Street Spirit (Fade Out) baddish cover

Okay, here is the “video” of the cover I made to atone for the horrible “live” video version that I tried to sing without even warming up my voice.  Or trimming my hair uniformly.  Or being in any way photogenic.

I hope you like it.  It’s really me doing the music, including the double-tracked guitar arpeggios and of course the singing (though the drums are done electronically, because I don’t have a drum set).

The canker blogs have full as deep a dye as the perfumed tincture of the roses

Hello and good morning.  It’s the first Thursday of May in 2021, and so, of course, it’s time for another edition of my weekly blog post.  I don’t have any particular topic to write about today, so I’ll just start with some comments about how work has been going on my latest story.

It’s going well.

I won’t leave it just at that, though you might prefer it.  I’ve been writing at a decent clip, but not quite approaching my peak levels from recent weeks, because I had a flat tire, and earlier this week I had to get the repaired tire replaced, and I had to take the train to and from work while that was happening.

I’ve still been writing over a thousand new words—so to speak—a day, even on my worst day of the week, and on Monday I hit two thousand.  Given that I do my writing in the space of roughly an hour in the morning, that’s pretty good.  I’m enjoying being able to write new things instead of simply having to rewrite and edit works that have already been written.  I feel a bit like a kid how is finally able to go outside and play after a long rainy spell; it just feels good to move, or to write as the case may be.  I also tend to get caught up in writing new things more readily than in most other pursuits.  Though it’s often a minor push to get going in the morning, by the time I need to stop, I often don’t really want to do so.

The new story I’m working on, In the Shade, is a horror story, and is rapidly turning towards the Lovecrafty side of things, which was my intent and expectation when I originally started writing it.  Invoking Howard Phillips always seems to energize me.  The story is getting a bit longish, but that is at least tolerable in a Lovecraft-style tale, since his stories were often pretty long.  Still, I think I’m going to set my self a more draconian goal than usual in reducing the word count during the editing process.  Then, of course, I must put together my collection.

In addition to writing (and working at my day job, of course), I’ve been doing some more videos.  For two weeks in a row now I’ve released some as part of my Iterations of Zero blog; they appear on YouTube and in the blog proper.  I also did a few little silly videos, mainly in order to play with video editing programs, to see what they can do and what I can do with them, in a half-hearted kind of way.  I also did a video of a cover of the Beatles song, Blackbird.  I’d posted on YouTube a video among others I’d made of me just practicing the song, but my singing wasn’t great, and the sound quality was also far from ideal.  So, I did a more formal recording/mix of the song—in one morning, after writing, originally, but then I redid the vocals after that.  The whole song is just one guitar and a singer (double-tracked in the middle), so the vocals are very much in your face.  I was reasonably happy with the outcome, and I did a video proper—so to speak, again—with pictures of various blackbirds, with effects pasted onto them using a very basic video editor, in a rather silly fashion.  I’ll embed the video here, just in case you want to watch/listen.

I feel foolishly proud of my guitar playing there, because it’s a rather complicated finger-picking song, and I’m really playing it, and at full speed.  I remember reading about how, when the Beatles were hanging out with the maharishi, Donovan showed Paul and John that finger-picking style, and they each excitedly went on to write and record a finger-picked song for “The White Album”.  Paul did Blackbird, and John did Julia.  I’m also practicing the latter, but it has some additional challenges—the use of a capo, for instance, and more complex chord fingering—that mean it’s going to take a bit longer to get to where I want it to be.  I did do a video of me playing it, on that same morning, and it’s on Iterations of Zero, here, with other videos, but I haven’t put it on YouTube.  Eventually I’ll get it in shape and do a full recording, maybe with a real video of me (you are hereby warned).  This song definitely has at least double-tracked vocals, because John overlaps himself singing it.

