Quotes that Say Something

"Please, dad, get down and look. I think there's some kind of monster under my bed."

Life when seen in close-up often seems tragic, but in wide-angle it often seems comic. -- Charlie Chaplin

"And when the cloudbursts thunder in your ear, you shout, but no one's there to hear. And if the band you're in starts playing different tunes, I'll see you on the dark side of the moon." -- Roger Waters, "Brain Damage"

Jun 28, 2012

Blogs: Why Good Blogs Live, Why Many Die

I found myself writing instinctively this morning, via a quickly typed blog response, to a young professional man, J.R., whom I met about 7 years ago. He seems to have a lot that he wants to say to and about the world as his career and family life unfold, particularly on spirituality themes and leadership topics.

In that J.R. produces a lot of blog and other content at his age, he truly reminds me of what I was like back then. After publishing 8 books, contributing pieces to many more, and publishing over 250 articles, essays, commentaries, and reviews, now I maintain two blogs actively. The first is a professional blog on the labors of my office and the projects of my work colleagues. Kind of a ho-hum, it's Thursday and tomorrow promises to be Friday kind of mission.

The other blog is a different kind of animal. It is personal -- and you have discovered it somehow (I don't really publicize it much or actively seek followers), if you are reading this paragraph. The second is called A Big MonstEr Blog. (You'll see that that's for various reasons, but mainly because the possibility -- and now the reality -- of expedited, immediate self-expression to and with others will not shut up and leave me alone. The temptation to bridge the gap is always there -- prodding me to get busy, tell a story, make a point, even on some of my lower than low days.)

Fundamentally, what I wrote to my young blogging friend today was that the wisdom on which he had drawn for his blogpost today was insightful and cogent. Here was the gist of it:


The main reason reason a blog lives and grows is that . . . the person producing the blog productively mines the fruits of his or her (or their) experiences. Then they write something interesting about these experiences.


The chief reason why a blog falls apart or dies is that . . . . the process of creating compelling content that flows from honest and unflinching reflection on life experience is a heck of a  challenge. As my young friend admits in his understated way, "It can be difficult to keep up."

Speaking of challenges. During recent years, I have found that the most fruitful and meaningful ways by which I can process life, issues, questions, worries, etc., is to write about them symbolically -- in fictional stories. As is often the case with Stephen King and others, from my purview, the right kind of story or the novel should never be what it seems to be about at all.

Almost  an  Afterthought (but Significant)

The ability to give your blog pieces attractive names is an important skill to cultivate. I really work on it. Maybe I am improving at this, but I wonder. Like the clever and snappy term or phrase that sums up an advertisement or a commercial, the title has a make or break kind of quality. Make it if you can an inviting doorway thru which potential readers will want to walk, rather than a come-on to a fresh but boring Hell ('Sigh, here ya go') or a poly-syllabic buzzkill that suggests, 'Go away, not anything of value for you to see here.'


Jun 26, 2012

Questions Your GPS Won't Answer

Two bright observers on the spiritual-writing scene today -- named Allen and Rolheiser -- have commented recently on the deepest issues that confront persons enfolded in Western, secularized cultures. Their work has led to an articulation of "ten struggles" that have come, like a correction note, stapled to your ticket to modern life. Having read the list of ten over and given them a bundle of thought, I think this is the way to say what they are getting at, which are the . . . .

. . . . Mystifying challenges on how to get from here to there, wherever there is:

1)  The all-knowing, all-seeing, ever-present Creator of the cosmos -- the One that previous generations believed that they knew so very much about -- has apparently gone completely AWOL, and no one seems to know where to begin to search.

2) To accept that human life is a profound and anxious struggle (or, ironically, a very meaningless set of exercises) through which some wounded individuals and some passionate humans in community still strive (in hope) for sincere goodness, healing and wholeness, peace, justice, compassion, and a true sense of purpose.

3) To let go of the compulsion to control other people -- their thoughts, feelings, relationships, direction(s), to consume oceans of intoxicants, and to control vast quantities of material goods so that one can actually surrender to what is truly and ultimately of value to our minds and hearts.

4) To find a way to consistently express one's authentic personhood, in all of its mysteries and subtleties, with responsibility and courage.

5) To keep my head, heart, and hands centered on building a sustainable culture of life and my eyes on the world's horizon, and not on the vast array of digitized screens and other cultural distractions that threaten to over- stimulate and knock us off the wise and proper pathways of life.

6) Value and seek personal health and well-being in all aspects of adult existence in exchange for the driven and restless desires for ambition, position, power, wealth, and recognition.

7) To be challenged but not defeated by fear, worries, paranoia, personal failures, the complexities of life, others' immorality, and lack of clear directions (such as blacks and whites) on difficult matters.

8) The struggle to confront the many kinds of loneliness to be found in life and to seek an other, or others, who will walk in genuine companionship and in a spirit of honesty, truth, and love.

