Rock and Roll is Dead!


“Rock and Roll is dead!” is a line most of us have heard for most of our lives. From the anthemic screams of punk rockers to the classic rockers suggesting, “Today’s music ain’t got the same soul,” everyone has enjoyed repeating a version of this line. For most of our lives, however, this has been little more than snarky criticism of the current status quo. For some of us, this has been based on the idea that our favorite strain of rock is no longer prominent, that we don’t appreciate the new direction rock was headed in, or that we have simply aged out of it. Looking at it from a rational perspective, rock and roll has always been able to survive based on young individuals crafting creative derivatives of what came before, and those derivatives develop movements that lead to greater sales and continued power, for rock in the music industry. On both planes, it does appear that either rock music is in a severe and prolonged downtrend, or that it may, in fact, be dead in terms of it being a powerful force in the music industry.

“For generations, rock music was always there, and it always felt like it would come back, no matter what the current trend happened to be,” Eddie Van Halen told Chuck Klosterman in a 2015 interview. “For whatever reason, it doesn’t feel like it’s coming back this time.”

As Klosterman writes, in his book But What if We’re Wrong, Eddie Van Halen said this at sixty-years-old:

“So some might discount (Eddie Van Halen’s) sentiments as the pessimistic opinion of someone who’s given up on music. His view, however, is shared by rock musicians who were still chewing on pacifiers when Van Halen was already famous.”

Thirty-seven-year-old singer of the band Muse, Matt Bellamy, echoed Eddie’s statement saying:

“We live in a time where intelligent people –or creative, clever people– have actually chosen computers to make (sic) music. They’ve chosen (sic) to work in tech. There’s an exhaustion of intelligence which has moved out of the music industry and into other industries.”

Chuck Klosterman then adds:

“We’ve run out of teenagers with the desire (and potential) to become (the next) Eddie Van Halen. As far as the mass culture is concerned that time is over.”   

If the reader is as shocked as I was to read a high profile, classic hard rock performer, coupled with a more modern artist, and a rock enthusiast on par with Chuck Klosterman, discuss the end of an era in such a rational, and persuasive manner, you’re not alone. It does not appear to me that these individuals were intending to be provocative. They were suggesting that it now appears that those of us that proclaimed, “Rock and Roll will never die!” were wrong, and that historians may view rock and roll as nothing more than a prolonged, influential, and cultural trend. My interpretation of these comments is that there will always be some musicians who make rock music and albums, but the powerful force that once helped form the backbone of America might be over. That trend may have been such a prolonged staple that it’s been around longer than most of us have been alive. Yet, if we are able to remove the emotion we have vested in the art form and examine it from the perspective of creativity and album sales, it is more than likely that hundreds of years from now historians will view rock and roll as a trend that began in the mid-to-late fifties and ended somewhere around 2010.

The Creative Power 

The one aspect of Bob Dylan’s memoir Chronicles that an interested reader will learn about the man, more than any other aspect of his life, is how much depth went into Bob Dylan’s artistic creations. Dylan writes about the more obvious, influential artists that affected him, such as Woody Guthrie, but he also writes about the obscure musicians he encountered on his path, that affected him in ways large and small. He also writes about the manner in which reading literature informed his artistic persona, reading everyone from prominent poets and fiction writers, to the Ancient Greek philosophers, and he finally informs us of how other experiences in his life informed him. The reader will close the book with the idea that the young Dylan wasn’t seeking a road map to stardom so much as he was learning the art of craftsmanship.

On this subject of craft, as it pertains to the death of rock and roll, the bassist from Kiss, Gene Simmons, informed Esquire:

“The craft is gone, and that is what technology, in part, has brought us. What is the next Dark Side of the Moon? Now that the record industry barely exists, they wouldn’t have a chance to make something like that. There is a reason that, along with the usual top-40 juggernauts, some of the biggest touring bands are half old people, like me.”

On the subject of craft and being derivative, we could argue that Dark Side of the Moon was derivative. We could also argue that Elvis Presley, Bob Dylan, The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, and Led Zeppelin were all derivative. We could argue that rock and roll, itself, derived from rhythm and blues, and that rhythm and blues derived their sound from the blues, jazz, and swing music. There is no sin in being derivative, in other words, as most artists derived something from another influence, but the question of how derivative an artist is has often haunted most artists that derived their craft from other, more obscure artists. The question most artists have had to ask, internally and otherwise, is how much personal innovation did they add to their influences? Perhaps more important to this discussion is a question of how much room was left in the zeitgeist for variation on the theme their influence created? To quote the cliché, a time will arrive in any art form, when a future artist is attempting to squeeze blood out of a turnip, and while the room for derivatives and variations on the broad theme of rock and roll seemed so vast at one time, every art form eventually runs into a wall.

