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Elvis Presley – The King of Rock and Roll

Image – Wikipedia

Yeah they said you was high-classed
well, that was just a lie

– Elvis Presley, “Hound Dog”

Elvis Aaron Presley (1935-77) was an American rock and roll singer and guitarist, born in Tupelo, Mississippi. He is generally seen as the “King” of Rock and Roll.

Elvis got started singing in a church choir and taught himself how to play the guitar. Sun Records in Memphis soon discovered his talent.

By 1956 his unique combination of country/western and rhythm ‘n blues rocketed him to fame.

His provocative stage persona drove teens into a frenzy of screams, tears and fainting, like the Beatles after him.

But Elvis wasn’t just sexy, charismatic and cool. He was the man of the hour, musically and culturally.

His energized interpretations of songs and sexually provocative performance style, combined with a singularly potent mix of influences across color lines that coincided with the dawn of the Civil Rights Movement, made him enormously popular—and controversial.¹

Elvis made 45 rpm records selling in the millions, including “Heartbreak Hotel,” “Blue Suede Shoes,” “Hound Dog,” “Jailhouse Rock,” “Love Me Tender,” “It’s Now or Never,” “Are You Lonesome Tonight” and “All Shook Up,” to name a few.

Capri Club 2009 - the army home of Elvis Presley

Capri Club 2009 – the army home of Elvis Presley by jorbasa / Barbara via Flickr

On TV he appeared on the major variety shows, including The Steve Allen Show, The Ed Sullivan Show and The Frank Sinatra Timex Show.

Elvis ventured into films with Love Me Tender (1956), Loving You (1957), King Creole (1958), GI Blues (1960) and Blue Hawaii (1961), among many others.

His movie roles were secondary to his music. Apparently film directors never gave him a chance to try a dramatically significant role. Story has it that Elvis wanted to become a serious actor.

Drafted by the Army in 1958-60, his stardom was intact when he returned to the US.

But it didn’t last long. The Beatles and the “British Invasion” swarmed the continent, and Elvis’ career hit the skids. He recorded his last hit single in 1969.

In the 1970s Elvis became a nightclub performer in Las Vegas and many of his tunes took a turn to gospel. During these years he kept a loyal following, but his fan base was much smaller than in his heyday. When I was a kid (born in 62) I remember watching a Vegas era show on TV with a kind of fascinated pathos, as if I was watching a living tragedy.

Soonafter Elvis got hooked on various prescription drugs, took to unhealthy eating habits and died of an apparent overdose in 1977.

Now a legend, the King of Rock and Roll’s twilight years look much better in retrospect.² His 1968 TV appearance was miles ahead of others who would follow “unplugged” in the 80s an 90s.

Like all the greats, Elvis’ star never really faded. He’s become a global icon and admirers make pilgrimages to his home at Graceland.

Behind Mickey Mouse and Jesus Christ, he’s been cited as the third most popular figure on the planet today.

¹ https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elvis_Presley

² As an adult I appreciate and enjoy his gospel tunes but as a kid they seemed lame, signifying a dead career. Funny how one’s perspective changes over time.

 Fats Domino: The quiet rock ‘n’ roll rebel who defied US segregation (scroll.in)

 An American Boy: Remembering Tom Petty (stereogum.com)

 New Elvis Presley Book Reveals Shocking Facts behind The King of Rock and Roll’s Image (prweb.com)

 People can’t stop laughing at the new Lady Gaga wax figure that looks nothing like the singer (businessinsider.com)

 Cridlin: Tom Petty was the scruffy Florida boy who helped us feel (tbo.com)

 Most Famous European Musicians (247wallst.com)

 German police retrieve 100 stolen John Lennon items (triblive.com)

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Poststructuralism – Another label to be avoided?

Saint Foucault

Saint Foucault by Sándor Iskender via Flickr

Poststructuralism could be defined as an approach to knowledge that appeared in the social sciences during the 1960s to 70s as a reaction to or outgrowth of structuralism.

The term poststructuralism was chic within academic circles during the mid-1980s to early-90s, after which time ‘postmodernism’ became the trendy term, aided perhaps by figures like Jean Baudrillard who made headline-grabbing comments about America’s involvement in the Gulf War.

In its heyday, the term poststructuralism generally contained elements found in postmodernism but referred more to social theory and the history of ideas rather than to art, music and architecture—these applying more to postmodernism.

Postmodernism being the broader term, it includes questions posed by poststructuralism.

Michel Foucault said he didn’t wish to be pigeonholed as any particular type of theorist, but academics in the 1980s often described his later work as poststructuralist. And several other theorists have resisted the label ‘poststructuralist.’

