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Blogenning Theme of The Week: NaNoWriMo

Part of the fun of the Blogenning is that once a week someone chooses a topic for you. Some weeks it’s incredibly easy and some weeks you have nothing to say about that subject and just have to roll with it. This week Ian has decided we’re talking about National Novel Writing Month. I’ll let you decide where this one falls.

Well, it’s October now. That means that pumpkins are back in vogue. They’ll be getting festively dressed up for a bit, and then smashed in to all sorts of treats. It also means that a crazy few of us are counting down the days to the delirious daze that is National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo from here on out).

For those of you unfamiliar with this event, here’s what you need to know:

  1. The event lasts the entire month. We start at midnight on November 1st and do not stop until our goal is met or 11:59pm on November 30th rolls around.
  2. The goal of this event is simple: write a novel in a month. More specifically, for the NaNos (or Wrimos, depending on the moment they’re being referenced), the goal is to produce a work of fiction at least 50,000 words in length (the point at which it becomes classified as a novel). Some expand on this, setting loftier goals or actually trying to finish the plot of the book in at least 50,000 words. In the end, you “win” when you pass 50k.
  3. The ideas is to pound out a first draft. We’re striving for quantity (with hopefully some quality). As always, it’s easier to fix a broken scene than to fill a blank page.
  4. All in all, this works out to writing about 1667 words a day for a month. This can take anywhere from about 30 minutes to 20 hours depending on the day of the month and how much you loathe your novel and yourself.

This means that for a month I will be driving myself crazy trying to scrape together something that loosely resembles a plot featuring something that loosely resembles characters. I will be hiding my manuscript from prying eyes, mostly because they don’t need to see that I’m getting to 50k by writing:

John looked down at the plate, festooned as it was with turkey, baked beans, mashed potatoes (with gravy of course), cranberry sauce, carrots, peas, corn, stuffing, and corn bread, and sighed inwardly. Sure the food was delicious, but didn’t his family know that if he ever wanted to make a name for himself as a published author he should be slaving away at his typewriter instead of shoveling fatty foods down his gullet. Then he thought of the food induced stupor that was heading in his direction. Today was sure to be a waste. Not a word would be written. His smiling parents were just happy to see him emerge from his room for longer than in took to cobble together a sandwich, use the rest room, or occasionally shower (and indulgence he allowed himself as much for its therapeutic qualities of calming the mind, as for  his concern at not driving his parents from the house with his creative stench). It would be a long day, and tomorrow would be even longer as he tried to make up lost ground. He actually considered returning to his work as an insurance salesman for a moment, before wallowing in complete despair, shoving a piece of moist turkey breast in his mouth, and resigning himself to his lot.

Okay… I may have channeled a bit too much of the end of NaNoWriMo 2010 in that…

So what will I be writing about? I have no effing clue.

I did just finish reading Fuzzy Nation by John Scalzi (his take on the earlier Little Fuzzy by H. Beam Piper). This was absolutely delightful. I can only hope to channel a little of John Scalzi‘s clear and compelling writing style, not to mention his thoughtful attention to relevant detail. I am also waiting for my copy of Terry Pratchett’s latest Discworld novel, Snuff, to wing its way to me. As soon as it arrives I will probably devour it in a few days. This should add some wit and whimsy to my NaNo abomination.

All that’s left really is to think of a loose plot idea that I don’t really care about and wait for November 1st to hit so I can start writing with as much abandon as I can muster while slowly coming to despise myself as the hack writer I am.

I swear this is a lot of fun, guys. You should come do it with me! Wrimos, especially Boston area Wrimos, are awesome. Just look at (most of) the blogenning members for proof!

- B

P.S.: It’s quite fortuitous that NaNoWriMo coincides with No-shave November. Who has time to shave when there’s a novel to be written?

P.P.S: This post has worked out, according to WordPress, to be about 850 words in length, which is slightly over half of the daily word count for NaNoWriMo. When viewed this way, I find NaNo seems far less daunting than it would otherwise.

Posted in Writing.

Blogenning Theme Of the Week: Costumes

Part of the fun of the Blogenning is that once a week someone chooses a topic for you. Some weeks it’s incredibly easy and some weeks you have nothing to say about that subject and just have to roll with it. This week Tom has decided we’re talking about Halloween costumes. I’ll let you decide where this one falls.

