Friday, September 04, 2009

Random musings during the Friday nocturne

Rather than continuing my recent Friday routine of Shuffle Play Fridays, I leave you some random thoughts I’m ruminating on during the early AM on Friday. The coyotes nearby have roused me from my sleep with their barking and calls to one another, so I decided to leave the comfort of my bed, albeit one that had me lying there fully awake, to visit my office and spend some time in front of my computer screen.

-Writing blues

There was a time when I considered my personal pool of energy to be unlimited. What I’m discovering, based on my current experiences is that our individual reservoirs are more likely finite, and we are able to shift resources around, depending on what our focus and priorities are.

Last spring and early summer, I’d work a full day, come home, have dinner with Mary, and retire to my “hobbit hole” and work another three to four hours (and occasionally longer) on what eventually became Moxietown. That wasn’t a sustainable routine, but I did manage to maintain it for six months, or so. Once the book was released and the Moxie Festival completed (which is where the bulk of my sold out title got dispensed), I took some needed time away from serious writing.

Over the winter and during the early spring, I ramped up my writing and began what I thought would be book #3, a book that I intended to be a compilation of my experiences of my sojourn into fundamentalist Xianity during the early 1980s. After completing about 25,000 words, I found the writing becoming mechanical and devoid of much vigor. About February, I came to recognize that for whatever reason, that project needed to be moved to a back burner because I had hit a wall. It has remained on its own SanDisk in my desk drawer since.

After taking a month off, I got reengaged by writing some longer essays, releasing a few snippets, portions and samplings via an occasional blog post here at Words Matter. There have been weeks when I’ve been as prolific as any period that I’ve experienced as a writer. Unfortunately, the summer months (what we’ve had of a summer) have found those bursts of fury spaced further and further apart.

Blogging by and large has been easy for me. One of the reasons that I’ve persevered as a blogger is that I find 1,200 to 1,500 word posts relatively easy to crank out. This blog has become my veritable semi-regular column on a variety of topics, my most recent inclination to write about being music, although music writing and the recent development of Shuffle Play Fridays have been more about creating a weekly blog placeholder, or a means of putting up something that might draw readers back from time to time, as I sometimes get fixated on things like blog stats and return visits. Stupid, eh?

This past week, however, I think my physical fitness focus has caught up with me. The past three or four days, I haven’t had my usual flurry of blog post ideas flooding my head during my work day. Often I jot them down on a scrap of paper or notebook I keep for idea generation during a 90 minute drive to Skowhegan, or some other remote outpost that I serve in my day job. Hence, there has been a paucity of posts here this past week. My work blog has also languished for a much longer period. An occasional idea has floated by, but I’ve been lacking sufficient energy/passion to post it.

I attribute this to channeling so much energy into the physical side of things, which has siphoned off some of my creative energy and fire of late.

Is this a reality for any other writers out there? Does one have to sacrifice being fit and in some semblance of being in shape if they want to become wildly successful, or at least a prolific practitioner, toiling in relative obscurity?

-MOB rules

I can’t abandon Friday morning music musings entirely. Partly, this is a result of my current reading, which is Michael Azerrad’s excellent book about indie rock, Our Band Could Be Your Life. One of the 13 bands that Azerrad highlights is Mission of Burma that seminal Boston-based band that has influenced so many other bands that followed their blazing of the musical trail.

Only rock obscurantists like me care about MOB (my own preferred acronym, although it’s not unique to me, as I’ve seen the band’s name represented as MoB) and their music has receded into the musty corridors populated by vinyl and cassette tapes, both of which I have a deep affinity for.

Formed in Boston, MA in 1979, the band consisted of Roger Miller, Clint Conley, Peter Prescott and Martin Swope. Musically, they were as intense as any punk band, but they were also able to separate themselves from regular three chord crowd through their use of unusual time signatures and chord progressions, as well as tape effects (courtesy of Swope).

