Writing and “Dead-End Living”

On top of music and drumming, one of my other big passions is writing. It makes sense for me, since I have an internal monologue that never shuts up and I can type over 100 words per minute.

I love writing so much that people have told me that I should do NaNoWriMo. This is a challenge where a person spends the month of November writing a novel that is at least 50,000 words in length. By comparison, I wrote a story that was 89,000 words in one day.

To be fair, editing would take a handful of days, which would turn that day into a week. That still leaves three whole weeks.

The story that I wrote is called “Dead-End Living.” In today’s entry, I’m going to write a brief yet semi-detailed synopsis of the story. Where YOU come in is simple: Read the synopsis and let me know if you’d be interested in reading this book. If enough people are interested, then I will invest in editing it and giving it a proper publish.

SYNOPSIS: Dead-End Living
Dead-End Living is the story of a man named Ron. He’s got this fantastic career and is on the edge of retirement. His wife is Kristina, and he’s madly in love with her. They have a young adult son named Kurt.

As Ron approaches retirement, he begins to feel nostalgia for his childhood. This leads him to look up his childhood home, in a small town where he grew up. The home was situated at the end of a road that butts up against a corn field, in a curious dead-end. To his surprise, the house is for sale!

Not only that, but in the back yard is a giant tree. This isn’t just any giant tree. In fact, it’s a tree that Ron planted with his father, back when he was just six years old. His dad told him that it was a “wishing tree,” and that it could make all of his dreams come true.

Ron talks to the owners, who informed him that there was already a buyer. However, the town’s people have an aversion to big city outsiders. Since Ron grew up there, they make an exception for him, and he gets the house.

Ron has two more months of retirement left, but the couple is so excited about their retirement home that they decided that Kristina can go there early to start getting things ready.

Kristina is cleaning the extended garage one afternoon, when a hefty wind storm picks up. In what can only be described as a freak accident, the “Wishing Tree” is blown over. It crushes the extended garage, killing Kristina instantly.

Devastated by this development, Ron takes an early retirement and moves into the house alone. His nostalgic feelings of the past are transformed into a nightmare, when his present and dashed future infect the past with hard feelings.

Making things worse, most of the people he knew moved away, save for a few who never left. Those who knew him are welcoming, while others who view him as a big city outsider have their grievances with his presence.

Ron is beginning to regret his decision. But he also knows that he cannot go back to his old life, and his new life is a far cry from what he had planned.

Alone and in a familiar place that has turned strange, Ron navigates his new world alone, struggling to make sense of his life.

What will he find?

IN THE END
You’d have to read it to find out what Ron finds and what happens.

Although I have ~89,000 words, the book could end up slightly shorter or longer. There are certain elements that I wasn’t happy with when I read the story again today.

I’m torn between finishing this book and starting another one.

John Lennon: 1940-1980 in 2020

As of today, John Lennon has been dead for pretty much as long as he had been alive. That’s something to wrap one’s head around. It is an observation that prompts the consideration of how short life can be.

Everyone has a story about where they were when this happened. Today, I will tell mine.

MY JOHN LENNON STORY
December 1980 was a big deal for me. I would turn 16 years old early in the week. I’d worked the entire summer to purchase a used car, and was looking forward to having my drivers license and freedom.

It started out as possibly the best month ever.

Before the first week of December was done, I had my drivers license, my own car, and enough birthday money that I could do some unsupervised running around.

On December 8, 1980, I left my small Indiana town and drove over to a neighboring small town to pick up my friend, Tom. Tom played keyboards, he was a drummer in the school band for a brief period, and he was the first person with whom I had ever jammed on drums.

Our mission for the day was to go to the K-MART store, about 10 miles away in the nearby “big city” of 60,000 people. Beyond going there, we had no real plan. It was a Monday, there was no school due to snow, and we weren’t about to stay indoors.

We messed around with the little rides out front. They had a horse that rocked back and forth, so we’d put a quarter in it, and then stand behind it like we were perverts or something. It was 16-year-old entertainment in 1980.

Once inside the store, we hung a sharp left and went straight to the records section of the store. We looked at all of the records that we wanted, with the idea that we might buy one.

I saw a copy of DOUBLE FANTASY by John Lennon and picked it up. We were looking at the cover, and joking about how much John and Yoko look alike.

As we were messing around, hypothesizing ideas on how they could make a photo where they put John’s face on Yoko, there was an announcement over the PA system. Announcements were typically reserved for their “Blue Light Special,” but this one was different.

“Attention K-Mart shoppers. The news has just reported that John Lennon has been shot.”

And there we were, being stupid.

We put the record back and made a beeline out the exit, straight to the car. We were both in shock and didn’t say much to one another. I had the radio on and we were listening in the hopes of hearing some news. We heard nothing.

After dropping Tom off at home, I went home and turned on the radio. I sat in my room and noodled on my guitar while I waited to hear something.

Eventually, I heard the report. John Lennon was dead at 40.

HOW THIS IMPACTED ME
Subsequent reports would indicate that he was working on an album titled, “Life Begins at 40.” I’d sit and wonder what the songs on this mythical album might have sounded like. What would he have written about? What songs would I like or not like?

It would be a few months before I would have to force myself to let go of that obsession.

I’d also be torn between wanting to listen to The Beatles and NOT wanting to listen to them. Reminders were everywhere.

