You Got Any?…

Riddle me this, Batman…

Kim Jong-Il has the most. Gadhafi is losing his. Obama has to share, and Republican governors will conspire to get more.

Toddlers demand it. Laws reinforce it. Your dog resents you for it, and wants it back. Couples will claim it’s evenly balanced.

It’s never evenly balanced.

Parents often mismanage it. Teens rail against it. Prisons are founded on it. Religions abuse it. Corporations will destroy one another to increase their share.

It’s not power, love, fame, fortune, or money. It’s much simpler than all of that. You might be able to use those things to get some, though. And you will do just that, if need be.

That’s pretty much what life is all about, actually…

It’s control.

If you think that you have all you need, then you likely see yourself as well- balanced, successful, happy…or at least enroute to those ideals. If you don’t have enough ( or any at all ) then there’s probably a long, fragmented, and complex story to go along with the lack of. Did you ever really have it?  How did you lose it? When did you see it last? Have you a description of the bastards who stole it from you? And most important…what will you be willing to do to get it back?

Because you must get it back. We must all control something, somewhere. If only the dog, or the TV remote, or what kind of cereal to have. Or when to have it.

I honestly think that people will go to any length necessary. If we are denied any semblance of control in our lives for too long, then the consequent sense of deprivation will create a havoc of its own; and the individual will take control of that, if nothing else. From dogs behaving badly to Hitler enacting genocide, it all stems from a perceived lack of control ( although it might just turn out to be vegetarian painter- corporals who are to blame for everything. To quote Mr. Izzard; ” Damn! I can’t get the trees right! I will kill everyone!”)

Thank you for that small indulgence. I do so enjoy an Eddie Izzard bit every now and then.

This post stems directly from the last, concerning the boy and his mother in the supermarket; and is supplemented by a guest-post at The Wakefield Doctrine ( a theory of personality based on people’s perceptions of their world, and therefore how they will most likely react in it. ) I will endeavor to continue with this theme in the days to follow; in the meantime, I would be intrigued to hear some of your perceptions of the concept of control as a driving and motivating force. Please feel free to comment!


Published in: on February 24, 2011 at 2:54 pm  Comments (8)  

Forgiven, Not Forgotten…

With today being Sunday, I was engaged in my usual course of activity; a foraging mission to the local market.

As I was approaching a traffic light, I pulled up in the right lane alongside a late-model SUV. It was being driven by an early-forties woman with a baseball cap on. Her long hair was in a ponytail that came out through that little opening in the back of the cap that always makes me wonder if baseball cap makers ever actually had that application in mind, and I always seem to decide that they did not. Paired with sunglasses and an athletic jacket, the type-cast was somehow complete.

She was noticable not so much for the typecast, but because she seemed to be screaming, shouting very angrily into a cell phone. She was slamming the phone shut just as I glanced in her direction.

I don’t care much for people who preoccupy themselves while driving. This person didn’t strike me as the sort who would be at all concerned with anyone else’s opinions in general. I instantly determined that I would allow her to get ahead when the light changed; a bit of distance for safety’s sake.

And just then…a boy, I would estimate to be around 10 or 11 years old, sat up in the passenger’s seat. He had been scrunched out of sight at first.

I made eye contact with him. The woman now continued her ranting, presumably at the boy, now that the phone was not an issue. She was much too pre-occupied to realize that they were not quite alone at that point.

He was still slumped against the door, with his face turned into the glass. He was as far out of the vehicle as he could be without opening the door.

In that few seconds, I saw something in that kid’s eyes that brought back a whole world of repressed and forgotten emotional cues. That look of not just embarassment in the immediate sense, but of a much deeper and permanent despair. The absolute hopelessness.

He had to look back at me. For a few seconds, he had no other choice; and he certainly couldn’t look away and back towards his mother. That would likely be seen as a challenge. I hoped that he would not do that, and he didn’t.

Much information was passed in that few seconds.

The light changed, and a few minutes later I watched as they both got out of the SUV to go into the market. He, of course, had to walk some steps behind her.

In the market, I saw them at an aisle’s end only once. She even shopped furiously. I could only give the boy a quick glance; certainly not a smile, but more of that flattening of the corners of the mouth that indicates grim determination.

I think that he knew what I meant, somehow.

I know that the world holds an untold number of kids who have lives worse than this, but still; no one should ever have to be in that place for very long. It made me recall countless trips out in public with my own severely dysfunctional mother, and the absolute agony of never being able to know what might happen in the next instant. And in private, it was much worse; there was no need for restraint at all.

So after the quick glance of acknowledgement, they turned the corner of the aisle, and I did not see them again. Just as well for his sake; hell is best endured in private.

At that moment, a fervent prayer seemed to wrench itself from my chest and rocketed towards the heavens. And as the real ones always seem to do, you can tell that it hit the mark somewhere. The others are all just so much practice.

I have long, long since forgiven my mother her transgressions. But as my very young friend led me to have to observe; forgiving is one thing, forgetting is entirely another. With maturity and reflection, one can forgive. But you will not ever really forget. And you should not.

Not ever.

Published in: on February 20, 2011 at 7:54 pm  Comments (2)  

So There I Was…

… crouched in the dark, musket in hand, wondering  which Best New Whatever Beiber/ Rihanna/ Lady Gaga segment would force me to yet again shoot out a nice old tube TV.

Honestly, I didn’t even watch much of the Grammys.

So imagine my surprise this morning when I heard that Esperanza Spalding beat out Beiber in his category. I guess she was pretty surprised, too. She is a contemporary jazz singer who happens to play upright bass. She does both very, very convincingly. She was the youngest instructor ever at Berklee at age 20, and has released three albums to date. To say that this  win came out of left field would be fine as long as left field were on the back side of Pluto. ( Pluto was nominated in the new ” used to be a  real planet” category. I, for one, miss Pluto. It used to be such a mysterious and exotic place, and now it’s just a sad little rock that’s hurtling through space in the dark.)