Tom is a Bastard. Not for choosing this theme, which admittedly, is not something I would normally write about. No, he’s a bastard for throwing a hell of a Halloween party, making it a costume party, and then going all out in every way possible to make his costumes.

This leaves me in a predicament of sorts. I want to put together an awesome costume, but things hold me back:

  1. I refuse to spend a lot of money on something I will only wear once. Therefore costumes must either be cheap enough for me not to care, or composed of expensive things I will wear all the damn time. I refuse to throw money at silly things I will never use when it could be better spent buying me shiny new musical equipment.
  2. I refuse to cut my hair. It’s just not gonna happen.
  3. I would prefer not to shave. This goatee takes a while to grown back and I look really stupid without it. (I probably look stupid with it too, but hey, we can’t win them all).
  4. I’m a large dude. Finding inexpensive costume pieces in my size is difficult, and expensive reusable costume pieces are even more expensive because of it. It’s a predicament I’ve gotten myself in to and not one I can complain about, but at the same time, it makes the whole process more difficult.
  5. I refuse to cross-dress because no one wants to see me in a dress. Trust me on this.

This is why two years ago I went as Slash. I borrowed a top hat (would have bought one too, but ran out of time), and I already owned everything else I would want need. I think I spent like $30 on a skull necklace and a wig, and I was good to go.

Last year I bought a fez and smoking jacket. I really put a lot of effort in to it, you know.

This year, I have no idea what to go as. I was thinking of going as Stevie Ray Vaughan simply as an excuse to own cowboy boots and a cowboy hat. Who would recognize that costume, though?

Maybe this year I’ll just show up as “fashionably late” so that everyone is drunk enough not to notice.

- B

Posted in Personal.

Playing Music is About Having Fearless Style

There are two things holding back most musicians: lack of practice and fear.

Most good musicians are acutely aware of their weaknesses when it comes to their particular instrument (your voice counts as an instrument). It could be a lack of dexterity or strength, weak lung capacity, weak knowledge of musical theory and how it applies to your instrument, a weak sense of rhythm, the inability to feel a consistent tempo, or something else entirely. These are all things you can improve with time and practice. Some people are lucky to be born with a natural talent for these sorts of things, but if you put in the time to be a master musician you’ll walk away with most, if not all of them. (On being a master/expert: I think it was Malcolm Gladwell who pointed out that it takes 10,000 hours of work to be one, which may or may not be true… fodder for a later post maybe.)

Fear is somehow something else to musicians. I suppose I’m not talking about generic fear here, I’m actually talking more about performance anxiety, but it’s still fear. This is an irrational block  people have that prevents them from being their best. A lot of people never get over their fear, and I sometimes wonder why. We’re not talking about a fear here that is tied in to a life and death issue. I understand fears of spider and snakes a bit better. Some of those things are lethal. I have an irrational fear of heights myself. Even leaning up against a sturdy railing, if I’m up high enough it freaks me out that I could fall to my death.

Performance anxiety is not at all linked to life or death. If you miss a note you’re not going to be stricken down by the god of music for your insolence. Life goes on, even if your B was a little flat. This is a social thing. It’s a fear of being judged and ridiculed.

Well, I hate to break it to you, but no matter what you do, someone somewhere is going to judge you for it, and probably ridicule your for it too. It’s unavoidable. Get over it.

Seriously, I want you to get over it. Why? I think you’re awesome, and screw anyone who doesn’t.

There, I said it.

The fucked up thing about performance anxiety is that it’s not just about being on stage. Sure I get nervous when I play for other people. I don’t want to disappoint them. If I let that take over and don’t go out and have fun, I will almost definitely disappoint them. So I get over. With musicians, though, there’s performance anxiety around other people you have to perform with. Some musicians have this shitty prima donna attitude if someone they’re playing with screws something up. Those people can all go and play with each other in hell. Playing with other people is about holding yourself to a higher standard than you hold anyone else to, and encouraging everyone you’re playing with to do the same. An naturally, If you’re working out material you should always provide constructive criticism when something doesn’t seem right. Just don’t be an asshole about it, and be sure to listen to their perspective too. It’s not rocket science, it’s just not being a douchebag. If you encourage the people around you, they’ll encourage you, and everyone will be better.

However, since so many musicians are epic douche-bags, a lot of musicians get nervous playing around each other. If one musician thinks they’re not as good as the other guys, they’ll retreat in to themselves and start to actually prove it. I’d rather work with a musician that takes chances and screws up than one who plays it safe but “right” all the time. You never get anywhere interesting if everyone is being timid and safe.

