Music: Gray Garden Rain

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I often touch a piano with little idea that a new song is going to come out.It’s usually a pleasant surprise, and here’s another. From an improvisation into GarageBand iOS via midi. it ended up on my Bandcamp page! Click for a free listen.

In the production process I ended up tripping on the echoing synthesizer after a friend mentioned it reminded him of video game music, and there I went. My daughter preferred the plain piano version, but it felt like a few sections still asked me for more. I suppose bringing instruments up then out throughout may happen someday, but that will also mean more melody lines.

Literally, music sometimes “grows” on you…

—–David

P.S. Here is the piano only demo if you want to compare.

https://megawatson.bandcamp.com/track/gray-garden-rain-piano-version

Music: Gray Garden Rain was originally published on Creative Uploads

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A Hamster In The Hand

 

I’ve been taking school pictures this season and had the opportunity to include this adorable mascot the other day. Artie even got a badge made, though I imagine he’d chew it up given the chance.

It’s nice to know there are still classroom pets out there. I know there is a possibility of animal harm with this, but I like to think we have become more sensitive to animal care as a society, and trust that teachers have both the best interests of students and the class pet at heart. A lost class pet is a tragedy of Shakespearean proportions, not to be invited into your life lightly.* You learn to like, adore and love something that carries responsibility with it, not an object but a living thing that doesn’t argue you with you like a friend or sibling.

That’s one of the great things about pets. If you don’t have a pet of your own, you can get a taste of it. There’s a shared responsibility, and honor even, in seeing to the animal’s well-being, whether it happens in class or on occasions where a family has to take care of Mr. Fluffy over a break or holiday, if not a rotating weekend schedule. Plus you get to learn how stinky things get without regular cleaning.

It gives you a chance to see that the world is bigger than your tiny sheltered corner. That animals are sometimes unpredictable in their responses even as they have predictable habits. As are humans.

For children there is the vital opportunity to develop compassion for a creature that might not need our help if it were in the wild, but deserves our mercy and respect when we cross paths with it.

And just maybe, that becomes a deeper thread and we learn to maintain compassion for larger creatures, fellow humans and nature itself, even when things seem ready to turn on us, because we are all partners in one large complicated ecosystem.

—–David

* Unless you’re in a sitcom.

P.S. Our family had gerbils when I was a kid. I still have fond memories of breakfast times when we made tiny little pancakes for them, and they would hold them in their little hands and eat.

A Hamster In The Hand was originally published on Creative Uploads

Sharpen Your Skills

Sharpen your skills. This is usually meant in a very specific way, whether you are studying something technical and precise, or aimed at a specific field or job.

But as a Renaissance-minded creative, or jack of all trades, or generalist, as you might call me, I see that it can apply to anything, which can make it hard to decide which skills need to be sharp.

Creative uploads pencil sharpener sharpen your skills

You can sharpen all of them. not all at once. But if you choose tasks and interests that you like, try to pick one where related skills overlap. This lets you sharpen the same skills but with more bang for your buck. Plus, that efficiency will help when you need to work on a skill that is more specific to a required task. Especially mentally, having covered several areas already reduces the stress of having to focus on one thing and make other things wait.

If you’re trying to build your muscles or exercise more, you should have a regular exercise program, but you could substitute helping people move furniture or rearranging and reorganizing your house and garage. Any excuse for lifting things is using your muscles right? *

Just make a habit of it. Being aware of what you’re doing and how it can affect your other desired skill sets.

I can type, I play piano and guitar, and I’m good at massages. All of these things use my fingers and hand muscles, and I try to improve my dexterity by changing angles, styles, or even switching to my weaker hand when doing simple tasks, which has improved my left hand bassline playing on the piano, for example.

When I quit my cubicle-based job to be a stay-at-home father for my daughter years ago, I joked that I was leaving a tiny workspace with randomized duties and a diminutive boss who would yell to get his own way, always decided he was right, and didn’t listen or care what I was saying, to take exactly the same job but with no commute.

