Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Why I Am the Greatest Composer in the History of Mankind

I have decided that I am the greatest composer who ever lived. Why? By what standards, you ask? Because you can have your Beethovens; your Mozarts; your Stravinskys; your Ravels; your Phillip Glasses (or your Phillip Shotglasses, for that matter). Short of Glass's stint driving NYC cabs, these guys did it for a living. Big deal! Me? I write around corners.

I am in a relatively unenviable position when it comes to my art. See, I really do take composition as
Sure -- all the time inthe world. 
seriously as the chaps mentioned above. I spend most of my waking hours, at least on some level, thinking about music. I'm, like, the artistic equivalent of a really, really spiritual guy who chose not to become a priest because he wanted to have a family.

This means I have to try to be Gershwin in my spare time. But he got to be Gershwin full-time. Any chump can do that.

Me? I compose amidst dog barks, kids arguing and taking baths across the hall and people knocking on the door. I have to compose like this. I have to design and record complex harmonic structures and tonal resolutions with a wet-bearded dog head in my lap.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Searching for Ballast

The ship of society needs ballast, don't you think? I'm not saying that everyone needs to think exactly the same. In fact, the possibility of such a condition is horrifying to me. But, a ship without ballast lists and it can eventually founder. Maybe the ballast of society's ship is some kind of consensus of the way things should be in certain areas.

I know many accuse traditional values of being foolish and anachronistic (or even damaging [and some are]) but some of these values have served as "ballast" for quite a long time. Some of them are not only, in my opinion, good, but, they are necessary for smooth sailing. For societal harmony.

I was listening to a morning radio show today and they were discussing the conditions of revealing important life information to family members: pregnancies, engagements, etc. What they were batting around was people's reactions to such stuff -- anger at not being told "first," etc.

Two callers had me chewing on my steering wheel.

Now, many of my more astute readers have warned me against listening to morning talk shows, but, where else would I go to get a grip of the mind of the average dolt?

One caller told a story regarding her four-year engagement to her current husband. The host of the show asked, "Why did it take so long for you to get married?" Her response? "Well, a year into our engagement, I got pregnant, so..."

Friday, October 25, 2013

Satan's Pants

I came home pretty happy. Not too tired. Comfortable.

It was a sweater day. I go without a tie on sweater days -- so I make every day a sweater day as soon as it gets cold enough, because I think ties are cruel and unusual.

Normally, I come home and change clothes immediately -- lose the dress pants and shirt and tie and whatever formalish annoyances I need to wear to work and put on jeans or sweats...

But on this particular day, I was plenty comfy. I needed to go and pick up the boys from an after school activity in, like, a half-hour, so, since I was comfy, I figured I would skip changing and make myself a nice cup of tea. Plenty of time for a bloke to enjoy it and still get there in time...

...that is, unless a bloke spills it (which I did) on his nice pants for work which, on this particular day -- the only day, in...well..ever -- on which he had decided not to change. On this particular day, in fact -- this anomalous day -- on which he had chosen to wear his lightest-colored pants; a pair of pants so pale on the tan scale as to be nearly off-white.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

The Bible in the Stampede

I teach and I am the vice principal of academics at a small Catholic high school. I know a lot of people are reacting to Catholicism these days with a great deal of negativity, for every reason from the pedophile scandals to a complete dismissal of the possibility of God or of an afterlife. I understand. (I think dismissal of belief because of unprovability is foolish, but I have said things about that elsewhere.)

Lately, though, a lot of people (including Catholics) have been pointing to Pope Francis and saying, "Finally! -- a pope who is x, y and z." He is tolerant. He is an eschewer of wealth. He even went to far as to say he is not in a position to judge homosexuals who earnestly seek to find God. People see him as a breath of fresh air.

(Most people, anyway. Recently, I saw someone trying to prove he is the Antichrist.)

Funny -- I hear what the pope says and I think...well, yeah. That's the stuff I thought Catholicism, at its core, was about in the first place. Love. Sincerity. Concern for the poor. Et cetera. To me, Pope Francis is just saying all of the things I have understood were represented in the Gospel -- stuff that, perhaps, has gotten lost in bureaucracy and in human weaknesses since the start of things.

Monday, October 21, 2013

My Father's Melody

My father has been in something of a haze. He's is experiencing dementia, as I mentioned before. He is often confused. Sometimes, he can't tell TV from reality.

