I will blog soon

I keep forgetting about blogging or that I have a few blogs. This is the main one here on wordpress. I started a tumblr because it sounded fun and boy, it sure was. But I forgot the password. It’s probably something easy and I can fix this situation but I’m way busy right now. My time is running low.

So I wanted to make an internet promise, ‘cuz those are valuable, right? I will blog soon. Sometime in the near future, like tomorrow or this weekend. I’m not sure what I’ll say yet. I haven’t thought that far. All I can think about at the moment is how crazy busy I am and how I haven’t blogged in like a while. My brain is small and therefore not many thought topics can fit in at the same time.

I just forgot how fun blogging is for a little while but I’m back now.

I’m back.

How Poor Can You Afford To Be?

I always use money as an excuse to why I can’t do certain things.  Or the main reason why I can’t attain a certain level of happiness.

I’m an idiot.

I’ve designed a certain career for myself that has a lot to do with trying to be poor and content.  It’s a sort of philosophy I keep wanting to prove is possible.  It’s ridiculous to be an American and pursue this.  So much of our worth is based on how much we can buy.  I think this bothers me the most when people talk to me about how I don’t work.  Because I do work.  I work every day.  Night actually.  I’m working right now as I’m typing this.  But my work doesn’t pay much so it isn’t looked at as real work by some people.  And I have to be honest that this offends me.  I am a hard worker and I take pride in my work.  Some people think work should make you sweat.  Some people think work is only work when it brings in the big bucks.  I think it’s possible to be the hardest working person in the world and make less than a dollar for all of it.  But I don’t know if I’m crazy or not.

I’m bothered by how money or lack of money shapes perceptions.  I think about people who work their whole lives at thankless jobs.  I want to respect these people but I don’t really.  I don’t think suffering for money is admirable.  I think people should find things to do that they enjoy and try to figure out how to live within their means.   If they can’t afford to eat out then they shouldn’t eat out.  If they can’t afford to go to the movies then they should just not go.  If all you can afford to do is stay at home and blog then stay at home and blog.

The less money you make the less you have to pay in taxes.  That’s nice.  There’s no retirement money though.

I’m not against work.  I don’t know what I’m against actually.  Maybe just the definition of what work is.  I guess I think of it as putting undesirable effort towards an end you don’t really care about for money.  But that’s not it.  Or is it?  How stressful does an action have to be to be considered work?  When you hear the word “work” does it make you think about Heaven or Hell?  Or just something you have to do on your way to one or the other?

Writers get paid to think.  They trade backaches for headaches.  But if a writer is thinking and getting headaches but not getting paid, did the writer really work?  And at what point does the writing turn into a worthwhile thing?  What is successful writing?  Something that connects?  Something that challenges?  Something that inspires or causes more thought?  What if only one person reads it and isn’t changed but mostly just bored by it?  Should the writer have slept in or surfed the internet instead?

I’m probably thinking too much but that’s how I don’t get paid.

The Shins – “Goodbye Girl”

Wednesday, August 3, 2011  7:18 PM

Okay, I don’t think of myself as a huge fan of The Shins.  But maybe I should.  I’ve owned all 3 of their albums at one time.  I lost #2 somewhere, which was the first one I bought.  I think James Mercer is one of the more interesting songwriters around these days.  I think he has a cool delivery.  I don’t always understand his songs but I think that makes me like them more.  And The Shins (as well as Broken Bells) have a good ear for melody.  They always feel like an indie band who are coming from just the right place.  They kind of remind me of The Beach Boys but I don’t know if they have quite as many harmonies.

This song is a cover that was originally done by a band called Squeeze, who I’m not familiar with.  I was made aware of it from an article on Pitchfork (or somewhere) that linked to a Levi’s jeans website where you could download it for free.  I thought the recording was cool.  It seemed casually yet well recorded and I liked the way it built up at the beginning.

I don’t understand all the words to this song and I’ve thought very little about what it means.  I think it’s the feel I get from the music that sucks me in.  Maybe it’s the attitude that I like.

I put this song on my ipod when I downloaded it and when I hear it these days it reminds me of one time when I went to visit my sister in Junction, Texas.  I went for a run one night as the sun was setting and the town is so small I was able to run from one side to the other.  I had my ipod on shuffle so it was just playing through whatever.  I think this song came on around the time I was running over a bridge that went over a river.  I don’t know what river it is.  I just thought the song was so cool.  I think I started it over about 3 times.

Sometimes I think I like this song just because it came at a time when I wasn’t sure if The Shins were still a band or not.  It was after Wincing the Night Away but before Broken Bells.  This was just a one off thing but from what I heard the band sounded really good.  So maybe I was feeling hopeful when I originally heard it and that helped me like it more.  I don’t know.

