Hear Bob Dylan’s “Early Roman Kings” And “We Are The World” Rehearsal

American Songwriter

August 2nd, 2012

Right now, you can get a preview of Bob Dylan’s Tempest. The album track “Early Roman Kings,” an invigorated blues romp, can be heard in the trailer for the Cinemax series Strike Back. The series premiere of Strike Back airs August 17th, and will feature “Scarlet Town,” another Tempest track. As we reported yesterday, the album’s title track is a 14-minute meditation on The Titanic.

Here’s the lyrics to the first verse that we could make out:

The early Roman kings in their shark skin suits
bow ties and buttons
high top boots
Drivin’ their spikes in
blazin’ the rails
nailin’ their coffins
top hats and tails
Fly away Rover
Fly away, flap your wings
Fly by night, like the early Roman kings

Early Roman Kings – Video

Yesterday, Rolling Stone unearthed an amazing video of Bob Dylan in 1985 rehearsing for the “We Are The World” recording, with Stevie Wonder as his vocal coach and piano player. Dylan spends nine minutes getting his line right.

“Is that sorta it? Sorta like that?” he probes.

Dylan is known as a one-take wonder, with an aversion to spending any extra time in the studio, so to watch him rehearse the same phrase over and over again is pretty fascinating.

Salvador Dali’s Creative Thinking Technique – By Michael Michalko

Jul 17, 2012

How to conjure up dreamlike imagery from your subconscious.

In the history of art, most people could easily argue that Salvador Dalí is the father of surrealistic art. Surrealism is the art of writing or painting unreal or unpredictable works of art using the images or words from an imaginary world. Dali’s art is the definition of surrealism. Throughout his art he clearly elaborates on juxtaposition (putting similar images near each other), the disposition (changing the shape of an object), and morphing of objects, ranging from melted objects dripping, to crutches holding distorted figures, to women with heads of bouquets of flowers.

Surrealism is the stressing of subconscious or irrational significance of imagery, or in more simplistic terms, the use of dreamlike imagery. Dalí’s absurd imagination has him painting pictures of figures no person would even dream of creating. How was Salvador Dali able to conjure up these extraordinary images from his subconscious that he used in his surrealistic paintings?

Dali was intrigued with the images which occur at the boundary between sleeping and waking. They can occur when people are falling asleep, or when they are starting to wake up, and they tend to be extremely vivid, colorful and bizarre. He experimented with various ways of generating and capturing these fantastical images.

His favorite technique is that he would put a tin plate on the floor and then sit by a chair beside it, holding a spoon over the plate. He would then totally relax his body; sometimes he would begin to fall asleep. The moment that he began to doze the spoon would slip from his fingers and clang on the plate, immediately waking him to capture the surreal images.

The extraordinary images seem to appear from nowhere, but there is a logic. The unconscious is a living, moving stream of energy from which thoughts gradually rise to the conscious level and take on a definite form. Your unconscious is like a hydrant in the yard while your consciousness is like a faucet upstairs in the house. Once you know how to turn on the hydrant, a constant supply of images can flow freely from the faucet. These forms give rise to new thoughts as you interpret the strange conjunctions and chance combinations.

Following is a blueprint for the technique:

• Think about your challenge. Consider your progress, your obstacles, your alternatives, and so on. Then push it away and relax.
• Totally relax your body. Sit on a chair. Hold a spoon loosely in one of your hands over a plate. Try to achieve the deepest muscle relaxation you can.
• Quiet your mind. Do not think of what went on during the day or your challenges and problems. Clear your mind of chatter.
• Quiet your eyes. You cannot look for these images. Be passive. You need to achieve a total absence of any kind of voluntary attention. Become helpless and involuntary and directionless. You can enter the hypnogogic state this way, and, should you begin to fall asleep, you will drop the spoon and awaken in time to capture the images.
• Record your experiences immediately after they occur. The images will be mixed and unexpected and will recede rapidly. They could be patterns, clouds of colors, or objects.
• Look for the associative link. Write down the first things that occur to you after your experience. Look for links and connections to your challenge. Ask questions such as:
What puzzles me?
Is there any relationship to the challenge?
Any new insights? Messages?
What’s out of place?
What disturbs me?
What do the images remind me of?
What are the similarities?
What analogies can I make?
What associations can I make?
How do the images represent the solution to the problem?

A restaurant owner used this technique to inspire new promotion ideas. When the noise awakened him, he kept seeing giant neon images of different foods: neon ice cream, neon pickles, neon chips, neon coffee, and so on. The associative link he saw between the various foods and his challenge was to somehow to use the food itself as a promotion.

