Eleven Inspirados

In no particular order.

1. Dying streetlights, shadows in the dark corners of an alley, glimmer of rain on pavement.

2. The horror of transformation. Cronenberg.

3. Snippets of dialogue from conversations I’ll never be a part of.

4. Ed McBain

5. Jim Thompson.

6. James Thompson

7. Bitter west coast punk.

8. Street-smart hip hop.

9. Existentialist philosophy. “You mean nothing so deal with it.”

10. Rambling hobos.

11. “All it takes is one moment to change the rest of your life forever.”

Top Four Ways to Make an Epic Writing Music Playlist

Top Four Ways to Make an Epic Writing Music Playlist

Let’s face it: The world is loud and noisy and very annoying. And you, dear friend, are a humble writer just trying to focus and get some words down on the page. You’ve tried everything around the house. Some Netflix (too distracting; that Dave Chappelle spec is too funny). Cooking something that takes a while (Almost burned the house down, you klutz). Frantic masturbation (No free hands because something has to get rid of the pop-ups. And no, don’t try using that, even with a touch screen. It hurts). Fact is you need something to turn on and bend to your will and tune out the outside world.  A place to escape into. A music playlist tailored especially for when you need to get cracking on the writing thing is a great choice. Here’s some easy ways to help you create the best setlist ever and become the envy of anyone who ever said you had a shit taste in music.

 

Amount of Music

 

I get bored with songs easily. Like, real easily. People who say that songs get better the more you listen to them need to get their hippie bullshit out of my face. I can get a song stuck in my head after one listen. It’s a fucking curse. The skip button over the years has become my best friend. Sometimes I’ll pause a song I like (usually to talk to someone because people don’t like when you keep an earbud in when you talk to them. Guess it’s rude or something) and come back to it and reach for the button. Next song. I’ll be in the middle of a great part of a great song that hasn’t gotten old yet and skip it anyway. Fuck it. There’s probably something better on the next track.

Screenshot_2017-03-22-19-56-23

It gets worse when I write. It shows in the playlist. I’ve only been a full-time Spotify guy for three months and already my writing playlist is 332 songs long. That is 22 hours and 39 minutes of music. I could not possibly digest all of that at once. I would get very bored having to sit somewhere for 22 hours. And also I would probably die.

Screenshot_2017-03-22-20-45-21-1You think that’s bad? Take a look at the tracks on my SD card. After seven years’ worth of music downloads I have trimmed that writing playlist down to 547 songs. The longest it has ever been is 603 songs. No word on how long either would last, because that thing isn’t measured by the app. I’m sure it’d break trying to calculate that.

Sure, you probably don’t need that many. But you need enough to get you through your productivity time. The worst thing to do is get bored and lose precious minutes hitting the skip button because you have to find something good.

And if you aren’t a poser piece of shit I’m sure you’ve got good stuff on there.

 

How You Get Your Music

 

Back when Pandora was a thing I tried using it as a writing aid. Back when it was a thing my phone was a broken piece of shit that crashed every five minutes and got temperamental around other people, refusing every command. What a true reflection of self. Back then I’d have to stay hooked to a computer at school or in a library with the headphones glued to the station in order to be able to access radio stations that shuffled at random and constantly repeated the same tracks that I could only skip three times.

Eventually I got a new phone and could do all that quality station skipping while sitting on my couch at home. Of course, my writing playlist was in its infant years. Barely two hundred songs. Adorable. But now, with this new mobile Pandora, I could listen to almost anything I wanted anytime at all. As long as I didn’t mind waiting ten minutes for the thing to buffer or only being able to skip three times or having to change the entire station if I was iwriting to ood for something else. What if it was something new and good and I wanted to know the name of it? What if it was instrumental and I had to find the name in order to be able to pick it out of the crowd? I’d end up looking at the phone screen more than the page in front of me, for Christ’s sake. And this is something you need to take into consideration.

