Category Archives: 30Hz Bl-g

Ramblings at the frequency of 30Hz

The Slide Into Meh

I doubt that you’ve read this bl-g from the beginning. So to recap. I began writing about music and life and everything else because my therapist recommended that I journal. I started journaling but just didn’t keep up. The bl-g went up because by posting these entries, there were good people out there to hold me accountable. Well, you might be good people (wholly debatable) but you haven’t held me accountable. So it goes. The bl-g morphed into something more about music than therapy as I grew “healthier.”

Pi, the man with the drill

The problem with mental health is that it’s not entirely unlike physical health. Mental health waxes and wanes with much less predictability. My daughter comes home with hellfire disease from preschool, physical illness is just around the corner. Guaranteed. Mental illness is tricky and always in flux. Some days are better than others, some weeks are better than others. Only now I’m more aware of these little slides up to the edge of a “funk.” We’ll call it “funk” in lieu of “depression” because I have been clinically depressed and I no longer throw that word around lightly.

Lately I find myself looking over into that pit. And I’m becoming tired, tired of preventing myself from falling in.

It was two years ago when I first slipped into depression proper. I remember coming home after watching Black Swan, a shell of myself. Movies seemed to have affected me more deeply in recent months. Inception had caused a panic attack. Black Swan forced me to recognize that what I was feeling was not normal. I’m not prepared to draw connections between the content of this movie and my own revelation, but I’m sure there’s plenty of material. Sappy movies induced real emotional pain. I experienced similar results from dark, depressing lyrics. Instead of observing from the outside looking in, I was on the inside looking out. In the thick of it.

These feelings are flowing again. But I’m able to confront them because I’m aware of the possibility of what lies below. For me, it was six months of pervasive emptiness. It’s extraordinarily hard to put into words. I no longer found joy in the things that I loved. I could get out of bed and I could take care of my daughter, go through the motions. I didn’t care to watch movies and music had lost its joy. These activities just seemed so frivolous. After getting my daughter to bed I just wanted to go back to sleep. I had no energy to write or enjoy my wife’s company. Or anyone’s company, really.

This rumble has no point. I have no great revelation to impart. I’m merely journaling because it’s what I need to do. And I’m not doing enough of it. I’m turning to consuming myself in writing and work and movies and music and video games and Twitter because I see these activities as guardians of the fortress, but they’re terrible guardians. They’re probably drunk and take just about any bribe you offer them. I’m taking a weekend with a friend at the end of this month to get away for a bit. A nice Sears mail order home (heck yes) on the Chesapeake. I’m taking my typewriter and my computer and a lot of beverages. Lots and lots of beverage. I see two possible outcomes. I’m looking forward to both.

THIS:

The Shining, Jack Nicholson happy

OR THIS:

The Shining, Jack Nicholson CRAZY

BUT EITHER ONE IS BETTER THAN THIS:

Jack Nicholson, The Shining

 

 

Passion Pit @ Stage AE 11/6

Passion Pit

This is my first concert writeup in what feels like forever. I had a long break between shows and I neglected to write up the two shows prior to that. I feel refreshed, like I could spill words all over this page like my 3yo spills, well, everything. And they might make just as much sense. Or maybe I’m just here to let my bl-g know I’m still alive.

Champion Fist Pumper
Imagine this dude, the fist pump champion, in the first row at Passion Pit. And then multiply him by five dozen.

Passion Pit last night at Stage AE. As always my preoccupation with the chemical makeup of the crowd became a foremost concern. An oddity last night even as “dudes” fist-pumped gleefully to Passion Pit’s breed of bubbly-electro-pop ear candy. And by “dudes” I mean guys I would have placed more readily at an Arena Football League game. Stage AE crowds, in my experience, have been the most energetic of concert goers. By and large, they are barely old enough to drink and therefore hammered as a direct result. Hence the energy. This portion of the crowd mingled with the teetotaler portion of the crowd whose eyes shared time with the TVs above the bar, eagerly awaiting election results to come pouring in. It was a house divided. There was also a guy in grey suit wearing a massive cardboard Romney head. He appeared without a bighead Obama for equal representation. This solo appearance just made him seem desperate.  And then I, instead of tweeting about the show I was watching (at the time Youngblood Hawke), per my normal concert routine, became far too concerned about the Massachusetts Senate results and scrolling twitter for confirmation of the false confirmation results which then lead to confirmation of the official results. Or something. You know how Twitter goes.

