' like crazy in her seat. And she sees me lookin at her and she hollers at me: "I'm the illest white girl you eva seen!"


I just smile.


"The illest!" she shouts again. "And the crunkest!"


The light turns green and she drives away and I laugh like a maniac.


* See 1:04 on Kevin's video ... hilarious.

Garry's back

GARRY MEIER'S RETURNED to the Chicago airwaves recently, and after listening to him on and off the last couple months, I think he's still got the mojo. With more time to do his own thing in his own style (rather than play second banana to Roe Conn), you can see what this town has been missing for the last three years. His cohost, though -- well, I'm sure he'll grow on me, but right now he just sounds like a slightly smarter version of former Mancow sidekick Turd.

2010 UPDATE: Garry's new home is WGN, weekdays from 3-7 (when not pre-empted by a Cubs game). Still smart as a whip. Check him out.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Sweet Wonderful wha - ?

WHOSE SICK JOKE was it to make panties for barely-teenage girls with a picture of a cute feline on the, er, bottom front panel, with the caption: 

Found: 
Sweet Wonderful Kitty 

This is not being sold to grown women. This is all done in kid style, all cute in bright colors. Apparently some designer thought this would be funny. I'm not laughing, because my 12-year-old niece is wearing these. (Reason I would know: she visited and used my washing machine.)

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Bring the noise

ALTHOUGH SIMON REYNOLDS has been doing pop music criticism for almost as long as I've been living, I only discovered his writing late last year via this blog -- (I think while I was Googling Style Council or one of those groups, or perhaps the term "postpunk.") He has not only encyclopedic knowledge, but lots of profound insights about music and pop culture. And he has a new book out too.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

For all artsy homo sapiens,
it’s a pleasure to introduce you to

MULLIGAN STEW.
I have never laughed so hard at a rap song. (The link is to the mp3.)

This is not new stuff, but SoCal's Soup The Chemist is still an atypical cat, still unknown and still deserving of his due. Probably because for much of his career he was rockin' the mic at churches instead of clubs. But as a true artist and a seminal figure in Christian rap, he raised the bar of a formerly very wack genre to a whole new level.

Born Chris Cooper, his original rap name as the frontman of SFC was "Super C." That mutated into "Sup the Chemist" and then its present form. The last several years of his career (he's "retired" from the rap game now, and I think started a catering business), he moved more toward positive hip-hop on a backpack tip. A lot of underground cats West and East peeped his style and I’m sure it has influenced some of the guys out there whom you’d least expect.

Soup's old website is down, but he just got a Myspace going, with only a couple of tracks so far. Check back for more. Meanwhile, there are some Soup gems hidden all over the Web.
Here. (I like the THC reference in this one)
This is by an artist named Immortal, where Soup guested
Also one here
This is Soup guesting on a Future Shock cut “Waxing Philosophical”
This is a guest appearance on Mark J “Headbobbers
Wewetalktalkininechoesechoes. Soup guests on a Peace 586 joint from a few years back.
More samples with Soup guesting on this page (if they move for any reason you can go to Soundclick main and search “Soup the Chemist”).
But corny, simpleminded people will never have a clue on how to enjoy this cat's flow.


* 2010 UPDATE: Full Soup album downloads, 100 percent free:

Eargasmic Arrangements

Dust (2000)

Microphone Theology (1994: one Soup track)

Phase III (with SFC, 1992)
and Illumination (1994)

Thanks to Po'Safe!

Monday, May 07, 2007

Sad bastard songs



AS JOHN CUSACK'S character Rob Gordon muses, pop music really has screwed up entire generations with its pictures of "heartbreak, rejection, pain, misery and loss."

As I listened to a local oldies station recently, I realized even the "innocent," saccharine teen love songs of yesteryear were completely disempowering to boys trying to become men. Just when they need to be developing confidence and strength in themselves and toward women, what did popular music give them? Emotionalism, heartbreak, desperation. Begging, pining, weeping, whining. Promises to do anything to win her heart or get her back, up to and including cutting off their genitals and handing them to her on a silver platter. The message to would-be men: you get the girl by acting like a girl.

But of course, as most of us discover sooner or later -- usually way later than we'd have wished -- acting like a girl does not get the girl. (Well, okay, some are into role reversal, but I'm not talking about those.) Nor do pop stars practice what they sing. In real life, they're nothing like the sad-sack, pitiful, whining, pleading protagonists of their songs: they're straight pimps, charismatic and self-assured to the point of absolute arrogance, because they know they may see more drawers come off in one night than many guys will in a lifetime.

Then they get on the mic and whine again. And because these singers are cute (and they're performing for teenage girls -- who, let's face it, are not hard to impress), they can pull it off. And because the teenage girls are going nuts over it, teenage boys listen to it and take it seriously. And that all makes me one sad bastard.

Spoiled brats, all




















PARIS AND NICOLE: Non-producing rich brats coasting on family wealth.

Paris-and-Nicole-hyping media: Non-producers coasting on footage of non-producing rich brats coasting on family wealth.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Jen, Jane, whatever

THURSDAY NIGHT/FRIDAY: I have this dream about a beautiful artist/writer named Jenny or Jen, who is a white girl, with red hair. I pick her up on the street and take her for a spin in my car. Sadly, just as I get her back to my dream home, something wakes me up. (Damn!)

