Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

I am still here

Posted: June 2, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

And Alive.  

All is well.20151010_194456

 

Stay tuned, much more to come!

 

 

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Unseen Dimensions

It is great to be human.  We see beyond our primitive instincts.  We learn by watching others.  We know things our senses blind us to.  We carry lessons learned from one event and apply to others.  This is one of the reasons I love photography.  Our naked eyes and untrained mind can hide what is right in front of us.  With the simple ability to focus and zoom, we are no longer limited to what the unaided eyes communicate to the brain.  With the pictures in this post, it is easy understand the dramatic change in focus alone.  Each picture was taken in the same place and at almost the exact same time.  A slight change in focus and what was invisible becomes clear.  Zoom in further and what is hidden directly in front of us becomes unmistakable.

Perhaps looking for other dimensions is just like that; maybe we need a simple device like the lens array in a camera.  Once we learn how to look – we may be able to see them all around us.

There is a joke, not much of a joke really, but a saying that describes a point of view we too often have in the United States:

Question:

What do you call it when you speak two languages?

Answer:

Bi-lingual.

Question:

What do you call it when you speak several languages?

Answer:

Multi-lingual.

Question:

What do you call it if you speak one language?

Answer:

American.

As you can see it is not really funny and not really a joke, but I use this often to remind myself how different our decisions and thoughts can be depending on perspective or point of view.  I was delighted with the response to my recent poem entitled “Hearts of Stone“.  (…..Actually, I initially titled it “Where You Live”.  As mentioned before I am not good at naming my own songs.  My daughter Alisa – and partner in the success of this blog – correctly suggested I change the title).  I wanted to give you a bit of history to this poem as it was actually inspired by follower comments.  All of which I read and respond to – not as quickly as I like but I try to get to them all as I truly appreciate the time and thoughts from so many people.

I have often mentioned that I am thankful for access and exposure to thoughts and feedback around the globe.  It helps open my eyes to things I would not normally consider.  Creative people all over the world are represented here and it is amazing what an impact you have had on me and my writings.  A while back I posted a question about what was your first concert.  While many responses were very cool, some responded they were not allowed to have huge concerts in their country.  This struck me deeply.  First; as a callous question from an arrogant blogger who takes life for granted.  We often complain about politics or taxes and a million other things in the US and other countries but we have a choice.  We may not get our way but we can voice our opinion and discuss our thoughts openly.  This is not true everywhere.  Secondly: it drove this arrogant blogger to think about how many things we take for granted every day.  So I tried to look around my little piece of the world from another point of view.

The first line is kind of an inside joke and would easily be understood by people that live in places line my town.  We often have cloudy – hazy skies most of the time and it gets so bad that the traffic reports have to remind us what that big bright thing in the sky is on sunny days!  Often at night we do not see stars and frequently miss the experiences of full moons or eclipses.  The rest of the poem tries to reflect the things humans might notice looking at their world.  Some are glorious and beautiful and worth celebrating while other things are tragic and unimaginable to ‘outsiders’.

I have read the words in this poem many times since posting the poem on MIDIMike and a melody keeps creeping into my subconscious when I repeat them.  In the same line as the global inspiration for the lyrics, the melody and arrangement is not my ‘normal’ style.  I may be the only one that likes it, but I cannot get rid of it.  I will be finished putting this poem to music soon, but to be forewarned it is not a replica of my past works and musical pieces.  It is my thanks to all of you.  It is a sharing.  It is an apology for not keeping my mind open to others.  It is a simple reflection from deep inside.  It is an invitation to continuing communications that will bring different cultures and peoples together.  If we cannot communicate we are doomed.

I will post as a song as soon as I have a decent recording of what has been spiraling inside my head.

Click Here to read the original poem.

