Cerebral Flotsam And Jetsam - My Mental Maelstrom

12
May
2024
20:00

Presence Vs. Nostalgia

I’m a big fan of Eckhart Tolle. As someone who is spiritual but not religious, his books are the closest thing to religion I’ve ever found. They just resonated with me on the deepest levels. I definitely think presence is the goal and the secret to truly being happy.

However I am also very nostalgic which I feel is directly at odds with this. I spend so much thought time in the past. Missing people, places, and experiences I’ve had. I don’t know that it really serves any good purpose other than possibly fueling some great art. It feels like a weight though. When you are nostalgic, the longer you live, the more weight you carry. One thing I came to terms with after years in therapy however is that part of me enjoys it on some level. I’m someone who loves to feel and the past is a quick and easy fix to feel some intense feelings. I’ve definitely strengthened my presence muscle over the years, but the nostalgia muscle is already very developed.

10
May
2024
22:53

Another Day

Each night though I am eager to race to bed, I stubbornly resist sleep.
That sweet purgatory, the void space where you have ended the day officially, but unofficially, you squeeze every last moment from it just for yourself.
Tomorrow holds such promise. Tabula rasa. A clean slate. New beginnings.
But then tomorrow becomes just another today, and nothing changes.
The same struggles. The same weights. The same.
You hope for some magical change like a gift from the universe, but it has not come.
Change is hard and must be wrestled from the aether.
Tonight we sleep. Tomorrow we try again.

13
Apr
2024
17:21

Dream Theatre 80

In this dream I think I was in a car with someone who I had romantic feelings for (a fictional person). I was pretty sure they were reciprocated but nothing had ever been explicitly said or acted upon. For some reason we were in some situation or engaged in some activity that requires us to have our heads very close together. Perhaps listening or watching intently for something. I don’t remember and it just somehow made sense in dreamland. The tension was palpable. We inched closer over time. Eventually my head was resting on her neck and her head rested on mine. Then we looked at each other and after a brief moment, plunged into our first kiss with that wild abandon that only happens with first kisses.

There was such a unique, intense, subtle intimacy to this dream that was way hotter than any sex dream could be.

02
Apr
2024
22:51

The 1st Annual Austin Tribute Band Community Awards

To not bury the lede, today I was voted “Best Multi-Instrumentalist” in the first annual Austin Tribute Band Community awards.

As a member of the Beatles tribute group The Eggmen, we also won Best One-Off Show for our show where we played the entire albums of A Hard Day’s Night and Abbey Road, and we were also voted into the Hall Of Fame.

Amusingly, I was not visible in either photo because in one I was behind someone else, and the other was taken before I joined full-time. I say amusingly because there’s a joke among keyboard players that we are never in photos. We always end up getting cropped out, obscured, or otherwise forgotten. It doesn’t actually bother me but I do find it funny and weird how true it often is!

These awards were started because the hugely popular Austin Chronicle music awards made the bad decision (in my opinion) to remove cover and tribute bands from the categories. If you are one of those cover/tribute band snobs, don’t even bother commenting as it will be deleted. It just shows you know nothing. The most talented musicians I’ve ever known throughout my life all play covers as well in addition to whatever other projects they have going. Most make the bulk of their living from cover music and only a very tiny, lucky fraction get to a place where they can make a living from original music. Most big bands like The Beatles started playing mostly covers if not all covers.

First and foremost, let me say how immensely grateful I am to be recognized at all and for everyone who took the time and effort to go fill out the form and vote. It really does mean a lot to me and please don’t let any of what follows undermine that very important point. I say that because I have a very complicated relationship with awards “competitions.” I always have. Not just this one. The main reason being that for every one person who is ultimately lifted up, there are countless people who end up feeling kind of bummed, “less than,” not-enough, unappreciated, or unrecognized and that’s a bummer to me. Being an artist of any sort is a very difficult life and I know how it feels to feel unseen or underappreciated. It probably doesn’t help that a LOT of us (maybe even most of us) suffer from imposter syndrome quite a lot!

Competitions such as this one can be extra frustrating in that they are purely by popular vote. No panel of industry judges, or academy or anything, although the ATBC is looking to remedy that next year with a combination of popular vote and industry experts as well. So it mainly just ends up being who can get the most people to go vote. Who has the largest base? Who is going to campaign and hustle and try to rally them to go vote?

