Tuesday, May 23, 2017
From Sun Ra's 1973 concert for the comet Kohoutek.
The sound of joy is enlightenment.
Space, fire, truth is enlightenment.
Sometimes it's music,
The sound of thought is enlightenment.
The magic light of tomorrow.
Backwards are those of sadness,
Forward and onward are those of gladness.
Enlightenment is my tomorrow.
It has no planes of sorrow.
Hereby, my invitation,
I do invite you be of my space world.
This song is sound of enlightenment.
The fiery truth of enlightenment.
Vibrations come from the space world
Is of the cosmic, starry dimension.
Enlightenment is my tomorrow.
It has no planes of sorrow.
Hereby, my invitation,
I do invite you to be of my space world.
I had the privilege of not only seeing Sun Ra and his Arkestra perform several times in the '70s, but also of actually encountering the man on a couple of occasions on the street of New York City and Boston. In NYC, I was getting on the subway when the doors opened and out stepped Sun Ra, dressed in full cosmic adornment (the man was never not in character). I dropped to a full prostration bow, but he gestured for me to arise and then somehow managed to disappear into the Gotham night.
A few years later, I was watching the Donald Sutherland remake of the movie Invasion of the Body Snatchers in Boston, and when I left the theater, Sun Ra and members of his Arkestra were exiting the movie theater with me (they were in town playing a legendary five-night stand at The Orpheum). We had watched the movie together!, I realized, and Sun Ra even answered my question and assured me that beings on Saturn don't behave like the body snatchers in the movie.
Anyway, Sun Ra, who left this mortal dimension in 1993, would have turned 103 yesterday.
Monday, May 22, 2017
Life is hard, brutal, punishing, narrow, and confining, a deadly business. - Epictetus (AD 50 – 135)
The First Noble Truth is the existence of suffering - Shakyamuni Buddha (563 – 483 BC)
Worst of all, continual fear and danger of violent death, and the life of man, solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short. - Thomas Hobbes (1588–1679), Leviathan
Sunday, May 21, 2017
Thursday, May 18, 2017
"Impermanence is swift; life-and-death is the vital matter." - Zen Master Eihei Dōgen (永平道元; Japan, AD 1200 – 1253)
"The whole future lies in uncertainty: live immediately." - Seneca the Younger (Rome, 4 BC – AD 65). Seneca taught practical steps by which one might confront life's problems. In particular, he considered it important to confront one's own mortality. The discussion of how to approach death dominates many of his letters.
Wednesday, May 17, 2017
Sometimes, I find the ugly to be beautiful - I like to see things that are banged up, rusting, and abandoned in pieces and left to rot in the sun. Weeds growing up around an old rusty chassis are as attractive to me as a slick showroom model car. Patterns can emerge from chaos and if they don't emerge, the absence of pattern can be a pattern in itself. I like the squealing sound of train wheels, the sound of breaking glass, and the clanking of chains over cross ties. I like the smell of creosote in the morning.
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.
Tuesday, May 16, 2017
Republican tool Paul Ryan came to Atlanta yesterday to campaign for Congressional candidate Karen Handel, who is in a well-publicized runoff election against Democrat Jon Ossoff to win the seat vacated by Trump's selection of Tom Price for Secretary of Health and Human Services. As patriotic Americans, we need this election to go to Ossoff, not just to pick up a Democratic seat in the House and not just to infuriate The Donald, but also to block Handel's continued political ambitions.
We here at the Politics Desk of Water Dissolves Water have been ranting about Handel for a while now, attempting to warn an unsuspecting nation of the dangers she represents. Way back in 2009, we pointed out that as Secretary of State, Handel considered suing the Justice Department to overturn Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act. In a press release, Handel claimed "We have evidence that non-citizens have voted in past Georgia elections, and that more than 2,100 individuals have attempted to register." No such evidence existed or was ever presented.