There have been many memorable events in my life to date and many more to come.  It might not be apparent at the time the impact any one of them would have at the time.  I have never been diagnosed or treated professionally but I find myself dealing with depression from time to time.  It is impossible to know what triggers those feelings and more difficult to see your way out. On one of those times I could not break the cycle.  I had no motivation or inspiration.  In fact, I did not care at all.  About anything.  I had been through similar situations before so for weeks I kept telling myself it would pass in its own time.  I would get through this one as well.  But that was the only positive thought I had.  Life not worth living.  Nothing made me happy or sad. I forced myself through motions and obligations by shear routine.   I seemed like this would go on forever.  It felt unbearable even though most of my friends had no idea what I was dealing with.

I had tickets to see an amazing show under any circumstances, so I went to see Cirque du Soleil.  It is funny how this affected me.  I watched human beings do what seemed impossible even if you could think of the skills in the first place.  Art and amazing physical prowess seamlessly blended together to tell a story with few words.  Strength and perfection only achieved with years and years of unrelenting practice and sacrifice.  It again showed me the potential of mankind.  Dedication, creativity, trust, respect were all required to make this amazing performance happen.  I realized watching each scene that we are incredible beings when we try. That night I started trying again.  I saw the end of the funk that was created by myself – for myself.  I could see again the beauty of life and the result of hard work when things seem impossible.

History sometimes repeats itself. Funny to think of this after my recent event at a concert to see my musical mentor and hero – Peter Gabriel, performing on tour with Sting.  It is so refreshing to know there are others in the world that struggle to be good.  That work every day to promote peace love and all that corny stuff I could not live without.  In their music and through their lives they can impact so many.  I thought I would never be able to see Gabriel perform.  I have come close, but things did not work out. They almost did not work out this time either.  Of all the artists/people in the world, his music, words and projects affect me like no other person on this earth.  I am who I am with his unknowing help and guidance.  I struggle to be better knowing it is possible.

I grew up listening to Genesis and following his solo career.  I am not obsessed and do not own everything he has.  I do not know every detail of his personal life or career.  But I do think I ‘know the man’.  I understand him as a man and not an idol.  We are growing old together.

Sting was also amazing and sang a number of Peter’s songs, and performing his own tunes and some from the days of The Police.  For me, it was precious, unforgettable and one of the greatest musical experiences I have had.

I was playing acoustic guitar in the living room the other night and I was playing a piece that I had written decades ago. My good friend Tom Robinson added some chords to the structure and it became a favorite instrumental of ours called “Lurker”. I think the name fit as the instrumental piece has a LOT of intentional dissonance and it keeps repeating the pattern over an over, though it changes feeling as the piece is played. I thought about doing something with this guitar piece (there were never other instruments, just the guitar parts) and headed up to the studio. In my computer I found a file called “Lurker” and I opened it up not knowing what it was.

As it turned out a couple years ago I had worked on some drum patterns to go with the guitar part – which like other things, got put on the to do list as I went on to other projects. Funny how many simultaneous projects I have going at any given time. I like the feeling the drums added and thought I would record the guitar piece and play with the tune. As I worked with it I naturally started to think about lyrics for it. Then it hit me – the instrumental piece is repetitious as I mentioned and really doesn’t change ( no Chorus, Bridge or Break or alternate chord arrangement, etc.) The post “Some People” is the same way. It was not structured like a normal “commercial” song. (not that I have ever written one of those!)

So I have been working on the two and I thought this is still going to work as a blogger project. I may add other instruments going forward as it still has just the guitar and drum parts and I toyed with a spooky synth sound for the solo.

I also put up a video on my you tube channel with color pictures I have taken over the years. Some black and white pictures courtesy of Tom Robinson.

I make music and take pictures, but my wife is the creative half of the team.  She does it all.  I have threatened to list her abilities here before but none of us have that much time!  She loves to carve pumpkins during the Halloween season and would other times if pumpkins were around.  We would have the kids and grand kids come over and carve pumpkins in the back yard.  It was so much fun and the kids really loved it too.  She made the mistake of telling a few friends and the next year they invited themselves.  We all had a blast.  I am not great in the carving department so I would gut them for the little kids, make sure music was playing and everyone had a hot drink and a perfect pumpkin to work on.  It was a great family event and each year we looked forward to pumpkin carving time.

