Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Tuesday Tuneage
Childbirth - "Siri, Open Tinder"


Valentine's Day, ugh. My current self-deprecating jokes on my (lack of a) love life are "I haven't had a date since the Nixon administration" and "I'm never sure how many oxen I should offer to an intended bride's father." When I was younger, my Valentine's Day "celebration" involved Mickey D's or KFC scarfed down with some Schmidt or Premium in cans while listening to Metallica, then it um, evolved into replacing greasy fast food with even more righteous noise and drinks with a harder edge. A favorite memory is driving down Lake Street after scoring Motorhead's The Chase Is Better Than The Catch: The Singles A's And B's* and a bottle of Jagermeister and contemplating speeding up as I approached couples racing across the street hand-in-hand.** Last year VD Day (ha ha) fell on a Saturday and my playlist was rather glorious. This year I read a newspaper, a magazine, and a book for almost twelve hours straight. Didn't even tempt myself with a Brisk Iced Tea, keeping a clear head for more reading on Monday at the coffee shop. Maturity vs. no guts, lack of vision vs. a studious calm.


The radio in my office has five presets. Number four is Jack FM and number 5 is Radio K. When accounting work gets weary and I tire of sports talk, inevitably my digits go to hitting 4 or 5 on this radio. The Jack because it will play something fun or funny and Radio K because it will play something sweet out of the blue that I am unfamiliar with. And sheesh, Radio K scratched whatever mental itch I had on a day last week because I scrambled to Shazam the hell out of a catchy chorus-friendly song they were playing and found out it was Childbirth, a band out of Seattle, with "Siri, Open Tinder." Like The Replacements' "I Don't Know" it's driven by its call-and-response choruses; like that 'Mat's tune it is such a blast that the lyrics top the sundae rather than making it too precious. For instance:

shirtless (swipe left)
gym rat (swipe left)
dreadlocks (swipe left)
spaghetti straps (swipe left)
Siri, open Tinder

single dad (swipe left)
Seahawks (swipe left)
married couple (swipe right)
group shot (which one are you??)
Siri, open Tinder


Even a clueless, socially-avoiding oldster like me knows that with Tinder, swipe left means reject the suitor and swipe right means accept him or her. Not that I've actually used Tinder, I learned the whole swipe left/swipe right thing from a sports radio bit. I wasn't even curious about it but then a Tinder-using friend informed me and also said that you need a Facebook account to access it. Dohkay. Facebook? Tinder? These are cons to rope me into meeting and possibly spending time with people, which will distract me from my social media mission, which is to monitor Twitter for the best cheap shots. (And hopefully add my own, fortune favors the bold.)

So yes, I enjoy a song about an app I've never used more than I actually enjoy using any app to meet people/hook up (or whatever the kids call it these days)/face weeks of regret. Sounds about right. Nixon administration.

* Punctuation pet peeve: Apostrophes do NOT denote plural!

** Wait a sec: This was different from a typical night behind the wheel in Uptown how?

Tuesday, February 09, 2016

Tuesday Tuneage
The Dandy Warhols - "All The Money Or The Simple Life Honey"

Years ago, a young man emailed me and asked if he could submit work to my zine, Exiled on Main Street. I told him it was a one-man publication, that I didn't accept submissions, but passed on some advice and encouragement in our subsequent exchange. I was soon flattered that he started a writing website and had Exiled listed in his links section and credited me with helping him get his start. In the spirit of that exchange and in light of me being twenty years into this writing adventure (the twentieth anniversary of my first zine issue was last Sunday), I offer these random thoughts on writing, for whoever may stumble upon them.

- I write down anything that inspires me or gets me thinking about something to write.

- I have a scratch pad or a notes app on my phone handy while working out. For me, only drinking coffee matches endorphins in helping provide a creative rush. I scratched many notes for an essay that was published in an anthology (more on this later) with a stubby little pencil on the back of those weightlifting cards they had at the YMCA. I wasn't even lifting weights at the time, it was just a handy piece of paper nearby.

