Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Meditation Files #4

Jamyang Khyentse Chökyi Lodrö said, “Look, it’s like this: When the past thought has ceased, and the future thought has not yet risen, isn’t there a gap? Well, prolong it. That is meditation.

Here is what I experience. It is possible to prolong or, in the first instance, notice the gap between thoughts. But this applies only if I limit my definition of thoughts to discursive thought. If I take into account the totality of perception, however…the pain in my back, the sound of  floors creaking, the colour of the wall, the play of shadows, the tension at the back of my tongue, incense, music, breathing, the movement just at the edge of peripheral vision, the way my hands rest on my knees…on and on…there are no gaps. Discursive thought stops or slows just long enough for me to perceive some other object.

But then, they say also that thoughts in themselves are not a problem. In fact they are utterly natural. And inevitable. So are other perceptions. The problem arises from our grasping after thoughts. Following the story line. Getting involved. Mere awareness of thoughts or other perceptions is not a problem.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Sand Mandala at C2G2

Out on a day pass today from the Yoni School. Suzy Homemaker and I went to view the sand mandala produced by the Namgyal monks at C2G2.

What a marvellous, intricate piece of work. Textured and nuanced. Flanked by a small Buddha altar, complete with dorje and bell, Shakyamuni Buddha thangka, water bowls, food offerings, candles and incense. In C2G2!

A mandala is a representation of the palace of a deity. Tibetan Buddhism has a whole raft of deities, a catalogue of initiations for those who desire them. Each deity has his or her mandala, all similar, each one different, each one unique. But they all have the same sort of floor plan. Several floors (reproduced two-dimensionally) which is what makes the mandala design. Four great entrances representing the cardinal points.

This mandala had no deity at the centre, on the top floor, only a lotus. The lotus is replete with symbolism too, of course. And it is the flower which represents Chenrezig, the bodhisattva of compassion, whose mantra is Om Mani Padme Hum, probably the best known of all mantras, capable of propelling one swiftly along the path of enlightenment if recited one-pointedly and with great faith. So even though Chenrezig is not depicted at the centre of the mandala, I suppose you could still say it is Chenrezig’s mandala.

Of course mandalas are stylized. Each figure carries symbolic meaning. Still, they are intricate artworks. Their creation requires great concentration. How easy it would be to apply too much sand in one spot, or breathe or sneeze at the wrong moment. And what do you do? Start over? Unfortunately, I couldn’t ask the monks because they weren’t there.

Not only does the sand mandala represent the deity’s palace. It also represents the universe. Which is why sand is the medium. Meant to instruct us on the fragility of our reality. One puff and it’s all gone. Sand represents the emptiness of all phenomena. Full of colour, fantastic and beautiful forms. Completely impermanent. In fact, the mandala is created for the express purpose of wiping it away in the end. This to remind us of all the time we spend foolishly pursuing worldly, ego-driven, ego-grasping, ego-clinging, ego-fixated goals which, in the end, cannot deliver the satisfaction we really crave and will be scattered by the winds of death and impermanence anyway.

PS. I just realized that saying it would be easy to sneeze might be misleading. The monks wear masks while creating the mandala, for that very reason. No fans nearby either.

Also, there was an interesting installation there too...a giant Buddha head surrounded by racks of plaster hands in various mudras. All placed in pull-out "bins". The public is allowed to write on these hands with markers provided for the leave messages on them for the people of Tibet.

Hey! Macarena 3

The Macarena was a no-go. Why? Because the crowd of Donauschwabens was definitely not of the butt-wiggling sort. Somehow we were misled about the relative age (and hipness) of these Hawgtown Schwabs. Methuselah would have been a spring chicken compared to most of them. Even the venerable old Bird Dance was too much for them. They sat at their tables staring at us while we played it…except for about six younger ones who pitied the poor band struggling to get old farts to show signs of life.