The distinction between poststructuralism and postmodernism arguably remains unclear because representative or designated thinkers of each orientation tend to eschew clear-cut, linear modes of reasoning, along with the notion of consistent theory. And they usually embrace the task of deconstructing the assumptions and practices associated with traditional approaches to knowledge.

Jean Baudrillard lecturing at European Graduat...

Jean Baudrillard lecturing at European Graduate School, Saas-Fee, Switzerland. (European Graduate School, June 12, 2004, http://www.egs.edu/). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

With regard to structuralism, the poststructuralist/postmodern disputes the structuralist belief in universal patterns comprised of binary opposites.

The meaning of the term poststructuralism continues to evolve, especially with the turn to integrating spirituality within a poststructural paradigm, or lack of one.

With the arrival of the internet, broadband, dramatically increased computing power, and a dazzling array of software, digital media and mobile devices, some suggest that poststructuralism and postmodernism are yesterday’s news, these giving way to newer trends of ‘performatism‘¹ and ‘digimodernism.’²

However, this seems a bit rash. Have we really stopped deconstructing accepted (and acceptable) truth claims – i.e. thinking critically – in favor of playing with hypnotizing gizmos or, perhaps, escaping or being distracted through fake news, Facebook likes, and other superficial pursuits?

Let’s hope not.

¹ See http://www.performatism.de/What-is-Performatism

² Alan Kirby’s Digimodernism: How New Technologies Dismantle the Postmodern and Reconfigure Our Culture

Related » Comparative Religion, Counter-Discourse, Discourse, Power, Marx (Karl)

Highlights by Liner http://lnr.li/VZq8J/


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Postmodernism – Not necessarily absurd or without wings

Inside My Secret Cloning Chamber

Inside My Secret Cloning Chamber: Stuck in Customs / Trey Ratcliff

The term postmodernism became popular in the 1970s and 80s but has roots reaching back through the centuries.

Social theorists usually try to define concepts through a key set of ideas and parameters. Postmodernism challenges conventional perceptions of “the definition” and few seem to clearly agree on its meaning. This is partly because postmoderns questions the very act of defining, labeling and signifying.

If postmodernism has a core idea, it might be that it paradoxically has no core idea upon which to stand. Some say that makes postmodernism absurd. But that stance seems intellectually childish.  Questioning something doesn’t render the process meaningless, as amorphous as outcomes may be. Truth isn’t always black and white and only conceptual control freaks reject uncertainty.

In one sense, postmodernism is a reaction against the kind of scientific certainty associated with the enlightenment and (some definitions of) modernism. It is also a reaction against the proclaimed truths and teachings of religion.

Garry Knight – Post-Modern Architecture – An example of the post-modern style of building seen increasingly along the Thames riverside via Flickr

With regard to scientific truth claims, postmoderns challenge the idea of natural laws that accurately predict future events. They also dispute the assumption that these laws don’t change over space and time. These challenges are especially prevalent in the social sciences but also crop up in physics.

In psychology, postmodernism questions the notion of a stable, unchanging and eternal aspect of the self, such as a soul. Perhaps the ironically enduring truth of many (but not all) postmoderns is the conviction that truth claims are relative to a given culture or subculture.

Michel Foucault, for instance, says power is the creative agency that generates social truth. For Foucault, power not only represses individuals and certain types of belief, knowledge and practice. Power also has the ability to create discourses of truth. These created truths bear tangible effects on persons and their bodies.

Because power constructs truth, postmoderns are concerned to “deconstruct” taken for granted truth claims that have consciously or unconsciously slipped into public use and practice.

By way of example, a few popular areas of deconstruction are notions of the natural, the sane, and social progress. What do we really mean by using these terms? Are we implying a social truth instead of an absolute truth? Who benefits from this dynamic? And who gets the short end of the stick?

In the arts, postmoderns combine different elements from various styles and genres. And the notion of the ‘fragment’ is accepted in postmodern art, literature and philosophy. A good example of valorizing the fragment is found in rap, hiphop and club music where digital tech easily reproduces and mixes past musical and non-musical samples within a new artistic production.

versionz – postmodernism via Flickr

The postmodern scene has become somewhat holistic, even spiritual, particularly with figures like Jacques Derrida who talks about a ‘metaphysical space’ between links in endless chains of connotation. Likewise, Stuart Hall‘s cross-cultural perspective points to new avenues of inquiry once closed off by critical theory.

Historia painting by Nikolaos Gyzis (1892)

Additionally, the contemporary discipline of postmodern theology shifts the meaning once again as to what it means to be postmodern.

