Sunday Service: A Mutation Showcase

sundayservice00It’s Time For Something New.

Over the last year, Mid-Valley Mutations has evolved from a mere idea to a flourishing weekly radio program that features music and live performances you cannot (and will not) hear via other venues.  To that end, the program has featured a number of artists from all over Oregon, to highlight some of the incredible experimental acts that are right here in our own back yard, even if you don’t see them play very often.  Until now, that is.

To help further the cause, Mid-Valley Mutations is launching a monthly live showcase in conjunction with The Space Concert Club, to give you a chance to actually see these acts, in person.  Sunday Service will happen the last Sunday of every month, and offers a wide range of experimental artists that cover every kind of music: electronic, post-punk, noise, deconstructed folk, home-brewed and circuit-bent gear, and everything in-between.  “Experimental” can mean almost anything, and our hope is that we can offer small slices of this world, every month.

While the phrase “experimental” can conjure up wild (and often inaccessible) performances, Sunday Service will offer intimate shows with performers who are dedicated to their craft, create art that is personal and meaningful, and would like to share this work with the world around them.  While the music may be atypical, the intent is not to be obtuse or difficult.  These showcases are presented to feature the beauty and joy in creating music, and the freedom that comes with following your muse, where ever that might be. Sunday Service will not just feature music, but will offer a chance to meet these performers, and find out more about what they do in person.  These shows will be curated, organized and hosted by Mid-Valley Mutations mastermind Austin Rich

Our first gathering is March 26th, with the incomparable Guyve headlining the show, playing their first Salem gig in their 24 years as a group.  And in April, join us for a rare performance by traveler and recording artist Eric Hausmann, who has called Portland, Ipoh Malaysia and Pittsburgh his home in recent years, .  The spring and summer are full of surprises too, and we can’t wait to announce them once they are final.

Sunday Service Showcases are Free to the public, and are 21+.  The Space offers a full bar, vegan menu, and a positive, inviting atmosphere for discerning and excellent guests.

Join us for Sunday Service: A Mutation Showcase every month to hear the best in experimental artists you can’t hear anywhere else.

We’ve been waiting for you.  Join us.

 

Help Two ACRONYMS at Once: ACLU & KMUZ.

WTBC Getting Into The Act. It’s ACRONYMs all the way down…

Mid-Valley Mutations

a1373653999_10As many of you have probably heard, Bandcamp is donating 100% of their proceeds this Friday to the ACLU, which makes spending money on music that much easier to do. Additionally, KMUZ’s Pledge Drive is very soon, and with that in mind, 100% of the money I make on these same purchases will go to KMUZ’s Drive. Two great causes supported by your single purchase.

a1714948314_16You can get the entire bundle of all 21 of our releases at a discount for $16.25. Or, you can pick and choose what you’d like to purchase. Either way, there’s plenty of releases new and old that are worth investing in, and you can support both the ACLU and KMUZ, two acronyms that do a lot of good for our community.

We all love music, and we all love supporting good causes. Here’s a way to do both.

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A Review of The 10 Albums Stolen From My Studio in 2016

15242017_1323392491044751_4871179563205436913_nA Review of The 10 Albums Stolen From My Studio in 2016

At about 8 PM on Christmas Day 2016, my home was broken into.  My wife, cat and I were with family at the time, and most of the neighbors were, too.  Even worse, we were in the process of moving.  For a number of reasons that defy logic and explanation, we moved mostly on Christmas Eve.  We had left some things to move after Christmas, and thought that we could leave our house unattended until we were done celebrating.  But when we arrived at our old house on the 26th, we found that everything that wasn’t nailed down had been ransacked and overturned, while anything of actual value was loaded into a truck and moved.

Who would be suspicious?  We were doing just that the day before.

