Question of the Week #8

Question:

How do you use social media as a writer? It strikes me that those are not easy waters to navigate.

Answer:

I could not agree more. Everything that I do that is related to video is infinitely easier to adapt to social media. Why? Because you are either giving it away for free to begin with, or you can pare it down and make a teaser version of a video to share and that is generally accepted. It is difficult to share writing online without giving it away and I find writing to consume a great deal more time and energy than video-related projects. A short story takes me months to write and at the end of that the thought of just putting online is somewhat depressing. It also means I will never make money from that particular story, which would be a pretty nice thing to have happen.

That being said social media is supposed to be about interacting and sharing not just promoting your own work. So I have been earnestly attempting to do just this for a few years now. The results are lackluster. I find it difficult to engage most people online. One of my posts on this site recently had a comment that seemed like an excellent opportunity to engage someone in a debate. Only the comment was, like most of online comments, slightly off. I chose, perhaps wrongly, to not respond because I did not want to have to include a section that read, “If you refer back to what I originally wrote I addressed the point you made…” because 1) this comes off poorly and 2) it makes me sad. If you are going to bother to try and critique something someone has shared at least take a moment and read all of what they wrote. Then reread what you are writing to them and make sure you understand what you are saying. Or don’t, but then expect to get what you get in return.

This response has turned bitter, forgive me. Returning to the question, I have attempted to follow a number of writers on different social media platforms and what I have found is that none of them share much that interests me. Either they are simply promoting their work (and if I follow them on social media I usually know when their new works are published) or they post things that are personal/silly/political and not of interest to me. What should they be posting though? I feel that this is the problem with social media, what should any of us be posting? A link to the article that everyone else is posting? Photographs of us when we were six with some playful comment? Deeply held opinions that then taint our future works for the reader/viewer? For me this is the conundrum. I am unknown online and therefore I cannot imagine anyone is terribly interested in what I have to say.  Without one of my works being seen by many I am not sure how or why this would change.

Yet I keep plugging along with social media and now more with this site, in the hope that if I keep sharing and trying to put original works out into that endless data stream, that little by little this will change. So my current thought, and answer to this question is: I try and use this site to share writings that are not as labor intensive and to interact with others. My hope is that if some shorter piece I share here is of interest to someone that they may wish to read something else I have written. Or they may wish to share something with me. It is vague still as I think many of the goals of social media are but it is what I have.

Music Mondays #7

Hi there!

So last week was a bust. Sadly events kept me from posting on Monday and when I could post again it was…no longer Monday. But I’m back. And hopefully so are you.

Today I would like to share a video from Kat Wright and the Indomitable Soul Band. Yet another Burlington, Vermont-based band that I have shamefully neglected! I am attempting to correct this here by sharing (forgive me!) a cover they did of a Destiny’s Child song. What I have heard of their original material is quite wonderful and you should absolutely give them a further listen (http://www.katwrightsoulband.com). The videos they have posted on Youtube are of excellent quality, both in terms of sound but also video (a rarity!) their channel is here.

It’s not that I actively seek out covers, or covers of songs performed by Beyonce things just seem to be happening that way of late. I will course-correct soon! In the meantime please enjoy this live cover of “Say My Name”.

Music Mondays #7.1

So how is this for making up for last week? Two posts for Music Monday? That’s right, I do it because I care. I wanted to do this minor post to share a review of the recently published book, “Girl in a Band”, by Kim Gordon. Whether you are a fan of Sonic Youth, Kim Gordon or just music in general you should read this review. As someone who could never find the appeal of this band I found my interest more than moderately piqued by this excellent review.

Kristin Dombek writes about music very well. Too well almost. Certainly better than I do which I why I am trying to send you her way. Enjoy!

http://www.lrb.co.uk/v37/n06/kristin-dombek/woman-manly

Question of the Week #7

Question:

You are a writer and a filmmaker, so what’s up with writing about music once a week? Wouldn’t writing about writing or film on a weekly basis make more sense?

Answer:

It absolutely would. The not so clever answer as to why I am doing what I am doing is that I don’t pretend to have any knowledge or expertise regarding music. I listen to it, I like what I like and my goal with Music Mondays is to try and share this with other people.

