Sunday, May 18, 2008

No More Plastic Castles

I don't know about you all, but I'm still recovering from the last few weeks of international disasters. I'm incapable of conceiving of the scale of human loss and grief across Asia. On top of that there are any number of crises large and small in the lives of everyone around me, and a couple small unknowns creating a little chaos in my own pretty world.

At the same time, I've gained a new momentum and urge to push forward and really start making some noise in real time about bluegrass. I feel re-energized, committed anew, and ready to help bluegrass music take its place among the many opportunities for live music in Northeast Ohio.
I was filling out my IBMA board ballot and was struck by the words of one of the candidates, who spoke in his written statement of the "cultural weight" of bluegrass. That's really what I've been talking about. Bluegrass music does have its own cultural weight, it's place in history, and its place in our everyday musical experience. Like jazz, it is embraced globally but really is born out of an almost uniquely American musical heritage (almost, as both genres pay homage to some roots in Africa, and bluegrass has roots in the UK as well). Everyone likes a little of what they see and hear and sometimes they move toward a certain artist but there is so much out there in bluegrass to be experienced and played. The lines of the genre continue to blur for some while others hold fast to the more traditional -- classical? -- form. It's a musical world unto itself, and plenty big to keep me busy.

There is a lot swirling about in my head, complicated by the fact that the days just keep going faster and faster and I've got a couple challenges laid out before me that have to kind of play out a little bit. Fortunately, at the end of this week my kids and I are outta here for Pondfest 2008. Time with them -- my two favorite people on earth -- and time with the best gift my parents ever gave me -- my little sister -- will ease any burden. To top it off, if we play our cards right, we might get a little live music right there in Music City, and if that happens, I'll be sure to write about it.

Until then I really need to get my butt in gear like it's on fire. I'm going to stand down a while and get my proverbial house in order so that I can concentrate on actualizing my dreams instead of just writing about them here.

One of the things that helped me crystalize what I need to do was listening to a very definitely non-Bluegrass musician today. Ani DiFranco is known and loved by many many folk fans. Her direct and uncompromising style is set in a musical idiom just close enough to get my attention but also different and distinct enough to keep it, as in, "Wake up and deal with this shit RIGHT NOW, MandoMama." So, I am. No more acting like everything is fine and I have my whole life to accomplish my dreams. Every day we see lives cut short. As DiFranco sings in one tune, people live memoryless like happy goldfish all excited over their little plastic castles. That ain't me.

This song is one my friend Dapper Dan sent a while back. It didn't carry on first listen the meaning it carries today. I must have listened to this song 20 times today if I listened to it once. I am prepared to accept the people I love and know and even a few I don't particularly like "as is," but I should be able to expect the same of them. And I shouldn't be expected to just buy into stuff. Dr. Don wrote a pretty tough post a few days ago about the topic of lying and it made me realize how little I really understand about that side of human nature. This song sort of represents my theory that if it were possible to love ourselves, and by extension love each other with real human love rather than the romanticized BS that passes for "love" not to mention the enormous amount of "settling" that goes on, maybe the world would be a less screwy place.

So I'm off to meet myself where I am, in the music, pimping it mercilessly until folks have no choice but to come and pay a dollar and have a listen.

Meanwhile, enjoy one called "As Is" and have a good week.

As Is
Ani DiFranco, from her 1998 release, Little Plastic Castle.

You can’t hide
Behind social graces
So don’t try
To be all touchy feely
‘cause you lie
in my face of all places
but I got no
problem with that really

what bugs me
is that you believe what you’re saying
what bothers me
is that you don’t know how you feel
what scares me
is that while you’re telling me stories
you actually
believe that they are real

I get no illusions about you
Guess what
I never did
When I said
When I said I’ll take it
I meant
I meant as is (as is, as is)

Just give up
And admit you’re an asshole
You would be
In some good company
I think your friends would forgive you
Or maybe I
Am just speaking for me

When I look around
I think this, this is good enough
And I try to laugh
At whatever life brings
‘cause when I look down
I just miss all the good stuff
And when I look up
I just trip over things

I’ve got no illusions about you
Guess what
I never did
When I say
When I say that I’ll take it
I mean
I mean as is


At May 19, 2008 12:17 AM, Blogger Ipsissimus said...

Awesome post Mando. I am going to look up Ani DiFranco - I love the words to that song.

What is this urgency that is in the air? The one that says "now is the time - get going on your dreams!" I understand and feel it myself. After 9 years of the mental equivalent of twiddling my thumbs - now is the time for my writing. I feel like it is now or never. Is it the passage of time? The realization we are getting older? All the disasters and death that seem to surround us right now? Life can be cut off so quickly. Even if I never get there, I'd rather be the woman who died working towards her dreams than the woman who gave up and died empty. God I'm so tired of my plastic castles. Time for the reality of dreams.

At May 19, 2008 7:06 AM, Blogger Mando Mama said...

Hey Ipsi,
You are right -- there is sort of a "now or never" something in the air, isn't there? Your posts too have conveyed the kind of eager anticipation that I feel. We have to capitalize on the urge when we feel it. As one Jerry Salley song goes, "I'd rather wear out than rust away!"

Enjoy Ani. She's kind of a good foil for your work. If I had an Iron Man suit, it would be Ani DiFranco.


At May 19, 2008 11:31 AM, Blogger DrDon said...

Mando - Here's what puzzles me about human nature. We see these Asian disasters and we send aid and yet these very same people would see our country toppled. Maybe not the average Chinese or Burmese citizen but certainly their governments. And in Myanmar they are not wanting to let aid workers in, the government is hoarding the aid and not giving it our, etc. So even in these times of crises, people can't set aside the petty, greedy part of themselves. And when all the mess is cleaned up, China will go right on abusing human rights and castigating the West. It's like you would think that these disasters might be a chance for people to bond and come together and see that we all have so much in common but it never happens.

At May 19, 2008 8:08 PM, Blogger Shameless Agitator said...

Thanks for the food for thought, the music suggestion (cool!) and the inspiration for a blog post!


At May 19, 2008 8:50 PM, Blogger Mando Mama said...

Doc,I hear you. I saw an article tonight on "disaster fatigue." I'm not sure I'm quite there yet, but there is sort of this global psychic drag going. I'm not sure that, with the nutjob governments in place in China and Myanmar, that "bonding" would be possible, at least not government-sanctioned bonding. But I think the technology is allowing more free speech than ever before, so we may yet see some interesting developments down the road a few weeks.

Shameless, glad I could get the wheels turning even faster, lol. Ani is quite certainly a shamless agitator much like yourself. She's a good soundtrack for you. There's a fish song on that album, but no whale songs that I know of....O! did I say that? :-P


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