Anyway, that’s all really a side thing, though it’s enjoyable working on a new skill.  As mentioned last week, I’m unnoticeably far into the beginning of the ten-thousand hours needed to master playing, but it’s fun.  I have advantages in that I’ve played piano and especially cello since I was quite young and played in orchestras regularly right up until the end of medical school.  I’ve never been a great cellist—my practicing habits were abysmal—but I always enjoyed it, and it definitely provides a leg up for playing the guitar.

That’s about all I have to write about today; it’s probably more than I actually have to write about, or at least more than is worth writing about.  I hope you all have a lovely, lusty month of May, but that you stay safe and healthy in the process.

TTFN

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This is a picture I drew a long time ago. It has nothing much to do with this post, but captures my love for the monstrous “hiding” amidst beauty.

The bay-trees in our country are all withered, and meteors fright the fixèd blogs of heaven.

Hello and good morning.  It’s Thursday, and thus it’s time for another edition of my weekly blog post.  Windows, et al recently updated twice (yesterday and a few days before), and that seems to have done more harm than good so far, but hopefully I won’t have too much trouble getting this written and posted.  We shall see.

It’s been a reasonably productive week.  I’ve worked steadily on In the Shade.  I’m near the climax, when the worst of the bad things happen (it’s a horror story, so that’s only to be expected), but I’m going a bit more slowly this week, so it will take a bit longer than I previously expected it to take.  Also, as you all probably know by now, my writing tends to balloon rather easily, so it’s becoming longer than I guessed it would.  That seems to be the usual case with all human endeavors (I think this was discussed nicely in Daniel Kahneman’s Thinking, Fast and Slow, a book I can highly recommend).

I’ve generally made a key part of my editing/rewriting process a targeted trimming of word counts, usually by a set percent (at least), and for the most part I’ve been able to reach that target.  Still, I may need to raise my reduction goal and be more dogmatic in its application.  I try to do this with my blog posts, though the short time given to writing them in the midst of my otherwise full days* impairs that process slightly.  As a historical person, possibly Benjamin Franklin, is reputed to have implied, it often takes longer to write a short piece than to write a long one.  But trimming away excess is important, and I’m capable of producing copious quantities of excess.

I’ve posted some of the guitar/singing videos I did last week, and I even recorded two more of them last Friday.  The process was decently enjoyable, though seeing myself on the screen is not an easy pill to swallow.  Nevertheless, given how popular videos about ideas are—I enjoy many of them, myself—I thought that I’d try to incorporate video into my other blog, Iterations of Zero, using video to produce the equivalent of articles or essays that I had planned to write, but which I haven’t been able to work into my schedule, or into my mental energy budget, or whatever you might want to call it.

I recorded a brief introduction to this idea, and I’ve been working on editing that video, but trimming out my hems and haws and pauses has led me to realize that the Microsoft basic video editor is just too cumbersome a tool for such purposes in the long run.  So, I went to How-To Geek, a most useful resource, and found an article in which they reviewed various free video editors**.  I have downloaded one of them.  I’ll finish the video I’ve already started using the Microsoft editor, but will probably then experiment with this new one.  It has online video tutorials, and these are—as one would expect—quite well produced.

I’m not the most committed person to using instruction manuals for such things; I often try to figure them out as I go along, seeing what works for my purposes, consulting manuals only when I want to do something and am not sure how to go about it.  Usually, successful computer programs are written in reasonably logical ways, so I can usually figure out how they do what they are supposed to do.  Sometimes I learn about things that I would never have thought to use otherwise, just by poking and playing around.

Anyway, I mean to at least try to use the IoZ platform to share these videos, though I’ll upload them to YouTube, which has much more available video storage space; that is, after all, its entire function.  I may try to put together some better videos of me playing music (both better video and better playing, hopefully), and I’ll let you know if I do.  For now, if you want, you can watch recent videos of me playing Pigs on the Wing, a demo of a song I’m working on called Mercury Lamp, and a less well-done video of Wish You Were Here, which I posted on April 20th in (dubious?) honor of my son’s 21st birthday***.

