Category Archives: Potpourri

George Carlin called them “Brain Droppings”. Random thoughts, updates and observations separate from the historical narrative of “The Latest Installment”

The current social unrest in the US is not a new thing. Nor is our tendency to express outrage and frustration through humor. I was reminded of this classic Firesign Theatre piece about the systemic (and recurrent) subjugation of Native Americans released at the height of the Civil Rights Movement in January of 1968. To me, this is a reminder that the time we live in isn’t different from the past. Change does not occur according to a schedule, it is always preceded by a tipping point. (Can you feel it?)

If you’re not familiar with the recording, click the player below or listen to it here (Temporarily Humboldt County). Even if you think you remember it word-for-word, I suggest you also read along because it moves rather quickly (Script).

“Be excellent to each other and party on.”

Ooo, shiny!

I Come By It Honestly

My love for words didn’t just spring from thin air. To prove that, here’s a poem my father wrote a few days ago to honor Jimi Hendrix’ birthday. Note also that it’s in his favorite form: a series of limericks.

Happy Birthday Jimi Hendrix
by Ken Miller (the elder)

He was born in Seattle this day,
Where the Hawks and the Mariners play;
Where it rains quite a lot,
And Bill Gates sails his yacht ,
While he sips on a rare chardonnay.
In the army he served for a spell;
But things didn’t go very well.
So he left to pursue
What he wanted to do:
Playing songs in a club or hotel.
Jimi later moved east to New York
With no visible means of support.
He was fully rehearsed,
But he struggled at first.
All his efforts were coming up short.
But he didn’t give up on his dream.
And soon he was gathering steam.
And began making hay,
With the way he could play,
In the days of the Johnson regime
John Hammond saw Jimi perform,
And a star was summarily born.
His mettle was proved.
Soon to England he moved,
Where imbibing warm beer is the norm
The Experience later was founded
By Jimi, who soon was surrounded
By groupies galore
Who were shouting for more
From this man who amazed and astounded
For Monterrey Pop he returned
To the States, back when draft cards were burned
To annoy Uncle Sam
In the era of ‘Nam
Jimi’s talent was fully affirmed
At Woodstock he also appeared
On the musical path that he steered
He was seen as a god
Both at home and abroad
By his fans he was loved and revered
But there also were demons at play
Jimi’s brain cells were wasting away
From his substance abuse
Not unlike Lenny Bruce
In an era of moral decay
In his 28th year Jimi died
At the end of a magical ride
He expired too soon
Like his buddy, Keith Moon
With his girlfriend alone at his side
Jimi would have turned 72
On this day and be hoisting a few
But he’s resting in peace
Since his soul was released
And we bid him a tearful adieu

Bach to the Fugueture

Here’s a video of me playing “Bach to the Fugueture”. The sound quality is poor, so I put a link to the Studio Recording at the end of this post (different guitar/different key/way slower).

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I’ve been thinking a lot about Veteran’s Day and I can’t be more honest than to admit that I will never understand what our servicemen and women or their families experience or how it feels to have been through one or more tours of duty.

I can say, however, that I have seen, first-hand, the damage combat can do to people. I had one friend return from Desert Storm profoundly changed by his experience and so deeply disturbed that he genuinely frightened me. And then I have another friend who returned relatively unscathed.

The closest I ever came to military service was obediently submitting my Selective Service form when I turned eighteen. I felt no obligation to serve and was grateful that I never had to (although I likely would have if called).

So, what do I feel about this holiday? Well, I used to work in a VA hospital and I remember seeing lots of patients waiting for treatment in clinic after clinic as I walked through. I don’t believe we (as a country) fulfill the promises we make to our veterans. I am also embarrassed when I witness someone taking their frustration toward an administration’s policies out on the individuals who serve. We are all in this together!

No, I can never fully understand what it means to serve, but I do appreciate the difficult, vital and unique work our servicemen and women do to protect and preserve our way of life AND I AM GRATEFUL FOR YOUR SERVICE; NOT JUST TODAY, BUT EVERYDAY.

Did You Know I Had a YouTube Channel?

