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In February of 1985 I got married. It was a lovely wedding, a nice day, the day after which my new husband, Scott, and I took off for some post-ceremony together time in San Luis Obispo … one of our favorite places on the planet.

We had been together for about five years by that point and had developed a reputation for being a bit of an odd couple … not in the Oscar/Felix sense, but somewhat outside the norm … a fact underlined and much commented upon by the fact that we took a computer with us on our honeymoon.

Sure, today no one would think of heading off for two weeks without at least a phone to keep them connected, with a laptop or an iPad considered little more extraneous than sexy lingerie and a toothbrush as not Tweeting events and updating Facebook status would be dereliction of duty, but in 1985?

Way back in those dinosaur days our cell phone was the size of a phone BOOK and a call cost as much as a bottle of decent champaign … and I’d always opt for the champaign. Postcards were about all anyone would expect from a newly married couple off debauching their way into the troth recently plighted

For us, though? Well, we had Mac, and we weren’t about to go anywhere without him … which is just about as close as I can get to saying I did a honeymoon with Steve Jobs.

I’d actually forgotten about having the Mac with us until today’s news reached me and all my personal Mac-related history flooded back.

My first Mac had 512K, having let Scott do the groundbreaking with his 128, and I’ve never looked back.

Of course, the shift from IBM Selectric typewriter to Macintosh was like the first breath after emerging from a smoke-filled room into clean mountain air, and with a small mountain of diskettes I soon learned now much easier it was to think and produce with MacWrite, even to MacDraw and MacPaint. I set my dot matrix printer flying into clackety hyperdrive cutting and pasting with no need of scissors or paste.

When bored, I’d get Mac to talk to me, putting words in his mouth I wanted to hear, with no idea I’d someday link the cadence to Stephen Hawking.

Over the years Mac taught me how to grow with him, to expand my boundaries to touch on the fringes of his as he taunted me with possibilities beyond my direct need and willingness to wrap my head around what he could get done for me.

That little box of smiling face greeted me daily for years, then was followed by a series of astounding innovations in various shapes, sizes and colors with welcomes I could choose and vary and tweak to my heart’s delight.

Many years later, a different husband moved me to a small island in the middle of the Indian Ocean and Mac and I grew even closer. He became not only my workmate, but my lifeline to the rest of the world.

Yes, the rest is history, and a part of that history died yesterday. As one friend put it, he was the Thomas Edison of our time.

RIP Steve Jobs.

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Communication this morning with my friend Paul Leslie has sent me on a breadcrumb chase down memory lane.

An upcoming interview he has scheduled with Peter Noone takes me back to the early days of puberty, that transforming time of budding and busting out of childhood more formative in solid fashion than the proceeding years.

Like most young girls at the time and place, the “British Invasion” took me by a storm of hormones and set the tone for a lifelong predilection for musicians that’s plunged me into more trouble that I’m admitting today.

So many of those mop-headed young men were compelling in so many ways, and … GAWD! … were they cute! FFS, even Keith Richards was pretty at the time.

As King of Cute Mountain, Peter Noone … whose full name — Peter Blair Dennis Bernard Noone — I committed to memory … was an easy crush.

Okay, ‘Herman’s Hermits’ has a hokier-than-hell ring now, but back in the day when monikers like Beatles and Moby Grape were sigh prompters and Steppenwolf was almost OTT intellectual no one was a quick critic of band names. And it was cute.

Cute equalled perfection as estrogen production began; too much “manly” was off-putting, frightening even, for a 14-year-old whose fantasy life was still limited to snogging and maybe the occasional slow dance.

And Peter Noone was such safe fodder. With the widest, warmest smile in Pop and songs like “Mrs. Brown You’ve Got a Lovely Daughter”, welcoming him into the imagination was like a slide into a warm bath with a kind of hush.

As I grew up, I lost much of my taste for sugar in my tea and learned to prefer the harsh bite of lemon in tequila and men and music that could scare me just a bit, but pretty men still turn my head and a nice smile still generates heat.

Paul asked if I had a question I’d like him to pose to Peter. I can’t think of one, but it would be nice to pass along how I appreciate his contribution of sweetness to my youth.