- I have a thing for index cards. And months after I posted that, I dropped my two-year create-on-a-laptop habit and went back to my Mead notebooks. Kept the index card trick though.

- I like to write in a notebook. Specifically, a Mead five-star, two-subject, college-ruled notebook with pockets in the middle to store my index cards and random papers. Apologies to anybody who has given me a beautiful, tastefully designed writing notebook over the years: I gotta stick with the Mead, it's the right hand to my right hand. I write with a Pilot Easy Touch pen, black medium ink. I chose Pilot mostly because Rodney Dangerfield did ads for them decades ago and I usually have tried to buy their products ever since. I rarely create new work on my laptop because I associate a computer screen with accounting work. I like writing by hand, I can jot at the top of the page and work outside the lines on the page. Sure it's more time-consuming and I have to type up the stuff I'm gonna use later, but nothing can replace that flow of brain to fingers to pen to paper.

- During initial creation, I use loud music on headphones to blast away the distractions. "Inspirational" music - sounds that are deep, rich, profound, tasteful, etc. - don't help in clearing out the brain.

- I (almost always) love rewriting more than I love creating it in the first place.

- I read my work out loud, I find the best revisions and rewrites that way.

- I have a Henceforth File for drafts I haven't used yet, things to (maybe) work on later, poems I haven't figured out where to sneak into my blog, etc. It's kind of thick now and while most of its contents may never see the light of day, it serves as a reminder that work has been done.

- No matter how much others respect that I'm a writer or how much they enjoy reading my stuff, nobody gives a damn but me about how much time I put in or whether I show up at my writing desk. I long ago learned to tune out those who think my writing is a pursuit to be enjoyed around their schedules. Efforts to get me to blow off writing to join friends with words like: "You can do that later" and "You have the day off? Let's hang out" always failed, but I regret never responding to anyone who described my writing as a "hobby" with: "Yeah, kinda like how raising your kids is your hobby."

- The Loft often has classes and workshops that can help with craft, ideas, inspiration, creativity, the business side, etc. Plus Grumpy's is a block away for great burgers, beers, jukebox and working on that "lonely writer sitting in a bar thinking great ideas (or fading fast)" look.

- An oldie but goodie: When somebody says: "I could do what you do", they can't. They generally follow this up with hilarious moaning about lack of time, having a demanding day job, writing doesn't make any money, etc. I shrug, then weeks/months/years later snarkily reference them in my writing.

- Somebody needs to come up with a system for what to do when you come up with those great writing ideas in the shower. Waterproof voice memo machine, America's inventors?

- Here's how I got published in a book: In March of 2001 I wrote a wacky alternate history of Van Halen and popular music covering the years 1978-1984 and put it in my zine. It got some buzz here in Minneapolis and around the country in certain (rather small) circles. For months I received sporadic angry emails by folks who didn't get the premise. That was that, and I carried on with writing and publishing my zine. In the summer of 2003, I got an email from De Capo Press wondering if they could publish the Van Halen essay in their De Capo Best Music Writing 2003 anthology, to be edited by Matt Groening. That was it, that was how I got published. I don't know who suggested or nominated my essay for this honor, I don't know how the selections were made. My essay batted leadoff in the book and Elvis Costello, who I poked fun at in my piece, had the closing essay. I think I got $150 in payment. And no, I never heard from Matt Groening.

- So I've been slogging around in DIY-Land for twenty years because I don't like to network / am lazy / still don't know how to proceed with a "writing career" and don't know who to ask / and consider it better for my mental health and well-being if I write consistently and throw it out there via zine or blog rather than looking for publications or contests. Then there's what I told someone who once suggested I consider looking for a columnist gig: "Nobody cares about my latest trip to the liquor store." Plus I still find what I'm doing is fun. Probably the best writing advice I ever got was from a writer friend who told me: "Just try to impress yourself." Maybe the Big Ideas and Big Themes will come to me someday and I'll become one of those Zeitgeist Guys, but for now I just gotta keep the pen moving.