Archive for the ‘Rant’ Category

The Way It Is

Posted: August 20, 2015 in Music, Rant
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Pus & Zero B0y — The Way It Is

Download: PUS & Zero Boy – Adventures in Rhyme – 04 – The Way It Is

I turned this in as my final essay to a Student Colloquium at CCS / UCSB on Female African-American Literature in 1993. Last male standing in the class, this effort got me an A+. Great Depeche Mode inspired synth solo. Nothing has changed: this track holds up well today in 2015.

I was born down south San Diego
left all alone so I got switched to the home
of Mom and Dad – they’re not my real parents
but they’re the ones who loved me best, y’all.
so I made a lot of friends through trial and error.
I learned the hard way not to think or care
about foolish opinions that don’t belong to me.
I try to be happy and who I want to be,
now I’m not saying that I’m a hard lucker
and I’m certainly not a big bad motherfucker.
when I get a lot of money, I tend to share
and when I get real drunk I like to say [yeah!] – beastie boys
I’m never too busy to get busy
and a lot of my friends get busy with me.
I don’t know everything so I go collect knowledge;
I went through high school to end up in college.
I caught a cool class from my good friend Sara
she told me of the problems I should work to take care of.
things aren’t equal in the land of the free
and I know that it isn’t the way it’s supposed to be.
I live my life as best as I can;
I smile and say hello to my fellow man.
I’m not going to tell you how hard I hit,
all the women I’ve been with or any of that shit.
I don’t pride myself on being a jerk
‘cause like Kool Moe Dee [I go to work] – Kool Moe Dee
this world I’m in ain’t the perfect place to live
but I’m not going to keep it just the way it is.

Alright,
maybe I’m weak – I get beat in a fistfight
but before I get up I’ve begun to write.
I pick up my glasses and back home I go
‘cause next week I’ll dis you on the radio.
I’m not the type of guy to reply with violence
but like Bell Hooks it’s hard to keep my silence;
to tell you like it is: ignorance is hell,
so pick up a book and educate yourself.
I can’t stand to see you dismiss my sisters –
think you can rape her just ‘cause you kissed her?
listen very carefully to the words of this song –
you’re not only ignorant – you’re wrong.
now you go home and you beat your wife
and I’ll cheer my head off when you meet her knife.
you haven’t really recognized their rights yet
and you’re wondering why they seem upset?
women cross lines in all races and creeds;
a little respect is all they need.
I make sure my mother gets across on a green light
and I make sure my girlfriends get home at night.
I learn and I write, make music then preach
I’ll get a college degree to continue to teach.
I turn on my mind and mix me a drink
to write something funky to make you think.
I’m not always sure of what I can say
‘cause the PC strictures make my hair turn grey.
some stuck out of luck dumbfuck says it’s none of my biz
but you know it is, that’s the way it is.

(Analog solo a la pus and zero boy)

I light my pipe, sit back and kick back
because I know I just pumped out a fresh track.
I’ve got some homework but I know I’ll be done soon
then I pop in my tape and I [pump up the volume] – MARRS
sometimes I get drunk, bounce checks, and get high,
think about what I want to say and I sigh,
I can’t seem to get it out right through my teeth,
a sharp bladed dagger that’s stuck in its sheath.
because other people don’t let me live
I’m getting plenty of time just learning to forgive.
I guess I’m just waiting for the world to get wise:
talk to your friends and you’ll realize
that I’m not out for world peace,
just tolerance, understanding – some relief at least.
I take time to turn on and tune in,
writing white raps with a big old grin
because I’m slurring you can guess that I’m sauced
but at least my message is coming across.
I get funky on a track ‘cause I’m badder than Cheese Whiz
want to know why?
that’s just the way it is.

[inspired by Sara Seinberg — thanks to Bruce Hornsby]

It has been a hot minute since I have fired up the ol’ WordPress blawg and wrote myself a letter. This effort has an audience of one: myself, and once you accept that, it gets easier. In this feed- and filter-driven 24 hour news cycle of technology, when you are staring at a blank page, it is asking you to be creative and say something. Say anything. It is much better on a cosmic, spiritual scale to create content than to passively watch the social network feeds go by.