One could say that the first wave of rock and roll that didn’t spend too much time worrying about being derivative was the Heavy Metal era of 80’s hair metal bands. One could also say that they didn’t have to search too deep, at that time, because the field still yielded such a bountiful harvest. All they had to do was provide a decent derivative of a theme some 70’s bands derived from some 60’s band that were derivatives of 50’s bands, and so on and so forth. There was still something so unique at the heart of what they were doing, in that space in time, that they could develop what amounted to a subtle variation of a theme and still be considered somewhat unique.

At some point in this chain of variations and strains, the wellspring dried up for 80’s hair metal bands, and they became a mockery of former artists, until rock and roll was in dire need a new template. At this point, right here, many proclaimed the death of rock and roll. They claimed that rock and roll was now more about hairspray, eyeliner, and MTV than actual music. Into that void, stepped Guns N’ Roses, Faith No More, The Red Hot Chili Peppers, and others. They provided unique variations at the tail end of the 80’s and early 90’s. At various points in the timeline, a variation always stepped up to keep the beast alive, but hindsight informs us that rock and roll was, indeed, on life support at this time. Hindsight also informs us, that when the 90’s Seattle bands, and The Smashing Pumpkins, stepped to the fore, their derived variation on the theme was, in essence, a reset of the template that had been lost somewhere in the late 80’s, as they brought rock back to the early Kiss, Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin, and Aerosmith records of the 70’s.

This begs the question, would Nirvana have been as huge as they were, if they had appeared on the scene around 1983-1984, or would that have been too early for them. Are musical waves little more than a question of timing? Did Nirvana hit the scene at a time when the desire to recapture whatever was lost in the late 80’s was widespread? The Nevermind album may have been so good that it would’ve sold in just about any rock era, but would Nevermind have outsold Quiet Riot’s Mental Health and Twisted Sister’s Stay Hungry, or would it have been too derivative of an era we just experienced. Would Nevermind have been the ten million copies shipped phenomenon it was if it hit the scene in 1984, or was it a valiant attempt to recapture what was lost in rock that we needed at the time?

Most of the musicians, in what rock critics called the grunge movement, had varied tastes, and some of their favorite artists were more obscure than the general public’s, but the basic formula for what would critics called grunge could be found in those four groups of musicians, from the 70’s, that had deep and varied influences. The grunge era, we could say, was the last innovative movement for nuanced rock.

Talk to just about any young person in America today, and they may list off some modern artists and groups that they listen to, but most of those rock connoisseurs will provide “classic rock” band as one of their favorite genres. When someone my age hears the term classic rock, they’re more prone to think of one of the 70’s bands mentioned earlier, but these young people are referring to bands that were brand new to me somewhere around yesterday, yesterday being twenty years ago.

I know I run the risk of being dismissed as an old fogy when I declare rock dead, or something along the lines of “Today’s music ain’t got the same soul”, but there is something that is missing. In fairness to modern artists, and in full recognition of my old codger perspective, I have to ask how the “next big thing” will pop out, right now, in 2016, and offer the world a perspective on rock that no one has ever considered before? Such a statement does undercut the creative brilliance that young minds have to offer, but to those of us who have listened to everyone from top of the line artists to some of the more obscure artists in recording history, it seems to me that every genre, subgenre, experimentation, and variation has been covered to this point.

Gene Simmons asked where the next Dark Side of the Moon is going to come from, I ask where the next Melon Collie and the Infinite Sadness is, and it may be a question that led those of another era to ask what artist is the modern day equivalent to The Carter Family? I never thought I’d be this guy, but most of the modern rock music sounds uninformed and lacking in the foundation that previous generations had. I know this is largely incorrect, but when I listen to the rock bands of the current era, I don’t hear that long, varied search for influence. I don’t hear artists hearkening back the rich and varied tradition old blues singers, folk musicians, and country artists learned from their family and friends in gospel songs at church, at campfires, and at night before going to bed. I don’t hear an informed artistic persona. Their music lacks some of the organic funk R&B musicians brought to the fold, and the intricate instrumentation that the 50’s and 60’s jazz musicians left for their successors to mine.

Some consider this entire argument moot, however, and they say that the nature of music and art in general, suggests that there will always be an innovative, up and coming star to develop variations and derivatives of former artists if there is money in it. Naysayers would echo their favorite artists and say it’s not about the money, and true art never should be. While that may be true, it is also true that when the money is removed, as the Gene Simmons quote below states, there may not be people in the upper reaches of the chain that are willing to develop that talent, when the whole model is thrown into chaos, and the structure of it is destroyed.

It’s About the Money. It’s Always About the Money.

