Monday, February 28, 2011

The Frozen Heart of False Spring

On a Sunday afternoon, I'm upstairs in my music room. The sun has that look it usually only gets in spring -- on Sundays in springtime, for some reason. It's got that trumpet-brightness, as if it's marching ahead of a parade of flowers that isn't so very far away, blaring the message that life is ready to start crawling out from under the frost. It throws a corny, poetic, clarion light that warms my hands on the piano keys even though people pass on the sidewalk in coats.

My sons are downstairs and I can hear them laughing and pleasantly chatting over a game of Mario Brothers. My wife clicks away at the downstairs computer. The house has that after-church peacefulness it tends to get.

Soon, through the window, I see two boys -- friends of my older son -- rolling down the street on their skateboards.

Friday, February 25, 2011

The Soul of Hats

Someone asked me, today, why I so seldom write about the news. Where are the posts, she wanted to know, about the rebellions in the Middle East? -- the union issues in Wisconsin? I almost felt guilty for a second. But, no, in the end I don't. (In my defense, however, I wrote a cracking piece about Happy Meal regulation, once).

Why not feel guilty, you ask? Because we can't ignore the heart for the sake of the body or the home for the sake of the city or the city for the sake of the state or the state for the sake of the world. What's inside can't be neglected.

We can't forget ourselves -- I mean, literally, our selves -- in all of this. There are those who speak out about politics, quite well. There are those whose voices ring above the rest when it comes to world issues. These people are important. But I would argue that we need a place to come to look into ourselves a little. If this blog serves that purpose for you, I have all I can ask as its creator.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Self-Baking Fruitcakes

I once knew a guy who idolized David Lee Roth. He thought the essence of all music was "pizzazz". He'd wear Spandex and hop around on stage during band shows. Well, not "hop". He sort of blumpthed. I know that's not a word, but that's what he did, for criminey's sake.

And, let me tell you, Spandex is a mystical, magical fabric. The pressure per square inch inside that suit must have been immeasurable, forced outward as it was by his unreasonable rotundity; yet, it did not burst. It does, however, have opacity limits, as only a drummer, like myself, can see from his unique vantage point when a singer decides to crawl toward the audience, a la Roth.

So, this pumpkin of a chap would loll around on stage, wrapped in bumpy neon slipperiness and hocking out his own version of "Jump" in front or a room full of frozen, open-mouthed faces. If I were a woman, I would venture a guess that the mere sight of it would have been enough to instantly turn me asexual.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Good is the New Bad

Once, while helping a friend of mine to move, I took out a desk drawer, as is the protocol, and I saw three glossy, black-and-white photographs of a naked girl staring up at me. She was in her twenties and posing proudly -- shamelessly -- for an anonymous photographer. She was standing in the bathroom -- in a hotel or a dormitory or something.

Having had no respect whatsoever for the privacy or feelings of my friend, as was the dynamic of my group of twenty-something pals at the time, I yelled: "Yo! Who is the naked girl in your desk drawer?"

My friend, sweaty and annoyed by the work of the day stepped into the room, mopping his brow with an old shirt. "What?"

Friday, February 18, 2011

In Defense of the American Teenager

"Derned kids."
For a few days, I have been struggling to come up with a post. A rarity for me. Not because I didn't have an idea -- I knew exactly what I wanted to do: rip into a whining (irony intended) teacher who trashed her students on her blog and then argued that she didn't intend for the world to read it. But I won't. Still, I might be able to help.

Um, Natalie . . . I'm no one and people in Japan, Egypt and Belarus read my blog. See, there's this thing called the "interweb" . . .  If you want only your friends to read your blog, you need to make it private. There are buttons to click for this. Your lazy, whining, sub-standard students could explain this to you in about six seconds.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Sensitivity Programming

Okay. We can talk about people and manners and all, and they will simply do what they want. They're people with free will. Nothing's going to change that, but, I'll tell you, I work with technology a lot. All day long I deal with it at work -- in a school -- and when I am home, technology makes its way into my music.