As I said before I downloaded 98% of my music for over seven years and only stopped around this New Year’s. Sure, it’s easy as long as you know where to look and what to look for. What site you use and how long it lasts before it gets shut down. Long as you’re lucky enough to avoid viruses. Smart enough to not download directly to your phone because it will kill your storage. Careful enough to not accidentally delete your entire music catalog twice in one year because of the same computer error. I might be guilty of the last part. Point is, I did it for a long time. I’m not gonna stop you. But at heart it is inconvenient considering all of the other amazing ways you can connect to music these days. Don’t be afraid to try those other ways. Find an app that gives you the amount of songs and customization and organization you want, without having to look at the screen every fifteen seconds.

Not that you’d be distracted enough to anyway. Because you’ll be writing too much.

 

Song Choice

 

Of course, you’ll never want to hit that skip button if you surround yourself with good music. Maybe you’re lucky and only listen to like three artists in one genre and live content with your boring-ass life. Good for you, you lucky dimwit piece of shit.

For the rest of us-especially those like me who get bored with songs after two listens-we need range. Not just in artists, but in genre. You could be a fan of seventeen radically different types of music and isolate them in their own lists, thereby forcing yourself to switch between them when you tire of reggaeton and need some acid blues in your life. What beautiful organization.

Hear me out. It is so much easier to consolidate into one gigantic playlist, with the songs you like writing to all in one place. And if you’re looking for a place to start, I have a few suggestions. Find anthems that get your heart racing. Sad songs that bring you back to the dark place inside of you. Ambient instrumentals that clear your head so you can focus on putting words on the page. Storytelling tracks to coast you along. Angry tracks that help you channel it into something constructive. Chill tracks that relax you if you start getting a headache from all the angry songs.

Or, to be specific, here’s a few I’ve been digging lately.

Coming Home, Leon Bridges. First EP of what may be a great neo-soul career.

King of the Beach, Wavves. Lo-fi neo-surf swimming with serious attitude and a hint of bitter smoke.

Habit, Gabrielle Shonk. Indie folk with a twist of bitter country blues. I don’t like the genre that much, and I can’t stop listening to this track.

Goa, Made in M/Smuv. Laid back piano chords and xylophone hits over a fuzzy hip-hop instrumental. Chill and ambient as all hell. I dig the hell out of this shit.

Reality Check, Noname feat. Eryn Allen Kane and Akenya. Hip-hop isn’t dead and the new crew hasn’t lost the lyricism or the storytelling. A great song for vibing to whenever you need.

 

Learn to Write in Silence

 

At the end of the day your music collection is a crutch to your writing. It means nothing unless you are putting words down. If it is your time to write, then you have to write.

The greatest skill to learn; and the one that takes the most training, is being able to sit by yourself in an empty room or a bus filled with other people and that one old guy breathing stale booze on your shoulder and writing anyway. It takes dedication. Do that, and you’ll be something close to professional.

The outside world was not  designed to help you write. Sometimes you will have to force yourself. You will have to remind yourself that this is something you want.

At the end of the day, there is you and there is the page. That has to be enough.

The Doing and The Done-Pneumonia Edition 3/7/17

The Doing:

1. You’re on the home stretch of the book. Finish it in the next couple of weeks.

2. Find cheeky way of asking for beta readers for book because you don’t know how to ask for beta readers. Maybe if you mention them they will come.

3. It’s been a while since you’ve submitted a story, hasn’t it? You’ve got a few finished. You should get on that.

The Done:

1. Find cheeky way of explaining where you’ve been the last month. Two months. Whatever.

2. Take cough medicine. Drink fluids. You’ve lost twenty pounds in two weeks. Eat food too.

3. Loose plotting for next long work. Or if this one tanks. This one’ll have a better chance with beta readers though. Y’know. Just saying.

The Doing and The Done – 1/23/17

The Doing: 
1. Turn bike into shop down the street this afternoon and hope it can start again in time to be sold because Christ is this fucking thing not going away without a fight.

2. Eagerly await Max Booth III’s new book which should be arriving by mail ANY FUCKING DAY NOW.

3. Apologize to roommates for being an insufferable twit in a brief moment of less-than-genuine clemency in order to get one of them to clean their dog’s mess in the bathroom which I skipped by this morning because I am lazy.

4. Objectively evaluate both sides of punching-Nazis-argument in order to complete possible political piece on time.

5. Immediately regret typing that on blog because of inevitable incendiary comment section that has avoided me so far.

6. Complete second chapter (or part, since it’s kind of long) of Book by weekend.

7. Enjoy Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups in fridge and push blame onto “intuitive eating.”


The Done: 
1. Lay in bed unable to sleep knowing I will pass out in a half hour and be up way too early yet again.
2. Fill shopping cart on Amazon with enough to wipe out gift card.

