I’m a musician. I’ve been playing music since I was able to sit in front of a piano. And if there’s anything I like to do more than playing music, it’s listening to it. All kinds. I love classical1, jazz 2, punk, indie, downtempo, industrial, folk, bluegrass, ragtime, metal, ska 3Late 70s British ska, duh.[/duh], country, lounge, you name it, I’ll give it a listen.
But lately, I’ve reached a wall. Nothing sounds good. It’s like being hungry but having no clue what you want to eat. I’m having a difficult time listening to music with a distinct rhythm, or voices, or harsh sounds (I love you, Miles Davis, but I just can’t with the trumpet right now.), or crazy dynamics. I don’t like fast tempos and the slow tempos put me to sleep.
I’ve hit a musical wall.
The only thing right now that I can listen to — and it’s more just to fill the silence — is ambient. Which has left me with a small handful of choices. I’ve been listening to Moby’s free album (which you can find here), a lot of Brian Eno, and Loscil, whose work always sounds good.
So basically, I’m listening to melodic white noise.
Anybody else ever have this problem? What did you do about it? Will it go away? I hope so.
I don’t know if you’d consider this “meta” or just “too much,” but I wanted to call out something that I’ve wanted to do for quite some time and now have actually done: I’ve created a page with some of my music. I hesitate to say “my” music because a huge chunk of it was co-authored by my good friend John Flores, who, as you may have guessed, is the “John” in “Jim/John Make Noise.”
You can visit the page here and you can spend a few minutes listening to my own stuff and then a few hours listening to J/JMN, who is your new favorite band.
Also, I have a gazillion songs I wrote a gazillion years ago that I’m thinking about recording and posting. What do you two think? Good idea? Crap idea?
Every now and then I get to see how advertising is delivered and the means for getting people’s attention. I saw some today, in fact. And it’s gross.
Because it’s everywhere. They’re looking for us everywhere. No place is safe from a possible ad message being sent. I don’t want that, do you? It creeps me out that I can be walking around a grocery store, that there are scores of people who know this, and they all want to send me something that says “Buy this!”
Do either of you know what it takes to get off the grid? Or at least how to be a less of a presence on said grid? All of this nonsense makes me want to delete my Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram accounts and delete this dumb, undervalued, underused blog. Or maybe just move to the woods and write manifestos. And also fly fish.
Here’s one thing I’ve considered doing: the world has gone survey crazy. It seems like it’s a law now that businesses must include a survey on every receipt they hand out. So for those surveys? I’m going to lie. Not on the whole thing, just on one or two questions. Because all of these surveys and all of this information that we get all gets fed into formulas and algorithms that determine what action the advertiser takes. So if you give standard answers in a way that makes sense, the advertiser will know exactly how to communicate with you. But if you throw in a few nonsequiturs, then the advertisers will be thrown for a loop.
Wait… Consumer 4877-B4-21AQ492 says he lives an active lifestyle, but in question 19, he claimers he has 78% body fat. What gives?
It’s a little thing, but maybe it will help. Or maybe the Wealth Courts will find me in contempt of the plutocracy and I’ll be sent to Panhandler Prison.
Whatever. Who cares. I’m still angry about my low play SoundCloud play count and I’m done with just about everything.
So one of your friends/fellow writers/people you look up to asks you to write a song for a show he’s producing and you write it and it actually turns out to be much better than you had hoped for, so good, in fact, that you think, “This is stellar!” and they put it in the show and use it and it gets a good response and you think, “I’m going to share this ditty with the world!” and you ask aforementioned friend if that’s cool and he, of course, says it is because he is cool which is part of the reason you look up to him and so you post it and you announce and you just sit back and wait for the listens to roll in but they never do – there’s only eight – and you keep checking because you’ve got that sort of mental… thing but still the number of listens does not go up and so then you really screw up and do the math and you realize that this means that roughly 00.6% of your Facebook friends have listened to these songs, except, of course, that when you see the people who have liked the songs and presumably listened to the songs are not, in fact, your Facebook friends but random SoundCloud listeners who you really appreciate for taking the time to listen to your music but still you have to wonder why none of your real “friends” have listened to it and, sure, you think that maybe it’s something wonky in the Facebook algorithm that doesn’t show your posts because Facebook has something against SoundCloud or maybe even against you but it does nothing to lessen the sting that comes from knowing people don’t want to hear your music so you decide, “Man, I gotta get this off my chest!” so you write a blog post and think, “If I don’t share this then I can just vent for a while and that will feel good and because I’m not going to share it I won’t have to come off sounding whiny or petty or petulant” which is something you pretty much feel all the time but then you realize the irony that you’re not going to share something that people would probably ignore anyway since they haven’t acknowledged the other stuff you’ve shared and it all becomes almost laughable until you realize these are issues you’ve had for years and they continue to haunt you but then you think maybe if you write it in a long train of thought sort of fashion that people will actually think you’re trying to, say, channel the work of David Foster Wallace and then you wonder if there are any tropes or devices you could use to make it seem even more like you’re trying to channel DFW and they will soon ignore the reality of your situation w/r/t music and songs or the lack of people listening to them and then you sort of reach a point where you realize you’ve written over 500 words and maybe that’s enough for now and you also wonder if maybe the Nihilists were right.