I used to write poetry and stories to capture what I was feeling. This “blog” is full of it; when I was unemployed I kept busy (because ADHD) by pumping tons of those “witless driblets” into this online database called WordPress from a stack of hand-written journals that I subsequently burned in the mountains and the deserts in campfires. They’re all now indexed Internet content and ashes. Ribbit. Fuck you. Enjoy.

Once upon a time I built pages for music I composed, wrote, played, produced, rapped and sang on. Labored over, instead of going to class or doing homework, I caught them on magnetic tape and transferred them to a computer. I figured out how to embed those songs here with a play button. I still have a couple of handwritten cassette tapes I can refer to for source material and memories. That includes a page for M0nster Zer0, a band I was instrumental in–ha, ha–when I was in high school.

I remember making DJ Lurk compilations every year for 15 years, many times multiple disc sets, of my favorite music and giving them out by the dozens for free. Custom, handmade printed paperboard CD case insets, printed on an inkjet, and CD-Stomping labels on them. Those comps keep me grounded, and company, because you should always make your own mix tapes.

I used to record two hour sessions of vinyl-spinning to capture all of my music collection the way that I heard it blending and surfing together. That’s how it was on Pete Tong’s Essential Mix program on Radio One: a two-hour uncensored journey. I made this effort because the Woodweaver gave me a Sony DAT recorder that could do two hours per tape; that was hot tech at the time, and I wanted to use it. There are 12 Essential Mix @ Mordenkainen’s Parlour tracks, labelled with exact dates. They have incredible power to return me to years ago.

More recently, with a MacBook Pro and a shitty pair of USB controllers attached to Traktor, I would record DJing live at the Edgemont Compound, the Isle of Lesbos, Below the Chateau, or at a Dirty Little Mansion. This content has names and maybe rough dates, but I was asked to show up and spin, so I did. I get to wonder who this particular character is, because I can’t believe that I produced that. But it is undeniably The Froggacuda.

So there it is as evidence: a poem, a mixtape, an occasion: captured somehow so that I have to go back and verify that it actually happened for my audience of me. Memories that are fleeting ghosts. Content that is hard and unrelenting to experience again and try to put into perspective in the present tense.

Is this thing still on…?

Communication is Leadership: everyone row in the same direction

Communication is Leadership: everyone row in the same direction

INTRODUCTION

Communication is the bedrock of the human condition: there is perhaps no greater accomplishment of homo sapiens than being able to share an idea, a concept, or an opinion with a fellow ape. In the 21st century, there are more ways to share your own unique perspective on the world to the world than ever before in the blink-of-a-galactic-eye that we upjumped animals call human history than ever before, yet I keep running into the same old problem: people don’t know how to communicate. I am not talking about using the right emoticons in a text message, or being unable to get their video running on their GoToMeeting videoteleconference, or attaching a file or photo to an e-mail message. I am talking about the raw ability of people to actually communicate: that is, to exchange information effectively. I have recently run into two situations where this lack of what I consider to be a fundamental skill–like walking upright and breathing regularly–has driven me to take definitive, tie-cutting, self-preservationist action.

SITUATION ONE: Read My Mind

As a self-proclaimed King of the Nerds, a hard-working employee, a small business owner, and a 15 year IT veteran, I have a constant stream of requests coming in to assist people with an alphabet soup of apps, platforms, strategies, tech help, troubleshooting, and plain old good advice from a geek. Most of these pleas for assistance I handle with my inimitable blend of slightly-pedantic schoolteacher and humorous, patient, step 1-2-3 teach-a-man-to-fish wizardry; I like to see people do great things with their ideas, and I understand how frustrating a simple tech impediment can be for someone who just wants it to work. Occasionally I will run into a situation where communication breaks down because someone is making the assumption that you can read their mind. And they will get very frustrated because you cannot read their mind. This also breeds the Catch-22 situation of either requesting additional clarification–thus angering them further–or making your best guess–and then running afoul of not having delivered what was in their mind. This is maddening, and I am certain that most everyone has run into this situation before.

