musings from boston

screams, whispers and songs from planet earth

On Your Birthday

MomRosesAndBabysBreath

It’s still your birthday, even though it’s dark now. But birthdays don’t matter anymore, do they? You are ageless and timeless now, fixed in amber.

If you were still here, I would have made you a card, filled with my lousy artwork. You never cared for store-bought cards. They were too easy, too automatic. Pick it out, make a purchase, scribble a tossaway line, “thinking of you” yadda yadda, and sign it. Address it, send it, and the person is quickly out of sight, out of mind. There are no lingering thoughts, no emotional commitment.

I made the emotional commitment that you treasured, and I would frequently be there to deliver it in person and hug you while you examined it. Though my artistic ability displayed no measurable improvement from when I was 6 to when I was 56, you appreciated those haphazardly pieced-together cards just the same.

So, where are you now? I often contemplate this, strange as it seems. My friends who are mediums, spiritualists, would possibly say that you’re watching over me — perhaps even now as I write this. It’s odd, but I never told them. I’ve typically been very open and honest with people, but for some reason, I suddenly became very private, secretive, withdrawn. It felt like the right thing to do at the time. Until, of course, I want to announce it to the world. But isn’t that me, the writer, always interested in good material?

With earth and her inhabitants in such abysmal shape — and you, the eternal caregiver — in my mind’s eye I see your spirit rushing from trouble spot to trouble spot, trying to restore peace and compassion, bringing comfort to those in pain and emotional turmoil. It seems like something you would want to do. You were never very comfortable being on the receiving end of care.

As a young girl, you cared for your family after your mother died, though it wasn’t something you chose for yourself, and it was too heavy a burden for an 8-year-old. You did, however, later choose to serve in the Navy, become a registered nurse, raise a child, collect old clothes for the poor, volunteer at the local blood bank and make frequent visits to an elderly neighbor whose own family had abandoned.

Free of the body that betrayed you in later years, are you now visiting parts of the world where your kind spirit is most needed? You never liked to travel, but no longer burdened by physical concerns like packing, luggage, planes, missed connections and stress, perhaps it’s different now. Maybe you’re guiding lost souls in the Middle East or in Northern parts of Africa, giving comfort to children who are homeless and hungry or to people in Puerto Rico who still struggle after the storm. Maybe you’re visiting one of the recent sites of a mass shooting, comforting the victims.

Is it silly for me to think that?

I was struck by what an expert in astral travel had said on a friend’s radio show, that we hold our loved ones back from continuing on their soul’s journey. We summon them in spiritualist gatherings and keep them tethered to the earth plane so that they can help us and guide us. Is it our own attachment to forms that keep us from progressing here as well? Perhaps I have created an artificial distance as a form of protection. But I can’t help feeling, as much as I’d like to connect with you and feel your presence, that it’s a selfish desire and not driven by love.

Even before you became so frail, you said that you had enough of this life. Apparently life had not had enough of you! But now you are free. How can I mourn for you, when you were so ready to move on? I would only be mourning for myself and others who loved you, who must now muddle through on their own.

For you, I will honor and celebrate a beautiful life, in service to others and full of goodness. May I find the courage and strength to use whatever gifts I have to do as you did.

Happy birthday, mom, wherever you are.

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The Rebel Light asks, “Where Did All The Love Go?

The Rebel Light

And that’s a damn good question. In The Rebel Light’s latest video for “Where Did All The Love Go?”, the Summer of Love Magical Mystery Tour Bus takes a drive through the treacherous landscape of a nasty co-dependent relationship. It’s all peace, love and painful existential inquiry, set to a ’60s summery soul vibe.

Oddly (or perhaps not), we seem to check in with The Rebel Light every year or so, in darker, drearier months. I imagine it’s because the New England winter is rough and we need their California easy-breezy sunshine. We first introduced this L.A. indie pop band in January 2013, passed along their song “Strangers” in December 2015 and marveled over their “Goodbye Serenade” newsreel in late November of last year. It’s been a rough haul in 2017, so I guess that’s why we’re a bit early.

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A Conversation with Myself

A Conversation with Myself“Are you awake?”

“Uhhhhh”

“Get up! You have a lot to do! In every second you let slip by, you could be having an inspirational thought that could be developed into a breathtaking essay, or maybe even a novel!”

“I seriously doubt that.”

“Why are you so negative all the time? And why are you so tired?

“Those are two separate questions. And I haven’t even done my yoga or had my tart cherry juice and my tea yet.”

“So, what are you waiting for? Get up!”

“Shut up and leave me alone.”

“What’s the problem today?”

“I had those dreams again, about driving my car down a deserted highway and not knowing how to get home — hell, not even knowing where “home” was. And then that other one, about searching for something to eat, and everything is horrible fast food.”

