Music Has Always Been a Matter of Energy

“Music has always been a matter of Energy to me, a question of Fuel. Sentimental people call it Inspiration, but what they really mean is Fuel. I have always needed Fuel. I am a serious consumer. On some nights I still believe that a car with the gas needle on empty can run about fifty more miles if you have the right music very loud on the radio.”
― Hunter S. Thompson

Dowtown Square, McKinney, Texas

Oblique Strategy: Intentions -nobility of -humility of -credibility of

Is there anything cooler than a good street musician? Unexpected notes floating on an evening breeze, like angel trumpets and devil trombones. The air is transformed into something superior, lighter, art becomes part of the fabric of the world, like it should.

Is there anything more annoying than a bad street musician? A strolling violin player in an Italian restaurant – you want to hear what your companion is saying, you must pay the guy to go away. Headache – inducing cacophony at a train stop, you are trapped until your transport arrives. The talent-less kid that drags his instrument case somewhere that he shouldn’t.

Which is one and which is the other? It’s more up to you than to the strummer.

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They Ring And You Run

“So that’s the telephone? They ring, and you run.”
― Edgar Degas

Downtown Square, McKinney, Texas



Oblique Strategy:
Always first steps

I think of the technological advances during the time I have lived.

In college, I had to punch cards to produce input into a computer that took up an entire floor of the business school. I would hand my precious stack – chits of holed paper with one corner gone – through a window to some anointed guardian like it was the gate to the Emerald City. I would then stare at an empty vending machine for hours until my stack of printouts flopped down into a numbered wooden bin.

Almost a decade later I was writing database programs to run on a Radio Shack TRS-80. I would write the program on an 8 inch floppy disk, and the data for each site was on another 8 incher. I think each held 180 K bytes. We kept having problems with data until I discovered my assistant was holding the extra disks onto a copy board with magnets. Reports were slowly spit out on an incredibly loud daisy-wheel printer. Still, as crude as this all was it revolutionized the storage and retrieval of information that we had been doing by hand.

The IBM PC was another incredible advance. Of course, I remember when it was kept in a wire cage and you had to get a key from a manager to use it. They thought it was a waste of money – and couldn’t understand why it didn’t get more use. I finally convinced management to get it out of the locked cage and let anybody sit there and type. Soon, a mouse wandered over and the early versions of Windows came out. It was painfully slow – but I remember when I realized I could cut information from one program (a spreadsheet, say) and paste it into another (a word processor). I remember that moment still – it was like a whole new world opened up.

Another moment like that was the first time I saw a laser printer spit out a piece of 8.5 x 11. I think it was the silence that impressed me, even more than the quality of the work.

And on it goes – for most of my adult life, every year brought new wonders – having my own computer at home, laptops, video games, thumb drives, GPS. All amazing. It’s only recently, as the corporate behemoth ropes everything back in, gets its evil tendrils into and around every byte that I feel we have begun to fall backwards. Things are now getting harder and harder, less and less amazing.

When I talk to my kids about this, the quintessence of millennials, they agree without hesitation that it is the Smartphone that is the game changer. For me, it’s probably the internet… but for them it’s the little piece of glass in their hand – that goes everywhere, that does everything. They can’t imagine life without one.

Each little phone is, of course, many, many times more powerful that that immense leviathan that spread across that entire building when I was in school.

Not Giving a Damn

“Style is knowing who you are, what you want to say, and not giving a damn”
― Orson Welles

Neiman Marcus Window, Downtown Dallas, Texas

Window reflection, Dsquared2 Clothing, and the Dallas Eye.

Oblique Strategies: Don’t be frightened of cliches

I am not their target kind of customer. Even though I’ve lived in Dallas close to forty years now, and spent a lot of time downtown, I’ve only been in the big main fancy Neiman Marcus store a couple of times… and I only remember it once.

That was before I moved here – I was only visiting – so I must have been young. I went in with a friend that wanted to look at the fashions and I followed her. Right at the entryway we were waylaid by a couple of women demonstrating nail care products – some sort of abrasive sanding thing (to remove ridges) and a set of various strong-smelling types of polish. I was the only one without colored nails so they demonstrated on me. I stood as stoically as I could while they sanded the ridges off a couple of my nails and then put polish on them. A good-sized group of women gathered to watch and to ooh and aah at the miracle product. It wasn’t too bad… actually, it was kind of interesting. I was mostly glad that, for once, my hands were clean.

But I didn’t buy anything.

Creep By Daylight

“It is the same woman, I know, for she is always creeping, and most women do not creep by daylight.”
― Charlotte Perkins Gilman, The Yellow Wallpaper and Other Stories

Creepy scene through a shop window, Denton, Texas

Oblique Strategy: Retrace your steps

Why do we all like creepy stuff? I think it is because to be scared of something creepy – which means odd, eerie, and macabre, without being overtly dangerous – implies that there is at least something else out there. There is something in this world beyond staff meetings, stuck in traffic, and idiotic talking heads blathering on the television.

Because if there is really nothing else – that is really frightening.

Old Fashions

“Every generation laughs at the old fashions, but follows religiously the new.”
—- Henry David Thoreau, Walden

Four Corners Brewery
The Cedars
Dallas, Texas

Oblique Strategy: Remove specifics and convert to ambiguities

A young millennial couple – they live in Uptown, of course. Took an Uber to where I was ( I rode the train and then walked… should have brought my bike).

They seem nice enough.

When I was their age, we were into patched jeans. You would buy a pair of jeans and then sandpaper them until they had the proper holes. The patches were cut from old pairs of jeans and had to be hand-stitched, with big crude looping sutures in a contrasting color of heavy thread, usually yellow. I guess it was all a throw-back… and homage to our simpler ancestors, who lived in a simpler time. Iron-on patches were, of course, no good. I couldn’t sew worth beans, and my stitching was wildly uneven… which was perfect.

I Lift My Gaze

All of a sudden, as if a surgical hand of destiny had operated on a long-standing blindness with immediate and sensational results, I lift my gaze from my anonymous life to the clear recognition of how I live. And I see that everything I’ve done, thought or been is a species of delusion or madness. I’m amazed by what I managed not to see. I marvel at all that I was and that I now see I’m not.
—-Fernando Pessoa, The Book of Disquiet

Deep Ellum Brewing Company, Dallas, Texas

Oblique Strategy: Convert a melodic element into a rhythmic element

I sit there with my camera ready to raise and shoot… waiting for the woman to take another sip of beer. Sitting there waiting with my weapon in my hand, ready to raise and shoot, like a big game hunter… or more like a little kid with a BB gun waiting on a sparrow to land within range.