SA4QE 2015

As I have done for several years now, I participated today in an international conspiracy - called, mysteriously, SA4QE - to celebrate the naming day of the brilliant author, Russell Hoban. All around the world, pieces of yellow paper, bearing quotes from Hoban books, have been left in public places – cafe tables, bookshops, park benches, telephone booths, train stations or anywhere my fellow participants deemed appropriate. Russell Hoban remains one of the most original writers of the twentieth century and one of my very favourites.

Here’s this year's submission:

Russell Hoban's naming day was cold and rainy here in White Rock BC, Canada. The pier was mostly deserted. I walked to the very end and attached this year's quote to the railing that looks out to the American San Juan Islands and the Canadian Gulf Islands.
As I walked back, a small smile of a rare kind took over my cold and wet face.
Happy Birthday Russ, and thank you.
  "Perhaps this world that's in us, this world that we're in, was never meant to be fixed and permanent; perhaps it's only one of a continuous succession of world-ideas passing through the world-mind. And we are, all of us, the passing and impermanent perceivers of it." 
Russell Hoban ~ From the Novel ‘Fremder'

  You can check out other submissions as they come in, and learn more about Russell Hoban and SA4QE here.

Trubba not.

All Ways In the Middl Of It

I was looking through some collected Russell Hoban quotes, getting ready for SA4QE on Wednesday, and this one hit me - only, for some reason, not for a yellow paper on the pier. So this must be where it was supposed to go.

"If you cud even jus see 1 thing clear the woal of whats in it you cud see every thing clear. But you never wil get to see the woal of any thing youre all ways in the middl of it living it or moving thru it."
Russell Hoban ~ From the Novel ‘Ridley Walker'

Norma Grace McGuire - May 9 1923 - Jan 8 2015

My mom, Norma Grace McGuire, passed away on January 8th 2015. She was 91. Her endless curiosity and intelligence, relentless tenacity, unwavering loyalty and unconditional love were an inspiration to me, her family, and everyone she met. She taught me and my two brothers to dream fearlessly, to question unflinchingly, and to always try to do the right thing - and to fight for that right thing when necessary.

As well as being an inspirational parent, she was an artist, genealogist, author, blogger, craftsperson, seamstress, activist, photographer, computer enthusiast, scrap-booker, knitter, and quilter. Despite those many activities, the majority of her life was devoted to serving and caring for her family. And despite all of her accomplishments, there was nothing she was more proud of than her husband and her three boys and their families. For all of her tenacity, curiosity, and sense of justice there was nothing that motivated her more than love.

I will continue to love her. She has left behind an empty space that can't be filled.

The Mayor's Ball

All of our shows are dramatically different these days. This is a rough account of a random show - random only in the sense that it was the one for which I found myself with the requisite coincidence of time and inclination to write about. • It was grey and raining. For the first time in what seemed like months. It had been and endless summer in White Rock.

I was waiting a few more minutes before heading out for the Surrey Sheraton where I’d park my bags and then meet my Trooper brothers in the lobby for a 2:10 lobby call - to be then driven from there to the venue to sound check.

We were playing the Mayor's Charity Ball. I googled the show and there was no mention of it online at all. Which lead me to think that ours might be a surprise appearance. Maybe it's because I don't like surprises, but I prefer people to know we're coming and to be ready for us when we walk out onto the stage. It's a whole different animal when you're trying to put the party together from scratch.

My plan was to sleep over at the Sheraton despite the fact that it's only an hour, if that, from home. It's a luxury, I suppose, but the room was mine for 24 hours and I was considering stopping by a nearby bike shop in the morning to check out e-bikes - a notion that overtook me after reading my friend Peter Cheney's story in the Globe and Mail about riding one in downtown Toronto.

We are like a band of brothers in most senses. We hug when we meet and catch up quickly in bursts of abbreviated prose and sentence-finishing. Nods and winks and eye-rolls. We pile into the bus or van still talking and laughing. Our driver was Rick. He drove us to Whistler when we played there a few years ago with Loverboy. Smitty remembered him and he seemed pleased. We bonded. Rick told us an unflattering story about a band he wouldn't name.

