The catch-all for items related to and/or inspired by the music that shaped me.
Music has played a role in nearly every situation of my life. This is where I'll be collecting items inspired by those moments- poems, lyrics, blog entries- the soundtrack of me. |
I may also contribute blog-style entries here from time to time:
And this month, I've decided to take part in...
"Day 22: Hong Kong! I don't know about you but I'm ready to do some shopping; maybe even check out a temple or two."
What is up y'all? Figured I'd join you guys on Lyn 's world tour somewhere, and today it just seems right. I have to be honest...I haven't been paying too much attention to what you guys have been up to and what sorts of trouble you're getting into...which leads me to suspect I'm the troublemaker on most of these trips (and it's been proven...ask Charlieeee ♡ or even Kittiara ). Storylines emerge, there's a night out where intoxication happens and people get a little crazy, and there were mermaids and romances and bromances and gummy bears stuck in people's hair...ahhhh, the good ol' days! Anyway, catch me up!
I chose to jump in today because it fits flush with my pick for "The Soundtrack of Your Life Challenge" , and you'll find out why in a bit. But first, I'm down to check out the Pak Tai Temple . I'm a little bit (ok, maybe a lotta bit) enthralled as to why their hours of operation are 7:26 AM - 6:57 PM. First, those are awkward numbers for times. I'm a little too OCD about things being in certain sets of round numbers, and if a place has batshit weird hours like that, I wanna know why cuz there's gotta be a reason for it. [Sidenote: This is the part where it becomes obvious I definitely did not do enough research on this place. Carry on.] Second, I am a person who searches for peace but also tends to go overboard with the disaster-causing every so often, and I get the feeling I will not be welcomed back (at best; worst case scenario is deportation) after doing whatever is right and honorable and feeling relaxed enough and at peace to basically cause some sort of embarrassing havoc. I can go from respectful and respectable to distasteful and obstinate in the blink of an eye. I'm better off being tethered to someone with one of those coiled chain/bracelet thingeys where the kid can walk but the higher power won't let 'em get too far into trouble's path.
But let's get to the real reason why I'm here, shall we? Like many Americans my age at whatever time it was in the mid-late 90's, our primary introduction to Blur was the dance floor and arena banger "Song 2" ...WOO HOO!! And back in the day when I'd watch MTV2 with friends because they actually still played videos, sure, they'd show some other stuff. "Coffee And TV" is the one I seem to recall the most from my days at Briarcliff Apartments, and maybe "Parklife" (which is bundles of fun). I liked them enough based on a few of their songs that I thought "maybe it's time to get some of their music on CD". A killer idea!
And don't tell me you ever actually paid for your Columbia House "12 CDs for $1" bullshit. I barely paid them, ever...and I can't be the reason they went out of business, because seriously no one paid them. People got their music and and that was that. But enough about how much of a deadbeat dick I am...Blur's greatest hits CD was one of the ones I copped, because I was caught in the middle of Napster/Kazaa going away and being sketchy, and having very little disposable income. I was starving for an injection of new music because my 600+ CDs at the time had gotten boring. (I know, it's a problem. And one that doesn't go away.)
Anyway, my stepmom's family went on a once-in-a-lifetime cruise, somewhere in the mid-2000's. I remember swapping headphones with my little brother Mike and introducing him to Atmosphere, and causing all sortsa havoc one late night, running around the ship with their complementary bottle of champagne. In the daytime, however, when we weren't off sightseeing or doing onshore stuff, I was laying in the sun with a cold, overpriced beverage, and falling in love with Blur through my headphones. A band that could barely crack the US but was huuuuuuge in the UK. So much so there was an entire special edition magazine dedicated to the Oasis vs Blur controversy, when both bands released competing singles on the same day. I wonder if I still have it somewhere...it was so super British and excellently informative.
The point proper is this: they went from a basic Britpop "guilty pleasure" (enough of this, Jeff !) to a longtime love. Last year I purchased their super-nice box set (from like 2012), of all their CDs (remastered with bonus tracks) and two discs full of rarities, ollllld demos, and live stuff. It looks nice where I've stashed it in my living room, on the bottom shelf of my TV stand.
But then, after a lengthy and contentious breakup and side-projects, they reconvened in, of all places, Hong Kong. They had decided to make music together again!! And in 2015, out came the album The Magic Whip . It's a glorious add-on to the Blur legacy, and one I wish I'd have been able to be a fly on the wall for. Did they visit the temples? What did they eat there? How much of a Hong Kong influence is there on the record besides the cover art?
Well, I'mma tell you. Saddle up, youngins.
The main point of resonance with me is the video for "Ong Ong". It basically looks like a Nintendo game from the early Super Mario Bros. era, with a fun soft-garage-rock sound (if there's such a thing). There's a, ummm, thing, trapped in a temple, and the thing-protagonist has to save her. It's very Nintendo. It's also very sweet and adorable, and the song itself is fun. Let's just enjoy it for what it is.
"Ong Ong" -Blur
"You'll know just what to do."
I've already shipped out a couple #NorbAF t-shirts...who wants one?! There's that and more goodies available in my shop . And yes, I'm self-promoting. Goods cost money, promoting costs time and money, and why the fuck not get on the DIY tip and say "Here's what I got...whaddya want?" Yeah, I feel like it gets annoying, but if you don't self-promote, who's gonna know? Can't take for granted that everyone knows, even after a bunch of texts and IG posts (speaking of Instagram, be on the lookout for a very special one very very soon!).
A reminder: Barnes & Noble is now selling my book. Like, you can go there and if it's not in stock you can order it. But it's for realsies in stock in NYC! My people...the #NorbAF revolution is ON!!
Ok, I'm done with you people for now. I think I gotta figure out if I'm gonna eat or just nap or struggle with that in-between stage of both. Peace, you'll know just what to do, and GOODNIGHT NOW!!
"But if we stop dreaming now,
lord knows we'd never clear the clouds."
WE'VE GOT A FILE ON YOU!!
"'People stupid. The dream didn't leave, people just don't know a nightmare when they right in the middle of one.' -Marlon James. Your thoughts on this quote..."
Wow Lyn ...excellent find! Gonna hafta read up a little on this guy, fo' sho'. Anyway, hey y'all! I'm gonna start with this for the "Blogging Circle of Friends " because I'm not quite sure how I wanna get into the part for "The Soundtrack of Your Life Challenge" just yet (Spoiler Alert!! It's gonna be sad.).
This is pretty deep but in a sense it's also very true. It's almost like Stockholm Syndrome in a way, if that makes sense (and in my head it does, at least). Take just about any sort of depressing situation you're in, in all phases of life. Maybe you've got a shitty job but at least it pays the bills, or you're in a lackluster relationship but hey, it's a warm body to wake up next to. Or...worst case scenario: you're livin' on the streets and can't get back on your feet (because maybe you don't want to, or just can't). It reminds me a little of one of my all-time favorite lyric quotes: "One man's ceiling is another man's floor" ...and maybe I've overthinking this now a little bit, so it's time for another paragraph, to reel myself back in.
So let's assume the definition of nightmare is fluid; that it's a little different for each of us. We also have different levels of what makes us comfortable and how much comfort we feel, along with what we can tolerate. There are grey areas where we might not be comfortable with what we're tolerating but depending on the situation is will dictate the response.
Now, go back to the dreams you had as a child, teenager, and young adult. What do you wanna be when you grow up? Where do you see yourself in 10 years' time? And add in all your standards, your own quirks, what you like and don't like about whatever it is you're dreaming of, and how you stack up and fit (or don't fit) in with it. Sure, for some, dreams do come true! Lucky you! And if so, you're probably not reading this anyway, so fuck you. Because for most of us, life isn't set up anymore for our dreams to become the reality we live in. Corporate America will stifle you as soon as you hit mid-management. You're not gonna be bangin' supermodels on a yacht. We have a tendency to dream big, only to settle into our realities until someone's pickin' out a pine box for us. And that's where the grey areas get murkier.
Some will trudge through life happily in the reality they've accepted. And that's fine if it works for them. Others may grow bitter and cold, despondent that the life he's stuck with is the same life the other guy is enjoying. And he tries and tries and tries to make it work and find happiness in it, but there's always another setback, another bill, another promotion denied...always somethin'. And that's his life, until he retires and dies a lonely old man. His big dreams after finishing school never came close to materializing, and now he's struggling to find happiness in even the most bountiful of life's little treasures. He's living a fucking nightmare, but he's basically married to it because of the one thing it provides that keeps him goin': a paycheck. Sure, he could find a better job and eventually hit the same ceiling, but by the time he comes home he's just too aggravated and tired and that's that.
Which brings me back to the point and the quote prompt. It boils down to complacency and how when shit starts to get out of hand sometimes it's easier and more convenient to figure out how to manage in "the new now" than to fix the issue/problem. We become blind to the problem for what it is, and focus on how to get around it instead of the cause of it and a proper fix. And don't bullshit me...we're all guilty of this at some point in our lives. For example: your car starts making a small but funky noise that you can't quite pinpoint its whereabouts. Sure, you could take it to a mechanic, but that costs money...so instead you turn your stereo up louder. Of course, the real nightmare is when that noise turns into a $1500 repair bill down the road, and maybe if that's as close as you can get to that car being your Dream Car, well, now all you're worrying about is how fucked you are and for how long.