“The last time, you were in a restaurant and everyone at your table got up and left you there eating.”

“That wasn’t a dream. That actually happened. I’m a slow eater. I always have dreams about being lost. Lately, I’ve also been dreaming about having some kind of procedure done on me. I have thoughts in my dreams that aren’t mine.”

“Maybe you’re being abducted by aliens. I still don’t understand why you’re so depressed and miserable. You have a lot to be thankful for.”

“Don’t you think I know that?? Thinking that makes me feel even worse!”

“You’re a pathetic basket case.”

“I know that also. But sometimes I don’t understand how so many people can go along and be so absorbed and perfectly content in their own lives, and not be disturbed by all the violence, pain, misery and suffering in this world. How do they do that?”

“You have to focus on the positives in life and on those people who are doing good deeds and helping others.”

“Well, that sounds marvelously New Agey. Hang on, let me grab my Tarot cards and my affirmations. Oh damn, I spilled water on them and they got wet.”

“You’re so cynical.”

“How can you not be? Nothing really changes. The rich get richer, the poor get poorer, mankind continues to shit on the planet that we depend on for our survival, corporation executives are greedy, politicians are self-serving and college students design artistic signs and protest. Nothing ever comes of it. Well, I suppose more people are protesting now.”

“A lot more people are protesting. People are slowly waking up.”

“Perhaps. I’m just so damned frustrated, and I feel like I’m doing nothing to contribute to anything that’s useful.”

“Well, you sure as hell aren’t by lying in bed and bickering with me.”  

“Yeah, you’re right there.”

“So, tell me what’s really bothering you and let’s get this done and over with so you can seize the day. Or at least, get your butt out of bed.”

“Do you really want to know? Fine. Can I tell you my worries and anxieties without you turning all judgmental and self-righteous on me?”

“Yes. Go ahead.”

“I feel burdened with many things in my life — not progressing in my writing, not having the time to read and do my yoga and meditation as much as I should be, problems with finances despite working all the time, deeply rooted family issues, my own stupid stress-enhanced health problems, the need to be alone for what I want to accomplish and yet gnawing loneliness, always feeling anxious and on edge. Sometimes I feel as old as Methuselah, and as knowledgeable as a baby. And then I feel guilty for feeling bad, because I’m so incredibly fortunate, compared to many, many others. And this, of course, makes me feel worse.”

“Sounds like first-world problems.”

“There you go again, you snarky bitch.”

“Sorry. Those are real problems, to be sure, and all problems are relative, aren’t they? You do sound like you have a lot going on right now, and important things you want to be doing. Maybe you should focus your efforts on what’s most important to you, don’t get fixated on the financial problems, and see if you can come up with some creative ideas on how to make enough money to pay the bills while still having time to do what you want to be doing. Don’t take on other people’s problems (at least, not until you have to). Don’t compare yourself to other people and don’t worry about this vague notion of “being happy.” Choose to chase after your life’s purpose instead. Remember when you would always tell me that you felt more “yourself” when you were writing and you were going to make something happen? What happened to that?”

“I got old and tired.”

“Ha. But all these tedious product descriptions and nutty things you do now to earn a bit of money, that’s made you a better writer, hasn’t it?”

“Yes, I suppose it has.”

“So, it hasn’t been a waste of time.”

“No, I guess it hasn’t. You’re right.”

“And you have a pile of literary journals to read, and a few essays you can submit.”

“Yeah, I do.”

“You’ve been through some challenging times this year. You dealt with it and here you still are.”

“True dat.”

“You should give yourself more credit. You truly care about other people, which is why you’re deeply upset with all the killing, all the wars, all the innocent children caught up in adults’ stupid, dangerous games, all the inequality.”

“Yeah.”

“Maybe you should write more about that. Be angry. Be yourself. But don’t despair.”

“Yeah, you’re right. OK, I’m getting up now.”

“Good. Finally!”

“Ow, my neck hurts. As usual.”

“Go do some yoga. That usually helps, right?”

“Yeah, it does.”

“Oh, and happy birthday.”

“Heh. Thanks.”

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LegPuppy and their Nasty Masterpiece: Selfie Stick – Narcissistic Prick

LegPuppy

Selfie Stick — Narcissistic Prick. Well, isn’t this a timely piece of social commentary. And, much like the object of their vilification, the ubiquitous selfie stick, their deeply disturbing video for this scathing assessment of our narcissistic national pastime is something you can’t seem to turn away from, despite your better judgement.

LegPuppy is an electro punk quartet from South London. To get the inevitable “how did they get that name name” question out of the way, it was at a house party in Wales, with attendees name-dropping band monikers. Darren Laurence (songwriter, synths, drum machines, sampler and vocalist) tossed out “Leg” and Claire Jones (songwriter, vocalist, keyboards and acoustic guitar) fired back with “Puppy.” Fortunately, an equally acerbic band followed.