There’s not much more to say that anyone would probably be interested in reading; I tend to be a bit of a downer.  Dr. Elessar’s Cabinet of Curiosities will be coming before too long, once I’ve finished and edited the last story in the collection (see above) and decided how to put it together.  Then, of course, I’ll finish Outlaw’s Mind and release that as a stand-alone novella, before going on to whatever work I decide on next.

That is, of course, unless some meteor strike or some such kills me in the meantime.  We can all hope for and dream of such things, right?

TTFN

Meteor Shit


*Full with work of various kinds, as well as commuting.  I have no social life.

**They all have options for paid upgrades if one develops the need for them.  The one I chose seems reasonably priced—certainly compared to Adobe software.  I’ve used Adobe’s video editor in the past, when you could buy it in a box and load it onto your computer and didn’t have to pay an outrageous monthly fee and get online to use it.  But who knows, I may eventually go back there in its modern incarnation.

***He’s alive and well, by the way—so I’m told—so don’t worry about that.  He just hasn’t spoken to me in eight years or so, by his choice.  So, particularly on a milestone birthday, I find his absence extremely painful—his birth, and his existence, was the greatest thing that had ever happened in my life, equaled since only by the birth of his sister 17 months later.  Tuesday was not a good day for me.  This is not a good week for me.  I’m sure I deserve it.

In these confines with a monarch’s voice cry “Havoc!” and let slip the blogs of war

Hello and good morning, all.  It’s the “ides of April”* today, a date that is much more traditionally associated with dread—in America, at least—than is the anniversary of the assassination of Julius Caesar.  It’s also time for my weekly blog post.

I’ve done my part to further general world health this week:  I recorded and posted some video of myself playing the guitar and singing, on Iterations of Zero.

No, wait!  That’s not what I did that was oriented toward public health (quite the contrary).  Rather, yesterday I received my second dose of the Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine.  I should be just about as immune as it’s possible to be at this point (or soon, anyway), since I had the infection itself in January, and now I’ve received full vaccination with the version that seems, based on what I’ve read, to have the highest protection rate.  This, as I say, was done for social reasons more than for personal protection; I honestly wouldn’t mind much if I’d gotten severely ill**, or even if the virus had killed me.  But that’s not a choice I think I have any right to make for other people (neither does anyone else, especially out of personal laziness, contrariness, selfishness, or unwarranted paranoia) so I don’t want to spread it thoughtlessly.  Getting as immune to it as I can seems the most reliable way to avoid that.

I did post some videos of myself singing and playing guitar on Tuesday, though.  You can watch them, if you want.  I’ve avoided posting videos or even pictures of myself in recent years, because I hate how I look now, in many ways, for many reasons.  I don’t even like to look in the mirror much.  However, I recently figured—at least this is the story I tell myself—that hiding from cameras is like eating when no one is around.  Just because someone doesn’t see you eat, and you don’t count the calories, doesn’t mean that you haven’t eaten, and it won’t protect you from the consequences.

Reality is not merely perception.  A catastrophe you don’t see coming can still hurt or kill you.

One source of my dissatisfaction with my appearance is that, rather than lose weight when depressed, as some people do, I tend to eat more, and thus to gain weight.  This is probably a self-soothing thing, since the process of eating food is one of the most reliable short-term neurological rewards a person can engineer, for good, sound biological reasons.  So, when everything else in the world feels and seems like shit, including and especially oneself, it can be hard to resist the urge to snack and overeat.

I suppose opiate and other addictions can similarly be a form of self-soothing, due to literal, direct, neurologic effects.  This often leads to emaciation, as all other drives fall by the wayside.  But since I associate opiate use with chronic, severe pain, I’m not as likely to seek them out, “heroin chic” notwithstanding.