If you want to impress me as a musician, be bold and take chances. Own your style and your approach to music. Don’t give a crap what other people think, especially me. There’s no guarantee that I will like what you do, but if you have integrity and confidence and own your performance, you will damn well have my respect.

There’s a difference between knowing your limitations/what you need to work on, and living by your perceived limitations. Sure if you can’t shred maybe you shouldn’t write a song that requires a shred solo in the middle of it. However, if you’re in the middle of a song and are inspired to do something with a solo that you’re not sure you can quite pull off, just go for it. If you screw up, own your mistake. Hell, repeat your mistake. Make people think it was intentional. Defy their ability to call you on it.

You are a rock star. You are the greatest performer ever. Act like it. Own that shit.

Then go home and work your ass off so the next time you’ll be even better.

- B

Posted in Band, Music.

Blogenning Theme of the Week: Things I Dislike

Part of the fun of the Blogenning is that once a week someone chooses a topic for you. Some weeks it’s incredibly easy, some weeks you have nothing to say about that subject and just have to roll with it. This week Andrea has decide we’re talking about things we dislike. I’ll let you decide where this one falls.

The actual theme this week is things we “hate”, but screw that. Why? Here are things I dislike:

  1. People who use the commonly accepted definition of hate. This, naturally, makes me a complete, pedantic asshole. The English language has this nasty way of taking the most important words we have and giving them too many damn meanings. Look at love. There are so many types of love it’s not even funny, but we bundle them all under one word. Then when we’re questioned on it, we use descriptive words to narrow it down. That reeks of rationalization to me. I can look at you and say “I love you”. Then when your significant other gets pissed off and accuses me of being sweet on you, I can say “no, as a friend” or “no, like a brother or sister”.
    The same is true of hate. I can say “I hate you” and then when you get offended I could say “I hate you like I hate Brussels sprouts” or “I hate you like Stalin hated Trotsky”. Very different things right there. Well screw that. I’ll save the word hate to express my feeling on bigots, murderers, rapists, pedophiles, and their ilk. If something doesn’t nearly cripple you with an extreme aversion or hostility, let’s use “dislike”.
  2. Myself, for fogetting the former. Despite my feelings on the word hate, I often fall in to using the common usage. This, naturally, makes me a hypocrite. At least I’m aware of it and working to stop doing it.
  3. The Twilight Saga
  4. The Twilight Saga
  5. The Twilight Saga
  6. The Twilight Saga
  7. The Twilight Saga
  8. The Twilight Saga
  9. Hypocrites. Seriously, fuck you.
  10. Pedantic assholes. Double fuck you.

- B

Posted in Uncategorized.

Blogenning Theme of the Week: Writer’s Block

Part of the fun of the Blogenning is that once a week someone chooses a topic for you. Some weeks it’s incredibly easy, some weeks you have nothing to say about that subject and just have to roll with it. This week we’re talking about writer’s block. I’ll let you decide where this one falls.

I’ve got nothing…

OK. Someone had to get that joke out of the way. I wouldn’t want Tom or Ian to have to soil their blogs with it.

This post actually started, in my head at least, with a comment I left on Dave’s originating post on the matter. Writer’s block is entirely about quantity. The whole concept of it is that you have nothing to write about. People then feed in to this by adding the unnecessary barrier of “I have nothing good to write about.” That’s just adding fuel to the fire.

Let’s go back to the concept of the Gap which I posted about a while ago. The gap is talking about this space between starting to create and being able to create things that we actually think are good enough to share with the world. You have to get from point A to point B somehow. How do you do that? You create a lot of utter crap and then, eventually, you get that all out of your system, learn from you mistakes, and start to make better and better things.

So people who feed their writer’s block by adding the unnecessary constraint of creating something of quality are just screwing themselves. Creative people create utter shit. Not everything can be the next great american novel, or top 40 hit (well, back when that used to mean something about quality), or Michelangelo sculpture. Most of what is created is utter crap and you just have to get it out and then forget about it. You have to figure out what went wrong, and then try not to let that happen again.

So if you’re frustrated at you inability to create, first consider if you’ve come to expect yourself to create something good. If you have, ignore that, and just try to create something.

I think Wil Wheaton put it best:

Don’t be afraid to suck. It is easier to fix a broken scene than it is to fill up a blank page.

