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My Thoughts Since the Passing of Walter Becker

It seems we rarely give pause in respect to the passing of time, until we reach a certain point in our lives, and only then do we regard it peripherally. Additionally we give little thought to the passing of time in the lives of others as well. Especially those figures who are of the semi high-profile sort. As much as some of us like to think that we know about what they do, in the end, we find that we know very little, and that in reality they were little more than punctuation in our own lives.

The weight of this observation didn’t hit me until this past Sunday evening as I lay in bed. I had, as one could guess, been preoccupied with listening to music the majority of the day, and had not listened to the news until switching on my radio that night.

As soon as I heard the announcer mention the name of Walter Becker, I knew what words were to follow. Walter was one whose name would rarely be mentioned in context with anything else within the past forty years. One had to know who Walter was in order for his name to be familiar.

Walter looked like the guy you’d see in the seventies, sitting outside the mall waiting for a ride. One of the most unassuming bottom-to-top-to-bottom-to-top-again success stories in modern American music, Walter lived out his life in obscurity, in plain sight.

It occurred to me that this man had lived and died within a period of 67 years, and all that I knew about him could easily fit into a thimble. Even though throughout the years, I had painstakingly reverse-engineered his guitar leads and his bass licks, and had attempted to capture his ultra clean, rich lead tones to no avail.

Had Mr Becker not partnered with Donald Fagen during college, both men may have easily faded into the backdrop which is composed of the rest of us, and aja, one of my ten favorite albums of all time would never have materialised.

With the death of Glen Campbell last month, and now that of Walter Becker, the passing of time has become all too apparent to me.

We never know when we’ve caught our last trout, or completed our last composition.

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A Sample Day In The World Of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

Successfully dragging myself from the bed at 6:58, I’d gotten dressed. As I sat there resting afterward, I found myself mulling over the discussion that I’d had with five new friends that I had discovered on Twitter the day before.

A lively exchange ensued, an we typed freely as if we’d known one another for years, and in a way – we had. We all suffer through the same relative hell. I can really connect with someone who speaks my language. No one else does.

“I need to get in there to try and start writing while my brain is fresh.” I told myself.

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‘Fresh’ is a relative term these days. I knew that by 11:30 – which in normality, would’ve been my “wide awake and running on all eight cylinders” time – I would be approaching worthlessness. On a good day, I might even be able to stave off ‘The Fog’ until 12:30 with the application of copious amounts of coffee and nicotine via vaping.

Here, one might say, “Oh, I have mornings like that all the time,” or “There are studies that suggest that too much coffee is bad for you,” or “nicotine is a dangerously addictive drug, and may be carcinogenic.”

Well, let me take this opportunity to clear up a few misunderstandings. I’ll take these in the order in which I presented them.

1) No, you don’t have mornings like this. Don’t patronise me because it pisses me off more than you could ever imagine.

In all of my 51 years before contracting CFS, I never ‘had days like that’. Never.

Not even on those ‘mornings after the night before’ when I was in my twenties. After playing music while sweating profusely, expending energy as if there were no tomorrow, drinking tons of beer afterwards, smoking cigarettes, and staying up until 2:00 in the morning.

2) Coffee and Nicotine are what keep me running – no – idling until the effect wears off. You have your drugs, I have mine, and I utilise them for a completely different reason now. My headache is usually anywhere between a dull ache above and behind the eyes, to a really bothersome piece of shit on the crown of my skull. Caffeine keeps it at bay. In my world, that nullifies all of the studies anyone can throw at me. I won’t take aspirin for reasons which I’ll outline later. Nicotine actually provides a bit of sharpness to otherwise dulled cognitive skills. Gives the brain a bit of an edge, albeit a dull one. Vaping removes all of the bad things relative to smoking and leaves you with the single saving grace. Besides, although it may be addictive, so are lots of things that the FDA approves, except that nicotine doesn’t come with a laundry list of side effects.

Besides, I’ve been through the entire health kick, beginning in my thirties. Lived the life. Quit drinking, quit smoking, quit eating at McDonald’s. You get the picture. But a little wasn’t enough, so I kept going. I lost a little bit of fat, began walking. Miles. After a few months, I began weight lifting. Then I bought the Trek 1000 and began the cycling routine I’ve written about before. I was in the best shape I’d ever been in. By God, I’d earned it too.

Until I was three months into my 51st year. Within a two week period, I went from 50 – 70 mile rides to feeling as if I were fighting the gravitational pull of Jupiter.

I had a doctor say, “Well, you are getting older…” Then I outlined the above scenario. No. Not that quickly did I ‘get older’.

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Okay! So I’m dressed and up. First order of the day: Make the freaking coffee. Drink a big glass of water. Then clean out the litter boxes, and fill the water bowls. Sitting down to rest afterward, of course. The activity that I just described ‘exhausts’ me. I inhale deeply, and blow out forcefully as if I’ve just completed a half days work.

Yes, it is embarrassing to admit. What else can one do? I’ve just gotten started, and already I feel the same way I felt when I finally lay down the night before. This is no exaggeration.

Nonetheless, having only begun I get up after a couple of minutes, grab the floor duster and do the kitchen. This is something that requires a serious application of sustained energy. Then sit down to rest. Huffing and puffing.

Repetitive actions are the worst. I used to do building renovation. Carpentry, drywall, painting, laying tile. All of those tasks require repetitive action. Hammering, sanding, sawing, or the constant back and forth motion of brushing or rolling paint onto a surface. Hell, I can’t even knead dough now without giving out, so I can’t enjoy baking bread like I once did. Sometimes preparing a meal takes two entire days.

