Birthday blog-34

[Note: I spent much of the weekend thinking and writing about the bond Mark and I shared around writing. We certainly bonded around sports and simply from spending time together when he was in his formative stage. But that doesn’t always guarantee a closeness later in life.

The driver who hit and killed Mark robbed his parents of many things. She robbed me of my only son, and a relationship I’ll never replace. She also took the brightest of personalities, one with passion (and compassion) from a world sorely in need of people like him.

As difficult as 2017 has been, one of the things that keep us going is knowing that Mark had a passion for Earth, other people (and bringing them together), and of course, writing. We founded the Mark Baumer Sustainability Fund earlier this year. We’re happy to announce that we are now a 501(c)3 nonprofit. We also have a brand new website that just went live. Check it out. Also, today would be a great day to remember Mark by making a contribution to the fund. It’s now tax-deductible and a great end-of-year gift to give for a cause that will support causes and organizations that cultivate traits that were part of Mark’s philosophy of life—love, kindness, and working towards building a better and more equitable world for all people.-jb]


Birthday Blog, Thirty-four (34)



Developing any craft requires diligence, attention to it, and maybe more than anything else—a dogged determination in cultivating it—regardless of how many people flock to your doorstep. I think this an apt application for both writing and music, too.

I’m not a musician, but I’ve had a passion for various kinds of rock-rooted musicology dating back nearly 50 years. I know a thing or two about it, and what I don’t know experientially, I’ve gleaned from a longstanding tradition of reading what once was known as “rock journalism.” While no longer as prevalent as it once was given the demise of print, there are still outlets where this genre of writing resides.

Since we’re on the topic of writing, I think I can weigh-in on this with definite ink stains on my hands, or perhaps better, a worn keyboard on my laptop. It was 2001—I had read Stephen King’s On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft. Afterwards, I decided not to be some occasional dabbler. I set a goal—I wanted to get published. Following King’s prescription, I got up early before work and wrote something every day. After a year of doing this, I got an essay published in Casco Bay Weekly just like King said would happen. I’d really become a writer. Continue reading

Throwing a (World) Party

In lieu of substantive blogging material, I’m planning to throw up random thoughts and ideas for awhile. That should suffice for fresh content until something big shows up at my doorstep. I’m actually fine with transitioning the JBE into a poor man’s Pitchfork if need be. I’ve never been shy about sharing my opinions on music (past and present).

Years ago, I read an article by some music journalist. He was speaking with Karl Wallinger (former member of the Waterboys) and at that time (in the 1990s), Wallinger fronted World Party. I don’t recall the publication. I do remember Wallinger being articulate about his music, however. He was talking about the Beatles, and their influence on his writing and song structure, as well as a host of other things that the British singer-songwriter was weighing-in on at that moment.

Like most things from my past, I boxed up Wallinger (and his music) and stuffed them back into the subconscious recesses of the soft tissue that is my brain’s roomy central archive.

Funny thing about music (at least for me), this material dating back half a century seeps out at unexpected times. With Wallinger and World Party, it was on Sunday, in the early afternoon. This followed my Sunday-morning-coming-down filled with trying to recall everything I’ve been studying from the NFHS Volleyball Rules Book. I had to pass their online exam in order to become certified, and become legit with the Maine Association of Volleyball Officials (MAVO). Continue reading

Hot in Cleveland

I’ve never been to Cleveland. I did drive a U-Haul truck through the middle of the city on a couple of occasions between Mike Pence’s Indiana and Maine. They tell me that the GOP is having their convention in the place where rock and roll is lionized, at least by the arbiters at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

I do remember a night from Cleveland’s past, filled with smoke and burning records. That took place at a strange intersection where baseball and disco came together—at a stadium by the lake that’s a mere memory.

Rock and Roll and disco are like oil and water.

Rock and Roll and disco are like oil and water.

Not much to say today, at least nothing that I can say that won’t get me on the wrong side of the PC fence from the real fascists and censors.

I did have the strangest of dreams last night. I was at the Democratic National Convention and I was supporting Hillary in the most lukewarm sort of ways. Oddly, she had morphed from the frumpy and shrill, to slender (in a female volleyball player’s body) and unassuming. All the attendees were pudgy white males and women worshiping their queen. Bernie Sanders’ gang were not present, so no graying ponytails. Continue reading

Fame is Overrated

Because I follow a few people via Medium, I now get a daily email and digest of content published on the platform. Most of it’s crap, but a handful of stories stand out and I’ll read them. Like this one, about a musician, Mike Posner.

I’d never heard of Posner, actually—at least not until I read his post.

