Well I Said I Wanted to Be a Writer

Well I Said I Wanted to Be a Writer

Jun 26

I’m still struggling to keep up with the paid writing.  I know I sound like I’m on endless repeat about this, but I do think I’m getting slowly better at it.  It’s just not showing up in my productivity.  I have two hard dealines, and I have been pretty much ahead of them (Monday and Thursday mornings), but those are my longest-continuing assignments, going on three years, so they’re sorta built into my consciousness.  I’m kind of always thinking about them, the way I always thought about lesson plans while I was a teacher.  They’re just always there at the edges of my mind, and they move in for attention when a good opportunity presents itself.  If I don’t have at least a mental outline of my content within a day of the deadline, I have to sit down and sketch something out, but that almost never happens now.  By the time I sit down to write, I almost always know what I’m going to write.

The second gig is different.  I tried reading fifty articles’ worth of content so I could sit down and bang out the fifty artciles, but that was far too big a bite.  I found myself having to re-read everything before I wrote, which adds to my time and lowers my per-hour take.  My current pace puts my hourly pay at like $3.50 an hour.  I knew I was going to be underpaid when I took the gig because I needed the work.  I was hoping to make it iron out to seven bucks an hours, which is still doable.  I’m just not there yet.

The quality of the work is at least something I’m fairly proud of.  I’m wondering if I need to sacrifice some of that quality for the sake of speed.  My primary gig says no.  We want it to be as good as it can be.  My secondary gig says maybe.  I feel horrible for not being faster with this work.  I am going to decide by the end of this week if I want to spend $200 for a month of time at a co-working space.  I do so much better when I have a place to go, and if I don’t have to worry about spending (additional) money, it will be a stress-lessener.  I can bring a lunch, my water flask, and a snack, and not worry about taking up a table at the cafe without putting enough in its registers.  It might be worth a trial run.

In my downtime, which I have already admitted is generally tainted with the awareness of my stealing it from time I should be getting caught up with the work, I’ve squeezed in a few movies, including (finally) Mean Girls, which I know has been a must-see for a person of my tastes.  It was about as good as I expected (review soon), and in many ways not as good as it could have been.  One of my biggest takeaways was how easy it has been to forget what a talented, magnetic screen presence Lindsay Lohan was before she became more known for her antics.  I’m going to include that in my review.  I probably won’t include my also being impressed by how Amanda Seyfried manages to be the most beautiful thing in a movie loaded with beautiful women.

I mentioned some time ago that I’ve had to rebuild my iTunes library (the songs are still in the folders, but they don’t show up in my library until I re-add them).  I took a break from it and then went back where I left off (somewhere in the Es), and then went back to the very beginning, to hit every album from every artist to make sure the years, genres, song titles, and album artwork were exactly right.  One of the worst things about the internet has been how easy it is for bad info to become canonical.  With digital music, it seems that whoever gets to the database first gets to decide things like captial letters, genres, and other stuff in the ID3 tags, and most of it’s just wrong.  I can have this kind of sloppiness in lots of areas of my life, but I can’t have it in my music.

So it’s been a long, slow process, especially since I’m determined not only to get the metainfo correct, but also to make sure everything’s been listened to once since its re-addition to the library.  I’ll take a few detours as my craving dictates (as with the Pink Floyd list I made this week), so I’m not a slave to the process.  As of this morning, I’m on Blink-182.  Got through my Blind Guardian collection yesterday; taking a detour right now with Devin Townsend’s <i>Epicloud</i> stuff (including the bonus <i>Epiclouder</i> material), and then it’ll be the Royal Hunt album I crowdfunded a year ago but for some reason never claimed the download of until yesterday.

Enough procrastinating.  Back to the grind.

The Ten Best Pink Floyd Songs

The Ten Best Pink Floyd Songs

Jun 24

Ten Best Pink Floyd Songs
I like this list because unlike similar bands with large discographies, Pink Floyd can say that their best work is the stuff that gets played on the radio. I like a lot of their deeper cuts, but I have to admit that their very best work is familiar even to casual listeners of FM radio.

1. “Comfortably Numb” — from The Wall (1979)
Some of my favorite slow guitar soloing (especially in the fadeout), and probably Pink Floyd’s best lyrics, which certainly plays a part in my liking this song.

2. “Another Brick in the Wall (Part 2)” — From The Wall (1979)
Anyone who knows only one Pink Floyd song knows this one. I used to dislike the slow disco beat, but now I love it. When I got my first cell phone ten years ago (or however long ago it was), the first ringtone I got, back when you had to purchase ringtones, was a tinny, electronic sound of the riff from this song. This is my favorite Pink Floyd guitar solo, too.

