disruptive play – SHEPHERD SIEGEL https://www.shepherdsiegel.com Tue, 17 Sep 2019 18:41:47 +0000 en hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=5.2.4 https://i0.wp.com/www.shepherdsiegel.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/06/cropped-DisruptivePlay-5.jpg?fit=32%2C32&ssl=1 disruptive play – SHEPHERD SIEGEL https://www.shepherdsiegel.com 32 32 137988190 Bring ‘em in with the Ear Candy Pop…then Throw ‘em the Red Meat Blues https://www.shepherdsiegel.com/bring-em-in-with-the-ear-candy-popthen-throw-em-the-red-meat-blues/ https://www.shepherdsiegel.com/bring-em-in-with-the-ear-candy-popthen-throw-em-the-red-meat-blues/#respond Fri, 06 Sep 2019 00:02:31 +0000 https://www.shepherdsiegel.com/?p=1891 After the flowering of Sixties rock and before the blunt commercial thunder of 80s arena rock, fans took a breezy ride up the escalator of power chords, catchy hooks, and growing audiences—listening, bobbing and maybe dancing to the major acts of the mid-Seventies: Led Zeppelin, Queen, The Who, Pink Floyd, Aerosmith, The Eagles, Cheap Trick, Fleetwood Mac, Alice Cooper, Kiss, Van Halen, Blue Oyster Cult, Styx, Jethro Tull, Journey et al. Some of these acts created less lucrative but more innovative music in the Sixties: Zeppelin, The Who, Floyd, Fleetwood Mac, Jethro Tull, and my guilty pleasure, the Steve Miller Band.

I got to go hear and see the Steve Miller Band for about the eighth time, at the mid-sized Chateau Ste. Michelle Winery here in Western Washington. It’s a nice place for us oldies…comfortable, in a setting among trees and vineyards, but still capable of hosting raucous and swinging rock music. This show, at the end of Miller’s tour, brought great music, entertainment, communality, and satisfaction to the crowd, a crowd he schooled and made wriggle, rock, and roll.

Partly due to my bias of growing up in the Bay Area, but mainly by way of how great their first five albums were, I fell for the Steve Miller Band’s psychedelic blues approach. They landed with the trippy but sturdy late-Sixties LPs Children of the Future and Sailor. The next two albums, Brave New World and Your Saving Grace, featured some of the best rock piano playing by the best rock piano session man, Nicky Hopkins. They recorded evergreen hits like Livin’ in the USA and Space Cowboy (my deep cut: off the album Number 5, “Goin’ to Mexico”)Miller explored a rock/blues/psychedelia form along with countless other white boy bands, mainly Brits and Yankees. He tweaked and mutated the music until he found a commercial resonance, and then ree-bop ba-diddly bop, he rode a wave of huge radio hits: The Joker, Take the Money and Run, Rock’n Me, Fly Like an Eagle, Jet Airliner, Jungle Love, etc. And after more than fifty years as a consummate, professional, rock’n act, Steve Miller continues to write his own ticket, playing classic blues and blues-infected country to audiences in their 30s, 40s, 50s and 60s.

Miller wants to be remembered as part of the blues lineage, both bringing the tradition back and innovating upon it. And he will be. He serves on the Board of Directors at Jazz at Lincoln Center. He learned guitar at a very young age listening to Les Paul in his living room and getting lessons from family friend T-Bone Walker. He played with Howlin’ Wolf, Muddy Waters, Buddy Guy, Junior Wells, James Cotton, and Paul Butterfield. His first San Francisco band included his Texas high school buddy Boz Scaggs. Steve Miller is one of Paul McCartney’s favorite and most frequent collaborators. He’s the real thing.

Steve Miller with Les Paul, 2004.

