For What It’s Worth: R.I.P. A Radio Legend

I have to take time out and devote some space to mark the passing of a guy I used to work with. Jimmy O’Neill is a name not known to most of my readers, I’m sure. But if you lived in L.A. in the early to mid Sixties or were a rock and roll fan who watched TV during the Sixties during that period, you might remember him.

He died a week ago, on January 11th. According to his son, he had diabetes and heart problems.

Jimmy O'neill
Jimmy O’neill

The LA Times noted,

In 1959, O’Neill made radio history as the first voice heard on KRLA-AM (1110) when it dropped its country-western format for rock music. It quickly became a powerhouse in rock radio and launched O’Neill into television in 1964 as the winsome emcee of “Shindig!”

Prior to Shindig! (and it’s NBC cousin Hullabaloo), the only opportunity to see rock acts was on Saturday afternoons on American Bandstand (where the performers always lip-synced) and with The Ed Sullivan Show on Sunday nights, and each  show had only one performance per show (maybe two on AB). Shindig!, on the other hand, was a solid half-hour packed with rock and roll: “Howdy-hi, Shindiggers… we’ve got a ‘Shindig!’ for you that’s so far in it’s out of sight!”

Howdy-hi, Shindiggers – Jimmy opened every show with that. It was on Shindig! that I first saw Jerry Lee Lewis perform, and he played live, and he was wild and unforgettable, so much so that his is the only performance from that show I have a good memory of, although I know folks like Sam Cooke, Chuck Berry, the Beatles, the Beach Boys and the Stones and many other made appearances.

PandorasBox (2)Jimmy O’Neill was also owner of a music club on the Sunset Strip called Pandora’s Box. In 1965, the Strip was the epicenter for the youth culture in L.A., and many of the kids who flocked up there each night were underage. For that reason, and because of the traffic problem, “the heat” attempted to enforce a 10 PM curfew and they shut down a number of the clubs, including Pandora’s Box, a purple and gold joint at the corner of Sunset and Crescent Heights. One night in November, more than 1,000 people stood in front of Pandora’s Box to protest. That was the beginning of the “Sunset Strip” or “Hippie” riots that continued until December. Stephen Stills of the Buffalo Springfield wrote a song about it. You may have heard this song once or twice:

There’s something happening here
But what it is ain’t exactly clear
There’s a man with a gun over there
Telling me I got to beware
 
I think it’s time we stop
Children, what’s that sound?
Everybody look – what’s going down?

Anyway, back to Jimmy O’Neill. I worked with him in the mid-seventies when his career, and to some extent, his life, was on a downturn. It was at the KRCB/KQKQ radio station in Omaha (actually across the river in Council Bluffs, IA). Jimmy was on the AM side, and I was on the FM side. Jimmy was your typical Top 40 Boss Jock, and I was your typical progressive rock DJ who always sounded like he was stoned (because I usually was).

When I knew him, Jimmy had a bad habit of “stepping” on records. Normally, when a DJ does his introduction of a song over the opening bars of the music, he stops talking when the vocals start. Jimmy didn’t pay attention to that, he would keep on talking over the vocals, and that’s what is meant by stepping on a record.

He also like to tip a few, if you know what I mean. There was a little bar under a viaduct a few blocks away from the station that was popular with the staff. I drank with him a few times, but I can’t say that I knew him well. He was always a nice guy to me, and acted generally happy, but I sensed something – sadness is not the right word, but it’s close. While Omaha was a respected radio market, it was still small time, so it was a bit of a tough time for someone had been at the pinnacle of a major market like L.A. Plus he’d been dropped from one of the top stations in town and was now working for a AM station that signed off at sunset. The FM side I worked for was a 24 hour operation and rather successful, which bothered some of the AM jocks, but I never sensed any resentment from Jimmy O’Neill. I think he was too busy battling his own demons.

I’ll remember Jimmy O’Neill as a pleasant, but somewhat troubled man, and a genuine piece of American Broadcasting history, and so I say, bye, bye, Shindigger.