“You’re (now considered) a sucker if you pay for music,” one of my friends informed me at what was, for me, the advent of file sharing. 

My friend did not say the words “now considered” but that was the import of his statement. I was no Luddite. I knew about the file sharing sites, such as Napster, but for me, Napster was a place to find obscure throwaways, bootlegged versions of the songs I loved, and cover songs, by my favorite artists. I learned of the Metallica lawsuit against Napster, and some talk of file sharing among the young, but I had no idea that the crossover to file sharing had already begun, for most music enthusiasts, until my friend dropped this line on me.

The line did not inform me of the new way of attaining music, as I already knew it was out there, but it informed me of the new mindset in regards to accessing music. After scouring these sites for my favorite songs, albums, and artists, (and finding them, waiting to be downloaded for free) one thing became crystal clear, this was going to change everything. I read of the music industry hauling young people into court after illegally downloading music, but my astute, file sharing friend said he believed that the music industry was desperate, and that they were trying to scare people. He correctly predicted that the music industry would stop trying to prosecute people and simply give in. He said that they should’ve done something long before this point (and this point was very early on in the age of file sharing) to cash in on the file sharing wave. He said that there were simply too many people, from his small corner of the world, downloading music for free, for the music industry to prosecute them all.

File sharing, say some, may have spelled the true death of rock and roll as a profitable, cultural force in America today. I write this as a qualifier for those that will suggest that the idea that a bunch of kids sitting in a garage to develop a new sound will never die. It may not, but reading through Gene Simmons’ interview in Esquire, a reader learns of the type of support that new musicians need from execs in the upper echelon of the music industry to help them progress from garage rockers to a cultural force in America, and that that part of the structure has been destroyed by file sharing. To belabor this point for just a moment, we would all prefer to believe that our favorite musicians have little regard for money, or corporate influence, but how much of the sound of an album was tweaked, finessed, and completed by industry money? Listen to insiders speak of a final product, and they’ll tell the reader that the album doesn’t sound anything like it might have without a high quality producer, and it doesn’t sound anything like it did before the corporate mixer came in and put in some finishing touches that those of us in the audience know nothing about.

Rock and roll’s appeal has always been a young person’s game, however, and that makes most of the derivative argument moot. Most young people live in the now, and young people have never cared that their favorite artist happened to be a hybrid between The Rolling Stones and Aerosmith, at least not to the point that they wouldn’t buy their favorite artists’ albums. As far as they were concerned, their favorite band’s sound, and look, was fresh, original, and theirs.

“My sense is that file sharing started in predominantly white, middle- and upper-middle-class young people who were native-born, who felt they were entitled to have something for free, because that’s what they were used to,” Gene Simmons also said in the Esquire interview. “If you believe in capitalism — and I’m a firm believer in free-market capitalism — then that other model is chaos. It destroys the structure.”

Death of the Album

Scouring these file sharing sites, and creating personalized playlists, I also sensed a death of the album. As an album-oriented listener, I always thought one could arrive at the artistic persona of a musician in the deeper cuts of an album. My philosophy was written out by Sting, and his, “Anyone can write a hit, but it takes an artist to write an excellent album” quote. I was affected by the new file-sharing mindset almost immediately, as I began to consider it a waste of time to listen to the various Queen Jane Approximately cuts, when I could create a playlist filled with top shelf, Like a Rolling Stone cuts from various artists.

The idea of the self-directed, playlist mindset developed somewhere around the advent of the cassette tape, an era that predated me, but the full album managed to maintain most of its glory throughout that era. For most of my life, the power of a quality single led concertgoers to leap out of their seat and rush the stage. With all these new tools, however, a person no longer has to stand around for an hour waiting for the band to take the stage. They no longer have to sit through mind-numbing guitar solos, and witty banter from the lead singer to get to the one song they liked from that artist. They could now go to a site like YouTube to watch their favorite singer sing that quality single.

I still think that the lack of depth in most products current artists put out is a factor in the demise of rock as a force in the industry. I am persuaded that that is not the case by the idea that young people know as little about the history of their music as their favorite artists do, however, and what little they do know is superseded by how little they care about it.

I am also convinced that file sharing has had an effect, if not a devastating effect, on the structure from top to bottom. Another writer had an interesting take on this matter, stating that the file sharing mindset may have something to do with young people growing up watching their favorite artists display their wares on shows like MTV’s Cribs. Shows like these may have led young people to think that their favorite artist has enough money as it is, and the shows may have led the young people to download the music for free without guilt. Which, in turn, led them to believe anyone who plops down money for music is an absolute sucker.

