Tag: songwriting

a few words from the sad guy, plus some new (old) songs

So I’ve been kinda fucked up lately.  With the news.  Like, really kinda fucked up.  As in, I am really needing to go to therapy on Saturday.  I want to clarify:  I’m not in a dangerous place.  But over the last few weeks, with news shit really starting to get, like, absurd, I’ve been aware of my face having the sort of thousand-yard stare that can accompany the late stages of devastated, turn-out-the-lights-and-listen-to-Disintegration-over-headphones teenaged heartache.  There’s really no other word for it than sad.  But in a really deep, really fucked up, please get me offa this thing sort of way.

We all have different coping mechanisms.  I’ve been too frazzled to play video games lately, which is frustrating.  I’ve been reading very escapist fiction, but only a chapter or two at a time – and I’m also reading two collections of short stories, and alternating between all three or four at any given time.  I can’t focus, is what I’m saying.  I get home, I put Henry to bed, I kiss my wife, and then I get just sad and also perhaps a little or a lot very stoned in my basement while I listen to music or try to think about maybe one day writing lyrics to songs that I haven’t finished recording from three years ago.

SUDDEN TANGENT:  You know what, fuck it.  It’s killing me that I haven’t finished this album after all this time, and so I need to do something about it.  All these tracks have been slowly burning tiny holes in my iPhone since 2015.   So rather than release a B-side of a B-side, I’m gonna throw on one of the stuff that I actually really like and still intend to finish.

So this thing right here is a loop I recorded on a 4-track through my looping pedal in, like, 2001.

 

So that’s a thing I’ve always kinda liked.  I later reworked into a bridge section for a latter-day Good Evening song in 2006-7, and then I kinda just kept it in the back of my mind; when I signed up for the RPM challenge in 2015, and for lack of any better ideas, I decided to revisit it and see if I could fit it into something new.  I never did find a definitive beginning and/or end to it, but the section itself still sounds quite lovely to me:

 

And then this other thing, which is just a fun doodle of an idea that is perhaps too-obviously informed by The Forms, also happens to be the most recent substantial thing I’ve recorded here in Maplewood, (but again, that only means November 2015):

 

OK.  You are now the first people in the world (aside from 3-4 beta listeners from three years ago) to have heard that.  Thank you for indulging me.  I HAVE PLENTY MORE AND WILL PUT THEM UP, PERHAPS LATER IN THIS VERY POST THAT I AM PROCRASTINATING FROM FINISHING.

[END TANGENT]

So I’ve been sad, is the thing, and it’s frustrating as all hell, because it’s a sadness that exists beyond me; it’s not a sadness that I can control.  It is a sadness of the very reality that we are currently living in, more specifically the cruel feeling of hopelessness about it all, and that even with the amazing and surprising and good-heart-feeling election victory of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, it’s immediately driven back by the 1-2 punch of the SCOTUS mess and the mass shooting at a Maryland newspaper (which, I want to make clear, I’m writing this at 9:23 while very stoned and don’t yet know if a motive has been uncovered – the more important issue is that, in the words of @igorvolsky, “any motive + easy access to firearms = death & horror.”

And so anyway, about half an hour ago or so I went upstairs to pee and get some ice cream because I’m sad and binge-eating and munched out and I was looking at Facebook and saw this video.

Now, look.  I think Donald Trump is, perhaps, the most dangerous man in American history.  He is vile and repellant and morally unfit and profoundly unethical and we all know it.  There isn’t a day that goes by lately where I don’t spend my day within a deep and disturbing dread that something truly awful is about to happen.

But the thing I find most loathsome about him – despite his endless blustering and bravado and chest-bumping – is that he’s a fucking coward.  This shooting in Maryland is tragic and horrible and he is so scared about having to deal with a real crisis that he just keeps on walking.  He’s the President of the United States, don’t tell me he didn’t yet know.   He absolutely knew.  And he was too scared to speak to the press to offer any words of condolences.  He has no empathy for other human beings in pain, and so there is nothing for him to gain out of offering solace to the grieving.  So he just walks away.

