12 March, 2005

Hey, I finished the first draft of the first movement of my Piece of Shit Exercise Piano Sonatina, and it sounds much better than I had any right to expect. In fact, I was so excited about it that I used Finale 2005 to save a MIDI version of the document and fired that off to two fellow former students of San Francisco State University's Music Composition program that I still keep in touch with. It was so cool. Jason used his superior music sequencer software to make a kickass MP3 recording of the sonatina movement. I think he said he used Cakewalk and something else for an awesome piano sound. I mean the fake piano sound I get with Finale 2005 just sucks. I really wish I could afford some of this fancier crap, but I can't. I'm just dying for the day I can afford Sibelius 3 because it has got a much better fake piano sound than Finale 2005. Sibelius 3 costs something like six hundred dollars. It is even more if you want the better sound files. I can only afford the Finale upgrades, which are only one hundred bucks a pop.

Anyway, I finally figured out how to make the disparity between the two themes of my sonatina work. I pumped up the accompaniment on theme one. It worked. It really worked. Theme one now sounds awesome and really fits well with theme two. In fact, the only last lingering little thing I'm worried about with this sonatina movement is the overwhelming presence of the two themes. There is no escape from them. Not even in the development section. But, I'm really not going to worry about it. This is only supposed to be a short little exercise so I'm really happy with how it has turned out.

The funny thing with how I got this all to work was that I had in fact decided to junk theme one and simply start things out with theme two. I was going to do all of the work to develop a new theme two, but before I did that, I knew I just wanted to spend a couple of minutes experimenting with theme one. I punched up the accompaniment just to hear how it sounded, and I was totally blown away by how much it improved things. I just knew at that point that there was absolutely no need to junk theme one; even though, I had already made the decision to do exactly that.

Well, theme one stayed. Theme two stayed. I really like the transition from theme one to two. The development came along really easily, and I'm really happy with how it turned out. I was worried about the development at first. I think I wasted one whole day struggling with different approaches, which was mostly concerned with choosing which key to start the development with. I had wanted to use something like F major or F minor, but I couldn't figure out how to get it back around to D minor in a reasonable amount of time. This was only a sonatina after all, and I didn't want to spend ages and ages working around the development.

What finally worked was to use E minor. It was great. Slipped right back around to D minor in time for the recapitulation section. And, it only took two days, which was down right fast compared to how some of the other stuff had gone.

The hardest part of the recap was figuring out the modified transition between theme one and theme two so that it would still be a reflection of the exposition but would not force theme two into A minor like the exposition, but I figured something out. It works. It sounds great.

Sure, I know I'm talking about a freaking little piece of shit exercise of the kind that most modern composers laugh at because only freaks and losers who don't know the first thing about Twentieth Century Music bother to do, but I don't care. This is a remembrance exercise of the kind of exercise that they should have had us do in the composition program at San Francisco State University but never did.

So, I've got no immediate plans to stick an MP3 recording of this puppy on my website. It may happen someday. Probably after I round out the sonatina with a second and third movements. But not until then. And not until I feel I can provide a half-decent sounding recording.

So, the only question remaining now is how I should handle the next exercise. Should I do another sonatina first movement or should I round out this first sonatina. I haven't decided which way I want to go here, but I'm definitely leaning toward rounding out this sonatina before moving on to something else.

We shall see. We shall see how it goes and what develops first.

20 March, 2005

Every so often one of those things happens that just scares the hell out of you, and I don't mean that literally. I don't mean screaming and running and pissing yourself or anything like that. I just mean one of those things that makes you pause, think Sweet Evil Zombie Jesus, and wonder about the meaning of life, the universe and just about plain old everything.

I am, in other words, talking about reading a really bad book. Yes, reading a book that is so lousy. A book that is just so plain bad that the only thing you can do is put it down. The only thing you can do to maintain order and harmony in the universe is to put the poor book out of its misery by dropping it into the nearest trash can and never ever thinking about it again. Fuck recycling. Didn't you know that recycling is a scam? Go watch that Penn and Teller show.

I am talking about a book by Dean Koontz.

