December 28, 2009

This Was Not My Decade From Hell, Part 2

Just cleaning up some loose ends before the 2000s slip into the black hole of history. This is a sequel to my previous post about personal creative high points from a mad decade. Without further ado, then:

2005: I play two memorable gigs with Honey White: Ventura and Hollywood.

This was a banner year for HW: the album we recorded in San Francisco was finally released in April, accompanied by a Nicholby's show in Ventura that was memorable for me because of how easy it was. We played on bonus time, basically, and I was so into it that if it were not for the recording I made that night, I wouldn't remember anything about the show at all. The good ones are like that, you know? Anyway, we played a handful of other shows supporting the new CD, and of those, the most notable was when we invaded the old Derby Club in Hollywood (pictured above) to play a quick and deadly 8-song set. Lots of people showed up—we called in every favor and pulled in fans from, like, four SoCal counties—but I only had about 30 seconds each to speak with them since the show's logistics were so regimented. It was a definite zenith in my amateur rock posturings, but to date, it was Honey White's penultimate live gig.

2006: I help make certain domestic-stability arrangements official.

Since 1998, Emily has been helping me keep free of that contagious, spastic melodrama that I am so susceptible to. Getting married is obviously a personal high point, but it's also a creative one—when someone gives you the gift of relative emotional stability, it frees your mind and soul up to do all kinds of different thinking. All that stuff about creativity going slack when one is happy is total bullshit; the creative impulse just takes a different, alternately focused form. For me, well, I need a rock, a base of operations, a fortress of solitude—and other such anchors—and thankfully someone else needed that from me as well. As for scoring a mortgage on top of this (later in 2007) tethering us to Ventura for a while, it would become strikingly apparent that the old cliché of "settling down" was anything but, what with all the traveling we ended up doing to simply see each others' families. New places, new people, new inspiration—that was my '06.

2007: I step up my designer/wordsmith/rockstar cred. Sort of.

It only took me about two and a half years to figure out two things about the design biz: 1) how it works, print-wise, and 2) how out of my league I was, web-wise. Good news first: in 2007, I took on full production responsibility for one of the print projects in-house—the Gifted Education Communicator research journal. I got to build on the redesign my friend Mia began in late 2006, and by the end of the year I had some award-worthy material. It got even better in 2008 (the bottom row of that image above), but the grunt work happened in '07. Web development work was another story—I attended a conference in March '07 that showed me just how much I had to learn, and fast—and it would take me until summer of 2009 (and two more Web Design World conferences) to claw my way into something resembling professional credibility. Five years to achieve basic design biz competence? Guess I wasn't such a gifted child after all.

2008: I blog like crazy, begin writing a novel, and record & release its soundtrack.

Or as I described it at year's end, "the year of staring at screens and typing furiously." I'd screwed around with blogging since 2003, but being a late blooming web geek, I didn't get around to doing anything useful with the medium until late 2007, when a Honey White hiatus prompted me to reconfigure this blog to be an online compilation of all the written stuff I'd spewed out into the world (published or otherwise) from 1997-2007. The other big accomplishment was finally writing (and blogging) The Weapon of Young Gods, a novel I'd been developing since late 2006. In '08 I busted out about 2/3 of its first draft—but perhaps most importantly, I recorded a soundtrack album for it, which was released under the old Low Tide side project moniker.

2009: I blog some more, finish the novel, document some nostalgia, and write songs again.

2009 wasn't much different from '08, except that, sadly, my creativity began to taper off writing-wise. I still slothfully sat on my ass and blogged enough to compile plenty of stuff for 2008-2009, and even wrapped up the novel in June, but there was a palpable drop-off in quality stuff. I found other ways to be weird, though—making the Creeping Nostalgia photo project go mega in April for one—but ended up clinging to an old standby: song lyrics. Yep, I dashed off two of 'em in November and December—no tunes, just lyrics—but with only 3 songs written since Honey White's trip to the studio in 2004, that was kind of a big deal.