I started performing more poorly in school, except for my efforts at band. Outside of music, for the most part, I stopped opening books and stopped participating in school, skating through and barely graduating.

I went to lots of concerts with the idea that I had to go to see that artist perform before they died. While that might sound paranoid, I got to see Ozzy with Randy Rhoads the following year, before Randy died.

It also helped me to re-focus my efforts and goals. In 1978, I got highly distracted by Van Halen and shredding guitar. The passing of John Lennon was encouragement for me to focus on songwriting as much as my musical abilities.

On a side note, it would not be until my post-high school life that I would be able to see through the shredding guitar and learn to appreciate the songwriting abilities of Eddie Van Halen.

In my humble opinion, The Beatles were not stellar musicians. There was nothing that was impressive about their chops, at all. To me, at best, they were serviceable musicians.

Nobody in The Beatles was shredding impressive licks like dancing monkeys. They weren’t known for their technical prowess. In fact, I’d read stories about how the music had to be slowed down in a few instances so that the lead guitar parts could be played.

So where did John and the band source their magical powers? It came from their songwriting abilities.

They were masters of chord progressions, rhythmic pleasantries, and incredible lyrics. This is what made The Beatles great, and it’s what fueled John Lennon for the remainder of his all-too-short life.

So while they were not virtuosos or impresarios, they were serviceable and reliable musicians, and amazing songwriters.

IN THE END
It was 1968 when I got my first toy drum set. With my radio on the floor tom, I would turn on the radio and play along with those songs by The Beatles. This may very well be where I developed my sense of rhythm, and they were there with me the whole time.

Since then, I’ve played many songs by The Beatles and John Lennon, and have been inspired by them many times. John is always an inspiration who actively lives within my being on an almost daily basis.

John would have been 80. Having recently turned 56, I sometimes wonder why I lived so long, while he was cut down so soon. I suppose it’s a mystery that will never get solved, because there are no answers for any of this.

As I write this, I still wonder what Life Begins at 40 would have sounded like. I wonder “what if” about it all, even still. I don’t obsess over it, but I do think about it during this time of year.

What can we do?

Let’s take a chance and fly away… somewhere…

Value and Money

This morning I have been reading lots of recent stories about musicians selling off their catalogs to big companies or investors. The latest was Bob Dylan, who sold his catalog for $300 million.

It reminded me of when Michael Jackson out-bid Paul McCartney for the back-catalog of The Beatles, for somewhere around $50 million.

All of this got me to thinking about the concept of money, how it influences the concept of “value,” and why it should not always be the point of measure for such a concept. I’m mean, if you are BUYING something, then you will want to have an understanding of value.

But what if you’re not buying? What if you just… ARE?

CRITERIA FOR BEING A MUSICIAN
Someone once told me, to my face, “If you’re not making at least $10,000 per year at it, then you are NOT a musician.” Fortunately for me, I never again suffered the displeasure of encountering this person.

This encounter got me thinking about how people apply money as a measure to almost anything and everything. I will maintain the focus of music or musician for most of this.

Still, I will say it. In America, if you do not have money, then you are not treated as a valid human being. You are a “bum,” a “loser,” or at least a big, lazy burden who needs to grab his own bootstraps and pick himself up.

To me, the definition of a “musician” involves a person who has the ability to express themselves via music. They can play an instrument or even just use their own voice.

There are some “nice to have” features, such as reading music, understanding music theory, and engaging in formal study. I have achieved all three of these things. Still, The Beatles did not understand music theory, and Eddie Van Halen couldn’t read sheet music. Should they be discounted? Of course not!

Hell, there are people in the music industry today who cannot play an instrument, and who cannot really sing. They have lots of producers and studio musicians working on their tracks. The producers will modify the vocals to make them on-pitch and in-time.

Then they are lauded as “genius musicians.” How ironic that some who exist in the music industry have more in the way of personality than they do actual musical ability. To me, they aren’t expressing themselves, but their producers are. To be fair, they might write some or all of their own lyrics. But then declaring one’s own self to be a “genius” takes it all way too far.

To wrap up on Kanye, who became my main focus for the past few paragraphs, the guy is a decent rapper. However, he tries to sing and can’t carry a tune in a bucket, and then hails himself to be a musical genius. While he is an extreme example, he is inside the music business, he is raking in millions upon millions, and he has been worked up to the point that he sincerely believes that he’s got musical abilities that he simply does not possess.

My take is that he’s most definitely NOT a musical genius, by any stretch of the imagination. However, even in this I am fine with him calling himself a musician, and NOT because of his money.

His money doesn’t matter. What does matter is that he records tracks and goes out to perform them.

So yes, while I am no fan of Kanye West, and I am pained by his lack of ability and knowledge, I will still recognize him as a “musician.”

THE LOWER END
That’s the higher end, within the context of the music industry. What about those of us at the lower end?

Me, spring of 1966.

I have been making music for my entire life. From the early days of drumming, when I used trash cans and other things to generate various percussive sounds, to the first grade trump recital, to high school marching band, to the theater, jazz, and pep bands, to the ISSMA state competitions, all the way up to writing, recording, and performing with bands since 1984, I felt it in my heart that I was a musician.

I studied trumpet with Gary Hoover. I studied drums with John W. McMahan and Richard Paul, and took formal lessons from players like Chad Wackerman. I studied bass with Dr. Irwin Mueller in college. I’ve taken guitar lessons from a variety of people, most recently Zoot Horn Rollo of Captain Beefheart fame.

