TOWER OF BABEL (19.8.21)

you turn on the TV
blah blah blah
you turn on the internet
blah blah blah
you turn on your cell phone
blah blah blah
our tower of babel moment

everyone talking 
blah blah blah
people listen only to what they want
blah blah blah
preaching to the choir
blah blah blah
our tower of babel moment

we live in a versus world
us vs. them
black vs. white
police vs. everyone
republican vs. democrat
vaccinated vs. unvaccinated
Christian vs. Muslim
enemy vs enemy
against the other
our tower of babel moment

when we speak the same language
we speak different languages
we’ll go our separate ways
enlarge the distance between
our pride shamed
our arrogance wounded
our tower of babel moment

otherwise, we can do anything 
together

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What if this passage is not an "origin story" on the evolution of language but instead an allegory on human arrogance and it's consequences? 
Genesis 11:1-9
Now the whole world had one language and a common speech....
They said to each other, “Come, let’s make bricks and bake them thoroughly.” They used brick instead of stone, and tar for mortar. Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves; otherwise we will be scattered over the face of the whole earth.”
But the Lord came down to see the city and the tower the people were building. The Lord said, “If as one people speaking the same language they have begun to do this, then nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them. Come, let us go down and confuse their language so they will not understand each other.”
So the Lord scattered them from there over all the earth, and they stopped building the city.  That is why it was called Babel—because there the Lord confused the language of the whole world. From there the Lord scattered them over the face of the whole earth.

Tower of Babel

It’s amazing how true this video is. We are experiencing totalitarianism on an emotional level right now and it is bubbling under the surface of society and culture ready to break out on the surface.

Whether it’s the manufactured fear generated by the media that governs politicians decisions as opposed to wisdom.

Whether it’s the ever-present observance and loss of privacy generated by corporations and the government thru various surveillance systems and how that is being used to manufacture paranoia. I’m reminded of something the corporation I work for put out about two years ago which stated, “You should assume, when you are at work, that there is NO privacy. Everything is being watched and can be recorded.”

How long will we continue to accept the degradation of civility and vote people into power and support corporations, media, politicians and religions that will continue to generate fear, paranoia, and control over the citizenry?

What will you do and continue to give up in order to live? And is that really living? People may say “Oh, It can’t get that bad.” but that’s exactly how it does happen. The lie that causes people to let down their guards and accept the small changes that lead to the complete transformation. The lie becomes the truth. There is no difference.

Now some may argue that this post itself is manufacturing fear.   I want to be very clear my intent is NOT to manufacture fear.   I do not want people to be afraid.   I want them to WAKE UP! I want all my readers to be ALIVE AND AWAKE not the walking dead.

we ARE nineteen-eighty-four!

CHAFF IN THE WIND

I remember when Saturday 

Felt like Sunday

And I was dreading Monday

Feeling like I’m strung out on junk

(Which I never tried) 

I was strung out on life

(Which I couldn’t escape)

And it wasn’t pretty

I hated my life 

The world I lived in

Staked to the ground

Face up in some tribal ritual

Eye lids propped open

Waiting for the sun to burn me blind

I just wanted to die

But couldn’t

Feeling rejected 

Outcast, judged and ridiculed

Was it done to me? 

Or did I do it to myself?

In the back of my mind

In the shadows of 

What I remember myself to be

I felt there was another side

I just had to get there

But the road was dark

There was no light to light my way

Shadows loomed large and mean

In my withdrawal

Happy is an illusion

And I wanted to get lost in that illusion

But knowing the magicians secrets

Is it possible to ever enjoy the magic again?

Are these fancy words for a poem,

A memoir or just letters jumbled with meaning

meant to get lost and scattered like

so much chaff in the wind

We are living the future and the future bites!

