November 2022 Recap

The WP map does show my hits have come from  28  countries around the world. Mauritius in the third  spot! Ukraine in the top ten! Russia at the bottom – I guess the Ukraine  invasion is distracting my fan base there. Most popular post was Spiritual Shreds, my personal favourite was Music of Masculinity

Finished The Crown Season 4 & the series has moved deeper into fiction with this unhappy fantasy about the lives of the Royals. Performances are excellent, though Gillian Anderson’s Thatcher often gets upstaged by her various wigs. The show is clearly not a documentary though occasionally it sticks to historical fact, if not timelines, & has no hesitation in fabricating drama. As they say – never let the truth stand in the way of telling a good story. For me, there wasn’t enough of Princess Margaret or Princess Anne – both of whom show more personality than the rest of the cast. 

friendly neighbours

Watched a great Italian film ‘The Trick in The Sheet’ set in 1905 as movies being shown for the first time in a small Italian village (that seems to get larger & larger as the film progresses). With the lead character named Frederico & a plot of nostalgic memory, it is clearly a tribute to Fellini & Amarcord. I love movies with parallel plots – in this one our hero directs a movie based on Susanna & The Elders – a Biblical story where elders spy on Susanna as she bathes in the river – our hero secretly films a woman bathing in the river for his movie. An amazing exploration of the power of film to replace reality. ( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Trick_in_the_Sheet

Watched The Boys in the Band (1970) which I have seen before decades ago, as well as a stage production at some point. All I remembered was the constant insulting, posturing, drinking & wondering where I might fit into this world. Although I had empathy for some the characters at the end I was left wondering why any of them put up with the lead character’s irrational, manipulative behaviour. At one time he shouts at one of the others ‘don’t you dare leave’ – what was going to do if they did? I was glad to have seen it again. The follow up on my ‘watch list’ was the 1934 Cleopatra – a queen with real power.

Read the novella Soft Places by Betty Rocksteady. It is an interesting mutation of graphic & prose novels. The story moves between two worlds – our main character’s ‘real’ life & an ‘alternate’ reality. The real is prose, the alternate is illustrated & each move the story forward. The illustrations are in a Bushmiller/ Betty Boop style. In the end you may not be sure which is ‘real.’ Trauma is the real world is visceral & slightly queasy. Available form Amazon, Indigo & any independent books store.

Now for the mad rush to the new year.

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Rotary Connection

Rotary Connection

Thanks the production work of Charles Stepney & the proto-Hendrix guitar playing of Phil Upchurch, & the soaring voice of Minnie Riperton – Rotary Connection emerged as one of the best experimental soul/psychedelic groups of the 60s. Think Mamas & Papas with Jimi on lead guitar. Their albums mixed originals with sublime covers of songs like Tales of Brave Ulysses, Lady Jane. 

In an mp3 collection I have Rotary Connection: First (1967); Aladdin (1968); Peace (1968); Songs (1969);  Dinner Music (1970); Hey, Love (1971) As well as solo lps by Minnie Ripperton: Come Into My Garden (1970); Perfect Angel (1974);  Adventures in Paradise (1975); Stay in Love (1977).

I had their first & Songs as lps while I was living on the east coast. My friends didn’t like them that much but I was amazed by their first & by Songs – both which I discovered in remainder bins – Cape Breton wasn’t a market for experimental soul/psychedelic 🙂 

The others I found 2nd hand when I moved to Toronto or eventually downloaded. Peace is one of my favourite Christmas albums. It is a very urban soul take on Christmas – the opposite of the Phil Spector holiday album. Sidewalk Santa should be a classic & the guitar work on Silent Night is breathtaking. I you are tired of syrupy Xmas music get this if you don’t have it.

Minnie Riperton was a studio background singer for a few years before Rotary Connection – Charles Stepney utilized her stratospheric voice on several Ramsey Lewis lps (also worth checking out) & produced her first solo lp – Come Into My Garden. It presents her as a ballad singer & sometimes drowns her in distracting orchestrations. 

She stepped away from the industry for a few years to raise her children & made an unexpected return with Perfect Angel (1974) – full of warm, accessible soul-pop – adult contemporary. Adventures in Paradise (1975) – is a more sophisticated lp with denser lyrics about love & sense of self. On Stay in Love (1977) she moves into a soft disco sound (as hoped to bpm diva) that is sexy, soothing & romantic. All worth having. 