I was going to get into a whole big rant about it.  I was gonna just vent and spew and vomit all over the internet.  This is a very small and insignificant part of the internet, the whole of which you’d never call pristine, but whatever – now I’ve just covered my little tiny part of it in venom.

Then I decided to not do that.  Maybe I’d write about not writing.  Because even though I’m hurting, I don’t know that throwing my hurt onto you is the right thing.  I’m not saying I should be keeping this to myself – like I said above, I’m really looking forward to Saturday morning’s therapy session.  And so I worry about having my only contribution to this shrieking nightmare to simply be another lonely howl at the moon.

I think what I really needed to do is just tell you guys that I love you.  Times are fucking terrible right now, man, and it fucking sucks.  But you’re not alone.  I’m not alone.  We’re not alone.  I love you guys.  I need to remember to love you guys more.  I need to remember to keep love in my heart.

(And then, after some cleansing breaths, I say:  if they go low, continue to kick them in the face.)

a plan, of sorts

Lots of good new music out today.  Lots of good music from all over the place in my head.

I’ve been thinking that I need some sort of external motivation in order to finish this recording project.  When I’m left to my own devices, I tend to get sidetracked.  So I’m contemplating setting up some sort of livestream – probably on Facebook – and putting on a sort-of impromptu songwriting / jam session / performance / workshopping thing.  Even if nobody watches it, it’s something that could hold me accountable.  And if someone does watch it, then, hey, you get a world premiere of whatever it is I come up with.

This may happen as early as next week, so, look out.

a wee bit of self-promotion and navel-gazing

1. My final piece of Uncharted 4 correspondence is up over at Videodame!  Many, many thanks to Sara Clemens for indulging me in throwing thousands of words onto her site.

2. I know I’m somewhat slack in terms of regular updates here, but I was hoping I’d be able to finish ABZU tonight and then write about it tomorrow, time permitting.  Alas, I’m going to be at a family thing in Chicago and will be away from all things computer-related; and even if I do finish ABZU tonight, I don’t know that I’m feeling that motivated to write about it.  It’s certainly gorgeous and tranquil, which is something I could certainly use right about now; but it also remains somewhat obtuse, and I don’t have a sense if there’s anything under the surface just yet.

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3. I’m finding myself in something of a holding pattern right now, given that No Man’s Sky is out next week and I’m sure I’m going to be all over it.  I currently have it in my rental queue, which means I wouldn’t get it until next Thursday at the earliest; if the official reviews say it’s worth checking out, I might ditch the rental and buy it digitally in order to get my hands on it sooner.  My boy Samit wrote up a thing over at Polygon about the pre-release hype and the rush to judgment based on one person’s 30-hour playthrough of an early-acquired copy; needless to say, I’m withholding judgment until I get my hands on it.  I do worry about what might be an infinity of monotony, but I at least hope that there’s enough in the early going to propel me along.

4. Speaking of Polygon, they’re putting out a request for freelance reviewers. I’m posting this here mostly so that I don’t forget about it, though I think it’s time for me to admit that I probably don’t have a future in freelance journalism.  Not if I want to finish this album before my son goes to college, at any rate.

5. Speaking of the album: it’s still slowly coming along, though it’s exceedingly difficult to maintain creative momentum.  I did manage to record some vocals this weekend, for the first time in… oh my god, I don’t even know how many years it’s been since I actually sang into a microphone with intent.  Even though it’s just a scratch vocal, it’s something.

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the end of things

1. Whether we like it or not, all things must eventually come to an end.  We’ve all had that experience where we’re reading a book that we love so much that we never want to put it down, or a song that we can’t stop listening to… but eventually we do, and we have to, because we don’t want to ruin the thing that we love by wearing it out.