Spock IS able to read minds; however he has to lay his hands on you to do so

Spock IS able to read minds; however he has to lay his hands on you to do so

Case in point: while assisting a small company with the creation of their corporate website, I was bluntly accused of not following the proper policies and procedures. Since I had never seen these policies and procedures, I asked for a copy of said P&P, and none were produced. Instead, a stream of angry invective about “common sense” and a slew of unrelated issues were produced with how unhappy this company was with my performance. Seeking to understand where the communication had broken down, I continued to probe the issue by pointing out the obvious disconnect: I cannot follow P&P if I don’t know what the P&P are. And lo! the client was enraged further. For the first time in my life, I was sincerely agog at the wrath of the client. There was only one option: I calmly handed off all of my projects and responsibilities to other team members and quit working with that company.

From my training and experience with teaching both high school and college classes, I am fond of reminding people that “the only dumb question is the one that goes unasked”. Without bending the thrust of this idea through ridiculous situation-based specifics, I strongly believe that anyone who is asking a question is trying to communicate effectively. You have to extend this basic credit to a person who wants clarification. It should also cause you to listen to the question, both the content and the context; and this simple act of communication–between a someone asking a question and someone responding with information–is literally how the world works. No amount of technology, power, or skill is going to change this most basic of things on a fundamental level. It just boggles my mind that some people are so caught up in themselves that they make no attempt to listen. Willingly or unwillingly, they are breaking the time-honored chain of communication from one individual to another. The only recourse is to join them in the obstruction: stop attempting to communicate and effectively, give up.

"He said 'this one's for Becky', as he watched the last one fall..."

"He said 'this one's for Becky', as he watched the last one fall..."

Choosing to walk away–or as Kenny Rogers puts it in “Coward of the County”, turn the other cheek–is incredibly difficult for me to do. It is like choosing to fail, and I avoid making that choice at all costs; there HAS to be a way to compromise, remove this impediment, or find a win-win situation. On the other hand, I really don’t like to choose to fight, but in the most reductionist, simple terms: communication comes down to fight-or-flight, and you gain more information by fighting to communicate than by fleeing and guessing.

And, if you really want to talk about policies and procedures, it is now my policy to not do any more pro bono IT work or consulting. It is very much why lawyers are so careful not to hand out advice willy-nilly; it can be construed as an attorney-client relationship, and now you are on the hook to see the issue through in one way or another. This is colloquially called the Cocktail Party Client phenomenon [PDF, 123kb]. There was also a phenomenal Reddit thread (that of course I can’t find) from a lawyer walking all the way through how much work one “free” piece of advice from a lawyer could cause–and this was via experience, not theory–including the fact that the lawyer had to prove in court that there was no attorney-client relationship (thus NOT representing the “client’s” best interests) and a running total of dollars lost versus a paying client who would benefit from all the skill and knowledge of the attorney in a proper relationship. Doctors also can’t–or shouldn’t–give free information for approximately the same reasons. I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but IT people: you must protect yourself in the same way by getting an agreement in place or by resisting the urge to fix things for free. Although this goes against every fiber of my being to help, teach, assist, educate, and un-frustrate people, the same technologies that enable people to communicate often fail to do so effectively.

My final thought on example #1: Read My Mind: if I had a do-over with this same client, I am pretty damn certain that I would handle it exactly the same way as I did the first time. NOBODY reads minds, and when you explain to someone that “I cannot read your mind” if their response is “everyone else does; why can’t you?” then it is time to end that relationship post-haste. It is unreasonable to expect someone to be a Jedi mind-reader (presumably like everyone else), and unconscionable to excoriate someone who “can’t”.