Friday morning, I feel moved to scour out the interior of my car, including the edges around the door frame, dirtied up by countless muddy shoes. I have a strong feeling that some new lady will be gracing my passenger seat tonight. (Not old friend Annabelle – as she will tell you, I don’t clean for her.) Who could it be? I had emailed Laura the schoolteacher, inviting her to tonight's Pilsen gallery walk; maybe her? In any case, I'm sick of the filthy car, so I clean it up and take it for an oil change.

So that evening, I leave work in the South Loop. I'm all set to head for Pilsen to the gallery district. But first, I figure, I may as well stop by the Fine Arts Building -- which itself has a formidable list of galleries and studios of all kinds, and is only two blocks away from my office.

At the FAB, I first visit Anita Miller, and then Barton Faist, whom I engage in some convo because I really like his art. He’s really into the Great Masters, which is obvious in his work. He goes on and on and on and on and on about light and color theory and how he obsessively layers colors to create translucent, vivid verisimilitude. Also he lectures me about the color wheel, color opposites, how he sees shades in what the normal person would label a plain white wall, how colors change according to the light level, how even the glow cast from a light bulb lights the air around it; how to make blacks look blacker and whites whiter.

Feeling like I’ve just earned an art degree, I go downstairs and pass by the studio of Barlow, a brotha I visited last time I was here. I remember that his pop-art collage style was not exactly my cup of tea, but still I peep in hesitantly to see what’s new. He sees me and waves me on in. And who’s sitting there but two ladies I know. The first one’s name I can’t even recall – I know her from Columbia College. But the second – who’d’ve thunk! –

Jane!


Jane is a striking, high-cheekboned, chocolate-skinned beauty. She's been a model, dancer, and entertainment editor for a Hollywood publication, but also taught at some of Chicago's toughest schools. She was named one of Ebony’s “25 Most Alluring Bachelorettes” back in the early ‘90s. A Chicago political blogger posting her pic described her as a “stone cold fox” -- one of few such individuals who ran for public office in Illinois last year. Of course, she didn’t stand a chance, being a Republican in Chicago.

I met her nearly ten years ago now, at the youthful age of 23, while working as a public relations assistant. I was helping produce an awards dinner where she was one of the awardees. Afterward, a bunch of us went out to a Hyde Park lounge. A lot of cute flirting ensued: she told me I was "young and adorable" and "cute as a button" but I just needed "a little more experience."

I was intrigued. What ever could she mean?

"I'll train you very well," she promised, a mischievous twinkle in her eye. 

But she waited for me to make the move. When I could afford it, I finally invited her out. Our wide-ranging conversation included her claim to have psychic powers inherited from Hopi shamans on her mother's side. I imagined a pineapple, and I challenged her to guess what I was picturing.

"Well," she said, "it's more like I can read feelings, intentions. Not that you could think about, for example, a banana and I could guess it exactly."

"Close," I said. "It was a tropical fruit."

I drove her home, and she invited me in for a drink. By and by, I announced it was time to go, said good night, exited the house and went to my car. But my keys were missing.

I turned back and went up the steps to find Jane standing in the door, wearing a Cheshire cat grin --with my keys in her palm.

"Hey, how --"

“I told you,” she purred. “I'm a magician.”

You don't need to know what happened next. Let's just say I ended up staying a bit later than I'd planned.


Tonight, however, Jane does not recognize me. I am wearing glasses and I don’t have the goatee I sported ten years ago. Maybe she wouldn’t have remembered me anyway. After at least three drinks for Jane and one for me, the two of us end up walking down Michigan Avenue. Taking advantage of her memory lapse, I manage to fool her into thinking I’m psychic by pulling out little facts about her that she had told me years ago: the fact her father had been a jazz bandleader and producer, or that she had lived in Hollywood and danced on "Soul Train" and "American Bandstand." She seems mystified and even a little spooked.

She is thirteen years my senior, but she’s not boring in the least. Between cracking on me about my supposedly boyish appearance ("How did you get here, on a tricycle?") and me crackin’ back about what a great job they did on her dentures, we crack each other up quite a few times.

Well. Jane ends up in my car – the car I took such great pains to clean just for her. Or for "Jen," if you will.

I take her to Lobster King in Chinatown. She has another drink and by this time, her already goofy, dramatic personality plus the alcohol has her acting silly like a thirteen-year-old girl, cracking more jokes at my expense.

I end up dropping her off at her home. Unlike our first date 10 years ago, she does not invite me in, nor would I have accepted. It’s 1 a.m., and I have to be up at 8:30 for work.


p.s.: One reason why we had only one date way back 10 years ago was that I strongly suspected, based on her family background -- and family research I was doing in advance of a family reunion that year -- that she and I were, apparently, distant cousins. She got a little bit freaked out about that. I thought it was cool, but she thought it was somehow perverted.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Continuing with the breast theme

Don't ask why, but today I Googled the term "breast milk ice cream." This took me to a page of a breastfeeding forum where they were talking about how wholesome mommy milk is the cure for many ailments. And there was a link to an article at boingboing. net about a recent Bay Area Craiglist post that starts this way:

"We are offering a free room for a woman who is willing to provide breast milk for consumption to the household...."