And in summation, people actually can become self-made nightmares. They don't know it because they refuse to acknowledge it, and as it keeps getting worse, they just keep readjusting and acclimating to their problems until the levee breaks. They max out every inch of the grey areas in the intersection of comfort and tolerance. Keep pullin' that thread, and someday you're gonna have enough to knit yourself a noose.
Man...today we lost another good one, and this one is really kinda special to me. It was reported that Peter Tork of The Monkees passed away today at age 77 from a rare form of salivary cancer. Fuckin' cancer, man. Always snuffin' out the good ones, 'cuz Big Pharm just loooooves that money associated with keepin' people alive in suffering as long as they can, rather than using science to eradicate this shit .Don't get me started on how much it pisses me off. And "Guilty Pleasures" isn't really a worthy Soundtrackers category anymore, is it? Haven't we all agreed at one time or another that we love what we love, and aren't ashamed about it? I thought we accomplished that back in the Beth days.
Anyway, it's especially sad for me because The Monkees were my first concert, probably in the summer of '85 or '86. It was around that time when MTV and Nickelodeon started showing reruns from their tv show in the 60's, and because my brother and I weren't old enough yet to be trusted to be left alone during the summer, we'd go to our grandmother's house (it helped that she also had cable, which we did not have). And one week out of every summer, our aunt in Connecticut would fly us down for a week. She was awesome...a sweet condo, she'd take us to cool places and buy us stuff, and she had a waterbed! That blew our little 80's minds! It was her that took us to see The Monkees, at a little amphitheater with a rotating stage. "Weird Al" Yankovic was the opening act, and of course because I had some of his cassette tapes too as a fart joke enthusiast preteen, he put on a fun show. I had a camera and everything, but blew all my film on him.
Then The Monkees came on, and they played all the hits of course (minus Mike Nesmith, which kinda sucked but whatever), and we sang along and loved every single minute of it. First concert, one of your absolute favorite bands, the cool and fun aunt... that's legit amazeballs yo. To finally see live music instead of just rockin' my mom's albums on vinyl, or catching a little tape hiss on cassette, that was the real deal.
Sadly, my aunt passed in the early 90's (again, motherfuck cancer) and the band again faded into the dustbin of our adolescence. They'd occasionally creep out here and there for something, but whatevs. It wasn't until the late 90's or early 2000's when, at work one day, our supervisor came in (and I don't think he ever really cared for me). He was high-energy and herky-jerky but beloved by the old-timers in the company. Somehow we got to talking about The Monkees, and he was a huge, HUGE fan (he was easily a generation behind me, so it made sense). And in consumer electronics, our slow-dying fad at that time was the Mini-Disc. We were all required to keep an MD on us at all times to demo it (mine was a beautiful mix I recorded on the job when it was slow...it had everything: classic rock, hip hop, R&B, current alt-rock, techno...this way if I was demo-ing speakers, I could pick a song that played on the customer's taste). I had a CD/MD recording deck at home, a portable one, and an in-dash player in my car. The supervisor (known as "The Wheel", because he was always moving, always rollin') went out of his way to make me a Monkees MD...hadn't heard them in so long, and yet the songs still held up some 15 years later.
"Your Auntie Grizelda" -The Monkees
"Oh, no, don't look at me like Auntie Grizelda. It takes much more to be someone of your own.
You've got to make it free from Auntie Grizelda, or just like her you'll have to make it alone."
Kinda funny how in my head that sorta ties into the "Blogging Circle of Friends " portion of this entry...the full lyrics basically are about someone not knowing her boundaries and basically teaching the nephew to be almost like her, and the narrator is calling him out on it. Like "Bruh, you don't know it but you're living in a nightmare my man. You can't see it because you've accepted it, but we see it, and you're wack as fuck yo. If you don't cut that shit out and get right, you're gonna end up just like her." Don't wanna get too complacent with her, cuz she sounds miserable (and her fudge prolly sucks too). But what do I know? I'm just a fan, with the ability to weave prompts occasionally .
HOLDUPWAITAMINUTE: Wasn't gonna do this part because I didn't think I'd have anything to say...but I've just been handed some BREAKING NEWS!! Apparently my book, 100, is now available in New York City at the Barnes & Noble at Union Square!! Can I get a WHAT WHAT?! from the crowd?? You dope-ass people deserve some dope-ass news, and you're hearing it here first (before it goes on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook ). This is where it started. This is where it all began. If you're in NYC, show me some love and show you with the book!! Spread that love!! #NorbAF
Ok...well, I guess dinner can wait while I share the good news...guess this wasn't a sad-ending entry after all! Let's all be joyful and take a moment to be thankful for what we have, cuz no doubt someone has it worse. No nightmares (hopefully) up in here, and up in there (wherever you are). Peace, be joyful (cuz that shit spreads), and GOODNIGHT NOW!!
"For Pete's Sake" -The Monkees
"Love is understanding, we gotta be free!"
TOTW: "A recent study showed that popular music contains angrier and sadder lyrics than ever before. The Billboard Hot 100 songs from 1951 to 2016 were measured using the following metrics: (1) Emotional Tone: anger, disgust, fear, joy, sadness; (2) Language Tone: analytical, confident, tentative; (3) Social Tone: openness, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness, emotional range."
Questions to think about:
Have you noticed this increase in sadness and anger in popular music? What do you think could be causing it?
Do you think it’s helpful or hurtful for someone struggling with a mental health issue to listen to music that contains anger and sadness?
What kind of music do you connect to with your mental health issues? Are there any songs in particular that speak to you?
Hello again, kind people of the internet! It's been too long, there's too much to say now that I've been dormant here for so long, and a little bit of the itch is back...may as well scratch it.
First, I feel stupid bad that this is my first entry (I think) for "MHWA Retreat" . I love the everlovin' fuck outta Charlieeee ♡ for taking the time out of his busy-ass life to do this. I've been meaning to contribute since Day One here, and have yet to besides a few comments here and there. And this does not mean I'll continue after today; I'm just in the right mood/headspace. You'll have that.
Second (and now finally to address the prompt), Motherfuck the Billboard Hot 100 with a rolled-up copy of that magazine that's been laying on the back of your toilet for 23 years. They don't dictate what I listen to, and if that's your guide, yo, shed your sheepskin. You're being fed! You're a sucka to the radio! The "Top 40" yang is what you listen to when you're a kid trying to fit in with the girly-girls...and that's how you get your heart broken, with nothing solvent to see you past that. You end up bitter and lonely, secluded in your room, writing bad teenage poetry. How do I know? Oh, I know.
And I'm done with "first, second, third, etc..." cuz that's just like Casey Kasem in reverse. RIP to the classiest radio countdown DJ ever.
So yeah, I don't play by those rules, and that's fine because that's what works for me. There is no hiding from the internet and viral hits, but you can limit your exposure. Therefore, I'm unqualified to say whether or not pop music has more anger or sadness. IDGAF if Ariana Grande is calling out exes (though Pete Davidson is pretty much a baller on SNL's Weekend Update , especially when referring to his own mental health struggles). Taylor Swift can live her life and attract all the high-profile dudes she wants, then dump them and write songs about them 16-year-olds will use as their mantras until they hit college, and again, IDGAF. "Popular" doesn't work for everyone.
Now, I can't speak for everyone and will only speak for myself...but when I'm in one of those moods where I'm angry and depressed and don't have any reason why, I prefer to listen to heavier music. I'm a Hip Hop kid at heart, but if I'm out and about with my iPod, I'm gonna throw on Helmet, or older Thursday, or Deftones...something that gets loud without trying too hard. "Opposite Action"- something I learned taking DBT Classes. Wait...maybe I'm mixing shit up. Whatever. Flow into it, and let your mind focus on that instead of why (or why not) you're so the way you are in the moment. Kicking your own ass into being "in the moment" is hard, but so fucking worth it. Especially when you feel like you're your own worst enemy. Luckily, music saves...with the caveat that we let it.
I have specifically claimed one song for my own as far as my mental health is concerned, and I've written about it way too many times to do it again. It's "Smart Went Crazy" by Atmosphere (you can find it in the previous entry), and it really connects me to the first time I was a committed inpatient because of suicidal ideations. That entire album was my jam for weeks on end...and then I lost my mind. The "smart" kid in the family. The "go-getter". "Fun guy". The forgotten one, because he was "so busy" working his ass off and coming home, decompressing with excessive booze, writing until his hands were shaking, and going to bed only to wake up and do it all over again (in an environment that became toxic the more and more he went there, to the point of becoming sick to his stomach upon entering the parking lot). The soundtrack to my second inpatient, where I drove about 70MPH to a hospital about 95 miles away (while blowing well above the legal limit for survival, let alone driving) with a fantastic program in one way and a terrible one in every other way (being allowed to stay up and watch Monday Night Football where your favorite team loses in a last-minute bit of fuckery isn't great). Yeah, that was my jam...and you can posit "jam" any particular way or wording you like, because it really was every which way it could go for me.
