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Wednesday, April 23, 2014

'Punishment in Higher Places'


                   The above clip is for 'Out of the Races and Onto the Tracks' by The Rapture.  It is the namesake for this blog. 

So recently I have taken a break from blogging.  I have had a lot on my plate.  More than you know.  More than I care to discuss.  I am always delighted to see that people actually read this blog.  And it makes me sad that I have let people down.  I hate letting people down.  But seriously!?  Do people actually enjoy reading this?  Do people actually enjoy reading what goes on in my mind?

I often wonder what's the point in writing a blog like this.  I write about so many different topics.  Do people read this drivel?  Do people care?  If I stopped writing this crap, would anyone notice?  Does what I say actually matter?  You, the reader, do you like what I write?  Are you interested?  Intrigued? Inspired?  Disgusted?  Maybe I should ask myself what my intention is for writing this blog?  Is it for self-aggrandizement?  Is writing this only to appeal to my ego?

I don't really know the answers to any of this.  All I know is that I love writing.  Ideas and creativity are constantly flowing through my veins.  My blog is my form of expressing what I want to come out.  Music, art, creativity flows through my veins in place of blood.  This forum is the attempt to express what I cannot say face to face.  My blog offers another reality.  It presents another side to my persona.  I am presenting a character to you that is part of myself.  An expression of myself.

So that presents a question worth asking, what is reality?  Is it something that we perceive within our own framework?  Or is it simply what others define for us?  Maybe there is no reality.  Or maybe we are all connected to machines and what we see is only an illusion of what's real.  You know, like the Matrix.  Whatever the answer, my blog paints a picture of my reality, my point of view.  That is what makes us all unique; we see and comprehend the world in different ways.  So with that in mind, does it really matter if this blog has a specific purpose or goal?  If I enjoy it,  isn't that what matters most!?

And I like writing this blog because it presents a picture of what I see as my reality.  And I often think to myself that others can connect to this one reality.  Do you share a view in what I see?  Do you see beauty in the same presentations of life as I do?  This is the essential reason why I write.  I want to connect to other people.  I want my writing to transcend human nature and its innate need to box everything in.  Why do we have a need to distance ourselves from one another?  Isn't it a basic notion that we all share something intrinsic?  Aren't we all made of the same molecules, made of the same parts that form a beating heart, a breathing lung?  In fact, human nature is built on the sheer notion that we all share something intrinsic and true.

Maybe it's this reason that I write this blog.  I want to find this truth.  After all, what is it that we all want in life?  Don't we look for the same needs?  Humans all share a common objective and goal in life.  We want to make the most out of what we have in front of us.  And lately I've been doing just that.  There has been a lot going on and my life is going through some massive changes.  I can sit here worrying about what may or may not happen, or I can just live today for its intrinsic value and worry about tomorrow when it comes.  I'm not saying not to plan, but I am through worrying about what will transpire because that only immobilizes me with fear and self-doubt.  And then nothing gets done.

What flashes through my mind is a slogan on a bumper sticker 'Yesterday is history.  Tomorrow is a mystery.  Today is the present.  That's why they call it a gift.'  Tomorrow is never guaranteed for any of us.  Tomorrow, the whole planet could get washed away, engulfed under the ocean.  An alien civilization could come to Earth and proclaim us its slave, or worse, dinner.  Or you know, the inevitable hurtling toward a zombie apocalypse where you wake up thinking you hear raccoons in your garbage cans again, but then see the undead eating your neighbor's face.  I had to go for an effectively graphic visual.

But reality can change drastically at any minute.  None of us are seers with a crystal ball, able to predict the playing out of each moment of our lives.  One minute you're a carefree art history graduate student in California, and the next you're married with four kids living in Florida selling real estate.  A clean bill of health turns into having to return for what seemed like a 'routine' test because the doctor notices a 'growth' under your arm.  No one knows for sure what we will turn into in one, five, fifteen years down the line.  In one year, everything can turn upside down and change.  You just never know.

So the best answer to why I keep an online journal like this is to share my thoughts with the world.  Perhaps I might end up helping someone or making someone feel better because suddenly they don't feel so alone.  Our thoughts and expressions can be isolating in that we all hide pieces of ourselves from the outside world.  They look in and see one version of us that is often in juxtaposition to how we view ourselves.  So maybe someone out there is having the same thoughts I am at the same moment.  Maybe the song clip within my post is also running through someone's head at the very moment they come across this page.  That thought is what keeps this blog running.  The sheer fact that visceral human connection trumps everything: money, ego, power, war, disease, poverty.  Our humanity is based on the fact that we all live in different versions of reality.  But, for one moment in time, we have the possibility of connecting with someone who fits and overlaps in our Venn Diagram somehow.