Since I don’t have anything professionally invested in music I find it is easier and more freeing to try and write about the subject. If I were to try and offer up a book each week or even a film there would be pressure (applied only by me) to have each post really say something. To try and offer some deep analysis, or to dig up obscure works and try and offer something new about them.

It saddens me, but I have gone this route before, even with the See it Again section I have on this site. I have numerous drafts of films that I want to share but when I sit and try and write why I think you should give them another chance, unless I have some big, impressive point to make, it feels like I am failing.

Not so with music. I am not sure I said anything that pretends to be insight this week but that does not trouble me. As I have stated I listen to music and I enjoy it, that is where my relationship with music ends. I actively try and create stories and because of this I spend a fair amount of time thinking about the processes – even attempting to study how other people create, and this takes the fun out of trying to write something like a blog post about books or movies.

I plan to work on this though because I love to talk about both so the next logical step would be to try and write about them. As with everything I simply need to change my way of thinking about this matter and then everything will fall into place. This weekly thing might be a bit much though. We shall see.

Music Mondays #6

So last week was a bit underwhelming. The truth is I do not get the kind of exposure I would like to new music and trying to post weekly is proving a bit of a challenge. Do I really want to try and dredge up something obscure? Do I play it safe with battle tested bands?

What I had hoped was posting weekly would inspire me to search out new music but truthfully that is not happening. I attempt and most often I fail. I find very little new music that I love. The purpose of these posts is to share music I enjoy and think others will enjoy so it strikes me as absurd to shy away from music and musicians that I know well. That being said…

This week I am writing about Jack White. Kind of a household name at this point, undoubtedly not news to anyone. So why write about him? He’s interesting for one thing. Although I have not listened to The Upholsters (his first band) I am certain some of their music is good. I am mentioning them to explain their exclusion from this post.

The band he is most famous for, The White Stripes, has had plenty said about them already. For a two-piece band I am still shocked when I listen to songs like “Seven Nation Army” that they managed to disguise the instruments being played. For the longest time I would have sworn there was a bass in the song, delivering a bass line that drives the entire song and makes it so memorable.

As much as I like some of the early works of the band it truly is with their final studio album where this band started to evolve into something special. Get Behind me Satan is an excellent album filled with one great song after another. In thinking about what to try and share for this post I have continually changed my mind as to which particular song would best convey the album. Try as I might I cannot shun “The Denial Twist”. I debated using a lesser-known song but this one is too excellent not to share. I would like to point out that this version of the song does not feature the guitar at all, which for this band is a radical departure.

Next I would like to share the theme song that Jack White did with Alicia Keys – “Another Way to Die”. As I have posted earlier I think people should give the film this is attached to another chance (Quantum of Solace). Much like the film this song is a departure for the James Bond franchise. First it is a duet. Second it rocks. Not just a little either. This is a rocking, all out, not for your grandparents kind of song. The type of song I would have thought Chris Cornell would have attempted for the previous film but instead he adapted his singing to the traditional James Bond theme song and gave the world something utterly forgettable.

Whether you love this or hate it you will certainly remember “Another Way to Die”.

Next there is his work with one of his two “supergroups” The Raconteurs. They have released two albums and quite a few excellent songs. So much of the dynamic of The White Stripes, structuring the band around the playing style of Meg White, shaped what the band could do. With the Raconteurs these limitations are gone and the results are most enjoyable. Jack White shares lead vocal duties with Brendon Benson. Both of them bring something unique to the band and the songs where they alternate are quite good. There is not much more I can say, the band has a lot of talent and their sound is much more mainstream than The White Stripes.

The other “supergroup” which shares members with The Raconteurs, is The Dead Weather. Their sound is stranger, their music at turns more aggressive and contemplative but I find equally interesting and rewarding. They, too, have recorded two albums and released numerous videos of interest. One of their more accessible songs, “I Cut Like a Buffalo” has two videos. Both are odd. I am opting to share a different video here in the hope that since this post contains so many that I can get a little arty with you and it will be okay.