The CFS affects every part of my life, and completely ruins what was once a great living.

But hey, I’ve got to begin writing, and it is now 7:30. Time’s a’wastin’ as my grandfather liked to say. So I park my ass in front of the computer. I have the screen turned down to perhaps 33% brightness because the disease has also affected my eyesight. Bright sunlight or artificial light makes my eyes burn and hastens the headache. Nobody knows why.

I gather my thoughts and begin typing. This time is crucial, because no one is up yet. It’s Saturday and the others are sleeping in. Which is groovy, because the slightest thing is capable of distracting me. Gone are the days of multi-tasking. I’m lucky to be able to concentrate well enough to do any one thing well.

Paleface is pawing at the water bowl. It is empty. Did I not fill that damn thing up? I stop what I’m doing to inspect. The one that he has chosen to drink from is bone dry. What the hell is wrong with me?

Did I not mention the constant forgetfulness that accompanies CFS? I look back across what I have typed. I haven’t mentioned it. What the hell is wrong with me?

I begin to type again. After two cups of coffee and working for some time, I ‘come to’. I am hunched over not unlike Quasimodo. I feel as if I’ve sat this way for a week. I straighten up and it hurts. I check my phone. Did I hear it alert? Where the hell is my coffee cup? Holy shit. It’s 9:30. I haven’t thought about what to do for dinner. If I don’t get cranking soon, I won’t have dinner done by 6:00 this evening. I’ll feel as if I’ve been beaten with a hose by then, so I have to start now.

And speaking of eating – sooner or later, one must eat. I hate eating these days, because this signals the end of my morning. Food does me the way that Valium used to. It hammers me like one cannot imagine. I have to lie down and sleep for two or three hours after eating, and I’ve tried everything. Eating lighter, different foods, nothing works. I can eat a few graham crackers with peanut butter (crunchy) and have a spoonful of honey. BOOM. The ‘edge’ afforded by the caffeine and nicotine becomes as dull as a rubber knife within fifteen minutes.

After I wake up around 4:00, I never regain the edge that I’d achieved that morning. It’s like running on fumes the rest of the day, until, finally, I will take two aspirin, one Benedryl, and go horizontal at 9:00. I’ll feel marginally better in the morning, but not for long.

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But that doesn’t matter. People are stirring now, and my concentration is shattered. I have to get dinner going.

You guys have a good day. Captain out.

The World Is Changing and Has Taken Me Hostage

Many years ago, I came to the conclusion that I wanted to own a shortwave radio. Nevermind the fact that I didn’t know anything about shortwave, or what would be waiting for me there. The medium simply offered the capability of hearing things I’d never heard before, and the radios had all kinds of knobs for adjustments and tweaking. Besides that, nobody else I knew listened to shortwave broadcasts, and that gave me even more reason to pursue the endeavour.

My first exposure to these fantastic devices came to me by way of the thick annual Radio Shack catalogue which at one time came through the mail. Radio Shack seemed to have one of everything back in the days before mobile phones and computers came along. They should have never attempted to change their business model, because they had a developed a unique niche in their market, and lost their identity in the newly booming digital world.

But out of all the items that the catalogue featured, my favorite section was all of the specialised radios they offered. There were receivers specifically designed for eavesdropping on police, medical teams, fire departments, train yards, ham operators, and yes, shortwave stations.

The primary impediment for me at this time, was of course money. Multiband radios were generally big, and expensive. Back when twenty dollars could purchase what two hundred will now buy, $229. for a radio was a dream that I could only envision. I used to think to myself, ‘If I were rich, I’d buy a shortwave radio.’ The thought of boats, automobiles, and houses never entered my mind.

My initial infatuation with the shortwave waned, and as years passed I married, and started a family. But within three short years, my fate once again changed as I found myself single again and embroiled in a messy divorce. The year was 1981.

With young daughter in tow, I moved back to the town that I was raised in, got a couple of part time jobs, rented myself a small house, and concentrated on the acquisition of new audio recording equipment in order to re-immerse myself in the music industry.

One Friday evening, after getting paid, I dropped my daughter off to visit my parents for the night, and then stopped into Radio Shack to pick up a couple of microphone stands. Something in the window caught my eye and made me stop in my tracks before even entering the store: The big DX 200 shortwave that I had lusted after so many years ago was displayed there, with a hand written sign which read, Closeout Item! Last one left. 50% off!

I walked out of the store that day, not with mic stands, but instead a big box with the coveted radio inside. I stopped at the corner market and got a six-pack. This party had been a long time coming.

As the sun sank lower, I popped a beer and began to build a long wire antenna, which would be required to hear the transmissions on the radio. I didn’t bother to ask my landlord if I could install it, because I knew that it would be all but invisible. I stealthily twisted a screw hook into the eve of the house and, tying a length of paracord into a slipknot, slid it onto the hook and tossed the other end of the paracord into my window. Once back inside I assembled the insulators and bare copper wire and waited for nightfall.

Soon it was dark, and I tossed the finished antenna out the window, grabbed a ladder and sneaked to the garage apartments behind my little house. Propping the ladder softly against the building, I uncoiled the antenna, climbed the ladder, cranked another screw hook into the apartment building and, hoisting the antenna up, pulled it taut and tied it off and scurried back inside with my ladder. My covert work had gone smoothly, and undetected.

I filled a bong, and when it was cashed, I went back into the room with another beer and prepared for the moment of truth.

