Emergency Birds

On a couple of mp3 cd collections, as well as some stand-alones I have a fair bit of John McLaughlin.

Before John McLaughlin arrived on the US jazz scene he had released Extrapolations (1969) & was featured with Tony Williams’ Lifetime on the riotous Emergency (1969) two aggressive but straight ahead recordings that attracted the attention of Miles Davis who featured him on the monumental Bitches Brew (1970), Live Evil (1971) & several other Davis lps.

Davis inspired McLaughlin to create the Mahvishnu Orchestra that defined jazz-rock with an amazing series of lps: Inner Mounting Flame (1971), Birds of Fire (1973), The Lost Trident Sessions (1973 -1999), Between Nothingness & Eternity (1973 live), Apocalypse (1974) London Symphony, Visions of the Emerald Beyond (1975), Inner Worlds (1976). In midst of which he recorded Love Devotion Surrender (1973) with Carlos Santana.

I love all of these jazz-rock lps. Most of which have been re-released with bonus tracks. As his Mahavishnu moniker indicates there is a more of eastern mystical influence but it doesn’t turn into proto-new age mush. My favourite is Birds of Fire. All are excellent. The Tony Williams is an energy rush that is also another highly influential lp & Williams drumming is epic.

He unplugged with Shakti (1976), A Handful of Beauty (1976), Natural Elements (1977) – turning his focus on an East Indian world music fusion. He remained unplugged with Passion Grace Fire (1983) in acoustic trio. Que Alegrias (1992) saw him return to his trio roots. After The Rain (1995) is fine tribute to John Coltrane.

Rounding of the cds is some by jazz violinist Jean Luc-Ponty: More Than Meets The Ear (1968)/ Aurora (1976)/Imaginary Voyage (1976), Jean was featured with Chick Corea’s Return To Forever & also worked with Frank Zappa! More Than is traditional while the later two are immersed in jazz-fusion. Sweet but perhaps a little too mystical.

Finally some Larry Coryell: Spaces (1970) that features him with McLaughlin, Spaces Revisited (1997); Monk ‘Trane Miles & Me (1999). Coryell us another of the jazz-fusion explorers & produced lots of great stuff before moving on, or perhaps that’s back, to a more conservative sound. Spaces is great, the Monk set offers good, solid explorations of jazz greats.



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Alas

Alas

my head was bare

my mind was not blank

my scalp was bald

shaved

so no weight to add

to the endless pressure

of self

<>

a pressure that couldn’t escape

no hat could smother it

sunburn was a distraction

concussion brought new pressure

not relief 

<>

eyes closed

eyes opened

didn’t make a difference

self-expression

released nothing 

its capacity was endless

each image added to the pressure

<>

there was no relief

self was trapped in bone

removing the skin

the contents

only removed identity

even the hollow skull grins

<>

alas

no one knew me well

There is an odd relationship between hats & respect – no hats in some churches, in some the head must be covers, in some women have to be totally hidden – all at the dictates of spiritual respect. Then there is ‘the higher the hair the closer to heaven’ philosophy from the bouffant days. 

In some faiths the removal of hair is a sign of leaving a former life behind – monks, nuns, Buddhist acolytes are shaved bald, cutting off a Chinaman’s queue is an act of humiliation, native Americans scalping those they best in battle. 

Yes, hair is more than something to wash a man out of. In high-school told by a Phys-Ed to get my hair cut – it was creeping around my ears – like a man. So hair also defines gender, even politics – Afros were seen as radical signifiers, long-hair hippy, sexy shag-ster, greaser mullet.

Maybe hair is the door to the soul & not the eyes 🙂 Invariably it becomes an extension of the ego. Even not having it – when I started shaving my head decades ago, people’s reactions to be changed. I became physically more intimidating! Whatever. 

Ultimately this piece is about the impossibility of transcending the self because no matter what one does internally the external will never let the self free as long as people judge books by their cover or lack of a cover.