So whenever I get stuck in creating, I just goof around with it until I get going again. Missing a chord in the middle of a progression? Play whatever the hell you want until you stumble upon something that interests you. Stuck in the middle of a scene? Kill one of the characters unexpectedly. Or have something explode. Or write a diatribe on squash as a silent killer. It doesn’t matter what you create, just create something. Anything. Then, later, once you’ve gotten past the hard part, go back and let your taste tell you what to do with it. If it’s terrible, try again. It may not be as bad as you think it is. It may actually be brilliant once you tweak it a bit. You’ll never know until you get it out of your head and in to the real world.

How did I finally figure this out? I did National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). This is an event built to drill this in to you. The Boston region is especially full of brilliant and fun people who are trying to complete this crazy challenge. The veterans have learned to embrace the creative flow and just keep pushing forward. People joke openly about the crap they’ve just written, some wearing their terrible prose as a badge of honor and courage under creative fire, and the rest of us think it’s awesome. The creative energy in this event is unparalleled. You get to be with other writers going through the same thing you are. Sine the common writer is a solitary creature by nature, this sort of thing is an amazing boon.

About the second week of NaNoWriMo you hit a wall of creativity. You’re fairly well convinced everything you’ve written is terrible and that everything will continue to be terrible. You’re a hack at best. You don’t want to think about what you might be at worst. You start to wonder if there’s some sort of literary prison where they will sentence you to a life of reading nothing but Any Rand and the Twilight Saga as punishment for the never-before-conceived-of befouling of the English language you’ve managed. It’s hard to go on. This is when all of the other WriMos will guilt you in to continuing. In fact, the very blogenning this post was influenced by was designed to harness that element of harassment by friends as motivation to write. Then, suddenly, with a little “help” from your “friends”, you’ve gotten past the week two slump! Things are starting to come together, and you can ride the wave of awesome to the finish line.

Throughout NaNoWriMo you’ll receive pep talks from your local Municipal Liasons, as well as the core staff who run the event at The Office Of Letter and Lights (OLL). The guys and gals at the OLL have even gone out to published authors and asked them to write pep talks for you. A lot of the pep talks amount to, “I know this whole first draft thing can suck, but just stick it out and wait until you’re done. It will be amazing then.” Even people who we consider to have succeeded beyond our wildest dreams had to go through this.

So the next time you’re up against a wall, stop beating yourself up and just start doing things. Create utter shit if you must. Just create.

If you stop, I have a pack of rabid WriMos at my disposal, and I can figure out where you live.

- B

Posted in Writing.

Albums You Should Listen To This Week

There’s some great new stuff that’s come out lately. Here’s a taste of some songs from those albums:

“Solved” by MC Frontalot off of his album “Solved”

“Brendan’s Death Song” by the Red Hot Chili Peppers off the album “I’m With You”

“Yellow Belly” by Thrice off of the album “Major/Minor”

“Dimitri Mendeleev” by Astronautalis off his album “This Is Our Science”

Posted in Music.

In Which I Fail To Understand My Relationship With NYC

I went down to NYC this week to to visit Rachel and celebrate her birthday with her. A tremendous time was had in the process.

I took an early morning Amtrak train down on Saturday morning, arriving around 1pm. I had about 5 hours to kill until I needed to be at a restaurant in Brooklyn, so I decided to head up to the Metropolitan Museum of Art to wander around. I have to say, New York City really knows how to do museums. The Museum of Fine arts in Boston is pretty cool. It’s a lot cooler since they finished all of the work and added the new, awesome american wing to it. I love going to the MFA to wander around from time to time. The Met is just so much grander. Their Egypt wing alone, with its giant room holding a full egyptian temple, is fodder for hours of amusement. Their Greek and Roman wing is just as awesome. They had museum staff wandering around leading tours and talking about pieces. You could sort of wander up to them and listen to them talk about something, or follow a tour that was passing by. That museum was alive. The MFA just sort of leaves you to your devices, and feels sort of dead by comparison. There’s no energy in the MFA, but there is at the Met. I never really considered a museum having energy, but now I’ll miss it. I do like some parts of the MFA’s collection and organization better than the Met. However, without spending much more time at the Met, and not being a museum curator by trade, I feel unqualified to talk about that in detail.

