Songfishing

This post is centrally about song writing, but the principles apply to many creative pursuits:
Since about the middle of last century, a Particular sort of musician has been identified as a “Singer-Songwriter.”
The term has become very popular in the last thirty years, identifying an artist who typically accompanies themselves, seldom with more than one or two backup players, usually writes alone or with at most one partner, and is expected to at least be able  to take their show on the road with minimal support or fanfare.  The singer part of the title is pretty obvious.  Their works will usually include lyrics and they will sing to their audience.  The writing part is where the rubber hits the road…or something else hits the fan.

I propose that many can sing and play well, while few can write well, and that what will be remembered, what will give an artist standing and longevity, and also give the most to humanity, is the writing.  I also believe that the process of writing a song is like many creative endeavors, having two distinctive elements which are each indispensable: fishing and cooking.

There is both art and craft in creating and performing a good song.  The art is to have vision, to be open to experience and to collect images, ideas and feelings, and to see how they relate to one another.  That is fishing.  One must wait. Hunting for a better spot, even diving with a spear sometimes works, but mainly, keen observation and patience tend to win out.  The materials for creativity float by, and the best artists pick the ones they need, and keep them handy for when another connected (or connectable) piece floats by.  Then, when the collection has grown to a critical mass, and the necessary parts are ready to be assembled into a song (there are enough fish in the boat for a meal) it is time to cook them up.

Actually composing the song is the workmanlike process of assembling the stuff one has gathered into a form which the audience can receive (eat, or absorb – not necessarily totally understand, but at least want to hear it again) and then to perfect and perform it.  Some people are better at one than the other, but both wings are necessary for the Singer-Songwriter to fly.

More on Singer-Songwriters: WikiPedia

Webzines:

Pitchfork Media (Independent Artists)

Rolling Stone (PopCulture)

Singer-Songwriters in the wild:
Concerts In Your Home

Swamp Pirates

As we walked under another streetlight, I shoved my hands deep into the front pockets of my jeans, and squeezed my shoulders up high, while trying to pull my head in like a turtle, and looked over at Chauncey.  Grinning, he copied me, and we both stifled laughter and made goofy faces, sailing through the cool night air, thick, soft silence enveloping us, the sleeping neighborhood unaware of the fun being had by two bad boys out on a lark.  We approached my house with eyebrows raised, silently agreeing to see if we could get my mom’s beetle to start without a key, and quietly enough not to wake anyone. I popped the hood, exposing the luggage compartment above the gas tank, and Chauncey pulled out his flashlight. I deftly removed the cardboard that separated luggage from the back of the instrument panel, and saw the ignition switch, with bright red and black wires attached by spade connectors. What could be easier?

A few seconds and I had determined which wires needed to be connected to which, so we rolled the car out onto the street. We pushed it half a block away, so the noise of the engine starting would not be right at my house. Without letting it lose momentum, I ran alongside the nose, and made the connection, not to the starter, but just to the main electrical. A few panel lights lit.  Chauncey moved around to the rear to really give it a serious push, and I jumped into the driver’s seat. I put it in second gear, and eased the clutch out, and the little sewing machine turned over sweetly and began to purr. I slipped it back to neutral, and Chauncey ran up to jump into the passenger seat. Then with heads ducked and barely able to contain the laughter exploding inside our chests, we gently accelerated out of our neighborhood.

The hot-wired little beetle was lively and light, and soon we were flying through the night on larger and larger streets, past businesses shuttered or about to be, toward the expressway. Atlantic Boulevard was one of two main roads out to the beach, and we headed east toward the ocean, cool dark air rushing through open windows, and through our souls. For no particular reason, I turned south onto St. John’s Bluff Road, toward Beach Blvd, and the pavement soon gave way to washboard oyster shells. We made goofy faces at each other, pretending that our brains were being rattled out of our heads. On either side of us, berms of oyster shells divided the road from the Florida swamp, and the headlights created a warm yellow bubble, with a great black unknown of trees and creatures and foreboding to either side.  No houses along this stretch, but we knew Beach Blvd. couldn’t be too very far away… and what the hell was that on the right?  A trailer hitch pointed down and stuck into the roadway, from between two automobile tires… and a red primer frame that disappeared into the dark swamp on the other side of the berm. I braked hard, creating a cloud of oyster shell dust, and stopped only a dozen feet past the thing.