3. Have first glass of milk in a month. Not lactose intolerant, just have to be in a mood for it.

A Quick Word on Social Media, Politics, and Shouting Into the Void

Shortly after the election, right after the nation came together to either rejoice in having their already-dominating voices heard or to ask themselves what the fuck had just happened, the theories as to how the greasy orange businessman came into power started to emerge.

Immediately common targets stepped up to the range and we all began to shoot.

First was the eponymous “fake news”-partisan propaganda designed as actual news. Designed to tear the voters apart, to add to the already great rift between two visions of America. Maybe the sites were designed by the Russians. Maybe the sites would destroy the fabric of our democracy. Maybe we read them because we were stupid and didn’t know how to discern partisan rhetoric from actual journalism. Who knows.

And next came the platforms we all got our news from, and where these sites flourished: social media. Other people who see things different are annoying. We are all incapable of hosting an actual debate without immediately attempting to discredit them and insult them and absolve ourselves from a different opinion without removing these other people from our lives. It’s a shame to democracy, the articles said. How American can you be if you shut yourself off in a giant bubble filled with nothing but people who agree with you and allow yourself to be blinded by your own viewpoint, with no one to challenge it? What kind of democracy is that?

I was one of those who fell for it. I unsubscribed from the propaganda sites I really didn’t read that often anyway and stopped posting and writing political things into my personal echo chamber when political things made me mad. I was a good American. I wanted to give it a chance. And yes, I still do. This is far from the first time I’ve written politically on the blog but I wanted to keep my political views to the column in the magazine which shall remain anonymous.

But now, with the inauguration of one of the most divisive presidents a day away (and look at me, being nice about the man who may try to make it a crime to talk shit about him), I am here to pronounce that the articles lied to you. Maybe not on purpose. Maybe they were just as panicked and confused as we all were. Maybe they didn’t know and sometimes after disastrous and momentous events it takes time for facts to come out.

It is normal to unfriend and block whenever someone disagrees with you. You didn’t jump onto Facebook to argue with some woman you don’t know over foreign policy. That is what the articles forgot to tell you. It’s a natural reaction. Fight-or-flight. And sometimes the fight isn’t worth it.

Two words: Fuck em. One button and they’re gone for good.

But remember that we live in a democracy and the world is filled with people who disagree with you. You should set a standard for how you block and surely it will differ from person to person and that’s fine. But if it is something trivial-however you may define it-maybe you should try to interact. Start a friendly discussion. Be the better person. Talk with another human being over a crucial issue and see what they bring to the table and who knows maybe it will add something to what you already know about it.

Of course, you should draw a line over what you accept and is unacceptable to your values and rid yourself of any who cross it. Racism, sexism, homophobia, and people who call Our Lord and Savior Harambe “just a gorilla” are all good places to start. Same goes for shoestring anti-semitic conspiracy theories and calling Black Lives Matter a terrorist organization with connections to ISIS.

Case in point:

 

20170119_234527.png

Automatic block. I don’t think I ever tried talking to the guy anyway. No skin off my back and for something so lovably racist he deserves to be shamed in public.

My point here is that it is perfectly fine to block and unfriend whoever you want or need to regardless of what anyone tries to tell you. But the only way we can truly learn about the other side-and what they want in their other version of America-is to open up our ears. Healthy discussion is vital to a healthy society.

As long as you remind people where the boundaries are when you need to.

Top Ten Albums of the High School Years (With Absolutely Necessary Cringe Ratings)

Top Ten Albums of the High School Years (With Absolutely Necessary Cringe Ratings)

In no particular order because I write as I think of them. Appropriate Cringe level advised where noted.

 

  1. “Music From and Inspired by the Motion Picture 8 Mile,” Various Artists.