SITUATION TWO: Occupy San Diego and the Threat of Legal Action

A sympathetic OWS protester in Munich (AP Photo/Joerg Koch)

A sympathetic OWS protester in Munich (AP Photo/Joerg Koch)

It is no secret that I am fascinated by the Occupy Wall Street phenomenon that is sweeping the globe. Although a lot of assumptions can be made about my politics, civics, and sympathies by this fact, I have carefully considered where I stand on the #OWS issue, and I can assure you that you don’t have any concept what my actual position is. The corollary to “I can’t read your mind” is, conveniently, “you can’t read mine”. In a nutshell, I am enthralled with the real-time adventures of the American people voicing their discontent by exercising their Constitutional rights to be n

oticed, seen, and heard. Some people describe this as “democracy in action” — I think that it is certainly “communication in action”, and as such, deserves paying attention to and forming your own opinion about so that you can participate in the melee in one way, shape, or form, whether it is on the ground at an #OccupyEverything event, around the watercooler at your job (if you have one), or heated and valuable Facebook wall discussions. Trust me: I have actively participated in all three in the last 168 hours.

I have been following the OWS movement since early September, when I first got wind of it. I am very interested in what sort of reactions and results happen because of regular people deciding to come together and test the exercise of their rights in America, especially in this economic depression, this political landscape, and this unprecedented age of information. The Internet has transformed communication at its core: it really can only be compared to the invention of movable type and the printing press; perhaps even the written word and language itself; i.e., communication. Much has been said about the role of Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, and other new media in communicating real-time information, as evidenced by the “Arab Spring” and the riots in the UK, but now we see this come to the American heartland. What are we Americans–who invented a lot of this tech–going to do with it?

OccupySD protesters being arrested for refusing to take down tents at the San Diego Civic Center (AP Photo/ Gregory Bull)

OccupySD protesters being arrested for refusing to take down tents at the San Diego Civic Center (AP Photo/ Gregory Bull)

So when the OWS movement came to San Diego, I figured “think globally; act locally” and started trawling the websites, Facebook pages, Twitter and Tumblr accounts, LiveStreams, and other Internet-based intel that were available to get some local boots-on-the-ground information as to how this event was happening in real-time. The experience was eye-opening, to say the least: not only did it take an inordinate amount of browser windows to keep track of all of the latest breaking rumor, news, announcements, and innuendo, everyone participating had the best of intentions, yet were engaged in an organic exercise of “telephone”. Because all of this chaos was happening within 30 blocks of where I live in San Diego, I was enthralled with the way that my sleuthing and juggling of two different browsers packed with 20+ tabs of information would see the same event ripple out with dozens of voices and opinions, none of which quite aligned. It was an awesome firehose of information, and yet I couldn’t get over the fact that if this communication was coordinated just a little bit better it would make all the difference in the world between having a geek like me able to piece together all of the relevent info from a dozen technologies and a regular person being up to speed on the latest by checking a Facebook page.

Violating my pro bonorule from the previous example, I decided to jump in as a volunteer on the LiveStream chats and lend my skills to squash rumors and promote advantageous information sharing across these social networks, calling out my sources with links and pleading for representation on Twitter, Facebook, etc. Meanwhile, let the opinionated move the chat room along with discussion and conversation. It was a powerful, organic solution that included either loops of relevant video production and occasional live events brought to you by a number of dedicated personnel including video producers, tech people, anonymous donations of equipment, and most importantly, several dedicated LiveStream anchor personalities. It was the height of professionalism when I could depend on the LiveStream coming up and someone like Kym or Kali was dependably giving us on the receiving end of the latest on-the-ground information backed up with a full audio-video stream.

Protesters marching on October 7, 2011 at the start of the Occupy San Diego movement (Nelson C. Cepeda)

Protesters marching on October 7, 2011 at the start of the Occupy San Diego movement (Nelson C. Cepeda)

I was so impressed, I decided to get directly involved. I have been to #OccupySD locations dozens of times. I have been invited to moderate committee meetings due to my percieved neutrality, focus on coordination, and leadership via discussion and compromise. I have personally driven to multiple locations to provide boots-on-the-ground reporting to the members of the live chat so that they could get accurate information out. I have donated a significant amount of time, money, and effort just to insure that people can get factual, relevant, real-time information out of the Occupy San Diego movement so that we don’t come across like a bag of dicks. This is an inside joke from the Occupy SD “Media Team” worth explaining. One person trying to figure out if the LiveStream was actually live said “if you can hear me, say ‘bag of dicks'”… I said “bag of dicks” in chat. That went out to roughly 150 people on the LiveStream, including international news media. Oops. Now search YouTube for “Live TV News Bloopers”. Shit happens. Let’s get back to getting accurate information out, right? I will just get back on the phone and try to continue to negotiate win-win situations, and having everyone associated with OccupySD row in the same direction.