Daniel J. Adams’ “Toward a Theological Understanding of Postmodernism” (Cross Currents, Winter 1997-98, Vol. 47 Issue 4 ) might be taking postmodernism in the opposite direction from which it came. Adams says postmodernism is restoring the sacred in an age turned off by religious dogma and yet ironically blinded by the new dogmas of scientific materialism.

These latest postmodern trends suggest that a responsible view of the individual in society integrates biological, psychological, social and spiritual factors. So postmodern thinkers may try to separate the spiritual from the cultural in any belief system, be it religious or nationalistic.

Funnily enough, I found from direct experience that even a basic Catholic RCIA course, geared toward the general public, deconstructed the cultural from the spiritual within the Bible. So to say that postmodernism kills spirituality or leads to absurdity simply shows the ignorance of those upholding that belief.

Postmodern theology combines the best of Pontius Pilate – “What is Truth?” – and Christ – “I am…the Truth” – as portrayed in the New Testament.¹ And because we live in an imperfect world with lots of spin, this just makes sense.

¹ John 18:38, John 14:6

Related » Discourse, Language, Karl Marx, Poststructuralism, Susan Sontag, The Cambridge Companion to Postmodern Theology (PDF)

Postmodernism – Wikipedia

Oct 10 2017  Highlights with LINER

_____

Postmodernism describes a broad movement that developed in the mid- to late 20th century across philosophy, the arts, architecture and criticism which marked a departure from modernism.

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The term postmodern was first used around the 1880s.

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In 1921 and 1925, postmodernism had been used to describe new forms of art and music.

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In 1949 the term was used to describe a dissatisfaction with modern architecture

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In 1971, in a lecture delivered at the Institute of Contemporary Art, London, Mel Bochner described “post-modernism” in art as having started with Jasper Johns

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Post-structuralism resulted similarly to postmodernism by following a time of structuralism.

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Martin Heidegger rejected the philosophical basis of the concepts of “subjectivity” and “objectivity” and asserted that similar grounding oppositions in logic ultimately refer to one another. Instead of resisting the admission of this paradox in the search for understanding, Heidegger requires that we embrace it through an active process of elucidation he called the “hermeneutic circle”.

_____

Jacques Derrida re-examined the fundamentals of writing and its consequences on philosophy

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Michel Foucault introduced concepts such as ‘discursive regime’

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Jean-François Lyotard identified in The Postmodern Condition a crisis in the “discourses of the human sciences” latent in modernism but catapulted to the fore by the advent of the “computerized” or “telematic” era (see information revolution).

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Richard Rorty argues in Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature that contemporary analytic philosophy mistakenly imitates scientific methods.

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Jean Baudrillard, in Simulacra and Simulation, introduced the concept that reality or the principle of “The Real” is short-circuited by the interchangeability of signs in an era whose communicative and semantic acts are dominated by electronic media and digital technologies.

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One of the most well-known postmodernist concerns is “deconstruction,” a theory for philosophy, literary criticism, and textual analysis developed by Jacques Derrida. The notion of a “deconstructive” approach implies an analysis that questions the already evident understanding of a text in terms of presuppositions, ideological underpinnings, hierarchical values, and frames of reference.

_____

Structuralism was a philosophical movement developed by French academics in the 1950s, partly in response to French Existentialism. It has been seen variously as an expression of Modernism, High modernism, or postmodernism[by whom?]. “Post-structuralists” were thinkers who moved away from the strict interpretations and applications of structuralist ideas.

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The idea of Postmodernism in architecture began as a response to the perceived blandness and failed Utopianism of the Modern movement.

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Postmodernism is a rejection of ‘totality’, of the notion that planning could be ‘comprehensive’, widely applied regardless of context, and rational. In this sense, Postmodernism is a rejection of its predecessor: Modernism.

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Literary postmodernism was officially inaugurated in the United States with the first issue of boundary 2, subtitled “Journal of Postmodern Literature and Culture”, which appeared in 1972.

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Jorge Luis Borges’ (1939) short story Pierre Menard, Author of the Quixote, is often considered as predicting postmodernism

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Samuel Beckett is sometimes seen as an important precursor and influence.

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The postmodern impulse in classical music arose in the 1960s with the advent of musical minimalism.

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Criticisms of postmodernism are intellectually diverse, including the assertions that postmodernism is meaningless and promotes obscurantism.


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Persona – Age old concept with a whole new twist

Roots of Persona

The idea of the persona has been around for ages, with roots stemming back to ancient Greek and Estruscan civilizations. Over the centuries the use of the term has shifted, evolved and, in response to new technologies, taken on new meanings.

