Current Affairs….and what I’m NOT doing….

Back in February, my wife and I decided to discontinue our TV service which was a typical deal where we had several hundred channels of content but only a dozen that we would watch sparingly. As is typical of the demographic I represent, a few of those channels were news stations. I must say that of all the stations I thought I would miss, the cable news stations were the ones I’d miss the most….or so I thought….

Now a few months sans TV (albeit we are streaming movies and such), I must say I don’t miss cable news a bit. I’m not going to go on a political rant about the bias and ills of corporate news media (for the record, I avoid FOX News like the plague but am always suspicious of CNN and MSNBC). That said, I do believe its good to stay informed but I have found it not so good to become obsessed with news stories that the networks hype up to keep an audience transfixed for hours and hours.

I say all this to share that I’ve felt a bit more level headed when it comes to keeping up with current affairs. I subscribe to a national news paper and a local one. I avoid social media news feeds and, as I’ve always done, treat all information with a level of discernment. I don’t believe in an unbiased news outlet. Any human endeavor will have some bias. I try to think critically and, most importantly, keep the emotions in check, living by the principles found in The Serenity Prayer (i.e. know what I can and can’t control and don’t confuse the two). If I can’t control matters, why get worked up? Now, if I’m watching cable news with their endless parade of talking heads and opinions, how could I NOT get worked up? But, having removed that element from my life, I’m required to be more proactive in getting my information and more discerning about how I respond to that information.

Leo Kottke

I saw Leo Kottke perform at the Ludlow Garage in Cincinnati this past Thursday. It was an excellent show. Some 50+ years into his career, he continues to perform at an inspiring level with ample doses of humor and self deprecation. This guy is a treasure. His music should be savored and enjoyed.

Klaus Schulze

Today, Klaus Schulze passed away. Yet another pivotal musician has transitioned to the next stage.

Mr. Schulze was a pioneer in electronic music, playing briefly in Tangerine Dream and Ash Ra Tempel before becoming a very prolific solo artist who released a wealth of instrumental synthesizer music. His masterpiece, “Timewind”, was a touchstone for so many musicians and remains my favorite of his works. I also love the more recent collaborations he did with Lisa Gerrard.

Klaus Schulze joins a growing list of musicians who have passed that were key elements to the soundtrack of my life, reminding me of the brevity of life. I am very grateful for the musical legacy and inspiration.

Current listening and what’s going on in the studio

Been looping and creating thick walls of lushness to vamp over….not sure where this is going but it feels good.

I’ve been listening to lots of the following. I share this because….why not….

  • The Beatles: Primarily “Revolver”, “Rubber Soul”, “Abbey Road”, and “Let It Be”. This is a direct result of watching the “Get Back” documentary on Disney+ this past November/December. I’m good for going down a Beatles “rabbit hole” every few years but that documentary kept in the hole for several months. I love the Beatles and have since I was a kid. They are and will always be the apex of Rock and Roll creativity. The minute someone says that The Beatles are overrated, I tune out…no way! Led Zeppelin will always be my favorite band but The Beatles were generational game changers.
  • George Harrison – “All Things Must Pass”: See above. This is my favorite post-Beatles solo album by any of the former Fab Four.
  • Brandi Carlile – “By The Way, I Forgive You”: My stepbrother has been a huge fan of hers for sometime so I gave her a listen and…WOW!. What a voice….what great songs…I love her!
  • Majid Bekkas – “African Gnaoua Blues”: A Moroccan multi-instrumentalist who melds North African music with American blues brilliantly.

Recent Reading: “Running with the Devil”

I just completed reading “Running with the Devil” by Noel Monk. He was the business manager of Van Halen from 1978 though 1984 when Van Halen were, arguably, the biggest and most successful Rock band on the planet.

The book is a pretty easy read and offers a glimpse into the world of big time Rock and Roll in the 70’s and 80’s, an era of major money, ego, debauchery, and musical genius…an era that is long gone.

Full disclosure: I was a HUGE Van Halen fan. I was of the prime age when VH came about. Listening to their 1st album as a 12 year old kid was truly life-changing. Eddie Van Halen (may he be at peace) was a major musical influence on me. Through my high school years, it truly felt like VH were the kings of the world and the rest of us just paid rent. They were that big.

The book is an account of the rise and fall of the bands original line-up from the perspective of the manager. It recounts some very salacious moments in the bands history. It is a “Sex, Drugs, and Rock and Roll” tale that would have been the stuff of fantasy in my younger days.

Taking into account that it is one person’s perspective on a shared history and all the potential emotion that likely skews the telling of such a story, I did enjoy the book and would recommend it, if for nothing else than a historical lesson of a music business world that is long gone. However, my younger self’s misguided fantasies aside, I found myself being very uncomfortable and saddened by the book which, in a weird way, was an emotional response I was grateful to experience. When I was a budding wanna-be Rock star, I romanticized the idea of drugs and sex. That was, after all, the big pay off for being a Rock and Roller, right?!?!…However, having long learned that a lifestyle of promiscuous sex and drugs can lead to catastrophic ends, I was left feeling very sad about this story of the band I idolized in my younger days. This is in sharp contrast to how I would have viewed the story if I had read it some 30 plus years ago. Back then, it would have inspired and aroused me. Today, as a much older and wiser person, I was saddened…and I’m grateful for this.

The Abbey of Gethsemani

New entry regarding a recent trip to Gethsemani.

10-April 2022: On Friday, I visited The Abbey of Gethsemani which is probably best known as the monastery where the late Thomas Merton was cloistered.

This visit was long overdue as I’ve been an admirer of Merton’s for many years. My book shelf is filled with his books. He left an example of a contemplative life that resonates with me greatly. As such, I’ve been meaning to visit Gethsemani, perhaps as a pilgrimage of sorts, since I moved to Kentucky in 2004 but never made the time until now. 

Honestly, it was too brief a trip as I had my infant grandson with me and it was very poor weather. Walking around the grounds was not possible. I did spend a bit of time in the gift shop and welcome center. This trip was more a “recon” visit for a future retreat I plan to take. This retreat is something I have wanted to do for years and almost did in 2020 before COVID-19 changed plans. It is something that my late father encouraged me to do a few days before he died. From a perspective, it will be fulfilling a dying wish. 

I suppose I’ll have more to share about this place in months to come. I do encourage anyone to explore the life and works of Thomas Merton…..and, on a lesser high minded item, I encourage everyone to try some of the fudge that the Trappist monks make. DELICIOUS!.