Traindancing: The mission statement.

I mentioned my new verb, shaling, a week or two ago in Church. I’m writing a novel called Traindancing, which will document a lovely and inspiring kind of shaling.

The purpose of a new coinage is to illuminate a manifestation of reality that has always been there, but which we have overlooked because we didn’t have a name for it.

Shaling is the actions taken in observance, celebration, propitiation or palliation of the god of a cargo cult. I can demonstrate the ontology of shaling, the form and functioning of all acts of worship, as pre-conceptual animal behavior. A simple example? When your dog campaigns for dinner, he is shaling.

That’s interesting to me, because I can distinguish religion from worship from community, with the community being what is of interest to me. At its best, a church is the storgic love of the family scaled to the larger congregation. Diluted, of course, since the relationships are much less intense, but still a place for families to turn when they need more than they can do on their own.

That’s a good thing, but it’s hard to make those connections in worlds where we are evermore distant from each other, and evermore divergent in our views.

In my everyday praxis, I’m playing with The Affectionate Display as a vector-changing agent in human social environments, a very simple way of building communities of shared interests out of aggregations of strangers.

That means what? I’m establishing a cargo cult of pandemic habituated friendliness as a way of building a very informal, hugely ecumenical community of serious, thoroughgoing, very loving parents.

Said another way: I’m shaling for grown-ups.

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Dylan does nothing – and everything is undone.

“I hate you! I hate you! Daddy, I hate you! So bad!”

Illustration by: the euskadi 11

I admire Bob Dylan’s inaction over his Nobel Prize, even as I recognize that it may be less a principled stand than it is typically-sphinxlike Dylanesquitude: The answer, my friend, comes with putting your finger to the wind to know which way the mob glows.

My guess: When people in tuxedos claim they want to honor you, it means that want a photo of you accepting their paycheck for services rendered. The Voice of a Generation™ would rather look like a rebel than risk seeming to be a yet another grasping toady.

What might settle the question for me? I would love it if the great Bob Dylan – truly worthy of veneration, even if not in the Nobel committee’s outrageously inflated currency – would hunt down this surly, snotty, drunk, high, hideously-underfathered punk-ass kid and give him the thrashing fatherly cultivation he is so desperately begging for:

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Lies all the way down: Why you MUST keep your own counsel.

Bullshit all the way down.Photo by: Luis Penados

Bullshit all the way down.

Photo by: Luis Penados

Church this week:

As the Wikileaks leaks make ever more obvious, we are living in a world of unconstrained deception.

Now more than ever, you must think for yourself.

I speak in the video of an essay by The Cul de Sac Hero. That’s here: The Rot of Abstract Lies.

And I mention “How you came to be enslaved.” That’s here: How you came to be enslaved – and how you can free yourself.

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DISCing ‘The Band’ shows why their break-up was inevitable – and how to fix your team.

“This wheel shall explode.”

“This wheel shall explode.”

I mentioned the DISC profile of The Band the other day in church. Here is a fuller explication, first posted last August. Note that in the video I put Levon Helm on Si, but that was a mistake. He was Is, as I have him here. Other than Neil Peart (Ci), I can’t think of a non-Incandescent drummer. –GSS

There ain’t no more ’cane on the Brazos?

Sad but true. It’s all been ground up in resentments. Nothing left for anyone to do.

Do you love The Band like I do? Deep, meaningful songs, call and response vocals, layered harmonies and a rich, loving, very familial instrumentation on stage. Of the roots-music revival acts that broke in 1968, The Band was the most original in is rootsiness – the most authentically rooted.

But as a social machine, they were doomed from the outset – a house divided against itself from the time they went out on their own. If anything, they lasted longer and achieved more than they could have been expected to, given the DISC profiles of the members of the group.


  • Robbie Robertson – Ci
  • Levon Helm – Is
  • Rick Danko – Sc
  • Richard Manuel – Sc
  • Garth Hudson – Cs

The Band was very proud to tell the world it never had a front man. That was true on stage. The vocals were split among Levon, Rick and Richard, with the look-at-me! lead guitar role held by a Cautious introvert.

But every social machine needs the energies of the Driven to get anywhere, and The Band had none. Or double-none, if you prefer. Their original fuel came from Ronnie Hawkins, an Id, who was their front man when they were Ronnie Hawkins and The Hawks. That energy was massively fortified by Bob Dylan, very much Di, who was the force who made The Band big enough to play stadium shows.

With those two father figures off stage, the drama of The Band plays out like Mister Maybe’s divorce: When The Hawks sent Ronnie Hawkins packing, Levon Helm was to be the boss. Except he was an Is good ol’ boy who found being (more…)

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Bob Dylan’s Nobel Prize cheapens true greatness even as it insults his actual achievements.

Most people who dress like this for work are Untouchables who collect their wages out of their instrument cases, mostly in coins. This man is an Irreproachable who just won the Nobel Prize for literature. What explains the difference in outcomes?Photo by: Xavier Badosa

Where can you go to hear the truths no one else will tell you? The Church of Splendor.

This week we take up the biggest scam of the twentieth century: Bob Dylan’s massive success at convincing the post-modern world of the literary merit of obsessive larceny and putatively-profound word salad.

