We have a show this Friday, June 14th at Circle A with Scrimshaw at 8pm. This is my training progress for the month. Full black lines represent one hour of a music task, a mixture of; vocal lesson playlist singing, piano and signing (with metronome), guitar and signing (with metronome), guitar strumming (with metronome). Each hour of activity is broken into two focused 25 minute sessions with a 5 minute breaks in between. I usually alternate between singing exercises and piano / guitar playing. While working just on vocals I can move around more and stretch out a bit.
I don’t usually ‘train’ this hard for a show. At most I’ll practice an hour or two a day, for a week or two before the show. I started in earnest in the middle of the month, shooting for 4 hours on my days off and 1 hour on work days.
This was an experiment to see if I could noticeably improve in a month. I think I did. I’m interested to see if anyone else notices any improvement. I haven’t told the band I was doing this. So far nobody’s said anything.
Still sorting out how often to post these. If I write just when I feel like it, it’s never gonna happen. Daily habits are the only ones I can seem to keep up. Do I really have something worth saying every day? Can I will something worth saying into existence through sheer will power and brute force of routine?
Doesn’t matter right now. These posts are ‘live’ but I haven’t directed anyone here yet. I’m just talking to ‘myself’, training the spell checker and experimenting with format and style.
But I’m NOT talking to myself. I know someone(else) will read this. Probably.
One solution would be to not post anything and just keep a journal like a normal person. But that isn’t writing just for writings sake either. No matter how secret and hid we keep our pages, they eventually get read by someone.
I first came across this insight from Natalie Goldberg’s book, Writing Down the Bones. The book was a gift from my dad given to me in my early 20’s. I was too arrogant at the time to think I needed any help or advice about the creative process. I mean, I was already a songwriter for crying out loud. But I read the book anyway and was surprised by how useful it was. Turns out I didn’t know every thing about a thing I barely knew how to do.
Other books that have helped me get perspective on artistic processes are Steven Pressfield’s, The War of Art and Steven King’s, On Writing. If you (dear reader) have any favorites along these lines please let me know. I need all the help I can get.
I like mailing lists. They’re a more personal and efficient way to keep track of interests. They are way less of a time suck than futzing on Twitter or wherever and occasionally finding some actionable or inspirational info. Mailing lists can also serve as handy reminders. If I want additional info on a product or band or person but don’t have the time to dig into them right away.
One of the mailing lists that I like is Recomendo by Kevin Kelly, Mark Frauenfelder and Claudia Dawson. 6 weekly tips, tricks, product reviews, and cool links. It’s concise and well written. Here’s my favorite from this week’s newsletter, a solid travel tip from Kevin Kelly:
“I have found it useful to purchase a duplicate set of cords, cables, chargers, desktop items, earphones, etc that I carry in a dedicated bag just for travel. Increasingly I’ve added duplicate articles of clothing, shoes, hats to my carry-on luggage. They never leave. That way I don’t have to pack, but more importantly, I don’t ever forget anything. The cost of duplication is minimal for the benefits.”
Another mailing list that I really like is from Laura Olin. (This was also a Recomendo recommendation). 10 fun or interesting links with a brief description. Elegant and useful.
If you have any favorite newsletters or mailing lists, let me know. Thanks!
Ok, so I screen captured a video of me recording myself in Photo Booth being projected on the wall. Then I wrote ‘I bought a PROJECTOR’ on an index card. After 45 seconds I stop the video to watch it and see how it turned out. When I watched the play back the text was reversed, it read; ‘thguob I a ROTCEJORP’. I had forgotten how mirrors work. BUT. What I didn’t realize was that I was watching the Photo Booth video(1) and not the screen capture video(2). The screen was still being captured, I was still in the video. In the screen capture video the text is reversed, until it get’s the the point where I’m watching me watching the video, then the text reads correct. You got it? Me neither.
When I was a kid the optometrist we went to had mirrors that faced each other. That always messed with my head. You could look at yourself looking back at you looking at you, et cetera, ad infinitum. A glass army of little me’s waving back at little me’s. And so forth and so on, as far as the eye (without glasses) could see.
I recommend playing both videos at the same time. Start video 2 first and when the countdown counts down to 1, start video 1.
I’ve been having a hard time making these posts consistently. The point of this project is to establish a daily writing habit, a ‘dividend’ routine that will pay off exponentially over the years.
I’ve been trying to do this at night since my mornings seem to be already filled with necessary patterns. But after work I’m physically and emotionally drained, can’t seem to muster the gumption.
Since I think this is a valuable enterprise, I’m going to make room in the A.M. for writing.
