Tuesday, December 1, 2015

To Die For Your Ideas

This week I feel sick and sad and hopeless, and I'm trying to find a light at the end of the tunnel that is humanity. Why do we keep going backwards? Are we just destined to self-destruct? Why does violence continue to exist? Why do morally reprehensible leaders use impressionable young people and religion to terrorize and control innocent populations? Why don't we learn once and for all that war is total bullshit and violence is the cancer of our species? I have no answers.

We don't seem to learn from our mistakes as a species. Society is being destroyed by a toxic potion made of three elements: 1- Our willingness to accept and glorify violence. 2- Our inability to codify and cherish human morality and meaning outside of outdated expressions of authoritarian religion. 3- Our unwillingness to challenge, destroy, and shut down the military and weapons industries.

Here are the lyrics to a song by Georges Brassens called "Mourir Pour Des Idees" along with my English translation.  The song was released on the album "Fernande" which came out in 1972. It has never been more relevant than it is today. It's so fucking sad and pathetic that this song is still so relevant today, 44 years after it was written. Wake up, humanity.

To die for your ideas, an excellent idea
One time I almost died for lack of having it
When all the teeming hordes who had it before me
Ran screaming to my door in a murderous fit
My muse eventually caved in to their request
Lamenting her mistakes, she rallied to their cause
With just a whisper of regret giving her pause
Let’s die for our ideas, but make it a slow death
OK, make it a slow, slow death

Seeing as we are free to linger in this life
Let’s take our own sweet time reaching the afterglow
For, if we hurry up, we might actually die
For an idea that’s out of fashion tomorrow
Yet, if there’s one thing sure to make you feel depressed
It is to realize upon your dying day
That you took the wrong path, that you made a mistake
Let’s die for our ideas, but make it a slow death
OK, make it a slow, slow death

The fundamentalists who cry the martyr’s cry
Are usually the ones who linger on this earth
To die for their ideals, for whatever it’s worth
Is their main obsession, it motivates their life
In almost every camp, every holy domain
These are the ones who will outlive Methuselem
Which leads me to conclude their favorite refrain’s
Let’s die for our ideas, but make it a slow death
OK, make it a slow, slow death

Ideas which demand the famous sacrifice
Are endlessly revived by sects of every stripe
And every new victim wonders before he dies
To die for an idea is lovely, but which type?
And since they’re all about the same in most respects
The wise man, when he sees their mighty banners wave
Will always hesitate, as he sidesteps the grave
Let’s die for our ideas, but make it a slow death
OK, make it a slow, slow death

If a few killing fields, a few communal graves
Were all it took to do the trick once and for all
With all the nights of terror, all the heads that fall
You’d think by now the whole world would be saved
Alas, the golden age is constantly delayed
The gods are thirsty yet, they’re never satisfied
So death and death resumes, and still more people die
Let’s die for our ideas, but make it a slow death
OK, make it a slow, slow death

Oh all you firebrands, all you fishers of men
Please be the first to die, we’ll get out of your way
But, for the love of god, let the rest of us live
Life is the last luxury left us anyway
The reaper is a crafty type and needs no help
No need to speed his work by sharpening his blade
So stop your dance of death, you’re only giving aid
Let’s die for our ideas, but make it a slow death
OK, make it a slow, slow death 

Friday, October 9, 2015

Under the Guns

There was another mass shooting of innocent people last week in the USA. This time in Oregon. I've been following the reactions in the news and on Facebook, and I am seeing some promising headway in the manner the topic is being discussed. It seems like common sense is prevailing, even among politicians. The whole conversation is being conducted from a starting point of common sense, not in the vacuum of paranoia and 2nd Amendment ranting that usually prevails.

Here are some ideas around guns that have been flying around my head lately:

1. The 2nd Amendment was created to protect the militias that were organized for the sole purpose of monitoring and intimidating slaves and keeping them from rebelling and escaping. This article in Truth-Out.org explains it in great detail:


This makes perfect sense. The wording of the 2nd Amendment was specifically changed from "Country" to "State" to give the southern states the right to organize, finance, and maintain the militias with which they kept slavery alive.  Contrary to popular mythology, the 2nd Amendment was not drafted to enable Americans to arm themselves and fight against oppressive outside regimes like the British who might wish to colonize and oppress them. It was created for the express purpose of allowing states to maintain the inhumane system of slavery in existence, in turn keeping their entire economies afloat with free labor. In my opinion this is enough to shut down the whole 2nd Amendment argument once and for all. If we can make the courthouse in North Carolina take down the confederate flag in a show of solidarity with African Americans and a solid statement of commitment to reverse the tide of slavery and racism, then we can and must repeal the 2nd Amendment.

