25 Years of Graceland

What can I say about Paul Simon? First and most importantly, don’t come to my website and bad mouth the man’s music because I will cut you. I. Will. Cut. You. I used to entertain the whimsical notion that somehow we were related because I’m a Simon and he’s a Simon and we both have roots in the Eastern region of the U.S. There’s absolutely no way we are, but I’d still joke about “Uncle Paul”. One of my friends in school called me, and in fact still does, Pauley to reference that my last name at the time was Simon and that I was such a big fan of Paul Simon’s music. I can’t remember when I first heard Paul Simon, that’s how long his music has been a part of my life. Musically speaking, just about the only thing my father and I can agree on is Paul Simon. In fact, at my wedding the father daughter dance was to the song “Still Crazy After All These Years”. (That’s right brides, read this and despair for my father daughter song was SO much cooler than yours.)

It’s hard for me to pick an absolute favorite Paul Simon, but like so many people, his album “Graceland” is damn close to perfection. That is why I was pretty excited for the release of the 25th anniversary edition. It’s amusing. I had put it on my Amazon wish list with the intention of buying a copy for myself and another one for my father for Father’s Day. However, instead my aunt bought a copy for me from my wish list for my birthday leaving us to just purchase one copy for my father. Zany Amazon.com shenanigans. Here’s the deal though, for a really reasonable price, like under $20, you can get the 25th anniversary “Graceland” album which includes 6 bonus tracks and Simon telling the story of “Graceland” AND you’ll get the DVD documentary “Under African Skies” which isn’t some shoddy piece o’ crap thing, it’s done by Joe Berlinger, the guy who did the Metallica documentary “Some Kind of Monster” and a handful of music videos. That’s a hell of a lot of “Graceland” going on, so what’s the big deal?

Paul Simon’s “Graceland” is generally credited with introducing African music and musicians to the West. The biggest being Ladysmith Black Mambazo. Many point out that during a time when most American’s experience with Africans was seeing starving children in television ads, “Graceland” introduced America to a jubilant, celebratory people. It’s true that much of the music on “Graceland” is mid or up tempo, although to be honest with you all, I always found the songs on “Graceland” haunting. Lyrically I found they lingered in my mind and the songs still do. Unlike much of the other music I listened to in 1986, Paul Simon’s “Graceland” still speaks as relevantly today as it did the day it was released. A pretty impressive hat trick. Of course, he is Paul Simon. Oh, and if you watch the documentary and hear Simon talk about the level of work he put into writing the lyrics your mind will be blown. I once heard comedian Louis CK talk on Marc Maron’s WTF podcast about when he develops a real strong closing 5 minutes to his routine, the kind that drives the audience wild, he’ll cut it so he’ll be forced to make the rest of the act stronger. Paul Simon kind of worked like that writing the lyrics for “Graceland”. The stuff that survived, whoa.

So obviously I love the album, and was tickled to have the few extra demos and alternative versions that the 25th anniversary version of “Graceland” offered. Here’s the thing though, the documentary “Under African Skies” was a really big deal for me. First, it was incredibly exciting as a fan to see so much footage of the actual recording sessions of Simon in South Africa with all the artists. And the documentary is loaded with interviews, some with unexpected people such as; David Byrne, Oprah, Quincy Jones, Philip Glass, Paul McCartney, and Vampire Weekend. The biggest thing with “Under African Skies” was it opening my eyes to the before now unknown to me controversy that surrounded Paul Simon’s “Graceland”. I was 10 years old when “Graceland” released. I didn’t know about apartheid in South Africa, I didn’t know who Nelson Mandela was or that he was in prison, and I didn’t know there was a cultural boycott that Simon essentially broke when he made “Graceland”. I didn’t know there was a situation. As if that wasn’t enough drama, certain segments of the African American community looked at “Graceland” as Simon basically using Africans. There was a particularly brutal exchange when Simon was doing a Q&A at Howard University and a student was accusing Simon of simply stealing music from African artists. Simon asked the student something like, don’t you think we can share ideas? And the student’s answer was in effect, if it’s with you, no. You think I will cut you? No one talks to my Uncle Paul like that! Forget I will cut you, I will take a sledgehammer straight to the crotch of those parachute pants! There were bomb threats called in to venues Paul Simon was scheduled to perform at while touring with “Graceland”. Bomb threats to Paul Simon shows.