I have used my corporate skills throughout her childhood, from organization through quality control, presentations and conflict resolution.

If you’ve been a stay-at-home parent and are reentering the business world, or joining it for the first time, realize that you can use those lessons that you learned at home with no commute everywhere else.

We are all children at heart, and the ones with less heart show their childishness even more.

The only thing missing (unfortunately) is the opportunity to call a timeout. But you can chuckle inside at the silliness of it all anywhere you go, and your sharpened skills can cut through anything.

—–David.

P.S. I miss regular pencils and that cool wall sharpener. I miss the smell from sharpening, the texture and feel of the pencil, the shading you get from holding it at an angle, and having an eraser that takes away your mistakes. I do like the convenience of mechanical pencils, until they run out of lead and you realize that you can’t just get up from your desk, walk to the wall and grind them for a few seconds so that they work right again, especially when you’re out of lead refills.

* Full disclosure: Currently recuperating from a car accident, I am taking any excuse for not lifting things. But it will come back to haunt me, as I have gained 5 pounds already.

Sharpen Your Skills was originally published on Creative Uploads

Music: You Are My Present

You Are My Present, a song by David Watson. Performed live to tape. Well, digital.

It’s my birthday so I put this relevant song on Facebook today, and thought I would share it here.

I wrote this song years ago, shortly after my wife gave birth to our first child, but it really does apply to all of the friends and family in my life. People around you affect you and you can find that a gift or a challenge but you can’t ignore it. Some of my songs are obscured diary pages of feelings or experiences; this one is a little less obscure.

But that’s art: Polished or raw, or somewhere in between. Be brave and share it!

—–David

P.S. Recorded on my Note 8 just to see what it sounded look like without additional editing or processing.

Music: You Are My Present was originally published on Creative Uploads

I Don’t Have Writer’s Block, You Have Writer’s Block

No really, I don’t get writer’s block. There’s always another idea.

Oh, you want a specific idea in a narrow set of parameters, like a blog post maybe, that provides some sort of example or instruction with a smidge of encouragement and a pinch of humor?

Sure. In the meantime, here’s an unrelated picture I took on a trip. Not a metaphor.

Brick wall building creative uploads

Nice, huh? Wait, seriously, you don’t think that’s a brick wall, do you? I mean there are windows and a door — clearly you could get through it unless the windows are closed and the place is locked.

Or you could break a window, pick the lock, and tear down that wall, Mr. Gorbachev.

I really don’t get writer’s block, and neither do you. So don’t embrace the delusion that you do. That freezes you in a giant bear hug that keeps you from moving any direction.

Some things I embrace instead:

  • Procrastination
  • Depression *
  • Television
  • Anything Amusing
  • Laundry
  • Long Naps

My point is if you need to “not do,” try that out for a little bit. You don’t have to put a timer on it, but be reasonable and then start doing again. I don’t think I get “writers block,” because I could write whatever it is I need to, if I just started doing it, at least a first draft.

Like today: I wasn’t writing a post because I didn’t start thinking about a post because I wanted to do something else. I had stepped outside the process flow.

And then I wrote a post, because I started writing the post.

Now the simple fact that the draft probably needed editing and cuts, like chopping off the first paragraph or so to get to the point quicker — even if I threw everything out and started over again — that’s not writer’s block, that’s editing, and editing is part of the process of writing.

Calling it “writer’s block” is making an excuse for not doing something because you feel like doing something else instead.

In the same way, writing is an excuse for not screwing around. (Or when you are really good, an excuse for not doing housework!)

What do you love more at this moment? Do that thing. Then switch. But switch soon-ish, especially if you have a deadline.

—–David

P.S. I call this methodology “proactive procrastination.” Yeah, I may put off a priority but if I get something else out of the way , it won’t interrupt me or be an excuse later.

* Depression can be a small dip or a giant cliff, either way it’s a speed bump even if it’s not “clinical” depression. It’s a lower energy that doesn’t feed you.