After attaching the antenna lead to the radio, I turned it on. The big drum dials lit the room up with a warm glow, and the static was punctuated with unfamiliar undulating howls and electrical crackling. I cranked the dial and before long, a big, strong station was booming through in English. However, the news programme was full of strange headlines and weird stories of World War II. Finally at the top of the hour, a powerful voice boomed out, “This.. is the External Service of Radio Moscow!”

I flipped out. I was listening to a Soviet broadcast!! I turned down the volume and looked around. I began to wonder if this was even legal activity, or if I would be viewed as a Communist sympathiser if anyone found out.

I reckon I stayed awake most of the night listening to Radio Beijing, Swiss Radio International, Radio Yugoslavia, and the BBC World Service, among others. I was in complete awe that I could lie on my bed and listen to a radio station on the other side of the World. The impact of how amazing this was at the time will probably be lost the younger reader. These days, we’re so used to turning on the computer and getting Tweets from all over the globe, and news broadcasts from Al Jazerra, the world seems like such a small place in comparison. During the eighties, when cable television was just coming into widespread availability, I was the only person that I knew who was able to get news from other parts of the world, without being at the mercy of the American news services ‘filtering’ what they thought I ‘needed’ to know.

Flash forward to a couple of nights ago.

I climbed into bed, plugged my Sony MDR-7506 headphones into my android, opened the University of Twente website (which is located in the Netherlands*), accessed the Wideband WebSDR, and began sliding my finger across the screen to tune into shortwave stations that were audible in that area of Europe at 2:00 GMT.

As I lay in the darkness, I stared into the screen, and wondered why this hobby no longer held the excitement for me that it once did.

* For anyone who may be interested, go to: Faculty for Electrical Engineering, Mathematics and Computer Science

Overuse Of the Word ‘I’ Reaching Epidemic Proportions Worldwide

Having received more than a few inquiries from my Facebook friends and ReverbNation associates about my intermittent activity on the Internet, the following explanation is offered. As most everyone knows, these sites are capable of consuming huge hunks of time and it is with this knowledge that I have made a conscious decision to avoid the computer in order to devote all of my energy to songwriting, recording, and turning wrenches. Therefore, for the past month or so, I’ve been immersed in recording, guitar repair, and cylinder head work.

Inasmuch as the songwriting portion goes, there is, what I like to refer to as ‘passive’ songwriting. That is to say that I don’t ‘try to write’. It has become my modus operandi to simply let the music and songs come to me as they will, and the process works out rather well. Once in the ‘recording mode’, the songs just begin to filter down, and all that is left for me to do is to get onto tape what I hear in my head. That may sound somewhat esoteric and arcane, but this is simply the best way to describe it.

If I try to write, everything tends to turn out sounding redundant and contrived. This I hate. Once the process begins, however, it is something that is quite constant, and I find it more conservative in regard to total time spent to give myself over to it completely until such time that it ceases of its own accord, thus my absence from the Internet sites is duly noted and addressed.

I do like to post a blog on occasion when a subject comes to mind. It helps me keep up appearances.

A bit more on writing to those who may be interested.

A couple of weeks ago, my son was reading a piece I’d written earlier.

“You’ve used the word ‘I’ too many times,” he observed. It was humble pie directly to the face. My own advice had come back to haunt me.

“True,” I conceded, “but I was writing about me.”

“That doesn’t matter,” he continued, “you can always reword a sentence to avoid overuse. You used it six times in one sentence.”

He was right. I was identified with my subject matter and there had been a strong emotional attachment, which explained everything.

For many years now, it has been a practice of mine never to write a song in first person. To my way of thinking, this leads to no good. It also is the best way to develop writer’s block, create boring subject matter and come across as being self absorbed. When one writes in this fashion, the possibilities are immediately limited to ones’ own experiences. I don’t intend to speak for anyone else, but life has been pretty boring insofar as writing songs about me goes.

At best, all first person writing is good for is a couple of sappy love songs, and few more blues songs after the relationship has gone kaput.

Now, we all can name songs which have been written about courtship, and then there’s a couple of wedding tunes, but can anyone name a ‘We’ve Been Married Twenty Years’ song? Not too many ‘Honey, I’m Picking Up a Gallon of Milk and a Newspaper, See You at Six’, or ‘Meatloaf Serenade’ songs out there, are there?

Sure, there are songs full of promise, and tunes such as ‘I Love You More Today Than Yesterday’, but I can’t say with any amount of certainty that Dude was married when he wrote that.

This isn’t to reflect badly on marriage, it’s just that there’s such a limited amount of material there.

Unless you want to count that stupid ‘Pina Colada’ song by that guy whose name I don’t even remember.

Oh yeah. Rupert Holmes. What a dillweed.

Damn it.

Now that nonsense will be playing in my head all day long and I won’t get any work done. Sheesh. I hate that freaking song.

See why I stay off of the computer when I’m trying to write and compose?

Voluntary Versus Involuntary Personal Slavery

I know this big, friendly fellow who had a severe heart attack a couple of nights ago. The prognosis isn’t good. A wife, three teen-aged children, and there he lies today, not yet forty years old, in a coma, somewhere in the middle of time itself.

As in all such instances, the fragility of life got me to thinking about my own achievements, or lack thereof, made in the time that I’ve been so far given. As I’ve aged and suffered setbacks, I’ve become a pretty reliable authority on how to do things.

Mostly on how not to do things, unfortunately. But one way or the other, we learn.

As far as my own choices go, I like to contrast my life against that of Arnold Schwarzenegger. It keeps me humble.

