Author: Dave Kingsbury

I'm a retired teacher who now has more time for thinking, reading, writing, making music and blogging ...

What’s in a Word?

It’s a year and a half now since they stopped posting them but – alack and alas, I blush to confess it! – still kinda miss those helpful little WordPress Daily Prompts and their soothing subtitle: Sometimes, you sit down to blog but your words and photos get stuck — prompts give them a push.

No use crying over spilt milk, of course, especially when your eggs are in more than one basket! Words are ten a penny and there are many ways to stumble across them. Open a dictionary, for example, and with eyes closed let your fingers do the walking. Or else click on a site such as https://randomwordgenerator.com/ which does exactly what it says on the tin.

The key thing, though, is to go with that word no matter what it is. After all, it’s hardly random if you have a choice. Unless you want some wriggle-room and decide to do best of three … 

I got porter. Almost clicked again but thought I oughta lead by example and stick with it!

perhaps      having much too much      to say 
or else      much too little time      to say     very much
reduces      my            desire
to string    words    like pearls      to say anything much
except when  words      picked at
random carry me from such silence      to say              something

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If anyone should come up with something from a random word, please send me a link – or else the something itself!

I’d love to read it … 🙂

 

Creative Licence

As our world grows more dysfunctional there appears to be a corresponding upsurge in control freakery of all kinds – focus groups, market researchers, spin doctors and the like. Uncertain times naturally breed a desire for commercial safety but what is designed to please everybody often ends up delighting nobody. A formula movie composed by committee might tick generic response boxes but most likely lacks the art to stir and inspire audiences – an art that can only arise when film-makers who have real flair and passion are given their heads.

Such art is often controversial but controversy is the mark of a mature community and we should beware a situation where creative freedoms are constrained in the interests of mere uniformity. Socially-aware cinema has always given a voice to those in our society who may otherwise struggle to be heard.

For that reason I can thoroughly recommend Sorry We Missed You, the latest offering from veteran director Ken Loach who at the age of 83 has lost none of his fire and crusading spirit. It’s the touching and often intensely moving story of an ordinary family caught up in the gig economy. More than one commentator has observed it should be required viewing before the UK election of 12 December. At any rate, laughter and tears were never far apart in what I found to be a deeply cathartic experience.

Image result for sorry we missed you

To end on a lighter note, I’ve just watched this documentary on the making of A Hard Day’s Night. Lasting less than 40 minutes, it’s an engaging and often joyful insight into more innocent and optimistic times (sigh!) when even the suits would risk giving genuine talent a free rein. Hard to believe now that they went about it in such a haphazard and ramshackle way – though somewhat easier, especially after watching this, to understand how it all somehow succeeded!

 

Bifocals

This sharp little poem has really struck a chord with me!

To work out why, I tried substituting author for archer and applause for prize. There’s no doubt an overwhelming desire to show off is a surefire way of taking your eye off the ball … or bull. Double vision indeed!

Amazing that the poem was written 24 centuries ago, don’t you think?

When an archer is shooting for nothing
He has all his skill
If he shoots for a brass buckle
He is already nervous
If he shoots for a prize of gold
He goes blind
Or sees two targets -
He is out of his mind!

His skill has not changed. But the prize
Divides him. He cares.
He thinks more of winning
Than of shooting -
And the need to win
Drains him of power.

Chuang Tzu

 

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Image: ClipartWiki

Up Against The Wall, Mockerfuthers (Slight Return)

Here’s one I published 4 years ago – almost to the day – prefaced by 4 reasons for giving it a fresh airing that don’t include running out of new ideas!

  • back then I’d just started blogging and this post wasn’t read by many people 
  • to my surprise – and pleasure – all the embedded music hyperlinks still work
  • society’s questionable progress over the half-century between 1969 and 2019 
  • a storyline I’m considering where some old-timers form/reform a radical band

Any observations and suggestions gratefully received! After all, we can be together …

 

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Online feedback from people who share my passion for music has got me thinking. Was there ever a more intense musical moment in history than the late 1960s? It was a confluence of many currents – musical, political, sociological, philosophical, technological … even biological if you count the contraceptive pill and, er, other medicaments – and there was one band who, more than any other, channelled that heady zeitgeist. Even their name straddled past and present, yoking a slave-owning founding-father with the newest and fastest form of transport.

Jefferson Airplane took off in the folk clubs of San Francisco, fuelled up mid-air with jazz-tinged blues-rock and went stratospheric when Grace Slick brought her extraordinary voice and two hit songs – her brother’s Somebody To Love and her own exotic concoction White Rabbit, a provocative blend of children’s literature and psychedelic knowingness.

The surprise success of the Surrealistic Pillow album put them in the driving seat and a grateful production company gave them free rein in the studio for their next album, After Bathing At Baxter’s. Its wild and cheerfully uncommercial excesses, hated by the suits but loved by Airplane freaks, allowed them to develop adventurous three-way vocal harmonies – as here in Won’t You Try, still sounding good at Woodstock three years later.

Next up was the more disciplined Crown of Creation album, still my own favourite by a short head, but a TV appearance where Grace ‘blacks up’ to sing the title track highlights their volatile and rebellious unpredictability undimmed by success. And just listen to those resonant words, rock long since freed by Bob Dylan to say something worthwhile – something we’d come to expect by 1968.