This is why it’s sometimes hard for me to stay engaged with a game once it’s outstayed its welcome, and especially when the game in question doesn’t actually have an official finish line.  I’ve put in probably close to 30 hours in The Division by this point; I’m level 23, I’ve only got a few more main missions to go before my Penn Station base is completely finished, but I’m starting to grow weary of the game’s repetitiveness.  The side missions and encounters and diversions are all identical except that tougher enemies take more bullets.  I’m no longer wandering the streets looking for collectibles, since I know that once I finish all the side missions they’ll automatically pop up on my map anyway.  I was hoping I’d stay engaged long enough to hit level 30 and do a little cursory exploration of the Dark Zone, even though I don’t care about PvP; now my goal is simply to make it to 41st Street, between 2nd and 3rd Avenues, to see if my day job’s location is accurately portrayed.  (Spoiler alert – it most likely isn’t; with a few exceptions here and there, the NYC that’s portrayed in this game bears little resemblance to the actual NYC.  I’ve already glanced at the map and immediately noticed that there’s no exit/side-street for the Queens-Midtown Tunnel, which bisects 4-5 blocks between 2nd and 3rd Avenues; then again, the game also features a 2nd Avenue subway, so perhaps this near-future Manhattan has done away with the tunnel altogether.)

This is not to say that I think The Division is a bad game; frankly, compared to Ubisoft’s other recent offerings, it’s a hell of a lot more enjoyable to play, and in many ways it reminds me of what Watch Dogs could’ve been.  But I find myself turning my brain off the longer I go; I ignore cutscenes and narrative beats because they’re meaningless at this point.  I finish a mission and they show me recovered video of atrocities committed by the game’s “enemies”, but I find it hard to care considering that I just killed hundreds of people single-handedly.  All I’m doing is moving from waypoint to waypoint, mowing people down, hoping they drop something useful.  This was fun for the first dozen hours, but it’s growing monotonous; there’s no depth.  I continue to hide behind cover and pop off shots here and there, the same way I did 30 hours ago, but now I have a portable turret.  I spend too much time agonizing over the relative merits and statistical improvements of different kneepads.  Do I sell?  Do I deconstruct?  Is there any point in engaging with the Advanced Weapons Dealer in the Ops Base before hitting level 30?

I need more co-op time, I guess.  That made the game a lot more fun to play, because suddenly I could think tactically instead of simply rushing from cover to cover; my friend and I could consider locational positioning, and work on flanking and suppressing.  Granted, this too eventually gets repetitive, but at least we can still talk to each other instead of simply listening to the horrible, horrible stereotypical New Yorker voice acting of each safe house’s side-mission giver.

Then again, I’m not necessarily in any rush to get it out of my house; if my rental Q is to be believed, I still have more than a week before Quantum Break and DiRT Rally show up.  But I do need to put it away, soon, because otherwise I’ll just feel like I’m wasting time.

2.  Oculus Rift reviews are dropping all over the place, and they all seem to be saying the same thing:  “a key to a new era of entertainment“, “like nothing you’ve ever experienced before“, “It [has] changed how we think of games.”  I guess this is good?  That hopefully this isn’t a fad?  I have no stake in this tech one way or the other; I think I’ve said this already, but in case I haven’t, right now the only VR set that I’ve got any eyes on is the PSVR, because my gaming PC is more or less busted and I can’t afford a new one right now, much less a new one AND a Rift.  I’m curious, I suppose, but until I actually experience it I will remain skeptical.  (I also wear glasses, and I suspect that wearing glasses underneath a VR headset is problematic.)

I’m also a little skeptical of Sony’s ability to make their VR unit compelling for more than, say, the initial launch quarter.  Considering the horrendous support that the PSP and the Vita have gotten, it’s hard to have faith that PSVR will be worth the investment – especially since it sounds like any PS4 owner would have to upgrade to the PS4.5 in order to get the most out of the VR setup.  As someone who’s owned multiple iterations of iPhones, of course I’m going to upgrade to a more powerful PS4, irrespective of my decision to jump on the VR bandwagon, but not everyone can make the same jump, and the more I think about it, the more of a mess it becomes.