You gotta read it.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Shark attacks and schizo voices

















YESTERDAY WAS AN INTERESTING DAY. First, in the morning I had to think about what snacks to buy for the kids. (I work at a youth media nonprofit.) I kept thinking about hummus, but I didn't have enough money to buy some.

Later, after work, I scrape together the dough to go to the Schizowave show. I somehow got onto this chick's email list, and liked her style and have been meaning to go see her for the longest time.

I go to Reckless on Milwaukee and thumb through CDs looking for some bargains. I go to the listening station and check out Shock G, and then grab a disc by my old high-school and college classmate Sharkula -- but then upon popping it in I realize this is the same one I just bought from him at his show two weeks ago.

I'm thinking of asking one of the clerks whether he's been by the store today, since he's a fixture up and down Milwaukee. But I put that thought away and keep listening to Shock -- and then who should stroll up in the place but Shark?

We say what up -- and then, on the down low, he tries to sell me another CD. (Because Shark is just a CD-selling machine -- you know that.) But I don't have cash; I can barely make this Schizowave show, I tell him. He wants to go with me. So we leave the place.

Along the way, Brian (that's his Christian name) tries to holler at a cute girl also leaving the record store, named Carmen. But as he tends to do, he tries way too hard and scares her away -- and ruins what could've been a chance for me.

Since the show's BYOB, we grab a six-pack and then head up to Elastic Arts, where we check out the Schizo show. (This lady is different -- check her out.) Lena's performing in nothing more than a little nightie, which makes things even more fun. Beer is drunk, Mexican food is scarfed, maybe even a blunt smoked. And at one point -- sans any prompting by myself -- Brian goes: "Man, I wouldn't mind having some hummus."

You and me both, brah!

The real simple life

YOU KNOW YOU'RE A REDNECK WHEN ....



... your lawn is your garage and your bathroom.

The owner of the car and tub, Sarah, (aka Stormy), calls herself a redneck -- and in her Jeff Foxworthy-worthy way, she takes pride in it. And ain't nothin' wrong with it. I love rednecks, as long as they don't have a problem with me. I'd much rather hang out with somebody with a bathtub (or other assorted appliances, furniture or vehicles) parked in the yard than with folks so uncreative as to think that a yard is just a place to park a bunch of grass.


Sarah is a fascinating lady. One of nine children, she lives in the Ozark hills of Arkansas. She buys and resells both horses and cars. She's also pretty crafty. A few years ago, when she was 18 or so, she and her brothers and brothers-in-law built a one-room log cabin for her, and she took to living off the grid. Two of her friends are named Amoz and Jed. I know her through an MSN group for Messianic Christians that I joined several years ago but have not really participated in. (Long story.)

Thursday, April 12, 2007

twin

sometimes you meet your twin
it’s like looking in a mirror
but just like your reflection and you
maybe twins aren’t meant to come together

drinking Earl Grey warms the body
thinking you, warms the soul
and your body: a thin cup of tea
that, well, grew on me --
but your soul, spirit, mind
had my attention from "go"

you coming through these doors
would be like cold lemonade
or cool sprinkler spray
on a hundred-degree day
i would hug you tight like a sister
--though you belong not to me,
but to my brother

we would sit
and share strong-as-mud coffee
mountain grown
in your island home
connecting
understanding
being understood
knowing, being known
glowing like a light on a darkened path
soulmates in a city of strangers

gestures synchronized
speaking and laughing
in perfect unison
a soul duo following invisible cues
and you'd grin your goofy grin and exclaim:

"twin"

i wish for the crowd as for me
that they could see the synergy
energy
stereophonic symphony

between us
and wonder

That they could feel these ties hidden from human eyes
we could discuss so much more than the weather
yet we find ourselves separated by 500 miles of it
and—oh yeah—

a little thing called

a wedding ring

Sometimes you meet your twin
It’s like looking in a mirror
But just like your reflection and you
Maybe twins aren’t meant to come together

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Just like Buddy Holly

YOU HAVE TO LOVE synchronicity.

Friday, 10:33 a.m: I’m watching The Buddy Holly Story on VH-1. Buddy’s mom is telling him over dinner, “we let you sow your wild oats, playin’ your rock ‘n’ roll …”

A moment later I flip to MTV, where on “The Real World” the black brotha’s in the health food store looking at Wild Oats products.

One hour and one minute later, in the movie: Brash, bold Buddy corners the beautiful dark-haired Puerto Rican girl, surnamed Santiago, and says to her: “If you won’t go out with me I wanna know why.”

My mind flashes instantly back to 2000 -- seven years and a few weeks ago --to a phone conversation with a beautiful dark-haired Puerto Rican girl, surnamed Santiago.


Saturday, March 24, 2007

Six degrees of synchronicity

WHO IS THIS MAN and what is my connection to him?

Where to start?

