Saturday, December 23, 2006

ive been pathetically uninspired for over a week now. nothing worth posting. but i am looking forward to getting out town tomorrow. my wife belle and i are going to a friends house on a cliff. he has lent us his house three out of the last four years. my wife and i hibernate from christmas through new years. recharge the batteries. its become our yearly ritual of replenishment. so anyone within earshot, i hope you all get some good time away from whatever makes the grind part of your daily grind. paradise is not wired for the net so i will not be here until 2007. peace in wartime.


Friday, December 15, 2006

some frivolous fluff for a friday morning. just returned from a surf. good celebrity sighting. fiona apple. living in la this is not so unusual. but that woman is an unusual talent. it amazes me that with our obsession with celebrity we have distilled celebrity to its essence. we are often no longer concerned with how our celebrities achieve their fame. we just want famous people. of course, paris hilton is our current poster child for this. we have a remarkable knack for seeing what we want to see; for projection. the work of shigeo fukuda comes to mind. his work is perspective specific. he makes objects that look like a pile of nonsense until you look at them from just the right direction. or in the case of one of my personal favorites, unless it is lit from a particular direction and the shadow cast reveals an order not obvious in the original object - a floating mess of eating utensils creating the shadow of a motorcycle.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Just found a website for a woman that i consider the great love of my youth; Bernadette Seacrest. She wasnt a singer then but she is now. She IS now. She has a myspace page for anyone curious. Torchy stuff. To pull off this sort of music i think you need at least a certain amount of genuine soul. Otherwise its unlistenable. Bernadette has this quality in spades, both as a person and as an artist. This footage of her doing a half-speed version of Billie Holidays 'My Man' is fucking gorgeous.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

FYI - the lennon cover song shirley and i were going to do for an upcoming benefit cd is now not going to happen. there was a misunderstanding with the scheduling so we are now left short of time. unfortunate. this time of year always becomes a really difficult time to get anything done.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

i have had a piano in the house for two months now. this experience reminds me of one of those moments in my early creative life that shaped my outlook. my friend chris and i discovered an artist in a gallery at ucla. my friend lived directly across from the college so we would often wander across. one of the things we did regularly was visit the art gallery there. one day the gallery was showing an artist named laurie anderson. she went on to do some great things (like o superman, united states parts 1-4) and some pop songs, not so great, in the eighties. but this afternoon at ucla i didnt know anything about her. in fact i didnt even know what a performance or a conceptual artist was. i was struck by her gallery show and kept my eyes peeled for magazine articles and interviews. in one that i found she mentioned that she did not practice violin after a certain point because she didnt want her playing to sound like television; too perfect. i have used this strategy (and the quote) over the years. in fact, i dont know if this is apochryphal but, i heard somewhere that the talking heads all switched instruments on the song naive melody. such a great song. but back to the piano. i have noticed that my guitar playing has improved and my knowledge of chord/key structure has grown, i have begun to sound more and more like all the professional musicians i know. i have always been more concerned with creating music that has a vibe or mood than in crafting crafty pop songs. i believe there is generally an inverse relationship between pop knowledge creative instinct. they arent mutually exclusive but there is a danger there. i know the restlessness that comes with the basic medium of songwriting. but i dont want to make music more and more like sting. i have no eventual jazz or math metal aspirations. therefore keeping myself naive in some respects as i continue to learn as an artist is a goal. i am a rank amateur on piano. this means that i can 'discover' really basic chord progressions without being aware that i have re-invented the wheel and therefore continue writing with an energy i might lose if i was on guitar. on guitar i would recognize that i have been playing some really universal chord progression and either stop completely or begin to think about how to dress it up. the dressing up usually means thinking about what key im in and therefore what usual rules apply and then not surprisingly, it starts to sound more usual. more like everyone else.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

ive been tweeking on this symposium all week. discussions of god vs. science by some of the heavies; dawkins, ramachandran et al. i know most folk dont have the inclination for three days worth of discussion but i thought that i would put up a link of one two hour segment that is especially dramatic and well argued. both sides were a little better represented here. otherwise the conference has been pretty biased toward science. which i of course enjoyed because of the unusually large anti-religous resentment i have been carrying around recently. unlike in my youth, i now generally try to keep my feelings about religiosity to myself. but then again that is usually much easier to do. if it interests you then there is lots more to see at the symposiums main site.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

