Everything Is Wrong (Except The Things That Are Not)

The number of Wrong things is mounting. Each horror makes the others seem trivial by comparison. It’s Naomi Klein’s “Shock Doctrine” on gasoline. Each day we go to sleep and things have reached a new level of absurdity. Then in the morning, we wake up and things are twice as absurd again. We live in an article from The Onion and satire has lost its outline.

So we navigate our days, looking after ourselves and our communities the best we can.

In my corner of things that matter less than the demise of everything, we find the music biz becoming increasingly even more absurd (yes, it is possible). One Chris Castle has just posted a breakdown of what the corporate busy-bodies are trying to do now. Read it here with air-sickness bag.

Meanwhile the Democratic Party has come up with a slogan so tepid it makes skim milk look like your favorite beer. Get another air-sickness bag. Ready? Here it is:

“A Better Deal: Better Jobs, Better Wages, Better Future.”

They spent money and did focus groups to come up with that. Shut up. Look, the orange buffoon has a slogan. It’s meaningless and stupid but it’s a slogan, and a lot of people relate to it and it helped him only lose the popular vote by about 3 million. Slogans can help. The Democratic Party needs some help. A good slogan would help. This one is shite. I am sad.

What else, lead singers committing suicide. Chester Bennington, on his friend Chris Cornell’s birthday, in the same way, are you kidding me? Send in the zombies already, this can’t be real. These guys are so loved and so successful and so talented, what would make them miserable enough to do that? I do grieve for them and pre-dismiss any snarks about them. Clearly they had their reasons. Clearly they meant business. More sadness.

The unpresident wants to pardon himself. That’s great, I appreciate his work as a comedian. Firing everyone and everyone lawyering up against each other and doing exactly nothing good for anyone. It makes me think, for some reason, of the vacuum-beast in Yellow Submarine, which sucks up everything and everyone around itself until everything is gone and he stands there alone. Don’t go near that thing.

Small good things. One small good thing at a time. We can do these things and they have meaning and they help. Yesterday morning I saw a woman’s car stalled on a freeway off-ramp and a man was preparing to help push her car to safety. I pulled over and got out and helped. Lo and behold the guy was an old friend of mine, Steve Lew, fellow musician and fact-enthusiast. We chatted as the nice woman waited for a tow, we caught up and went on our merry ways. It felt nice. Steve sent me a young guitar student earlier this year. I recently taught her to play Ziggy Stardust. This made her very happy. This made me happy. The Gods smiled and were happy. Now I am happy. Good morning.

Last Dance With SoundCloud

I used to love SoundCloud. I thought they had a great interface for both music listeners and creators. I recently heard they were having trouble, but I uploaded my latest single there, hoping the experience wouldn’t be awful. I quickly found out that the worst stories I’d heard about SoundCloud’s demise are true. You can read more about the sordid mess here if this interests you. Long story short there’s fake “plays” being sold to artists and you get hassled by bots and SoundCloud is barely paying for real plays anyway and they’ve laid off half the company and closed offices and it’s going down like Titanic. Meanwhile the CEO says everything is great, because that’s what CEO’s do, I suppose, to extract the last bit of blood from a dying, once-beautiful beast.

I’m leaving my song there, although I have removed the embed from my own site. I’m leaving it because the lyrics just seem right for this.

They’re making music with artificial intelligence
to be enjoyed by artificial life,
I’ll take it all in, watch babylon fallin’
Eatin’ popcorn with my artificial wife

The song is “Everything Is Wrong” and you can hear it (for real!) and download it here. You wont be spammed or asked to log in or give me your email or your firstborn or anything. Just play it and feel free to share if you like it.

Farewell SoundCloud. I shall miss thee.

A Walk In The Cemetery With The Summer Of Love

I sometimes walk in Piedmont Cemetery when I need to put things in proper perspective. It’s a great place to wander, and on a weekday morning like today there’s hardly anyone there. One thing that impressed me today was the fountains. They’re sprinkled throughout the grounds and they all have basically the same design, and they’re all running. The whole place is beautifully maintained and among the few people I saw there this morning were some dedicated groundskeepers. I noticed the sound of the fountains today, in a way I hadn’t fully appreciated before. It’s so soothing, so meditative, so nice. Running water, like the sound of a creek, I mean there’s a reason people meditate to sounds like that, recorded or by actual creeks. I realized that these fountains with their multiple spouts were perfectly designed to create a sound very much like a little waterfall. Or perhaps rain. It’s lovely. And as you walk around through the monuments and dedications to departed loved ones, you can always hear these fountains. You approach one fountain and it gets louder, as another fades to quiet behind you. It’s very musical and I took a moment to applaud the architects of this.