He hit me over the head with his 2 by 4 of love. First, Miller gave his own history of the blues and his influences to the audience, including among those influences the original electric jazz guitarist Charlie Christian. He then shared his artistic goal: to sound like Jimmy Reed and Freddie King playing a Robert Johnson tune with a T-Bone Walker guitar solo. Okay, cool. But in our over-saturated music-as-wallpaper world, most people, a, don’t listen to music, and b, once they recognize a genre, for example a T-Bone Walker solo, they go oh yeah, this is cool for about 7 seconds and then go back to talking to their friends about whatever. Which is what this show was like. Crappy audience not really giving the musicians enough of a chance…until Miller pulled out that 2 by 4.

He did something I’d not witnessed or participated in for a long time: he got that crowd to listen to, dance to, and dig a T-Bone Walker styled blues, like, all the way through. Who’s T-Bone Walker? He’s Mr. Stormy Monday Blues, he’s the original urban blues artist, but from Texas, he’s the originator of the guitar style that Chuck Berry took and made into rock and roll. So congratulations, Mr. Miller! Thank you for that bit of psychic surgery, taking that audience on a trip down Blues Alley.

And the overall achievement of this show is that Miller has dialed back the arena rock bombast enough to allow for sets that travel through several genres, mixing in blues, country, love ballads and hard rockers. They sounded like a band, not a hit machine.

Steve Miller, Chuck Berry, and Lonnie Turner. 1967, San Francisco.

Take a look at that list of big rock acts from the Seventies from the beginning of this piece. Who among them has taken their prestige as an “oldies group” still able to command a substantial audience, and used that as a means to educate more people about our country and blues roots and some of the truly great artists who continue to go undiscovered, under-appreciated and uncompensated?

Speaking of which, this 2019 tour featured the incredible Marty Stuart and his Fabulous Superlatives, opening the show and joining Miller and his band for several tunes. Stuart is cut from the same cloth as Johnny Cash, but with a more urban sound (when he wants), as well as the ability to change hats and go for a bluegrass-tinged acoustic country sound. In fact, he’s made entire albums of honky-tonk, rockabilly, country rock, traditional country, Western music, gospel, and bluegrass. He’s the real thing, too, having come to fame in 1972 at the age of 13 playing mandolin in Lester Flatt’s band, and in the 80s he joined Johnny Cash’s band. He plays that mandolin still, and well…he’s killer, and able to connect his virtuosity with audiences. He’s got a little of that telepathic mojo that began to bring the audience into the music. Stuart and his band played Woody Guthrie, they played Cash, they played a song about Martin Luther King, JFK and Bobby Kennedy (Tommy Cash’s “Six White Horses”…they took you home before you sang your song). He’s one of the main consultants on Ken Burns’ upcoming Country Music documentary series. He’s about to begin his tenure as the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum’s Artist-in-Residence. And he’s performed with the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra.

Steve Miller loves his life as a musician, and he’s a musician on a mission, really on a bunch of missions. He toured with Peter Frampton last year, to give him one last hurrah; Frampton has had to stop touring due to a rare degenerative muscular disease. Now Miller continues on his determined path with Marty Stuart, educating the audience on musical connections as he rocks us. Calling the tour Classic Rock Meets Classic Country is an understatement, if not a downright misnomer. The two bands’ sets combine in a breathtaking panoply of disparate styles—from the glitzy synthesizer effects of Miller’s Seventies hits to one of his traditional blues, The Lovin’ Cup. From Stuart tearing it up on his mandolin with the fiddle riffs from Orange Blossom Special, to a bred-in-the-bone folk rendition of Woody Guthrie’s Pretty Boy Floyd. And that’s just a small sample.

What once was guilty pleasure has grown to shameless admiration for the music, accomplishment and missions of Steve Miller.

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BOOMER Radio! Many of you will enjoy this interview with Mantz & Mitchell https://www.shepherdsiegel.com/boomer-radio-many-of-you-will-enjoy-this-interview-with-mantz-mitchell/ https://www.shepherdsiegel.com/boomer-radio-many-of-you-will-enjoy-this-interview-with-mantz-mitchell/#respond Mon, 02 Sep 2019 22:13:12 +0000 https://www.shepherdsiegel.com/?p=1885 Continue Reading . . . and Check it out here! Mantz & Mitchell offer great conversation, and I was so pleased to be their guest. They really dug into the book and dig together we did. Alternative talk radio, I did my best, friends!