A medley of The Killer’s killer appearances on Shindig! with a classic Jimmy O’Neill intro:

Jerry Lee is backed by the Shindig house band, The Shindogs, which included at various times Glen Campbell, Chuck Blackwell (drums), Billy Preston, James Burton, Delaney Bramlett, Larry Knechtel (on bass), Leon Russell (on piano), and Glen D. Hardin.  Among the dancers may (or may not) be Terri Garr and Toni Basil. And dig that crazy milk commercial.

 

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View from the Celestial Terrace

While scholars still debate the historicity of Bodhidharma, considered by many the “father of Zen,” one real father of that school is Chih-i, the Third Patriarch and actual founder of the Chinese T’ien-t’ai (“Celestial Terrace”) tradition, whose historicity is not in doubt and whose teachings on both doctrine and meditation paved the way for the development of Ch’an/Zen.

c-ichikuan9g2bChih-i was one of the giants of Mahayana Buddhism. In the West, it seems that there is little knowledge or appreciation of his tremendous influence. Many of the Eastern Mahayana schools, and their Western extensions, still study the meditation manuals attributed to this great master, so at least for them, his philosophy lives on.

I often see remarks by non-Asian Buddhists to the effect that Chih-i’s meditation teachings are too complex and the practices he laid-out too time-consuming to be of much use in this modern age. But if that were entirely true, then why are his manuals still studied and his influence so highly-regarded in the East? I think a lot of it has to do with bad PR. Chih-i’s school in no longer in existence, so he hasn’t had any modern day champions, as Bodhidharma has, and while the Japanese offshoot of T’ien-t’ai, Tendai, from which Japanese Zen emerged, is still in operation, it is so insular it’s become irrelevant. The Nichiren traditions do acknowledge Chih-i’s influence and rely on his teachings, but merely as a backdrop to Nichiren’s philosophy, and they largely misinterpret the doctrinal aspects while they ignore the meditation teachings entirely.

It was that latter group of teachings that had such a great influence on Chinese Ch’an, Pure Land, and especially, Japanese Zen, but during Chih-i’s time (the Sixth Century CE), there were no Ch’an/Zen schools to speak of; however, the term ch’an, being the Chinese translation of the Sanskrit word dhyana, was in use as a general term for Buddhist practice. Paul Swanson, a professor at Nanzan University in Japan, and a specialist in the area of T’ien-tai/Tendai Buddhism, says in his essay, “Ch’an and Chih-kuan,” that Chih-i moved away from the use of ch’an in his teachings because it focused narrowly on the chih (cessation or samatha) aspect of meditation, at the expense of the kuan (contemplation or vipassana) aspect:

Chih-i (based, to a great degree, on his understanding of the teachings of the Lotus Sutra) is critical of an unbalanced emphasis on “meditation alone,” portraying it as a possible “extreme” view and practice, and offering instead the binome chih-kuan (calming/cessation and insight/contemplation, samatha-vipasyana) as a more comprehensive term for Buddhist practice.”

It might be a mistake for us to view chih-kuan simply in terms of it being the Chinese translation of samatha-vipassana. Kuan-ting (Chih-i’s student), in his introduction to the monumental work on Buddhist practice attributed to Chih-i, the Mo-ho Chih-kuan (“Great Stopping and Seeing”), wrote, “The luminous quiescence of stopping and seeing [chih-kuan] was unknown in former ages until The Wise Teacher [Chih-i] expounded it,” suggesting that Chih-i’s concept of meditation differed from the established teachings at the time, and that his intention was to take Buddhist meditation into a new dimension, one of balance and inclusiveness.

Chih-i disapproved of “masters” who advocated one-sided practice, “claiming that their teaching and practice is unbalanced and perhaps even dangerous.” Swanson quotes from the Mo-ho Chih-kuan:

If people rely exclusively [on either cessation or contemplation, or on only one teaching or practice] to attain understanding, then what was the reason for the Buddha to offer such a variety of teachings? The heavens are not always clear; a doctor does not rely exclusively on powdered medicine; one does not always eat rice.”

