On the Defensive- Part 2

In keeping with my need to distance myself, somewhat, from matters in the world that have any real import or impact, I’ve decided to spend a little time getting back into the writing habit by engaging in the defense of a couple o’ few relatively unimportant things/people/circumstances that have come under attack lately. I’m hoping this exercise will help deal with the sensory overload I’m experiencing- and the knee-jerk reversion back to ancient myths- and the doctrines they support- as an ever-growing and ever-more politically and socially acceptable means of dealing with our collective problems that is in evidence EVERYWHERE.

Part 1 was about U2’s misunderstood generosity- and briefly outlined the psychological concept of defense mechanisms. Pop on back there and have a read, if you’re so inclined. It’s a bit wordy (even for me), but I was introducing a new paradigm hereabouts- the ‘non-reactionary defense’ or ‘mature defense mechanism’- so it required a bit more background. Hopefully this one will be more succinct. No promises though. Once I get on a roll… Or a Rock and Roll…

Green Day. In 2015 they will be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.


For some reason, this is making people very angry. At first glance, the growliest detractors seemed to be Smiths fans- who were upset that their particular whiny heroes hadn’t been the band to make the cut. (Full disclosure: I LOATHE Morrissey. Always have done. I get that Johnny Marr is pretty damn brilliant, and that the Smiths had some songs that had a fairly substantial impact back in the day- all those retro-80s compilation albums can’t be wrong, can they?-  but Moz makes me want to remove my ears. Just in case you were wondering.)

I saw a number of general complaints about Green Day’s inclusion back when they were first announced to be on the ballot, and the murmurs became full roars once they actually made it onto the inductees list.

While there may be a person or two on the list of 2015 inductees that is a wee bit confusing to me (not sure what Ringo- on his own, not as part of the Beatles- is doing there), overall, I’m not sure I can find much fault. Lou Reed? Not a question. Especially in light of the fact that we lost him a little over a year ago. His contribution should be highlighted- and, perhaps, acknowledged by a new generation.

Assuming, of course, that the newer generation(s) place any sort of value on induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. I’m not sure that they do. At all. It kinda seems like the people getting their knickers well-twisted are of a more *ahem* seasoned demographic. MY demographic, to be accurate.

I don’t get the fuss. I don’t get the amount of energy and ink (metaphorically speaking) used to declaim the assertion that Green Day has no business being in the Hall o’ Fame.

That I disagree, should be obvious. Why else would I be writing a defense, after all? I’ll get to that in a second, but please, just let me reiterate the fact that people of intelligence and influence are expending brain cells and time complaining about something like this. While real stuff is happening. Bad stuff. Stuff that should be talked about. And read about. And understood. So we can do something about it. (Want a list? Check out any of a number of my other posts- or posts that I’ve linked to- there a whole lot of smart people here in WPWorld talking about a whole lot of important things)

(And I don’t mean stuff like recapping the Walking Dead on the facebook. Just so’s we’re clear.)

Anyhoo. Back to defending Green Day. I like Green Day. A lot, in fact. In the wasteland that was the early 90’s- what with the rise of grunge and a bunch of inexplicable (to me) HipHop MCs- they were pretty much my go-to for music that didn’t make me want to tear off my ears (Moz wasn’t the only one who made me feel that way). Some good came out of Seattle, certainly (Dave Grolh has proven to be a pretty remarkable guy- and an innovative musician. Plus, I like drummers. But enough about him- he’s already in the Hall of Fame), but I was most definitely not a fan of the whole grungy dealio.

Dookie came along just in time, IMHO, to save us all from the faux-angst generated by Kurt Cobain’s suicide. It is also, in and of itself, a great freakin album. InsomniacNimrod and Warning (a folkier Green Day than had been heard heretofore) followed, and were all pretty solid offerings.

Breaths of fresh musical air in my least-favourite music-producing decade.

And then came 2004, and American Idiot.

After the master tracks for their album Cigarettes and Valentines were stolen, the boys in the band opted to start all over, rather than attempt to recreate the lost songs. What resulted was a well-crafted concept album that offered up a pretty stinging social commentary on the State of the American Union.