I thought of my dad, naturally, as he was a composer and appreciator of found music in the tradition of John Cage. Like, you decide to hear the world around you as music, and thus it is. It’s a thought I’m grateful to have learned early in life, as it’s given me decades of fun and entertainment. I mean the sound of the freeway, right now, airplanes passing and echoing through the city, it’s all music if you want it to be. Easiest thing in the world. So in the cemetery I considered my dad at length, and had what I will call a nice visit with him. What I wasn’t prepared for before he passed, was the absolute permanence his presence would hold with me. At times I miss him terribly of course, but as often, as today, I simply hung out with him. We had coffee and a chat and wandered around, looking at stones carved with the names and dates of fellow travelers.

The history there is endless. You pass one grave and you pass a lifetime of stories. Of love, of struggle, of success and failure, of relationships with so many other souls. And in these gardens there are thousands, and thousands, and thousands of these. I took some pictures and mused, there’s no way my dad could ever walk through a place like that and not take some photographs. I didn’t used to, I was far too lazy to mess with film and develop it. But instant satisfaction from my iPhone? Hell yes. In the course of my walk I realized that I’m doing more things like my dad as I get older, not less. Or maybe I am just noticing them more now. I don’t know. Like I said, he’s here, and that is just a trip. Someone said “What is remembered, lives.” I thought of that today and smiled, what an incredible thing is human memory. It can be awful, too. Best to do things you wont regret! As much as humanly possible.

That’s the 1st one I snapped, that started my little “chat” with my dad. He used to refer disparagingly to movies or TV shows that he found unoriginal, as “Plot number 5.” He maintained that most Hollywood productions followed narrow plot templates and that they were making the same things over and over again. So when he reached a moment where a story seemed rote, he would grump “Plot number 5 again!” and turn it off. So, here we were at plot number 52. Random association and I’m going with it. A “chance event” as John Cage would say.

I am a chance event. Me growing up in Berkeley was a chance event. My parents met in Germany and my dad had been accepted to the Hamburg Conservatory when they got engaged. But he also got accepted to UC Berkeley in the music department, and being that Berkeley was his hometown, it had a certain appeal. There were other factors involved, but my mom once told me it could have been a coin toss, at that point. So my brother and I would have been born in Hamburg. You can’t really describe two more different places in the 1960’s than Berkeley, California and Hamburg, Germany. Either one fine – I love Hamburg, I love Berkeley. Apparently, they had one of the coldest winters in living memory that year in Germany, as they were deciding. And California looked bright and sunny and warm. The Beatles were new and rock and roll was rock and roll, and Kennedy was president and Martin Luther King’s thundering voice was touching the hearts of men and women around the globe. America.

It was a return, for my dad. For my mom, a new adventure. They actually sailed into New York Harbor, past the Statue of Liberty, after a journey across the Atlantic Ocean. Can you imagine? A few years later they were enjoying the Summer Of Love in Golden Gate Park, and my mom has told me the “Be-In” was the happiest day in San Francisco and all creation. I was there, I was two! I was a two year old hippie.

I wonder, if I had been born in Hamburg, what would be different. Would I be a musician? Would I have different values? How different? Different how? It’s hard to know. My parents would still be their great selves, but how would we all have been different? The thought entertains me.

As I walked among the stones, I marveled at how unique and brilliant a life is. And how random things can seem. One of my favorite John Lennon quotes is, “Life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans.” I recently used that in a new song, actually! Shamelessly took it for the chorus. Works well! Thanks John. Hmm. Three Johns in this post. My dad, Cage, and now Lennon. More chance events.

I’ll publish the aforementioned song. I published “The Laughing Man,” yesterday. It’s about death, and God, really. For an alleged atheist, I sure have been finding God a lot lately. I even capitalize it now, where I used to use a little g. What is it that happens to our souls when we die? Here is my definitive, authoritative, completely certain answer: I don’t know! That’s my religion: not knowing. I could make a church of not knowing. We’d have services where we all chant “I don’t know, I don’t know!”

The sense of impermanence weighs differently when you likely have less days ahead than behind. So I’m publishing my songs while I’m here. Not going to not do it. Because things can tend to go by

When you’re four years old, a year is basically forever. The idea of doing something “next year” was meaningless to me. I lived right in the moment. This little house we lived in on Josephine Street in North Berkeley with its jungle backyard, was a vast universe of wild rumpuses and colors and light and music. God I was lucky to be born where and when I was. And to have such sweet and creative parents. And friends. I’m very grateful.