The idea: He offers various free food items according to the day of week, the time of day, and the season. For instance, he might offer free pickles on Monday, free ice cream between 2 and 4 P.M. on Tuesdays, free coffee on Wednesday nights, free sweet rolls on Friday mornings, free salads between 6 and 8 P.M. on Saturdays and so on. He advertises the free food items with neon signs, but you never know what food items are being offered free until you go into the restaurant. The sheer variety of free items and the intriguing way in which they are offered has made his restaurant a popular place to eat.

Another promotion he created as a result of seeing images of different foods is a frequent-eater program. Anyone who hosts five meals in a calendar month gets $30 worth of free meals. The minimum bill is $20 but he says the average is $30 a head. These two promotions have made him a success.

The images you summon up with this technique have an individual structure that may indicate an underlying idea or theme. Your unconscious mind is trying to communicate something specific to you, though it may not be immediately comprehensible. The images can be used as armatures on which to hang new relationships and associations.

In another example, the owner of a fourth-generation funeral home tried Dali’s technique and he conjured up images of coffee, people gathering over coffee and general stores. These reminded him of his great-grandfather who owned a general store where people would gather and drink coffee. The great grand-father later converted part of the general store into a funeral home and started the family business.

The images inspired the idea of adding a “Coffee Corner” to the funeral home. The facilities now include business offices, viewing rooms, a chapel and now a coffee corner where a Starbucks operates in a special wing off to the side. The owner describes it as simply one more service for people to choose, but certainly one that’s not mandatory. The funeral home Starbucks will also be open to the public not just to those attending services. Only Dali’s technique could conjure up a Starbucks funeral home.
Michael Michalko is the author of the highly acclaimed Thinkertoys: A Handbook of Creative Thinking Techniques; Cracking Creativity: The Secrets of Creative Genius; ThinkPak: A Brainstorming Card Deck and Creative Thinkering: Putting Your Imagination to Work.

Article Featured Image: Salvador Dali, The Persistence of Memory (1931), 24 cm x 33 cm, Oil on Canvas

How Americans Became Helpless – By Michael Michalko

Jul 25, 2012

America has a Culture of Learned Helplessness

WHO WAS THIS MAN? He grew up in poverty in what modern psychologists call a dysfunctional family. He was tall, gangly and foolish looking. His clothes were always too tight and small. Following are some of his life experiences:


ANSWER: The man was Abraham Lincoln and at age 52 he became President of the United States. Lincoln did not choose his experiences of failure and defeat, but he did choose how to respond. He realized that he was not reacting to an event but to how he interpreted the event. His life is testimony to the uniquely human potential to turn defeats into triumphs and to turn ones predicament into a human achievement. For those events that were not up to him it was his own attitude that determined their influence on him. When he was no longer able to change a situation, he changed himself. Lincoln’s attitude was characterized as the “American Spirit.”

Lincoln was not born with a positive “can do” attitude. On the contrary, his life is testimony that a positive attitude toward ones experiences takes considerable effort. The path of least resistance is always not to try and give up. Lincoln learned to expect difficulties, and, so was not traumatized and defeated when faced with problems but viewed them as part of the natural course of events. Lincoln learned the harder one works to sustain a positive interpretation, the more one appreciates life.

Sidney Weinberg is another example of the American spirit. He was born in 1891, one of eleven children of Pincus Weinberg, a struggling Polish-born liquor wholesaler and bootlegger in Brooklyn. Sidney was short, a “Kewpie doll,” as the New Yorker writer E. J. Kahn, Jr., described him, “in constant danger of being swallowed whole by executive-size chairs.” He pronounced his name “Wine-boig.” He left school at fifteen. He had scars on his back from knife fights in his preteen days, when he sold evening newspapers at the Hamilton Avenue terminus of the Manhattan-Brooklyn ferry.

At sixteen, he made a visit to Wall Street, keeping an eye out for a “nice-looking, tall building,” as he later recalled. He picked 43 Exchange Place, where he started at the top floor and worked his way down, asking at every office, “Want a boy?” By the end of the day, he had reached the third-floor offices of a small brokerage house. There were no openings. He returned to the brokerage house the next morning. He lied that he was told to come back, and bluffed himself into a job assisting the janitor, for three dollars a week. The small brokerage house was Goldman Sachs.
From that point, Charles Ellis tells us in his book, “The Partnership: The Making of Goldman Sachs,” Weinberg’s rise was inexorable. Early on, he was asked to carry a flagpole on the trolley uptown to the Sachs family’s town house. The door was opened by Paul Sachs, the grandson of the firm’s founder, and Sachs took a shine to him. Weinberg was soon promoted to the mailroom, which he promptly reorganized. Sachs sent him to Browne’s Business College, in Brooklyn, to learn penmanship. By 1925, the firm had bought him a seat on the New York Stock Exchange. By 1927, he had made partner. By 1930, he was a senior partner, and for the next thirty-nine years-until his death, in 1969-Weinberg was Goldman Sachs, turning it from a floundering, mid-tier partnership into the premier investment bank in the world.