I’m exaggerating a little. Most of them were quite old. But as long as we played music that they liked, which meant heavy on polkas and waltzes, they danced a lot and obviously enjoyed themselves. But they were unexpectedly reserved too. I think they were too cool to be silly with the Bird Dance. Too much Schwabische dignity. I can imagine the expressions of horror if we had tried to induce them to Macarena wigglebutt.

John Robarts' Hat

J. Clive’s a funny guy sometimes. Known him for six years or so now and still finding out small details…little stories he tells now and then.

Like tonight…with his Oktfest gear he wears a green felt hat that looks good on him…not exactly German style, but close. Tonight we were out smoking during a break and we got talking about hats because my crazy bal’head is turning into a freezyblue col’head…or will soon. Talked about the Biltmore hat factory in Growlf. It’s been bought out by some guy from Kentucky because he wants to reproduce the fedoras of the 40’s and 50’s…like Bogey used to wear. Apparently they’re cool again.

Anyway…J. Clive remarked that his hat…a Stetson manufacture…was the hat of former Ontario Premier John Robarts. I said, “Now that you mention it, it is like hats I’ve seen Robarts wearing in pictures.” But then, a second later, it clicked. “You mean, that hat is actually John Robarts’ hat?” I asked, and J. Clive said it was. He was friends with Robarts’ son in the 60’s. They hung out at the Robarts cottage, summers, up Lake Huron way. Speeding on the back roads. Getting crazy drunk. Taking advantage of being the son of the Premier. One day at the cottage, J. Clive picked the hat off a peg on the wall and put it on. The Premier told him he could keep it. So nearly 40 years later he still wears it, and it’s still associated with beer.

Friday, October 21, 2005

Hey! Macarena 2

Tonight I spent an hour or so putting finishing touches on Macarena. It sounded good. Then I decided to rename it since it was going under the name Maca3, ie the third version of it. I wanted to change it to, what else? Macarena. So I did. Now, you have to realize that this keyboard works like a computer. DOS style. Only 8 characters allowed, then a file designation like exe or doc or whatever. In the case of the Korg, the file extension is .SNG (for song). Macarena is eight. So I renamed it.

All of a sudden it had disappeared. Wouldn’t load. Something illegal had occurred according to the message that kept coming up. For some time, I was frantic. I turned the air blue with what’s known in Buddhist circles as harsh language. Fortunately it wasn’t directed at anyone (except maybe myself). I saw a minimum of fifteen hours work going down the drain. Plus not being able to make the Donauschwabens wiggle their butts.

Only one thing gave me any hope. The display showed a file there. It was the same size (88Kb) as the previous Maca3 file. I don’t know what inspired me, but I decided to rename it again, this time adding .SNG to the end of it. That worked! The file came back, just as it had been before. Talk about relief.

And I learned something. See, an ordinary computer (or the program at least) adds the file extension automatically. The Korg didn’t. Now I know I have to do it.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Hey! Macarena

I’ve spent the last four evenings working at my keyboard. No, not the typinglike one, the pianolike one.

Doing what? Making a version of the Macarena. We have a gig this Saturday in Hawgtown playing for Donauschwabens. No, not Dachshunds. Dachshunds would want to hear…oh…You ain’t nothin’ but a hound dog…How much is that doggie in the window…Black Dog by Fred Zeppelin…Move it on over (in which George Thorogood frequently says, “Move over little dog, a big old dog is movin’ in…) That’s what Dachshunds want to hear. Donauschwabens want to hear the Macarena. So they can slap themselves all over and wiggle their butts. (Like a Dachshund?) Come to think of it, the Macarena is sort of like the Latin version of the Schuhplattler!

The Macarena is now at least 10 years old. I used to have a version of it, sequenced, on my old keyboard. It was a pretty good version. But unless you’re fluent in Spanish, it’s a bitch to sing. It moves very quickly. But the old Peavey keyboard is dead. And we hadn’t played the Macarena for a long time, and I didn’t like to sing it anymore (not knowing what part was coming up next cuz we never played it anymore…) But the Hawgtown Donauschwabens said it was one of their big tunes of the night…so…I’ve resurrected it on the new Korg. No, not the Corgi. I don’t think Corgis and Dachshunds would really get along. Anyway, we’ve never played for Hawgtown Donauschwabens before. We have played for Lunchbucket Donauschwabens many times over the years. But not the Hawgtown ones. So we want to impress them, eh?