I was teaching my first course (‘Myth and Symbol’) at Carleton University’s College of the Humanities when the album was released. Surrounded as I was by really smart and engaged young people, I still associate the album with that time- and that group of people. A lot of my students got the album- they felt it spoke to them of the disarray in the post-9/11 world. The reactionary (and ridiculous and unfounded) politics of the American government (and of certain of its allies) and the mass-hysteria propagated by the ever-growing new media forms? All these things were acknowledged- if not adequately addressed. You can cut them some slack, though. They’re musicians, not policy-makers or community leaders, after all.

Billie Joe, Mike and Tré used this album to register their discontent- discordantly- based in the electric, albeit simple, chords inextricably bound up with their Punk roots.

Ideologically, I agree(d), wholeheartedly, with their political critique (who didn’t hate on Dubya, in those days?), and I love(d) the way they played with religious imagery/(sub)urban culture in the characters of Jesus of Suburbia and St. Jimmy.

There’s actually only one song on the album I don’t much like- Wake Me Up When September Ends. I’m not entirely sure how it ended up being one of the singles or how it’s meant to fit into the larger conceit of the album.

The rest of it? Pretty damn sublime, IMHO. It it pompous and it is glorious. And it’s a whole lot of fun, as well.

They followed it up with 21st Century Breakdown, another concept album that continued the themes of American Idiot quite well, while not quite living up to its example. It isn’t as cohesive, somehow, and the plot lines become a little muddled and convoluted.

But it’s still pretty great Rock and Roll.

American Idiot was turned into a stage musical combining songs from both albums. I’m still not 100% sure what that was all about. I’m guessing that it was an attempt to emulate The Who’s Tommy– and to attract a different audience- but… The book, written by Billie Joe and Michael Mayer, is weak and sort of meandering. I’m not sure I liked it. It certainly wasn’t Punk Rock. But as Broadway musicals go, I enjoyed it more than most.

The bottom line in all this? This band continues to consistently create interesting and innovative music- at times when the rest of the ‘industry’ seems intent on over-produced and/or derivative drivel. While there is great- often-independent- music happening all around us, the stuff that gets played in the mainstream these days (and I have to include things like late night talk show appearances, gigs on SNL and the like in this category) is TERRIBLE. There are exceptions that prove the rule (that Bruno Mars kid, for example, continues to impress me- not really my style of tunes, but you can’t deny the talent there. And he’s cute-as-a-button, to boot), but, generally, I have to actively search for new things that are worth a listen.

Green Day, somehow, manages to remain true to their Punk Rock roots (their cover of the Ramones’ Outsider, from the We’re a Happy Family tribute album IS worth a listen. THAT one you should google) while pushing the limits of the genre and incorporating different styles and themes into their work. And they seem to have a great time with it all. Still. After almost 30 years together. Through all the angst and righteous anger, they can take the piss and offer up a laugh or two along the way.

It’s a solid, clever, often-insightful, sometimes-complex, fun catalogue of music.

I’m not on the selection committee, but those things alone seem like pretty legit criteria for induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Do you know the enemy?
Do you know your enemy?
Well, gotta know the enemy

Violence is an energy
Against the enemy
Well, violence is an energy

Bringing on the fury
The choir infantry
Revolt against the honor to obey

Overthrow the effigy
The vast majority
Well, burning down the foreman of control

Silence is the enemy
Against your urgency
So rally up the demons of your soul…

The insurgency will rise
When the blood’s been sacrificed
Don’t be blinded by the lies in your eyes

I’m not entirely sure that I can recognize an enemy, these days. Particularly when ideological attacks seem to be all over the place and, too often, to come out of nowhere.

I do, however, know that three guys out of Berkeley most certainly aren’t the enemy. Not these three guys, anyway. They get that silence- about things that matter- isn’t acceptable. I can appreciate that. They have Voices that say (or shout, depending on your perspective) things that matter- and that manage to get heard above some of the detritus that passes for music in some popular conceptions of such things.

Congratulations on the induction-to-come, Boys. Well-deserved.

Gives me some hope that 2015 might well be pretty cool. Perhaps even três cool.

Happy New Year, everyone! Celebrate well and safely.  Thanks for hanging about and chatting with me in 2014. Hope to see even more of you in the years to come!