3.  Regarding the aforementioned “all things must end”: I’m currently reading Anthony Marra’s “A Constellation of Vital Phenomena” and it is slow-going; it’s beautifully written but there’s tragedy on every page, and it’s the sort of thing where I have trouble sticking with it, if only because there’s only so much Chechen atrocity I can handle in one sitting.  (There is a section describing the plight of teenaged refugees being kidnapped and executed, and the remaining family members asking for portraits of their missing loved ones; and while it is poetic and beautiful to read, it’s also gut-wrenchingly devastating; I was reading this on the evening commute, and it was all I could do to keep from bursting out in sobs.)

4.  I finally got around to seeing Quentin Tarantino’s “The Hateful Eight” over the weekend.  I’m… I’m not sure how I feel about it.  It’s impossible to discuss without spoiling it, so I might make a separate post about it.  I’m glad I saw it, and I’m sure it would make one hell of a play, but I’m also wondering if I’m starting to get a bit weary of QT’s tics and mannerisms.  (It also didn’t help that the film’s opening credits introduce the film as “The Eighth Film from Quentin Tarantino”.)

5.  I was going to wrap this post up by talking a bit about Corey Feldman’s IndieGoGo campaign, but I don’t feel like mocking him.  I mean, if you click on that link, most of the mocking is already done for you; you will cringe and recoil in horror involuntarily, whether or not I prepare you for what you see.  Frankly, I have no business making fun of him; I have an album of my own that I’m trying to finish, and while I’d love to raise some funds to be able to hire my friends to play on it and have it recorded and mixed by a guy who actually knows what he’s doing instead of me simply dicking around on my Macbook, I’d be lucky to get even half of the pitiful amount he’s raised.  If you’re making art, and you’re sincere in your desire to make something that you believe is important and beautiful, I don’t want to make fun of you.  I’d rather be angry at myself for not working as hard as I should, because I at least have some measure of control over it.

So instead, let me leave you with maybe the best remembrance (of many) of the late, great Garry Shandling.

“Make the spiritual search more important than the problem,” he told me once. Better than anyone I know, he understood that the search was the destination, that messiness was better than tidiness, that the complexity that makes us suffer also is the source of all beauty.

further adventures in sleeplessness

This post will be somewhat random.  I am tired.  The boy’s sleep habits are continuing to evolve and change; last night it took him about 45 minutes to stop getting out of bed, which is better than most nights, but then he climbed into our bed at around 2:00am, and he does not necessarily sleep lengthwise.  (Funnily enough, when our alarms went off at 6:00am and we turned our lights on, he very slowly climbed out of our bed and very sleepily walked back into his room and climbed back into his own bed.)

There is also a faint, weird smell in my office, hovering near my desk.  The engineers have been here all morning; nothing’s on fire, but it has that dusty heat smell, like a space heater kicking on after a long period of dormancy.  I am distracted.


 

I would love to offer up some insightful comments after playing bits of both Superhot and Far Cry Primal, but I can’t.  The above-mentioned issues with my kid’s bedtime are interfering with my evening free time, and by the time he does finally go to bed I’m usually too exhausted to do anything.  If I’m repeating myself, well, what can I say?  It is what it is.

Superhot is awesome, and I am also not very good at it.  I’ve tried playing it with the Steam controller (which is very, very bad), with mouse and keyboard (which is better), and with the good ol’ 360 gamepad (which is probably best), and I continue to get killed very quickly.  I am tempted to wait on it until the XB1 version comes out, which is supposedly coming in a few weeks; I’m wondering if perhaps my couch and big TV might at least make the experience more comfortable.

