A Faith Of One…

I am resolute in my faith. I believe deeply, but don’t subscribe to any denomination or persuasion. I contemplate, but don’t fall into suit with any school of philosophy. I pray, but I won’t suggest I truly know who is receiving those thoughts. My life has a dogmatic structure, but it is self-designed, practiced with consistency, and always with gratitude.

Still, there are those will come to know these aspects of me and suggest that my faith isn’t real or outright false because it lacks a name, a well-defined deity, ancient decrees, or leadership from beyond my own mind.

That amuses me — the very idea that my faith is less legitimate, less sincere, or less worthy because it’s self-assembled, self-administered, and freelance.

My faith is my faith. It is just as real and just as sincere to me as anyone else’s is to them, though there is no way to accurately measure one’s faith in contrast to that of another — thank God. Or should I just say thank goodness…?

I’m proud of my faith. I’m proud in large part, because it’s MY faith, not anyone else’s. Over time, it has been customized to within a millimeter of my soul. It’s a well-tailored suit of spirituality that fits me like a glove. Along with my daughter, my business, and my most immediate personal relationships, my faith is the most important aspect of my being.

I just wanted to throw out there this morning as a reminder that, although actions can be measured, faith cannot. Criticize my actions, praise them, or ignore them altogether. To question my faith though, would be to take on a task that will fall well short of completion… Jhciacb

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Step Back…

Step Back…

If you enjoy eating sausage, the old political cliché goes, you should never watch it being made.

We are approaching a time in the world when we should realize it’s more than politics that is sausage. That everything we touch, look at, enjoy, entertains us, and/or influences our lives is, in one way or another, sausage.

Culture itself, is sausage.

We are also approaching a time in the world when our primary form of entertainment seems to be staring into little reflective boxes to watch all of these sausages being made. Once we are disgusted with observing the process, we attempt to have our way with others in the form of oneway conversations about all that’s wrong with the sausage making process.

This is social insanity.

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I think we really have to wrap our heads around this, and that’s not easy. Not at all, but…

If our primary form of entertainment has become picking apart the very things that benefit us, and that we and others enjoy, and as we attempt to impose our curt thoughts on others with no intention of viewing things in their way or with any intentions of empathy, the making of the sausage is not the biggest problem we have.

Simply put, a problem larger and far more cancerous than sausage making, is the entertainment value we place on picking apart the things that we and others enjoy and that also benefit us. We’ve been in a state of social advancement for over 15,000 years.

If one is of color, transgender, missing both arms, developmentally disabled, or even a child in-tow approaching a border with the potential for a better life, right now — today is the best day on earth to be alive. Because right now — today, one’s chances of prosperity and far-reaching social support have never been greater than they are. That fact is inarguable, though you’re welcome to try.

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BREAKING…

The world isn’t going to be lifted from the potters wheel, trimmed, glazed, baked, and set on a shelf to be observed and admired in our lifetime. The world was not designed or Designed to be an end-product for any of us.

With the ebbs and flows of man and of social morality, we are well into the net-positive of flow. After more than 15,000 years of culture, ebb (toward the negative) today represents roughly 25% of moral movement, with flow (toward the positive) representing 75%. Those numbers, by the way, are my crude  interpretation of an approximation based on the cosmetologist George Ellis’s work on morality being built into the fiber of the universe. Slowly, and over time, ebb continues to decrease, while flow increases.   This is just where we are today.

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It takes a lot of work to take such a large step back and to see the world from this point of view, but it is a step worth taking, especially on a day like today…. Jhciacb

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On Normalcy And Eating…

It occurred to me recently that I don’t know how to eat normally. Don’t get me wrong, I know how to eat. I know how to for powerlifting. I know how to eat for bodybuilding. I know for cycling, for running, and for fat loss. I know how to eat vegetarian and vegan. I just don’t know how to eat normally.

Since the first time I stepped into the murky waters of physical culture when I was 13-years old, and as I have become involved with a variety of athletic tasks, I’ve eaten specific to those tasks, always. My edict has been that food is fuel, and to eat for function not for flavor.

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Of course I have a veered off that path thousands of times. I have enjoyed restaurant food, Thanksgiving dinners, cruise ships, hotels, parties, celebrations of every kind, and I have brought the managers of all-you-can-eat buffets to their knees on multiple occasions.

