ManicRobThrill

Monday, June 29, 2020

Fragile

This has been a particularly cruel month.  It started badly, although it wasn't direct and personal and it's ending on a profoundly painful note.  A very dear friend; someone I loved, passed away on Friday, the 26th.  Her death is a complete shock to me and so many of our mutual friends. 

We were friends for several years; we worked for the same company, albeit years apart from one another.  We came from the same professional background and shared a very similar sense of humor.  We had meaningful conversations; she was passionate about New York City, her home since the early 1980's; she had a deep appreciation for the music and cultural styles of the 1970's and she was absolutely enthralled with anything that had a Latin-flavored beat.  She was intelligent, sharp, quick-witted, kind, gentle and wise. 

We would go back and forth about wonderfully obscure music that only we seemed to know and like; the matter-of-factness in the way we both approached things - it was a wonderful connection. I remember how strident she was about her neighborhood being compromised by Mayor deBlasio and she was very active in the East River Neighborhood Association, to fight off the builders and landlords that he let in to tear up the park, etc.  She was still in love with New York City and she was very hurt and angry at the reality of what was happening.  We’d had a running joke about having a time machine to take us back to the ‘70’s - and she suggested she and I get out of here and go South. 
Her last birthday message to me, which disappeared when she deleted her Facebook account, was her promise to get me new Earth Shoes and an 8 track player for the ‘76 Plymouth Duster.  She waxed poetic and eloquent about certain albums she loved and always asked me if I knew of anything "new" that she hadn't previously heard.

She was so well-rounded; she knew about everything.  Her personality wasn't never arrogant or haughty; she was even-keeled and it made you love her even more.  She appreciated you; she appreciated everyone.  Anyone and everyone who knew her loved her.  Instantly.  She was that kind of person.

There is a void now.  My only comfort in her being gone is that she's now at peace and free of pain.  All I can do is say thank you, Holly.  I love you and I'll miss you.

Wednesday, June 10, 2020

Fables of the reconstruction of the fables...

I usually don't opine about albums on here - I save my musical evaluations for MusicTAP and Popdose, but this is a highly personal and emotional thing for me.  R.E.M.'s Fables Of The Reconstruction was released 35 years ago on this day and has, at this point, had the most lasting impact on me in the context of their albums (which pretty much peaked with this classic/masterpiece).

In the years following Fables' release, I felt a slow trajectory downward in both their music and connection to me.  It isn't coincidental, as they seemed to grow bigger in popularity, chart success, etc.  The disconnect for me was the quality of the songs, and subsequently, their albums as a whole offering.  Each release from Lifes Rich Pageant onward just didn't live with me as the first three albums (and the Chronic Town E.P., which started the whole thing off).

I used to say without hesitation that Murmur was my favorite, since it was the first full-length album and it captured a very specific moment in time for me and my life as it was, when I first heard it.  But, I've had to step back and take as objective a view as possible.  Fables Of The Reconstruction has served me, over the following decades, as a musical travelogue, a source of comfort and introspection, a musical palette and a constant wonder.  I can listen to the album in its entirety; it reads like a novel and individual songs serve as a touchstone for certain memories and people that I (still) hold near and dear.  In this time of a pandemic, I've only listened to two albums, albeit in staggered fashion (while riding the ferry into Manhattan, actually).  One album was a key component of my earliest childhood (The Monkees' Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn & Jones Ltd.) and the other is Fables... 

The elegiac, haunting (and somewhat ponderous) beauty of "Kohoutek" is one of my most-loved R.E.M. songs; it's certainly my centerpiece to this album.  Explosive, emotional and melodically-rich, it's also incredibly cinematic - as are most of the tracks on Fables...; I have seen people from my life in the lyrics - as I've seen myself.  And it's a testament to the power of the images conjured up along with the music that carries the story along, working in perfect balance.

This is one of those rare albums that get better over time; it doesn't sound dated; the stories are filled with characters and places - it can be taken to heart and mind.  And it can be listened to in chapters - each song is a tale of its own merit.  The music is darker, more lush and thought out than the prior R.E.M. albums.  And it's far and away the best thing they ever did.

Monday, June 08, 2020

The antidote to pop culture monotony...

A solid, comfortable, restful night's sleep.  Waking up and finding sun pouring in through all the windows; opening those windows, lifting the blinds and filling the rooms with natural light.  Cold orange juice; a fresh blueberry muffin and banana and a strong, hot cup of coffee.  Immediately, it's a welcome array of tastes and scents that lift my spirits in an instant start to my day.

This was yesterday morning; today has started in the same fashion.  It's a good feeling.  I've turned off the news, save for the weather report (and the meteorologist is hopelessly irritating) because at this point, it's all the same.  Biased and false narratives, half-told stories and fanning the flames of the social psychosis that has set in is of no interest to me.  News outlets on both sides have their agendas and the target audiences are lapping it up wholesale.  And I just don't care.  I am not investing any time or energy into the dictated cause-celebre.  I feel good; I feel healthy - and that's all that matters to me.

