Monday, November 23, 2020
Sunday, November 15, 2020
Here's a show report that I wish I'd never, ever have had to do.
Kat Vargas passed away on November 1 from complications due to COVID-19. I'd been aware that she'd contracted the disease, but had expected, as I do with most people, that's she'd recover. It was terrible to learn that she'd succumbed to it. She was only 60 years old. Kat was a longterm fixture among the Second Life music scene as a fan and a manager of a number of musicians. I'm not sure who was around SL longer between the two of us -- I started in 2006 -- but it seemed that right from the get-go, Kat was a person you'd see at live music events in SL all the time.
I came to find out that she was managing a number of the most respected and popular musicians in Second Life, including my friend Maximillion Kleene. The first time I met Kat in person was at the initial Second Life Jam that I attended, in San Diego, CA in 2011. She was every bit as warm and fun and friendly -- and gropey, as I related in a story at her memorial -- in person as she was in SL.
I was informed that there was to be a memorial event in SL, and was honored when I was asked to be a part of it. I knew that as you would expect, most of the event would involve somber remembrances of our friend who was no longer among the living. But I also knew that Kat Vargas was a lady who loved laughter and fun, so I decided to try and use my portion of the presentation to serve as a reminder about the fun-loving, rather bawdy, and lovable person whom she was.
The Rose Theatre
The memorial event was held at The Rose Theatre, a very grand and beautiful venue where I'd never previously performed. The organizers of the event set it up as a three-hour tribute to Kat, including some speeches and stories, but mostly jam-packed with musical performances, which seemed very appropriate. As I mentioned while unsuccessfully trying to make my way to the stage, it's a fitting tribute to Kat's impact that so many people were present (over 120 while I was there) that it bordered on crashing SL for many of us.
No matter; I just did my show from where I happened to be, in the very back of the stage area. Everything worked out fine, and the event was touching on multiple levels. The schedule of speakers and performers allowed many friends and musicians to pay tribute to Kat over the course of the day, and included Rusty Seisenbacher, Parker Static, Fly Kugin, Mimi Carpenter, Seli Blackmore, Winter, Quartz, Agatha Nowles, Neomaximus Brandenburg, Anj Gustafson, Kris Composer, Evilynda Baphomet, and others. I know that a number of people were involved in putting on the whole event, and they did a terrific job.
Video of my performance courtesy of Diadorine Lane. Check her YouTube channel for videos of the entire event.
Goodbye, Kat V.
Since I was slated for 15 minutes, I decided to do a few tunes that would have some level of meaning for the spirit of the day. My first tune, Neil Young's "Try", speaks to the importance of spending time with loved ones while they're still around. Golden Smog's "Pecan Pie" is a thinly-veiled metaphor for being horny, and I used that tune to recall Kat's real-life groping of me in 2011. My third song was "Your Song" by Elton John, which was my way of expressing the many songs that were played for Kat V. as "her song" during her time in SL.
I also mentioned during the event that anytime I looked out from a stage and saw Kat Vargas in the audience -- usually because she was with one of her artists who was up before or after me -- it was a sign that people were going to be having fun out there. Her presence as a strong supporter of the music scene in SL will certainly be missed, and she'll be missed as a person, in all of her gropey and silly fun.
Kat Vargas Memorial set list...
Try (Neil Young)
Pecan Pie (Golden Smog)
Your Song (Elton John)
Many thanks to everyone who came to Kat Vargas's memorial event, especially to the kind friends of hers who organized it. You could not have done a better job, and she would have loved it!
Sunday, November 8, 2020
Four years ago, on November 9, 2016, I wrote a post congratulating Donald Trump on his victory in that year's election. Today, I do the same for Joe Biden and Kamala Harris.
Dear Mr. Biden and Ms. Harris,
I write today to extend my congratulations to both of you for having won the 2020 general election. I am happy to say that I supported your campaign and that your victory, which will likely end up as a large 306 to 232 win in the electoral college and a greater-than 5,000,000 vote advantage in the popular election, is indeed a mandate by the American people that change is desperately needed. In contrast to this moment in 2016, I am very optimistic about your presidency and the administration you will build.
My message to you today is very simple: you have an enormous task ahead of you. It may be a bigger challenge than any executive branch has faced since the Civil War and Reconstruction. On one side of you are the people who truly and fervently believed in your predecessor's message... one of an America that is strong and self-reliant at its best, and filled with bigotry and hatred in its worst aspects. On the other side of you are people who felt that you represent the status quo of center-based liberalism, and they distrust that you will take strong action that the left considered essential regarding climate change, wealth inequality, health care, and much more. And, hovering over it all, you have the immediate challenge of the COVID-19 pandemic that has continued almost unabated since its start.
At this very moment, you also have the unprecedented challenge of a former president who has not yet accepted his loss, and will likely be anything but gracious as he eventually leaves office (which he will). But his reticence to act in a way that respects the American democratic process will, at least temporarily, make it even more difficult for you to impart your message of bringing the country together.
It's an interesting analogy that, due to the factors above, you start your jobs with a much heavier burden than nearly any other administration in the history of our country. In a way, that's similar to a person in America who does not have the amount of privilege given to those in the majority of race, gender, and national origin. You will have a more difficult time even getting to what would be the starting line for most presidencies.
