Before you speak, ask yourself, is it kind, is it necessary, is it true, does it improve on the silence? -Sathya Sai Baba

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Music Giggity - Save the Date! July 29th, 2007

I have another show! This one's a singer songwriter gig, just me, no band (though I am now officially looking for a band, man - gotta start it with a positive jam). I'm really excited to do this show, since it'll be my first gig playing my tunes since, like, 2000? 2001? Something like that.

I'll be playing at Otto's Shrunken Head on July 29th. You'll have plenty of opportunities to hear about it (I've already posted the date on my MYSPACE MUSIC PAGE), 'cuz I'm sure I'll be mentioning it ad nauseum. Just put aside the date, don't plan on doing anything, I want to see you there. Yes, you!

Monday, May 7, 2007

Wisdom of the streets

Recently, I reinstituted a long-standing policy I had to take any flyer handed to me on the street. There are two reasons for this, both of them quite cool. The first reason is that, when these poor schmucks are out on the street, they are often just trying to earn a buck or two. They don't get paid unless they hand out all the flyers, and since it doesn't take any effort for me to throw them away, I figure I can help a guy put food on his table.

The second reason is more selfish. Sometimes, the grinning fellow handing out the flyers in Times Square or outside the theatre is a genuine nutjob. Truly crazy. And he's printed up all these flyers himself, and he is going to save you from hellfire, which is cool, and very nice of him. And sometimes, amidst the usual "Dear heavenly Father, I am a sinner. By the grace of your son, Jesus... etc., etc., etc.", you can find a gem of weirdness.

I recieved a pamphlet from Tony Alamo Christian Ministries. Mr. Alamo, is, no doubt, quite sincere in his faith. But there is something very interesting going on here that he may not be aware of. I'm going to reproduce some large portions, here, but trust me when I say it's worth the effort.

A few years after I was born again of the Spirit, I saw the Lord Jesus Christ with my eyes wide open. Sue was asleep, and I was wide awake. The room was pitch dark when a Spirit resembling a three to four-foot fluorescent light appeared in the room. It came into the room with a hissing sound, and with another hissing sound it formed itself into an oval-shaped mirror with a gold frame around it. Jesus was sitting in the mirror. He sat upon a purple throne-like chair that was trimmed in gold. The purple fabric looked like velvet. The back of the chair came up almost to the top of His head.

Jesus is not blonde and blue-eyed with long, stringy hair. He had the same skin color as myself, olive, which everyone in my life calls Caucasian. Again, He had black, bushy hair and a gold crown, which was about a half inch thick. It sat right on the top of His head and it looked like it was supposed to be there. And again, I wondered why no one ever thinks to wear a crown because it looks so good. His eyes were dark brown or black, and He was very handsome, better looking than any man I’ve ever seen. He was looking directly at me. By the way He looked at me, I could tell that He knew all about me and that He liked me as a person.

In this vision that I saw of Jesus there was a look of concern in His eyes, like He wanted to give me some urgent warning. I didn’t know what it was. He began talking to me but His voice was broken. It was like He was on radio, on the air, and somebody was quickly turning His voice on and off, on and off, all the time He was talking to me so that I couldn’t get anything He was saying. Later, I found out that His concern was that I wasn’t communicating with Him much at all.

I was astonished to read in the book of James that the Word of God, again, which is Jesus, is the mirror, the looking glass for us to look at to see if our reflection in it is like Jesus.

Now, if you're familiar at all with South American shamanistic practices (or have read Grant Morrison's The Invisibles) you know that, in the trance state, the shaman is able to extrude a substance from his orifices which could be called a liquid mirror. This magic liquid mirror allows the shaman to communicate with entities outside of this dimension, and to learn things to bring back to this world about curing diseases, increasing peace between tribe members, and maintaining good realtions with the dead. I would say that Mr. Alamo's mirror bears at least a passing resemblence to this "magic mirror" and that he is experiencing, albeit with a heavy Christian cultural overlay, a very sophisticated shamanistic experience. An experience that, for all it's crazy christian vibe, is still psychologically valid.

The one thing about these experiences is that, as any acid casualty will tell you, it's all in how you interpret the thing whether or not your vision has anything to teach you. The old-school shamen always brought back the visions with their own cultural overlay, so there's no shame in that. Mr. Alamo's cultural reality tunnel is Christian, and therefore, he saw Jesus. Makes sense.

The other thing is that there is one thing that Mr. Alamo may be missing, and that is the understanding of what he is truly seeing. It's in plain sight, so he is forgiven for missing it. Can you see it?

(I'll give you a second).

