Category: Personal

Um… personal?


In the late 80s teenage me became enamored with industrial and electronic music – very young genres at the time. I had been listening to punk and metal and, thanks to Fishbone, had discovered funk and soul and ska, but it was my part time job at a record store that sucked me into electronic and industrial. Every week I’d dig through the promo cassettes we’d receive and take home a few, chosen solely for their album covers or titles. This is how I discovered acts like Ministry, Consolidated, Die Warzau, PWEI, Nine Inch Nails and especially Meat Beat Manifesto.

A roommate and I started cobbling together used equipment (usually purchased on layaway from the dearly departed Galaxy Music on Stone Mountain Hwy) and learning Twelve Tone’s Cakewalk sequencer – first on DOS, and then Windows 3.1. When my roommate and I parted ways, I bought out all this equipment – an ancient PC, a Roland Juno 2, two Ensoniq Mirage’s (one rackmount, one full keyboard), a Yamaha drum machine I mostly repurposed as a sample triggerer, and all the requisite cabling and MIDI garbage to tie it all together. Armed with this stuff, and an old Yamaha bass, Gibson Flying V, and a no-name acoustic, I would stay up late at night after work and create weird, kind of unclassifiable songs. By 1993 I had enough ‘finished’ material to make an album… so I did. I spent forever trying (and mostly failing) to master these tracks and tie them together. I designed an album cover, and burned exactly one CD, which I shared with no one.

I’ve held onto that CD ever since. I dug it out a few years ago to listen to privately and then – with some trepidation – shared it with my son, who was developing his own musical taste and dabbling in trying to create songs. “This is you!? How old is this? How did you do this back then?”

Listening to it over 30 years later… it’s not bad. In fact, it was kind of ahead of its time, or at least in line with what was considered cutting edge in burgeoning electronic music scene at the time I was making it. It sounds dated, but it’s also fascinating to consider that this stuff wasn’t made with a modern DAW – the samples were recorded onto 3.5 inch floppies, painstakingly manipulated and altered, mostly triggered ‘live,’ and sequenced with Cakewalk, which had only MIDI capability at the time. Many of the samples were me playing, either live or converted from an ancient 4-track cassette recorder. Making this stuff now would be easy. Back then it was insanely time consuming and complex. Much of the grit and grime and audio imperfection and degradation comes from this old process, but I kind of think it sounds better because of this. It somehow sounds more organic and lived-in than the sterile electronic music of today.

The 20 year old me was too insecure to share this stuff with anyone. I wonder what could have happened if I hadn’t lacked the confidence to put myself out there all those years ago. But that wasn’t me. I didn’t share. I quit bands as soon as I felt out of my comfort zone. I still have boxes of old 4-track tapes I haven’t listened to in 35 years – many with musical collaborators who are now dead and gone (including the aforementioned roommate) – 3 ring binders filled with art that no one’s ever seen.

But now I’m old, and we’re in a world so flooded with music and media that putting this out there is like dropping a grain of sand on a beach. My kid didn’t recoil upon hearing it so I figured, what the hell.


Leaving YouTube, or What’s Happening to The Intertoobs

Watching the MatPat leaving YouTube video is an interesting thing. The constant repositioning from “I’m going to miss how personal this is and my connection with all of you” to “we’ve achieved penetration in four verticals on YouTube” creates a dissonance that I can’t unsee.

The internet, in its infancy, was supposed to set us free. It was supposed to put information at our fingertips, make life easier, make us more efficient, more capable, happier. People started websites, created and joined listservs, got involved in usenet, and eventually posted to YouTube and streamed on various platforms because they had an interest, a passion, and they wanted to share. Personally, I created my own sites on various topics and inherited and hosted a listserv dedicated to an obscure band for many years just because I wanted to engage with other people who shared my interests, and I wanted to contribute something.

But once capitalism got over its initial trepidation of the internet and began to get its arms around it, everything changed. We moved rapidly into the web being one giant shopping mall. From there it evolved into us, the users, being the product, our data collected in a million ways. And I thought that was bad – the digital us being bought and sold and harvested – but the worst was yet to come, because its next evolution was to convince us to cut out the middlemen and become our own pimps. And so we do – hustling ourselves. Hustling for money. Hustling for clout. Hustling for virtue. Hustling for imaginary internet points.

We were no longer posting because we wanted to share or contribute – We were posting strictly for some kind of digital or material gain. Now platforms are filled with fakers. Skaters who fake skating. Singers who fake singing. Mechanics who don’t really repair. Craftsmen who can’t really build anything. Rugged outdoorsfolks who lie about the comfortable home they go to once the cameras are off. Musclebound fitness gurus slap full of tren and lying about it, hawking pills and powders filled with sawdust and broken dreams.

