Bands That Suck

Indie rock is something I’ve blogged about before. The DIY mindset that permeated the period between say 1979 and 1995, pre-interwebs, was a unique one. If you happened to have tapped into it in some small way—simply as a fan, or perhaps a DJ, let alone as an actual band member—you know that it’s something we’ll never replicate again.

Jon Fine played in what he’d call one of the “weird bands” of that period, first with Bitch Magnet, then later with some bands even less well-known (like Coptic Light and Don Caballero). It’s not like Bitch Magnet’s a household name, but in the world that counts Black Flag and Sonic Youth as the best-known of a group of bands that were all a bit off-center, the period was worth recounting in some detail.

"Your Band Sucks: What I Saw at Indie Rock's Failed Revolution (But Can No Longer Hear)", by Jon Fine

“Your Band Sucks: What I Saw at Indie Rock’s Failed Revolution (But Can No Longer Hear)”, by Jon Fine

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Endorsements

An endorsement carries with it a certain amount of weight and prestige. In publishing, a common practice involves having other writers write a blurb for a book jacket that tells readers how stellar an author’s latest book really is. These are solicited and there is an implied quid pro quo arrangement.

If you’ve reached a certain status as a writer, and you’re still being published by a traditional publisher, then book jackets and filler pages are likely to be crammed with these, along with positive reviews of the book. The bigger the name, the more reviews accompany their books. Amazon is also chock full of reviews for top echelon writers and their books. Continue reading

Still Pushing the Envelope

Aging is many things—we stop being active, no longer take risks, start referring to ourselves as “old”—these are just three things that come to mind when I think of people I know who have transitioned from being “young” to being “old.”

I’ve been thinking about my own life, and what motivates me to keep pushing through resistance. Recently getting another book out the door—my fourth title in nine years—doesn’t qualify as prolific, but it’s still a respectable output for a writer that does more than just write to make a living.

When I set out down the road to be a writer in 2002, I knew nothing about what lie ahead. Fortunately, I was aware that in order to compensate for starting later than many (I was 40 at the time), I would have to work my ass off at learning the craft of writing. For me that’s always been about writing as much as I could carve out time for, in a nod to Stephen King’s advice in On Writing, I’ve written almost every day for the past 12 years.

“Have you written your own success letter?”

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Building a Consistent Body of Work

Taking a book from idea to finished product, especially doing it yourself, is a process. A process, I might add that very few know much about. Many wannabes aspire, but few actually do it once—let alone multiple times.

After the manuscript had been completed for my first book, When Towns Had Teams, I was having trouble finding a publisher for something I’d poured my passion into for more than a year. Faced with a choice—keep banging my head against a door that wouldn’t open (traditional publishing)—or figure out a new way of doing things, I opted for the latter. I launched my own micro-press imprint, RiverVision Press. It became the vehicle to get that first book out, and subsequent titles of mine (as well as one ill-fated foray into publishing a book by someone else).

Once you figure out how to publish your own book independently, you get hooked. You think, “I’ve done it once; can I do it again?” The gauntlet has been laid down. You are determined to work the DIY angle once again and see if you can improve your process.

Building a catalog.

Building a catalog.

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When Weeks Become Months

Last fall I taught a class called Let’s Write That Book: 8 Weeks to Writing and Publishing Your First Book for Lewiston Adult Education. It was my favorite class of all of the ones I’ve taught in the four years I’ve been teaching writing to adult learners.

I didn’t really believe you could write a book in mere weeks, but I wanted a class that was different than the previous narrative nonfiction classes I’d taught—one with a provocative orientation. It obviously worked because we filled the class and ended up with a waiting list.

The class was beneficial for me, as it lit a fire under my own ass and got me motivated to get a fourth book rolling forward. It was also the best group of writers I’d gathered for any of my various classes. Continue reading

Time for Food

Real food takes time. Time to grow it. Time for the harvesting, or the fattening of livestock for those who don’t have an opposition to locally-grown meat.

Since convenience foods have come to predominate the American diet, the home cooked meal has become an endangered species. Families no longer commune around food, instead, everyone fends for themselves. If you have older children, think about the last time you had a family meal that wasn’t a special occasion, but just a normal weeknight. Continue reading

Fridays Are For Music

The JBE loves music. Aspects of the JBE brand are embedded with and influenced by many DIY aspects inherent in music from both the punk and post-punk eras of rock music history.

I still listen to “what’s new” via streaming audio, most often, KEXP, based in Seattle, WMBR (based at MIT), especially Saturday’s James Dean Death Car Experience, and WFMU, one of America’s last free-form radio stations, what’s become an oddity in this age of corporate media consolidation. Continue reading

Sauerkraut is Life

My pedigree is one part German. As a German, I inherited a love of cabbage. My birth family, specifically my Opa, made sauerkraut. One of my treasured memories is being six or seven-years-old and watching Opa, my uncle Bob, and my father shave cabbage using a Krauthobel, or “Hobler,” adding salt, and waiting while it magically changed into sauerkraut. Continue reading

Tackling Plumbing

Plumbing-stock

There are two things I dread as a homeowner; electrical and plumbing issues. I don’t like the thought of “zapping” myself; the mere thought of water cascading across the floor, or spouting from busted pipes makes my stomach churn.

A week before Thanksgiving, our toilets began “gurgling.” Without being too graphic, there’s nothing worse than toilets not flushing efficiently and as they were designed to. With visitors anticipated, I needed a plumber, pronto.  Of course, the week before a holiday is never a good time to find someone with plumbing skills; in fact, there’s never a good time to find a plumber  (or an electrician) to address a quasi-emergency. Continue reading

The University of Autodidactica

Ben Franklin was an autodidact.

Ben Franklin was an autodidact.

An autodidact is someone who is self-taught. In today’s parlance we might call them a “self-directed learner.”

Autodidacts were common in Colonial America. Many of our founding fathers were autodidacts as well as polymaths. Ben Franklin might be one of our nation’s most famous autodidacts. Franklin abandoned formal education at age 10 and we all know how that turned out. Continue reading