Like a lot of young performers that ascend fame’s ladder, the ride to the top changed who he was, or at least magnified things about him that he found he didn’t like. Of course, the ride back down celebrity’s hill can be equally as dramatic (as well as ego-deflating). To his credit, Posner possessed some measure of self-awareness and took time to reflect and reconsider. Not every young man facing the crash-and-burn of his career would have had his presence of mind, and taken steps to right himself.

After he had a worldwide hit in 2010, with a song called “Cooler Than Me,” he ended up being dropped by his label. Five years later, he had to redefine and yes, reinvent.

Continue reading

Ziggy Played Guitar

[I wrote this Monday night]
As we age, it’s an ongoing battle not to become a nostalgia act—in the music we listen to, the books we read, the clothes we wear—especially when others our own age are entrenched in the past.

I see it on Facebook. In the people that I once knew, went to school with, and most of whom I likely haven’t seen face-to-face in 35 years. And yet, we somehow have some tenuous connection that Mark Zuckerberg is able to exploit?

Last week I was listening to KEXP, one of the stations I enjoy streaming, given the sad state of radio in my own region. I prefer to listen to music that was written and recorded in the last decade and stations like KEXP (from Seattle) play a mix of newer music, while recognizing some of the pioneers and icons of rock and their contribution to the history of the genre.

David Bowie would be one of the latter. In fact, KEXP highlighted Bowie, celebrating his birthday last Friday, with what they were calling “Intergalactic David Bowie Day,” playing a shitload of his music, old, and new, including his latest (and last) album, Blackstar.

David Bowie, as Ziggy Stardust (circa 1973).

David Bowie, as Ziggy Stardust (circa 1973).

Continue reading

Record Stores and Reinvention

Long before I had aspirations to take my writing to the next level, I was merely a writer hiding his writing under a bushel. Back then, records and record stores kept me going. Actually, it was less about record stores, and more about the music that record stores carried.

In the late 1980s, I returned with my young family to the place where my roots were the deepest, which also happened to be close enough to the WBOR radio tower to pull-in its meager radio signal, which emanated out from Brunswick for a 15-20 mile radius, barely reaching Durham, where we were living with my in-laws. The signal was slightly stronger on the Lisbon Falls side of the river where we moved waiting for our house to be built, occupying the downtown side of a duplex at 16 ½ Oak Street, one of Marcel Doyon’s many rental properties in my former hometown. This connected me to late 1980s college rock and the likes of They Might Be Giants, Lois Maffeo, The Fall, and The Replacements. A few years later, I became deeply affected by something called alt-country and the band Uncle Tupelo, as well as a host of bands on the long defunct Faye Records label out of another college town, Columbia, Missouri.
Continue reading

Losing Scott Miller

I’m sure much of my prattling on about music and my own music listening history seems irrelevant to most of those that stumble across the JBE. I really don’t know why that is.

At Lisbon High School, my friends and I all had tastes that ran counter to the Molly Hatchett, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Eddie Money, and Meatloaf that most of our classmates were listening to. At the time, this difference and separation was a badge of superiority that we wore prominently. Now, I realize that musical tastes, much like food, are subjective. Continue reading

A Writer Who Works

Will write for food.

Will write for food.

The writing life is seen as a romantic one, at least by some—usually people who don’t write, or merely dabble at the craft.

Since 2003, I’ve been a writer who works a job. By that I mean that I’m not fully supporting my lifestyle from writing. I have an outside job (or jobs); those purer than the driven snow might look askance at that. Continue reading

Egan Franzen Freedom Squad

February has been a good month for reading books. My goal is set for reading a minimum of 30 books every year–I’ve read nine during the year’s snowiest month, after completing Jennifer Egan’s A Visit from the Goon Squad. I blazed through it in all of four days. Can I keep up that pace? Only time will tell.

Jennifer Egan's "A Visit from the Goon Squad"

Jennifer Egan’s “A Visit from the Goon Squad”

Egan’s book has been on my list of must-read titles for awhile. The book generated a buzz when it first came out. Also, I read her novel, Look at Me, after seeing her in person at the 2011 Boston Book Festival, and it was a terrific read. Of course with me, fiction is often shunted aside,while other nonfiction titles cut the line.

After finally reading it, I can see why critics loved it, yet I was somewhat disappointed; I found Goon Squad to be less entertaining and affecting than my first Egan experience. That is to say that critics, who love to levitate above the hoi polloi, lap up writing and novelists that pander and play to trends, especially if there’s a nod to technology, and an offer of a few new literary tricks. I’m not saying that Egan’s intent was to pander, as some of the interviews I’ve read related to the book indicate that her tack for Goon Squad was likely aligned with her desire to write a “more ambitious” novel, which often means changing things up a bit. 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