Rich Wilhelm

Posts Tagged ‘creativity’

MonkDay 001

In MonkDays, Thelonious Monk on November 15, 2016 at 12:34 am
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MonkDay 001, 11/14/16

I am a fan of the brilliant jazz pianist Thelonious Monk. There is something about his music that gets deep into my soul, as great music will do. Oddly though, Monk’s work burrows deep into my brain as well. It’s hard to explain, but I can practically feel the neurons firing up when I listen to Monk.

I often listen to Monk albums on Mondays, or as I like to call them, MonkDays. Again, I don’t quite understand the logic or science behind this, if there is any, but Monk’s languid ballads and twisty-turny upbeat numbers are the perfect soundtrack for me to reset my brain for the week ahead.

After all the tumult of last week–and I will not be naming names and events here–a solid blast of Thelonious seemed to be exactly what I needed to move forward. In fact, I’m thinking that a weekly Monday evening “MonkDay” blog entry might be just what I need, for at least the next four years. But again, I don’t necessarily plan to get all political here. Philosophical, yeah. Political, probably not. At least not directly.

One unusual result of the Event from Last Week, is that many people seem to be doing some soul-searching. I’m thinking my MonkDays will be a vehicle for my soul searching. You’re welcome to join me if you like.

On that note, I will close for now, but not before noting the Thelonious albums I listened to today:

Genius of Modern Music Vol 1, Blue Note, 1956

Genius of Modern Music Vol 2, Blue Note, 1956

Monk’s Dream, Columbia, 1963

And, finally, here’s “Epistrophy,” from Genius of Modern Music Vol 1:

 

 

 

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HooplaThon Day 1: Just the FAQs

In Uncategorized on September 12, 2016 at 12:51 am
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HooplaThon Day 1: Just dipping one set of toes in the Hoopla.

Welcome to the HooplaThon. You probably have questions. I have answers.

For reasons that I will attempt to delineate, I have decided that for the next bunch of days, I am going to attempt to write a journal entry while listening to side 1 of the 1985 Starship album, Knee Deep in the Hoopla. Then, while playing side 2, I will craft the journal entry into a casual essay on this blog.

Why, oh why, do I want to take on this ridiculous task? Glad you asked.

I have my reasons, the first being as a way to confront a statement that I often hear, but don’t really believe: “Life is too short for bad music/bad movies/bad books/bad art/bad sports/etc.” I feel like this Hoopla experiment is a way to test that theory with a daily dose of Knee Deep in the Hoopla, an album that contains the song “We Built This City,” which often tops polls as the worst song ever recorded.

So my thought was, why not spend some time with this musical product (the use of the word “product” is quite deliberate) that is often deemed “bad” and see what results from my nightly listening experience. Will I find that life really is too short for bad music?

But that leads to another question: Is Knee Deep in the Hoopla truly bad music and is “We Built This City” really the worst song ever recorded? Or do the album and song simply have bad reps?

The fact of the matter is I could be listening to Coltrane’s A Love Supreme every night. Maybe that would inspire some glorious damn prose to come flowing out of my mind. But that’s not the point. The point is: where will prolonged exposure to Knee Deep in the Hoopla lead me?

Also a question: what exactly is “hoopla” and can it really be quantified? How does one get knee deep into it and does one in fact know that they are precisely knee deep in it?

Some readers might wonder: is there some kind of political agenda going on here? The answer is a unequivocal, “Well, yeah, now that you mention it, maybe there is.” After all, has any American year been more filled with political hoopla than 2016? Actually, I am thinking about hooey here. Clearly no year in American history has been filled with as much political hooey as this year. But hoopla is happening too, and we’re all knee deep in it at the very least, whether we want to admit it or not.

Trump is the king of hoopla and the king of hooey as well. Contemplating a Trump presidency awhile back, I realized that I’d rather be compelled to listen to “We Built This City” every single morning for the next four years than to wake up knowing the Donald Trump was president. So there’s that.

What else is this about? It could be about anything really, as long as the tangents wind their way back to Knee Deep in the Hoopla. It’s about spurring me to write every night and its about figuring out a way to avoid the early evening naps that end up wrecking my sound sleep hours later. Maybe writing these entries will be a way to “rock myself to sleep,” as Grace Slick sings, with the help of Quiet Riot’s Kevin DuBrow, on Knee Deep in the Hoopla.

