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It may sound a bit morbid, but at times I practice how to feel when people significant to me die. I don’t mean to do it in the sense that I set aside a time for mortality drills or something. It’s that every once in a while I realize how profoundly I idolize certain people. Somewhere in my mind I recognize that in the event such a person would pass away, I could really freak out. So I allow myself think about it, if only for a moment. I let myself feel little bits of the emotion at a time. I’ll recognize the person’s huge contribution to my life, art, or world culture. I may even imagine something productive I might do when I hear the news.
I was on a short break from figure modeling yesterday when I saw the news on my cell phone about the sudden death of Bob Casale of Devo. I had prepared a little for such a moment. There were times when I’d find myself looking at a classic image of Devo, allowing my mind to wander through how I might feel when not all five of those guys are still with us. Then came the sad news about Alan Myers last June. It took me days before I could even speak of Alan’s passing. However, bad news is just that, and it hasn’t been a whole lot easier to wrap my brain around the loss of another member of my favorite band. Through all of the passive prep work, I never imagined having to sit for an hour and a half for a painting class before really reacting. The still contemplation time was probably exactly what was needed.
I’ve been to a lot of Devo shows and since 2004, I have had a number of great opportunities to hang backstage and elsewhere with them. Bob 2 was always cool, friendly, and even-tempered. While other band members may have been a little intense to be around, that was never the case with Bob. My favorite memory of him was the time he came to DEVOtional, the fan event held in Cleveland, in 2009. Aside from being a great musician who had his own unique way of holding together the band’s sound, he was also quite the chef. He actually prepared a menu, came to our event, and served lunch for a club full of DEVOtees. How awesome is that? At the time, I was annoyed that a miscommunication led to him not getting the word on saving aside some vegetarian fare for a few of us, so there wasn’t a lot for me to eat. But his taking time out to be with all of us was the main point. I had the pasta, and it was yummy. Last night, I cooked up some angel hair marinara and remembered a very kind guy.
2/25/14 Addendum: My friend and fellow fan Richard J. Anderson just posted a moving essay on Bob Casale @ Sanspoint.com. It is definitely worth reading.
The first time I met Tarot Grandmaster Christiana Gaudet, I believe it may have had something to do with an impromptu seasonal celebration ritual held in a hot tub. Over the years, I’ve grown to love and trust Christiana very much, and we share quite a few things like dedication to spirituality, a penchant for discussions on grammar and usage, naturism, and a serious enthusiasm for music (Robin is to Devo as Christiana is to The Grateful Dead.).
A little over a year ago, Christiana began hosting an online show called Christiana’s Psychic Café, and decided to use my songs “Funky Bhagavate” and “Blessed Be, Namaste” as her intro and outro music. She’s also invited me on the show to chat on quite a few occasions, so turnabout is fair play, as they say. I am so glad Christiana has taken part in The Dream Between‘s 11 Questions interview series. Here are some of her thoughts on science and mysticism, the rewards and business of writing and music, entrepreneurial spirit, and more.
1. Do you think of Tarot as an art? A system? A spiritual tool? I am interested in how you describe it to someone who hasn’t encountered Tarot at all.
Yes, to all of the above. One of things that fascinates me about Tarot is how unique it is in all the world, but how it is a part of so many worlds – art, culture, spirituality, and history.
Tarot is a book of spiritual wisdom in picture form that tells the story of human experience. Tarot is a collection of archetypes and symbols that can help us communicate with each other and with the divine. Tarot is a source of creative inspiration and a tool for magick.
2. How do you balance science and rationality with mysticism and spirituality in your life?
My belief system is grounded in the reality that I observe in my daily life, so there really is no disconnect between what I believe and what is obviously scientifically true. I believe the sun will rise in the morning, and I understand the movements of the planets that make that happen. But I also honor the rising sun as a spiritual force in my life.
Nature is my Higher Power. I am face-to-face with God every day. I don’t need complicated dogma and doctrine to know, feel, and experience spiritual truth. When I observe nature I learn all I need to know about Higher Power. I find spiritual power in the tides and the stars. I see the face of the Goddess in fire as it dances. I see the Four Elements, Earth, Air, Fire and Water, as spiritual forces operating in my life. The magnificence and improbability of the world around us lead me to conclude that a divine hand is at work. To me, science proves the existence of Spirit. There is so much order to the Universe, it seems a divine order. The more I learn about science the more I see the sacred nature of life.
