Shinyribs Tour and Poetry

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Starting this Wednesday I am going on tour with Shinyribs.  We will be in New Mexico, Colorado, and Texas.

For a list of full tour details here is a link to the Shinyribs website:

http://www.shinyribs.org

Usually when I go on tour, mostly due to lack of service, but also from trying to type things on my phone, and sheer exhaustion, my blogging input decreases.  One thing I am going to try to do on this tour is to post some kind of poem every day based on what I see on the road.  There may be a day or so without service, but if that happens I’ll just post two the next day or whatever.

Lately I’ve been posting poetry, which until recently I have never written before, although I have written plenty of song lyrics.  I don’t even feel comfortable calling it poetry as I have no experience in that field.  I think of it more as prose in verse form.  There is something Zen about it for me.  I enjoy trying to write something that translates some kind of image or idea without all of the explaining that comes with writing prose.  I’m having fun with it.  Hopefully you all will enjoy some of it as well.

In the Shade of Those Trees

If I want to possibly catch a glimpse of God
I’ll go out into Hill Country
Where the majestic oaks are more beautiful
Than any art made by man
How many people died raising the pyramids?
How many died building the cathedrals in Europe?
Not one died creating those trees
I’ll tell you where I won’t go
To church on Sunday
Where a person the same as me
No matter what kind of funny outfit they have on
Claims that they have some kind of
Supernatural information
Even though it was probably
Passed down to them
By some ancestor
That slew another
In the shade of those trees

Austin 7/28/14

No Show Ponies to Go On Hiatus

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It is with equal parts sadness and joy that I announce that my band, No Show Ponies, of which I have been a member of for probably close to 15 years, is going on hiatus while my brother, and partner in the band, attends law school in Pennsylvania.  I am sad that my best friend and band mate is moving away, but I am happy that he is pursuing something that he has a passion for.  I will be starting a new musical project, but I will talk about that at a later date.  For the time being I would like to talk about how much working with my brother has meant to me.

My brother, Ben Brown, is one of the most talented musicians that I have ever come across.  I’m talking about a guy that could learn a Beach Boys song with 15 chords in it in five minutes by ear.  I’m talking about someone that I have almost never heard sing off key in the 15 years I have worked with him. (And I personally know something about singing off key!)  This is someone that has cultivated an original voice AND an original guitar style.  These are not easy things to do.  He wrote great songs and always made my songs better by adding little twists and turns that were extremely musical.  If I got stuck on a bridge or a chorus, I would ask him what to do, and he would always come up with something inventive and catchy.

When we decided to become a three piece Ben moved to electric guitar.  He had very little experience on this instrument as he had primarily played acoustic guitar.  If necessity is the mother of invention, he soon developed a style that I have not heard anywhere else in Austin.  He could jump from the fast picking jangle guitar of someone like Johnny Marr to post punk art noise solos in the drop of a hat.  Listen to the way he works the fretboard on our song I Love You All the Same.  There is only one guitar going on there, but it seems like two.  On my song You’re Never As Good As You Think You Are, he manages to put both extremes of his playing in one song.  While most guitar players rely on stock blues and pentatonic licks, he just ignored those and went his own way.

You can hear examples of my brothers guitar playing, songwriting, and singing at www.noshowponies.bandcamp.com.  He plays all of the guitars on that record and is the one with the baritone voice.

Throughout the years we got to do some pretty neat things together.  We opened for some of our favorite bands in The Gourds and Marah.  We opened for Hillary Clinton at one of her political rallies, and one of our songs was chosen by her for a campaign commercial.  Jon Dee Graham and members of the Gourds played on one of our records.  We got a day dedicated to us by the Austin City Council and Mayor.  Numerous nights of fun are too many to mention.

For those of you that don’t know what it is like to sing and play with your brother, it is simply magical.  We could work without language.  We had the same rhythmic timing and could harmonize with very little effort.  Something happens when you play music with family that goes outside the normal realm of reason and explanation.

More than being just a great musician who I have had the honor to work with, Ben is my best friend.  It’s not anyone that you could be in a band with for 15 years.  Through low times and high times he had my back and I had his.

