Sunday, June 23, 2019

If I Had A Hammer

I love this quote from Bertolt Brecht;
“Art is not a mirror held up to reality
 but a hammer with which to shape it.”
Brecht is a writer who lived through the first two world wars. He lived through much change and upheaval of society and was an outspoken critic of much that was going on.
He is probably chiefly known for the Threepenny Opera, a play with music that he collaborated on with Kurt Wiel.
Probably not as well known is the fact that he wrote ‘The Alabama Song,’ which was part of the paly with music called ‘Little  Mahagonny.’
The song itself is quite well known as The Doors and Bowie did very excellent covers of it.
“Well, show me the way
To the next whisky bar
Oh, don't ask why
Oh, don't ask why
Show me the way
To the next whisky bar
Oh, don't ask why
Oh, don't ask why
For if we don't find
The next whisky bar
I tell you we must die
I tell you we must die
I tell you, I tell you
I tell you we must die
Oh, moon of Alabama
We now must say goodbye
We've lost our good old mama
And must have whiskey, oh, you know why
Oh, moon of Alabama
We now must say goodbye
We've lost our good old mama
And must have whisky, oh, you know why, yeah
Well, show me the way
To the next little girl
Oh, don't ask why
Oh, don't ask why
Show me the way
To the next little girl
Quite interesting that Google gives The Doors credit for this song, but it’s Bertolt Brecht!
As far as continuing our dialog, on this blog, of what is art? I like the idea of art as a hammer to shape reality. All I can say is;
“If I had a hammer
I’d hammer in the morning
I’d hammer in the evening
All over this land
I’d hammer out danger
I’d hammer out a warning
I’d hammer out love between
My brothers and my sisters
All over this land, uh” 
Peter Paul and Mary.

Sunday, June 16, 2019

That Godless Arch-Scoundrel Voltaire

I believe it was Mozart who called Voltaire ‘that godless arch-scoundrel,’ which I always thought was kind of funny.
Funny in the sense of ‘ha, ha’ funny and funny in the sense of odd, as in the kettle calling the pot black.
I never knew too much about Voltaire except that my violin teacher in music school made me read Candide my first semester there, probably to take some of my ‘California Mellow’ off.
I found it an amusing book although, yeah, relentlessly cynical with the hero’s nose even falling off towards the end. I read somewhere that Mozart had a friend who was dying and his nose had fallen off as well. Evidently there was a widespread nose falling off problem back in the day.
And then, of course, there was dear old Mozart only living to thirty-four or whatever.
The crux of the book was, ‘everything is well and good in the best of all possible worlds.’  This was supposedly the mantra of the Catholic Church (wait, what other worlds?) since they were taking care of everyone and everything. This was just prior to the ‘Sturm und Drang’ movement that said artists should be free to depict the darker side of life too.

“Everything's fine today, that is our illusion.” Voltaire.
“We all get it in the end
(Just gotta get used to it)
We go down and we come up again
(Just gotta get used to it)
You irritate me my friend
(This is no social crisis)
This is you having fun
(No crisis)
Getting burned by the sun
(This is true)
This is no social crisis

Just another tricky day for you”

Songwriters: Pete Townshend
Well, good that everything has changed so much now days.  Just ask anyone you see on the street ‘how’s it going?’
They’ll say ‘fine.’ If they say anything else, we really didn’t want to know.

Sunday, June 2, 2019

The Night We Opened For Hunter S. Thompson

So I was playing in this minimalist group out of Cal State Fullerton. I wrote about this particular group in a previous post.
Anyway, we got chosen to open for Hunter S. Thompson at the Coach House in San Juan Capistrano. This is a famous club and literally everyone has played there. I have no idea if we were randomly picked or if Hunter himself picked us out of a bunch of demo tapes that bands submit to these places.
There was a delay in the initial performance date as Hunter had a minor accident falling off of his riding mower. (Driving drunk, I suspect.)
Well the show finally materialized and we got up and played our set. Between our set and Hunter’s appearance, a friend of mine and I decided to go out to the parking lot and get high, as befitting such an auspicious occasion.
I had a bowl loaded up and, no sooner did I light it, than The Man pulls up and asks what we are doing. I had the pipe in my pocket, still smoking.
My friend bullshitted the cop admirably, saying we wanted to discuss aspects of our recent performance away from the rest of the group.
The cop got a bit apologetic and said that drug deals frequently went down in the parking lot. We acted appropriately shocked.
We went back in to hear Hunter and we got to sit in the private rooms upstairs. Hunter was there with his bodyguard and a table with a bottle on it, which was part of his demands to the club for showing up. He was staggeringly drunk.
He was also aware that he was a bit out of his element, being in Orange County. Those of us in the band were even old enough to know who he was. I had read Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas back when I was in music school. He was a political correspondent but his writing style was a seemingly rambling, admittedly drug induced surrealism.
Like a lot of good surrealism I had experienced, the hallucinations were more about an underlying reality than just random hallucinations. This made the whole drug angle kind of an artistic license where he could say whatever he wanted to without fear of getting sued. If someone objected, he could just say ‘hey, I said it was an hallucination!’
As a writer, he reminded me of Mark Twain, who wrote The Gilded Age, a satire on our political process. The writing styles were not the same; Twain, of course being very coherent and non drug induced but the viewpoint was the same. It’s so curious that The Gilded Age could have been written last week.
Hunter, as well had his lucid moments, if you attended. I remember seeing the movie of Fear And Loathing with Johnny Depp as Hunter and he makes the point that ‘they have us locked into a survival mode.’
Both Twain and Hunter seem to share the same viewpoint that politicians are corrupt and our political system is broken if not outright suppressive. If you think about it, keeping everyone’s attention on surviving will keep them from thinking of solutions or, even more dangerous, the cognition that, as Voltaire said;

‘Man is free at the moment he wishes to be.’