Street Song and Street Songs

June 3, 2019

I haven’t posted anything about my book, Street Song, here in quite some time. One reason is that nothing’s happening. My agent has the book and is shopping it around, but so far there haven’t been any takers. This doesn’t worry me at the moment. It’s an unusual book—not the type of book that editors are going to fight over. I put more than 12 years of work into it, and I’m confident that it will resonate with some editor who is able to see beyond the contemporary book market. That’s not to say I doubt that the book would be of interest beyond a small pocket of unusual people. In some ways, it’s a bit of a mystery story—it’s told like one—and I think it would have more general appeal than some industry people might suppose. It’s also about living a meaningful life, and the desire for that is something that never goes away. It’s inherent in the species.

Another reason I haven’t posted anything is that I’ve been totally absorbed in a project that, while starting out as supplemental to the book, has proved to be integral to it. Street Song is in part about my short-lived effort to make it as a musician. It’s also about how the music of the 1960 and 70s reflected the lives and aspirations of a lot of people. It was almost like a religion. In some senses it really was. While writing about my own performances and the songs that moved me and sometimes changed my life, I was bothered by the fact that you can’t really do justice to music with words. I got the idea then to record a few songs as a supplement to the book. A friend of mine, Bruce Kaphan,  has a recording studio, and he was one of the readers of my manuscript as I was working on it. I told him what I wanted to do and asked if he’d be interested in helping me with it. He agreed and we set to work with only a half-baked idea of what I was trying to do. I thought at first that it would be just me and my acoustic guitar doing some of the songs I used to play on the street. But from that simple seed there grew a mighty tree—something I never could have imagined. I thought I was finished with music. Over the years, I’ve only played sporadically. But I’ve been practicing every day for hours on end, and now we have 12 songs with the backing tracks finished and awaiting my final vocals. While working on the song order I found that, without doing it deliberately, the songs I chose to record tell the same story that the book tells. Here’s the list:

Street Song (one of mine)
Strawberry Fields Forever (Beatles)
Poppa John (another of mine)
Farewell (Dylan)
Jackie Wilson Said (Van Morrison)
Sweet Thing (Van Morrison)
Highway (singer/songwriter Lane Tietgen)
On a Slow Boat to China (songwriter Frank Loesser)
You’re So Peaceful (another of mine)
Within You Without You (Beatles)
I Pity the Poor Immigrant (Dylan)
The Arrow You Want (one more of mine)

It’s an unusually eclectic mix of material that covers folk, Tex Mex, psychedelia, jazz, rock, r & b, swing, blues and bluegrass.  The instrumentation includes acoustic and electric guitar, pedal steel guitar, ukulele, organ, piano, drums, bass, saxophone, harmonica, accordion, lap steel, shakuhachi, harmonium, Weissenborn, mandolin, flugelhorn, trumpet, baritone horn, dulcimer, and electronic tamboura. We should have the whole thing mixed and mastered this summer. I’m calling the collection Street Songs and my intention is to make it a free download to help support the book. I’m quite pleased with how the songs are turning out. I’ll write more about it in the near future.

 

 

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The Current Age

June 1, 2019

One of the central figures in my book, “Street Song,” is a man I call Ed. He was twice my age, a serious student of reality, and he kept me grounded when I was having my toughest times on the street. I remember one day in the summer of 1976 when he came looking for me, wanting to see how I was doing and told me something that made a big impact. He said the next big thing in human history was going to be computers. He didn’t actually say it, but the implication was that computers were going to be the next big distraction to keep us from taking a clear look inside ourselves. It sounded ominous, and I think what he told me has been borne out.