Claire is a classically trained guitarist, published author and solo artist. Oh, and she has a doctorate degree. Darren, no slouch himeself, is a freelance designer with a radio show on Artefakto Radio and DJing experience for some of London’s premiere clubs. The other two band members? A former touring artist and label executive and a trainee actor and performance artist.

Traveling around London and looking to give your twisted inner child a well-deserved night out? LegPuppy has some shows coming up in the U.K., so follow them on Facebook for more information. Word has it that they’re an amazing live band, and how could they not be?

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Introducing… Minor Birds

Minor Birds

To give yourself over to the music of Minor Birds is to feel yourself in graceful flight across a wide expanse of open sky. Make that a sky under the cool, watchful eye of a full moon, with a crisp autumn breeze. Their Alchemist EP is a hypnotic weave of baroque-style classical piano, mournful cello, minimalist percussion and soaring, supple vocals that beckon you to follow them into a magical soundscape.

Minor Birds, based in the San Francisco Bay Area, is the artistic project of singer-songwriter/pianist/multi-instrumentalist Chelsea Wilde. This classically trained pianist is self-taught in other instruments such as guitar, banjo and accordion. Since childhood, she has composed and performed music. Tragic life events in 2008 was the catalyst by which Minor Birds was hatched, exploring life’s darkness and myticism. Her music spans various genres, including baroque pop, folk rock, electronica and even grunge. Her expressive voice can be sultry, theatrical and explosive, refined and sophisticated, dreamy and solemn.

Earlier Minor Birds releases include Live at Metate Hill Lounge, Light as a Feather/Straight as an Arrow and Hold Back All My Dark.

The Alchemist can be purchased on Bandcamp, either as a digital file or as a 3-song EP CD, with 3-D glasses (a digital download is included). It is also available on iTunes. As we enter into the darker half of the year, stretch out and luxuriate in Minor Birds’ haunting, mesmerizing music, and enjoy a most delightful journey.

As hypnotic and otherworldly as “The Alchemist” is, Wilde says of the title track, “When I wrote this song… I had come to this conclusion that ‘magic’ is a thing we grow out of. I didn’t want to be looked at like magic anymore,” Wilde explains. “I wanted to be looked at like a person with faults. Not some mystical entity.”

Minor Birds will be performing at the Ivy Room in Albany California (near Berkeley) on November 11, and at the Silverlake Lounge in Los Angeles on November 27.

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Introducing… Winter Witches

Winter Witches

Photography by Zac Svendsen

As we enter the darker half of the year in the northern hemisphere and the trees, once full of life and bird nests, strike forth with one final brief burst of energy and then dissolve into the stillness of winter, it is time to explore the more thoughtful, withdrawn and melancholy side of human existence. But then again, when isn’t that the case here at Musings from Boston? Winter Witches provides the perfect soundtrack for this time — quiet, thoughtful and reverent.

This South Australian band beautifully brings forth authentic sounds of orchestral, medieval and electronica traditions. Their just-released single, “Train/Water” (Observable Universe) are two stunning compositions of somber piano, strings and soft percussion, with stately, haunting vocals. This duo refers to itself as “a queer conjuring of electronica, melancholia and experimental sound,” and it’s simply breathtaking.

Winter Witches is described as “a creative and life partnership” between Sweeney and Em. Though Australian borne, ancestrally speaking they hail from Germany, Scotland, Ireland, Holland. And for this artistic soul partnership, ancestry is important. It informs their music and their being.

Winter Witches has enjoyed airplay on stations around the world, including Radio Adelaide and 3MDR in Australia, Radio Deepland (Brazil), JXFM Radio Tokyo and Independent Radio Berlin. They have performed around Australia at such events as the 2016 Adelaide Vegan Festival, queer club nights Bona Drag and Wild Style and at the Adelaide Fringe Festival. They’ll be performing in their homeland in December. Although, of course, since this is Australia in the southern hemisphere, it will be at the height of their summer season. One hopes to one day listen to this gorgeous music against a peaceful, solemn backdrop of falling snow.

If you like what you hear, “Train/Water” can be purchased on Bandcamp. These songs were written, recorded, produced and mixed by Winter Witches at Observable Universe Studios, Adelaide, Kaurna Land. The Kaurna are an indigenous people whose ancestral lands include the Adelaide Plains of South Australia.

Winter Witches acknowledges the Kaurna people as the traditional and prevailing custodians of the lands on which this music was created.
— Winter Witches

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Introducing… Brenda

Brenda

Frightened of clowns? If so, you might want to view this video from Brenda, for their song “Children,” with a companion. At first glance, it’s an innocent home movie by artist Sarah Ann Watson, filmed at an annual church service in East London to honor Joseph Grimaldi, the father of modern clowing. However, when paired with the song, this friendly gathering takes on more sinister undertones, and as it builds, the viewer is half-expecting this inoccuous scene to turn into some sort of B-grade slasher film. Which it never does, or at least, not that we know about.

