Friday, December 25, 2015

Boston Travelogue - Baseball

Like most baseball cities, the ball park sits in a sketchy part of town and that is where I am heading. The streets become dirtier, newspapers on the sidewalk, empty lunch wrappers, bottles, cigarette butts. I do not have the benefit of GPS or a map so I follow the general direction south veering west from time to time on back streets and alleys. Eventually I emerge onto a wider street. I am now on the southwest corner of Fenway Park, home of the Boston Red Sox. Looming up, up, and up before me is the left field fence – called in baseball circles, the Big Green Monster. I don’t know why I wanted to see it so badly. The history of it maybe? This is the same ball park Carl Yastrzemski, Carlton Fisk, Babe Ruth, Cy Young, Roger Clemens, and Ty Cobb played in. 

I played baseball as a kid. I loved the sport. The uniforms, the high stirrup socks, the long sleeve under shirt contrasting the color of the uniform shirt, the ball cap shaped just right, the heavy leather glove on my left hand, the sure feel of the cleats upon my feet. The sounds – oh the sounds – leather popping leather as the ball hits the glove during the warm up. The crack of the ball against ash or aluminum. The chatter of the players, the restlessness of the crowd in the stands, the lineups being announced on the speaker; the thump of cleated feet running across the earth. The smells! The smell of freshly cut grass, clay, hot dogs and popcorn, the smell of fresh autumn air, the smell of the leather in my glove. I loved playing at night. All of these things and at night, I trot out of the dugout to my position at second base or in center field, under the lights, in a fish bowl, everyone watching. Half watching to see us succeed, half watching to see us fail. During the game I am constantly thinking. As a kid, in happier times, Dad and I would watch the Cincinnati “Big Red Machine” play on television. Always the coach, Dad would ask me what should happen given a certain situation in the game.
“Man at 3rd, 1 out, ball is hit to you at second. What do you do?”
“Look the runner back at 3rd, quick throw to 1st. Be thinking about the throw to first all the time.”
I think through all the scenarios with every pitch. What am I going to do if I get the ball? It is total immersion into something outside of myself. I am a part of the game.
This is what I am thinking about now. Standing outside Fenway Park looking up at the Big Green Monster. I miss those happy days.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Bette Noir to the Romantic Heart #4 - LOVE

This was no starry-eyed damsel looking dreamily into his eyes and declaring, "It just doesn't matter, no matter where we go, no matter what we have, no matter what happens, as longs we are together, that's all that matters."

Meg Ryan said it to Tom Hanks throughout the eighties and early nineties after all. Bergman said it to Bogey fifty years before that., but Bogey knew better, and put her on that plane.

No. This was a definite reversal of that. The look, saying without words, "You, your presence, your touch, your voice; it's not enough. I am not willing to go through that struggle with you."

 I wander between two thoughts. What was he thinking? Was it because he knew she would always regret staying in Casablanca? Or was he really thinking that putting her on that plane was best for her and he would be the one to suffer and that she would get over it in time. I can make a judgement, that I don't want to believe, that he was using her all along and with the seeming lack of concern as he walked into the fog with Claude Rains. He could have easily walked into the fog with Bergman - a much happier ending - a Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks ending - that neither fit the time nor the place.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Bette Noir to the Romantic Heart #3 - WAR!

The Romance of War died along with General George C. Scott*. He said "Wonder weapons? By God, I don't see the wonder in them. Killing without heroics? Nothing is glorified? Nothing is reaffirmed? No heroes, no cowards, no troops, no generals. Only those who are left alive, and those who are left...dead. I'm glad I won't live to see it."

He did not. Having never been fired at, I am the least qualified to comment, but it seems to me that war is ugly and always has been. It's only saving grace, if it could be called that, is the romance that used to be attached to it. It meant something beyond the living or dying. Soldiers would not agree having been through it, but for others, at the very least, the ideals of honor, courage, and sacrifice, perhaps even the idea that the cause is worthy, was a coping mechanism we could draw on to get through the terror of a loved one coming home injured, maimed, partially alive or not alive at all. Now there is only the pushing of buttons or the pulling of a trigger in far away lands.

 Image result for patton movie

*yes I know George C. Scott is an actor and not a general. He played General George S. Patton in a very long movie. But I could not find an actual quote from Patton so I merged the two. Besides, from what I can tell, Patton, was not all that heroic in his own right. 

Monday, December 21, 2015

Bette Noir to the Romantic Heart #2 - VENGEANCE!

