Some mornings, in a perfect world, you might wake up, have a coffee, finish meditation, and say,“Okay, today I’m going into the shop to work on a lamp.” This idea comes to you, you can see it, but to accomplish it you need what I call a “setup.” For example, you may need a working shop or a working painting studio. You may need a working music studio. Or a computer room where you can write something. It’s crucial to have a setup, so that, at any given moment, when you get an idea, you have the place and the tools to make it happen.
If you don’t have a setup, there are many times when you get the inspiration, the idea, but you have no tools, no place to put it together. And the idea just sits there and festers. Over time, it will go away. You didn’t fulfill it—and that’s just a heartache."
Catching the Big Fish
If you missed the Book Release Party for my first poetry collection, After the Witch Hunt, cry no more! All the videos are being uploaded so you can watch as if you were there. And as always, you can buy the book here.
Here is the first poem in the collection, “If You Really Love A Writer.”
THAT LAST LINE
Not content merely to write amazingly about Woody Allen films*, Anaïs Escobar has dedicated a whole post (!) to a cover I recently recorded.
My voice is still a little wheezy from hanging out with two adorable Maine Coons- being allergic to my favourite animal is a cruel irony in my life- but enjoy the cover and the great piece below.
*see the link at the end of what I wrote about Annie Hall a few posts back.
Played 30 times.
Dog on a Swing — No, Not Now (Hot Hot Heat cover)
I won’t be that child anymore
If I could tell early on that my parents weren’t really romantically compatible, then I misunderstood almost as early that love somehow directly correlated to success. That is to say that it is difficult to be the child of someone who doesn’t like herself very much. The perfectionist tendencies I’ve carried into school, every extracurricular activity I attempted, my job, relationships have pushed me to be successful, organized, steadfast at working towards what I want while simultaneously leaving me insecure, jealous, anxious at the possibility of failure. I have walked away from opportunities, people in my life as soon as I realized that I wasn’t going to win, that I wouldn’t be the best, preferring to get out before the reality of something not working out played itself out.
This is the kind of situation that sets you up in a game that doesn’t even exist. You play hard but the urge comes from a need of control. You’ve been told that success will lead to love, respect, happiness but when it still leaves you empty, what then? Well, you realize that this urge isn’t who you are but who you were molded into. You realize that unconditional love has little to do with what you accomplish and more to do with who you are inside. I sabotaged relationships, romantic and otherwise, when I realized I couldn’t know and control the eventual outcome. I compared myself to everyone around me, others not even directly around me, and felt threatened. For a long time, I wasn’t sure how to have relationships with anyone, let alone other creative people, fearing that I’d be overshadowed. I kept in mind what my mother had always said about how lonely it was at the top but eventually I realized she had been wrong about a lot of other things including this.
The idea of being the best is unstable when you think about it. When it comes to any kind of art, “best” is subjective, a marker that differs amongst groups and fluctuates with opinion. There is little to be gained from competing with another artist. You cannot work, you cannot make something true from that kind of place. Another artist’s success does not necessarily exclude your own and the definitions of what success is differs from person to person. I spent a long time looking around me at what everyone else was doing instead of focusing on what I was working on, what was directly in front of me. I cringed at my own jealousy of friends who didn’t even work in the same area or medium as me; I tried to keep pace with everyone else and it creatively paralyzed me. Really, it entirely crippled me.
I learned to compete against myself, and even then, not to compete to be the best but to do good work, to be happy with the things I made and worked on. I allowed myself to be open to my friends’ work and creativity, not only sharing in the joys of their successes but in our mutual processes as artists. Through other writers, painters, musicians, my life and, by extension, my work became fuller. Much of it came from working on myself as a person and getting to a place where I had a better idea of who I am and how I’m evolving. You eventually grow enough to see that you, too, have a place in the world and that the more you let yourself experience, the more you might find yourself.
I love covers. To me, it comes from the idea of remaking, of using what is there and making it your own; this is incredibly powerful. The familiar filters through someone else’s experience and methods and comes out as something entirely new. This is my friend Ed playing this one. I remember liking Hot Hot Heat so much when I first got to college, well-aware even then that they wouldn’t be an important band for me in the way other music is but there was something extra in their songs. I mostly heard them played during the dancey parts before shows or at parties but the lyrics always stuck out for me.
“These are pretty dark, aren’t they?” I’d say loudly to whoever was dancing closest to me.
“What do you mean?”
“The lyrics,” I’d reply. “They’re kind of down considering we’re all dancing to this right now.”
The conversation never went further than a laugh or an eye roll at my interest in the language of the song but it stuck in my head. I soon stopped hearing them as I outgrew that time and new bands, new songs filled the spaces at parties and before shows. Hearing a friend interpret this a few years later is inspiring. It is an almost weary version of this song, a melancholy, self-aware take on an integral moment of growing up. It’s fucking lovely.