The most common contemporary meaning of the persona is a role played by an actor. This developed from the original Latin meaning of “theatrical mask.”

In ancient Greece the persona (prósōpon) was a mask put on by stage actors, signifying either a character or a social role.¹ The masking effect was created by rubbing clay or dyes on the face or by wearing masks made of bark or similar natural elements.

Persona in Literature

The New Latin term dramatas personae refers to characters listed at the top of a play.

In literary theory the persona is the alter ego or alternate “I” who speaks in a poem or novel, often when some kind of issue is worked out through the narrative. This also happens in movies a lot, which of course, are based on a written script.

Persona in Religion and Society

David and Goliath (1919) via Wikipedia

Persona later referred to “person,” as in persona non grata (Latin: “person not appreciated”). This diplomatic usage means persons not wanted in a country. That is, bad apples.

This kind of persona is arguably semantically related to the New Testament phrase, “God is no respecter of persons” (Acts 10:34). That is, bad persons.

Theologians maintain that God wishes us to cooperate with the divine will. So striking out on our own, based on a personality fragment, whim or selfish desire, is not necessarily in line with God’s will.

“Person” in this theological sense means those whose thoughts, feelings and actions are based on self-centered personality traits instead arising from a living relationship with God.

The many psychological, sociological and spiritual applications of the term persona are often nuanced to fit various theories and agendas. Related ideas like Bad Faith, False Consciousness and The Divided Self run through the humanities and social sciences, with endless discussion and elaborations by different schools and their offshoots (e.g. existentialism, humanism, Marxism, neo-Marxism, postmodernism).

Persona and Carl Jung

For the Swiss psychiatrist C. G. Jung, the persona is a necessary social identity. Jung says the persona is a convenient or appropriate face we display to the outer world. The Jungian persona is not the true self nor the ego but it serves a crucial role in facilitating social interaction.

Jung and Jungians also say there is a danger in identifying with the persona after a social performance is over. This not only happens with ordinary people but sometimes with actual actors. Recall the tragedy of Heath Ledger (1979–2008), who apparently was haunted by the demonic Joker after completing the The Dark Night film.

The Jungian Shadow by Steve Jurvetson via Flickr

Aside from this, Jung makes a general distinction between the healthy and unhealthy persona. The healthy persona is connected with deeper aspects of the self and acts as a conduit for archetypal energy. The unhealthy persona is constricted or cut off from the self.

On this point Jung arguably doesn’t appreciate that a tight-fitting persona may be temporarily necessary for some religious people who normally enjoy the more expansive worldview that comes through a relationship with God.

Doing the right thing doesn’t always feel good or reap outwardly visible rewards, as Jung’s model seems to advocate. Jung’s outlook is probably based on his own experience, which sometimes seems like that of a kindergarten mystic. He’s had some basic interior experience but nothing profound nor advanced.

Jung’s theory advocates a “doctrine of [psychological] integration,” as I’ve put it elsewhere, so Jung seems to devalue – or not fully understand² – anything that favors the afterlife over this world.

For Jung and many Jungians, being spiritual is tantamount to having a meaningful, productive and creative life. A worldly life informed by the archetypes. These folks may paint, dance, sculpt or even talk about ESP in dreams. But they tend to be somewhat indifferent to the idea of prayerful or contemplative intercession. Intercession involves upward mobility, as it were; whereas Jung’s theory is stuck on the ground.

Jungians would probably see personas displayed and sacrifices made for the attainment of heaven – instead of for visible, worldly achievements – as skewed, fake, or even pathological.³ That’s partly why I don’t spend much time with Jungians. It is also why not a few religious persons tend to view Jung’s work with suspicion.

Persona and Proselytizing 

Image via Wikipedia

Some uphold the persona to convey a particular belief system held dear. Missionary Christians, for instance, apply personas not just for social convenience, but to try to “fish” for souls—that is, to lead others to a spiritual relationship with Christ.

As a tool for facilitating religious conversion, the persona becomes a kind of well-intentioned lure. After all, the New Testament Christ says his disciples will become “fishers of persons” (Matthew 4:19).

Persona in Music

In music, performers weave entire identities and motifs into songs or albums. This is common in pop and seems to be creeping into classical performances, where performer and performed are a cohesive package. Nigel Kennedy comes to mind. Charlotte Church. And more subtly, Joshua Bell and Angela Hewitt, whose sublimated sensuality pervades their performances.

Some cynically say that pop and classical personas are just glib attempts to boost sales. But I think they are part of parcel of the entire message. Would Ziggy Stardust have been a hit if David Bowie did not dress in costume during live performance? And going back even further, would Sgt. Pepper’s have been a landmark if the Beatles hadn’t dressed up and played the roles on the album cover?