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Eyes Front


Eyes Front

this is what

is in front of me

this is all

I am to focus on

<>

all I need

is in front of me

all else is distraction

delay

avoidance

of what

is in front of me

<>

the noise of crisis

the hum of activity

the sirens

laughter

kisses

all is distraction

avoidance

delay

entertainment

<>

I am not ignoring you

I am ignoring everything

except what

is in front of me

<>

what

is in front of me

is not a mirror

I am not unaware of 

the noise of crisis

the hum of activity

the sirens

laughter

kisses

<>

I watch my steps

but don’t stop taking them

as I move to

as I move with

what

is in front of me

My mother was a multitasker – she would be smoking a cigarette, doing laundry, watching TV, having a cup of tea & knitting – all at the same time. Everything got done. I found it hard to listen to the radio & do my homework at the same time – lol.

When I was doing the NaNoWriMo challenges I was so focused on the work that I was often making note on my walking, working on scene when I was at spoken-word event, or at recovery meetings. I eliminated most social events to keep focused on what I was writing or about to write. I keep that focus up until I has passed at least 60,000 words & then I relaxed a little – some years I manage 90,000 words this way – eager to beat my pervious year’s count but also eager to let my focus soften & enjoy ‘real’ life.

I don’t multitask anymore to the degree my mother did – it took me a little while to get over the feeling that I was being lazy when I wasn’t always doing things, lots of things, to accomplish goals, to justify my life I had to be constantly striving, & when possible, point out how hard I was working at multiple things. I was caught up in a culture of getting ahead, of making more money to buy more things to keep the economy growing. More more more was the only definition of self that was acceptable to many people.  Enjoying more more more less & less was fine as pleasure is shallow, suffering more more is ennobling & respectable.

Today I can be very focused on one thing at a time & enjoy that thing. One thing I did a few years ago was to stop going for walks listening to my iPod. I was now out for a walk & enjoying the walk, hearing there world around me, not lost in some sonic haze & resenting the street noises drowning out my haze. I never did learn to knit.

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Pacific Mall

pull up a chair

Went on a short excursion to the Pacific Mall, in Markham – northeast of Toronto. Drove out with a friend, who likes to drive. There is no scenic route through the vast stretch of retail sprawl, unless one find the various shopping malls scenic. Traffic getting there wasn’t too bad, coming back was hell. Parking was easy even though by 11:30 the lot was already full.

Google said that the stores didn’t open until 11 so we timed our arrival for 11:30. Many of them didn’t open until noon. We entered via the west doors & there was a lineup around one of the inner block – was there a flu shot clinic that morning? Turns out it was Black Friday line up for special deals at Fido & Virgin. Figures, as every other shop is a some sort of cell phone attachments spot. 

Lots of anima/manga t-shirts, candy stores (I bought a variety of Japanese KitKats but was disappointed there was no wasabi KitKats to be found 😦 ) the first floor is primarily retail – tailors, leather goods, some health-food spots. I was hoping for a tea shop but didn’t spot one. On the second floor is the wonderful street food court. Japanese, Chinese, Korean specialties & many were super busy. 

The counter people were eagerly inviting passers-by to stop & eat their noodles, pancakes, tofu. I settled on ‘dry’ chicken with spicy noodles. Dry as opposed to soup. Yummy. we found a table near the Terra Cotta warriors. These, needless to say, are reproductions. On my lotto max to buy list –  a couple of them would be perfect for protecting the morning glories in my garden. 

We both made purchases. My friend got toys for her grandchildren. I found, gasp, a great t-shirt that supposedly changes colour in sunlight – the higher the uv the greater that change – I didn’t have the heart to tell the very cute clerk ‘Honey, your sales pitch is as hard as a Chinese Warrior.’ Maybe I should have said it to see if he would blush. The image is a dragon & phoenix in a yin-yang coil. I also found a new maneki (lucky cat) to add to my collection – one without the solar arm that waves constantly. 

All in all, a successful excursion that I’d love to repeat soon now that I have a better idea of the layout, where the always-hard warriors are lol – & see the other half of the mall. Maybe to get ancestor money for Chinese New Year.

