Saturday, May 30, 2020

Fighting the Good Fight

The problem with protesting or "rioting," as it often gets labeled, is that no matter how just the cause, it almost always leads to violence, and fascists aren't known for fighting fairly. Just ask anyone who witnessed the events at Kent State or Jackson State in May 1970. My fear is that something similar, or worse, is going to happen next. I fully support the cause of the demonstrators, and I mean the real activists, not the right wing agitators.

Before I continue, I think it's important for me to say, no matter how obvious you think it might be: No one deserves to die like George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, or any of the countless others before them. No one. They were murdered.

That's why there is a lot of anger and resentment from their communities, and the countless others, and why it is completely justified. It's not like these men and women that keep getting shot, beaten, strangled, or whatever, by state-sanctioned "officers of the peace" want to be martyrs. I am sure they would have much preferred to keep on living their lives, but unfortunately, they did not get that choice.

The purpose of the police, and the military, and indeed the entire government at all levels, is to act on behalf of the people and protect the social contract, which guarantees the rights of all citizens, not just a select few billionaires. There shouldn't be varying levels of rights for you depending on who you are, how much money you have, or what you look like, but that is the way it seems to work.

It is my understanding that the Defund the Police movement intends to do just that, not to eliminate the police, but to transform the forces in all communities to perform this intended function of acting on behalf of the people and not to act as a standing army as they seem to be becoming with all of the military weapons and body armor and whatnot, to help the good officers weed out the bad ones, and to make sure the bad ones are held responsible for the bad things that they do. Police should be representative of the communities where they serve and should be protecting them and not putting them in more danger, but unfortunately, for some people, that is exactly what police do, and you have to wonder, if it's not their race, then what is it that connects them?

Further, how many more people have to die before real reform will actually happen? Everyone deserves the same rights, which according to the Declaration of Independence, are inalienable. Of course, at the time that was written, many of the founding fathers only included white, landowning men in that statement, but, you know... That's a detail that even the most well-intentioned among us often overlook.

When I see people complaining about the "rioters" especially poor white people (who have been victimized plenty throughout the centuries--just ask the Irish) I know, for most of them, it's because they are missing the point. Not that ignorance is really excusable anymore due to technology, but... A lot of the willfulness of their ignorance stems from the propaganda they have been force-fed for decades to distrust academic institutions, the humanities, and the news media. In order to truly change those who are able to be changed, we first need to unplug them all from the umbilical of this propaganda machine and dismantle it once piece at a time.

The people complaining about the protesters who aren't missing the point, those folks constantly speaking in dog whistles and coded language, who seek to keep stirring the pot and distracting everyone from what's really going on, those are the people who need to be revealed to the public, who need to be prevented from causing the harm they are wreaking on our society.

At least (at least among my peers and the people I'm connected with through social media) most agree that the killings of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor were wrong, so that gives me a little hope. Not much, but a little. That said, there is still a long, long way to go.

The problem with that is it might be too late.

Sunday, May 10, 2020

A Dreamy, Breezy Post about Sunshine & Rainbows & Shit

Or, What I Do in My Basement is Wholesome so Fuck You


[Sorry, I don't Mean to Sound So Defensive, I Just have to Keep My Online Persona Consistent As to Not Draw Any Attention to the Fact that I Might be a Dynamic Human Being Capable of More than One Trance-like Emotional State]



There's not many better feelings than driving through the countryside on a sunny day, the brightness carefully suppressed from damaging my eyeballs by my Bob Dylan shades, stretches of trees and farmland flashing past on either side, the windows down, a cool almost moist breeze wrapping it's invisible scarves around me and through the cabin of my car, the sun-bleached asphalt unwinding ahead, with music blasting, me singing out at the top of my lungs--

That's one thing I need to do more, but I have nowhere really to go right now. Of course, I would also have to wait for a nice day. That might be a while, at the rate things are going. I mean, I could drive somewhere just to drive--just to leave the house. Get some fresh air.