According to Arnold, he was a poor kid from Austria who had developmental issues, and one side of his body was a good deal weaker than the other. As a result, his doctor prescribed weight training to address the problem. Arnold quickly adapted to the regimen and decided to take big, giant steps to become the best he could be. And he did.

He came to America, although he barely spoke English. He lived in his car for a while. He took lots of risks, but he believed in himself so strongly, he didn’t allow anything to stand in the way of him and his dreams.

His abilities and achievements are a direct reflection of his dedication to, and practice of, his craft.

This same thing can be said for each and every one of us as musicians and songwriters.

One can argue with this logic all day long (mostly in defense of one’s own lack of achievements), but at the end of the day, the fact will stand as testimony to the undeniable truth that can be found there.

Universal truths are glimpses of universal facts, tucked into timeless proverbs.

For instance, if one wishes to be a guitar player, yet practices drinking beer more than he practices guitar playing, he will become a better drinker than guitar player. The facts bear my words out. I know some devoted drinkers who play guitar only tolerably.

Several years ago, I quit drinking and applied myself to the craft of practicing guitar, within five years my guitar playing improved 1000%. Seriously. But I was encouraged early in life to play to my strengths, and one of my strengths was to make rational decisions. I decided that I wanted to play guitar more than I wanted to get a buzz.

A man who I much admire once said, ‘a man who wishes to become a Man cannot sit between two stools for very long without losing everything’. Now I, at fifty-eight years of age, understand the meaning of his words all too clearly.

I wasted time sitting between stools, and by the time I got good enough at my craft to write and record suitable compositions, the music industry had taken a hard turn. Within a decade, a once thriving business was going down like the proverbial Titanic. The model changed, largely on account of the digital revolution, and it caught a lot of musicians with their pants down around their ankles. Others perceived the coming cataclysm and diversified.

But the losing horse blames the rider.

I went through that phase for a while. It was bullshit, of course. Now I blame no one but myself.

I still have beautiful melodies arise from the ether in my noggin, and I, ever dutiful to the Muse, pick up my instrument and do my very best to transpose the sounds in my head onto tape. I do it for a different reason now. But I do it. And I do it the best way that I know how.

Unconscious, or Involuntary Personal Slavery is a terrible thing. It is the worst form of slavery, for it is the hardest form to release oneself from. It is so much easier to designate a scapegoat. Most people who cling to Involuntary Personal Slavery secretly love their chains. They’ll come up with every excuse under the sun to justify staying chained down, rather than rising up and leaving the plantation. Most of the time, fear is the prime motivator for remaining clapped in their imaginary irons. Fear of failure. Fear of nothing of real value in the free Man.

This type of slavery takes many forms; addictions to food and alcohol, religion, sex, fame, anger, notoriety. All such slavery is simple stupidity. Until one can break these chains, one will never truly be free. But most people do not really wish to be free, for slavery gives them the option to apply blame to an outside instigator or oppressor.

Let us use the analogy of slavery in America. Now, slavery hasn’t been practiced in America in over 100 years, but most modern Americans have been taught very little about the role of slavery in America, or of the War Between the States for that matter, which was more over money and states rights than slavery. Even free blacks owned slaves in America before the War, but that is never discussed because it cracks the mold; and although most modern American blacks wouldn’t recognise a cotton stalk from a corn stalk, they live as if they are still on the plantation.

And in one sense, they still are.

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African blacks regard American blacks with disdain. They think that they (much like the modern Jew) are big crybabies who have every opportunity to make something of themselves, yet who prefer to spend all of their time and energy making themselves out as victims, blaming past events for keeping them in their present set of ‘circumstances’.

Ask anyone who has spent time getting to know the blacks who inhabit the continent of Africa. African blacks are very tribal. If an American black is unable to trace his tribal ancestry, he is not considered a ‘long lost brother’. He is just another Black American. Neither is he referred to as an ‘African-American’. African blacks will tell you that they would gladly trade places with any American black in order to be able to take advantage of all of the opportunities available to them. However, African blacks, in spite of all of their difficulties, such as walking miles daily simply for water, are among the happiest people in the world, always smiling, always joyful.

These native Africans have every reason to wear their daily struggles like a badge, but they choose to have a bright outlook on life, unlike American blacks, whom the Africans think are a bunch of brainless fools, shooting one another up, running drugs, and rapping about how ‘hard’ life is. African blacks feel that American blacks know nothing of real struggle.

I pretty much agree with the Africans, because the so-called ‘struggles’ of the American blacks are primarily imagined. The mindset is passed down like a disease from one generation to the other. These days it is referred to as ‘white privilege’. Meanwhile the genuinely enfranchised class becomes extremely jealous of their lawfully granted privileges: Although American blacks, who in the past thirty years have been born into a society which, through all sorts of legislation, grant them more rights than most other American citizens enjoy, the majority of them still choose to blame their own failure to act on white people, primarily because it has been made too tempting to whine about some perceived inequality.

And many whites exacerbate the image. They choose to believe that they, via inheritance, are partially to blame for the black population’s imaginary suffering. This further allows the American black population to keep themselves ‘down’, while allowing many of the white population to actually defend the mindset.

Both attitudes, incidentally, insure the continuation of the Status Quo.

The squeaky wheel gets the grease, but once the squeaking stops, the greasing stops. Some American black ‘leaders’ have figured this out, as ‘spokesmen’ in order to keep the wheels greased, as well as their pockets.

What a sad joke. It is unfortunate that so many people buy into the whole facade, because there is no solid foundation on which to base the belief, only a lot of justification for imagined anger.

