Friday, September 13, 2013

Whither Chant?

I don't chant - I'm not a member of any religious or spiritual group.  I don't even meditate - though I'd like to.  I suppose I enjoy songs with chanting in them.  & I enjoy chants - if you're saying "songs" in French.  I enjoy songs, & I am sometimes pretentious.

Still, at some point in the past year I noticed that chants were coming at me from different points & at different angles.  I thought to myself, I should do a show about chants.  & now it's going to happen.

That seems a prosaic explanation, which has only the virtue of being as true as it's boring.  Most of my shows come from pretty banal origins.  One day I'll have an insight or epiphany perhaps, & maybe even be struck by an actual muse.  But really, Self Help Radio gets an idea from somewhere, lets it sit in some sort of quiet for reflection (though not chanting), & then emerges, somewhat disheveled, as the uncomfortable radio show it is.

It's on tonight!  On 88.1 fm WRFL!  From ten pm to midnight!  Eastern time zone!  Also online at WRFL dot FM!

I'll probably just chant through the airbreaks.  You have been warned.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Preface To Chants: What Kind Of Chants Should I Take?

That's an awful pun, sorry.

I knew a woman once who was Japanese who worked with me.  She had married an American GI & he had brought her back to the States.  But their marriage fell apart so when I knew her she was single.  Not that I had any interest in dating her.  She was quite sweet & pleasant to work with, though it was often amusingly difficult to communicate with her.

She was usually having financial issues, probably because of her divorce & being separated from her family.  (I got the impression her family frowned upon her marrying an American.)  She would ask all of her co-workers advice about purchasing things, & she would openly daydream about things she really wanted - sometimes clothes, sometimes jewelry, sometimes big-ticket items like property or a car.

One day she was talking about an expensive car she wanted.  She said, "I am going to chant for it."

I said, thinking she was mistranslating a word, "Do you mean, 'pray for it'?"

She said, "Oh no, I don't pray.  I am a Buddhist."

I was a little perplexed by this.  Weren't Buddhists, I wondered aloud, supposed to be detached from the material world, since desire caused suffering?

She laughed at me as if I were na├»ve.  She explained to me that you could use Buddha energy to make things happen for you.  The Buddha wanted you to be happy!

I of course thought she was full of beans & had discovered some bastardized - or, worse, Americanized - form of Buddhism that completely inverted the teachings of the Buddha.  The conversation I recreate above is a summary of what we talked about, not actual quotes.  I wouldn't remember exact words anyway, but it would have covered more than five minutes to share a few sentences with her - her English wasn't great.

This first-person narrative online explains to me something I never bothered to follow up on: this is apparently a form of Buddhism called "Nichiren Buddhism."  The Wikipedia page establishes this as a venerable strain of Buddhism, older than Protestantism.  However, the blogger's experience suggests that it's exactly the sort of Buddhism my old co-worker was practicing.  "Earthly desires equal enlightenment," a practitioner tells the narrator.  She points out that they were not chanting "for altruistic things."

Hm, do I currently know any practicing Buddhists?  I should ask them about this group.  If you read this & you have something to add or correct, please do so!

I don't remember my co-worker's name - it's been over twenty years since I last saw her - but I thought about her when I decided to do a show about chanting.  I hope she's gotten everything in her life she's chanted for!

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

I Wish I Had More Things To Say About The State That I Am In

I have the suspicion (said he) that a lot of what you say is wrong.

If that's true (said I), why don't you attempt to disprove these things I say?

I would, I would (said he), but I don't think I know enough.

Ah! (said I) so you don't know that I am wrong but you feel that I am wrong.

I don't think (said he) it's coming entirely from a feeling.  For example, part of what you're saying may contradict something that I know to be true, but just a part, so I can't entirely dismiss what you're saying.  However, that part is crucially important to your argument, & so it tends to make me distrust the entire thing.

Shall I even ask (said I) what part of what I've suggested goes against something you know is true?

Well of course (said he) I can't think about anything in particular you've said right now.

Of course (said I).

Please don't be sarcastic (said he).  Some people don't have a quick mind.  Or good recall.

Then perhaps (said I) when I say something that seems to be untrue or, as you put it, "wrong," you can speak up at the time or while we're talking instead of suggesting, like you have, that two or three incidents have invalidated most of what I say.

You know (said he), you have I guess it's a rhetorical trick or something because you've managed to make it sound like it's just been two or three times instead of most of the time.

Well (said I) you can't even give me one example, which makes it a pretty bold statement since you & I have been having conversations for years.  Or...

What (said he)?

Or perhaps (said I), this is something you've only noticed in the past few months.