Political map tapping set to Passion Pit just can’t be beat.

But I digress politico. And that’s not why anyone’s reading this shit.

I’ll skip discussing Youngblood Hawke in depth, except to mention that if I had been Tweeting last night I’d have gone overboard describing the lead singer’s plaid track suit. I couldn’t figure it out. Regarding the music, the set sounded disjointed. Their “radio hit” felt gleefully manufactured next to the freeform nonsense of the rest of their jams. In a word, frenetic and forgettable. They reminded me of The Format, without the fun. But not like the band fun. Because I don’t find fun. much fun at all. (Format’s lead singer is now the lead singer of fun. if you didn’t catch why I became obsessed with that nonsense just now.)

Youngblood Hawke’s “We Come Running”

[tube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wH1caVBApj4&feature=relmfu[/tube]

But Passion Pit surprised me. I have been wary of electro-based live acts for some time. I don’t want to denigrate electronic bands’ talent as musicians but something is often lost in translation. The artifice of the music undermines the guise of spontaneous creation. M83 dominated his/their show earlier this year. Yeasayer’s more-electro tracks from their latest album underwhelmed compared to their early jams. Michael Angelakos turned the stage into his own personal treadmill. And while he engaged in the typical histrionics of most voice-only frontmen, his particular and dynamic vocal range played like an instrument. The band had a live presence, driven by a tight band — perhaps most notable was the metronomic precision of Nate Donmoyer on drums that occasionally played cadence that was drum machine on the record. The instrumental accomplishment, perhaps, shouldn’t have been a surprise considering the Cambridge-born band (with the exception of Angelakos) attended the Berklee School of Music in Cambridge, MA.

The set began with the tub-thumper and current hit single “Take A Walk.” The near capacity crowd salivated, perhaps a Pavlov’s dog response, craving Taco Bell. (You know, because “Take A Walk” is featured prominently in a Taco Bell commercial.) Really, you know you’ve made it when your single’s selling grade-D taco beef on a Dorito shell. A true American success story. I thought it was an odd choice to lead with the song on everyone’s brain.

[tube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=euDlcNQDUYw[/tube]

The setlist choice paid off, however, in spades. I waited, perhaps too impatiently for “Sleepyhead” as we navigated a number of humdrum also-rans from the new record Gossamer . “Sleepyhead” is the beginning and end of the conversation about “Best Passion Pit track.” If you have another opinion, you’re probably wrong. I’m not being facetious. As the synth from the penultimate track bled into the immediately recognizable “Sleepyhead” synth, the members of both opening acts joined Passion Pit on stage. I hadn’t seen an on-stage clusterfuck as impressive since a Wu-Tang Clan show in 1997. When the beat dropped, on-stage performers showered streamers and confetti out over the crowd. The paper fireworks remained, suspended, overhead as the cacophony of performers burst to life. Many beating drums, some just dancing or singing along with Angelokos. On a night stepped with bi-partisan politics, the swollen collection of performers writhing among confetti created a hopeful parallel. It’s not really a reasonable connection to make. A bunch of like-minded musicians joining together on stage to play one killer song. …but consider this. Passion Pit shared the stage with Hollerado and Youngblood Hawke for the song everyone wanted to hear. It’s pretty common for bands to share the stage with other acts on the bill, but I can’t remember the last time I saw this brand of camaraderie during a band’s biggest song. The idealist in me wants to see this as something greater. I’m a writer. I like to draw parallels. So I choose to draw them here for a lack of anything else to discuss.

[tube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SkBdJ728Sa8[/tube]

The act of sharing in the spotlight, fostering joy, just for the sake of it — is inspiring. It makes me want to believe that we can find inspiration in greater quantities moving forward. Even if it’s just a five-man band from Boston and their barely-known opening acts, there’s something to take away here. Music can and always will inspire hope. It is good. And it is natural, even if it’s largely false and misguided… and maybe, just maybe, we’ll have an NHL season this year if those bastards learn to share, like Passion Pit. Hrm? What’s that? Did you think I was talking about the deadlock in government caused by bi-partisan shenanigans and Republican held House of Reps? Pfft. I could see why you’d think I was going there with the whole election thread, but there’s no hope for any reconciliation there. Don’t be ridiculous.

NHL Lockout

That’s nice. Now stop.