Backstage Paul showed us our nice dressing room and our not nice dressing room. The nice dressing room was lit dramatically and contained white retro sofas and sparkly highlights. The other room had unfinished walls and broom closet decor. It was also much smaller. There is a plan in place to use the nice one before the show and the drywalled one after - at which point the good one will be used for our meet-and-greet.

Paul took me aside. The organizer had asked if we could sing a song called Diane, to "surprise" Mayor Diane Watts - who will be celebrating her last Charity Ball as Mayor of Surrey. He told the organizer that we wouldn't know the song she requested but would probably know the similarly named Ryan Adams song. I told Paul I didn't know it. He said I must have heard it, and in any case it was easy; Steve had figured it out on guitar in just a few minutes. So I had to say no. I was not going to learn and sing a song I'd never heard to surprise someone. Even if it was a Mayor. Sometimes I hate being that guy.

Out on the stage we faced a purple-tinged, overwrought Marie-Antoinette themed ballroom with flowers and cut glass and flowing fabric hanging from delicately decorated trusses - all balanced precariously at the iffy edge of good taste. Black and white clad staff hustled from table to table tweaking or adding to the already crowded displays. Sound check was just a loud interference for most of them. There were some printed lyrics - probably to a song called Diane - on Smitty’s Marshall.

I eat delivered Beef and Broccoli ( and Beef and Guy Lon if they have it) for dinner just about every night I’m on the road. Sonny’s Noodle House had Guy Lon. I watched the first half of the movie Poetry on my laptop while I ate.

The Mayor’s Ball was a charity event. Our pre-show dressing room - the purple one - was separated from the wealthy Surrey-ites in attendance by only black drapery, so the repetitive drone of the auctioneer couldn’t be ignored. The auction went on and on - well past our starting time. We were dressed for stage, wired up with our in-ear monitors and waiting. It’s a credit to our team that the vibe remained chill and good humoured in the purple room.

The show was a private event, so I’ll limit details of that part of my day to avoid intruding on the partier’s privacy. I will say that her worship the Mayor - and a large coterie of her friends and family - joined us onstage for rousing and crowded versions of Raise a Little Hell and We’re Here For a Good Time. The entire stage, ball gown-clad women and Trooper men, posed for photos, onstage, at the end - rather than our usual bow. After changing clothes and unwiring our in-ears in the dressing room we joined the wealthy and famous VIP guests in the purple room for photos and small talk. All of the people there were very nice and we enjoyed the meet and greet more than we usually might.

On the ride back to the Sheraton we discussed the show. It turns out that, during Raise a Little Hell some of the onstage ladies were attempting conversations with the guys in the band - while they played.

“I’m British you know” “I can tell by your accent” “No, really, I’m British”

And my favourite one, from Gogo;

“Will you teach me how to play piano?”

He said it’s the strangest thing anyone has ever said to him on stage.

20140704 - Tisdale SK

 

I'm back at the hotel with my heartburn medicine and my bug juice. I didn't know I needed the bug juice until I was on my walk to get the Gaviscon. The heartburn is a longer story.

We arrived in Tisdale Saskatchewan Last night around nine. I called the only Chinese food place in town to order my traditional beef and brocolli - but they'd already been closed for an hour. The nice lady there told me all the restaurants in town closed at the same time. I called the front desk to confirm that and Crystal told me there was one place still open. A hotel that made pizzas. So I called.

"Hi, I'd like to order for delivery" "Sorry, the taxi driver's not answering his phone" " ... "

I was hungry so I thought I could walk into town to pick up - so I asked:

"I'm at the Canalta Hotel can you tell me where you are from here?" "We're just down past the Subway" " ..."

The girl I was talking to seemed to be losing patience with our call. I could hear how busy the bar was. I thanked her and called back down to the front desk in a now desperate bid for some eleventh hour local restaurant knowledge.

"Oh, I can get Debbie to run over and get that Pizza for ya"

As it turned out, Debbie picked up three pizzas and a 24 of beer for us. You gotta love a small town.

The pizza was delicious, but I should have stopped eating when the heartburn started. My restless night in Tisdale was my own fault. This morning though, I headed out on foot to the Pharmasave on the main drag there. Just down past the Subway.