After tiring myself of Egyptian, Greek, and Roman artifacts, I made my way over to Brooklyn. A delicious dinner was had, and then some other things happened which will not be posted on the internet for posterity to read. If you want to find out you can ask me in person. When all was said and done, I left Brooklyn at about 1 am, and made my way back to Penn Station to catch a 2:40 am train back to Boston. For the record, Times Square is eerie at night when it’s completely empty. I arrived back in Boston around 8, made my way home, and then sort of missed Sunday just from sleeping.

It was an awesome whirlwind trip. It also made me realize something.

When I stepped off the train in New York, I was full of apprehension. I felt the sudden intense need to go somewhere that I could just hang out, which for me was the Met. Museums are easy to hang out in. I suppose I could have gone to a bar, but I can do that here. Then I went to Brooklyn and just sort of found myself thankful to be following people on their plans for the evening. When I left, I was still apprehensive and just needed to get on the subway and get back to Amtrak to catch my train. All day for me it was hurry up and wait. Go go go go! And then find a place to hang out and recover for the next time I’d have to dive in to things.

When I got back to Boston and stepped off the train, all I felt was peace. I could have just gone and wandered around the city for hours, aside from the fact that I was falling asleep on my feet.

Maybe if I live in New York I’d get used to it, but everything there just feels out of sorts to me. The city is ruthlessly efficient, which is sort of helpful and overhwelming. The New York subway is awesome for it’s reliability, frequency, convenience, and being open all night. It’s also confusing as hell until you internalize it. From the moment I stepped off the amtrak train I just sort of felt out of place. I felt the need to put on this veneer of don’t fuck with me. I also felt dirty. New York, all of New York, even central park, just feels dirty to me. I have no idea why. I’m not convinced it is actually dirtier than Boston, it just feels that way.

In Boston the air feels a little cleaner, as does everything else. The red line of the MBTA felt much cleaner than the New York subway. To make a fair comparison though, you have to factor in the Orange and Blue lines, as well as late night green line trains in to the MBTA, and given that, I think the New York subway is in far better condition. The only good line the MBTA has is the red line, I’ve been on quite a number of the lines in New York and they’ve all been pretty good. However, since I only have to really deal with the red line, to my sleepy self the MBTA appeared awesome by contrast. Everything just felt right being back.

I can see the appeal of NYC. I have a blast every time I visit it. I just don’t feel at home there. I’ve always felt at home here.

I’m not trying to be a Boston elitist. I don’t think Boston is awesome and NYC is somehow inferior. I think it’s a privilege to live in either city, and you need to live where you’re most comfortable and most excited to live.

I will continue to visit NYC and enjoy the hell out of it.

I guess I just love that dirty water,

- B

Posted in Personal.

Things I Learned Today

At work:

  1. The mail server we use as part of our server environment is, in fact, scriptable, but only exposes a COM interface. I now get to figure out how to hook in to it from C#, and pray that I can write managed code to talk to it in a sane way.
  2. Energy Option Swaps are weird. They’re not as weird conceptually as Weather Derivatives, but they’re up there.
  3. I have played way too much Foosball over the years, as I managed to be on the winning team of the Friday afternoon tournament.

At home:

  1. The amount I swear increases proportionately to how tired I am.
  2. I am really, really fucking tired today.
  3. The chairs in my living room randomly re-position themselves so that I always walk in to them. You would think I would learn to expect this. You would be wrong.
  4. Occasionally my neighbors don’t take my packages and put them just inside the front door I don’t have a key too, so I have to bother Dave to use the random door in his room to look in there for them. Sometimes they just leave them outside where I can actually get to them.

About guitar:

  1. I’ve owned a guitar for two years. I bought mine just after my friend Ken bought the same model a couple weeks earlier. His came with a gig bag, and he had to haggle with Guitar Center to actually get a case. When I went to buy mine, it came with a case. Apparently, in 2008, the models came with hard cases, and the top of the guitar was made out of mahogany, like the rest of the guitar. The 2009 models came with gig bags and had a maple top. I have decided I win at guitar buying.
  2. The best way to clean a rosewood fret board is with 0000 steel wool followed by some wool to buff out any slight marks left by the steel wool. Afterwards condition it with a bit of lemon oil. Stubborn dirt can be softened with a bit of naphtha (or lighter fluid which is naphtha based).
  3. Apparently there’s a brass polishing cloth the army used that is really good at cleaning strings. At some point they started actually marketing these to guitarists. I may need to get one of these as I have very oily hands and my strings get dirty fast.
  4. Every guitar maintenance resource I’ve seen and luthier I’ve talked to recommends stringing the way I do (you basically tie the string on, leaving enough slack for a few winds) if you’re using standard tuners. Despite this I’ve been told it’s wrong too many times to count. These people claim that it lets the string slip more than if you just wind it on. I call bullshit on that, and now have citations to back me up. I will grant that one resource notes that some people just wind a bit more on the thicker strings without the tie sometimes. Apparently B.B. King winds the whole damn string on. The point is people can shut the hell up and just let me string the way I think works best.