The point I am attempting to make here, is that this is just another form of Involuntary Personal Slavery.

This form of slavery almost always takes on the form of justification and false inculpation.

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If one cannot look objectively at one’s position in life, one will never be able to make the most of one’s skills and talents. Merely mimicking another person’s way of doing things is not being true to oneself.

I discovered that until one is made aware of the fact that he is indeed a slave, he never feels the need to escape. This is a fact that I did not discover this on my own.

By quite accidental and ‘miraculous’ intervention, I found the student of a teacher of a ‘school of another kind’, who tempted me to ‘look’ at myself. It was said that if I could only realise that I was enslaved, that I might, through cunning, obtain certain metals in order to devise tools which would then enable me to design and file a skeleton key which might then unlock the shackles of imagination, but nothing was guaranteed. The prescription was not an easy pill to swallow. The idea, in and of itself however, was painfully simple. It required me to sacrifice my ‘self’ to the will of another for a period of time, to sacrifice my imaginary suffering, and suspend all of my beliefs. This can be thought of as Voluntary Personal Slavery. I found that this was much easier to discuss than to put into practice. This work necessitated a great deal of inner struggle, as one of the requirements was to mercilessly destroy all of my idols. As prescribed, it took years to reach some semblance of achievement. It also caused me to become very calloused.

What I found left was nothing more than an empty shell, a raw animal, devoid of form. There was nothing of my self to be found. All of my ideals were baseless. I was an idiot in the truest sense of the word. All of my opinions were those of others. All of my ‘beliefs’ turned out to be little more than silly Jewish fables parroted to me in my earliest days, from one hyperventilating idiot to the next.

Then I was sent to ‘school’, where I was ‘educated’. Simply put, school gives us ‘vocabulary’, teaches us how to crunch numbers, and instructs us in all of the vogue sciences of the day, but gives us very little solid knowledge.

It took me far too long to shake the shackles of my musical influences, The Beatles, the Doobie Brothers, and the ‘singer songwriter’ phase that I went through. I was none of these. I was simply trying to copy someone else, but wasn’t aware of it.

This was the slavery that my so-called ‘freedom of thought’ consisted of.

It was during this extended period of ‘wandering the wilderness of my soul’, that I experienced a ‘shifting of poles’, wherein everything seemed very superficial and inverted. But then I began to practice my instrument in a certain way, and things began to take order.

Robert Fripp’s school of Guitar Craft was extremely instructive in this regard.

Robert was also a student of the same particular ‘school of thought’ which I had discovered, and there was a ‘secret language’ of sorts which I immediately recognised as school terminology. His instruction in guitar led to further ‘enlightenment’ for his approach to practice was completely different. It was only then that I began to distinguish the Muse from otherwise distracting thoughts, and gave myself over to it.

In this realm, the music has existed from the moment of the beginning of time, and the musician is merely an instrument which makes himself available to the Muse. In this respect, the music makes the musician, rather than the opposite. The feeling is much like being taken down a wooded path blindfolded. Often, the musician is only vaguely aware of what he is doing until he is done. Music is a moving and ‘religious’ experience.

Everyone already really knows what I mean: The annual television cartoon ‘Merry Christmas Charlie Brown’ is really only good because of the music. And everyone gets that fuzzy feeling inside when Linus quotes the short biblical scripture and everyone begins the a cappella ‘oooh’s to ‘Hark, The Herald Angels Sing’ around the proud little Christmas tree. You don’t have to be religious to feel religious. The secret is the music. Not the religion.

That’s precisely why all churches make use of music. Closer to God. It’s that simple. Oh, some denominations will split hairs about the use of instruments and whatnot. That’s just a lot of nonsense. God invented music. Don’t believe me? Just go to church and tell everyone that you don’t believe that music or singing have a place in the church. They’ll look at you as if you’ve lost your mind.

But you won’t do that, will you?

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Since finding my Muse, I have developed into an instrumentalist which I would have never imagined myself, and have ‘ghost written’ many tunes which It has presented to me. Fame and fortune were not to be mine, but I would not trade my task for anything in the world.

My achievements are mine alone, and the rewards are likewise.

Due to illness, there are many activities that I have been forced to discontinue, but my guitars and my Muse will be the last things that I will surrender when I follow the others into that timeless void that John is edging ever closer toward tonight.

Spots, The Forever Cat

Spots was quietly absent Sunday evening. I looked for her, but she was not on the roof. She was not lying in the seat of the truck. She was not in any of the resting places that I could normally find her.

This mildly disturbed me, for Spots had been lame for the past week or so, her right hind leg slipping out from under her as she made her way along. Taking notice of this, I’d resolved to moving her about, first to one place and the other, that she would telegraph to me where she wanted to be, in order to keep her from having to use the leg. I figured that over time, the leg would heal, and that she would resume her normal activities. But upon finding her missing, I was filled with an unsettling emptiness.

Now I believe that Spots has left home, for what will be the last time.

It isn’t as if she hadn’t done it all before. Yes, she’d done it several times, and each time, after two or three weeks, after I’d convinced myself that I’d never see her again, she would invariably, and when it was least expected, appear, sashaying up the driveway, much to my incredulity. But did she arrive emaciated and haggard? To the contrary, she looked as if she’d been living in the lap of luxury: coat gleaming, and every whisker in place.

Of course, I’d charge out with equal portions of joy and disbelief, and embrace her in my arms. I’d make a big fuss and scold her for making me worry, while she ignored me with the detached nature that cats are generally hated for.