To My Three or Four Forgiving and Open-minded Friends

Trying to find a good book to read is annoying me. And, for reasons unknown to me, that annoyance makes me want to write. I can't figure it out. I'm not going to try. But I am writing. Something.

Encapsulating the months that have passed since last I wrote is the impossibility that has impeded me. There is no way. I've considered sneaking up on an account of it from several different directions - maybe a general metaphoric discussion of the over-riding emotional landscape, for instance. Bullshit and who cares. Maybe some short illuminating scenes that might suggest the general story - No. No one thing, or two things or three is the nub of it. It can neither be distilled nor generalized, and too many people I love are prominent characters in the story arc and I have no right to share their parts, and I won't.

And I haven't been unhappy, or sad in a daily way - I've had some great times - a lot of them - but I've been overwhelmed. There's just been too much. There's been too much and it's come too fast and much of it is part of a new paradigm that I haven't had the time or energy to get on top of. I badly want (and need) an attitude that covers this new reality, but all my efforts to engineer one have so far failed. Which is, well, a failure ... and I'm not fond of those.

So rather than chronicle that inability to make peace with the difficult parts of what I just now realize has been the first four years of "my sixties", I've clammed up. And although I tell myself it's the recent subscribers to ramcguire.com - people requesting an alert in the unlikely event that something new happens here - that have embarrassed me into stepping up, the truth is I miss it.

So in the spirit of my original blog, I'll try once again to overcome the inertia of myself while imagining the three or four of you as forgiving and open-minded friends who don't give a shit what I write but are still encouraging me to do so.

Why I Write

I spent some time this morning considering buying a book called "Why We Write" that collects the answers to that question from some well-respected authors. The big idea was to find an answer there that might apply to me - since I've realized I don't have a good one myself. The only reasons I can dredge up seem a little unsavoury. I'd love to truly state that writing is like breathing to me (as one of the authors in the book's preview claims) but it isn't. I'm always happy to have completed something, but the drive to begin is more based on the belief that I should write, not that I couldn't help myself.

And why should I write? I don't know. That's why I was going to download the book - rather than writing this.

Once when I was very young, my uncle brought a woman to our house that he claimed was a gypsy. With her black hair and flashing eyes she looked the part. My uncle convinced her to read my palms. I clearly remember telling her that one day my palms would be impossible to read because they would be covered in ink. I thought I was being clever making that "veiled" reference to the career path I had chosen.

I enjoyed writing as a child, although I often wonder now if I was simply enjoying the accolades and attention I received when I wrote. Of course I was - but did I continue writing for more of that attention or because I enjoyed the process? Who knows for sure. Not me. I do know that, like now, the question often stops me in my tracks and, like a snake eating it's own tail, progress towards a solution grinds to a halt when the resulting circle reaches it's smallest possible diameter.

I've kept a journal for years. The writing I do there is uninspiring and pedestrian but I believe there's value in keeping track of your days. It's a struggle for me to keep up-to-date, but I do because I receive good value from the entries that accumulate. There is a clear and useful reason for that writing. Sadly, I've become increasingly unsure about my reasons for writing in public.

I'm sharing this conflict here because, for whatever reason - suspicious or otherwise - I'd like to return to public writing with more frequency - and sincerity - and I'm unsure where to resume the story. Or what it is I want to share. Or why ...

SA4QE 2013

Once again I've participated in an international conspiracy to celebrate the naming day of the brilliant Russell Hoban. All around the world, pieces of yellow paper, bearing quotes from Hoban books, have been left in public places – cafe tables, bookshops, park benches, telephone booths, train stations or anywhere the birthday celebrants deemed appropriate. Over 350 quotes that have been left, on previous birthdays, in big cities and small towns in 14 countries since 2002. Russell Hoban remains one of the most original writers of the twentieth century and one of my very favourites.

Here’s what I sent in this year:

Greetings from White Rock BC Canada!
Yellow papers appeared on the pier today and changed things a bit. Folks on their walks stopped, curious. And walked away, curious. Hopefully Russ got a smile out of it.   "... still I am of the world, still I have something to say, how could it be otherwise, nothing comes to an end, the action never stops, it only changes...."
- from Pilgerman

  There are two more photos from my SA4QE adventure here, and you really should check out other submissions, as they come in, here, the full Russell Hoban site here here and the "Head of Orpheus" site here.