Last Wednesday, I went down to the Civic Center (CC) for the first time to attend the PR/Media Committee meeting before General Assembly (GA). I came in my Boy Scout uniform and ridiculous camo hat with a whiteboard of suggestions, requests, and feedback from the chatroom. I had told my friends on the Live Stream chat that I would go represent their interests; after all, I should have some weight representing 150 people or so, right? I was effectively ignored, besides contributing some “let’s move along” Certifed ScrumMaster advice. I figured I had more value going back to the Live Chat and reporting that the Committee had heard me…sortof…and continuing to quash rumors and link to verified information.

It became pretty easy to recognize kindred spirits in the chat room; they were the ones who really wanted to insure factual information dissemination and quash rumors. I am pleased to report that I made quite a few good acquaintances via the OSD chat infrastructure. That is why I took another crack at organizing the online presence of Occupy SD: I stood up the “SMC” or “Social Media Committee” Friday night.

Full regalia for the BSA uniform; although I have all this stuff, I just wore the shirt

Full regalia for the BSA uniform; although I have all this stuff, I just wore the shirt

On Saturday, I went to the Civic Center and moderated a small group of dedicated people in a discussion of Social Media. I think we started out with 10 people, most of whom had come down to have this discussion because I had deigned to appear in person to help moderate the discussion, and ended up with an unruly crowd of 40+. I was there to promote healing. I believe my catch-phrase was to “rise from the ashes like a Phoenix!”. I have never in my life drawn on that many hidden reserves of calm and patience as I did for that meeting. If you did not understand that there were a lot of egos and misplaced anger and flat-out territorialism concerning the flow of information out of Occupy SD after that gathering, well, then you weren’t there. We accomplished having most people leave with a sense of purpose, unity, and urgency: the Occupy SD social media had to do a better job of coordinating accurate information. Let’s get to work; I will help coordinate and broker win-win situations.

It was later Saturday evening that one person, understandably frustrated, uttered the words “file criminal charges”. It was not in any way directed at me, nor my efforts for Occupy SD; however, them’s fighting words, and my self-preservation kicked in.  This is why I quit answering my phone, responding to e-mails, and otherwise participating in the movement for the time being. I have witnessed more nefarious bullshit–circulating chat room logs, threatening legal actions, locking people out of accounts, redirecting websites, hijacking donation sites and their funds, bitching on live-to-the-world broadcasts, accusing people of being “infiltrators”–than I have ever seen in my life. You all should be ashamed of yourselves, and you know who you are. In fact, this clash of egos is the Achilles heel of the entire OSD movement.

Occupy Wall Street, and “We Are the 99%” has to understand what including 99% means. A constituency of 99% it is a movement of inclusion, not exclusion–we all have to get along and agree on basic principles to be able to communicate.  In order to communicate effectively, you have to broadcast at a 6th grade comprehension level in the US. A lot of my friends would insert a Fox News joke here; I have learned to insert a MainStream Media (MSM) joke here because they are the same thing: profit-driven talking heads with fancy graphics and reliably suspect information. When you see an organic movement such as Occupy SD actually get a live broadcast of a semblance of a news report that glues you to the screen because it is actually happening in real-time, this is nothing less than a triumph of communication and technology.

No amount of technology replaces simple, time-honored communication skills

No amount of technology replaces simple, time-honored communication skills

My final thoughts on Example #2: Occupy Wall Street and the Threat of Legal Action: Communication is broken within the OccupySD Media Team from the perspective of the Internet; this audience is measurably 100+ people strong and can occasionally multiply by a factor of 10, and they are figuratively dying to help out, participate, and communicate. They are doing the best that they can with the tools that they are given, and they want their voices to be heard. I don’t see the difference in this 21st century of me speaking in person or through Skype / Facebook / Twitter / Chat Room. I don’t believe my voice is diminished because I am rendered on a computer screen versus standing there in front of you saying the same thing, and OccupySD should pay equal attention to the awesome volunteers that are participating virtually as well as the physically present ones.