That’s something I’m curious about.  I think it’s interesting to think of why certain songs end up as your favorites.  It can be for the dumbest and most random reasons.  I know as a songwriter I often feel powerless in a way because the best an artist can do is just to write or play a song the best they can.  You never know after that what will happen.  Someone might hear one of your songs playing in a friend’s car and decide they like it, or maybe they hear it one day when their mood is just not quite lining up to the song and for whatever reason it just bothers them every time they hear it.  Or maybe the timing is off.  Or maybe what you wrote is a good song but the only time some listeners pay attention to music is when it’s on Grey’s Anatomy or something.

Funny to think about that since most people who like The Shins now probably never heard them before they were featured so glowingly on the movie Garden State.  I know that was the first time I heard of them.  And having Natalie Portman talking about how great a band is is probably never a bad thing for business.

When I think about it I’m not sure if this is my favorite song by The Shins.  I think I chose it like I chose the Jeff Tweedy song earlier, it stands alone nicely.  And I’m not even sure which one of their albums I like more.  I play #3 the most but I remember really enjoying #2 when I had it.  And #1 is a great little indie record.

I’ll have to get back to you on this.

Jeff Tweedy – “Laminated Cat”

Tuesday, August 2, 2011 8:53 PM

I am a Jeff Tweedy freak.  I should get that out of the way.  I didn’t get into Wilco until I moved to Nashville, which was after Yankee Hotel Foxtrot came out, but it didn’t take me long to catch up once I realized how great they were/are (about 6 months).  I got addicted to Wilco after watching I Am Trying to Break Your Heart.  There are a lot of songwriters that I like/love but I think Jeff Tweedy is my overall personal favorite.  I connect with his lyric style more than Bono, even more than Dylan.  There have been so many eras to Wilco.  I have different opinions of each of their records.  But I think I see Being There, Summerteeth and Yankee Hotel Foxtrot as the golden age of the band.    There was an extra something special happening with those albums.

I wanted to pick a Wilco song to talk about but they have so many.  I zeroed in on the 3 albums I mentioned earlier.  I think Summerteeth is the most poppy and accessible out of the 3.  There were a few tracks from that album I almost picked to talk about.  I ended up deciding on this song that isn’t even a Wilco song.  It’s from Tweedy’s side band Loose Fur.  And I chose this one simply because of the way it makes me feel.  It seems to mostly be just a description of different seasons.  Also, it seems to be able to stand alone pretty well.  A lot of Wilco songs seem to be better when you listen to them with the other songs on the albums.

I remember the lyrics to this song just striking me.  Maybe it’s an imagery thing.  When I think of this song I think of how nice it is to hear plain old descriptions in songs.  “Spring time comes and the leaves are back on the trees again, snipers are harder to see, my friends.”  Is he saying “snipers” or “snipes”?  I always thought it was snipes.  But it sounds like snipers, like a sniper hiding in a tree behind all the new leaves.  Hmm..

I like this song because it feels like just hanging out to me.  I guess the verses go through the different seasons but a lot of the lyrics just paint a picture of sitting around.  I think it just feels different to me as far as song topics go.  Songs like this make me want to write poems.  NOT songs.  POEMS.  It’s like I want to go grab a pen and a notebook and go outside and write about nature.  And I think that’s why I like this song so much.  And it’s got a cool groove.

I’ve noticed that Wilco is a strange topic.  People either know who they are and have all their albums (like me) or they don’t and they always talk about how they just don’t get it.  There’s not a lot of things I would get in a fist fight over but I think I could fight somebody if they said Wilco sucked.  I don’t know why it bothers me so much when I hear people acting like they’re not that good.  Their greatness seems more like a fact to me than an opinion.  It’s one of those things where if somebody says they don’t like Wilco I automatically check out of any conversation about music (or anything else really) with that person from that moment on.  It’s like them saying they don’t like ice cream or Star Wars or something.  To me it means that this person’s musical taste is about as useful as a broken thermometer is to figure out the temperature.  Like, yesterday I found this youtube video where this guy said New Adventures in Hi-Fi by R.E.M. sucked.  I felt like I was seeing a new depth in human stupidity.  I had to close out of the video and watch some things about dudes getting kicked in the privates to cleanse my palett.

I just don’t think it’s possible to have a respectable musical opinion if you can’t appreciate Wilco.  That’s really all I’m getting at.  It doesn’t even seem like a “it’s not my taste” kind of thing.  In my mind someone saying “I don’t like Wilco” translates as “everything I say about music doesn’t mean that much” or simply, “my ears don’t work”.

Sorry, I had to get that out.  I’m passionate.

I don’t even know what I’m talking about anymore..