I have lived with Ben for all but three years of my life and in the same city for all but two.  Words can’t express how much I will miss him as my musical partner and as my roommate.  I will carry on, but just because that is what one must do in life.  We have had many ridiculous adventures along the way.  I wish him the absolute best as he moves on to this next chapter in his life.  I know at some point we will play together again.  This is but a momentary lapse in the proceedings.  I am not losing a friend or a brother, but just a band mate for the time being.  I know this, yet I still feel that these are titanic days for myself.  In closing I want to leave with a few selected lyrics from Morrissey’s song Forgive Someone.  Most of you might not understand why I am leaving it with this song, but it will bring a smile to Ben, and that is all that matters to me:

Use a weapon of words
Or a fight with your fists
But can you forgive someone?
Stand your ground and persist
And be the last one to blink
But can you forgive someone?

And if you do I’ll run to you
Betray you with a word
I would slit my own throat first of all
I will

Our truth will die with me
Our truth will die with me
Our truth will die with me

The Immorality of the Death Penalty

California Executions Death Chamber

Many executed here / by the awful lawfully good – Morrissey in his song Mountjoy

I was astounded the other day when I was looking up Governor Perry’s death stats.  If you read my recent blog on him you would know that last year, I’m not even sure what he is up to now, he hit the 500 mark.  Some of those people were mentally retarded.  

Right now I am reading Eichmann in Jerusalem by Hannah Arendt.  She talks about how the gas chambers began with the extermination of the mentally retarded and the terminally ill first.  It was talked about in terms of mercy killings and medical procedures.  

I also just finished reading Brendan Behan’s The Quare Fellow.  This is a play that takes place in the 24 hours before someone is hanged in Mountjoy prison.  The person that is to be hung apparently killed his brother and chopped him up.  It’s never clear if he is guilty or not.  In fact the person to be hung is never actually seen onstage.  What the hanging seems to do is demoralize everyone else in the prison, from the lowest prisoner to warders and prison officials, whether they believe the quare fellow is getting his just deserts or not.  The play may sound like a downer, but it is actually quite full of absurd comedy.  

I believe the death penalty is immoral.  In saying so you must face the fact that often the people that receive it, though not always as our justice system is full of flaws, have done absolutely horrible things.  Some of these people have killed children in the most horrible ways imaginable.  One shouldn’t think about these things in terms of abstract principles.  

But I can’t help but feel that after reading Arendt and Behan, that what the death penalty does is make our society more barbarous.  When you institutionalize extermination in some way you are saying that it is OK to kill people depending on circumstances.  

In you believe in the death penalty, but in no way participate in the actual process, you are also forcing other human beings, who may be altogether decent, to perform horrible tasks.  My Dad knew former Governor Casey of Pennsylvania.  He was telling me last night that one time he went into his office and the only book on the Governor’s desk was one about the pros and cons of the death penalty.  Clearly he was wrestling with that subject in some kind of existential matter.  As Governor it was his duty to uphold the law and sign off on the death penalty when the law recommended it.  What about the prison guards that must take those on death row to their deaths, or those in the medical field that must administer lethal injection?  If you support the death penalty, do you really want those people to have to carry out that act?  Do you think about how those acts might weigh upon their conscious?  These people are technically carrying out a legal act under the law.  However, the law is making these individuals carry out an act that is one of the worst things a human can do to another, which is to take someone’s life.  

Also, if we say that killing is OK under certain extreme circumstances, does it not make it morally easier to perpetrate acts of death around the world.  Are we not normalizing killing to some degree?  

Again, I want to go back to Behan, whose The Quare Fellow I believe is a read that you should check out if you want to think about this subject.  It is entertainment because it truly does entertain.  I can’t say enough how funny it is.  But it also makes you think, without any of the soapbox moralizing that so many works that deal with this issue would normally do.  It is both seriously funny and dead serious.  In the play one section talks about how horrible death by hanging actually is, as many that hang do not die instantly.  Think of the botched executions that have taken place in Oklahoma and Arizona recently.  No human should die in such a way even if they are guilty.  But what about the smallest sliver of a chance, if one knows how flawed our justice system is, that they might not be guilty?  I think it was Andrew Sullivan the other day, that called it death by torture.  I am reminded of the torture museum I was in in Sienna Italy and all of the horrible ways they killed people in the middle ages.  

But why I want to bring The Quare Fellow back up most of all, remember the person that is executed in the play never actually is seen on stage, is that I think you can make an argument against the death penalty by removing the person at the very center of the argument, the condemned.  I believe this act of killing slowly degrades our society from top to bottom.  It again makes those that are forced to uphold our laws perform horrible acts.  It also gives the message to our entire society that revenge killings are OK.  It puts something immoral at the heart of our “justice” system.  We should be better than an eye for an eye, even if the animal inside all of us occasionally tells us something different. 