Your pal,

Shepherd Siegel

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Music? Review? You decide, then play. https://www.shepherdsiegel.com/music-review-you-decide-then-play/ https://www.shepherdsiegel.com/music-review-you-decide-then-play/#respond Mon, 15 Jul 2019 19:05:43 +0000 https://www.shepherdsiegel.com/?p=1833 You know, I never get asked, “Shepherd Siegel, the world knows you as an intergalactically recognized artist…but what are you REALLY like?” Nope, never been asked that.

Well, I just live life by three simple rules. Yours may look a little different, but I think you’ll get the idea. In fact, I’d love to hear what YOUR Three Simple Rules to Live By are.

 

  1. When you’re walking down the street and you see some kind of monkey just sitting on a swing, go ahead and give that monkey a little push.

 

 

 

 

 

2. Have warm and meaningful conversations with your friends

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And 3, Join in with Big Stuffed Bears that Dance to The Moondogies.

[no dadgummit, I couldn’t get it to rotate. Turn head to the right.]

The Ballard Seafoodfest put some fine acts on a pretty well-appointed stage. Four of ‘em on Sunday July 14. The Dusty 45s, who have been on the scene for over 20 years, have a tight show built straight from the DNA of Americana roots and rockabilly. Lead singer Billy Joe Huels is pretty damn good at it, and that’s how you want to kick things off, with a shoot ‘em up fun-lovin’ band. Yes, the flaming trumpet was featured. The Dusty’s set the tone for the evening. And every act—The Dusty 45’s > Carrie Akre > Pickwick > The Moondoggies—as different as they were, featured quality singing. Here be them Dusty 45s.

And what a singer is Carrie Akre. We got a sonic assault of great material from her early 90s Seattle band Goodness. Akre is a Seattle grunge essential, a powerful songwriter, singer, and bandleader tearing through material that is almost 30 years old. It was a true blast from the past, with a different band. But material that might as well have been Nirvana’s jolted us right back into that grunge lightning storm. Given how long ago this stuff was shaking up the world, when we visit it now…grunge joins the ranks of other ‘oldies’ bands. And there’s nothing wrong with that. We all remembered,oh yeah, I love this stuff.  Perhaps Goodness’ most iconic song, Superwise.

 Pickwick’s been making records since 2013. I saw them do an in-store at ye olde record shoppe in 2017. They were real good then, but in 2019…well, they’ve come a long way, almost perfecting a soulful sound, influenced by the likes of Memphis Soul and various rock sources, and pulling off a pretty great vocal mix and a tight and unique band sound. I got realexcited, even dripped mustard from my hot dog onto my shirt (dammit!). the live mix was getting better with each act, so the fun factor was growing. I’d mos’ def’ like to hear what Pickwick can put down into the tracks of their next recording. Here’re two goodies:  Turncoat and Hacienda Motel.

But the night’s honors have to go to the headlining Moondoggies. The beauty of their sound is discovered through their influences, not least of all John Lennon and The Doors, but that said they lean heavily into a country groove and overall play exactly like a 1960s rock band, running through very familiar rock permutations, chords, progressions and sounds, and rarely if ever bringing in any kind of an updated feature. Because they accomplish this in such an unaffected way, they achieve an authenticity that is fresh and not derivative, soulful and heartfelt and not precious. Rock my soul, Moondoggies!

Oh, and by the way, I’ll be hanging out in public and talking ‘bout Disruptive Play, NOTkind of like Gary Busey NOT showing up at the West Seattle Street Fair (harrumph!!!).

See you Wednesday, July 17, 4 PM at Barnes and Noble Downtown Seattle (600 Pine St), or Saturday, July 20, 1 PM at !ndigo Robson, Vancouver, BC (1033 Robson), or Sunday, July 21, 11 AM at !ndigo Granville, Vancouver, BC (2505 Granville). More at www.shepherdsiegel.com

Plant you now and dig you later!

