Category Archives: blog – 5: DIARY

Dear Colin Hay

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Dear Colin Hay, (an open letter)

As artists we seem to spend our time soaring in the blue sky or sunk in the belly of some whale or other. From the outside it might look like the blue sky times are when we are successful, in demand, and the times in the belly of the whale come once we’ve fallen, once we’ve lost all we fought and struggled to attain. But is that so?

I just watched your biopic “Colin Hay, Waiting For My Real Life,” and found it as deeply moving and inspiring as you might hope anyone would find it. And the experience of watching it felt comfortable, and all too familiar.

I too had a dream, and I dreamt big, and like you, I dug in my heels, obsessively worked and made it happen, though in a much smaller universe than the one you inhabited. For a while I was inking characters like Superman and Green Lantern, illustrating Dungeons and Dragons manuals, and doing illustrations for Lucasfilm. And, man, like you when you were on top I felt like this was going to be a forever thing. After all, I’d paid my dues, done my homework, and it was only right that I was where I was.

Right Colin?

But it wasn’t a forever thing for me either.

It all fell apart, no fault of my own… now what? Who the hell was I without that dream? That’s the danger, isn’t it? If you identify yourself as your dream, what do you do when the dream is over? Who are you?

A drunk.

Well, none too surprisingly, I too fell, into alcohol, it seems so many of us draw the same lines and sing the same blues as our work as artists, our lives as artists… hell, our identities as artists, run parallel lines, toss us about in our little ego boats, dashing us into the same rocks, humbling us, but hopefully, if we have the wisdom, all that grinding against the rocks buffs off our rough edges, shows us who we are beneath the big dreams. The spotlight comes from outside, but as artists, our light comes from within, and it’s on the way down and in the flat prairies where we find out who we are, where we shine on our own or sink into darkness. Granted, some of us have to spend some time in the dark before we realize that the light was never coming from the spotlight. The light was never out there.

With or without the dreams, we’re still dreamers. As one of my Indian friends once said to me, straight from the Gita, “Don’t think of the fruit.” All we’re entitled to is the work, never the audience, never the fruit of the action.

And so like you, metaphorically speaking, I learned to play my heart out in smaller halls. And as you joke on stage, somewhere deep down we know it’s not better, but we also know it’s better than drinking, and it’s best to just keep going. And it’s best not to think about it. And moreso, it’s best to keep growing larger as artists even if our audiences grow smaller. Do they define us? Does their size define us?

Besides, what else are we going to do?

It seems you’ve created your best work, regardless of the size of your audience, and I’ve done my best work, regardless of how small or local the print run. There’s an irony in all this, the people who love our best work, the people who are still with us, honestly, they’re the ones who also have realized that the light is not upon us, but shining from us.

I’ve been working on my own story, returning to a character I had created all those years ago, it’s like going home again. I know the audience will be small, but who knows? Your audiences have certainly gotten bigger, maybe not 1982 bigger, but bigger, and maybe mine will be too. So many people respect you, and respect is a vein that runs deeper than fame. Funny, but even as my audience has gotten smaller, the love and respect my students and fans show me seems to have gotten bigger.

I related to your story in so many ways. I felt so many of the same things, and lost so much and so many people along the way.

You are an inspiration, and that’s more than most people give, it’s certainly more than most people get.

The sky is very blue from up here… ins’t it?

Well done,
Justine Mara Andersen

p.s. This is the email I would have written to him after seeing the movie, if only I could have found an address. And… it’s my review of the film… see it, and listen to this man.

Starving Artist Plea for Help

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OK, fans of my art, of my Mara comics, and of Barefoot Justine… here’s the skinny, I am a starving artist, and I really need monthly patrons, even $5 or $10 a month can be a HUGE help to me as I try and maintain my Bohemian barefoot lifestyle, as I try and remain true to my artistic vision.

I am asking any of you who have loved my blog, me, my work, to consider becoming a patron of the arts.

Go here, look into it, my patrons get lots of cool exclusive stuff, too! My Patreon site is finally fully functioning, the benefits are regularly coming to my patrons, and I am wholly committed to creating the kind of comics I want to see, a barefoot heroine enduring all the trials and victories of Exploitation cinema style adventure mixed with mysticism and my own vision.

https://www.patreon.com/barefootjustine

AND SPREAD THE WORD!

Justine’s Site… Exciting NEW Content

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Hey Group, check out my site, an updated Home page, a new animation gallery, a new gallery of my Gainesville work (under “galleries”), and most exciting, an in depth look at my work in progress under “New Mara” (to be found under “categories” or in the top navigation bar), an enormous undertaking that will feature page by page videos and blogs about the process.

And I need help, artists need patrons, so check out my Patron site, too: https://www.patreon.com/barefootjustine

Ganesh, The Dying Fawn & Me

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Diseased Fawn With Ganesh Outside Justine Mara Andersen's Window

Diseased Fawn With Ganesh Outside Justine Mara Andersen’s Window

I’m about to tell you a lot of truth here, truth that might upset and alarm some of my readers.