See, there had been a bit of a misunderstanding. We had been in this used bookstore, and I had held up a copy of Dark Rivers of the Soul or whatever. Asked Samantha if it was any good. She said it was terrible. It was poorly written. It was horribly pathetically overwritten. Unfortunately, that is not what she actually said. She forgot all that part. She just said that it was weird. To which I said that I liked weird.

Now, if you've read any part of The Faire Folk of Gideon, then you've got a pretty good idea of what I think makes a ripping good yarn. So for something to my way of thinking needs to qualify as weird has got to be really fucking far out there. Or as my old roommates used to put it, I would be really scary if I was ever to take up the drugs. Good thing I don't, huh? But I digress.

As maybe you can guess, I bought the book from the old used bookstore. I figured I could afford three bucks on an old Dean Koontz book. I had heard the name. I had been curious. It was described by somebody to me as weird. I tried to read it.

We should emphasize the word tried in that last sentence.

Dark Rivers of the Soul is really badly written, and I mean really bad. I mean this is the type of writing done by the poor people who just walked in the door of the first semester of Creative Writing Workshop. Even those people in Writing Workshop learned a thing or two. This book. I mean, wow. This book was like something that had never even been attempted to be written. It was just poured out. Maybe the person who had written this book had never read a book before and so had no idea that there is a way to string words together that is actually—like—good.

All of which is totally unfair to say. I mean when I first decided to write this journal entry I actually considered not even mentioning the author or the book because I really don't want to go around bashing authors and books. It's not even the point of this journal entry. I haven't even read any of Koontz's other stuff so I really have no way of knowing if this one book is any indication of the rest of his work. I really shouldn't say stuff like the author of this book has never read anything before in his life.

No, totally unfair. Not even my point.

My point—I guess you could say if I had a point to offer—is that the book is terribly horribly terminally overwritten. You may have heard me refer to the Kitchen Sink approach to books and movies? Yeah, this is it. In fact, this book is the poster child for just how horribly wrong things can go when you apply the Kitchen Sink method.

I mean things that could have been said in a sentence take a paragraph. Nothing is implied. Everything is hammered over the head, and if there is any doubt as to what the author is trying to get across, he hammers it over your head again.

It reminds me of that great essay by Mark Twain in which he deconstructs a passage from The Last of the Mohicans. Twain just took this passage from the book, and he obliterated it. He demonstrated just how horribly overwritten it was and just how simply everything could have been stated.

This isn't even my point. I'm looking at this book. I wouldn't even say that I'm even trying to read it any more. Saying that I'm skimming would be charitable. And the really sad part is that I can still follow what is happening by simply reading one or two words out of every paragraph.

Okay, my point? Remember I started this thing by saying something about scaring the fucking piss out of myself?

You may have noticed that I can be a little on the long-winded side. You may have even noticed that I can be wordy. You may—if you were really bothering to pay attention—have noticed that I can spend far too much time explaining something. Taking three sentences to say what could have taken only one. I remember my old roommate Greg once took this whole long business letter I had written and reduced it to two sentences. Stick to the point is what he said.

So, I'm trying to skim this book and wondering how much longer to suffer its existence when I get really freaking scared, and I just start to wonder if my writing looks anything like this. And, I go just kind of a little nutso. Oh, shit. Oh, shit. Oh, shit. Oh, holy freaking god of hubris and apathy. I swear to you. I really fucking hope that my writing isn't this bad.

It could be. It really could be that bad. I mean, how would I know? It could stink. It could dredge the seventh layer of hell. It could be the antithesis of creation, and I wouldn't even know it. I remember how enamoured of the writing of The Magic Flute I was. I remember how much I loved the poetry of it. I remember how long it took me to write some of those sentences from Armada's point of view, and all I can think is that I suck.

So, I'm trying not to think about it. I'm just trying to remember that hey, it's done. It is either good or it isn't. Learn and move on. Tell yourself that you didn't overwrite this bad. They do actually engage in dialog on occasion in The Magic Flute. You like dialog. You've been told that you're good at it. The dialog, I mean.

Just remember. Don't overwrite. Keep it simple. Keep it moving. And for fuck's sake, try to have fun.