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Dead & Company . . . We’re Still Interstellar! https://www.shepherdsiegel.com/dead-company-were-still-interstellar/ https://www.shepherdsiegel.com/dead-company-were-still-interstellar/#respond Tue, 11 Jun 2019 18:51:57 +0000 https://www.shepherdsiegel.com/?p=1794

Sometimes there is something special about Grateful Dead music. Of course, they’re special even when the singing is out of tune, when they fall off the horse and you experience them getting back on. Their flaws only add to the fun and joy of being among their millions of fans. So . . . there is almost always something special about Dead music.

But by “sometimes” I am referring to times like the Dead & Company June 8 concert at The Gorge at George, Washington.

As to this particular sometime at the second night’s show, and those endearing and frequent human and awkward flaws that bedevil, bewitch, and be bop (a-loola) Dead music—when they are full on ‘on,’ the flaws fall away, and somewhere amongst the mix of psychedelia, funk, blues, reggae, EDM, space, drums, jazz, rock; the place where genres truly join up and touch each other; the swaying and dancing and tripping tuned-in crowd; and the unnamable’s—a moment emerges that can go on for an hour, where the music plays the band, where all is surrender to some greater force that just plain tickles.

And here at The Gorge, in the throes of an epic sunset, That Gorge laid bare the Skin of the Earth, and the River Columbia, the sun, the clouds, the air, the music all come in harmony and we return to nature, to joyful connection and remembering that existence itself is fun.

Not just a special show, but an experience that one hopes can integrate us humans, being alive and being nice to each other, appreciating our earth, where appreciation is an active verb, feeling the call to steward such enormous beauty. We are in fact a part of this beautiful earth, and summoned to the challenge of saving and sustaining life. Feel it!

The second set was particularly wonderful. Dead setlists almost don’t matter. It’s how  swinging and groovy they’re playing at whatever moment in whatever song. Most all their songs serve as worthy launching pads for whatever emotional and musical adventure they might pursue. To highlight the peak chunk of this consistently powerful show, and for those who are familiar with the songs, they played Deal > Viola Lee Blues, and then on to an otherworldly jam. Deadheads call it Drums and Space . . . but that doesn’t do its transportive and transformative powers justice. The Gorge is all about playing music with the earth itself as witness, and when all is in tune, the earth itself as lover.

After that jam segued into The Wheel, we fell back into our earthly souls with Bob Weir giving his all to Bob Dylan’s historic reminder, A Hard Rain’s a-Gonna Fall. Bandleader Weir sang with fervent passion, paying the dues Dylan’s sadly-still-relevant prophecy demands…and he didn’t even forget any of the words!

Again, save mother earth, na na na-na na. Love mother earth.

This was one of the best shows ever. In fact, more than a show.

The previous night, I learned through pictures but no words that something was up with Mac Rebennack, known to those who bought his records and went to his shows as Dr. John.

And God love you, Mr. Rebennack. At The Gorge, they were putting up pictures of Garcia playing and mugging with him. I hadn’t heard the news. His dress was more conventional than the hoodoo voodoo getup, kind of like a blazer and tie. So I wasn’t certain it was him. but, yeah, I would’ve nailed it in a flash had they put this up:

This be the New York Times obituary.

So I’m sayin’ to myself, what’s up? Is that Dr. John? Did he die or something?

Yeah, he done died.

Death Don’t Have No Mercy In This Land.

We knew we were on to something special 53 years ago, at the birth of the Dead. We wondered where “special” would go after Jerry Garcia died. The Grateful Dead had survived and then thrived despite the major loss of Ron “Pigpen” McKernan in 1973, but Jerry’s death could have been a deal breaker. We wondered, but we also knew that there was a torch burning and it could be passed.

