My tweets of the last week:
Archives for April 2012
My tweets of the last week:
My tweets of the last week:
Stephen Gardner’s The Booking of La Gianconda is a noir-ish snapshot from a 1936 jail-house that could easily fit into the fictional universe of Chicago. It’s accompanied by an illustration by Throwaway Horse founding partner Josh Levitas.Here’s about 5% of the the total tale:
“Hey, Glass Eye,” Walters called over to me as I fiddled with the Kodak slide film. At the name, I gritted my teeth hard enough to chip an incisor. Walters never let me forget the war wound. Like I said I’m a camera guy when I’m not riding a bucket and a mop, not even a cop.
Flash Fiction doesn’t have a formal definition, but it’s about brevity and efficiency. SmokeLong’s limit is 1,000 words. While other outlets have much shorter word-count requirements, the common element is that good FF should consist of lithe, streamlined language that puts every word to good use.
I asked Josh if his accompanying flash illustration included any self-imposed restrictions: his finished picture was done in a single sitting with limited tweaks or digital post-production – all completed in less than an hour! It’s worth viewing the larger version at SmokeLong to see some detail that’s lost at the smaller size.
Kudos to Stephen and Josh for being featured, and for their evocative 1,000 words and single-hour image!
Ani DiFranco’s “Gravel” burst from my iPod headphones as I left the house this morning and transported me back to another place and time in my life.
It was 1997, and I was a new Ani DiFranco fan. After borrowing her tapes from my friends Andrea and Nava (yes: TAPES) I snapped up two of her remarkable trio of perfect LPs, Out of Range and Dilate, and waited with bated breath for April 22nd. That was when her new, live, double-CD Living in Clip would be released.
Living in Clip contained a bevy of older songs that were new to me, but one that no one had ever heard before outside of concerts: “Gravel.” It was the third track.
(This live performance is from slightly after the LiC version, but still pretty close in feel.)
While I loved the entire double-CD, it was “Gravel” that I played again and again in wonder. This was long before YouTube and prior to Ani’s major media breakthrough with Little Plastic Castle, so I had never seen a video of her playing guitar. I was already fascinated by the sound of her songs like “Out of Range” and “Shameless.”
How did she make those sounds? I had plenty of friends who played guitar, but none of them made the sounds that came out of “Gravel.” The guitar hopped and skipped, and sometimes barked. How did she do it?
(I would learn her rapid guitar attack emerged from five Nailene brand nails duct-taped to her fingers.)
I played that record into the ground in 1997 – played it so much that both my mother and I had it memorized from front to back. We saw Ani together for the first time that summer, sitting in the rafters of The Mann Music Center, watching her open for Bob Dylan.
“Gravel” also had a more immediate effect. Less than six weeks after I first heard it I begged my mother to buy me an acoustic guitar. I think she was surprised by my sudden vehemence – while I certainly asked for things, they were usually music or books. I didn’t frequently beg for anything, aside from the ability to get online – and I quickly became a whiz at that.
She relented and bought me a guitar. Who knows what she thought I would do with it, but the night we brought it home I learned to play “Dilate” from a guitar tab (a what?), and started to slowly decipher the tab for “Gravel.” By the end of the summer I could play the song all the way through.
That’s where “Gravel” took my brain this morning – fifteen years ago, almost to the week. Half my life – a half completely changed because of my fascination with this single, amazing song.
Thank you, Mr. DiFranco.
It can be so easy to set aside our own creativity to play in someone else’s sandbox.
You know what I mean. You’re doing it right now! You could be creating something of your own, something that’s been stuck inside your brain for seconds or years, but you are reading my words. You could be creating your own blog, but instead you are consuming someone else’s and forming opinions about it. Substitute any noun for “blog” – song, picture, novel, food.
(For the record, I’m happy that you are reading my blog. Please do it again sometime.)
The act of consumption is a falsely comforting sensation. It makes your time feel full. Maybe you even go beyond consumption, and create within someone else’s space. You leave a comment or write a review. It feels good to attach yourself to an already-established world of creativity. It’s a world that already has structure, character, mythology, and fans. There are people to interact with who care what you have to say. There are ready-made topics to discuss, spires to be built out of grains of sand.
It’s addictive, but is it memorable? What kind of memory does consuming and discussing other peoples’ songs or characters or story-telling or film-editing create?
Is it a good use of your time?