Trubba not.

A Year Ago Today ...

“When you grow up you tend to get told the world is the way it is and your life is just to live your life inside the world. Try not to bash into the walls too much. Try to have a nice family life, have fun, save a little money.

That’s a very limited life. Life can be much broader once you discover one simple fact, and that is - everything around you that you call life, was made up by people that were no smarter than you. And you can change it, you can influence it, you can build your own things that other people can use.

Once you learn that, you’ll never be the same again.”

~ Steve Jobs

Correction to "The Politics of Songwriting - Part Five"

Rolling Stone Magazine has run an online version of a Kurt Cobain interview from their January 27 1994 issue. In it, Cobain breaks down Nirvana's songwriting shares. I was wrong about him receiving all the royalties. If my math is correct, it appears he took a total of 87.5% while the other two band members shared the remaining 12.5%, for a total of 6.25% each. Here's how he put it:

Haven't there been any issues where there was at least heated discussion? Yeah, the songwriting royalties. I get all the lyrics. The music, I get 75 percent, and they get the rest. I think that's fair. But at the time, I was on drugs when that came up. And so they thought that I might start asking for more things. They were afraid that I was going to go out of my mind and start putting them on salary, stuff like that. But even then we didn't yell at each other. And we split everything else evenly.

Connor McGuire

Social media doesn’t usually work that well for Connor McGuire. He’s tried. If you look around online, you can find him on the obligatory Facebook and Twitter, and he has a Tumbler website - but there’s not much there. Social media is clearly low on his list of priorities. His focus has been elsewhere.

His friends report that he seems to disappear for large blocks of time, only to emerge sporadically with some new version of himself and his art. They imagine a cave - which is not too far from the mark. They imagine screens glowing in the dark late at night, knobs and buttons, piles of instruments, piles of unwashed dishes and empty bottles. They can hear this in his music.

When they hear it, they can also tell right away why he’s doing it. It’s clear he’s searching for something great but different. Different but not weird. OK, maybe even weird sometimes, but not stupid or abrasive - or weird for weird’s sake. The words sound like thoughts we’ve had, the tunes haunt from a place not easy to reach and the emotions revealed are tempered with a welcome intelligence.

A song is a fragile construction, with each piece dependent on the other and, initially, only supported in the air by the artist's sheer force of will. Some of Connor's songs don't get finished, but I sure love the ones that do ...

Today I'm doing some social media for him, since he's been mostly preoccupied with making music (and, in his spare time, his Boba Fett armour).

Here's a live recording of Connor's new song "Hand it Over":

The Death of Facts

The other day, The Chicago Tribune featured a satiric story about the death of Facts. A sad story, but possibly true.

When I was a teenager, I'd often call the downtown Vancouver Public Library where the staff there would look up facts for me. Although it's hard to believe now, they'd put me on hold and rummage through the appropriate reference books until they found the answers to the questions I'd asked. The librarians always seemed happy, and maybe even a little proud, to be able to help me in this way.

Later in life, a large part of my fascination with the computer revolution hinged on the very real possibility that facts would someday become easily and instantly available without the necessity of those phone calls. The internet tied all the computers together and it soon seemed as though we would presently have access to a worldwide library wherein all truth could be found.

I signed on with more passion and conviction than anyone I knew, and sure enough, the internet eventually became my personal and dependable fact repository. Then a strange thing began happening ...

As the internet began to become *everyone's* personal library and access to facts became ubiquitous, those same facts began to lose their lustre. As they became less rare - they seemed to become less valuable.

And as the internet democratized the collection and storage of facts, institutions formerly trusted to caretake them - The Encyclopaedia Britannica, The New York Times, the Vancouver Public Library for instance - were eroded and undermined. The conflicting agendas of the online masses and the new media they aligned with began to create, re-purpose or spin facts to support whatever opinions they felt required supporting.

For a while there, I thought I was losing my mind. My searches for dependable information became less and less fruitful. Reputable and supposedly trustworthy experts delivered black-and-white opposite versions of what should have been the simple truth. Trying to identify definitive facts became next to impossible for me. I yearned for the nice ladies at the Vancouver Public Library.