Comeuppance for a deed done wrong is one of those romantic notions, a Monte-Christ-ian trope, that peace can somehow be attained by yanking another's tooth after they had yanked yours. Superficially, that burn to lash out, to get back at, to inflict a mutual misery seems to provide that peace, that relief. But really, with the benefit of being fortunate enough to look back, it only serves to provide a distraction in the consuming purpose it provides.
Once vengeance is complete, there is an emptiness remaining where purpose once dominated time and space. For a while, this void appears to be a sort of peace; but reality shows that it is only depression disguised as serenity. He put your eye out. You put his eye out. In the end, vengeance and the hatred that comes with it leaves us all blind and toothless.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

JOE DOES IT AGAIN! - Muddy Wolf at Red Rocks

Bought a new CD to add to my collection of all things JB:

It's a tribute concert to Muddy Waters and Howlin' Wolf live at Red Rocks. Everyone knows Joe sounds best live...the disc opens with either Muddy or Wolf talking about the blues, Joe adds his two cents worth too. Hearing these two blues players talk about what they feel when the play, or what they feel that MAKES them play is absolutely fascinating.

One feels the Mississippi Delta in tracks like Mississippi Heart Beat. And in a couple of tracks the songs start out with Muddy or Wolf singing and playing - old recordings sounds like - and then a few bars in JB cranks up the Gibson and finishes it off. One must turn one's volume up to 11.

Tiger in the Tank, Double Trouble, All Aboard (Mean Ole Frisco!), Spoonful (yes that spoonful), All Night Boogie, and Evil are the most notable tracks in my opinion. At the end of the set JB says goodnight to the crowd and to Colorado but, if you read the liner notes, you know there's more. His encore is introduced with "We thought we'd end the night playing some of our own tunes." Crowd erupts. "What harm could come of that?," he says.

Love Ain't a Love Song starts it off. Then the very best version of The Ballad of John Henry- JB gets all distorted and Jimmy Hendrix-ified on the solo. The ubiquitous Sloe Gin, a slightly different take than his acoustic version or the Live From Nowhere In Particular disc. Clearly a crowd favorite.

Then there's Oh, Beautiful!

JB singing. No music.

Oh beautiful, if you were mine
I would write you letters and pour you sweet wine
Oh beautiful why you so blue?
If you can only see the way I see you

That was nice I think. Different from the typical JB, even Mountain Time was a much happier love song. This is mysterious - a good kind of dark shadowy thing. Then just as you are expecting the next chorus, JB and MuddyWolf band crank up a hard driving riff that spins you 180 and then back again to the next verse.

Oh gravity weighing on my soul
Keeps bringing you round back to me
Like dirt to a stone
Oh gravity don't you ever go to sleep
Might wake up in the morning
and she'll be gone from your reach

The vocals come to a silent end, a pause, 2,3,4...and
That damn guitar again!
Last verse same as the first, song ends with the elipses just like in the lyrics below.

Oh beautiful, if you were mine
I would write you letters and pour you sweet wine
Oh beautiful, why you so blue?
If you only can see the way I see you.....

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Bette Noir to the Romantic Heart #1

There is a great black beast that mauls, to death, the romantic heart. I think it is called reality. From the cries of "Chivalry is Dead" in the 70's to "Love Ain't A Love Song" in 2015, the hopeless romantic has been disappearing as the world realizes that real life has no end like the movies or our favorite love song. There is no Hallmark ending...perhaps there is no ending at all; perhaps life goes on in a singular, painful straight line, punctuated by the occasional euphoria of the hope of a happy ending. Maybe, just maybe, my heart is just broken and I will soon get over it. Maybe I am so happy I feel sad. Maybe, after all of this, it's just indigestion.

This is a new series of posts called Bette Noir (Black Beast) to the Romantic Heart - it is sad. Sorry.

Home Didn't Change While I Was Gone; I Changed Before I Came Back

Going Home
"You can't go home again?" Why? I've often pondered this question, usually, shortly after trying to go home again. I usually end up assuming that home had changed. "Why can't it all just be as it was?" After talking to a good friend, I've had a change of mind. He said, "Home isn't where you were, it's where you are and home changes with you. When you go back home you find that it has changed because you have changed because you've carried it with you the whole time."

I think he was right. The home I see and touch and hear and feel changes because I change. The drift between what I remember home to be and what it now, is because of the changing perspective I have during my absence. I can "see" home from the outside. But I can't "see" the "me" from the inside. As I drift on the inside, by degrees, it goes unnoticed by me and I assume I am standing still. I also expect Home to be standing still with me. But I am not standing still. I am drifting. Now separate yourself from home, for a year, two years, or more and come back. You've drifted. Home has not. Home now seems foreign and we ask why it did not stay as it was? It did.  It's me that has changed.

Life, if I recall my favorite but all too often forgotten philosophy, is meant to be lived in a straight line. Circling back is wasted motion.

