Thursday, July 16, 2009

The idea for one blog has actually turned into two. I took all of my movie reviews and created a blog specifically for them called "Joel's Ticket Stub". I've got 17 reviews up now and I'm going to try to have 20 in total before I take off for Europe. I may expand it in the future to include other features.

Be the first to check it out: Joel's Ticket Stub

I'm going to work on the other for a bit longer before I make it public. I'm still messing around with the format and writing about different things to figure out what I'm going to use it for.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

I have had a series of blogs that I've gone through in the past nine years. Titles have included:

The Standard
Mental Piracy
Life on Drugs
Dave the Moon Man
Field Trip City
2AM Traffic
Things to Do Before I'm 30

That's seven altogether. Almost one a year. I've kept some going longer than others, but I've always moved on. I don't know why. I get to the point where a part of me thinks, "Enough is enough. Time to start over. Time to clear the slate and get on with life. Time for a new set of thought processes." Each move to a new journal has signaled a shift in my personality or what I regarded as dawns to new times in my life. Almost one a year.

I'm finding readers increasingly hard to hold on to. The most fruitful of my blogs was undoubtedly "Dave the Moon Man", the blog I kept up at It was because I became involved in a network of other people who also blogged and everyone seemed to share a mutual appreciation for each other's entries. Almost all of my friends had blogs or started them. Now, livejournal is all but a barren wasteland of community and university updates and the occasional collection of film stills. Most of those people who kept blogs have moved on.

I have seven blogs belonging to friends that I keep an eye on. Of those, only two of them are updated with anything close to a regular frequency. I have two friends who update still somewhat regularly on livejournal, bringing the grand total to four. Blogs used to be a great way to keep track of my friends' lives. It was a great way to find out their thoughts and activities and desires. Now I have no idea what anyone is thinking.

Just ask them in person, right? Sure. But blogs sometimes afforded my friends the chance to really get their thoughts into the words that they couldn't summon when I would see them, which is also happening more infrequently than it used to. I get that. People move on in life. Some folks just aren't writers. Blogs were a phase for most. I just miss it. Because the old network is gone, people are also not as inclined to read what I have to say, and I generally have to keep my blogs under lock and key with invite-only type friend lists and other nonsense, which makes it harder.

I know I mentioned this recently, but I've been thinking more and more about it - a completely open and honest blog that I can fully admit to having without worrying about repercussions. It's what I've always wanted. I think I can pull it off now, because I don't write as much about the same things I used to write about (re: girl problems). However, I'll have to write it under a slightly different name. I'll use my middle names: Joel Crary.

I'm still working on what kind of shape it will take and where I'll post it. I just know this new phase is coming, and soon.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

It's another late night up browsing the Internet, usually dwelling on Wikipedia for facts on things for which I sometimes have only the most general curiosity (searched in the last couple of nights: Amsterdam, Jesus, Krakatoa, the K-T boundary, Tsar Bomba, Venus). I had lunch with my dad and brother this afternoon. My dad brought up the issue of subjecting the spirit to questionable content found in horror films and such. I tried to put my thoughts into words for a while before resorting to staring on the window in a defeated haze.

Later, though, I thought: What has become of my "spirit"? Has it succumbed to years of desensitization brought on by viewings of material that might bring my parents to give up on the world once and for all if they were to witness it? There are still films that I won't subject myself to, but it's for the reason that when a film becomes an exercise in testing the will's endurance to tolerate the darkest recesses of the human psyche, all of the entertainment value is sucked from it. Even if a film is bleak, I'm entertained by the deep questions it can ask. If it poses none, I fail to see why I should bother with it at all. But that's a hard idea to communicate to one who seemingly tries their best to shut the bad parts of the world off.

Then again, I've never worked in a hospital, so what the fuck do I know?

I've been eating poorly again lately and it's gotten to the point where I'm feeling self-conscious about my weight. It's kind of new territory for me and I've become fed up with it. I feel like it's finally time to make a drastic change to my diet and exercise regimen. Since I finished work I've been sitting on my ass and basking in the glory of doing absolutely nothing. That has to stop. When I get back to Ottawa on Wednesday, I'm going to hit the grocery store and stock up on better food. I'm going to start walking every day and I'm going to go back to doing the stretches and exercises I was doing to help my back (while being careful not to return it to its former fragile aching state - around this time last year, some overzealous crunches broke a straw that softened my back up to slip out).