So, yeah, I guess there really isn't much of a point to this entry. I have seen really horrible fucking writing, and I shall do my goddamndest part to not write as badly as I have seen, which I guess is the moral to the story.

Learn from bad writing. Read really horrible rotten ugly awful stuff so that you can learn not to write like that. It's why aspiring authors are always told to read until their eyes explode. Learn from the crap. And, never ever do it again.

27 March, 2005

There are advantages and disadvantages to not having much of a choice but to let days pass before you can get around to something. On the one hand—and this is the good side—when it is something that has got you good and worked up, you've had the time to cool down. You've had the chance to come to your senses and therefor you're not going to make a complete and total ass out of yourself. On the other hand—and this is the poor side—it's just not as much fun to read.

I mean this was going to be a wild and unkempt turkey of a rant. This was going to involve the frothing of jaws and the gnashing of teeth. This was going to be wild and grisly if only I had gotten around to it a couple of days ago, but I didn't. There was other stuff. There were things like sleep and the renting of U-Haul trucks, which ultimately result in one being very tired and not really in much of a mood for the smashing and thrashing of computer keyboard keys. None of which has much of anything to do with the having wanted to rant and rave in this here space, but it does have a lot to do with why the ranting and raving did not happen.

So, I'm really not sure what part I want to cover first. I'm really not altogether sure why I'm even bothering to write anything about any of this at all. I think there is still a germ of a point, and I think there is still the echo of the rant that really does not want to go down into the darkness quietly and really does still want to take a swing at the world. So, yeah, maybe that is it. This is the echo of the rant that died in the cave unvoiced, unnoticed and unloved.

Okay, so what is going on?

It's all got to do with the term blog. Oh? You've got it now? Yeah, you know. The term blog like the term art is just one of those things that can get my really fucking worked up. I think I may have mentioned in the past how some of my old roommates discovered how much fun it was to try and discuss the definition, purpose and meaning of the word art with me. I guess I was so much fun to watch, frothing and bitching and generally sounding like a complete lunatic.

So, yeah, the word blog just makes me itch. It gets under my skin, and I simply cannot stand it. And, I think it is mostly because the damn word just sounds all cutesy and stupid. There is more to it than that. I mean the total annoying sound of the word is probably the main reason it stuck in my brainpan in the first place. Why I couldn't dislodge it and why I noticed it again the next time I heard it mentioned. But, cutesy I can live with. It's no big deal. There is something more insidious about the term, which is really the part that starts to bother me.

Okay, quick note here. I've got no real problem with the word blog and people who maintain blogs. I mean, sure, as I said, the word grates on my tongue like chalk on my teeth or fingernails on a blackboard, but I can live with it. People who want to have blogs and talk about blogs and read blogs is all just fine and dandy and whatnot. Go have fun. You're enjoying it. You should enjoy it.

Now, here is where I start to have a problem.

Have you ever looked up the definition of blog? Go on, look. It starts out pretty clear. It is a website that is updated quiet a lot and typically takes the form of a journal or diary. Okay, so far we are pretty clear. The problem is that the definition doesn't stop there. It starts out with some pretty clear parameters, but by the time it gets to the bottom in its attempt to be inclusive of all different types of people who want to say that their website is a blog, the definition has pretty much stated that everything is a blog.

You got that? Everything is a blog. There are no websites. There are only blogs, and that kind of nonsense just makes me want to puke. I know, see, here we are verging back into my irrational rant territory and if you really want to see the frothing and the gnashing then just keep reading. I'm sure things will get a lot more fun as we go.

So, my problem with blogs is both simple and incoherent. My problem with blogs and blogging is the sense of enforced membership I get from it. Since the definition is ultimately so broad as to encompass everything, you have got no choice but to quit the world wide web or to join, and my problem with everything being a blog is that if you go back to the beginning of the definition then you just might notice that there are also standards and practices for blogs.

