Is Technology Destroying Our Culture?

Among the Disrupted

The above link is to a really interesting article in the New York Times Sunday Book Review section about how technology and economic forces are destroying important parts of our culture.  It was written by Leon Wieseltier.  It is definitely worth a read.  A small sample:

Amid the bacchanal of disruption, let us pause to honor the disrupted. The streets of American cities are haunted by the ghosts of bookstores and record stores, which have been destroyed by the greatest thugs in the history of the culture industry. Writers hover between a decent poverty and an indecent one; they are expected to render the fruits of their labors for little and even for nothing, and all the miracles of electronic dissemination somehow do not suffice for compensation, either of the fiscal or the spiritual kind. Everybody talks frantically about media, a second-order subject if ever there was one, as content disappears into “content.” What does the understanding of media contribute to the understanding of life? Journalistic institutions slowly transform themselves into silent sweatshops in which words cannot wait for thoughts, and first responses are promoted into best responses, and patience is a professional liability. As the frequency of expression grows, the force of expression diminishes: Digital expectations of alacrity and terseness confer the highest prestige upon the twittering cacophony of one-liners and promotional announcements. It was always the case that all things must pass, but this is ridiculous.

Devolving In Steamboat Springs

I have been holed away in the the town of Steamboat Springs, Colorado for the Steamboat MusicFest.  I intended to read several books, to update my blog regularly, and to get a lot accomplished in general.  However, this hasn’t happened!  I’d like to blame it on rock n roll partying, but alas, I cannot.  I only drank one night and although I felt like I had been raped by a werewolf the next morning, it really was probably due to my lack of drinking lately and not any excessive amount of alcohol abuse.  I have become older and shittier.  It is true.

The hours and minutes of each day have simply slipped through my grasp.  I don’t know if this is due to weather that is comparatively colder than what I have become used to in Texas or the higher altitude of the area.  Maybe it is just due to laziness and a subconscious feeling that I am on vacation.  I have no answers.  Books have not been read, knowledge has not been gained, and writing has not commenced at the usual rate.  In fact if anything, I think my mind has slowly devolved back towards ape status, although I cannot confirm this.

Tomorrow, tomorrow, I love you tomorrow
You’re always a day away…

Going Back to Love

Looking for the days of wine and roses
The bounty after the flood
All of my past ventures have failed me
So I’m going back to…
Looking to put some food on my table
And get these boots out of the mud
I heard this town’s looking for a troubadour
So I’m going back to…

The last refuge of the poets
Seeking shelter from irrelevance
The last refuge of the meek
Seeking quarter from ambition

I’m going back to love

Looking to find favor with the weaker sex
Butter and not guns
I’ve never been much of a fighter
So I’m going back to…
Looking for something I can believe in
They kicked me out of Christiandom 
But in my own way I’m a missionary 
So I’m going back to…

The last refuge of the poets
Seeking shelter from irrelevance
The only way they can connect
To the huddled wretched masses

I’m going back to love

No more science, no more reason
I’m not a man for all seasons
No more science, no more reason
No more evolution

I’m going back to love

Lyrics to a song I wrote some time in the distant past.  I think I was reading a lot of Flannery O’Connor at the time, though I can’t be sure.  A cynical narrator that can’t be trusted, using the thing that brings people together to enrich and ingratiate himself.

Life is an Opera

“I will participate in the game. It is a wonderful, wonderful opera — except that it hurts.” – Joseph Campbell

Life is an opera.  This is post number 1,000 since I began this blog in August of 2013.  Whether performing music or writing here, I am constantly aware of the absurdity in doing.  When I get on a stage, whether it is real or in the mind through writing, I am constantly aware of the ridiculousness of the situation.  Although I can’t say that it is a constant feeling, there is always a moment when things become surreal.  Why is it that people like to drink and stare at other people bopping around making strange noises on instruments?  Why does anyone want to hear some thought that I have at 1am on a Tuesday when there are so many other people out there with thoughts, many who are way smarter than I?

It is so easy to get lost down the rabbit hole of doubt.  If you look at most situations, there is some absurd element in them.  I think it is good to always keep those thoughts in one’s mind.  If you don’t you run the risk of getting untethered from reality with an ever expanding ego.

But again, life is an opera.  One can either choose to be a part of the game of life or to retreat from it.  Both options have an element of the comic in them.  There are an infinite number of ways one can participate in life.  Whether you are teaching college students or cleaning streets you are doing something of value to other people.  And if you do participate there is only one real reason to do so:  “To help each other get through this thing, whatever it is”, as Kurt Vonnegut said.

For myself, music and writing have brought me great sanity and comfort.  They are my passions, so I hope they bring something to someone somewhere down the line.  I have spent an incredible amount of time with books and records.  I hope to share a little bit of the things that have kept me going so that maybe others too might find some value in them and keep going as well.  I have no idea if it is any more of an important thing to do than someone who keeps the streets clean, someone whose work is measurable in real quantitative means, but it is what I’m into.  I’m just wired this way, an accident of birth and circumstance.