Spots is a yellow tabby who elected to spend a portion of her life in close proximity with me. Mostly at my prompting and tempting. Cats have no emotion. None. This seems to be the source of the distaste that many people hold for these animals.

Most folks seem to want an animal that, in contrast, is wholly dependent on them. They enjoy ‘owning’ an animal which they can exercise a certain level of control over.

Cats are among the most persecuted animals in the history of man. They’ve been tried as witches, exterminated on account of idiotic superstitions (with dire results) and accused of killing babies by, ‘stealing their breath’. The primary reason, I think, that cats are despised, is because they cannot be controlled, manipulated, nor tamed practically. We cannot ‘own’ cats. We can lock them up in our homes, we can attempt to regulate their feedings in order to feel more ‘in control’, but cats eat when, and what they want to. Cats choose to become domesticated, and only when it suits their needs.

If a cat becomes ‘homeless’ and left to his or her own devices, it will not only survive, but thrive. Cats can easily swing from domesticated to feral living. The poor dog however, having the common sense of its brother the wolf bred completely out of it over millennia, will generally starve without intervention of human compassion.

I hold a quiet, yet firm, respect for cats for the very reason that most people hate them.

I wonder how many times the same scenario plays out; we, for some reason or another, and with misgivings, take on some stray animal that doesn’t necessarily appeal to us, but out of the aforesaid compassion that many others seem to be completely devoid of, take the hapless creature home, only to fall helplessly in love with it over the period of time that we are blessed to be in company of it.

This is precisely how Spots came into my life to eventually become my favorite companion.

While working for a client during the summer of 2006, he asked if I might be kind enough to ‘eliminate’ a certain supposedly feral cat, which he had surreptitiously observed meandering around one of the dumpsters on his property.
I’d seen the cat before.

Spots Doin' Her Thang Feb

The first time was when I observed her moving stealthily through the forest behind the complex. Five minutes later, I had witnessed three dogs, hot on her trail. Ten minutes afterward, I saw the same cat negotiating her way in the opposite direction. I had to hand it to the cat. She was cool.

Engaging in discussion with those living in the vicinity, I ascertained that, although many people had taken to feeding the cat irregularly (thereby negating my client’s claim of the animal’s being feral), she seemed to belong to no one . However, this cat had it made. I thereby resolved that I would have nothing to do with the ‘disposal’ of the feline, but rather directed my son, who happens to be very good with animals in general, to try and lure the cat to him, which he did in short order.

Bringing her into where we had been performing work, and were presently breaking for lunch, the cat nonchalantly walked over to where I was sitting, and took a bite of my blueberry bagel. I decided there and then that nothing else would do but to take the poor thing back to my home, where two other cats were currently residing along with us.

I eventually settled on calling her ‘Spots’, on account of the unusual looking darker circular stripes which formed a sort of target pattern on either side of her body.

As is the custom of cats, she displayed a penchant for the outdoors, which is where she has lived out the remainder of her, eternally mysterious, life.

Spots, not particularly caring for the company of other cats, preferred instead to live a life of solitude. Wishing to avoid the others, who also went outdoors during the day, she finally settled on the following routine: Quite early in the morning, she would be waiting at the door for me to feed her, after which time she would wind her way down the long and steep drive, spending the remainder of the day in various places down the hill. In the evening around six, I’d round up the others, whistling the tune of Beethoven’s ‘Fur Elise’. After they’d been recalled and safely indoors, Spots could be seen making her way idly up the hill where, eating her evening meal, she would stay outside on ‘guard duty’ until the next morning.

Years later, I began to refer to Spots as the ‘The Forever Cat’ because during a time that the coyotes were especially problematic for me, and losing three other cats to them, Spots continued negotiating the long, steep drive, lined with kudzu on either side, unscathed.

Spots and I spent countless nights sitting in front of the fireplace on cold nights, over the course of many a winter. We would talk about all kinds of things together, although I must admit that she did most of the listening.

She never appeared to age. Eight years on, she looked exactly the same, and I have the photos to prove it. I’d finally convinced myself that she was immortal. I’d decided that Spots was indeed the forever cat, neither being born nor dying.

Today is day three, and she still has not shown up, but you can bet that I have been looking for her, but to no avail. If poor Spots felt that the end was near, she would have nothing of being catered to any longer. And by no means would she lower herself to having someone watch her die. She was fiercely independent in life, and I can only imagine her as such in death.

There will be no grave for the one I so revere.

Spots the Forever Cat 2011 copy

I look out through the forest, continuing to call her name in my signature sharp, strident tone, but I fear that my poor forever cat has disappeared into the same setting from which I first saw her creeping so long ago.

Farewell, old girl.

Recording Mythology, Pt. 49 / Being a Slob Is Hard Labour

I might ask that I be forgiven, for the following article is a lengthy thesis concerning the creation and playing of Music, although it may not seem as such, or inasmuch, at least as as one may expect. Presented in two parts, and in a roundabout way (out of necessity), it will draw on several other subjects, all interconnected, that I shall ellucidate on along the way. Because of the somewhat arcane nature of the proceeding, I may lose many readers. This is a calculated risk that I am prepared to take for a purpose greater than my own.

I have borrowed the title for today’s article from one of the many aphorisms used in Robert Fripp’s Guitar Craft courses which were held during the late eighties. Robert turned out some ground-breaking material with Brian Eno and others over a period of three decades, but he is undoubtedly best known as guitarist for the band King Crimson, who turned out some astounding (and what some would call bombastic) record albums during the seventies.