So, finally, how will this work? As I stated at the beginning, each evening, I’ll scribble thoughts in my specially designed Knee Deep in the Hoopla notebook, provided to me by my sponsor for this blog series, Rich’s Really Cool Notebooks. Then, while listening to side 2, I’ll type up the journal entry I just wrote, hopefully crafting it into something semi-coherent.

If there is a point or points to this project, perhaps, it or they, will emerge as I compile the entries. To quantify the project, I’ll add a new Hoopla to the official HooplaMeter (see photo above) with each new entry.

So, join me if you’d like. I hear Marconi is about to play the mamba.

 

The Beginning Is The Ending Is The Beginning

In journal keeping, Philosophy/Creativity, Uncategorized on July 8, 2016 at 3:12 am
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Maurice Stephens House, Valley Forge National Park, Valley Forge, Pennsylvania 7/7/16

Much earlier today, I shot this photo at Valley Forge National Park. My idea at the time was that I could kick start one of my other blogs, 1 Picture, 217 Words. However, after I got home this afternoon, I attempted to write those 217 words and they just wouldn’t flow.

Maybe it’s time to take a break. Truth is, I am surprised to have written as much as I have this year.

It all started with the passing of David Bowie back in January. Like millions of other people, I was affected by Bowie’s death more than I figured I might be. But it wasn’t just sadness. Reading about Bowie’s last year inspired me. I was amazed at how he used his time to further delve into his immense creativity, resulting in the profound Blackstar album.

In short, David Bowie made me want to create. And my most accessible means of creation is to write. So, I started writing, averaging a blog entry a week from February clear through the end of May. I was very happy with some of these entries, merely satisfied with others, but the point for me was that it felt good to be doing the work.

It wasn’t just Bowie though. From New Year’s Day on, we were very aware around this house that each day, week and month that passed was leading to two very concrete events that would be happening during the second week of June: Chris’ promotion to high school and Jimmy’s graduation from high school.

We weren’t constantly thinking about these events, but the knowledge was just there, and that knowledge was certainly informing my thoughts about where I am in my life and where my family members are in their lives. A certain amount of introspection ensued and I found the energy and time I needed to sort it out in the blog entries I was writing.

Meanwhile, the 2016 U.S. presidential electoral circus and various and sundry other events provided the surreal backdrop to whatever else has been going on in my life. Let’s face it: 2016 has been one of the weirdest years anyone now alive has ever experienced.

And, no, I really don’t write about Donald Trump. At all. But the very nature of his campaign has left me wanting to try to restore and maintain whatever dignity I may have lost in my own life and writing seems to be my way back to it. Not just writing–I have been working in other ways on this restoration, but some of these activities have moved at a glacial pace. In the meantime, writing proved to be a very effective outlet.

Then, Chris and Jimmy graduated from their respective schools. The things we had known would eventually happen, did.

So where do we go from here? Obviously, when September comes, things will be a bit different around here. But, for now, I feel like we have fallen into a weird dimension in which each of the four of us is in our own weird little place, with different eating, sleeping, working, and playing habits.

And, for me, the writing stopped. After the graduation ceremonies ended, my introspection dissipated, and has been replaced with a sort of vague blandness. Like it or not, I don’t seem to have much going on in my head right now.

But instead of trying to force the issue, I think I’m just going let this blog and its associated blogs be still for awhile. I’m going to attempt to chill out a bit. In the interim, perhaps I can figure out what it is I want The Dichotomy of the Dog — a title I have more or less maintained for more than 15 years now — to be once I get back to it again.

Or, maybe I’ll just have a new entry next week. Either way, thanks to those of you who have been following along in recent months. I appreciate it.

 

Not Exactly an Easter Message, Though I Wish You a Happy Easter

In journal, journal keeping, Philosophy/Creativity, Writing on March 27, 2016 at 8:18 am

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This is not exactly an Easter message, though I am writing it very early on Easter morning, while listening to what has got to be one of the greatest collections of classic country music ever assembled, released at a time when the songs were still new.