today i am reminded of the fact that i have always had an escapist relationship to reality. i remember riding in the back of my parents car hoping that aliens would come take me to their planet. after reading the chronicles of narnia i remember pushing through the hanging clothes of my grandmothers armoire looking for a portal. i wondered when i wandered any forest if i would be able to find bag end. could it be somewhere under the ground of this world? then age twelve and thirteen i discovered lsd and mushrooms and began searching around in the inner world of the expanded mind. there was a line of connected electricity to all these explorations that were a lusty search for a reality that was more interesting to me than the one i dealt with everyday. add to this that i was a shy and uncomfortable kid who was always ill at ease around other folks. this same spirit has changed its superficial look but remains with me to this day. i find the usual life unsatisfying. i get restless with the usual choice between lifes little contests (money, tv size, freeway traffic battles) and the boredom of routine. i am still looking for the portals into more interesting worlds. but after being continually disappointed by the 'magical' ones, i now look to this world for escapes into wonder. there is plenty that is true that gives me this adventurous feeling. there is plenty that we dont know that is a rich source for wonder. the more i learn, the richer is my experience of our ignorance. i am glad to see that it seems that science is beginning to assert itself more vociferously into the public sphere. not just passively being used, when convenient, to 'support' some religious claim when it fits and then summarily dismissed as 'just another kind of religion' when it disputes a silly claim. i read a fascinating book some years ago about a conference held at m.i.t. on alien abductions. now i dont believe that little jawas are traveling millions of miles to earth because they are interested in getting a look up our asses. nor do i believe that they could navigate all that space only to blow it in the final mile and crash into new mexico. but people are really motivated about these ideas. that in itself is interesting to me, for example. i understand all too well the impulse to make this world more interesting. a world filled with ghosts, mind reading, gods who smite bad people, alien abduction and government conspiracies is more exciting than one without. but this world is infused with all sorts of more reliable wonders. and pursuit of the reliable ones doesnt have the darker side effect of increasing our gullibility, easy belief, and addiction to simple answers. these things that make a population easy to control.
oh yeah, by the way, in addition to caffiene this was all started by hearing about this guy.

Monday, November 27, 2006

the job of an artist is, at its most basic, a simple act of (as raymond carver put it) bringing the news from my world to yours. for many reasons we are all then able to find some sort of comfort in the fact that the world is seen by others as similar to or related to our own. we have a community of at least one other. i am reminded of this because we are now entering the gauntlet of the christmas holidays and this is a particular time of year when i see a world around me that seems very different from my own. i feel that i am beeing carried along by a large wave of crass christmas commercialism that is dictated by the markeplace to the tune of "little drummer boy". and every year i am visited by the brilliance of the film 'brazil'. there is a sequence in the film where a character is attacked in a mall and overcome by bits of christmas wrapping that are floating along the street. i am buoyed up by this image every year. i remember it and it gives me a small comfort that though it may seem it sometimes i am never really entirely alone.

in an unrelated story, a good one for the world full of wonder category, has anyone else seen this story about an elephant recognizing himself in a mirror. such great interesting creatures (social sophistication, funerals etc.) even before this latest news.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Just looked at some photos that a friend of mine is showing here in hollywood and here on the web. the photographer is jennifer finch of L7 fame but i knew her before she was a rock star. There are pics from the very early eighties. Flea, keith morris, henry rollins and that ilk. There is one of yours truly, age 17, long before janes addiction was a glint in anyones eye. It is proof that i was once a truly unremarkable and pimply young man. When i looked at these i was again struck by the good fortune of my life. The fact that i can remember being that age and seeing a reproduction of an artwork called "barney's beanery" in an art history book. I saw that it was housed in a museum in amsterdam and i remember thinking ,"how in the fuck will i ever get to amsterdam." But when the circus came to town i was able to leave with it and i have been on an extraordinary ride from that moment forward. I have since seen enough different countries to leave me tired of it and grateful to be able to spend the last year here at home with my lovely wife. Speaking of which, fyi, there are two of my ex-girlfriends in the photos as well. Good stuff.

