Jim/John Make Noise!

February 28, 2017

Hey, everyone! As you know, I’m friends with Jim/John Make Noise. How tight am I with the band? Well, I’m half of them.

John and I have just finished our latest album as part of the RPM Challenge: we recorded an album in 28 days. Wanna give it a listen? Look down below!

 

JIM/JOHN‘s player:

Give it up!

February 27, 2017

Hey, so, like, when do you know when to give up something? I’ve got a set of golf clubs in the garage that I’ve had for about 15 years and I’m wondering if I should get rid of them or not. I tried swinging one this weekend and I felt as flexible as a sequoia. At the same time, for as lousy as I was, I kind of enjoyed playing golf.

Part of me says if I enjoy the game and they don’t take up much room, I should just go ahead and keep them. Another part says that if I felt that way about more things, I wouldn’t be able to walk through my house for the clutter. Then the first part says that I don’t feel that way about more things and that they really don’t take up much space at all. But then a sort of quasi-third part shows up and asks me to remember the amount of frustration I felt towards the sport and that if I wanted to get any better at it (as in break 100 better), that it would take a lot of time and money that I don’t have so… Lose the clubs.

What do you two think? When do we give up things? Sports, hobbies, goals, ambitions, dreams…

Look, I know I’m never going to win the Masters, but it would be fun to get out there every now and then for 18 holes of cursing and frustration.

Wah

February 24, 2017

It doesn’t take much to get me down. As a writer, at least. Today I learned of another rejection of my novel and also heard about a local festival that I had no idea was taken submissions. Missed opportunities and rejection. Does the trick every time. But we get back up, dust ourselves off, and we do it again, right?

Sure.

Question for you writer types

February 23, 2017

This is quite possibly the lamest writer question ever, but here goes: How do all y’all writers organize your work? I’ve got, say, a dozen big things (novels, plays, screenplays) in various states of completion. I’d like to have something, like a notebook, app, whatever, where I can log notes and statuses. Something that lets me know what I need to do to get something submission ready or, if it has been submitted, where it was submitted and when.

So… Who’s got suggestions?

Rock and roll!

Addendum

A million years ago, I was part of an amazing show called the Dr. Paul Slavens Texclectic Radio Hour. Paul described it as A Prairie Home Companion meets Frank Zappa. I couldn’t think of a better analogy. One of the things I got to do in the show was read these… absurd, let’s call them, essays. They were ridiculous and usually got a few laughs. I’m thinking of reviving this old dead mule and posting them on Medium. Medium has a much larger readership than this blog (>2), so I figure it’s a way to get my silly notions out to the world while maintaining the intimate integrity of this web site.

The only thing I need to begin my takeover participation on Medium is an idea for an essay. Do either of you have one? All I need is a word. One word. A subject. Anything. Hit me. Hit me with your best shot. Fire away.

Crap.

I’m trying to reach 300 words so the little SEO monitor I use for this blog says I’m good. Isn’t that sad? In my quest for universal approval, I include a WordPress plugin.

Isn’t life crazy?

Crap. I’m at 282 words. La la la la la! I need more words here are those words is this enough words let me do a check yes it is I’m done now thank you.

The Weight of the Words

February 22, 2017

I’ve been listening to a lot of Springsteen lately. A lot of Springsteen.

One thing I’ve noticed (and admire) is how certain words keep coming back time and again. The most obvious example, of course, is “born.” But there are other words that keep cropping up and over time they take on a greater meaning. Especially when used with other words – words that may or may not be taken literally. So things like “cars” are, you know, “cars.” But when “cars” is used alongside “kids,” and those kids are looking to break free and get out, then you see the car not so much as something you want or need, but something that provides a passage to freedom.

“Man, Springsteen’s Nebraska is bad ass!” said no one ever.

It’s a challenging record, to be sure. Especially if you’re accustomed to the “Born” songs or you like “Dancing in the Dark.”