CONCLUSION

Communication is broken: we just don’t know how to get our point across effectively any more, from the hundreds of communication technologies to the strangeness of having to talk to another human being in person–like during the SD Blackout of 2011–without your iPhone, tablet, or computer signaling you and demanding your attention with a never ending stream of update messages, SMS messages, e-mails, phone calls, Skype conferences, Facebook posts, Twitter retweets, Dropbox syncs, Growl pings, FourSquare check-ins, Yelp! reviews, YouTube video suggestions, LiveStreams, GoodReads notes, software updates, and the rest of the cornucopia of ADHD business that occurs through your tech. Redouble your efforts–regardless of the platform–to understand whether or not you are listening, and in return, if you are being heard.

None of this technology can read your mind.

None of these gadgets removes the fact that you are responsible for your own actions.

I can’t count the number of times I have exhorted myself to sit down and write on this damn blog. I sit in front of wonderful technology, with multiple screens, and everything that I need literally at my fingertips, and I can’t do it. As I age, I feel myself becoming more careful, more conservative. I think I have figured out part of it: now that I have a platform that is beyond scribbling in a spiral notebook, or sketching on the beach in an art pad; drawing on big sheets of paper while bored in class or even pecking away at a keyboard into AppleWorks, I am aware that I have an audience. And that’s frightening. I don’t want to let you all down.

And that, my friends, is the problem. This is MY blog, and — as Eminem has deftly reminded all of us — I’m not afraid. This is pretty simple to do: just write.

“Write, and be prolific / Not everything written is monolithic” ~Thee Froggacuda, 1988

That is the best two-line poem ever for Michael. And I wrote it. I have ignored this advice from the past me to the future me, and it is powerfully captured as a nine word reminder. I think everyone can benefit from this. It’s a simple distillation of my “press record” rant. Nike has made an entire multi-year campaign out of “just do it” that everyone loves because everyone needs to hear that repeatedly over their lifetimes.

I have a lot yet to be said. I am Thee Froggacuda. Release Teh Tadpoles!

Ho!

once again it's on

So here’s what I did, relatively present tense: I got a little inebriated, put on the new Chicane album “Giants”(reference: Middle Distance Runner), and reskinned my blog to give it a whole new appearance, even to me. After some WordPress admin tweaking to get the elements in the right places, I hit the button labeled “New Post”. And I sat in front of the screen daring myself to write something — anything — and publish it. Tonight.

I am angry with myself that I let the Kanji-Part-1 blog lay fallow in the Drafts folder for as long as I did. I was waiting for the Muse to strike me with inspiration and that’s not how she visits you or I: thou must seeketh out the opportunities, and if you have a fully functioning blog, just write for no reason, any reason, because you are writing for yourself.

That is the point of a personal blog — [insert legal-compliant disclaimer from professional life] — it’s to be able to write; not about whatever you want, but also not because you have an audience. I’m a Libra; there’s a balance to be struck. This gift of a new album from Nick Bracegirdle even has a beautiful song on it called “Where Do I Begin?” Synchronicity is serendipity. I am learning that restraint is not always care; however, baring my soul is not always as simple as it used to be. That’s why there are archives, and I will never regret being unemployed and casting around for a project important enough to deserve all of that free time, and entering all of those poems and stories and rants you’ll see on the left-hand side month-by-month, year-by-year. There’s some good stuff in there; I am committing to digging some of it back out and throwing it in my face again. Here, on the Virtual Lilypad; you can come along and read if you like, but it’s not for you. It’s for me. Because I can’t help but think that I am actually smart enough to code messages into my content for my future self. Maybe it’s a function of being on the bleeding edge of human evolution because I have ADHD and society and civilization have not caught up to how many threads my brain is processing at any given time.

literally -- burning love

literally: burning love. // Jamie Huffman

I am a single human being trying to make a difference with my life. Everyone struggles with this same thing. I write who I am because at an early age I was inspired by Jared D’nofrio to tear out the back of an old math notebook and try to write poetry. Shit, we were studying Byron, Shelley, Wordsworth, Pope, in school, and if he could do it; why not me? Well, Jared’s stuff was great, and I never thought I could equal that elegance…but I gave it a shot anyways. It was like drawing block letter names of girls I had crushes on and spending a whole science or math period at Correia Junior High School coloring them in uniquely with fluorescent hi-lighters. Y’know what? I just found that I was good at it.

