All in all is all we are (This world sucks!)

Welcome back folks,

Last time we spoke, I said that this world is hell on earth and other pretty harsh words to that effect. I closed by saying that we’re here to serve a purpose and that if we resist the understandable urge to “check out” early, we may find meaning. I used that word – meaning – because it’s exactly what I want to talk about in this post.

Before we go any further though, I want to categorically state that Ursula Le Guin is a fantastic writer. As I see it, when it comes to drawing up a universe and completing it with every aspect of life, including the philosophical depths of each society, she is indeed Asimov’s peer. And that is by no mean a trivial statement.

I just  finished her great book “The Dispossessed” and at some point, the protagonist – Shevek muses about the meaning of life. It’s what Le Guin put in his mind that crystallized something for me. I can spend days (and have) trying to put into words what I think the meaning of life is. Why we are here, what do we do with the time we were given. Then comes along this fictional character and says it all in less than a paragraph.

You will excuse me, of course, that I would take more than a paragraph to try to explore the meaning.

Shevek muses about the means and the ends. What’s important? Is there an end? What does it mean?

We look differently at how to reach an end. Some people consider the end that thing you want to achieve and will try to achieve it by any means. Others will say they’ll only try to achieve the end if the means are worthy/moral/etc.

I ask (echoing Shevek’s sentiment) – IS there an end? SHOULD there be an end? What are we trying to achieve in life? And does it justify the means?

As you can see, the word mean frequently comes up in this post, and not just because of language. It’s not semantics. It’s important to understand that the meaning of our life is directly linked to the means of our life.

Many of us want to achieve success. Be it financial, professional, or success in relationship etc. We’re geared towards achieving something. Something that can be defined, qualified, quantified. Something that could be used perhaps in our eulogy? “He was a great scientist.”, “She was a fantastic filmmaker.”

We feel that unless we do something with our lives, time was wasted, we don’t get recognized for our achievements, we disappointed someone. We have nothing to show for.

But what if the end is not important? What if there IS no end? What if all that counts are the means by which we live?

I don’t know about you, but to me it feels like there is nothing that we can achieve in life more important than the means by which we live. Can great achievements (be it tangible/quantifiable or praises) go hand in hand with great means? Sure. There are some pretty good examples.

Should we feel like we failed if on our death-bed, “all we have to show for” is a modest and loving family? I think not.

If I die a poor man who never hurt a soul, I’d consider this the greatest achievement possible. Other than dying a very rich man who’d never hurt a soul of course. But you see, even when we understand the meaning, we still think about the end.

Which brings me to the second part of Shevek’s musings. There should be no end, because what happens when we get there? Instead of working towards an end, should we not work always and without exception towards the means? Should we not consider every single decision we ever make, small or big, as the meaning of life? If the answer to that is “no”, then I truly give up hope to ever find the meaning of life.

Kurt Cobain, god rest his soul hit the nail on the head, whether intentionally or not, when he finished Nirvana’s “All apologies” with the immortal line – “all in all is all we are“. What we are comes down to what we do, with our means. And like life, this is not something that simply ends. It goes on and on, with every choice we make.

All in all is all we are.

Are you confused? in agreement? Want to challenge? By all means (see what I did there?) – let me know. Like, Share or comment and may the force be with you!

Until next time remember – this world sucks! But there is a meaning. Know what I mean?

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2014 – revisited

Merry Christmas and a Happy new year everyone! Hope you ring in the year on a positive note. Just do me a favor and be safe!

I wanted to take this opportunity and look at what we talked about here in 2014. But unlike the standard-issue photo collage that Facebook randomly generates, I wanted it to be more reflective. More meaningful. So… for that purpose, I picked a post from each month, and put it here for you (There are more, don’t believe me? look for yourself!). I hope you enjoyed reading almost as much as I did writing it 🙂 So with no further delay, here we go: (Each photo is a link to a post)

January:

I started this year with a few words about my second Novel. Words that would echo in one of the final posts of this current year (last one in this post). Talking about the Novel I wanted to write and the one I needed to write.

