I became insane with long intervals of horrible sanity.
Edgar Allen Poe

The trouble with fighting for human freedom is that one spends most of one's time defending scoundrels. For it is against scoundrels that oppressive laws are first aimed, and oppression must be stopped at the beginning if it is to be stopped at all.
- H. L. Mencken

Many people would sooner die than think; In fact, they do so
-Bertrand Russell

What I have been telling you, from alpha to omega, what is the one great thing the sigil taught me — that everything in life is miraculous. For the sigil taught me that it rests within the power of each of us to awaken at will from a dragging nightmare of life made up of unimportant tasks and tedious useless little habits, to see life as it really is, and to rejoice in its exquisite wonderfulness. If the sigil were proved to be the top of a tomato-can, it would not alter that big fact, nor my fixed faith. No Harrowby, the common names we call things by do not matter — except to show how very dull we are ...
-James Branch Cabell

December 06, 2013 - 12:36 p.m.

Genius and Hero

I'm going away for the weekend so this might be the last time you hear from me till Sunday night. Probably not as I usually find a way to update but just warning you.

I have a lot to write about today and not much time to write. I won't have much time to finish this after class as I have to make a 3:30 Bolt Bus and that's all the way west between 11th and 12th avenues. There is no fast way of getting there. I just hope the rain stops so I dont' have to walk and worse stand in the rain.

OK lots to write about today; Personal, music, and Mandela.

As I so often do I wasted most of yesterday. I didn't even go to dinner when I should have. My success was once again overcoming the urge to hide from the world and instead to go out and listen to music. I went to Erin McKeown's Anti-Holiday Spectacular! The show was at Littlefield, in Brooklyn. It took about 25 minutes but it's two stops on the train and a walk. Not bad at all. As you might have heard somewhere, I am an idiot. I did not know if I had bought tickets in advance. When I checked the website it said, "Tickets at the door." So I figured there were no advance sales and bought my ticket at the door. When I went in I saw Chris and joined him. I told him my story and he said he bought his ticket in advance. I might have paid for the show twice. OK we know I'm an idiot. You don't have to rub it in.

I was actually a bit late by my lights. Doors were at 7:00 and I didn't get there till maybe 7:05. I had no need to worry. I'm not sure there was anybody else there but Chris. There were no seats so we waited in the caf at a table. I think we sat for about half an hour till somebody else showed up and we followed them into the auditorium. We grabbed our spot and sat on the floor. If we had come 15 minute later we'd have had the same spot. If Chris wasn't there I'd have been unhappy but this was actually a good thing. It was hanging out with Chris time.

So why weren't you there? Why is Erin outside the mainstream consciousness of my friends? She made a huge splash at Falcon Ridge in the emerging artists but I never hear anybody talk about her. Chris was the only one I knew at the show. And the thing is Erin isn't good, she's not very good, she's great!

Maybe it has to do with how she is great. As always I try and analyze these things. Erin's strongest point is not her songwriting, not her musicianship, but her performance. None of that is to disparate her songwriting or musicianship. I have trouble drawing the line. I can't separate the songs from her performance. But she excels on covers, even silly ones like "Rhode Island is Famous for You." She can sang, she got pipes, she got control, but most of all she sells a song. No most of all she sells herself. She has as much to do with Fanny Brice as Bob Dylan. She goes on stage and she's big. Sure she's like 5'2" but she's a huge 5'2" Her personality fills the room. She's got attitude. She not cute folk chick with acoustic guitar singing pretty songs. She's cute folk chick with electric guitar that's trying to rock your world, not make you get in touch with your feelings. And she's funny, she's damn funny. She has timing. She knows how to make things build. She constructs humor. On one song she got the audience clapping along and as always happens the clapping died down and ended. After the song she said, "Don't do that! Keep clapping. It's like if I started singing a song and just stopped in the middle of a note. Then later she had moved over to the keyboard and did just that. She stopped in the middle of a note, waited the exact right amount of time, and said, "That's what it's like when you stop clapping." Brilliant!

The first set was her regular material and the second the Anti-Holiday spectacular complete with the Cranky Carolers. This was all humor. It was send up of holiday songs and the holiday. And as one song said, "when you say holiday you mean Christmas." It's outrageous and vulgar, and fantastic. I of course posted pics on Facebook immediately. She then said "I hope people are posting pics now and somebody make a video!" So that's what I did.

Its' a shame more people weren't there. Why wasn't it packed. She's doing he show again in two years. I want you there with me. This is a new holiday tradition. I need one. There's no more Roche's Christmas show, Beat Goes on, or Downtown Messiah. There's Jewmongous and Dar's near Christmas show which is not actually a Christmas show. There's also caroling with Terre Roche which I did for the first time in ages last year and will again.

And that's the thing, singing traditional carols with Terre under the Washington Square Arch and Erin's cynical anti-Christmas songs are both totally Festivus. We're not simple and have many layers and so does Festivus. I'm a nice Jewish atheist who like Christmas music but wants to react against being surrounded by Christmas cheer even as I spread it.

Now for something more somber, Nelson Mandela. I'm not going to dwell on his death. He was 95 and not in good health and I got the feeling that his life was no longer good. So I'm not mourning his death but using the moment to remember his life. He was a great leader in a difficult time that made a tremendous personal sacrifice for his cause. And none of those are what I admire most about him. It's that when he won, when he became president of South Africa he did not make the tragic mistake that almost all revolutionaries make. He did not use it as an opportunity for payback. He did not use it as a way of gaining personal power and wealth adoration. He assumed power in the spirit of another of my hero's Lincoln "With malice toward none, with charity for all." Look around at all the failed revolutions of the Arab spring and you'll see how difficult that is. Look at the French Revolution. To me that's Mandela's legacy.

He was not a saint. He did a terrible job at choosing a successor. His fatal flaw was loyalty whether it be to Mbeke or brutal dictators like Robert Mugabo or Khadaffi. He wasn't perfect, he was a flawed human just as is everyone else. And that's not a cause for cynicism or despair but for optimism. For flawed human beings can perform heroic deeds and their flaws make them no less a hero. It's a lesson to everyone. There's not a special class of great people. There are only people doing great things. Mandela did great things. Dont mourn his passing but celebrate his life.





Brother Brothers in Arms - October 01, 2017
Late to Bed and Late to Rise - September 30, 2017
On Your Feet or On Your Knees - September 29, 2017
Why Life Doesn't End on Closing Day - September 28, 2017
Anna and King of I Am - September 27, 2017



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Horvendile December 06, 2013
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