I have an argument with many religions. If your doctrine doesn’t hold true to the obvious facts around you, it is time to change your doctrine. That’s an interesting concept given I believe that cards drawn at random can have specific bearing in a person’s life. But, truly, divination is as old as recorded history. Divination is something we do quite naturally. The same is true with earth magick. What child has not collected rocks and shells from the beach, or sticks from the woods, knowing, deeply and inherently, that these items hold power?
3. You’ve written and published two books on the Tarot – Fortune Stellar and Tarot Tour Guide. Through those experiences, what are the most important things you’ve learned about the process of writing and publishing?
I learned that writing is an arduous task. If we only write when we feel inspired, we’ll rarely finish anything. If you force yourself to write whether or not you feel like it, the inspiration will come most of the time.
I also learned that writing is sometimes more about style than structure, and that typos are a fact of life.
I learned that publishing is rapidly changing. Whatever you knew about publishing in the past may not be true now. What we used to call “vanity press” is now “self-published” and is a viable avenue. The big publishing houses are crumbling, and self-published authors are actually making money.
I learned that unless you write a New York Times bestseller, the way to make money in writing and publishing is to be prolific. Yes, I am working on books three, four, and five right now.
Finally, I learned that books aren’t like fashion – they don’t have a shelf life. If you write a good book, that book will continue to sell year after year.
4. You and I connect a great deal around music and you’ve often incorporated music segments into your show, Christiana’s Psychic Café. What are you listening to lately?
The recent death of Pete Seeger has me revisiting my favorite folk singers. This week I’ve been listening to The Weavers, Pete Seeger, Holly Near, and Arlo Guthrie.
I listen to a lot of different genres. In terms of newer acts I like OneRepublic. Isn’t that cheesy? And I love Grace Potter and the Nocturnals. I think Grace has huge potential.
I’m a Deadhead. I catch as many DSO, 7 Walkers, Phil Lesh and Friends, Ratdog and Furthur shows as I can. We always wondered what would happen when Jerry died. Well, what happened was a lot of smaller bands mushroomed from the one. Fan musicians made it their mission to carry on the music, so there are still plenty of opportunities for us to experience those songs played live.
5. Does music help inspire your writing, preparation for readings, or other aspects of your work?
I can’t have music in the background when I write – I am easily distracted by shiny objects. I love meditative music, and I love chanting. I use music in magick and ritual quite a bit. Dance is an important part of my spiritual practice.
6. As the music business we once knew has changed so much since the Internet Age, many artists are struggling to understand how it will manifest in the future. Any predictions?
The changes in music are similar to the changes in publishing. On one hand, everyone has access. On the other hand, there are so many voices it is hard to be heard. I think one thing that is changing is there are more ways to be heard, and more ways to develop an audience. Often success will go to the diligent.
Where do I see things going in the future? I think there will be even more access to high-speed internet, recording technology, and marketing opportunities. I think the big labels, like the big publishing houses, will start to crumble. There will still be pop stars, but radio – the star maker of yesteryear – really is dying.
Right now, everyone who listens to adult contemporary knows the same songs. When Lorde won a Grammy, everyone knew the song. I see a time in the distant future where that might no longer be true. There might be so much variety available we will all listen to exactly what we like and we won’t all know the same forty songs.
In the meantime, my advice to artists would be three words: diligence, networking, and innovation.
7. Your show seems to have developed very organically and features many artists and practitioners who you know personally. How has this network of people come about for you?
When I agreed to do Christiana’s Psychic Café I knew I didn’t really have the time to take on such a project. I also knew I had a huge network of interesting people who would help me. Networks always grow. You were my very first guest. You, and many others, have introduced me to other people who have been great guests, and are now my friends. You are right about “organic growth.”
I have always been really good at bringing people together. I have organized festivals, huge parties, psychic fairs, and creative communities. It is something I do naturally. I am not as good at constantly nurturing a community. I am better at short-term projects and getting things started rather than tending them over long periods of time. Social media has allowed me to stay in touch with people that I have known over the past forty years. That is a lot of people, and a lot of energy, on which to draw.