In 2010, she tried to run for Governor, fortunately unsuccessfully, even though she got an endorsement from none other than Mama Bear Sarah Palin. Back then, we noted that her "signature accomplishment was passing a controversial photo-ID requirement for voting, a measure considered by many to discourage mainly poor and minority voters, and much of her political career has been built around the virtually non-existent issue of 'voter fraud'.”
The next day, we noted that with the Palin endorsement locked down, Handel was proclaiming herself as the true-blood conservative in the race, while her opponents in the race were painting her as some sort of baby-killing, sodomite liberal - while running for office early in her career in relatively liberal Fulton County, she had endorsed gay/lesbian rights and once made a small contribution to the Log Cabin Republicans, and she got booty-blasted by Georgia's influential right-to-life lobby for supporting a rape-and-incest exception to a hypothetical abortion ban and for opposing sharp restrictions on in vitro fertility clinics.
As the primary season continued, Handel's opponents continued to define themselves as the true conservatives in the race, and framed the run-off campaign as being conservatives (them) versus non-conservatives (her). Handel was the only Republican candidate in the primary not endorsed by the Georgia Right to Life PAC and as we noted in late July 2010, Melanie Crozier, the PAC's director, wrote an article in Politico that claimed that Handel's endorser, Sarah Palin, "has a son with Down syndrome, and under Karen Handel’s laws, Handel would have felt like it was OK to go in and abort that child."
It was ugly, and Handel lost the primary to her Republican opponent, Nathan Deal, who went on to become a two-term Governor of Georgia, and she seemed to fade from the spotlight until 2012, when it became apparent that in the intervening years Handel had somehow become a new Senior Policy Advisor for the Susan B. Komen Foundation, and that she had directed the breast-cancer charity to cut off all of its funding for cancer screening to Planned Parenthood. That turned into a public-relations fiasco of the highest order and ultimately resulted in Handel's resignation. Of course, she claimed that she was the real victim in the dust-up, and wrote a book called Planned Bullyhood or some other such nonsense.
As we noted here in 2012, one fairly obvious motive for trying to insert a cancer charity into an abortion-rights controversy was that she had wanted to develop some "pro-life" credentials to compensate for the Achilles' heel that had cost her a shot at the Governor race. Under this theory, we noted, "the chilling possibility that she may run again, whether for Georgia Governor in 2014 or for some other office, must be considered." And now, here we are in 2017, and she's opportunistically running for an open U.S. Congress seat.
To those of us here at the Politics Desk, Karen Handel is like a booger on the finger that we just can't shake off. After enduring her tenure as Secretary of State, we thought we were rid of her until she popped up in the Governor's race, and then following that defeat, we thought she was gone until the Susan B. Komen affair. While we had our suspicions, it seemed like there was no coming back from that disaster, but now here she is, once again, trying to represent us in Congress.
If you need any more proof of her unfitness for national office, look at the very racist meme above posted on Twitter by her husband. Not only is it brazenly stereotypical and condescending, but it's also ironic that the woman who launched her career trying to suppress minorities' rights to vote is now trying to claim that she's the one who will "free" them from the "plantation."
The Ossoff-Handel election is on June 20th. I can't vote - I live in John Lewis' 5th Congressional District, not the contested 6th - but if you're in the 6h District and/or you have some money to contribute to Jon, then by all means please vote for Ossoff and/or contribute to his campaign.
Monday, May 15, 2017
Here are my pics from the third and final day of Atlanta's Shaky Knees Music Festival, a fine, full day of Georgia sunshine, warmth, and music, starting off with the day's openers,
Hoops were a new discovery for me, and they played laid-back jangle pop in the manner of Real Estate and the next act on stage, their former tourmates,
Whitney contains ex-members of the band The Smith Westerns, and while their old band had a more power-pop sound, Whitney has more of a folk-rock/country-rock vibe to them. A great set, and another check for a recent addition to the bucket list. Following Whitney, the stage was taken over by
When I say "took over," you can take that literally, as Leithauser, formerly the frontman for The Walkmen, has a commanding stage presence. Several young women in the audience around me seemed quite enamored of him and were exhibiting the eponymous Shaky Knees. Stylistically, he falls somewhere between the crooning of Father John Misty and the soul shouters on the old Stax label (that's quite a broad range, I'll grant you, but trust me, Leithauser falls right smack in the middle of those two distant endpoints).