But, geez, you guys, it’s outstanding. I listened to Nebraska on the way in to work and, because of the normal soul-crushing traffic, I got to really listen to the words and really take in the music. Those words that Springsteen has given so much meaning to, words like “cars,” “blood,” “work,” and “fences,” help fuel simple storytelling and make it so much more personal and relevant.

I love Bergman and Chekov. I love slow moving narratives that seem to say little and yet say everything. Nebraska does just this. Simple stories, just a guitar, harmonic, and Springsteen’s voice. And yet there isn’t an emotion or feeling or issue or challenge that isn’t addressed. On top of which, layer it all thick in reverb and you’re instantly transported to the state itself, where nothing seems to be happening and people still live full, complete lives.

I admire Bruce Springsteen for releasing an album like this. It might have seemed like career suicide at the time. To follow up a run of three records with a depressing, sparse release? No, Bruce. Don’t do it!

And yet his career survived just fine, thank you very much, with the subsequent release of Born in the USA and years of touring and recording.

Pick up a copy of Nebraska from Amazon and help me move down the road of prosperity and wealth by supporting my affiliate account.

I love you.

Beep beep

February 21, 2017

Earlier today, I commented on a friend’s re-posting of a Washington Times article1 regarding eschewing left turns. Something, in all of my years struggling with driving and cars and traffic, I had never considered. My comment:

How long before map apps like Waze, which already have no freeway and no tollway options, add, a “limited left turn” feature? Waze, to me, seems like the least worthless map app out there, but it’s always taking me to residential areas that then turn left across larger streets. Drives me nuts it does.

Driving in Dallas is the most frustrating, wasteful, and pointless activity imaginable. I will take any shortcut I can get to avoid driving. And while Dallas people may often seem like they’re nice, when they get on the road they turn into bloodthirsty Orcs, hellbent on destroying anything in their path to get home as fast as humanly possible so they can sit down in front of the TV and get on Facebook. Waze, at first, seemed like a great shortcut.

But Waze has its drawbacks. For starters, it doesn’t know that people in Dallas are incapable of yielding or merging. Again, the need to rush home so they can Pin workout routines and Tweet about new Lululemon fashions over Taco Bell can sometimes blind people to the common courtesies that most civilized humans extend to one another. The kinds of courtesies we post on YouTube when we find video of animals engaging in the same sort of behavior.

“Ha ha! That lemur just held the door open for that manatee! What a world!”

And, in this ever changing world of transportation solutions, if you’re on a stacked highway, where maybe the upper lanes are express and the lower offer many exits, Waze can’t tell which level you’re on. I got on the express level of one of our local tollroads2 but Waze kept telling me to take an exit I had no access to, as I was in the express lane. Yay.

But I would think Waze would be able to 1) detect when cross streets have the right of way and heavier traffic and 2) understand that a map app should be a “time-saving device” and, as such, keeping me at a left turn for many minutes doesn’t really save any time at all.

So, if one of you two reading this knows anybody about Waze or Google Maps or Apple Maps or any of the other equally worthless map app companies, please tell them to include a “limited left turns” feature, that would limit left turns to protected turns at traffic signals and eliminate turns across heavily trafficked roads. I know it’s not exactly a no brainer, but the technology is there.

It’s a minor thing that could reduce the misery that is driving in Dallas.

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What You Can Expect

February 20, 2017

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What do you think? It’s a rough draft of a commencement speech I can give if I’m ever called to do so. It’s funny because it’s true!

Let’s all get furious

February 19, 2017

Friday night on “Overtime with Bill Maher,” Bill had Milo Yiannopoulos on the show. If you don’t know, Milo is the fellow who harassed Leslie Jones into deleting her account and is generally seen as a mouthpiece for the alt-right. I think. It’s hard to say what he does. Wikipedia has him listed as a “journalist” and I believe that’s what he did for Breitbart, journalisting. Some might say he’s a journalist, others might prefer provocateur, while many of us intellectual ruffians prefer the term “asshole.” He’s in that group of loudmouths with Ann Coulter and Tomi Lahren, who follow in the footsteps of their bloated junky godfather, Rush Limbaugh, in that they say things not to advance any cause (other than their own), but simply to attract viewers and controversy and, therefore, money. It has nothing to do with being patriotic or political or even doing good, but with getting rich.