I mean, sure, they keep it nice and broad to make sure that everybody who claims they have a blog is included but they also grab everybody else. Everybody is subject to the broad inclusion at the bottom but can also be held to the standards and guidelines at the top. We can look at your little site that you claim is a blog because you feel like saying that it is, and we can hold it up to the harsh light of the rules and procedures that we oh so conveniently invented ourselves and show you just how far from the pure definition your little site is. If this is where it ended, then that would be pathetic but ultimately fine since the person claimed their site which failed in the stricture was still a blog. They wanted inclusion. Problem being they also include everybody who doesn't want to be defined as a blog—like me—and these others—like me—are also held up to the harsh light of the fancy dancy definitions that were defined by the people who coined the term blog. And people who never described themselves as bloggers are suddenly being held up to the rules they never agreed to or wanted. And they are being snorted at and chortled over for how far from the pristine perfection they never said they wanted anything to do with in the first place.

Okay, see? It's all in my own little mind. Nobody has noticed this accept me because this only exists in my own little head, I am sure. If anybody bothered to read this, they would probably go on and on about how they live and let live and I'm just a poor little sap if I cannot comprehend their magnanimous compassion for all things born on the web. Yeah, and people say they don't care what religious persuasion you happen to pursue so long as you don't mind them forcing their particular religion into public school and otherwise all over the fucking government.

Okay, so what set me off? Well, it is just a little something I read on some website or other. I'm not going to actually list the site or the author here because this isn't about that person or that website. There is nothing wrong with people and websites, and this is nothing person. I'm railing against a concept that only I perceive, which is probably a good thing since if nobody else notices there is a problem then I'm figuring there isn't really a problem and everybody can just go ahead and ignore me.

So, what the guy said was something along the lines of the fact that there are no more home pages. There are only blogs. And, I tell you reading that little bitty ditty just made me want to cuss out my monitor. It is what set me off and would have made for a much more interesting rant than the one you are reading now. Well, if nothing else, it sure would have had a lot more profanity in it. The point of that rant, which is still essentially the point of this journal entry, is that the definition, name and description of a website should really be up to the person who made the website. If you want to have a blog, then have a blog. If you want to call it a blog, then call it a blog, and everybody can quite happily talk about your blog. If you don't want to have a blog, then don't have a blog. If you don't want to call it a blog, then don't call it a blog, and everybody should respect that by not referring to it as such.

That's my point. I don't have a blog. I have a website. I have a home page. I keep music on my website. I keep pictures and fiction and poetry. I also have instructions on how to purchase a copy of my book if anybody were so inclined as to want a copy. I also just so happen to keep a journal on my website. I chose to call it a journal. I could have called it a rant archive. I could have called it a news archive. I could have called it many things, but I chose to call it a journal because I felt it most closely described what I was going to attempt to do. This is my choice, and I just wish people would respect that choice.

Oh, and getting back to what I read on that website about how there were no more home pages. I finally figured it out. Since time was passing between when I first got all bent out of shape and when I might finally have a chance to write about it, I realized that the guy may have been saying something other than what I had first thought.

His meaning may have been that it had been quite a long time since any of the people he had known or met had referred to their website as a home page. Nobody he knew was saying that you should check out their home page. Everybody he knew had started saying that you should check out their blog. Oh, yeah, okay, I get it. Among this guy's friends and acquaintances, the term home page was falling into disuse and disrepair. Checking out somebody's blog was all the rage.

So, okay, yeah, I'm getting all worked up over nothing. I know. These people don't talk about their websites or their home pages anymore because it was proving far easier to simply talk about their blogs. The guy writing on his website or blog as I'm pretty sure he would prefer me to refer to his site was just talking about how interesting it was how language changes, and those people who want to talk about their blogs do just that.

It's got nothing to do with whether or not I can still talk about my website and my home page and my journal. They weren't talking about me. They don't know me, and they don't even care.

I know it is nothing, but the fear that still runs starkers through the dark recesses of my mind that worries that if anybody should ever come across my site that they won't say that they saw my site. They'll say that they saw my blog, which I don't have. The fear is that they'll try to take my website away from me by changing my site's name, purpose and definition. They'll rank it and find it wanting against standards to which I never took up in the first place.

Thus is fear born. Thus does it die.

Please don't rob me of my choice because you cannot be bothered to respect my wishes.

There, I'm done. I hope you found this little jaunt through my diseased and irrational little mind amusing.

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