1981: Hall and Oates release a song called “Private Eyes.” (Am I working Hall and Oates into every other post lately? I guess so, but only because they are tremendously important.)

This #1 single is the first Hall and Oates song I recall from childhood and would begin a lifetime of H&O addiction for me. One of the few non-original tunes the duo recorded, its writer was Warren Pash.

early '90s at Columbia College Chicago: I study music, one of my instructors being the acclaimed jazz musician and composer Bill Russo.

A couple years later as I became more politically aware, I hear of author, tax protestor, artist and musician Tupper Saussy. Eventually Saussy puts up a web site and I manage to get hold of his last book Rulers of Evil. (I still need to get Miracle on Main Street, although I've read later books along the same theme such as Edward Griffin's The Creature From Jekyll Island.)

I contact him by email, and in our correspondence, not only find I have many similarities with this person twice my age, but that he had studied under the same Bill Russo (years ago, at th School of Jazz in Massachussetts).

Last week: Saussy dies, just before the scheduled party for his new CD The Chocolate Orchid Piano Bar.

The producer?

Warren Pash.


IT'S THOSE KINDS OF  things that give me a kick. You know there are like souls out there, people whose existence seems to parallel your own, and it's always a thrill to run across one of them.

The important thing to say about Saussy, however, is that he was that rarest of individuals in our time: a true Renaissance man, a true talent, a true philosopher (which is different from one who merely academically studies philosophy), a true independent thinker and actor, a true member of "the Remnant" and -- if his own and others' testimony about him are honest -- a true follower of Christ.


I was sad to hear of his passing, because I wanted more Tupper Saussy books -- such as the one he was working on, Gods For the Godless, about the hidden deep-political and spiritual underpinnings of 9/11. At least there's plenty of his music around to enjoy.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Asexuality?

I saw a fascinating Montel show about couples who are romantic, yet asexual. This is cool, since I go through some quite asexual periods myself (and in any case, even when feeling especially sexual, I usually can keep a leash on it). In addition, it's just my luck that I find myself attracted to women with similar, or even lower, drives. That's nice, because without the disorienting fog of sex looming omnipresently over every interaction, it's a lot easier to get to know and enjoy a person in depth. Maybe that's the way real soulmates get to know each other. In a culture that positions sex as the be-all and end-all, how many soulmates have found each other but prematurely ejected (pun intended) because the sex wasn't immediately there? How many couples have met, have clicked perfectly, have conversed for hours on end and had wonderful times together and felt undeniable bonds -- yet have ended up splitting because they weren't constantly wanting to rip each others' clothes off, and so became convinced that "something's wrong"? I've sort of made an informal study of creatives and the creative temperament lately, and I've noticed that while artists have a great reputation for libertinism, in reality I believe it's largely an attempt to live up to a stereotype. In practice, many of the artists and creative types I've known -- particularly the more solitary ones -- learn more toward "asexual" than "voracious satyr." That may be one of the reasons they drink and consume drugs more than the average population: to help unleash their normally dormant libidos. Coincidentally, just before clicking on the TV and coming across that Montell show, I had been thinking; How nice it'd be to not have to eat. There are so many other things to do .....

Monday, March 05, 2007

Revenge of the happy baby pigs

I'm intrigued by the idea of hipster parenting. (Like "alternadad" Neal Pollack, for example.) I wrote the following a couple of years ago, on an old blog that I never publicized. Here it is, only two years late.


MOMS RAWK. If you're not aware of the burgeoning "mommy rock" phenomenon, it encompasses groups such as the Motherlode Trio, the Mydols, Housewives on Prozac (well, it's rock 'n' roll -- you gotta have drugs), and of course, a festival called Momapalooza.

Not long ago Housewives and Momapalooza founder Joy Rose read an essay on NPR wherein she related her overnight transformation from SoHo punk rock queen with a gold record to . . . "happy baby pig" (her words, with emphasis on "baby" -- implying that making babies turns a woman into a pig). As the reality of motherhood set in, she quickly tired of the artist's life. Navigating the walk up four flights of stairs with kids, baby bag and toys in tow proved too challenging. So she and her "partner" (alternaterm for "husband") opted for -- gasp --

THE SUBURBS -- !!!

Denizens of insular urban bohemias think differently, to say the least. In some ways, for the better. But in that hothouse environment, there's also that contempt, even terror, for anything and everything perceived as bourgeois: a notion that the traditional family is for the dull, the bland, the conforming -- the people who go to megachurches and shop at Wal-Mart. Marriage ("partnership," whatever) is a transmitter of the patriarchal oppression virus. Children are not only unhip; they are a burden, a disease to be cured by the abortionist. In some circles these beliefs are held quite literally. Traces of these memes are evident in the self-punishing language Rose employs when relating her journey from moshing to mommying. She sounds sheepish and apologetic, as if to say: I'm really sorry ... I know I'm not supposed to enjoy this exploitative subjugation to an artificial gender role forced upon me by the Oppressive Rapist Patriarchy ... but dammit, I'm lovin' it!

It makes me sad that Rose spent so long steeped in a milieu where doing what nature made you to do makes you a "baby pig," but rejecting motherhood to satisfy ambitions often externally imposed by your subculture, and spending your time and money on yourself, makes you not an "anti-baby pig," but strong and progressive.

