Jon Anderson Concert

July 3, 2012

We saw Jon Anderson at the Rio Theatre in Santa Cruz a few Wednesdays ago.  Great concert. 

For one thing, he’s an outgoing, positive, and compassionate person.  The kind of person you want to spend time with.

Musically it was kind of funny, but about what I expected.  He played by himself, and mostly strummed chords on the guitar to accompany.  Definitely gave more focus to the voice and lyrics than when he is performing with Yes, which was kind of a nice effect. 

He told some great stories, as I guess he is writing a memoir.  A couple of stories about Vangelis that were just too funny.  Like the time when they Yes was thinking of working with Vangelis, so Jon went to visit him in Paris, where he  was staying.  Vangelis comes to the door dressed from head to toe in a caftan, wearing a bow and a quiver of arrows.  “Jon, watch this!” he says, and strings an arrow in the bow, letting it loose down the long hallway toward a bull’s-eye at the end.  The arrow flies out an open window.  Jon says “You should be more careful! You could have killed someone.”  Vangelis shrugs and says “I am Greek. We created the world.” 

An enjoyable evening.  If you get a chance, I recommend it.


Summer Concerts

July 3, 2012

Sometimes when I see a concert I’ll write something in my journal to help remember my impression of it, so I thought maybe this year I would try to do that with some of the concerts I’ll be seeing. Got a bunch of them lined up. So here goes…

my father’s mother

January 26, 2011

Over the past few years, I get an occasional call or message at work from an woman who wishes “Lourdes” (I think) a happy holiday or best wishes or what have you. I have spoken in person to this woman several times, and explained in detail that she has the wrong number. Yet, the calls continue. I listen to the messages, not to hear private information (of which there isn’t any) but because I feel like this poor woman is wishing someone some good, and it deserves being listened to, before I just erase the message.

Our father’s mother we called “Gram,” to distinguish from “GM & GF” who were my mother’s parents. When Gram had moved into the best room in the luxury rest home that was her final habitation, she would call our number, which had an “0” in it. 494-0426. Only, if you look at a phone, you’ll see that the number “6” has “MNO” written over it. Oh, zero. Same thing, right?

At one point, we got a call from the frustrated people at 494-6426, with the request that we find a way to keep my grandmother from dialing their number. Looking back, I am sure that dementia taken a rather firm grip by then, but I always had to wonder whether she did these things intentionally to annoy my father.

My father and his mother both played the piano by ear, and at one point I understand that Gram was quite accomplished. In my house and storage I have piles of sheet music of various styles dating back to the late 1800’s. She owned a beautifully carved Chickoring upright grand piano which my father had grown up with. It was always in a dreadful state of repair during the time she was alive. She always promised to get it tuned, but even if she ever did (of which I am uncertain) the action needed a major overhaul.

She and my father would both play in a ‘stride’ style, (like Fats Waller but not as fancy) and the Chickoring had a thundering bass to support it (for a piano of its stature) which my grandmother was quite proud of. Since her passing, this piano has been rebuilt, and now lives with my sister and my niece.

When we visited Gram’s apartment in San Mateo She would always have the sheet music for “Michelle” on the piano, with the close-up of Paul McCartney’s cheek, detailing every pore. She would sometimes affect to mispronounce the words “son les mots qui vont tres bien ensemble” and make a fuss about our French ancestry. It turns out this was Alsace-Lorraine, which almost isn’t even France, having been part of Germany at various periods; and moreover, given how white-bread Americanized our family was, it doesn’t seem to me any more than clinging to some mirage of an exotic past that never existed.

But of all the places Gram could have chosen to tour on her trip around the world, it was India, Asia and Africa. Which speaks volumes, only I’m not quite sure what it speaks volumes of.

I have many things to say about the mistakes my parents made, but they recede somewhat when I think of the saintly way in which my father took care of his mother. My father’s sense of duty was something amazing to behold, although at the time I didn’t realize, because I had nothing to compare it to. Both Gram and my father were Gemini, and if they fought constantly, I would attribute it to their similarities more than their differences.

Gram was a Christian Scientist, a trait my father inherited. Which was to say, that she had gotten as far as New Thought, but not far enough to realize that Mary Baker Eddy had a few screws loose. You can say I’m being judgmental, but I know that after my father had been a loyal tithing member of the Christian Science church for all of his life, the same church refused to speak with him after he began using medical doctors and medicine to battle brain cancer.