My apologies in advance if I come off sounding like either a personal finance coach or a self-help guru, but listen to this: Everything is an investment. Every choice you make is a form of investing. Because everything you do will have a result. And, like investments of money, there are high-risk and low-risk investments. There are some choices you make that won’t matter much and some that do. For example, most of the time the choice to put on shoes just means that your feet will be covered. But every now and then you’ll realize that you just stepped on a Lego and that decision (investment) to put on shoes seems pretty solid. And, like financial investments, some take a while to pay a dividend (consequence). For example, if you tell a kid he is funny looking and his mother dresses him in odd fashions, some day a big hulking Muay Thai kickboxer may come up to you at Quizno’s and exact his revenge with a double chop elbow because of your earlier teases and taunts. And this will make you sad because originally all you wanted to do was point out some truths: he is funny looking and his mother did dress him in the odd fashions. But now you’re hurting big time and there’s no fun for you.
I say all of this not to prevent you from taunting kids (many of them are deserving) but to remind you (and by you I mean “me”) to be mindful not only of the choice but of the dividends for the choices you make. This is part of the wonderful world of mindfulness and I need it now more than ever. This Burrito Bell Gigante looks delicious with its oozing liquid cheese, but it will deliver a double chop elbow to the guts in a few minutes hence. Or this game of Angry Birds is so rewarding, I will continue playing it until the batter on my phone runs out. Decisions are investments. Which decisions will pay the highest dividends?
Decisions are investments. Which decisions will pay the highest dividends?
There’s a great interview with Mike Sacks wherein he says, and I’m paraphrasing here, that if you want to get something done, you have to do it yourself.
For the last year or so, I’ve had someone1 submitting my work to different, smaller, independent publishers. And, spoiler alert, it’s been rejected by all. Granted, I’ve heard some nice comments, but none of them want to publish.
Which is pretty much what I expected. Sure, I had hoped for someone to say, “This is the writer we’ve been waiting for!” And then there’s a huge advance and a book tour and so on and so forth, but that’s not going to happen.
So maybe it’s time to go the self-publishing route.
I think the main reason I haven’t considered it in the past was because I just want a book, an actual, physical book I can hold in my hands and throw at people who said I would never amount to anything.
But with self-publishing (and this is something Mike Sacks goes into), there’s far more control. I can write whatever I want to write. However I want to write it. I can even design the cover in whatever fashion I’m capable of.
What artist doesn’t want control like that?!
Of course, there are a couple of things I need to take care of first. One, I need to find a reputable self-publishing outfit. I’m leaning towards Amazon because, well, I don’t know, Amazon. If either of you have any suggestions, recommendations, or thoughts, please let me know.
Two, I need to seriously edit one of the books I’d like to publish. So that may take a while. But I’ve got another book I could go ahead and publish straight away. Which is nice.
Three, I need to make absolute sure my non-agent agent has exhausted all possible publishing avenues because, come on, y’all, book tours.
I was a huge Elton John fan growing up. It started with the first “Greatest Hits” record and songs like “Bennie and the Jets” and “Rocket Man.” Then there was “Captain Fantastic” and “Rock of the Westies” and “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road.” I loved his music. I still think “Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy” is one of the greatest albums of all time.
A year or two ago, I dug into some of the older albums that I’d never really listened to and I found “My Father’s Gun” from “Tumbleweed Connection.” Something about the song really affected me emotionally. It’s an amazing tune. The strings, the background vocals, the way it crescendos… It’s one of Elton’s all-time greats.At first, I thought my emotional reaction to the song was because I really dig the music. But lately, I’ve wondered if there was something more to it, more than just, “Hey, this great!”
At first, I thought my emotional reaction to the song was because I really dig the music. But lately, I’ve wondered if there was something more to it, more than just, “Hey, this great!”Here’s my theory.
Here’s my theory.I’m a sucker for the old days, for the sites and sounds from my youth. And I always get a rush when I hear an old song or, say, see an old movie from growing up. But rarely do I get to experience the sensation of discovering something for the first time like I did back then.
