Good Vibes

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My neighbors must hate me. If not to my face, then they surely do when the mass of sonic energy rolls across the yard, crossing the boundary into their territory and rattling their walls as rapid tremors run through the ground, causing glass vases to tremble precariously and shaking pictures on the wall so they hang slightly off kilter. But I can’t help it. I need my guitar like children need to eat an entire bucket of candy on Halloween night. It’s an insatiable itch that can only be satisfied by scratching until the skin bleeds raw. Continue reading

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Books, Psyche, and Music: A Journey into the Self

I don’t know if I can speak for everyone, but based on what I’ve seen in my sixteen years, it seems that there is not a single teenager out there who has never struggled with finding themselves, figuring out their identity. It’s really scary, standing right there on the edge between child and adulthood without a buffer, preparing yourself physically, mentally, and emotionally to be pushed out into the real world and be a grown up. You’re supposed to have it all figured out — have a dream school, a dream job, and a plan for your dream life. You have to know what decisions you need to make to lead you down your chosen path, but how do you know what’s right for you? Then you start thinking about yourself to try and figure it all out. Let’s see, I like listening to concept albums, participating in habitat restoration, reading Kurt Vonnegut novels, drawing zentangles, and going on spontaneous adventures. I don’t like the commercial corruption of art and someday I hope to be the lead guitar player of a protest band and live in a house covered with murals that I have painted myself. Well, now that that’s settled, how is that supposed to help me figure out what I want to do with my life? What the heck does all of this even mean about me?

Like the paranoid and confused Holden Caulfield, I was worried about choosing a path that would change who I am and that I would lose the essence of my identity in the process of growing up, but I soon found myself pondering an even deeper question: how do we even know who we are? Obviously, identity is more than just what’s on your driver’s license. But trying to figure out what actually constitutes a person’s identity only lead to more and more questions. Continue reading

Songs for Submersion

I’ve never been much good at sleeping. From the hours of 8:00 am to about 8:00 pm, I’ve got weights tied to my limbs and head, I’m dragging and exhausted. But once the sun goes away and it’s dark and cool outside, my brain is filled words and ideas and melodies and it overflows until I have to lay in my bed writing all over my hands and arms to get everything out, and to make sure that I won’t forget when the sun rises. By about midnight, I itch to play my guitar so badly that it feels as though my insides are on the verge of tearing open and exploding, but facing the wrath of my family, recently awakened by a late-night jam session, would probably be worse than self implosion. Since I can’t make my own music at this time, I do the next best thing: listen to other people’s music.

When I’m like an accumulation of hyperactive, excited gaseous particles, I need a steady beat to crawl into my ears and liquify me. I need to bathe in vibrations, and come out fresh and clean and enlightened. Continue reading

Mother Love Bone: In a Parallel Universe

The first time I listened to Mother Love Bone’s Apple, I was fifty percent sure I was coming down with a fever. Hot blood washed through my body like the hydrogen fumes on the surface of the sun, while waves of chills flooded my nervous system when I heard the guitar and bass lines — wah-wah infused eloquence with undertones of not a walking, but rather a marching, parading bass — by itself so familiar but in context part of something I’d never heard before, an energy that made me want to laugh and cry and scream and pound my fist in the air with this new and charismatic voice that had reached deep into me, grabbed my soul, and pulled it up to dance . It was like listening to something that could have been, or maybe is, somewhere in a parallel universe where things turned out differently and the future was more forgiving. Continue reading

Quantitative, Qualitative

“I don’t mind stealing bread
From the mouth of decadents
But I can’t feed on the powerless
When my cup’s already over-filled…

I’m going hungry.”