2. Almost every single one of the men (they are ALL male) who perpetrate these atrocious acts of mass murder are sexually frustrated single men who feel that they have been left behind by society. They have the exact same psychological profiles as the young middle eastern men who become suicide bombers with the jihadi promise of a phalanx of virgin brides upon martyrdom. The men who shoot up movie theaters and schools and army bases in the US have often left a very visible trail of frustration and disaffection on the various chat rooms they inhabit on the internet. They gravitate to online meeting places where men can vent their rage about their powerlessness in modern society. They usually have a clear pattern of failed attempts at achievement in employment and education. Most of all, they all feel that they've been shut out from the world of sex and love. They are horny, frustrated, and pissed off. They read and write postings in the cesspool of the lowest common denominator of hidden and disconnected thought, the internet. Their views get reflected and magnified and legitimized by others with the same sad trajectory. I am not describing any of this with any judgment, I feel compassion for these guys. Every living adolescent goes through this phase. To go from being a gawky, awkward pre-adolescent to being a sexually aware teenager, with all the desires and emotions that entails, is a nightmare for every living person. I was there once, all I thought about day and night was sex, i fell in love every two weeks, and I felt constantly depressed. Everyone has this phase, and the way we work through it, with the help of parents, friends, school, sports, social groups, churches, community, and any other instrument of support is the story of how we become who we are. So why are so many young men in America getting so stuck in this phase of development? I think there are a few main reasons.
Pornography is as available as air and water. Images of impossible sexual ideal are available to everyone who seeks them out. This reinforces the double idea that sex is always perfected by perfect people, and that you are not ever going to fuck these perfect people so don't even try. Instead of a sexual awakening based on reality and discovery and love, sexual discovery is cut off mid-stride by the impossible ideals of pornography.

3. The violent imagery and glorification of violence in our media culture is definitely one part of the problem. Everywhere we look, there are advertisements with guns in them for movies, TV shows and video games. The irresponsible and dull-witted people responsible for "content-creation" in our world today resort to the fetishistic image of the gun at every turn. Putting a gun in a movie is like putting a rock song in a scene. It is lazy and trite and shows that the narrative is too weak to keep the viewer's attention. Both are signs of unimaginative filmmaking at best. At worst, using a gun to spice up the action is contributing to the deluge of violent imagery that fuels alienated people's violent fantasies. A person who feels cut off from the world, spends all of his or her time online, and sees watches a parade of unrealistic killings all day long begins to believe that behavior is the norm. Video games train people to be desensitized to killing. Movies treat violence as a cool, sexy selling point. If your grasp on reality is tenuous because of a chemical imbalance or a deep-seated antipathy towards your fellow humans or both, feeding this shit into the mix will make you a killer. Not all the time, but at this point in our fucked up country, it happens about once a week.

Hilary Clinton has taken a real stand on the issue. She's ready to fight the NRA and the special interests who oppose sensible gun legislation. For that reason alone I will vote for her. If she or any other politician can take on the other two prongs of the problem, mental health and the violence of our culture, then we may stand a chance of creating a world that our kids can actually live in without fear of being gunned down like sheep.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Drowning in your shallow blues

I wrote this song for the Bushwick Book Club, a musical book club where all the participants read a book and write a song about it and perform it in front of a live audience. This was originally inspired by the book Moby Dick, but then it became about the musician Moby, and then about DJ's in general. It was performed live on the Frying Pan, a boat/venue in NYC on May 5 2015.

