Thursday, April 10, 2014

Up to Things

Oh yeah. I have a blog. Hi, blog! Hi, reader! Is there a reader? I'll assume so. The site gets traffic still, anyway. I assume some of it is human traffic.

I'll probably blog a bit more this summer. Right now, I plan to withdraw (almost entirely) from Facebook for May through July (except to notify local friends of our yard sale shortly before we move to an on-campus apartment, a few blocks away). This morning I started writing an essay. I do that often: I start essays that don't get finished. Personal essays. Oh, and I learned the chords for a song. I haven't done that in ages. Here's the song:

I probably won't sing it like that, though. As beautiful as this and a few other renditions are, I still don't feel the song has been done in a way that captures the coldness and brokenness of it. Most singers lay it on too thick. Sorry. That's how I feel. It's a beautiful song, but it's a broken one…and it should sound broken.

Anyway, what have I been up to? Things. I recently made a video for a friend's song. The friend is Neal Koga, and his performing name is Jamal. The video is here. For some reason, Blogger won't let me embed it. Corporate incompetence, I suspect.

And I've landed a short-short story in New World Writing: "The Day I Came Home."


Sunday, February 16, 2014

White Privilege in the News

For the moment (Sunday 16 February 2014 at around noon, my time), the top headline on says this:

Gunman 'in disbelief' over loud-music verdict: He could spend rest of life in prison.

But how can he be in disbelief? He doesn't deny his involvement. He held the gun. He aimed it into a car full of kids. He injured three and killed one.

And, more importantly, why does CNN believe his shock is the story here? I have a hard time imagining the editors would go with a headline as sympathetic to the astonishment of a shooter who killed a teenager while firing into a car full of teens if the shooter weren't a middle-aged white dude who just wanted those damn kids to turn down their damn hip-hop.


In case you haven't found it already, here's a surprisingly entertaining blog on this topic: Yo, Is This Racist? 

Thursday, February 13, 2014

I Get So Happy When You Wish Me Dead

A couple years ago I converted some aging cassette tape recordings of my early-nineties band, Balance, to digital files. After letting those float in the recesses of my hard drive, I finally decided to compile and sort. I'll eventually put together a selection of the best recordings of the best songs, but for now I've posted one song, with lyrics, on Youtube.

We were called Balance over my objection. I wanted a more interesting name, but it was the guitarist's band before I joined and apparently again years after I left. But we were pretty good, I think. If there was a weak link, it was my struggle to find my voice in the p.a. system when things got loud. I sang, wrote lyrics, wrote some of the music, and played acoustic guitar. Kevin Otis was our virtuoso electric guitar player--sometimes a little too virtuosic for the good of the songs, in my opinion. I'd keep that to myself if I hadn't told him just that at the time, and if I didn't know he passed away several years ago. I found his obituary online, and it still fills me with sadness to know he's gone. He was very talented, but more importantly he was a kind, gentle, decent human being. I loved him and loved working with him, despite artistic differences that ultimately split up the band.

Over the years I've lost my memory of the last names of our other band members. We had a great, heavy-footed drummer named Brad, and a rich, melodic bass player whose name I think/hope/believe was Matt. It's so strange how this information has fallen away. I'd love to get back in touch, if they're out there.

Anyway, we played at least one weekend a month at the Deluxe Tavern in Colorado Springs for a couple years. We played other gigs around town, too, and once or twice up in Denver. We got our start opening for The Auto-No and another band called Squishin' Bugs, but soon enough Jeremy, the music booker at The Deluxe, recruited us for their rotation of bands. We played every fourth weekend, all original songs (with the occasional punked out cover of Pete Seeger's "Where Have All the Flowers Gone"). Those were good times.