Living in Pittsburgh, I have achieved a sort of placid comfort normally reserved for retirement communities and making plans around post-season runs for Cleveland pro sports teams. I don’t mean that I’m hitting the early bird specials, only that when I make plans to do something, in Pittsburgh, I’m rarely inconvenienced. Movies sell out, but generally not the movies I want to see. Concerts sell out, but there’s never a rush to buy tickets to any of the bands about which I wax poetic. I don’t want the secret to get out, but Pittsburgh boasts many of the things that larger cities claim as their own… a stunning cityscape, a thriving arts community, a busy concert calendar (at least lately), three professional sports, a very good symphony with A-list conductors, etc. I don’t want to profess delusion; I daily long to live in Boston again, but for a town of only 400,000, Pittsburgh offers more than your average mid-level metro area for a relatively few number of people.

Frankestein Double Feature presented by TCM

So imagine my surprise this past Wednesday when I was on my way to the Frankenstein double-feature, and when stopped a light, I tried to buy tickets in advance and the Fandango app told me the show was sold out. Sold out? Surely, Fandango was just full of shit. Of  course there are m’f’ing tickets. Nevertheless, I was concerned. On one hand, when I went to see Ghostbusters last year at this same time, the theater still had plenty of seats remaining. On the other, Frankenstein was just one night,Ghostbusters played on at least two consecutive Wednesdays.

Packed 3D movie theater
SOLD OUT

After parking the car in a pretty empty parking lot at the Settler’s Ridge Cinemark, I’d again convinced myself that there would still be tickets. I hurry in to the lobby, still with 20 minutes to spare. There’s Frankenstein Double Feature. 7:00. And there’s the flashy flashy SOLD OUT. Dismay. I’d planned my entire week around this event. I’d chosen Frankstenstein and Bride of Frankenstein over the Dinosaur, Jr. and Shearwater show. It was planned. This was my trip out for the week. I’d gleefully thrown the three-year old into my wife’s arms and run out the door with visions of a big ass popcorn bag, a tub of Coke and corpse reanimation.

I stood in the lobby of the theater staring at the movie times. There were plenty of movies I wanted to see but it didn’t matter what I chose, not really. It was all going to be something other than an angry mob hunting a walking hulk of mismatched appendages.

On one hand, I’m thrilled that people in Pittsburgh are supporting these special repertory screenings. (I wish more of them would support the films, not promoted by the TCM muscle, at the Hollywood Theater.) On the other hand, stop going to see my shit and leaving me, stunned, in the lobby while I decide whether to wait an extra 15 minutes to see Argo or go see The Perks of Being a Wallflower.

Perks of Being a Wallflower
The Perks of Being a Wallflower Wallflowers

For those that care, at best maybe three of you. I saw Wallflower because there’s a kind of backwards pride associated with seeing our little town on the big screen — even though it is happening with increasing regularity.  I found much to like about the movie, even if the final act seemed a little rushed. Seeing my primary commute through the Ft. Pitt tunnel become a repeated and primary plot point for the film felt a little out-of-body. And speaking of the The Hollywood Theater, the Dormont establishment (less than a mile or so from my house) even makes a brief appearance as the setting for a Rocky Horror Sing-a-long. The movie could have been terrible (it wasn’t, go see it) but I would have enjoyed it for one stupid reason alone. When the high school kids in the movie had nothing better to do, they went to Kings. Facepalm for truth.

Hey Emma. Welcome to Pittsburgh. Oh, and you’ll be spending all of your time in Kings.

I always consider Pittsburgh to be this void of cultural taste. Its possible that having spent so much time in Kings during my high school years has irrevocably tarnished my impression of this city. Honestly it’s like Waffle House, only less happy. My relationship with this town can be a little patronizing. I admit. It only grew more so in the decade we were apart. But maybe it’s time I gave the people here a little more credit. After all, those non-cultured bastards prevented me from seeing Frankenstein on the big screen for the first time.

Anyway, after Wallflower, I went home. Put on the Frankenstein DVD and promised myself the next time I rearrange my schedule to do something, I’ll actually buy the tickets in advance… because there are at least a few hundred people just like myself out there, and goddammit, they’re going to steal my ticket.

[tube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p-3e0EkvIEM[/tube]

 

 

Welp. Apparently I’m not a writer – a 30Hz rant.

A writer is told by pretty much everybody  that a writer is only a writer if that writer writes. And if you read those so-called “craft” books, a writer can only be a writer if that writer writes at least two hours per day. More is encouraged. Less is, well, fine, if you want to [audibly scoff] write fan fiction. Pick up any copy of Poets & Writers or Writer’s Digest and you’ll find advice like this. It might be cloaked in encouraging exclamation points but, in the end, every piece of writerly encouragement boils down to this: Just sit down and write. 

