orphan status & The First Thing

I have a new EP on all the usual music streaming sites. It’s 5 songs of what sounds to me like lo-fi adult contemporary.

I guess that’s the whole update, but here are some process notes for anyone who might be interested!!!


➡️ I’m still using GarageBand. I understand that there’s other professional music software packages that are “better” or “do more” but “free” remains a big thing with me. And anyways I still have plenty to learn about it. I watch YouTube videos to learn how to do whatever thing I can’t figure out, and otherwise just poke around and experiment a bunch. I don’t feel like I’m done learning how to get it to do things, and I definitely don’t feel like the reach of my musical ambitions (lmao) exceeds Garageband’s grasp.

➡️ I am obsessive about capturing ideas in the voice memos app on my phone. I keep it on my home screen and any time I am humming a random tune/idea I sing it into the app. (For those of you who have not shared significant space with me IRL, I am continually humming/singing/whistling something and it is VERY annoying to those around me. I have been like this my whole life. I remember my best friend in 1st grade saying to me You sure always got a tune going, don’t you.)

➡️ Through this process I’ve learned that the tunes I have running through my mind translate very poorly to musical themes. I invariably have to scale them back, simplify them, make them less “note-y” in order for them to make sense in the context of this chill understated music I’m trying (failing?) to create

➡️ Combining chords from different songs I learn online (via Domi & Dilla transcriptions on YouTube, for instance) + melodies I wake up humming + found sounds I record into my phone (a weird voicemail; a scene from a movie) = a very satisfying process for making music.

➡️ A few months ago I watched S1 of Painting with John and he threw away one line in the midst of an unrelate anecdote that really stuck with me: “I don’t know where this came from but I always try to go with the first thing – with the paintings, with everything else.” He doesn’t explore or unpack this idea any further but to me it speaks to something in the moody dreaminess of his art – not overthinking things, not letting reason overpower emotion, just letting ideas sit and exist in order to see where they take you. I applied the idea of the first thing to this album to prevent a lot of unnecessary decision making (should this be longer; should this have another section; why are the songs named after fake pharmaceuticals; etc etc). Creative constraints continue to be essential to my ever actually finishing anything.

➡️ (I always think of Chinese Democracy as the ultimate example of trying to create something with absolutely no constraints. No offense.)

➡️ Here’s a picture Anil sent me from when he made his family listen to this album on a car trip:

Nice vibe

Day 817 (a complete list of things that have happened)

People keep saying time is meaningless now and I guess what they are talking about is the flattening of experience. I think about the details of my day, the things that I could write about and there are no big stories, just things that happened or keep happening, at some point in the recent or distant past, any of which may or may not be worth mentioning or remembering.

I hurt my back, pulled something on a bike ride, and then couldn’t walk for almost two weeks. But yesterday I went for a bike ride and marveled at how much stronger I feel recently. I spoke to an old old friend last week and she sent me her resume to review. Yesterday at work a coworker who I have never met asked if he could send me his resume to review. I liked a recent episode of Strange New Worlds so much I watched it twice and disliked a Tom Cruise movie so much I fast forwarded through it, essentially watching it at 2x, determined to get to the end only to verify its badness.

I texted in all caps and exclamation points with a former coworker now friend. I texted in emoji hearts with a different former coworker now friend. I talked about the emoji differences between Teams and Slack with a third former coworker now friend. I made a new recipe for dinner that came out really well and another one that came out not great but not as memorably terrible as another one I made, and I don’t remember the order these things happened in.

I keep lists of things that I want to do at some point, and it’s things like “go to Uniqlo” and it just stays there on the list in my phone, for weeks, a thing I don’t do. And then one day I go to Uniqlo and wander around for 6 minutes and leave wondering why I thought I needed to go there. We went to the Paul McCartney concert and parts of it were so fun, life long memory-making in real time, and parts of it were so un-fun that we wonder if we shouldn’t have gone at all. The things I end up liking the most (the fireworks and pyrotechnics, the friend of a friend who told us about a secret parking spot close to Fenway, the people in the row in front of us having the best time of their lives) have nothing to do with whatever was happening on stage.

