Random ramblings.

Sunday
Sep292013

*No spoilers here, though this is about spoiled people (that's us)*

The thing is, Breaking Bad really is that good and worth thinking/talking about. If you aren't caught up or haven't seen it at all, this won't mess with that -- and you really should check it out. Anyway, being the overly analytical nerd that I am about such things (no shame in my game), I offer the following:

I'm disappointed with a lot of the analysis that I've heard/read, even from folks seemingly pretty closely affiliated with the show. The story isn't about whether Walter White is evil incarnate or whatever, much less Walt vs. Hank being some Satan/God silliness, or the truly creepy and terrifying misogynistic takes on Skyler, etc. 

It all starts, of course, with taking the whole 'would you steal a loaf of bread to feed your starving family?' to a really extreme level, which is a really simple premise done incredibly well. Initially, that (along with a lot of other brilliant character complexities) makes Walter White a really compelling anti-hero. As the plot expands, though, we see not just one person (WW) attempting to deal with a life that hasn't meet their expectations on any number of levels, we're dealing with a world of them. 

It was one of many strokes of genius to make this show's central protagonist a chemist, as what we're watching (as we always are, in any story) is the reaction that occurs when these characters (elements) are, figuratively speaking, put under various levels of heat, pressure, etc. Those reactions are their choices. They are only inevitable in the sense that, inherently, whatever the elements are that make up each person have all been forming all their lives, leading to these moments. Every character that has any sort of autonomy (i.e. everyone but the kids) makes their choices, over and over again. It's not about them being manipulated by Walt (though that is a superpower survival skill of his that he wields masterfully and brutally) or otherwise forced into their particular ugliness. Whether it's through ambition, greed, complacency, fear, shame or some other universal human condition, the scars of the various characters (the origins of which we don't know in many cases, which rules) lead to choices that slowly unravel them. As obvious as that sounds, that's sort of the point. None of these people are evil, any more than any of us are. 

All of the time, to wildly varying degrees, we as individuals and as groups are making the same sorts of strategic plays to protect our egos, anesthetize our wounds, deny the present moment, take more than we need at the expense of others and generally nibble away at ourselves and each other, kind of sneak our way through our lives without getting found out. As we can see by the state of our species, this isn't working out super well -- for anyone, really. The destruction and horror doesn't generally doesn't happen in big, dramatic moments (though those are what we love to mythologize, along with the big miraculous wins). That is usually the story that gets told, especially with the blissful redemption at the end. That doesn't seem to be what's going on in BB, at least in the obvious ways. In BB, as in life, the tragedy has unfolded in little bits and pieces, barely perceptible sometimes, almost as if by magic -- or as if big, supernatural (or governmental, or financial, or social, or all the other concepts we worship) forces of Good and Evil are pulling our strings. That, of course, is the worst sort of bullshit and exactly the attitude that leads to still more apathy, etc -- and that is what this brilliant, heart-wrenching, beautiful show is about. At the crucial moment(s), just making the wrong call, for the wrong reasons (and we all have our reasons): that is breaking bad. 

Here's to great art and learning about ourselves through it.

Wednesday
Sep112013

Because Freedom.

 

I will never forget being on tour when it happened.

The shows over the next coupla weeks were so intimate.

That's what shows are really for.

Wednesday
Jul242013

Unprepared

There is something that happens when we come into (or come back to) this world. We develop a sort of necessary callous on our sensing selves. We become callous. The little jabs and passive-aggressive, would-be humorous insults help to desensitize us from the pain of of our poisonous and jagged interactions with each other and our environment. We obsessively cleanse each other with language, we make each other warm with our words so that we aren't raw, so that we won't be subject to the disease-causing dangers of our inevitable poisons, our spoiled nature. We do this with all the fastidiousness that one of us might use when preparing an animal for sacrifice or consumption (if there is even a difference between those two processes). So I'm here, and I understand why we do these things. I don't necessarily enjoy the muted flavors and artificial preservatives... and I'm okay with being on the menu and choosing from it. All that said, I would like my love, companionship and participation to be served rare -- and a little dirty. I'll tend towards the wild. I want to stay at least a little bit unprepared.