I actually did years later wind up stumbling across the barneys beanery installation at the museum of modern art in amsterdam. I had forgotten about the fact that it was there until the moment i saw it.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

jesus. has it really been this long since my last post. i dont have anything to say right now. ive been sick so the only thing ive done for days, really, is watch television on the couch under a couple of cats. i can feel my mind atrophy. one thing, i thought id mention. i have written mostly about politics on this blog. this because of the intensity of that part of our american world these days. but from the way people have been posting, i thought it worth mentioning that i am happy to talk about anything musical. questions. thoughts. whatever. i am a musician. i am not a political pundit.

speaking of music, it looks like shirley manson and i (with some possible help from some friends) are going try to cover a lennon song for an amnesty international/darfur charity cd. spent another afternoon with her a couple of days ago. she really is the best woman in rock. i really appreciate people with a complicated world view. especially these days in the climate of easy answers and all the religious nonsense. it seems that thoughtful rationality has been in short supply. speaking of rational thought. found a really good podcast ive been listening to. its called skeptics guide to the universe. info at: has the intellectual rigor but is also really human and conversational. beats listening to mall punk radio music in traffic.

i hope i feel good enough tomorrow to head out to jpl for a lecture on black holes. should be interesting. wow. what a fucking ramble. shirley told me that, if i am going to do a blog, i have to be consistent. even if i have nothing to say. just say that i have nothing to say. so here it is. and was. nothing.

Monday, November 06, 2006

it is the eve of the election. if i was a man that believed in prayer, i would be praying alot. i would be praying that americans would use their last chance to send a message to the world that we all did not, and do not support our current administration. what we do on tuesday will be more closely watched, considered and debated everywhere outside the united states than it will be here. if we do not send a clear message to our government, and by extension to the world at large, then we will have missed an opportunity of huge proportion. if we do not take back houses of government, then we will in effect be saying (as we did with the bush re-election in '04), that we, the american people, approve of the violent and simplistic way that our government has been behaving. if we do not stop bush cold, if we then elect a more moderate conservative (like mccain) as our next president, we wil have given our approval, consistently, for eight (and then possibly twelve) years and in front of the eyes of the world, throughout this awful and important era. we will have lost many more hearts and minds, including our own. think. vote.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

i think that like most folk (especially american folk) i do not normally consider myself a political person. in more reasonable times i see the battle across the aisle of government being fought by two teams with remarkably similar styles and each representing lobbyist and special interest groups that i know very little about. this battle, in most years, is fought basically to a draw that looks more like kabuki theater than any real exchange of ideas. nothing drastic happens. certainly people dont die at the rate they are dying these days.
it is one of my core beliefs that the most effective and consistent way to help the world is to ask people to look at their lives through art. it is arts charm that makes it subversive. and i guess that there is a core optimism buried in here. because i also must believe that people, in general, are good. when we make rational decisions, with little intrusion from fear, we tend to make basically decent decisions. so how do we operate from that reasonable place. we enlighten ourselves and each other when we can.

when i heard recently that north korea was returning to multi-lateral talks, i thought i have to give bush props because he didnt cave and now l'il kim is returning to talks as bush predicted. if i am going to complain about the awful job our president is doing, i have to transcend my resentment of him to credit him when he does something right. if i dont do this then i lose my ability to be fair and i become a schoolyard name-caller with a schoolyard world view. in short i lose my soul and join the mob. it turned out my moment of transcendent generosity was short lived. now i know that a politicians life is a mix of trying to institute a sytem of government you believe in and another part playing a game you must figure out how to win; elections. this blend between ethics and gamesmanship is one of the more interesting things about politics. but as daniel schorr reported on npr here, beijing is reporting that bush sent someone to meet with north korea, one on one, to strike a deal to get l'il kim back to the multi-talks. things just seem to continue to be all games and no ethics at this point.