220px-8milecover

Cringe Level: Minor/Meme Level-Severe Depending on Level of Fanboying

Original release: November 8, 2002

Containing more than just the first rap song to ever win an Oscar, MFAIBTMP8M (please try saying that in your head as an actual word because the thought of it amuses me) is one of the first soundtracks I ever actually got into. When I discovered this I was in the last half of my junior year and had just joined a rap conglomerate when I discovered the film. “Lose Yourself,” of course, is one of the most recognizable and arguably one of the best songs of all time mostly thanks to white boys who can’t name a single album by Gang Starr. The story of personal redemption and upcoming as a someone young and hungry in the game-whatever game you’re trying to get yourself into, whether that be rap, writing, or a job interview like a fucking poser-is timeless and immediately sticks with you the first time you hear it. For a while I have planned to have the title tattooed on the underside of my left arm, my first, when the first book sells. That alone is worth Cringe Points.

Speaking of Gang Starr, the track “Battle” is a throwback to their early braggadocio records and solid production values let Guru’s laid back style still come off as in-your-face and menacing. You wouldn’t wanna battle him.

Nas’ “U Wanna Be Me” is my favorite song from his feud with Jay-Z with some of the most brutal bars. If you want to hear Jiggy be compared to a yeast infection, this is one for you.

“Rabbit Run,” a hookless 3:12-long banger by Eminem, is my favorite song by him to date. A walk-up anthem like no other, it will surely get the blood pumping and the gears spinning in your head with a beat based off of sinister organ chord tones and a clucking bell.

In less musical terms: This song is better than Lose Yourself. Try it.

 

  1. “Weathered,” Creed

 

220px-weathered_cover

Cringe Level: Massive/LOL Kill Yourself

Original Release: November 20, 2001

I was sixteen when I got into Creed. Like, just turned. Besides the punk days (more to come on that) this is the most emo I ever got. They’re a preachy Christian band at heart, and it shows in several songs from here that I can’t stand and won’t mention. I was an agnostic in high school so I ignored most of those thematics. I was there for the edge and come back now for the nostalgia and a few solid tracks.

“Weathered,” the title song. Whenever I was bitter and covered in skin (all the time, skin is very annoying) especially on the way to a school I didn’t like going to or going to a home I didn’t like going to I would turn to this to validate those emotions. At times bitter, pop-angry and desperate, I still dig it sometimes, but usually only for the hook before I switch it.

“One Last Breath,” because Scott Stapp hints at suicide for one measure in the hook and the backing music makes him sound convincing.

“Lullaby,” soft and sweet with a stripped-down approach.

The rest were either unimportant or too Cringe to mention.

 

  1. “The Resistance,” Muse

theresistance

Cringe Level: Minor/Too Obscure to be Meme Level/Possible Hipster Points

Original Release: September 15, 2009

The album that did so well in a year that they had to copy its sound across every album since. I discovered this album through a friend when I was fifteen and dug it. Most songs slip past or sound the same, but I like two of the solid ones.

“Uprising,” the one you will recognize immediately upon hearing the swooning organ followed by the syncopated bass and rather impressive drum work (they are a drummers’ band). Also the music video has a teddy bear army.

The title track, a rebellious love ballad that prepares you for every song they released afterwards.

 

  1. “Best of,” Chris Isaak

best_of_chris_isaak

Cringe Level: Major/Possible Hipster Points

Original Release: May 9, 2006

A different friend introduced this to me. I was also fifteen. That friend called this blues. That friend is a liar. I believed him regardless because I listened to whiny music 24/7. I could classify this as “Sad Surf Acoustic Rock,” “Low-Tempo Rockabilly,” or “California Country Music,” but I won’t try to single out a label for an artist whose every song somehow sounds completely different and exactly the same at the same time and let you decide for yourself.

“Wicked Game,” that eighties romantic ballad with  a music video starring That Model and That Dude Who Tries Way Too Hard To Look Like Elvis But Totally Doesn’t. One of those songs with possible Ironic Hipster Points that I have to be in the mood for otherwise I’ll skip.

“Somebody’s Crying,” bitchy yet whiny as hell and strangely hilarious.

“Only the Lonely,” a great fucking cover.

“Forever Blue,” which defines his sound. I actually like this one. Link is to acoustic version found on this album.

Special mention to “Two Hearts,” which starts off admirably and then descends into utter croon madness before finishing into a siren’s wail of a falsetto.