Watching “Under African Skies” gave me a new appreciation of “Graceland” and its role in music, and cultural, history. It’s easy now that we’re on the other side of apartheid to say, well, it worked out so how Simon went about making “Graceland” was okey dokey. I don’t know how 10 year-old Rebecca would have reacted at the time. I suspect in extremes. Either “Everyone leave Uncle Paul alone, he’s the greatest and he knows what he’s doing” or “Oh no! Uncle Paul condones apartheid!’ Adult Rebecca knows that apartheid was absolutely bad, bad, bad, but who am I tell artists in America or Africa how to react in the face of injustice and cruelty. If Simon and his band of truly merry, wonderful South African artists hadn’t thrown caution to the wind, the world may never have known “Graceland”, and in my opinion, that would be a terrible world to live in.

Here’s Paul Simon performing the title track “Graceland” live in Zimbabwe. Back in ’87 Zimbabwe was a more stable location to perform than South Africa. How times have changed, right gang?

And here’s another favorite of mine, “The Boy in the Bubble”. It’s amazing how the lyrics could very well be about today. Even the sound is modern. Uncle Paul is pretty cool.

Living in a Cardboard Box

Here’s the deal folks, The Magical Buffet is moving into shiny new digs. Technically we’ve already moved in. It seemed like a simple task, and a wonderful upgrade that is going to increase my productivity and hopefully at long last lead to global conquest. It started out innocently enough.

See the beautiful office?

However it rapidly became…..

this
and this.

Meep?

So hang in there readers while I get everything sorted out! It will be totally worth it because once I get a little time to write I have got some awesome stuff to share with you! First off, we’ve got a TON of music to discuss. Paul Simon’s “Graceland” turned 25, Metric put out an incredible new album, we absolutely HAVE to talk about Damon Albarn’s “Dr. Dee”, and there’s still more! Not to mention Brad Warner has a new Zen book out and you know how I love that guy. I mean there is A LOT we need to talk about folks, and it is all 100% cool shit.

Now if I can just find what box those CDs ended up in…..

A Year of Writing Dangerously

“A Year of Writing Dangerously: 365 Days of Inspiration & Encouragement” by Barbara Abercrombie. I had specifically asked for a review copy of this book because I know many people who read The Magical Buffet are professional writers, looking to become professional writers, or are happily dedicated writers in their spare time. However looking at it now I thought, dangerously? A wee bit pretentious aren’t we? Of course on the other hand I found myself thinking, dangerously? How exciting! I couldn’t help but wonder what kind of inspiration and encouragement one finds in a year of writing dangerously. I also found myself wondering if by chance author Barbara Abercrombie was in anyway related or connected to the Abercrombie & Fitch stores, and if so could she get them to turn their damn music down?

Finally I realized that rather than wonder I could do something crazy like, I don’t know, read the book? I swear, I’m a genius. Someone get me a delicious cupcake! In the meantime, let me tell you what I discovered. “A Year of Writing Dangerously” is an infectious book, which I mean in the best way possible. You cannot help but be inspired by it. Each day has an anecdote or one of Abercrombie’s observations, which for me inspired responses ranging from jaw dropping to cheering, and a related quote from an impressive array of writers, we’re talking Tennessee Williams to Anne Rice and more! For those looking for even more from “A Year of Writing Dangerously”, Abercrombie offers 52 weeks of writing prompts at the back of the book. These are little exercises to help you practice like; write about a time you didn’t show up, write down two or three things you know for sure, or write about a time you had to wing it.

But, dangerously? Abercrombie briefly addresses the “danger” in her introduction, but I think days five and six do it better. As to not go totally spoiler-ific you’ll have to buy the book to get the tasty word tortilla that wraps these spice fillings. (Can you tell I’m typing this while waiting for dinner?)