You can thus tell from looking at me in my videos that I have been struggling with my Churchillian “black dog” for quite some time, with inconsistent (or consistent but negative) results.  I also, possibly for related reasons, botched my recent job at trimming my hair on Sunday, and I couldn’t see it until I saw myself on video; no one told me about it, but that’s not surprising.  Who would?

Anyway, I figure if I just start doing such videos and posting them, at least I’ll have to face my appearance and what bad shape I’ve allowed myself to get into.  Perhaps it’ll help provide some counter-pressure against the eating thing.  Also, frankly, people out there in cyberspace just seem to like videos of people, even if they’re just talking to the camera.

I was remarkably stressed by the fact that I was playing and singing on video for the first time ever, even if just on impulse, just to test it.  I hadn’t warmed up my voice at all—which I think is obvious—and my guitar playing was not at its best either.  I fumbled in many places where I normally play without a problem.

I didn’t even get the picking and fingering in the shot for most of the videos!  This is a minor shame, particularly with respect to Street Spirit and Blackbird, since I feel mildly proud of how far I’ve come with them.  However, the former song’s complexity of play compels me to cock my neck waaaaay down, desperately eyeballing the pick and to some extent my left hand, and that’s not a great posture for singing.  I can sing that song much better when I’m not hunched over like that***.  But I was extremely self-conscious during this “filming” process, and it was early morning, and my throat was still dry and yet gummy.  These are excuses, obviously, but they are also actual, legitimate reasons, so I don’t feel too bad about making them.

I’m probably going to commit the crime against humanity of sharing these videos on my YouTube channel, and even on Facebook, and Twitter, and on the recently rediscovered Instagram account that I made for unknown reasons in the past.  I might as well use it for something.  Goodness knows I’ve seen people post worse videos, and I’ve even enjoyed some of them.  If you have any strong objections, do share them with me.

On to lighter things, so to speak.  I’m making good progress on In the Shade, and the first draft should be done within the next week or so, even with minor distraction from making ill-advised videos.  As evidence, on Tuesday, even though I stopped early to do my “filming”, I still wrote about 1500 words on the story.  It helps in this that I do have the traditional early-awakening brand of insomnia associated with the “black dog”—actually I’ve always been an early riser and a short sleeper—but at least I can put it to work for me.

Even black dogs can be used as draft animals, it seems.

So, look forward to Dr. Elessar’s Cabinet of Curiosities, which I think will be a good collection of stories, and look forward—perhaps with fear and trembling—to the prospect of me doing more videos.  If you have any reaction to the ones I’ve posted, please let me know.  Also, I’d love to hear feedback regarding The Vagabond, if you have any to give.

TTFN

Video killed


*It’s been called to my attention by the alert and educated reader, StephenB (see comments) that the Ides of April is actually the 13th, something I did NOT know at all, but am delighted to learn.  Seriously, it made my day.  I’m leaving the term, now in scare quotes, in the post, since it’s a fun reference to “Tax Day” in the US, but I expect I shall not make this error again.  Thanks, StephenB, seriously.  I love learning new things like this!

**As I think I’ve mentioned before, I was not the sickest I’ve ever been when I had Covid, but I was sicker than I’ve been in a long time.  Thankfully, I wasn’t as feverish as I was during at least one episode of severe flu.  Maybe that’s because now I pretty much always have significant—probably long-term-toxic—levels of NSAIDs and Acetaminophen in my system, because of chronic pain due to “failed back surgery syndrome”.  My body probably has a hard time even generating a fever nowadays, so the fact that I did get a fever a few times during Covid might mean that I would have had quite high ones if conditions were otherwise.

***I did some good belting in Exit Music, even resulting in clipping/distortion at the song’s dramatic peak.  That’s kind of funny to me; I do get very into that song when I sing it.  How could I not?  Radiohead wrote it for Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo and Juliet, and Shakespeare makes everything more powerful.

What, gone without a word? Ay, so true blog should do; it cannot speak, For truth hath better deeds than words to grace it.