To make matters worse, both my wife and I had offices in the old house.  We were planning to continue working out of there until we had Internet service at our new place, which wouldn’t be connected until January 4th.  This means that in addition to our bicycles and lawnmower, they got our laptops, my desktop and studio recording gear, my wife’s collection of purses and her winter coat, and a stack of the last records I had not moved yet.  In total, it was about $6000 worth of stuff that was stolen.  Someone’s Christmas present to themselves, probably snorted  before the week was out.

One of the hardest things to do (at first) was come to terms with what was stolen.  It was hard to remember, at first.  With each new corner turned, we found something else that was gone, something else that they took.  And we still haven’t unpacked from the move.  Who knows what else we’ll find missing, when all is said and done, when we can no longer use that as an excuse.  How do you look for things that are missing?  How do you notice what isn’t there?

While we are not quite over what had happened, the immediate shock has faded.  And we’ve come to accept what is gone, in a way.  But when I think about what we lost, the thing that is most frustrating is the pile of records they stole.  It was an assortment of recently heard and recently acquired stuff, plus a few things that had not been filed when it came time to pack.  I had less than 20 records in that pile, maybe more, maybe less.  I was gonna use some for my radio show, but on the whole it was just stuff I was looking forward to, things on my mind just before the break-in.

This isn’t a complete list, nor is it the most valuable or the most precious.  These are just the things I remember that were in that pile, and stuff I wish I still had.  Much of this stuff came from Dimple Records, a place I visited just before we began to pack.  (Thanks Dad & Mernie!)  It seems important to Eulogize these albums.  It’s likely they never found a home, never got sold, and wound up in some dumpster somewhere.  They deserve a proper burial, a goodbye to music that will go unappreciated.

r-1714176-1371418561-6500-jpeg10.) Mink Deville & Coup de Grâce.

I really only knew “Spanish Stroll” by Mink DeVille, but for a steal, I decided to check them out.  My wife and I listened to these, and we actually enjoyed them a lot.  I was really looking forward to enjoying them, too.  Now some junky probably threw them away when it turned out that they weren’t particularly valuable.

r-3051333-1330157378-jpeg9.) The Essential Odetta

I picked this up based mostly on her reputation.  Odetta is a legend, and while I wasn’t familiar, I was looking forward to learning more.  This is probably typical for her career.  Overlooked and ignored, Odetta is tossed around by people who could not care, and when in the hands of a fan, is never given a chance to be appreciated.  Poor Odetta.  You didn’t deserve this, at all.

r-9410906-1480127249-9701-jpeg8.) Strung Out In Heaven – Amanda Palmer’s Prince / David Bowie Covers

Here’s the real tragedy: we had gone to the record store day sale, not only to get some stuff for me, but for my wife.  She specifically wanted this, and we got it, excited to support the cause, and hear the tracks that were getting a lot of play because of the recent losses to the music world.  These assholes don’t realize how much the music world is suffering.  Instead, they want a quick score, and even though I can hear this album anywhere online at any time, that is not the point.  This one was completely unopened.  Pristine.  And now, completely destroyed, ruined by nameless assholes who will never care.

r-426453-1345758734-2982-jpeg7.) Negativland

In the year 2000 I heard that my favorite band – Negativland – was running low on vinyl copies of their albums, and that they would be selling CDs after the LPs sold out.  I immediately ordered a copy of their first album, and got a nice hand-written letter back.  The album came with a custom made cover, a collage assembled by the band members.  I ordered another, but by then the LPs were gone, and got CDs for their remaining albums.  I loved that album, and listened to it often.  It sounds good anywhere, anytime, and I just wish the junkies had taken the time to listen, and get to know the album.  It is well worth it, no matter what your interests are.

r-2786259-1300986342-jpeg6.) The History of Bob Wills & The Texas Playboys

Bob Wills is great, but there isn’t anything special about this record.  It is older than me, and it has a lot of hits.  But I love it mostly because it belonged to my Grandmother, who has passed.  You will never love that album as much as I loved her.  What dicks.