I have been suffering from increasingly consuming anxiety and depression episodes lately. I took up social dancing in an effort to get out, to meet people, as the loneliness I experience day to day has become unbearably agonizing. For a while I began to feel great, I loved the dancing and dated three men, two of them rejected me after the first date, and the third simply and slowly began to back away. The rejections hit hard and cut deep, and the day after the dates ended, I was diagnosed with a medical condition that upset me very deeply. I became not only frightened, but once again terribly alone… and still poor and without work.

I went from high hopes, dancing and romance, and a job doing a cover for the next Barbarella comic to crushing depression and rattling anxiety very quickly, and I’m going to tell the whole truth here, I broke down. My housemate called 911 when he found me on all fours in the dirt, wretching in emotional agony, when not crumbled into the dirt I began pacing mad circles around our driveway, the machine had broken down. I was devastated, exhausted, and just could not hold it together any longer. I kept saying “Something’s wrong!”

I’d been in the hospital once before after a breakdown, and it was the worst night of my life. The threat of returning to a hospital brought me down to a collapse in which I burrowed into the sofa in the living room. There my concerned housemate found me, and we decided that instead of taking me to a hospital, he would stay with me all night long.

He and I took all the pills from my cabinet.

I was suicidal.

Funny thing, after suicides everyone says insincere shit like “they should have reached out.” Bullshit. We do reach out, but everyone’s too busy. It makes them feel better to say “they should have reached out” afterwords, but the words are just lies we tell ourselves. I had been reaching out.

Fortunately I got in to see my doctor the next day and got on some meds. And luckily for me the best of my friends took me seriously, I reached out and they responded, and I am grateful. But I have been left in a state of deep depression, and essentially spent 2 weeks in bed watching TV. When I look at pictures of myself, I can’t believe I’m being left alone to suffer so much loneliness.

Am I so ugly that no one wants to date me, to care for me? It’s not a question I am asking out loud… but it is the question that spending 6 years alone has forced me to ask myself. And to ask time and again.

Justine Mara Andersen

Justine Mara Andersen

The fact is, I spend a lot of days and nights staring at the ceiling waiting to go to bed, with nothing to do and not a soul to talk to. I can’t even get enough work in to keep my mind occupied, which means I’m also too damn poor and broke to go out and do much.

And more and more being told how “hot” I am by guys on the internet has begun to sting like a thorn in the side. If I’m so hot… why am I so lonely? If I’m so smart, so interesting, why am I always alone?

Why?

And if I’m so damn talented… why am I so poor, so fucking bored, with NO work on my table?

You know what’s meaningless to an artist with no work…? Compliments. Yeah… I’m good, but so fucking what.

What The Lions SAW cover by Justine Mara Andersen

What The Lions SAW cover by Justine Mara Andersen

I’ve even been too miserable to meditate.

And in the middle of all this hell, this poor little fawn came from out of the forest and started settling in our lawn. I could see immediately, perhaps because she was a kindred spirit, that this beautiful animal had been abandoned. I could see that she had no one to care for her. I could see and feel the totality of the suffering.

Eventually she settled in just outside my window, just to the left of where I sit to study Hindu scriptures and the “Siva Purana,” right there between me and a garden statue of Ganesh. It was uncanny, the fawn’s position, timing and condition.

In the middle of my deepest depression, there she was, this poor dying creature, a 5-week old baby that chose to die between me and Ganesh… right under the watchful eye of Ganesh!

I sought wisdom, I talked to my spiritual teachers, told them of my hurting, of the suffering fawn and got some amazing feedback:

“As you perhaps know, in Indian literature the thinking mind is often compared to a deer, that is innocent, fearful, restless and swift. Here for a fawn to rest facing a stone Ganesh is auspicious, suggesting that a restless mind has found peace in still meditation on Ganesh. And just outside your window! This is especially conjured for you to see and reflect upon.”

…wrote one friend, and my favorite monk sent me this:

“Dear Justine,

Are you sure the fawn us dying? Of what cause?

In any event, what a gift, a validation. Clearly, for whatever reason, this fawn feels sheltered and nurtured by the energy near your place of study and contemplation of Shiva et al.

OM namah Shivaya!

May you be well and offer all you can to the woodland creatures for whom you embody sharanam!

With brotherly love and affection,
Shankara”

As for myself, I at least took their advice and began to contemplate and meditate on me, the fawn and Ganesh. I sat in half-lotus on the other side of the window, lit incense and stared over the fawn into my garden Ganesh. I saw that this deer was indeed me, or at least who I was at that moment: sick, weak, frightened and fleeting. It was a manifestation of what was between me and Ganesh, of that pain, that fear and suffering that was between me and God.

Meditation or not, I didn’t know what to do about my life, nor how to care for this fawn, but I knew I was responsible for both. I tried to get her to eat or drink, but nothing, and the poor fawn was swarmed by flies, it’s eyes scabbed shut, and it’s nose looked as if it was simply rotting off, that is why it had buried its nose in its haunches in the top photo. I could not help but watch this animal through my window, raising it’s hind leg, and with the finest touch, scratch at its nose, and it was perhaps the saddest thing I have ever had to witness.