I’m no preacher, so it’s not for me to say what Easter means to anybody. I can’t even claim to be “spiritual but not religious” at this point. I am just a guy who is, to paraphrase my grandmother, “middle-aged and dumb and tryin’ to get along.” In her phraseology, it was “young and dumb and tryin’ to get along,” but the tufts of gray hair I leave behind after every visit to Hair Cuttery have thoroughly convinced me of my middle age. And I’m actually cool with that.

This is, however, sort of a follow-up report on my Lenten season.

Back when I was a Catholic grade school kid, a huge component of Lent was “giving something up.” There were reasons for this giving up of course, though I honestly don’t remember the degree to which I understood these reasons. All I knew is that no matter what I tried to give up, my Lenten resolutions were doomed to fail, sometimes even before the ash on my forehead had completely disappeared.

My giving-things-up-for-Lent track record is abysmal. At least until this year.

I did not exactly attempt to give something up over the past 40 days. However, it was around the beginning of the holy season that I made a decision to ease up on dread and fear. And anger. And despair. And panic. And deep existential angst. Etc.

I didn’t do this for Jesus. I did it to preserve my sanity. That sounds a tad overdramatic and it probably is, but there is truth to it.

I can’t candy coat it, so I’ll just say it, in the same way I said it several blog entries ago: my life has been challenging in recent years, for many reasons. This is no way makes me unique. My response to the challenges — fear, anger, dread, panic, a gradual withering of my sense of humor — hasn’t exactly been unique either. This is all part of the human condition and I am about as human as possible.

Not unlike Taylor Swift, I’m not convinced that I’m out of the woods yet. In fact, I know I’m not. The challenges remain and they’re still big and scary. But earlier in the year, I did make the decision to at least try to combat the despair, anger, dread, panic, etc. The only weapon I could muster for this task was to take a lighter approach to it all. I was going to stop worrying about not being the Very Best and instead begin to work positively toward the Somewhat Better.

Not coincidentally, this change in approach coincided with the revival of this blog. I’ve posted here at least once a week since I decided to break out of the loop in which I’d been stuck. I’ve always known that writing — whether I’m writing about these issues or about some interesting person now buried at Laurel Hill Cemetery or about my own nerdish tendencies — has been a touchstone of my mental health. When I’m writing regularly, I’m happier and better able to deal with life. This is simply how I’m wired.

The turning point was find the time, amidst the dread and the panic, to write. To actually do the thing — or, at least one of the primary things — that keeps me sane.

I am grateful to have this outlet. And, if you’ve been following this blog in recent weeks, or just stumbling on the occasional entry, I am grateful to you as well! Your time is your most precious commodity and I truly appreciate the time you spend with the words I bang out here.

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Searching for My Walden

In Henry David Thoreau, journal, journal keeping, not quite Walden, Philosophy/Creativity, Uncategorized, Walden, Writing on February 7, 2016 at 12:28 pm

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Early, oh so early, on a Sunday morning. I have walked the dog and she is snuggling in our bed now with my sleeping wife. One kid is sound asleep in his room. The other is presumably sound asleep as well, though not at home this morning. He is hanging with friends at the college campus he will call home come this fall. Even through the clangorous din of a new wave album that I’m listening to through headphones, I can feel the Sunday morning quiet.

I could have gone back to bed after Jolie and I returned from her walk, but I like this time on Sunday mornings–at least those Sundays when I don’t wake up feeling anxious. This was not really one of those fretful days. Or maybe it was, and I turned it around by putting a pen to paper and fingers to a laptop keyboard.

I am searching for my Walden. Yes, I am referring to Henry David Thoreau’s classic book, beloved and despised both in its time and now. No, I am not comparing myself, at least not in any more than one way, with Mr. Thoreau.

Henry and I do share one very important trait though. At heart, we are both journal-ists.

Not journalist, as in my major in college. Journal-ist, as in lifelong keepers of personal journals.