In pop music the persona is also a device where lyrics are spoken or rapped over music.

Frank Zappa, Ekeberghallen, Oslo, Norway

Frank Zappa, Ekeberghallen, Oslo, Norway (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Examples are in Robbie Robertson’s song “Somewhere Down The Crazy River” and Frank Zappa’s “Camirillo Brillo”:

Is that a Mexican poncho or is that a Sears poncho?

Hiphop, rap and acid jazz stars like Galliano, Guru, Kanye West and Drake make almost continuous use of this kind of persona.

Drake especially seems to effortlessly blend song and talk, so it’s hard to tell where the talking ends and the singing starts.

in Jazzmatazz Vol. 2 Guru raps in “Living in this World”:

What’s happening… check it out
It’s critical the situation is pitiful
Bear in mind you gotta find somethin spiritual
We never gain cause we blame it on the system
You oughta listen whether Muslim or Christian
or any other type religion or creed

Persona and Social Media

Social media gives us a whole new context for the persona. Also known as the avatar, gravatar, or buddy icon, the internet persona allows users to post with some degree of anonymity and creativity.5

This can be used for good or ill, depending on the user and arguably as legally construed by a host country. Spend some time in another country and you’ll soon find out that what is okay in one place is not necessarily okay in another—hopefully before you go to jail.

¹ https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Persona

² Jung says that Origen castrated himself to immerse himself in his gnostic spirituality. But I find this odd. Most mystics assert that the retention – not the elimination – of seed (a poetic way of saying semen and sperm) is vital to spiritual functioning and wellness. Sperm is manufactured in the testes.

³ I’ve encountered some Christians who are pretty clumsy at this. One guy on a bus bent my ear for over an hour, trying to convert me without realizing that I had already chosen Christ.  He was a non-denominational or Protestant Christian – I can’t remember – but I’ve witnessed the same kind of clunky and irritating “fishing” among Catholics playing a self-aggrandized role of do-gooder or holy person instead of focusing on their own self-knowledge and ethical behavior.

A good discussion about the persona, personality and labels: https://upsidedownchronicles.com/2013/07/04/who-am-i-personality-vs-persona/ 

5 Because users have an identifiable IP address, they are not fully anonymous.

 The Greatest Quest: The Search for Meaning & Finding our Calling. (elephantjournal.com)

 As God Promised (1) – Muoka Lazarus (vanguardngr.com)

 Embracing darkness and shadow that we might also be light and joy (beyondmeds.com)

 15 Shocking Things You Didn’t Know About The Dark Knight Trilogy (screenrant.com)

 New Ken artist John Dorinsky bringing dreams to life (triblive.com)

 “May the Road Rise Up to Meet You” the story behind the traditional Irish blessing (irishcentral.com)

 Ethics & Religion Talk: Is torture OK?Should religious buildings be places of refuge? (mlive.com)

 Watch: Mumbai celebrates the birthday of Hindu God Krishna with human pyramids (telegraph.co.uk)

 Another church attack in Anambra (sundiatapost.com)

 CHILDREN OF A LESSER GOD to Open on Broadway This Spring (broadwayworld.com)

 Anti-Trump website host rings “alarm bells” over U.S. demand for 1.3 million visitor IP addresses (fastcompany.com)



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Romeo and Juliet – Not my fav but respected

Photo - Wikipedia

Photo – Wikipedia

Romeo and Juliet is a tragedy by William Shakespeare (1595-6). It portrays the brief lives of two “star crossed lovers” who come from feuding families, the Capulets and the Montagues.

In Shakespeare’s time it was one of his most popular plays, as it remains today.

Myself, I never really liked Romeo and Juliet too much. It seems small and dark. Romantic love is fine. But when it gets all messed up and doesn’t work out right, it doesn’t really capture my imagination.

I find it sort of silly and dramatically frustrating that someone would commit suicide because he thought his true love was dead. And guess what? She wasn’t even dead after all. So what happens? She wakes up and kills herself.

Maybe I just like happy endings. I realize life doesn’t always turn out that way but still, Romeo and Juliet for me is a bit of downer.

Like many of his plays, Shakespeare didn’t come up with the idea out of the blue. There were precedents, some very clear.

Romeo and Juliet borrows from a tradition of tragic love stories dating back to antiquity. One of these is Pyramus and Thisbe, from Ovid‘s Metamorphoses, which contains parallels to Shakespeare’s story: the lovers’ parents despise each other, and Pyramus falsely believes his lover Thisbe is dead. The Ephesiaca of Xenophon of Ephesus, written in the 3rd century, also contains several similarities to the play, including the separation of the lovers, and a potion that induces a deathlike sleep.

