Mythos & Marginalia

life notes; flaws and all

j.g. lewis

original content and images ©j.g. lewis

a daily breath...

A thought du jour, my daily breath includes collected and conceived observations, questions of life, fortune cookie philosophies, reminders, messages of peace and simplicity, unsolicited advice, inspirations, quotes and words that got me thinking. They may get you thinking too . . .

Mondays are just young Fridays

It is a substantial record: Clues.
   The 1980 album by Robert Palmer took new wave sensibilities of the late ‘70s and ushered in the magnitude of what would become standard ‘80s popular music.
   I listened to the record intently last week, twice in a row. It has been decades since I have done that, but I had to. I enjoyed listening to the music that much.
   Years ago, I used to do it often. As a teenager, I remember the excitement of buying a new LP and listening to it repeatedly for hours and days. These were the times when radio wasn’t playing a lot of rock and roll. I grew up in a city that had only one AM station for the longest time (until a country music station took to the airwaves), and it was more focused on news, current events, and mostly my mom’s kind of music. Evenings they would play to a younger generation, but only the more popular pop songs (there was also an FM station but it played only classical music.
   Records and Rolling Stone magazine were then my link to real music.
   Back then you would play new records repeatedly, learning the songs, studying the lyrics and cover art. Elton John’s Don’t Shoot Me comes to mind and, of course, Dark Side of the Moon.
   As my music collection grew over the years, as important as each record was, albums would be played less frequently; I had more albums to choose from. It had to be a damn good record to be played frequently.
   I know that changed when I owned my first car. The radio was still reliable, and I used to tape albums to play in the car’s cassette deck. Prior to that, listening to music was a stationary experience. Because of the limitations of the turntable, you had to stay in one place and listen, usually on headphones.
   I decided I wouldn’t buy any new albums this year, but instead listen to the music I already owned. I have a lot to select from, in all genres, on both vinyl and compact disc. I listen to music a lot, and in past years would frequently visit record stores to search out and both new releases and unfamiliar vintage albums by artists I was both familiar and unfamiliar with.
   I’ve now got a lot of alums that all need a good listening to.
   Clues was one of those albums.
   The album rocked a little harder than Secrets, his previous effort, but also dwelled in the synth-pop territory. One song, I Dream of Wires, written by new wave darling Gary New is sonically propulsive, a noticeable change of direction from the sophisticated strains of Palmer’s soulful, occasionally jazzy, sound. Palmer was the first artist I heard described as “blue-eyed soul”.
   This record captured the spirit of the times, without now seeming nostalgic. His albums that followed, both solo efforts and his work with The Power Station (an unlikely hook up with members of Duran Duran and Chic) continued in a similar groove, appealing to the Pepsi generation on MTV with his movie-star good looks and videos with the highly stylized back-up babes he became associated with.
   As I flip through my music collection, I am finding more and more albums worthy of re-discovering. All this music was purchased for a reason, and no doubt hasn’t been listened to with the intensity it deserves to be.

02/19/2024                                                                                        j.g.l.

truth or dare

Landscapes, like weather forecasts,
altered daily. Attitudes of how
we view our world, however,
remain stagnant.

Acid rain, climate change, dangers
inconvenient as carbon footprints in
freshly-fallen snow. We wait only
for it all to wash away.

Fossil fuels and solar flares, impotent
political dialogue of truth or dare.
Do we pay any heed past what
remains of the day?

Shame and blame living as we are.
What we do, or what we can do?
If only we would comprehend
how we have devolved.

Temperatures rising, though you
couldn’t tell it now. Common sense
approach far too common. We accept
what we cannot know.

We struggle, unknowingly, ignorant
of our ways. Messages lack meaning.
All talk. No action. Zero-sum gain
if all we do is complain.

02/16/2024                                                                                          j.g.l.

work in progress

I need to remind myself, more often,
who I am and what I have become.
More so, I need to remind myself of
what I am becoming.
If I am truly a work in progress, how
much progress have I made?
How can I tell if I don’t remind myself
or question myself?
Only I can really know.

02/15/2024                                                                              j.g.l.

I'm like a pencil;
sometimes sharp,
most days
other times
dull or
Still I write.

j.g. lewis
is a writer/photographer in Toronto.

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A Greater Appreciation

Posted on November 13, 2016 by j.g.lewis Leave a comment


Unfortunately, my introduction to Leonard Cohen was through his music.
  Grade 11 photography class, a black + white time exposure assignment, I spent days planning. I was going to shoot a tone arm travelling across a record. There was a tiny orange light above the stylus that would illuminate the smooth arc and provide the desired effect.
  I had to calculate how much time the shutter would remain open and how little light I needed to let in; a delicate balance, but I remember is was to be 21 minutes, about the length of one side of an LP record.
  The room where I was shooting would be in absolute darkness.
  I set up the 4 x 5 view camera, adjusted the composition, and selected a record from the school library. I picked a Cohen album because it had a red label, a colour that would provide enough of a contrast from the shiny vinyl, but would not become the focus of attention.
  It didn’t matter to me, then, what the record was; this was all about the visual.
I went back to the room, loaded the film, and sealed myself in with a jacket silencing any light trying to seep in under the door.
  After dropping the needle on the disc, I flicked off the light switch and clicked the shutter release. The only light in the room was the tone arm, a small off/on light I cropped out of the photo, and an alarm clock with a glowing dark face.
  And I waited.
  I don’t remember which album it was, but I’d never heard it before. It was an acoustic guitar and Cohen’s deep dark voice. I didn’t really bother trying to get into it, as this was all about the image I was trying to capture. I remember thinking I should have selected another album. I was 16. I liked rock and roll. This record was anything but.
  When the alarm sounded, I closed the shutter and clicked on the lights, then proceeded to the darkroom where I processed the negative. The results were okay, but not exactly what I wanted. I decided to adjust the aperture and add another few minutes.
  I returned to the room, made the adjustments, and again listened to Leonard Cohen for 23 minutes. At some point during that time, I discovered in processing, I must have inadvertently nudged the tripod. The image suffered from camera shake.
  Another reshoot, another 23 minutes of the same record (I never thought to turn off the volume), but this time I had forgotten to block off the light from under the door.
  One more time, more Leonard Cohen. Another 23 minutes. The result was exactly what I wanted. I produced a portfolio-worthy photograph, and for that I was pleased.
  Thing is, I had to listen to the same songs on the same side of the same Leonard Cohen album, over and over. And to a teenager who would have rather been listening to Pink Floyd, The Who, Bruce Springsteen, or anything with a pulse, Leonard Cohen wasn’t doing it for me.
  Think about it: hours in a pitch dark room, me; by myself, listening to nothing but Leonard Cohen. Over and over, and over. I think you might get the picture.
  I love music, most kinds of music (some more than others), but Leonard Cohen was never on my favorites list (not even close) and I have never bothered trying to get any closer to his music. I’d heard enough.
  That’s not to say I don’t admire his words. The poetry of Leonard Cohen is heartfelt, honest, and inspiring. I have read him, quite a bit, and always felt what was on the page was far stronger than what was on the record. I know all about the singer/songwriter thing, and I pretty much put Bob Dylan into the same category.
  I feel it was not his voice, nor his melodies, than made Cohen, but his words were wonders, and they will live on.
  A poet died this week.
  Because of his death we will read a little more from Cohen’s past. Those who have read him before will find a little more comfort in his work. Those who have not yet read his talent will be blessed.
  We will have greater appreciation now for the poetry of Leonard Cohen, it always seems there is more power found in a dead poet’s words.

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