Here's one of the songs that I wrote on my guitar. Of course, everyone else wrote their own parts. Usually songs started with me or Kevin, but our best sounds probably came from tunes laid down by our bass player. Lyrics were my strength, melodies weren't. Here goes nothing:

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

In Defense of Woody Allen

In light of the disturbing testimony in "An Open Letter from Dylan Farrow," I put together a short film in the style of Woody Allen, wherein I offer every single argument I can come up with in defense of the writer/director/actor/comedian/clarinetist. It's not what you think.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Dachsund Orientalism

While in Texas over the holidays, we came upon these two German dogs committing an act of blatant cultural appropriation: 

They may have mastered the surface appearance of yin and yang, but I doubt they possess a true, deep, meaningful understanding of the concept. 

The Only Life You Could Save

A thing I learned over winter break is that one can be a good parent for almost a decade, give care along the way to a spouse and children with health challenges, teach at a major university for seven years, be trusted by that university to lead groups of students on educational trips abroad, earn the most advanced degree in one's family, win awards while doing so, publish many stories and a book, and do a bunch of other things that might arguably indicate competence and reliability, yet still be deemed insufficiently reliable to handle commonplace responsibilities within one's extended family. I won't go into details here, because griping isn't my point. It's this:

Sometimes, in some people's eyes, you may never win, never succeed, never stand on your own; so it's crucial not to view yourself through those eyes.


This poem is on my mind:

"The Journey"
by Mary Oliver.

One day you finally knew 
what you had to do, and began, 
though the voices around you 
kept shouting 
their bad advice—
though the whole house 
began to tremble 
and you felt the old tug 
at your ankles. 
"Mend my life!" 
each voice cried. 
But you didn't stop. 
You knew what you had to do, 
though the wind pried 
with its stiff fingers 
at the very foundations, 
though their melancholy 
was terrible. 
It was already late 
enough, and a wild night, 
and the road full of fallen 
branches and stones. 
But little by little, 
as you left their voices behind, 
the stars began to burn 
through the sheets of clouds, 
and there was a new voice 
which you slowly 
recognized as your own, 
that kept you company 
as you strode deeper and deeper 
into the world 
determined to do 
the only thing you could do—
determined to save
the only life you could save.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Insomnia. In. Som. Ni. A.

I turned 45 yesterday. Or was it today? It's after midnight now--in fact, it's after two--so my birthday ended a while ago. A couple days ago I was still young, but somehow I feel I've lost my grip on the last threads of youth now that I'm no longer 44. And I gather insomnia is the first symptom of old age. I keep hearing music, distant music almost drowned out by the wind and the passing trains. Now and then the music swells, and it's loud enough to make me think about it but not loud enough to make me do anything. Then it's gone, as the heater kicks on or the wind shakes the big tree above our house. I don't recognize the songs. They're probably country pop rock crap. I'm tired. An ice storm is coming. I surrender to this night.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

A Somber Meditation on Human Frailty

Just kidding. Kind of. I made a short, silent, black and white film with my kids a couple weekends ago, when the leaves began to fall. It took a few days to edit and a few more days for Dostoevsky to compose and record the original soundtrack. Now here it is. Ta-dah!

May we humbly suggest you use the HD setting? Enjoy. 

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

On Health and Health Care in the United States

Health care should not be a private commodity bought and sold for profit. No one in the country with the highest per capita medical expenditure in the world should go without full, equal access to health care. Health should not be apportioned by wealth or class or race or gender or ability or anything other than humanness. Every person in this country should have access to the same high level of care. We have the means. We have the resources. We lack only the will.

I intended to write more, but I've said all I needed to say.

Friday, September 6, 2013

What the Fox Does Not Say

Today I made a poem as a small (probably even feeble, certainly ridiculous) protest against the Big New Thing on the Internet. Here you go:

Thursday, August 29, 2013

No Album Left Behind

As usual, I don't have time for a full write-up, but I want to put this out there on the off chance other forty-something, eighties/nineties alternative rock fans might be interested. I've made some very pleasant music listening this year by going back to albums I had dismissed when they were originally released. These were records by some favorite artists (Depeche Mode, New Order, and R.E.M., for example), which somehow didn't measure up--and which, in turn, I didn't pay much attention to because I was wrapped up in other new music. Maybe these albums struck me as sell-outs (New Order's Technique), pandering (Depeche Mode's Music for the Masses), or simply sub-par efforts from bands I loved (R.E.M.'s New Adventures in Hi-Fi). In any case, I'm sure I missed others.