Some of you do and I want to thank you for tuning in.
I’ve rocketed past 1000 views this week.

OK, I know; not exactly going viral, but I still think it’s pretty cool.

If you didn’t know about my YouTube channel, you can check it out here: KenMillerMusic.

I’d love to hear what you think.

My Old School

OK, a couple generations may have passed, but this is still my high school and it’s STILL the home of some of the most talented kids on the planet.

Here is the official entry for the Trib Total Media Lip Dub Contest for 2014. Voting begins next Friday (11/14).  If your high school isn’t in the running for this contest, please vote for this video (Thomas Jefferson High School). Can I get a ‘whoop-whoop’?

This weekend I realized that I get to do stuff that not many other people get to do.

I serviced and road-tested six antique motorcycles in beautiful weather on some of the greatest roads in the world.

So, the next time I bitch about something, feel free to whack me up side the head.

Pardon our dust

I know I haven’t posted anything in a while and for those of you who have been following the South of France thread, there’s one more installment in the works that includes our drive around the Saint Tropez pennisula (talk about yer twisties!).

For those of you who have been following the autobiographical thread (The Latest Installment), I got stuck in the doldrum years after getting together with Donna and before I started writing and playing regularly again. (To me, it’s boring. But, I can’t explain where I am without telling you how I got here so I promise to write it down.)

The truth is, I’ve been busy with the more mundane activities of life (I’m sure  you understand) and have had to travel often and unexpectedly. That’s the reason I cancelled my last show and why I haven’t booked any others.

But…I have been playing and even writing a bit. I’ve got enough rough mixes of new material for about half an album and that’s WAY ahead of the pace of WORK IN PROGRESS (which took me about ten years to finish/surrender). Most of my practice time over the last month has been finger-picking (classical and some folk favorites) so I offer you this Simon & Garfunkel classic as a particular favorite of mine and a topic that has been on my mind as I crossed the half-century mark this spring.

“So…I continue to continue to pretend my life will never end and flowers never bend with the rainfall.”

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I’ve been given a songwriting assignment. My task is to write a few songs about greyhounds (dogs, although references to busses and highway travel may figure into the mix too). I’d love to have your thoughts on this (particularly  those of you who have known the ‘joy’ of greyhound ownership).

I’m looking for sound bytes I can incorporate into lyrics. I’ll take anything from rhyming couplets, literary imagery, anecdotes, truisms, limericks, pictures, poems, memories…anything that will resonate with greyhound owners or dog people in general (melodic ‘roo-ing’ for example).

And if you already have a song, please share that with me. I’d love to hear it and with your permission, I’ll add it to my repertoire.

Funny…Frustrating…Maddening…Sad…Sweet: Help me convey all the dimensions of sharing our lives with these quirky, lovable creatures.

The ultimate goal is to put a show together for next year’s Dewey, DE Greyhounds Reach the Beach event in October. I promise you’ll know in advance if I’ve used your contribution. I’ll even share the copyrights with you.

Oh yeah…. And if you’re looking for a world-class companion, you really can’t do better than a retired greyhound. The smallest big dog you’ll ever love and the world’s only bonefide 40mph couch potato.

Thanks everybody!!

Auditioned a new song for Donna today tentatively titled “The Frets on My Guitar”. (I know, another punny title, but you’ve come to expect that, right?)

It made us both cry so I guess it hit its target. She says it’s good. I even inserted some prurient jazz chords (m9, 6/9, etc.) I just have to find time to record it….

Here’s the lyric.