So with that thought in mind, I leave you with the thought that you, the reader, and me, the writer are linked in this moment that will be forever frozen in the cosmos of time.  Our history is built on connection and collaboration but somehow, in today's society, when we are on each other's front doorstep as a result of social media and technology, people are more isolated and disconnected from each other now more than ever.   So in an attempt to heal a fractured and broken world, I write.  Positive thoughts, actions, and words can mend the unraveling that has begun to happen.  Will it stop the inevitable meltdown that we seem stare in the face?  Perhaps not.  But at least at the end of the day, I know that I did not give up.

Humanistically yours,

~R~

 
               'The Wave' by Animal Kingdom


'Being Alone' by Young Man


'!!!' by Yadnus

Friday, February 14, 2014

'I Just Called To Say...wait, hold on'

I don't celebrate Valentine's Day.  I never really liked the day much.  People should celebrate their love every day, and I'm sure they do.  It's just ridiculous that we have yet another holiday that has Christian connotations yet is also completely stripped of its religious context.  It's yet another excuse for Americans to go out and spend their money on things that they do not really need, namely chocolates, plastic perfumed roses, and giant teddy bears.  I'm all for flowers.  Buy your sweetheart flowers every chance you get.  But don't go buying roses that are hiked up to twice the price just because you feel like you have to get your sweetie something on February 14th.  It's just another day.  You really don't need to get perfume or heart shaped silk boxers.  I swear, all of those annoying noise making cards and stuffed animals that sing 'Wild Thing' or 'Muskrat Love' should be put into a large bonfire and like a Viking funeral, be sent out to sea.  


I realize that I sound like a complete grouch.  Many of you are probably saying, oh well this guy needs to get some lovin'.  But I'm married.   So there goes that argument of yours.   I think the real issue is that I've never liked the gushy sappiness surrounding Valentine's Day.  In high school, I would wear all black and go around giving people un-Valentines (with black hearts and messages of doom).  In college, my friends and I had a Goth anti-Valentine's celebration by moshing to heavy metal and grunge and then drinking coffee/chain smoking at a local coffee shop where we saw some locals who had the same idea as we did.  Even though I'm not single and I have a family now, I still do not like Valentine's Day.  I think it's a crock of crap, really.  Like I said, it's another excuse to spend money on things on someone who will probably be an ex-something in less than a year.  It's fine if you buy a card for your dear old grandma or your angelic children.  Even cooking dinner for your husband/wife is a nice touch.  But people really go way too far.  

So in my spirit of anti-Valentine's, I have a mix for you.  I tried to make it 14 songs, but then there were too many good ones.  I tried to limit it to 28, but I extended it to 30.  So now you have a song for every day of February, including extra for leap years.  

With no further adieu, here is my Valentine's playlist.  


1) 'Love Gun' by Kiss (1977)


2) 'Love Hurts' by The Everly Brothers (1961)

                                              Nazareth's version (1975)

3) 'Bad Medicine' by Bon Jovi (1988)
 

4) 'I'm Gonna Follow You'- Pat Benetar (1980)
 

5) 'Heaven on the 7th Floor' by Paul Nicholas (1977)

6) 'Love' by The Smashing Pumpkins (1995)

7) 'Sour Times' by Portishead (1994)

8) 'My Lover's Box' by Garbage (1995)

9) 'Love Buzz' by Nirvana (1988)

the original Shocking Blue version (1969)



10) 'The Perfect Drug' by Nine Inch Nails (1997)

11) 'Hate Then Love' by The Dears (2008)
 

12) 'Song for the Dumped' by Ben Folds Five (1997)


13) 'Satellite of Love' by Lou Reed (1972)
 

14) 'Shady Love' by Scissor Sisters (2012)

15) 'Love Boy' by Dana International (2007)


16) 'Get Your Hands Off of My Woman' by The Darkness (2003)
 

17) 'Terrible Love' by The National (2010)

18) 'Only Love' by Grace Potter and the Nocturnals (2010)

19) 'Addicted to Love' by Florence + the Machines (2009)