3. “Wish You Were Here” — From Wish You Were Here (1975)
Almost surely Pink Floyd’s most-covered song. Several years ago, Rodrigo y Gabriela started playing this in their concerts. Since they don’t sing, audience participation can be tricky for them to pull off, but the opening notes of this song always get their audiences excited and the audiences just sing the song while Rodrigo y Gabriela play the instruments. I’ve seen the same thing happen at late-night campfires on the beach.

4. “Welcome to the Machine” — From Wish You Were Here (1975)
“It’s all right; we know where you’ve been!” I have no idea what this song is about, but that adds to my fondness for it. I love the eeriness of this song.

5. “Brain Damage” / “Eclipse” — From The Dark Side of the Moon (1973)
It’s two songs, but they’re connected on the album, and radio stations never play them separately, so it’s no foul to count them as one song. This was my favorite song of theirs all through my high school years. I even took my senior yearbook quote from it: “You lock the door and throw away the key; there’s someone in my head, but it’s not me.” As the conclusion to one of the greatest albums of all time, it’ll always have a special place in my heart.

6. “Sheep” — from Animals (1977)
This album is kind of recent discovery for me, and this is the only song on my list that never gets played on the radio (the others get played pretty regularly). Like most Pink Floyd songs, it’s much better in context, but it does stand out on a great album as an especially mind-blowing track.

7. “Learning to Fly” — from A Momentary Lapse of Reason (1987)
I didn’t care much for this song at all when it was an MTV hit after my high school graduation — I didn’t care for the video, and still don’t. It’s grown on me in recent years, enough to move it ahead of the other really good song from this album. I really dig the rhymes at the end of the chorus: “Tongue-tied and twisted: just an earthbound misfit, I.” I also like “Ice is forming on the tips of my wings / unheeded warnings, I thought I’d thought of everything.”

8. “Hey You” — From The Wall (1979)
My love for this song comes mostly from the lyric “Hey you / don’t let them bury the light / don’t give in without a fight,” and I love the way it’s sung. End of the first verse.

9. “On the Turning Away” — From A Momentary Lapse of Reason (1987)
Probably their preachiest, most positive song. I like it anyway.

10. “Shine On You Crazy Diamond (Parts VI – IX)” — from Wish You Were Here (1973)
This whole album is just so sad.


I was sorry to leave out “Time,” which includes my favorite Pink Floyd lyrics ever (“Hanging on in quiet desperation is the English way” got me through my final two weeks of undergraduate study), “Have a Cigar,” and “Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun,” which is their best song title. I limited myself to ten, though, so of course certain favorites were going to have to be left off the list.

A High and Lonesome Sound

A High and Lonesome Sound

Feb 13

tonyIn an effort actively to seek a little more happiness, I spent some time a year ago identifying things that make me happiest. I don’t know if the three things I came up with are the whole list, but they’re a good list.

  1. Swimming at the beach
  2. Attending concerts by musicians I like
  3. …there’s a third, but I can’t remember it

Man, that number three is a bummer. I am sure I have the whole list written down somewhere. Need to find it.

So anyway. Number two. I’ve got a write-up of my concert experiences last year, but I need to find good accompanying photos, and I’ve been without my laptop for a couple of weeks because of a broken charger. I have a replacement now, so hopefully I’ll get on that soon.

tony and meI’ve missed too many shows for too many stupid reasons, including not having anyone to go with and not having enough money to go. The car situation is another huge issue and another stupid reason. Last year, I decided I’d just make it work, even if it meant instant ramen and oatmeal for a few weeks.

Although it didn’t really sustain an overall happiness I kind of hoped for, the happiness in the moments themselves (and in the post-concert glow, which lasted at least a full day afterward) was totally worth it.

This year, more of the same, I think. Finances are a bit more restrictive this year than last, but I think I can still make it work.

I’m seeing Megadeth in a couple of weeks. I’m not a huge fan, really. However, I’m a fan of the genre, and I’ve already seen two of the Big Four of thrash metal (Metallica and Slayer), so Megadeth, whose original lineup included a guy from Hawaii, seems like a must-see, if only because it sets up Anthrax as the last of the Big Four I’ll need in order to complete the set.

They’re a good band. Or they were. I’m not sure if they still are, although the lineup right now features some guys I’ve always liked from other bands, including a guitarist from Angra. I’m a little confused because my favorite album from them, Risk, is everyone’s least favorite Megadeth album. Still, the venue is good and I love a good metal show.

A month after that is Of Monsters and Men. Yeah, boy. That’s going to be a great show.

I saw Tony Trischka last weekend, and he was fantastic. This fan’s humble opinion is that he’s the second-best living banjo player on the planet (Bela Fleck is the first), so the chance to see him in the tiny studio at the local public radio station was too good to pass up. When someone is that excellent at something (almost anything!), it’s a blessing to watch him or her do it. There’s an amazing self-assured air about people like this (is it from decades of performing it in front of others?). I want that. I want to approach anything with that kind of confidence and self-awareness.