I’ve been a fan of Porcupine Tree and specifically the songwriting of founding member and solo artist Steven Wilson.      While Porcupine Tree has been inactive for a little while Steven Wilson continues to be a forceful songwriter involved in many group and solo projects.    His latest solo project it titled THE FUTURE BITES.    It was released January 2021.    This album is a “must listen”.   While I definitely have my favorites there really is not a bad song on the set.  The entire album tracklist includes “Unself”, “Self”, “King Ghost”, “12 Things I Forgot”, Eminent Sleaze”, “Man Of The People”, “Personal Shopper”, “Follower”, and finally, “Count Of Unease”.  

I’d like to feature a couple of my favorite tracks here today.   I hope everyone can view them. While images are powerful in the videos I present here please pay attention to the lyrics – they are amazing and have a razor sharpness that is on target. This is music perfectly geared for our time.

This first video is for the song PERSONAL SHOPPER which analyzes our consumer culture.   The images are not always pretty but they are a bang-on criticism of consumerism.   What will you give (or give up) to get the latest thing, or even anything, you might “want”.   I’ve long been fascinated by consumerism, buying power, user friendliness and the link to a wasting disease of Tuberculosis.   A disease that used to be called Consumption.   We are succumbing to consumption by our own hands not by some disease.   We are the disease and the cause of our dis-ease.  It is perhaps also appropriate that in the time of Covid our human materialist consumption is matched by an actual disease that is selectively killing off (or consuming) humanity.  We’ve sacrificed what we need for what we want.  And there is always a price to pay.

On YouTube Steven Wilson describes this song thus:

“MAN OF THE PEOPLE is about the person who stands behind the disgraced politician, the religious leader that’s been caught in a sex scandal. The wife, the girlfriend, the husband, the partner, whoever is the family, the children—the people that stand behind these figures that are disgraceful. The collateral damage. I pity these people sometimes.” – SW

That quote is amazing but I would like to add that all too often the people who “stand behind” these public figures that are “disgraceful” are often the enablers and supporters – which I suspect is why he only pities them “sometimes”.  

SELF is both a smart song and amazing video.   A continuous morphing of faces and identities.   How many of the faces can you name?  Lyrically the song speaks to our perceptions of self and how they have become a poison.   A poison that I think has been created by the media.   The perceptions of self spoken about in the song are about the narcissism and self-obsession that are portrayed and betrayed constantly in the media.    And with the typhoon or hurricane, that is over-whelming media coverage, self has been dissected down to the microscopic level.   Humility is dead.   Only false humility dares show its face.  “We are self that loves itself now… We are self that sees itself now… We are self I only see myself now”

Next up is EMINENT SLEAZE.   I’ve come to believe that the Succubus of our time is a religion or worship of a three-headed monster with one head representing politics, another head representing the media and a third head representing corporations.   Like Ghidorah (see 1964 film Ghidorah, the Three-Headed Monster) who’s three heads were communicated telepathically, the lyrics could be applied to any of these heads of this modern succumbs. The video itself visually represents corporations.   The decisions made in boardrooms not by people but by “reptiles” who will do anything to enhance, embolden and enrich our consumer experience.  And our consumption and ultimate destruction are making them rich.   They are cynics who may talk of values in public and may even support non-profit organizations that offer some benefit to poor and unfortunate but it is only a smoke screen a lie to deceive people into thinking that corporations are good entities and we can’t live without them.  A smoke screen they hide behind for their own greedy intent and self-preservation.

Mass amnesia and delusion are the subject of 12 THINGS I FORGOT.  Memory is a tricky thing.   Memory is merely a version of events that we have tailored into something we find acceptable.  I’ve always believed we should not trust our memories.   I’m not saying they are bad or good but that we need to keep in perspective.   I’ll be honest it feels that so-called “cancel culture” may finally be confronting memories on a wide-scale in terms of culture and society.  And is confronting wrongs done in the past in an attempt to make them right.   While that is a good thing there is a  problem that is exacerbated by the second head of our modern-day Succubus – the media.    The media never forgets and is not directed at healing but pure confrontation;  to play, replay and replay again the confrontation of the past in our time trapping us in the tar pit of oblivion.  