I tried leaving the fawn in the care of Ganesh, but more and more I began to realize that I had to do something, but what? It had been out there for two days, dying before my eyes, right outside the glass of my own window!

Eventually I looked for someone in town who rescued wild animals, and fortunately found someone who was willing to come right over and look her over. She told me the fawn was suffering from a fatal skin condition, which was ironic as my diagnosis was also a potential skin condition. The symmetries were far too intense to be anything but divine. But, she said if we could catch her, the fawn could be treated and rehabilitated.

In our first efforts to catch her, the fawn escaped us, ran deep into the forest. Fortunately, she came back later that evening. I was delighted to see that she had come home… YES… HOME! So I called the wildlife rescuer back, and was surprised to find that she was not only ready and willing to come right over and try again, but that she was to be bringing two biologists who specialize in caring for deer.

We worked out a strategy to capture it. I told them that it had 4 places it liked to go (and ran for them the first time around before it escaped into the forest), and I told them it might be best if we sneak around the back of my room through the quiet dirt and block off the forest with a “wall” (of blanket), then I realized I was telling pros how to do their jobs I apologized, but they were happy to have so much information, so we went through with that plan. me and the wildlife rescuer came around the back in the dark, I held up a wall, she poised herself around the palm tree with a net, one of the biologists shone a spotlight in its eyes from the front (though the fawn was almost blind), and it only had one way to go, so the other biologist, in black, snuck up and caught the little fawn when she took off. It practically leapt into her arms.

It was exhilarating!

The moment the fawn was captured in the arms of the biologist and taken away to be healed… it felt very cathartic, as if a lot of my anxiety and depression went with it. The timing and position of the fawn was divinely guided, I have no doubt about that, neither did my fellow seekers and teachers. And… it came to me, when I needed her, and she came when she needed me. With help, I saved her life, and I think she came to save me as well.

The very next morning I went in to a dermatologist and found that the diagnosis I had received earlier was wrong, I, like the fawn, will be fine. Our skin will be fine.

And I got this when I told the story to my spiritual teacher:

“Dear One Seeking Refuge and Bliss,

Well done! Every act of selflessness and kindness improves the Force — within you and without you.

The vector of that fawn’s life is changed, and so the entire Universe is altered for the better, just that bit.

Big buckets can be filled, one drip at a time.

May you be well and in bright spirits,
Shankara, rejoicing for the beautiful fawn”

I still have a battle to fight, a lot of loneliness, a certain amount of despair about life, my career and hopes of being loved, but now at the very least I have this fawn to meditate on, this great gift from Mother Durga, Lord Shiva and Ganesh. I have great truths to meditate on.

Whatever comes, I must learn to take it as prasadam.

But first, I have to get through one more lonely night. At least that had been the last thought I felt like sharing, but instead a friend came as I wrote this entry and asked if I wanted to go out and have dinner.

And tomorrow, well, that’s another day.

Ganapati Bappa Morya!

Band On The Run, Concept Revealed

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(This is a repost of an older blog entry, reposted to celebrate the 40th Anniversary of this masterpiece. The genesis of this piece bears explaining, first off, the whole notion that the concept of the album is one of motion came from a comment a friend of mine made, something he had read in a review. I have not read the review, and opted instead to take that idea and run with it in my own way.)

Tune into www.growradio.org for Barefoot Justine's show "Get On The Right Thing."

Tune into http://www.growradio.org for Barefoot Justine’s show “Get On The Right Thing – McCartney Reconsidered with Barefoot Justine.”

“Band On the Run is one of those rare albums that spans a magically self-contained world. From the unfolding promise of its title track – itself a pocket symphony of dawning optimism and thrilling new horizons – this is music that takes us places.” In his intro to the deluxe edition of Band On the Run Paul Du Noyer goes on to say, “Is it a ‘concept album’? Not exactly.” Ah, look closer Mr. Du Noyer.

Band on the Run is a concept album. This, of course, flies in the face of Paul McCartney’s phony assertion otherwise. The jig is up, Paul, at last we are on to you. And bandmate Denny Laine states as much himself when he says, “It’s not the tracks, it’s a concept album.” So who are we going to believe? NOT McCartney. He has an annoying way of self-mythologizing into a self-defeating malaise of ordinariness and fluffiness that betrays the depth and significance of his post-Beatle work, his fans, and ultimately undermines his credibility. When it comes to his being respected as an artist, Paul McCartney is his own worst enemy and has contributed more to the lack of respect he receives from the public than any critic. The undoing of his reputation as an artist is, at this point, solely of his own doing.