Ve must gif ze peeples vhat zey vant, ja?

Sunday, October 16, 2005

The Altitude Song

I have to correct a serious oversight in my postings.

Voin has been working on a CD of original songs for well over a year. Two, maybe. In the last year it has really begun to blossom and come together. It so happens that I’m playing keyboard on most of the tracks. Some singing too.

Last Wednesday, Oct. 12, Voin’s tune The Altitude Song had its first public airplay on 1090AM…OK, I know, not the hippest station in the country, but what the hell, it’s something.

The reason I mention this is because the end of the tune has a spoken word piece written by me, let’s call it Those Boys Were Crazy.

I didn’t get to hear the first play on radio. But I sure hope it gets more, and what’s more, that the CD creates a bit of a buzz for Voin. He’s a good songwriter…knows how to make good hooks…especially lyrical hooks. Pretty good with woids.

More information on this: the album is to be called This One’s For Kenny. It’s a reference to Kenny Hollis, who you might remember as the omnipresent MC at Lulu’s for many years. Well, Kenny was also the lead singer for that famous Kitchener 70’s band Copper Penny. Voin was the first guitar player in that band, and the guy who wrote most of their earlier hits. Kenny died a couple of years ago, and Voin never really had a chance to say goodbye the way he wanted, so this album is his way of doing that.

He called on the talents of a bunch of friends, all old rockers from way back, ‘cep fer me, Mr. Polka Head, and basically got ‘em all to do it fer nuttin. And that’s because being involved in a good project with good talent is more fun than work. Slowly the songs have come together. I’ve been able to hear many of them from the absolute beginning…guitar and voice…to nearly finished product. The transformation is sometimes amazing.

Anyway, a bunch of old farts getting (get this, my Werd program won’t let me drop the ‘g’ in getting) getting gittin together to rock and roll…well, count-ry too and other odd things. Watch for this CD. According to Voin, labels are interested…Call up yer local DJ and ask him/her when he/she is gonna start playin that Altitude Song. OK?

Oktoberfest Events (The Last Waltz)

I heard for the second time that the man who collapsed at the tent on Friday night did not make it. This is a sad thing. Sudden and unexpected (although perhaps not unpredictable since it was confirmed that he had a triple bypass only a few weeks ago). It casts a pall on everyone’s memory of Oktoberfest. I really feel sad for the people who were with him and his family.

My own final moment of Oktoberfest for ’05 was also something sudden and unexpected. Extremely unusual too. After we were done, as my brother was in the process of saying final goodnights, a young guy came bounding up the stairs. He grabbed my microphone and started to shout into it. One of the security guards was right behind him and took hold of him, trying to pull him back down the stairs. I, meanwhile, began to wrestle with the young guy for the mic, which was still on its boom stand. He wouldn’t let go. I had the mic. He had the mic. The stand was wobbling. My music book went flying. He still struggled to hold on. Wouldn’t let go. Suddenly I saw his big white face wide open in front of me. I gave him a left jab. Not too hard.

He let go of the mic and fell back into the waiting arms of the security guard. The last thing I heard him say was, “Hey! That guy punched me!” I don’t think he got too much sympathy from the security guard. In fact, later, the supervisor came to me and said, “My guy says thanks for the soft landing!”

Well, to tell the truth, I surprised myself. It’s fifteen years or more since I punched anybody. I don’t even know how to do it, really. Which was a good thing for that guy. Really, it was just a little tap that startled him enough to make him let go.

People’s reactions struck me, though. One audience member, another young guy, came up right after and shook my hand. He was of the opinion you can’t let people get away with that shit. Steffie Jr., 21 years old, was also impressed. J. Clive reminded me that self-defence is justifiable even in Buddhist terms.