I'm going to Europe in two weeks. Dear God. I've got this bizarre feeling that if I don't start paying more attention to it, it's going to go by far too quickly, even though I've thought about it every day for a over a year. It's EUROPE. It's the kind of trip I've been wanting to make for a decade. It's London, Dublin, Edinburgh, Paris and Amsterdam, with trains and planes between each. I'm so excited to see things I've never seen before. The thing I've always loved about traveling somewhere I've never been is that it completely opens me up to the moment. New surroundings make for guaranteed brand new thoughts and memories. A month from now I will have new images and experiences burned into my brain for the rest of my life. It's a liberating expectation.

I want very badly to write about the things I see and do while I'm there. I feel like I should be doing the trip justice that way. Not in the moment, but slightly removed from it, sitting in the dim light on an overnight train to a new destination, the darkened shapes of foreign terrain passing in the distance. Words and sentences finding their way onto the page while the heart rests in suspended animation.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

I had been wanting to see the 1970 Woodstock documentary for a few weeks before I finally broke down and picked up a copy of the new 2-disc 40th anniversary edition director's cut. I watched it over a couple of days. It's pretty phenomenal.

Lately I've been feeling a compulsion to investigate some of the history of popular music. This time last month I probably couldn't have identified a quarter of the acts that played at the Woodstock festival. Now I know how powerful Joe Cocker's cover of "With a Little Help From My Friends" was, and how it stood as an anthem for a generation of young people who wanted to put a stop to a war they thought was unjust. Now I know about the hypnotizing ability of Santana drummer Michael Shrieve, who performs the best drum solo I've ever heard during the band's performance of "Soul Sacrifice". Now I know about the counterbalance of Joan Baez, whose acapella performance of "Swing Low, Sweet Chariot" resonated across a sea of 400,000 people, and Janice Joplin, who appeared to come apart at the seams as she sang just over a year before her death. I've seen the size of Richie Havens' hands as he not so much played but attacked an acoustic guitar to open the show, and Jimi Hendrix's skillful forays into noise during his rendition of the Star-Spangled Banner to close it.

It reminded me of the festival shows I used to frequent a few years back, but Woodstock carried with it a far different feeling. What made the event so special was the nearly blind faith of the organizers that it would successfully capture and promote a sentiment that was purely of the time. I've always thought of the 60's as a time far removed from the world in which I grew up, but they were kids just like I was. Some of them looked just like typical kids of today.

I went back at looked at the revival of the shows in 1994 and 1999, the latter of which I remember a bit more vividly. Woodstock 1999 ended in violence and anger. The show featured loud, aggressive and testosterone-fueled acts that incited the crowd to riot. It was such an embarrassment.

It's been forty years since Woodstock and I can't imagine another event of that size taking place, especially with the labels in the shape they're in today. But eventually, slowly but surely, a new group of young people are going to want to say that enough is enough. Music will break free of commercialism and hundreds of thousands will flock to celebrate it again. It's an ideal that I'd like to see renew itself. All it will take is a positive use of the technology we have at our disposal and the right set of principles that no product or marketing plan can sell us. Music was an expression of our humanity not too long ago. It will feel that way again.

Some other notes that I've been meaning to write lately: I'd like to start updating a blog every day again, but one that takes a look at issues that are going on in the world. I've been blogging for about ten years now and I miss the communal feel of certain blogs I used to run. Nobody seems to write or comment any longer. I miss reading about what people had on their minds. A lot of people have become stagnant in expressing themselves through the blogging medium (myself included).

I'd like my next blog to be the first completely and totally open blog that I run. In the past, I've worried about posting material that some of the people I know might find objectionable, but I'm becoming less inclined to write updates that delve into the kind of controversy I used to envision. I've been thinking of extending it off of along with the film reviews I've been writing lately. Wire and Light can encompass a creative hub that meets the needs of my ever-changing artistic inclinations.

I've started working on a live show for Wire and Light. I need to write a set list down so that I can hone it.