One of the earliest references to the names Montague and Capulet is from Dante‘s Divine Comedy, who mentions the Montecchi (Montagues) and the Cappelletti (Capulets) in canto six of Purgatorio:

Come and see, you who are negligent,
Montagues and Capulets, Monaldi and Filippeschi
One lot already grieving, the other in fear

Image - Wikipedia

Romeo and Juliet (detail) by Frank Dicksee – Wikipedia

In 1938 the Russian composer Sergei Prokofiev wrote a ballet after the story. And Berlioz (1839) and Tchaikovsky (1869) also wrote classical pieces on the theme.

There have been several screen adaptations. One of my favorites is Franco Zeffirelli‘s 1968 Romeo and Juliet. I remember marveling at Olivia Hussey as a kid when I saw the film in junior high. For me, she was the epitome of womanly beauty back then.

¹ See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Romeo_and_Juliet

In India, the Mahabharata epic tells of a family feud that leads to total war between the Pandavas and the Karavas. This war is also central to The Bhagavad Gita, which is a part of the Mahabharata (some believe a later addition because it differs stylistically). I don’t think the Capulets and Montagues were related but the Pandavas and Karavas were. Of course, Shakespeare most likely did not have access to Hindu myth (in this case, the Puranas) because it hadn’t been translated into European languages yet. But for thinkers like Adolf Bastien, Joseph Campbell and Carl Jung (who believe that certain psychological “patterns” or “structures” arise independently around the world) this wouldn’t have been a huge problem.

Related » Projection, Radha


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The Power of Pop – Still No. 1 after all these years

Just let me hear some of that rock and roll music
Any old way you choose it
It’s got a back beat, you can’t lose it
Any old time you use it
It’s gotta be rock and roll music
If you want to dance with me

Rock and Roll Music, Chuck Berry


Rock and Roll is a form of popular music originally emblematic of the freedoms, joys, sorrows, romance and rebelliousness of youth. It emerged in the 1950s, blending country/western and the blues. The emphasis is on the “back beat” — the second and fourth beats (ta TA ta TA). This is the opposite of the military march, with accents on the first and third beats (TA ta TA ta).

Cultural studies professors and musicologists also say that a lot of rock and pop music runs roughly at the same tempo as – or as a multiple of – the human heart beat. This claim is a bit vague but rock certainly does connect on a visceral level.¹

Early rock’s brightest lights were people like Chuck Berry (1926-), Little Richard (1932- ), Bill Haley (1925-81), Buddy Holly (1936 -59) and “The King,” Elvis Presley (1935-77). These guys nearly killed the old crooners like Frank Sinatra and Bing Crosby. Sinatra was hip enough to joke about it when Elvis appeared on his TV show in 1960. And in 1977 Crosby embraced the, at the time, spiky David Bowie because he recognized his immense vocal talent. So the old crooners were down but certainly not out.

The 60s and 70s saw pop/rock expand into a different kind of beast. Recording technologies (like the multitrack tape studio), the rise of FM radio, and the changing values of the hippie era opened up new sounds, techniques and styles.

Dianna Ross and The Supremes helped to define the Motown sound (music from a record company based in “Motor City,” Detroit).

British groups like The Beatles and The Moody Blues brought in symphony orchestras and made rock accessible to kids from 2 to 102.

Meanwhile, Traffic and Americans like The Doors (with Jim Morrison), Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin challenged conventional parents around the world. Teens and young adults were openly getting drunk, doing drugs and practicing free love.

In this unhinged era of purple haze and paper suns, there were still lots of sharp business people ready to profit from millions of young consumers. Rock took on different styles and marketing categories. The two dimensions, music and money, thrived in a more finely tuned kind of reciprocity.

Suddenly we had Hard Rock, Heavy Metal, Progressive Rock, Funk, Raggae, Soul, Easy Rock, Disco, Glam Rock, Pop Rock, Bubble Gum Rock, Comedy Rock, Folk Rock, Christian Rock, to name a few.

Image by Mike Clark, taken at HMV records downtown Toronto Jan 22 2017 (store now in receivership).

Image by Mike Clark, taken at HMV Toronto Jan 22 2017 (now in receivership).

