Monday, January 20, 2014

Someone told me they were sort of Post-Metal Blues...or it's only Rock n Roll but I Like It

Entry 03 - January 19th, 2014
Someone told me they were sort of Post-Metal Blues...or it's only Rock n Roll but I Like It

I have never been one to shy away from new music. In fact, some that know me well would probably argue that I can't be pulled away from it. I love discovering new sounds and finding new material, be it a brand new band still slaving away in the garage trying to get the sound just right for the local gig in town or the latest and greatest from one of the best around. It's not a hipster thing...I don't revel in the knowledge of being the first among my friends to have heard of a particular band or call upon the "well I remember when they were just getting started" card...I just never tire of finding new things to hear as the 25,000+ songs on my IPod will attest to. What this does often mean, however, is that I am listening to things that a lot of others haven't really gotten into yet and I get to share the new found tunes with those around me...which can certainly have some mixed reactions since I have extremely broad tastes and find enjoyment in virtually every genre of music that I've come across. I've always been grateful for that since it tends to mean I can still find something to listen to even if all I have is the FM radio in the car on a long trip.

That's not to say I don't have favorites. Rock and Metal have been the mainstays throughout my life, but my earliest musical memories are Neil Diamond, classic country sounds, Sesame Street , and Disney sing-a-long records. Those childhood years were great for listening and I loved to get the album sleeves out and look at the pictures and lyrics while the vinyl disc spun around and the needle traced the sounds laced within. Albums were (and still are since you can still get a lot of great new music on vinyl) these amazing pieces of art and provided an experience that the modern CD or mp3 track just doesn't compare to. Even if you get the deluxe edition with the extra packaging and pictures, it doesn't hold a candle to the double gatefold album cover of an album like Zeppelin's 'Physical Graffiti.' I could go on about the virtues of vinyl but there are others who have already done this and probably better than I could at any rate. Suffice it to say that I think the listening experience of a vinyl record absorbed through a set of high quality 'over the ear' headphones is something that should be had by everyone and you're truly missing out if you've never done this.

So while I was exposed to a lot of country music and singer-songwriter types, I remember the first time I really stopped and listened to the radio at a time when it wasn't the weekend top 40 was when I found the local college radio station on the dial. WFIT was always a great source of cool stuff in my adolescence, especially in the mid 80s. That's where I remember hearing The Police and The Clash for the first time, and the Smiths and REM. I wouldn't fully absorb all of this until I got into my highschool years but those sounds left a mark as I was drawn back to all of that and the rediscovery was equally amazing. When I was between 10 and 12 I discovered all of the late 80s pop metal bands and this led me to my Uncle's record collection. My Uncle Bruce has a fantastic rock n roll record collection and I loved when I would get the chance to go over and check them out. This exploration led to a deep love of music by some of the greatest artists to ever plug in a guitar and start a band - Led Zeppelin, The Doors, The Who, Deep Purple, KISS, Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton, Cream, Thin Lizzy - just to name a few. The line was set and I was hooked, I was now a music fan for life.

I still say music fan, and I think that's important. Sure I probably have a predominantly rock collection and it's my go-to, but I appreciate so many different things. I love to confuse Spotify; I pull up so many artists that it tries to recommend new things and sometimes I can see the smoke fizzling behind the screen as it tries to compile what it thinks I'll be interested in. I love that. I've never understood the people I've met that only seem to be able to listen to one genre of music and they can't be bothered with anything else. What happens when those records get stale and you don't want to hear that lyric for the millionth time? I think it would get boring pretty fast. So take a chance on something new and expand your horizons just a never know, you might just end up hooked yourself.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Falling Up...or the Lessening Weight of My Reflection

Entry 02 - January 13th, 2014

Falling Up...or the Lessening Weight of My Reflection

I tend to learn a lot about myself in the quiet times...the times when I'm alone with my thoughts. These are usually the times when it would probably be much better for me not to be by myself...but that's a different sort of story.  Self-reflection is something that I think is a neglected or abused process and one that most people tend to shy away from. We don't want to look too deeply at ourselves because what we find is unsettling, and it might spark memories or emotions that we aren't ready to face or work on. I tend to think this is why "Reality" TV shows are so popular, why people are obsessed with so called "celebrities" and make outlets like TMZ and E! popular web and TV destinations. We love to watch the famous people and live vicariously through them on their ride at the top. We shower them with affection and might even say worship....because we hope we can someday be in the same place or maybe they might bring us along for the rest of the trip. At some point the trip takes a detour....or hits a brick wall. That's when the real "fun" begins; because as much as we love our famous names when they're on top, we seem to enjoy it even more on their way down crashing and burning in some scandal. We revel in that misery...kick that pedestal out from beneath them with a viciousness not found anywhere else but among those here in the "civilized world.