“They’re not going to miss any meals if I deprive them of my $9.99,” they may say. That may be true in the case of this individual, but what happens when millions of people begin sharing this mindset? What happens is that when we begin removing the $9.99 bricks that formed the foundation of the industry, we destroy the industry, as we knew it. They will sign fewer rock artists, they will no longer hire all those little guys that finished the product, and they will no longer provide support or promotion to an album that would’ve garnered it before, because there’s little-to-no money in it for any of the players, on any level.

Whether it’s the lack of depth, or the idea that music no longer affords an artist enough money to make an honest living at it, thanks to file sharing, it does appear that the starving artist walking around with nothing more than a guitar strapped to his back has become an endangered animal in America today, and the consequences for that could run deep for a culture that has subsisted on the philosophical foundation of rock music for as long as most of us have been alive.

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How to Succeed in Writing VI: Follow guidelines, and let your freak flag fly!


Mike Patton

“There’s a right way to do things, and a wrong way!”  My Dad used to say. “And you always choose the wrong way!”  All artists have a natural proclivity to doing things the other way, a different way, and “the wrong way”.  Those who want to write a best-seller, sing a top 40 song, or sell a mainstream painting, study up on the trends of the market, and they have all their formulas for success spelled out for them in the various “self-help” guides that are available in the marketplace.  Artists, true artists, are the freaks, the odd balls, and the weirdoes of our society.

If these artists didn’t have certain predilections in life, they probably would’ve been better athletes in high school, and more popular, and less inclined to eventually have the angst that drove them to do what they would ended up doing.  They probably would’ve made better employees, better spouses, better parents, and better people.  Their people probably would’ve enjoyed their company more if they fell in line with the practiced repetitions that led to better muscle memory in all these avenues of life.  They probably would’ve been happier people and fit into society better, but they chose a different path in life.

Marcel Proust

“Everything great in the world comes from Neurotics.  They alone have founded our religion and composed our masterpieces,” –Marcel Proust.

To say that an artist chooses his path in life is a bit of a misnomer, for most artists fell into expression as a form of therapy.  They’ve usually had an incident, or a series of incidents, that they couldn’t quite get past in the accepted ways, but they made decisions on how to deal with them in their own way.  Most artists didn’t “reach out” for others to help them deal with that which plagued them, or if they did they recognized the fact that most people don’t care about other people’s problems.  Either that, or they didn’t receive any satisfaction from sympathetic responses.  Most artists internalized their pain, until it exploded into some form of expression.

Expression meant free-form expression to them early on.  It meant being outrageous, and offensive, and playing the game by their own rules.  If they had good mentors though, they learned that much of this resulted in sloppy and undisciplined work.  The whole reason they entered this field of expression was to expunge the toxins they had coursing through their veins, but their mentors told them there were rules and guidelines to doing this properly.  Most artists angrily accepted that fact.  They believed that artists should think outside the box, but they learned that true artists would eventually have to know what was in the box is if they ever hoped to violate it properly.

A friend of mine is not artistic, but he reads a lot of novels, and he knows their rules.  He also gets bogged down in details.  He circles offensive material, and he suggests that I delete, or edit, those portions.  He doesn’t know art in this sense, and he doesn’t care.  He knows the rules of society, and how those rules were applied by Hemingway and Faulkner, and he knows I’m offensive.  This friend wouldn’t be able to write one word of fiction.  He could get so boxed in by the rules that every word would be written, edited, and then deleted.  He would write a novel that would be as entertaining as an instructional manual for a park bench, or the proper use of fly paper.  He would’ve made a better editor, if he came to that crossroad.

The differences between an individual who knows the rules, but doesn’t know how to apply them in an artistic manner, are the differences between an artistic writer and an editor.  Take a look at some of the names of the people who have written the articles on developing the perfect character, or the most dynamic conflict.  You’ve probably never heard of them, for they know as little about writing an artistic novel as you do.  Some people are excellent editors and teachers, but they know little to nothing about being an artist.  The opposite is usually true of artists, and this is why freelance editors are making such a great living in the age of the rule breaking, freelance eBook writer.  It is also why the advice of most artists, such as myself, is to just do it.  Don’t talk about writing, don’t hold yourself up as a writer when you don’t write, and don’t complain about the arduous process involved.  Just do it!  Doing it, will help you figure out why you can do it or not.  The other important note on this topic is that those who teach can’t teach you how to write your novel.  They can give you general guidelines that you’ll need to know, but they can’t teach you the art of writing, and the art of letting your freak flag fly, in the vein that you’ll  learn by just doing it.  I’m not saying that their advice is without merit, but don’t let yourself get bogged down in the detail.