This is where it gets complicated on a more personal level as well for me. I’ve been lucky enough to have a handful of videos go viral on Instagram and Tik Tok. This led to an influx of followers, so unlike most people I had a potential audience of 90K people on IG and 144K on TT (though as most people will tell you, you generally only reach a very infinitesimal fraction of those people). I am also someone who is very active on social media. In a contest where it’s purely about hustling voters to the poll, these things give me an edge. Now, the other side of that is that hopefully these people don’t just go blindly vote for me because I said so, but because they’ve seen all my various videos playing various instruments and singing so it’s not necessarily unearned in any, I just have the luxury of more resources and greater reach. There were many other nominees who I know to be some of the most amazing musicians I’ve ever seen, much less played with. Some of them weren’t even aware of this competition at all. Some of them got nominations but don’t live online all the time of have a huge audience to tell to go vote. I’m bummed for my friends who didn’t win or weren’t even nominated because I’m their biggest fan and think they absolutely deserve the recognition but hey that’s just not possible in awards competitions.

Now don’t get me wrong, I’ve always said that you absolutely should enjoy any kudos that come your way when they come. Enjoy that moment in the sun. Just don’t let it, or that lack of it define you or your validation. I can 100% guarantee you that there’s many folks out there you’ve never heard of (or maybe even you) who are light years beyond me on every instrument I play. My motto that I’ve repeated many times in life is “Keep your head down and do good work.” Do it for the journey, not the destination. Not the awards, not the praise. I will enjoy this moment in the spotlight, but I also enjoy it because I didn’t do it by myself. It took all of you as well, and I’d go so far as to say, your part in it was way more important than mine. I didn’t think I stood a chance. If you voted for me, I do not take that lightly and I do fully think about and appreciate each and every person who thought enough about me to do that. It’s not for me, it’s for us.

30
Mar
2024
14:42

Blogging The Fediverse

I thought I’d test out linking this here old blog to the Fediverse so people can follow it from Mastodon or any of the other Fediverse nodes! Now I’ll be shocked if anyone actually reads this though.

17
Mar
2024
0:05

“Better” Is Out Now!

I dropped a new song tonight!

This year was the first year I watched The Oscars in as long as I can remember and I really enjoyed it. I was particularly happy that “What Was I Made For” by Billie Eilish won Best Song as I thought it was the most powerful. It made me want to write something like that. I took a walk that night and the words started coming to me immediately. I knew I wanted something simple with just piano, vocal, and a string quartet.

I was house/pet sitting for a friend so when I got back to the house, I sat down at the piano there which was a bit out of tune and had some dampers that didn’t work. At first “What Was I Made For” was stuck in my head and I was having a hard time getting away from it to write something original, but enough experimenting finally got me there. Interestingly, my last song, New Year was also written while house/pet sitting for a different friend on the keyboard they had at their house.

I knew I wanted to do something simple not only because of the inspiration of Billie’s song, but also because I knew I had a tendency to feel the need to make things more complicated to try and feel more “musically advanced” or original even though there’s plenty of very simpler songs that I love. So the song is largely one repeating motif with a few variations. Of course me being me, I could just keep it to simple regular chords but had to find interesting voicings and changes. Writing 4 parts for the string quartet (which I played using the BBC Symphony Orchestra plugin from Spitfire) keeps lots of motion and variety in it as well.

Another sort of exercise is that I generally write pretty autobiographically and have always admired songwriters who could write purely fictional “story” songs. So while there’s definitely plenty of elements from my life, I also decided to pay homage to a song written by Elvis Costello and Paul McCartney called “That Day Is Done” where it is eventually revealed that the singer is dead and watching his own funeral. So my bridge was written from the perspective of someone who lived a long happy life but ultimately died alone with no real friends or family. I think the last verse manages to finish on a positive note though.

19
Feb
2024
14:32

Forgotten Treasure

While looking for some past info on my blog last, I stumbled upon this fun collaboration I did with the late Craig Davis. I had first met Craig as a kid when he was friends with my Aunt and Uncle, but then had crossed paths with him as an adult when my band served to be his backup band for a show playing his originals at The Palace Theater in Bryan, TX (I still lived in College Station at the time). WE stayed in touch and started doing some musical collaborations.

