Saturday, September 19, 2009

Stop Saying Words

My updates have been sporadic, this i know. It isn't that i have nothing to say, either. My mind teems with theories and ideas and concepts and thoughts and rants and inane malecowpoop. So why aren't i writing?

One of the problems is one that has plagued me my entire writing life: i want it to be perfect and i want it to be perfect the first time. If an idea doesn't leap into my mind, fully formed and armed like Athena from the forehead of Zues, i tend to shelve it until its had more time to mature. Unfortunately, my mind can only incubate so many ideas at a time and this leads to more half-formed, ignored ideas than i care to admit.

A second problem is that i'm simply not sure if this is the correct forum for some of these thoughts. Shall i rant here about why i believe parents of adult children need to quit trying to parent them and why? What about my ongoing hypothesis on the very nature of love, including why we need more words for it, why romance is dead, and why it will always be the most powerful force in the world? Ok, that one might be cool...

The last reason/problem is twofold. The first part is that i've been busy. A lot has been going on in my life and its taken up a lot of energy to deal with it. Now, this might seem like a good thing for a 'blogger since it provides plenty of material to write about, but let me assure you, its not. Why? you might ask. I know you didn't, but this would have been a pretty boring paragraph if it had stopped after my contrary assertion. The answer is because its entirely likely that the people in my life that are currently making it interesting are READING THIS 'BLOG RIGHT NOW. Not only is that some freaky, Twilight Zone kinda sh!t ("omg, they're reading right now? Are they reading it over my shoulder?"), but its just not conducive to navigating these tricky little things we call "human relationships". I miss my cats.

So yes, my updates have been fewer and farer between that i was originally hoping. This is unfortunate, but trust me; i have plenty more to say.

Sunday, September 6, 2009


I was take this space to rant for a while about how much i hate being treated like a vending machine when i'm behind the counter at my place of work, but then i got home to find Good Night, States practicing in my living room. Please excuse me, then, for taking some time to describe just why and how much i love them, as i've been meaning to do so for some time now.

The thought to write this post came to me as i was looking at one of the many machines GN,S uses to power their music. Sitting about 10 inches high, 10 inches deep and about a foot wide, the box was made out of the most plain looking wood you can think of. On the front, various wire protruded, leading, no doubt, to various basses, guitars, or keyboards. All around the jacks for these wires were knobs, switches, and a couple bright indicator lights of red and green.

I have no idea this device does. Trevor said he hadn't gotten around to labelling any of the controls. In case you missed it, that little comment of the bassist's implies that he built this peculiar little soundbox.

THIS, in a nutshell, is what sets GN,S apart in my mind. They are not just musicians (although they are, and great ones at that), but engineers of their beautiful, unique sounds. I would hazard to say that approximately 60% of the equipment you see on stage was built from scratch by the performers with an additional 20% having at one point been repaired or modded by them.

Now, ok, if this is the best evidence i can give for the awesomeness that is Good Night, States, all i've really accomplished is showing you the geekiest band since Anamanaguchi (who rock, btw). Fortunately, it is the live show which really displays their talent and their need for so many personally and specifically constructed pieces of equipment.

It takes them a while to set up. In fact, you can find pictures on their websites of the numerous diagrams they've created in an effort to discover the best and most efficient stage setup. Dan (drummer) is usually in a corner, behind his kit and little chimes and xylophones, making the craziest faces you'll ever see a human being make while doing something that doesn't involve severe physical danger. Opposite him, Megan (synths) and Joe (guitar, synths) are stationed behind a bank of keyboard synthesizers, with Joe's guitar rack and pedalboard trapping them in. Crammed between these two are Steve (lead vocals, guitar) and Trevor (bassist), Steve front and center, behind a microphone and tiny city of pedals, and Trevor stalking around just behind or to the side of him, finding space wherever he can.

It is difficult to categorize Good Night, States' sound. "Synth-folk" is the term i believe they are using now, and its a pretty accurate explanation. The melodies, the lyrics, the feel is all very raw and pure, something you wouldn't expect to hear in this age of auto-tuned producers-turned-artists. They are beautiful, catchy, sometimes simple: something you enjoy singing or clapping along to, which makes it so much more jarring when they break the song down in a turbulent maelstrom of noise, sound, and dischord.

In a number of their songs, there is a breakdown, an unraveling of all the neat threads that make up the fabric of the song. Feedback pours and writhes out from the amplifiers. The bass line, keyboards, and drums are out of sync and seemingly playing random strings of notes and beats. The synthesizers blanket the cacophony with static, pings, bleeps, screeches. And in the midst of the chaos are the musicians, focused, intent on their instruments; they are not lost in the storm. They are creating it. Like mad, musical scientists, they have engineered a monster and are using their many devices and skills to corral it, control it, shape it and direct it into something useful. Something beautiful.

And they succeed, dear reader.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Sci Fi: Its Actually Cool!

I've long championed the art and beauty of the science fiction and fantasy genres to any who would hear me. Star Wars and The Lord of the Rings are among my favorite works of fiction for as long as i can remember, but they are by no means a comprehensive list. Anyone today can claim to like those stories and not get looked at twice.

But what about Star Trek?

Ender's Saga?

H. P. Lovecraft?

The Dragonlance Trilogy?

Battlestar Galactica?

These are the titles that, if you've even heard of them, are generally accepted as geeky accolades only acknowledged by fellow-geeks. As an aspiring writer, even i am deeply concerned by the idea that my peers simply will not respect my work because i choose to write science fiction and fantasy instead of the much more respected "literary fiction". I am trying to get over this fear. Here are a couple of instances that have helped me out:

The Ender's Saga, by Orson Scott Card, is one of the greatest works of literature i have ever read, by any definition. Ender's Game, the first book in the series - and the first one i read - was such a thrilling and intelligent tour through military intrigue and child psychology (yes, they're related; read it!) that i was immediately hooked and tore through the following installments. It was only after reading the second book, Speaker for the Dead, that i found out that Ender's Game was written solely so he would have a backdrop for Speaker. In it, Card not only opines our species' likely reaction to first contact with a completely intelligent, non-human life form, he also philosophizes on the very nature of potential moral, religious, and philosophical differences we would most likely run into. And he does it all in a story so exciting that you'll find it just as hard to put down as any crappy novel about human/vampire love affairs. Did i mention that both Ender's Game AND Speaker for the Dead won the Hugo Award for Best Novel AND the Nebula Award for Best Novel?

But that's literature, right? Of course books are going to be more intelligent and high-brow than TV and movies. For the most part, i totally agree with that statement. It shames me to be a fan of the series which eventually gave us Jar Jar Binks and Hayden Christensen. (SERIOUSLY, Lucas?!) But then there are the Battlestar Galacticas. In case you hadn't heard, this happened recently. And in case you can't be bothered to read the article found in that link, i'll summarize it for you: the UN found the themes raised in BSG to be so relevant and important that they co-hosted a panel with the creators and stars of the show to discuss these themes. And no, the themes were not "phasers", "replicators", and "skin-tight bodysuits". They were more uplifting topics like relative wartime ethics, and children and armed conflict. For you fans out there, at one point, Edward James Olmos was so impassioned by the speech he was making regarding the nature of the human species as one unified race that he ended with a shouted, "So say we all!" And, brad dammit, the audience responded in kind and with just as much passion.

Get used to laser guns and warp drives, because they're here to stay.