I remember when I loved to use time any way that I could. I’d burn the clock far into the night. I’d make a list of my 100 favorite songs, each meticulously graded across multiple criteria, and update it every day. That’s how I learned to use Excel! I’d write chapters upon chapters of a novel based on someone else’s video game world. People read it!
Ten or fifteen years on, I don’t have those files anymore. Not because I lost them. Because I didn’t care to keep them. They were sandcastles with beautiful, meticulous parapets, but I let them erode away. Hours or days I spent on something that wasn’t meant to last – that was never really mine to begin with.
Now I covet my time. I schedule every second of it, pitting priorities against each other to see what might yield a greater return. It’s no mistake I have recently spent four nights a week rehearsing music, and another one or two meeting with friends and business partners. We’re not meeting in some stranger’s sandbox. We’re meeting together, in a sandbox we share.
I love it. I love that life, but it can be taxing to create so often. Sometimes I fall back on old habits. Sometimes I’d rather spend my time in a universe that already exists, reading stories or discussing movies or covering songs.
It’s not a terrible thing. There has to be a balance. I’m not saying we should never consume or share our opinions about art. What a dull world that would be, deprived of other peoples’ creativity and connections! I’d never turn that down entirely. After all, I need something to crush on.
But, I need to tell you what I’m crushing on, too. I need to be inspired by it and create my own work for other people to crush on, so that they, too, can create art and memories – not from consuming it, but from being inspired by it.
As we head into the second quarter of this year, this gift of time before us, I hope for you and for myself that we spend our time wisely – that we spend it building memories out of something more lasting than sand.
My tweets of the last week:
(I’ve been toying with this post for a long time – at least four years – and it never felt completed before now. More synapses freed for other thinking!)
Below is my list of my top ten priorities for if I ever win a million or more dollars. This is the stuff I would hope to do within the first year of winning. Clearly, some of them would be executed differently depending on just how much the amount was, and if I could receive it as a lump sum or annuity.
1. Hire a personal financial adviser. There’s no use to winning a big sum of money if you can’t manage it well. This comes with the caveat that I would likely first talk to the lottery commission, past lottery winners, and any random rich people I can locate to create general recommendations about what to do to manage my winnings.
2. Pay off the remainder of my student loans (If it was a lot of money I’d probably also help some of my close friends get out from under their burdens.)
3. Pay off a significant chunk of our mortgage, not necessarily because it is the soundest investment, but to free up income for other priorities. Also, make some sundry home repairs, like our chimney – which I will never otherwise pay to fix. (If it was beaucoup bucks, I would buy or build a bigger house with a pool and design a detached recording studio. We’d probably keep our current house, for sentimental reasons, but also to use as a visiting bands hotel or something.)
4. Secure or invest enough money to retire comfortably at 50. With the immediate financial drains out of the way, I’d want to firm up my future. All the frivolous living post-lottery could be a lot of fun, but eventually I am going to get older, and I’d rather work a little harder now than have to relearn how to work after spending all of my easily-earned winnings.
5. Evaluate lots of band stuff. Hire a booking agent. Upgrade/repair everyone’s instruments to their personal ideals. Likely record studio EPs or full-lengths as a solo act, with both Arcati Crisis and Filmstar, as well as with my new super-secret project. (If it was mega money, I would consider if I could salary enough of my various band members at a high enough pay to make it worthwhile for us to go on occasional (or: frequent) tours.)
6. Hire a personal trainer, voice instructor, nutritionist/chef, web designer, and maid service (all things I am terrible at doing on my own). Possibly also a French instructor, see below.
7. Get one or more graduate degrees, or go back for my undergrad in music.
8. Look into some form of timeshare in Paris. (Living there full time would interrupt a lot of other bits of life, but I’d certainly love to have a way to stay there more frequently)
9. Establish scholarship funds at Masterman and Drexel, potentially for single-parent children. (If I still had piles of money to spare at this point I would probably do something really huge for Masterman, like add floors to the building or something.)
Do you notice what that list doesn’t say? Go on crazy vacations. Quit my job or alter my career. Change my entire life. Why? Because when it comes to the basics, I’m already living as if I won the lottery, and you should, too. Clearly I might wind up in a touring band or going back to school for communications, but neither of those things are so different than what I do every day right now.
Or, at least, that’s what I say now. E proclaims it to be very boring, but these are the sorts of things I dream of doing! Who knows what would happen if I actually won.