Through several iterations with various surviving members, the Faithful kept on twirling and had many good times. But this current lineup and approach of Dead & Company, with even a different musician rappin’ that bass (Oteil Burbridge, who also does a great job singing Garcia’s most plaintive ballads) and possibly the Dead’s best keyboardist ever (Jeff Chimenti), has grabbed that torch, recruited an exceptional guitarist and singer in John Mayer, and listened to how others playing in this 21stcentury . . . and we’re all doin’ the Half Step Mississippi Uptown Toodleoo. S’Wonderful. Buy the ticket and take the ride.

And as to that whole who’s alive and who’s dead thing, Weir has this to say: “I think death means more to most folks than it does to me. I take it fairly lightly. I don’t know how much of a divide death puts between us and the hereafter—if after is even an applicable adjunct there.”

Hello baby, I’m gone, goodbye.

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The Wrong Arguments https://www.shepherdsiegel.com/the-wrong-arguments-3/ https://www.shepherdsiegel.com/the-wrong-arguments-3/#respond Tue, 28 May 2019 15:47:10 +0000 https://www.shepherdsiegel.com/?p=1777 Part 3: Let It All Hang Out

We could be building a society where all people are free to seek balance in their lives, an omnarchy that celebrates and incorporates a holistic vision of humanity that quite simply includes everyone. And the basic, obvious, it’s-about-time-ness of equal pay and equal opportunity are foregone conclusions.

Instead we make the wrong arguments for gender equality based on numbers and equal status for all in a system that was instituted and sustained by a patriarchy. The point of feminism is not to have gender equity in the highest ranks of corporate capitalism or on the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The point is to recognize the patriarchal nature of capitalism and militarism themselves and to build a feminized economy inspired by the most virtuous qualities of the human condition.

We could be looking at every product and service and assess whether it functions better—environmentally, economically, with justice for all—as a public utility or in a competitive marketplace. Consider health care, firefighting, electricity, basic food, transportation, energy, internet access, education etc. as worthy candidates for being public utilities. Consider food beyond the basics, the arts, appliances, homes, fashion, innovation, etc. as candidates for an open marketplace. And make the decision that is best for the health of the nation, the planet and best for life.

Instead we get stuck in the wrong arguments about the superiority of capitalism versus socialism, when it’s obvious that one system does not solve all economic problems. Ideologues—not the government, not the market—are the problem.

We could admit to the US’s role in creating the conditions that compel families to attempt immigration, legal and otherwise. With better education and the courage to face our own legacy, we could acknowledge the facts of US extraction of resources and wealth from other countries—theft justified by capitalist practices and backed up by the US military. The US is not the only culprit, but we need to confess to our misdeeds that have contributed to global instability, poverty and climate change…the kind of climate change that makes life challenging, particularly in the hottest latitudes. We could be having a discussion about what we owe other countries for our theft of cheap labor, oil, minerals, gems, crops, life, and other resources by unfair and exploitative methods. We could be making amends and helping to solve the problems that plague the developing world.

Instead we are mired in the wrong arguments about how to enforce border security and control immigration.

I am beyond frustrated by the lack of discourse about the things we could be doing. I am beyond frustrated by the gridlock of our collective national personality that keeps us from DOING the things we could be doing.

Instead, the airwaves and kitchen tables are filled with conversations based on what I believe to be the wrong arguments. How do you break through the media morass without becoming part of the media morass? We need to start having the right arguments, the debates that bring together a national consensus and demand the prompt actions that will give hope and deliver results. At least the field of Democratic presidential candidates is surfacing some fresh ideas.

We’ve been having the wrong arguments, but I am ready to get on with the right ones.

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The Wrong Arguments https://www.shepherdsiegel.com/the-wrong-arguments-2/ https://www.shepherdsiegel.com/the-wrong-arguments-2/#respond Sat, 25 May 2019 15:39:35 +0000 https://www.shepherdsiegel.com/?p=1773 Part 2: Lawyers, Guns and Money

We could be getting to the root causes of homelessness by offering a more meaningful public high school education. Such an education, among other things, offers and promotes programs that teach the skills that earn access into all legitimate forms of well-paid employment. Blue collar and all other non-baccalaureate careers could be given the dignity, attention and enrollment that minimizes unemployment and disengagement from the US economy. Naïve and misdirected education policies have all but banished vocational education from the discussions of what is important in secondary education. And for that matter, it would seem that democracy (i.e., civics) is less and less a critical subject in our schools.