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Ronstadt Round-Up

Linda Ronstadt, as much as Janis Joplin, paved the way for females who rock – not that Aretha didn’t pave the way too but soul is very different genre. In my collection I have as mp3 Stone Poneys – Evergreen Vol.2 (1967), Different Drum (Michael Nesmith) Stone Poneys III (1968), art folk. Solo: Silk Purse(1970) country, Linda Ronstadt (1972)   country rock – I Fall To Pieces;  Don’t Cry Now (1974) Desperado – producer Peter Asher; Heart Like a Wheel (1974) Asher You’re No Good; Prisoner in Disguise (1975) Tracks Of My Tears; Hasten Down The Wind (1976) ‘That’ll Be The Day’; Living in the USA (1978): Alison; Mad Love (1980)

The early Stone Poneys are adventurous, the sound is interesting & the material is smart. The band resented that she wanted to the call the shots & so it broke up. I love Hobo on III. Her solo career started off a little unsure as she explored country, country-rock & her voice in incredible but often the material & production reined her in – she did work with studio musicians who became the Eagles. 

But when Peter Asher took over the production her career soared. With songwriters like JD Southern, Jackson Brown, Laura Nyro, The McGarrigle Sisters & even Elvis Costello – she was amazing. I particularly loved ‘I drove past your house lates last night just to see if you were there’ Perhaps the bursty song about stalking & romantic obsessions I can think of. Her work with Nelson Riddle bored me – the songs were too tidy for me. Her Spanish language work is sublime but also was too smooth for me.

I added some other prime female vocalists to the mp3 CD. Smith: A Group Called Smith (1969) lead singer Gayle McCormick sings the shit out of Baby, It’s You. The group fell apart, she did a few solo lps but never really hit the charts again. Here too is Grace Slick’a Dreams (1980) – an unexceptional lp by one of the most exceptional pop voices ever.

The first Pretenders: The Pretenders (1979): with Tattooed Love Boys. This is a stunning lp of powerful raw songs & Chrissie is amazing, as she is on every Pretenders lp. What can one say about Marianne Faithful? Here is Broken English (1979), a remorselessly angry lp with eviscerating songs that quickly reestablished her as a major voice not merely some quiet nostalgia act. 20th Century Blues (1996) is a fine set of ‘cabaret’ & rock with songs by Brecht etc. 

Finally – a couple of more ‘modern’ singers: Grace Jones: Nightclubbing (1981): featuring Walking In The Rain – this was Grace’s step out of disco into alternative. Iconic songs, great engineering & a classic. After the end of the electrodance group Yaz, Alison Moyet launched her solo career with  Alf (1984) a set of sometimes over-dramatic songs that clearly opened the door for Adele. I love this lp.

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Spiritual Shreds

Spiritual Shreds

sometimes we can’t wait

<>

the rush of kisses

clasping grinding

the restraint of denim

too much

as our erections strain

against each other 

through that pointless fabric

it almost sheds itself

is the rush

from tongue to tongue

to tongues on cocks

under foreskins

under balls

over buttholes

<>

we have to consume

as much of each other as possible

as fast as possible

edging irrelevant

coming mandatory

demanded again

sucking fucking

without relaxation

we aren’t here for foreplay

we are here to consummate

consume

climax

<>

Should I have posted this with a warning? “Contains adult language, nudity & explicit male-on-male sex?”  Or was it safe to assume my followers here won’t be surprised or offended by erotica? There was a time when I was less explicit, less in your pants, about sex acts but that self-censorship was shame based. So I stopped. When I was doing spoken-word shows I can remember the shocked reactions to the line in one of my poems ‘new boyfriend only fifteen’ with a pause before ‘years younger than me.’ (Boyfriend – https://topoet.ca/2015/04/01/boyfriend/)

I remember another time, after I done a feature set, in which only one piece was sexual, another poet, who read some pieces about being a new father, came up after to say ‘why do you gay guys only write about sex?’ I replied ‘why do you straight guys only write about parent?’ He gave a little laugh & walked away shaking his head – clearly parenthood is more emotionally resonant & authentic & suitable for serious writers. 

But, as usual, I digress, or do I? I don’t think there’s anything to explain in this piece. It is based on actual events in my life. As such it is a celebration of the surrender to lust without hesitation or apology in the face of a culture in which pleasure is shallow & suffering is deep. There’s no attempt to make it into a spiritual experience either in order to elevate it from the sheer physicality.

