Jesus, Etc.

Advent Calendar?

Unreliable Narrator, the new record, is on the iTunes store, Spotify, Rdio and all streaming services, so pick your poison, but make sure it’ll kill you! I mean make sure you enjoy and get bummed out by the new record! Also, you may have noticed the site’s new look! Hope ya dig. Next in the hopper, I’m re-doing the SOUNDS page to include lyrics and maybe some other assorted goodies, but seriously, if there is something you’d like to see, drop me a line.
Xmas is coming up soon, right? Keeping crazy grading term papers and songs, filling out shopping lists, Advent is already here in full swing, and I’ve been going through my Spotify Xmas playlist. If you want a serene vibe (as I much of the time do), you could do a lot worse than Mark Kozelek’s (Sun Kil Moon, Red House Painters, etc.) new one, Sings Christmas Carols. The Band has a great standalone song off ’77’s Islands. (ht DZ) Firstly, it’s an interesting choice to include a Christmas song on a “regular” album, however sublime it may be. Especially in the middle of the record? I guess it would close the first side of the record, but jeez. However it has synth quirkiness, and I’m crazy about dead, dead, drums like Helm’s sound on this track. Hungry to try something similar on upcoming projects. Even though I just put out music last week, my mind is only forward thinking, I’m a cerebral shark; if I stop moving, I die.
Almost done reading S. King’s On Writing, I’ll have some assorted thoughts on that next time, but for today I’ll leave a quote that has been burrowing in my mind:
“Life isn’t a support-system for art. It’s the other way around.” — S. King, “On Writing”.
Art is the reflection, the mirror of the world. It let’s us see ourselves, and our world, but it is no substitute for the world, relationships. C.S. Lewis expands on this in The Great DivorceA painter goes to the afterlife and exclaims his excitement about getting Heaven down on canvas. He is told that he’s got it backwards—he’s looking at what the painting is supposed to represent, the hidden paradise, the light peeking through the tear in the lampshade. He goes away, sorrowful. We hear a guide say:
“Every poet and musician and artist, but for Grace, is drawn away from the love of the thing he tells, to the love of the telling till, down in Deep Hell, they cannot be interested in God at all but only in what they say about Him”
For the love of God, the Cosmic King had himself born in a dog bowl.
Merry Xmas.
Listening: Serial Podcast. For real, amirite?
Watching: The One I Love, Netflix
Reading: Stephen King, On Writing
Playing: DragonAge II for Xbox 360

Divine Madness

Are you familiar with Daniel Johnston? You may already be, but I’m relatively late to the game and have been totally feeling him all week. He’s been an indie darling since the early 80’s, an outlandishly creative and troubled soul that illustrates the delicate balance of beauty and mental illness. It’s another Syd Barrett/Roky Erickson tale. I guess a cautionary tale of LSD and the creative.

-If you have the time, this free streaming doc is ace.

-If you only have time for a handful of songs this is good too:

Maybe it’s because I’ve worked with shizoaffected students throughout my tenure as a music educator. Maybe it’s because I’ve struggled with mental illness in my life. At times depression and anxiety have felt like they were closing in on my sanity like the trash compactor scene in Star Wars Episode IV. Plato talked about a “divine madness” as the progenitor of “inspired” creativity, but it’s dangerous (and exhilarating) balancing on the precipice of sanity. It the artist who feels deeply and is able to communicate from that deepness a resounding gong into a fellow human’s soul. In the words of Anaïs Nin, “Something is always born of excess: great art was born of great terrors, great loneliness, great inhibitions, instabilities, and it always balances them.” (The Diary of Anaïs Nin, Vol. 4: 1944-1947) The artist is the Charon ferryman navigating the Stigian wastes of emotion. “I do not deny that the world needs priests to remind us that we shall all one day die; but I insist that the world also needs another kind of priest, the poet, to remind us that we are not dead yet.” – Chesterton

