Month: March 2013

Being a musician made me not like music

I don’t know if I’ve ever been someone who gets lost in the music.  When I’m playing it I might.  When I’m in the crowd I don’t.

I’ve been playing music for about 20 years now, ever since high school.  It’s never come naturally to me.

I can’t remember what got me into playing music.  I never had lessons growing up.  It was some combination of liking punk rock and wanting to be a punk rocker.  It was about my identity as much as it was loving the actual sound.

Learning to actually play has always been a challenge.  My voice is naturally pretty flat, and to this day I’m not good at finding the key, or telling if my guitar is out of tune (and actually tuning my guitar if it is out of tune).  I don’t have fast fingers, so when I play guitar I have to account for that.

But I am good at analyzing things.   So all these years I’ve been listening to the music that I like and trying to understand what makes it work.  I’ve been watching performers I like (performing also doesn’t come naturally) and trying to understand how they do what they do.  And I work hard when I need to.  And with music, I’ve always needed to.  The fact that music is a challenge has made me stay with it.

But it can make being a listener a chore.  Rather than just enjoying things, I am thinking about how they relate to what I do, and how I can incorporate things I like.

And it also means that music I don’t get is music I don’t bother with.  I don’t get the scales and time signatures that Jazz musicians use.  So I don’t like Jazz.  Listening to Jazz for me is like listening to an audio book in a language I don’t understand.

The music I love the most now is music I can play myself- old country songs, old rock and roll songs, punk songs.  Loudly singing Sin City or Streets of Bakersfield or even, ahem, D-I-V-O-R-C-E is about the only time I am in the moment and really love music.

And I love music that I can imagine myself playing but is enough outside of my own life experience that I wouldn’t- pop music, hip-hop.  I love that I can listen to a rapper, because I understand rap, but know that I’ll never be a rapper.

I wonder if other people are like this.  If artists go to museums and think- you know, I could fix that painting.  Or wow, I wish I had thought of that, I think I’ll head home and go work on my own art instead of hanging around here.   Or if novelists can’t read novels without taking notes.


Things that make me feel less bad about MY parenting

So after the Newtown massacre people* were speculating Adam Lanza’s mom maybe bought guns to protect herself from Adam.  Nope:

Exhibit #612 – One (1) holiday card containing a Bank of America check #462 made out to Adam Lanza for the purchase of a C183 (Firearm)**, authored by Nancy Lanza.

Good work Nancy.

In all seriousness, what the fuck.  I’m tired of this.

After the shooting people were like “we need mental health treatment!  institutionalize these people!”  Really?  You think Nancy Lanza would have just laid down her guns and let the feds walk in and take her crazy son?  Fuck no.  That’s probably why she was buying guns in the first place.

*what people?  I don’t remember.  Probably just some internet commenters.

**Apparently the cops made a typo and this was a CZ83


Non Fiction

If this place makes you cry come on baby stay a while – B Side Part 1

I was so fucking stoked on moving to pacific beach with satanic panic.  My previous year and a half had been spent living in more nondescript parts of San Diego.  The first was College Area, which is the area surrounding SDSU, and is over run with keggers, greek misogyny, and women who wore platform sandals, pants made of stretchy black fabric and a pastel halter top.  It was a great introduction to life outside of the valley but not my cup of tea.  I liked getting high not drunk,  and while the parties were large and loud I could never stomach alcohol and had only taken up weed when my social circle dissolved after high school.  My involvement at these parties was that of a high spectator, marveling/judging the ridiculous exploits of youth newly emancipated from the watchful eye of their well meaning parents.  It was a lot of fun to watch, but I never felt like I was part of it.  I moved out of the house I was renting at the time and a month later my roommates were evicted.

I spent summers at home in the valley working with my dad, so the next school season I moved into a one bedroom apartment with two of my friends.  One was a fledgling rap-reggae artist who was way into bob marley and rastafari (probably for “the sacraments”) and the other was my long time friend who made an art form of a) convincing his parents to pay his way through life and b) convincing women that, despite his absence of gainful employment, he was a worthwhile fuck.  By all accounts he was an excellent lay that I imagine the women would later look fondly back upon as their experimental phase.

