Devo Song of the Day: Beautiful World

When I began this informal series of journal entries about Devo songs, I didn't expect to go to their later era so quickly. But today I think it's more than appropriate today to highlight this track from the 1981 album New Traditionalists

Within the last little while, I dated this woman for over a year but we broke up and got back together a few times. It happens. When we broke up for the final time, I ended up using the emotions to create personal music that got out the emotions I had to express at the time. I still was interested in her, though, but now she's less than two months away from getting married to Jennings, an absolutely awesome person who fits her much better than I ever could. 

Before they got engaged and when they were still two months into their courting period, I went to her sister's engagement party. This was right about the time my Devo infatuation was about a month old, and I was anxious to spread the word but I thought it best to just find out what others thought, so I asked Jennings what he thought about Devo.

"Beautiful World," he said. "That's what I think about when I think about Devo."

At the time, I was still deep into the earlier years, and hadn't really listened to anything past Freedom of Choice. So, I took his thoughts and put them aside for a bit. 

More than a year later, I believe this song embraces what I hear in the work of this band of people who grew up in the American midwest. I don't know them, and I'll never know them, but I can hear in all of their work this almost didactic approach to making music that encourages people to think outside of themselves. 

Devo. De-evolution. My theory is that Devo's main conceit is that despite evolving into a highly evolved species, our culture ends up restricting our growth, and there's always the risk of back-sliding into societal chaos.

Somehow, though, eight years or so after Devo creeped up from the primordial ooze of rock and roll they had matured and were nurtured by a healthy contract from their record label. This track, I suspect, has a lot to do with the band taking stock on a basic fact that's evident to anyone who isn't currently facing violence or starvation. We live in a beautiful world, and Devo knows this, but yet, this track is also about it being a beautiful world even though the visuals begin to depict some of the strange juxtaposition that happen when all of us choose to impose our view of what that means on everyone else. 

Not their best song, but still important to me. And Boogie Boy is in the video. Perhaps his last appearance? 

And, I am as I post this listening to Harvey Danger's cover for the very first time.

I apologize to Harvey Danger that I know them best for Flagpole Sitta, which I know best as being the theme to Peep Show. I'm not sick, but I'm not well, and maybe I never want to be. It may be a beautiful world for you, but it's not for me.


Devo Song of the Day: Turn Around

When I was a seven-year-old kid, my brother or sister purchased Devo's "Whip It" as a 45. The song was a big hit, and somehow they got a copy of it. That 45 must have been played a hundred times in my house in Lynchburg.

The B-side, however, was not. "Turn Around" was not on the radio, and I don't think any of us felt the need to play it. Why would we? It wasn't hip. It wasn't cool. 

As I grew up, I forgot entirely about Devo, and what I thought was just a complete one-hit wonder. I remember Weird Al did a parody song called "Dare to be Stupid" that helped confirm this sense that Devo was just a joke, and not one that had any sort of longevity to it. 

Somewhere during college in the early 1990's, I heard Nirvana's cover of the song, and thought it was great. It reminded me of the single, which was probably gathering dust in my parent's basement. 

I wish I could say that Devo helped pave the way for me to enjoy music my entire life, but the reality is that the band did not have much influence on my life until I uncovered a 2007 blog post on Rock Town Hall that made me realize I'd been missing so much. They were not my Gateway band. 

We'll get into all of that later. Right now, I want to inaugurate this series by simply writing about Turn Around, a track whose lyrics are with me today as I continue my introspective quest to figure out who I am, what makes me me, and who is ultimately to blame for all the problems in my life.

Turn Around helps me realize that I'm the only person to blame for anything, and I'm the only person who's going to fix anything. This track reminds me that it's important to look at myself without aspersions. Imagine Burns' "To a Louse" with a fast-paced beat and a monologue halfway through!

There's a reason why Nirvana decided to cover this track. Their cover brings the lyrics out more for me. The track also follows the A-B-A pattern that Kurt Cobain said he learned from the Pixies.


