Page Two: Mad Dreaming

Loud, barely intelligible SXSW incantations

Page Two
Heard at a Distance Through the Broken Windows of Battered Buildings the Too Loud, Barely Intelligible Incantations of a Too Weary Writer Whose Voice Is as Hoarse and Hollow as His Ideas

[[Silent introduction:

South by Southwest 2010 Kicks Off in Just Three Weeks

"Ready for war, ready for war

You better be ready for war

Ready for war, ready for war

Are you ready for war

Ready for war, ready for war"

– John Cale, "Mercenaries (Ready for War)"]]

"I'll be here waiting later and later

Hoping the night will go away

Andalucia Castles and Christians

Andalucia come to stay"

– John Cale, "Andalucia"

"For the beginning is assuredly

the end – since we know nothing, pure

and simple, beyond

our own complexities."

– William Carlos Williams, preface from Book One of "Paterson"


No longer am I in the grip of a fevered passion, jerking me around as though I was bound by puppet strings plugged into overamped and ungrounded electric sockets, as I was for so many years. I still find myself entering into all kinds of altered states unassisted by any aids. Sometimes it's the too-detailed dreaming of a sleep that goes on for days. The imagined intricately interweaves with memory and actuality to leaven a layer of slight confusion that serves to cushion the hard edges. This time of year, I embrace a kind of benevolent dementia as SXSW gets close. Restricted without being focused, it still runs the lines (or near the lines) of a not entirely collapsed logic. Still, not grounded, it evidences no known boundaries and lacks all context, void of any explanation or definition that history usually provides.

As of the date on this issue, SXSW 2010 is just three weeks away. It always takes too long to get here, always goes too quickly when it finally comes.


Checking details, dealing with problems, worrying, and making long lists of things to be done and much shorter ones of possibilities and memories of both sorrow and joy.

Desire constantly overwhelms experience, so that even when we are nearly certain of failure, it rarely holds us back from pushing that huge stone up the hill one more time.

Our actions are often limited by hesitation and confined by timidity. Our ambitions are modest, our roles limited. But our dreams are and always have been mad!

The list of things to be done, as well as of possibilities and memories, begins with categories: anticipation, consideration, memory, delirium, confusion, contemplation, celebration, and poetry.


Most of the time I was in elementary and high school, I lived in the attic of our house in Teaneck, N.J. There was a bathroom next to my bedroom. There, if I stood in the bathtub and angled myself right, I could look out the window set back above the tub to watch the streetlight on the corner. This may seem eccentric even by my standards, but it was actually born of brazen hope – driven by mundane despair, but still hope.

I would stand sentry in that tub when the evening weather reports noted a good chance that there would be a heavy snow. Weather reports are often as illusory as drunken promises, but still there was always the chance that it might snow. Even better, it might be, as predicted, a heavy one, and if it was intense enough, school would be canceled the next day. Staring straight out into the evening offered no view; it was simply dark against dark. But if snow started falling while I was looking at the streetlight, it would be illuminated.

Now, of the many evenings and even more hours I stood in that tub, there were only a few times that it really snowed, and even fewer when it was heavy enough – continuing through the morning – that school was actually canceled.

Hope trumps experience; desire navigates the running of the blockade of the likely. Usually, I was in some state of arrears on my homework, which I could have finished if I had just worked on it for even half the time I spent standing in the tub praying for snow. But faith, hope, belief, innocence, and desire have to do with belief and prayer, even if shallow and cheap, with the slipping off of our mundane, mortal bindings.

During the first seven or so years of SXSW, a day or two before everything started, very late at night we'd take a break from panicked labor. We'd stand around the parking lot in front of our offices, letting the night cover us. Looking up at the moon, we'd talk about how right then, on roads all over, vans, panel trucks, trailers hooked to pickup trucks, converted school buses, station wagons, parents' cars, and whatnot were pulling out of towns across America, heading to Austin. We speculated on not just the motor vehicles but the dreams, ambitions, loves, hope, music, lyrics, and cynical disinterest drifting from them that made the night seem lit by spiritual neon.

It was not looking for snow, nor was it praying for obstacles that would allow relief.


