Proceed as if they give a damn

Let me render that in Latin and request you engrave it in marble somewhere sometime: procedere sicut aliquis curis.

A bedroom musician, I taped a bunch of songs with GarageBand back in Denvertown. Most have been sitting out in the open over on the Cloud of Sound, but why not collect them into a proper album. I had all the ingredients. After all this time the recipe was simple: give it a title (a personal motto), add appropriate packaging, release to the world.

You’re cued up with track no. 4. Always thought I might do more with it, perhaps add a second voice (hello Toddy!), make a video (hello Jessi & Scott!), but alas. Fun fact: I recorded the vocals on my commute to work. Fans of RTD, listen closely.

A few notes on the rest of this EP (find it all here):

  1. “Circle” isn’t much more than a sliver, a spare tunelet plucked and keyed, and truth is I recorded this as a guide for playing something else. But there’s beauty in the mundane, right?
  2. Funny—I do now live on a sort of cul-de-sac, and I am currently on the HOA. But the rest is (still) fiction.
  3. My neighbor in Denver had an impractically glorious Pontiac Grand Prix SJ parked on the street for years (and likely still does). Summer sun baked away its factory sheen, and winter snow made its sharp angles all the stranger. That car and its shifting stillness is at least a little bit behind this arpeggiated experiment in composed music for two stringed instruments and an iPad app called Bebot.
  4. See above.
  5. Another tune I think could be bigger, longer … but better? Maybe not. This one is dedicated Uncle Rick.
  6. I imagine this song coming in the scene immediately after “Baby It’s Cold Outside,” when the man-who-won’t-take-no-for-an-answer finally realizes no is the answer.
  7. John Dowland meets Chuck Berry, but the lamenter’s identity shall remain private.

To be honest, I like these songs and hope you will too. But I also know the world is jam-packed with homemade music, and your freetime is limited. Still, Kingsize Beast say: proceed as if they give a damn.™

You’ve read this far, and if you’ve got the music playing, here’s my offer: I’ll send a sticker to you, if you send an SASE. Address the envelope to Yes I Give a Damn, PO Box 691, PT WA 98368 USA.

And as sweet Kansans are known to say, ad astra per aspera, et cetera.

Batseasons

Then: I’ve seen Michael Keaton’s first Batman movie, but she hasn’t. It is our first date, and we decide to go to dinner at Twin Dragon and then the movie. But we talk and talk until late. The restaurant closes, and we never see Batman.

Now: I’ve seen Christian Bale’s first Batman movie, but she hasn’t. We’ve been married 28 years, and I talk her into streaming the movie after dinner at home. But we won’t give Amazon another $14.99 just to see it. I go to bed early, and we never see Batman.

Picking up. Again.

A few weeks back I was reminded the #1 rule in radio is still a secret, but it holds fast:

Don’t be an asshole.

In the world of radio, one way to rub against this rule is to use your radio voice. Difficult to describe in writing, but like pornography, you’ll know it when you find it. The announcer is almost monotonically stentorian. Or too damn smiley (aka puking.) Or too instantly familiar, like a stranger on a street corner who gets your attention saying, “Broham! How you doing?!?!” Or most potently, too much all of the above all at the same time. (In a job long ago we called a fellow with this condition Rugburn, and the name fit like a custom toupee.)

Broham Rugburn, about to use his radio voice ….

Another way to break the rule is to tell yourself everything you say is worth hearing (it isn’t), and all your insights must be shared (they mustn’t). Somehow some pilots of the airwaves miss the fact that radio is as much about listening as anything else—especially for those who do the talking. Shut your mouth and open your heart. Or more colloquially,

Don’t be an asshole.

In this way, we come to the secret of the secret first rule of radio: it is also the secret to living a quality life. Use the rule in any profession, and in the slice of time that exists outside work hours. Repeat as necessary. Like a mantra.

So powerful, the rule can even guide an effort like this one. At this writing, it’s the last quarter of 2021. It’s been a long pandemic, and it isn’t over yet. There is so much work to be done to make things more right in this world, and I make no assumptions that whatever I do can amount to much against all that. But let me put this down as I begin here again. Remember one thing:

Don’t be an asshole.

The Year That Was

Sometime last spring I took a picture that’s stayed with me all year. I didn’t mean to, but somehow the frame captured the mood of the last light of day without really getting the light itself. There’s a brightness, yes, but it’s tinged with awareness that the light is fading. The golden hour.

With a similar but reversed kind of layered vision, I’m looking back at 2020. An extraordinarily hard year. Deadly for way too many innocent people…. But every day was a gift.

Here is a very small token of my gratitude. Please enjoy.

The Books That Choose You

A LitHub-recommended long read reminds me that one of the intrinsic pleasures of making audiobooks is that I don’t choose what I’m reading next. Instead, the book chooses you.

Strictly speaking, what really happens is that the studio director chooses you to read the book. But the effect is the same: I don’t pick the books I’ll spend hours reading aloud, word for word, cover to cover. Unlike my home library, these projects don’t say anything about my intentions to be or know or feel something—or do they?

Thanks to working at a studio with a blessedly quirky contract to record material for the Library of Congress, the books that “choose me” are a potpourri of fiction and nonfiction, books I’ve seen elsewhere and plenty I haven’t, things I might otherwise choose to read and, yes, sometimes, things I wouldn’t.

Like the rest of life’s happenstances, sometimes this works out quite nicely. Recently I narrated these three works of nonfiction over a few weeks: a book about sea otters, one about a man who spent his days and nights living as a wild turkey, then an encyclopedic account of connections between sci-fi and pop music in the 1970s.

The result: I know more than I did before (with no interest in running with the turkeys), and I’m a grateful omnivore.

Expiating at Length

…is a good way to describe the narrative effort of my current project: the recollections (fictional) of an escaped slave in Henry David Thoreau’s company. There are some wonderfully uncommon words here—words I know I’ve never spoken out loud like phenakistoscope and phalanstery— as well as the characters of Emerson, Hawthorne and a sprinkling of other Transcendentalists. As an erstwhile English major, I say 👍🏼.