Because I'm basically a hermit these days (save for the times I really need to go somewhere), I just go with what I'm in the mood for. I'll waste an entire trip walking somewhere because the shuffle gods are not on my side. I've also stopped trying to associate music to people and/or events. No one likes a song ruined because their ex liked it. No one wants the little indie band they love tainted by something their stupid, malfunctioning brain did. I had an fairly decent polo shirt that somehow accompanied me to not one, but two trips to the Behavioral Health Unit. And in a time when I had a small fraction of my clothes returned to me by the ex, I had to let go of that shirt. I couldn't wear it anymore. Too many bullshit memories about how broken the healthcare system is.
I'm glad I've relaxed a bit and calmed down mentally since the last time I had to experience the depths of the medical system in 2012. And with that came other challenges, of which are neither here nor there. You want music, and that I will give to you.
What once used to be a "guilty pleasure" to me (because my immediate friends were like "IDGAF, let's ball") and one friend was totally down when my sis and I rolled up to play some basketball, is A Tribe Called Quest. I don't really have "guilty pleasures" anymore...I'm old enough to like what I like and not be ashamed about it. I've got shit in my iTunes library just because my mom likes it, and some of it's grown on me. Not gonna lie though...that 160GB iPod is getting maxed, and some of her faves have been whittled away.
I digress. Currently I'm reading Hanif Abdurraqib's Go Ahead In The Rain: Notes To A Tribe Called Quest . I pre-ordered it, partly cuz it was ATCQ, and partly cuz Abdurraqib's previous book (They Can't Kill Us Until They Kill Us ) is fucking amazing. If you love music, and even if you hate pop music, or hate classic rock, it don't matter. There's something in it for you. Wow, I'm digressing again, but you get that when you read my blog entries from front to back (you won't ).
Anyway, I'm gonna roll with an undercover favorite that was totally one of mine but not on the radar of the people I rolled with.
A Tribe Called Quest, "Electric Relaxation"
"A gritty little something on the New York street.
This is how I represent over this here beat."
Hey yo...in case you missed it, here's my Hawk & Young interview. Don't do dope and don't be a dope and I'm not a dope but I did a dope interview. About my book. Which you should buy if you already haven't.
And yo...free signed and shipped books and merch up fer grabs! Get up and get down with...
I really really wanted to jump in on the "30-Day Blogging Challenge" adventures led by Lyn , especially in the New Zealand area where we could hang with Elle , but it wasn't in my cards on those days. There's still time for it to be in your cards though, if you're into cards of whatever kinds of cards those are.
Alright, me people to the left, right, and center...I'm done here and I'm gonna grill some cheese (between bread...I'm not a savage) and nosh on that while it's embedded in a little bit of soup (it's shorts weather for me, but there's still snow on the ground, so fuck it...comfort food and let's go!!). Peace, my mind was in a frenzy, and GOODNIGHT NOW!!
"How did you start writing? Did someone urge you to write, or did it come naturally?"
Hey! What's good, playas?? Just poppin' in to say hi and quickly answer a few prompts before dinnertime in this here place. And I got a couple prompts I love (and would love to fuck with), so here we are.
I think about this randomly; usually at the most peculiar times. When I think about how I really started, my head immediately pushes me back a few years so I can fully encompass the people who gave me time to be an audience and offer their knowledge. Then I get a little sad because they're dead now, and I can't share with them what I've been able to accomplish since.
So technically, my first response would be that on a hot summer night in '93 (right after graduating high school and moving in with my dad and stepmom), I took a notebook my sis was no longer using and sat on the porch, hashing out things and thoughts and feelings I was unable to get across in speaking. The page became my audience; not people (though sis would often read the things I felt most proud of, and she was dope about it). The more I did it, the stronger I felt. I was becoming my own therapist in a way, learning how to understand myself by rereading my thoughts. And it worked for awhile, until it got down to me needing an actual therapist (more on that later though).
And it's fun to think that when I was 18, writing became my prevailing hobby of choice...but without the encouragement of my 9th and 10th grade English teachers, I wouldn't have had that seed planted and stuck and become organized enough to give a fuck about what I was doing. My 9th grade teacher, Mrs. Lindsey, in particular, was so friggin' cool. I could show her things and she could give me tips and we could pick each others' brains. When she taught a poetry unit, I was the only one excited for it. Because of her I actually made an effort after I graduated to come back and speak to one of her classes about poetry. It was really cool and really surreal.
It's easy to say it comes naturally, because you wouldn't do it if you didn't want to. But without someone believing in you and offering support, what else is there to keep you going? All you're doing (without that) is basically journaling to yourself in whatever type of medium you prefer. And that's great if that suits you, but for many of us we want more...feedback, reviews, or even just someone who says "I get you here". Natural wants and desires coexisting with your talent and someone(s) diggin' it are the backbone of most of our time spent writing, I imagine. And maybe I'm wrong, and maybe that's not how you feel, and that's ok...there are- and I'mma say it loud for the folks in the back- NO SET RULES FOR WRITING WHATEVER THE FUCK YOU WANT, WHEN YOU WANT. Actually had this discussion with my psychiatrist today; she thinks all the great writers have a set time each day and they need to write x-amount of words or pages, or they won't be successful. Fuck that. I don't do that. Not saying you shouldn't if that works for you, but that's not how I operate. If you held a gun to my head and told me to write a poem, I'd shit myself and beg you to shoot me. On the flipside of that coin, I'm always trying to pay attention to things that might be inspiring, cuz you can find it in the weirdest places...and even if it only sparks a line or a hook, it goes into a notebook that I can work off of later (like, ya know, when the mood strikes). So, piss on your writer's block and don't hold yourself to unrealistic expectations. You'll just disappoint yourself and that's not good at all for your work.
Didn't mean to go on a rant about it, but, well, here we are. As a side note, thanks again to Emily for all the kickass work she's done this month and basically since she's been back? Do y'all love her like I've been hearing good things about her? Show her some love!!
"If you could only use music to describe yourself to someone, what song would it be and why? If you can, add the YouTube link so we can hear it too."
Y'all know this is a loaded question, right? Man, I applaud you good, kind souls who can distill your lives down to one fucking song. That's great! There should be a trophy for that, or an achievement that unlocks a $25 Applebees gift card for you, or some shit. I don't have time to sort through nearly 20k songs in my library and say "Yes! This is me!!". I hope you all knew this going in, and didn't try too hard to pigeonhole yourselves into something that maybe won't reflect you on the odd chance your life takes a misdirection.
And as much as I hate to say it, when I come across this question there is always one song that comes to mind. I was the smart kid who was expected to be a great adult doing many great adult things. Without going into detail, life did not quite go that way for a long time. Being labeled as "smart" when you're young doesn't necessarily mean you pick up on all the skills you need to be a competent grown-up. No need for me to shame anyone now about it, because what they didn't do can't be undone and there are too many people I could point fingers at that I could put a glove on all my fingers and still need more fingers for all the gloves I'd need. Y'all can figure it as "a blessing and a curse"; I've come to know it as a deathtrap.
My first trip to the psych ward coincided with this song and my fixation on this album as a whole...it was so good and fresh and new and different than anything I'd heard. It struck a solid chord with me. And all I could think was "Smart Went Crazy" while I was staring at platinum white walls while trying to get out and resume the same life that got me there in the first place. I was the smart kid who lost his fucking mind...no boundaries, no self-respect or self-control, nothing. Just a job I hated and a boss that assumed I was basically her and a girlfriend who couldn't divorce her husband but loved me and loved fighting with me more.
It's hard being stuck as the successful failure.
Anyway, that all landed me in the hospital because I was "not myself". In short, I wanted out...I wanted to die and just leave everything behind and be forgotten about. But everyone else I was connected with felt differently, and so I had to push on and live the same life...now with the designation of "he lost his mind". Powerful words coming from the inside of what they used to call an asylum. I'm not gonna go into any bit more detail because I'll be dealing with it next month in an online writing class I'm taking (more on that in a bit).
I'm not gonna say much more about this song that I haven't said already now or in previous entries when I've used it. If I'm not mistaken, it's on the silent list in my head of songs I've retired from using in blog entries...but I guess since I don't blog that much anymore, it's ok to pull it out once in awhile. I guess all I can say is it kept me sane when I was insane. It soundtracked my narrative. Felt good to come home and pump it through my speakers, thinking maybe I wasn't so fucked up anymore.
"Smart Went Crazy" -Atmosphere
"'You're headed for self destruction'; been there, did that.
Kicked back with the wrong angel to fuck with."
Yo, where do they give you trophy for not being a fucked-up fuckup anymore? I've moved a couple times. I traveled a bit since I became like a published author and shit. People buy my t-shirts and other merch. Am I like a legit adult again? I've got an ID. Poetry and Blogging Quills, along with $2+ gets me a cup of coffee around here. Where's my boo-hoo participation trophy??
HEY!! The "30-Day Bloggers Group" is still looking for donations for the massive February fundraiser, my friends!