The rags-to-riches story-that staple of American biography-has over the years been given two very different interpretations. The nineteenth-century version stressed the value of compensating for disadvantage. If you wanted to end up on top, the thinking went, it was better to start at the bottom, because it was there that you learned the discipline and motivation essential for success. “New York merchants preferred to hire boys who lived in poverty, on the theory that they worked harder, and were more resolute, obedient, honest, grateful, loyal, and cheerful than middle class boys,” Irvin G. Wyllie wrote in his 1954 study “The Self-Made Man in America.” Andrew Carnegie, whose personal history was the defining self-made-man narrative of the nineteenth century, insisted that there was an advantage to being “cradled, nursed and reared in the stimulating school of poverty.” Carnegie believed that poverty forces you to confront adversity and you soon learn how to embrace and overcome it. It is by overcoming adversity that your character becomes strong and your life becomes meaningful.

The character of Lincoln and Weinberg were not exceptions. Once upon a time in America character, integrity, hard work, and independence were the norm. Americans took pride in overcoming adversity and learning from it. They were strong individuals and supremely confident. Americans believed that all one was entitled to was a natural birth. Everything else was up to the person. This was “The American Dream.” Thomas Jefferson summarized it this way: “Nothing can stop the man with the right mental attitude from achieving his goal; however, nothing on earth can help the man with wrong mental attitude.”

Today, the American Dream has been shattered. After World War II, intellectuals proselytized “inevitability theories” about how everyone’s life was shaped by genetic or environmental factors that were beyond their control. There began a promiscuity of the teaching of helplessness and the “can do” American spirit was replaced by the “we are all helpless victims” spirit. If your destiny is already predetermined by internal and external factors that you cannot change, why work hard and try to persevere and succeed? Our helplessness is learned.

A classic example of learned helplessness is from the motion picture “Freedom Writers,” which is a movie about a young teacher who tries to inspire students who have learned to be helpless. The students allowed their ethnicity, their economic status, and their social environment to determine the fate of their success. Often, members of the same social environment think in similar patterns, drawing the same inferences and or conclusion.

Many politicians, community organizers, community leaders and spokespeople for minorities preach the concept of helplessness and continually reinforce it in their campaigns, speeches, and social actions. Your adversity was caused by other groups, government, other political parties, banks, corporations, other religions, the other sex, the wealthy, or something in history that happened hundreds of years ago. The message is one of entitlement. If you are not able to provide, it is not your fault. You are entitled to financial, housing, food, education, and employment assistance from society. Society is responsible for your well being, not you.

The emphasis is not on the individual learning how to overcome adversity; the emphasis is on how to use adversity to gain socioeconomic entitlements from government. The more adversity one can claim they face, the more benefits that person will receive. For example, the more children a single unemployed mother has the more financial rewards she receives. The larger a welfare family becomes, the more benefits the family receives. Government has made it more attractive to for people to default for government assistance when faced with adversity rather than overcoming it as our ancestors did.

We now elect politicians based on the entitlements and bounties they generously offer with tax dollars. The helpless have become dependent upon the politicians for entitlements, and the politicians have become dependent upon the helpless for votes. Illegal immigrants are now gaining socioeconomic benefits and civil rights for their potential votes. In fact, many politicians were the teachers and promoters of helplessness as community organizers, counselors, and lawyers before they were elected. Other politicians come from the public sector where they promoted the same agenda.

When you listen to the campaign promises of politicians, you will hear them tell you about the benefits and rewards voters will receive from them if they are elected. In addition, they will tell you about the entitlements their challengers will take away from citizens if they are not. Political campaigns are now all about who can give the helpless the most. We no longer ask “What can we do for our government?”as JFK suggested when the American dream was strong and we reached for the stars. Now we stand in the mud and ask “What can our government do for us.”
Michael Michalko is the author of the highly acclaimed Thinkertoys: A Handbook of Creative Thinking Techniques; Cracking Creativity: The Secrets of Creative Genius; ThinkPak: A Brainstorming Card Deck and Creative Thinkering: Putting Your Imagination to Work. http://creativethinking.net/

Tags: activism, education, learning, philosophy, psychology, society, work
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