Yet even punk rock chicks like Rose continue to apostacize from the cult to obey the call of nature to do what they -- perhaps too obviously to need to point out -- are uniquely equipped to do. Rose had to give up her "me"-centered lifestyle, but didn't give up her love of rock 'n' roll -- at least not forever. She continues to rawk, even in the suburbs. (While moving to the burbs is a tradeoff, not all suburbs fit the stereotypes of blandness, homogeneity and cultural barrenness. And as things are today, a good suburb is a helluva lot better environment in which to raise kids than the big city.)

While I don't know all the details of Rose's rock career, I admire her tremendously for simply desiring to be a real mother. And I'm glad to see the new wave of mommy rock. It refutes the notion of a huge conflict of rock and roll vs. home and hearth, of fun vs. family, of art vs. adulthood. It shows that artistic expression is not exclusively the province of nihilistic, solipsistic singles in their teens or twentysomethings. The movement may inject some much-needed perspective into a scene that needs to be reminded from time to time that it actually is not the center of the universe. Definitely, it will inspire creativity, since rockers who are mommies automatically have a whole new world of material to draw from. And with little ones depending on them, they have even more reasons to change the world.

Knockered out

IN THE FEBRUARY 8 love-'n'-sex-themed issue of NewCity, “Marcy K” bared her soul and shared her small problem -- or rather, her two small problems, which must seem ever smaller compared to the pumped-up monstrosities being paraded around town.

Marcy writes of a recent experience at a club:

I was spending a good portion of the time wedged on a too-tight-to-move lounge space, getting knocked around by big breasts. … It seems to me that they are everywhere these days – and that single (and not-so-single) men in this city have it much too good … How did they spawn? How come all of a sudden it’s
become the industry standard to have glammed-up boobs in this city?
I began to notice the same phenomenon several years ago on the first warm day of spring. I was in the yuppie center of Chicago, Lincoln Park -- my first visit to that area in a couple of years probably -- and I marveled at the new epidemic. It was as if an “Instant Inflate” button had been pressed and everyone in the area had magically gained two sizes. They were bouncing around -- or more accurately, sort of gliding around -- everywhere, especially on a certain species of skinny twentysomething blonde commonly found jogging along the lakeshore or walking around the park toting their hamster-sized dogs. Sure, they catch your eye for a second. But then you realize you're looking at plastic, and you look away, in search of something real.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

They're really impostors



I'M PROBABLY THE biggest fan of Hall and Oates on this planet (Oates especially), and I know they’re old-old-school, but -- c’mon. How do professional entertainers, who presumably have managers and PR people, let a couple of clowns such as this one and this one steal what oughta be their MySpace pages?

I gotta admit though, the second one is funny. And the first guy, when I first visited a few weeks ago, has this wacked out hip-hop-swing-marching-band song from these Brooklynite goofsters. But now he's got this redickulous remix of the Muppets' "Movin' Right Along" ... (Haven't heard this song in about 25 years, but I'll be diddly-dong danged if I didn't recognize it after about the first four bars.)

* POSTSCRIPT: Somehow, since I wrote this post, it seems that the real Hall and Oates have managed to claim this myspace page for themselves. Now that's good news.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Stop the Catbox?

EVERYBODY LAUGHS AT THAT commercial . And that's because it poses the question that has perplexed young and old alike for over 24 years:

What the hell were the Clash singing?

I was eight when that song came out. I only knew the word "Casbah" because my big sister told me that was the word. (She couldn't say what a casbah was, though.) I knew "kosher" because I had Jewish friends, and I could make out a few other really obvious parts, like "on the radiator grill" or "degenerate the faithful." But as for the rest, between Mick's mush-mouthy, British-accented delivery and my unsophisticated grasp of Middle East politics, I was pretty lost.

So what did I think they were saying?

Now the kid he told the boogie bear
Ya got to let the robber drown
He oiled down the desert wind
Has '
im shakin’ to the town
He shaky drove his Cadillac
He went a cruisin’ down the real
The prison guard's a standin’
On the radiator grill

(YAAAAAA)

Cheri don’t like it
Rock the Casbah
Rock the Casbah
Cheri don’t like it
Rock the Casbah
Rock the Casbah

I ordered up the profit
You better prove your sound
Degenerate the faithful
With that crazy Casbah sound
They better when they brought out
The electric cattle drum
They look and get to thinkin’
that he’s goin’ ta break his thumb
Soon as the Cheri cleared the square
Babe began to wail

[chorus]

I'm over at the temple
Oh, they really packed the rim
Think I say it’s cool
To take this child teen thing
But as the wind changed direction
And the temple ground’s on fire
The ground got a will
Oh that crazy Casbah chiiiiiiiiild

[chorus]


The king called up his jet fighters
He said you’d better run your planes
Drop your bombs between the minarets
Now the Casbah way
As soon as the Cheri goes surfin’ outta there
The jet pilots tune to the captain radio blare
Soon as the Cheri gets outta their hair
The jet pilots wail

Cheri don’t like it
Rock the Casbah
He thinks it’s not kosher
From the mental retardation
You know he really hates it

(Now here are the real lyrics.) By the way ... A live version of this song featuring Mick Jones and someone named Rachid Taha, singing in Arabic. Cool.