r-4963807-1456357193-3964-jpeg5.) The Popeye Soundtrack

I already have an original copy of this record, but I decided to pick up the Record Store Day reissue because there is no other movie that can make me cry faster than Popeye, and the soundtrack is no exception.  I’m not as mad about this, because I’m sure even the bonus tracks are easy enough to find.  But this was unopened.  And, to be honest, this is probably the most personal attack of the bunch.  You don’t care about these songs like I do, like my family does.  How dare you.  That record is too good to be treated like that.

r-2104259-1397069851-4880-jpeg4.) Cast Your Fate To The Wind by The Vince Guaraldi Trio

I’m trying to imagine these junkies putting this album on.  Do they know who Vince Guaraldi is?  Could they connect with the music of Black Orpheus?  What would they get out of it?  Would they enjoy it?  Do they understand the journey into the underworld that they have taken?  Would I have enjoyed this album?  Do I enjoy the irony?  Who can say…

r-725536-1363189912-8068-jpeg3.) You Broke My Heart In 17 Places by Tracey Ulman.

They probably broke this album in 17 pieces.

r-5351726-1447962608-6617-png2.) 1947 – Helen Hume

I took a chance on this record because of the price and because it seemed like a good bet that it was good.  And it probably is, but that’s not the point.  I had entirely forgotten I’d bought this album until I saw a picture of it that I’d taken, just after I purchased it.  Part of me feels bad; I didn’t even remember that it was gone.  That’s awful of me.  How many albums do I have that I neglect in some way, that needs attention that I can’t even remember?  The dangers of collecting?  Perhaps.  But I would have at least given this album a chance.  And they never would have.

r-3385142-1328338335-jpeg1.) 2 by Neung Phak

Probably the rarest and least-known of the bunch, this is most likely out of print, and not something you would find in Salem, at least not very easily.  I bought this record from Mark Gergis, when I saw his band Porest play in Portland.  This was one of two US performances for this artist, and I traveled out of town with a friend at night to see this show.  Mark, who had never met me, was really nice, and had no idea how much this night meant to me, had no idea how much I was looking forward to hearing this album.  He didn’t have to be nice to me.  Who was I to him?  And yet, I never got to hear this album before it was ripped off.  Mark, who heard about this, send me a digital copy, and for that I am eternally thankful.  But what did they see in this album?  In any of these albums, for that matter?

* * * * * *

There were more.  There will be more.  Forever this event will haunt me.  Every sound is a window breaking, every movement someone stealing our stuff.  Who knows if this will go away?  Who knows if I will get over these being stolen from me.  I can only say that there is a part of me that wishes they would listen.  That they sat down, and by the end, found something meaningful in those albums.

Because I sure did.

 

NANOWRIMO Wrap-Up

untitledI first heard about NANOWRIMO in 2004, and in 2005 I decided that I was going to compete.  While I didn’t do it every year, it wasn’t until 2015 that I actually completed the expressed goal of writing 50,000 words toward one story in 30 days.  Let’s process that for a moment.  10 years.  Usually, when I fail at something for 10 years, I just stop trying entirely.  I guess that’s what Writing does to you; you become an addict, constantly looking for the next rush.

It is true that I have always loved writing personally, and that I usually opt to do that if I can.  But NANOWRIMO is a bigger challenge than writing a ‘zine, and much more demanding than knocking out a short story on the weekends, when there’s not much else going on and there’s no deadline.  For all of those wannabe writers who love to talk about the craft and how they are in love with the written word, there is something about having to produce that much material in that short a period of time, that really forces you to work close to the metal.  There are no do-overs.  On December 1st, you do a total word count, and hope that you got there with all that blubber you added at the last second.