On the Defensive- Part 1

One from the ‘Drafts’ folder. As I ponder further whether or not I should have to defend my non-belief- when, logically, those who believe without evidence should be the ones attempting to make their ideological case- I’ve put together some defenses on topics a little less-controversial. Perhaps. People seem to be pretty het up about these things, too…

One night last week, I opted to consciously put a hold on the all the insanity involved in holiday prep and some of the other obligations/responsibilities to which I am currently beholden. My plan (after I foolishly braved the freakin’ Eaton Centre- THAT didn’t last. Holy cows, people. If you’re going to walk and text in the midst of a million people, then you are GOING to get mowed down as I move with purpose to hit the stores I absolutely HAVE to hit), was to chill on the couch and catch up on some reading.

And writing.

My output (both the fictional stuff and here in WordPressWorld), for quite some time now, hasn’t been anywhere near where I’d like it to be. I could blame it on the time of year, but it’s been going on far longer than can be legitimated by that particular excuse.

There is the reality that my laptop is on its last legs (not that it has legs- it’s a MacBook)- sometimes it works, sometimes not so much – and the danger that I’ll get into some serious compositioning and have it die and lose it all is very frightening. I don’t need the anxiety- or the anger and frustration that would result when that happens. Santa knows the sitch. Hoping the Big Guy comes through so I’ll have one less potential defense for lack of productivity. (Update: Totes dead now. RIP Abe. And his successor was not to be found, under the tree- so I’ll have to venture out into the MacWorld to purchase one myself- and that ain’t happening until the stores clear of ‘bargain’ shoppers.)

Honestly though, I think the true problem is that I’m dealing with a whack of sensory overload right now. There is so much going on, and most of it deserves some reflection and commentary. As of this moment there are 12 drafts in dashboard. Lucky 13, if you count this one here.

Comfortably settled on the couch, I tried to put something together that began to address the disgusting news of the past week(s)- downtown Australia under siege, more women and children taken by an putatively-religious organization of thugs in Africa, children and educators murdered in a school in Pakistan…

Couldn’t do it.

Just. Couldn’t.

There is no insight I can offer. I don’t get any of it. I can’t explain away the credulity and self-serving power mongers that drive these sorts of ideologies of cruelty and irrationality. I’m not going to try.

Since I was having issues with writing I opted to do a bit of reading instead. Like the draft folder, my To-Read list is mighty full at the moment. Once again, couldn’t do it.

For whatever reason (partly the season, I’d guess), the bulk of the articles I’ve marked to come back to seem to be about things like belief-based indefensible defenses of the the existence of an historical dude named Jesus and his definite and absolute divinity (and this article about why such defenses are indefensible), the whole end-of-the-year looking back retrospective on things like how no one was reporting let alone paying attention to the really important stuff going on, or the fact that while this guy is attempting to bring change to a millennia-old outdated and obsolete institution, those who benefit most from the money and power continue to fight to hold onto that money and power and deny culpability in cover-ups and injustices…

All that stuff is just sameoldsameoldsameold… I have no new ideas about how I might more effectively tilt at those windmills at the mo’. Too much to do, and not enough determined energy to fight the idiocy.

But I AM feeling defensive… My reserves and resources are low, but there have been fighting words- on a number of topics- that have been thrown around of late. So, since these particular topics matter not-at-all in the overall scheme of important things, these things, I feel up to defending.

When I was talking about the newest iteration of the Band Aid thingamabop (okay, that was a defense too. I guess I’ve been on the defensive for a while now), I mentioned that I was working on a defense of the guy who has stuck around (and retained enough fame) to participate in all the various versions of the thing in the past 30 years.

Bono. We all love to hate him. I’m guilty of that, myself, truth be told. He welcomes it. But hey- the guy’s got some redeeming stuff going for him too…

Doesn’t he?

Yesterday, there was a story on my beloved CBC all about the biggest marketing fails of 2014. I’m not a fan of marketing- I resent being marketed to, and certainly don’t want to deal with people looking for information that will help the process run more smoothly- so I knew I’d get a chuckle at the offered instances in which things did NOT go according to plan.

The Number One biggie gave me a little pause for thought.