There is something to be said about driving around on a gloomy day, too: the window cracked, the fresh drops filling my nostrils with their perfume, listening to the Allman Brothers Idlewild South, the slow slosh of the windshield wipers--back in my twenties I would have had a cigarette, the menthol and tobacco wafting with the rain scent creating a sort of intoxicating potpourri.

This weekend has been more like winter than early May, though, and the only thing fun about driving around in winter is driving at night when the snow is blowing, an X-Wing Pilot flying through hyperspace. "This is Red Leader..." As fun as that is, I am not in the mood.

That's Ohio for you, I suppose. Instead of going on a drive, I have barely left the basement. I have spent a long, seemingly endless amount of time down here, re-arranging my shit--getting my organ bench from the garage, sitting my trunk on it and using the combined structure as a table for my synth and my drum machine, and moving my guitars and drum set around to make it all work. This might actually be my favorite basement setup yet.


This space really works really well as a one-man recording operation (and maybe eventually for live-streaming) but it would only be conducive for a full band if it was like a three piece or four piece, max. Four piece might be stretching it, actually. It would definitely be loud and sweaty... Gross. No, I like the idea of doing a one-man band thing, and I like the idea of being a member of a band, but I wouldn't want that band to actually practice here after we gain more members than my brother and me.

We'll see. We really just even need to actually practice more than once or twice to really be considered a thing. I mean, what else have we got going on?

One thing as a musician that I strive to do, really as an artist, in general--because actually this is also kind of the essence of writing fiction--is take my audience to a specific time and place, and fusing these two disparate media together can help make it even more real, more present... And it has been a dream of mine to do for a long time.

I did kind of a proto-version of it with my novel, Escapes, creating a playlist on Spotify that covers music mentioned in or relating to the story. I am listening to that now, actually. It has a weird mixture of jazz, rock, punk, alternative, metal, and pop, as the story covers a lot of territory musically.

With my upcoming short story collection, Asshole Years, I would like to take that idea of combining music and reading to the next level. After I finish editing and proofreading it, the collection will go into production and I can set a firm release date. While that's taking place, I will start working on an accompanying soundtrack--think Pink Floyd but with a noise punk-alternative-new wave edge.

That's really why I got an analog synth. To add to the space rock-psychedelic ambient flavor of my sound. When I used to perform regularly, I would often get compared to Syd Barrett or Pink Floyd. I don't know if that's actually true, but that's what audience members (and totally different people) have told me after performances, on more than one occasion. Anyways, I plan to start composing the new, mostly instrumental songs for the collection soon, and I will include a download code or something with the book, and really lean into that.

And actually, to tie it all together with a neat little bow, driving around seemingly aimlessly is one theme that does carry through the collection, somewhat. I guess it's good that I'm in that frame of mind. Maybe I need to go on a road trip for the inspiration.

If the goddamn weather ever cooperates long enough.

Sunday, April 26, 2020

30-Something Navel Gazing At My Navel-gaziest (And 13 Other Reasons Why Smooth is Better than Crunchy)

Sometimes, I feel compelled to write about politics, but then I question that urge, and ask myself if I really want to be another voice in the echo chamber. The problem with so many people feeling their opinions are valid just because they have them has kind of made holding any opinion seem absurd. But hey, you know where the US is ranked in education.

If I hold any particular political viewpoint--and it's sad that this is in fact looked at as a political viewpoint--it's that the humanities are important and provide something vital that you can't really get through facts and figures alone, unless you're truly looking at the macro. It's the humanities that help people to build empathy through the experiences of others, to get anyone to look at the macro in the first place.

It is more evident than ever that we need the humanities in our everyday lives, because not enough people are focusing on the bigger picture and how they affect it, and many seem to have a difficult time recognizing that we, as a collective of individuals, have become overly narcissistic and that it is seriously damaging our society. After all, if Donald Trump represents anything, it's narcissism more than anything else. I look around me, and look into myself, really deeply, and I come to the conclusion that too many people have stopped listening, myself too, to some extent, because they are focusing so hard on shouting out into the abyss, to the detriment of everything else in their lives. Listening, and really, actively paying attention to what's happening around you instead of hyper-focusing on what other people think about how you think about things is important and something that we often forget to do.

