Posted by: Mark Nielsen | September 28, 2022

Bakers and Brothers, Saviors and Sisters

Saying “So long” last week, to a “retiring” long-time church member and friend, Merle Baker. He and his wife Jane are moving to a special seniors’ spot in MennoWorld, Indiana (AKA Land o’ Goshen).

Bon voyage, mon frere!

===== =====

Sunday 9am.
Either in person (in Chicago’s
Garfield Park neighborhood) ,
or virtually (via phone, computer, or tablet).

For church location/directions ,

plus the fascinating history of this landmark 1920s building …

(where Dr. Martin Luther King borrowed office space in the winter of ’67/’68) :

[First Church of the Brethren, …our sister church under the same roof.

Go Green or Go Home.
Let Love Rule.

The blues made us all giddy–and a tiny bit silly– at Jazz UpFront on Saturday night. Coming down the famed Route 66 from Chicago, the talented Hurricane Project shook the rafters of this old-fashioned club/lounge with terrific renditions of songs by Albert King, B.B. King, probably Freddie King (that’s the official “3 Kings of the Blues”), plus Louis Armstrong, and yes, even …Garth Brooks. That great blues balladeer Garth… according to Project singer Herman Hines, anyway. Herman made a good case, but I still can’t get myself to become a Garth Brooks kind of guy. (I’m trying to cut down on the cheese in my diet, musically and otherwise.)

Despite the above photo’s empty look in the front area (reserved for a party that hadn’t arrived yet), it seemed like all us Bloomington, Illinois “cool cats” –present in all the skin tones and colors, and from ages 21 to 80– all came out for some serious jamming Uptown Saturday Night (RIP Sidney Poitier, Richard Pryor, and… ummm… Bill Cosby?! Let’s not talk about Bill… but these were all stars of the 1974 movie Uptown Saturday Night. But Harry Belafonte is still with us. And thank God! Harry’s a major character in my forthcoming “music and the Mafia” history novel, Murder in Birdland. More importantly, Harry’s still an activist and filmmaker, at age 96! We should book him a comeback show at Jazz UpFront! He was a great singer long before he ever acted.

In fact, we got treated to a whuppin’ of another kind this week– as the authenticity and smooveness of their veteran singer Hines, who’s pushing at least 75, took us up a mountain and down the other side. Herman’s charm and style also included several intimate acapella “freebies” while the band took a quick break.

Al Hurricane Spears works out in Bloomington at the stellar venue, Jazz UpFront (so named partly because it is at 407 W Front St.)

From “Smooth Tennessee Whiskey” to a couple Albert King classics, plus a few cuts veering toward jazz, this tight band combined funky rhythm guitar, big-bottomed bass and a solid but not flashy drummer. Hines’ fairly pure and relaxed low voice (low but with a growl, of course) makes it all a great meeting of the minds (and SHAKING OF THE BOOTIES, and whooping faces, and flying fingers , …and plenty of stomping feet!).

As for the crucial moaning and squealing electric guitar, the talented lead guitarist and bandleader Al Spears is a funny, creative and wide-ranging player. It seems Hendrix and B.B. King rose from their graves tonight and inhabited Spears fingers, for over 3 hours.

Spears even got out into the audience a few times, roaming all the way out to the street with his cordless guitar. Since Al spends a lot of time repairing old guitars, he likely knows his way around a pickup and various hardwoods. Me, I prefer the late 1950s Gibson Les Paul guitars [link = my song about the Gibson Les Paul ’58]. But Al’s newer white Custom Gibson Dot 335 semi-hollow body guitar (not the Strat we see above), she cut thru the night like it was butter this week, I tell you.

So…Get on UP, friends! Offa that thing, offa yo butt, and get out to shake it at your favorite live music club. You forgot how much fun they are, even if they ain’t famous.

Posted by: Mark Nielsen | September 10, 2022

Visual History – of my life and my nation

Today while doing some digital housekeeping, I came upon an old family video of my son, playing with his Spiderman umbrella on a sunny day when he was about 5.

Adorable, right?! HE’s still that same guy at 20 now: creative, expressive, funny, weird (the good kind), and blown-about by the harsh winds of our current culture.