In the scope of my lifetime though, most every time I have eaten anything, I have weighed its content against the results and consequences of how it might impact my body’s aesthetic, my athletic performance, or both. Agenda has undermined any sense of normalcy in eating for my entire life.

On one hand, I can easily think about all I have gained from a lifetime of these behaviors. I’m on the backside of my 50s and can still wear the same jeans I wore in high school. I can ride a bike for an entire day, I can bench-press my weight 10 times in perfect form, and I can jump on a picnic table landing square on my feet.

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On the other hand, I’ve never wandered into a Baskin-Robbins for a couple scoops of ice cream without contemplating — without stressing over how I’m going to offset it. Those stresses by the way, throughout the course of my life, have been very real and have shaped my psyche in ways I wouldn’t wish on anyone. This is a sad, if not bleak, way to live.

Just imagine spending your whole life analyzing and stressing over everything that you eat. Thinking about the good of it all. Thinking about the bad of it all. And through it all, never just being — never just picking up a piece of food and eating it without giving it some thought. But that has been my life of eating.

Anything set on the dinner table before me has rarely been more than a cluster of carbohydrates, proteins, fats, and sugars to be analyzed, consumed or rejected. What has been separate from all of that, is the art, the joy, the spontaneity, and the creative intent behind food.

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Jazz Hands…

I don’t see this ever changing. It has minimized in recent years due to my increasing awareness of it, but living my entire life with this mind-set, those biological and behavioral synapses are in place and etched deeply into my psyche. For me, the idea of eating anything will always cause some level of anxiety. A little food for thought — so to say… Jhciacb

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Between Son And Father…

Six years ago this moment, I was staring out the window on a flight from Philadelphia to Athens. I was enroute to visit my daughter who was winding up her time studying archaeology in Greece. My father had died just 20-hours prior.

While his body was being transferred from the industrial refrigerator which housed him, to the factory where they burn bodies and  subsequently place them into fancy bags so people can keep place on their mantel or carry the ashes about to be spread into forests or over the sea, I stared out the window of an Airbus A3000 for 13-hours. Mostly, I looked down into the distant ocean.  Eventually day turned into night and I begin looking upward into the darkness, to the stars, and thinking about my dad when I finally broke down .

That would be the last time I would have to  feel the guilt that comes with  having to choose between being a son or being a father. On that occasion, I chose father and I would do it again.

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But it haunts me, ongoing, that as I landed in Athens full of excitement and enthusiasm to explore Mykonos, 3000-year-old ruins, and Greek culture with my daughter, that my father lay cold, stiff, and waiting to be burned, bagged, and buried after a life largely unfulfilled.

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It stops me in my tracks daily
The unfinished business of a son

And each time I look in the mirror
I see his plans unfinished and his life undone

And if I am the continuation
Of those intentions that he left behind

I try hard not to disappoint him
But in my darkest hours I feel so blind

Yet I wake to another moment
Another chance to break new ground

And the daughter whose eyes are upon me now
Is still unsure about her dad some how

But tomorrow holds more promise
And I’ll hope that I rise above

Fueled by fire and passion
And with the guiding light of my father’s love…

Jhciacb

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To Burst Or To Evaporate…

Ups And Downs…

A half-dozen times a day I step back, amazed and in wonder of just how rich my life is. I’m so full of stoke I could burst. But that doesn’t stop me from wishing I didn’t exist, at least a few times per day.

If that statement seems harsh and inconsistent, forgive me. That’s just what it’s like inside my head — all day long. Life is amazing — until I get overwhelmed, frustrated, and depressed —most often due to external circumstances, then I wish I wasn’t.

In those tense moments when the shelf over the clothes dryer collapses at the worst possible time, when somebody’s ignorance or hatred surfaces when I’m least expecting it, or when depression or sadness make unscheduled appearances, wishing I didn’t exist is the fantasy that gets me through them.

In-between those moments though, my life is flippin’ glorious. Any middle ground between the two, in case you are wondering, is scarce.

Yesterday morning, while many were sleeping in, I was happy to the point of tears. I had ridden my bike 20+ miles on a crisp but promising Southern California morning. I rode past a 100-year-old bridge, alongside picturesque vineyards, and up a couple of breathtaking vistas. I saw avocado groves, citrus orchards, and miles of tomato fields. Between the distant rising sun and my front tire, a beautiful coyote appeared then vanished in an instant.

