Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Me Chris...Me Like Bang Drums.

I think I finally figured it out the gist of something. For years, comedians and critics of both sexes have been getting a lot of mileage out of joking that men are "simple" women are "complex."

I think most people realize this is silly. All people are complex, even when they seem simple. The human brain is complex beyond comprehension, male or female. Still, it makes for good jokes and it seems true: men can appear to be simple oafs. But I think it has more to do with (can I use this term?) "primality" than with simplicity.

Men are not, generally, simpler than women, but they have remained more connected to their primal roots than women seem to have. Maybe this means women have actually evolved further than men. I don't know. But I do know that even the most philosophical and most metaphysical of men still have a bit of the chest-beater in them even when they pretend not to.

A Japanese Taiko drummer.
We want to be strong and tough. These two qualities might not be as immediately and as literally useful as they were when we were living in fear of being ingested by three-headed swamp creatures or of getting clubbed by someone from the tribe over the hill during a cattle raid, but the primal need for these qualities remains. How they manifest themselves is up to us.

If we pick fights in bars, we are being morons. Those of us who do this are the ones who deserve the whatever oafish label they get. There are a lot of these guys around.

The rest of us (the majority) tend to channel our strength and toughness into other directions.

Sports, for one. In sports, we can be warriors for the required number of periods. No one gets killed, but we get to "fight" for a certain time -- we get to prove our toughness and strength. Sports are the most literal parallel to our survivalist/warrior ancestry.

When we are not on the field, though, what do we do? Again, bar-brawlers are idiots, but the primal connection remains. I think we all need a way to assert our strength, because, for us, it is still important, even if it is not as important to our female counterparts and even if we think they value toughness in us more than they actually do.

I know I lost my interest in sports some years ago, but I may not have if it wasn't for playing the drums. Drums are a physical instrument -- and talk about a literally and metaphorically primal thing... So, I admit it. There is a reason I play rock drums as opposed to jazz. I like to make loud noise; I like to drive a band; I like being able to play fast, strong drum fills. I take pride in my calloused hands. I like people to watch me play and to be impressed by my strength on the instrument -- but only if it amounts to the making of art. And for me, on drums as in life, strength without finesse and subtlety is just chest-beating.

That's not simple, but it sure is primal.

Monday, April 21, 2014

The Necessity of Possession

I had forgotten about this -- that I wanted to write about it. I sat down to write about something else, and, as usual, I put on the headphones to listen to music while writing and I selected the album I wanted from my mp3 list. For some unknown reason, the album wasn't "there." There was that little picture of a cloud, showing I had to download it to my phone if I wanted to listen.

Yesterday, mind you, it was there. I listened to the whole thing. Not today, for some strange reason. But, see -- I paid for it. It is supposed to belong to me, but what I really paid for was some kind of sonic code. I have no record in my possession; I have no CD. I have code. 

So, I am a dinosaur, right? But, by the teeth of all the saints, I want to possess the things I pay for, no questions asked. 

Shocked? I know we have been conditioned to shun material goods. I know "money can't buy happiness." I know "we can't take it with us." But I think this is getting a little crazy. 

When I pay for something, I want to be able to put it on a shelf and admire it as part of my collection. If it is a record, I want to be able to take it down, put it on the turntable (or into the CD tray) and listen to is as I read the lyrics or check out the musical personnel on each track. (I spent many happy hours doing just that in my younger days.)

Maybe I caved-in to getting music "virtually" because music is an ethereal art. I don't know. I have said before: I will never read books on an e-reader. I say this not to be judgmental of those who do -- it just does not appeal to me. I like to hold books; I like to see them on my shelves. Does this make me greedy?

I know -- I'm weird. I'm weird because I want contact with physical things. I want to collect things that are dear to me and I want to hold them and I want to look at them in the natural light of day, not as pixels. 