I can’t even walk to the corner without being self-conscious.

The Spirit is Willing

The Spirit is Willing

Sep 10

I saw Mistress America Wednesday afternoon and stayed awake the whole time despite choosing not to munch on anything. I’ve gotten plenty of sleep lately and didn’t think I’d have trouble with falling asleep. That turned out not to be the case: there were a few moments during the trailers where I felt myself drifting off, but once the film got rolling, it was pretty smooth sailing. Small victories. And a review of the film later.

Still working my way through my digital music collection, re-adding the songs that have been lost from my index but remain in my music folder. There used to be a keyboard shortcut in iTunes for importing the contents of a whole folder (or multiple selected folders), but in one of the updates a few years ago, they got rid of that shortcut. You can still do it, but you have to go to the file menu. It’s annoying. Also annoying is the horrifying lack of ID4 data in far, far too many of these files. I’m still kind of enjoying the task, however slow-going it is (I’m only on the Bs). I just wish there were better standards with music you purchase digitally.

Latest musical joy: the new Impellitteri album, Venom, is pretty dang good. Not very challenging, but pleasant to listen to with some of Chris Impellitteri’s mind-blowing speed on guitar. I’m turning into a fan. Also revisiting some of 2014’s discoveries, including Fallujah’s The Flesh Prevails (bliss!), The Contortionist’s Language (ecstacy!), Animals as Leaders’s The Joy of Motion (brain candy!), and of course Mastodon’s Once More ‘Round the Sun (perfection!). I also picked up the new Iron Maiden double album, The Book of Souls (their best since the Eighties!). I’ve also been listening to a Spotify playlist I made of Testament’s most-played songs on their current tour, since they’ll be here in October and I will be in the audience.

The NFL season starts Thursday with the Patriots playing the Steelers. I’m about as close to giddy about the upcoming season as I’ve been in quite a while. I’m looking for mass quantities of free mass media for my entertainment in the next few months, and football is one of the best. I’ll post my predictions for the season sometime before kickoff.

It’s 3:00 in the morning, and I expect to be pretty tired Thursday. I’m getting up early to put the last edits on my article for the day (on companies with “no firing” and “no layoffs” policies), then running a couple of errands in time to be back for the game. I may fall asleep during the game, but I’ve already set the TiVo in case that happens.

When Dream and Day Disunite

When Dream and Day Disunite

Jul 27

That’s an eleven-minute video, but just watch it, okay? Or if you must watch only a part, start from the 4:00 mark and see the cool soloing.

On an instrument-by-instrument basis, there isn’t a better rock band in the world than Dream Theater.

I’ve been boycotting Dream Theater for the past few years because the band dismissed its founding (and my favorite) member, Mike Portnoy. Someday I will come around and listen to the material with the new drummer, Mike Mangini, who by all accounts is doing quite well. I also suspect that Portnoy will be back with the band some time, maybe in the distant future, but eventually. Maybe I’ll loosen up then.

Bands change members, especially metal bands and progressive rock bands, and DT is a progressive metal band, so of course it’s doubly vulnerable. It’s been through three (excellent) keyboardists, for one thing, but the lineup had been very stable for a long time, through the band’s best stretch of albums. And I did not take kindly to the decision by the band to move on without its creative heart.

Their recorded output is enormous, and I only own a few albums and a couple of official bootlegs, so I think I’ll take this time in the interim to relax my boycott a little and fill in my collection of pre-Mangini DT.

James LaBrie, the lead singer, is probably the weakest link, and the only member of the classic lineup you wouldn’t put in the top twenty at his instrument.

Mike Portnoy is an unbelievable, versatile, expressive, thoughtful drummer. Easily one of the best, perhaps the second best in rock and roll, behind Rush’s Neil Peart.

John Petrucci is one of the underpraised guitarists. What always blows me away about his playing is how effortless hemakes it look.

I imagine that John Myung on bass guitar is, now that Portnoy isn’t in the band, the musical center of almost everything the band does. He must now the sound of DT (I wouldn’t know because I haven’t heard it!). And what a player!

And Jordan Rudess on keys is the best in the world. There was a point in the past few years where he surpassed Rick Wakeman.

Such an amazing collection of musicians. I’m thinking of them this morning because I received in the mail two official bootlegs. One is Dream Theater performing Iron Maiden’s Number of the Beast album in its entirety, live in concert, and the other is Dream Theater performing Metallica’s Master of Puppets album live in its entirety. Two amazing performances.