I enjoy it as a break because it’s never felt permanent for me, but — and I’m not a qualified source here — if it’s not “temporary” for you, seek help from someone who can guide you to a shovel or sherpa and climb out of it at least once in a while. Even night gives way to day with persistence (and yes, vice versa) and with regularity.

P.P.S. A slightly related musing from the archives, and this watch again post on procrastination.

I Don’t Have Writer’s Block, You Have Writer’s Block was originally published on Creative Uploads

Best Burger I Ever Had

Okay, I’m going to sidetrack the blog and actually write about food — oh crap, I’m sorry, I didn’t ever mean to do that.

Oh well. The other day I was looking through my extensive digital photo collection and came across a picture I wanted to share, yes, of the best burger ever. Now I’m going to be honest, I have enjoyed other burgers, and may have had some that tasted better or were more “foodie” friendly, or this or that, but pound for pound and just for the story on the side, this one tops them all.

Perhaps a dozen years ago I had the honor of going to Brookings, Oregon, for a memorial service for a very kind man named Dave, who was my wife’s stepfather. Dave had a favorite place to eat, so of course we all made a pilgrimage afterwards, and well, it is an experience not to be duplicated.

You can come close, because I just checked Google and apparently they are still in business, though they have moved, and location was part of it.

All I knew was that we were going to a little burger place on the harbor near the beach. And we traveled up the beach on foot, most of our party of about dozen. Sounds quaint, right?

What it really was was “Fely’s Café and Laundromat,” which when we arrived looked like an oversized shed with and add-on in the middle of the harbor parking lot, surrounded by cars and RVs and boat trailers. There was a picnic table or two outside, and maybe three small tables inside in front of the long counter. I’m sad to say I didn’t take a peek at the laundry machines.

We all had to order burgers, since that was what Dave liked. The place was run by an old couple, and Fely, the woman in charge, was one of those ageless Asian archetypes. She thought my child was adorable and just had to come out and give her a huge hug. It was helpful since it gave me extra time with my burger.

Oregon Trip – Best burgers ever, at Fely’s in Brookings, Oregon. Go. Those are regular size paper plates, and oversized buns. They were HUGE! And delicious.

And the burgers? I will let the picture speak for itself, though please note that those are normal size paper plate that the burgers are covering. Formed with little care to shape out of what I am certain was an entire pack of ground beef, and cooked in the historic greasy memory of every burger ever made on the grill, they were delicious. Too big to eat in one sitting; too delicious to stop.

My wife alone was clever enough to cut her burger in half before starting and created leftovers, which nearly led to a knife fight between Dave’s two surviving elder brothers. Okay, maybe they were just trying to divide it in half again, given that what would now be a quarter of the original was still a good size burger, but there was a waving of knives, somewhat raised voices and a very faint desire to share the prize equally, if at all.

My one disappointment is that we were leaving that next day, and I didn’t have a chance to eat there a second time. Or probably room in my stomach. But in my heart, the memory lives on, right next to a warm place for Dave.

—–David

P.S. Fely’s Cafe is on Shopping Center Avenue in Harbor, Oregon, basically in Brookings, just north of the California-Oregon. Don’t go for the service, go for the calories and maybe your own story. Tell them Dave sent you, indirectly.

P.P.S. I think the fact that these are the most accidentally creative burgers ever, and that you need to eat to have the energy to be creative gives this post a fair place in this blog.

Best Burger I Ever Had was originally published on Creative Uploads

Morning People Are Cheaters

Yeah, I said it. Oh, must not be a morning person… well, duh!

Maybe I’m a morning person on the wrong side of the planet? How about that?

Maybe I’m a night person who just realized that morning people slept in from yesterday afternoon. It would certainly explain why they are so peppy and excited to start the day. They’re several hours behind everyone already, why wouldn’t they enjoy that, as they pull one over on the rest of us?