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February:

In February, among other posts, I made a short comparison between “Dexter” and “Breaking bad“. Fun and games folks, not to be taken too seriously.

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March:

In this post I talked about what bores me and what will always pique my interest, regardless of the media. Be it Facebook, face to face conversation or a work of literature.

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April:

April marked the induction of Nirvana into the Rock n Roll hall of fame, and being a huge fan of Nirvana I took a break to pay honors to this awesome band.

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May:

Here I listed 15 reasons NOT to write. Are they enough to stop you from writing? You be the judge.

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June:

I shared a nice Q&A I had with an Iranian friend I made over the interweb. Peace!

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July:

Sometimes you stumble on greatness. This is what happened to me with the band Muse. And some of their materials I found, are very important, beyond the music.

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August:

Having finished watching “The Wire” I found a few parallels with another great series…

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September:

A post about the woes of a writer whose English is a second language.

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October:

Oh the things we can eat, Oh the things we can do, your mother will not mind at all if you do! 🙂

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November:

In November, as public service (You’re welcome), I finally defined “Love” for you. Don’t mention it.

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December:

In December, 2014 came full circle and I went back to discussing my second Novel, its completed first draft and the advantages of writing a novel before writing a novel…

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T-t-that’s all folks! Come back next year for more, and in the meanwhile, let me know what you think right here below.

Under Cover

Welcome back one and all.
A long time ago, in the greater Atlanta GA area, there was a decent rock station. The Project 96.1 was the only station worth listening to if you’re a rock fan. On that station was a daily show called “Under the covers with Ally“. It was a fun show that – not shockingly – featured cover versions to various songs. I miss that station and that show, so in honor of the fun times, and following the Foo Fighters week-long residency at the Letterman show, I present to you my top ten favorite rock covers. Not a “best ever”. Taste is taste and all that.

10. My Way – Sid Vicious (Covering Frank Sinatra)

Talk about doing things “my way”. The Sex Pistols were all about kicking at the establishment, and Vicious in this solo endeavor was taking a shot at one of the more prominent faces of the establishment. The complete opposite of the spirit of the original performance, this piece is a great example of taking a song away from its cozy familiarity and owning the shit out of it.

9. Black Magic Woman – Santana (Covering Fleetwood Mac)

You know the famous “That moment when…” memes? That moment you realize this is a cover song… Nothing wrong with the original, of course, but Santana sinks the Latin rock teeth into this one and making it his own. My favorite Santana song is not even a Santana song…

8. Me and Bobby McGee – Janis Joplin (Covering Kris Kristofferson)

Another holy shit moment, when you realize that’s a cover. Never say never and all that aside, how can anyone top this? Bobby became synonymous with Joplin. I have to attribute the mental association of this song with Janis to the voice. It seems today that it can only work this way. Go ahead, try singing it any other way.

7. Mama Kin – Guns N’ Roses (Covering Aerosmith)

Joe Perry is a fantastic guitar player, and Steven Tyler doesn’t need my approval for being one of the best vocalists of all time. So why does this song sound so much better when GNR does it? I’ll have to pen it down for the machine like, full-bodied rock n roll work of the guns. There was always something more complete about them.

6. Hard To Handle – Black Crowes (Covering Otis Redding)

I’m not making a judgement call here, but the crowes did a fantastic work keeping the soulfulness of this song while making it sound new. Personally I think that was the best Black Crowes ever.

5. Baba O’riley – Pearl Jam (Covering The Who)

The who (read: Townshend) were always about the production. That was the greatness of songs like Baba. PJ just rips through this song and that’s their magic. The raw energy that only bands of this magnitude and attitude generate make this one of (if not THE) most fun covers to watch live (which I have :))

4. Have A Cigar – Foo Fighters (Covering Pink Floyd)

Talk about raw energy and fun. The Foos have a body of original work, enough to run 5 or 6 hour shows, but are always happy to throw in a cover or two every night. It’s about the respect they have for artists such as Pink Floyd. Tyler and Dave switch spots and while Dave goes wild on the drums, Tyler screams the hell out of this one, doing his Sid Vicious to Floyd’s Sinatra.