maybe after this election the democrats will win something back. some semblance of a balance of power will be re-established in government and my interest in politics can fade back to its pre-war levels. i wrote a song on my solo cd that is as close to a political song as i will probably ever write. its called "revolution (of no one)". it is about (amongst other things) the lack of a sixties style voice of dissent in this country. that our 'debate' seemed to have only one side arguing. hopefully, come nov. 7th, my song will be made irrelevant.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

just got back from a discussion between the writer steven johnson and a head of epidemiology at ucla. they were discussing stevens book, 'the ghost map', which is about 19th century london and its struggle with cholera and which i am currently in the middle of reading. really interesting night. made me envious of those who live in nyc. that city is always full of interesting evenings like this one. alternatives to the usual club/bar/movie/tv menu that i have found generally uninteresting since i was 20. stevens book, like many of his books, is really interesting in its approach. he is a multi-disciplinary thinker. on the surface, it is a narrative story about an outbreak of cholera and the eventual discovery of its cause and cure. just the story aspect of it and the setting (london 1845) have a dickens sort of feel. this alone i would enjoy, being a bit of an anglophile (married a half-british girl after all). but the book is full of insights and sub- topics that are fascinating and disparate involving urban theory, self-organizing systems, microbiology, post traumatic stress in post- 9/11 nyc to artificial selection pressures producing our ability to drink liquor with relatively little alcoholism.
wow im rambling again. big time. will stop here. if any of this sounds in any way familiar or interesting, read stevens book. its a great read and easy read.
inspire yourself though. you cant rely on anyone else to find it for you.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

not that im really impressed with the democrats but i do hope they win something back. only because i am tired of the republicans having so much power that they are able to frame every argument. there has been no dialogue for years now because the republicans have been able to set up all these false choices in front of the american people. you are for the administrations policies or you are for the terrorists. you are against gay marriage or you hate the family. you are for the republicans or you are unconcerned about the threat of terror. you have white christian religious values or you have no values. these are false choices. this is political checkers. it shuts down the actual dialogue because real topics get discussed. with all the difficult and arguably unprecedented problems this country faces we need a real exchange of ideas. this means we need both sides of the conversation. as corrupt and silly as our system is, and show me one that isnt, at its best it can produce a broad spectrum of approaches to most problems. and right now we need all the variety we can muster in our problem solving. variety breeds creativity and creativity is what we need. a distributed system is a better decision maker than any one man. especially when the one man is as limited in scope as george w. bush.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

just bought a giclee of an artist named ray caesar. he does very cool stuff. digital surrealist. he has a nice blend of obvious skill and technique (digital), with an eye toward the intangible. the intangible part is the what gives his work legs and makes it something that breathes well day after day. alot of his creative peers, some of whom i quite like, seem to lack that eye to the long view. they make works that are a quick charm with little lasting effect. not ray though. some of this might simply be age. ray is older. either way, rays stuff has a dark charm that lingers.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Istanbul from my hotel window just because i am experimenting with this blog software and its the coolest city in the world.
i finished mixing my record on friday. finished. friday the thirteen even. i know metaphors like this are over used but it really feels like a re-emergence from being underground. and that being said, as i come back up, my head clears and my eyes adjust, the landscape looks really unfamiliar. unfamiliar is, generally speaking, a good word in my opinion. especially in this case because the unfamiliar landscape im referring to here is the music business. i remember years ago, when people first started complaining about the illegal/legal downloading and all that it was doing to the music industry, i was not convinced that it was all a bad thing. i thought then, and i still think now, that the music business needed a shakeup. things had to change. with change there are inevitably pains and victims. granted. life is always like that isnt it? things needed changing. things have been changed. things are still dramatically changing. i find it interesting. the change that i have always thought is the most important is that an artist no longer needs to convince a man in a suit that people who dont wear suits will be interested in hearing the artists work. that was one of the biggest walls in the old system. now i understand that these days getting your work to those that care is a little like writing a poem on a piece of paper, folding it into a paper airplane and sending it out over a demilitarized zone. but when that does land in the right persons hand, they then share it with others and a special relationship has been created. this might not apply to the mega stars, who can only complain about diminished cd sales. but for the rest of us, especially those like me in the musical middle class, this is much more attractive than hoping to be one of a handful of bands chosen by a handful of corporations. so i begin to take and make phone calls and meetings to figure out how best to navigate these new waters, stay interested in what i do, and get my delinquent work into the hands of those it might mean something to. bell rings. bout begins.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