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Stratford Day Trips

pull up a chair

My day trips to Stratford always start the night before by getting my fluids ready – a travel mug with my personal mix of cranberry juice, coffee, & water – for drinking on the way there. For the drive home – A water bottle that is about 1/3 cranberry juice & the rest is water – plus a couple of snacks: a granola bar & a banana. I pick out a cd to listen to in the car – something that’ll amuse me & my partner. Last trip it was a compilation of Eartha Kitt, Ella Fitzgerald etc. 

motorcycles that buzzed beside us for an hour or so on the highway – like a pair of affectionate puppies

Before we leave in the morning around 9 a.m. I’ve already had breakfast, checked my email, meditated some, showered. We’ve taken the same route for decades – up the DonValley into the 401. Some days there are so many big rigs we can’t see the overhead signs :-(. Around 10:20 I’ll start in on my travel mug special. 

For the last many years that has been a constant expansion of the 401 so traffic often gets funnelled into fewer lanes & there is always a bottle neck just past the airport, & another one as we approach Kitchener/Waterloo. We make our first stop at a Tim Ho’s by the Conestoga Doon Campus – ballers are ready to be emptied to make room for Tim’s. I like their RedEye.

We take the New Dundee Road from there turning to a country road that takes us through Haysville, to another road through Shakespeare – where we stop at the Shakespeare Pie Shoppe for – pies! they made great seasons fruit pies & also excellent meat pies. Next stop lunch Stratford. We usually arrived by 11:30.

Most often we lunch at Features – good, unspectacular, reasonably priced food. Bacon & eggs are my go to there. This past year they changed location by a couple of blocks to bigger, brighter space. Once a season we go to Bentley’s. They do a great grilled cheese. 

If there’s time a stroll & a visit to the remaining bookstore before re-parking near the theatre of the day. Usually a visit to the gift shop, where, to be supported, I often force myself to buy a t-shirt lol. The drive home is usually twice as long for the same distance 😦 Traffic getting to Toronto is terrible. Made worse by big rigs that block overhead sign. That’s when the cd of the day does its soothing work. 

I usually take lots of photos with my camera & also cell pics to send to friends. They always envy the Pie shop shots. 

tarts galore at The Shakespeare Pie Shop

We’re already planning our shows for the Stratford 2023 season. Spamalot for sure, Richard II – a Shakespeare I’ve never seen, at least one of the other  Shakespeare & maybe Frankenstein. I feel a tingle in my bolts just thinking about it:-) 

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a short piece inspired by Haysville

The Petition

We had driven through Haysville many times on our way to Stratford. It was one of those small towns with little for tourists to do except maybe stop at the Happy Pie Shop and Family Restaurant. There wasn’t even a service-station with a Tim Horton’s.

The village became a bit of a joke because of the  ‘Children of Haysville’ sign on the edge of town: 

In the years we’ve driven through we’d never seen a child, or an adult for that matter. Never seen anyone go in or out of the Happy Pie Shop and Family Restaurant. The only car we ever saw in either direction was our own. Once I did notice some clothes drying on the line. All white, gently undulating in the afternoon sun.

We joked that if we stopped we’d never leave. We always stuck to the child-suggested speed limit then floored it when we got past the village limits.

This time there were yellow plastic streamers wrapped around the trees on either side of the road. We drove slower than usual.

Stapled to a plywood board tied to one 

of the trees by the Happy Pie Shop and Family Restaurant was a large piece of paper. 

We stopped and got out of the car to see what it was.

It was a petition to halt an expansion of the highway to allow for larger trucks. A widening to extend the road on either side that would result in destroying the many hundred-year-old trees which had been marked with yellow.

We signed the petition. The Happy Pie Shop was closed for the day, so we got back in our car. 

The car wouldn’t start.