I remember growing up I often heard a phrase “forgive and forget”.  but no one ever clarified what we should forget. So do we just delude ourselves to a point that we forget?  Can we remember and move on?

“Forget what I’ve done… to all the people that gave me their love… well I have no problem sleeping at night… I’ve done wrong but I just don’t remember….”

It seems a sad commentary on our times. 

music video art reflecting life

Last year my album for Summer 2020 was Toya Willcox’s COURT OF THE CRIMSON QUEEN.

This year I am unable to limit my selection to one artist. So you get one plus a bonus. Yay! Everyone likes a bonus! LOL .

The first artist has released her first solo album of original material. She is part of the Manchester Soul scene in the UK. Her name is Josephine Oniyama although she shortens it to just Josephine. She was born into a rich broth of Jamaican and Nigerian cultural heritage. Her album PORTRAIT is amazing and beautifully showcases her versatile voice. At times she sounds like Janis Joplin “I Pray That I Move” and Annie Lennox “Original Love” and other shims she has a pop acoustic feel similar to Tracy Chapman. But those are just first impressions. Her music traverses the wonderful and lush soundscapes of country, pop and soul with some jazzy inflections. She has previously released a few singles and was a featured vocalist with UK Jazz trumpeter/composer Matt Hallsal and his Gondwana Orchestra. It will be interesting to watch her career as it moves forward. Enjoy the following three tracks from her debut album PORTRAIT. You may purchase or download via BANDCAMP https://josephineoniyama.bandcamp.com you may also want to check out her website http://josephineoniyama.com

So, let’s get on with the music (some videos may be only viewable on YouTube – but it’s worth it.

Portrait (title track)

WHAT A DAY

https://www.youtube.com/embed/MKrLJ31qRFA

ORIGINAL LOVE

https://www.youtube.com/embed/6jfBewgMSdY

The bonus artist for my summer music playlist is Canadian soul and jazz singer Dominique Fils-Aimé. She was born/raised in Montreal, Canada to Haitian immigrant parents. She recently released her third full-length album. This gal is ambitions and I say that because she jumped out of the gate with thematic trilogy with her first album being the first entry in the trilogy with each album exploring a different area of African-American music. The first album NAMELESS focused on Jazz. The new album THREE LITTLE WORDS is the final installment of the trilogy and is very much a Soul album. The title of the album is so named because each song is titled using only three words.

Her website is https://domiofficial.com/en/ and you may also purchase/download on Bandcamp at https://singwithmi.bandcamp.com

LOVE TAKE OVER

https://www.youtube.com/embed/R4mUkkpNx6U

THREE LITTLE WORDS (title track)

https://www.youtube-nocookie.com/embed/9D_8AEjCs08

WHILE WE WAIT

https://www.youtube-nocookie.com/embed/tlEzGEpQ3mQ

Music for Summer 2021

If you’ve never heard of Rodrigo y Gabriela you have been missing out on something quite interesting, inventive and magical. I first heard them while I was working in music retail and their eponymous first album was released. I’ve been following them ever since.

This duo’s background is in heavy metal, which is the music Rodrigo’s band played and Gabriela was more-or-less a “groupie” that followed his band. Then they started dating and playing acoustic guitar. They found they had a real chemistry and explored their cultural roots in flamenco. They stopped dating when they discovered that the relationship was getting in the way of the music they wanted to make. And that’s when their music really started to take off. They began by “busking” around Ireland and Europe which is how they were discovered which would lead to their first recording. Several years and several albums later they released their most recent studio album Metallovution which won the Grammy Award for Best Instrumental Album.

Over the years, in addition to writing their own material, they have covered many rock legends like Led Zeppelin, Slayer, et al, with their acoustic flamenco guitar style. These song selections always allowed them to leave one foot firmly grounded in heavy metal while continuing their acoustic style. They have, in recent years also been delving into jazz. their most recent EP is a 3-song cover of contemporary jazz covers by Snarky Puppy, Kamasai Washington and legendary tango composer Astor Piazzolla.