Psychological Swearing and other maladies of the human condition


1) Swearing.  I used to wonder what it would be like to swear like an adult when I was younger.  Their ferocity fascinated me.  Their anger! had such punctuation.  Their sense of regret and sadness were palpable.  Everyone took them so seriously, and I was seen as a little kid.  I couldn’t get my emotions across.  It was a source of great frustration for me.  I saw adults in movies sweep everything off their desk to convey ultimate frustration, and I saw them stare into a mirror for thirty seconds before punching it, but in my inner circle of adults it was swearing that caused one adult to take another adult seriously when they were trying to convey emotion.  Swearing had great punctuation.  I knew I could punch people to get them to understand I was mad at them, but that usually prompted them to punch me back, and I didn’t care for getting punched when I could avoid it.  I knew I could cry to convey my sadness, but I’m a boy, and boys don’t cry.  Boys used different swear words, boy swear words, to convey sadness.  I knew I could raise my voice to convey excitement, and I did when I said something was great! but most people didn’t latch onto that excitement and try what I was telling them to try.  I realized that if anyone was going to take me seriously, I was going to have to start cussing.  It wasn’t that I didn’t want to start cussing, it was that I was bad at it.  I didn’t have the timing aspect of it down, and my inflection was horrible.

I learned timing first.  I learned that there were occasions when group think purveyors considered it mandatory and acceptable to swear, but there were also times when restraint was necessary.   Cussing too much drained the power of the words, and it made one look like they were trying too hard.  Restraint was the key, but even using the words sparingly didn’t help me comprehensively.  I still lacked inflection.  I sounded awkward.  I learned timing, and I learned how to place provocative words before and after sentiments to get people shocked, but due to my inflections few people took me seriously long term.  The inflections came last, but they finally came, and I entered into that adult world of conveyance.  I was shocking and provocative, and people began to take me seriously emotionally, and I found that pleasing.  If I had a rough day, or someone was giving me the business, I could throw out a swear word, and everyone would back up and raise their eyebrows.  They finally knew that I was someone to take seriously.  What a glorious day that was!  Everyone knew I was a person who used swear words adeptly!  I was accepted into the club!  To maintain membership, I swore all the time.  I swore when I was sad, I swore when I was happy, and of course when I was mad and fed up.  I was conveying emotion with a degree of ferocity that could be felt.  A funny thing happened to me at one point in my swearing career, I began overusing the words.  I drained them of their emotional impact through overuse, and I ended up right back at square one.  I was unable to convey emotion in a proper manner, because I was swearing too much, using too many of the designed shortcuts, and no one was taking me seriously anymore.  When I wanted to convey emotion at times when group think purveyors considered it inappropriate and unacceptable to swear I couldn’t think of any appropriate and acceptable words to use.  It was then that I came to the conclusion that most adults have as much trouble conveying emotion as kids do.  They just use swear words to camouflage that struggle.

2) Girl Crazy. “The charms of the passing woman are generally in direct proportion to the swiftness of her passing. –Marcel Proust.

When I was young, and I was very very young, I had this notion that every girl was attracted to me. All I had to do was catch their eye and hold it, and they would be mine on a temporary basis.  It didn’t matter how gorgeous they were, I could captivate them with one powerful stare.  When I got older, I had this notion that no girl was attracted to me.  Now that I’ve met that person that I wanted to meet my whole life, I no longer care who is attracted to me, and I can look back on this cognitive dissonance with some perspective.  Women like men that are attracted to them. They like to be wanted, even if they never cash in on the desire to be wanted, they like to be liked.  So, when I had the notion that a woman was attracted to me, I was actually attracting them with the notion that I was attracted to them.

3) Assigning Characteristics to Animals. Movies, both cartoon and otherwise, depict a dog listening to a conversation and reacting in a manner that suggest they understand more than key words and tones.  Some of us think this is cute and funny.  Some of us think they truly understand.  The cartoonish dogs hide their head when their owner says something stupid, and we laugh.  They scurry from the room when the bad guy suggests that they would make for an excellent dinner.  We laugh.  It sinks in with repetitive messaging.  Why wouldn’t Rover understand what we’re saying? We underestimate animals all the time. Look at what science is uncovering every day about the intelligence of these animals, why would it be so impossible to believe that they can understand us?  It’s not impossible to think that they understand us to a degree, but degrees are the key.  Dogs understand key words, and they understand tone.  Those who believe they understand more than that are trying too hard to understand their pets.  They’re trying to bond with their pets, and they believe their pets understand more than they actually do to bond with them, so they assign a degree of intelligence to these canines to have a better relationship with them.  It is the same mind set we bring to trying to understand infants and small children.  This is more credible, of course, as small children do have a greater capacity to understand language, but they do not understand high-minded, philosophical concepts such as morality.  Some psychologists have stated that young minds don’t have a complete grasp of the ramifications of their actions until they’re about eighteen years old, but we’ve told them and told them, and they still don’t grasp it.  This is due to the fact that their brains are not complex enough to understand these concepts.  As hard as it is for some of us to grasp the complex concept that animals and children don’t understand complex concepts, it actually says more about us that we think that they do than it does whether they do or not.  The question I have is am I onto something here, or do entertainment honchos know that we simply regard this all as entertainment and nothing more?