UFO Landing

I have several varies of morning glory climbing the walls of my house. These are called UFO. I first saw them several years ago on columns outside the Festival Theatre in Stratford. I can’t recall if they were labelled or if I google them but I tracked them down, found seeds & planted them the next year. This year I planted them to climb above the back door. I use twine for them to climb. They are late bloomers – first blossoms were in mid-August & will continue until the first frost. Some mornings there are 10 or more in bloom.

the blue is almost polkadots
the climbing vine
close up
another variation
UFO variation
different shade of blue
looking to the sun
not twins
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Stratford Pearls Before Me

wearing my dress boots for the first in two years

I loved Ann-Marie MacDonald’s Hamlet-911, directed by Alisia Palmer on the Studio Theatre stage as the Stratford Festival. Even the steady rain this past Tuesday didn’t dampen our pleasure for this fast-paced, socially-conscious, deconstruction of Hamlet. I knew we were in for a theatrical roller-coaster with the initial ‘catcall’ as one of the cast started to warn the ladies and gentlemen to turn off their phones – the catcall was that not everyone in the audiences identifies as either & then the sincerity of the land acknowledgement was questioned by another ‘catcall.’ 

rain couldn’t dampen our enjoyment of the show

The ‘plot’ of the play & the play within the play, the dream within the play – are all irrelevant to the powerful messages about masculinity, alienation, suicide, electronic social isolation & sobriety that were delivered with humour & inventive staging.

Mike Shara as Guinness Menzies, playing Hamlet conveyed the smug entitlement of a popular TV actor cast as Hamlet – a production that casts his wife as his mother in the play – a clever reflection of the incestuous undertone of Hamlet & his mother. Confused? As 911 plays out on stage everything is logical & understandable.

Scott Wentworth as Rex Menzies, Guinness’s father, also the Ghost of Hamlet’s Father – gets a juicy monologue as he rages about the political-correctedness of colour & gender blind casting, amongst other things, while he lauds the founding of the festival in tents. He parodies the very sort of pompous Shakespearean actor he might be himself, off stage. Hilarious.

theatre too dark for a clear pic 😦

Equally as hilarious, but given too late stage time, was Sarah Dodd as Guinness’s mother. Her ‘he’s back, he’s gone’ was pitch perfect & also set us up for Guinness’s misunderstanding the she tells him ‘he’s gone’ when Rex dies.

Gordon Patrick White as the ghost of poor Yorick, echoed both the ghost of Christmas past & Lear’s Fool – he also seems to be the spirit of the Festival itself. Like the spirits in Christmas Carol he leads Guinness though events in his past to a moment of self-realization.

drama in the sky on our way home

The four, or is it five, minute fast-forward version of Hamlet was astounding & nearly brought the audience to its feet with applause. Brilliant piece of staging. Though it might help if one had seen a full performance of Hamlet before. But even if one hadn’t, the humour of this play is enough to entertain any audience.

The sheer joy of Hamlet-911’s theatricality was energizing & refreshing. The production was as much about ‘how to put on a play’ as it was about the plot & characters. It operated on so many layers of plot, stage craft, & the inability to communicate either f2f or online that I was amazed & delighted.

reviews of shows I’ve seen this past season:

Richard III

Dull In Denmark 

The Mister 

Rocky Horror 

All’s Well That Ends Well 

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Around World Music

By Rip Slyme, a Japanese hip hop group I have Good Times (2010) a hits compilation. Think Beastie Boys in Japanese. Densely layered, sampled, bouncy & fun. Lyric content? Who know? The vocals are strong, emotional & hit that hip-hop rhythm. Having to identify with the lyrics is a blessing as it allows the vocals to be yet another layer to the sound not a layer of meaning that distracts from the sound. I ‘discovered’ them while researching Japanese pop for one of the characters in my novel Picture Perfect. This is hip-hop & not J-Pop.

I saw a Señor Coconut video & loved the playful surrealist images. Turns out this is actually one of several names for German electronica composer Uwe H. Schmidt, now living in Chile. Around the World (2008) is a sweet set of Latino. techno pop jazzy Latino music – elevated lounge music for today’s hipsters. I love it even though I’m no hipster. 