I discovered Mr. Fripp’s Guitar Craft through happenstance in 1989. I firmly contend that I would not have realised what it was that his instruction had to reveal, had I not become a seeker through the study of a particular system known as the School of the Fourth Way, only two years prior.

As it is demonstrated in the School, Luck cannot be wholly discounted.

Upon perusal of Mr. Fripp’s technique, it quickly became apparent to me that Robert had also submitted himself as a student to the School, and that his approach to music was centred around the application of the studies. In due course I was a ‘card-carrying member’ of Mr. Fripp’s league of practitioners.

A short sidebar is necessary at this point.

As a member of the School of the Fourth Way, students are shown that:
1) there are many Universal Laws which man must live under as a condition of life, and
2) there are likewise many unnecessary laws which man normally lives under, of which an individual may possibly free himself, granted a general knowledge of these laws has been acquired.

One of the irrefutable Universal Laws is one of scale. That is to say that all things follow an embedded pattern. Thusly known, all things become, to a great degree, predictable, except that only their scale differs. This has been demonstrated to my satisfaction in more than music and mathematics.

For instance, absolutely nothing within the known Universe shares any particular balance. In actuality, the existence of imbalance accounts for the movement of all things, seen and unseen. If any sort of ‘equality’ existed, movement would cease, and everything would come to a halt, except unless to immediately change direction. Consider the pendulum.

In every respect, ‘Equality’ is an imagined value around which many of man’s ‘laws’ are based, but such are the follies of mankind. An objective observation of nature is all that is required to see that nothing will ever be ‘just’ nor ‘equal’ in life nor in death, and that the entire facade of ‘fairness’ is an unachievable ideal. No amount of dreaming can change this reality, as this law is omnipotent within universal physics.

Likewise, any time a member of the School recognises another member, it readily becomes apparent which associate is the more advanced in their study by application of a ‘special language’. I do not mean to imply that a different language is spoken, only that in the School, certain key words are given particular meaning, through which a great deal more information is transmitted than would normally be possible. Usage of these words, and subsequent construct of phrases, thus communicated, and received by the aware pupil, establishes a status among individuals, admitting free exchange of knowledge.

It was in this way that I realised Mr. Fripp’s superior School knowledge, much of which he explicated through his Guitar Craft series.

In the School, I larned that most people rarely ever acquire any knowledge of genuine value for one of two reasons:
1) because their ego cannot bear to allow that someone else might actually be in possession of some bit of knowledge that they themselves are not already in possession of. Thus, a man who imagines himself to already be in possession of something is less likely to really ever have it, nor attain the ability to recognise the genuine article should he ever happen to stumble across it.
2) because they imagine that there is some special reward for their inactivity, and that if they simply believe long enough, wishing very hard, they will suddenly be endowed with knowledge in some miraculous manner. These are the sort of people who believe in sorcery, magic chants, free government health care, and manna from heaven.

Knowledge is a possession of true value, and cannot be stolen, nor had through any sort of deviation. There are no ‘short cuts’ in acquiring skill or knowledge. It may only be achieved through difficult work, applied over a long period of time. Even then, nothing is guaranteed. A lazy student will learn nothing, and soon the opportunity to learn will be removed.

Another shortcoming of man is his imagined ability to teach himself. This is another artifact of ego’s design. As he is, man possesses no true will, and is therefore incapable of committing himself to anything, in addition he hasn’t the tools nor the knowledge to teach himself. Therefore, in order to be taught, a man must become sincere with himself and the ego must be humbled.

As soon as the ego is sufficiently broken, a man may realise the need for a teacher. The teacher will be one to whom the so-called ‘will’ of the student must be surrendered for a period of time. This period of access allows the teacher to create veridical will within the student, after which time the student may be capable of directing his self-will, bringing about the possibility of further development.

Our developmental goal in Music is to become a ‘musician’ with a capital M and without quotation marks. This development is likely to take many years. If we are to become this type of being, we are to answer to a higher calling than that of ego which dictates trendy styles, or strange and unconventional behaviour. These are typical distinctions of guitar slamming morons.

Morons are of no use to Music. It normally takes them more time to get properly dressed and made-up for a performance than they ever commit to the practice of Craft. Getting all decorated to play guitar is unnecessarily hard work. Striking artfully masculine or feminine postures, and flailing the instrument with energetic flourishes may be entertaining, but are all uncalled for when they are merely part of a calculated act. Worse yet, the quality of the music generally suffers.

But as Mr. Fripp stated, being a slob is hard labour.

Let us return to our example involving the idea of equality, or as I refer to it, man’s ‘mirage of perfection’.

With equality, there would be no struggle, and without struggle, there would be no friction, and without friction there would be no tension; without tension there would be no movement, and without movement, there would be no development. Consider the tuned and plucked string in contrast to the slack, resting string. The taut string ‘neutralises’ a specific quantity of tension, struggle, and friction, through the development of the sounded note, full of possibilities. The string at rest exhibits none of these properties. Without movement, neither time nor music exists. But as artists we are in luck, for we have an universal supply of tension, struggle, friction, and unrest.

Our purpose in Music is to become the messenger which the aforesaid qualities may resolve themselves through. Alchemising the raw articles of discord, chaos, and disarray, we convert them into their polar opposites. The resulting sounds should sooth the soul, for this is the true purpose of music. Our job in Music is to make ourselves available.

Morons, having been given precedence over the musical landscape by money hungry ‘producers’, and due to their musical obfuscation, have caused great harm to the soul of music. They have disoriented the consumer, and they have assaulted Music, much as a leech might attach itself to its host, and drained it of a great deal of its medicinal properties.