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Hello, good morning, and good Thursday to all my friends, comrades, fellow travelers, and anyone who doesn’t consider themselves adequately described by any of the preceding terms.  It’s time for my weekly blog post, something without which I know many people’s Thursdays would not be the same.

I’ve been fiddling around with some things related to Iterations of Zero on and off lately.  I posted another “audio blog”, this one about the need for people to justify their statements, particularly if they’re saying something derogatory.  If they can’t, then you should just ignore them or tell them to take a number, get in line, and kiss your ass.  I don’t recall precisely what set me off at the time, but such things do get on my nerves, especially in the era of rampant social media-based epithet hurling.  In that bit of grumbling, I also deal with the difference between words and the proverbial “sticks and stones”, and mention, obviously, the Cheese Shop Sketch from Monty Python’s Flying Circus.

I’m still not sure whether these audible meanderings are beneficial, as compared to writing articles out.  I don’t know which form of thinking in public people prefer to consume, at least from me, and I haven’t received much specific feedback on the question, or if I have, I haven’t noticed it yet (and I apologize for that, if so).

I’ve already recorded a short subsequent audio burst, or whatever one would call it—they don’t really merit the term “podcast”—but haven’t edited it much, because I’m frankly not sure people like these things from me*.  They are, I must rather guiltily admit, much easier to produce than written posts, at least in first draft.  They’re just me thinking out loud into either my laptop or my smartphone.  Since I’ve been known to think aloud even when I’m not recording, this engenders a big advantage in the low activation energy needed to initiate a posting.  Still, the writer in me feels guilty.  He also feels cramped.

I had a peculiar burst of “creativity” the other night and morning that I rather quickly acted on, which is unusual enough.  I took the recent audio of my “karaoke” version of No Surprises, by Radiohead, and I decided to make a simple video—but not as simple as my usual “videos”, which generally contain just one fixed image.  Instead, I got a bunch of old drawings of mine that I’d scanned into the computer, sometimes decades ago, and picked out several that fit the mood I was in when I sang the song**.  I tried to make the video with the simple Microsoft video editor, but I didn’t think much of the outcome, so I did a trial installation of the latest version of CyberLink PowerDirector, a program I’d used in the past, so I could do crossfading between pictures and whatnot.  I also used a graphic manipulation program (GIMP) to distort a picture of me from the one true video post I have on YouTube (it’s not pretty) so that it vaguely resembled Thom Yorke’s face in the video version of the song (see above).

This all happened with surprising speed; when I get into something, I often become somewhat monomaniacal.  I skipped editing Unanimity yesterday, and even skipped practicing guitar (which anyone who’s heard me knows I cannot readily afford to do), and I produced a satisfactory video.  It was nothing special, but I thought it evocative.  I uploaded the final product onto YouTube, shared it through Facebook and Twitter…

…and within minutes got the notification that the video had been blocked for copyright reasons.

You might think this would irritate me, but you would be mistaken.  I was mildly surprised—ironically, I suppose—but within seconds I thought, “Well, fair enough.”  It’s their song, the copyright belongs to them or to whomever they assigned it, and the enforcement of that copyright is entirely their decision.  I certainly never meant to try to make any money off the video—I’ve never monetized YouTube in any way—but again, it’s their decision.  Thom, Jonny, Colin, Ed, and Phil wrote the song, it belongs to them…or to whomever they’ve given the rights to it.  As an arguably creative artist myself, I certainly don’t want anyone using my stuff without permission.  I want people to pay for my books (though you can listen to some of my stories and the first nine chapters of The Chasm and the Collision for free on YouTube ad libitum, read by the author).

I may upload my video onto IoZ in place of the simple audio of the song, but I’m not sure.  I’d like to have some of you see it, but I don’t want to go against any literal desires of Radiohead.  Of course, the block was clearly an automated response, without any specific human consideration; it happened too fast.  I don’t think the fellows from Radiohead are following my work closely enough to have responded so quickly.