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I wasn’t just in awe of my surroundings though, I was stoked at my ability to ride my bike through them — up steep hills  to subsequently glide down in joy while most around me still slept. When I got off my bike, I felt a high that could compare to no drug. It was the sum of freedom, accomplishment, and beauty, all rolled into a tidy moment. Ushering each week in this way is a ritual I would have a hard time giving up.

After my ride, and as I was prepping for the rest of the day, a growing series of disturbances began to get the better of me. Scrolling through the headlines didn’t help. Then a slew of unexpected and urgent emails paralyzed me, if only for a moment.  People say the darndest things when they think they can get away with it.  That was just after another crown on one of my teeth broke — just before a client was to walk in.

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Ebbs and flows…

Despite that there was so much wonder in my morning, so much beauty, and so much stoke, there were also those frustrations, fears, insecurities, apprehensions, and those all-too-often unexpected circumstances. When the contemplating gets tough, the tough just want to disappear — not to die, but evaporatng into the clouds sure would be nice some days.

If I were to tally it all up, in earnest, my life falls much more on the glorious and exhilarating side, than it does on the side of wishing I didn’t exist —that’s why I’m still here.

And please, make the distinction between being suicidal and not wanting to exist. When I don’t want to exist, it’s because I’m involved in a circumstance, emotion, or some combination of those that I just want out of. Not existing, seems so easy.

Some might suggest there’s a mood disorder at work here or something deeper. Maybe. Perhaps it’s just the Gemini in me. I dunno .

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I love my life and many times a day I just want to burst with joy and shower the world with my stoke. But there are times when I just want to disappear. Perhaps knowing both of these each and every day is what makes me human, and in some strange way confirms my existence…. Jhciacb

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Writing With My Lips…

Transitions:  Hand To Mouth…

I’m typing an essay once again.  It feels good.  It’s been a while…

I’m currently looking through the window from seat 9A on Southwest Airlines flight 1045 with service to Denver and Charleston.  I’m stopping in Denver.  It’s been nearly a year since I’ve flown and almost as long since I have typed an essay, though I have written nearly 30 in the past 12-months. It was last May when I began dictating most of my essays, blogs, and social media posts into my smartphone, rather than type them on my laptop.

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The process was frustrating at first, but that frustration didn’t last long.  The learning curve was quick, and adjustments came daily.  Voice-activated technology has come a long way.  Within a matter of weeks, I was writing daily, by speaking essays into my phone and doing so seamlessly.

Speak Slowly And Clearly, Please…

In the age of the answering machines and later with voice mail, my father’s message was loud, distinct, and always the same…

“This is Al Cohen.  Please speak slowly and clearly at the tone…”

That was his voice message from 1975 until the time of his death in 2013.  In writing this, I realize that message is the memory I most associate with my father.  To hear it, one felt a responsibility to speak slowly and clearly.  Those two lessons, learned from my father’s answering machine when I was a kid, ensured a smooth transition from typing my thoughts to dictating them. Even from the grave my father is telling me what to do, but it works so I’m grateful.

  • Speak slowly
  • Speak clearly
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Diego: A purebred North Korean Shepard…

In most of my dictations, background noise and other voices notwithstanding, if I speak slowly and clearly, my smartphone lives up to its name.  That said, proofreading before posting or publishing is more important than ever.  Words like our can turn into are and been can turn into men easily.  My smartphone makes little distinction between do and dew, though better recognizing context has been a part of every software revision.  Also, shizzle can easily turn into drizzle, though that one doesn’t come up often.

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While the lion sleeps tonight…

Probably the most important lesson I have learned in this transition, is the lesson of decorum – of when to type and when to speak.  Writing from my laptop has always been restricted to the location of my laptop – my bed, my desk, my front porch, and my sofa. These are places of absolute privacy.  By talking into my phone, I can now write just about anywhere – the park, the coffee shop, waiting in my car while my mother shops, and even in a fast-moving jet headed to Denver – or maybe not.  In a crowd like this, I prefer typing, which is what brought this essay on.