“Whoa! Hold up a minute!” We both jumped out and left the bug idling, to survey our find. It was a sand rail!  A dune buggy, left in the middle of nowhere, WITH THE KEYS IN THE IGNITION!?! I scrambled down to the driver’s seat, turned the key, and it started right up!  I told Chauncey to turn the bug around, so we could head home with our prize. He went to do so, using up a lot of road to do it, since he wasn’t used to four on the floor.  He would jerk forward, trying to find reverse, then jerk forward again. I chuckled at his antics and our luck. From my seat in the sand rail, whose nose pointed at the sky, I spun the tires a little to get it over the berm, but of course, the trailer hitch had it anchored. I jumped out, slogged through a few feet of green slime and up the berm, to dig out the hitch.  Chauncey was fifty yards down the road, finally headed back this way, and I knew that when he got there, together we could get the buggy unstuck and out of the swamp. I began looking around for a tree branch or something else to use as a shovel, and directly across the road – I mean perfectly straight before me – a porch light came on.  The buggy was aimed at the driveway of a trailer house about a hundred feet away, which we had totally failed to see. One thing I could see, as if in broad daylight, was the rifle in the hand of the bath-robed guy standing on that porch. My face fell off.  I launched myself toward the approaching beetle, waving my arms and shouting something stupid. Chauncey barely slowed enough for me to clamber in, and started off again, headed right past the trailer!  I screamed at him to stop, to turn around, but it was too late.  As we passed the trailer, the crack of the rifle hit us like a sheet of ice.  Each of us looked to see if the other was dead.  Both of us will swear to this day that we heard the whizz of a hunting round inches from our noses, zipping through the open windows of the bug. Chauncey just kept jamming gears until we were moving as fast as that little 1300cc bug could go on the washboard, rattling our teeth and dusting the whole swamp.  As we hit the pavement nearer Atlantic, we saw a police car heading our way. Too late to do anything but drive as normally as shaking hands, ragged breath, and exploding heads allowed. No red lights… no siren.  No deputies drawing a bead on us. They passed us, heading toward the scene of our disgrace.

huntinground

At Atlantic Boulevard, I told Chauncey to turn right, toward a small tract of houses just a half mile east of us. Somehow that seemed to offer the best cover, in case the cops came after us.  As we wound through the small streets, toward the back of the tract, the houses thinned out until it was all empty streets with weeds growing between them. Finally, in a cul-de-sac surrounded by tall grass and littered with rubbish, we had to turn around. Because it was so obstructed, Chauncey had to do a three-point turn, and I helped him find reverse. We cringed at the loud thump from the rear of the car, and the way the rear end lifted up and then crashed back down.  Stopping, we jumped out, to find a four-foot piece of lumber stuck to the left rear tire by A NAIL, jammed up into the fender well, holding that wheel up and preventing it from turning.  Pulling and cussing and kicking at it did nothing. I got back in the driver’s seat, and with Chauncey pushing and lifting, we eased it gingerly forward until the board was flat on the pavement again. I dug around the nose of the car for the tire iron, and bent the nail away from the tread, and there was no hissing, no deflation of the tire.  We both almost fainted.  The ride home was long, slow, and very, very quiet.

 

SystemIsms

…thoughts on the human race to oblivion…

(some parts also published separately,  elsewhere on this site)

BubblEyeRacism, and many other isms, are all about power,
and we have let that power turn and corrupt us

 

DEAD CALM

WayneSL 2012-06-22

Peace at Last.
Peace and Quiet.

None remains to challenge me
or disturb my reverie.
Even the hill on which I stand
dare not rise above my height.
I am Master of all that I survey
and I can see a smooth horizon
fitting earth to sky precisely
uniformly, according to My Will.
I have ground this planet
like a ball bearing
until it shines
as a dark mirror to my face.

Not even a crashing wave
can interrupt my dreadnought thoughts.
The oceans joined the blackened skies
evaporating before my iron wrath.
Unruly water, like the birds and beasts
and plants that wedged apart
the concrete steel and glass
that I had built.

They would not cooperate.
They would not take their places.
They would not do as they were told.
And it came down to me or them,
and now it’s down to me.
I dominate all I see.
I alone am free.
All that did not yield to me
I turned to ash.
I
bent their knees.