Some of the biggest 1970s stars were Paul McCartney and Wings, The Rolling Stones, Elton John, David BowieGenesis (with Peter Gabriel), Billy Joel, Pink Floyd, Yes, Led Zeppelin, ELP, Santana, Supertramp, The Doobie Brothers, Steely Dan, Heart, Fleetwood Mac, Steve Miller, King Crimson, The Alan Parsons Project, Rush, Bob Marley, Rod Stewart, Eric Clapton, The Who, The Guess Who, Bob Dylan, Neil Young, The Eagles, James Taylor, Cat Stevens, Joni Mitchell, Carole King, The Bee Gees, EWF and Stevie Wonder.²

Disco also hit the scene in the 70s. Donna Summer is arguably the grandma of EDM, along with her grandpa producer Giorgio Moroder. Moroder still makes commercially viable music today. And producer Nile Rodgers, another 70s survivor who helped David Bowie commercialize “China Girl” in the 80s, recently worked with the EDM star, Avicii.

The German band Kraftwerk also played a huge role in the development of electronic music, as did Alan Parsons in a more progressive style.

One of my favorite 70s songs is “I’m Not In Love” by 10CC (1975). The band used analog tape loops to achieve what we now take for granted with digital tech. The tune is so well done and ahead of its time, I still get goosebumps when I hear it.

The 70s were great to live through but things had to change. Toward the end of the decade pop music was overblown. Progressive rock collapsed in on itself with pretentious, uninspired, pale reflections of former glories.³

Enter Punk Rock, New Wave and Rap.

Johnny Rotten and the Sex Pistols are often cited as the inventors of Punk Rock. And minimalist bands like Devo, The B-52s, The Talking Heads and The Police (with Sting) were part of a “New Wave.” Most of the New Wave fizzled out fast but The Talking Heads made their mark into the early 90s. Their existentialist, deconstructionist songs have been studied by academics interested in postmodernismRappers Delight (1979) is usually credited as the first rap record to reach mainstream audiences, based on “Good Times” by Chic.

Groups like Soft Cell, Eurythmics and Art of Noise used sequencers and digital sampling with a new minimalist response to the excesses of the 70s. A key feature of 80s pop was the “orchestral hit” — a full orchestral sound burst from the touch of keyboard. Sampling was also essential to rap and hiphop.

Annie Lennox

Like most trends, pop’s minimalist response didn’t last. Instead, 80s pop-rock was mostly about slick studio production, made possible by digital instruments and recording gear. Duran Duran and Tears for Fears are good examples of the lush, 80s studio sound. Meanwhile, Depeche Mode worked digital sampling to create harder, “industrial” music.

In 1980 John Lennon and Yoko Ono released their successful album, Double Fantasy. Sadly, Lennon was murdered by a misguided fan that same year. In 1981 The Moody Blues reinvented themselves with a new keyboardist and a No. 1 album, Long Distance Voyager. And in 1983 Yes rose from the ashes with a totally new sound in “Owner of a Lonely Heart.”

Madonna was a sensation in the 80s, along with The Police (Sting), U2, Michael Jackson (the “King of Pop”), Prince, Bruce Springsteen, Steve Winwood, Dire Straits, China Crisis, Queen, Boy George, Wham! and many others. The Cure was an influential art band, lingering somewhere between cult and superstar status.4

The New Age movement and ambient music was also on the rise. Ambient music is a diffuse style pioneered most notably by the producer Brian Eno in the late 70s (Eno also made rock albums). Eno’s seminal album is “Music For Airports” (1978), a soft and repetitive strain of voice and piano tape loops.

Eno’s analog artistry influenced more accessible, digital acts like Enya, various Windham Hill artists and producers like Daniel Lanois. Eno also collaborated with stars like David Bowie, The Talking Heads, U2 and Philip Glass.

The 90s saw more lush studio production with woman singers like Mariah Carey and Céline Dion. Others, like the late Kurt Cobain (Nirvana) and The Smashing Pumpkins kept it straight and simple. Alice In Chains took a dark turn with lyrics like, “you’d be well advised… not to plan my funeral ‘fore the body dies…”

Alice In Chains

Alice In Chains

Radiohead delivered a sound reminiscent of the 1970s band Jethro Tull. Garbage, Bjork, Alanis Morisette, The KLF and Seal all had their moments. No Doubt had a killer single, “Don’t Speak.” And TLC released a classic album, Crazy, Sexy, Cool.

Veteran rockers who kept up with the times (e.g. Elton John, David Bowie and Leonard Cohen) flourished in the 90s with top-selling albums. Others like Paul McCartney and Bob Dylan lost touch with the pulse of the people.

Rap, Hiphop, Dance, Grunge and Techno (now a branch of EDM) also took off in the 90s, although they all began in the 80s or before, depending on how you look at it. The (late) Guru‘s intelligent and pacifist Jazzmatazz vols. 1&2 were appreciated by listeners of all colors and creeds.

