music politics

“Bleeding badly from a face-lift” would make a good first line of a country song, so here goes

Bleeding badly from a face-lift
And sitting drunk behind the wheel
I light another cig-a-rette
And imagine how you’d feel

If I had left you broke and lonely
And desperately wanting me
Never knowing where I went to
And always feeling lost at sea

Bleeding badly from a face-lift
I think back now on all the years
That we spent to-ge-ther
While I wince away the tears

history technology time universe

The order of things

Universe is 14 billion years old (~~ 4.3×10^17 seconds)
Sun is 4.57 billion years old
Earth is 4.54 billion years old
Life is 3.8 billion years old
Mammals are 225 million years old
Humans are 200,000 years old
Religion is 102,000 years old
Cities are 5,000 years old
China is 4,085 years old
Judaism is 3,828 years old
Hinduism is 3,100 years old
Rome is 2,768 years old
Democracy is 2,525 years old
Christianity is 1,985 years old
London is 1,973 years old
Islam is 1,450 years old
Gun powder is 972 years old
The telescope is 408 years old
New York is 351 years old
America is 240 years old
The locomotive is 204 years old
The repeating rifle 167 years old
“On the Origin of Species” is 156 years old
Dynamite is 148 years old
Radio is 120 years old
Nuclear weapons are 70 years old
The worldwide web is 24 years old


Hi, oh, sorry, the door was open

Open door marked privateHi, oh, sorry, the door was open…
So I just…
Didn’t mean to intrude.

The sign? No! The signs?
What signs?
Oh, yes. I see them.
I see them now.

Well, anyway, sorry.
I’m truly sorry.
It’s just that I saw the door was open
And I wondered if I could have
Just a moment
Of your time.

Well, yes
Yes I saw
I saw the signs…
I saw…
I saw…
Will you let me finish?

It’s just that
I saw your door was open
So I thought I might trouble you
Just this once.


Aldus Huxley on the origins of misery

“At least two-thirds of our miseries spring from human stupidity, human malice and those great motivators and justifiers of malice and stupidity: idealism, dogmatism and proselytizing zeal on behalf of religous or political ideas.”


Of all the preposterous assumptions of humanity over humanity

“Of all the preposterous assumptions of humanity over humanity, nothing exceeds most of the criticisms made on the habits of the poor by the well-housed, well-warmed, and well-fed.” –Herman Melville

belief death grief Wendy

What I’ve learned from grief

You don’t have to feel any way other than how you’re feeling

I’ve met a few people in their early grief who worry about feeling numb about their loss. It makes them worry that there’s something wrong with them, that they’re cold or callous. Others worry because they can’t stop crying. One father who lost a son confided in me that he felt like it was his role to be sad all of the time.

But no one has (or should have) any exceptions about what you should be feeling. That’s because you don’t have control over your feelings. Feelings happen to you. The best you can do for anyone, including yourself, is be aware of how you’re feeling even if what that feeling is “none” or “nothing.”

It can make you stronger

Once you suffer a devastating loss and come back from it, you now have an internal power that many others don’t: you are resilient. It’s easier to go through life once you have been proven to yourself.

It can make you aware of the precious urgency of life

My biggest fear was that someday I would die. Everything I have ever had would be taken away from me. Every memory, every thought, every sensation would be gone for eternity.

Losing Wendy forced me to face my mortality in a much deeper way. I will die, but fearing death is useless and wasteful. The fact of my death makes me want to live more intentionally while I am able. I try to put all of that energy I used to waste on being afraid into being grateful for the present moment and savoring the time I spend with those I love.

It can reconnect you with those you’ve lost

I was in so much emotional pain after Wendy’s death, that just thinking about her could be excruciating at times. And yet I wanted to think about her, over and over, because I missed her so much.

Everyone’s grief process is different, but I know that if I didn’t keep forcing myself to experience that pain — if I chose to avoid it — I would have prolonged my grief. It was my grief, not Wendy, that was the ultimate source of the pain. My grief was being unable to accept that she was really gone. My mind didn’t want to believe it and kept dreaming up fantastical ways to get back to her.

It took me several years to fully accept that she was gone. I had to believe it and get over the cosmic injustice of her death. I had to let go of my anger at the Universe. That was the pain.