When I took seat 9A this morning, with service to Denver and Charleston, I began talking into my phone — an essay on another topic.  The woman in the seat next to me began to stare. I immediately realized it would be inappropriate to dictate an essay in such close proximity and this essay, on talking rather than typing, was suddenly born.

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With Ease Comes Guilt, Always…

There has been an inescapable guilt though – the guilt of a thousand Jewish mothers, that I still use term writing when speaking is how my essays come about.

“What are doing, Son…?” my mother asked when she saw me talking to the center of my hand one day.

Me:  I’m writing an essay….

“Oh” she said, “writing.  I see…” She rolled her eyes as she turned away.  I had just lied to my mother.  I was speaking an essay, not writing one.

Let’s say this essay goes viral and ends up in the hands of a well-connected editor or publisher.  He sees the fruit in my wisdom and the art in my imagination and offers me the opportunity to write for a broader platform; would I be a writer or a speaker…?

If asked about my craft, I can’t imagine telling a person beside me in a café that I’m speaking an essay or worse yet, that I’m speaking my first novel.  So, I feel guilty in calling myself a writer since I have always viewed writing as an action of the hands.  But that extends the question further – since typing onto a keyboard has been the mechanism for most writers, going back many decades, has anyone using a keyboard truly been a writer…?  I ask myself again, is writing an action of the hands or of the head…?

I’d like to introduce you to a fine typist, Mr. Norman Mailer – that just doesn’t seem to flow as sweetly.

The Future…

My track record predicting the future isn’t that good. I can scarcely predict the past.  I can say with certainty though, that dictating my thoughts into my phone is far more efficient than typing them into my laptop – this essay notwithstanding.  Going forward, a majority of my writing will continue to be done via my lips and will be dependent on the ever-improving voice-activated technology.

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Tesla. A very good girl…

In taking it all in though, I wonder if mind-activated software isn’t around the corner.  If so, will I be thinking my essays and possibly thinking a novel before I die…?  How efficient might that technology be…?  And how about the editing process be…?  Will there be an algorithm so efficient that it will know drizzle from shizzle before I ever think it…?  I hope so.  It could be a big time saver…  Jhciacb

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Daughter And Delight: A Path Out Of Depression…

It Always Passes…

Little twists of fate can turn the best possible day into be the worst, or so it can seem. We have all experienced this. Conversely, sometimes those twists can turn the worst possible day into the very best, and do so in a matter of seconds.

Yesterday morning I was battling a profound depression. Issues with my business, with a couple of clients, and within the generally chaotic fiber of my life had me at a boiling point by noon. That’s when my car died — on the freeway — on a 90° day — 15-miles from my home. Yup, my day was going that well.

Choosing not to jump into traffic, which was the obvious choice, I coaxed my car home slowly and got it to my mechanic. From there, after being told it might cost more to repair it than I have available, I walked home and prepared to take on the rest of my day, fully believing that it had the potential to still get worse.

If nothing else, I was hoping to sneak in a bike ride to help clear my head and center my racing mind, if only for a while. As I was about to get on my bike, my daughter’s name came up on my caller ID.

I have few hard and fast rules in my life, but at the top of that list is that I never let my daughter’s calls go to voicemail — ever. If I’m being honest though, I was bummed because I knew in taking that call I wasn’t going to get on my bike.

It was small talk mostly, and I silently wished I was peddling. She’s currently participating in an archaeological dig — three ships from 18th century being excavated in Alexandria, Virginia. I told her how proud I was of her for working in her field. At that, she chuckled which I thought was odd.

Daughter:  “I can extend it out a little further if you would like…” she suggested.

Me:  Huh…?

Daughter:  “The proud thing. I can make you prouder, but only if you want me to…”

Me:  What the hell you talking about…?

That’s when she told me she had been accepted into a PhD program at the University of Pennsylvania — Ivy League.

She has accepted a five-year proposal that will pay her a generous stipend and allow her to achieve a PhD in nautical archaeology in exchange for teaching entry level classes in anthropology and archaeology, as well as for doing research in her field on behalf of the school.

Holding back tears ain’t my forte, but I kept it together as best I could.  She asked me once if I was crying. No, I said, I’m just cutting off one of my toes with a Swiss Army knife. She chuckled.

Yesterday morning I wanted to jump into traffic because I was so upset about the course of my day.  And yes, I really wanted to do it.  But as I always do during difficult times, I worked hard to remember that it always passes.  Within An hour, an unexpected twist of fate had me jumping for joy, and all I had to do was wait out the bad stuff.