When Harry Met Sally - Sally's nagging look
The voice of the nagging compendium of writer’s advice looks at me like this when I’m not writing. She looks innocent, but she’s got angry opinions.

So, thusly, I am not a writer.

I cannot sit down to write 2 hours most days. I cannot, with certainly, count on anything beyond 30 minutes each day. And even then those 30 minutes are the foggy, dreary-eyed minutes after midnight when birthing words seems as impossible as birthing a baby through my eye’s lacrimal ducts. Some days I don’t even have time to register the guilt that comes along with being a writer that doesn’t write.

Tear duct diagram
Imagine the pain.

At this point in my life I’ve typed many many volumes and hopefully have many meaningful volumes left. I’ve had some minor screenwriting success. I’ve written hundreds of movie and music reviews for various publications and been offered invaluable opportunities as a result. I’ve interviewed Tom Hanks and John Travolta. I was close enough to Paul Newman that I could smell his cologne. I’ve been through an MFA program. I’ve been published in literary magazines and tech magazines both online and off.

 

But apparently I’m not a writer. I’m just a guy typing a lot of disparate words.

I’ve spent 16 years of my life typing these words. Not all in fiction, though. Fiction has only been a more recent development. And it’s only been within the last couple of years that I could admit to anyone that I was a writer, even if I don’t wholeheartedly believe it — what with that burdensome guilt resulting from not writing all the time.

Sam Raimi beat me to it.

My “career” began with movie reviews and entertainment journalism before moving into screenplays and copywriting. Back then, I might have been more of a “writer” though. I hauled my 47 lb. Dell laptop/boat anchor to Caribou Coffee and sat for hours on end, just working and writing and drinking massive amounts of coffee. That right there was the sweet life. Unlimited time, unlimited potential… but only limited talent. It takes years to learn how to write and write well. And though my fledgling confidence soared, I was only a student with big dreams of writing a low-budget indie horror movie that spanned genres, gained some notoriety at film festivals before being picked up by a major studio and given a limited release… and ultimately selling big as a DVD.

I keep going back to this oft suggested 2-hour rule for writers. Quite honestly, it is a source of despair and envy and frustration. If I compiled a list of all the things I need to do each day I’m pretty sure I’d need a 48-hour day. Being a part-time stay-at-home father of two girls (one is 3 and the other is 6 months) more than half my day is already spoken for. I wake at 7:15am. I generally don’t get to sniff freedom until 8:00pm in the evening. By that time, I have two-hours of clear-minded time available for productivity. But that time is split fourteen different ways. Picking up the house (half-assedly), dishes, fleeting moments of face-time with the wife, working out, taking care of leftover tasks for my day job… yada yada yada… it’s 11:00pm and I didn’t even yada yada the best part. I haven’t even opened my laptop. Maybe I “wasted” twenty minutes during that time to relax — gawd forbid — play a video game or watch a sitcom on the DVR.

[tube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O6kRqnfsBEc[/tube]

Meanwhile this nagging voice in the back of my head keeps whispering:…writers make time to write…

I have a response to this voice of collective holier-than-thou literary smugness.

“I can’t make time, cocksuckers. I can’t fabricate more time or patience out of thin air. I have to do the best with the 24 hours given to me each day.” And while I’m not always the most skinflint of time conservationists, I try. And often I fail. And those days are riddled with guilt. Sometimes I give up too easily. But when I give up on a day it’s often because I hear that voice, nagging, ever-present in the back of my mind….writers make time to write… …a writer writes… That voice does not often inspire me. It has been repeated and reinterpreted to the point of meaninglessness. I feel like a child that’s been spanked too much. I feel so much guilt from thinking these things while I struggle to find time to write that the guilt means nothing. It doesn’t inspire me. It often just leads to anxiety and sometimes, as it has in the past, depression. And ultimately more non-writing.

We Must Cultivate Our Garden

It is true beyond a reasonable doubt that writers must write. But like the end of Voltaire’s Candide, a writer (or really any slave to the creative drive), must also first tend to his garden, guilt-free, in order to create without baggage. When I am immune to the guilt, I am a writer. I scribble notes in my journals and on napkins and receipts in my wallet. My mind is always working and plotting ideas and fixes for broken stories. I’ll put all of those notes aside to tackle whenever it is I’ll next have 30 minutes or 2 hours of rare undivided, uninterrupted, unshackled writing time. But rest assured when I have the time, I’ll be a goddamn writer whether that voice approves of me or not.