Also yo...my publisher is looking for people to take a class on publishing memoirs. If you're interested, get at me. It's a 4-week online class for $200. I'll be there, providing levity and purging my soul. Not that a memoir is on my list of Things To Do, but hey if the noggin nudges, I move.
I thought I had more to add, but I got sidetracked by Twitter again and Facebook minutiae and that's fine and all but I really need to decide now if I wanna eat, poop, or nap...these are the things I worry about while you're out in the world being a well-adjusted individual, ya prickfaces. Peace, I don't know where I'm goin' but I'll end up in your arms, and GOODNIGHT NOW!!
"We Will Still Need A Song" -Hawksley Workman
"The poets let a generation down!
And modern music could be a healing sound...
it's the only way."
Yes yes y'all!! I'm reappearing from my self-induced semi-popularity outside of WDC to address a prompt that has hit me deep down...one that has provided me some instant form of response. I'm down with Lyn and I have a boatload of love and respect for her, so I must address this one on a personal level. Now, remember, this is just my experience...and I hate that this is gonna sound like another ad for all the shit I'm into and have done and am still promoting, but y'all are writers and this is the writing life for people who have found their way into the biz.
In this month's edition of Writer's Digest Diana Pho says, "Writing is hard, but writing own voices is harder. Despite recent efforts statistics show that own voice stories are being left behind in the industry. On top of industrialized challenges minority writers deal with added pressure that their individual story comes to represent of the whole of their community." Do you agree with her assessment? Does the fact the majority of the publishing industry are white, straight, able bodied, and affluent affect the decision making when it comes to publication?
"No" -Chuck D
"No lightweight bouts up in the air, shoot outs and no sellouts!
No Negroes with egos, no mo' shows callin' women bitches and hoes.
No thoughtless flows, no woes. No singin' voices, no Rolls Royces, no wack choices."
Sorry/Not Sorry...it's the first song that came to mind. Full disclosure: I'm a straight white male. I wouldn't say I work in publishing, but I do tend to promote a lot on a basic level. And yeah, I did some stuff to help get Eliezer Tristan Publishing off the ground last summer (but I don't like to talk about it, cuz that makes me uneasy...not in a bad way though). Basically, my experience is in Indie Publishing, and I wouldn't have it any other way because breaking into the bigs, or even the mid-majors, is hard. And I've always been an indie kinda guy...I make the rules, I dance to my own beat, and I'll never conform.
ETP is run and staffed by women. Straight up. Their main focus is on Mental Health and stories of resilience. Essays, bios, poems...that's the gig. That's the input/output. Erasing the stigma around Mental Illnesses, which has no boundaries and knows no color, size, personality, achievements, goals, race, creed, financial status, community involvement, and/or cultural fluency. Sorry to go so longform on you there. But it's true. And don't get me started on the statistics that prove 1 out of 4 of us are inflicted in some way with things like depression, anxiety, schizophrenia, and other illnesses.
Me as the straight single white guy, an LGBTQ woman, a Muslim,
a married witchy white lady, a Jew, and a zealot
walk into a bookstore...
And what do many of us who are high-functioning despite our diagnoses do? We write. Writing was my way out of depression when I first joined WDC, and was also my savior during some of my worst moments. But I'm getting off-point here.
Sure, many major publishing houses are bound by their own self-imposed standards of race- and gender-inequality. I cannot dispute that. Like any other predominately-male industry, I suppose...CEOs, CFOs, the dude who runs the pizza place by your house, etc. But fuck that...women are making noise and breaking barriers. Probably the biggest influence on me in the last year or so as far as writing my own poetry goes has been several of the Button Poetry authors. Danez Smith (who is black), Andrea Gibson (an LGBTQ woman), Nicole Lyons, Rudy Francisco (black/Hispanic)...don't tell me voices are being marginalized. Ok, systematically, yes...by major publishing houses, sure. They rely on the big bullshit names to sell millions of books, and that's cute. Old white dudes writing basic mysteries and crime novels, and withering women writing romance novels for the same withering crowd. Nerds and geeks plotting new Sci-Fi and Fantasy landscapes to be explored. Fuck that. Damn the man!!
What I'm sayin' is...seek out what you like, and support the indie authors who make it happen for you. They're out there. They're not making thousands a month off their name...they're bustin' their asses promoting themselves. I've had a book out for six months now through ETP and I'm still more famous on WDC than I am in both Cortland and my hometown, even though I've sold a bunch of books. These are the people you need to be reading- the ones you do the work in researching for- and not what some publication (which is an offshoot of a big magazine corporation) says is "happening now" or recommends for you. Do the work; get the real rewards.
I know not many of y'all will remember my friend Julie D - PUBLISHED! , but her and I grew up in the old blogging community together way back before there were blogging groups and extensive forums and contests dedicated to the craft. Anyway, her book On Purpose just came out from ETP and even though she's not around here very often anymore we still keep in touch and I'm super proud of her for reaching out and getting this work out to the public. I'm even more honored that she included this in her "Acknowledgements" section and I'm super stoked to read it.
Ok ladies and gentlemen, this was my January return to blogging and no, it isn't gonna become a habit as far as I can tell going into the rest of the month, but who knows? All I know is I need to get some food in me and then take a nap. Support your local authors. Go to Open Mic Nights. Spread the word like you would a common cold. That's the bulk of all we've got, most of the time...you. Thanks. Peace, no east coast/west coast beefs, and GOODNIGHT NOW!!
"Choose a Famous Birthday for today and tell us why you think they should be celebrated."
Yo yo yo!! What's up y'all! This blog is telling me I haven't posted an entry since March 12th...and most of y'all know life's been crazy on this end since then a few months after then. I could sit here and talk all day about how my first WDC Give it 100! attempt became a published book, but that's not what I'm here for and I'm getting enough social media promotion now that I'm worried about Norb fatigue.
So, what am I doing here? I have had the urge to write for the last couple days now, but not in my Wordpress blog or in my poetry notebooks (although I have recently posted some old and new ones in "World By Design" , which you can catch up with more easily at "Note: You guys!! It's been s..."). It's time to hang out for a short spell with some old friends again, back in my old haunt. Props to the blogging gods and Dragon is Thesis writing , for having the energy to do this today and the given prompt which I feel comfortable working with.
Today I'm going with a television legend and a comedic icon, or a television icon and comedic legend, Johnny Carson ...born on this day in 1925. A game show and variety show host, he became the standard in late-night tv viewing...Carson set the template eventually for every late-night talk/comedy show that followed:
short comedic skit (or interlude)
First celebrity guest, usually talking about a recent movie or tv role
Second celebrity guest, usually not as famous or important but still hawking some current project
Musical or comedic performance closing the show
When I filled up my first or second blog (I can't remember) and I was writing for different blogging groups (many times both in the same day), and I was accepting that people liked and enjoyed what I wrote, I made a powerful decision that impacted what I did and how I went about blogging...
I wanted to be the Johnny Carson of blogging.
No bullshit...I'd seen so many of his shows and how his predecessors and his influences operated, and I wanted to bring that feeling into my world with what I was doing. And you can see that in "Who do I still think I am??" and "Still Figurin' Out Who I Think I Am" , just in the layout alone. I'd answer a couple prompts after a short intro, throw in a song clip, end it with a few random ha-has, and after I signed off with my signature GOODNIGHT NOW!! I'd toss in another short semi-hilarious yet relevant comedy clip. That's the format that works for me, and that's where the formula came from. There are a few times (like today) when I veer from that, but sometimes that's necessary to fully get out what you want and nothing else seems to fit the script.
I can't tell you how many times I've been asked "What makes a good blog entry?" The question stumps me...the winner of several "30-Day Blogging Challenge" rounds, eventual runner of it, and multiple WDC Quill Award winner for blogging while doing that. The best advice I can give is Make It Yours. It's yours from the beginning, and in order to be good, something needs to stand out from the rest of the pack. Two-to-three sentence answers don't make for a good entry. Prompts that can be answered basically by a yes/no response require more work on your end than that. Relate to your audience, once you learn who that audience is...and take advantage of the newsfeed and "The Blog Board" . Talk to your other friends through blog comments and IMs...build your own community within the community...the "30-Day Blogging Challenge" has been bringing people together in unlikely ways for years! Those are my best hints...other than "I know what I don't like!"
For real though...Johnny Carson is a legit influence on my life. I remember falling asleep to his show on a tiny b/w tv with foil on the rabbit ears after homework and a little studying in high school, like many people. It remains the best way to end my day...falling asleep to late-nite talk shows (or cartoons, depending on the time...but I try to time my bedtime so I can at least catch the Seth Meyers desk monologue and A Closer Look ). And I'm ok with this...in a world full of hatred and destruction all around, sometimes you need the comfort of laughter to get you through the rest of your night.
With all that said, my friends...this isn't my typical blog entry. Just wanted to give y'all an update and share some thoughts with my people. Thanks to Emily and Dragon is Thesis writing today, and to everyone who's supported me for buying a copy of my book. Mad love to all y'all. GOODNIGHT NOW!!
This is what the best WDC blog comment sections
should look like.
"What are you looking forward to?"
