I became insane with long intervals of horrible sanity.
Edgar Allen Poe

The trouble with fighting for human freedom is that one spends most of one's time defending scoundrels. For it is against scoundrels that oppressive laws are first aimed, and oppression must be stopped at the beginning if it is to be stopped at all.
- H. L. Mencken

Many people would sooner die than think; In fact, they do so
-Bertrand Russell

What I have been telling you, from alpha to omega, what is the one great thing the sigil taught me — that everything in life is miraculous. For the sigil taught me that it rests within the power of each of us to awaken at will from a dragging nightmare of life made up of unimportant tasks and tedious useless little habits, to see life as it really is, and to rejoice in its exquisite wonderfulness. If the sigil were proved to be the top of a tomato-can, it would not alter that big fact, nor my fixed faith. No Harrowby, the common names we call things by do not matter — except to show how very dull we are ...
-James Branch Cabell

February 01, 2013 - 10:45 a.m.

Sucking on My Own Terms

I haven't done much of anything since I last wrote. I taught pre-calculus, did some teaching prep, played on turntable.fm with Carey, ate dinner, and came home. Anything there worth discussing? I'm having some doubts about the students doing their homework I might have to check it. When I copied a question wrong nobody caught it. I'm giving a quiz on Tuesday. We'll see how they do. I have to remember to write next week's quizzes today. I'm giving a quiz today and forgot to print it out. I hate that.

Ed Koch died and I'm surprised at all the love he's getting. Yes people say nice things when you die but nobody makes you say something. Yet so many friends are posting tributes on FB. I never voted for him. I never came close to voting for him. I didn't even vote for him when he ran as both a Democrat and a Republican. I always found somebody I liked better that I could at least vote for as a protest. What I did like about him was that he was an unabashed New Yorker. He was the kind of person I know in real life. My mother knew him in real life. I saw him more than every other mayor combined. I might very well have enjoyed having a beer with him. But he sold out liberal principles and supported Republicans and was not a good mayor. He was New York's Ronald Reagan, a victory of personality over substance.

Now I'm going to the vault to see what I've put off writing for a slow news day. It's between songwriting and atheism. I'm going for songwriting.

Songwriting is a bit like photography. A professional doesn't have to use everything she creates. She can show only the best. A novelist can't afford to do that. You can't work two years on a book then say, "it isn't my best so I'll keep it to myself." A songwriter can do that. You don't want your good songs buried in mediocrity, I want to discuss what makes a song a keeper,

My friend Roy says that if you open a business you have to have an edge. What is going to differentiate yours from the 95% of new businesses that fail? You have to do something better than everyone else. The same things hold for songs. The question to ask is? "Why would someone want to hear my song rather than all the other songs out there?" The surest way is to have something to say and not something that's been said over and over again. I was once talking to a singer/songwriter about his musical social circle. He singled out one as not being up to the level as the others. He was right, the wasn't at the same level as the others. He was far above them. All the others wrote pretty songs. Not beautiful, pretty. A song being pretty is the epitome of being damned with faint praise. It's like telling someone that their blind date has a great personality. Pretty songs are not in short supply. Anyone with any training can churn them out. They are like the paintings they hang in motels that are sold by the square foot. The one he was critical of isn't pretty but his songs say something. I might not agree with what they say but they are his thoughts, not rewarmed clichs. That's a reason to listen.

A song can be earwormable. It digs its way into people's brains. You do that and you can have a hit even if the song isn't great. It doesn't have to be great art but it has to generate strong emotions.

A song can be innovative. When someone listens he'll think, "I never heard that before? Maybe it's a chord progression, maybe it's the harmonies, maybe it's the overall structure. Music has many dimensions and if build not a better mousetrap but a new kind that still works people will beat a path to your door.

Sometimes it's in the performance. I'd listen to Annie Haslam sing a phone book. I'd listen to Ashley MacIsaac play anything that lets him show off his fiddling skills. And that's the key thing. If your strength is singing show off your voice.

Being funny is always good and the easiest thing to judge. If people laugh it works.

This seems obvious but I see people not doing it all the time. They put every song they wrote on their album. You hear them in concert and there are a few good songs but they are scattered. I'd much rather listen to a 35 minute album of songs that grab my attention than a 70 minute album that mixes them with songs that aren't bad but aren't special.

I always tell people to follow Jack Hardy's advice and write a song a week, That keeps your songwriting muscles in shape. It doesn't mean you have to share them all with the world. Think of the rest of them as training

I have no idea what prompted me to write this. I'm sure I had a reason to put it on my list of things to write about but now that I did I am sorely tempted to follow my advice and not share it. So many of My Gentle Readers are songwriters that know so much more about this than I do. I can just hear them thinking, "he has no idea what he's talking about." So why am I posting it anyway? Because I think it has something to say. It might be wrong but it has content. One of my conscious decisions about blogging is to not give into my fears. I do that enough in the rest of my life. So maybe this sucks but it's sucking on my own terms.

I signed the Pro-Truth Pledge:
please hold me accountable.

Memories: Not that Horrid Song - May 29, 2018
Wise Madness is Now In Session - May 28, 2018
The NFL and the First Amendment - May 27, 2018
On The Road Again - May 26, 2018
Oliver the Three-Eyed Crow - May 25, 2018

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Horvendile February 01, 2013
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