In the Jeff Tweedy interview I linked to a couple weeks ago, Tweedy weighs in on this topic as well. I was surprised to see myself holding the same positions. Creativity is an act of the unconscious mind combining two or more things together. Or as Einstein possibly puts better, “Combinatory play seems to be the essential feature in productive thought.” All creativity is God-given but I don’t see it happening in the auto-didactic way that many speak about. If God gave us our minds and hearts, then it is secondary causation, but still God-given. The past years I have tried to reign in the “madness” aspect of the creative process, simplifying it for myself and trying to help others, and there are a couple different helpful angles of ascent.  This Ted Talk explains my creativity definition in the most simplistic of steps. This takes the topic a step further in describing the phenomena of auto-plagiarism and cryptomnesia. And if you are REALLY looking for a breakthrough,  This process can help you track and ID your personal biorhythms into hitting your creative sweet spot. But above all, go ahead and bookmark (if you still do that anymore) Captain Hook’s treasure cave in this site.
I promise this isn’t some kind of materialistic determinism but in the same way we give thanks for our daily bread, we receive creative thought with thanksgiving, giving glory to God.

I’ll leave you with these:

“A man’s work is nothing but this slow trek to rediscover, through the detours of art, those two or three great and simple images in whose presence his heart first opened.” – Camus
“Even in literature and art, no man who bothers about originality will ever be original: whereas if you simply try to tell the truth (without caring twopence how often it has been told before) you will, nine times out of ten, become original without ever having noticed it.” -C.S. Lewis

Watching: Only Lovers Left Alive
Reading: Blood Meridian – Cormac McCarthy
Listening: Various – Daniel Johnston, 24 Hour Revenge Therapy (Remaster) – Jawbreaker, Mind Games – Lennon
Playing: Batman: Arkham Asylum (replay)

4 Steps To Reducing Creativity Clutter TODAY

We all have too much going on, and when we force ourselves to sit down and write, we put up a million resistant reasons why we shouldn’t. Here are 4 things you can do to do your creative life a freakin’ favor.

1) You are a well with a bottom.

“Be regular and orderly in your life, so that you may be violent and original in your work.” — Flaubert

I am not a bottomless well of inspiration and creativity. Julia Cameron in The Artist’s Way explores this in-depth. Can’t remember where, but this week I saw someone encourage artists to become more judicious with creative resources. If you’re dumping all your creativity into creative Twitter jokes, you’re taking away from other projects. That isn’t to say it’s not important to be hilarious, but to not wonder why you’re banging your head against the wall on your songs when you’ve spent all week being witty, trying to win the inter webs.


2) Be more You.

“The most destructive thing a musician can do is start worrying about whether or not other people will like the music. &#@$ other people. They’re not in the band. Just make music that stimulates you and don’t second-guess yourself.” – Steve Albini

Jeff Tweedy (Wilco), in a roundabout way of promoting his new [amazing] solo record Tweedy, talks with Joe Fassler about letting the subconscious blossom what it wants to and to try to make sense of it after. But that initial kernel of idea is the one that’s going to be closest to the emotional immediacy you crave. He said that he used a lot of the iPhone demos as basic tracks on the record.

3) Fredkin’s Paradox.

“The more constraints one imposes, the more one frees one’s self. And the arbitrariness of the constraint serves only to obtain precision of execution. – Igor Stravinsky

The “Fredkin’s Paradox” principle declares, basically, that your decisions take longer the closer your options are to one another. Solution: Severe limitations—pre-decide in your work by deciding on a creative system. This paradox affects me deeply, so to guide my creative choices quickly creating Unreliable Narrator (coming soon, I promise!) I pre-decided to “always choose the weird way”.


4) Trust the Process.

“The good seed cannot flourish when it is repeatedly dug up for the purpose of examining its growth.” – J. C. Kromsigt

Therapy’s mantra mirrored back at patient is “to trust the process”. I can trust that despite current discomfort I am growing to where to a healthy place.


These are great things I’ve found leading me to creative health, hope they do the same for you. Until next time,


Listening: Beach Boys – Love You (2000 Remaster) – had only heard this spoked about pejoratively, but upon actually listening to it, I love the crap outta it. Like Guided By Voices playing Beach Boys Songs, or something.

Reading: Frank Miller’s Ronin

Watching: Orphan Black S1