What's up you guys? Double-banger today, as I try to finagle a "Pursue the Horizon - Open for Signups" entry along with a "Blogging Circle of Friends " prompt...and in my haste of settling on one, I realized the basis for doing the other was totally wrong because I saw #NationalNappingDay trending on Twitter and instantly mistook that for Prosperous Snow Globe 's prompt . That's on me y'all...for gettin' too far ahead of myself in this on a day when I wasn't planning on exerting my blog-stench muscle(s) .
The whole idea of me doing this came together when a Gord Downie tribute account on Twitter posted a screenshot of the singer kicked back on the lake, napping with a book. After reading the thread, I learned the pic came from the video for "Chancellor", off his first solo album. Initial pressings of that album were accompanied by a poetry book bearing the same title, Coke Machine Glow ...and I honestly don't remember seeing the video before (although I may have): sometimes his solo work outside The Tragically Hip is harder to track down on YouTube. The book not only contains the lyrics to the songs on the album, but also a body of work that blows open the idea of "Canadian Rock Singer" into something more personal and diverse than his previous works suggested...it laid the foundation for him later being nominated for high Canadian honors and consideration for Ontario's Poet Laureate award being named after him (and yes, I'm confusing details and too lazy to look up actual citations. but these are real things you can also look up as per your own interests...I'm an unpaid blogger, not a journalist ).
Anyway, while there aren't many obvious love songs in Das Hips catalogue, Gord's solo work definitely contains a few with slightly less-veiled references...and really, writing a decent love poem nowadays (in my opinion) involves quite a bit of veils (not the matrimonial kind) and finding the right balance of obscurity in the metaphors (but not too much, because no one gets all the inside jokes that might go into the meat of the wordplay). The music accompanying the words is also a stark contrast...your basic blues-rock band that doesn't often steer too far from the middle of the road, versus tamer (and often acoustic) settings scaled back with the gentlest of sometimes awkward touches.
"Chancellor" -Gordon Downie
"I'm discovering uses for you I thought I'd never find.
I could've made chancellor without you on my mind."
Are there better songs on the album (and better poems in the book)? Sure, but don't ask me about them right now...this is what I came here for today, so this is what you're getting . Again, Google .
I knew I liked the slow, smooth mellowness when I first heard this, and probably had thoughts on the lyrics too...but that was practically a generation ago. I do, however, remember walking to one of the local grocery stores last spring after coming home from a week of cleaning out my brother's bedroom- where he'd had hidden away approximately half of my cd collection (including all my Hip/Gord discs) out of spite for grabbing as much of my shit as he could from the house my ex and I shared- and this song came on the trusty ol' iPod for the first time. I should've been pissed that he lied to me when I'd asked him if he was sure my cds were gone, but no...caught up in the wave of way too many other things still in processing, I focused in on rediscovering what I thought might've been lost forever.
At a first glance or listen, the lyrics might lead you to the sacrifices (no matter how big or small) we make for others, especially those we're in the tightest quarters with physically and/or emotionally. I mean, I could probably annotate this song (and many of Gord's lyrics) with personal anecdotes that don't, in his words, "serve the song" . And the word "sacrifice" itself seems so...holy, or something; wholly ghostly maybe, or some other batch of words I don't feel like rearranging right now.
Seconds from pajamas I must
First open all the doors and the windows
And invite the vampire in to be one of us
Then in the guise of cool air
In the softer hours he's there
Sitting talking in the voice of your mother
About leaving one good party for another
And the night of a thousand missteps
And the loss that made him dogged
Or it could have been the doggedness
That caused the loss in the first place I guess
I'm discovering uses for you I thought I'd never find
I could've made chancellor without you on my mind
Crazy daisies and wooden stars
The threat of oxygen on Mars
Marching armies in the night
Smiling strangers riding by on bikes
Children smoking, sloganeers on mics
Just a few things most vampires don't like
I'm discovering uses for you I thought I'd never find
I could've made chancellor without you on my mind
Before the dawning's first light I must
First close up all the doors and the windows
And try to trap that cool air in to be one with us
I'm discovering uses for you I thought I'd never find
I could've made chancellor without you on my mind
But in repeated readings, you see things in yourself and in others that get lost in the idea of sacrificing. Sure, there's the idea of "someone else keeping you from being something you could've been, but you're ok with that because the greater goal together is bigger than your grand plans" and in some respects that's pretty sweet and romantic. Deeper in though, especially the second verse, you're confronted with the reality of everything you're letting in when one door closes and another opens. People like to call that "opportunity" in their favorite workspeak jargon, but no one ever really talks about the downside of what's behind that new door when one's been slammed behind you. In fact, no one talks about what kinds of houses all these doors are opening and closing on people are like...which is bullshit, and people need to stop talking about other peoples' houses in such general, garbage terms .
For about two or three months before my brother died, I'd been taking some online classes through the local career center. They were boring but it was alright, and I was disciplined enough to complete some Office Management requirements, but the process wasn't going to get me as far as completing it in part because the local liaison for the program loved to pretend she gave a shit about my concerns. Still, I was rollin' right along until we lost Doug. After coming back from my mom's and getting resettled for a bit before going back for Christmas, it was just hard recapturing my discipline and dedication to the courses. My ability to pay attention had waned, drastically. There was no focus left...and with that went my ability to pursue a renewal of the software license I had once it expired, without the help of the same liaison between the employment center and the software company. She wasn't easy to deal with...in part because her job involves setting people up for this program- that the center pays for- who wind up ditching. I tried to keep in touch with her, but it wasn't enough. I got my dates wrong and had to rely on her, even after getting her word that I'd been doing so well from the get-go. I thought she had my back and became more understanding than she was, but that's on me for trusting her...although what was I supposed to say? In retrospect I should've advocated for myself better and been up-front with why I'd missed classes and deadlines...but I also didn't want that to be dismissed, as if I were searching for any ol' excuse this lady had likely heard a boatload of times already (making her job and therefore her own miserable-ass self more miserable in the process). I tried, but it was some "too little, too late" shit on my end (thanks, anxiety ). Now I've got a flash drive full of class completion certificates for a program most employers are probably gonna stare at me like "You made this shit up, didn't you?" and then I'll have to tell them that I proudly did not because I'm not that computer-programmingly gifted and also because I couldn't handle my second attempt at college when I was like 40 and from there, well, you can imagine all the maniacal spaghetti meltdowns your fork could go into and spin and turn and yank up from there.
What a fucking mess of a left turn this entry took, huh.. Wasn't even gonna mention my brother. Or my little-known third collegiate failure (my second was kinda a big deal especially to me, but that's around the time Cinn and Charlieeee ♡ both went back, and when I bottomed out from that I kept expectations for the third time level next to nothing). Guess it's these kinds of things that pop up in my mind when I'm planning trips back home...and a WDC Mod gives you a nonsensical review (legit thing...no names or titles mentioned but if I'm not mistaken I believe Cinn ...you had a row with her awhile back too and it baffles me how some people...never mind...I'll catch up with you about it later probably, cuz goin' at it here isn't my style). But that's the vampire of life, isn't it (getting back to the original point of this entry, finally...the fucking song )? Eventually you've gotta let things out to let others in, and vice/versa. Take the hard truths along with the misconceptions. Know that sacrifices aren't a one-sided proposition...which is something I still struggle with, from both sides.
And sometimes, when the light clicks on you just gotta open up and roll with it . Especially when you don't have a plan. 'Cept now it's too late to look forward to the nap I originally planned on taking as my response to the "Blogging Circle of Friends " prompt...and that's gonna mess me up in other ways cuz now I don't feel like cooking or eating either, which means the even lesser-thought-thru plan of waiting for the cds I bought as part of Kittiara 's birthday gift to come in so I can send them off (which is more "inside info" that should stay between us, but here I am, saying nothing by saying...nothing) is my answer to what I'm waiting for, since I'm no longer requesting of myself a nap and will probably wake up at stupid o'clock again tomorrow because time changes change everything .
Thanks for putting up with me today! I've had a day besides all this wordiage, so it's great you came. Hope all y'all are swell...peace, it could have been the doggedness, and GOODNIGHT NOW!!
Hey friends! Well, I've sufficiently been inspired enough to convince myself that today's as good as any to add another poem to my "Pursue the Horizon - Open for Signups" experience this year ...and although I haven't looked back into past entries for today's selection, I know I've talked about this guy before in some way or another, so I'mma do it again.
I don't remember if I'm allowed to say this or not, but a few years ago after going on a Saul Williams-related diatribe in another blog, my wonderful friend Lyn sent me a few of his books that I no longer owned because life. And I'm happy to say that today I went into the closet with all the books on the shelves (y'all really have no idea how amazing the closet space is in this apartment ), pulled out his books, and started flippin' through 'em...'til I remembered this one fact about his work: he doesn't title his fucking poems.
Nope. They're a graphic designer's dream I guess (especially , said the shotgun to the head , which was my introduction to him during my first stint at Waldenbooks in part because the shape of the book made it stand out from all the others in their poorly-themed and [and stocked] Literature section). The books themselves use little symbols or pictures to break up separate pieces, but they're largely without any other identification...making them read more like novels and forcing you to study the individual concepts as part of a greater whole.