Nobody likes a child that complains and we’ve all been children at some point, some of us longer than others. Maybe we were there longer because someone messed us up early on or perhaps others got confused somewhere along the way. Regardless, what we’ve learned by a certain point is about control and how we often have so little of it. You can complain about it, about how hard it is for you, how this happened to you, and you’d be right, some things did happen outside of your control. You have to let it go at some point though; you can’t control the things that happen to you but you can control how you react to them, how you make a life from the pieces you got, some of which you didn’t ask for.
That’s the difference between an adult and a child. To grow, you have to take what you have and remake it into whoever it is you want to be; you’re covering your life, if you will, and making something new. You tell your boyfriend to take a good whiff of his new infant niece because she smells new. You remember that you, too, were once brand new and that you don’t have to torture yourself forever, that you can and will be something new again.
So just over five years ago, I co-founded and wrote for a little music blog. We started off really well, but I found it harder and harder to write- the pressure of writing something of WORTH calcifying my fingers.
I looked into starting it back up again, and even got the username and password (which I’ve misplaced again), but basically this is a long-winded way of saying I want to continue the ‘Ten Reasons’ series (I only finished one episode).
Have a gander through the Radio Protector site if you like. My writing’s become more direct and less garnishful in the intervening five years, but there’s some nice stuff in there by Johnny and Simon too.
Belle and Sebastian — Judy and the Dream of Horses
in mostly reverse chronological order:
1. Remember when Belle and Sebastian played in Chicago in 2006 and the New Pornographers opened and it was a great, sad night? I do. I was 19 and no one carded me for a whole two days.
2. I took a road trip with my first college boyfriend and after he played Muse for a while in the car, it was my turn to pick music somewhere in Georgia. I put in If You’re Feeling Sinister and immediately regretted my decision.
“That lisp is killing me,” he said a minute into The Stars of Track and Field.
I wasn’t good at saying what I meant then and so I didn’t say anything. We listened to the rest of it and I didn’t say a word as he kept saying snide things about what was my big teenage music, the music I listened to in my bedroom through big headphones in an attempt to tune out so many assholes I knew in high school. They never tell you that they, too, go to college and sometimes you date them and discover that nothing good can come from trying to love someone you tried to ignore in high school.
3. When I used to tell people that this was one of the albums playing when I lost my virginity, I’d get a lot of laughs. “Of course!” was common, too. This isn’t about actually losing it though or the actual act of sex for the first time with someone else, it’s about intimacy. It’s about the fact that in a sea of kids becoming real live people and pulling each other under in that attempt and process, it’s almost a miracle that you can find someone who not only wants to see you naked but who wants to stop with you and just hang on for a while. It’s as simple as the fact that someone wants to listen to you at all.
4. It’s true that I kissed a boy for the first time in kindergarten but a little before that I kissed a girl. She was the daughter of a family friend, a year older than me with hair ribbon around her ponytail. She pulled me into my bedroom closet and told me that I had to be the girl because I was shorter than her. I wasn’t sure what she meant until she kissed me on the mouth. In the way that they know everything all at once, my mom opened the closet door at that moment. I couldn’t read her expression at all but she escorted us both downstairs to the living room. My kissing partner and I each sat on our dad’s lap while our parents had coffee. Soon, our company left, taking with them my new friend; her name was Judy.
5. I got the CD of If You’re Feeling Sinister when I was 15 and listened to it so often that by the time I ripped it to my laptop right before college began, it had scratches and skips in very exact places. Years later, I still have that copy on my new computer and I like it best, used to the error, the memory, the wear that went into slowly falling in love with and growing with and into every version of myself for a decade. I’m going to show you everything.
Guys and gals, I present to you- Anaïs Escobar!
Also read what she wrote about one of my favourite Woody Allen films- http://brightwalldarkroom.tumblr.com/post/407165797/woody-allen-week-hannah-and-her-sisters-1986Played 120 times.
Our system of law doesn’t acknowledge the derivative nature of creativity. Instead, ideas are regarded as property, as unique and original lots with distinct boundaries. But ideas aren’t so tidy. They’re layered, they’re interwoven, they’re tangled. And when the system conflicts with the reality… the system starts to fail.
I love the exploration of originality/creativity/invention etc. Just waiting for the remaining three episodes (the one here is the last) to load.
Edit: Watch all four episodes. Outstanding, essential stuff.
AC: Most of your career has been at your own speed.
JKS: That is true. That is something I’ve come to terms with as well. I have other things that I do in my life. I like input from other sources. I figured out that I can’t just be a writer. I have to do other things. I’d love to be a full-time writer, but I don’t think I can. It takes me a long time.
“Edwin Morgan (1920-2010) studied and taught at the University of Glasgow. A prolific writer and translator who employed many ‘voices’, he was the city of Glasgow’s Poet Laureate 1999-2005 and the Makar (national poet for Scotland) from 2004. Displayed here is one of his many scrapbooks.”
An glance into the mind of (arguably) Scotland’s best poet from the 20th century.