3. Bad Company – Five Finger Death Punch (Covering Bad Company)

A fantastic example (much like the aforementioned Black Crowes rendition of Hard to handle) of updating a song. FFDP didn’t re-invent the wheel here. What they did was apply their contemporary spin to the main riffs and crank up the volume. I can play this one on a loop.

2. Turn The Page – Metallica (Covering Bob Seger)

One of those songs that when you hear the original you kinda think ‘You would’ve done it like they did’. Another classic example of taking the original, and simply taking it a step (or 5) further in terms of intensity and volume.

1. The Man Who Sold The World – Nirvana (Covering David Bowie)

Nirvana Unplugged was cover heavy. We talked about how wise that decision was before. Every cover on this performance was so good it became difficult to think of it as a cover. At the end of this track on the CD, you can hear Kurt say “This is a David Bowie song”. Now back then, you’d think ‘No shit, Kurt. Of course it is’. But these days, when kids might not even know who Bowie is (it’s a sad sad world…) this clarification is needed, as it sounds so Nirvana-ish, so Kurt Cobain-y that it’s hard to even think of it as a cover.

Listen to the covers in the playlist below, and don’t forget to find the originals too!

Until next time, feel free to like, comment and share 🙂

Overdue Respect

Hi all and welcome back to my corner of the web.

Apologies for the recent slump. It’s due to some technical issues that are still ongoing (but being worked) as well as the flu. While I’m still not out of the woods on either front, I’m well enough to share a thought with you.

What’s on tap for today? Today is about a new-found respect.

You may have noticed that about me, but I do have the tendency to focus on a fairly narrow spectrum of interests at any given time. When put together, I’d like to think I found interest in a very wide variety, but my attention cannot be spread too thin, otherwise I feel I may let some things slip by…

The problem is, that while I try to avoid it, a few things definitely slip by or in the worst case scenario, I might even lose interest, or get “the wrong impression” of these.

What am I on about? I’d like to share just a few examples of artists I learned to like, or at the very least respect a lot more than I did in the past:

Chris Cornell:

For some odd reason, whether it was personal preference at a given time or god knows what, during the whole Seattle revolution I was (as usual) focused on a select few. Nirvana unsurprisingly being my main interest, followed closely by Pearl Jam and Alice in chains. Soundgarden was not. It just didn’t catch my ear at the time and when it did, more than a decade later, it coincided with a few things.

First was Audioslave. A band I knew nothing about but still managed to really like their music very much. Funny, at an older age, I care way less about “Who plays the bass for this band?” and more about listening to the actual songs. So when I later learned from a friend that this was Cornell’s project, I was pleasantly surprised.

The second thing that happened was PJ20 – Pearl Jam’s film in which (for obvious reasons), Chris Cornell played a pretty important role.

Two pieces of perspective were given in that regard. One is that the “Seattle scene” was in my humble view the most supportive, inspiring of all recent ones. Where bands work with each other, rather than compete with each other. Where collaboration and mutual artistic feedback were the bread and butter. The second observation was that Cornell was one of (if not THE most) the more influential/involved figures.

So yes, I found new respect for Chris Cornell. Rock on Chris!

R.E.M:

What can I say? When all the shiny happy people held their hands, I was Welcoming people to the Jungle and Seeking & Destroying most of the time 🙂 I didn’t have time for their music. I was also younger. So much for excuses.

When I grew up just a tad more, I softened enough to at least recognize that while I may not like some of their work, I could find things to respect them for. If nothing else, we’re talking about superb lyrics and really good melodies (for the most part :)).