On the surface, the song is about friendships, but it’s also about people losing their childlike innocence. It examines the idea of wanting to escape from reality and “run away to a place where it seems as if time doesn’t exist and age doesn’t matter” (such as the circus, perhaps?). As Brenda explains further, it’s a song “about manipulation and the inevitability of growing up.”

Musically, the song starts out childlike, with sweet little girl vocals, which then morphs into something twisted and demented, accompanied by heavy guitar riffs and driving percussion. It goes on to veer dangerously back and forth, creating a stimulating aural experience with a vaguely unsettled feeling. Think of it as psychedelic garage rock with a neurological disorder. It’s captivating, while at the same time unnerving. Much like the vision of people past their prime in white face, round red noses and floppy clown shoes.

Based in Toronto, Brenda has been part of the city’s punk scene since 2015. “Children” is from their upcoming aptly titled EP Creeper, to be released later this year.

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My First Screenplay

MyFirstScreenplay1_1000

I was in a theater, and first recall walking into it. It was nearly empty, with very few people in there, and I think there was a good deal of time before the show or film was to begin.

The theater seemed large, modern and glamorous, with wide, shallow steps leading down. It had many seats and different levels.

I walked down toward the screen and then realized it was a little too close, so I walked back up a few steps. Looking at the screen for reference, I chose a seat in the middle of one of the aisles, changing seats a few times to get myself perfectly situated in the middle. I finally sat down in front of some people, but they didn’t seem to mind.

Soon after I sat down, a young man came over to me with a set of papers, which he handed to me. He started explaining some changes he had made to the screenplay, pointing to some written changes on the paper as he talked. I was confused about this, but it seemed like I had written the screenplay (or a book it was based on), and I had something to do with the film. It’s possible that I was the writer and he was the director, but I didn’t have a clear memory of having done this.

I played along, though, saying, “ah yes, thank you,” and then I shook his hand and congratulated him for his success. He seemed pleased with that and walked away, leaving me with the papers. I felt privileged and special, though a bit bewildered.

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From Fenway Park, Under Construction, to a Small Exotic Island

FenwayParkToExoticIsland_1000

I was with my friend Victor, and we were, for some reason, trying to get to Fenway Park. I’m not sure if we were going to a game or a show there. A large group of people were walking in the same direction, so we followed them, thinking that they were probably going there also. But we kept going the wrong way somehow, ending up in various dead ends.

It was quite convoluted, like a surreal sort of obstacle course. At one point, he led me down a metal ladder structure. It didn’t make sense to me that this should be so difficult. We were then in a large building that was under construction, with sections blocked off. I thought we were very close, but we kept winding up in dead ends that didn’t go anywhere. Finally, I just made a concerted effort to get out of there with him, and then we were outside, but suddenly we were in a completely different part of the city.

We walked down this long tunnel in what seemed like a train station. That didn’t make any sense either, though Victor seemed to know where he was going. But it felt like it was taking us further away from our destination.

When we came out of there and went up to the surface, we were by the ocean, and off at a distance was a small island with houses piled on the hillside. It was kind of like Nahant, but not Nahant. In fact, it wasn’t like any part of Boston or Massachusetts that I was familiar with.

I wasn’t sure where we were now, but it was a great distance away, perhaps even in a different country altogether.

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Italian Delicacies

ItalianDelicacies1_1000

I was in one of the Cambridge, Massachusetts squares (Harvard, Central, Porter or Davis), alone and looking for a place to eat. I wanted something delicious and healthy, and I guess I was hesitating and indecisive, because most places were fast food or something else I wasn’t entirely sure about.

I may have asked someone for a recommendation, because suddenly I found myself going into this small Italian deli and market. This wasn’t the usual Italian place with pizza, pasta and calzones. There was a counter with many delicacies in a case — various kinds of vegetable mixtures, filled pastries and such. It was like Italian countryside food or something like that. It seemed great, but I had no idea what to get.

There was an older woman at the counter, and she was telling me that several things had different vegetables in them (I told her I didn’t want anything with meat). I remember she said “spinach” in addition to many other vegetables. I told her to “surprise me” and select some items. I did tell her it was just for me, and I didn’t need “$100 worth of food.”

I was a little concerned that I would end up with way too much and it would be very expensive. I had no idea what anything cost. But then after I said that, I decided to just trust her, and I watched as she started selecting certain items, putting them in various containers.

I woke up feeling rather strange, and in a “different place.” It was unusual, but very good, I think. Something different. There was a feeling of excitement and adventure, in trying something new.

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