It seemed like a harmless mistake.  Friends told other friends.  Each year we had more and more people coming over.  We provided the pumpkins and you could take yours home after showing them off to everyone.  The carving tools got more elaborate.  The patterns and artwork more challenging and the carved pumpkins were AWESOME.  I served more hot drinks, gutted more pumpkins than I could count.

Soon we had more events; we had a screaming contest to see who had the most blood-curdling ear-piercing screams (the little kids were unbeatable!).  We had walnut trees and as a result a walnut throwing contest.  Haunted trails through the woods.

Then came the hay rides!  Not to be outdone, we had a haunted house the next year using lights, fog machines and other equipment from the bands I played in.  People started bringing soup and chili to share so we had contests for the best dish.  We started buying pumpkins by the skid!   It now took almost a month to plan the events and get masks, haunted house, hay rides and everything else ready for the big day.

My wife and I were so busy entertaining that she could no longer take the time to carve pumpkins!  This is why the whole thing started and now she could not carve any of her own.  WE were exhausted by the end of the day and even though we had a great time and everyone loved the event, we looked around and decided not to do it next year.  Or the year after.

Fortunately, friends of ours started their own carving events and we went over to theirs to carve pumpkins for a few years until they moved out of state!

With that in mind, here are just a few of the pictures.  Maybe one day close to Halloween I will post the winners of the screaming contest!

While performing with my last cover band, Crash Landing, we played local clubs, festivals and private parties.  In this picture of a live set up, you will see a fairly standard rock/blues/country/alternative/jazz band stage arrangement;  drums center rear, Lead Vocalist center front.  Keys (and/or rhythm guitar) on the left as you look at the stage and the lead guitar player on the right.  In smaller clubs the keyboards get crunched back in the corner next to the drummer……  no sour grapes here!  Bass player close to the drummer. (either side doesn’t really matter)  In reality, most bands will not practice in this configuration, but this is the way most of us play out live and we are quite used to it.  In our case, Crash Landing has a number of vocalists.  All but the drummer sings in this band.  The bass player takes front stage position and sings a number of lead vocals.  So does the guitar player.  You can see where the microphone stands are placed for the vocalists.  Close up pictures later in this series will show other microphone positions for the instruments.  These are good places to start.  If you have limited time or setting up for a number of bands in an evening, you go with the standard format and shape the sound from the board as much as possible.  Knowing or having experience doing the quick set-up successfully a few times you will see the standard configuration and mic placements work well for the vast majority of performances.

We can also see the positioning of the vocal stage monitors across the front of the stage.  There are various thoughts on how to set these up but the differences can seem minor.  For this many vocalists across the front, this spacing and direction worked fairly well.  The drummer and/or other non-vocalists might also need monitors.  (it would not be unusual for the keyboard player requiring a monitor to hear the keyboards and a vocal mix if they sing)  This stage size gives players room to breath AND hear.  When inside on a smaller stage, everything seems to collide and jumble.  Outside you can hear yourself play much better (depending on the sound engineer, of course) and at times you might actually struggle just a little to hear the other players!  Take two steps closer to them and they are plenty loud.  This should be an easier situation for a sound engineer.  If I had to do a first gig in my life as a practice run, I would want to do an outdoors gig.

Crash Landing

Below you will see what are probably my favorite pictures that I have ever taken.  For complete disclosure, you will want to know the subjects of the picture are my eldest daughter, Teneca, and her eldest daughter, Mary Jane, so I am admittedly and undeniably influenced.  These pictures were taken a few years ago in a local wooded area that leads to a small and well-hidden city park.  During our walk, they stopped to look at the amazing beauty of nature.  Teaching, sharing, and appreciating the fall paradise.  These wonderful times are available for those willing to look and listening to sounds of creatures all but hidden in plain site.

Seeing the smile, the simple fascination and pleasure of life all around, mixed with love and the comfort of family makes me feel young; glad to be a part of a continuing story.  To have played my part earlier and to watch it played out again.  Nothing but awesome.  I believe we can influence the future of our children’s lives in positive ways when we take the time at an early age.  You just can’t accomplish this in schools or on-line.

