Literature lets you down.

Brilliance, is often unsatisfying. Literature lets you down.

Local NPR today had a book critic on today, talking about his experiences. Plugging an event tonight at the Kansas City Public Library that plugs some book.

I don't really have anything against literature, or reading - on the contrary, I wish I did it more. Unfortunately, when I read my personality usually leaves me somewhere a third through, with the book underneath a pile of things. Those things usually being things that should really be disposed of as what some people call "Trash".


A caller today was expressing frustration at how underwhelming he found The Catcher in the Rye, and was answered with comments on how the book was a controversial and seminal work in literature, particularly for young adult writing. That being true, the caller did not hang up sounding of a different mindset than when he started dialing.

I think that what the caller (we'll call him Mr. Green), was experiencing was something strangely typical of brilliance, and of art. A dive into what I like to call "The Great Nothing". If you've read A Farewell to Arms, or even worse, Ethan Frome (oh god), you've felt The Great Nothing. That hollow, slightly pissed off feeling that makes you want to look on the back cover and see if that's really the end. And yes, it is really the end.

First of all, we oughtn't really be surprised. Crazy people make the best artists, and vice versa. Hemmingway did choose to have a shotgun for lunch one day, after all. But aside from that, I think it's what occurs when smart people - brilliant people, even - take a look at the world, and simply do not see the redemptive value of it all. That more often than not, things just end. There are no grand exits, boy does not always get to have, or keep, the girl, and often people just walk off into the rain.

Call me depressive, but that sounds pretty much like real life to me. People who disagree, I think, fall into that old mind game of gratification. How we permanently seek our own interests. Now, that doesn't mean people can't act altruistically. But I no matter how selfless your actions, your mind will find a way to make it feel good in the end. You will probably forget about the sunburns and sand in your eyes, and just remember the sea. Not the atrocious ex you were there with.

So The Great Nothing is elusive, yet omnipresent. It is woven into the fiber of your being, but erased from your mind the moment you look away. Which is what makes capturing it in words so brilliant. And so arduous. And so full of wanting to burn those damn bound words. Reading Rainbow was a lie, because reading doesn't just bring you creepily animated butterflies and rainbows - a lot of times, the good stuff brings you down.

But that's what makes it good.


I owe grass an apology
for not valuing the verdant green-
leafed sprawling covering it gives
to the ugly earth...Sorry, earth.
You're necessary but homely
Like a strong but stupid pony
That lifts bricks or does tricks
Only about a fifth of the time.
Sorry nature.


Arms and Legs

http://www.myspace.com/colindieden - That's where it can be found. If you like Connor Oberst, you're going to lose your mind a bit for this. I went to highschool with Colin towards the end, and the kid's come a long way.

Myself, I have a show coming up in a few weeks. The weeks leading up, including now, have been intense, as I go through some pretty important soul-searching as to why I write. Lately, I wonder most about what the purpose of playing music is at all. Nick Welch, dear friend, told me once that I shouldn't worry about it so much. He did so in words I could have easily said myself: "Dude...fuck it. Just play music."

Half of me agrees.

This afternoon I spent some time outside of Henry's, talking about music with another dear friend. His take was different. We talked about a Master Class he'd attended with a percussion instructor from Yale. After a particularly impressive, but not flawless, performance by a particularly hardworking student, he told the rest of the studio; "Either become like him, or quit. The world doesn't need another mediocre musician."

More of me agrees.

I think the truth comes somewhere in the middle. What made Bob Dylan great wasn't that he gave any kind of damn what his audience thought. What he did give a damn about was what he had to say.

When Johnny Cash set down "American Recordings" in the mid-90's, his comeback wasn't paid for by punching the same ticket stub that had made his career earlier. He took the advice of Rick Rubin - to try something new. He had to re-define his sound by being who he was at that moment in his life, and in his career. And we got singles like "Hurt", and even this, which is damn genius: (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=25EYTbrmgM8)

Hell, the Beatles. That's all I've got to say there.

Still, they were perfect at what they did. Nothing was an accident. They all relentlessly pursued exactly what they wanted to say, how they wanted to say it. Music without purpose - without a meaning - is just acting with instruments. It's how we got Miley Cyrus, and a cavalcade of other technical but soulless sonic waste. It's exactly what Jeff Goldblum's character means about his teleported steak in, "The Fly".