I started keeping a journal around 1980. Within a year or so, I had gotten serious about it–all thanks to Valerie Shulman, my 11th grade English teacher. I have been writing, with varying degrees of frequency, in my journal ever since. At this point, I have been keeping a journal longer than Thoreau did, due to his ill-health and early demise. He was more dedicated to it though and, of course, his journal is the foundation of canonical works of American literature. I, on the other hand, am eternally distracted by any number of things, most of which Henry would have surely disapproved.

However, I recently found a old ten-inch record containing the self-help exhortations of one Earl Nightingale, giving listeners “The Strangest Secret.” I picked up the record and turned its front and back cover into my latest journal notebook:IMG_0812

I still haven’t gotten around to discovering what “The Strangest Secret” is, but making the notebook has inspired me to get back to writing daily one-page entries, which I’ve been doing since January 22. I’m trying to incorporate some art into the journal too, basically because I like colored pencils very much and what they say about the current “adult coloring” trend is true: I find spreading color across a page to be very calming.

This latest spike in my journal-keeping is something that I am doing for myself. Keeping a journal, and trying to be consistent about it, is a process that I find personally helpful, and I also want to make sure that I have a decent record of this era of my life once I get a little older. In recent years, I have occasionally turned to my old journals to confirm the details of certain long-past life events and I’d like to be able to do that for these days as well.

So, this is for me. And yet, I know that Thoreau crafted much of his work–including Walden–from his journals. I have always been intrigued by the concept of a journal as a mine for more fully-formed works. I figure, with 30+ years of journal-keeping behind me, I’ve got some kind of Walden in those pages somewhere. Again, I am NOT comparing myself to Henry and his work, other than to note that he pulled from his journals to create essays and books and that I’d like to do that as well.

Of course, one way to accomplish that would be to craft blog entries–on some kind of semi-regular basis–that find their roots somewhere in my journals. These days, I make no such solid promises. But, given more quiet Sunday mornings, who knows what could happen?

 

 

The Sylvester Stallone (As Quoted in People Magazine) Creativity Challenge

In Philosophy/Creativity on May 1, 2013 at 1:36 am

When People magazine debuted in early 1974, my mom was an earlier adopter. This is why I can tell you who was on the first cover of People. Do you know? Here’s a hint: the reason this particular person appeared on the cover was the same reason Carey Mulligan might appear on a current People cover.

Because of my mom’s interest (she still has all those original issues, including the debut), I often remember reading People. Certain articles and quotes within articles have really stuck with me, none so much as something Sylvester Stallone said in an interview published soon after the original Rocky became huge. This is not his exact quote, but Stallone said that he tried to do at least one creative thing every day, “even if it’s just to write a poem.”

While I’m sure that Shakespeare, Eliot, Frost and the author of “There Once Was a Woman From Nantucket” would have taken at least some offense to Stallone’s “just to write a poem,” his quote left a deep impression on me. Honestly (sorry, Sly), I remember that bit of philosophy with more clarity than I remember anything from an actual Sylvester Stallone movie, though I’m sure Rocky is still pretty great.

Stallone’s quote popped into my head again this morning, as I contemplated the obstacles each of us face (or think we face) in the pursuit of the creative. This is important to me and has been for years–I even wrote a paper on living a creative life for a philosophy class in college and that paper was apparently the only thing that saved my grade for that course.

For me the bottom line is that if we are actively pursuing creativity (and there are, of course, infinite ways to be creative), then we are consciously working on leading better lives. And, if we’re doing this, chances are we might actually find a way to help someone else in the process. Exercising our creativity in a positive way makes us all better people.

But, back to the obstacles. I realized on this, the last day of April, that I was feeling an emptiness that felt like it was coming from too many days that passed by this month in which I went through the motions and didn’t try to exert myself creatively. Technically, this probably isn’t true, but it can be easy sometimes to forget the little creative moments that ultimately might add up to the breakthrough moments.

So, at least for the new month of May, I’m going to try to take Sylvester Stallone’s advice. I’m going to try to consciously be creative everyday, “even if it’s just to write a poem.” I’ve even started a Facebook group called, naturally, “The Sylvester Stallone (As Quoted in People Magazine) Creativity Challenge,” for group members to share their daily creative moments. I invite you to join!

Patrick F. O'Donnell

writer, editor, general wordsmith and scribe

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