 

Street Song, Street Songs, and Collapse

April 6, 2019

I’ve been making  noise about addressing at length what I see going on given the results of the 2016 election—what I’ve been calling “The Sun Sets in the West.” It’s not some new insight, but something I’ve been watching and studying all my life. I think what we’re seeing is the collapse of the old system—not just in America, but in Europe as well. When I say “system,” I mean the elaborate environment that has been created since the so-called Western Enlightenment of the 18th Century and has taken over the world—capitalism, democracy, the nation state, progress, science, and so on. It has gone as far as it can go and is contracting. To a lot of people, that sounds outrageous and demands further explanation—which is my intention. But I can’t do it right now. There are two reasons. One is that my understanding keeps changing—not in the sense of “shifting.” It’s more like, “yes, that’s all true, but that’s not half of it.” The other reason is that, quite unexpectedly, the recordings I’ve been making to supplement my book Street Song have grown far beyond my original idea. They’re demanding all my time, and I don’t like to split my attention. I will get around to detailing my ideas about the collapse of the system—I think they are quite valid, I see evidence of their truth every day—but that’s going to have to wait a little while yet. I foresee the music being finished this summer.

The Sun Sets in the West #6

February 21, 2019

I saw this comment yesterday. I’m not the only one who sees this going on. I think the observation here is entirely accurate.

The big institutions of church, state and business that have made things work for the last 2000 years are dead. They haven’t fallen apart quite yet, but the process of decay is fairly advanced. …If the Democrats continue to ignore this reality, the result will be a pretty violent spasm of the body politic.

The Sun Sets in the West #5: Changing Course

February 18, 2019

I started this series with the intention of methodically explaining my views about what happened in the 2016 election. I wanted to build my case like a lawyer, step by step, but I find that I can’t do that. After 12 and a half years of working on a book, my brain rebels at doing that kind of dry structuring  again. The reason I wanted to do this carefully is that my understanding will be considered radical and crazy. But it’s not. I started seeing certain things around 50 years ago and they have been borne out continually. I’m not the only one who thinks the way I do. But it is less common nowadays–at least since Reagan. My essential point is that America is an empire and that, like all past empires, it has entered a state of collapse. But simultaneously there is something else going on. I believe that Western Civilization has peaked and is on its way down as well. I don’t consider this a bad thing. I think our civilization was built on a number of false assumptions, and nothing built on false assumptions lasts.  I’m going to go into all this, but not in any orderly way. I also want to address what I think will, or should, take its place. All hope is not lost. But those who see Western Civilization as humanity’s great effort to get things right will surely disagree.

More as the mood strikes.

The Arrest of Roger Stone

January 25, 2019

Stone is saying that he won’t testify against Trump, and, for all I know, he might have “practical” reasons not to. But both he and Trump are genuine psychopaths (meaning “total egotists,” unprincipled men for whom their own personal survival is paramount). People like them will throw their own wives and children under the bus before taking any heat themselves. It will be interesting to see how this all goes down.

The Wall

January 7, 2019

There has to be a point where the Democrats stop ceding ground to Republicans. The Wall has to be that point. It’s an ugly, hateful idea. There can be no compromise–regardless of the consequences.

The Sun Sets in the West #4

December 26, 2018

Before I delve into the heart of this series, I need to make one more preface-type statement.

My point of view is highly unorthodox—well-outside the mainstream. If my book Street Song was already in print, it would be much easier to explain how I arrived at my positions. Some are from direct experience, some from half-understood experiences that were given greater clarity by others whose books I’ve read and trust, and some purely from books I’ve read by these same trustworthy people. I’ve been going through these ideas for decades, over and over again. I’m not making any wild suppositions based on their current appeal to me. A lot of people mistrust non-mainstream views because it’s widely assumed that Western science and philosophy have pretty much figured out the basics at this point. I don’t think so. I think Western science and philosophy have made some fundamental errors in the building of their foundations and those errors have hidden many of the deeper realities. I’ll go into what I think those errors are in my posts.

Next up: the nature of evil.

Fools

December 22, 2018

A caption on a photo of Trump in the New York Times says, “President Trump has grown increasingly suspicious of many of the people around him, convinced that they are fools.”

Classic psychopathic mindset!

No Wall

December 21, 2018

“Something there is that doesn’t love a wall.” Robert Frost.

Trump’s wall is an insane idea, a paranoid idea. I’m fine with keeping the government shut down as long as necessary to bring him to his knees. But if the American people decide they should give him his wall just to put it to rest, woe unto us. He’s a relentless psychopath and has to be stopped somewhere. This is a fine place to do so. The wall is evil.