So that's that—my big creative blips from the 2000s. As for 2010 and beyond, well…I chose to make resolutions on my birthday instead of New Year's, whatever that's worth.

December 17, 2009

This Was Not My Decade From Hell, Part 1

In case you hadn't seen it yet, Time called the 2000s "the decade from hell." I guess the '30s and '40s don't count anymore, but whatever. Anyway, on a personal scale, that doesn't apply to me at all—between the ages of 23 and 33, I got married, bought a house, scored a nice creative career, wrote lots of crazy things, made plenty of loud rock noise, and generally amused myself while the rest of the world burned.

Yeah, well, you call me Nero now, because I've decided to throw another list of listyness on the decade-ending pile of crap that everyone's making. However, I'm making it personal. And creative. And in chronological order. Groovy, right? That's right, buddy. So, in the interests of rampant egomania and untrammeled personal growth, here are some of the past decade's bigger blips from my creative continuum, year by year.

2000: I shave my own head for the first time, all the way down to the skull.

Whappo! Bet you weren't expecting something that randomly dumb, were you? Well, as anyone who knew the hairier version of me would tell you, it counts on an almost uber-makeover scale. Why? Hell, I don't know the reason why—but I do know that it was a skin-shedding kind of thing, and not at all like the touristy buzzcut I got in 1997 or the half-assed #2 clips I tried in 1999. No, in July 2000 I went total bumfuzz on top, in the interests of entering the 8-5 workforce (I finished school in Dec. '99) as a "new" person. Not a kid, not an adult—just a chubby bald geek whose head reflected any light source. Plenty of figurative creativity in there if you think about it—do we not become different people when we age? Should we therefore look different? I think so.

2001: I play a wild Giovanni's gig with the Mojo Wire, briefly write for the Santa Barbara Independent, and write the best song lyric of my career.

After ditching my first full-time UCSB job, I was free to be an ignored, degenerate rock star with the other 3 bozos in the Mojo Wire. That band actually came to an end in 2001, but not before we played a fun show at an Isla Vista pizzeria on April 12. Naturally I recorded it, and now have to live with it. The other big creative thing I did that year was to write some Positively State St. columns for the Indy, which you can read more about here. Finally, in December I completed the four-year tooth-pull otherwise known as "The Lightning Rod." It's the pivot, the fulcrum, the turning point of all my song lyrics. Everything afterward was good, but not as good. I would later record it with Honey White in 2002.

2002: I help start another band, which ends up being even better than the first one.

March 8, 2002 was the first time Bryn, Brian, Billy and I got together at Earl's Table Salt studio to make music as Honey White. Everything clicked instantly, and we all jammed happily ever after. Or at least until Brian went to Washington DC for grad school in 2007. But still. Anyway, I'm trying to think of other big creative things that happened to me in '02, but nothing comes to mind. I was still living in Isla Vista and working at a second UCSB job (which I also quit that year), so making loud guitar noise two nights a week, plus a monthly gig somewhere in the greater S.B. area, was quite enough. It was, as the kids say, "good times."

2003: I get rejected from grad school, remain unemployed for 18 months, and go to night school.

My future creative class yuppiness starts here, gang. I needed an excuse to quit my UCSB HR job, so I invented "graduate school"—in this case, the creative writing MFA programs at UCI and SFSU—and broke free of the 40-hour zombie death march. However, my written fiction submissions were so poor that I was immediately rejected by both schools, as I kind of figured I would be. So, I had to lick my prose wounds and wait for king-hell fame and fortune, and by mid-year, with my girlfriend in grad school, my brother in Europe, and my band on hiatus, I had no choice but to submit to a night school graphic design program. It mostly sucked big donkey balls, but near the end would prove to be much better. Oh, the other thing I learned in 2003 was that making websites is fun, and authoring DVDs is an awful, wretched thing that I never want to do again. Ever.

2004: I get a real job as a graphic designer, and make a real album with Honey White in a real studio.

