All posts by RWHN

The Laboratory of Democracy (a special series)

The United States’ Presidential Election 2008 is proving to be an excellent case study in the realm of “Think For Yourself, Schmuck”  I say that because, more than ever, the media has become pervasive and invasive in our daily lives.  I’m not just talking about the 24-hour Cable News cycles.  You also have to include the internet media, the blogs, the political forums, anyone with a little bandwidth and an opinion. 

 The daily drumbeat of this Presidential Election, has been polls, polls, polls.  Or I should say, that is part of it.  The other part has been this Reality-TV style coverage of every utterance, every breath, every movement each of the candidates have made.  Now, this might be okay, if it were on C-Span, where you have little commentary.  You just get to see what is happening and decide for yourself what’s going on and what it means.  But it isn’t C-Span.  It’s MSNBC, ABC, CBS, Fox News, and all of the Internet “news” outlets.  So there is a barrage of “what’s really going on” messages. 

 “Oh my God!  Obama is a horrible bowler!!!!  If he can’t handle some 10-pin, how’s he going to handle Iran???”

Yes, I know that’s one of those trivial little things that happen on the campaign trail, and it doesn’t compare to more important “scandals” like Rev. Wright, bitter comments, phantom sniper fire, nut-job pastors endorsing candidates, and the like.  But the point is, at every turn someone is telling you how you should think about these things.  Or, if you are getting multiple scenarios, it’s typically an either/or paradigm. 

We’ve all heard how a candidate is all style and no substance, an empty suit.  That he or she is relying on soundbites and talking points.  But the thing of it is, the media who is telling us that is doing the same thing.  Their coverage is all about soundbites and talking points.  Save for the debates, how much actual coverage of actual policy proposals do we get?  And so this is why Joe Schmoe is so easily swayed by the talking heads, because he has little else to go upon.  And he certainly isn’t going to give up his nightly ritual of worshipping the boob-tube while swigging some PBR, to go do some actual research on the candidates. 

What does this mean for the future of U.S.A. Democracy(tm)? 

We will explore this next week….

The Spark

sparkThe hope for the future lies in our past.  I believe this to be true. 

But, not as a collective.  Not as a society, or as a country, or as a race.  The hope is in our individual past.  It is in, The Spark. 

It’s that moment, or series of moments that we’ve all had.  Perhaps for some it has long been buried by years of apathy and the leavings of a crumbling self.  Perhaps for some it was squelched by an overbearing parent or militant grade-school teacher.  Regardless, I believe we all have had it. 

What is The Spark?  It’s when you discovered you could be Ian Paice using the pots and pans in your mother’s kitchen.  It’s when you figured out how to turn a piece of paper into a soaring jet plane.  It’s when you strummed your first E5 with the gain turned up to 10.  It’s when you blew out your gut onto a piece of lined paper.  It was when you help hope and promise, not for the world, but for YOU.

Youthful exuberance.  Vim and vigor.  As you think about it now you are probably remembering back to fond times of yesteryear.  That’s good.  Because when you become reacquainted with that feeling, you need to drag it back with you.  Reinstall it into your psyche, your personality, your YOU. 

It’s hard to think that The Spark was what landed the Accounts Payable position for the financial institution.  It’s hard to conceive that it was The Spark that lead to the junkie with the needle in his arm.  It’s unimaginable that it was The Spark that has us deep into a conflict in the desert that is seemingly endless.  No, it would seem in these cases, and many, many more, that The Spark was relegated to the back seat while The Retreat was riding shotgun. 

The Retreat is where we went, and where we still go, when we don’t want to cause trouble.  It is where we, well, retreat to when we don’t wish to take on the challenge of choice.  When we fear the choice of becoming a professional Clown, egged on by The Spark, we then decide to pursue the safety of becoming an insurance salesmen presented at the job-fair hosted at The Retreat.  We’ve learned from others that The Retreat is safe and will allow us to live a life of comfort and a resulting joy.  The edges are all smoothed to keep us from harming ourselves. 

The Spark is rough and ragged.  It is possible that it can hurl us off a cliff into a crevice of danger, yet it also can propel us to the pastures of potential.  We could go all in, sell our stuff, hop on a bike with just a guitar and some gusto and maybe make it as a well-known musician.  In the effort, we may have to wait tables to put food on our own table.  We may have to forgo owning IPODS and cellphones while forging ahead.  But, the potential rewards for the soul, I would argue, are much richer than those who languish in the lap of luxury. 