What did you learn today?

- B

Posted in Guitar, Instruments, Music, Personal, Technology.

Blogenning Theme of the Week: Language

Part of the fun of the Blogenning is having another person choose a topic for one of your three mandatory weekly posts.  Some weeks it’s incredibly easy, some weeks you have nothing to say about that subject and just have to roll with it. This week we’re talking about language. I’ll let you decide where this one falls.

Language is a drunken bastard.

Let me explain. Whenever we speak, we fail horribly at accomplishing 90% of what we intend to accomplish. Much like a drunken bastard fails to accomplish 90% of being a decent human being to those around them.

I’m going to drag Wittgenstein in to this, so those of you with no interest in philosophical discussions best tune out and check back another day.

So in the Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus, Wittgenstein spends a very long time talking about language. He paints a picture theory of language. In short a logical proposition can picture the world. When someone says “there is a car parked on the street” it paints a picture of how the world might be. If there is actually a car parked on the street, then the proposition accurately represents the real world. However, much like a model of a car is smaller than a car, so to a proposition about the real world is smaller than the real world. That is to say that when we represent the world in language, we are losing a great deal of detail from the world itself. The model of the thing cannot be as detailed as the thing without actually being the thing.

Everything is capable of being modeled, even models. When your model is a thought you run in a problem. A thought is not something that can be seen in the world. A thought is already a model. The model of thought, Wittgenstein says, is logical structure. Wittgenstein goes on to argue that the logically ideal language cannot provide meaning, it can only reflect facts. (Read the Tractatus for the argument, I’m not really going to reiterate it and bastardize it, as it’s not relevant and I’d do a terrible job.) So language outside of stating simple facts of the world is nonsense and just causes problems. Philosophically speaking, what Wittgenstein wanted to do was show that most of the crap philosophers spend discussing is meaningless and we should stick just to the facts. Since all of the things in the world are handled completely in the Tractatus, Philosophy has no more problems. Everyone can go home.

The last line of the Tractatus translates to “Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent.” Okay, so Wittgenstein thought he had taken care of all of what was worth talking about. So he’s telling us, basically, to shut up and stop talking about all of this stuff. Wittgenstein in the Tractatus says that useful language cannot provide meaning, only state facts. What he wants, I think is for people to stop wasting time and get down to what life is really about.

So language, according to this view, is a bit bullshit. It doesn’t really serve us to find meaning. It’s much more a practical tool in helping us to function at a high level. It speaks of the world in factual terms. That’s about it. To use language probably the best way it is meant to be used by this view would be for me to tell you to go get me a beer, and have you do it.

No seriously, go get me a beer.

Much better.

Wittgenstein would later abandon this view. It would be taken apart and he would realize that he had not actually solved philosophy. Later Wittgenstein would go on to talk about how language works in terms of a game. It’s definitions are not tied to things in the world, but to a loose set of rules that we’ve discovered that help us express things to each other. One version of it explains that to communicate, basically, we conjure up an idea of the meaning in our head, then use our understanding of language to try to inspire that same meaning in another persons head. This is mostly futile though, because without you being exactly the same as me, the meaning you arrive at is highly unlikely to be the one I arrive at.

So basically language is a nice game we’ve constructed for ourselves to play with each other as an attempt to accomplish practical things which are mostly uninteresting, and which in the end is mostly futile because we can never really convey an exact meaning that would perfectly accomplish our goals anyway. Language is utterly terrible at providing meaning. Hell in that sentence meaning along had, in my mind, two possible definitions, and may have had more in yours. Weird.

What about music? I’ve said here before that I consider music to be the communication of things which spoken language utterly fails at describing. Nope, music is as pointless a game as spoken language, it’s just got different rules and speaks to different things.

