Wednesday, July 21, 2010


I do this from time to time: transfer what I've written in my paper journals to a public forum. If I think it's noteworthy ( to me, anyway, since I write for myself first and foremost ), I'll share. So today I feel like sharing.

2:43 PM


First of all, a window decal seen on a parked vehicle today while going to my therapist's office: "When life gives you lemons, you paint that shit gold." I think that one's going to stick with me a while.

Had a productive session today, which included a few minutes of meditation practice. That really relaxed me and put me in a more receptive frame of mind to watch The Secret.

Man. It is so simple. The Law of Attraction. Visualization. Thoughts create reality. Follow your bliss. I am feeling more free at this moment than I have in quite some time, and it's not because of anything anyone else has done for me. I merely opened up and made myself available. There is abundance in the universe. All is energy; we are star stuff. What an amazing thing to realize.

Everything is going to work out just fine. And I will succeed beyond my wildest dreams of avarice, positivity, health and wealth. Wealth, to be understood, is not merely about the money in the bank. ( Money. Hah. Right. ) It is all things in harmonious relationship with all things. The only evil is that which I have done to and attracted to myself. I had made myself a vessel for the pain, fear, calamity and poverty in my life. Time now to heal and become the joy and gratitude and love and success I have fleetingly glimpsed in my life. I made myself a slave and victim to jealousy, disbelief, negativity and all that has kept others ( and myself ) in a shell of restriction, puritanical fear, moral ambiguity...

As of now, I master myself and I shall manifest all that I truly desire. I am growing hungry for it again. And I always want to be hungry. I want true happiness in my life again.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Life's Soundtrack

I first became "a cell of awareness"...well, too long ago to note the actual date. I was introduced to Rush not through parents or relatives or friends, but by tuning into FM radio. Until that moment, my musical education consisted of country and gospel, doo-wop, surf instrumentals, and AM pop gems. Elvis Presley was a mainstay in the household, as were 8-tracks of The Beatles and a couple of K-Tel compilations. Once, my uncle loaned a couple of albums to me--Led Zeppelin III and Jimi Hendrix' Smash Hits. But NOTHING prepared me for the band that would become my life's soundtrack.

I can't remember what song it was that actually drew me in at that point: "A Farewell To Kings", maybe, or the first two parts of 2112: "Overture" and "The Temples of Syrinx". Could have been "The Trees" from the then-current Hemispheres album ( still a favorite ). I do remember being wide awake at two in the morning, when the overnight jockey at KZEW 97.1 would play "La Villa Strangiato" on a regular basis. Suffice to say that there was a vibe there that I heard no place else. Maybe the musicianship, maybe the ( at that point ) science fiction influence in the lyrics, maybe Geddy Lee's otherworldly vocals. It was just all over the map for me, and I was totally sucked into that vortex of "progressive longitudinal vibratory disturbances", where I remain to this day.

I recorded Permanent Waves when it premiered on the Sunday Night Six Pack, and a bootleg recording of a show in St. Louis from that same tour. I was absolutely knocked out when "Tom Sawyer" was first played on the radio, and I still have my 45 rpm copy of that song b/w "Witch Hunt", purchased at one of the old department store chains ( Woolworth's, maybe ). I slavered over any Rush videos that appeared on MTV, especially when the concert videos Exit...Stage Left and Grace Under Pressure were broadcast. The Grace Under Pressure show was a radio simulcast, and yes, I recorded that, too. ( I was so happy that the show was released as a CD a few years ago! Ah, The Fear Trilogy in its sequential entirety! )