Let’s quickly set the stage, the Beatles had been over for about 3 or 4 years (Band On the Run was released in late ’73). This was to be his fifth solo album, two of those had been Wings albums, a 5 piece line-up. McCartney had become discouraged and at one point had allegedly told Linda, that if he didn’t get the magic back he was going to cut his throat. Unbeknownst to Paul, the magic had been there through all four of the albums that predated Band On the Run, but Paul McCartney, his fans, and the public had bought the assertion of the critics that his new music was no good. Critics are fools. It really is that simple. Anxious to “get the magic back,” he took off for Lagos. McCartney does not like to sit still as an artist, his first album was recorded by himself at home (quite a daring, dare I say “ballsy,” departure from the glorious Beatle approach heard on their swansong, Abbey Road), the second album (Ram) he recorded in New York, the first Wings album in 2 weeks, and the second Wings album was recorded under far more conventional circumstances. Over the years since McCartney has recorded albums on boats, in castles, improvisationally, and in New Orleans. It seems his creative juices are fueled by adventure. Well, not so for his bandmates. The evening before (an hour before according to some accounts) Wings were to fly to Lagos, two of the members quit. Unphased, a determined McCartney simply said, “I can play the lot myself.” Farewell to them all the same, Henry McCullough’s rotten attitude and sloppy uninspired playing were hardly an asset anyhow. McCullough, it seemed, believed, erroneously, that he was too hot a guitarist to play McCartney’s crafted melodic solos.

paul and wings3

A three man band, Paul McCartney, Linda McCartney, and the ever loyal Denny Laine took off, determined to create an album the other 2 members of the band would forever regret walking out on. Quite quickly the whole experience became far more trying than he could have expected. While in Lagos the monsoons had hit, McCartney was taken aback at seeing corpses in the street, the studio was not yet built (in fact, contrary to the idea that Paul’s a bit of a dandy, he is not only a take charge kind of guy, but quite handy at real work, so he took hold of a saw and helped with the labor of getting the studio into a functional state), the McCartney’s were mugged at knife-point… their demo tapes lost to the muggers, he fell under suspicion by the local African musicians and had to allay their defensive and hostile reaction to his recording there, and finally McCartney himself collapsed and feared he was dying as he was being rushed to a hospital. Picture McCartney in an unfamiliar studio in Africa frightened to death, with half a band, and NO record of the songs he was about to record, the demo in the hands of muggers. This is the world in which Band On the Run was created.

Under the shadow of not knowing if he remembered the songs, McCartney stepped up to the drum kit and got to work.

For years, people studied the album to work out what the concept was. Eventually, everyone seemingly accepted defeat and regarded the album as a near-miss conceptually, though a tremendous achievement creatively. But here’s the rub, McCartney is a sly guy, a clever guy, a complicated man, a conflicted artist, and—as I said earlier, a piss-poor self-mythologizer—elusive to say the least. Even his anti-intellectual phoney-baloney claims to be “ordinary” are denied when you get to know him better as an artist. Take these quotes, which give his smoke screen of shallowness away: “What I have to say is all in the music. If I want to say anything, I write a song.” Indeed, and this: “I can’t deal with the press; I hate all those Beatles questions.” His messages are in his work, and he dislikes the press, so he takes the easy way out, turns off, phones in, and gives them nothing more than what they want–the umpteenth telling of how he met John. If we are going to get to the core of his work and unveil the meanings, we have to do it ourselves. So, pay no attention to that man behind the curtain (that man being the public persona of Paul McCartney), and let’s go…

“’Band On the Run’ itself sets the tone. It moves in and out of beats and genres, and just seems to work. That struck me about it. In fact it made me think, ‘We just didn’t give a damn back then!’” says Paul looking back on the album’s title track. The key word in there is “moves.”

John Conteh, who appeared on the cover, had this to say: “The best one I like about that was ‘Band On the Run.’ I think it’s uhm… the slowness of it at the beginning, and it seems to reach like a climax, an escape, and explosion… BAM! ‘BAND ON THE RUN! We head into the sun, and the first one said to the second one there, I hope you’re having fun,’ so there seems to be some kind of messages then, you know. Ones passing the message, they’ve got an experience, and they pass the message on to someone else, like, you know. So they’ve got all these people on the run, you know. And the run maybe being… of eh, you know, life itself, locked into this prison of self or whatever it is, or a problem whatever your problem, or an actual prison as well.”

And there’s the key, not to take it literally, to see the song and the album as metaphor or allegory. There is no central plot that drives the album as a coherent story, but there is a purpose, a meaning and a concept that everything intentionally revolves around. The meaning is, in a sense not only in McCartney’s life, but in all our lives. Paul McCartney has always been one to take his own experiences, tragedies, and such, and make them universal by in large part relying on fantasy and archetypes. Witness “Let It Be” which while on the surface seems to be about THE Mother Mary, it is actually quite cleverly about HIS mother Mary. There is a similar story about Hey Jude having originally been about Julian Lennon, but cleverly turned into something far more universal. The problem with this is that people like their messages preached rather than prosed. Lately he has been more autobiographical in a way most people would recognize, but if you follow McCartney you realize that one of his techniques is universalizing personal experiences so that anyone can relate to his work in some way or the other. Of course “Band On the Run” works nicely as an enigmatic little story, a fable of sorts, but it also applies to an adult need for rebirth, reinvention, release, and ultimately… freedom. As a song, it is for anyone who feels imprisoned by anything.