Stipe has always struck me as a true artist, a feeling that was affirmed further in his touching speech when he inducted Nirvana into the rock and roll hall of fame.

Depeche Mode:

I never did like music that was heavily synthesized. I always preferred the Singer-Guitar-Bass-Drum set up. All of which actual instruments rather than an electronic representation. When I was younger, I obviously took that to the extreme by ignoring a lot of the bands that were heavily using this technology.

Again, I have to attribute this to age (See, there are advantages to getting old…), but while I still have the same preferences as I did in the past, I can appreciate and enjoy other things. Many “New Wave” bands (as is the case with any genre) are still of little to no interest to me, but Depeche Mode just have it just right. The right singer, the right creative forces. And good music.

 Tom Petty:

This one is a pure case of me being busy catching up with other artists, completely ignoring others. When I did give him a minute, it was the “Don’t come around here no more” video, which to this day is my least favorite song… So I let Tom slip by and only when I watched the making of “Damn the torpedoes” and a great Foo Fighter cover of “Breakdown” did I finally “get it”.

Suffice to say that Tom Petty was likely the biggest, most significant artist that slipped by my attention deficient ears…

Who will I write about in 10 years? Who’s slipping by me these days? Muse won’t 🙂

  • Who went under your radar?
  • Who changed your mind?

Until next time,

Here we are, now entertain us

Welcome everyone.

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Today we bask in the magnificence of one of Rock N’ Roll all times greats the late Nirvana.

Mega-Tons of words were written about this band, and for good reasons. Nirvana had accomplished in a very short life span, what most bands won’t in many years. It transcended its genre in terms of popularity, success and impact.

This will not be a history lesson (though many people may need one). You’d do yourself a good service by reading Charles R. Cross’s biography – Heavier than heavenThe most serious attempt to chronicle Kurt Cobain’s journey as well as one of my favorite biographies in general.

No, What I want to do here is look at a few snippets of Nirvana’s short career and show how awesome this band is and how much it meant to me as a young adult and later on in life.

We ride.

Polly

When I listened to that song for the first time, it blew my mind. The story told in this song, Kurt’s voice, the atmosphere it set, it was a little unnerving but in a different Cobain-y way. The second thought that hit me was perhaps the more significant one. The song is written from the point of view of the antagonist, a would be rapist/murderer? Yet it still demands the listener’s empathy to the victim. Empathy, as would be evident in so many other milestones in Kurt’s life. He would go on to downplay his lyricist talent on plenty of interviews but he was one of my favorites.

Smells Like Teen Spirits

Some snobs would thrash this epic song, but that’s just because they’re pretentious douches… Smells like teen spirits is a land mark, an anthem and a fantastic song in its own rights. Was it overplayed? perhaps. Kurt was getting sick of playing it live and who could blame him. But the fact remains that this song embodies what the phenomena called Nirvana was all about. Loud, Cynical, humorous, a little ambiguous. All the ingredients of Early nineties grunge, packed with a good-looking scruffy front man and his band. Here we are, now entertain us!

In Bloom

While so many rock stars wasted time getting way too serious about themselves, Nirvana was always up for some laughs. The ‘In Bloom’ video was another example for Nirvana’s sarcasm and for why so many people love them. The complete opposite of the ‘Clean’ pop, Nirvana blasted into mainstream status through that grungy sound. For a Beatles fan like me, it was both funny as well as rewarding in a way, to watch this video. It pretty much represented what I felt towards so many things at the time, and to some extent it still does.

Sliver

So many websites, articles, and other outlets seem to miss the fact that Nirvana ever made the album ‘incesticide’ which is a shame. This album is full of gems. A lot of aggression and surprisingly good, if minimal lyrics. Case in hand, ‘Sliver’ which is a heart wrenching song on the one hand, while being a really raunchy piece on the other. Sometimes the most intimate, personal stuff work better loud than as a ballad. Another trick Nirvana taught us.