However, I am not posting a link to the Weird Al parody. I love the guy, but as I hope to describe in the blog posts to come, the parody helped obscure my ability to know a band that is much more influential than anyone really knows. Including me, because I have no way to measure that sort of thing. But I can write my reflections and observations and other musings.


Rough thoughts on making music

I am not a trained musician.

This fact becomes blatantly clear to me in those moments when I'm listening to things I've created and I'm trying to analyze whatever it is I'm trying to record. I seem to have this conviction that I should press the red button every time I'm equipped correctly and I have something to say.

Since 2009, my recordings have been just as important as my written journals to my mission to record as much of my life as possible. I've learned to use my guitar as a way to prompt myself to wax lyrically about how I felt on that particular evening. These audio time-stamps define who I was in snippets when I feel free to say exactly what I want to say. 

But, are they anything anyone would want to listen to? 

I'm not sure. I'm not sure at all. I am reluctant to post new things to my soundcloud account because I don't know how best to explain the context for why whatever I post is important to me. Everything I do makes perfect sense, but does any of it mean anything to a listener who is not me?

I've not recorded anything since early June. I titled that session "decidely-bland" because that best described how the character of the music, lamenting the way my life seemed at the moment. The 25 minute session was mostly me explaining how I felt at the moment, very much a journal that I'll return to in the future when I need to know who I was around this time. It's very important for me to have ways to travel back in the past for just a moment. 

Sometimes I listen back and I have no idea who I was in that moment, that moment in which I confessed something to my microphone. I can now listen to five years of where I was in those moments in which I have previously lived. I've always been able to do this in words, but there's something much more visceral in listening to the way I expressed myself in music, somehow fusing improvisational guitar with improvisational singing in the aims of capturing lightning in a wav file. 

And every single time I begin to believe in myself, something happens to make me stop that, and to go in reverse and instead believe that whatever I do is somehow not important, not good, and then that brings me to the middle of July where I've not had the courage to let go and just do it. To go to that place where I...

Sometimes I listen to the older things and I see all the faults in them. I realize that I want to hear talent that might not be.

Then other times I hear the simple act of me creating in the moment, somehow liberated from everything and transported to a place where it doesn't feel like I can do any wrong, making music and sounds that help me make sense of my life. 

Sometimes it's noisy. Sometimes it's more melodic. But, it's what I do, and it's who I am. Nothing in my perfect in my life, but yet it all seems worthwhile. 

So. What's your creative outlet? Is there anything you keep secret from the rest of the world? 


A requiem for old paper

On December 16, 2007, the president of CARS sent me a letter thanking me for my $30 donation. At the time, my son was less than two months away from being born, and I was eight months into my job at Charlottesville Tomorrow. I still lived under the impression I was going to be in a marriage with her, but now I don't remember sending them this money, nor ever making such a gift. Why them? I also can't imagine spending $30 on a charity at this moment, seeing as I owe WTJU $60 for the pledge I made back in April. 

Into the recycling bin with this letter, and many more pieces of paper, as it's now almost seven years later and I have this tremendous need to purge the relics of the past that remain in my house, even though my life has moved on. 

Underneath the letter from Larry Claytor is a handwritten note from a Charlottesville Planning Commission meeting from a date unknown. Bill Emory is listed as being a participant, as are Cheri Lewis and Mike Farruggio. Emory is still a fixture at city meetings, but Lewis is back in private practice and Farruggio hasn't really been in the public eye since he lost election to City Council last year.

I don't want to throw out these notes, so I put them in a folder for later. There's nothing historic on this sheet, necessarily, but there is reference to Dan Rosensweig commenting that he's been invited to participate to an Albemarle County discussion on TDRs which I want to hang on for some reason, but I don't know what that will be at this point. So in the folder it goes.

I'm torn about whether to keep a record of the service my Jeep Liberty undertook last December. The window had busted, and there was also a coolant leak. These both cost $283.11, and were among the $1,200 or so I put in that vehicle before deciding to dump the vehicle in favor of a smaller one. Having written this out, the receipt now joins the box of other papers that will be put in my recycling bin. 

