I think to know when to call it quits, cry uncle, throw in the towel, etc., must be a sixth sense that only some people have. Timing is everything. To do so too soon means you’ll never reach whatever goal you’ve set, and it certainly means you’re going to have regrets later. To do so too late means you’re probably experiencing burn-out. You’ll also have regrets, regrets that you wasted so much time and energy on something that was never meant to be in the first place. As Ali Hale wrote in her blog entry, How to Know When to Quit,

“Quitting gets a bad rap. We’re often encouraged,
from an early age, 
to stick with our projects at
all costs—even when we’re totally fed up.”

For me, packing up the recording gear is especially hard because all I’ve ever wanted since I was 12 was to make an album, but no matter how much talent I had, no matter how many famous and influential people I met, no matter how hard I worked or how many gigs I played, it just never happened. Even now, with modern home recording tools, I can’t seem to accomplish this one thing. I gave it all up once before, in 1993, and I more recently thought that by giving it a rest, I could come back to it refreshed and with a more mature outlook about it. But it seems the universe continues to throw up roadblocks. No room to use as a studio, noisy corner, insufficient knowledge of using modern studio programs, Hashimoto’s, adrenal fatigue, etc., etc. That’s daunting enough, but with Nettl’s diagnosis (only two weeks ago) of breast cancer, I must cry out in utter defeat.

(Of course, it’s understood that I care deeply and am dedicated to the utmost degree to seeing her through this terrifying and upsetting ordeal not only as her spouse, but also her friend and caregiver, but since this is my blog and I have no right to speak for her, I will focus on my feelings and reactions here. If anyone has a problem with that, too effin’ bad.)

It’s not that I wasn’t already considering putting the music away, permanently, because I was. I mean, I’m almost 66. Who was going to buy my album anyway? And I certainly don’t have the health, energy, or the finances to tour just to market it. It’s time to let go.

What I have been doing is working on my memoirs again, In fact, the first book is already finished. Writing is something I can do anywhere. I don’t need a private space, quiet, and I know my writing programs. Sure, books need marketing, too, but I don’t have to traipse all over the country; I can do it from home. The problem is, my heart’s dream has always been music, but c’est la vie. I’m fortunate to have two things I do well. Truth be told, rock and roll is for the young; old farts write books.

I don’t know how much I’ll be blogging, either. The year ahead looks pretty foggy to us just now, but I will try to leave a post as often as I can. I’ve seen people through cancer before and I know how the best laid plans can go askew.

Keep us in your thoughts.
Kaye

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Blogging vs. Vlogging (and if you like to dance you might try clogging)

If the blogging era’s subtext was “Listen to me!” then the vlogging era’s is “Look at me when I’m speaking to you!”

Hey. Did I say this is a bad thing?

Lately, I’ve been playing with the idea of starting a vlog on my YouTube channel and finally giving up the ghost that this or any blog will never see the glory days ever again. Who comes here, really? I get a few hits from my update posts in Facebook, but the largest percentage come in from people harvesting images and who have no intention to stop and read what I spend so much time writing. No one checks in to say hi anymore. No, I’m afraid the short-lived phenomenon that was blogging is behind us, friends.

I was really excited when blogging came around, because people were actually reading—and writing!—again. Writing is my thing so blogging not only gave me an instant platform, it also honed my writing skills. Just the act of writing that entry every night taught me a lot of discipline. It also helped me find my writer’s voice. Mostly though, I felt there was hope for some degree of literacy in this country, but then vlogging showed up.

I’m not saying vloggers aren’t literate, because some of those I follow are as intelligent as hell. But it’s much easier to watch a video than it is to read a blog. Sure, it’s passive, but let’s face it, it’s fun and it demands nothing except to, well, sit there, but while vlogs are easier for the viewer, they’re much harder for the one who’s actually making them.

Like blogging, you have to decide on a topic, research it and write about it. There’s the set design, equipment, props that might be needed, camera angles, and then there’s the vlogger’s physical appearance. Let’s face it, one of the boons of blogging is that you could do it in your pajamas, underwear, naked even. With vlogging you have to decide what to wear and then look presentable. For a woman there’s hair and makeup, if that’s her thing. There’s the attitude. “Hi!” “Good Morning!” even if that’s not how you actually feel. Then there’s the recording with numerous takes, graphic and audio inserts, and last but not least, all the editing. All of this requires skills in equipment and content construction, not to mention on-camera skills. And that requires confidence and some degree of acting talent. Finally, there’s marketing and promo, and then growing a thick skin.