I’ve written musicals and have been the Music Director for a few productions. I’ve played drums, guitar, bass, and keyboards in a variety of bands over the past 33+ years. I wrote an album for a singer and worked with studio musicians to get the precise sound that we wanted for the album.

And for all of this, I have no money or fame to show for any of it.

MY PHILOSOPHY
I think that fame and money are a rare thing for musicians. For every rich-and-famous musician, there are thousands of other musicians who have played the clubs, weddings, and other events that play a major role in the lives of people.

And I know way too many musicians, more talented than me, who aren’t making any significant money with music. As great as they are, they will never find fame.

Money and fame aren’t the norm in the world of music, so why use it as a measure of validity? A broke and unknown musician is just as valid as a rich and famous musician.

SOME CASE STUDIES
There are a few extreme best-case studies for my idea. One can be found in my friend, the late Nick Menza, who was a pro drummer with Megadeth for roughly 11 years. After he was let go, he never got another huge gig. For the remaining 19 years of his life, he played drums in a few bands, played guitar on a few projects, and made his living in woodworking in a drum-related shop.

Even though he was no longer in Megadeth, was no longer in a big band, and not making big money, and not releasing any new music, he was still a musician to me.

But the most extreme case is a guitarist who was also one of my music teachers, Bill Harkleroad, aka Zoot Horn Rollo of Captain Beefheart fame. His career started with Captain Beefheart in 1969.

Taking a Skype guitar lesson with Zoot Horn Rollo [2017].

At one point, he had a handful of albums and a few world tours under his belt, and he yet was still waiting in line for food stamps and waiting for his mother to send money to pay the rent.

He’s listed in Rolling Stone as one of the top 100 guitarists of all time, and he could barely make two pennies to rub together as a musician. He quit the music business in 1986, to work at a record store, before becoming a guitar teacher.

He never made any money, and only has niche fame, at best. Is he NOT a musician? To the contrary, he IS a musician and always will be.

My final case study is my own uncle, Kevin. He had a band in the late 60s called The Sounder. When I was very little, I would sit on a stool behind the drummer. I’d watch them play their instruments with great excitement. My uncle even wrote out the six-string F Major scale for me, which I kept for almost 10 years before I referenced it after buying my first guitar.

He was a MAJOR early influence on me as a musician.

Is he a musician?

Not anymore. He quit music, declaring it to be “a waste of time.” He married rich women and sat around. Today, he’s overweight and spends his day in a chair. He couldn’t play a chord on a guitar if his life depended on it.

One of my greatest musical inspirations is no longer a musician. Imagine that.

I have taken short breaks from music at times when life demands my total attention. But I will often think up melodies and motifs, rhythms, bass lines, and other things in my head. I’ll sing them into my phone or watch and work them up later.

That is what makes a person a musician, even when they are not making any music at all.

IN THE END
A musician is one who creates music. Nothing more. Nothing less. So long as one is creating or making sound, they are still a musician.

I’ll close this with a Zoot Horn Rollo solo track. Have a great day!

Autism and Music

18 months old [spring 1966]

I was drawn to music at a very early age. While I do play multiple instruments, drums were my first love. I just couldn’t get enough of the rhythmic sounds that could be produced.

By the time I got to high school band, I was completely taking charge of my musical experience. I would write drum cadences, write the music for the drum line, and engage in state and regional competitions.

In college, while studying Percussion Arts, I did play bass with a rock band. This is where I discovered that I could listen to a pop/rock song one time and then be able to play it. There was no sitting with a piece for hours, struggling with it all. It would just happen.

THE SET-UP
At my peak in live performance, in the mid-2000s, I was presented with a special circumstance. My band WHIPLADS was set to do a show with another band, Thomas’ Apartment. They were a bigger band than us, and were friends with our bass player, so we had a big night planned.

That night was important to WHIPLADS because it meant getting lots more exposure and more fans.

Four days before the show, Thomas got a message from his drummer. He had to go to Texas to work on an issue, and found out that he would be stuck there for a few weeks. This meant that they would have to cancel the gig.

Thomas called me and explained it. I told him to NOT cancel the show. “Just give me your CD and a set list tonight, and I’ll meet up with you guys in 24 hours to have a rehearsal.”

“I’m So Confused” by Thomas’ Apartment

Thomas was skeptical of my claim, as was the rest of the band. Their bass player, Billy, was probably the most skeptical. I met Thomas in the alley behind my apartment, got the CD and went to work.

Each song would get four listens. The first was a basic set-up. The second was for rhythmic cues. The third was for musical cues. The final was for lyrical or vocal cues. I scratched out some notes, fitting the entire album onto one page. Then, I slept with the CD on repeat for the entire night.

THE REHEARSAL
The next evening, we met at Uncle Studios in the valley in LA. Everyone walked in and met me for the first time. Billy stood close by the kit, ready to give me guidance.

We go through the first song, and I’m giving the band those unspoken cues that musicians give each other when they’ve worked together for a long time.

Billy was shocked! When the song ended, he said, “Wow, and you were singing along, too!!” I told him that I learned it all, and that I even knew the key signature for each song.

We run through the entire set. There was talk of doing it a second time, but instead we ran through a few songs the band wanted to do over. The consensus was that I was ready to perform.