When U2 ‘gifted’ humanity with ‘free’ versions of their latest album, the interwebs were set afire with complaints and concerns and conspiracy theories. A certain portion of the younger generation, on social media platforms like Twitter et al, claimed that U2 MUST be Illuminati, since they woke up out of innocent U2-free sleep to the unauthorized addition on their own, personal, technological device(s).

Which none of them seem to really understand. They had been ‘hacked’. The lads from Ireland had violated their privacy by offering them their latest missive. For people who seem to use the social media at the expense of actual human interaction a whole bunch, they really don’t seem to grasp how it works.

Songs of Innocence, their (unlucky?) 13th studio album, WAS there- on devices or in the iTunes store available for download (if, as in my case, your phone ain’t so Smart). It was advertising- an ill-fated attempt at generating a new audience. It was not a conspiracy.

For about a week I couldn’t stop laughing at the suppositions- Bono and Crew were Illuminati. Illuminati. Perhaps the worst part of labeling them such? The accusers were obviously drawing their definition and conspiracy theories from another book by the the writer of TDB (interestingly, I wrote about Bono in that post about TDB, too. Maybe he IS Illuminatus. Just kidding. He couldn’t Illuminati his way out of a paper bag).

Sigh. They couldn’t even pull their fictional conspiracists from good fiction (the Illuminati also appear in Foucault’s Pendulum– but it is highly doubtful that the investigative minds positing the theory that U2 are part of their number- in less that 140 characters- have taken the time to read Eco).


Bono sort of apologized for the ‘megalomaniacal’ stunt, blaming it on their enthusiasm for the new tunes and a desire to share them with everyone.

They offered a whole lot of people the opportunity to have a listen to an album. They didn’t kill anyone or kidnap young girls in the name of misogynistic ideology.

Yet it got people reallyreally PISSED. THAT did. A gift of music. Which you could easily delete if it wasn’t your cup o’ joe.


In the realm of ‘Much Ado About Nothing’, this sitch takes a whole big chunk of the cake.

The argument can, perhaps, be made, that what they should have apologized for is the album itself. I have to admit, I was sort of in that camp when I first downloaded and listened to the thing.

The fact that the lead-off single was already an iTunes/iPhone commercial has something to do with that. Irritating as Hell to have it pop up endlessly on the tv. Then there was the fact that it pays homage to Joey. I’m not sure that the song says ‘Ramones’ in any way, shape or form. I’m not sure that it even says ‘U2’ all that much. And did you ever hear the version of Beat on the Brat they did for the Ramones Tribute album? If you haven’t, please don’t google it. No really. Do not. It hurts my heart.

Is it a great album? I don’t think so. Although Rolling Stone begs to differ. Number 1. Of. The. Year.

I’ve listened to it in its entirety a few times since the Day of the Download. Parts of it have grown on me- not so much that I’d have been all that pleased if I’d paid money for it- but enough that I can appreciate what they were doing.

And enough that demonstrates that they can still rock’n’roll better than a whole lot of young’uns getting way-too-much air time on the YouTube and such these days.

The Lads have said that it is their ‘most personal’ album yet. Some of that comes through quite clearly. Bono’s song about his mother, Iris, is truly lovely. Raised By Wolves hearkens back to the violence of the environment in which they grew up- the Dublin and Monaghan bombings of 1974- and reignites some of the same feelings that Sunday Bloody Sunday awakened, back in the day. Sleep Like a Baby Tonight is deceptively lullaby-esque- until you realize it references a pedophile priest…

Add to all that the fact that Bono, even if he is a self-righteous megalomaniac, has had an impact on the world and does have a tendency to do more than pay lip-service to his drive for change.

He gave this little TEDTalk less than two years ago.

Okay. So he’s a prat. He loves himself so veryvery much. The biblical/historical allusions made my teeth grind. And he’s got a mouth on him that makes me cringe at times. But he can also laugh at himself- and at his fame and the lack of real importance that accompanies the fame. And he is doing something. He is using his celebrity (and, evidently, his powers as an Illuminati) to aid in the eradication of worldwide poverty. Worldwide Poverty.

Modeling himself after those greaterthans who came before him, he is helping to make the world a better place.

Factivism. I like that. I can get behind that. (I could do without the image of his ‘collation arousal’, though. Ick).