So, with the full understanding that many fans weren't as fickle (or, more likely, as committed to finding the obscure and undiscovered out on the cutting edge--which makes it sound as lame as it probably was), I'll list a few albums I dismissed at the time but which I suspect might yield up some unexpected joy years later:

1. U2's Zooropa - I tried hard to like this one, but it felt wildly inconsistent and made for a poor follow-up to Achtung Baby--which, itself, took a few lunges in directions I didn't like.

2. The Cure's Wish - This album didn't bother me so much as it struck me as a pale echo of Disintegration. This album has three great songs I still love and listen to from time to time ("Doing the Unstuck," "Friday I'm in Love," and "A Letter to Elise"), but I bet there's more to be found here.

3. New Model Army's Strange Brotherhood - NMA released this when I was more or less disengaged from the music world. I had left a career in arts & entertainment journalism largely out of disgust with the shoddy way I was treated after breaking up with my newspaper's advertising director, whom I had dated for all of nine months. (Those publishers knew who buttered their bread.) Anyway, by 1998 I was fully engaged in a meditation practice, flying out to L.A. for teachings by the Dalai Lama, and becoming a special education teacher. And after the hit-and-miss album For the Love of Hopeless Causes, I wasn't sure NMA had much left in the tank. I was wrong, and their albums this century have proven consistently strong. I'm betting Strange Brotherhood will be my favorite from this list. Just a hunch.

4. Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds' The Boatman's Call - A couple songs ("Into My Arms" and "People Ain't No Good") stuck with me, but for some reason I didn't engage with the rest of this quiet album. In the ruthless and regrettable practice of culling my collection, I eventually traded in the CD, but I regret letting this one go. I read a review somewhere recently that named this one of the Bad Seeds' best. I should probably double-check.

5. New Order's Republic - Yes, by this time I had entirely tuned out, my interest in New Order was gone. If I played Republic even once, all the way through, I don't remember it now. I wasn't even listening to the older stuff in the mid-nineties, aside from the occasional encounter with Low-Life on long car rides. My hopes aren't high for this one, but I bet there's a track or two or three that I'll appreciate (re)discovering.

And finally, dear reader, a question: What are your left-behind albums--the ones you once ignored but which you've gone back to years later and found treasures you overlooked the first time through? 

Friday, August 23, 2013

The Last Few Minutes before the Bomb

Hot off the digital presses, my chapbook, The Last Few Minutes Before the Bomb, can now be downloaded to your Kindle, your phone, your computer, your whatever. If my first book functions as a debut album of sorts then this one's the follow-up EP. It contains ten stories, eight of which are flash fictions. Some are as recent as this year, and one comes from the late 1990's. There's also a story told entirely in dialogue ("Black Cat Leaves White Balloon") and a longer (but not terribly long) short story--the one that gives this little book its title. For now it's listed at $2.99, probably through the end of the year. Then we'll set the price at $5.

We're also now selling the story "Plantlife" on its own for 99 cents. It first appeared in Magnificent Mistakes then in the Pink Narcissus Press anthology of feminist science fiction, Daughters of Icarus. I'm especially excited about the cover image Matthew Kaney (one of my favorite people!) put together for "Plantlife" (on the right). He and I have worked off and on to make a graphic-novel-style adaptation of the story, but our schedules haven't aligned. He's done several great drawings and even a cool storyboard for the project, so it felt not quite right that we never saw it through. Seeing his cover on this little e-book makes me smile.

So that's it: new chapbook, new/old single story, cool cover. Just thought you should know.

Thanks for reading.