A few years ago I started a 40 minute to commute to and from work every day and got into the habit of reading on the bus. I followed the Shane Parrish (Farnam Street) tactic of trying to get through 25 pages a day. It’s a doable amount but you can really crank through books that way. I’m a bit of a slow reader but I was able to get through 25 pages most days, even in the distracting environment of the city bus. (Besides self betterment, books are a handy shield against unwanted conversations. Throw in some noise-blocking ear-muffs and a hat pulled down over the eyes – helps to look/be a little crazy – people tend to leave you alone. Most of the time.)
Now that I no longer have a daily bus ride (upgraded to a much preferred half hour walk) I’ve still kept up the reading. I usually read for an hour or two while I drink coffee. I’ll try cutting reading time down to a half-hour, and use the leftover time for writing.
The most valuable productivity tool I’ve come across is the Pomodoro technique. You focus for 25 minutes (or so) and then take a 5 minute break, rewarding yourself with a fun activity that takes your mind off of whatever you’re working on (I like to stare out the window, roll around on a yoga ball, or maybe scroll thru Twitter). It’s fantastic for mitigating procrastination by wrapping up unpleasant or focus intensive tasks in tidy doable packages. By setting time limits on work chunks, I tend to forge ahead more quickly when stuck. Also, I tend to more critically assess if an aspect of whatever I’m working on is important or if my energy could be better spent on something else. (You can spend 20 hours making the snare drum sound a teensy bit better but nobody’s probably gonna notice).
O.K. my twenty-five minutes is up…dance break time
I finished reading The Inflamed Mind by Edward Bullmore. It makes the case that some cases of depression can be caused by inflammation, a byproduct of a functioning (aggressive?) immune system. Physical trauma and social stress can stimulate an immune response which causes macrophages to emit cytokines, which rally more macrophages to tend to the threat. This ‘friendly fire’ results in residual inflammation that may in some cases cause depression.
This line of reasoning makes sense evolutionarily. Infection would have been a top killer for our ancestors. Natural selection would pick people with a strong immune response. Those who were infected would benefit from the rest forced from a depressive state. Withdrawal from social situations would protect the tribe from contagious diseases. Furtive sleep and an anxious state would protect individuals from predators and other dangers while they rest and their body fights of infection. (Obviously, a hearty immune response would also ward off disease in the first place).
Dr. Bullmore argues that Cartesian thinking, thinking about the mind and body as separate entities, might hamper our understanding of mental illness. By focusing only on psychological causes (it’s all IN YOUR MIND!) we might be neglecting more salient and actionable causes of ‘mental’ disorders.
This is a rough draft for “an inspiring story behind your song or a funny anecdote from filming your entry”, for the song Getting Low that we submitted to NPR’s Tiny Desk Contest.
I wrote this song about 6(ish) years ago during a particularly brutal winter here in Milwaukee. I had quit drinking a couple years before and I was still getting used to getting on without alcohol.
Song was originally composed to a beat I sketched out in Logic which I
ran repeatedly for an hour at a time, pacing around my tiny 3rd floor
studio apartment hashing out the lyrics out loud, kinda under my breath
so the neighbors wouldn’t hear. I usually work on a handful of songs at a
time, jumping around a bunch. For this one, I doggedly pecked away at
it exclusively. I shuffled it around for a couple of months, obsessively
shaping it into place and cursing the lousy heater.
I’m pretty proud of this song. It’s a rock/rap song about depression
in which I manage to reference Stargate Atlantis, Spaceballs, and Townes
Van Zandt. Also, the album version has a hauntingly upbeat horn
arrangement that I still occasionally get stuck in my head (in a good
The video was shot at Riverwest Film and Video during off hours. If
you’re ever in the Riverwest neighborhood of Milwaukee, WI, you should
definitely stop in. It’s a trip. I is a functioning video store that
also sells and rents film supplies and doubles as the home of local
radio station Riverwest Radio, WXRW.
We all pitched in on cinematography duties and it was a lot of fun
figuring out how to best get us situated. I appreciate my that my
band-mates are game for whatever. Problem solving is a good time!!
This is a link to a random Wikipedia article. I tried it three times and got:
Takuya Jinno, a Japanese football (soccer) player
Rich Chernomaz, a Canadian hockey coach
Institute of Inorganic Chemistry Slovak Academy of Sciences
None of the articles were very interesting. Sometimes random is boring, that’s ok
Here’s a random hex color generator from Random.org that uses “true randomness originating from atmospheric noise.” I rolled the sound dice three times and got these colors:
Random.org also has a Random Geographic Coordinates generator that plots coordinates on a Google Map. Fun way to pick your next vacation, if you don’t mind most likely ending up in the middle of the ocean.