Granted, this has not been a rigorous exploration of these concepts. This is because:

1) If it were, I would have to spend years on it and wouldn’t have published it here, but in some philosophical journal to much fame and admiration (hopefully)
2) If this is right, there’s no point to spending the years on it or publishing it as indicating in 1 because language is a bit bullshit
3) This is actually probably wrong and gross oversimplification of something someone much smarter than I said once, so it would be embarrassing as anything more that a hopefully thought provoking blog post

So why am I writing this? Well, hopefully you’ve either agreed with what’s been said and started thinking silently about really neat philosophical things, or you think I’m a simplistic moron without the slightest clue as to what I’m talking about, and have begun thinking about and picking apart everything I’ve written.

In both cases, you’re thinking, which is awesome.

If you’ve completely ignored all this but tuned in to the last few lines to see the conclusion, you’re probably the best off of us all.

- B

Posted in Philosophy.

Songs Are Tricky Little Things

Writing a song can be a real pain in the ass. It gets even worse when you feel like you need to come up with a wealth of new material all at once. With the hiatus of Far From There and looking for a new direction, it’s sort of fallen on me to crank out a bunch of ideas so we can see where we want to go, and have some material ready for anyone who is auditioning to sit in on and interpret. The best way for us to tell how someone is going to fit is to throw something completely new (to them) at them and see what spin they put on it. Anyone can learn and master a cover, but we’re not looking to be a cover band. We want to continue to do new material, so we need to know they can add something to the band.

So I’m writing a lot. Sure Dave and Jared are helping whenever they can. Dave found a new bass riff he was really digging and we were able to take that idea and run with it. One of my favorite things to do at practice is to tell Jared  to figure out a new beat and play it. That can really spark the ideas in my head. But Dave and Jared are still early on in their journey to cross the gap to writing music they like. While I’m encouraging them to add more and more ideas to the pot, at the end of the day, they’ve both sort of let me know that they feel like I’m the best equipped to really come up with new ideas. So I’m writing my butt off.

The problem, as always, is that not every idea we come up with is a good one. If we leave practice with one usable idea, we’re doing really well. Two would be amazing. Three has yet to happen, but who knows, it might someday. However, given that practices are usually only a couple of hours, the best way to make sure we walk away with a usable idea is to walk in with a few potential riff candidates, play them for Jared and Band, and have them tell me what works and what doesn’t.

I can always tell when a riff idea is complete shit, but sometimes you’ll stumble across something you really like that just isn’t ready for prime time. You’ll get this spark of an idea and then try to work with it and work on it, and you’ll come up with something decent, but which isn’t quite right. I have riff ideas from 3 or 4 years ago that I really like, and dig up from time to time to see if they’re finally ready to work with me. They’re not completed ideas, just sketches of an idea, and someday maybe I’ll be in the mood or have the skill to fill out the sketch. I just revived one this week which I think might finally be ready for prime time. We’ll see.

Sometimes you get sketches, but other times they’ll come out fully formed. These are even more dangerous. When it happens you always want celebrate that it was so easy. Then you start to think a bit, and the only conclusion you tend to come to is that you’re a hack and must have ripped it off from somewhere. It was just too easy for it not to be stolen. So you try to figure out where you ripped it off from. I’ve sat down playing riffs that turned out to be elaborated versions of “Twinkle Twinkle little Star.” Just this week I found myself accidentally playing the melody to Led Zeppelin’s “Going to California”, but with different chords behind it. The week before I accidentally re-wrote the Toadies “Possum Kingdom” (admittedly that’s not hard to do) and didn’t realize it until I played it for Jared and he pointed it out.

Sometimes though, the bolt of lightning of an idea that hits you fully formed turns out to be something new and awesome to play with. Those are great days, and those riffs usually become great songs.

Right now, I’m caught with a riff that just sort of came to me lightning-bolt style, but I can’t figure out if I unconsciously ripped it off from somewhere, or if it’s something I can actually use. That’s not to say I will actually find a song for it right away, but I at least want to know if it’s been ripped off.

So maybe you can help. I’ve posted the riff below, and I’m hoping you’ll leave a comment either telling me you’ve never heard it before, or posting the song you know it from. It’s not my favorite riff ever, so I’m not too afraid of having someone rip it off if it is original. I just really need some feedback to know if I ripped it off or not. It’s driving me crazier than normal.

Random Riff by bschory

So leave a comment, and let’s see what the verdict is.

- B

Posted in Band, Music.