The Time of the Dinosaurs

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I just took my dog outside to unbearable humidity and large insects flying in packs.  I felt as if I just walked out into the Time of the Dinosaurs.  This is summer in Texas, and today is not even that bad compared to some, as there were moments of a semi-cool breeze.  

Look if you are not interested in climate change as a justice issue, if you don’t care about what it is doing to animal and plant life, about what it is doing to our oceans, or any other previously made argument, trust me, you don’t want to live in a world that is just plain hotter than it already is.  It is so muggy and hot out you would feel like stabbing someone for walking too close to you.  Trust me, you don’t want to live in the Time of the Dinosaurs.  

The Hijinks of Beasts

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In Austin, Texas
There is a street called Lamar Blvd.  
Named after a former Governor
Whose favorite hobbies
Were writing poetry
And exterminating Indians
He didn’t differentiate
Between friendly or hostile
He had them killed all the same
But hey, he had a thing for verse
Why are monsters so often
Comically tragically human?
Hitler loved animals
Saddam Hussein loved Doritos
But despite the hijinks of these beasts
I would be willing to gamble
In Germany or modern Iraq
They won’t be naming streets after them
Anytime soon

Austin, Texas 7/23/14

Shinyribs and No Show Ponies Dates

I’ll be appearing tomorrow night in Austin at the Saxon Pub with No Show Ponies.  Our set begins at 10pm sharp.  

http://thesaxonpub.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/02/July-20142.pdf

http://www.noshowponies.com

Hear our new album at http://www.noshowponies.bandcamp.com

Unfortunately, tonight’s Blues on the Green show with Shinyribs has been rescheduled for 8/13.  This show also will take place in Austin, Texas.  

http://www.shinyribs.org

 

 

Jersey Rain

It’s a rare cool rainy day in Austin today.  It is the kind of day where any outside activity seems best left for tomorrow.  When I was in Pennsylvania I realized that I missed days like these.  Days that force you hunker down and be introspective.  I was looking for a rain poem to post and I stumbled upon this one that is about the rain in New Jersey, the state I was born in.  It is by Robert Pinsky. 

Jersey Rain

Now near the end of the middle stretch of road
What have I learned? Some earthly wiles. An art.
That often I cannot tell good fortune from bad,
That once had seemed so easy to tell apart.

The source of art and woe aslant in wind
Dissolves or nourishes everything it touches.
What roadbank gullies and ruts it doesn’t mend
It carves the deeper, boiling tawny in ditches.

It spends itself regardless into the ocean.
It stains and scours and makes things dark or bright:
Sweat of the moon, a shroud of benediction,
The chilly liquefaction of day to night,

The Jersey rain, my rain, soaks all as one:
It smites Metuchen, Rahway, Saddle River,
Fair Haven, Newark, Little Silver, Bayonne.
I feel it churning even in fair weather

To craze distinction, dry the same as wet.
In ripples of heat the August drought still feeds
Vapors in the sky that swell to smite the state –
The Jersey rain, my rain, in streams and beads

Of indissoluble grudge and aspiration:
Original milk, replenisher of grief,
Descending destroyer, arrowed source of passion,
Silver and black, executioner, font of life.

 

Where’s the Pub?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L-NdoNhYCoE

The above is a video for Where’s the Pub? by The Hard Pans.  The Hard Pans are an Austin band that partly consist of Jimmy Smith and Claude Bernard of The Gourds.  Mark Creaney, who used to do sound for The Gourds, is also a band member.  I’d like to say something funny or witty, but after seeing the video, words escape me!  Wave your freak flag high, high!  

Benefit and Birthday Party Tonight

I try to limit the amount of posts that I have on here promoting stuff.  Although in this day and age one must promote ones work however they can, I also want this site to have value to readers in and of itself.  Otherwise there is no reason to come here!

However, my band No Show Ponies is playing a very special event tonight in Austin.  We are playing a birthday event at Roadhouse Rags for a friend that has also has been diagnosed with cancer.  The show is free and you can BYOB, but they will be taking donations if you are willing and able.  There will also be potluck food.

This will also be the last show at Roadhouse Rags.  It is another old school Austin venue that is going away.  It is one of the first places I played when I first moved to Austin about 9 years ago.

So if you are in Austin and want to have a celebratory night of fun, we will be out there…