Friday, June 27, 2008

These Words Are Free

Writing this blog is a great pleasure. Its the one activity I do solely for self-expression; no restrictions, no deadlines, no predetermined goals. I like using the written word to turn seemingly divergent thoughts into cogent sentences. When executed with integrity, words feel more direct than, say, painting or music. That's what attracts me to it - the specificity.

Blogging is not journaling. The latter has therapeutic value when used as a means of emptying the mind without hesitation. When I've written in a journal without editing, the act of pouring out words has sometimes produced unexpected and revealing results. But I can't imagine inflicting any of that on a reader, privacy issues aside. I want my writing to be personal, but it must have shape, pace and some kind of central theme. The form of the blog gives me the opportunity to organize and massage my ideas so that the finished pieces are (hopefully) readable.

A good friend has been encouraging me to do some commercial writing, by which I mean trading the words I put together for money. The idea is attractive on the one hand. Why not try to earn some cash doing something I really enjoy? But I've already fashioned a career from music, the other art form close to my heart. I generate income from nearly everything I do musically. I play many different kinds of gigs, teach, transcribe, arrange, copy and run a jazz website. About the only things I don't sell are my original compositions.

So I am susceptible to the "art for money" concept. I recently wrote a series of music reviews for and have successfully pitched an idea for another dozen track reviews for that website. I admit that it was fun getting paid for having opinions and making the short pieces informative and entertaining. But now that I have garnered this new assignment I'm realizing that what really turns me on about this endeavor is having the liberty to write whatever comes to mind, whenever I feel like it.

Ever self-suspecting, I thought at first that I might be resisting the temptation to write for money out of fear. Maybe I don't have the skills; maybe there's too much risk of rejection. But I now believe that my reluctance stems from my strong desire to keep this means of expression safely optional. I want writing to be something I do for fun. I don't want it to become another task, another responsibility. I never want to feel that I "should" write something. It may not be rational, and it certainly isn't practical; and that in itself feels liberating.

Money is good. Freedom is better.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Obama Disappoints Me

I wish I'd written this cogent piece on why Ralph Nader's campaign is relevant in 2008. Obama's support for the FISA legislation now pending in the Senate has pushed me over the edge of suspicion regarding his "true" positions on crucial issues. Just how corporate is he going to slide? How far to the right does his campaign feel he needs to move in order to win the election?

I think, as Gregory Kefaury suggests, that Obama ought to take a good long look at Nader's positions on such issues as health care, corporate crime, the war, NAFTA, Israel and Palestine, the environment, and so on. Mr. Nader is right on the money on each of these issues and Obama is way off the mark on too many of them. His heart may be in the right place, but the reality of election politics may very well be corrupting Obama in front of our very eyes.

Chris Hedges also has an excellent piece on Truthdig on the same subject.

Monday, June 23, 2008

R.I.P. George Carlin

American culture will not be the same without George Carlin pushing the envelope. I don't think any comedian since Lenny Bruce has had so much influence, and not just on his profession. Carlin's courageous and outrageous stance on so-called obscenity, his keen observations on the English language and his high energy silliness have virtually catapulted our pop culture. Think Steve Martin, Robin Williams, Richard Jeni, Eddie Izzard, Richard Pryor, Margaret Cho, The Simpsons, South Park, hip-hop...I could go on and on.

George Carlin is not in a better place. His place was in this world and I, for one, will miss one strong mother of an ally.

"The whole problem with this idea of obscenity and indecency, and all of these things - bad language and whatever - it's all caused by one basic thing, and that is: religious superstition. There's an idea that the human body is somehow evil and bad and there are parts of it that are especially evil and bad, and we should be ashamed. Fear, guilt and shame are built into the attitude toward sex and the body. ... It's reflected in these prohibitions and these taboos that we have."

-George Carlin

Here's a wonderful version of his famous 7 Words You Can't Say on Television routine. If you're "bad word" averse don't watch it.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Al Gore Introduces Barack Obama

If you haven't yet seen it, here is Mr. Gore's inspiring speech:

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Take Action on Health Care

The California Nurses Association is co-sponsoring a National Day of Action next Thursday, June 19, 2008.

Americans across the nation will demonstrate in favor of guaranteed healthcare and in protest of AHIP, America’s Health Insurance Plans — the insurance industry lobbyists who profit from pain. Their annual convention will be met by thousands of protestors onsite in San Francisco — 12 Noon, Moscone Center West, 4th @ Howard — and simultaneously in cities across the nation.

Please join a broad coalition in advocating for genuine healthcare reform — a “Medicare for All”or single-payer system, such as HR 676.

In Chicago the action will occur at:
525 W. Monroe, Chicago IL
4:30-6:30 PM

Please join patients, nurses, doctors, and your neighbors protesting in memory of the victims of the insurance industry.

June 19, 2008
National Day of Action
Guaranteed, Single-payer Healthcare Now!

Click for a pdf flyer.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

R.I.P. R.F.K.

I'm imagining a world in which Bobby Kennedy was not murdered 40 years ago today. He would have almost certainly defeated Richard Nixon in 1968. How that would have changed the course of our nation's history!

How much devastation and tragedy might have been avoided? How many fewer lives would have been lost in Vietnam? The riots at the '68 convention would not have happened. The civil rights movement would no doubt have moved along much more quickly; perhaps we would have already had women and people of color in the White House. No Watergate, no Ronald Reagan, no Iran-Contra, no Gulf Wars...

Same old story: some wacko easily acquires a gun and singlehandedly sets the political agenda for decades to come.

For me, the hope engendered by the Obama campaign brings with it a sobering fear.