8. In your work, you not only maintain a private reading practice, but you create a weekly newsletter, host the online show, and hold periodic worldwide Skype teaching sessions. What are your practical methods of generating many varied ideas and holding it all together?
I am grateful each day that my work allows me variety, creativity, positive human contact, and spiritual fulfillment. I work very long days, but I take frequent breaks. When I feel overwhelmed or under-inspired I picture myself working a regular job. That’s usually enough to get me back on track.
I have a lot of interesting ideas. They often come to me in the shower. My biggest problem is remembering them, since I can’t write them down while I’m washing my hair! So, the practical methods I employ boil down to gratitude for what I can do, fear of not doing it, and being open to inspiration!
9. What is the most gratifying aspect of your work?
Unfair question. That’s like asking a mother which of her kids is her favorite.
When I was really young I knew I didn’t have the ability to tolerate routines, power structures, boredom, and creative limitations. I needed to create a life where I had real passion for my tasks, and control over what those tasks would be. So I did. That my work is my work is my greatest gratification.
10. Do you have any advice or wisdom for anyone in any field who is striking out with your kind of entrepreneurial spirit?
Plenty. You have to want it so badly you can taste it. You have to believe in it when no one else does. You have to be willing to suffer for it. You have to be willing to do what it takes to make it happen, even when your friends are mad that you can’t play with them. If it were easy, everyone would do it.
When I was a theatre major at Baldwin-Wallace College for a semester I had a great teacher who said that success is the product of talent and tenacity. I think that is true for just about any kind of success.
11. What is the best course of action for creative artists in this Imbolc season?
Transform your fears, hurts, and disappointments into art. Let creativity be a source of healing for you, and let the depth of your pain energize your process. Let nothing be “good” or “bad” in terms of what you feel or what you produce. Experience everything as power, wisdom and beauty. Be free to heal, and free to create.
This is apparently a good week for the number eleven! See yesterday’s post.
Five years ago, I was part of a whatever’s-on-our-minds podcast with my three good friends Donna, Mary, and Wendy. Recently, we realized how much we missed it. Well that was something to be remedied easily. We’re back!
I just had great fun listening to our first episode since 2008. Listen to us catch up on the last five years here, and you can brush up on Audacious Eleven history at AudaciousEleven.com. I hope you enjoy it! There’s definitely more to come.
For me, 2013 was a year of things coming together. I tried more than a few times to come up with a list of “Best Moments,” “Biggest Breakthroughs,” or whatever, but none of that really showed up fully formed. Besides, I imagine some people get as sick of that year-end stuff as I do.
What happened for me last year, honestly, was a subtler experience. I found myself growing in ways I hadn’t in some time – mostly to do with how I was allowing my mind to re-embrace happiness and creativity. I was determined not to chase after gigs to the detriment of balance and good business sense, and positive opportunities came my way. I found refocusing on health to be an easy, joyful thing. Community that I’d felt missing started to be in my life again.
I have sought connection with other polyamorous people since the mid-1990’s in one way or another. It has always been a positive, balancing thing to have a touchstone of sorts- a way to meet others who find that love emerges in similar ways as it does for me. I’ve been hosting or co-creating events with Philadelphia Mindful Polyamory Meetup for a while. I can say that last year I started to notice that what once seemed like only separate events and happenings started to feel more like forums for real connection. I have been meeting friends with whom I really want to create and I look forward to seeing often. I imagine this has much more to do with my readiness to reach out and to be out in the world than it does with others in the group. Apparently I’m back up for noticing good people, many of whom have been there all along.
At one of the coffeehouse poly meetups I co-facilitate in South Jersey, I met a student named Jessica who was studying polyamory and came to chat and ask questions. She also mentioned wanting to get back into playing music and I took down her info. I probably dragged my feet a bit about getting in touch, but I am so glad I finally did. Turns out she is a great singer and viola player, not to mention a smart and fun/funny person. We have the most ridiculous conversations sometimes! I was really pleased with the show we played last fall at World Café Live at the Queen in Wilmington, DE. This week we’ve been getting ready to perform next Friday at the Poly Living conference in Philadelphia. (A word about Skype rehearsal: It doesn’t really work. But Google+ Hangout is great for planning the set list.)