Rape Me

This is not my favorite song from ‘In Utero’ but it again represents that kick in the gut (or a few inches lower) that Nirvana gave pop culture and its media outlet MTV. No more Mr. nice guy. Nirvana wrote songs from the depth of its acidic stomach and followed them up with some ‘in your face’ videos (honorable mention to my favorite In Utero song – Heart Shaped Box). When Nirvana did not get a green light from MTV to play ‘Rape Me’ on the MTV awards show, Kurt had to mess with them just a little (watch below). This is the same TV channel that wouldn’t allow Foo Fighters ‘Low’ video, sitting on their high and mighty horse while playing countless hours of almost naked under-aged girls.

Interviews

Kurt Cobain might have been a junkie. He may have been a lot of things to many people. But Kurt Cobain was a real artist with a pretty good outlook (for a 20 something). We don’t know what if, but I loved watching these interviews which were mostly funny, sarcastic and at times very candid. I like to think of Nirvana the way they appeared in these interviews, and following Krist and Dave through the years, I think they still are just as awesome as they were back then.

The Man Who Sold The World

Nirvana’s unplugged was not the first one to air. But it was by far, by eons – the best. What makes it so spacial you ask? Well, I think that’s due to three things. One is the fact that it was pretty much tailored to Kurt’s state of mind and sensitivities. Starting from the settings, through the sitting arrangement. The second was the conscious decision to go with a cover heavy and big hit light setlist. I think that part of the magic of that night was Nirvana’s understanding of what might work acoustic and what might not. The third was luck. Dave Grohl says that the idea of using these brush-drum-sticks was only raised after frustrating takes using his regular ones. The toning down of the drums definitely helped achieve that fantastic sound.

April 8th, 1994

On that evening we were having a pool party. While we were busy drinking and dancing someone walked in and said ‘Hey, Kurt Cobain’s dead. He killed himself’. The music stopped, the drinking didn’t. To say I felt sad would be a gross understatement. Beyond the sadness for the lost life of a man (which is the most important), I felt like an era came to an end – and in a way it did. For me, Nirvana came to life after a very long time with very little in terms of contemporary musical heroes. The feeling was ‘Now what?’. It would take less than I thought it would before I’d find the new king (same as the old king).

It’s better to burn out than to fade away

I’ve read Kurt’s suicide note a few times. I’ve read interpretations for this note, and have watched a few documentaries, including the aforementioned biography. For years, I was convinced without a shadow of a doubt that Kurt indeed committed suicide. It made sense (if anything makes sense when a young and talented man dies). But after hearing some of the questions being raised around this, I have to admit that while I can’t say I’m a fully fledged believer in the ‘murder conspiracy theory’, I now have more questions than reasonable answers. The bottom line still hurts though. Kurt is dead and I miss him.

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 Marigold

What if Kurt Cobain didn’t die? What would Rock music look like? What bands would or would not exist? How successful would Nirvana be and for how long? Which direction would their music take? We may never know the answers to these questions, but one thing we do know is that the Foo Fighters project would likely not happen. I’ve had mixed feeling about Dave Grohl never singing Nirvana songs. On the one hand, as a fan it would be tons of fun. On the other, there would be no way he would be able to establish the Foo Fighters status had he felt compelled to satisfy this nostalgic urge. Kurt Cobain thought very highly of Dave as a musician, and the only reason Marigold wasn’t included in In Utero is that they didn’t feel it gelled with the other songs. It did come out as a B-Side to one of Nirvana’s best songs – Heart Shaped Box.

The Foo Fighters is either what Nirvana would have ultimately resemble, or the sweet takeaway from a tragic development.

Either way, Nirvana will always remain an iconic band and I’m happy they were honored to be inducted into the hall of fame immediately following their eligibility.

  • Are you a Nirvana fan?
  • Any idea as to any of the ‘What if’ questions?

Let me know.

Until next time…