THINKING: I was an outsider in a recent conversation regarding smart phones. A question was raised at the table I was sitting at about smart phones and shopping. I was the only one without a smart phone. Whereas everyone else at the table thought the smart phone enhanced their shopping experience, I was the only one who thought it detracted from experience in general. My life is enhanced, through the power of Via Negativa, without this device. So many people are attached to their phones, as if with an umbilical cord. If they are without this little bit of tech, they freak out, wondering how the fuck they will survive. I think in the near future it will be a safe bet to see a bumper crop of Twelve Step groups whose purpose is to help those who are powerless over constant cell phone use.
I’m not the only one who has been thinking about these things. Jenna Woginrich of Cold Antler Farm has recently given up her smart phone, while Chris Martenson and John Michael Greer rapped about the God of Technological Progress in a conversation back in April. Chris pointed out that any time he brings up the fact that the U.S. is unraveling, that we are running out of fossil fuels, people stop and wave their smart phones at him, as if waving it is proof that we are still on an ever upward and onward march to the stars.
While it can sometimes feel like I am alone in not having a portable device that distracts from interacting with the people I am actually with and the places I am actually at, it is nice to know some folks are opting out.
FEELING: The silence and stillness necessary for the discipline of magic are difficult for me. Sometimes I feel like anything I create will just be adding to the noise of the world, and wonder if I should refrain from posting a blog such as this, refrain from writing or making music, and if that would help me cultivate stillness and silence. An extended living performance of 4’33”. Monastics do the world a service through the cultivation of silence, holding a place of stillness that spreads outwards into the community. In America at least those types of spiritual communities are few and far between. It is unglorified work, as is so much of work that is done in a true spirit of unconditional service. I struggle with surrendering my wants and desires to what is needed of me. I find there can be a balance, but maintaining that balance is difficult, and requires constant calibration.
Josephine has written that it is important to know when not to do magic. I think the same could be said for making art as well.
DOING: I mixed up my third batch of kraut this past Monday night. It’s something I really enjoy -eating and making. It’s so much easier than I originally thought it would be. This third crock is made in the style of kimchi -though it ain’t kimchi. It’s got three heads of cabbage -two green, one red- a bunch of radishes, carrots, ginger, garlic, shallot, and serano peppers. This batch smells really fresh, as far as fermented vegetables go. The last batch which was just cabbage with dill, caraway and mustard seeds had a more earthy scent as the lactobacili did their thing.
READING: Book designer Stacy Wakefield‘s debut novel, The Sunshine Crust Baking Factory, published by Akashic Books had me mesmerized. The story is told in first person from the point of view of Sid, a girl around the age of nineteen or twenty, who arrives in New York City with a mind to join up with some anarcho-punk squatters. Only problem is most of the punk squats are already full and getting into one requires intrepid navigation of the politics of those scenes. She thinks she is lucky to be hanging out with a Mexican hardcore kid named Lorenzo who played bass in the band Disguerro, and who toured with some of her favorite bands. She is smitten with him. When they leave Manhattan behind to find a squat of their own in Brooklyn, they end up joining up with a groupd of folks living in an old bakery that had been abandoned after a fire. While Sid does the heavy lifting in getting the first floor ready for her and Lorenzo, he disappears to play in bands, hang out with skinny chicks, and basically avoid doing any of the work that would make the place into a home. After a fight she starts hanging out with the founder of the squat, a rugged outdoor survivalist type by the name of Mitch who looked more like an athletic jock than a cool punker. The story goes on to relate an adventure Mitch and Sid have together rescuing the belongings of another squat before the Mayor has it demoed. It highlights the tensions around being a tough female in an otherwise all male house, the shouldering of responsibilities, and how things aren’t always how they seem at first. The reader of this lively tale gets to have their eyes opened along with Sid’s. This tale of lovelorn youth, squatting, survival on the streets, punk music and personal space made for a compelling read. Sometimes it’s not enough to go and be a part of a scene somewhere, instead you have to find and make your own home and be comfortable where you live (while also still sticking it to the man). Stacy Wakefield shows that she is not only a great designer of books, but a superb storyteller. I’ll definitely be looking out for her next novel.
LISTENING: I’m in a state of high anticipation for Elizabeth Hand’s forthcoming novel Wylding Hall which is about “the mysterious death of their lead singer, the young members of a now-legendary British acid folk band hole up at Wylding Hall, an ancient English country house with its own dark secrets. There they record Wylding Hall, the album that makes their reputation– but at a terrifying cost, when Julian Blake, their new lead singer, disappears within the mansion and is never seen again. Now, years later, each of the surviving musicians, their friends and lovers, meets with a young documentary filmmaker to tell their own version of what happened during that summer. But whose story is the true one? And what really happened to Julian Blake? ” As a lead in to getting a copy of the book in my hands this July (its already out on Audible) I decided to read Jeanette Leech’s book Seasons They Change: The Story of Acid and Psychedelic Folk. I’ve had the book since it came out in 2011, but for whatever reason, never read it straight through. I’m glad I’m doing so now, because it has me listening to a lot of different albums. Yet the one that is on repeat the most for me has been Vashti Bunyan’s Another Diamond Day. I’d listened to the album a couple of times about five years ago or so, but I guess it didn’t move me the same way it is moving me now. The standout song to me is Rainbow River.
Besides Vashti the groups and people who’ve been on my playlist have been: John Renbourn (loved the Nine Maidens album), Pentangle, Davy Graham, Shirley Collins, The Holy Modal Rounders, Pearls Before Swine, Nurse With Wound (digging The Surveillance Lounge and Requital for Lady Day). Also Steeleye Span, Comus, and John Coltrane’s version of My Favorite Things.
DREAMING: I dreamed I got off the bus on Winton Road. I walked across the street next to the wall of Spring Grove Cemetery. I knew a way to sneak into the cemetery through a hedge. Once I got inside I marveled at how beautiful the cemetery was, and started whistling the tune My Favorite Things.