THE BIG SHOW
The Liquid Den was packed that evening of June 3, 2004. The WHIPLADS set went off without a hitch. I rested between sets, sipping water and eating some bee pollen.

Then I took the stage with the main band for the evening. How did it go? I reviewed the entire set on video, and it was incredible. The last song of the evening, HOLD, was and is my favorite of theirs, so I’m including it below for your review and enjoyment.

June 3, 2004: Performing HOLD with Thomas’ Apartment at The Liquid Den.

SOME TEMPORARY EXCITEMENT
After I did this, I was excited about the idea that maybe I have figured out how to do something neat, AND that I could earn a living by teaching others how to do it.

With that thought, I set out to build a system to re-create what I did, so that I could package it and teach it to people who want to learn.

There was just one problem.

I tested it on my band members, and it didn’t work. They were unable to replicate my success.

In less than two weeks, I determined that the system I had created and wanted to teach was not substantive enough to be effective.

HOW DID I DO IT?
I’ve always been a quick learner who picks up fast. I can memorize entire albums of music, work with bands while using minimal rehearsal time, and work up parts quickly in the recording studio.

Whatever it was, it allowed me to be in at least THREE bands at the same time, while holding down full-time employment and being a father.

No matter how deeply I looked, I could not figure out how I had this ability.

THE POSSIBLE ANSWER
It was late 2017, when I was given proper testing and received the diagnosis of High-Functioning Autism.

Finding out that you are Autistic at the age of 53 is a very difficult thing. It answers lots of questions, and many things can make sense. There are also elements or “features” of Autism that tend to get in the way, and dealing with [or accepting] these things can be demoralizing at times, with no path around them in sight.

The one positive I can see is my musical abilities.

On the plus side, my Autism generated my interest in drums, my undying focus, and my desire to practice all the time.

On the down side, my Autism got in the way when it came to doing certain things, like dealing with people, promoting a band, and keeping a band together in general.

My Autism made a music career possible, while simultaneously getting in the way of it all. It’s a frustration that is sometimes difficult to consider, and the pain it generates can be difficult to endure.

Having an ability and not being able to monetize it might be the greatest frustration and disappointment of my existence.

Today, I keep on with my music, but not for the music industry or anyone else. I do it for me, because I love playing instruments and making music for myself. The music industry might be almost completely dead, but I’m still playing.

IN THE END
So I thought that I had figured out something really cool and useful, but later learned that it was a super power of sorts that could not be properly documented or taught. Can I really call it that if it does nothing for society and cannot really be effectively monetized?

The answers to those questions are simple. My super powers are for me, and as much as they get in the way of life, they can provide things that allow me to cope with life.

As for the money aspect, I absolutely REFUSE to allow a concept so vapid as money to delegitimize or define my powers. Some may say that you cannot call yourself a musician unless you make at least $10,000 with it. Those people are gatekeepers who were not hired by me, which is why I dismiss them and their words.

It’s okay to just be. Make music, write, create, dance… do whatever it is that makes you happy. It doesn’t matter what the world thinks about it. Enjoy it while you can.

Thoughts: “The Social Dilemma” on Netflix, Modern Social Networking, and a Brief History

I watched The Social Dilemma on Netflix yesterday. What these tech workers said struck a major chord with me, and I think that it is something worthy of discussion.

The Netflix Documentary
If you have not yet seen this, below is a clip from YouTube.

In The Social Dilemma, a variety of Tech workers discuss their activities and thoughts on the products they worked to build. These aren’t lower-level Tech workers like myself. Rather, these are founders, owners, and even inventors.

In this documentary, the overwhelming suggestion and concern revolves around the manipulation of individuals for the sake of profits.

Many like to say that if the website is free, then YOU are the product. This is an over-simplification of it all. Others say that your information is getting sold, but they really have no motivation to sell off the data most of the time. Still, others will suggest that your TIME is the product.

Regardless of how it is described, YOU do end up being the product. Their goal is to get you to see certain things, to have certain feelings, and to stay on the site for as long as possible.

It can fairly be classified as an addiction.

My recommendation of this piece revolves around the warning that these people have for the general public; that using these products is addictive. It’s dangerous. It’s lending an individual “reality” to each person who uses the websites. The AI predicts what you like and do not like, and then fashions a reality around these predictions with the intention of getting you to stay.

Before long, you are in your own customized thought bubble, full of confirmation bias. Now you’re trapped in a very comfortable place where everyone agrees with you, and you can even find self-righteous indignation.

Through it all, you will wonder why “the others” are so stupid. “The Others” are people who are not in your tribe. This can be a tribe about politics, religion, music, cooking, or pretty much anything.

While in your own thought bubble, you may encounter other friends who do not fit in with your bubble. Discussions can devolve quickly into fights. Online anger and fighting is no accident, and it generates a phenomenon known as Engagement. It doesn’t matter why you stay on, so long as you’re on. And if the inspiration is negative or destructive, then so be it.

RATING
Out of 5 stars, I would rate The Social Dilemma at 4.5 stars. I found myself getting distracted at times, when they would flip between the experts talking and the scenes with actors that illustrated how people, families, and communities are impacted.

Lynda Weinmann as Lady Gaga, and me as “Justin Bieber in 30 Years” at the Lynda.com Halloween party 2011.