What’s another name for Richard
Or another word for cock
Can you paint a mental picture
Of a dolphin playing rock?
Are you wild?
Are you wild?
Are you tame?
Will you hunt the deepest ocean? And the village record bins
Find a needle and go poke it in a fat and juicy fish
If you are a deep explorer, you must take it all the way
Don’t just be a vegetarian, be a vegan and press Play
Are you mild?
Are you wild?
Are you lame?
Producer, DJ, collage, or pastiche
Sailing on semantics by a rocky beach
Why do we still feed on Leviathan juice?
Why do we survive off what others produce?
I’m drowning in your shallow blues
Can you stop your blubbering, stop rehashing what’s been hashed
Some things just cannot be conquered, quit harpooning on the past
From the port-holes of Nolita, to the dives of Chinatown
You can carve a little tea room so the models can sit down
Built a solid reputation as an electro DJ
Spend your every waking moment seeking treasure in the waves
Are you mild?
Are you wild?
Are you tame?
Why do I care so much? What is it to me?
Why do I give a fuck? I need to get more sleep.


Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Oh Death

Lately the issue of death has been poking its head into my conversations with my three year old twins and I'm not sure how to handle it. Last week our nanny's mother died, and I told the children they needed to be extra nice to her and give her a big hug. Then I let it slip that her mother had died. They immediately picked up on that word, and started using it in their games, saying things like "I'm gonna crush this truck and then it will died!" They have no idea what it means and they know it's a strong word. I regret having said that, and I let it pass and they seemed to forget it. i know they are too young to understand it.
Then a week later, I was reading the kids the story of Madeline, in which the little girl gets her appendix removed, is rushed to the hospital, and makes all the other girls jealous because of her scar. The twins asked me what a scar is, so I showed them a scar on my hand that I got when I was playing around a table where my mother was ironing. I had tripped on the cord and the iron fell on my hand, burning it and leaving a scar. The kids were awestruck and asked me a million questions about the scar, ironing, what my mother was doing, what I was doing, etc. Then out of the blue, Jules asked me "Where is your mommy?" I just said "She's not here" and changed the subject. I put the kids to bed, and I just wanted to cry the whole time, I felt my mother's missing presence so strongly it was an ache in my chest. I wish so badly that she could know these beautiful kids and they could know her. But I just hid my pain and acted upbeat till I could put them to sleep. The kids are not there to comfort me from the pain and loss that I felt as a child and still feel. I'm there to be strong for them and shield them from things like death and sadness for as long as possible. But it's not always easy.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

The Camembert Trappers

I played a show at Hometown BBQ in Red Hook, on February 15, 2015. I decided to put together a set of my favorite songs from my songbook going back to the days of Melomane, Sea Foxx, and The Snow. My brother-in-law Gerald Menke thought it would be cool to play a set of my songs and add an element of twanginess to it, so I called the band The Camembert Trappers because I wanted it to sound French, and country at the same time.  Gerald Menke was on pedal steel and guitar, Konrad Meisner on drums, and Jay Foote on bass. Thanks to Roman Elsener for the videos!

All the World is a Green Jockey Full of Bourbon

I played a Tom Waits tribute show organized by Robin Aigner at Freddy's Bar in Park Slope on March 22. I was joined on stage by three amazing musicians, two of which (Gavin and Bob) I had only met moments before. Here's Jockey Full of Bourbon, featuring Gavin Smith on bass clarinet, Bob van Pelt on Bass, and Andrew Sovine on guitar. These guys just crushed it! This was the first Tom Waits song I ever heard, when it was in the opening scene of the Jarmusch film Down by Law. It completely blew my head off then and introduced me to the weird and wonderful world of Tom Waits.

Here's All the World is Green from the album Blood Money. This time Gavin is on clarinet. This song just breaks my heart into a million pieces. The arrangement, the vocal delivery, the mix of the cryptic, poetic romance, and emotional directness add up to pure songwriting perfection.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Joan Dark