That's right. He is looking in a mirror. Mirrors don't work by reflecting partly back. Mirrors are at their best when they reflect back perfectly, without distortion.

Mr. Alamos was seeing a vision of his truest self, and the thing he may never know is that he is seeing himself. (in dreams, all things are YOU!). His vision is telling him - he is Jesus!

All the major religions tell us this, but here is Mr. Alamo's *proof*. He has been granted an insight of a major order, but, sadly, it slips away from him. He doesn't dream big enough, and doesn't have the cultural support (as he would in, say, a Hindu culture) to see what a gift he has been given.

And look what else: "I found out that His concern was that I wasn’t communicating with Him much at all." His innermost self, his soul that is identical with God, is telling him that he is missed. His soul misses him and wants him to come home. Truly beautiful.

Mr. Alamo, for better or worse, is the real deal. He may be all kinds of crazy christian, but he is a real visionary. I wish that the psychological lexicon for him to interpret his visions was more widely available, and was more grounded in our culture, so that, instead of dividing us, and making us feel that we are separate and alone and far from our God, we could realize how close heaven is, how near our God. "He is closer than your heart," says the Quran of God, and here's hoping we all see.

Update: I also posted on my music blog over here at my Myspace music page. It has nothing to do with this, I've just had a lot on my mind, lately. Enjoy!

Thursday, May 3, 2007

Random 5

Where we plumb the depths of a man’s iPod with unblinking eyes. Remember, when you stare into the playlist, it stares back into you (what?).

1. Marcus Garvey – Sinead O’Connor
This is off her amazing album of reggae covers Throw Down Your Arms, which was one of my favorite albums last year. The arrangements are very traditional, with some of the top session players from that style, very authentic, and she sings her heart out. There’s very little of the whispery, shattered sounding Sinead of old on this record. She’s just singing songs she loves. She is a serious one though, isn’t she? Most of the songs on this collection emphasize reggae’s political bent, rather than its party frat-boy, light up a spliff and relax aspect. Which, one might say, is a balance, but still.

2. There is a Light that Never Goes Out – The Smiths
Morrissey, god love you. This may be my favorite Smiths song of all time. The lyrics are heartfelt, with a sly wit to the mopery (“And if a ten ton truck/ crashes into us/ to die by your side/ what a heavenly way to die”). and the music. When the strings kick in on the chorus, I feel like crying a little. So beautiful. I want to cover this song so much.

3. La Costa Brava – Ted Leo & the Pharmacists
I went through a Ted Leo phase in 2005 and listened to Shake the Sheets until I couldn’t stand it anymore. As I am wont to do, I foisted my obsession of the moment on everyone that I knew, and got, to my surprise, mixed reactions. One listener complained that “all the songs started to sound the same.” What? How could they? But in listening to the new Ted Leo album, I understand what they meant. On this album, anyway, the songs do sound remarkably similar, if they make an impression at all. Shake the Sheets still rules, though, but this one, not so much.

4. There is a Reason – Alison Krauss and Union Station
This one’s the gospel tune she does on every Union Station album, usually penned by her banjo player, Ron Block. A very pretty tune, foreswearing the world and its treasures for the rewards of heaven. When I was rocking Christianity pretty hard, this tune moved me deeply. It’s still very pretty, but it’s almost as if I’m looking at a TV show I used to enjoy when I was a kid. There’s a certain nostalgia (one of my most damning vices) to the whole thing, a wistful longing, remembering the simplicity of belief. I mean, I still believe, I just believe a whole lot of other things, too...

5. Sitting in Limbo – Jimmy Cliff
Must be reggae day on Scott’s iPod, right? Love this one, too. Jimmy Cliff has a very pure singing voice, with uplifting lyrics and a sense of redemption in even the saddest lyrics. One of the reasons I admire reggae so much is that it is a music of belief, without neglecting the earthier aspects of being a human. I’m very attracted to strong belief of any kind, but I’ve found that belief only works through a certain amount of exclusion. Which is all well and good. Magic works as much by what we exclude as what we include. Then it’s just a question of finding a good set of included vs. excluded things, a set that suits you, that you can really get behind. Reggae has some things that I can relate to (earthiness, a connection to the land, to the oppressed, a sense of social justice, use of shamanic plants) and some things I most assuredly cannot (Hallie Sallasie is the Messiah? Really? Oh, and the fact that a number of sects in Rastafarianism believe white men to be the devil. Yeah, there is that).

On a side note, I'm pretty sure that nobody but me really cares about the History of Plunge, so if you're interested, leave a comment, and I'll hook you up.