It would seem that far too many have forgotten their Spark while living in their Retreat.  Many are unconscionably ignorant to the lack of fire burning within, while simultaneously feeling the chill coming, unheeded, through the windows of their Retreat.  And so, that’s where we find things.  Those in the cold far outnumbering those still yearning and burning for what tomorrow will hold.  But, it is not lost.  We simply need to form the search parties to explore and excavate that which was left in the dead days’ dust.  Meanwhile, for those who have managed to maintain their fire, we need to keep stoking it and assuring that it is never quashed.  It is this hope from our past that is going to give us the promise for the future…

Tears in the Trail

untitled.bmpIt can be difficult to want to move forward, when all you see are potholes and tears in the trail ahead.  No not tears, tears, rips, chasms, breaks.  There is no crying in abject uncertainty. 

I think many have been feeling this, for the past 7 years or so.  Quite a few give voice to their fears and apprehension about the future.  But even more have swallowed it in the name of ideological loyalty or just not wanting to be labeled a heretic, or worse, a terrorist.  And no, it’s not just The War, it’s more than that.  The happy times of joy and surplus of the 90s seem so far away now.  It’s kind of like we were having this 8 year party, we drank a bit too much, and passed out.  So now, in 2008 many are finally sobering up and realizing what’s been transpiring during this 7 year hangover. 

The regret is starting to sink in.  The  “Oh My God, what the fuck did I do last night?” questions are emerging.  And it isn’t just the mortgage brokers and the over-extended home owners.  It’s pretty much, to a man, everyone.  Those who aren’t questioning are certainly delusional and should be checked into an institution.  They will be the lucky ones, along with, perhaps, the dead.

But will the future really be that bad?  It’s hard to tell for sure.  But at this current juncture, viewing the different paths before us, as a collective of humanity, there certainly doesn’t appear to be any easy road to travel.  There seemingly are choices between physical safety and financial ruin, between global strife and a flourishing currency, between cheap energy and Ocean Front property in Vermont. 

And so we are in this time of confounding confusion and uncertainty.  What steps do we take next?  Who do we appoint to lead the way?  How much do we surrender to our leaders to lead?  And perhaps the most important, what can and will we do to master our own individual destinies?  Because, in my estimation, how that last question is answered in the years to come, will be the actual determination of where we end up. 

The Debut of SPAG

spag.GIF  That’s right, ladies and gentlemen, Verwirrung is proud to present the debut of “Spag” by the new recording sensation SPAG.  SPAG consists of 4 members who are kind of like brothers, well not really, but they definitely ARE all spags.  It is the brainchild of vocalist Eddy Spag and his brother and drummer N. Moss Spag.  They recruited a couple of other spags on guitar and bass, and whammo, you’ve got one helluva band.  “Spag” is their debut single, and they are hard at work on their followup.  Well, actually, I think they are just hanging out in their Mom’s basement getting high, stupid spags.  Anyway, enjoy “Spag” (<–click to download)  Feel free to share it with other spags, er, friends. 

 Here is the “Spag” lyric sheet

What a Card.

I was at a conference the other day that focused on problem gambling in kids and old folks.  I was struck when the instructor laid out the definition of gambling for us:

 Gambling:  The Idea of Being Able to Determine the Outcome of Random Events.

As he went on to talk about some thoroughly uninteresting material, that sentence became lodged in my noggin.  And kind of brought home how really all of this is a Gamble.  It seems that human kind is on this endless strive to be able to harness unpredictability.  Many of our kind are so scared to death of not being able to know what is going to happen next.  We place such high esteem in those we think have the ability to peer into the winds of the unknown and pull out the future occurrences.  Weathermen, economists, and others of their ilk. 

 What would happen if mankind could stop looking for what’s next?  Do you think we would finally be able to come to some sort of peace?  Or would the nagging notion of not knowing come back to haunt? 

I guess maybe we’re just stuck in this never-ending crap shoot. 

Rev. What’s-His-Name?’s Funnay of the Week

I went to my favorite pub with my buddy Chuck.  We sat down and ordered our favorite adult beverages.  Chuck then noticed a very familiar brown substance on the bar with a very familiar and rank odor.  We asked the bartender if had noticed it, hoping he would clean it up.  The Bartender looked puzzled, “I have no idea of what you two are talking about.  I don’t see anything.”

In unison we remarked, “Bar-stool, Motherfucker!”