MY THOUGHTS
Disclaimer: In the interest of full disclosure, I did work in Tech for a number of years, most notably at MySpace (2005-2008) and LinkedIn (2015-2016). I also worked at Lynda.com from 2011-2016, which was owned by two of the documentary’s Executive Producers, Lynda Weinmann and her husband, Bruce Heavin.

There is a blatant difference when comparing social networking of the past to social networking in the post Web 2.0 era that began in 2004.

In the “before times,” I recall using sites like ICQ, mIRC, Yahoo Chat, AOL/AIM, CompuSERVE, and even GeoCities. The internet was referenced as “the wild, wild west,” where anything could happen. Nothing seemed regulated or controlled, and the end-user.

Now, everything is tracked, measured, sometimes encouraged, aggregated, and then used against you in an effort to monopolize your time.

That’s not to say that there weren’t problems before Web 2.0. I recall a period in 1993-1994 where I found myself hopelessly addicted to AOL. Back then, people would be given a set of hours per month to use, and then they would be charged by the hour for any overages. My internet habit was costing me between $400-$700 per month at times.

The one thing I remember slowing me down was the need to actually dial up a phone number, and wait for the modem to shake hands with the server.

Imagine what finances would look like for the world if everyone was still paying per hour for their overages. Then again, it didn’t take long for companies to figure out that it is in their best interest to keep you online for as long as possible.

WEB 2.0 AND MYSPACE
Web 2.0 came into being in 2004, which was when high-speed internet started becoming more ubiquitous. A bigger data pipeline meant that companies could send and receive more packets of data faster than usual. While some details of a website’s functionality will be optimized for the user experience, what made the data transfers bigger was the added data required for tracking.

The high-speed floodgates were opened, and the efforts began.

I started using MySpace in early 2004, when a friend showed it to me and described how his band would use the site to “promote” their shows. I put “promote” in quotes because of how they did it.

Each person in the three-piece band would log in and just add friends like crazy. It seemed like a great idea, until I went to their first heavily-promoted show at Molly Malone’s in Los Angeles.

There were three people there, counting me. On MySpace, it was always the same: “Wish that I could have gone to your show, but X.” For X, it was things like, “but I don’t live in California” or “I’m only 12 years old.” It was a lesson in how having no focus at all can result in failure. But all of this was new.

I made some friends on MySpace and was enjoying being on chat with them. However, the site would always go down. People got frustrated. We even threatened to move over to Friendster, and we did, but the experience was lacking, so we went back to MySpace to wait for Pac-Man to go away. Pac-Man always appeared on the screen when the site was down.

I got so frustrated with this, but then I had an idea. I would look for problems on the website, and then send a message to “Tom,” everyone’s first friend. Maybe that would help them get the site working.

Working at the MySpace HQ with everyone’s first friend, Tom Anderson [2005].

I sent issues to Tom, and he would actually write back and tell me that things were fixed and ask me to test them out. I did this for the better part of a year. Then, in mid-2005, I went to the MySpace offices and got hired on-the-spot.

Next thing you know, I’m one of the ~40 people who are working on the website.

And I did find the problem that was cropping up every time the site would go down and we’d get Pac-Man. In the early dates of the site, there was only ONE server. That server had a bad network cable that they would be jiggling from time to time to keep the site alive.

But it wasn’t long after I got there that this little server became nothing more than a relic, as we were adding new servers to the farm every single day.

The MySpace story is one that could go on for a long time. In the end, the website was destroyed by greed, power grabs, tribal warfare, and a sheer contempt for the people who were using the website.

LYNDA AND LINKEDIN
I got downsized from MySpace in mid-2008, right as the website was about to become irrelevant. For a time, I would be proud to say that I worked at the biggest website in the world during “the years that mattered.”

Then I spent three years freelancing before getting hired on at Lynda.com in mid-2011. I spent five years with that company. But my time there would be cut short. The beginning of my end came in 2015, when they sold the website to LinkedIn for $1.5BLN.

Christmas party with Lynda Weinmann, 2011.

After MySpace, I had vowed to never work in social networking again. I was feeling badly about having a hand in bastardizing the word “friend,” to the point that it is now almost meaningless. Thanks to an acquisition, I found myself once again working for a social networking website.

When I went to their coding Bootcamp, there was this interesting moment where they gave mention to Google’s slogan of “Don’t be evil,” before sharing their own slogan of, “Don’t be creepy.”

After this declaration, the instructor proceeded to show us just how creepy things get with LinkedIn. From tracking, to downloading your contacts regardless of permissions, to recommending your neighbors to you as a potential contact because of geolocation, the picture got grim.

Everyone in the class loved it.

MY PERSONAL USE
I was a heavy-duty power-user from the time that AOL first came out, up until mid-2014. Long story short, I got taken advantage of by a “friend” who said she had cancer. A lot of time and money passed over the months before I finally found the truth.

I’d be had.

So in July 2014 I deleted all of my social networking accounts. I was done. I even deleted this website for about two months, because I was so done with the internet.

ADDICTION
I didn’t think that I was addicted to the websites. After all, I had never experienced addiction to alcohol or drugs, so I was at a loss.

For the first month, I had severe sweats, intrusive thoughts, and other issues. One of these issues is called FOMO, or Fear Of Missing Out.

But an interesting thing happened by the end of the second month. By that time, I started to wonder why I had ever posted anything online, at any time, ever.

A RETURN
And just like that, I was out of the loop. I stayed away from all social networking for almost five years.

Science!