Far Cry Primal, on the other hand… well, it’s basically Far Cry 3 and 4, but in the Stone Age.  So it’s not exactly the same game – there are no guns, cars or gyrocopters, obviously, and you’re speaking in caveman gibberish – but in nearly every other respect it’s the same game I’ve played over the last 2-3 years.  I appreciate the novelty of the game’s setting, and the game looks fantastic… but I really don’t know if I care enough to keep pushing through.  It’s not like the game’s story is all that interesting, and in the meantime the game suffers from that ubiquitous Ubisoft-ness where the map is covered with so many different things to do that it’s nearly impossible to know what’s actually important.  Mostly I gather flowers and light bonfires.  I’m holding onto it for at least a few more weeks, because there’s nothing else on my radar until The Division, but I’m not feeling pulled toward it with any urgency.


 

I’m kinda racing through Foucault’s Pendulum, now, which I don’t like doing.  It’s a book that I still have very fond feelings for, but it’s also somewhat tedious in its digressions; I didn’t mind that so much in my previous readings, but for whatever reason I’m finding it tedious now.

I’m wondering if part of this feeling of urgency is tied to the Goodreads challenge.  I’m still 4 books ahead of schedule, but I don’t particularly like feeling rushed.  And I’m reluctant to read some of the longer books in my to-read list for that specific reason; I don’t want to get bogged down in something enormous if I start feeling like I’m falling behind.  I’m fully aware that this is a ridiculous, self-imposed neurosis; I don’t win a prize for beating the challenge.  That doesn’t stop me from succumbing to it.


Two good reads to recommend:

  1. Holly Green wrote an absolute stunner of a piece about Firewatch and unrequited love; I only wish I felt as strongly about the game itself as I do about this essay.
  2. John Biggs wrote a pretty great piece about writing 11,000 blog posts.  That essay is why I’m writing this particular post right now, even though I feel like I have very little to say.

I need to get back to the album.  I took a little break from thinking about it, and that break got extended thanks to the boy’s recent adventures in stretching out his bedtime boundaries, but honestly I could come up with a dozen more excuses (Trump!  Thinking about getting a new car!  My day job’s impending office move!) and none of them would change the simple and obvious fact that if I wanted to find time to write, I’d make the time to write.  Well, I need to make that time happen.  So I’m logging off now.

 

 

denial, unravel, xcom 2

I’m not going to talk about the album today.  I’m not going to talk about how out of shape my singing voice is, or how my lyrics suck, or how I can’t seem to get any new ideas on tape that don’t suck.  Not going to do it.  I’m gonna talk about games instead, because that’s easy.


 

I am, for some reason, a member of EA Early Access on the Xbox One.  I don’t know why I did this, but it paid off last night because, after an hour or two’s worth of songwriting frustration, I was able to play the first level of the forthcoming Unravel, which is charming as heck.

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It’s a puzzle-y platformer (not unlike Little Big Planet, at least in terms of feel) wherein you manipulate lil’ Yarny through obstacles, avoiding traps and swinging your yarn about – but there’s also a wistful nostalgic melancholia that permeates each level, and I suspect that Yarny will ultimately serve as some sort of metaphor made real, about the impermanence of memory.  Or something.  The opening cutscene is of a grandmotherly figure, looking at old pictures, and so one might infer that Yarny’s subsequent adventures will help her retrace her steps through the past.  It’s incredibly sweet and Yarny is cute as a button.

The platforming is also, perhaps surprisingly, a little tricky!  You can make jumping bridges with your yarn at various spots of interest; you can also lasso yourself to high, out-of-reach places, and then climb up.  The button presses that enable these sorts of movements are somewhat complicated, and even in the first tutorial-ish level I found myself on the very fine line between elegant dexterous control and straight-up button mashing.

As far as I know, I only have access to the first two levels until the game’s finally out – and EA Access only gives you 10 hours to play with, anyway.  I’m inclined to wait it out until the game is finally released.  But it’s certainly charming and evocative and delightful, and I’m anxious to get my hands on the final game.