The piles of blackened bones are still
The neutrons even killed
the germs so there’s no smell.
In blessed silence now I stand
Victor of a perfect land
No tears or laughter have escaped my hand
No slightest movement flouting my command.
The only sound competing with my breath
is wind that howls through bones
charred black as death–

…and I’m workin’ on that.

 

(EDITED to remove dated references)
We’d  had encouraging news the week I wrote this, with the “Supreme” Court actually upholding the rights of humans to marry and to have healthcare, and a wave of opposition to the pervasiveness of the confederate flag. My joy was somewhat tarnished by knowing that the right to marry has been stupidly long in coming, and that the healthcare victory is not only very late, but woefully incomplete. More sobering still is the fact that the flag issue was precipitated by the assassinations in Charleston, 193 years to the day after 35 members of that same church were lynched, and the building burned to the ground. I had those terrorist acts on my mind, as I began writing this, but racism is connected to a lot of other Isms which both feed, and feed on, humanity’s fatal inhumanity. You see, racism does not consist merely of wrong thinking, or bad actions, or speech, and it is not an either/or status, identifying bad racists and good non-racists. Racism is a sociopolitical system, and it interacts with a lot of other systems (mostly isms) to concentrate power and privilege to some humans at the expense of others. It’s one of the malignant cancerous Isms that keep us divided, and therefore conquered. I don’t generally think of myself as racist, but to whatever extent I have benefited from the system, I am tangled in the harm, touched by the disease. It’s a disease which I believe reaches back 2 million years, to a fundamental change in the process of evolution. All species before us adapted over millennia to their environment, but instead, we adapt our environment to suit us, circumventing biologic evolution. Now, we build systems to serve us, and sometimes those inventions take on lives of their own. The genie of our genius offers to grant us wishes, and the hunter-gatherer in us asks for a longer spear.

Australopithecanthropi

Australopithecanthropi

Taint

WayneSL 2013

In the morning we go out to hunt
to gather and to bring home stuff
and if that stuff is in another’s hand
then there will be negotiation
a battle
a process.

and if it is Gaya herself
and she should oppose us
there is still
a process.

That process may be thorough yet
still the stuff brought home with us
carries a trace of its former place
the fingerprints of other hands
a tint of blood on the diamond
a twinge of cyanide in black or yellow gold
though refined it still retains
signs of its source: a stain remains.

We bring stuff back to the nest
to feed our young
to please the Queen
Then as they open stuffed mouths
to praise us
the poison cuts them off

And we
are indignant.

 

Not all Isms are destructive. For instance:
The principles of Unitarian Universalism teach me that:

Until we, as a species, recognize the inherent worth and dignity of every person, and grant them Justice, equity and compassion, based on mutual acceptance, which is the fruit of our search for truth and meaning, our consciences and our democratic aspirations will fail. In that case, our world will not have lasting peace, unfettered liberty, nor justice for all.   In fact, the web of life will likely have to heal a wound left by our self-destruction.

Humanity is at the foot (or the precipice) of an evolutionary change, that is deeply affecting all life on this planet, and the outcome will be decided by whether or not we, as a species, learn to share equitably, to behave morally, and to love truly. Our evolution has suffered some devolution too…. our cognitive ability may have surpassed our emotional development to a deadly imbalance. I fear for the human race and all life we encounter.

The lakes that beavers create, by building dams, make them one of only two species whose effect on Earth is visible from outer space. I doubt beavers will destroy life on Earth, but humans appear to be doing so. Just the week this article was written, while the feeding frenzy of the media focused on the horrific murders in Charleston, Stanford University announced the very credible and thoroughly vetted fact that humankind has initiated the sixth mass extinction in this planet’s history. During its 4½ Billion years of existence, there has been life on Earth 3½ Billion years. There have been 5 mass extinctions in that time, the most recent about 65 Million years ago. Our history of about 2 Million years is less than one half of one thousandth of the span of life on Earth, yet we have gathered to ourselves such an immense surplus of power, and are misusing it so egregiously, that we are clearly causing this sixth mass extinction, even without global thermonuclear war.

