The less than six month assesment

I've been a resident of Colorado for about 4.5 months now. I was thinking about writing up a 6 month assessment, but I figured now was as good a time as any. A large part of this will be about music, since I am about music. And there will be a lot of personal sharing here. If you can't bear to read someone's inner thoughts, stop reading.

The music so far... When I decided to move I had the intention of throwing myself into every music project I found interesting. And that's what I've done. Sometimes I feel in over my head, but when I take a moment to step back and remind myself (or be reminded, thanks Tim) that I haven't been here that long, yet I've done a lot.
  • Acoustic gigs with Trinity Demask. I'm accompanying her on guitar (and vocals soon), and she's been kind to let me play some of my songs during intermissions. My solo material has gone over well, and it seems like there aren't many people around here playing my style of acoustic music. 
  • Joined the technical metal band Delusionist. The singer/guitarist recently moved from Little Rock, and had a bunch of tunes ready to go. We've pounded out 5 so far. It's kind of a mix of Nevermore, Pain Of Salvation, and Devin Townsend. I'm enjoying it, and it's got me working on my rhythm chops.
  • Working with the Stone Soup Soldiers. A studio project mixing all kinds of music from latin to rock to classical. The best way I can describe it is "live loops". I go in, improvise a slew of parts, and the layers are later arranged and mixed. It's a wonderful collaborative process.
  • Scoring background music for a stage play. I found a group in Boulder doing a stage play for children, loosely based on Native storytelling. I'm adding orchestrations (strings, winds, etc) to the existing songs which are acoustic rock style. 
  • I'm still working on new Strange Land material, solo acoustic material, songwriting submissions for PRP, and some random demos that may or may not make it into a movie or commercial. 
Other work of note, I recently did 12 paintings for my next acoustic cd. With the few I'd done in Milwaukee, that puts me about halfway to my goal. More info on this project later. I'm continuing to release tidbits and archive tracks for Strange Land, while we lay low and regroup for the future. I'm still doing art for PRP, and I've done some business logos for some friends. It looks there there will be a mini-comic book style cd booklet I'll be doing on the horizon. And on top of all that, I still have my day job. The long distance work situation is going fine, and lately I've been very busy with that. Like, working at 2am busy.

I love the area and the weather. It's a short walk to look at the mountains and I will never get tired of looking at them. I get out for hikes when I can, though not as often as I'd like. I think the best thing I will like about the weather here is that I won't have to hibernate for 6 months like you do in Wisconsin. Gas is cheaper, most everything is cheaper than Wisconsin because taxes are lower. My neighbors are decent, and the neighborhood is pretty quiet. I've started working out again, hard. I've sort of maintained a flatline in fitness for a few years, but I've dedicated myself to changing that. Half out of a desire for fitness, half as punishment. One of my mental issues...

Even though I haven't been here long, I've still been able to take a long weekend to Utah, and a week to New Mexico. There is nothing more I like than traveling, especially road trips. I'm enjoying the fact that I now live much closer to the places I like driving to best. No offense to the people of Nebraska and Iowa, but that drive sucks.

But, of course not everything is great. Someone once told me you can't run away from yourself. I knew this was true, and I knew some reckoning would come. Lately it has come. I had to leave Wisconsin for many reasons, one of which was to separate what was me (that needed to be worked on) and what wasn't me. I've pretty much got that sorted out, and I feel like I'm crawling out of a dark hole sometimes. I've made close acquaintances with my own demons so I'm better at knowing when they are trying to take over. Many of you know I don't drink (except for the occasional glass of wine with friends who know why I don't drink alone). I've never been an alcoholic but addictions run deep in my family. I don't drink because I know I like alcohol. I don't drink because I actually have to tell myself not to buy some at the store. I've been depressed enough to have sympathy for people who decide crawling into the bottom of a bottle is a better way to deal with life. I am glad to only be addicted to coffee.

I think it's true that one must love oneself, and it's good to feel ok being single, to really be in a place to have a relationship. For the most part I am there, but there is still a space that I'd like to fill in my life. I may be busy, but that doesn't make me feel less lonely. Part of it is that I'm so busy. Part is that I've always been a solitary creature. Sometimes I need to be alone, to think, create, recharge. But at the same time, it's hard when I can't sleep at 3am and there's no one else there. I like being alone, but I don't like being lonely.