Wednesday
Jul102013

Letter Of The Moment


The music keeps having adventures, and it keeps making me smile and cry to hear about them. Here's the latest, courtesy of an amazing girl, her cool dad and a tune that actually came from an amazing interaction I had with my own daughter, years ago now.

"My daughter is five years old and diagnosed with autism and speech delay / impairment.  I only mention this so that you understand that it is a big deal when she has something to say.

Recently, she has been "sneaking" off with the ipad to watch slideshows that I made for my wife - pictures of her and her brother set to music that I choose. One of the songs is your "Belong."

A week or so ago, while she was brushing her teeth, I heard her humming the chorus to it.  A few days later, I heard her singing it ("you belong to me... you don't know me...).  So, I grabbed my guitar and started playing, and she sang along for just about the entire song and belted out the chorus.  That was pretty amazing.  But not the best part.

At a family party a few days ago, she grabbed her grandparents, aunts and uncles and cousins and led them on a sing-a-long.  She sang the verses and she even taught them the chorus so they could all it sing along with her. So - my entire family sat around and sang your song with her.  There were a lot of tears.

The 'autism' side to my daughter is only one small aspect, but it does keep her from being able to use her voice as much as she would like, so when we can share something like this with her it is absolutely amazing.  And now, she loves learning new songs and singing them while I play guitar.  I can't really express how perfect those moments are.

So - anyway - thanks a lot.  My friends and I saw Far and Willhaven open for Deftones when we were in college in Washington DC 1997 and we've been big fans ever since.  And this has definitely been my favorite part of it.

By the way - her other favorite song is Vedder's live cover of "Forever Young." That's pretty good company to keep.  (and awesome taste)"
Monday
May202013

Runlinedrawing

In the wake of the Boston Marathon bombing, I had an inexplicable spark of imagining what might be interesting and fulfilling and great about running a marathon. Marathons and other super-intense physical feats have always occurred to me kind of masochistic and strange, but I dunno, I just got this feeling, and I've always been someone that has trusted a feeling. So, G-d willing, I'll be running the Boston Marathon next year. Needless to say, I don't take this lightly in any way. Still scares me say it out loud (which is why I'm saying it out loud). There are so many ifs and maybes along the way, so many things I don't know.

Here's what I do know:

- I have no desire to attempt to qualify via speed (which would mean somehow running another marathon in around 3 hours, which is something like 7.5 minute miles for 26 miles, which just sounds like something I don't want to even contemplate trying), so...

- I'm now researching various charities that I can partner with to raise money. Even if I did want to learn to run that far that fast, it feels perfect to help other folks through all this. 

- I bought my first pair of semi-fancy running shoes and I'm enjoying them. They really make a difference! Go figure.

- I'm beginning a long, gradual, relaxed training process. I want this to be helpful, not hurtful, for my body and brain. My idea is to run at a very relaxed pace, just really take it easy and have fun with it. I'm already really enjoying the slow, solitary running in the morning.

- As you can see up top and in the pic below, I have a cute name for the idea, which has always helped me get and stay excited about things. I've been using the name 'onelinedrawing' for my music for a lot of years now, and when I thought of 'runlinedrawing', it sort of sealed the deal for me to do this. I may well tie any fundraising efforts in with music (comp of covers of tunes somehow related to running, singing a little bit for people every few miles during the race, silly stuff like that), so we'll see what feels fun.

So, there you go. We shall see. It feels scary and exciting and sweet.

Here's me imaging it happening:

Thursday
May162013

Recording In The Raw

Recording naked in Santa Barbara, 1992, in my friend Mark's makeshift recording studio. Our buddy Scarth was there that day too, I believe. Note the old-school Far tribal logo sticker on the guitar. Now there's a band tattoo I'm sure happy I never got. I wish you could see my hilarious mane of a ponytail; looked like I was carrying a guinea pig on my back. Oh, the nekkidness? I have no explanation but our wonderful weirdness -- and I highly recommend recording in the nude with close friends.

Thursday
May092013

Patience, Balance, Care, Release.

Working away on so many ideas and communications. Individually and collectively, they enliven and overwhelm me in dizzying, overlapping waves. Taking a few minutes out of my day to see and feel this astonishing display was just so perfect. Patience, balance, care. Enjoy.