But maybe nuance really is dead, and we are really living in a post-nuance universe.

After all, it does seem like everything has to be a bold bright explosion of sensory overload navel gazing narcissistic masturbating pile of maggot infested horse shit, which let's be honest, is necessary to view in 4K, in order for people to pay attention. The maggots just don't seem real enough with less definition.

I am pretty sure this is what Ray Bradbury in the 50s, Kurt Vonnegut in the 60s, DEVO in the 70s, William Gibson in the 80s, Chuck Palahniuk in the 90s and Radiohead in the 2000s were all talking about in their own way, and I hope I am adding in my own small way to that conversation, because it's more relevant than ever.

As an aside, I recognize that those are just a few examples from a nearly infinite number that I could have chosen, and that there are probably many that I am even unaware of that might be better examples, but these are all ones that spoke to me in some way.

Anyways, as a Xennial, I grew up in the age when the public internet was in its infancy, before it was quite so universally accessible, and the speeds weren't really fast enough to do any significant computing, so it was easy to look out into the universe wearing major blinders, but not hard to avoid if you were open to finding things you weren't expecting. True, you had to be looking for something in order to find it, but you also had to be open to understanding it if what you found contradicted your viewpoint. That doesn't mean you had to change your viewpoint, but you had to at least question it. And you had to be looking. You didn't have to accept anything as a hard-fast rule, but the fundamental rule still remained the same. Look...

Fast-forward to today: the idea that this and others of the old rules also still apply, that you're not always right and it's a good thing to censor yourself sometimes, has gotten lost in the abyss--just look at the chatter on Facebook or Twitter on any typical day and you'll see what I mean. Of course, these rules are all interrelated.

By the way, the point of being anti-censorship and promoting freedom of speech isn't that censorship itself is wrong, it's more based on the enlightenment principle that censorship is only reasonable when it is self-governed, and you develop the ability to understand right and wrong from learning, and thus avoid making mistakes from understanding them through the experiences of others. Hence, it's okay and actually really important sometimes to withhold saying something if you're not really adding value to the conversation. True, sometimes the only value that something has is the contribution itself, but I suppose that's something you have to take the time for yourself to decide too, and that maybe, even if you decided to do something once and think something once, it does not mean that you can't change your mind when you get new information that changes your understanding of the thing.

Everyone just needs to take their fingers off the triggers and back down little, or a lot, even, and really stop and think about things, and start paying attention to what is really happening. Just because you have the ability to share your feelings instantly for the entire mega-verse to see, maybe a little filtering isn't a bad thing sometimes, or maybe even more often than not, it is a really good thing, and it's okay to think things through a little before reacting to something.

That's another thing the humanities can do, if you let them: they can help you develop a little emotional intelligence. Emotions are primal but trainable, if you take the time to question yourself a little and be willingly to admit that sometimes you have bad ideas and that it's good to learn from others, you will be better off. Can I just say here, yay multi-culturalism! And I am not sorry if that offends you because fuck you.

I know I can be guilty of being ignorant sometimes too, and it's safe to say that I have had plenty of bad ideas over the years, and many of them involved alcohol, but that's neither here nor there. Don't get me wrong, I am not saying that I am better or worse than anyone, but I am saying that I try to hold myself to higher standards than what my actual nature sometimes wants me to, and that's a good thing.

Also, it is not my intention to be lecturing anyone, but take what I am saying for what it is, nothing more, nothing less. Maybe you agree, maybe you don't, and I am open for a real, intellectual debate about it, but other than that. I am right and you are wrong, so, as they said it in The Midnight Gospel, put that butt plug in the asshole of your universe.

Sunday, April 19, 2020

Music That Kicks My Ass and Other Three, Four and Five-Letter Words

Today's blog post is brought to you by the schwa and 40 oz bottles of Miller High Life. I plan to spend the better part of today figuring out how to play the guitar solo in the Kingsman classic version of "Louie Louie" because to be quite frank, it's about goddamn time.