Some might say that YouTube or WordPress are social networking. They do have their qualities that can increase screen time. But I do not really engage with other people too much on these sites. At the very least, interacting with others is secondary to what I do on those sites.

I first returned to Facebook in early April 2019. This was shortly followed by Instagram. I stayed away from Twitter and everything else, just to maintain focus.

A ROCKY START
When I got back on, I instantly felt a great deal of anxiety and dread. One person welcomed me back. Most had no idea that I was gone, which was somewhat surprising.

I’d find myself posting, second-guessing what I posted, and then deleting. I was very uncomfortable. I remembered that feeling of wondering why I had ever posted anything in the first place.

Interactions were difficult, and paranoia was hiding around every single corner.

I kept it up until just a few months ago, when I deleted everything again. This time it was just Facebook and Instagram.

MY ASSESSMENT OF SOCIAL NETWORKING
I think that social networking websites are highly dangerous, not just for me, and not because I am Autistic.

What is the danger?

It’s not that they’ll sell my information, or that they’re trying to sell me ads.

Your brain on social networking. Any questions?

The danger comes when the website has a hold of you. They can inspire anger, frustration, or even nostalgia. Once it has a grip on you, it won’t let go.

This isn’t something that just happened in one bold move in one moment. Rather, this is something that slowly heats up over time.

One thing I noticed was that I was getting invited to join lots of groups. These were groups that promoted political ideologies. Some I agreed with, and some I did not.

What they had in common was that I avoided all of them, because the last thing I needed was either hearing someone who agreed with me 24/7, or someone who disagreed with me all the time.

I did try to join a few music-related groups. But inevitably, someone would get political and I’d boot myself out. Even in community groups, like the one where I can find out what’s happening in my small town, there are people who cannot help but get political.

It started to feel like some people were ignoring me and others were looking for a fight.

FURTHER ACTION REQUIRED
For me, deleting all social networking and not using it is simply not enough, and it never has been. My psyche and general emotional state was hijacked by a combination of social networking business model efforts, as well as my 9-10 month experience with the cancer scammer.

This is why I have started participating in de-programming sessions. Nothing will destroy your view of Humanity faster than social networking sites like Facebook. The scammer, the friends who plotted against me, and the hyper-angry people who fought non-stop had a profound impact on my self-image and how I interact [or don’t] with others.

Social networking sites are unhealthy for regular people, and even more dangerous for those of us who are Autistic. They’re just not good for anyone, except for those who enjoy the fat bottom-line.

IN THE END
There was a time when social networking was mostly fun. Although there was no corporate guidance in the background pulling the strings, I was still addicted to the internet itself.

Now it has been made worse, almost as if the addictive qualities have doubled.

I have backed myself off from the internet, to the point that I have my website, my YouTube page with videos, and this blog.

Today, my internet usage looks very different from any of the old days. I get up early and watch a few videos. Then I get on here and write something, some days. I pay bills, and carefully read some news articles.

With news, especially in video form, I avoid channels that hype, or people who yell at the viewers. The first time they attempt to invoke fear, I unsubscribe. If I get any sensation of being manipulated, at all, then I bail out. I can notice it now, too, thanks to my early de-programming efforts.

If it feels too good or agreeable, I question it.

If I feels too bad or ugly, I question it.

Being in touch with one’s emotions and being able to stop to identify them is important to survival.

Should you watch The Social Dilemma on Netflix, you may feel inspired to delete your social networking accounts as well. If you get that feeling, then I would give you some encouragement.

Firstly, I would encourage you to figure out why you are on Facebook or other social networking sites. Are you there to keep in touch with family? Community? Old friends?

Then ask yourself, “Is this REALLY what I’m doing with it?”

Ask yourself about your mood while using the sites. Are you angry, frustrated, or lashing out at people? Are you being aggressive?

If you try to justify the anger you feel, then stop and ask yourself if this anger is truly productive. No matter how angry you get, it won’t change things that have happened.

Did the things that you believe happened, actually happen?

Obviously, this takes lots of introspection, and I’d recommend this introspection to anyone who is on the fence about deleting their social networking profiles.

But if you possess the fortitude to plow forth and delete your social networking profiles, then I would recommend seeking therapy and talking with them about de-programming yourself to get away from the drive to use social networking sites.

Jaron Lanier has a prominent role in The Social Dilemma, so I’ll leave you with an interview that he gave two years ago. Thank you for reading!

Happy Birthday to Me

It’s a cold and clear morning here in Oregon, in the middle of nowhere. Being older [56] and in the middle of a pandemic, I have extremely low expectations for the day.

Most of what I will do today will involve practicing guitar and taking a day off from the never-ending job search. I’ve never been one for birthday parties and making a big to-do out of it all.

My brother’s birthday is in November, and my little sister’s birthday [RIP] was in late June. When we were kids, there were a handful of years where we lived on a house that was on farm land in the Midwest, where winters can be brutal.

Every year, my sister would have the biggest bonfire birthday party ever. Meanwhile, my brother and I got our birthday cakes and gifts at home while it was cold outside. I was okay with this, but my brother wanted something big, like what our sister had.

One year he and I were given our own bonfire birthday party in July. It ended up being my brother’s birthday party, as I was more at-home in the basement than in the field with everyone else.

It would be almost 45 years later, when I would learn that I am Autistic. A betting person would have taken that birthday party as a clear sign.