The increase in STEM education is beginning to effect some change. But we still continue to track people into poverty and homelessness, as both the public, private and charter education systems gear themselves to equip students only for a liberal arts or humanities baccalaureate degree. That is faith-based practice at its worst. Ultimately, no one should be homeless, and to have all young people endowed with skills needed in the general economy [present and future], is the most powerful antidote to homelessness. What do we want for all but self-sufficiency? Why are we distracted by the wrong arguments that fail to focus on that basic responsibility of the educational system?

We could limit CEO compensation, and the richest nation in the history of the world could establish a guaranteed income for all citizens, or safety nets tantamount to that. We could reduce income inequality through programs that create more job opportunities. We could be thinking about how all citizens will live and thrive when, due to advances in technology, full employment is no longer necessary. We could be finding ways to promote and spread mental health for people of all ages.

We could be working for peace and considering the non-military forms of US involvement with other nations that ease tensions, feed people, provide health care, and support democracy. We could explore and exercise all options before we commit to any military actions. We could be having these conversations in the public commons. We could be building a world that requires only the barest minimum of a military.

Yet this vision is absent from the public discourse. Instead we consider military intervention, yes or no, as if it were the only option before us. We increase our military power.

We delve into the wrong arguments about who can or cannot serve in our military, and how we should call out and prosecute sexual assault within the armed forces. And yes, we must call out and prosecute…but making the military a safer place for women and sexual minorities to serve becomes a more moot point in a world made safe from the terror, killing, and destruction that a military wreaks. So instead of banning transgender folks, let’s be fair and work for a world where we ban everyone from the military.

The idea that pops up regularly but never gains traction is national service, and that to serve one’s country and strengthen the promise of democracy is a noble act, one we might even require. But it should rarely if ever require picking up a gun.

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The Wrong Arguments https://www.shepherdsiegel.com/the-wrong-arguments/ https://www.shepherdsiegel.com/the-wrong-arguments/#respond Mon, 20 May 2019 06:55:49 +0000 https://www.shepherdsiegel.com/?p=1757 Part 1: Can I get a witness?

Recent shifts in American politics have brought some benefits. Average Jane’s, Joe’s, They’s and Those are more politically aware, concerned, maybe even involved and active. Advances in technology may deliver new modes of participatory democracy that have more traction than a mouse-click but less risk than fighting in the streets. Nonetheless, the straitjacket put on the so-called discourse we’re force fed from mainstream media, which in turn affects how we talk to each other…aggravates! Where are imaginative thinking, real news, and deeper analyses? Pundits rehash the same talking points, survey the same limited options, and sustain their ratings as we just watch them bang into the bumpers. They tie themselves to the wrong arguments; arguments that limit possibilities and the discovery of initiatives that will move us forward.

Can I get a witness?

We could be building a society where all unwanted and unplanned-for children are guaranteed food, shelter, clothing, education, health care and excellent prospects for a good life and the pursuit of happiness. A society where reproductive freedom and abortion is legal, affordable, accessible, and decided by the pregnant woman—but rarely exercised.

This is in fact a market-based approach. Create a society with great incentives for taking the baby to term instead of prohibiting abortion. Pro-lifers NEVER address this. Instead they make the wrong argument that all life must be preserved regardless of the circumstance surrounding that pregnancy and the prognosis for the unborn child’s life.

The media could devote more time, every day, to impress upon us the seriousness of our environmental crisis and point to solutions and the dire necessity of action to stop the destruction of Earth’s habitability for life as we know it. And the media could devote time daily to the means by which we can increase gainful employment for those who would be displaced by a more environmentally benign economy.