By the way. I also really love the original, the Richard Berry and the Pharaohs version, and the Toots and the Maytals version is also high up there. Joan Jett and the Blackhearts? Hell yes! That version slaps too, as the kids say. I wonder, did the Ramones ever cover it?

Unfortunately, it does not seem like The Ramones covered  "Louie Louie" (that I could find in a 30 second Google search) but, of course, if they did, it would probably kick ass!

Anyways, I am getting a bit off topic, or least on a different tangent about the same topic, and I do really want to talk about this guitar solo. As a self-proclaimed "Louie Louie" super fan and someone who's been playing guitar for roughly...25 years...Jesus...I feel a great amount of shame that I don't already know the entire Kingsmen version by heart. The rest of the song, of course, is a cake walk. I am determined this time around to get it, though. Give me a few years and I will get a bar band together that will play nothing but EVERY goddamn version of the song I can find.

This solo, when I have attempted to biff my way through it before, like what ends up happening most of the time that I attempt to learn someone else's song, I always end up jamming on my own thing. Call it a habit or call it a curse. I'll let you decide. I guess that's probably why my guitar playing has never gotten real complex. I have learned a bunch of catchy riffs but never the complete song unless it's just straight chords. I have also learned scales and chords and shit, but the best way to learn how to apply the theory is by learning to play songs...Naturally...And I have never really really done that on a serious level.

Giving up on learning it is not an option this time, though. And I am going back to other songs learn them in entirety, as well. I am hoping by the time this whole epidemic things is over, I will come out of it a better guitarist (and a better drummer too...but that is a whole different blog post).

It's taking a while to get to a point where I am ready to record, and that's okay, but I hope to start before the end of the year, and I think that timeline is totally reasonable at this point. I might tide myself over by getting out the old drum machine and throwing something fun together for old time's sake.

At least I don't need to work a whole lot on my bass playing to get into recording shape. That will more be a matter of coming up with the bass lines, and that I usually just improvise because that's what works well for me, I think.

Anyways, what it all comes down to is that I am going to use this time I am stuck inside to create something to listen to, hopefully. We'll see. I will certainly give it the old college try.

On that note, I have some jamming to accomplish. See all you crazy folks on the other side!

Sunday, April 5, 2020

Rambling Nonsensical Post MCMXXXIII: Dead and Loving It Part Deux, Still Pretty Fucking Dead

Chapter One Section 3 Paragraphs 11-34

Might as well do another one. I mean, I'm on vacation, and I can't go anywhere, and I don't have a shortage of possible topics, so I suppose, let's do them shits.

I suppose there's probably one topic in particular that some folks would like to see addressed, but I hesitate for one reason and one reason alone. I just don't like eggnog.

Honestly, I am not sure how to talk about a topic that is already pretty well beat to death. Should I continue to take the more escapist route, though? Is that responsible of me? Do I need to be responsible? Can't I just play it safe, and do something unrelated but unquestionably still related, but more so as a subtext?

I mean, it's a subtext that no one can really escape at this point, anyways, so really, anything I write will somehow relate to it whether I want it to or not, even if the very nature of its relation is the unrelatedness of it... So I guess I might as well just discuss it.

It's amazing how something invisible to the eye can just change everyone's lives overnight, basically. It's no wonder that before science, people used to believe in magic. Hell, some people still do. It's amazing what ways the mind can twist itself to avoid the cold, hard naked truth, even if we're barreling our way towards a total systems collapse. Maybe.

I do hope everyone is staying as safe as possible given whatever circumstances they find themselves in. I do count myself as lucky. I mean, it's not really luck, because I did work hard to put myself here. Still, I did win the genetic lottery, to a large extent, being a cis-gender white male in the by-god greatest goddamn country anyone in the goddamn rest of the goddamn world has ever goddamn seen. Hoo-Rah!!!

