New Poem | Love Letter

Love Letter

I don’t like the after taste of these two beers.
I don’t like the ringing that is always in my ears.

I don’t like my slippers that have given up their cush.
I don’t like the spiders that lurk inside my bush.

I don’t like the numbness that’s creeping down my toes.
But I guess I like you well enough, I s’pose.

–Melanie Anne Phillips

New Poem | Shel Silverstein

Shel Silverstein

Whenever I read poetry
my thoughts begin to rhyme.
This isn’t just occasion’ly:
it happens all the time.

I cannot eat, I cannot sleep
until I’ve penned a verse.
I hoped it might get better
but it seems it’s getting worse.

–Melanie Anne Phillips

(Written using a Shel Silverstein book as my table,
after reading a few of his poems.)

New Poem | Progress Report

Progress Report

The pearl has lost its luster
The peach has lost its blush
The leader’s lost his army
The artist’s lost his brush

The poor man’s met his maker
The rich man’s found the Lord
The dying man has repented
So the saved man can report

That all is well in Personville;
It functions as it should
To lead us down to evil
And progress there is good.

–Melanie Anne Phillips

Why the blog?

One of the reasons I’m keeping my journal as a blog this time around, rather than as word document to be published later, is that I seem to thrive on the immediacy of it – the momentary excitement of an idea that drives me.

Knowing, previously, that my writings would have to wait what seemed like an interminable time in order to be made available to others was a real motivation killer.

So, I went to my Facebook account and spent several years throwing myself into posting and curating all the wonderful things I wanted to share. But as we learned in the video I included in my previous post – NOTHING! Not a like, not a share, not an included link clicked – NOTHING!

I tried, I really did. I wasn’t craving an audience or a following. I just wanted to know that of the friends and followers I did have, the art and insights I developed were meaningful.

But, as it turns out, most folks just want to hear about your cat and your grandkids and see the funny meme you reposted. Nobody wants to consider your original music, your artistic photographs, your philosophic epiphanies – NOBODY!

So, the more they resisted, the more I persisted. The less they commented, the more I posted until even family and friends had enough, blocked my notifications and just dropped by my page from time to time to add a polite like or noncommittal comment.

In truth, I drove them out. I have the never-ending rush of ideas within me, often to the point I feel as if I’ll explode. And only by writing a song, a poem, posting a new photograph or explaining a new insight can I avoid the endless screaming of the Muse. (“Tell me, Clarice, is the Muse still screaming?”)

So here I’ve come, a place where no one else goes: my blog. And in it I shall post my endless journal of experiences, concepts, and creations – I will cleanse myself of the debris of past inspiration to make room for the next batch and send it down the pike as quickly as I can before I am smothered by my own thoughts.

Here’s some music I composed and recorded some twenty-odd years ago but never got the mix right on it. Just went back to the original elements and nailed it (within the limits that my tawdry tracks could, in their insufficient original form be nailed, even with a good mix).

Posted under my musical performer name of Tarnished Karma:

Another Beginning…

It’s been more than ten years since I kept a personal journal. To be perfectly honest, I thought I was done with that format. Yet here we are again.

Why again? Why now? Damned if I know. But more precisely, I don’t think it is one thing but rather a multiplicity of influences that draws in my Muse and guides my hand.

Among these are the end of the Covid pandemic. After fifteen months in self-imposed exile, venturing not into any store or building other than our own home, disinfecting every surface of every food item delivered to our door by the supermarket, and even quarantining our mail and packages for three days in the workshop out back until the three-day life of Covid has been exceeded – after all that – life is opening up once again.

Like mammals cautiously venturing forth after hunkering in their subterranean nests while the dinosaurs died, the three of us here – Mary, Teresa, and myself – are finally returning to the edges, the outskirts, of what were once our normal lives.

But perhaps the greatest driving force that has led me to return to this format was the death of my step-father from Covid just a year ago.

He raised me from age seven when he married my mother who had divorced shortly after I was born. He was a wonderful father and, though at times we lived far apart and seldom spoke save on holidays, I always felt close to him, and him to me.