I'm also stepping away for a breather from social media.  I'm not shutting down my Facebook account, since I use it as a means of sharing the pieces I write for MusicTAP and Popdose; I just won't read anyone's "impassioned" posts of nonsense.  I'm not a user, per se, of Instagram - it's instant silliness - so I won't be checking it, either.  Twitter is a clusterfuck of insanity and illiteracy (can adults no longer spell?) - no time or desire for it.  And suddenly, the cobwebs have cleared exponentially.  Why?  Because it's really not important or relevant; not at all.  Do I care about my friends' opinions?  Yes, when it's in conversation, not on Facebook.  Just as I don't like having my Facebook page being policed by friends.  That's where I draw the line.  So...  time away from the lunacy only serves as a positive to me.  It's back to living real life, even while we're still a few weeks away from New York City "reopening".  I only wish I'd imparted this common sense train of thought a little sooner.

Here's a helpful hint - if you like toast as part of your breakfast, 12- or 15-grain bread with any fruit spread is the best way to start things off before your begin your work morning!

Wednesday, June 03, 2020

The new abnormal

It's interesting how people vehemently refuse to read something in total; will not listen to a reasonable viewpoint and will do everything they can to insult, belittle and try to publicly humiliate you - even after you present facts in a calm, non-malicious manner and are engaging with others on difficult/trying/touchy subjects.

No one can engage because people will selectively parse and re/mis-interpret things for their own skewered purposes.  It's shameful.  It's one thing for me to excoriate "millennials", since they don't have a complete world-view or a sense of perspective.  Hell, they notoriously blow off history.  But when it's people who are in the age-range of myself, that's quite another story.  This is where the "new infantilism" sets in.  Idiots - some of whom I once gladly considered "friends" will say really stupid shit ("this is what Joe Strummer trained you for"...  what the fuck?) and go after you with knives drawn after they've delivered - what seems to be, more often than not - meticulously memorized "talking points", slogans, cliches and fragments of some socio-political mis-information which they've accepted as the gospel truth.  The news media has tapped into this intellectual void and have done no end of damage by getting people to lap up their force-fed agendas, wholesale, with spectacular ratings - this applies to outlets on both the left and right.  Now the game is:  you have to fall into lock-step with a certain pattern of thought - politically and socially - you're not to challenge, question or disagree with these edicts and you must show passion and rage or you don't have a soul (apparently).

Facebook is THE Petri dish to breed asshole-ism exponentially.  BUT...  I'm learning - quite successfully, I might add/think - to fob it off and not engage.  As it is, the attention span of most individuals now has dwindled to nil.  And you can bet that as soon as one wave of "moral outrage" is over, they'll be back to deep discussion about the Kardashians and the usual bullshit that people have more of a vested interest in.  Once the handwringing and "I can't stop crying" and "truth!" dwindles away, it's business as usual.  "Moral indignation" (which translates to "virtue signaling") equals self-righteous bombast and empty pomposity.

Here's a cold fact and an important one:  we are all most concerned with our own lives.  We have to be.  We have to be conscious of our finances; our livelihoods; our families, our homes - the things that keep us functioning day-to-day.  We're in a very dark period, historically, with people losing their jobs, their houses and their lives - in part, thanks to a pandemic no one kept an eye on.  So we have to care about ourselves before we can care about others.  That's not selfish and it's not non-empathetic (a over-used and now meaninglessly trite cliche).  It's reasonable logic.  And the only way to get through ludicrousness or serious crises in our lives/our orbits, is to be logical, thoughtful and rational.

And there's a raging scarcity of rationality out there, which is what makes it a such a frightening world at this time.  Never mind the constant regurgitation of unsubstantiated opinions being taken as fact - "frightening" starts to translate as "dangerous" - when the fallacy is seen as reality.

Tuesday, June 02, 2020

Burning down #2

We are not in a normal time.  The world; this country, my city are not in a stable frame of mind.  I am watching abject lunacy unleashed in ways I never thought conceivable.  No, history has taught us nothing.  It's a proverbial free-for-all out there - cities are being burned and looted under the false pretense of "combating racism".  The horrific, appalling murder of a man in Minneapolis at the hands of the police is one thing - it is clear; it is indisputable and it is unacceptable. Now it's been shamefully co-opted immediately for something else and it's disgusting.

People scream about how "lives matter" - yes, they do.  But it seems the louder everyone shouts, it translates more as "I'm trying to convince myself I'm not a racist by telling everyone else how morally outraged I am in the comfort of my own home."  Do you really think removing your profile picture from Facebook and replacing it with a black space is doing something meaningful?  How noble of you.  The hypocrisy of virtue signaling has spiraled completely out of control; at the moment, we've gotten as far from rationality and thinking before knee-jerk reactionism as one can get.  Herd mentality is dangerous and it's taken over like the COVID-19 pandemic we're supposed to be fighting as one people.  You just cannot have "meaningful discourse" anymore, especially if it pertains to social media.  Forget it.