Writing is dangerous because you might get caught.

Sometimes it feels dangerous to know what I really feel. Because if I acknowledge my feelings outside the boundaries of my own heart and mind, if I open up the latch to my subconscious and let those precious secrets leak out, God knows what will happen. I might have to hold myself accountable to these thoughts and feelings. I might have to act upon them. I might have to change. I might have to stop lying to myself and others about what I need and want. I might have to ask for what I need and want. I might have to be a disappointment; I might have to be disappointed; I will disappoint.

Can you say a whispered wow? That’s what I mean by stuff that can make your jaw drop. Oh yeah, now we’re writing dangerously.

Now I’m totally me-o-centric so I wanted to know what the entry is for my birthday, so my husband Jim stepped up and casually did the math (while making dinner) and figured out what day is mine when it’s not a leap year. So as to give you the full idea as to what a day is like here is mine, day 149, “The DVD in Your Head”.

Maybe the essay you’re writing, or the memoir or novel, has now taken up residence in your inner life, like a DVD playing inside your head. Maybe as you go to sleep at night, you’re working on your story, you dream it. And when you brush your teeth in the morning, you’re thinking about it, seeing flashbacks of your own life or your characters hovering behind you. If it’s a book you’re working on, you imagine what the cover will look like. Articles you read in the newspaper or online, things you observe, hear on radio or TV – everything starts to connect to your work.

Maybe you already have a draft of an essay or short story you’ve written that needs to sit for a while for you to get some perspective on it, and you’re looking for the subject of your next one. What you look for you usually find.

Or maybe not. Maybe you’re stuck. But the only way to become unstuck is to keep showing up, to keep writing. And trust that when you do show up, something will be playing in your unconscious.

“The physical act of sitting at your computer writing down words is important of course but your unconscious mind is also doing a lot of work for you. If you show up. If you hold your characters in you mind, if you constantly look at the world for ideas to go into your book.” – Walter Mosley

And that’s “A Year of Writing Dangerously”; Barbara Abercrombie, with the help of others, does her best to encourage, empathize, and inspire you to take on another day of writing.

Breaking a Dream Drought

By Robert Moss

Have you lost touch with your dreams? Are your dreams missing you (in the words of one of a new slew of dream-themed TV commercials)? Is your dream recall limited to fragments that are lost completely as you hurry off into the business and traffic of the day?

Relax. Robert Moss, author of “Dreaming the Soul Back Home”, offers the following easy ways to renew and refresh your relationship with your dreams.

1. Set an intention for the night

Before you go to bed, write down an intention for the night. This can be a travel plan (“I would like to go to Hawaii” or “I would like to visit my girlfriend/boyfriend”). It might be a specific request for guidance (“I want to know what will happen if I change my job”). It could be a more general setting of direction (“I ask for healing” or “I open myself to my creative source”). You might simply say, “I want to have fun in my dreams and remember.”

Make sure your intention has some juice. Don’t make dream recall one more chore to fit in with all the others.

Having set your intention, make sure you have the means to honor it. Keep pen and paper (or a tape recorder) next to your bed so you are ready to record something when you wake up.

Record something whenever you wake up, even if it’s at 3 a.m. If you have to go to the bathroom, take your notebook with you and practice doing two things at once. Sometimes the dreams we most need to hear come visiting at rather anti-social hours, from the viewpoint of the little everyday mind.

If you don’t remember a dream when you first wake up, laze in bed for a few minutes and see if something comes back. Wiggle around in the bed. Sometimes returning to the body posture we were in earlier in the night helps to bring back what we were dreaming when our bodies were arranged that way.

If you still don’t have a dream, write something down anyway: whatever is in your awareness, including feelings and physical sensations. You are catching the residue of a dream even if the dream itself is gone. And as you do this, you are saying to the source of your dreams, “I’m listening. Talk to me.”