 

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The time is all right,

The music’s all right

But that’s not the way you feel.

 

You think it’s so sad,

You drove yourself mad.

Don’t forget, you made a deal.

 

What happened that day, made you run away

‘Til your world seemed so unreal.

All of your friends said, you were living dead,

It takes time for wounds to heal.

 

You stopped and looked around,

What you need could be found.

Don’t need a lucky break, to handle what we make,

We can make it as two.

 

Your mamma’s all right,

Your daddy’s all right.

They both love you the way you are.

 

Yes snowflakes can fall,

And not land at all.

Life is not quite so bizarre.

 

What happened that day, made you run away

‘Til your world seemed so unreal.

All of your friends said, you were living dead,

It takes time for wounds to heal.

 

You stopped and looked around,

What you need could be found.

Don’t need a lucky break, to handle what we make,

We can make it as two.

 

This song is on my new album Before The Chase available now on itunes!

 

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In my last job, it was my pleasure to report to the president of the company and the Executive Team in regular formal meetings.  My part was to present the thoughts, concerns and suggestions in any and all facets of product, services or communications that interfaced or affected the customer.  John Larson was the president at the time and he formalized this process as “The Voice of the Customer”.

I was to bring up any issues that we heard in the Call Center, Retail Store outlets, Social Media, Live Chat and other communications.  As part of his directive, I would not only give him and the Executive Team perspective from feedback we would hear ‘in the trenches’, but also to offer suggestions to improve customer experience, relieve processing delays or perceived road blocks to any and all customer interactions.  This report included everything from product design, repairs, support, marketing, communications and many other company efforts.

In his wisdom, John Larson realized it was important that everyone in the company understood what we were all there for in the first place, and that each of us had a role to play in how positively – or negatively we impacted our customers.  He understood the Executive Team might think they are successful and doing a great job in their own perspective fields yet still fail miserably in the customer’s eyes.

I bring this up in a political climate where watching the debates (from both parties) leads me to ask two questions from my usual sarcastic point of view;

1) Of all the talented and educated people in this country, are these candidates the best America has to offer?  Is this really the best we can do as a nation?

2) Who speaks for Americans?  I know there are party-faithful people out there but when I listen to the politicians that climb to the top of the heap I realize none of them speak for me.  I have not heard my concerns reflected for a very long time.

I also would like to make sure you understand that I do not ‘buy in’ to the common and fatal cultural mistake of blaming everyone else but me and criminalizing others for our problems.

There are politicians – policemen – civil servants – lawyers – teachers – people of faith – people without formal religious beliefs – immigrants – poor – or rich – that are dedicated, sincere, hard working and unselfish in their attempts to do what is best, even though it is not easy and certainly not appreciated.

I would love to help.  I thought about entering politics at an early age as a noble way to serve my country.  I still do.  But then President Kennedy was assassinated.  Then Bobby Kennedy was struck down and to my horror the list kept growing.  As my last name is Kennedy, that talked me out of politics quickly.  Maybe I let ‘them’ win.  Maybe that is what they wanted.

And here we are.  Voters that believe in ‘democracy’ only as long as they are in the majority.  Only if they continue to control every aspect in our lives and can influence each decision to make sure they fit their beliefs or allow them to benefit from disadvantaging others.  Powerful people that feel it is their option to take as much as they want from whomever they can; because they can.  If you make the laws, you can never be convicted of breaking the law.

Does it make sense to elect more and more politicians from a narrowing list that only includes the wealthiest candidates?  Do we benefit most Americans when the rich only talk to the ultra-rich to decide what policies, laws and directions our nation will take?   Who speaks for Americans?  More importantly, who listens?

Listen to those with other opinions.  They are not your enemy simply because they have a different perspective.  Read more than just ‘bumper stickers’ to make your decision.  Go out and vote.  Pick the lesser of two evils until we get a real choice.