Like I said, night school eventually paid off, what with scoring an internship with a company in Ventura whose president was the teacher of the final course in that night school graphic design program. Within a week, Emily got her teaching gig in Fillmore, and we landed a lease on a Ventura apartment. The universe told us to live in the VC, so that's exactly what we did. Also during the summer, I joined the Honey White guys in a trip to San Francisco's Take Root studio, where we had a fantastic experience recording the album that would become "How Far is the Fall," with ace engineer Jonathan Mayer. We released the CD in 2005, but all the tracking happened between August and December '04, and I still consider it one of the best experiences of my life.

Okay, so since the title says "Part 1," I'll leave it at that and be back with more later. Maybe this weekend.

December 06, 2009

O.C. School District to Its Teachers: Go F**k Yourselves

Those damnable, pesky public employee unions! If it weren't for them and their cushy, decadent benefits packages, California's sterling government would surely be nowhere near the level of crushing idiocy that currently pervades the hallowed halls of Sacramento. And now, now those ungrateful teachers and their annoying elitist union have the temerity to continue to take no shit from a district beset by its own rampant corrupt stupidity, and have chosen to express their collective feelings via three hundred middle fingers:

Teachers angry at the Capistrano Unified School District's proposal to cut their pay by 10% held a rally Saturday to protest the move. The demonstration, which took place near the Mission Viejo Mall, drew more than 300 people, according to organizers of the event. It marked the latest in a series of actions highlighting teachers' dissatisfaction with contract negotiations and the school board.
Profaning the sanctity of a refurbished mall, fer crissakes! What in blazes is the world coming to? I mean, don't those whiny punks realize that the district needs to slash $25 million from its 2010/11 budget, to offset such essential expenses as palatial office complexes and ongoing legal fees from an Iran-Iraq war of a recall election?

Not to mention the known costs associated with an irritating parent-teacher initiative that would clobber the budget to the tune of another $500K. The nerve! Where will it end? Isn't it enough to be mocked in both print and pixel, and slandered to disturbing degrees by long-disgruntled students brimming over with impotent revenge?
Oh yes, regime change had finally come back to Capistrano—just like those pestilential swallows—in the form of an overblown auto de fe by ex-Superintendent James Fleming and his faithful right hand, Associate Superintendent Susan McGill. Theirs was a sordid story of supposed sin that I'd managed to remain completely ignorant of, despite repeated hints dropped by various well-meaning friends and relatives who have worked or currently work for CUSD. It had everything, though—arrogance, intimidation, entitlement, corruption, decadence—including a certain secret ingredient that made it irresistible to me.
What the hell, indeed. Don't these fools know that you go to class with the pennies you have, and not the millions you wish you had? Tell 'em, Anna:
"These are difficult times for all institutions, not just school districts," said trustee Anna Bryson. "We have to work with the money that we have, and that keeps getting smaller."
Like, totally, baby. Don't take any guff from these overeducated babies. Stomp the buggers. Hire scabs if you have to—hell, you could rescind some of those 6-months-delayed rejection letters we sent out to all those qualified bright young people who grovel at our feet whenever UCI or whatever other school graduates a new class of fresh-faced, credentialed teachers. Yeah, hire those kids at a fraction of the contracted salary. They'll take it, won't they?

And for God's sake, show no mercy on those 300 uppities in Mission Viejo. This is the twenty-first century, hon—unions are dead, and no one gives a shit about their selfish, coddled members anyway. It's high time that they were cut down to size, just like back in the good old days. What are those Pinkerton gentlemen up to, anyway? Give them a call. We simply cannot have this level of disturbance in a district of this size.

It's not about us covering our own asses for decades of congenital stupidity. It's really all about the kids. The teachers have never ever considered their pupils in all this, have they? of course not. It's all about them:
Vicki Soderberg, president of the Capistrano Unified Education Assn., which represents some 2,200 teachers, said the proposed salary decrease would be dire. "Asking for a 10% pay cut would throw a lot of our teachers out of their homes and onto the streets," she said.
Vicki, you cold-hearted snake. Won't someone please think of the children?

Cross-posted: dkos, cal

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