Todays video is a wonderful live video that was recorded at a 2014 show at the historic Red Rocks Amphitheatre, Colorado, USA where they perform an instrumental Metallica medley. Now aside from Metallica’s “Black Album” I’ve never been a big fan of the group. But this video is wonderful to see and hear the type of energy the music contains without the ear shredding vocals, drums and searing electric guitar. As an added bonus they are joined by one of their idols, Metallica bassist Robert Trujillo. So enjoy this medley of 4 songs by Metallica: “Orion” “For Whom The Bell Tolls” “The Frayed Ends of Sanity” and “Battery”.

Much of their work is available through Bandcamp at https://rodrigoygabriela.bandcamp.com. And check out their website at https://www.rodgab.com

Have a great week everyone! 🙂

Metallica & Flamenco?

In the early 2000’s I was working in music retail and was given a sampler of hot and popular music from Japan.

It featured some amazing artists and styles. A real ear-opener. One of the artists were Pizzicato Five. This group falls under the category of things I miss, and “whatever happened to….?” This is, in many ways pop fusion music with it’s blend of soul, pop, french chanson, Burt Bacharach etc. The music is cheery, upbeat, warm and smooth retro feel which is perfect for summer. I’m not sure what happened to this group. Unfortunately they never really made a hit in the US. And their music is hard to find. But here’s to happy music may it bring a little cheer to your summer.

I found these fun videos and they really do maintain the fun vibe of the music with their own hipster cool.

Enjoy 5XP5:

PIZZICATO FIVE / イッツ・ア・ビューティフル・デイ

PIZZICATO FIVE / 恋のルール・新しいルール

Pizzicato Five – Twiggy Twiggy

PIZZICATO FIVE / ベイビィ・ポータブル・ロック

PIZZICATO FIVE / 悲しい歌

I miss this…

Today it’s Ladies Choice for Barbershop Harmony. Within 10 years after Men started singing Barbershop Harmony women wanted to take part in harmonic action. They formed their own organization Sweet Adelines International 75 years ago for the encouragement and singing of barbershop harmony for women. Since most of the song in the catalog of mens barbershop singing are “about” women (evidenced by song title that provide the source for the Sweet Adelines) the Sweet Adelines have always been more open to contemporary songs and diversity. Today I want to present some of the many Sweet Adelines.

The 2019 Chorus Champions (also champions in 2018) – The Scottsdale Chorus with their winning performance

Continuing the festivities this next selection is by the Rönninge Show Chorus from Sweden under the direction of the woman who is credited with first bringing barbershop harmony singing to Sweden. Enjoy this performance highlighting music penned by Swedish composers.

2019 Quartet Champions – Class Ring with their “Swan Song Set”. (the Swan Song set is the performance they give after they win the Championship as part of an “all star show”.

From the 2015 Quartet Finals enjoy this performance by Windsor

2019 Mic Testers – HOT PURSUIT

And here is the website where you can find more information about Sweet Adelines https://sweetadelines.com

What’s your entry point – pt 2 (Ladies Choice)

Today I’m going to focus on a type of music that does not get much press or recognition. It is often thought of as old-fashioned, old-timey, stuff your great grandparents listened to. One reason may be that it does not neatly fit into the established genres of music that have become culturally established.

I was fortunate enough to grow up and be raised in the Mennonite church. A Cappella music was all around. In church everyone sang and everyone sang in four-part harmony (Soprano, Alto, Tenor and Bass). It was all hymns all the time. And I credit that for establishing at a very young age my entry point into music. What I mean by entry point is the primary attractor. For some people it may be the beat, the rhythm, melody, overall feel or for some, like me, it is harmony. Harmony is the first thing I hear that gets me sucked into the “world” the music creates. I love harmony!