DJing is a lot easier than writing. You get to express yourself with the beauty of other people’s interactions with their Muses. The problem is this: if you are good at something, don’t you owe it to yourself — and everyone else — to share it? That is why I have a drive to capture things in cages of ink and tape and 010010 and MP3. I think this is fundamentally the human condition; interaction is like breathing to me. I have just forgotten that I can target myself, and that I am my own primary audience.

I cannot depend on messages that I have coded myself in the past unless I make the effort to read them again; to listen to them again, to experience them again. And I certainly cannot pass any of my current wisdom on to myself in the future unless I produce content right now. This is the heroic circle of one’s life, Scar.

The Archangel Michael wields a sword. I’m not so good at the martial arts. I promised my ninja-to blade to my youngest godchild, anyways; Belén is going to be a better Samurai than her Unkle or her Father. But this Froggacuda character has a wicked tongue and sharp teeth, and I’ve been representing as Thee Froggacuda for almost 20 years now. Recognizing that you have a sticker that reads PROTAGONIST over the mirror that you never look at, finally you understand: this is the Muse trying to shake you free. The Muse is me. The problem is that I never look in that mirror: my mirror until now been everyone else except me. All of that is changing.

I am Thee Froggacuda. Ribbit; fuck you.

Some tracks just resonate with you. These are the ones that get stuck in your head, or you find yourself quoting lyrics from them, or — the most telling tale — you keep playing them over and over again because they move and inspire, as Landmark Education would describe this feeling. That’s why I make “compilations” of tunes every year; even the year I said I was going to stop making compilations, I made a compilation. I just didn’t make physical copies with custom covers and inserts and liner notes, which takes hours and days and months to perfect, in 2008 or — most likely — in 2009. I give them away for free because they’re my way of communicating. It’s a way to say something along the lines of “here’s what I played for myself all of this year; hope you like some of it” in a palpable format.

What’s a real trip is letting this sink in: I have been making these compilations every year for 12+ years now. That is just a count of the official, main compilations; sometimes more than one disc, but always tuned to fit on an audio CD (OK the Old Skool Hip Hop McGee Mix can’t, but there are always exceptions). There are adjunct comps, live mixes, bootlegs, extra cuts that couldn’t quite make it, times I didn’t record while spinning to an international audience on the Mordenkainen’s Parlour stream, and practice stuff — some of which I recorded and some of which I didn’t.

When engaged in the constant act of choosing music you like for 12+ years on a day-by-day basis, you know what you like and what you don’t like. Everybody does that. That is why everybody is a DJ. The crucial difference is that I recorded it. This fact sets me apart from the rest of the amateur record-scratchers and mix-tapers. Why don’t you go pull out one of your old mix tapes or CDs, or an old .m3u playlist and try to understand what you were thinking about when you felt passionate — or bored — enough to actually press the record button and pick some songs in a particular order. Or did you give them all away to potential booty calls?

Songs become old friends when you play them enough. Ensconced between the lyrics and the bassline, the drums and the swells, a personal soundtrack has embedded itself into the fabric of the music. Playing certain tracks is evocative to you in a way that nobody else is going to get just like you. Sharing these particular musical missives with others is, I believe, a fundamental art form. That’s why I do it.

So when I spend hours listening to my compilations, in order or on shuffle play, it has become something akin to going to church. The best way that I can be a Shaman for everyone is to bring something back; that is certain compositions of music, perhaps in a certain order. I love these sermons. Because I recorded them myself of myself in space and time. When I press record, I realize that it is a positive, creative, wonderful thing that I have the cojones to take a deep breath and go live for posterity.