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demon (ˈdēmən)
noun

1) an evil spirit or devil, a cruel, evil, or destructive person or thing

2) (in ancient Greek belief) a divinity or supernatural being of a nature between gods and humans.

ORIGIN Middle English : from medieval Latin, from Latin daemon, from Greek daimōn ‘deity, genius’ ; in sense 1 also from Latin daemonic ‘lesser or evil spirit,’ from Greek daemonic, diminutive of daimōn.

It’s been a weekend of the demonic in far too many senses of the word — diabolical, hellish, infernal — from the foulest fiends to pesky poltergeists, from public exhibitions of evil to lost battles with the personal genius loci. Death, destruction and crying over spillage are just some of the immediate results as ripples rise and begin to move beyond the scope of a Sunday in July.

I can personalize the situation in Norway by connecting with my friends there, but it’s more the familiarity with mass murders that hits upside the head like a sack full of shell casings.

Yes, another fucking armed-to-the-teeth whack job goes out of his way to make a point and a whole bunch of people are dead in dramatic fashion, the world is stunned as a poster boy for Nazis-R-Us chalks up views of his rants on YouTube and spews an oxymoron. (Conservative martyrs?)

Coming out of nowhere it may seem, but this fuckwad didn’t just materialize like a Pop-Tart … he’s been warming up a long time to pull off this obscenity and I’m guessing he has been surrounded by the like-minded. After all, gangs of folks who hate everyone are not uncommon, even in Scandinavia.

Though members of the Norwegian far-right movement have carried out attacks in the past, it has historically been a small community, according to neo-Nazi watchers.

The late Stieg Larsson, the Swedish crime writer famous for his Millennium trilogy, was one such expert.

In the mid-1990s, he founded the anti-racist, anti-extremist publication Expo following a sharp rise in violence carried out by neo-Nazis.

In an interview in connection with a documentary I was making at the time, he told me that Sweden was the world’s largest producer of so-called White Power Music and other racist propaganda, with an active, fast-growing and violent neo-Nazi movement.

Of course, it doesn’t take a movement to create mayhem. It can be just one guy with an ego attached to his weaponry, as proven by the poster boy for evil nutjobs:

“From the world of darkness I did loose demons and devils in the power of scorpions to torment.”
~ Charles Manson

It’s all so common now that another messy wipeout will hardly be noticed:

At least five people have been killed and three injured in a shooting at a roller-skating rink birthday party in Texas, police say.

As a small favor to the rest of us, at least that guy offed himself in the process therefore doing away with at least one demon.

Although it’s certainly not pretty and can be agonizing, ending the reign of an internal Lucifer in a way that doesn’t reduce the surrounding population by more than one may seem an appropriate, if not creative, coping style.

The one … or dozens … that apparently inhabited Amy Winehouse must not have responded to anything less than exorcism by booze and drugs, a process that so often includes killing the host.

Ringside seats to a brawl between demons for possession of a trophy may convey the right to encourage (one side or the other, depending) and chart a score based on effective tags, but no one can judge the pain and call the fight but the contender.

“It is better to conquer yourself than to win a thousand battles. Then the victory is yours. It cannot be taken from you, not by angels or by demons, heaven or hell.”
~ Hindu Prince Gautama Siddharta, the founder of Buddhism, 563-483 B.C.)

And there’s an example of why Buddhism is not a cakewalk … a thousand battles fought and won may never be enough for victory over oneself.

Some malicious mischief on the part of some abstemious Mephistophelian type determined to separate those of us fond of the grape pulled … or pushed … off a cruel coup in Australia that rounds out the diabolical for the weekend, and hopefully puts paid to the shit that’s flowed like a global infestation of Vibrio cholera:

More than A$1m ($1.07m; £664,000) of wine has been destroyed in a forklift accident in Australia.

The 2010 Mollydooker Velvet Glove shiraz sells for A$185 a bottle ($199; £122), the AFP news agency said.

Winemaker Sparky Marquis told reporters he was “gut-wrenched” that 462 cases of wine had been smashed while being loaded for export to the United States.