Note: The youtube video is pretty low res but the sound is good.  It has some banter at the beginning that’s funny.  It’s taken from the dvd Sunken Treasure: Live In the Pacific Northwest, which is worth seeking out if you can find it.     

Randy Newman – “Harps and Angels”

Tuesday, August 2, 2011 6:45 AM

I think I want to start a new series of blogs where I talk about songs I like.  I got this idea from a book I bought a while ago and found on my shelf again a few days ago.  I think it’s a fun idea.  I’m not gonna be too pretentious about this, I just wanna throw down some of my basic thoughts.

This first one is called “Harps and Angels” and it’s by Randy Newman.  This is one of his newer songs as far as I know.  I think it came out in 2008.  I first heard it on an NPR stream of one of his shows.  I just think it’s got the coolest flow.  I love that it doesn’t have a specific structure.  It keeps you paying attention because it doesn’t seem to go to a chorus or anything.  It’s just him telling a story.  And he is such a masterful writer.  Every time I listen to Randy Newman I feel like I’m in the hands of a master, and that is a rare feeling.  I went through a few of his songs ‘cuz I thought he’d be a neat person to start with.  He has some songs that are sentimental.  He has some that are darker.  I like those.  He has an interesting perspective.

I think one of my favorite things about Randy Newman is how he’s constantly writing in character.  I can’t tell you what a freeing thing it is to be a songwriter and remember that you’re allowed to write in character.  Because of the nature of singing, people always connect whatever you’re saying to you.  They always think you’re singing about yourself.  And that can be annoying.  Sometimes I want to say, “You all know most of what I’m saying is a lie, right?”  I mean, when you sing a song you wrote and anybody can hear it.. why the heck would you want to be honest all the time?  There’s a bunch of weirdos out there.

I just like this song.  The character’s attitude is so cool and goofy.  But it’s so well written.  I love the part where the guy is in heaven and God gives him this advice: “When they lay you on the table you better keep your business clean.”  I just love that.  It seems like the most wise advice.  And it’s all concise there in the song.  Wow.  It reminds me of the Psalms when David is asking God to search his heart.  I love the image of being strapped down on the operating table and God saying, “Just keep cool.”

When I write about these songs I want to talk a little about what they remind me of.  This song reminds me of when I first heard it.  And I think it came out in 2008 but I didn’t hear it until 2009.  ‘Cuz I was living in Texas again by that time.  I have a thing where I hook up my stereo to my computer and record tapes when NPR streams new albums or concerts that you can’t download as podcasts.  I think what happened is I moved back to Texas in this Uhaul truck and I didn’t know where to put some of my stuff so my dad was going to let me put things in his storage place.  I’m saying all of this because I remember having to ride in the back of his pickup truck with a walkman and I was listening to this song while laying down and looking at streetlights go by.  I think I was laying down because I didn’t know if being in the back of a truck was legal or not so I guess I was hiding from the cops.  I think that’s what happened.

I admire Randy Newman as a songwriter because he seems like he knows what he’s doing and he can pretty much do whatever he wants.  I mean, I’m sure he has some kind of limitations but he seems almost above everything.  He seems like he could decide to write a song about some specific thing and then just write it and it would be exactly what he designed it to be.  It just seems different to how I imagine other people write where they really lean into the emotion and the feeling of the song.  He just makes me think of conceptual songwriting.  I don’t know how else to say that or explain why it’s fascinating to me.  I guess it’s inspiring to think of songwriting as something a person can have complete control over.

I don’t even know what chords he’s playing.  I don’t know if it’s simple or complex.  Don’t ask me.  And I don’t know enough about pianos to figure it out for myself.

This is a song you should listen to all the way through and just let it kind of take you where it’s going.  Yeah.

I’m gonna pick something way different next.

Lamps and the Science of Lying Hearts

I have a lamp in this room here.  It’s got 3 places for bulbs.  I’ve only got 2 screwed in.  I always turn it on when I’m at my computer.  It gets dark in here without it and the low light has an effect on my mood.  The knobs to turn the lights on and off got broken off so now I have to use pliers to switch them on and off.  It’s sort of annoying.  Yesterday I couldn’t get one of the lights to turn off so I tried something new.  I unplugged it from the wall.  That did the trick.  Then when I got back last night it took me about 20 minutes of frustrated plier twisting to remember that the lamp was unplugged.  That all would’ve made for a really funny 40-minute youtube video.