Good vloggers need to be commended, but more times than not they’re given negative comments from trolls whose sole intent is to leave their mental feces in a crap trail as they hop from video to video. Some vloggers confront these cowards with witty comeback videos in which they read the comments aloud and make snarky remarks. Others filter out the negative comments by setting them to be approved before releasing them. These tactics aren’t new. We bloggers learned to handle our trolls in exactly the same ways. I think I now have about 75% of the thick skin I’d need were I to start vlogging.

All of this is a whole lot more work than writing a blog over one’s morning coffee or, in my case, late at night before going to bed. Sure, there’s editing the text and collecting images, but that doesn’t take as much preparation before hitting the “Publish” button.

When I look back I realize I started vlogging back in 1986 when I first got my hands on a video camera. You know, the kind that required you carry that huge battery pack around? One night I made myself a Banquet Hungry Man TV chicken dinner, turned on the camera and proceeded to talk to my friends, who I knew would enjoy such silliness. I thought of making more, of making it a regular thing, but the camera was only borrowed and I had to give it back the next day. But I was younger, more energetic, and better looking back then. I had more confidence. Hey, I’ve been through some crap since then.

I’ve always been a ham when cameras are around, but that’s cooled way down. Now I avoid them like the plague. Can I get over that enough to actually sit and talk into a camera for 10 minutes? This also brings up the fact that I have a slight speech impediment. It’s nothing you notice in normal conversation, but on camera it might be more noticeable. Should I even care? Should I just put myself out there, stammering, sagging, and saying stupid shit about…what? I haven’t even come up with an idea about what my vlog content would be. You can’t just get up there without a plan.

I may make a couple of scratch videos that I can study and learn from and then delete. This will most likely mean several weeks—maybe even months—of practice and developing. But do I have time for that? In a lot of ways, keeping a vlog for just two weeks is like making an album. If one video takes as much work as one song does, I could have my album—even if I farted around a bit—completed in less than a month. In the time it would take for me to work myself up to vlogging and then actually do it, I could make two albums!

My conclusion then is that I’d better finish this damned album before I start thinking about a vlog.

In the meantime, here are some great ones that I follow (images contain links):

ANSWERS WITH JOE
Vlogger’s Name: Joe Scott
Content: “Get interesting, amazing, funny, mind-shifting, eye-opening, informative answers. Every Monday.”
My Comments: Joe covers a lot of quantum science, but he sometimes delves into politics, religion, philosophy, and his everyday life in Texas, from house training his Pug to making the (im)perfect Old Fashioned. Because of his background in film making, acting and comedy, his videos are always entertaining, candid, and, if intended to be, funny.
Suggested Video: How to Meet George Lucas (Almost)

WINE MOM
Vlogger’s Name: Hannah Williams
Content: “Wine enthusiast who has become famous for her work with BuzzFeed. She is known for dishing out parenting advice over a glass of wine in BuzzFeed’s “Wine Mom” series of YouTube videos.”
My Comments: Don’t let the blurb fool you. Hannah is flat-out funny, and over more subjects than just parenting. My suggestion is to skip the BuzzFeed page (linked above) and just look her up on YouTube.
Suggested Video: The Worst People to Drink Wine With

GUITAR GURU (Lynch Lynks)
Vlogger’s Name: Jay Parmar
Content: “Jay Parmar is a professional Guitarist/Songwriter/Producer/Guitar builder. His music is immersed in feel, emotion and depth and his guitar playing is infused with eastern influence which he utilised to create tangible sonic soundscapes that are emotive and thought provoking.”
My Comments: Jay is Britain’s best kept secret, but he’s getting out there with his tutorials as well as his videos on inspiration and where creativity comes from. His love of life, his gentleness, and his humor are infectious. Oh, and did I say? This man can really, really play!
Suggested Video: Inspiration – Picture of Success, Flow, Karma, and Books