Thursday
May022013

Dear Chi

Since Chi's death, a few magazines and stuff have asked me some questions about him. I'm grateful for the chance to think on these things and maybe give others a glimpse into what I (and lots of others) loved so much about him. One simple question in particular really stuck with me: "If you could say anything to Chi right now, what would it be?" So when the sweet folks at the Sacramento News & Review asked me to write a slightly longer piece, I explanded on that idea. Here you go. Let's live.

 

So, I was reading this big, heavy Jewish book (that sort of start always got your attention). I found this part where some minor prophet or another is ranting about how nothing is an opportunity or a challenge or a journey or a learning experience or a test or a trial—it’s all gifts. All of it. Of all the conversations I wish we’d had, just talking about that one page—that one beautiful, brazen rant—that’s the conversation I wish for most right now. I think you would have agreed. You loved a tough take on beauty. You were all about the glorious rant.

I think of what Robert Frost wrote: “I had a lover’s quarrel with the world.” I think of you wrestling with ideas, wrestling with people you cared for until you were tangled in their limbs and hearts. You stuck with people.

I have no stories about where you are or aren’t. I have no idea what you saw when I was there. I just know what I saw. It was just the same as before that stupid fucking car crash. Your family and friends circulating—I could never really tell who was blood and who wasn’t, and I didn’t care. I just saw the same gorgeous gathering around you, Chi, Dai, all the names. We’d all be whispering to you, telling stories, thinking maybe with just the right touch or melody or exciting new treatment we’d find you again, lead you back, refusing to let go. Your mom, sweet sentinel, reminding me where your capability for tenacious, tireless love came from.

I’m not sure we really know what to do now. You gave such a focus to things. How were you so precise and so chaotic all at once? I thought about that so often when watching you play. Through all the furious twirling and screaming, snaggletooth and sweat, dirty dreadlocks stuck to your face, pasted on until they got shaken off. In the center of all that mess, these delicate, thoughtful lines, holding together everything around you. The guttural, gorgeous screams; primal, simple words with so much room for interpretation and space. Yours was the voice to make those words mean as much as they ever would. Whether they were intelligible or not, they got in. Incantations. There’s this other really dense book, The Spell Of The Sensuous, that I know you’d love tearing into and tearing apart. It says something about how in some old language, the word for song is also the word for magic.

So, when I offer my ideas about everything being gifts and trying to have this—your death—occur as a present somehow, I think a lot of people would hate that idea. I don’t think you’d be one of them, though. I think you’d dig into it the way you loved digging into any number of difficult ideas, finding the fertile bits in the toughest terrain.

I hate that you’re gone. I hate that your son won’t get more time with you. I hated seeing how tired and embattled the faces of all the people that loved you were getting. The truth of your absence is something that will never leave and never stop hurting. But if you could just see everyone! I feel the tears coming again—if you could just see everyone talking, singing, hugging, all looking at each other, finally, like we always should be looking at each other, but it’s not until someone like you is missing that we figure out what it is to be found.

Fuck, maybe that’s just me trying to make sense of it, making up stories after all. I don’t need it to be true. I can just keep remembering how true you were. As permanent in your presence as you are in your absence. I can’t honestly say that I think that about most of us. I aspire to your effortless acceptance, without even a hint of acquiescence. You were all about the paradox.

This isn’t going to end cleanly. You used your heart as well as I’ve ever seen a heart used. Suddenly, it stopped. Sweet, smart, ferocious Chi. Goodbye.

(Onstage w/Deftones in 1997 at Irving Plaza in NYC. I ran across Manhattan and literally straight onto the stage (happens at around 2:46), just in time. I always used Chi's mic when I'd sing with them; I loved being close to him. I love seeing us smile and shake it in this blurry footage; all the energy and love.)

Sunday
Apr142013

Bye, Chi. Truly, RIP.

I have never been around the kind of faithful tenacity that I witnessed in Jeanne when I would visit Chi and sing for/with him. Of course I'm on tour, waking up and finding out he's finally, really gone. Fits, somehow. Along with the beyond-measure grief thinking of his family and loved ones, I'm feeling really deep gratitude for the people I met through this tragedy, for the song that was created from it, made with lifelong friends on a sweet and peaceful afternoon, after a dream. I still remember the feeling of recording this at Shaun's house. Never forget.