The sun was pretty intense all day at the Piedmont Stage, where I saw all the acts above, although by the time Leithauser's set was over at 4:00 p.m., the shadow of the stage had crept over the front few rows of the audience. But to avoid further heat and sun (and to groove on one of my favorite bands), I went over to the shady confines of the Ponce Stage for a set by
The Fruit Bats
The Fruit Bats is the long-time project of singer/songwriter/frontman Eric D. Johnson, and I swear the only reason that I like him and them is not just because he once handed me a beer from the stage during a day-party show in Portland, Oregon, although that didn't hurt his rep with me (hint-hint to all other bands wanting a good write-up on this blog). His band has a bright, happy sound and illuminates any setting they're heard in, and yesterday's show was no exception, and the audience clearly was having a blast dancing and singing along to the songs, both old and new.
I had absolutely no idea what to expect from the next act on the Ponce Stage,
but I suspected that he rocked and rocked hard, and Gallo did not disappoint, playing a blistering set of punk rock infused with just a touch of self-conscious irony. It was a lot of fun and just the kick in the ass that I needed at that point of the day. He also lead a "Happy Mother's Day" audience singalong that I tried to dial my own mother in on although I'm not sure if the call got through or not.
Next up on the Ponce Stage, and I'm really surprised that they weren't on a larger stage, were Australian psychedelic rockers
featuring members of the popular band Tame Impala. As would be expected, Pond played a lot of psyched-out jams with distorted guitars and enigmatic lyrics, and put on a great show. They were on at the same time as another bucket-list band, The Shins, but I chose to check Pond off the list rather than The Shins due to the relative intimacy of the Ponce Stage as opposed to the big main Peachtree Stage where The Shins were playing.
I did eventually make it over the the big main Peachtree Stage after Pond, though, to see the headliner for the night and for the festival, the French band
I last saw Phoenix back in 2010 at probably the height of their popularity, when they were touring behind the Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix album and the hit songs 1901 and Lisztomania, but frankly I haven't heard much from them since then. They were late starting their set, not taking the stage until 9:00 for an 8:30 show, the first and only band I know of during the entire festival that didn't start right on time, although to be fair, I don't know if it was their fault not to have started on time or a decision by the festival promoters to let the audience grow as large as possible before they started. When they finally did start playing, I realized that all of their songs sounded pretty generic and the same - there's definitely such a thing as a "Phoenix sound," and that all I really wanted to hear was 1901 and Lisztomania. I also realized that they were going to play every song in their repertoire before they finally played 1901 and Lisztomania, so I left by 9:30 before they got around to their hits and don't really feel like I missed anything.
Although to be fair again, perhaps the real reason I left early is because I'm an old man who had been on his feet for three straight days, dancing and rubbing elbows (literally) with a mostly 20-something crowd under the hot Georgia sun to ear-shatteringly loud music, living on a steady diet of nothing but greasy barbecue and cold beer, and I knew that I had to go to work the next morning and that I wanted to watch The Leftovers on HBO more than I wanted to endure one more last set of music. Whatever. I decided it was time to go, and leave I did and I don't regret it and that, my friends, was Shaky Knees 2017.
Sunday, May 14, 2017
And on this Sunday, the second of the month of May, we pause this seemingly endless barrage of pictures of bands you may not ever have heard of in order to wish our Mom a Happy Mother's Day.
It didn't rain yesterday at Shaky Knees - you're welcome Atlanta. I say "you're welcome" because by my logic, it didn't rain yesterday, despite a forecast 70% probability, because I had brought a raincoat to the festival with me, all rolled up nice and tight and stowed in a pocket of my cargo pants. Today, the probability of rain was down to 20%, so I took my chances and didn't pack the raincoat, and sure enough, it rained for about 20 minutes, albeit lightly. But obviously, the determination as to whether or not it actually rains is contingent upon whether or not I brought a raincoat, so "you're welcome" for yesterday and "sorry about that" for today. Meanwhile, though, before the rain fell, the day started off with L.A's oddly named
Mariachi El Bronx.