4) Misunderstood. “Everything great in the world comes from Neurotics. They alone have founded our religion and composed our masterpieces.” –Marcel Proust

I feel that I’m not understood, and I don’t understand that. I speak so clearly that a monkey should be able to understand me, but the humans around me listen to me with their own agenda so often that they do not take the time to understand mine.  Or am I a blowhard that is so ignorant of the various agendas around me that if I took a little time to understand them, they would take the time to understand me?

5) The Dark Days. “Happiness is beneficial for the body but it is grief that develops the powers of the mind.” –Marcel Proust

There are dark days that overwhelm me. Nothing I think, or write, can overshadow these days. These are the ‘all hope is lost’ days when I am so depressed about what is going on in the world philosophically, that I can think of nothing that will supersede it. These are the days when I realize that the world holds views so different than mine that it feels pointless to continue pounding my keyboard.  No one is listening.  No one is watching. No one is reading.  No one knows what’s going on. They all think in terms of their insular world, and they can’t see the greater whole. I look back on all the days I spent screaming from rooftops, and I realize I may have just as well have been shouting into a well. It all seems so pointless on these days that I can think of nothing funny, interesting, or enlightening to say or write. I just want to sit and sulk over the proceedings and realize that I have as little power as anyone else does to affect change. All hope is lost. It’s pointless. I don’t think I’m as important as everyone else thinks they are, so I end up cloistered by my own opinion and therefore invalid in the grand scheme of things.

6) Bring the Magic.  “Every reader finds himself. The writer’s work is merely a kind of optical instrument that makes it possible for the reader to discern what, without this book, he would perhaps never have seen in himself.” –Marcel Proust.

Is it possible for a painting to affect our feelings of relevance?  What about music, have you ever listened to a song and felt alone?  Have you ever been scared by a series of words in a book?  It’s the only form of magic I believe in.  Some of the times, we bring the magic to a piece, some of the times the piece brings magic to us, and some of the times we invent magic that isn’t otherwise there.

I sat in a theater once, one among many, and I horrified myself.  The setting of the movie was one I knew, the characters were familiar to me, and I knew the plot from my own imagination. Goosebumps riddled my skin, my eyes were popped wide, and I wanted this movie to end well.  This is unusual for me, because I normally loathe happy endings.  I see them as unrealistic, cliché, and anti-climactic. When I’m truly horrified, however, I want peace in the valley.

I have a friend who never brings the magic.  The onus is on the artist to bring him enjoyment.  He doesn’t understand magic.

There have also been magicians that stole my magic.  These artists insist on telling me that my artistic interpretation was nowhere near what they had in mind.  How dare they steal my magic?  These magicians have reached a place in their career where they are so accustomed to people enjoying their work that they take it for granted, and they want to define it for us, so that their work properly represents their worldview.  They don’t belong in a world of magic.

It is possible, however, to bring too much magic. Yoko Ono created a work (that’s all I will call it) that was done on a large, white canvas.  It was what she called a ceiling painting.  The canvas was glaringly white and glaringly blank, except for one little word “Yes” painted up in the corner.  The canvas was so large, and the word “Yes” so small that the observer needed a ladder to get to it, and a magnifying glass to see it.  John Lennon later claimed this was one of the reasons he fell in love with Yoko Ono. He claimed that after seeing the piece, he had to know the author of the piece, and he had to meet her to see if she followed his ethic in life.  He wanted to find that one “Yes” person in a glaringly blank world of no.

If you don’t “get” a work of art like this, there’s something wrong with you.  You’re in the world of no, and you’re close-minded to the world of yes.  You’re not smart enough, artistic enough, or hip enough to interpret the insular world of yes.  If you look at this piece as a huge waste of canvas, that’s on you brotha.  You don’t understand the psychological power or the sociological ramification of the grand minimalist approach in such a statement.  Most of us know that art is a term that can be loosely applied to a number of works, but we all have limits.  We all want artists to perform individual interpretations of the world, but we also think that there should be some sweat involved.  Writing a word on a canvas in this manner could be called juvenile, posh and elitist, and something an insecure, high-minded, high-browed college art student would do to complete an assignment by the deadline.  A really devious college student could then add in all the interpretations later, and slip his buddy a high five when the teacher fell for it.  For this to be considered a seminal work by a seminal artist, on the other hand defies credulity, but as they say beauty, like art, is in the eyes of the beholder.