And thanks to Vimeo (and in this Case WordPress also), I can share this video for your consideration! I consider YouTube a bloated, Google-owned behemoth, mediocre at best. So in my opinion, vimeo is an overall better service/site. It’s cleaner in the interface, offers most of the features of YouTube, plus a few small details that video/creative professionals like myself appreciate —careful creator options beyond the stuff Average Joe is asking for when he puts up a video –say one of a sourfaced Junior Joe, age 10 months, eating his first corned-beef-and-cabbage celebratory meal for St. Patrick’s Day, and spitting it out in his highchair, of course.

It took till I was about 23 to start to appreciate cabbage!, and to realize it is the main thing in cole slaw, which I had liked all along. Who would give a toddler cabbage?! C’mon, Joe!

America’s Funniest Home Videos and the late Bob Saget thank you, Joe and Junior, (Bob says it from the grave, of course, with a wisecrack I have omitted here because he used swear words, as he was wont to do when not on national network television), ….We all thank you, but otoh, no thank you. No thanks also to youTube… for I too have more and better family videos of my own to make, watch, or store. And Vimeo’s good for that. Plus less cmpetition for attention and eyes viewing our stuff.

Here below is my other little vid from way back…

Roadside Patriot Shack from Mark Nielsen on Vimeo.

… it means nothing, really… just a whimsical, satiric shot from the side of the road, a moment driving along the highway (Rte 74 form Peoria to Bloomington) and deciding I wanted this shot for future use. Plus it is an example of George Bush II-era bullshit patriotism, the kind that made my blood boil as we engaged in unjust wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Note… the nose knows… when it comes to political bullshit…

My Magician’s bullshit detector (the stink detector in the nose that abhors ridiculous and false rhetoric) went off so often in those days of the early 2000s, it nearly wore me out trying to keep up with and critique the news. Of course, after the welcome rest period that was the Obama years, Trump’s MAGA mind was even worse… but we don’t need to talk ’bout that here….

The Bullshit still makes my blood boil, of course, as too many dumb so-called patriots back a former tyrant who led us poorly, and who might be going to jail by this time next year…

Hint… the tyrant is NOT my hero Dennis Hopper (center), the original Easy Rider and anti-bullshit patriot, …plus I dunno WHO the couple on the right are, tho the woman looks familiar…

Okay… that’s it for now… hope you enjoyed today’s DIY “anti-show”, a little blast from our checkered past!

Posted by: Mark Nielsen | August 28, 2022

it’s sittin’ on da porch playin’ music day

Or #PlayMusicOnThePorch Day. Officially, that is.

There’s a bluegrass joke in here somewhere. I kin feel it! But only .0004 percent of the population will get it, …so what’s the point!?!?

Play Music on the Porch Day. At least according to my buddy and co-conspirator in Christ, Tripp Hudgins. He down aroun’ Charleston, Virginia these days. At St. Jimmy’s Episcopal.

“Help me, St. Jimmy! I’m talkin’ and I cain’t shut up!”

Awww jus’ lissen to the purty music, Mark…

. &&&&&&&&&&&& ……


Thass a Native American version of ” Let’s go, then.”   …according to Hulu/FX’s sleeper hit Reservation Dogs. Think “Stand By Me” meets “Reservoir Dogs” meets The Marx Brothers. It’s THAT good . Nominated for some Emmys, I think, and much deserved. Hilarious as hell, too .

Which is itself a hilarious concept… Hell, I mean. Absolutely comical to me, that hell joint. Doesn’t even rate Capitalization. Disneyland is more sinister (and more powerful!) than any hell we humans could invent. [ Come ‘n’ git me, ye olde Devil! I ain’t skeered! ]

These are the thots methinks as I sits onda porch. Play on, Maestro. Lemme reach over here & grab my mouth harp.

Hey wait, what key are you in?!

Resurrecting an old classic from Marking Time, now with 25% more links and connections, including Joni’s triumphant return from serious illness this summer at Newport Folk Fest.