We’re all doing it on some scale. Social media is awash with people constantly signaling goodness and virtue they don’t exhibit with their actions in meatspace. We’ve replaced judging people for their actions with judging them for their proclamations. When someone posts a profound position, no one asks them what they’re actually doing in real life to support that position – they just celebrate the words and reply “Oh, me too! I’m a good person too!” In the meantime everything in Actual Reality gets worse, and no one seems to understand why. They’re all saying the right things, after all. They’re posting the black squares. They’re encircling their profile pictures with the correct slogans. They’re shit-talking all the right people. Perhaps if we all just post a little bit harder…

And The Hustle has now bled into reality. What are YOU doing that can be monetized? Why are you wasting your time doing things you like for free? Have you considered dropshipping, or trying to create viral videos? Don’t write a whole song – you only need about 40 seconds for a TikTok. Why would you spend any time painting a picture you can’t sell, or playing a video game you’re not streaming and providing color commentary over? You know if you don’t hustle you’re going to get left behind right? I can’t believe you haven’t started a SubStack yet. What are you waiting for?

I’m reminded of the time before the last housing crash, when capitalism was all-in on convincing us that the path to happiness was accumulation. Sad? You don’t have enough stuff! You need a McMansion, a couple of gigantic SUVs, a television the size of a mini-theater in every room! Not only will gross accumulation make you happy, it’ll signal to everyone else just how successful you are! Except we know now, in hindsight, after millions of people had to walk away from mortgages and car notes and into bankruptcy, just how big a lie that was. No matter – the folks who pushed it profited, and that’s what mattered.

Those of us who were early adopters of and involved in the development of the internet thought it would help free the world, and though it sounds naive now you can’t blame us for thinking so. For awhile there it was a wild, untamed, magical place. Those days are long gone and now, rather than free us, the internet has introduced new, even heavier chains.

I’m not in MatPat’s head, so I wonder what it’s like. He’s an internet success story. His net worth is currently estimated at $30 million, and he’s not even 40 years old. So why leave YouTube? And why cry about it? Per the parameters of the rest of the folks hustling online, MatPat is a indisputable Winner. He achieved all they desperately strive for and more. But I’m reminded of musicians of old who would make it big and subsequently become miserable. The music made them rich. It made them famous. But they didn’t become musicians to be rich and famous – they became musicians because they had something they wanted to share. Once that passion became a job it was no longer about sharing. It was about numbers, bottom lines, “verticals.” The joy of making music replaced with the drudgery of making product. And this is what the internet is now doing to our lives, all of us. We all spend all of our online time marketing ourselves in one way or another. Empty, shallow, ultimately meaningless marketing. But humans aren’t mere products, and forcing ourselves to be so makes us miserable, even when it’s working.

I don’t have an answer. I wish I did. My joke about this, as about so many things, is that I really, really need to get to work on that time machine.

Small Intestine Bacterial Overgrowth Redux

Back in 2016 I wrote one post about my battle with SIBO – Small Intestine Bacterial Overgrowth – and nothing since.  Little did I know then that I’d be diagnosed with a bone tumor and life would change in dramatic ways.

At the time of my post I was seeing a nutritionist who had me on a strict diet regimen, and it appeared that it was working.  However, my weight continued to drop.  I reached 130 pounds.  One of our clients, a doc at a local hospital, expressed extreme concern over my condition, and even asked if I’d had an HIV test.  My clothes hung on me loosely, my face was sunken, my pallor made people uncomfortable.  I looked desperately ill.

My attempts to lead a semi-normal life proved to be dangerous.  I had no reserves, my constitution was nil.  I’d fall out exerting the slightest of efforts – literally nearly collapsing.  I wound up in the hospital after an attempt at a casual mountain bike ride, bonking out and wrecking a mere mile and a half into a trail I used to ride without giving it a second thought.

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Giant Cell Tumor – 17 Months Post-Op

Another 4 months another x-ray, and another bout of scanxiety as I wait for the disc of images to arrive and be analyzed by my doc on the east coast.  The ortho here who diagnosed me took a glance and thinks it looks no different from the last scan, so that’s somewhat of a relief.  I never feel full relief until I hear from the experts though.

Well, honestly, I never feel full relief.  There’s a reason for recurring x-rays far out into the future.