During and after my divorce I spent time assessing all the things I was doing, making sure I still wanted to do them. Mostly, I've got all that down, but I still question my motives from time to time. The edge is off my enjoyment of these activities because there is no one to share my inner self with. I've attempted dating out here, meet some great people. But my assessment is also that everyone out here is so fiercely independent they can't figure out how to make room for someone in their lives. I've concluded that I just need to wait, keep doing what I do (since I am the job), and hope someone finds me. I am an odd mix of characteristics and someone is just going to have to discover me. I've attempted to make friends, but no luck so far. I did come to the realization, after joining some meetup groups, that having only one big thing in common with some people has no bearing on whether you'll get along. My few close friends I have are a widely varied bunch, and we are bound by music in some way or other. I'm sticking to musicians.

I am of the opinion that the universe is utterly indifferent to my existence. My satisfaction with life is up to me. I'm mostly there. But I am annoyed that there may be parallel universes out there with really happy versions of me. Those guys probably aren't musicians though. I am annoyed at the near misses I've had, meeting someone I could be happy with, but shortly after realizing I had to move and there was nothing that could stop me. I am annoyed at meeting someone who, as far as I can tell, is everything I could ever want... except for one massive roadblock, thus likely closing that door forever. I don't want to just be the job. I would like a little more than that.

Overall, life is good, it's just missing something. Where would my songwriting be without a little bittersweet tinge to life. I get the occasional reminder that I haven't been here all that long. I am almost infinitely patient with others, and I have none for myself. From time to time I just have to go look at the snow covered mountains, in the late October sun, and smile.


The (public) library vs. the (private) RIAA

In another in a seemingly endless series about the present day music industry, I had a new thought cross my mind. Not new information, but maybe a new metaphor to apply to the recording industry situation. I've make reference before to the idea that massive record sales of the 80s and 90s are an anomaly, not the norm, for music as a consumable product. People have moved on the DVDs and Tivo. I've watched in amusement for the last few years as the RIAA tries desperately not to accept this.

I have visited the Littleton public library several times and it's an excellent resource for a smaller library. While browsing the stacks last week I was reminded of how many hundreds of books are released every month. Even if all new book releases were stopped today it would take me decades to read everything in the speculative fiction section alone. It applies to music as well. Online radio like Progulus lets me get a good sample of a lot of music. I enjoy most of it, and I could never afford the money or time to actually buy all of it.

So why keep writing books? Well, for authors it may be a mix of artistic compulsion and a job. For publishers, they hope for the occasional huge hit, but they can also publish books in moderate quantities and not put a lot of money up front. With new digital options, there's almost no production cost at all beyond paying the people who worked on it. It's similar to something I read about Jazz back in college, that Jazz labels considered a record successful if it sold 20,000 copies. Make your money back, make a small profit, and move on the the next gig. The RIAA can't tell the difference between success and MASSIVE HIT EVERYBODY PARTY! No one should be pressured not to write a book, paint a picture, or record an album because it won't make someone else rich.

After a book or any creative is done, it enters the culture at large. Whether 10 people or 10,000 people read it, it's there to be used. Libraries now also have a lot of music and movies. Libraries are storehouses of culture. It's a place that holds a record of a people and their creativity. Storytelling is one of the few things left that humans do and animals don't (as far as we know). As an artist, I am more interested in being part of the creative conversation and part of the cultural record than in diluting my intentions to make money.

Do authors lose money when people borrow a book from the library rather than buying it? Sure, it seems obvious. But, as others have ably written, obscurity is far worse an enemy to art than whether or not people get it for free.


A few notes

Here are a few notes I've had on my facebook page, I thought I'd toss them on here. I'm so prog, my notes are in 11.

Eleven first observations of being a work at home contractor
1. My morning commute is about 20 feet, from the bed to the living room.

2. I can do laundry and dishes while I'm at work.

3. It hasn't been hard at all to stay focused on my work that pays by the hour.

4. It is somewhat, as it always has been, hard to focus on all my work that doesn't pay by the hour, and may never pay at all.

5. Since I had to get the living room ready to be a workspace, the bedroom remains a maze of boxes.

6. I have only myself to blame if the coffeepot is empty.

7. I am happy to already have some leads on other work, since the IRS gets crabby if you only contract with one company.

8. I am eternally grateful that my former employer was willing to remain my largest client.

9. I can play my music as loud as I want while I work.

10. The cleaning service for the office still hasn't been by yet... oh wait, that would be me... crap.

11. The one hour lunch is a beautiful thing. 

Eleven first observations of being a Colorado resident
1. I love the weather. Lack of humidity is brilliant.

2. I don't think I'll ever get tired of seeing the mountains.

3. The Duffeyroll Cafe makes kickass cinnamon rolls.

4. The predominant tree here, at least in my area, is the cottonwood.

5. The Denver area park/trail system is stunning. Many parks are connected by trails and I could bike or walk around most of the area without ever crossing a street.

6. $70 desk + instructions for assembly = 3 hours of work. $70 desk - instructions = 1.5 hours work.