Marking Time

The Mingusithicus homo Stoopingus –a rare species- at play


1. Charles Mingus pays tribute to tenor sax great Lester Young, released on Mingus Ah Um in 1959:

Goodbye, Porkpie Hat (the original) on YouTube


2. Joni Mitchell – Mingus (Studio album, 1979):

—-> Joni w/ Charles, shortly before he died via YouTube

  • Re the Joni album, via Wikipedia:
The album is quite experimental, featuring minimalist jazz, over-plucked, buzzing acoustic guitars, and even wolves howling through "The Wolf That Lives in Lindsey". All of the lyrics are by Mitchell, while the music for four of the songs was composed by Mingus, three being new tunes, a fourth being "Goodbye Pork Pie Hat" his tribute to saxophonistLester Youngfrom Charles' 1959 classic LPMingus Ah Um, a songfor which Mitchell wrote a set of lyrics.


3. And finally, my long poem “Boplicity…

View original post 597 more words

Posted by: Mark Nielsen | August 25, 2022

Shooting Stars in the West (original poem)

An old classic of mine that I rediscovered today! Based on my young son (at the time, he’s 20 now) having a tendency to anthropomorphize inanimate objects and put on little private dramas. He even did it with refrigerator alphabet letters, like when he was 4… The galaxy is our sandbox. Go play.

Marking Time

Artist’s impression of how the surface of Plut...


Shooting Stars in the West  – by Mark Nielsen

The red dwarves–

those old lady stars in their lacy hats–

drive a ’68 Ford Galaxie to the Andromeda Grille

as their Early Bird dinner destination.

(Bertha heard the Beef a’ la Armstrong Special

was very fine indeed.) 

The Seven Sisters

take their Motown-style singing act

on the road to Pluto

that rogue planet which, like Old Cuba,

has now become a haven for gangsters,

space pirates and other shooting stars.

Proud Pleides Mary, the soprano,

believes these lovely ladies are sure to be a hit.

Meanwhile the blue giants,

Local 218,

are out on strike.

Their employer, the Cancer Conglomerate,

sent hundreds of jobs across the border

to low wage (but stellar) workers

in nearby Leo.

Union steward Oscar Lukasic–

third star from the right over The Crab’s shoulder–

says management has to be held…

View original post 71 more words

Posted by: Mark Nielsen | August 19, 2022

Mark & Dog, Plus Back-to-School Hijinks

Dixie’s next to me, but just over my left shoulder, one of her buddies can partly be seen.

Yeah, everyone knows I’m a hippie. So when i found out last year my workplace has a Tie-Dye Friday tradition, of course I had to get in on that. School started Thurs for the kids. So far so good. More later. Most of all, I’m glad to be back in the classroom with a teacher –Amy– who I am comfortable with and we complement each other. Technically I am a Teacher’s Assistant at our Special Ed school, but looks like I will take lead on some lessons in science, social studies, and of course English (where I was certified grades 6-12, but that cert’s expired).

So I’m with 5th-8th graders now, and part of it fits fine. The kids distribution is funky: 6 boys, one poor new girl. She’s shy, but we’ll keep an eye on things so the boys dont chew her up & spit her out… It being jr. high, already the most melodramatic years in many lives, with or w/o learning or behavior disabilities.

Racially, its 4 white kids & 3 black. Not too melodramatic though, at least only in short bursts. Let the unintended social experiments begin!

Posted by: Mark Nielsen | August 18, 2022

Nick Ray and Jim Jarmusch – From the Outer Edge of the Inside

We will get to the notice about “Rebel Without a Cause” iconic director Nicholas Ray in a moment.

First this : #TheHollywoodKid (radio show & podcaster) , awhile back, took on the JFK conspiracy nuts, … though I wonder… What does that have to do with Hollywood?

Good luck to The Kid, though!

Power of Celebrity at 1963 civil rights March, from Aug. 2020:

     Grammy-winning musician & producer Charlie Peacock is on point this week, …our complex history of political, racial, and entertainment/culture discussions sharing the same space. Uncomfortably. But nobody ever said democracy would be easy or comfortable. Still gonna do what’s right and necessary, though.