This is the best thing I've done in ages. 


Hope for a new direction while realistic about goals

When I got on the scale this morning, I weighed 190 pounds. If I was in England, that would be 13.6 stone. 

Either way, I'm 25 pounds overweight, and it shows. I have less confidence. I'm sluggish. I'm most often depressed. I have become very good at making excuses for not exercising. 

This wasn't supposed to happen. I wasn't supposed to let myself go like this. I wasn't supposed to ever let myself give up my best anti-depressant. 

But, I did.

And now I have to reach within to try to stop making excuses. And I have to improve. Or, it's only going to get worse. 

Let's go back for a moment to the last time I was 190, putting aside for a moment that I've been at this heavier amount for at least six months now. Maybe longer. I don't know. I sort of stopped caring about my health and fitness last fall, and that's now carried over to my mind, which has dealt with this years losses by simply retreating. I've created this prison for myself where I just accept that it's never going to get any better.

But that's bullshit. 

I had been about 200 pounds at the end of my second marriage. I was fat. I was a sloth. I was out of shape. And when I realized my marriage had been crumbling for years, and was never even much of a marriage, I dedicated myself to getting better. I was so angry, so confused, so scared, that I embraced exercise as a way to get through it all.

After two months of going to the gym five times a week, I was down to 170 pounds, and I began to feel shards of confidence growing in the caverns of self-doubt where my consciousness dwells. I changed. I became the best version of myself that I'd ever been. I had a lot less fear. 

And now, so many of those fears have returned. They've smashed those shards into atoms. I've retreated within myself to an extent that is unhealthy. 

So I have a choice. I can either continue to spiral back towards a person I did not like being, or I can begin a journey back towards being the best version of myself I can possibly be. 

I know which I want, right now, as I type this. I am hopeful at this moment, but there are other times in the future in which I will give in to the self-loathing, give in to that part of me that wants to hold back self-improvement. 

Not everything is perfect in my life, and there are many challenges coming in times ahead. And I may choose to write about them here, in this little space that is public but not public. I have so many things I want to say, so many observations I want to capture, so many hopes I wish to grow into.... 

What comes when hopes are realized?

It's been a long time since that's happened to me. But, I have hope anyway! 


On being cool

It's 1:16 in the morning. I couldn't sleep. I've been in a terrible depressive cycle of late. I got off work and just wanted to go to bed. I'm out of my routine due to overwatching the World Cup. It's summer and I'm jittery and I'm not taking care of myself properly. My next birthday is approaching and I don't know what to do in order to get myself out of a rut I've been in for most of this year. 

Now it's 1:17 in the morning. My happiest moment today was when I finally was able to make a decision to turn the air conditioning on. I tend these days to not be able to make even the simplest choices if it doesn't relate to either of the work I do. When I'm not at work, I tend too just lose all sense of focus.

Across town, my American children are asleep at 1:18 in the morning. When they're here, I am able to make choices. The lethargy might not be fully gone, but I feel like I have a sense of purpose when I am with them. When they are home with me, I feel complete and alert. 

Not so much now that it's 1:20 in the morning and the air conditioning is having a hard time cooling this house down to 80 degrees. I was gone for the weekend so I turned it off, and thought I would just leave it off tonight. But when I tried to go to sleep at around 10:00 pm, I couldn't stand it anymore. 

I should sleep now that it's 1:21 in the morning and I've been out of bed for about 45 minutes. But I have a clarity of mind that is seldom present in these days where work activity is only a phone call away and I end up working on many of my vacations and weekends. This is the nature of a dedicated journalist.

Now that I've been typing for seven minutes about my own life, I begin to feel a little more human. Each paragraph shines a light on my present state and the words that get left in this little box. This space is mine and I shall write what I want here. 