‘The power of the people is so much stronger than the people in power.” That line alone speaks louder than most of the pop-tripe out there in the www.

A defense mechanism is a coping technique. It helps to reduce anxiety. We get defensive when our opinions or illusions or way of seeing the world are challenged to an unreasonable degree. It is an unconscious impulse used for self-protection when things get overwhelming.

It isn’t good to resort to these mechanisms pathologically or immaturely, but we can do so maturely. That latter option may include things like altruism, humour, respect and gratitude- those virtuous actions that we can use to positively optimize our relationships and interactions with society. This can also involve things like emotional self-sufficiency– not relying on the opinions of others to validate oneself.

As I continue to evaluate my own reactions to things- whether those found in our popular culture, or in the wider world- I’ll be keeping that one, in particular, in mind.

While I do so, here’s one from the vaults. I forgot how much I love this song, actually. The Edge’s monotone provides a nice counterbalance to Bono’s somewhat strident falsetto. It also goes to show that this band is more than its vocalist (and his big mouth)- and that they have things of value to say.

The Edge has said that this song- and the Zoo TV Tour– tapped into “the sense that we were being bombarded by so much information that you find yourself shutting down and unable to respond.” Twas true back in 1993. The sensory overload is exponentially worse, now.

“Don’t move, don’t talk out of time

Don’t think, don’t worry, everything’s just fine
Just fine

Don’t grab, don’t clutch, don’t hope for too much
Don’t breathe, don’t achieve or grieve without leave

Don’t check, just balance on the fence
Don’t answer, don’t ask, don’t try and make sense

Don’t whisper, don’t talk, don’t run if you can walk
Don’t cheat, compete, don’t miss the one beat

Don’t travel by train, don’t eat, don’t spill
Don’t piss in the drain, don’t make a will

Don’t fill out any forms, don’t compensate
Don’t cower, don’t crawl, don’t come around late
Don’t hover at the gate

Don’t take it on board, don’t fall on your sword
Just play another chord
If you feel you’re getting bored
(I feel numb)
(I feel numb)
(Too much is not enough)

Don’t change your brand, don’t listen to the band…”

Even if they want to give you their music for free.

Thanks for the tunes, Lads.

Know Thyself

I’ve posted about self-reflection before. It’s something I try to do often- with positive intent, rather than as an impulse to self-criticize. This time of year, especially, seems to bring it out. The longer nights somehow induce a whole pile of inward-turned thinking.

I tend to see the holiday season as a good opportunity to engage in some reflecting and a little bit of analysis as I check in- with friends and family, certainly- but also, and perhaps most importantly, with the person I see in the mirror every day.

This wasn’t my favourite year of all time. 2014 started with Dad in the hospital- and we lost him a few, very long, months later. I’m not sure I’ve really encompassed that loss, to be honest. It hits me at peculiar times- when I find myself picking up the phone to give him a call, for instance.

That keeps happening because there has been a fair amount of positive stuff going on, as well. And Dad was the first guy I’d call when something great was going on. I’m working at a job that, while it’s outside of my ‘regular’ wheelhouse in many ways, challenges me and makes me feel that I’m contributing something of value. Something bigger than me- and something that benefits a whole lot of people.

And my team is pretty freakin’ phenomenal- so the fact that I come to a place 5 days a week and get to hang out with people I like and respect… well, that’s a damn sight more than I was able to say this time last year.

I haven’t been nearly as prolific as I’d like to be, writing-wise, either here in the WordPressWorld or with the creative projects that I have on the go. This is partly due to serious computer issues- Abe (my heretofore trusty MacBook) has given up the ghost well-and-truly, and you couldn’t pay me enough to set foot anywhere near an Apple Store until the consumptive consumerism of the season has settled somewhat. The SO’s laptop is filling the void as best it can, but, really, I need my own tools in order to work most effectively. I’m a creature of habit- and I like the comfort of my settings and keyboard set-up.

More than the technical issues, though, the world-as-it-is continues to cause me enough existential stress that I am completely and constitutionally unable to figure out where to start. I ruminate and seek response/reply for some of the insanity I see out there, and I just cannot do it.

That a disproportionate deal of the insanity arises out of the implementation of unthinking, anti-intellectual applications of outdated and irrelevant religious ideology, is a truth that is as evident as it is hard to swallow.