When we see our friends -- our real ones, not the thousand dear buddies we have on Facebook -- we embrace them; we shake their hands. Why? Because humans need contact. We need touch. Husbands and wives can (and should) be intellectually compatible, but if they don't touch and make love, they might as well be pen pals.

What if Chicken Little is right? 

I don't want to be a hoarder of things, but I want to actually possess the things that I love. Having things is not evil; and if we shell out money for them, they should be available to us when we want them. 

I know one could argue that by giving up actually possession and accepting virtual possession, we are moving one step closer to shrugging off the physical world -- one step closer to becoming one with the universe. Well, you know what? I'm not ready to be one with the universe. I still enjoy walking barefoot in the dirt. I still love pounding the drums. I still like a good, firm handshake. And I want to hear my music when I want to hear it, pulled down from my alphabetized shelves and held in my greedy fingers. 

So sue me -- in bitcoins, though. 

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Handsome Is As Handsome Does

A small, good thing.

Yesterday, we went out for my mother's birthday; dinner. On the way home, we engaged is various crazy discussions and in an elevated level of goofiness that actually left me hoarse from repeatedly doing a silly voice.

At one point, for some reason, the conversation lead to my son, who is twelve, asking my mom: "Grandmom...who was the actor you had a crush on when you were younger? Tom Cruise?"

"No," my mom said. "He was after my time. It was Charlton Heston."

"Who's he again?" my son responded.

"The guy from Planet of the Apes," I chimed in. "Taylor."

"Oh, yeah," my son said. Then, he thought for a minute. "He was a pretty good-looking guy. I could see why girls would like him."

What was cool was the ease with which my son said that. If I am geing honest, as a twelve-year-old from a different time, I would have hesitated to have even mentioned that I thought a man was handsome. I would have been afraid of what it would have "sounded like." I might have thought it (in fact, I actually remember having thought it watching the movie as a kid his age), but I would have refrained from saying it.

I think it is cool that my son has a such a level of comfort with his own sexual identity (one that has been comically clear since his youngest days -- the lad has clearly loved the ladies since preschool); I think it shows an exceptional level of maturity, even in a time of apparently (though maybe exaggeratedly) shifting perceptions.

That's it. I just like when people (especially my sons) are, as they say, "comfortable in their own skins."

Monday, April 14, 2014


Sometimes, more words equal more confusion.

Sometimes, more words equal more clarity.

Sometimes, words are not meant to lead us to clarity, but to the confusion that leads us to the path toward clarity.

Sometimes we are ready to walk that path and sometimes we are not.

Sometimes a lack of readiness is own our fault, and sometimes it is not.

Either way, clarity lies there, at the end of the path. Waiting.

We will either find it, one day, or we will not -- that much is clear.

Pissarro: 1879

Friday, April 11, 2014

The Last Ship Has Finally Come In

I finally got Sting's first collection of original songs in about ten years: The Last Ship. I love it. (Don't worry -- this is not going to be a record review. I hate those.)

I haven't "loved" one of his albums in a long time -- maybe ever since 1993's Ten Summoner's Tales. My enjoyment of his work declined with every album since that one...until this one. Yet...I never got bitter.

Sting, doing a character from The Last Ship --
which will be a broadway play in September.
You know what I mean? Did you ever witness people who get downright mad when musicians they like put out albums they don't agree with or enjoy? -- as if it is a personal affront?

It is hard, granted, when one makes a personal connection with an album, not to look for that same level of identification out of everything after. Those albums become dear to us. I wouldn't be who I am today without Rush's Moving Pictures; Genesis's Seconds Out; Sting's Soul Cages and U2's Achtung Baby, just to name a (very) few. In the case of each of those artists, there have been scores of records that I disliked deeply or that I thought just didn't stand up to the "gems."  (I use only rock albums here -- it is a particular thing, the "album of songs" that cannot be compared to the mountains of other types of music I love.) But, though I might have disliked the directions these artists took, I never, as I said, got bitter. And I went right on buying their stuff.