Robert Palmer version (1986)

20) 'Love Will Tear Us Apart' by Joy Division (1980)

21) 'Sewing the Seeds of Love' by Tears for Fears (1989)

22) 'Always' by Erasure

23) 'Believe' by Elton John (1994)


24) 'Crying' by Aerosmith (1994) 
 

25) 'Nobody Lives Without Love' by Eddi Reader (1995)




26) 'Everything About You' by Ugly Kid Joe (1991)

27) 'Apologize' by One Republic (2007)

28) 'No One's Gonna Love You' by Cee Lo Green (2010)

original by Band of Horses (2008


29) 'Part Time Lover' by Stevie Wonder (1985)


30) 'Who Wants to Live Forever' by Queen (1986)

I hope you enjoyed that non-sappy, hopefully more original rendition of songs that celebrate February 14th without being too Celine Dion/Whitney Houston/Mariah Carey cliche.  So get out that box wine and turn up the volume on these.  Drown your sorrows in some songs that celebrate the real meaning of heartache and sorrow.  That is how Valentine's Day is truly meant to be celebrated, crooning and moaning along to songs for the broken hearted and commonly misunderstood.  

And by the way, it's ridiculous that while our society has a day for love that many Americans still cannot show their love openly (yes, I'm talking about the gays).  Everyone is all for love and affection as long as it exists between a man and a woman.  For the record, I don't like PDA of any kind but if we're going to have a day honoring it, then you might as well include everyone.  Right!?  So know that my personal boycott of February 14th also has to do with our bigoted views of homosexual relationships.  If we're gonna let the love light shine, then let everyone shine it brightly.  

See, I'm all for love, just not the commercialized, consumerist kind.  You can't box up and price my love.  Love is far too powerful of an emotion to be packaged as a categorical commodity.  Love is love.  Let yours shine. 

Love unconventionally, unconditionally,

~R~


Wednesday, January 29, 2014

America the Beautiful






Sometimes I wake up in the morning and ask myself if the reality I am living in today is the same exact reality I was living in yesterday.  I truly ask myself if our society is getting crazier by the minute or it it has always been this way.  Perhaps the transition to full fledged adulthood is realizing that no matter how hard you try to stay out of the mess, you are still a part of it.  As children, the lucky are able to get protected by the evil and darkness in the world.  But who is there to protect us when the bubble has been popped and you are out there on the streets to fend for yourself?  It's man against shark; only the manipulative survive.

Lately it seems that my dreams have more sanity and make a whole of a lot more sense than what I observe in reality.  Though I try to find the goodness in everything, it is hard to ignore the writing on the wall.  Let's examine American society.  Many Americans are still out of work and are still hurting from the economic recession.  Despite the SOTU last night and President Obama promising that those people out of work will find jobs and will soon be able to support their families again, the light at the end of the tunnel seems very dim.  Note that I am an Obama supporter.  However, you also have to question the intentions of our government, especially when so many of them are out of touch with mainstream America.  Democrats and Republicans alike are in it for themselves.  And when you take a look at Congress, over half of them (Reps and Dems) are millionaires.  Sure, many of them grew up in working class households and saw their parents struggle (take Obama for example); but we have to ask ourselves now more than ever how democratic things really are.

These days it seems everything is all about money.  Every media outlet pretty much is connected to corporations that dictate what they report about and how they tell a story.  If a news source is connected to a particular food company and there is a nasty e coli outbreak, the severity of what's reported depends on the interest of the company.  If the e coli is in broccoli from a competitor, then the reporters might drum up the severity.  However, if the outbreak is in a batch of vegetables from the parent company, the news might not get reported at all.  Have you ever thought about that the news we get trickled down to us is all connected to corporations' deep pockets that may or may not want you to know the whole story.  If a story hurts the image of a corporation and risks a loss of millions, then we get fed lies on top of bullshit (if we're lucky) telling us that whatever problem at hand is not that big a deal.

It is especially scary now that American society has been dumbed down.  Our educational system has become a big bureaucratic factory that churns out children to memorize and recite figures that may not have any consequence to critical thinking.  In the SOTU, President Obama said that we need a nation of thinkers and innovators.  How does testing and measuring up the wazoo achieve this end?  Don't throw the baby out with the bath water; remodel the bathroom, that's all.  We are training kids to learn without actually learning.  We should be training kids to think independently and creatively.  Kids should be taught to think outside the box and color outside the lines.  At the rate we are going, we will have a bunch of robots who do not know how to question and challenge the status quo.  We all know what happens when we teach kids to be compliant and learn without context.  They end up supporting dictatorships and totalitarian governmental regimes.  Is that what we want?