However, when you're poor, if the virus doesn't kill you, then maybe poverty finally will. You finally run out of the means necessary to take care of yourself, or maybe your means doesn't necessarily fit the idea of what other people think it should, and then you get all persecuted and shit. But when you have no options, the only option is create your own options. Or die, I suppose.

Had this happened ten years ago, I would have been totally fucked financially immediately. Still, I did survive as a twenty-something with no college degrees or discernible skills during the 2008 recession in a big city with limited resources. However, that might to a large extent also go back to that thing that I mentioned a couple of paragraphs ago, and everything wasn't shut down then, either. It was just hard to find jobs outside of like fast food. Or "fast casual," as it so happened for me.

It was a weird time to be alive then too, but this is worse. Much weirder. Most people don't really even have the fast food option this time around. They're just stuck. Waiting to probably not die, but maybe die? The outcome of this we can't even begin to image yet, because we don't even know what next week is going to look like, at this point. That's the problem when you're trying to contain something that you don't fully understand. Sometimes it does stuff that seems like magic, that no one thought possible, but really it's just our ignorance of how it does the thing that is holding us back. I guess that's why it's important to get ahead of it--things could escalate very quickly.

Of course, it might not go that far or get too much worse than it is now. Hopefully not. I think as a society we have watched too many zombie and post-apocalyptic movies, but instead of preparing us for the possibility of a world-ending event, we have instead manifested it happening right before our eyes. I mean, the Spanish Flu didn't ring in the dawn of the end of humankind, and our understanding of viruses back then was much more remedial. I think, if anything, what's going to kill everyone this time around is not just straight ignorance, but something much worse: anti-intellectualism.

The powerful groups of obscenely wealthy people who control much of society can only shovel so much distrust of academia and learning, and the principles of enlightenment, for so long before the world around them just becomes a fucking Facebookcana American nightmare cesspool of sludge, while they hoard all of the resources and advancements for themselves. It might have finally bitten them in their asses, though. Not that they would admit that.

Oh hell, that last paragraph is going to get me put on some watchlists. I had better stop while I'm ahead. No need for any dissenters to rile up the masses. Don't want to get too crazy or they'll get all May 4, 1970 on us again. Tin Solders and Nitwits coming.

I'm just kidding **shrugs with a smirk and kicks the dirt**

Yay capitalism! **pumps fist in air**

Time for a new and more capitalism approved topic: Celebrity Worship!

I'm sad that Bill Withers died. I have had "Ain't No Sunshine" stuck in my head all day. Of course, he also wrote "Lean on Me," "Lovely Day" and "Just the Two of Us," and many more. What an amazing repertoire of songs--

No, this is not working. Damn. Sorry Bill. I do like your music, though. Might as well continue down the path that I have already created for myself... No reason to make any changes to the thing I can totally change, at this point, at a whim. It's really too bad. I guess whatever happens is just going to happen.

Le sigh...

The real reason the concept of staying home is hard for some is not sheer ignorance or arrogance, but it is because for them, there is little else to do but sit around all miserable like, hyperventilating and obsessing over their own mortality. Trust me, that's no fun.

That's why it's good and cathartic to use your imagination to make some kind of art, and pour those feelings into something that might actually, eventually, help others feel better too. Don't go out, get inward.

Or at least, you know, entertain and distract yourself for a little bit. Make yourself feel better.

And on that note, here's some Don Hertzfeldt to maybe inspire you or at least cheer you up while you wait this mothefucker out:

Thursday, April 2, 2020

Three Out of Four Dentists Recommend This Blog Post (But for Totally Non-Dental Reasons)



You had to wonder how long into "sheltering in place" it would take before I finally wrote a blog post. It's been... 17 days. That's not too bad, considering I haven't written one in nearly 11 months. At least not one that I've published.

That's definitely a thing. I have written plenty of blog posts over the years that I haven't published. Some of them were pretty good too, like the Scott Weiland tribute I started on the day of his death and then never finished. Maybe I should finish and publish that one even though it's been like 4-5 years since he died. Nothing that I wrote then doesn't still hold true.