Thanks to my friend Ed McLaughlin’s summary of a review he recalled reading, I got started down the path of understanding what this album is all about. It’s about rebirth, release, re-invention, movement and freedom! The title track is in a very real sense McCartney releasing himself from the myth of the Beatles, having become tired of carrying that weight, he insisted that Wings be its own band, that they not rely on Beatles songs in concert, that they not play the same kind of music. It was a start from scratch… an escape from the prison of the megalithic success he had with the Beatles, a mythology that was seemingly impossible to live up to. Few would dare try.

The song opens with: “Stuck inside these four walls, sent inside forever.” The four walls are prison walls, but more specifically the four walls are the four Beatles, and of course McCartney’s pain and depression at losing them as well as his worries about how to follow them. McCartney had this to say about the origin of the verse: “It started off with ‘If I ever get out of here.’ That came from a remark George made at one point at one of the Apple meetings. He was saying that we are all prisoners in some way, some kind of remark like that.” He later adds, “… all put together ‘Band On the Run’–escaping, freedom, criminals. You name it, it’s there.”

“If I ever get out of here,
Thought of giving it all away
To a registered charity.
All I need is a pint a day
If I ever get out of here.”

The autobiographical elements are coded, universalized, fictionalized, and turned into allegory so that we can each get out of it what we need, which, as I have said, is consistent with McCartney’s approach. Moreso, knowing that the above verse was taken from Harrison certainly suggests that we are not over-thinking this song, there are real clues to its meaning, and that the song does inherently have meaning. It is, of course, simpler to take the easy way out as critics do (having never been a particularly deep, patient or insightful group of people) dismissing the fanciful nature of the song, falling back on a cynicism that has no patience with fantasy or romance. From the longing of the song’s intro, it launches into thunder, sun and NEW adventures, and this is stated in a passage that I recently saw pondered over at “mclark.wordpress.com.”

“Well, the rain exploded with a mighty crash
As we fell into the sun”

McCartney frequently uses water, rain, tears, rivers, as symbols, and elements to propel not only the narrative, but the metaphors of his songs. Rain is often used in film and narrative work as a device to show that this is a period of transition, of a new dawn. The Beatles are over, Harrison and all have been released from the four walls, hence the explosion of rain. Furthermore, “we fell into the sun,” the sun, a literal source of light, but also metaphorical of new knowledge, the shedding of light on new possibilities… of a new dawn.

They have escaped from the past and into brave new worlds of sound and thought, a new decade, and new successes. But of course, they are being doggedly pursued, not merely by the “Jailor Man” and “Sailor Sam,” but by the legend of the Beatles and the expectations of the fans–not to mention McCartney’s expectation for himself.

Paul had this to say as well: “… the spirit was like ‘We’re all in this together.’ So anything about desperados or ‘on the run’ kind of united people against all authority. And, you know, we happened to be part of all that.” Keep in mind that this song was actually banned in Russia, it was found too subversive, they saw serious subtext in the songs disregard for authority. Subtext which was, as it turns out, truly there according to Paul. But before we go, let’s take note that the song’s theme is one of movement and release in pursuit of freedom, and there is a lot to talk about here as we notice that most of the songs are about the same thing.

This journey of finally understanding this album did not begin with Ed, no, it started with Tom Hart (founder of SAW, where I teach). This is something I have not often discussed on my blog, as it is part of Tom and Leela’s journey, but I think a little perspective may help, and their situation too, has gone from one of imprisonment to escape. See, Tom and Leela lost their child about 2 years ago, and they just had another. They had been living in a sort of prison, up until this new birth. Tom sent me this after the birth of their new baby girl: “@BarefootJustine should be interested to know the first song I heard after the birth was a McCartney song.” The song was… “Band On the Run.” Of course, of course. Tom also noted that the slow bits made him tear up. To this my friend Ed got the ball rolling by summarizing a review he had read: “The whole album was of hope and looking forward not back. The ‘running’, the rolling, ‘Let Me Roll It’, The flying, ‘Jet’, the future ’1985′ written in 1973, Bluebird, Helen Wheels etc. ‘If I ever get out of here.’” to which Ed added that even “Picasso’s Last Words” is the final movement, death. But McCartney doesn’t stop there thematically, no, he starts out the album very much in the past with a title track that opens full of regrets and pain with one imprisoned by his past, then the title track rushes into the present thematic core of the album with motion, with escape, rebirth, with reinvention, then on to death, and lastly even to the future with the closing song “Nineteen-Hundred and Eighty-Five.” It’s heady stuff, and I think as you can see, this is too well planned and too conscious and consistent to be coincidence or wishful thinking. Ah, but wait, there’s more!

072511browimageThe thematic motion doesn’t stop here with the end of the title track, not with human legs running from the law. The motion, in fact, becomes jet propelled, literally with “Jet,” a roiling rollicking pop-rock song that has legs of its own as it rushes from the speakers, a song I used to hear as I kid. I knew nothing of McCartney, but this song painted pictures in my head, filled me with questions and flooded my head with possible stories, and the song had the same effect on me physically as caffeine. It made me want to move! So with “Band On the Run” and “Jet” we went from on the run to actual flight. Poetry: “Jet with the wind in your hair of a thousand laces, climb on the back and we’ll go for a ride in the sky.” “Wind of a thousand laces” was always a line that stirred me, still is. Look closer, there is poetry buried in Macca’s power-pop! Additionally, “Jet” is also, much like “Band On the Run” a song about escape from authority, in this case into the skies and love, well away from the regimented discipline of the “Sergent Major.” It is interesting to note that “Jet” was the name of one of Paul and Linda’s puppies… yet more motion and birth, even in its origin.