FROM THE CLASH to ... America? Why the hell not?

America's “You Can Do Magic” is a perfectly crafted pop song in the smooth vein of late '70s/early ‘80s yacht rock.

Now, for some strange reason, something told me last week to record a “ghetto bounce” R&B version of this song, just for fun. Last Sunday I slapped together a demo, complete with six parts of vocal harmony. It actually doesn't sound that bad. I'm wondering why someone hasn't already thought of doing this. Maybe someone like that Usher-sounding kid -- what's his name? -- should try it. It's a hell of a lot better song than "She's Like the Wind."

And whaddya know? I go on YouTube and this song has been resurrected thanks to some Harry Potter fan who’s put this song to captured video of evil warlock Snape.

While we’re talking about great songs of 1982, how about F-Mac’s “Hold Me”?

I loved everything about this song: its dreamy otherworldliness, its piano tinkling, its driving beat, its plucky guitars and percussion, the echo that makes the guitar solo sound like it was played in a canyon, the five-note scale (which is Oriental, but at the time actually made me think of American Indians), and the way McVie, Buckingham, Nicks et al. came off like an unruly, unpolished children’s choir rather than a precision-engineered pop group. I love musicians who are obviously having a lot of fun, and FM were certainly having fun in this song, or at least made it sound so.

But for me, the videos tend to spoil these images -- especially America's original video for "Magic." I'm kinda like Jade, one of the kids I work with in an after-school program, who prefers books without pictures. Just like Jade, I would rather make the pictures in my head.

Monday, February 12, 2007

two fridays of art

"DO YOU LIKE REALISM?” the guy said to me when I poked my head through the door of the tiny but plushly appointed art studio.

The man was Steve, husband of artist Alice McMahon White; the studio was one of many in Chicago's fine Fine Arts Building: a stately, storied old edifice that originally served as a Studebaker carriage and wagon factory and now houses a variety of artists and related organizations. (For a few months during college I had worked at the art-house theater that formerly occupied the first floor; when not busy I was always snooping around in the building's nooks and crannies.)

Still clutching a half-drunk glass of red wine from the last gallery, I gazed appreciatively about the small studio, crammed with intricate wall- and easel-mounted works, mostly portraits in pencil and pastel. I told Steve I thought it was about time for realism to stage a comeback.
He let me know that a comeback, of sorts, is happening right now.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Reality, fiction and football

SEEING THAT TRUTH is stranger than fiction, I tend not to spend much time on the latter any more. But in its own way fiction still can be powerful. Right now I'm starting Bukowski's Factotum, which I should've read long ago. (Partner in grime Annabelle dumps books on me as if I had nothing to do but read books -- which would be nice.)

Bukowski wastes no time in this novel. By the time you get to the bottom of page one -- and it's only a half-page -- you've already got great descriptive writing, you've got man vs. the elements, you've got poverty and down-at-the-heelness, you've got a bit of mystery about who's this protagonist and where's he going and why he's in this situation -- and most intriguing, you've already got sexual tension. Interracial sexual tension, at that.

If you're gonna write a story, you may as well start with a bang, I mused while reading.

The Bears started out with a bang last night. It turns out, though, that they only had a couple of rounds in the chamber.


THE AIR FORCE is aggressively hunting new bomb fodder with the help of commercials run during the Super Bowl and on MTV. They're all about action, speed, excitement, boys playing with cool toys and enjoying teamwork and manly camaraderie and the self-realization of belonging to something bigger than oneself. War as a kind of extreme sport.

Of course, these exciting, adrenaline- and testosterone-releasing images and messages are the stock-in-trade of military recruitment ads. And such techniques are common to advertising in general, which works on the emotions rather than logic and usually hypes the positive while omitting the negative. So is the USAF being an exceptional liar? By one standard, perhaps not.

But to bring a sense of perspective to it, one might argue that the higher the stakes involved, the less defensible the lie. Most ads, fundamentally dishonest though they may be, aren't selling you a product that inherently includes the risk of getting your arms, legs, face or man parts blown off, or getting turned into flame-broiled hamburger -- or having to do the same to other men, women and children you've never met and in most cases will never even see. Or perhaps taking part in "domestic surveillance" against fellow Americans. Seems to me that military recruitment ads ought to be required to provide, oh, I don't know, maybe just a smidgen of actual reality?

Even MTV has "The Real World." When are we going to see "The Real World: Iraq"?

Speaking of which, I salute this guy for exhibiting a kind of bravery they don't seem to teach in the military.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Where do ideas come from?

WHETHER THEY COME FROM the unconscious, the spirit realm, or both, or neither, it's an amazing process -- and all the more so for its mysterious opacity. You feel sometimes like a passive conduit, an inbox just sitting there minding its own business. And then, when you least expect it, you've got mail.