Are you someone who doesn’t like big gatherings? The big thing I’d say to you is to not feel badly about it, at all. Some people love those types of things, while others would prefer to keep things more intimate. The latter is me, definitely.

Although not by choice, I will be having the same birthday that I would have had without a pandemic’s help, thank you very much.

With Nick Menza at the YOUTHANASIA album release party, October 31, 1994.

MY FAVORITE BIRTHDAY STORY
This story begins on Halloween 1994. I went to this raging album release party for MEGADETH, when they were releasing YOUTHANASIA.

I was with my future ex-wife, who was pregnant with our son. All of a sudden, I felt a harsh wave of panic over me. In just over one month, I was going to turn 30 years of age.

The problem I had with this was that I was going to be 30, and yet I had not achieved even close to what I had set out to do, with regard to a music career. Plus, I was not happy about being forced into fatherhood [I do love my son], and started to get a nagging sensation that my life was over.

I went out of the castle, over the mote, and went toward the bushes. I did see Dave Ellefson and tried to talk to him, but he told me to “fuck off.” So I ran into some bushes and hid, hoping that my panic would eventually fade and I could re-join the party.

Dave Mustaine at the YOUTHANASIA album release party, October 31, 1994.

Out of nowhere, I am joined behind the bushes by none other than Mr. Menza himself. He asked me what was going on and I told him about it. I said that, “While I am happy for your success and want to celebrate it, I have the nagging sensation that I’ve not achieved what I needed to by age 30, and now the game is over.”

He replied, “Don’t worry about it, dude. Age is just a number. It’s the number of times you’ve been around the sun. It means nothing.”

Had anyone else said this to me, I would have called bullshit. But for some reason, it meant more because Nick had said it. At this point, we had been friends for a few years, so he knew more than a little about me and what I was all about.

A few weeks later, Nick called me and asked if I was doing anything on or near my birthday. I told him that I had no plans, so he invited me to his house to hang out. It would be like a last hurrah before he hit the tour in January 1995, and between dates where he would be playing on television shows. A few other people came and went, but it was mostly just us, drinking beers and listening to music.

He had a really nice drum set in his living room. He says, “My mom told me you could play.” He asked me if there was a song that I’d like to play. I said, “Yes. Holy Wars… The Punishment Due.” He chuckled, handed me a pair of his sticks, and said, “Go for it, dude.”

While I waited for him to put the CD on his stereo system, I just realized that I told Megadeth’s drummer that I could play one of his most difficult songs, and I was about to do just that in his living room!! There was a small wave of panic, which was quickly squashed by my confidence in my ability, since I had been practicing for this moment. Doing this was way easier than attending a big party.

After the song was over, there was a great deal of silence. Nick says, “Dude.”

Nick could say “dude” in 27 different ways, and you’d know exactly what he was saying every single time. This time, I could tell that he was impressed.

We would have a handful of jam sessions throughout the 90s.

WHAT DID I LEARN?
I learned several lessons from the album release party and subsequent birthday get-together.

For one, I learned that it’s true that your age doesn’t matter. I mean, it might matter to record executives in the music industry, but who cares about what they think? I certainly don’t.

I was reminded that my heroes are people.

I learned that “making it” in the music industry is not a determining factor on whether or not a person is a musician. Some will even say that you can’t call yourself a musician unless you make at least $10,000 per year with it. They are wrong.

This lesson was reiterated when Nick was let go from Megadeth in 1997, when he had many years where he didn’t make any money at all from new music or drumming. He was still a musician in spite of it all.

Along these lines, I learned that luck is a MAJOR factor in getting somewhere in the music industry. And luck doesn’t show up just because you’re talented or have prior experience.

I was also reminded of the importance of taking a chance. I moved to LA in 1986 and took a TON of chances, with regard to music and acting. I didn’t make big bucks or become a brand name, but I learned a great deal and had some incredible experiences.

BACK TO 2020
Ah, the best year ever, amirite? Ha!

I suppose that I will be building more new memories, assuming that I survive this mess. Worst case, I can enjoy my old memories while I still have them, and even write about some of them here.

Also, I guess this entry matches up with an earlier entry where I wrote about doing an inventory of your experiences. I’m sensing a theme, so we’ll have more stories from the good old days in the future.

For now, I’m going to post this and get on with the day. Thank you to everyone who read this. I appreciate your time.

Do An Inventory

The purpose of today’s entry is to help my fellow musicians, and maybe others, get through these difficult times.

THE SET-UP
By mid-2014, I was beginning to feel some burn-out. For many years leading up to that, I made sure that I was in at least 2-3 bands at the same time. I would have multiple gigs in one night, sometimes in the form of back-to-back performances at a club, and other times at completely different clubs.

Worst case, I would have to load up two drum sets into two cars. My drum tech, Junior, would follow me to the first club and help set up before going to the second club to do a pre-setup staging. I’d play the show, pack up, and drive myself to the second venue, walking in with my pedal and stick bag.

All of this was after waking up at 6:00am to go to work for an 8-10 hour work day. Chances are good that I had a gig the night before, too.

EXPLORATION
I left the rapid-fire Hollywood gigging world on an involuntary basis in mid-2014. Since this time, I’ve taken a few years to study guitar and music theory, as well as work on “curing” my burn-out.

After 33+ years in Hollywood, I decided to pack up and move to Nowheresville, Oregon.

And just as I was about to start getting somewhere with my relocation and refocus on life, the pandemic hit.