“When they opened up the container they said it was like a murder scene,” he said. “But it smelled phenomenal.”

Fucking demons!

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In a swimsuit much like Mother's

There was a period of time when, as a child, I was pretty sure that Liz Taylor was my mother. No, not that I was her love child being raised in another family, but that she and my mother were one and the same.

National Velvet convinced me my mom could ride horses and should, therefore, buy me one. For reasons I completely get now, that didn’t go over so well.

Both born in 1932, my mom and Liz led somewhat parallel lives in that married-a-whole-buch-of-times-with-loads-of-drama sort of way, so even when I grew old enough to read headlines it would occasionally be confusing.

They also looked very much alike … two brunette, busty beauties skilled in grand entrances that drew the eye of every man in the room.

I distinctly recall walking down Market Street in San Francisco shortly after Butterfield 8 opened and seeing Ms. Taylor’s face looming large from posters outside cinemas and thinking, “That could be Mom.”

Of course, my mother was not a movie star, simply a suburban housewife spending her time giving me Toni home perms and sewing up pjs and playsuits for me and my brothers, but that didn’t seem … to me … to impact negatively on her glamour one bit. I can still conjure an image of her strolling into the Steinhart Aquarium in Golden Gate Park in a skin-tight black and white sheath dress, high heels and a HUGE hat as my brother and I checked out the crocodiles and all the men in the place checked out my mom.

I wasn’t allowed to see many of the films Liz starred in until I was old enough to have made the jump necessary to know the difference between the woman who’d married Richard Burton and the one who’d divorced my dad, so it took a while to catch up to the cultural assessment that had one a world famous celeb and the other just my mother, but the blend continued nonetheless.

Now Elizabeth Taylor is dead and my mom is not well. Both lived. Both aged. Both did life in the way that life must be done.

I love you, Mom, and, Liz … I thank you for sharing yourself and adding to my childhood confusion.

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An article in The New Yorker perpetuates my pondering on the propensity of peeps to group themselves according to religion, even otherwise freethinking, competent types you might guess would have little need to join such clubs to feel worthy.

The piece is about screenwriter and director Paul Haggis and his recent break with Scientology, a habit he wore for some 35 years.

Haggis was prominent in both Scientology and Hollywood, two communities that often converge. Although he is less famous than certain other Scientologists, such as Tom Cruise and John Travolta, he had been in the organization for nearly thirty-five years. Haggis wrote the screenplay for “Million Dollar Baby,” which won the Oscar for Best Picture in 2004, and he wrote and directed “Crash,” which won Best Picture the next year—the only time in Academy history that that has happened.

I know I’m far from alone in spending some time wondering wtf the attraction could possibly be to such a whacky system of beliefs, and after 26 pages of New Yorker’s look at Scientology I’m even more confused.

Don’t get me wrong here; I’m not opposed to whacky beliefs, the idea that we’re descended from aliens, have immortal souls that recycle, can up our smartness and effect our health. Sounds good to me, and I’m all for anyone believing whatever the fuck they want to believe. What doesn’t compute is the apparent compulsion to form circle jerks in efforts to somehow make it feel real.

“There was a feeling of camaraderie that was something I’d never experienced—all these atheists looking for something to believe in, and all these loners looking for a club to join.”

Huh?

For fuck sake, dude, join a bowling league. It would be a whole lot cheaper and you’d get matching shirts!

David S. Touretzky, a computer-science professor at Carnegie Mellon University, has done extensive research on Scientology. (He is not a defector.) He estimates that the coursework alone now costs nearly three hundred thousand dollars, and, with the additional auditing and contributions expected of upper-level members, the cumulative cost of the coursework may exceed half a million dollars.

Of course, a bowling league doesn’t usually exert mind control over anything other than a 16 pound ball and some pins, where Scientology makes greater claims:

Recruits had a sense of boundless possibility. Mystical powers were forecast; out-of-body experiences were to be expected; fundamental secrets were to be revealed. Hubbard had boasted that Scientology had raised some people’s I.Q. one point for every hour of auditing. “Our most spectacular feat was raising a boy from 83 I.Q. to 212,” he told the Saturday Evening Post, in 1964.