I generally summarize my relationship with Gram by telling the story of how she once offered me $25 to cut my hair. Back in the 1970’s, that was a fair amount of money for a teenager like myself. Of course I refused. The money meant little to me, but it would have meant something far more profound for her to accept me as I was, a concept completely foreign to my parents as well.

It would have been more meaningful for all of them to realize that a major part of the reason I grew my hair was that I was against the Vietnam war, and it was those against the war who grew their hair long. I won’t pretend altruism: I simply didn’t want to be shipped off to kill and/or die for no real reason that anyone has ever been able to explain… to this day.

Instead, they yelled angrily at me and called me unpatriotic.

The story also points to Gram’s tendency to try to solve any given problem by throwing money at it. This disgusting show of conspicuous consumption, and disdain for the less privileged, was something I became aware of sometime in my teen years, when my father took me to a city council meeting to protest the construction of low-income housing near our home. At the end of the meeting, someone said “to demonstrate the objection to this project, I’d like everyone who came here to protest it to stand up.”

I only stood up because my father commanded me to, because I had realized over the course of the evening that I was on the other side of the fence. Nowadays, I can see that it’s a rather complex issue, but I’ll never forget my father’s closing words when the project lost: “the poor people will just have to find someplace else to live.” The elitism bothers me now as it did then.

Of course, Gram’s husband had been a Vice President of Shell Oil, and my father had grown up with servants and a Chinese cook named “Wong.” And a Japanese gardener. So maybe you see what I mean by elitism.

Before she died, Gram gave me a hair brush as a present for some occasion, birthday or Christmas or some such. I suppose she had come to terms, to some extent, with my true nature.

An odd gift of all this is that we grew up with an appreciation for Chinese food and the Dragon parade in San Francisco Chinatown at the Chinese new year. Many of those I work with now are Chinese, and I simply love the Chinese spirit.

Something I don’t think my parents realized, but there are two opposing schools of Chinese philosophy: Confucianism and Taoism. Confucianism is about structure, respect, order, and obedience. Taoism is about freedom and creativity.

Something like conservatives and liberals today.

A simplistic view of why my teenage years were so wretchedly awful, would be that my parents and grandparents were Confucian, whereas I am a Taoist.

Be-Leaf on Amazon

December 22, 2010

My book, Be-Leaf, is now on Amazon. They finally got the ‘read inside’ working.

I wrote the first draft for national novel writing month in 2007, and then spent tons of time revising.

Roberto has decided: he is doing a tree-sit. Living 200 feet above the ground in an old-growth redwood, to keep her from being logged. At the nearby University, Deanna is choreographing a dance to save the forest. She would visit Roberto, but for her fear of heights and insects. Hal, the logger wishes they would all just go away and let him do his job. Where will they get all the paper for the books they study if someone doesn’t cut down trees?

Answer: they should be using hemp to make paper, like they used to. But that’s a whole other topic.

Check it out!

all we are saying…

August 8, 2010

I met a girl who sang the blues
and I asked her for some happy news
but she just smiled and turned away

[Don McLean’s tribute to Janis Joplin, in “American Pie”]

I grew up during the Viet Nam War, watching the gritty black-and-white newsreels on the TV every night accompanied by ‘body counts.’   Very young, I became aware that I would be expected, when I turned 18, to be shipped off to a foreign land to kill or be killed, for a reason which nobody could explain (a reason which, it now turns out was essentially non-existent).

Early on, this convinced me that the entire older generation was insane, starting with my parents.  Not that I could put it in so many words, but if you’re looking for a good way to shatter someone’s trust, the failure to respect their life and/or future would an effective means.

The very first Rock And Roll album that I ever owned was  “I Feel-Like-I’m-Fixin’-to-Die” by Country Joe and the Fish.

[here it is on amazon]

To his credit, my dad did actually like the title song.  He found the line about “your boy comes home in a box” to humorous.  I didn’t exactly find it quite so funny.

On the second side of the album was a song called Janis, which was Joe MacDonald’s tribute to the great San Francisco vocalist.  Of course, nobody at the time ever explained that to me, and I had never heard Janis sing.

Fast forward to 2010, last night watching Joe MacDonald perform with Big Brother and the Holding Company, who still all put on a hell of a show.  In case you haven’t heard, they have a singer (Kacee Clanton) who brings to life the whole persona of the late Janis Joplin.  Which (being of that generation, I find both moving and eerie).