The name is odd as it contains the words "El Bronx" but they're from L.A., but they do indeed live up to their name and play mariachi-style rock and soul. Although the set was enjoyable, the audience at the Piedmont Stage was out in the middle of a field beneath shadeless sun, and due to the combination of heat and humidity, I ducked out from their stage area and headed to the shadier confines of the Ponce Stage for
Foreign Air were a complete mystery to me - I had absolutely no idea what to expect - and as it turned out, I liked the indie-pop set that they played.
An impromptu set by a drum corps in front of the Ponce Stage between the scheduled acts. After the halftime entertainment, I stayed at the Ponce Stage for the set by L.A.'s
Run River North,
who rocked harder than I had expected (somehow, I had imagined them as a folk-rock band, but they're a six-member rock band). Their set was great but after that, the rain started to fall, although I had already found shelter in an unused food vendor tent and was recharging my iPhone at a live electric outlet that I had found there. The recharging took longer than the rain and when it was over, I headed back to the VIP viewing area at the Peachtree Stage for
Catfish and the Bottlemen
Catfish and the Bottlemen play, in my humble opinion, standard, three-chord, beer-commercial guitar rock, but they were successful in whipping the audience up into a frenzy and seemed to be very popular, so I just bided my time until the next band came on, who happened to be
Now the day was picking up. Sylvan Esso played their own brand of off-center, electronic-based soul-funk-rock and were fun to watch. Bonus points: it was also dinner time, so I got to eat barbeque while I watched the band. The next band after Sylvan Esso was another discovery,
the artist formerly known as Chet Fakir. As Mr. Murphy, Nick/Chet led a set of electronic r 'n' b, funk and blue-eyed soul, and was quite an enjoyable and energetic discovery. After Murphy, the evening's headliners,
took the stage. This was my third or fourth time seeing The xx, and they continue to grow as artists and expand their sound, while still managing to maintain their trademark minimalism and use of silence. The huge festival audience at the main Peachtree Stage were clearly big fans of the band, and it's nice to see such an "arty" band attract such a large and loyal audience.
And that, my friends, was Day Two of the 2017 Shaky Knees Music Festival. The third and final day is tomorrow, and the lineup looks to be even better than today's (but not as good as yesterday's).
Saturday, May 13, 2017
Today was spent at the first day of Atlanta's Shaky Knees Music Festival. This is the Fifth Anniversary of the festival, and so far I've been to every day of every year of the fest. Here's who I saw today:
Frank Turner & The Rattlesnakes
Because somebody had to open the festival.
A new one on me. The band apparently consists of members of Cerebral Ballsy and Lissy Trullie of, well, Lissy Trullie. They were good.
British psychedelic rock in the tradition of early Pink Floyd. A band I've wanted to see for a while now, and the first check of the day off of my bucket list.
Car Seat Headrest
A triumphant set by Will Toledo and company. Last year's album, Teens of Denial, was my AOTY, and their set last year at Terminal West was probably my favorite show of 2016.
A Canadian indie-rock supergroup of sorts, featuring Spencer Krug of Moonface (left) and Dan Boeckner of Handsome Furs, Operators, Divine Fits, and other bands (right). This is a band I never thought I'd see perform (I thought they all went their separate ways) and the second check off my bucket list.
It's not an Atlanta festival unless it rains at least once, but despite dire warnings,
(formerly known as Viet Cong) performed a massive-sounding set. However, the skies cleared up without any rain (other than one or two drops) hitting the festival grounds.
New York's LCD Soundsystem headlined. I've been wanting to see LCD for a full 10 years now - they're one of my favorite bands - and I finally got to cross a third band off of my bucket list.
Here's a small part of the audience for LCD:
Here's your humble narrator:
Shaky Knees continues through the weekend. I'm off to bed for a full day of music tomorrow.