7. Everything I need is less than a mile away.

8. ...hmm?.. oh, what? Sorry, I was staring out the window.

9. I probably should have been here years ago.

10. Even though I just got here, I can't wait to travel. Looks like Utah might be my next stop.

11. In the morning there seems to be a light smell of cinnamon on the wind. Also seems to be there in the petrichor after the rain. Don't know if it's a plant or what. In researching what this might be I also discovered that cinnamon may be used to cover the smell of a rotting corpse, and that an unfinished chemical process in the production of meth may also smell like this. Colorado keeps it interesting.

Eleven first observations after The Road
1. I will never get tired of driving all over the country. I haven't even driven over the whole thing yet. I've pretty much ignored the east coast.

2. The inside of the hotel room has no relation to the outside.

3. I love having friends I can stay with all over the place.

4. I've been to big cities and to the middle of nowhere. I've seen towns time forgot, towns bypassed by the freeway. Towns on hard times and towns on their way back. But I've never been to a town that actually seemed cranky to be where it was. Until Green River Utah. Really, there was a weird vibe there, like the buildings were wishing to be elsewhere. My thought that buildings could have wishes might be related to number 5.

5. Listened to the entire Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy series on audio book. Actually kinda disappointed at the end. Not because of the plot itself, but Mostly Harmless seems kinda disjointed and rushed. Also disappointed that Fenchurch vanishes and Zaphod isn't in it.

6. IHOP has football themed dishes right now. The 'draft pick' is great. Scrambled eggs, spinach, roasted tomatoes and parmesan cheese. Go get it, now. Really, I'll wait.

7. Camping was ok but a bit of a bust. Snow and cold prevented camping in Colorado. Got rained on while camping the last two days.

8. Kansas and Nebraska are both long drives but I much prefer Kansas. Grasslands in the west, rolling hills in the east. Vast distances stretching to the horizon. Nebraska - tall corn at the roadside... can't see anything but corn.

9. Mark Twain museum - what an amazingly full, complex, hard, rich and tragic life. Reading him as a kid was a disservice. I need to read everything that isn't Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn now.

10. If you ever have to drive across north central Illinois I recommend highway 2 from Dixon to Beloit. Very nice drive along the Rock River. And, if you're interested, you can stop in Dixon and see the boyhood home of Ronald Reagan. I wasn't, so I didn't.

11. For the first time ever, I am not relieved to be back home after a long trip.


First sunset as a CO resident 6/20/10

Click to visit the photo gallery


WTF? from Iowa (but not about Iowa)

Women should breast feed adult men wh aren't related to them so it will be ok to be alone with them. Huh?



An Open Letter From An American Person

I have one request of all politicians, pundits, journalists, leaders of movements, fear mongers, and cults of personality. Stop using the phrase “the American People.” As in, “the American people want this'” or “so-and-so isn't listening to the American people”. We are not a monolithic bloc of hive-minded drones. We are not a cudgel to be used to push forward your own agenda or the agenda of those that give you the most money. We The People are a nation of individuals. Our views on politics, religion, and all matters that affect our daily lives are as varied as the pets we keep, the hobbies we enjoy, and the flavors of ice cream we like best. 

To politicians in particular: you work for us. You each do represent some of the American people. Your first job is to be the intermediary between the federal government and the state you represent. If we weren't individuals we could do away with congress and just have a president. Congress is not a stage for you to act upon. It isn't a place to go just so you can head up a high-powered committee. Each of you has a duty to represent some of the people. Also, don't forget that you represent the people who voted for you and the people who did not. Many people don't vote, and not everyone who votes voted for you. The work you do can't be a contest between seeing which of the two parties can gain power and how well the other party can say no. 

E pluribus unum, 
Sean Gill
One of the many


WTF in the form of haiku

A combo serving of a semi irregular feature:

Stand up to experts!
Texas man will rewrite the
past. Wait... WTF?


I'd like to thank the academy...

Ok, I really am a humble guy and I'm usually embarrassed to talk about myself, but I just found out I'm a 2010 inductee to the Progressive Rock Hall of Fame! I was selected as Engineer of the Year. I feel unworthy to be joining other inductees this year such as Frank Zappa, Steve Morse, and Jon Anderson. Check out the full list here: http://www.progressiverockhalloffame.com/2010_inductees_awards.htm


Follow up on the future (I call shenanigans)