Hearing that news of my daughter’s success will forever remain the brightest moment of my life. I know she will have other successes — many, but those who know my daughter know that she has been pursuing this goal since she was in 8th grade. I guess it skips a generation.

And to that point, I cannot speak about this without applauding the masterful job my daughter’s mother did in providing the structure in which she has flourished. She is the finest mother, and the finest human being I have ever known.

The bad stuff always passes. Wait out the bad stuff. It passes. It always passes… Jhciacb

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Spectrum Or Rainbow…

I might listen to an audiobook 10, 20, or even 30 times. That’s no exaggeration.

There are times when I’ll cup my hands, place them over my dog’s head, then ask him a question and hope for an answer – telepathically. I’ve actually done that, though he’s never given me any response other than a quizzical look.

I recall and remember clearly, many conversations I’ve had on the school bus, at the swimming pool of my youth, or on dates I had when I was 16 — and I recycle those conversations in my head repeatedly.

Walking in nature each day, as birds, squirrels, and rabbits cross my path, I might say good morning to them, and introduce myself…

“Hello, Mr. Rabbit! I’m Roy, and this is my dog, Stroodle. We live just off Main Street. God bless you, and have a good day…!” I actually do that.

Surfing at SanO one day a few years ago, as I was sitting outside the lineup watching other surfers and dolphins fare much better than I was that day, caught myself repeating a name over and over again — Alex Cora. I have no idea why I was doing it, but I just kept saying audibly Alex Cora… Alex Cora… Alex Cora… over and over again. Wasn’t much of a Dodgers fan and I think he is a crappy analyst, but for some reason that day I just kept repeating his name.

At moments like these – those times when I’m queuing up a book for the 30th time, talking to a passing bird, or inexplicably repeating the same word over and over, I wonder where I am on the spectrum.

Maybe it’s more a rainbow than a spectrum – just a happy place where I need to be to keep my sanity. Or more succinctly, perhaps being a little crazy keeps me sane. Maybe. Others though, who I see with similar quirks as my own, have one thing in common — a diagnosis.

That’s a heavy confession for an April Fool’s week, but it’s no joke. I don’t see too much wrong with any of my quirks and idiosyncrasies, but because there are so many of them and they sort of form the core of my personality, I often wonder if I live with an undiagnosed form of autism, Asperger’s, or just a new kind of crazy altogether, that hasn’t yet been discovered.

Perhaps I am need of a kind of therapy which hasn’t been invented yet. Maybe.

Maybe I’m just another eccentric though, in a town full of eccentrics. I dunno.

By the way, I’m not looking for any feedback here. Just sharing my thoughts at 6:00am —my compulsion to wake early, to write, and to share. Quirks, oddities, colors of the spectrum. No, colors of the rainbow… Jhciacb

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Chimp With A Smartphone Part III…

Chimp With A Smartphone…

My daughter, now 27, is responsible for that monicker. Several years ago, I sent her a black-and-white picture of some broken pier pilings behind the Oceanographic Institute at Moss Landing. I had taken that picture with an iPhone 5 set to ‘mono’. I did only a few minor adjustments with the lighting, and was immediately overwhelmed with how good a picture from a smartphone can be. I remain very proud of that picture (below)

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This was my daughter’s response…

“Dude, it’s a nice picture but your not Ansel Adams. You’re a chimp with a smartphone…”

I still chuckle when I think about it.   No nickname has better suited me.  Since that declaration,  I’ve taken thousands, possibly tens of thousands of pictures — all on my iPhones; an iPhone 5, an iPhone 6, and my current phone/camera an iPhone 7.

Smartphone photography suits me. There is less thinking and processing involved, and that supports my Chimpism. Smartphones are much more portable than a camera, a bag, and all the lenses and accessories that go with them. Truth is, a few years ago a friend gave me a very nice camera, and I don’t even know where it is.

Yesterday I took the mammal for a stroll at the abandoned San Luis Rey golf course in nearby Bonsall. Late last year a fire swept through the area, known as the Lilac Fire. It did a great deal of damage, but the local and regional fire fighting authorities did a masterful job containing the the fire. It could have been much worse.