Ronnie: [Ronnie eats it] Oh... Oh, oh, tastes funny.
[Spits it in a napkin]
Seth Brundle: Funny? How?
Ronnie: It tastes um... synthetic.
Seth Brundle: [Seth smiles and takes the napkin] Mmm-hmm.
Ronnie: [smiles with intrigue] So, what have we proved?
Seth Brundle: The computer is giving us its interpretation... of a steak. It's, uh translating it for us; it's rethinking it, rather than *reproducing* it, and something is getting lost in the translation.
Ronnie: Me... I'm lost.
Seth Brundle: The flesh. It should make the computer, uh crazy. Like those old ladies pinching babies. But it doesn't; not yet because I haven't taught the computer to be made crazy by the...
[smiles at Ronnie]
Seth Brundle: flesh. The poetry of the steak.

You can't just interperet someone else's steak. Because what they came to the table with was genuine. Yours has to be genuine. It can't just be rearranged bits of the same drivel fed to you by every hand and mouth you meet or hear on the radio or in the street.

Without something genuine, something original, something worth hearing, there is no point to ever take the guitar out of the bedroom. But since I'm going to be playing to 80+ people in little Homer's, I guess I'm up against it now. So I guess I had better figure out what I want to say.


When you say it.

To be happy is
the very last
I want for you,
and the first
for me.


When you hear me in the grass.

I've done a lot of walking,
But when you see me in the grass, I will not fuss anymore.
I will flow, with the green wheat undulating
To wind,
To currents,
And bend low in the breeze.

I'll come clean
I've been off running
I've been trying to leave
All I know about me
But coming home
I can see your breath on the window
And I know,
I know
This is where I should be


When you owned the ozone

Physics brought this one to mind...as well as my sickness-addled brain. This cold must have come with a built-in drip of Robitussin.

So Chloroflurocarbons. Bad news guys. They bind with oh-three and make oh-two, which is good for us because we breathe that stuff, but then on the other hand that means we're all going to die.

Especially Austrialia (or Sexcriminalboat, as some people say who are from Stone Mountain, Georgia).

Our fearless collegiate "leader", Professor Somebody-or-other-who-can't-teach-a-class (I really don't know her name), pointed out that when O3 doesn't bind with those cuh-razy sun rays that are a-comin' to kill us, that the next thing to resonate perfectly and absorb the energy is our DNA.

Which is bad, because that makes bad things happen to our "cells".

We need those.

So our skin can absorb Ozone, which is handy except that a lot of us were planning on using it for a while. You know, to live in and stuff.

Enter the Tanners. Fake-bakers. The orange-chick makers.

There is actually a segment of the population who really get a kick out of this DNA-resonating jazz. They like the way it tickles their chromosomes. So I have a very "GREEN" solution to make everyone happy (except some DNAs).

Let's just export the tanning business to the ozone layer. We can fly addled individuals up to the brink of space for the best UV rush they've ever experienced. Solar spas on the high plasma seas. It's the (ultraviolet) wave of the future!

Thousands upon thousands of super-saiyan blondes rotating the planet in geo-synchronous cellular obliteration. The clients get the best tans of their lives, and in doing so patch the holes in our dilapitated ozone layer, leaving the rest of us free to run around naked with no sunblock on.

Cocoa-butter for everyone!

Except you, middle-aged moustachio'd white man. None for you.



When you've got the funk.

When you've got the funk, I'd say that you have it all. Some blessed soul at Westport coffeehouse just cranked up some sinfully smooth saxophones, and it's making my butt go sway*.

(*Yes, I shake my ass from time to time. What of it.)

Funk is hard to pin down. It's up-tempo in a way that makes you want to put down that old mouth-harp, quit crying over that old woman who done you wrong, and go find a new one to dance with. One clean-spit guitar riff, a horn jab or two, and I'm ready to become friends with somebody new.

Strange, isn't it, how for all the GET-ON-UP'AH! goodness that funk has given us, it's a word that we also use to talk about emotional sludge. Getting "in a funk" is apples to the whisky of "getting funky". Being depressed has nothing to do with bass saxophones.

Much has been going on in this life of mine. Upheaval, tradgedy, suffering, stagnation and ironically, change, have been the harmony to my Monday through Sunday melody–the one that you can't put down when you turn off the amp. Music stops, but we still float forward in notes, faltering and alone no matter the symphony that we can't strike from.

My melody is asking me whether resolution ever comes. If in this life we ever feel less tossed, less prone, less subject to the whimsy of spinning galaxies of galaxies. Or the tides. Asking which came first–the questions or the answers, and wondering whether they actually come in pairs, or if one outnumbers the other.

You can stare into the looking glass as long as you like. You can refuse to meet the morning. You can stay up fighting before you even leave, and make knots of pure simplicity. You can puzzle, you can wonder–you can dichotomize and analyze and subjugate and simplify, but the ultimate conclusion always comes down from God that we just don't ever know.

We are living in mystery, the kind that only happens to everybody.