I implore all computer programmers: start programming some concern into your machines, for heaven's sake. I'm tired of their blank stares; their matter-of-factness; their insolent air of infallibility. Because, I have to tell you, I'm going to pummel the digital stuffing out of one some day.

Monday, February 14, 2011

I Know Not "Seems"

Quite often, we'll be listening to my iPod or the radio in the car and one of my young sons will ask me: "Is that you dad?" In my entire life, nothing has been as satisfying as that question. It means my boys see me as a composer and as a singer.

The audience that really counts gets it.

I might have to do something else to pay the mortgage, but my lads know who I really am. They see me in my little studio working; they see me lugging gear off to gigs and they hear me making music often enough that they realize that it's what their dad is really all about.

I don't have a heck of a lot to brag about in terms of artistic recognition, so far, but my sons' perception is proof to me that I've learned to "be" rather than to "seem". In other words, I work at it hard enough that a nine-year-old and a seven-year-old know it's really part of me.

Friday, February 11, 2011

The Seer of Souls

Once, a man climbed a high mountain to reach the woman who could see the colors of souls. He had traveled many, many miles through thick forests and over sprawling plains to find this Seer of Souls; for, it was said that by finding the color of a person's spirit, she could give anyone the formula for his own particular happiness --  how to best cast light upon what lay within so that the color shone brightest. The man wanted to know: What will make me happy, forever?

On a cold night, slick with an invisible rain, he finally reached a plateau. There he found a small house, clean and strong, but small. The window poured buttery light out into the gloom. The man knocked softly.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Worthless Pride

Meet Icarus. No, down in the water. (Click to enlarge)
Somewhere along the line, a switch flipped in my head. But in the past, things were different . . .

I remember being a little kid and getting teased on the playground. I remember crying about it.

Years later, during the search for our first house, I took a family member through the place we had decided to buy. She said: "I hate it." At the time, I got mad -- I remember feeling the anger burning in my stomach. She had insulted our taste. This was to be our home. How dare she?

Monday, February 7, 2011

The Audience (A Fable?)

The world is music -- the greatest composition, ever, penned by the Unseen Composer. The Composer has crafted the world out of four elements: rhythm, melody, timbre, and harmony. And when he raises His baton, the world shifts and changes around us, like sound waves washing over a concert audience. We watch; we listen.

But we hear things differently.

Some follow only the rhythm, because that can be done with no thought and with no work. A rhythm drives everyone's body. Rhythm, is easy. Rhythm, is powerful. Rhythm lives inside our chests and rings within our ears in deepest silence. Rhythm, is easy. Rhythm is powerful.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Balancing Passion

I've been thinking about sex since Monday.

I know. That's childish and lame. Sorry. Couldn't resist.

Now, let me state it properly: I have been thinking about sexuality since Monday.

To start this week, I wrote a piece called "Calling All Ladies and Gentlemen." The piece called for renewed attention to manners -- to what is appropriate, partially in reference to the media and its over-the-line depiction of sexuality. A reader, the very insightful and articulate "zmkc," mentioned something extremely important. The comment:
I am so badly brain-washed that, while instinctively I react as you do, I cannot quite bring myself to say that you are right. Or rather, I think you are right, but I fear an extreme reaction in the other direction, leading us back to an emotionally trussed-up world.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

The Glass Wall (A Riff for 2/2)

Allow me to "riff, " cats and kittens, on self-perception for a moment. For maximum effect, take these one at a time, with a breath in-between. And-a one; and a-two:

I don't know about you, but I think I look much different than I really do. Not necessarily better or worse, but different: a little more sketchy; a little more linear; a little more in medias res. In pictures, I seem so concrete; so prosaic.

Sometimes, I see myself as, like, the shadow of a moving cloud, but I'm really just . . . gravitized.