So imagine my thrill when I was of concert-attendance age ( my parents weren't going to take me, and I had an after-school job ) and Rush were touring behind Power Windows. Yep, you bet I was getting tickets! I think I wrote an album review for the small-town paper, and after the show, I wrote a concert review for the same publication. I went with my fellow rat-packers Mike and Paul, and there were a few photos taken. One memorable shot was of me with then-fashionable mullet ( we called it "bi-level" back then), black-and-gray striped jacket, black vinyl pants and black suede cuff boots, posing on the lower balcony overlooking Neil Peart's incredible drum kit before heading down to our seats in the 18th row on the floor. The Steve Morse Band was opening ( and they were awesome, though I would have died if Marillion had opened the show, as they had on a few dates on the tour ), supporting their second album Stand Up. They were amazing...but it was Rush I wanted to see. This was the first of two shows at Reunion Arena...and the next night I had the tape recorder going, recording DJ coverage from the press box. The DJs kept pressing this supposed "Americana" theme in the set list, and tried to convince the listening audience that the band was having fun and had decided to play an extended jam at the end of crowd favorite "Closer To The Heart" ( they played it the previous night, as well ). But you know what? I was in heaven.

Most of my strongest memories involve Rush. I bought Hold Your Fire at one of the PX's on Fort Hood the afternoon I had returned from a brief tour of Europe. I bought A Show Of Hands at a record shop where Ame, one of my high school friends, was working, and that's when I met her son Hunter ( fathered by another serious Rush fan and musician ). I cried the first time I heard the song "Presto"...hell, the album of the same name was an emotional ride for me. When my ex-wife and I were first getting to know one another at work, she came to tell me her favorite band was coming to town. Some teeny-bopper BS, I was thinking. Then she told me it was Rush. I bought tickets to the show ( first leg of the Test For Echo tour ), and we were going to go as friends. By show-date, we were a couple already. They played another leg at Starplex the following summer, and by then we'd been married about three months.

Shortly thereafter, things came to a screeching halt.

Neil's daughter was killed in a car accident maybe a month later, and less than a year after that, his common-law wife Jackie died of cancer ( though Neil contends she had died of a broken heart ). Those events, and many more, were chronicled in Neil's book Ghost Rider: Travels On The Healing Road. This became an important read for me, as I had recently rode out the storm through my own upheaval with my divorce, child custody dispute, job loss and financial ruin. I totally identified with Neil's turmoil, and that's when I learned how to try to nurture my own "baby soul."

Oh happy day when Vapor Trails was released! I didn't see Rush on that tour, but I was able to attend the Dallas show of the R30 tour in 2004, courtesy of my dear sweet Kitten, who bought tickets for us as a birthday present to me. The record that really blew me away was Snakes And Arrows in 2007, for me easily their strongest record in years. I learned to play at least half the songs on that record; that's how much it hit me. And now I'm on a new high with the release of the documentary Beyond The Lighted Stage, the new single "Caravan" b/w "BU2B", and the current Time Machine tour, which opened in Albuquerque a couple of nights ago.

Rush has always spoken most eloquently to me. When there's the radio deluge of mindless dance-pop pablum and fake anger-laced nu metal, Rush keeps it positive and interesting, and speaks directly to me: the brainiac, the outsider, the thoughtful one, the one who thrives off of nerve ends firing off in rapid succession through their musical and lyrical virtuosity while still maintaining that familiar majestic, rocking gallop, their altruistic, supportive outlook and a sense of humor. How important that last virtue is!

I could go on and on ( and on )...but as they say:

"Begin the day with a friendly voice, a companion unobtrusive
Plays that song that's so elusive
And the magic music makes your morning mood."

Turn on.

For all I have opened my heart to:

Oh one more:

Keep turning on.

Saturday, June 26, 2010


This is Rosemary, Goddess of Herbs, sculpted by Mary Albrecht and erected in October 2000. She watches over the herb garden at the Zilker Botanical Gardens, and I found this to be a very striking piece, mostly due to its abstract quality, with simple planes and lines. Plus ( though not really a danger in a low-pollution city like Austin ), the lack of realistic detail would certainly allow this piece of work to last with little appreciable damage over the years. But what this reminded me of was of a couple of images created by Danish photographer/filmmaker Lasse Hoile. One was a costumed figure with a blank, rounded face, rather like a tree stump, with a vile, Jabba-esque tongue, which appeared in the video for Steven Wilson's "Harmony Korine", the lead-off track from his solo album Insurgentes.

( It first appears at about 0:27 in the video. )

The second image is very similar to the figure in the video, at least in posture, but the face is...well, a little more detailed. It is a photograph in the CD booklet from Porcupine Tree's latest album, The Incident.