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Giant Cell Tumor and Doctors

Let’s talk for a minute about doctors.

I live in a town of approximately 100,000 people in central Oregon. When I was diagnosed with a bone tumor at one of the two orthopedists in the city, I was straight away handed my file and x-rays and referred out to specialists in Portland, Seattle and even Texas, because there’s literally no one in my hometown who is qualified to treat my GCT. I ultimately chose to have it handled at Shands in Florida, for a variety of reasons; I have family working in that organization who helped fast track my case, I have family in Florida who could put us up and assist with recovery and, most important of all, Shands is a learning hospital that has a surgeon on staff who specializes in rare tumors including GCT.

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Windows 10, NVidia, and Paint Shop Pro

I’m a luddite – I love Paint Shop Pro 9. Yeah, I use Illustrator and Photoshop and Inkscape and Gimp and all that goodness but, in a pinch, PSP9’s been my go-to quick and dirty image manipulator forever.

Then I got a fancy new laptop with a fancy new video card… and PSP9 wouldn’t work. It wouldn’t produce a window on launch, even though I could see it there in the task manager, running. And when I uninstalled and tried to reinstall, it hung for infinity on “registering modules.”

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Social Media in 2019

I don’t set resolutions – because calling anything that ensures they won’t be met – but I’m weaning from social media, especially Facebook.  Because it’s tied to our pet sitting business and because too many bands and venues and events and such insist on using Facebook to disseminate information, I want/need to keep my actual account.  For now, anyway.  Since it’s an addiction, my brain keeps conjuring excuses to continue to interact with Facebook.  But as I work my way backwards through my online life, purging my pics and my posts from the site, I’ve discovered unexpected encouragement to see the process through. 

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Giant Cell Tumor – A Year On

My surgery for GCT happened in December of 2017. It’s officially been over a year.

The knee/leg remains problematic. There’s still a significant dead spot due to nerve damage. It’s still prone to becoming sore and tender, and hasn’t the range of movement of its counterpart. It still doesn’t feel normal, like it used to. It doesn’t feel completely right. At this point, a year on, I wonder if this is the new normal. If you’ve read my previous posts, this isn’t news to you.

Over the holidays I spent a couple of weeks helping the in-laws prepare their house for sale, doing frankly quite a bit more manual labor in successive days than I have since the surgery. The area on the outside of my knee, the around the LCL, became painfully sore. This frightened me, because this is the pain I had started experiencing prior to my tumor diagnosis. Weird, since the tumor is on the inside of my leg, but perhaps the irritation came from unconscious favoring or compensating. At any rate, I opted to take a few days and chill on the labor. The pain subsided, but then I went for a mountain bike ride. By the time I’d returned from it the pain was sufficient to effect my walking. My limp was back. That was over a week ago, and while I’m not limping regularly now, it’s still tender. I’m not going down the stairs evenly as I was. Sitting still for any length of time causes it to stiffen up. To be fair, it’s quite cold here now, and that may be contributing to the stiffness.

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Me, The Internet, and My Favorite Band

I’ve never told the complete story of my involvement with the band Fishbone before.  In the past few years however, I’ve experienced a bit of shade thrown at me, some subtle and some overt, by other people who’ve had involvement with them in the time during and after my own.  Typically this has involved downplaying or minimizing my involvement, sometimes accompanied by humble bragging about involvement of their own. My reaction to this has always been to just keep quiet.  Not only am I not big on what could be construed as tooting my own horn, there was a lot of conflict caught up in that time. But I’m tired of holding my peace, I’m thrilled that the band’s classic lineup is back together, and excited that they seem to be experiencing somewhat of a resurgence.  I figure 20 years is long enough, and I’m allowed to have my say, as best I can recollect it.

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Giant Cell Tumor – Surgery and Hardware

I came across this interesting site talking about surgery and hardware in my researching the issues I’ve been having.  It’s been 9 months since my surgery, and my knee isn’t right.  It’s still slowly improving – I think – but I still have to favor it quite a bit.  I can’t kneel on it with weight, it hasn’t the range of motion it used to, and I have to be very careful not to hit the area where the hardware is against anything, even lightly.  On cold days or after serious exertion it hurts – not just where the tumor was, but down the tibia, where the hardware reaches.

I never before considered that bones – living bones – bend, and hardware like what’s installed after a surgery like GCT treatment means preventing part of the bone from bending, and placing stress on it.  I think that the layman’s assumption about hardware is that it’s supposed to make the area where it’s placed stronger.  And in some ways it does… but in others it makes it in a way weaker too.