One thing for sure, their interpretation of Summertime is simply astounding.  And I am sorry, it just isn’t the same on the album, as watching them up there on the stage performing it live.   It wasn’t simply a reproduction of the sounds.  The feeling is still there.

Janis Joplin was a dynamite-loaded truck careening towards the edge of a cliff.  I don’t know if I would have wanted to watch.  Even watching someone act it out is a little scary.

The question I find myself asking (about her, and Jimi Hendrix, Jim Morrison, and so on): would she have been so self-destructive had she known how enormous her mythology would grow to be?  Conversely, would her fame have become so expansive had she not become a martyr for our generation?

Of course, we’ll never know.  But I think it’s worth putting out the fire before it burns down the house.

Conspiracy theorists hypothesized that it was “the system” that killed them.  I don’t think that was directly true, although the system does have a tendency to marginalize performers, musicians in specific,  in a way that makes them particularly susceptible to maladies such as drug-addiction and other self-destructive patterns.  The public is to blame in part, for idolizing the “bad-boy” or “bad-girl” image.

A bigger question: it has often been observed that during the 1980’s, the music industry noticeably clamped down on creative forms of expression.  Why is it that we still listen to the songs of the late 1960’s and early 1970’s, which are clearly more expressive and free and creative than nearly anything that has followed?

So here’s the question: watching what is going on with Fox “news” (i.e. propaganda) and other forms of TV ‘information,’ (i.e. misinformation), it is clear that the right wing has become attentive to the power of the media, and ideas, to influence public behaviour.

So was that clampdown of the 1980’s the start of it?  Because, after all, it was the creative performers who were asking some of the most important questions about our society, and the machinery of war driven by the  greed of the ultra-privileged few.

Because it’s not about Viet Nam, nor about Afghanistan.

It’s about putting the tools in place for people to do the right thing.

Most people don’t have a lot of imagination.  Which might be possible to change, but that’s not the point.  People use what is available to them.  The U.S. is (unquestionably, by far) the largest supplier of weapons in the world. [sources: and wikipedia]

If weapons are available, people will use them.

Why not make the instruments of beauty, harmony, and peace so plentiful instead?

The “not” only makes sense to the ultra-elite cringing in fear that their absurd wealth might get taken away.

As John Lenon said:

“All we are saying
is ‘give peace a chance.'”

victorian victory

April 17, 2010

Having recently watched the new movies ‘Sherlock Holmes’ (with Robert Downey Jr) and ‘Alice in Wonderland’ from Tim Burton, I conclude that the purpose of existence for Victorian writers was to provide fodder for modern action-adventure films.

Hollywood does a brilliant job of expensively cheapening.

Of the two, I would say that ‘Alice’ fared better, in spite of the fact that Lewis Carroll was about as opposite in personality from Burton as could possibly exist, lighthearted and academic rather than dark, gloomy, and psychological.  Oddly though, it was a sort of relief from the original Disney images to see “Alice” opening with a full moon against a dark sky swirling with moody clouds.  And the music was classic Burton, dark but not too scary.

It begs the question: how could all of these old writers ever have come up with compelling stories when hardly any of them featured giant lizards?   I am glad to see this has been set right at last.

‘dominion over,’ or harmony with?

February 13, 2010

What if the words ‘dominion over’ had never been written into the dominant religious text of today’s world?  We could have avoided global warming by living in harmony with nature.

And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth. [Genesis 1:26-28]

It’s nonsense to believe that the comforts offered by technology would have been limited by living in harmony.  Indeed, had that verse been written as prescribing a life of harmony with nature, we would have been more efficient in ways the modern person cannot possibly imagine.  For example, we would not be destroying the rain forests that potentially contain the cures for many of our modern diseases.  We may never know the full capabilities of plants and animals that humans have made extinct.

However, to single out either the Church or the Corporation as sole cause of this disaster is naïve.  The point is, they’re both instances of the same pattern: when large groups of people get together, there is a tendency for the scum to drift to the top.  How else could 2% of our population control 98% of the wealth?


It gets back to the same issue: there is an ingrained value on “dominion over” rather than “harmony with.”

And don’t tell me it’s hopelessly a part of human nature.  This cop-out excuse is part of the hypnosis wrought by the greedy to maintain the status quo.

Humans have something that sets them apart from animals, called a brain.  Humans can reason through the consequences of their attitudes, and arrive at ways of thinking and believing that benefit both present and future generations.

midnight writer

December 25, 2009

As author of stories about vampires and zombies and the like, I thought it my duty to accept an invitation to the Midnight Mass at the Santa Cruz Holy Cross, given that by far the richest wellspring of horrific imagery the western world has ever seen is the Catholic Church.

