Sunday, May 23, 2004

Yeah, well...

As the few of you who read this little bit of nothing may've noticed, I haven't updated in quite a while. Almost a month, as it turns out. Wild. There's a number of reasons why I haven't. Minor stuff...ear infection, band falling apart, one band falling apart while trying to build another one...but the major reason is I have been suffering a massive whack of writer's block.

Writer's block sucks. You sit and stare at the screen (or notebook, depending on how your creative flow is bent) and wait for the blood to pop out of your head. There's plenty of political stuff going on, but I honestly don't want to write just about political stuff. Nor do I want to write solely about music solely, even though I've had a couple of very nice requests to do something. I will, I promise, just give a poor country boy a break. Writer's block, and all that.

I've been thinking a lot on what my friend Patterson Hood of the most excellent Drive-By Truckers calls "The Southern Thang". In other words, what makes the South such a...well, let's say "colorful" place. I'm still trying to get it all together in some sort of coherent fashion, so bear with me. It'll hit here eventually. I've been given this a lot of thought for a long, long time, and my own ideas of what it means to be a Southerner and what being a Southerner means to me has evolved and changed over the years. In short - and I'll expand on this when I do get around to writing whatever it is I write on the topic - I'm Southern through and through, born and raised in Mississippi, but in the end, it's only a part of the whole. In other words, being Southern is no different from having red hair. Both are true, but neither are the end-all and be-all of what makes up my personality. As I said, once it's worth reading, I'll put it up here.

About music, well...I have to admit, that part of my life is hurting a bit these days. My band, Twain, is falling apart for reasons that are way too complicated to go into here. And actually, it's not exactly my band; I'm only the bass player. That's part of the problem. The frontman of the band, a genuinely good guy, is having serious personal problems (again, won't go into the details), and it's having a destructive effect on the band and the other guys in the band.

I'll tell you non-band folks a little secret. Being in a band isn't easy. Not always. Sure, some people can just be there, play their instrument, and put it behind them at the end of the day. But if you really want to make something out of it - and one of my goals is to make a living with music, even if just temporarily - you have to put a whole lot of blood, sweat and tears into making it work. And it breaks your heart when you see it falling, when the realization hits that it's not going to work.

A band is a lot like a relationship, except its music that provides the spiritual lube rather than sex. Being in a band is a pain in the ass, really. You've got at least two - and usually more - personalities, all different but all trying for the same thing. Problem is, everyone has different ideas on how to get there. Should we do more covers or more originals? Should we stick to music clubs or try to play more parties? Should we play out a lot or just rarely? Should we just record?

I like playing live. I'll be honest, there's nothing better, not even sex. Sure, it's an ego stroke. People are paying attention to you and, man, there is nothing better than having some total stranger tell you he or she digs what you do. It's one of the reasons I like playing bars rather than straight music clubs; you get a chance to win people over. People are generally loathe to go to a music club and give an unknown quantity a shot, especially a town thick with music like Athens. Old drunks at the bar or young sorority girls, man, it doesn't matter. It's a thrill.

Problem is, just like a relationship, if all the outside stuff gets to be too much of a pressure, than playing live just isn't as much fun. There's a point in relationships when you know it's over and you're just going through the motions. You just don't want to admit it yet. Twain's been like that for a couple months. Now, we're trying to figure out how to get out of the situation without hurting too many feelings. Unfortunately, musicians - especially songwriters - tend to be a temperamental bunch, and our frontman is as temperamental as singer-songwriters come.

Plus, it's a massive pain in the ass to put so much effort and work into someone else's baby. So, I'm working on my own stuff. My brother the guitar player is on board - though he's said he's going to let me do all the work, bless his heart - and I've got a drummer possibly lined up. I've got about a half-dozen songs in various stages of development, but frankly, I'd be happy to just do covers. Course, my idea of a proper set of covers would include Nick Lowe, Ronnie Wood, The Faces, Doug Sahm, Mickey Jupp, deep-cut Dylan tunes and a host of other shit the average yay-hoo has no idea of nor any interest in hearing. Ah, well...

Well, there's that. I promise I'll try to post something in the near future and not wait almost an entire month.

Monday, May 03, 2004

Scribblings From The Notebook...