Peter N. Gregory, suggests that Chih-i’s form of samatha-vipassana was to some extent “samatha-prajna or meditation and wisdom, as vipasyana may be understood as the teaching aspect of the practice brought into meditation) . . .” (Sudden and Gradual: Approaches to Enlightenment in Chinese Thought).

Naturally, from this, we should not form the impression that teaching and study was the limit of Chih-i’s kaun/vipassana, or what we call “insight” meditation. As I’ve noted in previous posts, and it bears repeating considering the increasing numbers of Buddhists and “un-Buddhists” who are quite dismissive of meditation practice nowadays, that Chih-i stressed the importance of striking a balance between practice and study, or meditation and wisdom.

And as I’ve quoted before, in “Chih-kuan for Beginners”, he states:

[The Lotus Sutra] says ‘The practice of dhyana [meditation] alone, while prajna [wisdom] is disregarded causes delusion, and the practice of wisdom alone, while meditation is disregarded, causes infatuation’ . . . Although delusion and infatuation differ from each other in a minor way, their contribution to misunderstanding is the same. Thus, if meditation and wisdom are not in equal proportion, the practice is deficient.”

Those guys look more like Curly, Moe and Shemp to me.
Those guys look more like Curly, Moe and Shemp to me.

Study is subsumed under the rubric of wisdom, and Chih-i compared practice and study to two wings of a bird and two wheels of a cart. Without two wings, a bird cannot fly. Without two wheels, a cart cannot move. In the same way, both practice and study are required if we are to progress in our faring of the Buddha way. For a cart, or nowadays, a car, two wheels also provide balance. When the wheels on our car are balanced, it allows for a smoother ride and extends the life of the tires. In the same way, balance between practice and study makes wayfaring more even and extends the life of the journey.

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Found Art

Those of you who have followed The Endless Further for any length of time have probably guessed by now that I like photography. Not only do I like to take photos (see my photography site) but I also enjoy messing about in Photoshop. In this latter work I use stock images, or sometimes my own photos, and distort them, construct a montage, add text, or whatever, to create something interesting, or perhaps humorous, or just to create.

I think of this along the lines of “found art,” like found poetry which is using existing texts and refashioning them, reordering the words, to present as poems. I’m going by the same principle only using images. Andy Warhol’s soup cans or Marcel Duchamp’s bicycle wheels and urinals are two examples of found art or photography.

Today I present three pieces I created last night while watching the Golden Globes (I get bored during the commercials). Three of these you might call posters, the fourth is just . . . something.

Thought of Enlightenment

thought-of-enlightenment

Sun’s Orb

suns-orb2

The Other Shore

the-other-shore

Something

MP186c

“Creativity is knowing how to hide your sources”
– Albert Einstein

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Musical Interlude (French Style)

Patricia Kaas
Patricia Kaas

My last post, Guns, With Occasional Music, had no music. Today’s post has music but no guns, and nothing at all to do with Buddhism.

I watched a nice little film the other night called And Now . . . Ladies and Gentlemen. It stars Jeremy Irons as a jewel thief who is experiencing blackouts and sails to Morocco where he meets up with a French café singer suffering with the same problem. The best part was the girl who played the songstress, a terrific French singer named Patricia Kaas. She and her singing completely won me over.

Kaas, who as far as I can tell is little known in America, has been extremely successful just about everywhere else, and is often compared to Édith Piaf and Marlene Dietrich. The Dietrich comparison is more apropos as they both have deep, smoky voices, but Kaas is by far the better singer. Kaas reminds me, vocally and facially, of my long-time favorite French singer, Francoise Hardy, who has been a French Icon for decades now, and has also appeared in a film or two.

Francoise Hardy
Francoise Hardy

Like Sam Cooke, I don’t know much about the French I took . . . come to think of it, I didn’t take French. Nonetheless, I think it is a beautiful language, whether sung or spoken, even though I don’t understand a word of it.