There can be little doubt that we are the first species here to have that capability. Our present level of cold, intellectual, technical power – the Machine Mind – has far surpassed our social and spiritual development – our Humanity. That imbalance means that too many of us are ill-equipped to choose goals and foresee their consequences, in order to guide the technique of execution. We are a juggernaut with a loose rudder.

 

Racism remains rampant in this world, as well as discrimination based on national origin, socioeconomics, sex, gender identity, creed… ISMS!
Use the ones that advance our humanity,
avoid the ones that diminish us,
and don’t let ANY of them control you.

 

ISMS

Original art by WayneSL

RIGID ISMS

song lyric by Wayne Slater-Lunsford, 1998~2012

We all live here, in the valley-
and we dance beside the river, deep and wide.
and our voices harmonize here;
and we share the river’s love along both sides.

Bayanihan, and Ubuntu
and Aloha and Communion all are one.
and our planet gives us plenty,
If we learn to share and let the river run.

Who’s that yelling a cross the divide?
That shadow in the sunset looming long?
They’re screaming at the other ridge as loud as they can,
but it Seems to me that both extremes are wrong.

From the dawning to the evening
Some fools on the ridges throwing rocks across,
but the rocks land here in the valley
and it’s the folk down here that pay the cost.

I don’t know why you would listen to them.
They speak of love but fear is how they rule.
They tell us we’re all beggars and that they should be kings
Don’t let those ISMS get the best of you.

Yes, we live here in the valley
not up on the ridges where the air is thin.
where our shadows can out grow us
and our voices echo but our thoughts are dim.

I don’t know why you would listen to them.
They speak of love but fear is how they rule.
We’re all one race of humans and you know that it’s true.
Don’t let those ISMS get the best of you.

We’re all one race of humans and you know that it’s true.
Don’t let those ISMS get the best of you.
Don’t let ISMS get the best of you.

 

LISTEN TO THE SONG

 

OverLag (DEFINITION)

Example of Overlag (CLICK TO ENLARGE)

Overlag: The phenomenon caused by lag in a messaging system, or in the typing speed of one party (or by reflection, impatience of the communicating parties) whereby successive messages overlap, and the sequence of thoughts and intents becomes munged. The most common pattern is that:

  1. message A evokes a response B
  2. which is on its way, while message C heads down the lagging pipeline
  3. making it look to the initiating party, like response B applies to message C
  4. and message C then seems to be responding to… it’s a mess…

The intergalactic war of 2,335,478 BE (Before Earth) was fought over a misunderstanding created by overlag.

First known usage: 2013, Wayne Slater-Lunsford, in a FaceBook post, long ago banished into the nether regions of Cyberspace…

See overlag example in illustration, above.

Record Broken

GladysColorized__0001Gladys Jessie Smith Lunsford
April 24th, 1919 ~ March 2nd, 2015
Mother, Grandmother, Great-Grandmother
Sweet, Gentle, and Courageous Soul

My father Sister and Brother
Have preceded my mother.
My sister deleted her mind.
Her Earth-Mother body
Calmly continued that gentle sleep
But when it was plain that she was gone.
We turned it off.

Her pain ended, but our mother saw
That body peaceful empty
The round cheeks rosy
The lips full still.
Mommy’s death began with that, I think.

Our brother, mad and hard
Frightened the neighbors
And returned to the streets and fields
And we haven’t heard from him in years.
He’s dead too.

Gladys was father and mother to us.
After twenty-six years held as house help
She saw that we must leave
And took her brood to a new life
Wherein she worked beyond reason
And gave her best years to freeing us.

In that vise of necessity
Her mind burst
More than once.
Yet she returned to shelter the young
Again and again.

When the youngest
The gentlest
The gift and giver left us
Mommy began
Her floating into gray.
As fog filled her head
She wandered ever more
Until she lived within a minute always new
Or in a past
Where she kept things neat
And in good repair
And the little ones never lacked for her care.
The needle skipped
Back into the same groove
Or farther still
To a song long done
An echo fading past empty arches
Sometimes I was my Uncle Ted
And that was good

Then after years of disjoint minutes
I saw the eyes that had seen more than their fill
That had looked with love and fear and wonder
Gently
Close.

If my series ever goes into reruns
Please cancel it.

WayneSL 2015-03-02

WESL_Wtx