9)  To remain an upright and just person in all phases of life - and to work each day to support and encourage those who fight the many kinds of poverty and impatiently seek happiness and justice for all in this world.


Jun 13, 2012

One Last Peek Behind "The Wall"

Roger Waters -- The Wall Live                                        L.A. Concert Review

The Hollywood Reporter
Dateline: May 20, 2012

The ambitious show refocuses the 1979 Pink Floyd album as a                      political statement with vivid imagery and technical wizardry

Roger Waters has created the rarest type of stadium concert: one where the seats farthest from the stage are as good as any.

But calling The Wall Live a “concert” is something of a misnomer. It’s an experience, and our

That’s because this show has to be taken as a whole, rather than just watched and/or listened to. Visually stunning and sonically astounding, the mega-production is sheer spectacle – rock concert as performance art. There really isn’t anything to compare it against.

Therein lies something of a conundrum: It’s an impressive, immersive, ambitious show that must be seen to be described -- but was it a great concert? Yes, with a few qualifiers.

Saturday’s show at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum certainly was memorable; its indelible images – including faces of military and civilian war victims dating to World War I -- and the utter scope all but assure that. The familiar songs were performed flawlessly by an ace band that mostly replicated the album, with a few tweaks. But the music is so entirely secondary as to be borderline inconsequential. Whether that’s a problem is strictly personal preference.
With so much to look at, the singer is no longer the focus, which makes it easier to please a giant crowd.

To his credit, the 68-year-old Brit is in good shape and was in terrific voice when he was featured, especially during “One of My Turns” and “Run Like Hell.” The latter cut was much meatier than on record, really the only time the music not only trumped the visuals but overwhelmed them.

The erstwhile Pink Floyd frontman has refocused The Wall – tied for third-best-selling album in U.S. history by the RIAA’s standards – into an overtly political statement. Much of the nuance and ambiguity about the dangers of conformity and blind faith (and blind trust) takes a back seat to anti-war sentiment and government distrust. Those whose interpretation of the 1979 double album focused on the wall between rock star and audience must have felt slighted. Maybe Waters sees that an anachronism in the age of social media.

Whatever his motivation, he made the decision to go all-in, and the show reflects it.

The projected imagery is vivid -- often grotesque and abhorrent, sometimes festive and exhilarating, occasionally disturbing or borderline seditious. An example of the latter: The “bombs” deployed from warplanes in “Goodbye Blue Sky” included symbols of governments (hammer and sickle), religions (Stars of David), financial oppression (dollar signs) and open-to-analysis (the McDonald’s Golden Arches). There also was animation familiar from the 1982 movie of The Wall: the marching hammers, the fighting/fornicating flowers, etc. All the while, during the first half, bricks fill in the wall, which spans nearly 500 feet.

Saturday’s performance got off to a rocky start, when Waters abruptly halted the production during “The Thin Ice” because of a technical problem. “We’re gonna figure out why that mic is not on,” he told the crowd. Following the dramatic and attention-getting opening with the song "In the Flesh?", it was jarring but excusable.

Along with all the eye candy, there certainly were musical highlights, which predictably included all of Side 1. The helicopter sound effect in “The Happiest Days of Our Lives” was chilling as it crept up from behind and got louder before it “settled” in front. A group of local kids was trotted onstage to yell along to “Another Brick in the Wall (Part II),” to which a non-album acoustic coda was added. And “Mother,” among the record’s most affecting songs, was a joyous/ominous show-stopper. It featured projected sound and video of Waters performing the song live in London in 1980. He played along on acoustic guitar as he invited the crowd to watch “poor, miserable, f---ed up Roger from all those years ago.”

Many folks were seen shaking their heads (in amazed disbelief) at the beginning of intermission.

Later, a clanging cowbell introduced “Young Lust,” which followed “What Shall We Do Now?” – a track that was cut from the album at the eleventh hour but has been part of subsequent live performances. “Waiting for the Worms” began with sparkling Beach Boys-like harmonies – supplied by Pat, Mark and Kipp Lennon of the veteran L.A. band Venice -- and its middle section channeled The Doors’ “Five to One,” much more so than on record.

It was all quite thrilling, but -- like the album -- the second half didn’t match the first. But if this is to be the template for future stadium extravaganzas, the bar undoubtedly has been set high. . . . Really, few acts have the wherewithal (let alone the money, motivation and popularity) to attempt anything like "The Wall" live. That alone made this show – this concert – a singular musical experience.


Jun 12, 2012

Pardon the Disappearance Please

          I've got electric light, And I've got second sight.
          And amazing powers of observation . . .
          I've got wild staring eyes, And I've got a strong urge to fly.
          But I got nowhere to fly to.
          Ooh, babe, when I pick up the phone, There's still nobody home.