The other day, this article, by John G. Messerly, showed up on one of the newsgroups I read fairly regularly. I perused it with interest, and with something like alacrity, a couple of days after Xmas. I admit that my thoughts tend in that direction all the time- but when there is in-your-face evidence of credulity at every single turn, questions of belief seem to surface even more frequently.

I don’t get it. Truly, I don’t. How seemingly-intelligent people can subscribe to blindness of belief in fairy tale figures- however wonderful the myths may be- and societal controls that are millennia-old.

I can suspend my disbelief for long enough- at this time of year, at least- to allow for some wonder and child-like innocence to show up. When I watch the original Miracle on 34th Street, or It’s a Wonderful Life or, even, Elf, I get the need to believe in the supernatural. The realities of life can be so stark and shocking in comparison that the potential presence in the world of Kris Kringle, or Clarence (or George Bailey and all the residents of Bedford Falls, for that matter), or Buddy the Elf (and his adopted Papa Elf- how do you not love Bob Newhart- and Lou Grant as Santa?) can take a bit of an edge off of the harshness of the realities of this world.

And the world can be a pretty harsh place.

Messerly notes:

” …a significant body of scientific evidence suggests that popular religion results from social dysfunction. Religion may be a coping mechanism for the stress caused by the lack of a good social safety net—hence the vast disparity between religious belief in Western Europe and the United States.

There is also a strong correlation between religious belief and various measures of social dysfunction including homicides, the proportion of people incarcerated, infant mortality, sexually transmitted diseases, teenage births, abortions, corruption, income inequality and more. While no causal relationship has been established, a United Nations list of the 20 best countries to live in shows the least religious nations generally at the top.”

The fideism about which he speaks- the idea that faith is independent of reason- isn’t an epistemological theory I can understand. In any way.

I’ve read a whole lot of William James- I’ve included him, and his theories about religious experience, in course syllabi, in fact- but I just can’t get the justification behind his ‘will to believe’. It involves such circular reasoning that even thinking about it for too long makes me nauseated with the motion sickness.

Pascal’s Wager is even more inexplicable. The inherent intellectual and rational cop-out– that it ‘costs’ nothing to believe that (a) god exists, so why not believe in that god, since it might be beneficial in the long-run (forgive the paraphrase and over-simplification for the purpose of succinctness)- makes me grind my teeth in frustration.

Kierkegaard’s ‘leap of (or, more correctly, to) faith’, an attempt at apologizing for the inherent paradoxes and contradictions in Xianity, flies in the face of everything I know about the need for rational examination and discourse among human beings.

(Okay, his concept of the personal, individual interaction with the god, and the need to translate the values espoused by religions into positive, exemplary actions– as opposed to theoretical imaginings, used in judgment but without acknowledgement of context, relativity or relevance- may have some dialectical merit, but isn’t, unfortunately, the go-to impulse of most institutionalized religions.)

The presuppositions required for such (and, really, all) apologetics don’t hold water. They can’t hold water, in my pragmatic (I do get the problem with using that word/philosophical ideology, associated as it is with the foundational theories of Mr. James, especially after taking him to task for the irrationality of his fideism. Just goes to show that he was a man of his time and context, in my opinion. I’m not convinced that he’d defend that ‘will to believe’ stuff so much, were he around today. He was, after all, a scientist.), humanistic understanding of the world.

I’ve always tried to approach my interactions with others with a ‘live-and-let-live’ sort of mindset. I’ve said before that I don’t understand militant atheist types who run down their ideological opponents with personal slurs and the very-public questioning of their mental capabilities. Even when I agree with them. Wholeheartedly.

My years spent teaching the historical, social and literary origins of many of the world’s religions led me, I thought, to a level of ‘tolerance’ for the views of others- a hope that because the basic impulse underlying the construction of all religious belief stems from a need to understand and order the world around us, that we might, as we continue to evolve, come to the awareness that we have other, less-polarizing and -polemical ways of answering these questions.

The realities of the world are causing me to challenge that particular propensity. As I witness what seems to be a rising tide of ideology-over-equity, of belief-over-justice, I’m starting to feel as if indulging any such unexamined and irrational beliefs (an indulgence that is, admittedly, a wee bit patronizing) makes me complicit in the epidemic of anti-intellectualism that is rampant the world over.