I’ve got a song on my EP called “Dad.” It’s about my dad. Subtle, no? I wrote it about a year ago and it’s a wild, short punky ride. It has all the love and pain and anguish and glory it ought to have, and it wrote itself very, very fast. I recorded it with Mikey and Bennie (a mini-Uptones if you will!) a week later. That tune was a doorway for me, somehow. Whatever was left of my writers block, was obliterated by that song. See, I love it when OTHER people write personal, soul-searching confessional stuff. But me?! You want to know what’s going on under the hood with me?! Noooooooo!! I write topical stuff, political songs, hell, I only recently wrote my first girls-name song! “Sweet Lacy Anne,” it’s also on my EP. But to delve into the darker scarier inner bits like therapy? To plow the minefields of one’s mind and let out the gnarly bits? I leave it to Bob Dylan. Hell, John Lennon! Dude was fearless about it, just let it all hang out. He’s the most famous person I ever thought I knew personally, just from his work. And after my dad passed, and I wrote that song, I realized that I’m not afraid to do that sort of thing anymore. If it happens to be entertaining, great, but I’m letting it out so it wont stay in here.

It’s a sunny summer day in 2017, fifty years after the Summer of Love. When I was a baby, and a young kid, the Beatles were not just my favorite band, they were my favorite anything. “All You Need Is Love,” “Can’t Buy Me Love,” “And I Love Her,” Love, Love, Love, Love, Love. What a marvelous message to start ones life to. I’m glad to carry it.

I’m off now to teach some youngsters how to play “Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds.”

Oh, there were turkeys at the cemetery. No way my dad would have passed them without taking their picture. Long live rock, be it dead or alive.

Ranty McRantface In The Age Of Contradictory Advice

I love it when other people rant. It’s so entertaining! Myself, not so much. Usually after a rant I feel sheepish and a day or so later want to pull it down. This or that detail was imprecise and maybe this bit hurt someone’s feelings. I really don’t like the idea of bumming anyone out so the tendency might be to never ever talk.

This is contrary to current popular direction, is it not? Ranting is a career choice for many. I think ranting is the act of speaking without thinking. It’s not an intellectual pursuit. It’s “no filter” and other dumb things.

It’s best if executive officers do not rant. The former CEO of Uber ranted his way out. Unlike Rush Limbaugh, he was not rewarded for his ranting. Entertainers can rant and they do. It’s entertaining. Heads of state should not rant. The president should not rant. President Obama never ranted.

The buffoon-in-chief only rants. He’s in the entertainment business and furthers his “brand” and that’s it. What example is set for our kids? I mean this question seriously and I know it’s a discussion widely had among teachers, parents, any reasonable human being – how to frame this firehose of idiocy for our young impressionable beautiful kids.

President Obama set a fantastic example of behavior for men and boys. I’m not talking about his administration’s policies or anything like that now, I’m talking about him. He thinks before he speaks. He researches, he listens, he’s careful, respectful. He demonstrates as any reasonable man should, how we would like our young men and boys to grow up and behave. Now we have the opposite. The exact opposite. How to frame that? How to discuss it with young’uns? “You can grow up and be a scientist, an astronaut, or you can even one day be president of the United States!” Well damb, I’m not saying that this week. This gauche gold-curtained infestation of our nation’s highest office is among other calamities, a dreadful message to our kids. Here, boys and men, is exactly how you should never behave. It was naked and known, in the campaign, no secret. A minority of Americans, via the Electoral College, placed at the helm of state, a man who bragged about sexually assaulting women.

Son, don’t be like that. Do not be like the president of the United States.

A friend once gave me some advice that I try every day to follow. Note I said “try” – for I am by no means a master at this. She basically said it’s best to act skillfully and not impulsively. Basic, simple thing, right? Man, it’s complicated for me. As an artist, I act impulsively, or I don’t create anything. The essence of writer’s block for me, was, simply being a self-editor before I let myself blurt. Fear of judgement, fear of not being good enough, fear of making something that sucks. So I didn’t make anything. I don’t have that problem now, writer’s block is gone from me and I don’t think it will return. I’ve become comfortable finally with the fact that sometimes I love the things I create, and sometimes I don’t. There’s songs I love one day and hate the next. It’s OK.