If you want to come check out Poly Living 2014, I’ll be singing on Friday, February 7th before keynote speaker Anita Wagner Illig, and again later that evening at the conference reception. I am really happy to have been invited to be part of it.
For more info & Poly Living registration: http://www.lovemore.com/conferences/polyliving
Saturday night was the second Bhakti Dance! at YogaLove in Yardley, PA. I am so glad the Bhakti Dance! idea came into focus at the end of 2013. Here is the way I’ve been describing it:
Come out on a Saturday night for a little bit of chanting and a whole lot of freeform movement. Bhakti Dance! is a fun, transformative, alternative social event – Think of the high school dance only with great kirtan, mantra dance music, an uplifting party playlist, and none of the drama.
We started out with about half an hour of chanting. I felt as though we sang just enough to become present in the room and in the event we were creating together. Then came the lights and the time to move. Transforming a yoga studio into a dance club is so satisfying and joyful! It is a good thing to have happened upon a truly natural expression of the connection I find between music and spirit. In the past I’ve had trouble creating the right balance in chant/performance spaces to reflect this. I’ve had trouble saying it in words. In the midst of dance, there is no need for words.
Val from Rainbows of Healing has been liaison for the event with the YogaLove space and has helped so much with her overall enthusiasm to make cool things happen. I love the look on her face when she hears the first notes of a back-in-the-day song and dives into the dance. Julio and Jana drove from NYC to join us, and were a total trip with their in-step dance moves and exuberance. Jane brought bindis and made everyone extra sparkly. Whenever I felt the urge to redirect the energy, thinking that people weren’t “getting it” or were heading toward boredom, I looked again and noticed they were dancing in their individual moments. I saw people keeping to themselves a good deal of the time and realized it as an indicator of deepening into the experience. There was also plenty of interaction – smiling, spontaneous rumba, clapping, random happy shouting. I’d planned to resolve the evening with “Shivo Ham,” but singing the Om Shanti together on “Holy River” turned out to be just right instead.
Creating Bhakti Dance! is feeling so amazingly good and it gives me encouragement to keep moving toward the singer/songwriter/rock performance meets chant meets dance party blowout creations I’ve been envisioning for a long time. My 2013 New Year’s resolution was “more dancing and more glitter.” It may sound silly and playful, and it is those things. It also turns out to have been more moving an intention than I could have guessed. I’ll keep it around this year. More song and dance and glitter all around!
A few tunes from Bhakti Dance! 1/18/14:
It’s time to see about taking Bhakti Dance! on the road. If you’d like to schedule one, get in touch at email@example.com.
I was very psyched to see my Halloween-themed Warren Zevon article/playlist go live today on Biff Bam Pop. My friend Glenn Walker, pop culture writer extraordinaire (Welcome to Hell, French Fry Diary) asked me to guest blog for the site and it was a pleasure to put together this piece.
I hope you like the alternative Halloween soundtrack. Please read, listen, & share it! I promise my next post will be about something other than WZ. :-D
Happy Halloween and Blessed Samhain.
I’ve known this for a very long time. I’ve even told a few people, but it didn’t really prompt me to take much action on it. To my credit, it’s hard to know where to start on a grieving project, which is what I feel like I have in front of me. So I suppose I put it on my Virgo to-do list, as if it is something I can tackle like organizing the basement (I’ve been notoriously slow on that, too).
Anyway, here’s the thing: I never really fully grieved when Warren Zevon died. Yes, I cried. Yes, I talked about it, and still do in comfortable contexts. I’ve written about it a little. But I also compartmentalized it – put it away in some corner of my brain where I could access it nominally and even feel sadness, without having to really walk through the fire. This has done a lot to block my movement through the other huge losses over the past decade. I believe it’s done damage to my ability and desire to write. I don’t know how deeply it’s worked to obscure my ability to be effective in life overall. I wonder what it’s done to my accessibility as an authentic, flesh and blood friend and lover and seeker of Spirit. I’ve got to write through tremendous grief build-up to get to the other side of Emotional Rehab Mountain.