This social relevance continued and even extended on the Volunteers album, whose opening track We Can Be Together blends war-weary alienation with communitarian idealism in an almost perfect apotheosis of those slightly unhinged times. Another track Wooden Ships imagines a dystopian future of hippie exile from a broken society, a theme that its co-writer Paul Kantner (the others being Stephen Stills and David Crosby) was soon to revisit in his magnificent sci-fi concept album Blows Against The Empire – solo, that is, with valuable help from several Airplane, CSNY and Dead members.

If you’ve never heard Blows and fancy some beautifully performed and still exhilarating rock music that evokes those tempestuous times, do yourself a big favour and listen to it straight through. I won’t spoil it by telling you the plot – but the album was nominated for a Hugo award, normally reserved for sci-fi novels. Side One – huh, remember sides? – begins with an acapella chant (taken, I am told, from a 1954 novel The Forever Machine by Riley & Clifton) which conveys a powerful sense of historical disenchantment, conjuring a comparison of the troubled present with the paranoia of 17th Century religious persecution across the so-called civilised world..

Hide, witch, hide / The good folks come to burn thee / Their keen enjoyment hid behind / A Gothic mask of duty

A track from around halfway through the album – Sunrise – goes back way beyond the Witchfinder General to the root of the problem. Two thousand years, sings Grace Slick with passion, two thousand years of your goddam glory … No shrinking violet, she, and many of us loved her and her band for their brave and uncompromising critique of ‘straight’ society and its many hypocrisies.

But the album is much more than a call to arms. At the heart of its elaborate central metaphor is also a glorious celebration of human potentiality. Neither that burning idealism nor its musical realisation has dated for one second and listening to this magical album can give us the experience of stepping outside time to values which are eternal. And there’s nothing anti-religious about that.

blowsagainsttheempire052

The Play Way

It’s almost three weeks since my previous WordPressing and so – concerned that I might be starting to run out of steam – have just gone back five years to my first ever post in search of fresh inspiration …

My voyage of exploration begins. I want to recapture the spirit of childhood, when we would set out from home with the deliberate aim of getting hopelessly lost. No point in going over old ground, after all …

freerange

Reading that again, I’m somehow reminded of these opening credits to a groundbreaking TV show:

Many people of my generation will know every word of this off by heart. Back then we wouldn’t have missed the adventures of the Starship Enterprise, ha, for the world! Pre-moon landings, outer space was still sexy and post-Beatlemania but pre-Woodstock we were eager for alternative experiences. Boundaries were boring and Star Trek, by definition, didn’t have any. Plus it employed some clever sci-fi screenwriters to explore some radical new ideas … well, radical by comparison with the fusty old 1950s of our childhood! Yes, in 1966, Warp Speed was the only way to travel …

In many ways they were confident times in which to grow up. The following opening credits feature two stylish special agents with a refreshingly chilled-out attitude to the Cold War hanging over their – and our – heads:

Looking back, the appeal of both shows was their optimistic and playful approach to serious subjects. Escapist, even naiive, their exploration and make-believe brought welcome extensions to our childhood. And come to think of it, much of our playing had involved pretending to be grown-ups. Adults appeared resourceful, capable, powerful. The very last person you’d want to be was Peter Pan – I mean, what sort of lunatic would want to stay a kid forever?

But now, looking back with a nostalgic eye, how we revere those precious moments of innocent discovery! As so often, the philosopher Nietzsche nails this idea:

‘In every real man, a child is hidden that wants to play.’

Ironic, isn’t it, that children yearn for adulthood while adults still feel like children? I suppose this doubleness in our nature is the basis of empathy between the generations. I find in playing with my grandkids a way to re-live my past through younger eyes as well as sharing in their fresh discoveries. I’ve just read what follows and every word of it struck a chord:

Play is the most valuable way that children learn. Play allows children to use their creativity while developing their imagination, dexterity, and physical, cognitive, and emotional strength. Play is important to healthy brain development. It is through play that children at a very early age engage and interact in the world around them.

As young children struggle to create a desired effect with a toy, they discover that it isn’t always easy. They realize that there is perhaps a problem to be solved and that they have to practice to acquire and improve the skills necessary to achieve their goal.

Studies have proven that play with other children is also critical for the development of children’s social skills, They are developing skills and habits and attitudes that will stay with them throughout their lives. Play is children’s work, and they give a tremendous amount of energy and effort to it. It promotes emotional well being – awareness, acceptance, personal integration, coping skills – and builds values including empathy, trust and respect for others while they play.

It’s good to know that even an old codger like me can help in this valuable process! And through it I learn that life goes on and – who knew? – that it isn’t all about me!

Midnight Meditation

I couldn’t let today pass by without saying something about the climate change protests that have taken place around the globe. Let armchair critics have their outraged rants about schoolchildren missing lessons and adult working days being lost, their fury fueled by reactionary media in cahoots with tax evaders and toxic polluters. I believe we’ve heard too much cynical mockery of youthful idealism and more than enough nasty ridicule of the ‘snowflake’ variety. The future belongs to young people and their children and it’s absolutely right that they have their say now, before it’s too late. The times, along with the old demographics, are changing and if politicians understand anything at all it is the power of symbols to change hearts and minds – a power exponentially amplified in the huge whispering gallery of a deregulated social media. In the increasingly faint but fervent hope that our wars can remain purely cultural, I’ve chosen a picture which seems to strike some kind of balance. It’s a balance between science and art, man and nature, pessimism and optimism, work and play, now and forever. After all, as everybody really knows, the best things in life are free …

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Image: Time Magazine