How must it be to never care? To be so void of self-reflection that you can rant all the time with no regard for truth or the feelings of others? I occasionally listen to AM talk radio when I need to suffer, and look, there’s guys on there, 24/7 for decades now, seething with rage and stupidity and narcissism, setting their example to humanity. It has an effect. They elected their guy. And the sickest part is they just do it for the money. It’s a game, it’s lucrative, Rush Limbaugh is very rich. Who knows what he actually believes? It doesn’t matter. His minions believe his garbage, and turn it into policy with their votes.

This quote from Bertrand Russell has vexed me from the day I read it years ago:

“The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, and wiser people so full of doubts.”

I wrestle with that every day. As an artist, and as a man. Many of the best things I’ve ever done, the best songs I’ve written, the best solos I’ve played, even some of my rants, have been spontaneous outbursts and I look back on them with pride and no regret. In all caps: THIS IS NOT ALWAYS THE CASE!!!! Good lord, no. I’m awash in regrets over some of the things I’ve done and created and said, spontaneously. How to know when to shoot from the hip, and when to stop and reflect, listen, be silent, consider, be careful? I’m working on it. Thought I’d share in case anyone else who may read this, might also struggle in this way. You are not alone! I say a little prayer each morning, hoping to act skillfully, but not censor myself out of existence. And hoping that when I do act impulsively, it’s right and good, and something I can look back upon later and smile, rather than cringe.

Oh, and to my ranting friends, THANK YOU!! You often inspire me, and I love you.

Here’s some thoughtful and calming advice from Bill Hicks.

And here is the Great One:

Rantyface, out.

New Single Comin Out This Week!

I’m excited to announce that my next solo track is ready and I’m putting it out this week. The song is “The Laughing Man,” which I co-wrote with my Uptones band mate, brother Paul Jackson. My EP is slowly but surely growing into an album. Oh and I got some more CD’s finally! If you want one, please ping me or order from here. It’s also in Spotify and iTunes if you prefer those wabbit holes. The other song in this new pair is called “Everything Is Wrong,” and it will follow soon. Here’s the artwork by Shannon Wheeler. I look forward to sharing these tunes! That is all. Cheers and thanks <3 E

I Blog, Therefor I Rant

Good lord. I hear on NPR this morning that the Koch brothers, and some of the congresspersons they own, are dissatisfied with the health care elimination bill because they feel it is not “conservative enough.” First let’s dispense with “conservative” and never use that word again. They don’t like the bill because it’s insufficiently sadistic. Not enough people harmed and killed, not enough despair for their liking. The GOP requires maximum carnage and suffering among the working and middle classes, the young, the old, the poor, the ill, the struggling, and all women. They work to harm people, because it pleases them to harm people. How else to slice it? They don’t need any more money. Fiscal conservatism doesn’t come into it. They want to take away your health coverage because they don’t like you.

Poor and middle class white persons will be dumped like landfill alongside the poor of every race that the ass-hat in chief publicly insulted to win the Bigot vote. Now they too will see the real face of the GOP in power, and some will still screech “make America great! etc” even as they finally lose the health coverage they so desperately wanted to lose because it was signed into law by a black man.

I’m out here on the coast, in my “bubble,” knowing full well that progressive thought is dismissed or even reviled by so many of the very people who have benefited from it since labor unions and social welfare programs were invented. Socialism, the dirty word of post-cold-war hysteria, is the thing we drive our cars on. The pavement, the signs that point us to Los Angeles or Albuquerque or explain that it’s a one-way road, it is all socialism, my dears. So I suppose public roads too must be eliminated. Public schools, the DMV, everything, the Golden Gate Bridge. All of it has to be shut down or privatized because it is socialism, and socialism is Bad. I feel better now that I understand.

In sum, 2016 saw the single dumbest decision in the history of humankind. What is more, President Obama was a great president who was as reviled by the racists he so diligently tried to help, as he was under-appreciated by many of my fellow left-coasty wine-sipping progressives for whom nothing is good enough. The Brexit vote in the UK was similar. These elections depict a humanity that has gone insane. It’s a mass movement of masochism. It basically said, “things are not difficult enough for us, may we please also be flogged?” The GOP is happy to oblige.