The apartment was in Northpark, which to me was the ghetto and to anyone from a ghetto was a nice place.  In my defense I do remember a night my two roommates and I huddled in fear in the corner under the bar opposite the kitchen after we heard gunfire across the street followed by someone running through our courtyard pursued by another person who let off two rounds in front of our window.  Needless to say we were high, so after twenty minutes of wide eyed silence, grins turned to uncontrollable laughter and excited conversations common to the sterility afforded affluent tourists who believe they have just had and authentic experience.  I lived by myself for a short time in college area again where I remember rekindling my mostly dormant friendship with Satanic panic.  Living alone proved to be lonely.  I had a long distance girlfriend an 18 inch double bubble bong and I joined the swim team in attempt to reach for something familiar.  The relationship didn’t last, the bong broke, and I wasn’t the swimmer I had once been.  I went home for the summer.

When Satanic Panic and I decided to move in together I was over the moon.  He was one of my best friends from high school, we were both mediocre skaters (I more so than he), and we were going to live near the beach.  I had resolved to quit school for a semester and see what I could do in the working world free of the responsibilities of school.  I got a job at an adult bookstore.  It paid two dollars over minimum wage, a commission, and paid weekly.  I had paid sick and vacation time, and a fucking retirement program.  The gross little apartment located too far from anything of pacific beach notoriety didn’t phase my happiness.  In those first four months I had plenty of money from one week to the next, went skating every chance I got, and lost my virginity to a girl I had been crushing on for two years.  I had no idea how fucked up I would feel about my life by the time this next school year was over.

Book Review: Red Mars

Red Mars by Kim Stanley Robinson

I loved this book.  I don’t know if it’s all the cool photos from the Mars Rover that I’ve been looking at lately:

Mars Rover


But I’ve had a major thing for near future space writing. And Mars in particular.  Kim brings Mars to life in this book and it’s awesome.

I kind of agree with Joachim’s* criticism of Kim here about how Kim would jump between characters. I did find it jarring at first.

Kim does a great job of tying together a lot of different aspects of how a Mars colony might look both culturally and technologically.  There’s discussion of the ethical considerations of terraforming, of what a mars society created entirely by scientists would be like.  Of issues like emigration and how a successful Mars colony would affect people still on Earth.

Most of these are things I’ve never really thought about – would it be right to turn Mars into a second Earth, assuming you could?  I don’t know.  Would we just end up wrecking it once we finally made it liveable?  Most likely!  Would we be able to escape all the prejudices that we have here on Earth, by moving to another planet?  Doubt it.

But it’s interesting to think about.  Or not.  I admit I don’t have much room in my brain for big questions like these at this point in my life.  I just like imagining going on a cool space adventure to another planet.  And since things like “warp drive” sound much too outlandish, I enjoy this kind of book.

That photo up there?  It looks like home.  I love the desert and Mars is the desert to end all deserts.  I wish I could go there someday.  I guess I’ll just have to imagine that I can.

*Joachim does a really cool Sci-Fi blog, if you haven’t been there you should check it out.


If this place makes you cry come on baby stay a while Part III

Meth Heads Upstairs

There was a family of four living upstairs from us.  They were a husband and wife with a son of about 4 and a daughter of around 6.

I don’t know for sure what drugs there were on, but they most definitely were on something.  There were numerous loud fights between the parents or the mother and her mother, sometimes the police were called.  More than once a helicopter was flying over our building.

The kids were pretty nice, considering what their lives must have been like.  They’d often play in the concrete area between our building and the neighboring building.

After Protolexithymic moved out I lived there for another six months or so, first by myself and then with another friend.