Craig actually came to College Station and helped me and my then wife move to Austin. He and I did a lot of really great collaborations where he would send me a demo, and I would add all my touches and fully produce it into a finished song. It is still some of the best work I think I ever did but sadly none of it ever saw the light of day and I’m not aware of any of it existing anywhere anymore. 

So I was thrilled when I stumbled upon an old blog entry where I had posted one such song and the story of how it came to be. And I’ve been earwormed by it all day today. Craig was a great and prolific songwriter. He and I did a duo performance ridiculously early on some news station locally here in Austin. We performed as a duo at the funeral of Tommy Smith, another great guitar player who was my neighbor and a major influence when I was just a kid learning guitar. Craig was a wonderful, eccentric, unique, and talented figure. I hadn’t really been in touch with him for many years when he died in 2021 but I still love so many of his songs.

18
Feb
2024
23:59

My Time At NCsoft

Tonight I found myself reminiscing about my days working at NCsoft. Probably because I’m housesitting for a friend who I met there all those many years ago. It was a very important event in my life. The year was 2004. I was married and we had moved to Austin in 2003. She got a soul sucking job in retail. I got a soul sucking job in telephone tech support for lottery machines. Since my job had benefits, she quit her soul sucking job, then later got some decent admin jobs, so I could finally quit my job which made me miserable. I set my sights on getting into the video game industry and NCsoft specifically as the company I wanted to work for.

When my friend since 4th grade, Andy Hunter moved to Austin as well with his wife, I told him he should apply there since he was an artist. He got the job! He then started keeping an eye on jobs for me and recommending me. Reviewing this blog, I was reminded that there was one round that I was hoping to get an interview for but didn’t due to my lack of experience and them forgetting I was a recommendation. He did also alert me to someone at the company holding auditions for a play. Both my wife and I auditioned and got cast and this turned out to be “A Christmas Carol,” the very first show that opened Richard Garriott’s Curtain Theater (Richard was one of the big bosses at NCsoft), directed by Athena Peters who I am also still friends with. 

Eventually, I did get an interview in the Quality Assurance department and got the job (my boss was Andrew Wagner, also still a friend). I was SUPER excited. This was the company and the exact job I had been chasing. A little while later, my wife got hired there as well and stayed with the company long after my layoff, our divorce, and the company move to Seattle where she still currently lives now (my friend Andy also ended up in Seattle for a time as well because of that).

It was one of the best “office jobs” I ever had. I loved the company, the games, and the people and in fact I am still friends with so many people that I met there. So many in fact that I don’t even want to try and tag people as I know I’ll forget someone. It really was a very special time and a defining event in my life. One of those magical eras you never forget. The layoff from that job really hurt but also was the thing that led to me pursuing acting and music as a full time freelancer. In a weird way, I had been released from my very nice, comfortable prison that I never would have just left on my own. 

I’m really glad I kept this blog, and still do to an extent though I don’t post here much since social media kind of took its place for me. It really helps me research and remember things as well as reminding me of things I’d totally forgotten. I wish it went back further than 2000!

11
Feb
2024
22:50

Dream Theatre 79

Let’s see how much I can remember from the variety of stress dream situations I encountered last night. I wonder if housesitting and sleeping in a bed that was not mine contributed to this.

I think this was all one continuous day but it’s hard to say for sure in dreamland and dream logic. The first part I remember involved me and my ex-wife. In the dream we had only recently split up and it was all amicable and such, but she was with someone new now and there was a bit of sadness for me as I was not yet with anyone else. I think we were also still roommates.

My friend since 4th grade, Andy Hunter picked me up as we had plans. He had his completely fictional dream little brother with him who was driving. We went to some kind of improv show that was in a large outdoor area and there was a lazy river that went around the perimeter. I was in the lazy river and wanted to get out but suddenly realized I didn’t know where my clothes or my phone were and I couldn’t get out of the lazy river naked.