A YEAR OF ???
This past year has brought about some major stress for everyone. For me, the stress hit in the form of constantly feeling blocked when I’d want to sit down and write and record something. Some days, I’ll not want to practice guitar or drums. I’ll make myself do it, and will feel better after.

But I had some higher goals for all of this, including joining a band and gigging out in a more local sense. None of those goals got met.

So what now?

DOING AN INVENTORY
I was talking with someone the other day, and they commented, “You’ve got so many awesome stories to tell!” This was after I shared a few anecdotes about my Hollywood music experiences.

I said, “The problem with these stories is that I don’t have any photographic or video evidence. They sound so unbelievable that they’re not worth telling.”

She replied, “But those stories are for YOU! You lived them, so you get to re-tell them. If someone doesn’t believe it, then that’s fine. They can move on. But you have experiences. You have something to say.”

It got me thinking about all of the people I’ve met and the things I’ve done in my life. Those stories are nice and all, but are they really, truly meaningful?

EDDIE VAN HALEN STORIES
I don’t have any Eddie Van Halen stories, per se. My ex-wife did babysit Wolfgang when he was maybe six months old, for a few months.

Ever since Mr. Van Halen passed away almost two months ago, everyone has been sharing pictures and stories. These are complete strangers on the internet, and their stories are very cool. Most of them have photos, although some do not. The more famous people who tell their stories may not have a photo.

Alex Van Halen, downing it fast before the next song starts.

Nobody worries about anyone challenging their stories or memories, and I’m sure many of them get the skeptical eye by cynics.

But suppose that I did have a Van Halen story.

Well, I have the one about my ex-wife, as noted above. As for me, I met Alex Van Halen at a music store for a signing when I was 16 years old. It was a major highlight of my life.

I took a beer with me so that I could give it to him. He ripped off the tab and downed it, just like in the picture that was inside one of their early albums.

MY OWN STORIES
I have many stories about many famous people I’ve met and jammed with over the decades. But today, I’m going to share a story involving nobody you know, except for me.

There was a time when I would take screen shots of things that others had posted online. I did it so that I could save it and have the memory without having to dig through a website for it.

Every so often I would get post or messages like this one, which was posted on MySpace on November 21, 2005.

This comment was left by a person who ended up attending a few shows and buying some CDs. At the time, it was very meaningful to hear from someone who enjoyed what I was doing.

Should it be any less meaningful now? Certainly, I cannot hang my hat on it or build a career on it. All the same, it is important to remember these types of interactions, especially during the times when we cannot build or otherwise engage new interactions.

A HIGH-LEVEL INVENTORY
My personal inventory is wide-spread over the decades. I once marched as the First Chair of the drum line for an assembled band that performed at Riverfront Stadium for Johnny Bench Day.

I’ve jammed with famous musicians, and also made a few famous friends along the way. I’ve recorded in some awesome studios and have made some decent music, and I’m still proud of it.

I have played every relevant big club on The Sunset Strip as a drummer, bassist, guitarist, and keyboardist. Sometimes there were name changes to the clubs, and it wasn’t with the same band. This was dozens of bands over about 25 years.

I have no record of it, and very few photographs that support the achievement. No matter. I’m not trying to get into an official World Record book or anything. It’s just something that I set as a personal goal. I achieved it. And now, I will enjoy reflecting upon that achievement.

Some will not believe me. That’s fine. They can join the crowd of people who don’t like me and have fun with it.

IN THE END
As you read this, you’re probably in quarantine at home. Maybe you’re wondering when the next gig will take place. Maybe you miss those interactions that you had with other musicians and audience members. And maybe you’re feeling more than a little un-accomplished, to put it nicely.

Take some time to remember the places you’ve been, the people you’ve met, and the things that you’ve done. It doesn’t have to be anything like what I’ve experienced. It can be regular people, even family members, and regular events.

Remembering those times may help us get through these more difficult times.

As for me, I may end up writing some of those stories here.

New Blog: What To Expect

New website, new location, new blog. It’s a fresh start!

2020 — also known as “The BEST Year Ever!” — didn’t do much to inspire, I must admit. My old blogs left a great deal to be desired, to put it nicely.

In this blog, I’ll be writing about music and my personal philosophies regarding music, which sometimes bleed into life philosophy. There will be nothing that sparks controversy or causes division. The world has too much of that already.

So this blog will be way more positive.

I’ll also try to keep things more brief, so I’ll end on that note. Thanks for reading, and see you again soon!

More About My Book, The PDF

Download the e-book today: The PDF: A guaranteed plan on how to “make it” as a STAR in the music industry in 6-8 weeks!

One of my absolute favorite books about the music industry is called “The Manual” by none other than The KLF. It’s a cynical view of the music industry from their perspective in 1988.

The music industry has changed a great deal since 1988. Some of their funny advice still remains true [i.e., don’t practice your instruments]. But other funny advice does not age well [i.e., use your friend’s house phone for your important calls, so they can say they knew you when.]

I love this book. Knowing that The KLF will probably never update the book, I decided to take it upon myself to do just that!

My version of the book includes things like having an online presence as an influencer.

While their book was about how to have a hit record, my book changes the focus to being a “star.” These days, having a hit is nothing compared to being popular online.

The book sells for $1 on Amazon, and the link is above. It’s a short, fun read that might inspire you to look up The Manual.

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