And here's me, bored with the idea of reading right now ...I settled on She (another graphic artist's dream, in title alone: it's basically S -square root symbol- HE, and the site I use that has all the ALT-key codes indexed doesn't have one for "square root"...furthering my hypothesis that mathematics shouldn't be that big a part of poetry anyway ). I fanned open the book, flipping the opposite side of the spine through my fingers like I was shuffling a deck of cards, and wound up on the same page of the poem printed on the back cover...
my feminine side
she cut the stems
and placed them gently
down my throat
and these tu lips
might soon eclipse
your brightest hopes
Even without the context of the poetry leading up to or following this bit, there's a lot going on in these nine scant, precise lines. Every woman likes flowers, until you meet one who doesn't (and suspects you did something wrong upon receiving them, rather than appreciating a nice romantic gesture from out of nowhere). Women like sensitive men...until you date one who doesn't understand why certain songs can make you cry. And everyone involved in a relationship wants the same good things from that unification...but then roles become more defined, and attitudes develop and change with circumstances, and reality overtakes and diminishes the aura of happiness in favor of but now this. Without question. And you know this, man ...because it's happened to every one of all y'all muhfuggahs in one way or another, from both perspectives (the flower-giver, and the flower-eater).
People say things like "Most relationships fail because of arguments over money" or "You need to have the same backgrounds for things to work" and I say that's all bullshit (but what do I know man...my life's roadmap is dotted with questionable relationships attempted and failed). I think power is an often overlooked and definitely underrated cause of failure, because too many people value it for some sort of unrelated validation. Showing someone something that can be mistaken as or perceived as weakness can get you eaten up alive, especially if the other person is coming at you from a position of "I need to make this work for me" before saying "We need to make this work for both of us". Might sound like some lame-ass bullshit Dr. Phil routine, but you know it's true, especially if it's happened to you (and maybe to a lesser extent if you're a narcissistic twat-waffle playin' cuz she don't get played...annnnnd I'mma reel this back in before my entry turns into an episode of Jerry Springer ).
Anyway, back to Saul Williams...his books are captivating. If there's such a category in all of literature as "poetic page-turners that you can't wait to see how they end, just like novels, but it's poems! " then he's the god damn President/Prime Minister/Poet Laureate of that country. There's a lot of good poetry out there, and a lot that doesn't rely on tropes of love and heartbreak and loss and recovery to tell you about those same things. If I'm being honest, he made writing fun for me again after one of the many lulls (you and) I have been through. His non-traditional books shook up my ideas of what it meant to be published; the presentation was far different than the stale, institutionalized form that smells like decrepit library books past the due dates last stamped on the insides from 1973. And of the more recent poets I've read, it kinda sucks that they haven't done more of what he did as far as design goes, but...indie poets need backing and have to bend (usually to colleges who put them on some kind of mentor nonsense), while Williams was an old Def Poetry Jam vet who worked his talent into having more resources at his disposal for publishing purposes and parlayed some fame into bigger projects. Basically, check him out. If you're as dismayed by the stereotypes you attract, inhabit, encourage, and display, as I am, you'll find he's pumping new life into you from a different angle.
"The Sunday News! This week, Martin Shkreli cried in court as he was sentenced to seven years in prison for his part in federal fraud charges. You may know him as the smug Pharma-bro with the punchable face who jacked up the price of a life-saving HIV medicine from $13.50 a pill to $750; I prefer to remember him as the douchebag who made a mockery of his purchasing the single copy in existence of the Wu-Tang Clan's album Once Upon A Time In Shaolin (there's still time to save us, Bill Murray!! ). So this week, my question is "Why should we feel sorry for this guy?", along with "Why are people with access to hedge funds controlling our pharmaceutical industry...instead of, ya know, like, doctors?""
BAHAHAHAHAHA nope. I do not feel bad for this asshole one bit.
I try not to let my personal feelings intrude upon the 30DBC prompts I send out too often, but sometimes it's hard not to. And really, I'm sorry to have to say this, but if you think he deserves an ounce of compassion then maybe you're reading the wrong blog and kinda maybe go rot in his jail cell with him. Pisses me off that he didn't go to jail for raising the costs of a pill that is meant to be a part of giving people who are suffering from an incurable disease a better life, but that he misled investors...basically, he fucked old rich white dudes outta money and that's why he got stuck with seven years, while the sick and poor they all profited off of got dicked hard into the fire. Who needs a Hippocratic Oath anyway when it's the banks and insurers and shady-ass investors deciding on who gets to live or die? I'm not one to wish death or harm upon anyone (I believe strongly against it, actually), but I hope this asshole gets gang-raped in jail and they can't figure out who gave him any number of infections and STDs. To paraphrase multiple Twitter commentariats on the topic over the last coupla days, I hope someone bottles his tears and tries to sell them at a 5000% markup. Dunno what they'd be good for, because they won't cure AIDS. Or prison overpopulation. Or the healthcare industry.
Gambling is fun, I guess...for those who're into it. Wanna try your casino hands at the stock market? Sure...good luck homie. But the marriage of corporations and health is just flat-fuck wrong, yo. You're gambling on people getting sick and dying (or barely keeping them alive) just to make money in the long run. I don't think you need me to tell you how sick and twisted that is. Sure, doctors and nurses need patients to have jobs, but it's not like people are gonna stop getting sick or hurting themselves. No matter how many times you ram into someone's brain activity all the various thinkpieces around "Don't drink and drive!", "See this dying smoker's lungs!", or "Fast food is bad for you...like, really bad!" , people are gonna do whatever the fuck they wanna do. Sorry...had to go piss out a beer and have a smoke while memorializing all the healthy people I knew who've died unexpectedly from heart attacks and cancer and car accidents. Where was I?
Yeah, investing in businesses that may or may not last is one thing. Turning quality healthcare into a roulette table isn't cool or funny or, like, a good look...even if your brand is basically you just being a dick. Search Martin Shkreli on YouYube, and then watch any of Ghostface Killah's videos responding to his bullshit...be it the price of HIV pills or the mysterious single-copy $2 million Wu-tang album. Don't tell me Martin doesn't look like someone you'd punch in the face after about 20 seconds of conversation...I don't think you even need to hear him speak to make that judgement. I do not feel sorry for him at all. And I'm not in the business of telling people what to think or holding their views against them, but if you have any shred of forgiveness toward him, I'm gonna hafta feel a lotta shame toward you and for all the right reasons. If you're in an industry that relies on making life harder for people who cannot afford quality medication, you should promptly get fucked. Don't try to moralize money with me, and don't bring up right-wing hypocrisy nonsense either...summa y'all dorks with that noise will trip over your own dicks defending some pretty crazy bullshit in the name of nothing that'll stand for you or matters to you when your own life matters. You need to learn how to play for different teams in different sports during the proper seasons, and that's all I'm gonna say about that besides ...something I knew I wanted to add but got distracted and now can't remember .
It's Sunday, which means it's a good enough time for me to share another Saul Williams project here with you that I've prolly copy/pasted a buncha times before...from the album he put out with Trent Reznor (of Nine Inch Nails, as the producer) is this gritty and slightly bombastic U2 cover, complete with a spoken-word interpretation at the end. The visuals can be stark and antagonistic at times (but isn't that the point of poetry?), and when you wonder why a lot of great poets your mind likes don't read in public often or record themselves, you have to consider if it's because things like this make them think they're not as capable. Hell, I already know half the time saying out loud some of the things I write is almost impossible . And "Sunday Bloody Sunday" is a pretty easy read anyway...but if I were to cop a similar demeanor on top of that? Bitch please, I'mma amateur .
"Sunday Bloody Sunday" -Saul Williams
"This many lost, but tell me who has won?"
Some notes while waiting for the weekend to end, ushering in the arrival of cool new things, and...oh wait:
Smaller local banks are cool for many reasons, but they can eat shit when they lock your debit card down from online purchases. I'm appreciative of "Fraud Protection" measures, but sometimes they're really ridiculous about that. Do I need some restraint? Perhaps...but I also don't need iTunes telling me after x-amount of dollars spent my business is no longer welcome there unless I use some kind of "better than shopping from the comfort of your home" money, which is why I thought I had a debit card to being with! But what do I know? I haven't actually had money to spend on randomness in like almost a decade. Can't win for losin', or something someone said that I may have misheard once or several times and misunderstood, because people are dumb.
Really great that I could finally afford to buy an actual pair of sneakers I wanted for the first time in six years that wasn't a birthday gift I settled on because my neediness got the best of me, but fuck me for wanting black shoelaces for my Adidas Superstars and making me go to Walmart to get them because no one sells flat black laces anymore. It's easy to bitch about things and claim life is "criminal" because you can't get what you want when you want it, but if FedEx can show up at my door at 9pm-ish on a Saturday then I shouldn't hafta go across town for some fucking shoelaces that I will spend more on in bus fare than the actual laces them-fucking-selves, for real.
And finally, as a result of my negligence regarding "Note: New stuff! So...MB CHALLENGE...", I've decided to enter "Abandoned By Myself" into this round of "Shadows and Light Poetry Contest" . It's not what I would've entered, but had I paid attention to the rules I might not have needed to crowdsource a decision anyway. Oh who the fuck am I kidding? I still might've done it, but at least maybe I'd have come up with a different answer .