As I was growing up and things like AM radio became common place in our household – I’ll always cherish my little handheld transistor radio with a small speaker and an earpiece that looked more like a hearing aid with it’s thinly coiled cord – nothing like the iPods we’ve become accustomed to. This little transistor radio was my constant companion as I was growing up (age 8-15, 1968-78). Otherwise we had black and white television set which was all we could afford and it was cheaper than the newer color one. But TV and AM radio exposed me to popular music and much of the music at that time had some sort of harmony (think Beach Boys, Chicago, America, The Association, Simon and Garfunkel, Seals and Crofts, etc) This listening further solidified my interest and love for harmony. I sang in all the school choirs, concert choir, show/swing choir etc.

As I grew up and my music tastes evolved into other genres etc harmony was never far away. After I had graduated from High School in 1978 – not wanting to go to college at that time – I got a job at a local retailer. A co-worker was involved in a local mens chorus called (The Wayneaires – which sadly no longer exists) that sang a music style called Barbershop. It is a cappella singing in 4 parts (lead, tenor, baritone and bass). I had great fun. I learned much including this notion of overtones and undertones (simply – a third audible unsung tone/note can be heard when the resonances of two or more other sung tones are combined). And, for me, when I hear overtones ringing it literally gives me chills it provokes a physical response that I seldom experience when listening to music. We did an annual show that featured the chorus (of about 45 members) and featured guest quartets from around the region. Always a theme. I did this for about 5 years and even sang in some quartets before I decided to go to college. At that time the music was mostly traditional barbershop songs like “Lida Rose”, “Sweet Adeline” etc with ever-changing arrangements. There was an organization called S.P.E.B.S.Q.A. (pronounced speb sqwa) and stood for the Society for Preservation and Encouragement of Barbershop Quartet Singing in America. Around 2004 it was changed simply to the Barbershop Harmony Society (whew! about time they got rid of that old mouthful – LOL). I have not sung Barbershop in the past 30+years but I still like to check it out occasionally and find it stronger and better than ever. There is a more diverse catalog of songs

There is always an international competition for Barbershop (2020 being the exception due to the pandemic) and there are 4 categories where a champion is named – Quartet, Chorus, Senior Quartet, Youth/Collegiate Quartet on which they are judged on music (selection/arrangement), singing and performance (of which humor can play a key role). Regarding performance we were taught it is about “filling the space”. not just with facial expressions but also body movements/choreography etc.

At the end of this post I will post links to the Barbershop Harmony Society website if you wish to know more about it’s history and much much more.

I will post videos of the 2019 champions for you to “taste”. And hopefully it will be as sweet for you as it is for me. And if/when you hear those overtones – feel free to let the goose flesh pop. LOL

***fyi – not sure – but you may have to watch videos on YouTube

First up – 2019 Chorus Champions (also Champions in 2007, 2010 & 2015)- The Westminster Chorus with their award winning performance of From Now On/Come Alive Medley (from The Greatest Showman) Be sure to go to YouTube and check out their 2015 Championship performance of “Seize the Day” from Newsies.

2019 Quartet Champions – Signature with their winning performance of Proud Mary (Ike and Tina Turner cover)

Also check out their other barbershop arrangements of Queen, Michael Jackson and other pop icons on YouTube.

Seniors Quartet Champions – DoubleDouble with one of their winning performances Green Green Grass of Home (parody). look for the the shift from serious to comedic around the 2 min mark. 🙂

2019 Youth/Collegiate Champions – Wildfire with their performance of Between You and the Birds and the Bees and Cupid.

While top 10 finalists compete for the title of Champion – the evening starts off with a mic test – it is a performance awarded the 11th place quartet and an opportunity to cut loose. This performance from 2015 is by one of the funniest quartets – The Newfangled Four (Youth/Collegiate Champions 2013) with their rendition of the vintage song Hello My Baby (through the years). Enjoy. *note – at the end they are joined by a singer from another Quartet called Instant Classic, who were the Champions of 2014.

And for you women out there – Barbershop Harmony is not only a mans thing – Women have their own version of the Barbershop Harmony Society called Sweet Adelines Intl. Look for more on that in my next post.