The new millennium saw more powerful woman acts like Britney Spears and Avril Lavigne. Mick Jagger and The Rolling Stones, who’ve billed themselves as the “longest running rock act,” continued to fill stadiums.

More recently EDM (electronic and dance music) seemed to dominate for a while. The outstanding EDM artists are Avicii, Skrillex, Tiesto, Krewella, Calvin Harris, David Guetta, Zedd and several others.

Nile Rogers and Avicii

Nile Rodgers and Avicii

But pop music is still number one. Acts like Katy Perry, Rihanna, Taylor Swift, Bruno Mars, Drake and Kanye West tell us that we still want to hear people in the mix.5

¹ The normal human heartbeat range is 60 to 100 bpm. The default tempo for most digital audio workstations is 120 bpm. In a witty interview, classical pianist Glenn Gould says he dislikes rock because it’s always the same tempo within a given song (e.g. 4/4 time). But some Beatles’ time signatures change within a given song. And I suspect the same is true with Genesis and Yes.

² And many more; this list is somewhat arbitrary, mostly based on my upbringing and personal likes. See top 70s bands. Any account of the history of rock must be biased. “The History of Rock” thread at The Reaper Lounge is contentious at times.

³ It’s almost like there’s a universal curve in pop where things start off great, reach their peak, and then decline to mediocrity or worse. By way of contrast, classical composers tend to get better with age, probably because their music is not focused on youth but on maturity.

4 David Bowie’s touching swansong “Lazarus” seems heavily influenced by The Cure.

5 This is how many people feel but it’s not quite right. Everything has changed, once again. The laptop has replaced the guitar as the new indie folk instrument. Anyone with a PC and a bit of talent can post material on SoundCloud or YouTube. This tends to show how incredibly talented the leading producers are. There are amazingly skilled people behind the buttons, and gifted vocalists behind their effected vocals. Some might have to try doing EDM themselves to fully appreciate its human element.


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Regression – Childish vs. Contemplative

coloring time

Jenn Vargas – coloring time via Flickr

In Freudian psychoanalytic theory regression is a defense mechanism in which the ego partially or fully revisits an earlier phase of libidinal¹ development.

This process is generally viewed as a backward step, one brought on by unresolved anxiety that challenges ‘normal’ functioning. It is also maladaptive because the person re-experiences anxiety clustered around an infantile stage of psychological development. In very real sense, one becomes fixated at an earlier developmental stage and aspects of the world are interpreted though the lens of an anxious child.

Not surprisingly, regression can contribute to negative personality characteristics. In the extreme, we get the paranoid, the grandiose, the manipulator, the pathological liar, or some combination thereof.

That’s the down side of regression.

However, consciously chosen regression – for example, creative play, reading childhood books or listening to old records – need not be maladaptive. Returning to earlier pastimes and pleasures in a controlled way can be therapeutic. It helps to integrate the total personality and possibly leads to increased awareness, experience and wisdom.

As a personal example, one of my favorite controlled regressions is listening to music from different periods of my childhood and young teen years. When I listen to my old favorites now, it’s almost like I psychologically ‘travel’ and connect with aspects of my former self. This can lead to an increased appreciation of where I was at within a given era. But this isn’t something I do on a regular schedule. For me, the right time to revisit and reflect simply arises, and discerning that time is more an art than a science. And when the time isn’t right, old tunes just sound like old tunes… stale, small and uninspiring.²

Hanging man artwork, in Husova street, central Prague, Czech Republic, a work by David Cerny intended to depict Sigmund Freud.

In a nutshell, the main difference between healthy and unhealthy regression depends on whether one

  • consciously participates in opportunities to remember, feel and reflect

or

  • unconsciously plays out old neuroses, over and over like a broken record

I touched on this in a piece influenced by the late, great sociologist Max Weber, “Childish or Childlike?

But not all childish people are necessarily fixated to something from early childhood. This is just a theory. Some believers in reincarnation, for instance, believe that we can be fixated to trauma occurring in past lives. On the other hand, geneticists would probably say that some people are simply born sensitive or anxious, and their anxiety and the resulting distortion of ‘reality’ has little or nothing to do with early childhood or past lives. Meanwhile, philosophers ask “what is reality?”

My point is that we should consider various perspectives but never get caught up in a single one, because that’s a kind of fixation too.

¹ Libido commonly refers to sexual energy or the supposed “sex drive” but for Sigmund Freud and his followers, the meaning is far more nuanced. See

See also

² Or as The Bard put it, “stale, flat and unprofitable.”