There’s no question about why such claims are made, and every religion expounds long and hard on the benefits of membership. It matters little if bonus points add up to a higher I.Q., a pearly gate pass or 37 virgins-for-the-ravishing-of, it’s the promise of payoff that gets folks to pay up.

Business is business, and those based in amorphous commodities like eternal salvation or “Clear” need to inflate rewards to infinity to get the attention they need for a queue to form at the door.

A person who becomes Clear is “adaptable to and able to change his environment,” Hubbard writes. “His ethical and moral standards are high, his ability to seek and experience pleasure is great. His personality is heightened and he is creative and constructive.” Someone who is Clear is less susceptible to disease and is free of neuroses, compulsions, repressions, and psychosomatic illnesses. “The dianetic Clear is to a current normal individual as the current normal is to the severely insane.”

And that will be $350,000, thank you, but worth every penny. Maybe.

Going Clear “was not life-changing,” Haggis says. “It wasn’t, like, ‘Oh, my God, I can fly!’ ” At every level of advancement, he was encouraged to write a “success story” saying how effective his training had been. He had read many such stories by other Scientologists, and they felt “overly effusive, done in part to convince yourself, but also slanted toward giving somebody upstairs approval for you to go on to the next level.”

Ah, yes … the ever-present promise that your next fix will be the ultimate high, and once hooked it’s not easy to dislodge a monkey, especially when all your friends are so proudly packing theirs around.

Not unlike most religions, Scientology discourages followers from mixing much with the monkey-less, or those sporting a different species. The chance of comparison or contamination is a dangerous prospect to those heavily invested in maintaining a monoculture, and if that means families are to be tossed overboard, so be it.

In fact, redefining “family” to mean those with monkeys that look like yours rather than roots comes in very handy, as dramatically proved by those 909 Kool-Aid drinkers in Jonestown some years back.

Of course, there’s no future in mass suicide, no money to be made if everybody dies at the same time, so most religions discourage such activities amongst followers … although too often many would be quite happy to see the competition down a few glasses of strawberry-flavored sugar water en masse.

In discussing this as I waited for the kettle to boil, Dave asked if I thought the inclination to glom onto the like-minded religion-wise wasn’t some sort of manifestation of a fear of the unknown.

Hm.

Fear of the unknown I get, and coming up with beliefs to fill in gaps is a human hobby going way back. The sun rises because it’s some guy’s job to hop in his chariot and drive it across the sky every morning. Fine. But did that guy require pricy temples and an army of worshipers, or was all that just a measure to reduce lines at the employment office and set up some in a Zeusified lifestyle here on Earth? Would he not bother showing up for work one dawn unless thousands or millions of people expected him to and agreed on the expectation?

It’s the herding instinct that gets people to agree on the expectation, not the need for answers. Answers to the unanswerable can come one-at-a-time and for free. But you get what you pay for, and free thinking doesn’t come with a crowd and chanting “We are all individuals!” in unison must be comforting for those not sure they really are, like the tree falling in the forest with no one to hear its timber.

We are a social species, and our survival depends upon our need for, and ability to, mix and mingle. It does not, however, rely on us rooting for the same team, supporting the same businesses and thinking the same thoughts.

We should, in fact, rail against being spoon-fed predigested pap, especially pricy pap, and resist the urge to join a pack that requires we swallow. Mass ingestion is a dangerous prospect and far too easy …

Make the lie big, make it simple, keep saying it, and eventually they will believe it.
~Adolf Hitler

Anyone up for unstrapping the monkey and getting in a couple of frames of bowling? We can … ya know … just hang and talk about shit …

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Thanks completely to my dear friend Robbie, I’m now deep into Keith Richards’ “Life”. Not only am I enjoying the read, it’s setting me off in many directions through time, but criss-crossy-convoluted as Keith jumps through all of his.

I’m recalling events directly Stones involved, from the first time I saw them in concert … I must have been 13 or 14 at the time … Brian Jones was alive, of course, Jefferson Airplane opened for them, but before Grace Slick — a girl named Nicki Anderson (not sure of the spelling) sang with them then … to my personal experience with the charming Mr. Richards in New York many years later.