A million wrongs to a thousand souls, I cannot make them right.
Yet, in the silence of my mind, they wake me in the night.
Nocturnal worries, they compete for attention like baseball bats on cans.
The dissonant reminders of a million abandoned plans.
I’m forced at last to accept the obvious; I’ve peaked, there’s no going back.
I recognize the downward slide. It’s a biological fact.
I used to believe I lived in a world that was big enough for me.
Plenty of room to walk away rather than disagree.
Whenever I didn’t like where I was, I packed up and walked out of town.
But I’m older now and feel somehow that I may have walked clear around.
The land I’m in is scorched and bleak. It feels like I’ve been here before.
I never thought I’d be coming back searching for something more.
I don’t want to hide in the maze.
I don’t want to rant and rave;
Don’t really want to make waves,
But I will not waste a new day.
It’s too late for a family, too late for new friends and I’ve already forsaken the old ones.
Too many loose ends, too many pretends, too many “doings” and not enough “dones”.
Oh, what’s it like to be happy? I’ve never really known.
I don’t even know just what I want. I just know that I want to go home.
I don’t know what would fulfill me or whether it would last.
What is it I’ve still got to learn by dwelling on the past?
I am compelled to be dark, tragic and somber. I’ve never understood why.
Will I carry this feeling of impending doom until the day I die?
I’ll suffer and wither and fade and fail. A waste of this gift of life.
But every time I think to complain, I’m reminded that misery is rife.
In search of the undefinable, I circle endlessly.
Neither reaching conclusions nor self-discovery.
I don’t want to do what I’m good at…don’t know how to do anything else.
I’m too far away from my childhood and not close enough to myself.
I need the comfort of fellowship, but don’t know where to begin.
Hiding in verse is my usual way of getting out what’s in.
Some are driven to distraction, but drive IS the distraction for me.
I’ve been driving myself since I was a child ’cause I really don’t know what to be.
We toss & turn through unending nights and fret compulsively.
For, without struggle, we have no point. Still, we owe ourselves clemency.
So I meet with the dawn, leave the darkness behind and keep fixing what is broken
I’ll fight for my causes, accept wins and losses and isten as well as I’ve spoken.
I do believe we all feel these same feelings from time to time
We struggle, we cry, we win, we lose, we commiserate in rhyme.
I don’t want to die in a maze.
I don’t want to rant and rave.
I don’t really want to make waves.
But I will not waste a new day.
No, I will not waste a new day.
I. Will. Not. Waste. A. New. Day.

Doctor Ken (c) Ken Miller 2014
June 6, 2014

I find my views changing over the years
Not so unlike those of my peers.
Trust is eroding and far less abundant
Pundit? Incumbent? It all seems redundant.

Is the world so much different or is it just me?
I thought growing older would start making things easy.
I feel like I’m struggling now more than ever
And it’s not enough for me just to be clever.

There’s a paradox of political power
And a reason why leaders so often go sour.
Candidates are rewarded for glossy perfection.
Why are we shocked when they lie after election?

I am falling into a timeless abyss
And this sense of foreboding I cannot dismiss.
Battered and tired, but my mind still rages.
Courageous or outrageous, I hope it’s contagious.

The view is quite narrow from under a rock.
It all looks the same
From the dove to the hawk,
The geek and the jock,
The shepherd, his flock,
The sneer and the gawk,
The slam and the knock,
The toe and the sock,
The walk and the talk,
The boat and the dock,
Van Halen and Bach.

So, crawl out (if you can) and look cross the land.
We’re all smart enough to build a new plan.
The world’s too small to just draw the shades.
You’ve got to get out there before evening fades.

Well, tomorrow I make my international début here in the south of France. The organizers have rented two guitars for me (12-string and 6-string acoustics) so I didn’t have to fly mine over, All I had to bring were picks, capo and harmonicas.

I’m pretty comfortable with my sets. Lots of my favorite tunes. Hoping to get everybody in a good mood. Thinking happy thoughts.

Bonne nuit mes amis.

Hey, I’m going to perform in France later this month.

All I need to do is get someone to capture video on their cell phone and I can call myself an international recording artist.

Don’t worry though. I won’t let this turn me into an arrogant jagoff.

I’ve added the two songs I wrote in 2004. These songs mark a transition for me into material of higher production standards, but fewer ‘simulated’ instruments. So, if you had the feeling that the earlier songs left something to be desired in terms of professional qualities, I would agree.

Check them out if you have the chance. I’d appreciate that.

“Photographic Memory”: The names have been changed to protect me.
“My Greatest Fear”: The most personal and stark autobiographical song I’ve ever written about the most terrifying thing that has ever happened to me.