 So…in spite of CCOB’s bitter and jaded expectations, apparently miracles actually do abound, and wonders never cease. Well, shut my mouth.

Oh, wait…before I shut my mouth, Grammys were also picked up by Jeff Beck, Larry Carlton, and Iron Maiden. Wonders, miracles, etc. Geez, I have such good taste.

 And please do check out Esperanza. How anyone could sing in a bop sort of style and play jazz bass is beyond me; but then again, many things are beyond me. But it surely looks like jazz might be establishing a new beachhead.

Ok, now I’ll shut my mouth.

And Yet Again…


A very somber morning here at the Rag.

Truly sorry to hear yesterday of the passing of Gary Moore; one of the very best rock/ blues players of all time.

After several years in/around Thin Lizzy, Gary launched a thoroughly unexpected blues revival in 1990 with ” Still Got The Blues”, appearing with both Albert Collins and Albert King ( who thought Gary played way too loud ). His career spanned a good thirty years, and I always appreciated his late-80’s-early 90’s material that had a definitive Celtic flavor to it. He was predominantly a Les Paul/ Marshall guy, and always found a way to break away from that mold and achieve some really gorgeous and unique tone.  He owned and used the Les Paul that Peter Green used with Fleetwood Mac in the 60’s ( back when they were a blues band ); Gibson actually re-issued that one as the ‘ Gary Moore’ model. ” Still Got The Blues  ” and ” Wild Frontier ” are both still on my regular rotation.

Sorry to see you go, bud. It was never done better.

And in continuing today’s  theme;

I am in process of reading the last few of the Spenser novels by Robert Parker. Robert passed away just about a year ago.

I had come to like the other Parker characters too ( Jesse Stone, Sunny Randall ) but there’s always been something special about the Spenser novels.  Parker’s affinity for Boston and the surrounding areas ultimately became a supporting character for all of them; much in the way that Stephen King would write about Maine.

A Spenser novel is very fast-paced, with chapters being typically about three or four pages long. It’s conceivable to sit down with one and burn through it in just a few hours, and it feels much like a familiar favorite ride at the amusement park. Same backdrops, same primary and secondary characters, very formulaic. And really sharp and snappy dialogue. Dialogue was really Robert Parker’s forte. That was how he could have several well-developed characters with almost no actual background to speak of. Background not necessary; they were from Boston, and they knew Spenser. Close enough. Robert Urich ( also deceased ) and Avery Brooks did a nice job in the 80’s of converting Spenser into a  TV show.

But now I’m coming down to the last few chapters. It’s become a rather sobering experience; all too soon, the decades of twice-a-year-reading- a- new -Parker-novel will be at an end.

There is a vague sense of dread here, of being uncomfortably close to the spirit and essence of death. I first detected this on reading the last of Patrick O’Brian‘s Aubrey/ Maturin novels. He was desperately ill, and yet still trying to bring his characters to some kind of acceptable conclusion before it was too late. He didn’t make it; the last novel was not finished. You can actually detect the degeneration in his writing as the event approaches, and the last sentence literally trails off the page. It was published just as it was found.

Interesting that neither Parker nor Patrick O’Brian ever got a chance to close out their characters the way they might have liked to do; so in that sense Spenser, Hawk and Susan, along with Captain Aubrey and Dr. Maturin, have all achieved an eternal quality of their very own.

And having waxed very melodramatic, I’ll close today with an apt quote; Russell Crowe as Maximus, from Gladiator;

“Death smiles at us all; all a man can do is smile back.”

Published in: on February 7, 2011 at 5:26 pm  Comments (2)  

Aww…Not Again…


Just saw a short blurb in the Providence Journal announcing the demise of the White Stripes. No particular or traumatic reason given. Just time to hang it up, I guess.

That is genuinely too bad in my book. I really, really like them. I had just recently decided that Jack White is officially my favorite anti- musician musician. Noy only does he do everything in a very un-modern ( and presumably more difficult ) fashion, but he does it that way on purpose.

He plays old Airline and Harmony guitars. They’re very retro, but that’s not the point. He likes them because they’re difficult to work with. He has to ” pick a fight with it ” to get anything out of them. He uses an old Fender Twin Reverb ( very collectible and stylish ) and an even older Sears Silvertone; lots of floor pedals. All their stuff is recorded on ancient analog equipment that Pro Tools probably converted into a usable sample group years ago.

He’s not a ” good” guitarist. He does everything that I would teach students to avoid.  Meg is not a ” good” drummer.

Thank God for that. Being ” good” was never allowed to get in the way of anything.

The songwriting is terrific; the performances were barely under any control at all; they never even used a set list on stage. Nothing ever got it the way of the material. Absolute minimalism.

It worked beautifully.

I hope I didn’t help to cause this. Over the years, it seems that every time I officially like something in music, something bad usually happens. I’m convinced of it. It’s a long list. It can’t be random.

Jimi Hendrix..Cream.. Led Zeppelin..the Allman Bros…Poco..Loggins and Messina..the Band..Miles Davis..Mountain..Stevie Ray..Schenker..Iron Maiden..Mahavishnu Orchestra… to name a few. Some have managed to go on to new projects, and I try not to notice…although Robert Plant was awfully good last week.

And now the White Stripes. This was my first ” official ” endorsement in years. They didn’t have a chance. It’s all my fault. I’m just really glad that they weren’t on an airplane.

I know that they’ll do other stuff, and I’ll probably like that, too. I’ll just try not to show much enthusiasm for it. It’s all I can do.

You know what, though? I really like Rihanna’s new single. Just had to say it….