“It was beautiful,” Lennon said of the work.  He got it.   You didn’t, and we all know a number of people who get a lot of mileage out of that mindset.  His interpretation was egotistical and insular.  It could be said that that is what artistic interpretation is, but some of the times we bring too much magic to our interpretation.  Some of the times we bring more than the pieces actually contain.

7) God and Philosophy. I believe in God, and I am sympathetic to those who want to worship Him in a relative manner, but God should have little place in philosophy. Philosophy is the study of the human mind. Philosophers take their observations, and knowledge, of man and spread it out to the masses. They help us understand who we are and why we do the things we do, and in their interpretations of man are many answers to the problems we face if we understand how the human mind works a little better. To say that we should turn to God for all that ails us is, to my mind, a violation of the “God helps those who help themselves” principle. A philosopher should be forced, in his study of general and fundamental problems, to locate an answer that is entirely secular. Everyone has a relative understanding of God, and I understand their need to seek his guidance in matters great and small, but to my mind God placed us on this Earth to fend for ourselves, and our greatest philosophical minds shouldn’t rely on God to provide the answers to human frailty any more than we should.

8) Bullying and inner-strength. “We don’t receive wisdom; we must discover it for ourselves after a journey that no one can take for us or spare us.” –Marcel Proust.

Have you ever met a guy who was never bullied? They’re out there, and they’re usually soft. They have no precedent in their lives. When someone lays into them, they can’t look back at the high school bully and say this particular person laying into them now is not as bad as that bully. They can’t recall a day when they had to fight their way out of a particular corner. They have no mechanism with which to continue the fight of their lives for the rest of their lives. They never had to face the reality that they’re alone in a fight, and they never had to deal with the fact that if they didn’t do something the endless abuse would continue. Your parents can advise you, and in some ill-advised circumstances they can step in and assist you in this fight.  Most friends will abandon you on these occasions.  They may put forth a “Leave the guy alone,” but that usually leads to you having a weaker perception of yourself and increased bullying.  Most friends won’t want to implicated with the names you’re being called, or the degradation that you’re suffering.  They’ll usually take their seat with the rest of the spectators and enjoy the show.  It’s not that they’re evil or negligent in their duties as a friend.  It’s just that they’re insecure individuals who don’t want any part of your pain.  They probably have enough of their own to deal with, and this is especially the case in high school where insecurities are rampant.  When you’re bullied, and I’m not talking about the occasional pot shots that are delivered on a daily basis, but really bullied to the point where you don’t want to go to school the next day, you’re on your own.  You’re on an island with nothing but your own devices.  As Proust says, no one can truly spare you the humiliation of these fights, but you will be wiser, stronger, and mightier for having successfully fought them alone.

9) Argument for pot legalization.  If you bring up the fiscal problems experienced in California and elsewhere, you’re sure to hear a myriad of creative solutions.  One of the most popular out there right now is the legalization of marijuana.  “If we legalized it, and taxed it, the revenue we receive could balance a budget.”  It is possible.  I’m not saying it’s not, but my question is how long would it take to accomplish this goal?  How many balanced budgets would be achieved before the representatives began reallocating that money?  All of these creative measures are band aids to the true problem: spending.  It’s our fault.  We voted these guys in.  They appealed to us by promising record levels of spending, and we continue to require that they spend more.  Bottom line: All of these creative measures may bring more revenue to the government, but if these government representatives received increased revenue, they would simply spend more.  There seems to be no end in sight to this cycle for the moment.  We need a catastrophe.  Legislators don’t usually change their ways without a catastropohe that touches the lives of enough voters to make a difference in how its broadcast to the world.  Even then, they usually find their favorite band aid that allows them to keep doing what they want to do.  We’re in whatever situation we’re in, because it favors those who put us there.

10) Purchasing an identity.  We have too much time on our hands. We have too much disposable income. We have no disasters to worry about. We are so bored. We need a trinket that is backed by a successful marketing campaign to complete us. It’s a nothing nothing, but it’s something we need.  We need something to have, but what do we have to have?  We don’t know.  We’re told in some creative manner that affects what we think of our completion what we have to have, and we fall for it, because  we’re impulsive. We’re bored. We’re insecure.  We’re searching for something to complete us. This one product could make life so much easier. We could be one of the crowd and better than the Johnstons, but at least we’d have something to talking about. We like to talk about the products we purchase and how our products are better than yours.  It shows we know a little something something about the nothing nothing products we purchase. We’re finally complete, until the product runs its course and loses all tangible value to us, and it is a staple in the corner of our storage closet with all the other products that used to do something for us, until they grow so abundant that we need to buy a storage unit to house all of the products that used to complete us.  We can’t throw those products away, because we may fall back a stage if we do.