seeing bill clinton on the daily show reminded me of what a leader of the free world can look like. i had almost forgotten. over the years i have made it a goal of mine to better understand the views of people i disagree with. i grew up in a liberal household and have always led a lifestyle surrounded by liberals and therefore grew up with the belief that conservatives eat their children. i have often therefore found it difficult to understand their opposing views. but at the same time i have known that i am not being fully informed if i only hear the voices of those who parrot my own. i wish that i could remember the quote i once heard by jfk about how he would like to speak to those he disagrees with because he already knows what those that agree with him think. very wise words. that was my goal. to listen to, rather than constantly reacting to, the other side. as if there is only two sides. silly. but i started by listening to rush limbaugh (years ago now) at times on the radio. i know. trial by fire. but if i could start at an extreme i thought i might be able to most quickly learn how to swim by jumping into deep water. over time and in between expletives i began to understand some of the basic conservative beliefs. i could understand that you might believe that what is good for big business is good for companies that employ people and that the more people who are employed then smaller is the number of people who suffer in poverty. ok. if only it were all that simple. but i could see how you might approach things that way economically and socially. with these simple ideas i began to strengthen my ability to listen without reacting. needless to say i have long since stopped listening to conservative hate radio (or its liberal counterpart for that matter). but i do keep my eyes and ears peeled for conservatives, like governor mccain or tony blankley of the washington times and npr's left, right and center show, who i have continued respect for and can easily disagree with whilst fully understanding, and respecting why they believe what they believe. my concern is that the present administration is undoing my good work. it has finally gotten really difficult for me to listen to bush without just bristling. his 'conviction' has morphed into increasingly pissy stubborness and people continue to die as a direct result. and trying to watch cheney on 'meet the press', christ, i just kept fantasizing about grabbing him by the back of his head and pushing his face down into his soup. i once heard the dalai lama refer to the leader of china, because of his continued oppression of the tibetan people, as his greatest teacher about compassion or understanding. with that as the model, ive got an increasing workload with this administration. lots and lots to learn. lots.

Friday, September 15, 2006

just got back from the banksy show downtown. it was a show that wound up being a lesson to me in the power of context when it comes to art and messages of dissent. at dinner with a friend, M, a few nights ago, i mentioned i was going to see this show. he said he didnt like banksy. found him too obvious, M said. i replied that he was just being an art snob. banksys 'art' is obvious. he is a graffiti artist i said. his works are messages of dissent. they are meant to speak with directness like a statement. not obliquely like a poem. they are not meant to subtly imply, nudge or allude to the intangible part of our lives in the way that my favorite "fine" art does. so there. that was the other night.
we now move forward to this afternoon. i am standing in the middle of this big open multi-roomed warehouse space. banksys stenciled graffiti are reproduced on canvases, and other surfaces that hang like canvases, around the room on the walls like art. like Art. gone is the boldness to it all. the boldness that i most appreciate and find exciting about his public work. the boldness now seems really juvenile. precocious but simple. simple like slogans. but because of the context they are in now, it is all preachy and uninteresting. if you put a guantanamo detainee at disneyland (like banksy did do) it is an exciting piece of dissent and its very existence is bold. it is bold even before you think of the content. then as you combine those two thoughts 'how did he get it done' with ' its a guantanamo detainee in disneyland' a third undefined relationship happens and that good click of recognition happens that makes you recognize something being good in art. but on a wall at an art show, both those supports are missing and you are simply left with his object of art. no depth. got it. next.
now all that being said, the fact that he is doing bold work like he does in the present political and social climate is not lost on me. i will continue to be charmed by the outrageousness of what he is able to pull off. i will continue to look for and appreciate the work he does about our world ON the world. but next time i might skip the gallery show. viva la revolucion.