I have been listening to Patricia Kaas on Rhapsody for several days now, and I am totally smitten with her. Now, without further ado, here is the music: There are two versions of I Wish You Love, from the movie soundtrack and from the album (“Piano Bar”), both done in English. I can’t decide which I like best so I’m posting both. Then, because I just can’t help myself, a video of one of my favorite songs by Francoise Hardy.

I Wish You Love

Alternate version of I Wish You Love from “Piano Bar”

Francoise Hardy is a prolific songwriter. This is 1982’s Moi Vouloir Toi (I Want You), lyrics by Hardy, music by Louis Chedid.

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Guns, with Occasional Music.

Monday in Los Angeles, elementary and middle school students returned to their campuses after winter break. Security at the schools was increased in the wake of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Connecticut. Officers from the LAPD, the County Sheriff’s department and other law enforcement agencies visited many of the campuses. While high schools in the Los Angeles Unified School District have long been dangerous places and under the watchful eye of law enforcement, elementary and middle schools have not been on LAPD’s daily schedule before, but now the agency plans to have patrol the more than 500 public elementary and middle schools on a daily basis.

Around 8:30 a.m. on Monday, the Glendale Police Department received a call from RD White Elementary School, stating a bomb threat has been made to the campus. All 880 students and staff were evacuated and reassembled in the parking lot of a nearby Whole Foods store. After a preliminary search of the campus conducted by police and fire departments, nothing suspicious was found.

When I was in elementary school the worst threat you had to fear was some older kid who might bully you into forking over your lunch money. Well, there was The Bomb, the A-bomb, but even as a kid, I never thought the Soviet Union would be crazy enough to use it. Now, as an adult, I live with a certain amount of fear, or at least concern, that terrorists, who are crazy enough to use it, just might. And kids, who should be greeted by teachers when they come to school are met instead by armed police, and they now must live in daily fear, not so much that a terrorist will threaten them with a bomb, but that a regular citizen will. A citizen with mental health issues and access to bomb making material who could very well carry out his threat, or just show up with semi-automatic weapons.

I watched a rather sick citizen Tuesday night when ultraconservative radio talk host Alex Jones appeared on CNN’s “Piers Morgan Tonight” shouting, raving, and ranting with such angry velocity that he made Rush Limbaugh look like a shrinking violet. “1776 will commence again if you try to take our firearms!” he screamed. For once, I had to agree with Alan Dershowitz, who said afterwards, “You just see him speaking and you say to yourself, I don’t want that man to have a gun.” If I was a gun rights advocate, I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t want Jones representing my point of view either. But evidently, several million people think he has his finger on the pulse of the nation. Let’s hope that’s all he has his finger on.

On the saner, yet sadder side of the gun issue, Tuesday was the second anniversary of the Tucson, Ariz., attack that killed six people and critically injured former U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords. She and husband Mark Kelly, a former astronaut, marked the anniversary by writing an op-ed published in USA Today announcing their Americans for Responsible Solutions initiative:

Forget the boogeyman of big, bad government coming to dispossess you of your firearms. As a Western woman and a Persian Gulf War combat veteran who have exercised our Second Amendment rights, we don’t want to take away your guns any more than we want to give up the two guns we have locked in a safe at home. What we do want is what the majority of NRA members and other Americans want: responsible changes in our laws to require responsible gun ownership and reduce gun violence.”

As Giffords and Kelly imply, the right-wing is using their most formable weapon, fear, to bolster opposition to gun control. Fear that the tyrannical government, the pinko liberals, the unbelievers, the bogeymen, will take away your rights. It’s irrational and just not true.

Here’s a graphic I made some weeks ago and posted on Facebook that I think puts the question of rights in proper perspective:

EF5058b

85% of children killed in the world by guns are killed in the United States.

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The title of todays post based on Gun, with Occasional Music, a novel by Jonathan Lethem.

 

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