Some poetic licenses should probably be revoked

POETRY IS THE one form of entertainment loaded with hoards of mediocres completely unconscious of the fact that they are supposed to be entertaining. Lest "entertainment" evoke only fun and jokes, I don't mean it that way. Entertainment is diversion that can evoke the entire range of emotions. But it should evoke something more than tears of boredom.

An Enigmarie, wrapped in a riddle

ONCE UPON A TIME -- on May 26, 2000, to be precise--I received a most intriguing e-mail from an "E Aguilar."* The subject line read:    
 

TewlveTribes


And the message:

Ahoy there Fellow!

I be the homeless one w/ a Howard Hughs' story. - Now again;
w/ out a place to lay my head in a few short days.

Hughs' attention for his generosity -apparently didn't help attract an eye for diliverance.

I'd like to generate intrest in a group living siduation like the 12 Tribes, but the possibilities are weak. Please inform as to your caution.

Thank you,
Blessings

    What was I to make of this?

I replied:

Ahoy there matie! True to your e-mail address, your message was quite enigmatic. Could you explain yourself a little more? Who are you? Where are you from? Where'd you get my e-mail address? Are you associated with the Tribes? What does Howard Hughes have to do with your situation? And by the way, would you be related to one Minor Aguilar of Chicago?

This person wrote back. Marie Aguilar was the name given this time. She was of a certain age, which she wasn't eager to tell. She was from the Sarasota area. She had at least one daughter. She was somewhat of an artist (an "illistrator," as she put it), but also had experience as a personal trainer, but was hoping to find work as a doula. And she was in some sort of dire straits, the nature of which she was never at liberty to fully explain. And no, she didn't know anybody named Minor Aguilar.

But how had she obtained my e-mail, and why'd she write? Turns out she had seen an article authored by me in an online Christian newsletter. In that article I mentioned certain spiritually based intentional communities, and one of these was a quasi-Messianic-Jewish group called the Twelve Tribes. Marie had an interest in such groups, and she e-mailed me, perhaps thinking I was involved in one. She told me that she was of marrano Jewish ancestry and was searching for her Jewish roots in Messiah. Currently, she said, she worshipped with a "home fellowship" rather than a typical corporate church.

As for the homeless bit, I speculated she was fleeing some sort of abusive relationship. Since she was reticent to share many details, I didn't pry. But she was safe for the time being, she reassured me, and staying with friends. She was trying to get a deal on a mobile home for $8000.

She made quite an e-penpal. Her handle, enigmarie2000, proved apt. In subsequent emails, she continued with her quirky colors, formatting, punctuation, and colorful spelling ("inishally," "unfourtunatly," "uncertion," "perswations," "simmilor," etc.). She called e-mails "E-s." ("Guess I started looking forward to your E-s...")

Sometimes she'd sign her name:

mare

And sometime she'd use totally off-the-wall subject lines, such as:

Massa Massa

or

-1 + +1=*

I'd ask her to explain these, but she never did. I figured: okay, eccentric artist type, I get it. But as poor a speller as she was, she seemed a very joyful, optimistic person in the face of all her trials, and always had something to share: a Bible verse, an inspirational poem, a bit of advice.

In one e-mail I apologized for not writing for so long because I'd been overwhelmed and struggling with various projects, and also, with a female person in my life:
The more I get to know her, the more I'm convinced we are really twins who were separated at birth. We are so alike in so many things (including favorite brand and flavor of tea) it's scary. ... Yet, we've had a little falling out over a communication problem and her mood-swing problem, which sometimes gets in the way of having a normal conversation. But I still care for her and I'm praying for her. ...

Marie wrote back:

Hi ya, _____ :) good to hear you sounding well. The girl, however much your ditto, may be a type of distraction. Use caution. Seek first His Kingdom so you have a safe Haven. I'm sure of your wittness, but as humans our biggest drawback is the glove attached to our soul. You are accepted in The Beloved & greater is He in you then he that's in the world. Keep yourself clean in His Word & approach her as a lover of the goodness & faithfullness of God before direction your affections too hastilly.

Too much to say now. I'll have to give you a couple of E- forwards to catch you up w/ me.

I love you my brother. God is working mightily in you! I look forward to the wonderful things He has in store for you
We carried on occasional correspondence for over a year. I even called her a couple of times: she had expressed interest in a marketing business I was involved in at that time, so we talked biz as well as personal and spirichal stuff.

But then her messages became scarce, and when they did come they were abrupt and created more questions than they answered. She was again homeless, she said, writing from libraries. She was on the road. With Olivia. It sounded like a dire situation. She asked me to pray that her vehicle didn't break down. Where was she headed? I asked her. Was she running from the law? She couldn't say.

Soon the emails stopped coming, and mine no longer received replies. So I said prayers for her, and life went on.

But I couldn't help but care about the well-being of this touchingly zany lady. Every now and then I'd try to Google her, plus her email addresses, trying to find any tidbit of information. Nothing came up.

After several months, on Nov. 17, 2002, she sent a message out to a list of friends, including me, with subject line:


Famous"in his words, this man used his influence to abduct Olivia Salisbury


To the message, she had attached a Google search page full of page hits concerning Enrico Wallenda. Yep, that's right, of The Flying Wallendas, of circus highwire fame.