Alright you people- all of you- I have food to make and a nap to take and I'm done with this and you for a little while . Come for the poem, stay for the music, get slammed on the head with a political-ish opinion on your welcome way out...I think that's how this works. I dunno...the blogging landscape is volatile and always changing and what works one day doesn't work five years later when you decide to reconnect . Time to for realsies go figure out what to fatten my carcass padding up with...peace, how long must we sing this song, and GOODNIGHT NOW!!
'Sup yo? Back for another foray into "Pursue the Horizon - Open for Signups" , in part because I enjoyed the experience of writing the last entry but also because I wanted to reread some Richard Brautigan and well...here we are.
But first, some background (even though I've probably already talked about this/him several times before). Between 1997 and 2002 I was gainfully employed by a local electronics retailer based in Western NY, Stereo Advantage . I cycled through various positions at the company in general and at one point was banished to the Video department of the flagship location due in part to some sketchy behavior (undeservedly) attributed to me which also coincided with me having the nerve to actually want to use my vacation time during a slow month so I could move into a new apartment. But that's another story for another time, I guess.
During my time at the now-shuttered 5195 Main St. store, I got to know and become friends with a lot of the staff...prior to that, as a co-manager of one of the area mall stores, I was only required to be there for one shift and one meeting (maybe two) a week, so I didn't really have much pull in the building until I moved over to there full-time. For some reason, being a regular part of the staff at 5195 usually carried more weight everywhere than being a manager of one of the offshoots. But whatever.
One of the guys I got to know well was Bink. He was the brother of the manager and ran the Audio department...and on the side he was a drummer in a local band. When I slid over to my demotion/not-demotion at 5195, we'd hang out sometimes. When I needed a ride to work, he'd swing by on his way if we were working the same day. And if we closed the store on the same nights, sometimes we'd head out for beers if he wasn't playin' a show. We'd go to this little local mainstay down the street, Loughran's , and bullshit about the company while playing the jukebox and gettin' sauced. While still dressed in our company attire, usually ...cuz when you work for The Advantage, you're basically gold in those parts.
And so in the course of one of our many conversations, it came out that I wrote poetry. He asked me who I'd read, and at that point the list was very small. I was maybe 25 or 26 by then, but hadn't accumulated enough knowledge outside of my own works to speak of besides the basics that most everyone who writes has read by then...Kerouac, Poe, whatever nonsense junior high crammed down your throat, etc. He suggested Brautigan to me and showed up the next day with...somethin', but I don't remember what. Might've been his copy of Trout Fishing in America/The Pill versus the Springhill Mine Disaster/In Watermelon Sugar ...or something else, but that's what sticks and maybe that's because I owned a copy of it as my first real Brautigan purchase. While In Watermelon Sugar remains my favorite Brautigan read (and easily an all-time story fave), The Pill versus the Springhill Mine Disaster sits between the two in sequence as a poetry collection, and in this version it opens with "All Watched Over by Machines of Loving Grace" .
All Watched Over by Machines of Loving Grace
I like to think (and
the sooner the better!)
of a cybernetic meadow
where mammals and computers
live together in mutually
like pure water
touching clear sky.
I like to think
(right now, please!)
of a cybernetic forest
filled with pines and electronics
where deer stroll peacefully
as if they were flowers
with spinning blossoms.
I like to think
(it has to be!)
of a cybernetic ecology
where we are free of our labors
and joined back to nature,
returned to our mammal
brothers and sisters,
and all watched over
by machines of loving grace.
For being basically a bitter, womanizing drunk-turned-hermit more or less, he was ahead of his time. Not in the way he turned plain stuff into fantastical re-imaginings. Not because he invented some crazy form of poetry or adhered to certain values in the name of something sacred. Not because his curiosity turned him into something of a strange-famous hybrid. The Pill was published in 1968...computers were still in a prolonged infancy, and the connectivity we've come to associate with them wasn't even a slobber-drop of dollar signs in the eyes of a Jobs, Gates, or Zuckerberg yet. Like, yo...Brautigan called it here (and if you need further proof, one read of In Watermelon Sugar is all you need to convince you, being that it revolves around a place known as iDeath...long before there was an i-anything).
The self-deprecating optimism is trademark Brautigan, evident in most of his work in one way or another. He doesn't take himself too seriously, but he knows he's gotta be on to something here. Whatever the reasons the internet as we know it as was created for- and in part it was meant to resemble something like his description, at its basics- it's a true shame he wasn't around long enough to witness the rise of online dating, cat gifs, and porn websites. As traveled as he was, he woulda loved that shit. And I would also be interested to know his thoughts on all of it...or what a 21st Century Brautigan has in his/her omniscient mind for the 22nd. Hey, if you can wonder what so-and-so or such-and-such in your hero world of choice would do in this day and age as opposed to the setting they were scripted into, it's fair to let me have this. Let me have this!!
“'It is hard enough to remember my opinions, without also remembering my reasons for them!' -Friedrich Nietzsche. Are you always aware of the reasons for your opinions and the way you think? And what do you make of Nietzche’s quote?"
I will readily admit that there are times when my opinion on something overshadows the very reason why I formed it...but I also think that's natural.
Opinions are like assholes, everyone's got one over time turn into our own little facts...the very facts that make us who we are. And sometimes those opinions were forged from facts...hopefully. Debunking a childhood myth isn't a great experience, for example. It can leave you cold and untrusting for awhile, but you've lived your life for so long believing something and living a certain way because of an opinion that it's become your truth...be it about you or pertaining to your personal history, or Santa Claus, or speculation over whether or not a fictional character in something written hundreds of years ago is gay. And some are easy to move on from with new knowledge in the back pocket, while other times it shakes you to a death of sorts in the core of who you were up to now.
I have opinions, because I'm like a grown-up age. These are facts. And I try to base my opinions on facts, because that is crucial currency when it comes to things like personal integrity and another thing I can't think of the word for but there's a word I wanted to use, believe me. Guess that's the thing I'll wake up to well before I'm sposta tomorrow morning .
Truth is, most times the convictions (hold up...that might've been the word ) giving birth to the opinions almost always become long-forgotten in the grand schemes of our histories. We may know why we hate wearing the color red, but do we really remember the terrible red ensemble we put together that in retrospect never should've been on any store's hangers let alone our bodies? Hellllll nawwwww man. Sometimes we just need to block out the horror, and after awhile it's so ingrained in our inner being that we're like "Nope, can't, cuz it's red...but why don't I like red again?"
Nietzsche is alright with me, if only because I see his name and think of an old football player of the same last name, and anyone who says that name like "Nee-chee" and not "Nitch-ski" gets props, especially if I'm totally butchering it based on personal preferences. I forget what I was goin' for here...musta been sidetracked. It happens.
I guess, the facts that wreck us also shape us, and it's good to keep them in a card catalog of sorts that gets sniffed on occasionally. Being required to always know the whys of something I feel strongly about would send me into crippling panics, and I'm not that adult yet where I can absolutely defend stupid decisions from years past without caring about consequences or doubts. Opinions are kind of our "this is where we are right now" statements. Sometimes we care enough to school/get schooled, and change them to fit our current needs/wants/haves. Sometimes we grow out of them only to remember why we have them years later. Life moves at rates too intermittent to be held into one opinion for so long, especially when you're finding yourself on the wrong side of history (past or present). If you educate yourself on the opinion in question, taking into account information from sources who won't always tell you just what you wanna hear, you'll be alright in the end...when you've got the credible info (fuck...that might also have been the word I was looking for earlier in this entry ) and you can stand behind it against the lesser-informed, who use their opinions as a shield against the reality, what's there to worry about? That's less fear you're sleeping in, amirite?
To tie this entry into a big fat bow, Bink also got me somewhat into The Flaming Lips (part of working for The Advantage was that we all had nicknames; mine was Bert because it was short for my full name and apparently much cooler than my real name). He threw some songs at me and while I'd already known they were interesting in a way, I just never had anything else to go by (again, back in the prehistoric Internet ages).
"All We Have Is Now" -The Flaming Lips
"As logic stands, you couldn't meet a man who's from the future.
But logic broke; as he appeared, he spoke about the future.
'We're not going to make it;' he explained how the end will come,
'you and me were never meant to be part of the future.'"
It's habit for me to think of Bink when I do anything Brautigan or Flaming Lips. Like, that's my center in those Venn Diagram circles. Great guy and one of a few I truly love and miss from that era of my life.
While wondering why a bus can smell so amazing and disturbing at the same time...
I know this is only of importance to me, but I'm really impressed with my discipline as it pertains to only eating the food in my fridge. Specifically, not going to the Pita Gourmet in Cortland. Like, I've been dying for a gyro w/extra Feta for so long, but no...clothes and music and apartment stuff came first on my list of things to spend money on, while also being responsible about food. But my gawd I'mma need me some of that soon.