By Chieko Kinbara, the Japanese violinist, I have ‘A Espera’ (2002) a soothing Enya-esque set of song, relaxing without being Celtic or boring. Thanks to some electrobeat & ethereal vocals in what I presume is Japanese. Another I discovered in research for Picture Perfect. Too serene for the character in the novel though.

Alyans is Russian synth pop/rock band. I have Скачать и слушать На Заре (1987) 2000, «Сделано в белом» (1992). Another YouTube discovery after seeing a video of theirs & deciding I needed some Soviet pop in my collection. Think Bauhaus, Erasure but more somber with excellent synth work & broody vocals, & eyeliner. Who knew the Soviets even allowed such dangerous music. Three guys on keyboards & best of all you don’t need to understand Russian to enjoy the vibe. 

 Jeremy Dutcher: Wolastoqiyik Lintuwakonawa (2018) Canadian Indigenous tenor, composer, musicologist, performer and activist. Add two-spirited as well. This is an amazing, dense, modern album that defies categorization. It won awards for best native aboriginal music but this is bigger than that as it straddles pop & classical & demonstrates that there is an accessible Canadian avant guard. 

 Finally by Sasanomaly, a Chinese water/performer I have Obake to Omocha Bako (2015) Similar to Chieko Kinbara this is gentle electrobeat that is not as ethereal but even not knowing the language it has a pleasant emotional pull. Goes against the grain of most JPop hyper bounciness. Similar to Troye Sivan.

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Ode to the Hat

Ode to The Hat

every man wore a hat

a baseball cap, a toque,

a fedora, a beanie

these are never removed

they sleep in them

they shower in them

<>

I can’t recall

the last time I saw a man

without a hat

eating

driving

shopping

hooking up

answering the door

indoors

outdoors

naked except for the hat

these hats never came off

<>

I saw a Jays baseball cap

on the barista 

every time I went into the cafe 

for years

it went from sort of white

to a dark roast colour

<>

no one every washed those hats

falling apart

debris on their heads

the more dilapidated 

the prouder they were

some bragged

‘I haven’t taken this hat off

for five years

for ten years

it used to be my father’s

he wanted to be buried wearing it’

the hat was sacred 

<>

the hair under it –
that’s another story

One of my Tumblr feeds is of vintage photographs. I was amused & amazed to see what men wore doing things like harvesting, fishing, working on the roof, etc. It was mainly – shirt, tie & a hat& appropriate footwear. I mean going fishing in a short & tie & sports coat. I guess easier wear was yet to be invented. Men walking on the beach wearing a suit! Even in pictures from the 50’s – Dad in short & tie cooking at the bbq. Store clerks, cooks in steaming kitchens – sometimes shirt sleeves rolled up & tie tucked under apron. 

I can’t remember remember the last time I saw a man in a shirt & tie outside of clothing store clerk! Going to theatre was once an excuse for dressing up – at Stratford it’s usually shorts & t-shirts. Comfort has defeated formal wear. The baseball cap has pretty much replaced fedoras, pork-pies – unless one is wearing a bowler as a sign of hipness. These hats are statement pieces not casual wear.

I personally favour the baseball cap, as opposed to tall front truckers hat. I have a fairly large range colours, mostly from my vast travels with a lot from Cape Breton. There a couple of cadet & ascot caps. Not familiar with them? I had to resort to google to find out the style’s exact name as they aren’t baseball caps. For winter I have a pile of toques in a range of thickness, colour & cuteness.

I sometimes see guys with a tag of authenticity dangling from their baseball hats so we know it isn’t a knock-off of a limited edition sports icon branded $250.00 (that’s low end) cap to go with their $1200.00 (low end) sneakers. There are special wall units for displaying those collectable hats & shoes. They take the place of art. One brand even had a limited-edition laser printed poster of a cap for a hundred bucks. Can’t wear that poster in the rain.