Towards the end of my stay there the upstairs neighbors finally were evicted.  The clearly had nowhere to go so for three days they piled their stuff right on the concrete right outside our door.  They camped there with their kids.  It was one of the saddest sights I’d ever seen, but I didn’t feel comfortable having them stay in my apartment either.  I don’t know where they went after that.

I moved out of that place soon after another friend of mine moved in.  His mother looked at the cracked plaster and declared the place unsafe and refused to pay rent if he stayed there.  We moved to a different place in La Jolla and that’s a whole different set of stupid stories.

Pitbull and Christina

Was anyone asking for this song?  I wasn’t.

This song is Black Eyed Peas level  pandering.  That A-Ha song was a classic for what it is, which doesn’t mean I like it or need to be reminded of it.   In fact, I can’t stand much of anything from the 80’s anymore.

Mr Worldwide runs down the list of all the things he must say in a song- referring to himself as “Mr Worldwide; saying “dahlin”; saying something in Spanish; chuckling to himself.  The only staple he leaves out is his Al Pacino “HA!”  Someone must have forgotten to remind him to “HA!” at something.

I’ve long made peace with the fact that Christina will never live up to the expectations I had for her.  When she first came out I figured a woman who could sing well and seemed fairly grounded would go on to have a long, interesting career.  Instead she’s done mostly weird crap.  I’d go down the list, but pretty much no one needs reminding of all the odd careers choices she’s made.

You know what’s fucked up?  I just went to search for her name and Christina Aguilera Weight comes up first on the list of Google auto-fills.  I suppose I’m not helping by putting that into this post, but seriously people, get a fucking life people.  Leave her looks alone.

But songs like this are on the better side of what she’s done.  She’s not over-singing or going crazy with the melisma.  I actually appreciated her appearance on Moves Like Jagger for this reason- she was just doing some good singing.  Don’t get me wrong, anything by Maroon 5 tends to get annoying fast, but I liked what she did with her part of the song.  Maybe she should stick to doing guest appearances.

If this place makes you cry come on baby stay a while Part II

Hopping around on crutches didn’t do much for my game and I gained a lot of weight during that time.  Protolexithymic had a girlfriend and if I’m being honest I was a little bit jealous.  No fun being lonely.

I was also a bit of a prick about his other activities.  I was a straight-edge punk rocker, which was in fashion to some degree at the time and wasn’t the worst, but pretty much everyone who chooses that path is a little sanctimonious about it.  I gave him a hard time sometimes and that was stupid.


Natalie was a girl who went to my brother’s high school (my brother decided he didn’t like our town’s HS so he went to the neighboring one).  She was an unconventionally pretty girl who would not shut up and had no moral compass.

I may have been put off by her drug use or I may have just been a prude, but for whatever reason I was never into her but I did enjoy her company during high school even if it meant me driving her around everywhere because she had no car.  It was always an adventure hanging with Natalie.  Most of those adventures sucked, but I like a good story so I put up with it.

Until college.  Freshman year she calls me up and screams “We’re coming to visit you in your dorm!”  I should have said no.  She shows up with her boyfriend, who was at the time a member of a prominent San Diego punk band, and they’re both whacked out on what she says is “horse tranquilizers from Mexico.”  She keeps trying to hug me and tell me she loves me, her boyfriend is giggling, she’s got holes in her pants and her bush was poking out… it turned into a big scandal amongst the nerds who lived in my dorm.

I didn’t see her much after that until one day when we moved to PB she calls up and says she wants to come visit.  I talked this over with Protolexithymic and we both agree this is probably a bad idea BUT we’re also both too polite to say no.

And it was a bad idea.  It was fucking awful having her around and finally one night we’re all out at a party and we (I don’t remember if Protolexithymic was a part of this, I’m going to say that he wasn’t, because he’s a bit nicer than me) leave Natalie there.  I just couldn’t take it anymore.  I drive home and lock the door, hoping to be rid of her forever.

She arrives at our place at around three in the morning and starts knocking on the window saying “come on let me in.”  It was cold so I let her in.  She moved out the next day and that’s the last I saw of her.

To be continued