08/17/2017

First off, please consider donating to The Southern Poverty Law Center here:

 https://donate.splcenter.org/sslpage.aspx?pid=463 

It's a concrete thing you can do today to assist in fighting White Nationalists, Nazis, Fascists, and hate groups in general. They also have resources on their site for getting involved in other ways. I personally feel like I haven't done enough to be a part of the solution and so I'm changing that. Maybe you feel like that too and want some guidance.   

In album land, I can't stop writing pop songs. It started as a joke and now the floodgates have opened. It's me, so the lyrics are mostly sad still though now they sound happy, which I think is a sign I'm growing as an artist. This week I also took baseline acoustic measurements of the new room using a computer program (I'm rereading this - it's hard to believe but the phrase computer program might be outdated) called Room EQ Wizard and a specialty measurement mic with a ruler flat frequency response. After a 45 minute struggle involving a strawberry-banana smoothie, a laser level, and a plumb bob, I was able to arrange my trusty speakers and the measurement mic in the equilateral triangle that we needed to test. I'll post the data once I'm sure the measurements are all valid, and then you'll be able to see just how insanely bad the untreated room sounds. There are a handful of peaks well over 20 db in the bass frequencies - the strongest being at 59 hz - and this will make anything I try to mix in this room sound like hot garbage. We'll fix it. Maybe. Hopefully.

The songs. This morning I pulled up an old voice memo for a song that might make it on the new record called "She's a Theorist." I recorded a part a few months ago that I forgot about, and that I quite like, but it sounds like my guitar was in an alternate tuning when I did it, so... there goes that. I'll try to reverse engineer what the hell I'm playing tonight - this is something I'm happy to do honestly. I get good results sometimes by forcing myself out of my comfort zone this way. Being incredibly unorganized and prone to procrastination is a good hack for challenging yourself from the past. Who needs Brian Eno's Oblique Strategies when I have my own unintelligible notes from March? You might also say that's a profoundly unhealthy justification for the way I live. There's no way of knowing. I'll let you know what the data ends up telling us about the room, and then we'll start designing and building stuff. Hang in there everyone except Nazis. 

It Is Happening Again

I’ve been recording my own music since I was about fourteen. I didn’t record any music I thought was actually good until roughly 3 years ago. So that’s, what, a decade of producing shit for zero reward, financial, artistic, or otherwise? Was it worth it? Who’s to say? There are worse ways to spend ten years. What I can say is that, vocationally, it feels like the only thing I really want to do, and it might be the only thing I’m good at. That last part is especially terrifying because I’m not that sure I’m actually good at it. 

Why say this now, and on the internet of all places? Well, I’m starting the process of making a new album again - this will be the third time. The first record, Mood Swing (2014), is essentially unlistenable for me now but I love it for what it is. The second one, Vowel Sounds (2016), came out last December, and is the first thing I’ve released that I can unequivocally say I’m proud of, though it has its warts. The growth and death of my affection for a particular set of songs is part of my process - I’m grateful to have finally figured that out. I’ve quit taking it out on the songs themselves!

The third record has a name. It’ll be called “A New Awareness of the Lumbar Spine.” Most of the songs are already written, though I’m sure some new ones will show up as I start recording. This time around, I’m going to do something I didn’t do with the other records - document the process. As I write this, a voice in my head is already making fun of me. Who gives two shits about your process? The honest answer is me and a few others? I think? I hope? And in the interest of full transparency, part of this project is an attempt to, at long last, figure out a social media strategy. I’ve reached a point in my career where it’s time to put together a solid proof of concept, the concept being of course that people enjoy listening to what I make. That involves day trading in attention and in 2017 the attention is on social media. I need to quit writing this particular task off as an unfortunate reality of being a musician today, embrace it instead, and try to apply some creativity to it. You'll get to watch me struggle with that.

To anyone even remotely familiar with the business of marketing their own art, the general atmosphere of self-doubt is palpable here. How the heck are you supposed to defend the market value of something that is ideally a small piece of your soul without, you know, dying inside? We’ll attempt to figure that out. We’ll attempt to figure it all out in the coming months, because I think I finally understand that all I will ever do is attempt to figure it all out. 

So I’m going to start almost at the beginning. All I have are lyrics and recordings of mumbles on my phone. That’s how I begin songs: I mumble different parts into my phone. The lyrics will often start coming at the same time. First a melody, then maybe a bass line, then some words. I will often whisper instructions to my future self ie. “something up high that goes like this: doo doo doo, doo DOO.” I whisper because this is usually taking place in an airport or a Waffle House or something and I don't want to upset people. We’re also in a new house, so I’m going to document the construction of what will eventually be my fifth home studio. We’re going to go through the creation of the demos. We’ll rip the demos apart, we’ll put them back together. We’ll find out that half the songs are garbage then we’ll learn that they actually weren’t garbage. We’ll work on an arrangement for weeks only to learn that the original iPhone memo is better. We’ll wrack our brains trying to figure out why that's almost always the case. Album artwork! Crippling self doubt. Why doesn't the snare sound good? We’ll have a grand old time.  

Goblin Sword Review

Goblin Sword is a game on the iPad in which you play as a small blue haired person who fights various otherworldly creatures in an attempt to rid your realm of their nefarious presence. While I've been willfully avoiding real life for a few days, playing Goblin Sword has been my primary activity. I thought it might be fun to review it. 