The explicit is also a reaction to the current of heteronormativity that has infiltrated lgbtq so that sex is repressed in the world homosexual so as to make it more ‘acceptable.’ This sort of erasure still goes on to somehow not offend the mainstream. Even in the recent Colorado shooting – at first it was deemed more correct to call one of the defenders a ‘drag queen’ rather than state it was trans person. Drag queen has become more ‘acceptable’ thanks to RuPaul. In the USA ‘trans’ is used as political dynamite to distract voters from actual issues.


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Music of Masculinity

pull up a chair

I recently did a couple of posts in my music series about The Rolling Stones. It started me thinking about the role music played in my teenage year. How what I listened defined what I believed was masculine. In all footage I’ve seen of The Beatles there is nothing but screaming, swooning girls – no boys. In fact pop rock music fell into those two camps – most of it was in the girls camp. The Beatles, Herman’s Hermits were for girls, The Rolling Stones, The Who were for boys. Donovan: fem; Bob Dylan: masc. Boys who like music too much were suspect – girls could sing along – boys couldn’t – lol. 

The Stones ‘Satisfaction’ was clearly about getting laid, The Beatles “I want to Hold Your Hand’ was clearly about holding hands period. Hand holding was safe for girls. The Stones were never innocent & many of their songs were clearly misogynistic i.e. ’Under My Thumb’ or were calls to violence ‘Street Fighting Man’ – these were the proper role models for real boys – real boys wanted more than holding hands. They wanted action, or revenge. Never mind the fact that by the time they recorded ‘Street Fighting Man’ they were millionaires not revolutionaries.

So how did this resonate in my life at the time? The sneering misogyny & objectification of girls (rarely were they women until they got to the Honky Tonk) was masculinity defined. I felt I would never be masculine enough, aggressive enough, daring enough to live in the reality of their songs. They sold a myth that I saw as reality – much like the Hollywood fantasy that the love of the right person would give you reason to live.

I don’t even think I found the Stones sexually attractive – even then there were rumours that Mick was a bit bi – I had a buddy who said he’d have sex with Jagger but, to be honest, I found Jagger to be too lizard like for me. Speaking of lizards I my first pop jo sex fantasy was the Lizard King, Jim Morrison, then Foxy Jimi Hendrix, but I digress.

I’ve blogged about growing up with out any real role models in a culture that had distorted sense of gender that I ended up with my own distorted sense of masculinity. Pop music of the time merely echoed that that distortion – real men were Born to Be Wild whereas faggots like me could only dream about it.

Rolling

 

Stones 

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MMMostly Jazzy

Working though the M’s in my jazz collection with a part of stand-alones by Medeski, Martin & Wood: keyboards, drums, bass. It’s A Jungle (1993) (Coltrane, Monk), Shack-man (1996). Fun organ based smooth jazz – the organs sound is breathy as opposed to Jimmy Smith’s. The group aims for a funky jazz vibe & are fun but two cds was enough for me.

Next is Pat Metheny. I have as either stand-alone or mp3: Water Colors (ECM 1977), American Garage (ECM 1979) Rejoicing (w Charlie Haden) (ECM 1984), One Quiet Night (2003), The Way Up (2005). He has played as sideman with endless others. His guitar playing is often subtle, somewhat in the Wes Montgomery style but not as relaxed. These are all excellent & any lp he plays on is worth having. One Quiet Night is a relaxing, romantic acoustic set. 

Rounding out the mp3 collection is Egberto Gismonti, (Brazil) – Magico 1979 (w Charlie Haden). Another amazing guitar player – inventive, smooth & worth tracking down. Some George Benson:  The Other Side of Abbey Road (1970), White Rabbit (1972). I suspect Abbey Road is one of the most covered Beatles lp – I have at least two other complete track-by-track set of jazz covers of it. Benson is a guitar player with a great pop singing voice. White Rabbit is a set of pop covers, or rather interpretations, fun but not as interesting as Gabor Szabo. 

Art Pepper: New York Album (1979) Pepper plays a vibrant sax  & this is an excellent set, s bit romantic but solid jazz – none of the pop cover stuff. Charlie Hunter Trio: Bing Bing Bing! (1995) funky jazz with a great guitar sound – here the trio is more like a sextet with horns added to the sound. Finally some Mahavishnu Orchestra: Inner Worlds (1975); Noonward Race (1972 Live at Mar y Sol Festival) – this live track is a race that left me breathless & glad that I had hunted down this live set.

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