An Excercise

msia_yawa.jpgHello.  Rev. What’s-His-Name here.  I want to propose an excercise for you to do over the coming weekend.  (Or if you are reading this at some later time, do this whenever it seems to be a good time)

 Remember when you were a kid, and you pulled out all of your Mom’s pots and pans and pretended to be Alex Van Halen, or some other rock and roll drummer?  Do you remember how much fun that was, making all that racket?  I would like for you to relive that childhood pleasure.  Go home, find some common everyday objects, and make music.  If your significant other objects to you using the cookware, use a couple of tupperware tubs.  Just look around, experiment, discover the different timbres and sounds you can get from different objects.  If you have kids, have them join your jam band.  (Don’t actually use Jam, that would be messy)

If you feel like it, report back here, and post your results.  Tell me how it felt.  If you’re really ambitious and have the hardware, record it and post it.  Then, share this excercise with some friends and family. Have fun!

The Illegitimate Son of Convention

3972959.jpgGreetings friend.  Rev. What’s-His-Name here to put in a plug for one of my favorite musical artists, The Illegitmate Son of Convention.  Okay, okay, yeah, it’s my “band.”  It consists of me, me, and sometimes I.

 I thought some of you cats would be interested in it.  The name kind of gives away what the project is all about.  Mainstream music, especially in America, tends to follow a rather vanilla formula.  When it comes to performing and recording music, I’m interested in going off in different directions and exploring different territories.  Like pairing up a Nose Flute with a distorted guitar.  Pairing an African Kalimba with a House beat.  Playing rhythm and blues on a Melodica.  And so on.

 Another thing I’ve done occassionally with this project is to do some Discordian recordings.  I’ve done a couple now where I’ve paired a spoken rant with some musics.  My favorite so far has been my track Memed And Brusied/So What Now?  The “So What Now?” refers to a great piece that pd.comer Thurnez Isa wrote.  I loved the imagery of it and felt compelled to surround it with some heavy guitar riffing. 

 You can check that tune out and others on three different sites.  First the MySpace site, www.myspace.com/theillegitimatesonofconvention  I also have a site on Multiply, you can stream the songs but they have caught a case of suck and fail and no longer allow downloads, but anyway it’s at rwhn.multiply.com  Lastly, I’ve set up shop at Last.fm, www.last.fm There you can download all of my tracks.  I have no interest in making any money off of my music (although I do have some merch at CafePress, let me know if by chance you are interested), I just enjoy making it and releasing it to the interwebs.  So, check it out, tell me what you think. 

 Ta ta for now.  

Open and Shut

Enlightenment can be a tough road.
Having an open mind does not mean an open highway bereft of tribulation and conflict.  Indeed, so it would seem, it can increase both of those.

The knowledge and understanding of how limitations can choke.  But yet, when others do not share or recognize this, one’s societal world, one’s social circles, can quickly become very limited.  Or at the very least, strained.

This has become apparent to me as a parent.  Watching my little girl, eager and wide-eyed with the world.  A thirst to experience all that she can experience.  No shame in sillyness.  No inhibitions for idiosyncracies.  Yet, when amidst others of her age, who have already begun to develop their blinders, it can be painful to watch.  Because I remember what it was like, to be just a little different then all of the other straight and narrows.  I remember the giggles.  I remember the pointing.  Being comfortable with myself, yet lonely as others decide that they are not.

And so I see it beginning with my little one, before she has even entered the public school system.  To be sure, kids still like her, and play with her.  To be sure, she still enjoys that which is deemed normal and traditional for a kid her age, and of her gender.  And to be sure, I can see in her playmates the happy anarchy of childhood innocence is still there, and viable.  But I can also see where they are being introduced and indoctrinated to the typical paths that so many others unquestioningly navigate.  The hard and fast rules of what boys do and what girls do.  The mantras of how to properly experience the universe we are in. 

And so the tricky part comes.  How to maintain integration without fostering isolation.  How to cherish and champion individuality, and at the same time, teach companionship and comradery.  To impart that though others may not jive with parts of the personality that their friendship is still valuable and vital. 

It’s an odd thing.  We are invariably social creatures.  It is undeniable that at some level we all want to belong to something.  To be a part of a collective of characters.  At the same time, there are parts of our identity that will cause clashes, and sometimes, with those we most want to be friends with, or partners with, or lovers with.  As an adult this is easy to understand and rationalize, and so too with time will it become obvious to my little one and others like her who are growing up now. 

In the meantime, I make it my duty to keep that which may dull to not lessen her shine.