Instead we argue about whether oil, gas, coal or other fossil fuels should or shouldn’t be fully utilized. We discuss issues of employment, of education for employment, and the environment as if they were separate and unrelated. We shy away from the political actions that hold the destroyers of the environment accountable for their actions. We rarely talk of policies that coordinate saving the earth, education, and jobs…though the Green New Deal does finally broach that. Workers in coal, oil, and gas, and students headed in that direction, need the kind of education that will prepare them for well-paid yet greener work. Yet we make the wrong arguments about the economy as if it functions in a bubble that does not dramatically affect the environment. [Stay tuned for Part 2]

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Happy Birthday, Erik Satie! https://www.shepherdsiegel.com/happy-birthday-erik-satie/ https://www.shepherdsiegel.com/happy-birthday-erik-satie/#respond Fri, 17 May 2019 15:42:33 +0000 https://www.shepherdsiegel.com/?p=1751

One of the very greatest exponents of tricksterism in music. Wikipedia sez: Éric Alfred Leslie Satie (French: [eʁik sati];[1] 17 May 1866 – 1 July 1925), who signed his name Erik Satie after 1884, was a French composer and pianist. Satie was an influential artist in the late 19th- and early 20th-century Parisian avant-garde. His work was a precursor to later artistic movements such as minimalism, repetitive music, and the Theatre of the Absurd.[2]

Wikipedia be sayin mo’…

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Time Travel, the Pogo Stick of Philosophy [Part 1] https://www.shepherdsiegel.com/time-travel-the-pogo-stick-of-philosophy-part-1/ https://www.shepherdsiegel.com/time-travel-the-pogo-stick-of-philosophy-part-1/#respond Fri, 12 Apr 2019 16:23:18 +0000 https://www.shepherdsiegel.com/?p=1702 In 1895, H.G. Wells’ The Time Machine captured the popular imagination and set the tone for our infinite fascination with time travel. Its attendant gadgetry kept the nerdier fans busy, while others were distracted by the possible and impossible science of it.

 

But the idea of time travelers is more significant. The time traveler, like a cosmic pogo sticker, bounces in and out of moments, performs from a place of detachment, yet also influence. Uprooted from the present, the personality of time travelers may seem cavalier, not responsible or bound to the consequences of their actions. But the Pogo Stick Thesis is that time travelers, in their ability to witness, digest, and consider the failings of the past and the promise of the future, can shed light on a more playful, hopeful, and less timebound society.

The well-worn but amusing tropes of time travel appear frequently. Among the oodles areMr. Peabody’s Improbable History (The Wayback Machine), Woman on the Edge of Time (Marge Piercy’s feminist take), Pan’s Labyrinth, The Twilight Zone, 12 Monkeys, Back to the Future, A Wrinkle in Time, Slaughterhouse Five, A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court, andDr. Who, to name just a few.

J.K. Rowling suitably restates it in her Harry Potter novel,The Prisoner of Azkaban. In Alfonso Cuarón’s film version, Harry and Hermione make daring rescues, then show up back at Hogwarts. Potter allays suspicions, with tongue in cheek, “Honestly, Ron, how can somebody be in two places at once?”

And Jimi Hendrix sings “…I’m a million miles away, and at the same time I’m right here in your picture frame.” Lighthearted spins on a person multiplying themselves by time-traveling into their own past. Time travel is fun!Might it foment a particular attitude, or converge on a particular personality type?

Time travel is an attribute of the rule-breaking Trickster archetype, which has been with us since at least the time of Jacob. The Trickster takes many forms, but is defined by playfulness, and C.G. Jung describes tricksters as typically having these qualities: ‘…a fondness for sly jokes and malicious pranks…powers as a shape-shifter…[a] dual nature, half animal, half divine…exposure to all kinds of tortures, and—last but not least…approximation to the figure of a saviour….In his clearest manifestations, he is a faithful copy of an absolutely undifferentiated human consciousness.’Two examples are particularly instructive and demonstrate the lighthearted approach of the trickster that substitutes fun for power. […to be continued in this space/time]