2. Practice Conscious Entry into the Dreamspace

You don’t need to go to sleep in order to dream. You can enter dreaming from a quiet place of meditation, from the twilight zone between sleep and waking, or through shamanic drumming. You may want to check out my drumming CD, “Wings for the Journey”. You can take a favorite picture and use it as a personal dreamgate. Imagine yourself stepping behind that line of trees in the landscape painting, for example, and having an adventure on the other side. Or take a favorite piece of music and let yourself flow with it into a series of dreamlike scenes.

3. Play with the Dreamlike Symbols of Everyday Life

It’s fun to devote a little time every day to tracking the dreamlike play of symbols in everyday life. It’s also very interesting how, when we give more room to studying coincidence and random messages (in the vanity plate of the car ahead, or what comes on the car radio, for instance) we seem to unlock the nocturnal dreamgates and more comes through.

4. Be Kind to Fragments

Don’t give up on fragments from your night dreams. The wispiest trace of a dream can be exciting to play with, and as you play with it you may find you are pulling back more of the previously forgotten dream.

About Robert Moss:
Robert Moss is the author of “Dreaming the Soul Back Home” and numerous other books about dreaming, shamanism, and imagination. His fascination with the dreamworld began in his childhood in Australia, when he had three near-death experiences and first learned the ways of a traditional dreaming people through his friendship with Aborigines. Visit him online at www.mossdreams.com.

Based on the book “Dreaming the Soul Back Home” © 2012 Robert Moss. Printed with permission of New World Library, Novato, CA. www.newworldlibrary.com or 800-972-6657 ext. 52.

Geek Month in Review: June 2012

By J.B. Sanders

June!

Vacuum trains
Leave New York City, be in Europe in an hour. How? With technology first proposed by Goddard (yes, that rocket guy) over 100 years ago: vacuum trains. Evacuate a tube to create an airless vacuum, and then shoot trains through it. The technique, with some modern modifications, is surprisingly effective.

Private Colonization of Mars
There’s this company, Mars One, that plans to put people permanently on Mars in 11 years (2023). They’re going to fund the expedition by making the whole thing into a giant media event, including cameras on the selection of the crew, the feed from their rovers and from the Mars-orbiting satellite.

More details on their website:

Over the Weekend, Half of Germany Was Powered by Solar
Apparently the Germans are doing something right. At peak times (mid-day), they’re producing 22 Gigawatt/hours of electricity from their combined solar panels. That’s the equivalent of 20 nuclear power plants.

Alternate Universe Slippage
Scientists postulate that some neutrons are slipping into an alternate universe. Seriously.

Companies That Build Castles
Really. Modern day construction companies that build castles to order.

Just Print That Organ
Screw transplants, these days people who need replacement organs can just print what they need using their own cells and an “ink-jet printer”. No, not in “5 years”, not in “10 years”, this is today, and it’s new enough that airport security doesn’t really understand it.

Holy Levitating Slinky!
And sometimes, these tidbits just write themselves. Slow-motion shots of what it looks like when you drop an extended slinky. Spoiler: it visually makes no sense.

Vertical Ship Goes into Construction Phase
Two-thirds of this beast stays below water to keep the other 170-feet of it buoyant. Anyone else thinking of a James Bond villain hideout?

xkcd Infographic: All Known Exoplanets, To Scale
You know it’s going to be a fun visual when it starts with xkcd. Thems a lot of planets!

Very Neutral
When they say that Switzerland is aggressively neutral, this is what they mean. The article discusses the Swiss redesign of their natural landscape into a country-sized fortress. Bridges designed to blow and take out the railroad beneath it. Artificial landslides which will wipe away important roads. Hidden shelters deep inside their many mountains. Fascinating stuff.

Extreme Planetary Closeness
Astronomers have discovered two planets in a system 1200 light years away that are so close in their solar orbits that they will appear in their respective skies larger than our moon. Scifi authors, start your engines.

Starry Night in Dominoes
Some guy does a pixelated rendition of Van Gogh’s Starry Night using dominoes, and then pushes one over. Time-lapse movie of him setting it up (with some incidental failures along the way) and the final setup. The final collapse visual is amazing.