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Controlling the Chaos

My current project of decluttering my life is already producing the effects I wished for. With each thing I discard I feel freer and lighter. This isn’t confined only to the material possessions I’ve kept through the years, it also includes outdated, ill-fitting, or otherwise unnecessary ideas and goals, but it begins with the material world and filters on through the mental, emotional, and spiritual. Funny how that works. I’ve always maintained that our outer environment reveals the condition of our inner state and, this cottage, with its doilies, figurines, lace, and old family chotchkies revealed my need for a home life I enjoyed growing up. It’s been nurturing and safe, but I’m ready to step out from that womb. I’m not saying I don’t like the cottage style, I’m just tired of it. It’s holding me back and it no longer resonates with who I’m evolving into, and who Nettl and I are becoming as a couple. Oddly, when I was younger I adored the grandma look, but now that I’m of the grandma age, I want a more active look. As I said to Nettl one night last week, “I don’t want the ‘Arsenic And Old Lace’ look anymore.”

I have about two weeks to get this place ready for the new furniture and as you probably have experienced in your own life, when you pick out a new sofa you notice other things that need to be replaced. Suddenly, the drapes are tired, the coffee table is out of place, and the walls are no longer crisp. Fortunately, our current wall color, a warm café au lait, works well with the new colors, which are taupe, tan, and espresso, like this Peppered Tones palette, minus the blue. I can’t tell you how relieved I am. I wasn’t looking forward to painting these two rooms again. But buying the right paint really paid off. It hasn’t faded, chipped or washed off a bit since we rolled it on nearly eight years ago. Now, that’s great paint!

The most arduous part of this project is emotional, though. Thoughts of Oh, look. Mom’s doilies! and I remember when we bought this! flood my mind, and I’m forced to decide which box something is destined for: “Keep on Display,” “Store in Attic,” “Donate to Habitat,” or “Trash.” You have to be mentally and emotionally ready for this kind of decluttering; it isn’t something I’d advise you force yourself to do. You’ll know when (or even if) you’re ready when the urge to feel unencumbered  outweighs your sentimentality, and when your peace of mind is crowded and pinched by the things you’ve been holding onto. Whether it’s an idea, a habit, a relationship, an attitude, or a table, you’ll know when it’s time to let it go. If it happens at all. I mean, it’s not mandatory for everyone in order to maintain their happiness. For me, it is. I’m done with the pain, the drama, the fear, the xenophobia, and the chaos of modern life and I’m creating a private world where curiosity, the arts, intellectual pursuits, wanderlust, and the celebration of our diverse and magical world can be celebrated. As above so below, as without so within.

Physically, the hardest part is redoing the gallery wall above the piano in the music room. I’m already taking down the Baroque frames and now irrelevant images, which I want to replace with photos of our travels, book-related events we’ve attended, and our musical performances. All that frilly filigree? Gone. Likewise, the larger wall in the living room is undergoing a radical change. Three framed pieces are being moved to other walls to make room for a grid of black and white photos we’ve taken through the years. Not photos of people, but of architectural elements, storefronts, and other interesting things we’ve shot here in Stillwater.

Mostly, my work right now consists of cleaning out the debris and clutter I’ve accumulated in myself through the years. The physical part of this project ends at the close of the day, but the mental, emotional, and spiritual parts continue.

Hm. I wonder how my inner self will relax once my outer self is planted in the recliner we’re buying…

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You Need to Laugh More

Maybe it’s because this blog just looks so black and white, so straight and hasn’t a proper title indicating what my writing style is that some of my readers don’t pick up on the fact that almost everything I say is rather tongue-in-cheek. If you know me personally, or have been around since the days of my old blog, then you’re well-acquainted with my brand of humor. I may have to change the look of this place, however, to give newcomers some idea of what’s in store for them. But here’s a pret-ty solid rule of thumb: if I’m complaining, I’m most likely embellishing the actual situation or my life in general, and things aren’t half as difficult as I make them sound. I appreciate your concern for me, but really, I’m OK.

While contemplating the general style of my personal humor, it occurred to me I might need to do a little research. Do I even know what kind of sense of humor I have? Do you know what kind you have? First of all, I ran into a lot of sites containing long lists of the different types of humor, but these weren’t about how we approach life, they were about comedy.