I dreamt that you were alive, really alive
I dreamt of your eyes, I dreamt of your eyes
They weren't just open, they were engaged

Then somebody said, or maybe I read
In the daytime we're dead, but at night we live

We were inside, sitting inside
Ready to play, there was the stage
And she wasn't brave, and you weren't away
Then somebody said, where was it I read
In the daytime we're dead, but at night we live

We're with our families, we're with our friends
We're singing and smiling, time is a secret
There is no car crash, there is no blood
I don't believe this, but maybe I should
In the daytime we're dead, but
At night we live

I'm realizing that while I had pretty well accepted that I'd never speak with Chi again, I did have this little glimmer that some impossibly long-shot miracle might happen, and it's time to mourn that. I'm also reminded (again and again) that whatever comes and goes, we actually do, so I want to keep remembering that and let the little things go with love. And yea, just about everything is pretty little in relation to this most (seemingly) permanent of transformations.

Okay. Have a beautiful day. Here's from the night before the last time I ever saw him.



And, through the strange magic of YouTube and our collected collective memories, here's from the year before, in the same gorgeous room. Hadn't remembered the interspersing that happened and all the goofiness. Sweet to hear again. Chi woulda dug it, I know it. We'll keep trying for us, up here with angels, free as birds, reigning in blood, indeed.



http://oneloveforchi.com/

 

====

 

ps - Kerrang just asked me some stuff for a tribute they're doing. I have no idea what will get used, but it was nice to write about Chi some, so here:


Q: When did you and Chi first meet? What do you remember of him from that time – first impressions, etc?


- I met Chi in 1991. I was living on a friend's floor, starting Far. The Deftones were already doing great in Sacramento. We all became fast friends. Me and Chi were definitely the two philosophical, sensitive, crazy ones. I asked him to come read some poetry at one of my very first solo shows in Sacto. He came out and blew everyone's mind, while cracking them up and freaking them out. It was perfect.


Q: What do you remember of the day of his accident? 


- At the beginning, as horrible as the accident was, everyone was just so happy that he was still alive. As the days and months wore on, though, it became real to everyone just how fucked up he was.


Q: How often did you manage to visit him in hospital? Were you ever hopeful that he might make a recovery?


- I always held a place in my heart that he might make it back. I visited him in California when he was at a hospital there, then in Jersey a couple times when he got moved there to try some different treatments. I'd sing and hold his hand, just hang out and let him know I was there.


Q: Where were you when you heard of Chi's passing? Did the timing come as a shock? 


- I woke up in Italy, on tour. I had all these notifications that people had tagged me in various posts. I noticed some of them being from people that I knew were close to Chi. I knew immediately that it must be really good news, or really bad news.


Q: What are your favourite memories of Chi? Any particular stories that stand out in your mind?


- Chi had this girlfriend. They broke up, and for some reason, he told me I should take her out. I thought that was kinda weird, in that amazing Chi way, and she was really cool and cute, so I figured, 'why not'? Then, when I slept with her, I heard Chi was furious and was going to come and beat the crap out of me. Honestly, I was never afraid, cos I knew he was just being a freak and we'd laugh about it all. And we did.


Q: What do you think Chi's legacy will be, both as a musician and a person?


- Just a big-hearted, creative wildman. I'd love to see a lot of his work be collected in one place; poems, journal entries, songs. He was an incredibly smart, complex, thoughtful person. I'd love to see that preserved well.


Q: There's been a huge outpouring of love from musicians and fans around the world. What do you think it was about Chi that made him so popular with everyone who met him?


- He was one of those rare folks that is somehow immune to all the bullshit that fame can bring. He just stayed the same freak, the whole time. He was so comforting to be around, and at the same time so exciting.


Q: If you could say anything to Chi right now, what would you say?


- I'd say, "Let's go take a walk and talk about weird, beautiful shit. Then let's go do an open mic. You can read some, I'll sing some, we'll improvise some stuff together. Let's see what happens."
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