That’s one of the very personal not-so-fabulous realities I’m having difficulty comprehending, let alone, assimilating right now.

“Religion may help us in the way that whiskey helps a drunk, but we don’t want to go through life drunk.”

One of the manymany generous gifts I received this holiday season was a bottle of the Irish whiskey pictured up there ^^^^. Since my travels in Scotland this autumn turned me into a Scotch drinker, my littlest sister thought it prudent to enlighten me about the wonders of the Irish Water of Life, in order to acknowledge our familial heritage and give the distilleries of the Emerald Isle their fair due. There might be a bit of an implied dig there as well- at my lack of productivity in the writing department of late, but I’m assuming best intentions all around.

In any case, the whiskey is quite lovely (my first experience of a blend) and the message on the bottle is even more poignant. It describes the ages-old remedy that Irish scribblers of all ilks have applied to break the back of that most insidious and terrifying of beasts- Writer’s Block.

I’m not prepared to hit the bottle that hard for the inspiration/clarity I seem to be lacking these days, but a dram or two of an evening certainly won’t go amiss as I try to figure out the avenues down (up?) which my thoughts and insights and reactions to the world seem to be traveling.

The ancient Greek aphorism know thyself – apparently originating with the sun god, himself – has been associated with any number of philosophers. Like other such pithy sayings/admonitions (there are Ten, specifically, I can call to mind quite readily), this best known of the maxims (there are over 100 of them) recorded on Apollo’s Temple at Delphi, is interpreted in a number of ways.

Some suggest that it is a commandment to leave the things of the gods in the hands of the gods- to avoid overreaching and seeking that which the human mind is incapable of understanding. To know one’s place, in the universal scheme of things, and not look to ascribe meaning to those things outside of human purview.

In Plato’s Phaedrus, Socrates uses this particular edict to explain why he has no time to think about mythology/the gods or the nature of other ‘irrelevant things’. Since he has not yet achieved the self-knowledge the Oracle demands, he thinks it ridiculous to investigate the obscure, when the obvious remains misunderstood.

My interpretation of this Platonic wisdom says that in order to even begin an approach to understanding the elusive, one must focus on first comprehending oneself and one’s immediate physical– and temporal- environment. Postulating the origins or nature of something entirely supernatural and hypothetical without any sort of demonstrable proof while ignoring/failing to understand the evidence that speaks to the natural order of things is folly– in the truest, oldest and most complete senses of the word.

(Folly: from the Old French for “madness”. Also: evil, wickedness, mental weakness, unwise conduct).

In my quest for equity and respect and ‘tolerance’ I have always maintained that belief in the next/other world- and the god(s) who rule(s) it- is fine. No skin off my nose if people want to continue playing make believe long past the point of rationality and reason. To each their own, and all that.

Until it isn’t fine. Until those beliefs creep into our political and social and educational systems and permit the deterioration of the strides we have made in understanding and defining the real world. Strides toward knowing ourselves as humans- imperfect but adaptable and evolving people with the ability to shape our own individual and communal destinies- rather than as subordinate creatures of a created creator with an unknowable ‘plan’ for our future.

As I continue my self-reflection into the New Year, this new awareness is likely to be the biggest bit o’ something with which I’ll be wrestling.

Tolerance = complicity… that’s a tough one.

While belief may the easy answer for some, elenchus and dialectic are hard for everyone.

Freakin’ Socrates.

Perhaps I’ll need more of the whiskey than first thought.

Immanuel Kant was a real pissant
Who was very rarely stable.
Heidegger, Heidegger was a boozy beggar
Who could think you under the table.
David Hume could out-consume
Schopenhauer and Hegel,
And Wittgenstein was a beery swine
Who was just as sloshed as Schlegel.

There’s nothing Nietzsche couldn’t teach ya’
‘Bout the raising of the wrist.

John Stuart Mill, of his own free will,
On half a pint of shandy was particularly ill.
Plato, they say, could stick it away;
Half a crate of whiskey every day.
Aristotle, Aristotle was a bugger for the bottle,
Hobbes was fond of his dram,
And Rene Descartes was a drunken fart: “I drink, therefore I am”
Yes, Socrates, himself, is particularly missed;
A lovely little thinker but a bugger when he’s pissed!