And: we went to an art show a few weeks ago and more than the art for sale I remember the setting, the weather, the people’s outfits, certain families. One of the artists asked very politely if he could ask me about one of my tattoos. We went to another art show the following weekend and another artist wanted to talk about the same tattoo. While we were there I thought I saw someone I knew in the crowd, and it reminded me that the last time we went to this same art show, 4 years ago, pre-pandemic, I saw someone I thought I knew in the crowd. Both times I made no attempt to talk to the person. And, one time, deep in the first winter of the pandemic, I went to Target, and saw someone I knew there and didn’t say anything. I was likely completely unrecognizable in a hat & mask. We stood in the men’s section, side by side, looking at mittens. This is someone I text with, someone I have hung out with socially on multiple occasions, someone I have selfies with on my phone. They didn’t recognize me and I was not moved to say anything to them. I also remember not finding the mittens I wanted. Other times I have been to Target and found exactly what what I was looking for, and stopped to say hi to people I only vaguely recognize. Sometimes after I go to Target I get emails asking me to review my experience and I enjoy filling them out.

Every night at dinner I ask my younger son about the highlights and lowlights of his day and he says, Eh, nothing. I ask him for 2-3 details about his day, big or small, important or not important, and he says, Eh, nothing. I ask him if he saw anything cool or interesting or different or weird on his walk to or from school. I lean towards him and say: I demand to hear about the poetry of your day, and mean it.

I find a screenshot on my phone of Lindsey’s idea for a tattoo that just says “the first verse of coyote” and then I think “No regerts Coyote” and can’t stop thinking about it. I almost use it as the title for this post but decide I want to keep it buried in here.

Every morning I write down my dreams and wonder how much of them I am forgetting. As if it matters on some level that I am otherwise working hard to avoid. So there.

Opsec Nightmares

We all know how brands track and follow us around online so they can target us with timely and effectively advertisements. But is that enough? Can’t other parts of our lives be better leveraged by corporations? We do so many little things every day that don’t benefit marketers, it’s a huge lost opportunity.

Here’s a 1-page zine called Opsec Nightmares. It’s a few little stories containing some ideas for how brands might better market to us in the very near future.

a picture of the zine Opsec Nightmares
Click this image to download the PDF

Once you’ve downloaded and printed the file, here’s Austin Kleon explaining how to fold and cut and fold it into a book.

The story is that we’ve been watching a lot of Star Trek lately and I was thinking about how teleportation would actually work and the phrase “teleportation would be an opsec nightmare” came into my head and then the rest of it just came together.

(Previously)

Imaginary Beverage Reviews

Many many internet years ago (2003-2008) Josh and I had a site called Knowledge for Thirst. It was a very fun place to update each other about what beverages we were drinking. Then a few years later (but still many years ago) (2013!) the phrase “imaginary beverage reviews” popped into my head and I wrote 4-5 reviews of beverages that didn’t actually exist. They were pretty garbage and I set it aside and went to work on other things like books about Kim Kardashian and Chrissy Teigen and post-apocalyptic social media influencers. That last one, Cutie Cutie Ghost Show, had been especially a lot of fun to write b/c it’s less a story and more just a long series of dystopian brand interactions.

But then a pandemic was happening and I mostly didn’t feel like writing or being online, and most of my identity as a writer was about being Very Online.

Last fall after deleting most of my social media I was panicked about not having written anything lately, looking at old projects that might be worth reviving, and I poked around with Imaginary Beverage Reviews and thought: Maybe this isn’t terrible? And wrote a few more. And then I thought: No this is so dumb, and set it aside for a few weeks. And back and forth like that – This is so dumb, But maybe it’s not totally dumb? No it’s dumb, But maybe just keeping working on it anyway? – until eventually it was written.

The whole time I kept thinking of a line from the movie Basquiat, the scene where David Bowie is playing Andy Warhol, staring at a piece they’re collaborating on (oddly enough a piece about art + brands), and says, like he’s astonished to hear the words coming out of his mouth, “I can’t even see what’s good anymore.”

The last few years I’ve been on a very long journey back to writing for me — not for the internet, not to have something to tweet or post about, not to try to get something published in a certain place, not to get particular people to react a certain way, not to create content for corporations to put ads on. To be able to listen to my brain and heart long enough to hear them shaping the ideas that could only make sense to me. Anyways here we are.

Another quote, one of my favorites, Linda Barry:

You have to be willing to make things for no known reason.

Lynda Barry, Picture This

Imaginary Beverage Reviews is exactly what it sounds like, reviews of products that mostly do not exist. It’s a 39-page PDF you can download here (alongside a bunch of other books I’ve done!). It’s zero dollars or pay whatever you want.

Cover image for the book Imaginary Beverage Reviews

Extremely Long Cons

I made a little EP of instrumental heist music.

You can find it on all the major streaming platforms!

I am in no way advocating for or condoning use of the particular platform that is linked above. This is not my internet, I just live here and do not own the means of distribution.