With all that happening, I’ve gotten a little less editing done on Unanimity this week, but at least it’s shorter than half a million words now.  I’ll try to trim the fat enough so that it’s not just a heart attack waiting to happen…though I do hope it will be the kind of meal that makes you have nightmares.

In all other things, though, I wish you well.  I always enjoy any comments you might care to make, either here or on IoZ or anywhere else I lurk online.  But do remember, if you have a beef with me, you’ll need to back it up with evidence or argument, or I’ll just tell you to f*ck off.

I will, however, joyfully accept unjustified compliments.

TTFN


*Though, to be fair and honest, I did get actual, thoughtful feedback on my discussion of the wavefunction and many words.

**Not a happy one, but at least not apathetic.

Come Back Again (a new song)

Words and Music by Robert Elessar

(c) copyright 2019.  All rights reserved.

Performed by Robert Elessar

Produced by Robert Elessar


Sky blue
Sky gray
Dark and stormy night
Sunny day
Only meeting strangers
Always losing friends
Every new beginning
Always ends.

And if your travels bring you to a place
Where you’re afraid to show your face
remember
All you’ll be is all you’ve been,
So turn around, come back again.

Walking down the street
I saw a car go by with no one driving
I watched it pass and wondered what the hell was going on.
There’s something not quite right, I thought
and hopped a bus that was just arriving
I got it and I sat down fine, but suddenly
I was gone.

Sky blue
Sky black
Creeping slowly forward
Falling back
Nothing ever stops
But nothing really goes
Is there any reason?
No one knows.

But I’d stay by you until the end
In times of darkness I’m your friend
So maybe
If you need
A helping hand
Just turn around
Come back again.

Come back again.

Come back again.

Come back again.

Breaking Me Down (rebuilt)

 

(c) 2019 by Robert Elessar

Words and Music by Robert Elessar

Produced and performed by Robert Elessar

I sit alone at home sometimes and want to go berserk
But doing that just never seems to work
The shelves are stacked with books but I don’t feel that I could read
While all around a thousand phantoms lurk

I drink a little wine; I eat a little meat
I wonder why I’m shivering in such infernal heat
I feel a little tired; my head’s a little light
I wish that I could close my eyes and block my inner sight.

If you could see me now, you’d probably wonder where I’ve been
But I stand and I fall
And I listen for your call
While hiding out inside the dragon’s den.

I wander ‘round through my internal night
I travel back and forth throughout the town
But if you ask, I’ll tell you I’m all right
My nervousness is just breaking me down.

I listen to the sounds of everybody having fun
I can’t join in ‘cause I don’t have a gun,
They’re scattering their ashes all along the motorway
Then scampering like rabbits on the run

I bounce off all the walls; I turn out all the lights
I always want to hit someone, but I never get in fights
I feel a bit confused; my thoughts are incomplete
There’s tingling in my fingers and there’s swelling in my feet

If you could hear what I hear you would deafen both your ears
But I can’t, and I know
That no matter where I go
I’m followed by the grinding of my gears.

I stare around in paranoiac fright
While grinning at my heartbreak like a clown
So don’t come in, and don’t turn on the light
It’s just my past mistakes breaking me down

I look at all the colors of the pictures in my mind
They’re all so dark, I might as well be blind
The path laid out ahead of me is so filled up with smoke
I think that I’d prefer to just rewind

I roam around the house; I drive around the town
I don’t know if I’m back and forth or if I’m up and down
I dive into the sea; I look into the sky
I try to understand them, but we can’t see eye to eye

If you could see inside my head, your own head would explode
But I nod, and I grin
At the end where I begin
And I smile, and I wave
When I pass an open grave
And I slump, and I sigh
When we have to say goodbye
I’ll see you at the ending of the road

I wander through the wasteland struck with blight
I make my Hell to wear an earthly crown
I smash all mirrors, I can’t stand the sight
Of everything that is breaking me down.