Dust Your Own Pedestal

Posted: November 23, 2009 in Rant, Writing

Ask yourself this question:

Do you put yourself on a pedestal?

Yeah, now that I think about it, touching that soul-searching apparatus that has been gathering dust in the basement for a while. Dust your own pedestal. Take the marble bust of yourself off of the Doric column you have in your mind, and while you’re at it: move the papier mache it is levitating on and vaccuum under that. You’ll find some interesting dust bunnies; I guarantee it.

I am not saying after [insert years of life on earth since birth] years you don’t deserve your own statue on some sort of fancy plinth, but you can’t rest on your laurels (or laurel wreath). You have to keep swimming, like a shark, to breathe that stuff of imagination and innovation, the basic H2O that is the 98% of my human body and 96% of this Budweiser here at my elbow that I am consuming. Sure, there is a certain amount of complacency-to-years-lived ratio that you are owed, but if you really do a good job at dusting, you’ll be shocked by the amount of taking-yourself-for-granted buildup there really is on your little monument to yourself.

Metaphor clear? I can’t recognize who that is in my own personal cleanup on aisle five. Time for some gritty cleaner, like Bar Keeper’s Friend, to get in there and scrub that grout. Note how cheezily you chiseled this sculpture out in the first place. You start looking around and flushing to the face as you clean house as you know full well how to clean house. What took you so long?

I’ll tell you why: trophies are easier to earn than the upkeep to keep them on display and dust-free. And prizes don’t mean shit to me. Neither does this bust on this pedestal, the ultimate Caesarian nod to your own ego. If you had your 15 minutes of fame, then sit down and shut up when your timer is at zero. At some point, when the spotlight is dead, you’ll be the one that will be dusting your collection of whatevers and muttering to yourself that you aren’t appreciated. That’s pathetic.

The lesson is embedded in the hard work of dusting; cleaning house; polishing the things you have so that you appreciate them again; lifting your eyes to the horizon rather than the task at hand, even if you are a filthy animal while you get the job done. The reward is tangible: you approve of your job at cleaning, if not that artifact in your museum, and you move on. Perhaps to dust the next dinosaur bone in your closet. But you do a good job of it at your own thorough pace, nonetheless.

Clean on.

My Feet Won’t Touch the Ground

Posted: October 11, 2009 in Rant, Writing

Occasionally I am transported. Somewhere where people actually mean what they say and have no games to play. It’s like being in a Coldplay song, like Life in Technicolor, where you can’t decide if the song is more pure as an instrumental — where everyone has a smile in their eyes and is pulling in the same direction — or if it really takes another album and another shot at the song as a full-blown vocal track. I think that the best songs will stand alone either way. So thank you, SAT, for breaking my anti-Coldplay stance on the undeniable rocks of “wow, this is really good”.

You know, folks, I am aware that people think what they think of me. I am okay with that, because you still seek me out for my opinion. It must matter. I find that stunning, and then a real honor. But baby, it’s a violent world. Everything counts in large amounts. Telling the truth is never easy, but it is the most universally recognized sign of sincerity. I have been reticent to blog on my own blog because of an old racket of mine: I think too much about what the audience — whatever or whoever that may be — will think of what I have to say. It defeats the purpose of the technology.

Publishing in an instant for all history to record is a serious responsibility. Please contribute something to the blogosphere that is worth recording. Remember all the people who died to bring you this freedom, this technology, this lifestyle, this success, this ability to type letter after letter, purse your lips, read it again slightly aloud, and then press the Publish button.

Say something that matters. Speak from your heart. Scribe it in electronic papyrus; chisel it in the ones and zeroes of the Intarwebs. Send it out there beyond your control, but remember that you birthed it. Create content, or else you will have a hollow life manipulating other people’s creations for a living. Be a catalyst.

I know from my experience that when the bat hits the meat of the ball, and I can feel that thrum through my muscles, and I lift my gaze to the far wall of the park, a smile dawns on my face: this is good. And then my feet don’t touch the ground for a while. You taught me that feeling long ago; you remind me of it tonight. And I thank you for it.