I’m talking about this lamp because it’s important to me.  It really does change the mood in this room when it’s not on.  There’s a nice bright glow in here right now because of it.  And it affects my mood.  I’m not trying to say anything profound here, it’s just something that I think about for 5 seconds pretty much every day.  I admire the glow of my lamp.  I appreciate the mental gifts it brings.  I don’t know.  It makes this room feel more welcoming and warmer somehow (warmer psychologically, not temperature-wise).  I like looking at all the little doo dads on my desk when the light is shining on them.  My multicolored Sharpies look cool.  My external harddrive looks amazing.  Some scribbles I did on a notecard just… blow my mind.

Sometimes I just sit here and think about how much I enjoy writing, without actually writing.  Sometimes I do this for 6 hours at a time.  That’s supposed to be a joke but it’s also a true statement.  I wish you could log the hours you think about writing into your writing hours.  Because I really do spend a lot of time appearing as if I’m doing nothing, but I’m a very active inactive person.  Sometimes you’ve just gotta sit still and let your thoughts circle around.  And I can be a slow thinker.  I’m always tempted to think I’m not doing anything, that I’m wasting my time.  But I don’t know if that’s true.  I think writing requires this weird incubating time.  And I’m not trying to justify not doing anything, I think I’m talking about a real thing here.

I’ve been talking about a writing project that I’ve been working on but feeling frustrated by.  That’s EVERY writing project until it’s finished, of course.  I was thinking about that thing yesterday and trying to figure out if my holdup is from laziness or just the fact that the idea actually sucks and won’t work.  Both are possible but I was starting to feel that maybe this one just isn’t meant to be.  I have this thing where I try to listen to my heart about this stuff.  Actually, this is a new thing.  And I know it sounds silly but I’m gonna see if it works.  This is how I measure it… see, sometimes my heart feels stubby about an idea but then I just keep trying to force it to work… and sometimes my heart feels warm and happy about an idea.  And usually I have mixed feelings about ALL of my ideas so… Sorry, I’m trying to scientific here..  I don’t think I have to like every one of my ideas all the time.  It’s probably okay to feel dumb about some of them.  Hmm…

I don’t know if my heart is going to lead me in the right direction here.  It might lie to me (you just never know with these things).  Sometimes the hocus pocus talk works and sometimes it’s the rigid science.  Hmm… but if you can apply science to the hocus pocus…

Pardon me, I need to go sit still and appear to be doing nothing for a few hours..

To bang or not bang your head against a wall..

Sunday  7-31-2011  6:30 PM

I had an idea when I was brushing my teeth last night.  Or I might have been shaving.  It did happen in the bathroom, I think.  Not during anything too personal, so we’re safe.

The idea is to do little blog entries more often.  I think I’ve been trying too hard with these entries.  I’ll make a goal to write one page worth of stuff but that just makes it to where I write filler.  And I don’t want to do that.  It isn’t necessary.  So maybe I could do these things in quick bursts.  It seems reasonable.

I’m bad at writing stories.  I’ve noticed that inspiration normally lasts about a week before my attention gets antsy.  And I’m a slow writer.  A slow and deliberate writer.  That’s how the ball in my ball point pen rolls, if you will (though I haven’t written with one of those in some time).

I have this story I’m trying to write and I don’t like it anymore.  I had an idea that is a very simple premise.  I wanted to challenge myself.  You know, start with a story that doesn’t sound interesting and then figure out a way to make it the most compelling thing you’d ever read.  It’s not easy.  I wish it was.  I wish I was a quicker, more swashbuckling writer.  I realized yesterday again that I write at a snail’s pace.  But then I thought about how that’s still much better than not writing at all.  I mean, if a snail raced a person who didn’t move the snail would win.  So I guess I should be more optimistic.  Interesting too that writing requires you to be still… Hmm…

See, I want to make this story where a character does all of these small, mundane modern things only it’s written in a way to where everything seems new again.  Like, there would be a fresh and insightful spin on all of these normal things like watching TV or driving around or eating fast food or getting gas.

Maybe I should change the way I’m writing this.  I want to do it in screenplay form, mostly for the practice.  But the story is really about the internal commentary of this guy as he’s going through his very normal evening.  And if it was a movie then there’s no way to really convey the internal stuff as much.  I may need to switch this into a novel-style.  That’s where you can pull off that kind of thing.

I want writing to be an easy, effortless thing but it requires so much thinking and rethinking and changing and evolving.  I’ve felt the frustrating parts of the creative process more than the satisfying parts lately.  I’ve heard it said that a lot of writing is banging your head against a wall.  I think that’s supposed to be a figure of speech.  I’ve been wanting to do that but I may need to move into a room with padded walls, just to be on the safe side.

This is what I’m wondering though: at what point should you stop banging your head against a wall?  I mean, what if it’s just a few more minutes of wrestling with something to get to your big breakthrough?  Or what if it takes months or years?  Or what if you never figure things out and you spend your whole life banging your head against a wall in vain.

This is not a fun thing to think about.