It has been exactly 10 years today that I received the call from my dear friend Nancey:
Those were the only words she needed to say for me to understand immediately. I’m glad I heard it from her, one who really, really got the essence of this man & his music. Last night, she was the one to remind me of the anniversary. Earlier this year, I’d thought a lot about the looming date, but filed that away too, leaving it to wait in line with the process of grieving itself.
I had the amazing luck or karma or whatever to grow up to actually get to know this intense and brilliant man whom I idolized since I was 12. There is just as much rich life-stuff in knowing and understanding and learning from the letting go. It’s just not the easy part.
Back when I was allowing myself to remember the date, I gave some thought to what to do about this 10th anniversary. I tried to push myself to write some major article or even a book with stories of WZ as a major factor. One of the things he encouraged me to do is to journal daily. I’ve hardly lived up to that. The best way I can pay respects today is to start to remedy the reasons why. Ready or not, it’s finally happening.
I’m joking in the title. I doubt there is any real art to knowing how or when to show up to things unprepared. I generally am a fan of a good plan. Often when unpreparedness happens it pretty much sucks, but I try my best to pull things together. Once in a while, though, being unprepared leads to something profound.
For someone who was about ready to throw in the proverbial towel when it comes to music, I’ve wound up with quite a few good gigs this year. There is something to be said for not worrying too much. Ohio continues to have some kind of cosmic pull – I have connected with great, loving yoga and kirtan community there, which balances well with getting to perform with The Mutant Mountain Boys there for SubGenius and Devo happenings. I’ve been to Ohio twice this summer and wouldn’t be sad at all if I managed to schedule my way back once more this year.
I didn’t feel terribly prepared for any of my gigs this last time out. At Kundalini Yoga & Wellness in New Cumberland, PA, I played music for yoga, followed by a short kirtan with my old friend JD Stillwater. That is supposed to be freeform and intuitive, so a lack of set list is fine, if not ideal. JD and I worked well together. I appreciated the practice with spontaneity and listening.
I’ve been working with a lot of changes this summer – focusing on health, having internal consciousness and intention exploration stuff – and it has been leaving me in a state of busy-brain. So much was going on in my mind that the long drive to Cleveland didn’t seem to help me solidify the house concert set for that next night. I mean, I knew essentially which tunes I would do, but I didn’t feel particularly balanced and rehearsed when I arrived and had to quickly set up the sound system (while making friends with the host’s four awesome dogs). The show turned out just fine. The people and the energy were better than fine. I was even surer about this Cleveland-area vortex that has seemed to open up in my life. Still, I’d like to find a more easeful pattern when it comes to travel and gigging. It continues to be a work in progress.
The main reason for this last trip was to make my way out to A Not … TOTALLY Dev-o Tribute Night at The Summit in Columbus. I absolutely love playing with The Mutant Mountain Boys, and when we were asked to do this show, I started working on booking gigs right away to make the unexpected travel reasonable. Well, we made it there, and we played the gig. We weren’t terribly prepared. Samantha was jet-lagged after flying in from Tucson and was running on almost no sleep. I was pretty exhausted, too, so how could Jim exactly get on a wavelength with that? We all could have played better, so… we were just ok. We had an amazing, energetic show at 16X-Day. Perfectionist that I am, I am (almost) ok with not having been 100% for this one. We talked about it later and hope to plan future shows so we have at least 24 hours in the same place together to rest, regroup, and rehearse before we hit the stage. We all had a good time anyway, Lieutenant Dance was fabulous, there are some great pics posted, and the impetus for a late August Devo fan event with friends was started again.