If my Dad was still around, he'd be reminding me now that the press and media - and anyone else trusted with the power of information (or simply "the power") - has always lied - twisting or inventing the facts as they pleased for their own purposes. He was right, I know, but this is different.

I didn't become a news junkie until September 11th 2001. Before that I'd check the news in the morning the way our parents quickly scanned the front pages of the morning paper. On that Tuesday morning the news page I frequented was simply a white background with black headlines, saying only that New York City was "under attack".

After 911, I was addicted to unfolding history. I was drunk with the power the internet gave me to parse every molecule of information at the moment it became available. I kept a bottle of Visine beside my computer screen.

Soon, questions arose. A theory was advanced that controlled demolitions had brought down the World Trade Centre buildings. A YouTube clip demonstrated that a 757 couldn't fit into the hole in the Pentagon wall. If these citizen journalists were actually on to something, the ramifications were almost impossible to consider.

The Iraq and Afghanistan wars just added important questions that demanded answers. I waited for those answers to emerge, but the people and institutions now in control of the information simply continued to generate more facts, or statements with the appearance of facts, without ever taking responsibility for their veracity. Fair and balanced now seemed to mean that flat-earth believers still had viable facts to contribute to the news cycle.

While Obama restored my hope, his presidency has since become the focal point of some of the most egregious misuse of the f-word. Ridiculous assertions now stand as fact - unchallenged. Opinion is all that remains.

The Chicago Tribune story, while satirical, contains quotes from Mary Poovey, a professor of English at New York University and author of "A History of the Modern Fact." Both the professor and her book are, in fact, real. She says:

"There was an erosion of any kind of collective sense of what's true or how you would go about verifying any truth claims," Poovey said. "Opinion has become the new truth. And many people who already have opinions see in the 'news' an affirmation of the opinion they already had, and that confirms their opinion as fact."

The world wide web has brought people together in a way that has never before been possible and helped us accumulate a shared treasury of knowledge that's unsurpassed in history, and yet it's become a free-for-all in which the truth is threatened by dogma, superstition and politics.

I mourn the passing of Facts. I'm keeping my fingers crossed for truth and wisdom.

1Q84

I finished 1Q84 by Haruki Murakami last night. It was a big, engrossing magical book that took me both far away and deep inside. I didn't want it to end. Like Richard Ford's brilliant books, 1Q84 made me want to write. It reminded me that no two people see this world and its passing minutes the same. It convinced me again that capturing and preserving the ephemeral moment and the random impression is worthwhile - if only for my own satisfaction and edification.

According to Chekhov,” Tamaru said, rising from his chair, “once a gun appears in a story, it has to be fired.”

“Meaning what?”

Tamaru stood facing Aomame directly. He was only an inch or two taller than she was. “Meaning, don’t bring unnecessary props into a story. If a pistol appears, it has to be fired at some point. Chekhov liked to write stories that did away with all useless ornamentation.”

Aomame straightened the sleeves of her dress and slung her bag over her shoulder. “And that worries you – if a pistol comes on the scene, it’s sure to be fired at some point.”

“In Chekhov’s view, yes.”

“So you’re thinking you’d rather not hand me a pistol.”

“They’re dangerous. And illegal. And Chekhov is a writer you can trust.”

“But this is not a story. We’re talking about the real world.”

Tamaru narrowed his eyes and looked hard at Aomame. Then, slowly opening his mouth, he said, “Who knows?”

~ Haruki Murakami - 1Q84

R.I.P. Russell Hoban

Damn.

From 'Ridley Walker':

"the worl is ful of things waiting to happen, Thats the meat and boan of it right there. You myt think you can jus go here and there doing nothing. Happening nothing. You cant tho you bleeding cant. You put your self on any road and some thing wil show its self to you."

From 'The Moment Under the Moment':

"Reality is ungraspable. For convenience we use a limited-reality consensus in which work can be done, transport arranged, and essential services provided. The real reality is something else--only the strangeness of it can be taken in…"
From 'Frember':
"Being is not a steady state but an occulting one: we are all of us a succession of stillness blurring into motion on the wheel of action, and it is in those spaces of black between the pictures that we find the heart of mystery in which we are never allowed to rest."