In 2015, I had a number of factors working for me, and I started very strong with my novel, with the very-high expectation of writing 2000 words a day.  This worked great at first, but between technical challenges, a computer crash, and majorly loosing steam half-way through, I missed several days, where I couldn’t write a single word.  I caught up quickly, and when I limped across the finish line with a few days left to spare, I just quit completely, and didn’t write anything those last few days, in spite of trying.  While I technically finished, I felt a little lame about the way I finished, especially since I did this publicly; not only were chunks of the book being serialized on this very blog, but I was allowing people to read the Google Doc where the story lived at any time, and published that link all over.  (It might even still be available, buried somewhere in the avalanche of other stuff that’s online.)  Anyway, there was something about the public nature of the project last year that really made me feel bad about the way it ended.  I should have finished a little more gracefully, but so it goes.

I approached the process of writing a story like this very differently last year, too.  In the past, I would start at word one on page one, and would try to build the story from there.  It was sort of painstaking, as a friend of mine used to say, the “Ice Skating” approach to writing.  (Get it right in the first pass, and that’s it.)  If you don’t know what the next word is, well, you wait until you do.  And you hope that inspiration will guide you.  For my 2015 attempt, unlike all previous efforts at writing, I spent the first couple of days assembling a detailed outline.  All of these outline words counted toward the total 50,000, and as the month progressed, I would highlight a couple of words from the outline, and flesh it out into the scene that was described.

On the whole, it worked, and it allowed me to do something that I’d never done before: write something out-of-sequence.  Humorously enough, I almost never did.  Usually, I would look at the outline and work on the next section.  When I got stuck, I went back a couple of times to flesh out spots that seemed weak in hindsight.  But I rarely went forward.  I just had no idea how to do that.

For 2016, I more or less forgot that NANOWRIMO was coming, and really only decided to do it at the last minute.  There are a number of personal factors that informed this, but when it looked like I had time on November 1st, and an idea occurred to me, I ran with it.

Like last time, I decided to start with an outline.  Like last time, I set a goal of 2000 words a day.  And like last year – and in previous years – I ran with a detective story, too.

But, when it came to the actual writing and day-to-day aspect of it, this year felt very different.  There was a sort of confidence up front that I didn’t remember from last year.  Having completed it before, it now seemed manageable.  Like I’ve heard many people say about honing any skill, once they achieve something once, they know it is possible.  Doing it again is just a formality.  So even on days when I didn’t hit my goal, or even didn’t write anything, it never felt desperate.  I’d already had the worst happen to me: complete computer crash in the middle of a novel.  And in the end, we recovered.  It wasn’t even mildly awful.  If that’s the worst that can happen, then what did I have to fear this year?

Another first for me this time was that I wrote things well out of order.  This was quite practical at first; sometimes, I just didn’t know how to flesh out a scene, and it made sense to write some bantering dialog.  For a good part of the beginning, I wrote a ton of backstory, so I would have some reference material to inform the main plot.  It wasn’t until I’d spent almost five or six days on the backstory that key plot points started to come together in my mind.  Writing out of order also helped me realize that there were huge sections of my outline that were unnecessary when I reviewed everything, and now sections of the story have these weird dead-end sections that sort of go nowhere, because I realized that set-up was no longer necessary.

In fact, when I review the results of this year’s efforts, it is largely unreadable on December 1st, and this is very different from previous attempts.  I will not be serializing this anytime soon, and I’m not sharing the link, either.  But, there is a the seed of a story in there, somewhere.  I could imagine, given a long enough timeline, that I could whip this into shape.  But for now, the idea of returning to this monstrosity just seems inhumane.  It is a huge, sprawling, messy and largely nonsensical detective yarn, and even by that standard, would be hard to enjoy, offers little closure, and is not a good example of what I can at my best.