No (said he).

Which begs the questions (said I), why bring it up now?

I don't know (said he).  Maybe I've been meaning to & it just came out.  What were we talking about before?

The new Star Trek movie (said I).

Oh yeah (said he).

In which case (said I) I don't know if anything I said at that time might be construed as wrong, as I was just giving you my opinion of the film.  You might disagree with my opinion, but I don't think you can say an opinion is "wrong."

You can't (said he)?

I don't think so (said I).  At best an opinion can be informed.

What do you mean (said he)?

I mean (said I), I can make a comment about a jazz record like "I don't like this record," but since I'm not a huge fan of jazz or since I don't know much about it, my opinion would mean less to someone who knows way more about jazz than I do.

Oh (said he).  Maybe I wasn't talking about opinions then.

You don't remember what you were talking about! (said I).

You always have to be right (said he).

Tuesday, September 10, 2013


I got a smoldering call during my Tennessee show (not on the air) in which a curt fellow, sounding as if he was talking with his mouth pressed up against the phone's microphone, asked me, without saying hello, "Well, what part of Tennessee are you from?"  I told him I was actually from Texas.  It seemed to flummox him that someone would ever want to do a radio show with songs about Tennessee unless they felt some sort of birth-related connection to the state.  When I pressed him about why this concerned him, he said, "I just don't like Tennessee."  Fair enough!

Someone from Tennessee was listening in, however, & he said the show made him feel less homesick.

Even if you're not from Tennessee, you can feel less homesick by listening to the show now at the Self Help Radio web presence.  Or you can just click to hear one of the two parts: part I | part II.  The list of Volunteer State Songs are below!

Thanks for listening, Kentucky (& the rest of you)!

(part one)

"On The Banks Of The Old Tennessee" Mr. & Mrs. J.W. Baker _Flowers In The Wildwood: Women In Early Country Music_
"Wreck Of The Tennessee Gravy Train" Uncle Dave Macon _Hard Times In The Country_
"In The Hills Of Tennessee" Jimmie Rodgers _The Singing Brakeman_

"Tennessee Dog" Jimmie Strothers _Folk Music In America, Vol. 11: Songs Of Humor & Hilarity_
"Easin' Back To Tennessee" Sleepy John Estes _Jailhouse Blues_
"Tennessee Border" Tennessee Ernie Ford _16 Tons Of Boogie: The Best Of Tennessee Ernie Ford_
"Tennessee Saturday Night" Ella May Morse _The Very Best Of Ella Mae Morse_
"In Sunny Tennessee (with Hal Lone Pine)" Betty Cody _The Successful Hillbilly Era Of Betty Cody_
"Tennessee Wig Walk" Bonnie Lou _Doin' The Tennessee Wig Walk_

"The Ballad Of Davy Crockett" Bill Hayes _Hello Children Everywhere_
"My Little Home In Tennessee" Mac Wiseman _The London American Story_
"Tennessee Toddy" Marty Robbins _Marty Robbins Rocks!_
"Tennessee" Carl Perkins _Atomic Platters: Cold War Music From The Golden Age_
"Tennessee Zip" Kenny Parchman _The Essential Sun Rockabillies_

"Tennessee" Jan & Dean _All The Hits, From Surf City To Drag City_
"Tennessee Waltz" Anna King _Back To Soul_

(part two)

"Tennessee" Jimmy Martin _Tennessee_
"Rocky Top" The Osborne Brothers _From The Vaults: Decca Country Classics 1934-1973_
"Worried Now In A Tennessee Town" Mississippi Joe Callicott _The Complete Blue Horizon Sessions_

"Down In Tennessee" Ohio Express _Chewy, Chewy_
"Tennessee Bird Walk" Jack Blanchard & Misty Morgan _Classic Country: 1969-1975_
"My Tennessee Mountain Home" Dolly Parton _My Tennessee Mountain Home_
"Tennessee Whiskey" George Jones _The Essential George Jones: The Spirit Of Country_
"Tennessee Stud" Johnny Cash _American Recordings_

"Tennessee" Arrested Development _3 Years, 5 Months & 2 Days In The Life Of..._
"Tennessee" Silver Jews _Bright Flight_
"Tennessee" The Galactic Heroes _How About San Francisco?_
"Tennessee Blues" The Howling Brothers _Howl_

"When It's Iris Time In Tennessee" Rick Pickren _The State Songs, Vol. 3_
"Suddenly Tennessee" Lee Hazlewood _For Every Solution There's A Problem_
"Tennessee Houn' Dog Yodel" Marvin Rainwater _M-G-M Hillbilly Vol. 1_