 

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Time Travel, The Pogo Stick of Philosophy [Part 2] https://www.shepherdsiegel.com/time-travel-the-pogo-stick-of-philosophy-part-2/ https://www.shepherdsiegel.com/time-travel-the-pogo-stick-of-philosophy-part-2/#respond Thu, 11 Apr 2019 16:11:17 +0000 https://www.shepherdsiegel.com/?p=1724 In King Lear, theGodfather of its time, Shakespeare exposes the folly of power through his narrative of it slipping away. Lear’s Fool matches elusive power with a taunting dance of his own. He represents Lear’s conscience, but Lear ignores him. The Fool makes Lear’s madness worse, driving him crazy. He dances on the play’s mushrooming graves and uses his power of prophecy to make a critique of priests, brewers, nobles, squires, usurers, tailors, bawds, and whores. Time is his theme.

By definition and decree he has no power, but he has vision. He sees power as madness. Shakespeare further endows this uncanniest of characters with time travel abilities. Does that embolden and empower him to mock power without hesitation or fear? In his final lines, The Fool invokes “The prophecy Merlin shall make, for I live before his time,”suggesting his ability to travel from Lear’s 8thcentury BCE to Merlin’s 500 AD.

Then suddenly he vanishes. The Fool provokes by his very absence. Freed from Lear’s endgame, freed of time’s bonds, the Fool drifts out of the play and into another era.

Lear’sFool has the privilege of speaking truth to power, but he wields none in the conventional/institutional sense. In mythology and folklore, Tricksters obtain power through trickery, not imperial conquest, or it is a First Principle. In his comic retelling of King Lear, Christopher Moore discovers the Fool’s divine potentiality and detached uprootedness: “The fool’s number is zero, but that’s because he represents the infinite possibility of all things. He may become anything. See, he carries all of his possessions in a bundle on his back. He is ready for anything, to go anywhere, to become whatever he needs to be. Don’t count out the fool…simply because his number is zero.”

Shakespeare’s political wisdom is that power is a fool’s game, and it takes a Fool to reveal this. Through the depth ofLear’s characters and the device of time travel, Shakespeare offers a narrow yet hopeful and shimmering lifeline to the possibility of a world based less on power and more on the lightheartedness that time travel inspires. Shakespeare’s Fool points to future possibilities. Though bound in the trappings of the court jester, time travel is his trump card, his prophetic transcendence of power.

What about the more fully formed Trickster character, Bugs Bunny? In 1944’s The Old Grey Hare, Bugs and his foil Elmer Fudd time-travel to the year 2000, where, in their creaky twilight years, the comic antagonists play out their eternal routine. ‘Eh, what’s up, prune-face?’ hails old Bugs, who is suffering from lumbago.

In a tour de force of phony sentimentality, Bugs fakes a mortal wound when shot by Elmer’s Buck Rogers Lightning-Quick Rabbit-Killer. He whips out a scrapbook he’d apparently been keeping and we time-travel again, back to their first chase as infants. After re-enacting the “What’s up, doc? I’m looking for a little baby bunny. What’s he look like, doc? He looks…just like you!”routine, the chase ensues, but is suddenly halted. Baby Bugs says “uh-oh, time for little babies to have afternoon nap.” The two curl up together and snooze. “Okay nap over” declares Bugs, and the chase resumes.

Sure, it’s a typical smart-aleck gag, but it also means Bugs’ creators are traveling back to their own infancies, lighthearted and child-like and broadly playful.

Bugs Bunny stewards the ethos of time-traveling tricksterism. He does not lack compassion, but he also refuses to take anything seriously. He remains detached, he floats above situations, and like a time traveler, gains the perspective of the long view. Consider the play of animals, of cartoon characters, and of infant and toddler humans, and how, in the real world, adults who can recall and re-live their childhood frolics refresh their psyches by time-traveling back and forth from their own early childhood to the present.

But how does this play out in the real world, a real world of waning playtimes? [Watch this space for Part 3]

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