Maybe these dawn-conscious non-zombies aren’t morning people at all, but rather coffee-buzzed caffeine-dependent addicts looking for their next hit, eager and ingratiating only because their barista “dealers” demand obedience and graciousness?

Or robots. Yeah, is robots is a possibility.

I think it’s one or all of these, but I am still investigating. Good night for now. *

—-David

P.S. This picture was taken exactly as I found it, it’s gotta mean something.

P.S.S. And I’m just having a little fun. I do not consider myself a morning person, not because I am a cranky monster at dawn, but because I am clearly, biologically, a “night loving person.” I often stay awake long past midnight without getting particularly tired, regardless of when I got up that day, and I love to sleep in when my schedule permits.

Although for the last few months (and going back to when I was a paperboy) I was quite capable of getting up ridiculously early, like 5 o’clock in the morning, and functioning quite well without ever drinking coffee. It’s just not my preferred method of operation, and it’s often a grind after four days in a row since I don’t usually go to sleep early to make up for it! But it requires a task to call me out of bed, whether I love the task or not.

* As I write this everybody else in the house is going to bed and I will still be up for several hours, because I just don’t tend to fall sleep easily. I used to think that made me an insomniac, but I can sleep once I get there. Here’s one tip: I stopped beating myself up for laying in bed awake, and just enjoy the random pre-dream state. When that doesn’t work, I get up and briefly do something interesting and creative that takes little energy and try again later. I know for those of you whose tight schedules don’t permit, that’s unfair advice, but at least don’t beat yourself up for not falling asleep Enjoy your unique ability to experience a different state of consciousness, kind of like the preshow of dreaming.

Morning People Are Cheaters was originally published on Creative Uploads

Solo Work Gets A Gold Star

Saw this recently in a teacher lounge. It gave me A New Hope.

Han Solo Star Wars pun creative uploads

And a bad pun.

What inspires you to make things, even silly ones? Does it come naturally or do you cultivate opportunities to improve your productivity?

I used to have some concerns with that, perhaps thinking if it wasn’t organic it might not be pure enough to reach artistic heights.

That’s crap. Improvisation, serendipity, structure, craven commercialism, planning, editing, incremental steps: they all have a place in creation and can bring us to an artistic result.

Or not.

But that’s for the audience to judge. And you can’t be the audience in the middle of creation; you’re too close in space and time to get the full picture.

First, make something. Then step back and let somebody else look at it.

Who cares what they think? That’s a different story.

—–David

P.S. I like a lot of stuff I put together; some people hate their own stuff. But I enjoy the process and that’s enough to get to the next thing. Which is sometimes the salve on the wounds from the previous experience.

Solo Work Gets A Gold Star was originally published on Creative Uploads

Why Is Special Event A Caution Sign?

I didn’t mean for a metaphor to hit me over the head while I was just driving down the street, but seriously. Stop Special Event Ahead Caution! Creaive Uploads

 

As creative types, we will often take any excuse to detour around things, just dropping our good habits for a few minutes or hours or days. The delighted and self-destructive among us love when special events intrude on our schedule and we can throw everything out the window. We also hate that, because it means that we ‘ll need to make a new schedule at some point, and right now maybe stop thinking about our vague current idea or whatever we had planned.

That sure sounds like it calls for caution. I mean you’re on this road to get somewhere, right? And you’re being forced to change your route or get stuck in “traffic” that will slow you down.

But special events are special – it’s literally in the name. And if you want to be artistic or just enjoy yourself, special events are often an event worth the experience. Even if they totally suck by the end of it, you have a story — at least in your head or for the next party, or maybe even for a song or a film or a collection of pages.

So no, I don’t know that special events need caution. Feed your stuff, by feeding yourself.

And certainly understand the limitations and obstacles that they may present. But as someone who doesn’t mind being social yet still will try to avoid an event because it doesn’t seem “important enough,” or sometimes feels like it’s an excuse to not do the work you promised yourself you were going to do that day, or it costs money and you think you can save yourself into prosperity… Well honestly, those are all pretty good reasons/excuses.