…counting down….

Since I am experiencing EXTREME technical difficulties (laptop is pooched beyond repair- or at least beyond any repair I’m willing to pay for at this juncture), I’m resorting to a reblog of last year’s holiday post as my way of expressing my thanks and best wishes to all of you who contribute so much to my life here in this WordPressWorld of ours.

Last year’s ice storm is a thing of memory (although the substantial bill associated with the damage still wants paying), in fact, it’s ’round about 10 degrees Celsius here in my City on the Lake this holiday Eve.

Much has changed since this time last year, and, as soon as I’m up and running- computer-wise- again, I’ll have some reflecting to do on those changes. The good and the very sad.

Until then, all the very best for the holidays (whichever holiday(s) you may/may not be celebrating) and all best wishes for peace, love and grooviness in 2015.

Enjoy the time with loved ones- and the playlist.



I might not like their coffee at all, but this picture really sums up the last couple of days here in TO.


That was interesting.  We got a bit of ice hereabouts.  And that ice weighed down all the hydro lines and left electrical power just a fading memory to a fair number of folks here in our sleepy little burgh.

The temperature has plummeted and it’s not looking like some peeps are going to get the electricity back before Wednesday.  Generally speaking my little part of the town is all okay.  I have hydro, and the commute to work is such that the streetcar and subway closures didn’t affect me.  Hoping that the situation stays okay- but preparing just in case.

The shopping is all done- so there’s no more running around required, at least.  A little more in the way of food prep for the day itself- and…

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Laying Traps for Troubadors

Feeling fictional (and inspired by my lovely scottishmomus) this evening… something a little different…

“So what is this, exactly, that you’re doing here? Some sort of Anne-Rice-ish Interview kind of thing?” As I sat at my usual table in the café, she sneaked up behind me. Disconcerted that she’d been able to do so, I turned, and noticed that her ubiquitous menthol cigarette was absent.

“He isn’t a vampire, Marie-Luce. Let’s not slip irrevocably into fantasy. And it’s hardly an ‘interview’, anyway. There would have to be dialogue and the answering of questions for that to be the case.”

“Does he know about it?”

“He doesn’t not know.”

She laughed. “That is the most Cole-like answer I’ve heard in a long, long, long life of listening to answers from Cole.”

“He knows me. He knows what I do. It has to have struck him that I haven’t written anything in more years than I can count. And I hardly need permission. They’re my experiences too.”

“Well that wasn’t at all defensive.” Marie-Luce laughed again. Despite the fact that I was, in fact, feeling somewhat defensive, I had to smile. There aren’t many things I love in this world of ours more than Emel’s laugh.

“How’s about my story? You going to tell that one too? Do I get to be a character in this whatever-it-is that you’re writing?” She was playing me a little. The question was meant, certainly, to elicit answers I wasn’t ready to give, but there was something a wee bit yearning in her tone, as well. She has always had a streak of vanity, well-hidden and oft-denied though it may be.

“You know what I do, too, Emel. You might not like my observances any better than he will. I’m trying to be honest, here. Tell a story that needs telling. Warts and all.”

“Surely you remember what happened the last time you did that? How one piece of writing altered everything. Are you willing to risk that level of change again?” Her slight pause was both reflective and exposed something of her own on-going struggle to make sense of all this.

“Not that I’m trying to stop you. Never think that. But have you really taken on board just what you might be doing here? You know I love you, Coley. Surely you’ve had enough of transformation and revelation to last at least a lifetime or two?” She smiled, knowingly, but with that minor-chord note of sympathy that featured in most of our exchanges.

Distracted by her smile (one of the other things I love most in this world of ours) I hesitated, thinking about her words for a minute. She was right. No doubt about that.

The last time my desire for change – and the searching for answers that is, really, the keystone of my personality – led me to pick up a pen, the consequences were as irrevocable as they were shattering.

No argument, here.


If something needs saying? If change needs a kick-in-the-pants to get the stones rolling?

I’m your guy. And, whether you know it or not, I’ve always been your guy.