 

  1. “Gershwin’s World,” Herbie Hancock

 

gershwins_world

Cringe Level: Minor to None/Total Hipster Points

Original Release:  October 20, 1998

A long, long time ago and in a classroom far, far away, I tried learning how to play actual songs on the piano and took a jazz class that somehow didn’t fail me despite my total inexperience due to the fact that I’d only been able to read melodic notes for a year and still struggled with chord tones. Herbie Hancock was one of the artists I was told to try and I love him dearly to this day. I went to the library to try and find one of his albums (because I didn’t know where to start and hadn’t tried pirating any “school” music yet) and this was the first one on the shelf that caught my eye.

“Cotton Tail,” absolute be-bop mania. If I ever try to hit the keys again I will try to play this song and then fail spectacularly.

“St. Louis Blues,” favorite cover of this standard. Complete with vocals.

“The Man I Love,” sweet, romantic, soft piano jazz that’s okay according to people who have no idea what jazz can sound like. Soft spot for this track. Complete with vocals.

“Embraceable You.” See previous entry.

 

  1. “Extreme Behavior,” Hinder

hinder-extremebehavior

Cringe Level: Major to Massive/LOL Kill Yourself

Original Release: September 25, 2005

No excuse for this one. I was sixteen and wanted more non-punk dirty mainstream rock and walked past this album on a Walmart shelf and went on Grooveshark later on and listened to it and liked it.

“Lips of an Angel,” is a song that you can already guess sounds like based on title alone. How it hasn’t become a major meme yet is beyond me. Possibly the only song alive to Cringe for memes. I liked it. Still do sometimes but have to be in the mood for it otherwise massive skip before I start wondering why I still have this as an .mp3.

“Get Stoned,” a party anthem I discovered before I pretended to go to parties or actually smoked anything more severe than cigarettes.

The rest is not worth mentioning. It was one of the worst rated albums of 2005. It went platinum in 2006.

 

  1. “Damn Right I Got the Blues,” Buddy Guy

buddyguy-damnright-cover

Cringe Level: None/Total Hipster Points/Anyone Who Talks Shit About This Album Will Be Sent Straight to Gulag

Original Release: early/mid 1991

One of the first actual blues records I got into. Ripped the songs from the library’s copy of the CD and never looked back. This is his most pop record as well, and a good starting point for anyone trying to get into blues music (Chicago’s brand especially-city, not the band). Very recommended.

Title track, one of the meanest and bitchiest blues songs I’ve heard until I discovered anything by Guitar Shorty and funny in its own way.

“Black Night,” still one of my top piano-based blues songs to date. Soft and moody as all hell. Listen when three bottles deep at three in the morning. That stuff about his brother being in Iraq is on-the-nose and a little Cringe but I can like it if in the mood

“Rememberin’ Stevie.” A jam session recorded in honor of Stevie Ray Vaughan in a darkened studio shortly after his death. No words within because it doesn’t need any. The pain is in the music.

 

  1. “No Jacket Required,” Phil Collins

phil_collins_-_no_jacket_required

Cringe Level: Medium to Severe/LOL Kill Yourself I Guess

Original Release: February 18, 1985

Once upon a time I liked Phil Collins way too much. This is my favorite album from his solo career. Here’s some links then we’re moving on and pretending we never saw this. Cool? Cool.

“Don’t Lose My Number.” No idea why I like this song. Cuz it’s pissy, maybe, and PC is better when he’s mad? Probably. The music video about trying to make a music video is stupid and worth Cringe Points by itself.

“Sussudio.” Will listen when in the mood. Just say the word. Worth Cringe Points despite Normie Memeable status.

“Only You Know and I Know,” same as the first entry but with more horns.

“Take Me Home,” liked when I was forced into an inescapable situation throughout my high school years. Irony Points for when I was a hobo. Forgot I didn’t have this. Off to download. Minor Cringe Points for layers of cheese towards end.

Honorable Mention to “I Don’t Wanna Know,” one of his bitchiest tracks, as well as “One More Night,” which bores me to death so much I don’t think I’ve ever listened to it in its entirety. Could be a metalcore breakdown in the final third and I wouldn’t remember. Because I’d be asleep. Or dead. Because bored. Yeah, you get it. Moving on.