The opinions expressed here are mine alone and I apologize for breathing. I’m glad that Mother Nature bats last. Once Upon A Time, The End

Just The Facts

OK peculiar food confessions? Sometimes I really love V8. I mean over top freakout obsess love savor and gulp V8. Also, cottage cheese with pineapple. Lo-fat cottage cheese with pineapple chunks from a can. Instant summer and takes me to childhood back in the innocent days of Nixon and Viet Nam when things were normal. Wait. Wow, I totally digressed there. No matter. One of my sweet cats is dying, Chris Cornell just died, a David Brooks column just made sense to me (!!??) so, why pretend to be organized in my thoughts? It’s mayhem, chaos. The age of too much information has caught up with me. Remember the Police song, Too Much Information? Sting singing about being overwhelmed with info in like, 1981? How quaint! There’s no need for research anymore, or paragraphs. Make up your own facts, it’s easy! I myself am a ten foot tall lizard alien sent to make contact with William Shatner. Believe me. Everything is on blast, our little devices cue us to say “talk later” or “can’t talk now” or “fuck you and the horse you rode in on” and it’s so easy to mistakenly hit the wrong one. You could end a marriage or start WW3 with a butt-tweet and the machines will be none the wiser. Artificial intelligence? We have artificial stupidity and it’s congealed into a ridiculous orange zeppelin, crashing and burning in slow motion while an ancient radio voice cries, “oh the humanity.” It gets top ratings and ad revenues are brisk. I also like sourdough. Sourdough with gluten. Sourdough and Brie and white wine in California in springtime. Still there are birds.

Peace and Love and Digital Distribution and Bears, Oh My

Well here is a first, in my foray into self-releasing self-made stuff — I’m putting my EP out in (gasp) the regular channels!

I decided to try Distrokid to distribute my EP to the streaming services – Pandora, Spotify, Apple and a few others.

I just uploaded Peace and Love and Rock and Roll part 1. So now it has a UPC code and ISRC codes and it’ll be in those entertainment gizmos shortly.

You can still get the EP directly from me of course, click the record cover, 4 clams for 4 songs –

Thanks! Hope you enjoy.

And in order to keep this post focused and concise, here are some bears, playing in a hammock.

Horsefeathers, Fish, Beer, Nixon, and Marijuana

Things have become so ridiculous politically, it’s basically impossible to keep track of appalling developments. But I was happy to read an article this morning by a Republican former judge and rational conservative, Mark P. Painter. The headline is plain, It’s time to impeach Trump. His points are unassailable and he says “Horsefeathers.” No opportunity to say “Horsefeathers” should be missed but I digress.

There’s something comical about Russia sabotaging our election to their liking, in much the same way the USA has done to other countries around the world over the years. The GOP’s greatest 20th century hero, Ronald Reagan, “won” the cold war, so the GOP narrative goes, and now, 30-some years later, Russia’s favorite oaf slouches in Reagan’s chair.

As a lifelong leftie liberal democratic socialist environmentalist hippie ska-punkin’ tree-huggin’ critter-lovin’ peacenik and registered Democrat, I am fascinated by the collapse of the GOP. Grand old party. It’s not looking grand. It’s certainly old.

I had a grand old great-uncle who was a conservative. He took me fishing and gave me beer when I was like, 9 or something. Totes loved the dude. He voted Republican mostly and he was a WW2 vet and successful attorney. I remember him to be a reasonable man. A funny and clever man. He regretted voting for Nixon and applauded his impeachment. I can’t begin to imagine what he would think, now.

We argued once about legalizing pot. I smoked it at the time, when it was still illegal. “Why are your bourbon and cigar legal, and pot is not?” I pestered. I encouraged him to listen to reggae and bongload, also to no avail. It was almost a non-event in November of 2016, when marijuana became officially legal in California and elsewhere. The law is just catching up with long-established reality. But I wonder if my conservative lawyer great-uncle would try it now. I like to think of him giggling uncontrollably like a teenager before earnestly ordering pizza and listening to Led Zeppelin 1 over and over again.

My grand old great-uncle would be dismayed by current events, but it wouldn’t stop him fishing. It wouldn’t stop him arguing his case in or out of court. He would say “Horsefeathers.” He used to say things like that. And “bag of worms.” Yes, he said “bag of worms,” and on one occasion I distinctly remember him saying “Poppycock.”


Here is some music.

Here is a cat.

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Peace and Love and Rock and Roll in Open Source Music!

Delighted to see a nice write-up of my EP at OpenSourceMusic.com. Sez Matthew King Kaufman:

Right after I got used to fact that this sounds nothing like The Uptones, I loved this recording. It’s a solid rock record!! The songs are magnificent!

Here’s the whole post with audio of one song.

Thanks Matt! Cheers all, hope you enjoy.

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“A Top-Notch Enjoyable Listen!”

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