Brave New Hair
Detailed discussion of how the good folks at Pixar got all that great hair to bounce around in 3D animation the way it does in the movie Brave. Some plot spoilers, though.
[Thanks for the tip, Alex.]

Fanless Heatsink
It’s silent, cools your computer bits and should be here soon. Plus there’s video and Science!
[Thanks for the tip, Alex.]

Human Powered Helicopter
Vertical liftoff has been achieved by an entirely human-powered helicopter. Spoiler: 50 seconds of flight. Still damned amazing.
[Thanks for the tip, Alex.]

New Mineral Found in Meteorite
Not a prelude to a bad scifi movie (that I’m aware of, anyway). A scientist has been probing meteorites for years, and has discovered 9 new minerals as a result. This time, it’s something “primordial”.

About John:
John’s a geek from way back. He’s been floating between various computer-related jobs for years, until he settled into doing tech support in higher ed. Now he rules the Macs on campus with an iron hand (really, it’s on his desk).

Geek Credentials:
RPG: Blue box D&D, lead minis, been to GenCon in Milwaukee.
Computer: TRS-80 Color Computer, Amiga 1000, UNIX system w/reel-to-reel backup tape
Card games: bought Magic cards at GenCon in 1993
Science: Met Phil Plait, got time on a mainframe for astronomy project in 1983
His Blog: http://glenandtyler.blogspot.com

Ghosts & Spirits Tarot

Since I just got done reviewing “The Secret History of Poltergeists and Haunted Houses: From Pagan Folklore to Modern Manifestations” by Claude Lecouteux I thought now would be the perfect time to take a look at “Ghosts & Spirits Tarot” by Lisa Hunt. I know I seem to be near pants wetting excited over every tarot deck I review, but seriously you guys, “Ghosts & Spirits Tarot” is incredibly impressive. How impressive? Incredibly.

I have to say, I think the masterful Mr. Claude Lecouteux himself would be impressed with the amount of work Lisa Hunt put into “Ghosts & Spirits Tarot” because what you have here is a tarot deck where each card depicts a different spirit, ghost, or liaison between the earthly and spiritual realms from folklore and legend. So yes Lecouteux fans, all the subjects of his books that have been reviewed here on The Buffet are represented in this deck: The Wild Hunt (The Chariot), Vampire (The Hanged Man), Revenants (Six of Cups), and yes party people, even the Poltergeists from the last review (Ace of Swords).

Ace of Swords - Poltergeist

I’m not exaggerating in the slightest when I tell you that I would gasp with surprise and glee with each page turn of the booklet as a treasure trove of creatures and characters were revealed. La Llorona! The Flying Dutchman! Headless Horseman! White Ladies! Each entry has a brief description and bit of context along with a divinatory meaning.

The artwork is perfectly suited to the subject matter and despite the obvious darkness implied, Hunt brings beauty to most of the cards despite the specter of death the hangs around ghosts and spirits. I’m a fan of the Day of the Dead and I became quite smitten with Hunt’s rendering of it for the Ten of Cups.

Ten of Cups - Day of the Dead

And I was swept up by The High Priestess, who in the “Ghosts & Spirits Tarot” is an Enchantress/Sibyl. Hunt’s text brings perfect understanding to what we see in the card.

The most famous oracle of Greek/Roman legend, the Sibyl of Cumae (Italy) guided Aeneus through the land of the dead and enabled him to return to the living. The Sibyl interweaves the energies of past lives and future events. She illuminates the scene where dream-like specters mingle with relics of the past. A pathway provides a passage to clarity and higher understanding. The sparkles indicate a divine presence.

The High Priestess - Enchantress/Sibyl

What else can I say to convince you that “Ghosts & Spirits Tarot” by Lisa Hunt is 100% amazing? How about even though I received a free copy to review I went ahead and bought a second copy so I could get it signed by the artist? Did I mention I found this deck incredibly impressive?