Stream of Consciousness: Grammys

Stream of Consciousness: Grammys

Feb 09

Performance: The quality of an AC/DC performance hinges on Brian Johnson’s ability to sound semi-close to his records, something he doesn’t always pull off. But he did it this time. Angus seemed a little lackluster, but I’m cutting him slack because he’s like seventy. I was curious about who was on rhythm guitar and it turns out it’s Stevie Young, a nephew of Angus and Malcolm, so that’s cool.

Best new artist: Please, not Iggy and not Sam. Ugh. It’s Sam. HE SUCKS! Man, would I have loved to see Bastille get that, but it’s amazing enough that Bastille was nominated.

Performance: Jessie J with Tom Jones doing “Unchained Melody.” I hate this song. I don’t have issues with the singers. I just hate that song. Fast-forwarding.

Best Pop Solo: It’s a great field. I’d vote for Taylor’s “Shake it Off.” It goes to…Pharrell for “Happy (live).” Ah well.

Performance: Miranda Lambert, “Little Red Wagon” or something like that. She’s hot, but this just isn’t my cup of tea. I’m going to let this play while I get a snack.

Best Pop Vocal: Please, anyone but Sam. Dang it.

Performance: Kanye. Kanye is a songwriting, producing genius, but he really can’t sing or rap. Pretty good performance tonight. I like this. “You’re not perfect, but you’re not your mistakes.”

Performance: Madonna. OH MY GOODNESS LOOK AT THOSE LEGS. The song isn’t great, and her singing has been better, but this performance is sizzling.

Best rock album: I already know Beck won this because I saw it on Twitter. Not a bad choice. I would rather it had gone to U2.

Best R&B Performance: Well here my prejudices show. I don’t know any of these songs. Beyonce and Jay-Z take it, and I have no meaningful comment.

Performance: Ed Sheeran with Herbie Hancock, ?uestlove, and others. Good performance. And a really good song. These guys really laid it down.

Peformance: Wow, what the heck? ELO doing “Evil Woman.” That’s a curveball I didn’t see coming. And now Ed Sheeran rejoins him and they do “Mr. Blue Sky” together. This is EXCELLENT. Geez, that really was great.

Performance: Adam Levine and Gwen Stefani. This is…well, it’s okay so far.

Performance: Hozier. Ugh. I haaaaaate this song. I’m fast-forwarding. Ah heck. I was fast-forwarding and I saw Annie Lennox. Now I have to go back and watch the whole thing. Eh. It was okay.

Best Country Album: My hormones want Brandy Clark to win this. And…Miranda Lambert. I can live with that.

Performance: Pharrell. Yeah. It’s fine.

Performance: Something about domestic violence, introduced by the President. I’m fast-forwarding over this too. It’s a bit melodramatic for me.

Performance: Katy Perry. Sorry. I like her but I can’t get into this song or this performance. This is this year’s version of last year’s same-sex marriage moment with Macklemore and Queen Latifah. I think there’s a way to pull this off in a sincere, effective way, but the Grammys haven’t found it yet.

Performance: Imagine Dragons. They were one of the buzziest bands after last year’s ceremony. This is fine.

Performance: Tony Bennett and Lady Gaga. I’ve already heard them perform this together (I think it was on Jon Stewart). Gaga basically holds the song together while Tony does his usual thing.

Performance: Usher. It’s okay.

Performance: Eric Church. Also okay.

Performance: Brandy Clark. This is more like it.

What happened to the awards?

Performance: Kanye, Rihanna, and Paul McCartney. This actually works well. I’m enjoying this.

Performance: Sam Smith with Mary J. Blige. I hate this song. I’m fast-forwarding over it.

Performance: Juanes, “Juntos.” This is kind of cool.

Album of the Year: Please, please, please. Anyone but Sam Smith. Wow, Beck. Totally unexpected.

Performance: Sia. She was a disappointment on SNL. Okay, this is bizarre but it’s really, really cool. I am not a fan of that dancing stuff she keeps employing with this album, but the singing with her face to the wall? Very neat. The stage set is cool too. And what a finish. Wow.

Song of the Year: “Stay with Me.” Bleah.

Dave Grohl reads a thank-you to David Letterman. That’s kind of cool.

Performance: Beck. With no turntables and a microphone. Is that Chris Martin singing with him?

Record of the Year: Please not Sam Smith. Suck! Aw suckity suck suck.

In Memoriam: Andrae Crouch. Pete Seeger. Big Bank Hank. Gerry Goffin. Paco de Lucia. I didn’t know about Paco and Big Bank. Gotta Google those.

Performance: Beyonce. She’s great. But this is just okay. I think the Grammys these past two years have been stricken with a bad case of the Seriousnesses.

Geez. That was a huge waste of time, and the show basically sucked. It had a few good moments, but all in all it was kind of a yawn.