But not all the time. Too many excuses gets you too good at excuses.

Too many special events makes them less special.

Strike a balance, and use caution, but don’t just stop.

—–David

P.S. I still remember seeing author Fran Leibovitz on David Letterman talking about how she was at a party that she don’t want to be at because she would literally take any excuse to avoid writing. I thought it was hilarious and honest and I took it as advice. And it is some of the worst advice for a writer I have ever heard. (Not that she intended it to be advice.)

Things I ignored:

  • She’d actually already written something and been published before that, so perhaps she was entitled to relax on occasion.
  • She ended up with a story that she could tell on a TV show, so she wasn’t entirely wasting her time.
  • I have no idea what she wrote and was plugging, and
  • I do not own any of her books

But I love her. https://www.facebook.com/franlebowitz/

https://en.m.wikiquote.org/wiki/Fran_Lebowitz

Why Is Special Event A Caution Sign? was originally published on Creative Uploads

Listen To This: NPR Music’s The Austin 100: Stream Or Download Our 2018 SXSW Mixtape

I am always on the lookout for ways to make things more efficient so that I can fit new things in my life, or maybe catch up on all the things I haven’t gotten to. Honestly sometimes it’s to give me more time to goof off, but so what.

So I have this habit going back five years or so, where I would find the giant torrent file that someone created of all of the songs by SXSW invited artists, musicians and bands scheduled to appear that particular year. If you don’t know what a torrent is think of it as a large digital file that you can download a little faster than just from one website. Anyway, imagine that you wanted a sample of music from people playing at SXSW in Austin, that’s what this is to me: a kind of digital radio program that would get you up to speed. Since I don’t go to SXSW, it took me there instead.

Except this compilation is sometimes 1100 or even 1700 songs in all kinds of styles, including some that I don’t particularly care for and mostly artists that you’ve never even heard of. But some of them you should have, and some of the songs are inventive, or cool or soon to be cult classics, or up-and-coming stars.

If you listen to music because you want to make it, if you listen to music while you’re writing and it sets the mood for you, or if you want to do the other thing I did with it, which is torture your family by methodically playing all of the songs over the next few months deciding which ones you’d like to keep and rating them on your iPod, that is definitely the way to go.

Just Google “SXSW 2018 torrent” and figure out how to torrent something if you don’t know how, and you will have more music than you care to listen to. And I mean that in all the ways you can mean that, and I apologize for some songs that you will hate, not all of which will overlap with the ones that I would hate, which is what is so amazing about the whole thing.

But this post is about efficiency. I actually don’t know if somebody made a giant music file pile this year, but I noticed last year that NPR was putting up a list of their favorite 100 songs, which means they already went through a multitude of artists and picked some amazing stuff and made it available in one download.

And here it is.

Stream or download 100 great songs by artists performing at SXSW 2018.
— Read on www.npr.org/2018/03/01/585356494/the-austin-100-a-2018-sxsw-mixtape

I haven’t had a chance to listen to them yet, but last year there were a lot more hits than misses. Plus, it had a few songs that weren’t in the giant torrent file that I also listened to, and didn’t have some songs from that pile that I really loved. But this time I’m going to stop at 100, and move on to the next addictive media on my list. If you find something really great in the giant pile free to share the details in a comment below.

—–David

P.S. Last year my daughter and I got a kick out of Tacocat, whose song “I Hate The Weekend” was particularly catchy, though we enjoyed it ironically and actually like the weekend. I do not know how the band really feels about the weekend, but that is the beauty of Art: the end-user can interpret it anyway they want and there’s not a lot you can do to stop that.

P.P.S. Update: I had to find out. 1276 files. I’m going to try not to download them too.

Listen To This: NPR Music’s The Austin 100: Stream Or Download Our 2018 SXSW Mixtape was originally published on Creative Uploads