Now I’m able to think of Wendy, see photos and videos of her, have dreams and memories of her and experience the love I still have for her without the acute pain of losing her. I can see the world through her eyes. I can appreciate things for her and feel proud on her behalf. I can access, without fear, the parts of her she left in me.


Song of the Day: “I Wish I Knew” performed by John Coltrane

There are sad songs. There are beautiful songs. Then there are songs whose beauty and sadness are intertwined and inseparable, like this one.

There's a quickly paced piano intro, played in a minor key, before the main body of the song starts with Coltrane's plaintive alto sax.

I hear those lines and they describe to me all of the loss in the world – not an individual loss, but a collective one. It's a sadness large enough to absorb any I might be feeling in the moment without a flinch. The notes are weary and wise, and that is the source of their beauty.

The song is heart-breaking, but in the sense of breaking a heart open to experience a deeper compassion. This isn't a break-up song. This is a song that realizes that all love stories, even the best of them, come to their ends. Our individual doom is terrifying and ugly, but knowing we're all doomed is oddly comforting and, somehow, beautiful.

It's art like this – when the laughing has stopped and the distraction has been stripped away – that shows us an elemental truth of our existence. We need not be afraid of sadness because we are not alone. We are all sad at times and we do our best to carry on with dignity and clarity. Disappointment, regret, and grief pool in us. It is how we live. It is how we survive.


Come with the Dust, Gone with the Wind

For some reason this morning, Bob Dylan’s “Song to Woody” (YouTube link has an unrelated Woodie Guthrie performance at the beginning) is stuck in my head. Particularly, this verse, which just strikes me as beautiful:

Here’s to Cisco an’ Sonny an’ Leadbelly too
An’ to all the good people that traveled with you
Here’s to the hearts and the hands of the men
That come with the dust and are gone with the wind
“Song to Woody” ©1962 Bob Dylan

This is what I love about Dylan: there’s an economy of meaning in his lyrics. We can extract more meaning from a line than is readily apparent. For example, “Here’s to the hearts and the hands of the men…” Why salute their hearts and their hands? Why not their minds or their souls? Dylan is saying that these are men of passion and hard work.

But what really got me curious was the phrase “…gone with the wind.” It seemed like it was either referencing or sharing a reference of Margaret Mitchell’s pre-war best-seller, “Gone with the Wind.”

I did a little googling. I think the reference is to a metrically identical song from — of course — Woody Guthrie that was copyrighted just a few years earlier:

I worked in your orchards of peaches and prunes
I slept on the ground in the light of the moon
On the edge of the city you’ll see us and then
We come with the dust and we go with the wind
“Pastures of Plenty” ©1960 Woodie Guthrie


What three things can I do today?

I just read an headline called: what are the three things you want to accomplish today.

That’s the productivity philosophy I strive for. My philosophy used to be ‘get everything down and do as much of it as you can.’ That’s still appropriate in some ways. But it’s not realistic most of the time.

Let’s assume I get somewhere near an average amount of work done each day. On any given day, I’m setting out to do two or three times that amount of work. And lately, with my calendar almost completely full of meetings, I’m pulling down my average.

So, the net effect on my emotional health is that I’m always behind and I’m never successful. That sucks!

If I focus on three things instead — a ‘minimum viable product,’ if you will — and work to try to get them done as early as possible in the day, then anything else I get done is surplus.

So, what are the three things I want to focus on today? The three most important things on my radar.

art music

Song of the Day: “Heavy Metal Drummer” by Wilco

Something playful is going on here.

On the surface, it’s a song about someone feeling nostalgia for a time in his youth:

I sincerely miss
Those heavy metal bands
We used to go see
On the landing in the summer
She fell in love with the drummer
She fell in love with another…
She fell in love…
I miss the innocence I’ve known,
Playing Kiss covers, beautiful and stoned.

If those are the facts of the song, why is the melody filled with light-hearted pop, drum-machine fills and synthesizer riffs more suitable for the Disney Main Street Electric Parade? Could anything be less heavy metal or Kiss-like?

There are three characters in the song: the narrator, “she” and the drummer(s). The song focuses briefly, repeatedly on ‘she,’ but is mostly in in the first-person singular. The narrator is also in a band and is never able to win her heart. Is that what moves him away from the heavy metal form?

Maybe it’s this: memory is unreliable. What’s dangerous now becomes cute in 30 years.