But watch this clip with Bill, Milo, and the panel and you notice something pretty quick: Milo is scared. He can’t make eye contact with Larry Wilmore when Wilmore takes him down over Milo’s verbal attack on a transgender student. 1 When Milo does try to insult the other guests, by requesting Maher get smarter guests, he does so by ducking down behind the host. When Milo tries to lob a statistic about transgendered people committing a disproportionate number of crimes, he does so with his head turned.

Milo is scared. He’s the nerd that goes off on a rant in front of his nerd friends about the jocks but then shuts up as soon as a jock arrives. I would love to see him in a one-on-one debate with, well, just about anyone who opposes his rather slim world view. It wouldn’t last long, if it ever got off the ground.

And it’s for this reason that I believe Milo doesn’t deserve our anger or vitriol or protests, but our pity. It’s incredibly difficult for someone in Milo’s shoes, someone who’s just dying to hear you say, “Why, I never!” to keep up his fight when you’re smiling and nodding and saying, “I hear ya. We’re facing some real problems in this world!”

Of course, it’s at this point when folks like with their single-channel approaches just launch right into the personal attacks. “But you always invite such awful people on your show.”

So we’ve gotta be patient. And we have to resist the urge to fight fire with fire. When protests got heated at Berkeley before Milo’s speech or show or whatever the hell it is he does, pre-order sales of his book soared. (For more on Milo’s money making hate machine and what we can do to diminish its affect, listen to On the Media’s “See You in Court” podcast.)

Just remember, Milo isn’t a journalist or a pundit. He’s a capitalist and a coward.

Postscript: Something else that won’t float any more: Countering an anti-Trump concern with “You didn’t see me _______ when Obama _______” is the older person version of “I know you are but what am I.” It’s bullshit logic that’s irrelevant. And you didn’t see us _____ when George W _____, did you?

The Impossibility of Kindness

February 18, 2017

So I watched a couple of videos today featuring my favorite writer, George Saunders, and one thing I walked away with was a question: What do I have to lose from being nice?

In the abstract, it’s easy enough to think, well, I have nothing to lose. So I’ll just be nice. The real challenge, though, happens when confronted with someone who I may not believe deserves kindness or who I suspect may use that kindness for nefarious or self-serving purposes.

What’s crazy is that (again, in the abstract) this all sounds simple. Who doesn’t deserve kindness? Who would use an act of kindness to advance one’s own agenda? Then (finally!) we get into specifics. Who doesn’t deserve kindness? How about murderers, rapists, people who weave in and out of heavy traffic, people who support politicians I find abhorrent, and so on.

But still, even these people who I think are horrible, maybe they deserve kindness, too?

One of the things that drives me nuts is when we justify our terrible behavior by saying, “They do the same thing.” Doing the same crappy things just makes us crappy, too.

Something else Saunders said that really struck a note, though, was that we can be compassion and firm. We don’t have to choose between being a wall and a conduit. We can be thoughtful and loving, but also with resolve.

And that’s the part I miss. I choose either to be a jerk or a sweetheart and which I choose depends on how easy it is. So today I’m going to choose kindness with resolve. I’m going to stay my ground but I’m going to be compassionate and empathetic.

(Side note: I listened to a great podcast – which one I can’t remember – that said that sometimes empathy isn’t the way to go. With empathy, we think “I can feel what you’re feeling,” but without empathy – though still with compassion – we think, “I can’t believe you have to go through that. This must change!”)

Prediction: I’m going to fail. I’m going to fail a lot. But, if I can be kind and resolute with myself, I’ll continue the effort.

Also, my apologies for not posting yesterday. Though I know you two will forgive me. You’re kind that way.

Saunders on Colbert’s show.

https://youtu.be/z5K0Dum_bTk

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Good grief

February 16, 2017

I almost missed another day. This does not bode well. I am not establishing a solid routine. Maybe I should try to just write them a couple of times a week and make them, like, good? Sheesh. This is tough.