When I am lying in bed dreaming, there are no borders, sense is no longer a navigational tool, and gut instinct charges dreams, ruling the day. Time is no longer organized into seven-day weeks with 8- to 10-hour work periods contained within five 24-hour days tied to two days of weekend. Maps wouldn't help; timetables are as meaningful as completely filled-out Mad Libs telling the story of fire.


I wish I knew what it was that I needed to know, but I don't.

Those were the days of our hopelessness. Not that we were without hope, but we were without style, grace, knowledge, and poetry. I expected almost nothing from life. I had no idea of the wonder of the life I was living.

The Web made me defensive, a state my natural insecurities just multiplied. Criticism brought out my hopeless sincerity. Vague accusations drove me to try to explain.

What a disservice to those around me and myself – what a sad, self-inflicted detour, what a profound and horrid taking-for-granted of wonder.


When slowing down for a long stretch of bottom-feeding, barely conscious low riding, I can never blame others, because I know that it's me. Then mostly I sit quietly reading or watching TV. Locked up so tightly, I don't even bother me.


The Austin Music Awards (Saturday, March 20, Austin Music Hall). The 28th annual Austin Music Awards – celebrating the results of the Austin Music Poll, presented by The Austin Chronicle and South by Southwest and sponsored by KGSR – will move from its traditional Wednesday night, SXSW Music Festival opening slot to the Saturday night of the Music Fest.

An e-mail AMA producer Margaret Moser sent me confirms that Black Joe Lewis & the Honeybears will be playing and jamming, "inviting up other musicians, and have already sent me a suggested list of songs, all great old soul and blues rock oldies.

"The Explosives playing with special guests Peter Lewis (Moby Grape) and Stu Cook (Creedence Clearwater Revival). Sarah Jarosz. Texas Sheiks. More to Come!"

SXSW (Friday, March 12-Sunday, March 21). Let it rip. Let it burn. An inner bonfire burning inside thousands of heads that lights the night so brightly that the rough edges of the future begin to come into focus.

SXSW Interactive (Friday, March 12-Tuesday, March 16). One of the largest gatherings where next-generation hardware, software, and application visionaries come together to talk in languages I don't understand, contemplating the present, considering the future, and imagining the unimaginable.

SXSW Film Conference (Friday, March 12-Tuesday, March 16). In order to control one's own work, it is important to frame how creative and innovative filmic visions work within and outside of the business: making money from making art.

SXSW Film Festival (Friday, March 12-Saturday, March 20). The humanist sensibilities, as well as cinematic visions and imaginations of the filmmakers of the 300 short and feature films shown on eight screens over nine days. At $70, the SXSW Film Festival pass is a bargain for movie lovers.

SXSW Music Conference (Wednesday, March 17-Sunday, March 21). Experience, speculation, education, analysis, reminiscence, insight, expert opinion, and true war stories from musicians – all about making the best music you can while also surviving the business.

SXSW Music Festival (Wednesday, March 17-Sunday, March 21). Just look at the schedule ( If it doesn't speak to you, there's nothing I can add that will make it do so.

SXSW FREE. From Flatstock 24, the Austin Record Convention, and Texas Guitar Show in the Austin Convention Center to the SXSW 2010 Auditorium Shores Stage Concert Series – including Ozomatli on Thursday, March 18; Cracker, BoDeans, and Cheap Trick on Friday, March 19; and a daytime family show and evening acts by Justin Townes Earle and She & Him, among others, on Saturday, March 20 – SXSW offers a wide range of options and events that are open to the public without charge.

Of Poetry

During the run of SXSW, Innocence and Experience walk hand in hand, talking of William Blake and quoting John Donne and Walt Whitman.

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for almost 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

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SXSW 2010, sxsw, Austin Music Awards, Austin Chronicle Music Poll, Flatstock, Austin Record Convention, Texas Guitar Show, Auditorium Shores, Stage Concert Series, Black Joe Lewis & the Honeybears, The Explosives, Peter Lewis, Stu Cook, Sarah Jarosz, Texas Sheiks, Ozomatli, Cracker, Bodeans, Cheap Trick, Justin Townes Earle

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