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Mabon Harvestfest

A few months ago I came across a site Ye Old Rock Shop that offered, amongst other goodies, spell advent calendars. 24 days of spells that you do a day at a time. The kit includes the various crystals, herbs, candles, verses to do each of the daily spells. All are simple & other than the bath/shower ritual, take less than five minutes to do. I started the kit so that the last one would be on Mabon. I did changed the sequence so that the bath ritual would be the final one as my Mabon ritual cleansing.

Mabon is the Fall Equinox, bye-bye summer. I adapted a ritual from Llewellyn’s Mabon book. I added into my mix a loaf of bread I had a friend make that included fresh herbs from my garden – delicious bread. After sunset I crumbled some of the bread & scattered in the directions around my house. 

struck by lightening

On Saturday, Sept 24, I took in, with my bread-baking friend, Toronto Pagan Pride Harvestfest, held at Dufferin Grove Park – day of workshops, rituals, performances & of course, a market with vendors that were actually in sync with the occasion. The Fest fell nicely between Mabon & the new moon on the 25th.

heart of the matter

The weather was perfect. After a few cool days I was happy to swear shorts. Transit was uncomplicated – no unexpected shutdowns. Though the number of masked continues to drop. After a stop at Tim Ho’s we walked down to the Park, arriving around 11 a.m. The market was smaller than I expected but the quality of goods & vibes from the ‘retailers’ were welcoming. 

altar decoration

So welcoming I actually made a few purchases. Some lighting-struck oak bark! From Crown and Crescent . A spectacular green fluorite heart from Witch Plz . I loved the tiger eye pendants but I can’t wear jewelry 😦 I was hoping for more of a sabbath presence with Samhain approaching. But that’s a quibble. Overall I was happy to have taken it in, joined their Facebook Group  for other events. So mote it be.

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Moonflowers

This summer I had success with moonflower morning glory. Last summer I had them along the back porch which proved to too sunny for them. So this year I planted them in a shadier part of the backyard. They bloom late in the day, stay open overnight & last till about 10 the next morning. Less than 12 hours – which is true of most morning glories.

moonflower vines growing out of coleus planter
first stage buds
second stage buds
blooming outside back window
another pair in bloom
centre of the moon
vines trained along string
going solo
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Brothers Glen and Buddy

Between 1962-66 Righteous Brothers had a string of hits thanks to the production work of Phil Spector. They did record other songs but even those have often been given the Spector treatment. I have ‘Gold’ a great collection of their best & their not so best. Bobby Hatfield and Bill Medley had great voices but they were, as you might guess, not brothers. I have strong memories of hearing the hits on the radio but, at that time, wasn’t that taken by them – too adult & also it was considered romantic music for girls – not rock enough for boys. I’ve never heard a bad version of Unchained Melody – a song with a depth of longing that is hard to resist. The song was originally the theme song for the movie ‘Unchained’ about – of all things – a prison break.

Another hit-generator that just preceded my radio years is Buddy Holly (1936-59). On this mp3 compilation I have a hits collection ‘Gold’ & Rave On from June 2011, a tribute compilation with covers by the likes of Modest Mouse, Lou Reed etc. His tragic death turned him into an instant icon. His songs, for the most part are bouncy radio fodder. My favourite is Everyday. His clean-cut image is the opposite of  Elvis – Buddy was a safe idol for innocent teenage girls.

Yet another inescapable hit generator was Glen Campbell (1936-2017). Here I have The Best of, which includes Wichita Linesman. This was another singer I had little or no patience for in my teen years. Too laidback, too country, too romantic & banal. When he died in 2012 I gave a listen to some of those songs & the emotional pitch of his voice in Wichita Linesman is amazing. Subtle & sincere I suddenly wanted to have an affair with a linesman. lol.

I also downloaded his final studio lp Ghost on the Canvas  (2011) – recorded while he battling the Alzheimer’s which killed him. It’s a compelling, emotionally resonant & raw piece of work & stands well with similar ‘death bed’ works by David Bowie or Warren Zevon.  



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