The gameplay mechanics of Goblin Sword are simple and satisfying. You can jump, move left and right, and swing a variety of weapons you collect as you advance through the game. In random clay pots throughout the game's many levels, you can find small glowing orb things that let you access your weapon's special abilities for a limited time. These special abilities help you kill the weird shit you encounter, like the pig knights for example, which are literally pigs dressed in medieval armor and are a big pain in the ass. 

Your primary objective in each level is simply to reach the end of it. There are however, other tasks for you to complete. Chief among these additional tasks are 1) finding two treasure chests and 2) three blue crystals in each level. The treasure chests hold money and special items, and the crystals open up secret levels once you've collected all of them in a given world. There are also a bunch of side quests to complete like finishing a level without killing any enemies, or blowing out a bunch of torches that are scattered throughout the game. These side missions are handed out by I guess your in-game grandpa? He stands in your house and doesn't help at all, which is irritating.

Visually, Goblin Sword nails the pixelated style of classic side scrolling action games, which is one of the reasons it's so hard to put down. There is a satisfying nostalgia to the presentation, and playing through the game feels like coming home in some respects. But what actually makes this thing so hard to put down for me? Simple: the illusion of progress. In the last stage I found a secret door guarded by a guy in brown pants who wanted 5000 I guess goblin dollars to get past the door. The room behind the door contained a treasure chest with a bad ass sword named "Katar" in it; its special ability engulfs you in flames so you can kill green goo blobs and spear wielding fox monsters just by running into them. I'm not exaggerating when I tell you that collecting this sword was my biggest accomplishment of the past three weeks. It's so fucking cool. 

Maybe you think that's depressing. Maybe you're right. But what's the difference between illusory victories within two different, made-up paradigms? Six of one, half-dozen of the other right? If I were to make $10,000 trading pork futures, my "family" would be "impressed." But express pride in having killed many pork based creatures dressed in chain mail with a cool whip thing you found in the Shadow Temple, and you'll get nothing but derision. That our money is worth anything is just a lie we all agree upon. Will anybody remember my late night heroics against the fire demon in the Ancient Ruins? Will anybody remember the vanity plate on your certified preowned BMW, Kevin? What if my fellow Goblin Sworders and I agree that our Goblin Dollars ARE worth something, if only just to us? I can't hold my Katar in my hand, but that doesn't mean the fullness of spirit it engenders in me is fake. Right? Anyone? 

With tight gameplay mechanics, and a satisfying progression in difficulty, Goblin Sword is a can't miss game for fans of the classic arcade side-scrollers of yesteryear. Its accessible gameplay and spot-on visuals put Goblin Sword amongst the very best iOS games. 4.5/5. 

Sock Anxiety

Today I did something I haven't done in a long time: I bought new socks. Presently, there is an entire portion of my underwear drawer (the entirety of which is a wasteland I've lost any semblance of control over and is a topic unto itself) dedicated to single socks which have lost their counterpart and are essentially useless. There's maybe...ten, fifteen of these solo socks? These are socks I've carried with me from apartment, to house, to house, to house. They complicate my morning, quite literally, every day, as they obscure my view of functional pairs of socks, and prolong what ought to be an easy and mechanical process. Why? That I've held onto these socks is but one expression of an aspect of my personality I'm beginning to understand more clearly. I attach symbolic significance to objects in my life. Maybe that makes me a hoarder? It's almost certainly fertile psychological ground for hoarder-like behavior.  

I also have a collection of obsolete and broken electronic devices I plan to someday mount in a shadow box and hang on a wall. Thought: the samsung flip phone I used throughout high-school and my freshman year of college was as much a part of my life as the journals I wrote in. Why keep one and discard the other just because the phone gets replaced and refreshed in a defined cycle and the journal never will? The socks are the same. Some of these socks were gifts. I have a particular grey sock with pink stripes that I love; I remember precisely where and in what mood I was when I purchased those socks. I now just have the one. Their utility erased, is there not something left in them worth holding onto? My girlfriend says maybe we can make rags out of those single socks, thus extending their lives, wringing the last drops of usefulness from them. Maybe they could be sewn into a sweater and warm me again as they used to? Probably not. 

Why all the fuss? I'm being honest here: I have real anxiety about these socks and socks in general, the chaos of it all. I'm exhausted by the Sisyphean task of maintaining order in the underwear drawer, and weary of placing my faith in new socks only to be disappointed by a stray thread or a weird stitch. 

I'm in awe of people who maintain ruthless control over these aspects of their lives. I daydream about what Jony Ive's closet must look like: black t-shirts, sensible trousers. When one t-shirt gets a bit tattered, it's discarded and replaced with an identical one. Remove the distractions, streamline the activity of getting to the point. 

I've been told, many times, that I'd feel better if I de-cluttered my life. If I were to rid myself of the many useless objects I'm stubbornly attached to, maybe I'd feel better, calmer, and happier in my home. Maybe I'd be more productive? Who knows? If the only thing standing between me and a clean, brushed aluminum life were laziness, I'm confident I'd have overcome that laziness by now. There is something deeper, and perhaps more worrisome at play here. To some degree, I've wrapped bits of myself in these objects - like Voldemort and his Horcruxes - only instead of life essence, I've preserved in these objects tiny access points to memories and feelings. These objects form a sort of messy constellation around me, and by studying that constellation I'm able to locate my past, present, and future. These things keep the ship pointed due north. 

They're just socks you say, it's only a flip phone. Listen, you're right. You're right! I'm growing here. I bought the new socks. I'm throwing out the old ones, or making them into rags, whatever makes more sense. These new socks are great, very comfortable, and I got them for a great price. I folded them into piles and stacked them in the underwear drawer. They immediately fell over. A bead of sweat formed on my brow. The cycle continues.