( This photo is actually from the deluxe edition of the same CD, but it appears in the retail edition, as well. )

The "Rosemary" statue is probably supposed to engender a bit of tranquility, like an avatar of a spiritual overseer. I wonder if that says something about my outlook, if the first thing that came to mind was some creature of nightmare from the same guy who revisits the dark and twisted aspects of perception. Some of his visions are...disturbing.

Seriously, check out his portfolio:

Friday, June 25, 2010

No real topic today

Right, I thought I was going to update this thing on a regular basis. Well, real life has decided to jerk my chain to the extent that, when I do think about that next entry, I sit here with that thousand-yard stare with not the foggiest idea what I'm going to write. It happens. I can say that I have written recently, but nothing I particularly want to share. Was that writing relevant in any way? Certainly it was. My baby sister sees fit to call me out on the subject matter from time to time. I should listen to her more often, and that's all I'm saying on that.

So, what is going on that I don't mind revealing?

British Petroleum is starting to really piss me off. Everything related to it, really. The internal politics as we know them, the company turning a blind eye to those whose livelihood is dependent upon the Gulf shores, and probably most grievous of all to me, Rep. Joe Barton kowtowing to the corporate giants, showing once again that a lot of public officials do not care, and probably do not even know, about the little people. And in the WTF Department, how about these items:

Yeah, you get the idea.

Okay, next up: hair loss. Notably, mine. I don't mind the going gray part. I've had silver temples for ten years now. I like them. Other people like them. I can even handle a bit of receding hairline. But the thinning out of my once glorious tresses is starting to alarm me, and that seems to have coincided with my being on medication for hypertension. I can see my scalp, and it's freaking me out a bit. And I can't ( and won't ) do a combover or anything goofy like that. I could shave my head, sure. Maybe even cut it short. But at this point...nope. I rather like the long hair phase for now. I will investigate this undercurrent of vanity. But if I ever get to the moment that I realize I have a skullet, and nothing will change it, and I have to resort to wearing a bandana a la Bret Michaels, or a cowboy hat a la Dwight Yoakum, off it goes.

In current rotation:
Porcupine Tree: The Incident and Fear Of A Blank Planet
Coldplay: Prospekt March
Jeff Buckley w/ Elizabeth Fraser: "All Flowers In Time"
Cardiacs: a variety of tracks from all periods
Rush: "Caravan" and "BU2B" from the forthcoming Clockwork Angels
Marillion: Misplaced Childhood
Pearl Jam: Live at Benaroya Hall October 22, 2003
Daniel Johnston: "Walking The Cow"

Random picture:

I like migas and green eyes. And I am hungry.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Conan Canon

"Know, O prince, that between the years when the oceans drank Atlantis and the gleaming cities, and the years of the rise of the Sons of Aryas, there was an Age undreamed of, when shining kingdoms lay spread across the world like blue mantles under the stars--Nemedia, Ophir, Brythunia, Hyperborea, Zamora with its dark-haired women and towers of spider-haunted mystery, Zingara with its chivalry, Koth that bordered on the pastoral lands of Shem, Stygia with its shadow-guarded tombs, Hyrkania whose riders wore steel and silk and gold. But the proudest kingdom of the world was Aquilonia, reigning supreme in the dreaming west. Hither came Conan, the Cimmerian, black-haired, sullen-eyed, sword in hand, a thief, a reaver, a slayer, with gigantic melancholies and gigantic mirth, to tread the jeweled thrones of the Earth under his sandaled feet."--The Nemedian Chronicles

This was the world's introduction to Conan, in a story that appeared in the pulp magazine Weird Tales in its December 1932 issue. "The Phoenix on the Sword" was a rewrite of a rejected story featuring another of Robert E. Howard's creations, King Kull. Howard wrote two more stories in rapid succession, but after writing an essay detailing the history and geography of what would become known as the Hyborian Age, setting and character truly began to coalesce with a story called "The Tower of the Elephant", one of the best of the canon.