Just a random thought from my writer's notebook. I'm sure most writer's have one; just something to have handy when the muse wanders across the attic. Anyhow, this concerns the Battle Of The Sexes, or as I like to call it:

Advice For Young Ladies

You take 100 average, red-blooded, all-American guys - of any age, gender or political affiliation - and for 90 of them, damn near everything they do and/or say is an attempt to get into the pants of the first female that comes along. That's how guys are. It may be somewhat biological, but I think a lot of it is sociological. We're told from our very first hard-on that we must make every effort to get laid as much as possible or we're failures as men. I'm not condoning it nor am I asking for forgiveness for the male gender. That's just how it is. Why do guys work themselves to death so they can make their first billion by the time they're 30? Nookie. Why do guys exercise to the point of oblivion for rock-hard washboard abs and buns of steel? Not healthy, no. Nookie. Why do guys pick up guitars and write sensitive songs exploring the human condition in all its myriad wonders and horrors? Nookie, and if any musician tells you otherwise, he's a goddamn liar. Now, poonanny isn't the only reason guys do these things, but deep down - if they're honest with themselves (and most Americans aren't) - it's damn sure a main reason.

Now. Of the ten that's left, five of those guys...well, they're gay. I am not gay, so I will not even pretend to understand how the gay mind works. Being guys, however, I'm inclined to think gay guys think pretty much the same as straight guys. Except they think it about guys.

Of the five guys left over, four of them are really, truly looking for their soulmate. They want a woman who's an equal, if not a superior, in every way. Someone they can share their thoughts and feelings and dreams. Someone they respect and honor, and will do the same for them. Greek myth has it that at one time man and woman were joined, and we're all just looking for that missing half of us. These guys are looking for that in a woman. These guys stay at home a lot and write bad poetry, too, because they forget women are as human as they are. And if they do slip up and get a girlfriend, they wind up with one of them psycho hose beast types that uses and abuses that earnestness and honesty, chews 'em up and spits them out, then moves on to a guy who just wants some nookie.

Now, the last guy. That guy's me. I want to be left the hell alone, thank you very much. In the War Between The Sexes, consider me Switzerland. I don't like dating, and while I enjoy female companionship as much as male companionship, I've got no desire to screw up a friendship by introducing the "r-word" into it: relationship. I like sex just fine, too, but what little joy you get out of it ain't worth all the hassle you have to go through to get it. Let's face it, beloved: most people are lousy lays with more hang-ups than a debutante's closet.

But that's just me. I've been wrong before.
We're Not Quite There Yet...

Haven't written anything this week, obviously. It's not that there's nothing to write about. There's plenty going on in the news - though the dad-burned hoo-hah over Kerry's Catholicism and war record still get play somehow - I am desperately trying to make sure this isn't solely a political blog. Plus, there's the very scary doings concerning prisoner abuses in Iraq. I may write something on that. I may not. What's getting me isn't so much that American soldiers are torturing Iraqi prisoners. You ask any soldier that's seen combat, and I'll lay good odds he (or she) tells you it's drummed into his (or her) head to dehumanize the enemy. Standard protocol from what I understand. Makes it easier to kill someone if you don't think they're human, I suppose.

No, what's getting me is American reaction to it. More specific, positive reaction to these goings on. Some sergeant on Sean Hannity's show apparently said it's no worse than a frat hazing. A whole lot of letters to the editors from all over the country say it's what the Iraqis deserve, either for the death of the four "contractors" in Fallujah - even though all this happened six months ago, apparently - or for 9/11 - even though none of the hijackers were Iraqi.

I can't say I'm surprised, really. We're a bloodthirsty country, always have been. We've always managed to rationalize away some of the horrible things we've done to the weaker people. The American Indian. Slavery. The internment of Japanese-Americans. The fire bombing of Dresden. Andersonville. Hell, concerning the latter, there's an enormous amount of yay-hoos whose idea of a groovy weekend is dressing up like Civil War soldiers and pretending to be combatants in the bloodiest spectacle in American history.

What bugs me, I guess, is that down deep, Americans - and human beings in general - are good people. I am continually amazed at the multitude of examples of bright, shining humanity that go on every day. People who go that extra mile to feed the hungry, clothe the poor, help the needy, bring comfort to the broken and, basically, show that we are indeed human beings. Man, even someone stopping to help a complete stranger fix a flat tire - something I should do more often, I'll freely admit - brings a tear to my eye. Human beings are capable of amazing things, and we surpass our boundaries every day.

Still, what is it that gets Joe Sixpack's mojo workin'? What gets his dick hard? Blowing shit up and lots of death, all sanitized for television and completely blood-free. We love this sort of shit, unless, of course, it happens to us. Then we need a hug. I hate to say it, but if another attack on American soil occurs any time soon, we're all gonna be awfully surprised at the total lack of sympathy from the rest of the world, I do believe. I hope I'm wrong and I really, truly hope I never have to find out.

Way back in my childhood, I got the rare joy of interviewing singer-songwriter Richie Havens, a truly wonderful human being. He said we're not quite humans just yet, but the kids behind us, they'll get us there. They're smarter than us. I do hope he's right. Maybe I'm just in a cynical mood, but I look around and think thousands and thousands of years of evolution, societal development and human progress, and we're still not past "He hit me first".