Miss you, Russ.

Today's Guardian Article

The Head of Orpheus

Steve

"Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything — all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure — these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart."
~ Steve Jobs - From his 2005 commencement address at Stanford

The Politics of Songwriting - Part Five

The three members of Green Day split songwriting royalties evenly despite the fact that, from what I can tell, Billy Joe Armstrong writes the lyrics and melodies for their songs. Kurt Cobain, on the other hand, received sole songwriting credit for all but a couple of Nirvana's songs (a co-write and a b-side written by the band's drummer Dave Grohl).

Two entirely different ways of approaching songwriting royalties. And there's everything in between. There are no rules, and that, I think, is as it should be.

Green-Day-Nirvana.jpg

Green Day's all-for-one attitude has kept the band together through a long and impressive career. Billy Joe's decision to share writing credits may play a major part in this.

There are many Green Day covers out there. I've got a great version of 'Good Riddance (Time of Your Life)' recorded by Glen Campbell. Like the Green Day arrangement, it's mostly the singer, an acoustic guitar, and an orchestra. It's hard to imagine what role Trés Cool, and Mike Dirnt (the drummer and bassist) played in writing the song, but they receive equal shares of songwriting royalties from any cover versions. Best I can tell, Billy Joe is cool with this.

What if, though, one or both of Billy Joe's bandmates left the band in their early days - a situation that has befallen many young writers? They would continue to receive royalties, from songs they may not have contributed to, despite the fact that Billy Joe would now be performing with a new drummer and bass player in Green Day. Maybe they have a contract that deals with this. Maybe they don't care.

Kurt Cobain's band, Nirvana, had five drummers before Dave Grohl joined. Splitting his songwriting royalties with one of them might have induced that drummer to stay on (or made Cobain less-likely to fire him) and Nirvana could well have cemented an entirely different line-up - in the way that Green Day did. But that line-up would not, then, have included Dave Grohl - a significant contributor to Nirvana's aural appeal. Nirvana members Grohl and Krist Novoselic did not receive (with only two exceptions) songwriting royalties on Nirvana songs. Best I can tell, they were cool with this.

Since his days in Nirvana, Dave Grohl has become one of the world's most successful musicians and the "primary songwriter" for the Foo Fighters, just as Cobain was for Nirvana. Ironically, since I've referenced him in this ongoing rant about the politics of songwriting, Nirvana's bass player Krist Novoselic is currently active in ... politics, as an elected State Committeeman in Washington State.

UPDATE/CORRECTION:

Rolling Stone Magazine has run (in September 2012) an online version of a Kurt Cobain interview from their January 27 1994 issue. In it, Kurt Cobain breaks down Nirvana's songwriting shares. I was wrong about him receiving all the royalties. If my math is correct, it appears he took a total of 87.5% while the other two band members shared the remaining 12.5%, for a total of 6.25% each. Here's how he put it:

Haven't there been any issues where there was at least heated discussion? Yeah, the songwriting royalties. I get all the lyrics. The music, I get 75 percent, and they get the rest. I think that's fair. But at the time, I was on drugs when that came up. And so they thought that I might start asking for more things. They were afraid that I was going to go out of my mind and start putting them on salary, stuff like that. But even then we didn't yell at each other. And we split everything else evenly.

My Summer - 2011 Edition

I've just returned home from the last Trooper show of the summer. There are a few more shows coming up in the fall and winter but the "Trooper 2011 Summer Tour of Canada" has officially concluded. It was, without question, the best, most successful and most fun tour I can remember. As he did last year, my brother-in-arms Gogo snapped photos from his vantage point at the keyboards. I'd like to thank him again for this. Just like last year, I'm blown away by seeing pictures of all the shows in one place. It was a helluva tour. There are 29 shows here - shown in chronological order. The Curacao show is missing (despite the fact it was the Carribean, and hot, it was technically pre-summer), as is the private birthday party in Ontario. Otherwise, though, I think they're all here.

2011-Trooper-Live-Collage-with-Titles-summer-only1.jpg