What's worse is that many people do not think anymore.  They read things on the Internet on sites like Twitter and Reddit and accept it as fact.  What happened to looking things up in an Encyclopedia and doing research at the library.  Do not just accept something just because you read it online or are told so in a news report.  Analyze and question.  Read multiple sources.  Look at another site (other than Wikipedia) for basic information.  I admit that I too have become lazier in the digital age.  Why read a book when I can just 'google it'?  And thanks to technology, language has begun to fall apart.  With texting and Facebook, people would rather abbreviate and take short cuts.  Is it too much to ask to at least be grammatically correct when sending an e-mail?  What has happened to language?  What's worse is that there is little separation between informal and formal language.  Soon every child will be speaking in 'text speak'.

What I find most frightening, however, is how saturated our society has become with violence and fear.  It seems to be a mundane occurrence nowadays to hear about school, mall, and movie theater shootings.  'Oh, there's another crazy person who got a gun and shot 14 people dead.'  Or what about this 'knockout game' phenomenon.  Violence has no purpose; it's just violence for the sake of violence. There is no goal of robbing someone of their wallet or shoes, though I'm sure that still happens.  It's violence because what else is there to do?  I feel that we have reached a point where things are turning into Anthony Burgess's 1962 novel, A Clockwork Orange (though the movie is excellent, the book is better).

If you haven't read the novel, do yourself a favor and read it.  It takes place in a future England where all rules and structure have broken down.  Teenagers run rampant in the streets doing drugs and having sex.  They speak a whole new language, 'Nadsat'.  In fact, when reading the book, you need a dictionary of Nadsat handy because words do not mean what they used to.  For instance: clothes are 'pletchkos', friend is 'droog', person is 'veck', and money is 'lolly', 'cutter', or 'pretty polly'.  Adults are in fear to walk the streets, especially at night.  Gangs roam free; the main character, Alex is in such a gang.  They spend their time raping and pillaging all while completely doped out of their minds.  I truly feel that our society is turning into the world Alex inhabits in A Clockwork Orange.  Youth lack the respect for authority.  If children get in trouble at school or get bad grades, it's the teacher's fault.  If a child gets in trouble with the law, it's society's fault.  There is little culpability and personal responsibility any more.  Without the boundaries, guidelines, and rules of authority, society will be ruled by youth who lack self-control and laugh off authoritative discipline.

Add to this the calamity we face with our climate.  By now, if you do not believe in climate change, then you're a moron.  Sorry, but you are.  And know that when I talk about climate change it's not 'global warming' in the sense that everything is getting hotter.  Oh, we're having a severe winter, so much for climate change!  Actually, think of it more like GCV: Global Climate Volatility.  Everything is in extremes.  Some parts of our country will have more rain and consequently more flooding.  Other places will have unprecedented droughts.  And note that flooding and droughts may exist in places where the opposite was once true (ie. places with too much rain previously had none).  And if we look at the country right now, pretty much everywhere is experiencing an awful winter with record low temperatures and tons of snow/ice.  The weekend brought winter to places in the South that have never or hardly ever seen snow/freezing cold.  Climate change means that things are off kilter.  Climate is no longer as predictable and constant as it once was.

This will have effects on many things in our lives like resources and mobility.  I predict that in the near future, we will not be able to travel by airplane or possibly by car because the weather is too unpredictable.  Tornadoes, violent storms, blizzards, and hurricanes are increasing in ferocity and frequency.  Isn't it strange now we hear about 15 full strength tornadoes hitting an area all at once?  When towns/cities/states go through an unprecedented weather/nature event, people run to the store for canned goods and water.  People want gas in their cars and heat/AC in their homes.  The more out of whack things become, the more people are overutilizing these resources and placing a strain on natural supply and demand.  Not to mention that with massive climate upheaval, crops and livestock will become affected as well.  Imagine placing an extremely obese human onto a tiny scale meant for half the weight.  How long before the scale completely breaks?