This wasn’t self-defence, really, but protection of one’s “territory”. On the weekends, especially, because they are so busy, we struggle with keeping people off the stage. They get drunk. They get exuberant. Mostly they’re just having stupid fun, but you can’t allow it to migrate onto the stage. Too much expensive equipment. And if one gets up, it’s like an invitation for more.

So I smacked him upside the head. Too weird.

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Oktoberfest Events

Two things happened at the gig last night, the penultimate night of Oktoberfest. One was cosmic, sort of. The other was tragic.

The first: have you ever been in a large crowd in an enclosed space and listened to its roar? The big tent is unique in this perspective, I think. I’ve never been anywhere else where the roar of the crowd is so intense. It’s not a response to anything in particular, although the band can certainly get them roaring when it wants to. But this buzz I’m talking about is just the background level of thousands of people talking all at once. It becomes a kind of white noise, which, I’ll mention in passing, can also make it difficult for the band to perform because that noise is at a certain pitch and can easily get loud enough to interfere with what’s heard on stage.

Last night, early, the beginning of the second set, or maybe the third, the band played a medley of polkas. Steffie began singing the first song, and as I played it seemed as if the entire crowd was singing along with him. Just as if we were at a soccer game and the crowd was singing that song they do, you know the “Olé Olé Olé Olé” thing. A rather ghostly sound travelling around the tent.

That’s fine. The crowd often does sing along with us. But this particular song happened to be in Croatian. And nobody was singing along. It only sounded as if they were. I can’t explain what caused this sonic anomaly.

The second: at about 8pm. a man collapsed at his table, the victim of some sort of seizure or heart attack. We were about to go back on stage, but delayed our start so that the floor would be clear when the paramedics moved him out on a stretcher.

It seemed to me a rather long time before they did move him, but I don’t know much about that kind of stuff. They had moved the tables away and cleared a substantial space. From the stage we could see someone performing CPR. At last, they had him on a stretcher and wheeled him out past the right side of the stage. (Not the side I’m on.) Voin later said he didn’t look too good.

At the end of the night we heard that this man had died.

We also heard that he’d had open heart surgery only three weeks ago.

I don’t know if either of these are true because it’s second-hand information. Still, even if it’s not true, it’s not a happy memory of Oktoberfest. I watched the area where the man had fallen. It took a long time for that space to fill up again.

Now, there’s a symbolic statement, if I’ve ever made one.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Bald Head Brigade

My crazy bal’head is still taking people by surprise. My aunt and uncle came out to the tent yesterday to hear the band. They stood in front of the stage looking around, my aunt shouting up to my brother, who’s the drummer of course, “Where’s Larry?”

When she finally noticed Mr. Bal’head off to the side, she nearly fell over. Her son, who’s had his head shaved for years, tipped his cap in salute. Another bal’head joins the ranks…

Monday, October 10, 2005

Speech by Al Gore

Click the title to go to a speech Al Gore gave to the We Media Conference in NYC on Oct. 5.

I think the American people made a huge mistake when they failed to elect Al Gore in 2000. And I think Al Gore made a huge mistake when he didn't fight hard enough to prevent that election from being stolen.

(Making assumptions. I assume the election in Florida was seriously rigged.)(Assuming also that Al Gore was too decent an individual to get down in the mud with assorted Bushes. I suppose that would ipso facto make him ineligible to be president.)

Meanwhile, I wish to hell Al Gore would work on getting the Democrats to say something intelligent, do something intelligent, pull themselves together...can you imagine Dick Cheney as president?

And, by the way, what does ipso facto really mean? Is that Latin, like tempus fugit and veni vidi vici et tu Brute?

Monday, October 03, 2005

Dave FM Update Again

Heard the first snippet of accordion contest today. Come On Eileen, Dexy's Midnight Runners. The guy who called in won. Hooray! Two fewer people that'll be showing up at my venue!

Just kidding.

Carlos, the DJ didn't play very much of the tune. Ten notes maybe. But I only caught the denouement. I didn't hear the runup.
Help! I've written and I can't get up!