It is only through others that we have any idea of value.  I know that other’s words and songs have kept me alive, those souls I will forever be indebted to.  Those of you that keep coming back here, or show up at the shows I play, are the reason I keep doing this, that make me think that maybe all is not for naught.  The great comedy of life keeps spinning.  I’m forever grateful for getting to share little bits of it with you, for awhile anyway…

– Jeff

One of the Best Books of the Year?

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One of the best books I’ve read in recent years is S.C. Gwynne’s Empire of the Summer Moon.  This book is an account of the Comanche Indian Wars that took place in Texas and the surrounding areas.  It was a book that was incredibly informative while also being an absolute page turner.  I just saw that Gwynne has a a new book out.  This book is an account of Stonewall Jackson called Rebel Yell:  The Violence, Passion, and Redemption of Stonewall Jackson.  If it is anything like his last book then it is simply a must read as far as I’m concerned.

Here is a link to Gwynne’s website to learn more about the book:

http://www.scgwynne.com/rebel-yell-stonewall-jackson/

15 Great Sayings By Kurt Vonnegut

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Kurt Vonnegut Quotes

To close out the week the above link is an article of 15 great quote by Kurt Vonnegut over at the A.V. Club.  Vonnegut has long been one of my heroes.  A sample:

4. “There’s only one rule that I know of, babies—God damn it, you’ve got to be kind.”
This line from God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater comes as part of a baptismal speech the protagonist says he’s planning for his neighbors’ twins: “Hello, babies. Welcome to Earth. It’s hot in the summer and cold in the winter. It’s round and wet and crowded. At the outside, babies, you’ve got about a hundred years here. There’s only one rule that I know of, babies—God damn it, you’ve got to be kind.” It’s an odd speech to make over a couple of infants, but it’s playful, sweet, yet keenly precise in its summation of everything a new addition to the planet should need to know. By narrowing down all his advice for the future down to a few simple words, Vonnegut emphasizes what’s most important in life. At the same time, he lets his frustration with all the people who obviously don’t get it leak through just a little

Rules For Blogging

There are no rules for blogging.  However, it helped me to establish rules to write by, so that I could be productive.  I have read that the single most important thing to establishing an audience was creating a lot of content.  I have produced almost a thousand blogs in just a little over a year.  Establish your own rules, but these are the ones I set up for myself so that I could pump out a lot of content:

1.  Post almost as soon as I am done writing:  This means that I allow some grammatical errors to slip through the gates, but it also allows me to escape the jaws of self-doubt, which can crush so many ideas.  I try to clean up my writing a little as I go along.  It is so easy to feel passionate about something, write it, and then later on feel like what the hell was I thinking?  Self-analysis is always important, but usually most of the self-doubt that comes into play is what are people going to think about my writing.  What are my friends back home going to think?  What is my family going to think?  These are the kinds of things that can paralyze you, this fear of being accepted.  If you just write and post, and clean it up afterwards, it is out there.

2.  Do not delete things that are posted:  I have broken this rule once or twice, but largely I stick to it.  I allow myself to change my mind and write something that contradicts what I wrote at an earlier date, but by and large never allow myself to delete something I have written.  This again allows you to not let the self-doubt of what will others think enter the picture.  If you are going to be true to yourself and your ideas, you will occasionally put your foot in your own mouth, but that is OK.  Making mistakes and being wrong is part of being human.  If you realize you were wrong, admit it in another post or make an addition to a post, but then move on.

3.  Try as much as possible to be intellectually and emotionally honest:  Again this will occasionally lead to getting something wrong, but this will also again alleviate the the pressure of outside forces which will only water down your writing.  Anytime you write something you are going to be judged.  That is the nature of the beast.  Either you will be judged for your ideas or your style.  Anytime someone reads something you wrote it will be judged in one way or another.  Any fear of this judgment can crush good writing as most writing that is worth anything goes out on a limb either intellectually or emotionally.  If you are saying something that everybody knows already, that just conveys middle of the road vanilla emotions, there is no point in writing it.  This is not the same as trying to communicate universal truths.  Often universal truths can be hidden in plain site.  I’m also not talking about being shocking for shocking’s sake.  If you write something shocking that has no basis in reality, it is a purposeful distortion of the truth and that is no value to anyone. Everyone only has a partial knowledge of the truth.  We again all make mistakes and get things wrong.  I try to get the facts right as much as possible and I try to be as honest as I can about how I feel, given the limitations of language.  If I’m wrong I will simply write another post explaining how I was wrong and why.

Anyway, those are rules I set for myself to allow myself freedom of thought and a high production rate.  If that helps you great, if not, make up your own rules that allow you to do the same.

More than anything I wanted to convey to some of you that have just started coming here how and why I write the way I do.  I view my blog, and a lot of the blogs I like, as outward looking journals.  It is capturing emotions and thoughts about the world in real time.  

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