Also coming to mind are the times and the music, the many moments in life set against the backdrop the timeframe dictates and scored by the Rolling Stones. Although I’m not exactly chuffed by the fact that I am now a woman of a certain age, I wouldn’t trade the experiences my era provided for the perky tits of tepid Twentiesville or the smooth-faced bland of Thirtyopolis.

Nope. Although I’m quite a bit younger than Keith and without so much of the rode-hard-put-away-wet-look he’s earned and mastered, living through the time I lived provided something special.

I started young, which ended up being a good thing as by the age of 16 I’d been sent to the hinterlands. Before that, however, I was in the right place at the right time to witness the reinvention of the wheel that rolled over just about every aspect of life as it had been known, and being without much in the way of parental supervision or smarts I had access with buddies or a bus pass providing transport.

Art, literature, fashion, music … all experienced a rebirth, and what popped out was earth-shattering, unexpected. All these changes were considered by many to be mere flashes in the proverbial pan, but considering how many present-day teens flock … and pay a fortune … to hear Keith rockin’ it at 60-some, that would seem to have been a short-sighted view.

Reading through his version of life as I pass this day in paradise, though, I’m wondering how deep the impact of all that change had on me.

For sure, the image of being June to a Ward had little appeal as the world shifted from 50s dregs to 60s mania, although Ricky with the conga was pretty hot. And speaking of Ricky, Ozzie may have had the suit and the nebulous ‘job’, but when his youngest picked up a guitar … well, did they get any cuter? If anyone wanted to be Harriet, I didn’t know them.

Like every teenage girl of the time … and no few teenage boys, as well … I entertained fantasies of portions of life partnered with one of the rock gods who filled every corner of my life from the walls of my bedroom to the tunes playing endlessly everywhere. Not only were they amazing to hear and watch, creative, explosive and beautiful, they were also dangerous bad boys who literally marched to a different drummer.

I watched Jim Morrison stumble around and was enchanted. Coming across Jimi Hendrix blowin’ chips outside the Fillmore was almost a religious experience. (Apparently, it was the flu … yeah, right … ) And I still swear I levitated Country Joe McDonald three feet into the air once at the Avalon …. but the acid was really good in those days, and he didn’t seem to mind too much, although he could be grumpy.

No, there weren’t a lot of ‘nice young men’ taking the stage at that time, at least not in the classic sense of ‘nice’, and I liked that. The rude, crude and raw attracted me like a fly seeks shit and the drama of it all stripped the coating from the wires making everything alive.

What followed was a long string of musician boyfriends … mainly guitar players, although there were a few drummers mixed in, but they are a fidgety bunch … and some were very nice, polite young men who kept their manners about when my parents were looking. None were as dangerous as they appeared to be, nor mean, but some did break my heart and all required ego-feeding at regular intervals. (Funny thing is, the non-musical men had the same bloody ego issues with much the same bloody demands. Go figure. But the fact that they didn’t hang their dicks around their necks demanding adoration did make some difference.)

Gaps happened, years that had no musician serenading day-in-day-out, but soon enough … for sure … they’d pop up again. After my first divorce I went on the road with a wonderful bunch of guys … still friends after all these years … and came across more as decades passed. I fell in love with some. Some fell in love with me. All-in-all … well, it was what it was.

As regular readers know, my last relationship was with … yeah, you’ve got it — a musician … another ‘bad boy’. (And who knows if it’s really bloody over or just on pause, as the contact continues daily and the fat lady has yet to sing real loud.)

My lot now is to figure out if it’s the bad boy thing that draws me or the fucking music. Did Keith and his ilk ruin me for guys with regular jobs? Will I put up with anything as long as there are songs dedicated to me and named for me? Or … do I actually LIKE it? Can strife really be settled with a strum? Is there magic in music soothing my soul even when my nerves fray and my temper flares? Do I NEED the drama?

Reading Keith’s life reminds me that musicians aren’t “normal” people, and thinking on my life has me realizing I’m not “normal” either. As I wasn’t built for mopping in pearls, some aren’t made to put on a suit and head for a ‘job’ and a box and a handle… and maybe … just maybe … that’s okay.