Fast forward and suddenly somehow I was now dressed but trying to track down my phone and other missing possessions. Now it was an indoor club with several different rooms, stairways, halls and such. IT had the feeling of being behind the scenes of a funhouse or a theme park. HArd to explains but kind of old, wooden, maybe like an old theater or something. I had put my stuff in a cubby in the main performance room, but now they had moved everything and cleared the room for some kind of rehearsal. I asked if I could speak to the lady in charge to see if she knew where they might have taken my stuff, like if there was a lost and found or something. She said she’d talk to me if I could catch her and ran outside. I kept walking toward her and she would walk a different direction, playfully trying to avoid me. I eventually kind of corralled her and as she tried to sprint past I grabbed her in a bear hug.

Next thing I remember, Andy, his dream little brother, and I were now in the car again, but now it was my car and the steering wheel was on the right side. Andy’s brother was once again driving. I was stressed out because I remembered that I had left my Helix (a guitar amp/effects modeler) in the back seat of my car (another car at home I guess, as it wasn’t the one we were in) with the windows down and the doors unlocked. My car door was still open (on the car we were now in with the steering on the right, so I was on the left as a passenger), and Andy’s brother started reversing which caught my door on a small grassy incline which bent the door completely backward, damaging the hinges, the door and the car.

We found a mechanic shop still open late at night and I had the car looked at. I think the guy running the shop was Pedro Pascal. He handed me a bill for $150. I was shocked as I expected it to be far higher. That’s when he informed me that $150 was the bill just for looking at it. To fix it was going to be another $750. Andy, dream brother, and I all left and needless to say, I was quite down after this whole crappy day. It was now sometime well after midnight and Andy invited me to join him and his dream brother to get some “breakfast for dinner” as “breakfast for dinner” always made things better. Then I woke up.

29
Dec
2023
15:50

The Human Fight Against Envy

I feel like envy is a hard-wired human trait that we must actively and constantly fight against. I’m sure there’s some evolutionary, survival-based reason it seems so hard-coded into the fabric of our being. We seem to naturally want to focus on that which we lack, and take for granted where we actually are and the always countless things we have to be grateful for. It takes constant, sometimes exhausting vigilance.

Today I had one of those moments. I have several friends who are full-time musicians playing all the time with great bands. Sometimes touring, sometimes mini-tours, sometimes just occasional jaunts to other cities and states. Big crowds, great venues, and busy all the time. I had a moment of sadness when I thought about how none of my full-time bands can ever be what those bands are. We have a ceiling we will never break past due to the fact that everyone (including myself) plays in multiple bands and even coordinating just occasional dates can be like orchestrating a rocket launch. Also, most of my band mates don’t do this full-time. They have jobs and families and other bands and even if Yacht Z, my Yacht Rock band started to really take off, we couldn’t do the things that my friends’ bands are doing. I’m the only one who could conceivably do this full time (and, well, kind of do along with all my other creative irons in fires as well). So it was kind of a let down for a moment knowing that we can never be [insert band here]. There is a pretty hard limit to how far we can go and how much we can play.

However, being someone who tries my best to always reframe from a place of gratitude, I had to remind myself that every journey is unique. I have to believe that I am exactly where I need to be. Like most of humanity, there is so much more I want to do, wishing I was so much “further” (a loaded and ambiguous word). I continue to believe that my whirling maelstrom of a constantly churning mind is both my biggest asset as well as my biggest flaw. Always thinking at the speed of light, layers upon layers of multi-dimensional overthinking. I haven’t had a “day job” since 2013. I play with some of the best musicians in Austin. Many people wish they had what I have, yet this human hunger plants that voice deep inside us always yearning for more, MORE, MORE. Insatiable.

If I was in the “enviable” position of some of my peers, I could probably only play with one band. Maybe two at most. Neither good nor bad, just a fact with pros and cons. It would probably make it much harder on my acting career (not that there’s been much of that for the last few years, but that’s another hunger that will be forever fed as long as I’m alive). I most definitely am grateful. I actively try to always keep perspective. I am a paradox, both always at peace, present, and grateful, and simultaneously a slavering beast, straining at my chains and fighting frustration and dissatisfaction.

I don’t know if I’m extra thinky because I just had a birthday, because it’s the end of the year, or just because it’s a new day and I am me.