To make matters worse, I actually got a writing gig in November of this year, which meant that I had to crank our three non-fiction stories during the bulk of NANOWRIMO.  Not only did I have to put the brakes on my “novel” to do my newly-acquired job, but it sort of took over a lot of my brain-space, too.  You don’t realize how many processes are working in the background to come up with words, that it is only when you need to split that time across two project that you realize how exhausting that process is.  You are just wiped out.  In this respect, and in this respect alone, I cheated; the work I had to write for this new job was added to the total word count for November writing.  While I did come up with an in-story reason for this, and I don’t feel guilty in the slightest for doing it, I do feel like I need to mention this caveat.  I absolutely wrote a ton in November.  But not all of it was strictly for this novel.  (But, you never know, considering one of the characters is a journalist / zine writer, it fits, right?)

Another difference this year was location; I wrote this novel in a number of places throughout the month.  It’s sort of hard not to, what with the holidays and etc.  But technology makes stuff like this so incredibly easy, and by using a Google Doc, I never lost a word, no matter where I was writing.  However, this didn’t prevent me from experiencing writer’s block.  When I was not in my two primary writing environments – the office or my home – it was so much more difficult to put my butt in the chair and start churning out words, that there were many days I wrote nothing.  Never had the environmental factor become so apparent to me, and now I had evidence to back it up.  I write better in my natural environments.

Because I missed a lot of days this year, even my 2000 words a day goal couldn’t cover for the days I wrote nothing.  This led to something I had never done before, and turned out to the most exhausting thing I’ve ever done while writing: churning out 4000 words a day, or more, in order to catch up near the end.  On no less than six occasions I wrote well over 2000 words, and three of those were in the 4000+ range.  (One day was nearly 7000 words, even.)  Those six days were… terrible.  There’s just no way to sugar coat it.  Not only did the words get worse as the day progressed, but those were tiring days.  To my knowledge, I’ve never written that much in one day before, and to think that I did it this year still seems insane.  I should know better.  While I finished the projected goal by the end of the month, there were a few days where I felt physically exhausted, just from coming up with words.

On the whole, I had a great time this year, because I feel like I learned a lot of practical lessons about writing that, while perhaps obvious, are things I need to continue to keep in mind to continue this journey of becoming a writer.  Never have I felt that there was so much to learn, and at the same time, never have I felt I have made such progress.  While I’ve tried to condense this into a handful of tips to close out this reflection, I should preface this by saying that it has taken me 20 years of writing and 10 years of failing at NANOWRIMO to make these realizations about myself.  While useful to me now, please don’t assume this is across-the-board advice that will work for everyone.  Just a few observations about how I work when I’m writing.

Hopefully, this will help you find what works for you.

 

10 Writing Tips Learned From NANOWRIMO 2016

1.) It’s About Words; Nothing More.  There is a time for making every sentence unique, making every simile perfect, and having continuity between the entire body of work.  This is not that time.  Just write.  A lot.  Let the words flow.  Let your sentences be clunky.  Let it all out.  Much later, you can fix anything you don’t like.  But for now, just get words down.  Lots and lots of words.

2.) Set Very High Goals.  To beat NANOWRIMO, you need to write at least 1667 words a day.  Write 2000 a day.  If you can, write even more.  Over-shooting the goal early, when you’re just getting started and you’re excited, can save you when you have trouble later, and you need a cushion – for whatever reason.  If you can write for a week straight hitting that higher goal, you’ll have plenty of wiggle room when Thanksgiving hits and you are too full to write.

3.) You Are Over-Thinking It.  Usually, anyway.  All of the best moments of my story are unplanned, and all the parts I want to save in future revisions are the things that I just threw in suddenly, without thinking about it.  When I would agonize over something, it would get worse and worse, and the more I would work on it to get it “just right,” the more time I wasted not-writing, because I was “thinking.”  You will have plenty of time to think about the story when it is done, and you can revise the hell out of it later.  But right now, stop thinking.  Start writing.