I’m a sucker for the old days, for the sites and sounds from my youth. And I always get a rush when I hear an old song or, say, see an old movie from growing up. But rarely do I get to experience the sensation of discovering something for the first time like I did back then.Does that make sense? Probably not.
Does that make sense? Probably not.
When I first discovered Elton John, there was a rush I got every time I heard a new song that I loved. I haven’t been able to do that in forever. Until I heard “My Father’s Gun.”
I can’t recommend this exercise strongly enough: Go back to someone you listened to as a kid, someone you loved. Then find some of that artist’s work you’re not familiar with. It’s amazing.
It’s as close as you’ll ever get to a time machine.
Do any of you three know anything about getting, like, really healthy? Man oh man, I am broken. I’ve got the gout, I don’t sleep much, my back always hurts, my legs always hurt, I’m always sleepy, my teeth are in pain, I’m cranky, I have gas.
I am broken.
I’ve had a physical the last two years and my doctor has told me the same thing both times: “You need to lose weight.” Then she gives me a list of vitamins I need to start taking and tells me to get the hell out of her office.
So what I need is to lose weight. And what I want is a common sense diet. Or maybe an app. Or both. An app in support of a common sense approach to diet and weight loss. That would probably be best. Should I buy a Fitbit?
While we’re here, have any of you tried eating a Japanese diet or the French diet? I admire both cultures and I think it would be sweet to pretend like I was living there. Of course, then I’d step outside and some guy in a 50-foot tall truck would blow through the stop sign in front of my house and I would remember, “Oh yeah. I’m in Flower Mound.”
Okay, well, if any of you three have any recommendations, let me know. In the meantime, I’ll be sitting over here. Expanding.
I may have some big news about my playwriting career. Stay tuned!
Turns out last night’s… show? Experience? Whatever it was with that happened last night with George Saunders, it did a number on me. I can’t tell you which number, specifically.
First, the Scottish Rite Temple here in Dallas is pretty amazing. Ornate, odd, and Egyptian. It was a great place to hear a writer who often deals in weirdness.
Second, since Saunders’s book, Lincoln in the Bardo: A Novel, is something of a multi-character piece, multiple actors read from the novel. So now, of course, I can’t wait to start reading the book.
But it was the Q&A that blew me away. Saunders was always gracious. He complimented people on their questions and responded to every one thoroughly and without hesitation. And his answers to matters of craft were like a masterclass on storytelling. So many new things to try, I couldn’t wait to get home and get started.
Through it all, Mr. Saunders seemed… delighted. In everything. The questions, the audience’s response, the performance, life… Everything. After the Q&A, Jenn, our friend, Clay, and I went downstairs where Mr. Saunders signed books. The line was long. A couple hundred people, perhaps? We were toward the end. But when we got up to the table, we found Mr. Saunders still in great spirits, still exceedingly grateful, still delighted.
On the way home, I had a slight to moderate epiphany: I’m angry. Like, in general, I’m an angry person. I’m not sure the source of the anger1, but I know it’s there and I know it doesn’t take much for the anger to bubble to the surface. When Mr. Saunders talked about his characters, he said he loved all of them deeply. And I got to thinking about my anger, about how I could never approach many of my antagonists with complete, unconditional love until I let go of some of this anger.
So how do I do that? This, of course, is for both of you readers, but it’s also the question I’m going to ask myself as I travel down life’s highway. Which reminds me, a lot of my anger is the result of traffic and driving and cars. No duh, huh?
Per yesterday’s question: Did Mr. Saunders’s “performance” meet expectations? I should say so.
I’m giddy. Almost to the point of giggling. Though not really since giggling and laughing and guffawing — it’s all too much. Still, I’m stoked. And giddy.
I get to see my favorite author speak tonight. Geoerge Saunders. Like, in person. It’s kind of a weird thing, seeing an author speak since speaking isn’t what authors do. They write. Still, I haven’t had a bad experience yet seeing writers whose work I enjoy. With the exception of the time I, a somewhat misguided child, made my mom take me to see William F. Buckley speak. Sheesh. Never again!
But I’m pretty sure Saunders will not disappoint. Though I’m not entirely sure what I expect to get out of it. That sounds a bit ungrateful, but I don’t mean it to be. And maybe that’s why I’ve enjoyed seeing all of the other writers – I had no idea what to expect and I got far more than I could have asked for.
One thing I would like to walk away with is a renewed sense of purpose for my own writing. A little jolt to the system, if you will. It’s happened before and it actually worked for a while. Maybe this one will last a little longer.