Peaceful protests and marches can be done; the desired affect can be achieved.  I know because I've seen it on my own street.  Pure and simple - two days' worth of protests and marches and there was not one skirmish; not one incident, not one arrest.  People across the board came out to say what they had to; came to show how they feel and they did it with grace, thought and meaning.  That's said (and was viewed) with a lot of pride.  The same can't be said for the other boroughs of my city.  It was done successfully in Newark, New Jersey, Flint, Michigan and Memphis, Tennessee.  And yet, all we're doing is watching a shit-show of epic proportions continue in Los Angeles and New York City - because no one can be bothered to turn and walk away when infiltrators come to hijack the actual purpose of a march or protest gathering.

The police don't want to be put into this even-worse position.  They do a thankless job - they're damned if they do; damned if they don't.  And right now "law" seems to be damned because politicians and the media are gleefully playing both sides against the other.  God forbid - any of these people who are saying "fuck the police" better pray they never need them in a genuine emergency.  Although I know that wouldn't be the reality.

People need to stop; just fucking stop and step back and wait for the smoke to clear and TRY to gain a moment of focus and readjustment.  Try not screaming cliches and insults.  For fuck's sake - stop quoting song lyrics from musicians who have suddenly been elevated to "prophets".  Be adults.  Educate yourself and others through FACTS, not social media bullshit.  Social media has made people think they're more than what they are; better/smarter/more enlightened/holier-than-thou.  And they're not.  It's just a cesspool of lies and misinformation; because it's, by and large, anonymous - in the sense that everyone hides behind a keyboard in their homes or on their devices - so they have a puffed-chest bravado that neatly masks their genuine ignorance.

The light at the end of this tunnel is:  there ARE protesters who are putting a stop to would-be looters.  That is a major step forward.  Once the distractors can be corralled and dealt with, then you can and should return to protesting and marching and making your point clearly.  That's something to be proud of and celebrated; I applaud this wholly.  Destruction means less support; more deaf ears will turn on you in the aftermath of ignoble actions.

Contrary to what virtue signaling/social media justice warriors will say, this isn't about black or white or any of that.  They profit from selling t-shirts by sloganeering.  This is about safety; understanding, a whole host of elements and basic human rights.  For everyone.  Bring wisdom and facts to the protests - table it and make the change to be genuine and everlasting.

Monday, May 04, 2020

The reality vs. the want

It's now the beginning of May; someone I love very much spent her birthday in solitude, as most of us are, still.  Couldn't be with her, which is very sad.  We lost most of March, all of April and I would presume, May, which has always been - traditionally - my favorite month.

This pandemic, while slowed down, hasn't ceased; hasn't dissolved and allowed anyone a chance to truly breathe.  Businesses are still closed - certainly, New York is "closed', by and large.  I just read how a local cafe that I've been to is now gone - permanently, it seems.  Many businesses I've supported over the years are now finished.  If it wasn't directly attributed to the actual illness, it's been the recurring story of "the lease is up - the business has been closed due to the pandemic - I'm not going to be able to renew and keep things afloat".  It's heartbreaking.  Many restaurants and bars; longtime smaller shops - the "mom and pop" stores - are all meeting their final sunsets and it's another indicator of how things have gone - not just because of this nightmare epidemic, but the economic consequences.

People are protesting the necessity of quarantine and social distancing; these are not rational beings.  More bullshit indicators of "individual rights being taken away" - always selfish and not grasping that this is not some bad movie - this is real life and people are dying from a highly contagious virus.  For a moment, I had some misguided thought that people would open their eyes and think, in light of what's happening.  But no - human beings are generally selfish and don't have a concept of "the greater good" or even basic patience.

Whatever happens, I know nothing is going to be the same - it can't.  And it's not like a post-9/11 different, either.  This, I think, has a wider effect that doesn't allow us to go back to where we'd been before.

Wednesday, April 01, 2020

Anyone keeping track of time?

No, I'm not being funny - this isn't a time for humor.  I know it's Wednesday, April 1st.  I've been practicing the shelter-in-place/safe distance rule since March 13th, when I came home from the office and began working at home.  I can live with being isolated - it isn't a sacrifice; it's necessary.  As the instructions say, only go out for fresh air or necessities:  check.  I can live with - and actually savor - the peace and quiet.  I'm trying to make the most out of it.

But no, I'm definitely not happy nor reveling; after five people were let go yesterday, my company also reduced our salaries by 25% through June and that is not a good thing.  Yes, I'm glad I still have a job but no, it makes things very difficult.  Am I smart enough to sit down and map out what I need to do to get through these next three months - yes.  I can't allow myself to be swallowed by negative thoughts and irrational fears.  Planning is the wisest thing I can do.  I'm saving $300-plus dollars over the next three months by not buying a subway MetroCard.  That's money saved right there.  Not having to go out to get lunch at work is $100 a week saved.  And so on.  I know what I have to do to get through this.

My point?  We all have something we need to do to keep on pushing forward and get through the pandemic.  I know I will.