For which he has now scammed himself a Nobel Prize.

For literature…

I wish I were making this up, but at least I can tell you how it all happened:

On Facebook, Luke Williams observes: “I couldn’t understand the word(s) at 4:16 ‘…it was nothing but ________'”

In response to him, I append these notes:

“…it was nothing but phoning it in.”

I don’t explicitly say so, but a lot of this analysis turns on knowing how writers on deadline work. By the time of the motorcycle accident, Dylan was so overcommitted that almost everything he did was phoning it in. The word salad would have started as a Loki joke, just to see if he could get away with it, but by then he was dependent on his verbal BS blender to get done everything he was contracted to do.

Hey, sad-eyed minstrel, why is it an Arabian drum? Because Scandinavian drum didn’t fit the scansion, that’s why. Any other reason anyone gives, inlcluding Dylan, is bullshit. I’m betting there have been PhDs awarded for pretending to understand that atrocious nonsense.

I thought about illustrating phoning it in with another artist – John Prine – but in the end I avoided mentioning anyone else, so as not to do a who’s whom of songwriters, none of whom produce literature.

The funniest part of that video, for me? Trump didn’t vet Trump, and the Nobel Prize committee didn’t vet Dylan. I just did a gloss on the few parts of the man’s career that might claim to be aspirational, but in the end, to the (more…)

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Talkin’ ’bout my g-generation: “They paved paradise and put up a robot’s tit.”

I threw my head back and looked up at the sleek black mess, thinking that it was a delicious irony that the desiccated curators had taken the most horizontal art form in Western history and rendered it as a pyramid. I said, “They paved paradise and put up a robot’s tit.”Photo by: Dakota Callaway

A Ramblin’ Gamblin’ Willie story

August 25, 1995
“The Lexus always has the right of way!” The Rodeo Driver said that, shouted it really. He was stomping around in $400 shoes. He was wearing a $1,200 tuxedo and his eyes were concealed behind $200 sunglasses. His hair was perfect, a cascade of sleek black ringlets spilling halfway down his back. He was stalking back and forth behind his sleek black Lexus. The car wasn’t really 47 feet long, it just looked that way.

“Oh, what a crock!” said the New Age Proto Dowager from behind the wheel of her pearl gray Infinity. Her dusky hair was tied up in a silk something that was designed to look like it had been imported from Africa. Her body was swathed in a crepe-like something that was designed to look like it had been imported from hell. Her vermillion-lacquered nails were not actually 47 inches long, they just looked that way. Perhaps to compensate for her lack of a Lexus, she was wearing $300 sunglasses.

And, truly, a fender-bender isn’t much to write home about. But it’s not every day you see a fender-bender involving people who wear on their bodies more money than I made last month. And the funny part is, as nearly as I could see neither fender was dented…

But it got me to stop walking. I admit it doesn’t take much.

The two cars were blocking the accessway to a huge structure that seemed as if it were about to commit suicide by jumping into Lake Erie. It was a sleek black glass pyramid with cancerous white appurtenances sprouting from it in random locations. I looked at it and imagined that a drawing of it might work well in a science fiction magazine: artist’s conception of an anatomically (more…)

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‘Bigger Than Elvis’…

“Bigger Than Elvis, man… A livin’ legend.”By: Daniele Prati

A Ramblin’ Gamblin’ Willie story

October 13, 1986, Greenwich Village, NY

“I coulda been the biggest star of all!”

The swarthy man with the approximated beard was half in his cups. Or is the glass half full? Maybe he was half out of his cups… Anyway, it’s safe to say he’d reached the midpoint in his journey under the table.

“I coulda been Bigger Than Elvis!” He downed half his drink in one slurp. “Yeah… Bigger Than Elvis, man… Are you gettin’ this down?”

All I’d written down was his name. I’d tell it to you, but I’ve mislaid it. I’m not sure if it was on the back of the business card that I accidently dropped onto the subway tracks or on the cocktail napkin that I inadvertently laundered. I am certain that I neither have it nor remember it. No matter; there are three sots like Bigger Than Elvis in every watering-hole in Manhattan.

I met him in one of those exposed-brick fern-bars on Macdougal Street. He was cadging drinks by pounding away on a beat-up Martin guitar, wailing off-key through his nose about a ‘Tambourine Man’. He serenaded me for an extra-special long time; dancing beneath diamond skies waving his hand, or something like that. I figured if I bought him a drink he’d go away. I was wrong.

Instead, he sat down, moaning through his nose about the injustice of booking agents and record buyers. I won’t try to reproduce his speech, which was very oddly inflected; almost as unintelligible as his singing, though not quite as loud. His spiel was Sob Story #37, with variations: nobody likes me, everybody hates me, guess I’ll eat some wheat germ.

“Bigger Than Elvis, man… A livin’ legend.” He sighed. “And, like, it’s just not fair!” He punctuated himself with a dissonant chord.

“Isn’t it…?” I admit it: I ask for these things.

“No, man. Hell no!” He pulled at one of the black ringlets of his receding hairline. “Like, one minute you’re bein’ chased by reporters from Frisco to University Place… You’re on the cover of Time… (more…)

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