Speaking of which, it's well-past dinner time here and I need to get me some...food. From my fridge. Smartly, so's I don't feel like a rock the rest of the night. Boring day otherwise, best believe that. Peace, all we've ever had was now, and GOODNIGHT NOW!!
The sounds alone seem to mean we're doomed...
just as nature intended.
What's up you guys! Welcome to, like, my annual "Pursue the Horizon - Open for Signups" entry . I say this not because it's something I never feel like doing; it's just that blogging takes more energy for me now than I'd care to admit, and I still don't feel totally comfortable talking about poetry (even though I've read a couple really good books in the past few months that discuss just that). Like, ask me on a whim about poems from a favorite author and I'll struggle to remember a title, let alone what I thought about it. I just don't retain information that well anymore (if I ever did, to be honest). This same logic applies to me sitting here trying to figure out which poems from same favorite poets I'd wanna share, in part because most of the personal library I'd acquired through the years never survived my transition from Buffalo to Cortland...so it's not like I can wander over to a bookshelf and crack a worn spine into its preferred position, ya dig?
But I wanna feel like I'm participating somewhat. At any given time I've always got a couple books out from the library...usually a poetry collection, something non-fictiony of some sort of specific personal interest, maybe a fun-looking graphic novel, and randomly a biography or fiction work that catches my eye while I'm comin' through. I've been slowly making my way into Ted Kooser's Flying At Night ...I'd remembered his name from another book I read last summer; a collection of essays written by a poetry critic for I think the New York Times, and it turns out Kooser was also once the Poet Laureate Consultant to the Library of Congress. From that same blurb on the book's back cover: he's won a shitload of awards I've never heard of (unsurprisingly) named after people I'm not aware of (same unsurprisingness), and still more people I've no clue as to who they are have spoken glowingly about this collection and of Kooser in general (totally not surprised at all...what're they sposta say? "Don't read this dipshit's nonsense!" ).
So I'm probably about three-quarters through this, and so far it's pretty meh...unless you like poems about old people living out their last days in rough shape, or barns. Either I'm not reading this well enough, or I'm not that smart (very possible), or he's just not for me (very likely). He's not terrible; I'm just not relating to them very well. And sometimes he's just really simplistic...to the point that it falls flat against my dead ears screaming to see something vibrant and the dying space between them. I'm sure he had reasons for writing his poems, and how I'd react to them was the least of his concerns...until I read "A Buffalo Skull" this morning, and finally found my mind wandering inwardly because of the poem and not outwardly away from it.
A Buffalo Skull
No fine white bone-sheen now;
a hundred hard years
have worn it away, this stump
washed up on a bar
in the river, its horns
like broken roots,
its muzzle filled with sand
and the thin gray breath
of spider webs. Once,
they covered the grasslands
like the shadows of clouds,
and now the river gives up
just one skull, a hive of bone
like a fallen wasp’s nest,
heavy, empty, and
full of the whine of the wind
and old thunder.
And I know what he's referring to really isn't what it evokes in my head upon reading it...I'm making it into something probably far too literal for my own good. But just as we often want to see what really isn't there when we read a poem or hear a song, the same can work in reverse or something. Which is probably a garbage way of me trying to analogize what I read, but you'll have that with me.
Every few months when I hop on the ol' Greyhound to visit my mom, the station closest to her is in the heart of downtown Buffalo. Fields eventually turned into a one-time mid-major metropolis, if you will, that has seen various stages of decline and reconstruction of many fashions over the subsequent years. The city's highlights- the shopping centers, theater districts, entertainment options- run through their useful life cycles, sit in abandonment afterward for well past their "Serve By:" dates, and then another generation comes along to reshape the landscapes back into fruition of a different flavor. I think because I'm not seeing them as often in person anymore, it's almost easier to picture what used to be in some of the dilapidated neighborhoods than if I'd been there to watch them wither on a daily or weekly basis. Your memory can plug back in the functional past after prolonged absences, because it's not rewriting a film in real time.
I'm well aware that this isn't some phenomenon that's exclusive to Buffalo or some crazy new concept. In the five-and-a-half years I've been in Cortland, their downtown district (albeit a paltry maybe five or six blocks in comparison) has undergone many changes...including the loss of several multi-generational businesses that made visiting Main St. worthwhile. And most of them are still vacant, months and years later, waiting for their rebirth. The animal is dead; long live the animal!
The surrounding neighborhoods- the whine of the wind that made the distinct sections of Buffalo what they were when they served as home bases to the families that worked in the steel mills, auditoriums, and malls- remain largely untouched by the hands that served to populate and/or give life to the industries that moved on. A few blocks off the NFTA bus schedule maps in any direction from your attraction of choice probably isn't somewhere you'd care to visit unless you've been there before...the way nighttime makes even the most idyllic surroundings appear sinister to the uninitiated, and their inhabitants just stumps washed up at favorite corner bars since the fancy newfangled places uptown have priced them out with wasps' nests of greed and spider webs of local wannabe hipsters.
Yet it's home, even if I don't live there anymore and it's not the same home to the people who still do...and that's where this particular Kooser poem took me more than any of his others I've read up to that point. That perhaps it's us who are the skulls, living with memories of places time has moved on from.
It was early in the day for me- maybe 10am-ish- when I'd read "A Buffalo Skull" and thought to myself "Well, maybe I can pull something out of that for "Pursue the Horizon - Open for Signups" today. And then of course I went on to do other little things here and there and cast the notion aside...then I throw on some tunes to relax and take care of other online stuffery and this comes on and I'm like "Yeah, ok, this all was supposed to happen then..." .
"I Cut Like A Buffalo" -The Dead Weather
"You should try to take it easy on me
'cause I don't know how to take it."
A few personal notes while I ponder why I don't do this so much anymore and why I should...
I need to buy some GPs to fund some personal endeavors I may have spoken of around the last time we got together like this. I won my SSI appeal (the hearing was in January) and got my first payment the other day...a hell of a lot sooner than I was led to believe I would. When the struggle is real, the struggle is worth it, or something...that's how close I'll allow myself to becoming a motivational speaker as I'll get. Today . It's not an Earth-shattering amount and it won't make me rich, nor will it allow me the same level of comfort I had when I was actually employed/employable, but it's certainly a level of comfort now that I haven't had since I moved out here. Like, "buy a slice of pizza" or "buy a stick of deodorant" is not a choice one should ever have to make. But all (or most of) y'all have no idea the weight that's been lifted off these shoulders. I mean, my shoulders are still physically shitty and can't handle more weight now that there's less of it on them, but at least I was able to purchase a new hoodie for them to cover up in rather than relying on the same ol' battered-ass ones I've got (or dealing with thrift stores, and the trouble of saving up for "such a special purchase" like used fucking clothes).
Since this is an entry about a poem for submission into a poetry-sharing forum, I'm gonna suggest you guys check out Jill Bialosky's Poetry Will Save Your Life: A Memoir ...looked interesting in the library, read a few reviews on it since I was unfamiliar with her work, finally got my hands on it, and enjoyed it. She relays her life story up to now through poems she's read over the course of her life, and I'm gonna admit that I'm jealous...if only because I don't remember much more than a few percentage points' worth of pieces I've read that I could say were relative to me becoming, uhhhh, me. Let alone feel like I could publish a fucking book about it that people would read . It's good though...like poems that got you through dating in college (I never lasted in college long enough for that), or how your first two pregnancies resulted in, ummmm, not ending with kids (I am not a parent and at this point will probably never be one), or 9/11 (wrote one thing about that shortly after it happened but I was karaoke-bar hungover and it never survived early-WDC membership lapses and port-trimmings), or sibling suicide (yep, got that in spades now, thanks). Glad I checked it out, because it's definitely helped me learn a little about talking about poetry and how you feel about it can work in conversation (like I said at the top of this entry, it's not my strong suit). Not that I'm any bit more one to talk now than prior to reading her book...I'm still not the intellectual's intellectual. But ask me about early 90's Emo and I'll hold my own .
And finally...I'm tired. Wasn't prepared to write a blog entry before I started writing it, so I've got nothing more to add here other than support your fellow writers here whether it's through on-site fundraisers or emotional struggles or just droppin' in unannounced on whatever WDC stuff they're doin' once in awhile. And I get it... yeah, it's all things I'm not good myself at doin' consistently anymore, but I do what I can when I can. I talk a lotta shit I struggle with backin' up...I'm behind on some commitments, and I don't pump tires in the newsfeed like I used to because even that takes work. But yo...some of your friends need you in the "Mental Health Writers Alliance" . "The Daily Poem" can always use more of your words, along with one of my personal faves, "Shadows and Light Poetry Contest" , for you poets without boundaries. Plug and support...that's how communities work, thrive, and sometimes even function without having one person foot the bill for everyone else's enjoyment. I need to get better at doing this, and if I'm saying this then there's a chance you need to be too.
Alright well, now that I'm about over food making my body feel terrible I suppose it's time to jam more food into it and see what happens. It was nice visiting you all again but unless you're gonna take your shoes off first let's not make this a habit (especially if you're gonna get all pissy about me not taking my shoes off ). Peace, can't tell when I'm jokin', and GOODNIGHT NOW!!
I hope none of these people survived the Blizzard Of '85.