“What time is the midnight mass?”  About 11:30.   The place was packed. A man told me it was disrespectful to wear my hat.  God doesn’t want me to keep my head warm in church.  How many of these little pointless rules are just meant to inch the victim toward total mindless obedience?

I’ve also been chastised for going barefoot in church, but that’s another story.

Looking around at the decor, the gold trim, the Latin, the saints and so on, plus the tortured Jesus hanging under the peak of a high Gothic arch, I decided that the Catholic Church, being about the oldest Christian institution, must possess more cruft than any other.  They cling to every little relic of the past with obsessive abandon.

Example: when being explained the rules about transubstantiation, I wondered at how the collective corporate consciousness of the hierarchists found it necessary to come up with a physical explanation for ideas meant to be metaphorical.

How could it all be the body of Jesus?  His body could never have been large enough to cover all of the hosts that have been consumed over history.  And if it’s the body of Jesus, which body part might it be?  I wondered.  The whole body, was the answer.  Hm.  OK.  So is the lesson that we ought to be cannibals?

If Jesus had been a zombie, would he have said “take these brains, for they are my body…”  And the Catholics do have zombies – they talk about how worms eat the flesh and the dead shall rise.

When one is so glued to the past, one’s mind caught up in rationalizing ridiculous rituals, how can it be possible to look the present straight in the face and make clearly-reasoned intelligent decisions?  And yet, the priests expect to be wondrous counselors.  For example, it seems obvious to Catholics that I talk to, that the sexual abuse in the church will never end until they allow priests to marry.  It would seem rather obvious that the sexual repression is a likely culprit.  But somehow this venerable organization can’t work out such a simple obvious answer.

I picture the modern corporation as a similarly dysfunctional (if younger) sort of entity.  I recently received an advertisement for financial consulting, explaining to me that in order to reduce investment risk as I get older, I should use a financial adviser.  And I imagine such people are now desperate for clients to (pay to) heed their advice.  Does it occur to them that some of us might have a wee bit of difficulty, given recent history, trusting the word of a financial adviser as reliable way to decrease risk?

The music was dutiful.  There was a lot of it, and it was quite properly performed, but the air did not seem to be one of celebration.

The priest gave the standard spiel about how God gave his only Son to save us from our sins (atonement theology has got to be the most singularly toxic load of bull in existence, and incidentally something Jesus himself never taught), and we sang silent night.

An image that sticks in my mind is the priest sitting in his holy chair (with gold triangles on the posts) after having given communion.  He looked about as contented as Jesus having miraculously produced loaves and fishes to feed the flock, and he just kind of sat there smiling for a while.

Maybe it was the wine?


October 20, 2009

Jesus was a long-haired pacifist liberal, who was executed for posing a threat to the established order.   How many so-called “Christians” would be out there throwing stones at Jesus, were he alive protesting “the war”  in the present day?

(Whatever war – they always come up with one, to keep people in fear, as Orwell predicted)

“One who lives by the sword dies by it.” Mt 26:53

When people reject the reality  of evolution,  it’s because they themselves are incapable of it.

“natural market forces”

October 18, 2009

Capitalists today worship what they like to call “Natural Market Forces.” Problem is, those “forces” amount to Greed, not Virtue. In other words the Capitalist system as conceived today is predicated on the concept that:

if people act in accordance with greed,
then they will make decisions that are beneficial to the system.

This principle obviously makes no sense at all, given that the force of greed causes an individual to act in their own self interest, over the interest of the group as a whole.   So it should come as no surprise that Capitalism (based on competition, as it is today) is self-destructive and unstable, and rewards players (often quite substantially) at random rather than in accordance with merit.

So it should come as no surprise when such a system sustains catastrophic failure: it is designed to do precisely that – to fail.

That is not to say that Capitalism itself is bad; what is at fault is the insane notion that competition will give us what we want.  What we need to realize is that the correct “market force” is cooperation, not competition; and that the perceived benefits of competition are, in fact illusory.

What do consumers want?  Low prices, quality, service.  Variety – an array of choices.  True, competition superficially offers these things – for a while.  But since the system naturally destabilizes into a monopoly, as it is designed to do, these benefits evaporate.

The solution is to cultivate a societal value based, not on competition, but on cooperation.  On rewarding those who genuinely benefit the whole.