I'll be in Europe in less than a month. I'll be back with more thoughts on that next time.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

"His sudden death gives us all an opportunity to appreciate the enduring genius of his art but to realize that we have no musician that speaks to all of us... and that we haven’t for some time now."

- Stephen Thomas Erlewine,

I don't own any Michael Jackson albums and I never have. He was undeniably talented and the richer he became, the grander the terms in which he thought about his art became. If you were born in North America in the last 40 years, he was a part of your childhood. There's no getting around that. His face, songs and videos were everywhere.

My sister had a crush on him until she saw the Thriller video. It made her cry. My parents forbade us to watch the video for years, though I remember clearly seeing the discretionary warning that it didn't endorse a belief in the occult. It's the kind of thing you wouldn't see these days.

Michael had a love for the theatrical and the debuts of his videos on television were always an event. I remember tuning in to see the premieres of Bad, Black or White, Remember the Time and Scream on network television. They usually amounted to miniature films, each with its own complete vision.

"Dangerous" was the album I remember most. I heard it played in bedrooms and basements during the transition of my taste into rock music. The Weird Al parodies were huge, of course. I had a red leather jacket like the one from Thriller in the 4th grade and got made fun of for wearing it.

I wouldn't say that Jackson's music ever spoke to me personally, but it was impossible to not get chills over his grandiose presentation of a pop song. Nobody did it better. He was the total package of ability in voice, dance and passion. During the 90's, a societal shift in attitude away from the excess and pomp of the 80's didn't stop Michael from going to extreme lengths to promote himself, and while his ego went on trial around the same time he did, it was hard to not admire the guy.

People didn't want to believe that Michael had a sick side because of the way his music had made them feel. He was raised in the public spotlight from a young age and had everyone's attention. Nobody wanted to see such a creation turn into Frankenstein's monster. Michael's appearance was indicative of the insecurities of a person trying to remain high in the world's imagination. His skin disease was a nasty reminder of his humanity and he appeared to work against it rather than with it.

It's been nice to see people try to honour Michael as a brilliant artist instead of the freak that he seemed to become. A part of me was looking forward to his upcoming tour. It would have been one last shot for the master to go out on top - a final chance to change the world's minds and live up to old potentials, renew old victories and bring the people to dance again. It would have been nice for him.

One of the richest, most popular and most mysterious performers has passed on very suddenly. Time will tell how this will impact a variety of things - the media, music, the tabloids. It would be great to see changes made. As brilliant as he might have been, we don't need another Michael Jackson. No one deserves such a fate.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

We all have our hang-ups. One of mine is insecurity, about a number of things. I remember being 20 and greatly concerned about the size of my ego, because I suddenly became aware of how much time I was spending feeling self-involved and introspective. Of course, ten years later I've come to realize that that's the way MOST people are. Most people are too worried about their own hang-ups to notice anyone else's.

One's own insecurity can result in a tendency to trash others to make themselves feel better. I've been guilty of it in the past, but I haven't spoken ill of anyone in a long time. It's a rotten byproduct of insecurity and I believe that one's actions and words go a long way in structuring their world. I loathe negativity and separate myself from it consciously. Sometimes it's felt like a technique of survival.

It's not very poetic for me to sit here and type about the moments during each day when I feel as though the world looks at me with disdain or contempt, but I feel as though I'm so rarely honest with myself in print these days. There's a quadrant in my brain that's obsessed with the idea that somewhere out there, people I have only a perfunctory relationship with think I'm worthless. That I shouldn't be taken seriously. That I'm an infantile person with insincere opinions, desires and goals. It burns away in that part of me and leaves a black spot.

I've always felt a need to make an impression on people. Sometimes I think that I should have gone into acting at a younger age, or thrown myself headlong into some sort of career as a performance artist. But I've never been able to match up the aesthetics of people who perform with my own tastes and perceptions. And maybe that's a GOOD thing, because it theoretically leaves me with an original take. But it also ostracizes me, on a certain level, and it makes me afraid to try.