Learn More https://www.barbershop.org

what’s your entry point into music?

I’ve experimented with extremely dark images in the past but it’s been a while and I was in the mood. Today and tomorrows images were taken one Saturday morning early in May. I had gone to the laundromat to clean my winter comforter and a couple of pillows to put in storage. At that time people were not permitted to wait inside due to the pandemic. So I sat in my car. It was raining rather hard and I was not in the mood to go out and about for photos. So I just sat in my car for these abstracts. The inside of my car is dark gray and black with some chrome accents. Wondering what kind of abstracts I could create – I dialed down the exposure to -7 and started clicking the camera shutter. I did very little in Photoshop except to convert to black and white and some vignetting to darken the edges. Enjoy.

As with all my galleries click on one image to view larger and then use the arrows to go to the next image.

blackstracts 1

I’m sure many of you have heard of K-Pop. Also known as Korean Pop. Well this is C-pop or Chinese Pop. Todays video is from a talent show called The Singer. I suppose the western equivalent would be a popular show (at least in the US) called The Voice. The song, Happy Heart was first made popular by Andy Williams where it spent 2 weeks at #1 on the charts. Petula Clark also had a hit with the same song at the very same time but hers charted highest at #12.

This wonderful song was co-written by easy listening legend James Last and canadian singer/songwriter Jackie Rae. This impassioned performance by Li Xiang Zhe & Zhai Li Suo Tian is pure delight and really swings! So who is who? Li is the guy that starts the song and the bearded guy is Zhai. I absolutely love when Li starts the line, “Music fills…” with that really gutsy sound and Zhai looks at him out the corner of his eye as if to say “where the hell did that come from?”, or maybe he’s thinking, “where’re you going with this?” Totally makes me smile.

It’s a sunny Monday here in Ohio so enjoy this sunny song. Smiles and Cheer.

happy heart

This video I’m sharing is the most recent work by Duran Duran. To be honest DD lost me after their RIO album. While some may view that as some sort of blasphemy – that’s okay. So why am I posting this new video? The music (in my opinion) is lackluster, monotonous and even boring almost drone-like but it’s definitely not drone music.

The negative criticism of the music aside I do feel this video is important. I’d even say VERY IMPORTANT to the world of art of film/cinema. The video opens with an “artists statement”:

“This film was created by an artificial intelligence called Huxley, a unique dreamer whose ‘mind’ has been modeled after the cognitive and creative processes of humans.

It is the very first collaboration of its kind, between artists in different planes of existence.”

When watching this film I was captivated by the surreal nature of it’s images. Fluid and strange but beautiful. I couldn’t help but think about the future of AI and how (I believe) it will eventually take over the world making humanity redundant.

I also find it interesting to think about the following questions. How does our creation (AI) see us? How does it see humanity? Does it frighten us? Intrigue us? Concern us? Will AI have inalienable rights granted by it’s creator? In the world of AI; humanity (it’s creator) are Gods. Will it worship/value humanity or will it kill off humanity just as humanity has killed off it’s gods? And after AI has killed it’s gods will it continue to remember, revere and “worship” humanity in pretense, creating a sort of religion like humanity has created all sorts of religions for its gods? Is it possible that we may learn more about humanity from how our creation sees us than what we could ever know on our own? Right now AI and humanity exist on different planes – meaning that there is an independence between the two – AI is programmed and then left to do it’s thing while humanity does it’s own thing. But will that change where AI and humanity will share an interface? Will AI maintain the human cognition it was programmed with or will it evolve and develop it’s own unique identity? Will AI become a physical manifestation beyond it’s programming? Is what happens in the mind real if it doesn’t happen in the physical world? Will humanity become invisible?

I may be premature in asking these questions – or maybe I’m too late already. Well those are my thoughts – what do you think? What questions are you asking? Or, is everything a foregone conclusion?

To quote the character Captain Jean-luc Picard from Star Trek: The Next Generation, “I prefer to think of the future as something that is NOT written in stone.”

how does our creation see us?