 

8 9.  “The Blue Album,” Adolescents

 

adolescents_-_adolescents_cover

Cringe Level: Minor to Moderate

Original Release: April 1981

The album that singlehandedly got me back into punk after the dryspell when I was fifteen and sixteen. An underrated band.

“Kids Of The Black Hole,” song personally responsible for pulling me back into it. A little on the nose when I first heard it because it directly mentioned being a hobo but I didn’t care. Still dig to this day.

“Amoeba,” better known as “That song in GTAV that every white boy skips over because they’re stupid.”

“House of the Rising Sun,” a really weird cover that fools you by starting off so normally.

Honorable Mentions go towards the rest of the album because it is punk heaven.

 

  1. “Priceless Jazz,” Keith Jarrett

500x500

Cringe Level: Minor to Moderate/Total Hipster Points

Original Release: February 10, 1988

Second compilation on this list. Second jazz album on this list. Found the same way I found “Gershwin’s World”: Part of the recommended listens by a jazz teacher slowly losing faith in the entire class and all of humanity not on his massive record shelf. Only full album I’ve listened to by Keith Jarrett, who ranks as one of the most insane jazz acts of our modern times.

“De Drums,” twelve wonderful minutes with many melodic and key changes interspersed with exemplary musicianship. Always wanted to learn how to play the opening minute but probably never will because I suck.

“Treasure Island,” the only time you will ever hear him on what sounds like an electric piano because once again he is fucking nuts but the song is perfect for travelling as long as you aren’t driving or allergic to augmented chords.

 

Honorable Album Mentions, Also With Cringe Ratings:

Ready to Die,” Notorious B.I.G., No Cringe Because Classic And I Will Cut Whoever Says Otherwise. Not added to list because not appreciated in full until after graduation. The opening line to “Juicy” may also be tattooed in due time and the song remains one of my favorites of all time including cheesy hook.

Marshall Mathers LP,” Eminem, Minor to Severe Cringe Depending On Level Of Fanboying. Still discovering new things about this album everytime I listen to it. Probably my favorite non-collab from his career. “Stan,” “Kill You,” and “Kim” are good in their own right. “The Real Slim Shady” has Minor Cringe because cliché. Linking even if you know the damn song and if not will recognize it immediately and then switch it off.

Save Rock and Roll,” Fall Out Boy, Moderate to Severe Cringe. Pop-punk pioneers returned and it didn’t suck. Sure, “My Songs Know What You Did In The Dark (Light Em Up)” deserves Cringe both for the long fucking title that probably rebroke my destroyed little finger while typing it because it sure fucking feels like it and “The Phoenix” which is based off of a Russian symphony and deserves Hipster Points but I didn’t fully ingratiate myself into this record until the neighbor who would drive me to work listened to it every day for four months straight after I graduated and thus bash it into my fucking skull like a pop-punk/post-emo brick.

 

Some of these albums will be appreciated forever. Some deserve to be forgotten. Off to jam out to some of these for nostalgia’s sake. Not telling you which ones. I’m not nearly that dumb.

The Doing and The Done – 1/11/17

The Doing:

1. Accept that potential column in Magazine has been rejected on aesthetic grounds without falling into rabbit hole of self-pity (the one so prevalent within you these days) because they’re open to the occasional piece by you.

2. Attempt to explain to roommate why you were cleaning your medical shoe insoles with an old toothbrush in the kitchen sink and grimacing the entire time.

3. Prepare for civil trial coming up in five days without either collapsing under pressure and getting nothing done nor overpreparing to the point where you humiliate yourself that day and can’t answer anything.

4. Call Health Insurance People and see if you do indeed have health insurance and if not then why the fuck not and also why haven’t they told you shit.

5. Continue drafting next flash which really shouldn’t’ve taken this long and will hopefully not turn out to be a complete piece of shit worthy of immediate rejection and public scorn.

6. Draft next blog post because you’re sure everyone is tired of having to see these things back to back to back and are wondering if this hasn’t just become an empty void to shout into hoping for a meek response.

7. Eat lunch once roommate is done burning frozen pizza and it’s 2:30 in the afternoon, a time when most people eat lunch.

8. Decide what to eat for lunch.

9. Hey, The Book is a thing that exists, you should get on that.
The Done:

1. Got out of bed today.