– Temple of the Dog, Hunger Strike

There is nothing in this world today that has not been touched by the culture of mass consumption. There’s over seven billion people out there today and every single one of their lives revolves around a system built to provide demanded products to those who can afford them. Those who can’t afford the goods to survive must serve their wealthy direct or indirect employers until they, their children, their grandchildren, their great grandchildren, or their distant descendants of a distant future can eventually claw their way up the social ladder to join the ranks of the consuming elite. If someone wants something, someone else will do whatever needs to be done to provide for the consumer. The consumer wants more, so no matter what the cost, they are going to get more. Because the world is measured in quantity, the quality of production, the quality of labor conditions, the quality of food, the quality of animal enclosures, the quality of air, the quality of water, the quality of life is all sacrificed. Nearly every major problem the world faces today — deforestation, human trafficking, pollution, homelessness, loss of biodiversity, urban slums, abuses of large agribusinesses — all boils down to one thing: the demands of an oversized consumer population. Continue reading

Beginning to See the Light – The Velvet Underground

Life is really scary sometimes. Especially when everything that is to ever come and ever be all joins together, intersects, and converges at one point: you. The overwhelmingly infinite possibilities in life are all within reach and all you have to do is reach out and grab one and it could be yours — your future, your story, the mark that you leave on the world.

But you only have so many hands.

Some of us want to experience it all. I want to help everyone who needs me. I want to develop sustainable energy. I want to protect threatened ecosystems. I want to put my thoughts into words. I want to reorganize our unjust society. I want to visit new places. I want to be an activist. I want to paint murals on every wall. I want to play my guitar. I want to make people think. I want to add something to the history of the world that is different from everything that has come before. I want to be happy. I want to be free. There’s so much pressure to be great and so much to do in so little time that it makes me wish more than anything that the multiverse theory of quantum mechanics is true, so that maybe somewhere I am doing everything that I want to do, being everything I want to be. Continue reading

Gimme Some Truth – John Lennon

Vote for me. Vote for drama. Vote for anger. Vote for fads. Vote for bigotry. Vote for loud-mouthing. Vote for scandal. Vote for headlines. Vote for scape-goating. Vote for bandwagons. Vote for roasts. Vote for discrimination. Vote for red-faced, mindless, finger-pointing. Vote for me. Vote for me. Vote for me.

This is what modern politics have come to. A big circus freak show in which candidates attack each other and haggle over who’ll get to be ringleader. The goal is to win the prize for most shock value, because any press is good press. Too many politicians are willing to say almost anything, no matter how offensive, irrelevant, or ridiculous, just to get a headline.

Look at me.

No, look at ME.

Politicians acknowledge problems and the masses hoist their banners and shake their fists in agreement. Yes! This is a problem! I’ll support you! But who’s proposing solutions? Presidential candidates gain massive followings by riding the wave of anger that they’ve incited. They take advantage of people’s whirlwind emotions, especially hate, in order to overshadow each other and gain the most support. Everyone’s talking so much, and what do we get when the election’s over?

Nothing. Continue reading

Goodbye Blue Sky – Pink Floyd

We humans like to cling to things. Especially hope. During times of fear and struggle we hang dangling over darkness and uncertainty, clinging to our frayed threads of hope until our knuckles turn white. If we can hang on long enough, hope can get us through times of violence and destruction. But what about when the violence and destruction returns? We cling to the hope that things will get better, and for a time, they might. But it seems that some new conflict always arises to break down our sense of security and forces us to once again grip precariously to our threadbare hope.

If the violence and struggle keeps coming back again and again, then there must be something we’re doing wrong. There has to be some kind of change we can make to really, truly, make things better. Continue reading

The Stars Look Very Different Today

David Bowie - Blackstar

David Bowie during the filming of the music video for his “Blackstar”. Photo credit: Jimmy King, September 2015

“News guy wept and told us, earth was really dying…

My brain hurt like a warehouse, it had no room to spare
I had to cram so many things to store everything in there.”

– “Five Years”, The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust”

When I first heard the news, it didn’t make any sense. There was no way that the star at the center of my solar system could have blinked out of existence — so quickly, without warning. Without it’s gravitational pull, all of my planets flew out of orbit and asteroids collided with moons and made craters so deep that I don’t think they could ever be filled again.

And that’s when I started crying.

David Bowie had left us, late Sunday night, losing contact with ground control forever to drift into deep space and take his place among the stars. Continue reading

Old Man – Neil Young

People tend to draw lines between each other and place themselves into categories. You are either young or old, educated or uneducated, thoughtful or shallow, middle class or working class, popular or a loser, or whatever other labels society uses to define us. Why is it that we pay such close attention to whatever groups we “belong” to rather than reach out to each other in spite of our differences? Neil Young’s “Old Man” discusses the idea that beneath our external differences, we all have the same desires, fears, and feelings.

Neil Young in 1970.

Continue reading