"There is no such thing as a decision. There never was. There's whether you've had a good day or a bad day, there's going forward because there is nothing behind. And running forward- because if you stand still any longer you'll fall over. There's movement or there's stagnation, there's the past that drives you..."- John le Carre, The Night Manager

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Mass Shooting, California, SEC Championships, Saving the Lost, Body of Jesus Found

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Friday, December 4, 2015

The Dark Matters - fragment that went nowhere #1

"Night is, as it were, a hand placed on our soul. At certain hideous and solemn hours we feel that which is beyond the wall of the tomb encroaching on us."

- Victor Hugo, The Man Who Laughs

Chapter 1
I awake at two thirty in the morning, heart racing, sweat soaked, and in a panic. I had not been dreaming, or at least I do not remember a dream. But I am convinced she is there, knocking at my door.

"I will not let you go!" she says.

Within just a few minutes as my vision clears from sleep and the vortex of a rapid rise from my bed slows and the room once again stands still, I realize that this is not so. There is no one at my door. No camper upon my steps. No way She could ever find me even in this technologically advanced world where information on anyone and everyone is just a Google away. I lie back down and quickly succumb to deep exhausted sleep.

At three thirty, it happens again.

Thump! Thump! Thump! this time it is not She standing before me. It is her minion, side-kick is an altogether too comical and flighty description. It is He, a handsome rugged man when viewed in the physical; a stumpy, imperfect amalgamation of stubborness and pride when viewing the soul. His thick middle finger extended from the stumpy, thick muscled fist is pounding my chest. The thumping I took for a knock at my door was in reality the echo caused by this grotesque finger tapping firmly on my chest. There are two things that haunt me. This finger and then the face, stoic but for the turned down mouth as if He were going to weep. This face comprised of eyes that pierce me through my adam's apple, a fear inducing, projectile. Thoughts are projectiles and his were megaton bombs, their whistle and sonic boom make me able to understand his message before the words proceed from his twisted mouth.

"I am your father. You can't change that!" Thump, thump, thump.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015


 "Show me a man who is absolutely sure of his place in the universe and I will show you a bigot and a zealot - or a liar." - Anonymous

These observations are only useful if "one is ready to see the universe the way it really is, and recognize that the thoughts of man eventually work their way out through the motions of his actions and the words of his tongue" - Francis Schaeffer

The smallness of man when viewed against the largeness of nature is insignificant compared to the greatness of man from within it. - Anonymous

Nothing can be created unless it is first conceived. Even if we believe we are being random and taking a chance. The conception of randomness is, in itself, non-random.

Jackson Pollack attempted to demonstrate the randomness of the universe in his art. But even in these attempts, in his conception that randomness can be demonstrated visually, this creation of his showed him, and by some accounts sent him into deep depression, that the act of "setting up a test of randomness", is not random. And the seemingly random nature of this work of art, shows signs of an over arching order. Many believe his suicide was a result of the universe proving him wrong and the despair he felt in trying to live within this dichotomy. But either way, this painting could not have come into being unless, Jacksonn Pollack conceived it to be so. His attempt to reproduce randomness failed because the universe would not allow him to do so.

Man is a duality. He is like nature in many ways, but so unlike it in others. Apart from literary devices which are useful to enrich our imaginations, no one walks upon this earth and really lives like the tree, the deer, the flower, the bee, or the earth itself is operating with a conscience. And while mankind is forced to live in the cruel reality that is nature, he constantly endeavors to transcend nature and act its opposite.

We may say Nature is a cruel mistress. But I have never heard anyone say, and really believe, that Nature has done something wrong. Contrarily, we often attribute the "sin" in this case to the humans that build trailer parks in tornado alley; or the manufacturer's of these homes for profiting upon the backs of the poor. But let's look at this picture from the other perspective. What if I were to tell you that a human wreaked this destruction with one of his machines? Naturally we would make the assumption the man was


So why the difference? This is a question that has been on the minds of philosophers since philosophy was a thing. Could it be that it is because, we as humans, in spite of our similarities to, are by our very nature and the way we think and act, different than the natural world we inhabit? I believe this is so.

We do not walk around in this world like we believe it is completely random.

Empty Words

John Cage's Empty Words (1974) is a marathon text drawn from the Journals of Henry David Thoreau. This is one of Cage’s most sustained and elaborate moves toward the “demilitarization” of language, in four parts: Part I omits sentences, Part II omits phrases, and Part III omits words. Part IV, which omits syllables, leaves us nothing but a virtual lullaby of letters and sounds.