That's when it all started to come together. She had been Mrs. Wallenda. They divorced and he got custody of Olivia. I don't know the circumstances or the justice of this decision; it does appear that Wallenda is a "famous freemason," and by many accounts, a Mason in court has a much easier time getting his way if the judge is also a "brother Mason," as many are. Whatever the case, in January of that year Marie Aguilar, or rather Edith Salisbury, her real name, had whisked the 7-year-old Olivia off on a wacky cross-country caper that culminated in San Diego.

But as part of a national law enforcement program, Olivia's face was plastered on "Missing Children" cards sent out by a direct-mail marketing company. As a result, when she and her mom were spotted at a San Diego homeless shelter in September 2002. The law was notified and soon Olivia was back home in Florida.

The latest news is that Olivia's training to be part of the next generation of the Flying Wallendas. I haven't heard from her mom lately. I hope by now she's out of prison.

[* last name changed.....]

Thursday, January 25, 2007

24/7 nostalgia

THE THING THAT'S so cool about growing old as a Gen-Xer is that for several years now, VH-1 has been replaying our entire youth for us.

This nostalgia barrage is a trap, yes -- but such a sweet sticky one. Who doesn't want to relive his formative years: the years when life was simpler, when everything -- especially music -- was just better?

In addition to transporting us back to carefree youth, the retro resurgence does us another favor by setting us up as guides -- elder statesmen of cool, you might say -- to all the MySpacing iPod kids who've never owned an analog sound recording and are just now discovering '70s and '80s music.

KID: Dude! R & B artists actually played real instruments back then? They had bands? Get out!

ME: Well, yeah. That was pretty much the norm until the mid-'80s.

KID: What's that thing their voices and instruments are doing? It's weird. But it makes me ... it makes me feel good!

ME: I believe you're referring to the melody and harmonies and chord progressions? Musicians used to know those, but they kinda went out of style in the '90s.

KID: Thanks to bands like the Killers (who I was into way before anyone had ever heard of them, by the way), I'm really discovering a lot of really cool, totally underground bands from the '80s who influenced them. Like New Order, the Cure, Duran Duran...

ME: [Erupts in peals of laughter.]

KID: What's so funny? Hey, do you like my ironic Hall and Oates t-shirt? [Glances around nervously, then whispers:] But just between you and me, I really like those guys!

ME: You know, some of their best songs were never even released as singles. You have to get the albums. Did you know they go all the way back to 1969? You know, Daryl Hall used to sing backup for all these Philly soul guys -- ever heard of the Delfonics? Anyway, he was with this band called Gulliver for a while. They put out this crazy album that sounded like the Beatles, with a little more soul. I might let you borrow my CD ...

KID: [Stares blankly.]



It's little perks like this that make growing old a little more tolerable.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

I'm not here to start no trouble,

but I'm so tired of the Super Bowl Shuffle gettin all the play in the wake of the Bears victory, while the sweetest '85 Bears charity single of them all goes ignored!

Sadly, everyone hasforgotten Walter Payton's clearly superior song "Together As a Team."

Together as a team, we have a dream
Everyone can win together
If we hold hands in this great land
We can make life a whole lot better
‘Cause the people of the world, we are the ones,
Everyone should get involved,
If we hold together aloft our hands

Our problems can be solved!

By the way, what was that I heard about the '85 Bears returning to the studio to record a "darker" album?

Good art is the new "outsider art"

 

AND MUSIC BY MUSICIANS is the new punk rock.

Yes! So I have proclaimed it,  and so shall it be.

While googling the term "art about art" (because I got tired of encountering art about art ), I came upon this site.

"So long as most of humanity is permitted to compare and decide for themselves, Truth and Beauty, the twin sisters of the human soul projected through cyberspace into millions of homes, are certain to prevail," writes Art Renewal Center chairman Fred Ross.

Interesting. I leafed back a few pages in the journal sitting in my lap as I sat  reading Ross' words. There it is -- something wrote a couple of weeks ago:

BEAUTY + TRUTH ... are 2 sides of a coin, created by the same Creator. Truth is his Word and beauty his Work. But too often those given to Beauty neglect and scorn Truth, while those seeking after Truth give short shrift to Beauty.

I've not really kept up on cultural criticism about the fine arts, beyond perusing the conservative salvo Degenerate Moderns almost as soon as it debuted (and thinking: "Wow, those Bloomsbury people actually sound like a fun crowd...") I know a lot about conspiracies, and undeniably there has been a general conspiracy (or if you don't like that "c"-word, call it a "consensus" or a "contagion") to dumb down the American public. It also seems that modern art was part of it. Some would say the movement was skillfully siezed and its import vastly magnified by the CIA, allegedly for Cold War purposes. Encountering some skilled realists, and stumbling upon the ARC site, got me thinking again.


Cruise-ify him

TOM CRUISE IS a "Christlike figure" in Scientology? So says a high-ranking member of the celebrity-stalking cult.

At least, so says the British tabloid the Sun.

Or rather, so the Sun says of the Scientology source's saying so.

Ugh. I'm getting my typing fingers all tangled up.

Plus, I do not like to make fun of the mentally challenged.

I will stop here.