I just watched "La Passion de Jeanne d'Arc", the original 1928 version by Carl Th. Dreyer, with an astonishing performance by Renee Falconetti. The lead actress is in tears the entire time, in stark close-up, with no make-up on her beautiful, lightly freckeld face. She is on trial for a few different things but cross-dressing seems to be the main one. The Catholic priests who are trying her are pissed that a young girl cut her hair short and put on a man's military uniform. They are also mainly pissed that she helped the faction of French royals who were loyalists to France  kick some English ass. (They belong to the faction loyal to the English.) So after a long and bogus trial, she decides to confess to save her life. Then she changes her mind and decides to remain the girlfriend of Jesus and be burned at the stake, knowing that she will join him that night for some sexy reconciliation in heaven. (She is a 19 year old virgin after all.) Jesus is her Justin Bieber, her Nash Grier ( I don't know who that actually is, I just googled "teen idols.") He drives her to commit all these outrageous acts of bravery, patriotism, and rebelliousness. He channels her sweaty, frantic, pent up sexual energy.
As I have asserted many times before and stand no chance of denying, all acts of violence, patriotism, religious fervor, violent stupidity, and foolhardy self-destructiveness are usually derived from misguided sexual frustration. I love the character of Joan of Arc. Or Joan d'Arc. She was so Goth. She was a very bold and passionate young lady who heard Jesus whispering to her to go talk to the King, join the army, fight the British, preserve the French throne, etc. In my mind she is absolutely no different from the American kids who play video games that make them want to go fight evil Muslims in Iraq or the kids in Syria who watch youtube videos made by Isis exhorting them to go kill the American infidels. It's all just disconnected sexual tension. Any kid who gets really well laid a couple of weeks before he's set to go off to war, and who gets told that he can keep having some of that good loving if he changes his mind and stays home, will stay home. The promises of war are the same as the promises of summer camp or going on tour with a band; you will have some good times with your buddies and you might get laid. The killing part is an unnatural by-product that has to be re-taught.
I say "re-taught" because I believe that we all start out as murderous, self-serving psychopaths. I see this in my three-year old twins. They are in a stage where they are pure selfish ego, they only want what they want, and they will fight anyone who gets in the way of their desires. Especially the boy. (The girl seems more developed and empathic.) I think we all start out that way, then we realize that it is in our best interest to be compassionate, to get along, to curb our animal instincts.  I think killing and fighting are very natural for 4 and 5 year olds. but for anyone over 6 or 7, it has to be taught. The only reason there are militaries in any culture is that we continue to successfully teach people how to regress to the point of infants. Is it any wonder that one of the branches of the military is called the "infantry?" Look it up, it's based on the tradition of child soldiers. Killing is completely childish.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Happiness is Nice

I am the luckiest man in the world, my life is brimming with beauty and love and richness, I have all a man could want and then more. I truly do feel blessed beyond compare.
I also believe that any sane human being who sees the world as it truly is has to acknowledge the darkness. For some reason, I need to write all the shitty stuff down, like mental vomit, so I can move on and enjoy the good. I also need to catalog the sad and horrible truths of this world so I can continue to fight to improve the way this world is moving, in my own little way.
So here is a catalog of all that is wonderful in my life and all that is horrible in the world. I think any person faced with so much overwhelming advantage and privilege has to want to level the playing field, even the scales, and share the wealth. Any other response can only be called greed, avarice, or insanity.
Here's what I have going for me:
Beautiful, amazing children
A gorgeous and loving wife
A new dream house in the forest
A job that pays well and that I enjoy
Some really nice friends
An extended family that is involved in my life
A community of interesting and engaged fellow parents
A recording studio in Dumbo, filled with all kinds of great instruments
A pretty cool music career and some great musical collaborators
A Vespa GTS 300
A VW Passat wagon
And on and on and on…


Here are the shitty parts of life that keep me up at night. The darkness makes the light worth seeing. The darkness gives hue and heft to the light.

War in Africa
War in the middle east
War in Ukraine
Ongoing slavery all over the world
Famine and starvation
The mistreatment of children
The unneeded abuse of animals
Factory farming
Crappy drivers
People who litter
People who turn on the air conditioner at the same time as the heat (believe me, this happens every day in the event space I work in)
Guns and hunting
People who waste food

War is waged by kids

Right now our world seems to be infected by a critical mass of violent and destructive conflict. All of these conflicts seem to me to boil down to one problem; sexually repressed young people needing to find an outlet for their desire and being easily coerced to act violently. I truly believe that all wars on this beautiful and fucked up planet are caused by this problem. I'm reading a book called "All the Light We Can Not See" about the rise of Hitler and the occupation of France, and it just highlights the same pattern. The rise of a strong, compelling leader who channels the violent tendencies of disaffected youth. Cambodia, Nigeria, Iraq, Syria, The USA, it;s all the same. Violence is a natural out spring of the sexually frustrated. Give people other tools of expression: music, art, dance, poetry, literature, and of course, good old sex.