I’ve never been a big fan of stand up. I much prefer spontaneous humor over someone’s ability to deliver a pre-written, memorized, and well-timed anecdote or joke. There are exceptions, of course. I really love Ellen Degeneres and Billy Connolly, but nothing can make me seriously Laugh Out Loud like watching the old Dean Martin Celebrity Roasts on YouTube. The newer roasts aren’t funny to me in the least, because they’re so mean-spirited. There’s no sense that these newer comedians even remotely like each other whereas the older comedians’ “taking the piss” out of each other just oozes with genuine affection.

But back to defining one’s personal sense of humor. Here’s a little list, borrowed from Psychology Today and tailored to suit my purposes…

Put-Down Humor
This aggressive type of humor is used to criticize and manipulate others through teasing, sarcasm and ridicule. When it’s aimed against politicians, it can be funny and mostly harmless, but in the real world it has a sharper impact. Put-down humor, such as telling friends an embarrassing story about another friend, is a way to deploy aggression and make others look bad so you look good. When challenged on their teasing, the put-down joker often turns to the “just kidding” defense to avoid responsibility even as the barb bites. Wankers. There is no evidence that those who rely on this type of humor are any less well-adjusted, but it does take a toll on personal relationships. I don’t like put-down humor, usually, unless it’s delivered by Don Rickles, but even he can make me cringe. In the wrong hands, it’s nothing but a form of bullying.

Taking The Piss
This less aggressive type of humor is used by friends through good-natured ribbing. It actually means they like each other. Often, someone will say, “If I didn’t like you, I wouldn’t tease you” or “I don’t waste my energy on people I don’t like.” I like this kind of humor as long as it isn’t hurtful or masks a secret dislike, but I don’t often practice it for fear of being misunderstood and inadvertently hurting someone.

Bonding Humor
People who use bonding humor are fun to have around. They say amusing things, tell jokes, engage in witty banter and generally lighten the mood. These are the people who give humor a good name. They’re perceived as warm, down-to-earth and kind, good at reducing the tension in uncomfortable situations and able to laugh at their own faults. Ellen DeGeneres embraces her audience by sharing good-natured, relatable humor. Her basic message is, “We’re alike, we find the same things funny, and we’re all in this together.” This is probably most like my humor than any other on this list. Nonetheless, bonding humor can have a dark side. After all, a feeling of inclusion can be made sweeter by knowing that someone else is on the outs. President John F. Kennedy and his brothers often invited a hated acquaintance to vacation with them. They’d be polite to his face, but behind his back the brothers united in deriding the hapless guest. Not my cup of tea at all. This is what I call “clique” humor, something I’ve been victim to on too many occasions to name. This, too is just bullying. You can have it.

Self-Deprecating Humor
In this style of humor, you make yourself the butt of the joke for the amusement of others. Often deployed by people who are eager to ingratiate themselves, it’s the familiar clown or “fat guy” playfulness that we loved in John Belushi and Chris Farley—both of whom suffered for their success. A small dose of it is charming, but a little goes a long way: routinely offering yourself up to be humiliated erodes your self-respect, fostering depression and anxiety. It also can backfire by making other people feel uncomfortable because it may remind others of their own tendency toward self-criticism. Farley, who died at age 33 from an overdose, had a streak of self-loathing. “Chris chose the immediate pleasure he got in pleasing others over the long-term cost to himself,” his brother wrote after his death. The bottom line: excelling at this style of humor may lead to party invitations, but it can ultimately exact a high price. There’s nothing funny about self-loathing, or laughing at someone who suffers from it.

Laughing At Life
When we admire someone who doesn’t take him or herself too seriously, this is what we’re talking about. More than just a way of relating to other people, it’s a prism that colors the world in rosier shades. Someone with this outlook deploys humor to cope with challenges, taking a step back and laughing at the absurdities of everyday life. This is my second style of humor. “If I didn’t have a sense of humor, I would have committed suicide long ago,” as the saying goes, and this kind of humor is the very foundation of my existence. If you can’t get this about me, you’re never going to get me. Sorry, but dem’s da fax.

Judging from this list, I’ve discovered that I possess a combination of Bonding Humor and Laughing At Life humor. I suppose the former might be the outcome of exercising the latter: in both the so-called real world  and on this blog, I laugh at my life in an effort to show you we’re all in this together and that we can’t take life too seriously.

Now, go thee hence and laugh at something while I try to figure out what I want to change about the look of this place!

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