It's 1:25 in the morning and perhaps one of my children is having a bad dream. I know that much of my waking life is spent in terror that I've done something wrong. Perhaps I got a fact wrong. Perhaps I neglected to post a story. Perhaps I said something about my life that I didn't mean to make public.

As I begin my third decade dabbling as a journalist, I must say I never intended to have my name out there. Not directly. When I was trying to be a radio journalist, I definitely wanted my voice out there because that was how I could get work as an audio producer. No one could see me, and no one had my phone number or email address.

This was also before social media, even though I've dabbled in that since the late 1980's when I ran a BBS. I've always had a public profile of sorts, but it was always loosely behind an alias. Yet, over the years I've learned to be a moderator, and to adopt a neutral persona in order to be a better journalist. I want to tell people's stories, and I don't think you can tell people's stories if you tell them what you think first. 

And now I'm a reporter, something I don't think I ever fully intended to still be doing at this point in my life, but I have a fantastic job and I bear witness to so much that goes on in my community. I wish I had the range to do different kinds of stories and express my story-telling in other ways, but I'm so focused on covering my beat that I don't take much time to experiment.

It's 1:34 in the morning and I'm sort of losing the point. It's the first day of July, the World Cup is about to end, and I'm trying to figure out how I'm going to catch the last 30 minutes of the U.S. match versus Belgium. I didn't expect to caught up in the whirlwind of this year's tournament, but I have been and I'm going to be sad when it's over.

This is the third time the tournament has been held while I've lived in Charlottesville. 

I just began to write out something about where I was in 2006 and what my life was like, but even though this is my personal blog, I don't want to post anything about that. Not that I have secrets to hide, but that there are so many things I keep to myself. Whatever I write here is an extension of that neutral persona. 

But there's a reason why it's 1:39 in the morning and I can't sleep and don't really want to sleep. I wanted to put some public comment out there about me being named as one of my community's top 10 coolest people. I got a text from one acquaintance, and several postings of it on Facebook. 

I glanced at it briefly, but the thought of people I've never met before describing me in any way is a little creepy. Or, maybe they have met the other persona I sometimes am when I'm lucky enough to work a perfect night at Court Square. 

I'm not that person at 1:44 in the morning. And haven't been for a long time. I'm feeling my age and I'm less likely to be out. I've spent most of my disposable income on being at bars to watch the World Cup. 

I'm not sure who I am this morning. I certainly don't feel cool. I've been stuck in this rut, you see, and all of my creative energy goes into making sure I don't miss a detail when I'm filing a story on deadline. I'm constantly thinking about who I need to contact and what questions I have to ask. I'm worried about getting scooped and work simply consumes me.

Leaving me at 1:47 am to say it's kind of neat to be recognized for the work, even if I'm too timid to promote it. I'll make jokes about it, and I'll play it down in an attempt to deflect any sense that I think I'm cool. 

I don't even know what that word means. To me, it means a younger Henry Winkler, and I don't think I've even worn a leather jacket. To me, it conjures up visions of those kids in secondary school who had that mythical element I knew I would never possess. 

I just do my job, whatever that job is. 

In less than 12 hours,  I'll be attending a historic meeting between the City Council and the Board of Supervisors. It will begin at the same time Argentina and Switzerland begin squaring off in São Paulo. I'm somewhat sad I won't be able to take the day off, and even more sad that I will not be able to enjoy all of fthe U.S. - Belgium match in a crowd of strangers. 

But, I will focus because the conversations these elected officials will have will inform the next six months of my reporting. Duty calls and I must turn in a story by the end of today. 

At 1:58 in the morning, I have fantasies of being a lot less timid as the World Cup tide recedes for another four years. Maybe I'll summon the same transformative energy that helped me during my divorce. Maybe I'll learn how to store my self-confidence within, as opposed to constantly deflecting it, letting that precious commodity leak away. 

I can't say. 

I can only control what happens in one day. And that means now trying to get some sleep. Maybe I'll actually find a way to stop making excuses and get up and run rather than occupy my dreams as long as I can.