And, generously, life allowed us an extra span of communion during his final four years when I moved back down to my childhood home and could visit him nearly every week at his nursing care facility.

I would share the latest about family and friends, reminisce with him about our early days together as a family before my mom passed on nearly a third of a century ago, and I would bring him his favorite foods, videos to enjoy, music in which to become lost, and listen with eager attention as he spoke of his own childhood and his adventures in the years before I knew him.

His loss made me reassess my own scant time remaining to walk the planet. And as I turned my attention to dozens of boxes of family mementos stretching back to the late 1800s, which I have preserved as their conservator for decades and now feel compelled to sort and organize before passing on to my children, as I lift every lid and embrace the memories and moments each contains, I find myself struggling with permanence – not as one might attempt to fashion a legacy (though I went through that phase) but more philosophically as I try to understand where the meaning truly resides: in the acts of kindness or anger we ripple out into the world, in the insights and experiences we capture and send to anonymous others as messages in bottles, or is the pure organic essence of bling alive and becoming one with the immediacy of present experience the spark that ignites the blaze of self awareness that illuminates the universe so others might find their own way?

And yet, it might be far more simple, that which compels me to once again keep a journal. It may be no more than my inherent need to express myself, even if no one is listening, even if there in no one else in the room.

I am sure I will revisit all of these issues time and time again as I continue in this new incarnation of an old habit. But for now, as a means of wrapping these thoughts in a more complete context, I offer the following video from my YouTube channel, recorded live not yet a month previous:

Tarnished Karma | Recording Sessions | Volume 1 | 1970s

This may be the very first tape I recorded of my music, back in high school days. No on has heard it for 50 years, including me! I just discovered it last week in an old box and transferred it to digital. This is side A. I’ll post side B later. Enjoy the first 30 minutes of what turned into five decades of recorded original music.

Personal Recording 12-26-1986

Mary gave me a microcassette recorder for Christmas 1986. I had requested it because I wanted a convenient way to capture song ideas I was working on and other creative notions.

The music in these tapes later because the bases for my Composer’s Sketchbook, which has more than 500 entries including fully produced songs, demos, melody lines, hooks, and riffs.

This first tape begins with a demo on piano of a song I later properly recorded in my studio, originally called Guyana Dreamin’ as a take off on the Mommas and Papas song, California Dreamin’.

This song of mine was about Jim Jones and the Peoples Temple where he and 900 of his followers killed themselves in a mass suicide in the country of Guyana.

Decades later, I realized that words could be about any kinds of poisonous relationship where one gives over control of one’s life to another. So, I’ve renamed it “Obsession” and plan on recording a new studio version “someday when I get the time.” Until then, here’s this.

A Composer’s Sketchbook | The 1970s Track 81 | Ragged Riff

Sometimes I think I may have these tracks out of order, especially when I come across a piece of junk like this one. Sure, it’s a sketchbook and all, but once in a while its less of a riff and more of a train wreck. And after a run of really good material, having a stretch of painfully awful work just doesn’t make sense. There should be some sense of artistic growth. But there isn’t – at leas not with this final set of songs from the second side of the second tape.

Seriously – I keep going back to the mp3s that were transferred from the original tapes and were grouped by which tape and which side of the tape. And also on one tape I identify it audibly as “Volume Two” and another as “Volume Three” but there is no Volume One.

So, is something mislabeled, or did I just take a left turn at Albuquerque, artistically speaking?

Well, I recently re-discovered the box with all my original tapes as I sort through more than one hundred boxes of mementos and memorabilia I’ve had in storage for years. Now, if I could only find my old cassette player. Guess I probably have to buy a new one and may have to redo all of these transfers too, since the first time I converted them to mp3 I set the bit rate at 56kps.

Sheesh. At what point do I admit that only a handful of people in the entire parade of human history will ever listen to ANY of these recordings, and even though I still (generally) like the smell of my own crap, there comes a point when the effort to indulge oneself in oneself outweighs the self-stroking benefit by a magnitude of biblical proportions?

Yeah….