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Bird

Being a chav from a council estate my knowledge of anything other than chart music was limited but when I was about eighteen I bought a Charlie Parker album. It was all noise to me but I played it over and over and gradually it made some sort of sense. And from there I moved on to Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Lester Young and many other great musicians. For two years I even hosted a jazz radio show.

But Parker never stuck, his music was too esoteric, too urgent, and I never managed to get much past the wall of notes. But the other day I watched the 1-minute Henry/Collier C Blues and, being both chaotic and amazing, it made me want to practice and improve my own technical skills.

Which sent me scurrying back to Charlie Parker, whose technique is unsurpassed. And now, decades later, his music is beginning to make sense to me. ¬†Here he is on track called All the Things You are, alongside a young Miles Davis. His playing on this is fairly subdued for a change but it’s a lovely piece of music. It’s also the first jazz track I ever sat down and listened to.

Charlie Parker died, age 34, destroyed by a destructive drug habit that began with morphine at sixteen and exacerbated or perhaps even caused his erratic behaviour and mental health problems, but he was the most incendiary jazz musician who ever lived.

I’m just now becoming wise enough to listen to him.

 

*I thought I’d add this track – he’s playing while in the throes of heroin withdrawal, drunk on quart of brandy to ease the pain – he was committed to a mental institution shortly afterwards – and virtually unable to stand, he misses the opening and keeps swinging away from the microphone so his notes disappear. But you get a real picture of his wayward genius.

loser

And while I’m in this pensive mood, I must say that I often feel for the cast-off. The runner-up. The character whose main job is to lose to the protagonist.

Hector, the heroic loser in battle against the sociopathic Achilles, is one of my favourites. Paris, the suitor in Romeo & Juliet (rather than the original whose seduction of Helen caused the Trojan war) is killed by Romeo and never really understands the story he plays such a pivotal role in. Even Polyphemus, whose only mistake is to have a run-in with that scheming bastard, Odysseus*.

And Judas. Who I wrote about here.

I know they have lesser roles in greater stories, and their role is to lose, but despite that, or maybe because of that, there’s a humanity, a vulnerability, that they share.

 

*I do love Odysseus though. There’s something about a braggadocious, storytelling adventurer that appeals to me, and I wrote about him here.

quick and dirty

Talking of heuristics, my favourite is the one above. Get it done is better than plan it really well. Completion is better than providing a detailed description.

And to get it done with economy, even when imperfect. That’s where you find the grace.

But there are hundreds of guiding heuristics; I like the one about the monkey and the fox. The monkey, when threatened, has a thousand tricks, but he eventually he confuses himself with options and is caught. The fox, when threatened, merely runs away. He is never confused. So, simple plans, carried out repeatedly, work. Do the basics, really well.

And so on.

systemic

John was telling me about ACT therapy. He’s got a degenerative disease and doesn’t have time for prevarication, no pun intended, he has to get his shit squared away now. ACT is supposed to be along the lines of do it now, and don’t over-think it. I’m not even sure it’s therapy, it’s more like a fundamental operating system. Maybe a better way to describe it wold be a heuristic.

My own operating system has developed into a sort-of hybrid between stoicism and being-here-now, and how it works is mainly a combination of routine and gratitude. Between those two, I get along fine.

playing for keeps

Though I’d probably deny it in open conversation, I do believe we have a soul. I know it. I think of the soul as a blind, mute pilot who accompanies our physical form and feels everything. It doesn’t guide us, it doesn’t lead us, but it is the essence of us.

However, I don’t think we should ignore the body. It’s our physical form. It contains us and when it dies, so do we. Whether or not the soul continues, I don’t know, but what I do know is that if I love a person, I love their soul, and their intellect, but I love their physical form too.

A small example, literally. My dog, Angus. He has a soul. He’s friendly and he wants to do well. He’s also a destroyer of creatures big and small. But he has soul. I look in his eyes and I see it shining out. I love his little soul, but I love his little physical form too.

I don’t think I could face heaven. Sure, I could get all spiritual with the souls of the people I love, but I’d miss their physical forms, the weight of them; their presence. I’d miss hugs, and conversation and all the other stuff that makes life complete.

So, while I believe in the soul, I have no wish to spend eternity on a cloud playing a harp, getting all ESP with the souls of my loved ones. I want to have a cup of tea with my girl, in a cafe on a rainy day; I want to play music with my friends, and fun fight with my dog. I want to listen to my children talk.

Souls are good, but this physical life is for keeps.

the devil!

I dislike spell-check. I really dislike grammar-check.

But I hate predictive text.

Predictive text is the devil!

cough!

Been having an issue with an asthma flare-up the last few weeks. It’s mostly under control but, for example, this morning I took advantage of the municipal tip being reopened, so I emptied the rubbish from my garage and drove over with a full boot. Then I spent the next three or four hours with breathing problems.

Not fun.

cog

One of the issues you have on a website like this is that due to EU laws, you can be fined for using an image without the proper permissions. When I discovered this I went back and deleted every image that didn’t specifically belong to me or was given/sold to me by, for example, someone who did the artwork for a book cover.

It’s a pain. And it leaves lots of blog posts with blank spaces where there used to be an image. If I wanted to discuss a book, for example, I was in the habit of putting the cover of the book in the blog entry. But I didn’t have specific permission for this, so I was opening myself up to fines in the ¬£ooos. It wasn’t like I was stealing images for profit, but I’d still be liable.

Now we’ve left the EU it will be interesting to see if the UK government keeps this rule. I’m guessing they will, in the short-to-medium term at least. Laws are like ratchets, they only go in one direction.

footprint

As part of my digital-footprint reduction programme I’ve deleted my YT account, or at least I’ve put it to sleep – it means I keep my favourites but I can’t comment or even ‘like’ anything I watch. Which is a sort of relief; it’s fun to comment and get involved in debate but it doesn’t push me forward in any way.

Metaphorically, getting involved in any online discussion feels like I’ve jumped off the bus and run back along the road to engage in a chat or argument. I’ve stepped off the bus and momentarily stalled progress towards my own destination. Reaching out to strangers to debate issues I can never solve is fun but it’s not healthy. So I can add online discussions to all the other social media I’ve bailed from, or have never engaged with in the first place.

Now to delete my google account…

beach blues

I can’t remember taking these, but it was pre-lockdown.