Speaking of feeling anxious about new games, XCOM 2 is out today, and I’m torn as to whether or not I want to get it.  As much as I liked the idea of the first game, I wasn’t particularly good at it – even on the easiest setting – and so I’m not really all that sure that I’d want to spend $60 or whatever on more of the same.  Then there’s also the matter of my gaming PC, which is in sorry shape; the latest trouble I’m having is that the USB ports occasionally turn themselves off, which means that my mouse/keyboard will stop working.  So that’s a problem.  I also remain convinced that there will be a console version of XCOM 2 at some point – hell, I have the first game on PC, 360, PS3, and my goddamned iPhone – so it stands to reason that there’ll be a console version before too long.  So I think I’m gonna wait.

 

some clarity behind a #vaguepost

I was out of commission earlier this week, and that’s maybe not even the right way to say it.  I was run over by a virus, which left me as a barely functioning human being.  My kid had been sick, and then my wife got sick, and between helping them both out and dealing with getting the driveway cleared of 2+ feet of snow, followed by a few too many celebratory glasses of scotch, it was only a matter of time before my immune system collapsed.

There are sick days, and then there are sick days.  Some sick days I can still get some stuff done; I can read, I can sit on the couch and play a game, I can try to do some writing.  But whatever I had earlier this week just completely wrecked me.  I spend most of those days horizontally, unable to keep my eyes open yet also unable to sleep, alternating between freezing and sweating every 20 minutes, just trying to stay comfortable as best I could.

So this is why I have very little to report.

I have.. um.. quite a lot I want to say, but this is probably not the best spot for that sort of thing.  If I could remember my Livejournal password I’d probably talk about it over there.  But the short version is that in December 2014, after going through my college diary for research for a writing project I was about to start, and then crumbling under the weight of 10,000 memories I’d completely misplaced and all these friendships that I’d allowed to wither, and especially all the romantic relationships that ended in something just short of chaos, I’d sent what I thought was a very sincere, heartfelt apology to someone that I’d hurt.  I had no ulterior motive.

Two days ago, I heard back.  And.. the response sorta defies belief.  My apology may have been “self-indulgent” and “masturbatory”… but the response is so bewilderingly inconsistent in its tone and message that it almost doesn’t make sense.  (You can’t write an email this hostile and then say, with a straight face, that you literally don’t care.)  The response also made sure to tell me that my original apology – which was, again, written in December of 2014 – was also apparently used as a stand-up comedy routine, so… there’s that.

I can’t even get mad at the fact that the email was used in a comedy routine, considering that I’m currently trying to finish an album that covers that specific period of my life.  It’s funny, though, because for all this time I was approaching this particular angle in a very specific way, and now, suddenly, the angle has changed utterly and completely.  The door is closed.  That question is answered.

I stopped playing those sorts of games at least 16 years ago.


As for regular pop-culture stuff, again, I don’t have much to say.  Before I got sick I was trying to grind my way up to an appropriate level in Witcher 3 so that I could finally play some of the new DLC, but I’m still a long ways off; then the cold got me, and I knew I didn’t have the motor skills to even pretend to be competent.  On Tuesday I played the first 30 minutes or so of The Witness before getting stumped, but in fairness, my brain was a bowl of cold oatmeal at the time.  I’d like to get back to it shortly.  I did finish the Baba Yaga DLC for Rise of the Tomb Raider, which was 2-3 hours of more Tomb Raider, which I’m happy to have.

I’m around 2/3 of the way through Cixin Liu’s “The Dark Forest“, which is still very absorbing.

I’ve not been listening to much music beyond my own tracks; I’ve been trying to work on lyrics for a bunch of things at once, and I need to focus on them as opposed to listening to outside stuff, which at this point is a distraction.

Anyway: I’m alive.