Even at that, McCartney is not finished with the theme of flight. No, next up, organic flight with “Bluebird.” An old friend of mine, Ed Fitch (who wrote Pagan literature in California) pointed out to me that this song was Shamanic. Indeed it is, full of magic and transformation from human to animal. “Touch your lips with a magic kiss, and you’ll be a bluebird too.” This is not simplistic nursery rhyme stuff, no, this is archetypal shamanic vision.

21255949d54ad91ff74081007d40203fThis concept is confirmed by a book I have been reading on the women Saints of India (“Daughters Of the Goddess” by Linda Johnsen). At one point she is talking to Anandi Ma who is trying to explain the incomprehensible experience of awakening ones kundalini. In the process of her attempt at explaining kundalini Anandi Ma speaks of the very strongest feeling she has had since childhood, that of becoming a bird and flying away, not attached to anything. And this, of course is what “Bluebird” is about, keeping in mind McCartney’s time in India and continued interest in a “mystical” spirituality, this is scarcely far-fetched. Indeed, the vision of becoming a bird and losing attachments to fly away into freedom is at the very core of “Bluebird.” It is not surprising in some ways that McCartney does not expound upon these things as they are better left known and experienced than explained–as with all spiritual matters. Recall earlier his quote, “What I have to say is all in the music. If I want to say anything, I write a song.” He will not say this openly, it is in the song, very much deep in this song. Freedom, release, magic, the release of attachments, and of course, more movement and reinvention in that they were once human but are now bluebirds. In a sense, McCartney was once a Beatle, but he is now a bluebird… in Wings. He is at last free and unattached. “If I ever get out of here,” was his cry, and with “Bluebird,” he has… gotten out of there.

Up next, “Mrs. Vandebilt,” a big song in Russia, and a big song to me. The lyrics are in a very real sense about letting go, but this time, of stress:

“When your light is on the blink
You never think of worrying
What’s the use of worrying?

When your bus has left the stop
You’d better drop your hurrying
What’s the use of hurrying?

Leave me alone Mrs. Vandebilt
I’ve got plenty of time of my own
What’s the use of worrying?
What’s the use of hurrying?
What’s the use of anything?

Yes, with Band On the Run, even the mundane can be let go of.

Of course, an album highlight comes up next, “Let Me Roll It,” which has often been mistaken for a song about, and in fact imitating, John Lennon. No. Heavy guitar riff-driven songs have always been part of McCartney’s makeup (still are), and the assertion that the so-called primal scream at the end is McCartney mimicking Lennon is utter rubbish… folks, that’s Denny Laine screaming, not McCartney. That alone puts a close to that theory, even though McCartney himself tried to wishy washy his way into playing into the Lennon imitation myth. But simply put, the song is also about motion, movement, keep things going, “Let me roll it to you,” keep this album on the run.

Next up, a major favorite of mine, a song that is about life, the movement of life, and just as water (rain water in particular) was used as a metaphor or at least a poetic device in “Band On the Run” so it is in “Mamunia.” Water is a symbol often returned to by McCartney, a symbol he uses well in lyrical moments of darkness as well as of lightness. And in keeping with the international flavor of Band On the Run (having been recorded on Lagos) “Mamunia” is an Arabic word meaning “safe haven.” Even the title of this song is far far from Britain.

“The rain comes falling from the sky
To fill the stream that fills the sea
And that’s where life began for you and me
So the next time you see rain it ain’t bad
Don’t complain it rains for you
The next time you see L.A. rainclouds
Don’t complain it rains for you and me”

And more:

“It might have been a bright blue day
But rainclouds had to come this way
They’re watering everything that they can see
A seed is waiting in the earth
For rain to come and give him birth
It’s all he really needs to set him free.

So the next time you see L.A. rainclouds
Don’t complain it rains for you
So lay down your umbrellas
Strip off your plastic macs
You’ve never felt the rain my friend
Till you’ve felt it running down your back

So the next time you see rain, it ain’t bad
Don’t complain it rains for you
The next time you see L.A. rainclouds
Don’t complain it rains for you and me”

Besides this being a classic acoustic McCartney song, it’s also pure Paul optimism. He’s never been one to let rain spoil his day, after all, rain is life. If it rains, strip off your rain gear and get wet! As a side note, that’s Ginger Baker of Cream fame playing shakers (gravel from outside the studio in a can).

Ah, but there is a song about Lennon, the very next one, “No Words,” and as is always the case, no amount of rebirth and movement comes without some amount of looking back, pain, or regret:

“You say that love is everything
And what we need the most of
I wish you knew, that’s just how true
My love was.
No words for my love”

And more:

“You want to turn your head away
And someone’s thinking of you
I wish you’d see, it’s only me,
I love you.”