John Cage is an interesting study of man trying to force randomness into the universe but being unable to do so. The universe, simply will not let him live his philosophy. The resultant dichotomies in his theories leave me no alternative - the world is not random. Above is a quote from his website describing one of his works where he attempts to liberate language from its structured form of letters making sounds, conjoined with other letters making sounds; joining to form words which, joined together, produce phrases; which joined together make sentences; which joined together make paragraphs. These letters, words, phrases, sentences, and paragraphs, if placed in proper order, create content: real communication. Without this order, John Cage proves, there is nothing but silence - or babbling. It is interesting to me, that the description of John Cage's Empty Words, is not at all random. Why? Because he could not communicate his theory of randomness, indeterminacy, the militarization of language without, himself, using the order and structure; the only method the universe has given us to communicate our ideas.

I am using John Cage as an example to paint a broad stroke of humanity. Again, this is the only thing the universe allows us to do when speaking of our philosophies. I believe this is so because there is no evidence for a random universe. We simply have no choice, ultimately, but to fit within the framework of what really IS.

When asked about his other passion; the hunting of mushrooms and the philosophical ramifications of randomness in the hunting of the fungi, Cage famously said, "It would be foolish to apply my theories of indeterminacy to my hobby. I would not be long for the world if that were the case." Mr. Cage's dichotomy is yelling loudly.

Don't get me wrong, I am not mocking Pollack or Cage, or anyone with philosophical dichotomies - I certainly have my own. In fact, Mr. Cage's philosophy has many interesting and, indeed, beautiful, sentiments.

"The first question I ask myself when something doesn't seem to be beautiful is why do I think it's not beautiful. And very shortly you discover that there is no reason."

"If you consider something boring, consider it for two whole minutes. If it is still boring, then consider it for four minutes, then eight, then 16, then 32 minutes. You will eventually find that it is not boring at all."

It is interesting to me, that in this quote, the time he asks us to wait when considering something boring increases exponentially. Exponentially increasing time intervals is not indeterminate, it is not random, it is further proof that even the philosophers can not escape the universal order that is our language.

I believe I came from somewhere. In fact, I am almost sure of it.

I refuse to use the image of Rodin's The Thinker sculpture. It is trite at this point. Furthermore, I refuse to even quote the caption frequently accompanying it. However, one can not escape the very real position it puts us in. The greatest philosophical dilemma, according to Francis Schaeffer, is the fact that we exist. To go one step further, it really doesn't matter where or why exist - we have the ability to ask the questions- that is what matters at this point. Our theories, as plausible or as insane, as they may be are just that. Theories, born out of a need, by most, to know what comes before or what might come after. If we stay rational, then we must admit, that what we do means something. It must. Let us recap. Nothing is created unless it is conceived. We are in nature but despite our similarities-we are different than it. The universe is not random. And I came from somewhere.

And now, here, I am stuck. Taking the next step requires asking the next question. So then, if there is order in the universe,that is, something we can rely on to repeat itself, some way, based on past events, to predict what is to come, or to explain the present, then one needs ask the most controversial of all questions. Which of the many philosophies, religions, or world views is the true one?

It is here that I stop. Because to go further would immediately enjoin the support of at least one group of zealots and bigots or liars and the disdain of the other zealots, bigots, or liars. It is here that I stop because to go further will stop all useful communication unless, unless, we can come to agreement on these few ideas:

An artist can't create art unless he first thinks the art.
The universe is not random (though perceived randomness may take place within it)
Man is different than the natural world he inhabits.
We mean something and we came from somewhere.
There is such a thing as kindness.

If we can't get there; we can't go on. And do not be mistaken in thinking that I have gone further in this discussion than I really have. - C.S. Lewis

 I have not yet even begun to speak of that.

"I make little account of victory. Nothing is so foolish as to vanquish. The real glory is to convince."- Victor Hugo, Les Miserable.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015


Go ahead. Schedule a meeting with me. Because, obviously, you need something FROM me. Because, you know, I don't really need anything from you. I'm okay. I'm pretty independent. Don't really need much. So, that's right! Your office is two blocks away. And, I guess you really need a whole hour with me. Must be important. It's cold and raining? No problem, you know, because I'm just that kind of guy. Squeeze me in between a 9AM meeting and a 10AM meeting both on the other side of campus. Sure! Why not?

It's 9AM. I'm here. Ran the whole long way. What did you want to talk about? Wait, you aren't here for the meeting you needed to have with me? Hmm. I'll just wait. 5 minutes. Hmm. I'll give you another 5. Still a no show? 30 minutes later...well I'll just get back to my day and try to recover the 30 minutes I just lost. No, don't be silly, it won't show up in the productivity numbers I have to report to you at the end of the month....

The whole world is being held together by just a few punctual people. The rest do not even realize it. The few "holders" stand in amazement, wondering why we do it....