It is always easy to identify these musical imposters. The music that they make is always of a coarser texture than the raw materials used in making it. The subject matter is generally inflamatory, espousing anger, and radiating negative energy. Individual pieces rarely seem to resolve musically, and the favoured frequencies tend toward the extremes with very little utilisation of the midrange frequencies.

The flourishing genres of darkwave, gangsta rap, techno-industrial, noise, porn groove, and death metal are the most common carriers. Coincidentally, this type of anti-music is most often created by those individuals who arrogate peace and ‘equality’, but whose works often share their hatred, betray their underlying disdain for women or anyone who disagrees with them, and their nazi-like proclivities.

Another of Mr. Fripp’s aphorisms applied here might be: Everything we are is revealed in our playing.

Music can assist us in finding ourselves, but only if we go forward with the expectations of finding ourselves. If we pursue music in a foolish attempt to ‘become someone else’, we will never find anything of lasting value.

One individual who said it best was also a member in an extremely successful tribute band. “It was like being a drag-queen man,” he said. “After playing for half my life, pretending to be [someone else], I realised one day that I’d allowed him to make a failure out of the musician that I should have been.”

The argument has been put forward that those driven to produce music typically suffer some emotional instability or trauma inflicted during childhood, and therefore seek out music to deal with the affect of the scars. Whereas this myth may sound a ring of truth, it is a canard on the whole. Many musicians have been known to suffer from nothing more than normality, but it seems that those with the aforementioned formatory defects end up receiving the bulk of the attention, if only because they appear more exciting.

Let this account serve as proof of another fact: Music has the ability to provide a theraputic counter-effect, but only when approached in a proper and respectful manner. When used as a vehicle to promote, or reinforce emotional instability rather than quell it, nothing but explosions can result. Consider Kurt Cobain and Jimi Hendrix.

After having seen both sides of the veil, I can assure the reader that neither drugs nor alcohol have a positive effect on music nor the musician. If the above examples are not enough, they bring to mind dozens of others. Artists from Billie Holliday to Eric Clapton have attempted to wage their internal wars using various substances as allies. Billie lost her war when her perceived ally turned out to be her foe. Eric won his fight when he realised what his enemy was. In neither case did the substances in question provide any of the aforementioned artists access to a ‘supernatural music portal’.

One cannot be dosed or maddened into becoming a musician. A musician is merely one who is drawn to play music, and one is, or is not. If, however, one is drawn into it, there is risk that the individual become consumed, that is to say that the individual may come to seem ‘single dimensional’ to some, perhaps eclectic to others. This may not always bode well for the musician if he allows himself to become obsessive in his development.

A humourous account will drive my point.

I once happened to become acquainted with Robert, a classical guitar teacher whose obsession gave rise to a most unpleasant key feature. His fixation on his musical discipline was such that it spilled over into his daily affairs, apparently making normal hygenic functions seem unnecessary. Although his speech was eloquent, and his teeth pristine; his hair was stringy and oily, his beard unkempt, and his clothing unwashed. He wore these sandals that appeared to be taken from the corpse of Moses, and all of his nails were in need of attention. He was generally accompained by a very pungent aroma. I felt he looked out of place without military fatigues and a cigar.

One day, he came into the music store in which I worked. ‘Sven, I’m in need of several good metronomes, and I am hoping that your establishment might be capable of satisfying my needs.’ (For those who may wonder, my name is not Sven, but that was the name which I’d chosen for my name tags during my ten-plus year tenure in retail.)

‘What sort of fire do you require, Squire?’ I asked with typical Cyrano de Bergerac bent. (Everybody who knows me would have known what I really meant.)

‘Well, it mustn’t be one of the analogue sort, ‘ he said (if only to irritate me), ‘only the digital ones will do; I attempt to impart perfect timing in my students, and I expect no less from the time-pieces that I provide them with.’

I looked him over. ‘For pause, the pendulum served Segovia satisfactorily. Now what once befitted the boss bumbles the bookmen?’ I touched a finger to my cheek, cutting my eyes skyward for effect.

‘I can tell the difference!’ he huffed and puffed. ‘Neither my students nor I are bumbled, as you put it. With all respect to the maestro, digital precisions have made the pendulum obsolete.’

‘So your skills, Castro, deals killing blows to those of the Maestro?’

He protested with the demur of a lemur, to such extent that Dennis, the owner of the store, made a rare emergence from his official retreat. ‘What’s going on out here? What’s wrong?’

‘The sun is on fire! He says we’ll expire!’ I told him, pointing at Robert.

The look of indignity on Robert’s face became one of bewilderment. ‘This asshole won’t sell me a metronome without giving me the third degree in verse,’ he explained to Dennis the Penis.

‘Everyone learns from third degree burns.’ I interposed.

The owner began to make excuses for me and told Robert that he’d fired me over a month ago, but that I continued to show up to work.

I returned to the task I’d been attempting all morning, with Dennis tending to Robert’s needs and putting his feelings right. ‘Have a good morning, Your Weirdness,’ he shot at me upon departing.

‘Bye-bye, Fry Guy.’ I was heard to reply.

Dennis turned, pointing toward the door with his hand held close to his torso, whisper-hissing,’You know that guy?’

‘Something inside has soured and died?’ I anticipated.

Dennis lowered his voice, ‘He fuckin’ stinks!’ he winced, heading back to his office. ‘Oh, by the way, you’re fired.’ he called out before re-entering.

Dennis was a horn-hating trumpet player. But then, everybody has their hang-ups, right?

Just don’t allow it to become an obsession.