Why? well because if everyone is focused on what Joe Famous is up to then no one is paying too much attention to my shortcomings are, and in fact it maybe even gives me a rationalization to the actions I've been taking. "At least I don't go out until 3 am and end up totally drunk and naked on the paparazzi channel like Joe Famous." "I didn't take those illegal substances like Jimmy Baseball did." "When compared to that I'm a really great guy." And so forth...and so nauseam. It's like we strive to meet this unattainable standard we set by comparing ourselves to all of these people in the spotlight, and we either puff ourselves up and get prideful or we become even more dejected because we don't make the cut. Comparing yourself to others inevitably leads to one of those two ends...and it doesn't matter who the comparisons are being made against - famous people, coworkers, friends, or family members - it makes no difference in the end. The comparisons will either insulate us within a shell of arrogance or bury us beneath the weight of depression. In either case, we are not the whole person that we could truly be.

This brings us back to self-reflection.  We need to be able to take an honest look at ourselves and determine if we like what's developing. I can't look at anyone else to see if I'm making good on the improvements I'm intent on. I'm the only one that can really answer the questions at hand and evaluate my own progress.  That doesn't mean that I can't or shouldn't share my goals with others or that there isn't encouragement to be found in celebrating the victories you earn along the way...or that those others may be an invaluable resource for advice and a shoulder to lean on when you're struggling. We may not get far comparing our road to someone else's, but we're made to share life with one another. 

We are not really built for solitary existence, although some have seemed to find a way to go through life in such a manner. Time alone is good and necessary for everyone one sometimes, but an entire life lived alone is missing vital interactions. We find the road is a bit less difficult to walk and the burden of living a bit lighter when we have others to walk beside us and share the load. So I learn a lot about myself in the quiet times, and I find it easier to stare at my reflection when I'm not wasting time trying to avoid those things I don't want to see. It doesn't make those things any more desirable...but it does get a bit less cumbersome when I stop trying to sweep it all away and instead try to figure out what the root issue is and take a long hard look at it. What does it really mean?

Welcome to the art of self-reflection. Please keep your hands and feet inside at all times while the ride is in motion and buckle up buttercup.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Reflections on a birthday...or an introduction to a year of living dangerously

Entry 01 - January 5th, 2014

Reflections on a birthday...or an introduction to a year of living dangerously

A new year has come upon us, sidled on up and ushered the previous one off into the ether. this means a lot of things to different people and you can perhaps relate to one or two of them: new year's resolutions, new year-new me, clean slate, etc. It's about a fresh start and about making changes to where you currently are and where it is you think you would like to be going. I've never been much of one for making resolutions, and I fall into the failure percentage for the few times that I did try that out. I've determined that if you see something in your life that needs an adjustment or a full blown change there isn't much sense in waiting for the new year to make it your "resolution", make the changes that need to be made so you can reach the potential that you have. It is a convenient starting place though so I can see why so many choose to make their changes on January 1st and I'm not at all suggesting that you shouldn't spend some time reflecting on the year that has past and the one coming up.

For me, the new year rolling over means another birthday is on the horizon. Yes, yes I know that everyone has another birthday coming in the new year but mine is literally on the horizon as it occurs just 4 short days into the new year. The ball drops, everyone watches some college football and has a plate of ham and black eyed peas and then it's on to another birthday for me. When I was a child I used to not like where my birthday fell on the calendar, being only ten days after Christmas it seemed as though I was not getting the full spectrum of the birthday celebration being that everyone was entering the "After Christmas blues" phase and making those necessary financial adjustments for the extra spending that happened in December. That's not to say that I didn't have great birthdays or that my folks didn't try to make them special because they did and I have no complaints at all about those times. It just seemed that my friends and others who had birthday celebrations later in the calendar had a bit more going for them...which was nonsense of course. As I got older and through my teenage years and into young adulthood I determined that birthdays were only as special as you made them out to be and that the number in your age might change but that doesn't mean you have matured nor does it indicate that you are old. I didn't need big parties or widespread acknowledgement that it was my day, even if those things are nice.

We have widespread cultural jokes about reaching certain ages and that for some it is a big deal that they've climbed up into the higher elevations of the aging process. They don't want to be thought of as old and make little jokes about this being their 25th birthday...for the 10th time. We laugh at this but I've never seen what the big deal is, except for some of those that have lived such self-destructive lifestyles that every birthday seems to be a miracle of sorts. As a culture we are so infinitely worried about being thought of as "old" that people will spend thousands of dollars trying to hold back the years and do crazy things to their bodies trying to maintain the appearance of youth. Most of these turn out terribly and it becomes obvious to everyone what their insecurities are.

I made a decision a long time ago that I would never be "old." I can't stop myself from aging and there is no fountain of youth that I've had a drink from (though I do have a bottle of water from the one in St. Augustine). Being old is a mentality, it is a state of mind that people resign themselves to. There will be, and are, days that I feel my age and everything aches and I just feel tired...but I refuse to be old. I will still enjoy all of the things from my childhood days and the music I've grown up with because there is still enjoyment to be had. I will still marvel at sunsets on the swell of the ocean and the waves dancing along the shoreline. There is still life left to be lived, even at 37, and I have no intentions of stopping now or ever right up until it is my time to pass on. So this is a new year and another birthday past...and I'm just getting warmed up.