OR …

Maybe it’s time I set aside my … what? fascination? attraction? tolerance? … for musicians and developed more of an appreciation for nice, for reliable & honest, for passions of a sort that don’t require being charted … for those who are satisfied being stars in their worlds and neither need nor seek wider adulation.

The rules broken by Keith Richards and the bulk of my childhood heroes left little in their wake to ski on since the ideas of happy coupledom continued to be based more on June and Ward than Mick and Marianne and that left some confusion over both goals and expectations. Sure, John and Yoko pulled it off, but for the most part musicians have not made for a whole lot of traditional relationships still thought of as ideal. In general, they are demanding, self-centered, self-indulgent, temperamental and insecure, traits that manifest in high levels of self-motivation and creativity, and in behavior not always conducive to a comfortable home life and monogamy.

I’m an artist, which means I must be crazy, and the art and crazy in others draws me … even when my art takes that infernal backseat to theirs. My art is words, and often my words are undervalued … used … considered less than what appears on canvas, sculpted, composed in notes and chords … yet demanded for adulation of all of those. Artists appreciate art and understand the requirements for creating, however, so although what I do may be seen as a useful appendage to musical endeavors it is valued and my work is validated and the processes that take me where I need to go are never questioned.

Writing happens in isolation, not on a stage in front of an audience, and kudos come … when they do … quietly and singularly –“Nice job. Really liked your story. It touched me.” — so is work requiring a different set of needs, but creation is creation, something I have a deep and abiding respect for.

I know how a book gets written, how a poem takes form, how an actor climbs into the skin of a character, even how paint can be applied to canvas with beautiful results, but musicians are versed in a language I can hear, yet never fully understand (and I don’t mean Spanish). The process of creating music seems like magic, magic that casts a spell. It always has.

Does that mean I will forever be subject to falling under the power?

Shit.

Gee, thanks, Keith …

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Yesterday I wrote about infamous dates, an appropriate topic on Pearl Harbor Day.

Today is another one of those. Although not on the same scale of lives lost or immediate consequence, December 8, 1980 saw a moment that defines a generation, and world, thirty years after the fact of an act of murder.

The death of John Lennon put paid to an era born in the sixties and dying with John.

It could be the timing was coincidental … another decade had closed and the 80’s loomed large and voracious. Flower-power was giving way to the darker, disenchanted tones of Goth, Ronald Reagan was White House-bound and the 80s stretched before us like a ladder to be climbed one pricey rung after the other.

Could it be, however, it was the event that instigated at least some of the changes?

The violent death of a gentle musician and poet at the hand of a publicity-seeking nutjob seems a demarcation point.

Perhaps my rearview mirror has fogged over the past 30 years, but I recall the decades before Dec. 8, 1980 as hopeful … angst-ridden, yes, but that angst flowed from frustration that the world wasn’t moving quite quickly enough toward the peaceful garden we could still imagine at the time.

We’d seen our share of horrors, but felt we’d learned stuff … important stuff that could and would matter. We felt it was possible to actually give peace a chance.

Greed started driving the bus in the 80s and angst turned to the stone of cynicism. As communism fell by the wayside, that perceived specter morphed into the solid form of expanding markets, multiple debt crises, famine and a whole bunch of wars.

Hippies turned into Yuppies, Porsche became the new VW van and conspicuous consumption took over where conscientious objection left off.

Even the drugs got meaner as coke and crack took the place of acid and weed and ad copy became a viable outlet for poets since the pay was so much better.

I’m guessing those who missed the world John Lennon lived and influenced will consider this a geezer ramble … revisionist history not appreciative of the wonders of the past three decades, or not appreciative enough.

Could be. Could be.

But I can’t help but wonder how different the last thirty years might have been if that fuckwad Mark Chapman had not decided to stake his claim to fame by blowing holes through one of the world’s most important proponents of thoughtful consideration and hope.

The music, alone, we’ve been robbed of has left us poorer.

So … on this day, as every 8th of December, I celebrate the life and rue the death of John Lennon, wonder and imagine …

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