Ah, yes. The canon. The tales generally accepted by scholars and serious fans alike as the definitive representation of one of the most well-known ( if not THE most well-known ) figures in the sword-and-sorcery genre. In Howard's lifetime, he had written twenty-one stories and numerous fragments and synopses featuring Conan of Cimmeria. However, most readers and fans of Conan were introduced to the character through a comprehensive, mutli-volume collection of stories, under the "guidance" of authors L. Sprague de Camp and Lin Carter, who edited, completed or in some cases rewrote Howard's existing stories, much to the chagrin of readers who longed for the original stories in their raw, original form. Thankfully, blessedly, efforts were made to collect Howard's stories, ignoring the pastiches and adaptations by de Camp, Carter, and other writers who churned out scripts and novels featuring Conan, but not really "about" Conan. There's a feel and a style that seems to have been lost in the literary continuity...except for Frank Frazetta's covers for those de Camp/Carter editions published by Lancer, then by Ace Books, between 1966 and 1976.

( As I don't feel comfortable infringing upon the Frazetta estate by possibly violating the copyright, it's perhaps best you follow the link above to view some of his artwork. "Barbarian" is probably THE iconic image associated with Conan. There are several other paintings in that gallery specific to the Conan books. Go on, take a look. )

Me being me, I was REALLY interested in reading Howard's material as it was originally completed and /or published. A three-volume omnibus of those stories, notes, drafts, essays, and fragments was published in the U.S. by the Del Rey imprint, with wonderful illustrations ( no Frazetta ) throughout. And in reading those stories, one really gets a sense of the grit, the drama, the violence and can virtually smell the adventure. Howard wasn't the greatest writer, and mind you, he was a product of his time and of his upbringing. But Conan was never portrayed as a mindless sword-slinger bent on wanton destruction and debauchery--although he was a "live in the moment" man who drank deeply from the goblet of life. He was not a jolly old soul, nor particularly altruistic. He didn't live by any particular code of conduct. Conan didn't trust civilization or government, and yet the very first story featured him as king of Aquilonia, the grandest nation in the Hyborian Age.

So it's a little irritating, as a fan and scholar, that any Conan tale absolutely must feature him wearing nothing but a loincloth and a scabbard, hacking and slashing his way to rescue some nearly-naked damsel in distress or to acquire some fabulous bejeweled prize. Somehow, that seems to have become the template not only for Conan, but for any number of imitations. Bread and circuses, indeed.

There's little that Robert E. Howard himself can do to defend what is arguably his most enduring creation. Born in 1906 in Cross Plains, Texas, his writing career, however prolific, was very short. Plagued by his own "gigantic melancholies" ( the general consensus of those who have written about him ), he committed suicide in 1936. His surviving notes and letters to his contemporaries give much more information about his motivations and thoughts behind chronicling those adventures than any one story or collection can reveal. I'll tell you this: those Del Rey editions are an invaluable resource for anyone wanting to know the history of Conan, both in his stories and as his creator saw him.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Huanying, huanying

Dajia hao!

You know, I've had an online journal for a number of years, and have filled volumes of paper journals for a couple of decades, at least. A lot of pontification, a good deal of kvetching and spewing nonsense, and some creativity and clarity went into those volumes, but it's been mostly for my own purposes. A number of people, good friends and passers-by, have been privy to my expressions and impressions. I've made some folks happy, I've made them think, I've made them uncomfortable. And I'll tell you why.

Though I've learned to exercise some restraint in what I reveal ( for instance, a lot of the heavy stuff remains in my handwritten journals ), I tend not to sugarcoat anything. I'll shoot from the hip, I'll let raw emotion come out, I'll be absolutely honest. A lot of people won't do that. I also have a penchant for the slightly ridiculous, the absurd, the elusive and hidden truth, and the snarky and the witty and the lighthearted. There's not a great deal of self-editing going on when I start writing. After all, this is a personal blog, not the National Geographic. But my audience, such as it is, are bright and smart and perceptive people. There's not much I need to explain to them.

That said, I hope you'll follow along with me while I jot down the events and observations for posterity. Give me your input. Cheer me on. Say hello.