“No Words” is not a vague half-baked love song, it is instead a rather elegant, poignant and highly personal love song of an unconventional nature.

And now we are coming near the end, and by that I mean the very end, the final movement, the final release, death. In fact, the death of Picasso, a song inspired by Dustin Hoffman. He was initially impressed that McCartney was in Jamaica (where they met) for a very admirable reason, to research Reggae, says Hoffman, “I thought, Gee, he’s doing research like anybody does. He said he did that often. He would hear about a new music and no matter where it was in the world and he would go towards it.” Contrary to popular critical opinion, McCartney takes his work and art very seriously. Though the story from Hoffman is better told by him, the basic point was that he challenged Paul to write a song on the spot while they were having dinner. Hoffman, a Picasso fan, was just reading about his death, and told Paul about it in the hopes that he might write a song. When Hoffman finished, McCartney strummed his guitar and instantly had this song, an event that Hoffman, to this day, finds profound… a moment of “birth” as he puts it. So even Hoffman uses the word “birth,” and above talks of motion with, “he would go towards it.” The song itself, “Picasso’s Last Words,” production-wise was never a favorite. I never cared for the jarring jumpiness of it, the weird way things cut in and out in a seemingly clumsy way–very unlike Paul, and I realized years later that what I didn’t care for about the song is in a sense the same thing I dislike about Picasso’s work. McCartney intentionally set out to make the song “Cubist.” That explains the off-putting nature of the piece. But I do have to admire McCartney’s high-minded (and successful) effort to create a Cubist piece of music. Oddly, one of the things I love about McCartney is his experimental way of writing, often disregarding verse chorus verse chorus formula, but in this case, the flow seemed, as it turns out, appropriately disjointed.

And lastly, we come to “Nineteen-Hundred and Eighty-Five,” which takes us beyond death and propels us (moves us) into the future. The lyrics do not tell a narrative of any kind. They are rather stream of consciousness, but that to me does not make the lyrics dismissable. They fit, flow, and sound exactly right in the context of the rhythm. I never considered McCartney’s lyrics weak, not at all, nor even stream of consciousness, no with McCartney the lyrics are too perfectly fit by far, and too evocative. His lyrics instead being more like “stream of collective unconscious,” as I like to say. More trippy and archetypal than nonsensical. And as another friend of mine says with snorting dismissal at the charges that McCartney’s lyrics aren’t any good: “Those are the lyrics to the song.” Yes, and McCartney knew that well enough to not fight the flow of words that came with the song. Beyond the words… the song propels the listener faster and deeper into an explosive big bang ending through McCartney’s brilliant piano work and the powerful orchestration. Dare I say… it’s rather apocalyptic. The final movement of the album, with Nineteen-Hundred and Eighty-Five is significant.

That would round out the album, except for one other song, that originally was sandwiched somewhere into the middle on the American version of the album (it never appeared on the British version), “Helen Wheels” a roadtrip song, and what says more about motion, movement, fast motion and freedom than a road song? Perhaps the only British road song. Additionally, this song was quite literally born of motion as “Helen Wheels” was the name of their land rover.

So that, in a nutshell, is Band On the Run, the concept finally explained, movement and reinvention, freedom and release, rebirth and an allegorical journey from the past right through to the future; every single one of the songs perfectly lined up to propel this enigmatic if not complicated concept to fruition. As for me, albums don’t come much more conceptual than that. Take that, Major Tom!

(Note: If you see any factual inaccuracies or notice anything I have missed, I welcome contributions, comments and suggestions that are passed along in a friendly manner. I am better by far with concepts and ideas than with specifics of date, etc.)

Sold Out Performance!

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Well, what a thrill that was. For the first time in my life I got to perform before a sold out house! The pic. of me on the poster was originally taken especially for a failed romance (I sent it to the presumed long-distance lover… who arrived and went down like a mouthful of sour milk). Needless to say, after investing so much emotional energy in what turned out to be a depressing disaster rather than a sweeping romance, I have not been happy lately, but rather depressed and hurting. Frankly, a bit in despair.

Christmas was a bitch. Humbug indeed.

The good news is I have begun to feel better, and seeing that same picture on the poster for an event that was as grand as this one turned out to be not only revitalized my tired body and mind, but changed the way I view the photo. I no longer see it as a pic. I took for some loser, but as a pic. that was used to promote a sold-out and standout event!

Tonight was it, the Gainesville Story Summit in which the three storytelling communities in Gainesville picked their best 2 storytellers each for a one-night only performance. I was initially honored to be invited to be part of it, and it was indeed an honor. Not merely because I was picked among the dozens of possible storytellers, it was also an honer because the performance was held at Gainesville’s Heartwood Stage, which is a very professional and upscale venue in Gainesville… and the show was being professionally recorded and edited. For the same reasons, for the past few months, whenever I thought about the night I was nervous as hell.

Horribly enough, I wondered if I would be able to go through with it once the time came. To tell the truth, it was not lack of talent or total and absolute public indifference to my music that caused me to set my guitar aside all those years ago, but a ten-year losing battle with that most formidable of dragons… stage fright! Stage fright… the great thief, no amount of practice or talent or preparation can slay that dragon, no numerous shots of whiskey will loosen it’s claws from our skulls. I’ve won many battles against it, but as a musician I lost the war… I wondered if I would win or lose as a storyteller.