A truly groundbreaking outfit, their music was destined to be ignored, or cited long after the band broke up, like most artists that hit the scene too early, or inaccurately time their 15 minutes, only to be a mere wisp of smoke in some grander scheme, a mere rock and roll footnote.

Actually, I’m being a bit hyperbolic concerning MOB (or MoB) because in 1981, they actually signed a record deal with Ace Of Hearts, a Boston-based label run by Rick Harte. Harte was a producer of some local renown and he took a liking to the band after hearing seeing them play live in Boston. As local labels went at the time, Ace of Hearts was a great place of the band to be. Harte cared deeply about his artists and his product. Like most indie labels, small press book publishers, and other creative endeavors operating outside of the mainstream (read, popular, mass-produced culture), distribution tends to be an issue. It was for MOB and Ace of Hearts, which at that time was one of the few indie labels out there.

Their first single, “Academy Fight Song / Max Ernst” single actually sold out very quickly and both songs have become fan staples of the band.

Next came the EP “Signals, Calls And Marches,” which also sold out its initial pressing of 10,000. It was later was reissued by Rykodisc (with six remastered original songs and two bonus tracks – both from their first single) and Matador (with video material and even more bonus tracks). I own the Rykodisc CD version.

Later, the band released the full-length "VS," which is generally considered to be one of their best works, and has been recognized by several critics as one of the best albums of the 80s.

Despite developing a strong following in Boston, and a few other indie outposts at the time, MOB broke up in 1983, partly because of Miller's worsening tinnitus, due in large part to the band’s notoriously loud live performances. The band went out for a farewell tour and released a live album “The Horrible Truth About Burma,” which came out on Ace Of Hearts in 1985.

During the 90s, it was rare to read an interview with a member of a variety of post-punk outfits without them dropping a MOB reference, citing them as a key influence.

The band reformed in 2002, playing a bunch of reunion shows. They garnered rave reviews, drawing old fans, and new acolytes alike. Bob Weston (who plays in Shellac, a math rock outfit, with Steve Albini) had replaced Swope at the mixing board and on tape manipulation. OnoffOn was released in 2004 on Matador, as well as a new live recording. 2005 brought another new record, with several tentative titles, but finally was christened "Obliterati."

There is a new record in the works set to be released next month, on Matador. Recorded in Boston back in March, "The Sound The Speed The Light" has an October 6 release date.

-Front running in Tampa Bay

I’ve chronicled my personal hatred of the team formerly known as the Devil Rays here at Words Matter. My antipathy for the club has a back story that’s hard for me to let go of. Last fall’s AL final between Boston and ball club with its front running fan base that couldn’t go away soon enough, is still fresh in my mind.

Despite a lineup that virtually has no center, and another sub par outing from Josh Beckett (is he injured again?), Boston managed to take two of three important games from TTFKATDRs, hopefully finishing them off, one year after baseball’s dumber prognosticators were hailing them as the AL’s team of the future. Oh yeah—I owe Clay Buchholz an apology, as the young hurler sucked it up last night and gutted out six innings to log another quality start—Buchholz may actually be rounding into a major league pitcher after all.

Tampa Bay is America’s professional sports armpit in my opinion. An overbuilt southern city, devoid of much in the way of culture (typical of much of the “new” south), fans of TTFKATDRs have to be some of the worst bunch of bandwagon riders in all of MLB. For the past three nights, each time NESN’s cameras would pan the crowd (of what should have been a sellout), we saw a wash of empty blue seats, as the good folks of Tampa Bay couldn’t muster enough enthusiasm to even half fill the ugliest and most user-unfriendly professional sports venue in North America (Tropicana Field makes the Big O in Montreal look like Camden Yards), in what was the ball club’s watershed series of the 2009 campaign.

So long Tampa; you got a sniff last year, but now it’s back to being suck city all over again, you foreclosure wasteland, and Siberia of an American urban area, masquerading as a viable place to live and conduct business.

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