I have, in the past, Googled the phrase "proving people wrong". That part of me that thinks that people view me with contempt also thinks that I have an uphill battle in actively changing their opinions. I try to reconcile that thought process with the tendency that everyone has to marry themselves to their opinions as they get older. When does proving people wrong stop becoming important? One of the greatest sources of elation in the world is finding out that the idea I had of someone in my head was completely false. When I find out that I was wrong, so wrong about somebody. That they're so much better than I was willing to give them credit for.

What do you do when no one thinks you can do something? Do you find new people who are willing to give you a shot? I think I suffer from the delusion that the world is much, much smaller than it actually is. I feel like I'm living in a bubble all the time and that one day it's finally going to pop and I'll wonder why it took so long. I'm afraid. I'm afraid to try certain things. Yet there is so much I want to try, and so much I'm trying to try. I'm doing the best I can with my time and money and drive.

I'm going to Europe in a month, for a couple of weeks or so. Maybe that will jostle my sense of geography a bit.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

I've sat down a few times over the last couple of weeks to attempt to write an entry, since I've had a lot on my mind about work, music, writing, love, faith, film and life in general. The thoughts won't fall into place and trickle down to my fingers. I just got off work a little over 30 minutes ago and I have to be back in less than eight hours. I type thousands of words a day. No wonder I want to cool it on the computer when I get home.

I'm trying to figure out what I'm going to do with these songs. I want people to hear them. I'll put them online. I'd like to get some hard copies printed up to send to radio stations, labels and magazine, and I've been considering going through a company called Indie Pool. They also have a service that would allow me to copyright the songs for about 60 bucks. For about 600 bucks plus tax, I could get the songs on iTunes and the like, plus make them available for order through HMV and Chapters.

I should chip away at that sort of thing gradually, I think. I still haven't played a show yet. I've been thinking of spending hundreds of dollars on a speaker setup so that I can practice a live show in my apartment. This music venture is costing me more money than a band normally would because it's just me, for the most part. I have to cover all the expenses. I don't know how I'd do it if I didn't have a grown-up job, and even now I'm pushing it.

It's been kind of nice, the way the job has afforded me the opportunity to grow as an artist. Sometimes I think I'm turning into one of those people who, when you ask them what they do for a living, they say "I'm an artist," but what they REALLY mean is, "I'm a bus driver who plays guitar for an open mic at this shit bar downtown once a month." Such a cliche. Is that an okay way to be? Is there an alternative?

I've been working on these songs, listening to them pretty closely lately, and lately I've found myself kind of proud of them instead of embarrassed. When I heard my voice singing on a track for the first time in about 10 years, I almost couldn't stand it. I buried it under reverb and put it way back in the mix. But I've been turning down the reverb lately and adding layers for clarity. I'm starting to not mind the way my voice sounds because it's more a part of the songs now. If it doesn't work, I can change it. I can be in the song rather than always apart from it, which is really what this whole process has been about on some level, I think.

Does anybody really care about this besides me? I've been thinking back to the things that I felt when I started really hearing music for the first time. As much as it manipulated me through the forms it took, I didn't question it or apply bullshit theories to it. I felt it through and through when I joined my first band at 14. I would show up at Darryl and Jeff's house with my bass and we'd play, just to see if we could get the songs to sound right. And sometimes they would sound exactly, perfectly right, and I'd be so happy. I'd grin my face off, and I don't know if they ever felt the same way completely. That feeling has always been something I've convinced myself into thinking is mine alone.

What are these songs I've written about? A lot of the time they're about words that I think sound good together. As a teenager I always liked the way the word "away" sounded in a rock song. A word that kept coming to me while writing songs this time around is "another", like I was joining these efforts at creation in progress somehow, as if they'd always been going on. Just more words in a long line of word-speakers, but I'm happy to take part.

A lot of the time, the songs are about the state of the world. They're about technology and worrying about getting old and marveling at how it feels to be alone in an environment that has been pulled so close together. They're about finding happiness in simplicity and finding a role to play and the enormity of the universe. And love, of course, because all songs are about that.

Playing these songs live and pulling them off is going to impress even me, if I can make them sound and look appealing. That will be the next part of this process, after I've done all I can to the songs in that little basement bedroom of mine.

Some of this is going to end up in liner notes. No doubt about it.