I’ll paste my comment to him about Lena Horne below, since she plays a small “role” in the novel I’m writing, just as she plays a huge role in American history:

“Royalty indeed. Lena carried the dreams of millions of black dreamers almost singlehandedly for a generation, or more. With grace she endured the cutting of her scenes from many movies when they were distributed in the south (scenes left intact in all other regions & internationally). She was at Dr. King and John Lewis’ shining moment in ’63 [aka the “I have a dream” speech], she carried herself with grace, she seemingly never faltered, from the 1930s and through her entire life and career. Along with Harry Belafonte and Sidney Poitier, and Sammy Davis Jr. (esp. if he hadn’t later buddied-up with Nixon a bit), the four performers without whom the entire movement may not have succeeded in “crossing over” to the majority population. A good magazine article ran just this past August about celebs at the ’63 March. (Lena was there):

I’m writing a novel about the era, _Murder in Birdland_ -an era which was not unlike our own. I have cameos by Lena and her good friends Belafonte and Diahann Carroll (married to the co-founder of the Birdland nightclub, ground zero for jazz, as Charlie P likely already knows ). Long may she reign, Queen Lena!”

10/27-28/20  -carried over from a True Crime “Mooring/Morning Pages” Session

–Nicholas Ray, the one person from Rebel Without a Cause who MOST deserves a documentary or narrative biopic of his own…

“If it were all in the script, why make the film?” -Nick Ray

 A decent Jim Jarmusch interview from around 2017, at The Creative Independent:

A few key clips from the Jarmusch piece:

  1. When you make a film and you’re shooting and you have all these amazing people you’re collaborating with, it’s kind of like you’re on a pirate ship with a lot of people. When you’re playing music it’s like you’re in a little row boat with just a couple of other people. It’s simpler.
  2. I love filmmaking because it contains all these other forms within it. All of them, basically. Music and photography and composition and acting and writing and style and form. It relates to almost every other form of human expression, even architecture to some degree. It has all those things in it, which is part of the reason that I ultimately gravitated towards it. It’s important that filmmakers have varied interests. Really interesting filmmakers are kind of dilettantes by necessity. I consider myself a dilettante, not in a negative way, but because I have interests in a lot of different things and I want to try and do them. I’m not necessarily a master of anything. 
  3. I have some friends that are just finishing a documentary film and the financiers looked at their budget and said, “Hang on, you as the director expect to be paid also?” Even though it was a meager $25,000 for four years of work or something. It’s like wow, man, really? So yes, it is nice to get a break from all of that nonsense… Dennis Hopper once said in some interview, something like, “You know, making a film is really hard and it’s just as hard to make a bad film as it is to make a good film. It’s just fucking hard.” It’s true. It’s difficult, making a film. It’s not an easy thing. It takes a lot out of you. You really have to be strong.

The Creative Independent

58 Kent Street

Brooklyn, NY 11222

Posted by: Mark Nielsen | August 15, 2022

Reflections on Fiction, C.S. Lewis v. Neil Gaiman

A cage match decades in the making…

. . . . .

At the Neil Gaiman Fan Group Facebook page , some thought-provoking developments this week. A person named Chris Lane, for example, said this:

The Trouble with Susan makes me wish CS Lewis would have wrote a Susan story right at he wrote a Grief Observed. Also it made me never look at The Narnia Kid’s death the same again. In closing, Mr. Gaiman might have pointed out or someone did that Lewis shamed Susan for growing up.”

In response, I said this…

Aren’t we all ashamed of growing up, a little bit? Our childhood innocence is a real loss, yet we give it up without even much of a fight. I, for once, am ashamed in a good way. Lewis and Gaiman give us healthy ways of getting some of it back.

Buuut, I think I should find and read The Trouble With Susan

(or, officially, The Problem of Susan and Other Stories

…before I say any more.

But what are your thoughts on the above concepts, with or without reading the books in question? Comment below…

Another Fan commenter, Andreas Engstrom, also had a good offering:

This is a great article on the subject, which even includes a small story that is a suggestion of what Lewis should have written 🙂

So… I guess we have some homework then. In many U.S. cities, today [Aug. 15, 2022] is the first day of the new school year. It is for me, as well.

So… Let’s get to readin’, writin’ and the ‘rithmatic of good character-building, in fiction and in Life. Aaaaaannnnd……..GO!

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