Damage to the San Luis Rey golf club was minimal also, since it ceased being a golf club several years ago, and is destined to become houses and school grounds in the near future.

Further down the street, is the San Luis Rey Downs.  That horse training facility lost more than 50 horses in the Lilac Fire. I just didn’t have it in me yesterday to check out that area, but I probably will this weekend.

A few random things that I’ve learned about smartphone photography over the last few years:

  • The best time to take pictures is just after the sunrises or just before it sets, but you already knew that.
  • Smartphones do much better with the micro than with the macro. Close-ups of flowers, bugs, and even burnt golf balls do much better than with landscapes and portraits.
  •  I might adjust colors minimally after the fact, but I have more fun — and get more results from adjusting light, contrast, and shadows.

Here’s a few pictures from yesterday’s chimp-stroll at the corner golf course. Excuse me now, while I reach for banana… Jhciacb.

 

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A Cold Bender…

Cold Bender…

It’s time to confess. For the last couple months I’ve been going on a bender nearly every night, and they often last deep into the night. Can’t say that I’m ashamed, or that I’m even concerned. It’s not like I’m missing work or fouling up any relationships. I just can’t seem to stop.

I’ve been using once again, and using heavily. Cold Chisel that is…

I first learned of the band Cold Chisel from KAZY radio in Denver in 1978 or 1979. On Sunday from 10:00pm-Midnight a free-form rock show was hosted by an Australian DJ. I think his name was Walter, but I’m not sure. I’ll never forget though, the first time he played Cold Chisel, and how he built them up before he played the song Khe Sanh.

I was immediately hooked on Cold Chisel, Australia’s hardest working and hardest fighting rock band.

In the pantheon of my rock-band gods there are, in no particular order…

The Call
Los Lobos
The Waterboys
Steely Dan
and Cold Chisel

Of course there are many other bands and many solo artists that have inspired me, touched me, and that I have obsessed on. However, these are the bands that have moved and touched me in ways that others never could. Each, for very different reasons.

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When I look at my love and appreciation for these bands now, I realize the biggest draw isn’t so much in the musicianship, in the personalities, or even in the production, though they are all great . The gravity that draws me in is for songs with well-crafted lyrics.

The lyrics to Khe Sanh (Don Walker) might be the most well-crafted lyric I’ve ever heard.

In the last few weeks I’ve completed two books written by Jimmy Barnes, Cold Chisel’s lead singer. I can’t recommend these two books enough — Working Class Boy and Working Class Man. They’re written in very linear fashion, very difficult to read due to their content, very grounding, and well illuminate what launched the fireball of Jimmy Barnes out of that rock and roll cannon so many years ago, to become one of music’s most notorious and dangerous frontmen. Jimmy is alive and doing fine these days, and has become a great story teller.

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Over the last couple of months I have watched virtually every YouTube video available on the band, including interviews, solo performances, a six-part documentary series about the history of the band, and every music video they’ve ever made. Some have moved me to tears.

When I think about music – – bands in particular, I first think about magic. Magic is what happens when unlikely ingredients come together to form the perfect whole, if only for a few minutes, a few years, or for a few concert tours.

Please take seven minutes watch this from beginning to end if you have a chance. It brought me to absolute tears the first time I saw it, and I still watch it regularly. An incredible performance by Don Walker and Ian Moss, Cold Chisel’s keyboard player and guitar player respectively.

 

 

If you’ve ever wondered where magic comes from, I’ll say it again… Magic is what happens when unlikely ingredients come together to form the perfect whole. Cold Chisel was/is the perfect whole, if only for a few minutes, a few concert tours, or for few years — which have now turned into four decades.

Like a lot of bands that have fallen to hit the ground, bounced back up, hit the ground again, only to bounce back up again over and over, Cold Chisel has known adversity –– in spades, including the death of drummer Steve Prestwich in 2011. Still, the band and its remaining members are still active today, occasionally together, but mostly involving other projects.

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Yes, I’m using Cold Chisel again, often late into the night, and I make no apology… Jhciacb

If you’re not currently a subscriber, please scroll up and do so. Please check back in a couple weeks to see what happens when I push the STOP button on the blender in my head. Oh, and here’s one more from Cold Chisel singer Jimmy Barnes, written by the late Steve Prestwich. Enjoy…