I'm going to address now the massive logical fallacy put forth by the music (and movie) industry. Illegal downloads are taking money away from them and out of the pockets of the creators. They want the public to think that if everyone who downloaded an album or a movie didn't do that, they would buy it instead. I can only speak for myself, but that's bullshit. I reserve my movie dollars for very few things I really like. I go to the big screen for something like Star Trek. I'll buy something I really love, like The Shawshank Redemption. If I download, the most I'm doing is taking a dollar away from Redbox. And I use Redbox, too (see below to see what the MPAA thinks of Redbox). Or I go to the library. At least half of my cd collection is either copied from friends or bought used. No money to the RIAA there. Of the music I've acquired from friends, the library, or otherwise not paid full price for, I'd say most I would have never purchased at all. These days I'm doing a lot of online radio listening. I hear tons of music I like but I'll never buy. I throw a little money in every now and then to help my favorite independent stations, but that's it. Let me see if I can summarize my point:

It's not a matter of buying vs stealing. It is a matter of experiencing vs not experiencing. 

I'd also like to take a moment to give a shout out the the original, old school, grandaddy of us all "analog" Torrent site, the Library. (with special nods to public, college and high school libraries)

Just a few more tidbits for thought on my posts about the state of the music industry. The MPAA (Motion Picture Association of America) has been raving, like the RIAA, about how illegal movie downloads are killing the movie business. The MPAA has even opposed cheap services like Redbox despite the evidence showing just the opposite. So how can the MPAA say downloads are hurting when, yet again, 2009 was a record year for box office profits. This during the worst economic climate since the Great Depression. 

If movies and music are analogous, why hasn't the music industry seen increases in the same way? Several likely reasons: 

Many studies including this one have shown that illegal downloaders spend more money on music than those who don't download. Other studies show that digital sales are increasing. So why is the RIAA in a twist? Music is too expensive. $12-15 for a cd and $1 or more per song download are just too much. And studies are backing this up. For some reason, rather than charging what the market will bear, the music industry has picked artificially high prices. The consumer is finally catching on and deciding they don't want to pay that much for a cd. If you want people to pay that much, you have to give more than a little plastic disk.

The way we deliver music is outdated and being replaced by a system we don't fully understand yet. Brian Eno made the fine comparison of records to whale blubber. Oil replaced whale blubber as fuel. Cars replaced the horse and buggy. Transistors replaced vacuum tubes. We make ice in our own freezers rather than having it delivered. Technology moves on. In some cases the old ways die out, in others they adapt to new niches. My desktop computer would fill the room if it still had tubes, but many a guitar player would be lost without a tube amp. You can still ride a horse and buggy, but you do so for fun, not because it's the best way to get around. 

People just don't like music that much anymore. It's a hard pill to swallow but I think it's true. I'm forgetting where I read or heard this, but it's related to the Brian Eno remarks. In the history of music, the multi-million album sales and heaps of money thrown around in the 80s and 90s are an anomaly, not the norm. Operating an industry on that scale wasn't sustainable. Video game sales have outpaced music for a few years now, and have passed home dvd sales. Internet, cable, satellite. There are so many sources for entertainment and information. Music is going to have to accept that it isn't on top of the heap anymore. 

So, back to the artist. What do I think? I think I make art and that's a lot better than not making it. I'd feel sympathetic towards those who can't make a living anymore in music, but so far I haven't found any examples. I'm not entitled to make a living at music and neither is anyone else. I'm not entitled to anything but the right to make art. Hell, even Ray Alder of Fates Warning had a day job during their heyday. I have a job so I can make art. On one level, only making a small part of my income from my art makes me an amateur and not a professional. On the other hand, being free to make whatever art I want, when I want, to make myself happy, means that I am successful. And being successful in my art makes me happy with what I have to be happy with. 

(is it perhaps ironic that these people are watching television and not listening to music?)
(slightly related, I link to Techdirt a lot. A great read for tech/copyright/what's next/that's a dumb law info)


Ready, fire, aim! or Watch Where You're Pointing That Paintbrush, Kid

My friend Kate asked me to paint a picture for her high school play. She needed one of Graumann's Chinese Theater in Hollywood. After painting for the first time in 12 years, and completing 4 very small paintings over the holidays, I said "Sure, I can probably do that!" out loud. In my head I said "what did I just say?"

Well, I found a good photo to copy. A cool night shot with a nice color palette of tans, yellows, and reds. I looked at more pictures later and realized the theater is really grey-blue. I guess the way it was lit that night changed the color.

I ended up taking pictures as I worked to keep Kate updated on my progress. At the end I was actually surprised with the results. I was happy with it and so was she. As I worked I noted something about doing this kind of painting. It's like sculpting in reverse. Instead of carving away the parts you don't need, you layer them up. Sometimes not in the order that seems logical. Sometimes you have to step away for a bit to let your brain adjust to the way the layers are building.

I took the photos with my cellphone and fixed them up a little in photoshop, but they are what they are. Enjoy!