Finally we have Jack White recording music as a solo artist. I find the two albums he has recorded to be much like the early White Stripes records. They contain some excellent songs but they are, largely, uneven. I am posting one of the slower songs here because he does this just as well as the heavy, angst-ridden tracks we all know so well.

So that’s it, my rather long post about the bands of Jack White. I find him to be an inspiring and interesting musician at a time when most confuse or bore me. His company, Third Man Records, is devoted to breathing new life and interest in vinyl which is something I whole-heartedly support (if you have not seen it the documentary – “The Distortion of Sound” might win you over to the cause). His commitment to the pageantry and showmanship of his profession is commendable and I am thankful someone like Jack White is still out there doing his thing.

If you have not seen the documentary, “It Might Get Loud” I highly recommend it. Not only do you get to spend time with Jack White, Jimmy Page and The Edge but you get to see the three together talking and playing some music. It was this film that took my piqued my interest regarding Jack White. It might just do the same for you, too.

Question of the Week #6

Question:

Are you planning on watching the Oscars? If so, what do you like about them? If not, why not?

Answer:

I see how it is, a question within a question! I did not watch the Oscars. The why is because I don’t find them interesting. I don’t find them fair or honest in their purpose. I don’t feel that they have defined their categories well enough to begin to make educated decisions.

If I were in the industry, making films and working with the people who receive the awards I might find it interesting or worthwhile to pay attention to the Oscars but since I am not the importance of who-wins-what escapes me. So Birdman won best picture (and other categories, I know). Does this increase my interest in seeing the film? Not really. I was pretty keen to watch it prior to the all of the accolades it has amassed yet I did not buy the film tonight, I am still waiting to rent it. Conversely, I have no interest in watching The Theory of Everything despite Eddie Redmayne winning best actor.

The main problem I have with awards like the Oscars is that there is little to no objectivity. Humphrey Bogart felt that it was impossible to compare actors unless they were performing the same role and I suppose I do as well. Did Michael Keaton not carry Birdman, winner of every major award? Was his performance in some way subpar? What did he not do that Eddie Redmayne did? Was it that The Theory of Everything was subpar on other levels which allowed Mr. Redmayne’s performance to shine that much brighter? It is impossible to say and is, quite frankly, arbitrary. Which is why I feel that the choosing of who-gets-what is dishonest. It is not about best because as it is there is no clear or obvious way to determine what “best” is. Which is part of the reason that some years you have all sorts of small films that are more “independent” that sweep the Oscars and other years where it seems exclusive to big budget blockbusters.

The Oscars suffer from being the pinnacle of awards for filmmaking. They cannot take the risks that other, lesser, awards can take. The Golden Globes can not only take greater risks but they also have created more categories and separated drama and comedy so that two entirely different kinds of filmmaking can be judged according to their means and abilities. Which of course is one of the major problems with having all different kinds of films compete with one another. If film A wants to make you laugh, film B make you cry, film C make you terrified and film D wants to entertain you with action and witty comments how do you sift through and decide which is “the best”.

So this is my long-winded and still incomplete answer to the question. Some of the awards are just terribly vague. Best Director. What does that mean? Do any two directors direct the same way? If you have seen any behind the scenes footage of directors at work, or listened to commentaries for films where actors and directors discuss what they did, you have noticed that there are infinite ways that directors direct. Are they involved in everything, right down to the smallest minutiae of every department? Do they delegate to their second in commands and then sit back and wait? Do they care only for the actors and let everything else sort itself out? Do they have their fingers in everything but take credit only for directing? Do they do several, key jobs on each production and always take credit?

I ask these questions thinking of specific directors and then I ask my own question – how closely tied is best director to best picture? What else could you be basing the award on? Gossip? It must be the film, which is why so often the picture that wins also has the director that wins. So in the cases when that isn’t true, what happened? What insight was gleaned that allowed you to know that Ben Affleck really wasn’t as good of a director even though you thought his film was the best?

I am stopping now because for so many categories this is where my brain invariable goes, down this terrible logic spiral that is without end or counter-arguments. People like watching the show, commenting on the clothing and cheering for the winners. I guess that is good. It all feels a bit arbitrary to me and I am not interested in clothes.