I don't know what it will take for all of us to stop and listen to what we are doing to ourselves.  We are eating ourselves alive.  We must stop, evaluate, and recalibrate the direction we are moving as a global society.  Unless we are planning to build a space ship and explore the possibility of colonizing other planets (oh wait, that's happening) then we must take care of what we have.  I believe there is still hope to turn this nightmare around and wake ourselves out of this crazy daily existence we call reality.  Things are happening; some of us are waking up and realizing that we're laying face down in a pile of sewage, garbage, and radioactive waste (metaphorically).  I just wonder how many horrors must take place before everyone wakes up and smells the blatantly obvious.

What's the answer, you ask?  Love, compassion, positivity, and unity.

It may sound hippy dippy, but it's true.

Love and Light,

~R~






Tuesday, December 31, 2013

2013, remixed




Every year (for the past 10 years) I have been making mixes of songs that reflect my state of mind and emotions from the past year.  Think of it like a montage of songs that explain what I've been through, what our times reflect without actually saying the words.  Think of this yearly mix as a letter to you telling you about how I feel about society and how I fit within it.  I take a lot of time and effort putting together the songs you hear.  At one point, I only wanted new songs on each year's mix and did not dare repeat an artist from year to year.  Those rules have since gone by the wayside.  Now, I try to feature some new, unheard of artists along with some old favorites, songs you're more likely to be familiar with.  I'm also a big sucker for alternates, or covers.  Since, I release this annual mix at wintertime, I also choose many songs which reflect the snow and grey sky outside.

One thing, however, is for certain; each song has a purpose.  They paint a rich tapestry.  I put together songs that artistically paint a picture of what the past year has meant for me.  I then give this mix to individuals as I see them throughout the coming year.  My hope is that people make connections to the songs and as they listen, they unintentionally connect to me and other individuals listening.  I don't expect everyone to have the same connection, but what I expect is a visceral connection.  Music is often all I have to hang onto, and my hope is that through it, we can connect as human beings.

Without further ado, here is my music mix for 2013 (this mix literally sits in my Itunes library, as I've legally downloaded/purchased every single song):

1) 'Prologue'- The Antlers


 

2)  'Loading Phase'- Bobby

video


3) 'Seven One Eight'- Fannypack




4) 'Snakes Crawl' (feat. Bush Tetras) (East Village Mix)- Phil Kieran


5)  'Waterflaws'- Wild International
video

6) 'Love Natural'- Crystal Fighters


7) 'Shout!'- Lindsay Katt        

(this is a live version from Joe's Pub in NYC)

8) 'Relax Your Mind'- New Look


9) 'Interlude'- Thievery Corporation


10) 'Floating in Space'- Apples in Stereo

 

11) 'Take the Kids Off Broadway'- Foxygen

 

12) 'Telephone'- The Black Angels



13) 'Attic Doctor'- Youth Lagoon


 
14) 'Hey There Fancypants'- Ween


 

15) 'I'll Fly Away'- Goosecreek Symphony
video


16) 'The Red Balloon'- Ginger and the Ghost


17) 'Eight Days Before the War'- Trappers Cabim


video




18) 'Oh Louise'-Korey Dane

 19) 'The First Freeze'- The Loom
video


20) 'You're Golden'- The Polyphonic Spree




21) 'White Winter Hymnal'- Birdy
 

22)  'New Light'- The Great Lake Swimmers

23) 'Fly Me to the Moon'- Radiation City

24) 'My Tears Are Becoming a Sea'- M83

25) 'The Ends'- The Naked and Famous

26) 'Sound of Silence'- Kina Grannis

27) 'Medicine'- Daughter
 

28) 'The Bells Play the Band'- Bell Orchestre

29) 'Mother to Son'- (recited by) Langston Hughes
 
(There is a stunningly beautiful choral version of this poem (which didn't fit on my mix); I performed it with my college chamber choir.  Itunes has that arrangement sung by The Fisk Jubilee Singers.  I recommend dowlonading it.)


I hope you enjoyed these 29 tracks.  Feel free to download them on Itunes or just upload this page and have a listen.  Or, if you really want, I can make a mix for you and give it to you when I next see you.  I felt that by putting my playlist here, that people can listen and have access to my annual mix more easily.  However, I can still make a few hard copies to give out. 

As reflected in the music, you can tell that 2013 was quite a roller coaster.  This past year has not been easy.  I have faced a lot of personal life challenges.  So my hope for 2014 is that things will be brighter and better not only for me, but for everyone reading this.  My blessings to you in the new year.

Love and light,

~R~