Yesterday, as I do every few days, I visited him. When I got there, his roommate -- he's in a "home" now -- was trying to help my dad put a T-shirt on over his coat. I was informed that my father was complaining about being cold. I thanked the roommate (a nice fellow who is pretty mobile but who is obviously slipping mentally, too) and helped my dad to settle under the covers (coat and all). He warmed up fast.

Frederic Edwin Church
We sat for a few minutes and watched the Eagles game. I watched him more than I did the game. My father's eyes were not focused. He turned to me and started to complain, as he usually does, about the place; I would if I were in his shoes.

I tried, yet again, to move onto pleasant topics; told him what his grandsons were up to -- that sort of thing. After a few minutes of watching the game, I asked if he wanted to go outside for a little bit. He resisted, but finally caved-in.

Friday, October 18, 2013

What's Marriage For, Anyway?

I was wondering, yesterday, what, for the most part, makes a couple decide to divorce. I mean, ruling out beatings, infidelities, late-discovered homosexuality and things like huffing addictions...

For your average couple that has been married for a long time, what is the trigger?

I know this sounds like a simplistic question, but nothing is simple.

If a couple have never been in love, I get that they might eventually "call it quits" -- when their life together gives them no comfort; no sense of union; no romance or sensual fire... A time comes, I suppose, when they have seen what some couples have between them, emotionally, and they don't and they decide to go looking for fulfillment.

One wonders, of course, why they got married in the first place if this feeling didn't exist, but I'm in no position to speculate about specifics. Could have been a lack of experience; not knowing when things were lame because of a lack of comparison. Could have been the result of falling into a routine with someone and then going the next step, to marriage, because it was expected. (My dad did always warn me about falling into a comfort zone and becoming blind to what was wrong in a relationship.)

Some "hang in there" until the kids are in college and then they drop the hatchet.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Cuppa Conundrum

I used to pride myself on not being a coffee drinker. Why? Because most other people drink it and I tend to take pride in going against the tide. Then, at some point (I blame my wife) I started drinking coffee.

I think I took  this. Might have been my wife, though. 
So, okay, I like it -- and my personal philosophy about "following" is that one is not an individual if he doesn't do what he wants, just because everyone else does it. Avoidance of trends can be another kind of following. But when I started drinking coffee, it was just because I liked it. And I never became the type to walk around chirping hackneyed mantras about needing my morning coffee or posting memes about not talking to me until cup three... I just like it. The taste and the warmth and the aroma are delightful. That's my coffee modus operendus. (I have no idea. I know virtually no Latin, but it just makes you sound so smart, even if your Latin is bad.)

Today, however, I went to the coffee machine at school and found that only decaffeinated "pods" were left. I felt (and I have been noticing this a lot recently) disappointed. I sighed and considered not having coffee at all, then finally brewed myself a cup.

Why? Am I, too, driven by the prevailing sense of entitlement I often rail against? Do I feel as if I deserve to have all of the possible elements of coffee? Do I feel cheated that someone stole the caffeine from me without asking? I see no difference in taste, as I do with tea. (Decaffeinated tea is poop, if you ask me.) So why should I care?

Bottom line is: I shouldn't.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Everyday Absurdity

A woman is walking through her living room. She picks up a discarded T-shirt, rumples her kid's hair and steps into the kitchen to sit next to her husband who is reading the paper and drinking coffee in the morning sunshine. All the while, she is talking to us, through the TV screen, about her health insurance. We have just followed her through her house, even though we were never really there.

A commercial, of course.

Is this not one of the most ridiculous premises in the history of mankind? -- this common format for television commercials? This woman makes no reaction, whatsoever, to...what? The fact that there is a TV crew in her house, in the middle of the morning routine? Or, is there some sci-fi concept at work -- a portal for talking to the world's population; a population she just happens to know is interested in hearing about her health insurance issues and triumphs?

Completely comfortable, the husband grins wryly at his wife and goes back to his newspaper. He is unperturbed. Nothing strange about universal communication portals and/or film crews in his kitchen and/or following his wife around.

Friday, October 11, 2013

The Grey Music

Why does rain, which depresses some people, make me feel like my soul is being watered? Why does rain make me feel as I'm being renewed?

Maybe I'm a ficus, in some botanical Matrix, dreaming of being a human. Probably not, though.

Sometimes, I think it is just that I like changes of pace. I never understood how people could complain about a rainy day after a string of sunny days. Don't they get tired of the sun?