4.) Stop Being Precious.  This is something we could all work on.  In the end, this writing is not important.  There is nothing special or unique about your ability to sit down and write for hours a day, except that it speaks to your privilege, in that you are able to do that.  It isn’t true that you write better in one take, or when drunk, or whatever it is that you think makes you a better writer.  What makes you a better writer is to write, a lot, and to take it as read that you will be revising it all in the future.  What you write isn’t a perfect snowflake the first try.  This is just a mess of words that could be something in the future, if you let it.  But it can’t be anything if you aren’t able to just sit down and start writing.  Stop making excuses.  If you are a writer, then, by all means, write.

5.) Location, Location, Location.  It has been said by people more well spoken than I, so I will merely repeat: it is worth it to spend some time creating an environment you want to write in BEFORE you have to start writing.  My office and home are perfectly established places, where I can work and feel good about it.  Unless you thrive in places that are unfamiliar to you, I suggest making sure you have a few places ready that are comfortable, inviting, and induce as much positive energy as you can muster.  You will need it.

6.) Start Early, Work Late.  If you can, start writing in the morning.  Write as much as you can, and keep adding to that number as the day progresses.  If you can, write as late into the day as you can.  Every minute you are not writing are words that you can’t get back, so the sooner you start, the sooner you will get done.

7.) Track Your Numbers As You Go.  Spend some time creating a document where you can track your progress, so you can see how much you have written, and how much more you have to go.  I found that using a Spreadsheet offers the largest number of ways you can manipulate your data, and you can fine-tune it to give you exactly the kind of information you are looking for.  Obviously you want the grand total, but I like being able to look at the work finished each day, and how much I have to write each remaining day to hit the goal.  I recommend learning the key commands that offer your total word count, so you don’t have to use menus or look it up each time.  Seeing your progress in real time can help motivate you to stay on top of your goals, and keep working when you are running out of steam.

8.) Learn To Accept Failure Early, And Often.  There will be days when you just don’t write well.  There will be days you don’t hit the goal.  You might not even finish at the end of the month.  Or, you might, but your story will be crap.  Going into NANOWRIMO is ultimately an experience in coping with failure, because even if you finish, the story you have written will not be the breakthrough success that will make you a star.  Most likely, you spent a lot of time on something that you will not be compensated for, in any way.  That is fine.  Like accepting criticism, or having to accept what you can’t do, writing is not always something you will succeed at, even if you are good.  Learn to sit with that.  Find a way to feel okay with it, and move on.  You will need to if you want to hit 50,000.

9.) Take Breaks. It seems strange, but when you are in the zone, and you are writing well, the last thing you want to do is take a break.  But after even an hour, writing can wear you out, and if you are hungry, or distracted, or tired, it will be harder and harder to write.  Take as many breaks as you need, go for a walk, or whatever.  You will find even a few minutes away will not only help you feel like you can write longer, but will often give you new ideas that don’t come to you while you are actively writing.  Breaks are like the rest in a musical performance; learn to value them as much as the parts where you are writing at full steam.

10.) Get Ready For Post-Novel Depression.  This sounds silly, but I absolutely get depressed when I finish a project.  Nothing dramatic or even dangerous, but completing something is almost like giving birth.  Afterward, you feel like you’ve lost something.  And you have, in a way; a huge story has been created from words you put down.  All of that is out of your head, and while it can be relieving to get things out, it can also make you feel a little empty, in a way.  Fortunately, NANOWRIMO ends with the holiday season in full swing, and hopefully there’s enough going on to help give you some focus and purpose as you cope.  (Or, conversely, this is the most depressing time of the year for you, and you might need some help staying upbeat as you enter it.)  Either way, get ready for it.  This is just a sign that you need to recharge your creative batteries, and do some non-writing things for a while.  You’ve put in a lot of work in a short period of time.  If you want to be able to do it again someday, you’ll need to give yourself the recovery necessary to get back to full strength.  In the meantime, I suggest picking a new TV Show, letting yourself gain a few pounds, and re-doubling your efforts to spend time with friends (or, if you aren’t depressed by the holidays, with your family).  Not only is it the right time of year for it, but you’ll find recovery is so much better with people you care about.