                                        --  Roger Waters,  "Nobody's Home"

      As I watch this blank blog screen materialize, let me tell you, I did not mean to be off this grid for such a time. I have been away for about 18 days, and this actually amazes me. They have been full and at times difficult days. However, if I were to casually tell you that I have been busy working away, there would be some truth in that. If I were to tell you something else, such as I have been lost in thought at times and/or stuck on a story twist and a plot turn that is eluding me in my quest for the perfect sentence and the perfect paragraph and the perfect collection of original stories, there would be some truth in all of that too. What in the world could be more daunting than a blank screen which (as life unfolds) ought to be filled up with some pinpoint strokes and keystrikes of meaning? Truth be told, I have missed you. Yet I do not wish to show up at our occasional meetings empty-handed, like an ungrateful and uncouth dinner guest.

      Sometimes a piece of fiction, a story, blooms to life organically. It buds up through the gray cortical stew that is one's brain and begins to breathe its own existence as the keys to the keypad snap and clack, taking shape via the energy of inner dynamic forces: a lot like a child evolving with passion into an older kid. I used to believe that all imaginative pieces should come to fruition in another way -- and that would be: slowly assembled by referencing constantly a master plan laid out in note form outlines that had been sewed into place on stacks of papers or, alternately, by checking a few painstaking charcoal sketches at hand as if I were Dr. Frankenstein piecing his biological creation together in the vainglorious hope that someday it would rise, live, breathe, walk, and amaze the world as it trudges along in giant size. This then would probably be what went horribly off the rails with my very early collections of fictional scribblings (literally scibblings on yellow, lined legal pads long ago, slapped into 3-ring holders).

Einstein it is said once got off this good one -- logic will get you from A to Z most of the time, but imagination will get you everywhere.

The sloppy manuscripts made for slightly interesting backroad maps but they usually lacked the imaginative energies and character developments that bespoke of a life force underlying, straining and groaning to get out and wander in others' psyches. That and the fact that I was too young of an adult (read that: naive, clueless, and inexperienced) to take on such serious writing prospects at the time. No organic blossoming was at the time at play? Hack down the plant(s) and toss the dross away. There is my hard-won and humble motto.

      Besides a complicated and mournful business roundtrip to Washington, an uplifting legendary rock concert, one very funny live performace by the comedian Bill Maher, a presentation (by me) of national award to a long-time colleague at a big national whoop-de-doo, and some discomforting dental work, as the 18 passing daylights have quickly approached 19, most of my other recent time and mindfulness has been centered wordlessly on extending my research and reflections on the monstrous sexual abuse case caused by (the Rev.) Gilbert Gauthe in southern Louisiana that came to national light via the New York Times way, way back in the early 1980s. Why such a hideous and pain-riddled subject, seemingly so out of date? It appearsvery directly related now -- if only in my mind -- to the conflicts and crosscurrents that buffet colleagues and me almost every day in our continuing mission to try to get a few things done before retirement bells ding aloud.

      It is a far better thing therefore, I have surmised, to think about then write about highly sensitive, painful, argument-inducing topics by means of fictional metaphors and fantastical characters and angular plot lines than to tempt fate, let it all hang out in a public forum, by means of a prose tale that could rile powerful people up, those personages who clutch temproal powers hotly in their fists, and into a tizzy. But carefully it must be done. Tempers are extremely short, tolerance for honest truth is lacking, defenses are riding high, and well-intended forays into the land of clear disclosure are rarely greeted magnanimously, much less cheerfully, in today's repression-ridden institutions. I have been on the receiving end of wrathfulness one too many times in such contexts because I have attempted to say something 'like it is' to be willing to welcome a repeat of that process.

      So, laying it out again -- Sorry to have been away; please pardon the disappearance; I've missed you. I have been wandering over my keypad, and researching, and reflecting, and painstakingly writing away word by freakin' word, like an endodontist poking around inside a tooth that needs attention, on an original and hopefully (in the end) engaging and meaningful tale that here on my MonsterBlog carries a working title with the oddball term Seussical in it. (The story should not be named anything like that when it's done. If it is ever there.)

     Do you ever get the creepy sensation that something important to you will just never get accomplished? That you should throw it into the bloody bucket with your list of to-do's as dead on arrival? That you may as well declare with forthrightness that you surrender, and that the white flag needs to be waved to the world at large, because you see it just never will bloom in completion? Me too.

     So that's where I have been if the truth has to be told. Not a particularly happy or good neighborhood to set down in, if you ask me. I noticed for the first time today before I sat down to this that an amazing coincidence is afoot. It's about the house full of murky characters who live next door to where I reside. On their mailbox, out by the easement and the stone walkway, there is a family name embalzoned boldly by a tense and shaky hand. The clan name is Frankenstein. The letters are scrawled all over the postal container in a color that looks just like blood red.