A personal side note: I didn't support either of you in the Democratic primaries, with my outlook leaning much more toward candidates like Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders, whom I felt would take the more radical steps necessary to help our country get back on course. That being said, in retrospect, I am not at all sure that either of them would have been able to mount a successful campaign against the former president, nor would have had your respective abilities to help reunite the USA.
All that having been said, I am hopeful and optimistic about the results of your victory, short- and long-term. I am ready to help you achieve your stated goals. And I am truly excited about the possibilities that the next four years bring; it's a feeling far removed from how I felt at this time in 2016. I look forward to the next steps with the following caveat: I will not hesitate to keep pushing the progressive agenda and maintaining a critical eye on your actions. Unlike the last administration, I believe you would expect no less of me, and of all the citizens of the country, so that you can best represent what we want, and what we need.
Thanks, and good luck.
Wednesday, November 4, 2020
Oh, hello there. I'm back.
Where Have I Been for Like Six Weeks?
Fair question. On Saturday, August 29, I injured my back. The exact nature of that injury is still to be determined. I don't want to dwell on this too much, because it sucked, and it's still not over. The long story short is that like a lot of people my age, I have multiple issues with my spine... a herniated disc, scoliosis, and bone spurs. One of these caused a major bout of sciatica that not only debilitated me in various ways, but forced some lifestyle changes to which it's been difficult to adapt. I am still supposed to get an MRI and determine a longterm course of treatment.
It was only via coincidence that at the same time, my former steady show over the past 3-1/2 years ended due to that venue going on long-term hiatus. It's interesting that even if I'd had gigs lined up, I really wouldn't have been able to do them. Life is funny sometimes that way.
Long and sad story short: after things kept getting worse and worse, I had a remarkable improvement just last week, and coincidentally, I'd been booked for my first show ever at a Second Life venue I've long respected: Hotel Chelsea. When my manager Maali Beck told me about the show being scheduled for the first Tuesday of every month, I told her that sounded fine... and then somewhat belatedly realized that my first show there would end up being on Tuesday November 3, aka Election Day.
How About That Election?
I'm writing this on the morning of November 4. For anyone looking back from a historical perspective, we currently, at this very moment, have no idea who won the presidential election. It's looking like once all the votes are counted, Joe Biden will be our next president. But it's extremely close, and given what's happened in previous elections, there's no way to be sure right now.
There's no point in my discussing this here and now. All I can hope for at this moment in time is that the votes are fairly counted -- all of them -- and that the winner is chosen legitimately. I shall refrain from any other statement at this time.
How About That Show?
Yeah. So, my prevailing feeling was that no one would be at this show, my debut at this great venue. Literally no one. They'd all be glued to their TVs and their Twitter and whatever else they focus on during a major election. That feeling increased when I logged into SL and realized that my friend Max Kleene, who'd been scheduled to perform before me, wasn't able to do his show. None of this was upsetting to me; my assumption was that people have priorities, and that's completely understandable.
When I arrived at Hotel Chelsea, my anticipation of playing for no one at all was pretty much confirmed. There was literally me and Shyla, who manages the venue. Maali joined us after a bit, along with a couple of folks who were hanging out. I figured I'd just do my show to that little group of 5-6 people, and it didn't bother me at all. It would be a good way to pass the time, and to stop obsessing on election returns.
And then, something happened that truly shocked me. As I launched into my first song, people started arriving. You could probably hear the shock in my voice as I addressed the crowd between songs. Granted, I'd promoted the show as a great way to give yourself a break from election stress, and it turned out that people actually needed that. We ended up with a seriously great crowd there under the circumstances.
Musically, I'd very purposefully kept the selection of songs on the mellow side. No one, including myself, needed a bunch of high-energy songs in the midst of all the collective stress and anxiety. Despite having been away from live performance for about six weeks, I felt good about both my voice and guitar playing, and am looking forward to more shows soon. Perhaps a live video show between now and my next SL show would be a good idea.
Hotel Chelsea set list...
It's Easy Like Walking (The Sadies w/Kurt Vile)
Among the Leaves (Sun Kil Moon)
The Last Time I Saw Richard (Joni Mitchell)
All Lives, You Say? (Wilco)
River Man (Nick Drake)
Vacancy (Neil Young)
*Mr. Bojangles (Jerry Jeff Walker)
Say Goodbye (Beck)
Perfect Day (Lou Reed)
Pancho & Lefty (Townes Van Zandt)
America (Simon & Garfunkel)
All You Fascists (Woody Guthrie)
*Indicates the first time I've performed this song in SL.
Massive thanks to everyone who came out to see my debut at Hotel Chelsea despite all the excellent reasons not to... and special super thanks to the following who helped support my show there!
Luis Lockjaw, storyofyoursmile Resident, Richy Nervous, Rusty Seisenbacher, Kat Claxton, Diana Renoir, Asimia Heron, Pureperle Anton, Alex Zelin, Maurice Mistwallow, noowun Wind, go2smoky Resident, CB Axel, TheHaroldTheBurrel Resident, my excellent manager Maali Beck, and Hotel Chelsea manager Shyla the Super Gecko!