Now is as good of a time as any, I suppose, for a new blog post. I mean, I am on a mini vacation from work for five whole days! It was supposed to be for a wedding, but, well, you know... Anyways, it's now a well-needed break for some rest and relaxation.

I am listening to the new Pearl Jam album, Gigaton. It's not super catchy, but it is kinda catchy. Not that that's bad. In fact, I am really enjoying it. The right amount of catchiness, I suppose. It's not one of those albums with knock them out of the park singles, necessarily. It more of a whole piece, and content-wise it is definitely appropriate for the moment. What amazes me, as someone who's been in bands, that the members of Pearl Jam, who have played together consistently for such a long time now, still get along well enough to make pretty solidly good music together. This is probably their best album in a long time, too.

For me, creatively, things are also looking up. Not only am I playing music again, but I am also finishing my next book, the semi-autobiographical short fiction collection, Asshole Years. It actually started as a re-edit of my first book, the now out-of-print Tales from the Fringes, but from it I only kept four stories and totally re-wrote and re-edited them, so it didn't really seem fair to call it a new edition.

For the record, the stories in Asshole Years that came from Tales from the Fringes are "Tin Cup" (formerly "The Other Side of Cool"), "Greasy," "Maturity" (formerly "A Hipster Confession"), and "The Opossums" (formerly "The Backwoods Event").

Another two of the stories in Asshole Years have also already been published, but elsewhere: "Freshmen" as an e-book single, "The Day the Music Died," on Smashwords, and "Truck Shop," which was originally published in Literally Literary on Medium.com. 

Finally, there is one new story, "Dropout," which is about 25% of the entire collection and one that I am pretty proud of.

Originally there was supposed to be three more new ones but I decided to pull those and put them into their own separate set of longer short stories (probably 10-15K words each), tentatively titled Fucking. That probably won't last as the title, so I guess technically it's more of a working title.

All of the seven stories in Asshole Years have origins in stories that I wrote for classes as a student at Kent State when I finally came back and finished my bachelor's degree in 2010-2011 after a long hiatus. You could say that I was in a kind of nostalgic head space at the time--plus, in most of the workshops I took, we were encouraged to write in realism, and I really adapted well to it (I think). The plan is to release the collection over the summer. I am still working on a specific date, as I am still editing it, but I am upping my game quite a bit this time and publishing through IngramSpark with my indie imprint, Gott Press. This increases my expenses, but I don't mind putting more money into it to come up with a better product and also break away from using CreateSpace, which is owned by Amazon.

Music-wise, I have a couple of projects going on: one that I started with my brother, and one that I am pursuing on my own.

The first one, which we are still in a large way sorting out the details of, will hopefully eventually turn into a full-band situation. We're not exactly sure of the genre, but there's definitely some areas where we overlap musically and so we plan to just lean in those directions.

The latter has been sort of my ongoing, off-and-on-again solo act/one-man-band-acoustic-punk-folk-psychedelic-noise thing that I have been doing since roughly 2003, when I first learned that one of my favorite things on the planet to do is to write and record albums completely on my own. If you're not familiar with this project, I have on Soundcloud my two most recent recordings, Survival Pilot (2013) and Daydream Death Rattle (2009). I highly encourage you to check out the self-titled one, at least, as those songs still hold up pretty well.

I am even contemplating doing some gigging again, eventually, as I have grown at least a little as a singer and a musician since the last time I performed for an audience. Actually, between 2007 and 2009, I used to perform somewhat regularly, but I stopped to focus more on writing, and I haven't performed as a musician since.

We'll see. I might take advantage of the opportunity and start out by putting stuff online or doing a "live from the basement" sort of thing, I don't know. I think my position at work, having to manage people, has helped me overcome a little my stage fright.

In summary (as I read on more than one student paper during my tenure as an adjunct college professor), I guess that means I am surviving being forced to stay home. I don't really mind it, to be honest. I am definitely a home body, so to speak. After all, it's hard to work on projects when you're not home, or, you know, dead.

Until next time, I suppose (there I go again), ta ta!