At one point relatively early in the evening, Thomme Chiki, the organizer of the event, asked people if they had any stories or pivotal life moments to share about Devo. There were two disco ball piñatas in the house and I stepped up to tell the story of how I’d been in the audience during the New York portion of filming for the “Disco Dancer” video and how that was an exciting time for me. I’m not sure why I didn’t think at that time to tell more of the story:
It was at a club called The World. The band played a few tunes, then prepared to record for the video. They did several takes of “Disco Dancer” and the audience gave their enthusiasm. I didn’t quite “get” this particular song or why it was the single, but I was of course ecstatic to be present for anything Devo. Afterward, the crowd started to disperse and the club turned into a regular dance space. After a while, I was dancing and turned to see Mark Mothersbaugh who had come out of the dressing room/green room area and was crossing the dance floor. I went into instant groupie mode, beelined toward him and asked, “Mark, can I have your autograph?” He said yes. I looked blankly for a split second, then said “I don’t have any paper.” Duh. I asked him to please wait, and I told him I’d find some. So there is one of my major heroes standing on the side of the dance floor kind of aimlessly while I scurry around looking for paper. Bizarrely (though maybe not so strange for 1988), the first piece of paper I found was a tri-fold AIDS info pamphlet that had fallen to the floor. It said “AIDS, Sex, and You.” I handed it to Mark and he gave me the most bemused look. I apologized and told him it was just the first thing I could find. He wrote “No sex is safe and also good.” I didn’t think that was very sound information, but hey, I had just prompted Mark Mothersbaugh to write something about sex, which I found to be pretty awesome. He wrote an “xo” and signed his name. I thanked him. Then I got even more bold and asked him if he would like to dance. He said, “No, I have to get back to Jerry.” Then he paused, looked at me, and said “You’re very beautiful,” before he disappeared back through the door. I was pretty much in heaven.
At The Summit last Friday night, the MMB were getting ready to leave and something gave me the idea to seek another autograph. I picked up a black and white flyer for the event from one of the tables and thought it would be cool to have Thomme Chiki sign it, since he’d done so much to put the night together. I didn’t know him so well, but always thought of him as a cool and dedicated spud with encyclopedic knowledge of Devo and probably lots of other things. I asked him half seriously if he’d sign the flyer, and when he said yes, I thought that would be a really great souvenir. The next question was, “Do you have a pen?” I wasn’t sure, but I didn’t think I did. I started to dig through my bag. The first thing I came up with was a tube of red lipstick. I said, “You could sign it in lipstick.” He made a funny kissy face, but then took the lipstick for real and went to the other side of the club where there was either a mirror or a mirrored section of the wall. I could see he was putting on the lipstick. When it started to take kind of a long time, I realized he was doing this quite seriously. I had assumed that if he did it at all, it would be taken as a big, goofy joke (interesting bit of gender stereotyping I did there).
I was stunned by the image I saw walking back toward me. It was a simple, sweet and graceful androgynous beauty. I was basically rendered momentarily speechless. He returned the lipstick and said quietly, “Thanks for sharing.” He kissed the flyer. I rather awkwardly vied for a lip print on the cheek. I had not at all been prepared for this aspect, this physical manifestation of the beautiful in-between to show up in that moment. I was engrossed – It was moving and exciting to be so taken off-guard. Reflecting on it now, I see a gorgeous, encouraging reminder that this place/non-place where I live and love and write is absolutely real – and here is another soul, perhaps gliding through a similar journey.
I suppose I would do well to try my best to be prepared for most things. Virgos prefer order, they say. But at least when it comes to autograph-seeking in Devo-related contexts, being a bit out of sync has so far worked quite well.
Yesterday, Glenn Walker posted the last piece on the Robin Renée Blog Tour on his blog, Welcome to Hell. The original interview @ Biff Bam Pop! the day before ran so long that he rounded up some eclectic bits not included there for Odds & Ends. What’s covered? My jazzy version of Nick Lowe’s “Cruel to be Kind,” a makeshift Ouija board, true holiday sentiments and a bit of parody, some great new Mutant Mountain Boys videos, wighead art, a personal question (with some answers), and a 70′s smooth rock dude named Devo Dan. Odds and Ends – It’s an aptly-named article, I’d say!
Check it out at The Robin Renée Blog Tour, Odds and Ends
Miss anything? You can take the tour with this great recap. It includes a synopsis and link for every stop along the way for the interviews, podcast discussion, videos, reviews, and info on the new single, “All I Am.”
Thank you so much to mastermind Glenn Walker and everyone who helped put this together. It was busy and engaging and was a way I’d never reached out to new and old friends. The tour bus is home now, but I’m already psyched for next time.