I'm very sensitive to change, too. It's one reason I think I am not very good at picking out musical instruments. I react to so favorably, sometimes, to any change in sound that I forget to evaluate the quality of the change...maybe it is the general change in the sound of the day.

I don't think those are the only things, though; it can't just be a change of pace or sound that makes me feel so "right" when it rains.

It might be the same as with snow -- a kind of relief for an overactive brain, when the colors become minimized in the world. It helps my mind to become more quiet...the way music does. Speaking of music, the white noise tremolo of the rainfall serves the same purpose. It quiets me inside.

Time to open the windows and take in the grey music.

Childe Hassam

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

The Road to Hell (on a Hot Day)

The worst place to be is the land of half-philosophy.

Spend your time trying to figure out life and attaining the knowledge and reasoning skills to handle the most difficult questions with some degree of control, and you will be fine.

Spend your life in a natural state of zen, just living and loving and existing with a guilt-free ability to just work hard and then to relax completely, and you will be fine. around on the half-constructed chassis of a machine that is based on the really big ideas you haven't totally worked out or supported with education (self-education or otherwise) and you are on the road to Hell on a hot day.

Gustave Doré

Monday, October 7, 2013

Praising Bare Minimum Parenting

I suppose it would be bad form to stand up at a funeral, in the middle of a bereft's eulogy for his or her deceased parent, and to yawp, over the heads of the congregation, "Big deal! Is that ALL?"

Nevertheless, I have been tempted. (Arguably, that makes me a relatively horrible human being. But, hey -- I did resist the urge...)

I understand the depth of love a child feels for his or her parents. I, too, was spawned and nurtured by two wonderful people whom I love deeply. But should that love cloud my evaluation of them as parents; should it expunge their shortcomings; should it cause me to praise them effusively for having done the bare minimum? If it does, what hope do I have of being an even better parent than they were?

And shouldn't that be our goal as parents: to build upon the good things our parents did and to become even better? Isn't that what our parents would want? (I know that's what my parents did.) How high can we build, though, if the pinnacle of our standards of parenting is having kept the gas tank full for taxi service to the movies?

Friday, October 4, 2013

The God of Creativity

Alright -- enough of this happy music nonsense. Let's go deep, here.

After having read a cool post about Lundy Island, in which the writer alludes to the Celtic belief that the island was one of the "Isles of the Dead", I journeyed, in my own head, back to the years in which I was fascinated by ancient myth and legend and a familiar question popped up:

How did these people, with no empirical proof, no apologetics, no theological logic -- not even a written account of, say, a god having visited Earth, as in the New Testament -- remain committed to their beliefs? How did they perform rituals and commune with their gods with any degree of certainty? -- not even a gigantic, overarching church telling them that there are deep historical roots, as with, say Catholicism?

I mean, it's cool to say: "The sun sustains us. It gives us light. It seems to affect the growth of wheat. Therefore, it is a god. We will call it Lugh and we will worship it." That, I get.

But, then, one day, a priest of Lugh is out in a coracle and he sees a mysterious little island and says: "Ah, that's where we go when we die!" What makes him think this is true? (The very first guy to think it, I mean -- because, after that, all bets are off. People tend to believe what someone tells them.)

Wrong mythology, but you get the point. 
There are two possibilities: 1) He doesn't think it is true but thinks it would be fun to fool everyone and start his own religion or, 2) he thinks the idea is a divine revelation.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Smashing The Myth of "THE" Creative Process: "My Everyday"

Well, I had promised some posts related to the progress of my next CD for anyone who was interested, but, well, things happen. Pigasus fell behind schedule -- I had hoped to get the drum tracks done by end of summer, but I didn't and, since the band I am in starts playing again each autumn, I had to pack up the drum kit. It's just not practical for me to record drums while the band is working...

So, it will happen, but it will wait a little. In the meantime, the music never stops...

I started working on a collection of things that I will release before Pigasus -- a CD of my instrumental music: piano pieces and more orchestrally-oriented things (no drums)...but even that was delightfully delayed by a call from my friend Mark, a guitarist and singer, who wanted to record a song and had a deadline.

This was my project for the past month and (here comes that you-don't-have-to-be-a-musician-to-appreciate-this part) it was testament to a statement that I often make: to call it "THE" creative process is foolish -- it is not a mappable process by any stretch of the imagination. Creativity is, at best, riding a runaway mine car while clutching a wrinkled map.