In conclusion:

Henry David Throeau - Sit Down To Write

 

 

Kids and the 25-Year “Ghostbusters” Revelation

Ghostbusters Teaser poster This poster hangs in my basement “lair.” I refuse to use the term “man cave” because that term needed retiring before Tony Siragusa had his own home improvement show. It’s one of my favorite things. It’s less a bauble than a thing because a bauble, to me, must be something that collects dust. This is too vertical. I’d been on a Ghostbusters soundtrack kick lately because my daughter really enjoyed dancing to “Cleanin’ Up the Town” by the Bus Boys.

 

 

I’m pretty pumped that I bothered to check for the Bus Boys’ video. Man. If you haven’t seen it or don’t remember, do yourself a favor and watch it. Just pure fun. They get to drive the Ecto-1. I’m jealous. Plus stop-motion drum kit assemblage.

But, as always, I digress.

As I was putting the record on the turntable one day, my daughter says, “You have that downstairs.” Of course, I’m like, silly three-year old, I have no record player downstairs and therefore you are mistaken. “No,” she repeats. “You have that,” she taps her finger on the sleeve, “downstairs.” It dawns on me she’s referring to the poster flanking my TV. The three-year old has called out her father for underestimating her keen powers of observation. They remember everything. Every minute of every hour of every day. They have nothing to do but remember. Even if they can’t verbalize exactly what they’re thinking, they know.

And this sets me to thinking about a life-fact that I’d considered after she was born. But it hits me harder now than it did when she was a newborn, when it was merely an observation, because she’s a walking, talking human being with opinions now. She likes the Cars and Foster the People and the Black Keys and the Ghostbusters soundtrack but she definitely, violently dislikes the Reverend Horton Heat.

My observation is this: Ghostbusters came out 25 years before she was born in 2009. I don’t remember a time before Ghostbusters. I remember vividly seeing it four times in the theater in 1984. I was not yet six and I covered my eyes each time Ray Stanz charged the librarian ghost in the library. Last Halloween, I documented my first time seeing it in the theater since 1984 with this post. Consider a movie that came out 25 years before you were born. What’s your first thought about that movie? Okay. First let’s do mine.

The Top 5 most memorable (a subjective determination) flicks that came out 25 years before 1978.

From Here to Eternity kiss

  1. From Here to Eternity
  2. Roman Holiday
  3. Gentleman Prefer Blondes
  4. House of Wax
  5. I Vitelloni

And the first thing I think? My gawd. Those films seem really old. Next thought. My gawd. In my daughter’s frame of reference, Ghostbusters is going to seem as old to her as From Here to Eternity seems to me. Of course, this does not take into account that black and white movies have an extra aura of oldness. But then again, Ghostbusters, boasts rotoscope mattes and stop-motion animation — advanced special effects techniques for the 80’s, that probably look a little “hokey” to kids raised in a post-Terminator 2 world. By the way, if you care to read more about the Ghostbusters effects, this is a pretty interesting article I found on Spook Central (a Ghostbusters Companion site) that was published in 1984 in a magazine called Starlog.

Ghostbusters librarian
Easy to take this effect for granted. A matte ghost effect turns the pages of a rotoscope book animation. The book needed to be a separate effect to make it look more real.

How does one necessarily assimilate this idea? I fall too often into the trap of considering my daughters an extension of my own frame of reference. It’s haunting to think how quickly the years pass, to think that my dad perhaps considered From Here to Eternity the same way I think of Ghostbusters now. I find myself thinking of my parents and wondering what they over-analyzed when they were my age. And what loves did they once hope to pass down to me before I spurned their attempts or misunderstood their intentions to offer me a piece of themselves? The more I observe my oldest daughter, the more I understand that, like myself, she too, will eventually come to dismiss these frivolous pieces of her father, her most-of-the-time stay-at-home-caregiver, in favor of the new and the now. Sure, eventually she might rediscover (or uncover for the first time) these things, but they won’t, like the Ghostbusters soundtrack now, be the impetus to run and dance and laugh with her dad. The music, movies and movie posters she recognizes now as an inextricable part of her early years will become something old, they will become other, as she, and eventually her five-month old sister, venture out into the world to find their own loves and revelations. They must find their own nostalgia.