11) Our interest in the joneses.  We’re disinterested in most people.  We claim to be interested in them.  We detail for others who know them what we know.  Then when we have that narrative validated, we move on.  A friend of mine, we’ll call her Renee, wants to keep up on a girl we’ll call Shelly.  Renee details all that she knows of Shelley’s life.  Then she says: “Is that where she’s at right now at this point in her life?”  Another responds that that is correct.  The thing is if Shelley was at the reunion that just ended, Renee would have virtually no interest in speaking with Shelley.  We all have these little gatherings to help us keep up on each other’s lives, but we’re all usually interested only in those things that have occurred with us and those in our inner circle.  We constantly evaluate those of us around us to determine if there is something interesting in their lives, and we usually determine that there isn’t.  We usually live most of our lives in varying degrees of disinterest to the lives around us.

Love the one you’re with, until they love you back


We’re disinterested in what we have and interested in what we don’t.  The forbidden fruit is exotic and provocative and just beyond reach.  The love we have lies on the ground.

In music, I hear potential.  I crave it, and it disinterests me.  Why can’t it be more and less at the same time, more or less.  I want the exotic and the provocative, until I have it, until I have the pattern of the complicated piece down, then I want more and different.  Patterns are never quite as exotic as the pursuit of them.  I want more complication, more simplicity, more harmonizing, less linear equations, and pursuit of that which is forever beyond reach.  I crave that perfect song with every element of my being, until I find it.  I want something new, complicated, simple, something that flows in a non-linear pattern that I have to figure out…until I do.

We love to love, and we want reciprocation for every feeling we have, and there’s something psychologically wrong with the person who can’t reciprocate.  Why do they only want to date people that give them the cold shoulder and treat them like a dog?  Why can’t they love nice guys who would do anything for them, we think, until they do, until we find that perfect person who gives us everything we ever wanted.  We know it’s a mistake for them to do that, that’s boring, but that’s what we want from a prospective mate.

Reciprocation is boring.  It’s simplistic.  We want pursuit.  We want a challenge.  We find reciprocation boring, but that would be something a mean people would say, and we’re not mean people.  We develop some kind of excuse to break up with them.  We rehearse it, until we believe it, and we deliver it, so we can renew the hunt for that one person that was meant for us.  We shouldn’t have to settle, no one should.  What do we call someone who loves us completely?  Lunatics?  Are they smothering us?  What it wrong with them?  When do we reach a point where we realize there’s something psychologically wrong with us?

This reaction occurs throughout the animal kingdom though.  It’s a natural reaction, an inclination in children and dogs to be attracted to the one person in the room that’s ambivalent to their existence.  So, what does it say about that girl that dumped you in high school, because you were too nice to her?  What does it say about her that she dates the guy that you both know won’t care about her, that bad boy that cares only about himself?  What went wrong in your relationship?  What’s wrong with that girl you thought you knew?  How could she turn on you like that?  How come she doesn’t see you the way the only girl you will date in school sees you?  That girl would date you in a heartbeat if you said yes, but she has no boobs, her face is so plain the fellas wouldn’t give you any prestige for dating her, and she laughs like those nerds in movies.

They won’t tell us  what we did wrong when they break up with us, and this is a source of great frustration for most of us, as we want to know exactly what we did wrong, so we can rectify it.  Most people, of a given age, don’t dump on a whim.  Most people have calculated reasons for dumping another person, even if they can’t express them properly, and even if they aren’t true.  Most people have no idea why they dump one guy to date another, and the only person you can ask about the dumping is the only person who will date you in high school, but she’s harmless, boring, and she has no boobs.

The person who loves too much wants a return on investment.  They love every aspect of the identity you’ve given them, and they want more of it, until they have all of it.  Even if they don’t know what it is you’ve tapped into, and now they want some sort of commitment that you’ll see to fruition.  They’re rarely happy in the present, or if they are, they’re sure that they’re going to be happier if they are secure in the fact that you’ve promised them a future that promises to complete them in a way they’ve lacked to this point in their lives.

They tell you who you are, and this is usually who you are to them.  This is the person they fell in love with, and any deviation from this perceived person is a disappointment.  This is manipulation of the passive aggressive variety that the subject fails to see, until they are free of it.  The person who loves another in a rigid structure wants to love themselves, but insecurity prevents them achieving such a plane independently.  They seek your guidance, as long as you follow their narrowly scripted path.

If it’s possible to give them everything they want, they’re disinterested with the accomplishment.  How is that possible?  It’s innate in children and pets.  It’s learned behavior in adults.  The path to perfection is littered with imperfect sighs, and imperfect leadership, until you’re left alone with the thought that all guys are jerks.