As the big night came, I spent the day relaxing, working out my outfit, and trying not to prepare my story. This sounds like madness, but being a veteran speaker and performer, one thing I know for certain is that preparation would have changed the process, but not the performance, so I went in thinking I’d wing it. The part I really needed to work out prior to the show was the beginning of my story, or rather my entrance, but often my entrance is dictated by whimsy and circumstance. I had decided at the last minute to tell a story that was wholly different from the one I had been contemplating for months. I chose to tell the story of my experiences with the Fey in and around the stone circles and megaliths of Ireland. That story dealt with how my faith in God was entirely replaced with experience of the divine and the mystical.

I chose to wear one of my long formal Indian dresses and tights, the long red dress and gold leggings. In the Indian style, I topped it with bangles, ankle bells, a scarf, and my trademark bare feet. It’s been cold here lately, and it was only one degree above freezing by the end of the night. At least it was warm at the venue. As we all hung and paced around backstage I began to dread that I had made a terrible mistake. For a start, news was coming in that the show had been sold out, people were lined up outside, and most of the storytellers were, quite sensibly, studying their notes and rehearsing their well-prepared stories. All I knew, at long last, was how to start the story, beyond that I was placing my faith in Shiva, my center, and faith that I would vibe off the crowd and improvise. Truth be told, I was figuring I didn’t have to rehearse something I lived, something that changed me. Seemingly being the only one so recklessly unprepared, It was starting to seem like a really bad idea.

At one point as I was pacing and breathing deeply in the greenroom I began to panic, but thanks to my dedication to meditation, my understanding of the nature of reality being that which we make it, and my recollection of Bilbo Baggins in The Hobbit, I had a genuine understanding that I had a choice. Like Bilbo walking down the cavernous hall before his first encounter with Smaug, the dragon, I too walked down the hall between the backstage door and greenroom before facing my own dragon. Like Bilbo I realized, as I felt a fever of panic swelling up in me, envisioning myself freezing up and panicking, unable to go out onto the state or speak once I was in the spotlight, that such an outcome was only one option. “Here, Justine, is where you fight your real battle,” I told myself. Like Bilbo, like Arjuna, like Justine, I chose. The choice was between the reality in which I sunk into a nervous and incompetent panic, or the one where I catwalked with ankle bells jingling across the stage barefoot and in control. I chose the story I preferred. I chose to stop the rising panic and face down the dragon with confidence. After all, I am a barefoot wild woman, a panther woman, not a quivering coward.

Ha! There was a reason I was the one on stage and not among the peasants in the audience (she says with a cocky toss of the head).

I was to go on second, the first storyteller, Gail Johnson, told the kind of story that could not have been more suited to a progressive Gainesville audience as her tale took place during the election and inauguration of Barack Obama. What I didn’t know was that her story had a mystical ending. This, of course was a perfect setup for my story. I chose the mysticism of Ireland over the political anxiety of my escape from Chile as an illegal immigrant because that story was my story, as now more than ever, to me… mysticism matters.

From the greenroom I watched her deservedly leave the stage triumphant, and on the monitor watched the MC give me a brilliant introduction. It was surreal. This was like real showbiz, an elegant auditorium, a sold out show, a monitor, a green room, lights… camera… action.

I stood at the door, stage left, and felt a surge of energy as my turn to take the stage occurred. Stepping out onto the stage with a bottle of water and a shot of whiskey, and a surprising amount of confidence, I chose to fulfill the promise of her introduction, of their confidence in having chosen me to perform. The smiles and eager eyes of the audience set me at ease, and to me they looked like a crowd of happy little Ganesha’s full of wide-eyed anticipation and warm blessings.

From my first words, they were with me.

“I didn’t do any preparation for this show… as I realized that preparation would affect the process but not the performance… we’re about to find out if that was a mistake.” I took a shot of whiskey, they laughed… “This is the story of how I lost my faith…”

and I killed ’em!

Yeah, sometimes it feels good, real real good.

But I won’t tell the story here, you had to be there, I’m glad I was, and I’m glad they all were too. But I will tell the moral of the story, and that his how my faith had been replaced with experience of the mystical. Faith can be easily toppled by the words of atheists, but no words from any atheist can put a dent in a standing stone.

They applauded, and I returned to the dwarves in the greenroom victorious and with a small golden treasure stashed away inside the folds of my dress. And Smaug… he was dead!

Titiksa

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Titiksa
by Justine Mara Andersen

How well do I wish him?
Now I wish him well away,
Yet it’s his mad infection,
in my skin like a splinter.

I want nothing from him,
Not even his sad failing,
Nor any further falling,
Other than from my mind.

I wish him well but only,
If he be gone and done,
Silent to me as old bones,
Done to me as any scar.

How well do I wish him?
I wish him nothing less,
Than I wish for myself,
Peace and all forgetting.

Peace and all forgetting.

Titiksa.