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Old Fashioned

“Some old-fashioned things like fresh air and sunshine are hard to beat. In our mad rush for progress and modern improvements let’s be sure we take along with us all the old-fashioned things worth while.” Laura Ingles Wilder

Angie ended her Friday morning yoga class with this quote and I have been carrying it all weekend. We spent most of yesterday afternoon canning tomato sauce from tomatoes purchased from a local farm stand. We made 5 quarts and it took all afternoon. We passed the time reading Stephen King books – The Outsider and Misery.  We have done several canning sessions this Summer. I made enough strawberry jam to last the year and our own tomato plants, although bountiful, seem to rot when they ripen. It is not quite the blight but it is pretty close. Not wanting to waste all those “green lovelies” we chose to make green tomato salsa. It is delicious and has some heat. Our daughter dubbed it “Satan says hello salsa”. Perfect. 

Like reading books or making acoustic music, canning and gardening are old fashioned. We make space for these activities in our lives because they provide a value and experience that are “hard to beat”.  Going for a walk, sitting by a river, watching the bees, seeing the sun rise; I try to make the most of these moments because I know soon enough I’ll be hoping in a car and racing off (or firing up a computer to…..).

So although I am thankful to anyone who bothers to read these ramblings, I hope you may think of these words by Laura Ingles Wilder and take a moment to pause and enjoy some old fashioned things.

Thanks for reading,

Josh

(written using TextEdit and pasted into WP)

Body of Evidence

I took a break from my songwriting project, Extraneous Solutions, when we packed up our old house and moved to Vermont. I tried writing some songs in September and October of 2017 in my new studio and came up with a concept and a chorus that I liked but was unhappy with the results of the recordings. Then the siren call to make a yoga/meditation album caused me to put Extraneous on the cooling rack. I spent the next two months writing and recording This Side of the Mountain. Since January 2018 I hadn’t  written anything.

 

I practiced classical guitar music, booked some weddings and restaurant gigs, taught middle school chorus & band full time, and left my songwriting journal untouched.

 

Fast forward to May 2018. I keep a stack of CD’s in my car and one day I listened to the songs I was working on back in Sept/Oct. I still really liked the chorus of one of the songs and decided I would rework the rest of it. I ditched all of the music and lyrics for the verses and began rewriting.

 

With previous Extraneous Solutions songs I gave myself a one month deadline. It was now June and no one was expecting anything from me, so there was no pressure to release. Extraneous Solutions had been quiet for almost a year and a half. It would be easy to just let it go and focus on the more commercially viable stuff I write. I ignored that internal voice and kept working on it with the intention of releasing if I thought it was any good (That means that I like it. Good is a highly subjective term to apply to a song!! And frankly the only reason Extraneous Solutions exists at all is because I like to listen to the songs.)

 

I finished it. I actually really like it. I call it “Body of Evidence”. It represents an Artistic departure from most of the Extraneous Solutions catalog, however it still fits the “No Genre, No Artistic Limitations” rule that I set from the beginning of the project. Songwriting is a lot like gardening. You put seeds or little plants in the ground, give them lots of water and sunlight, weed out the bad stuff, and what grows will nourish you. Extraneous Solutions are the songs that maybe are not as nutrient packed, look as pretty, or are as popular as the Kale and Spinach but they keep the artist healthy and satisfied. 
Thanks for reading

 

Josh

Our Famous Green Smoothie Recipe

A breakfast staple at our house is this warm green smoothie.

It is warm because we boil the ginger and turmeric root. It makes a tea that is the liquid base of the smoothie.

 

I do not measure when I make this so here goes:

 

Ingredients:

 

Ginger root – about a thumbs length roughly chopped

Turmeric root – about a thumbs length chopped if you’ve got it, otherwise teaspoon of powered is fine

1 Banana – peeled

1 Apple – cored and sliced

Pineapple – a few good-sized chunks – I like pineapple so I am heavy handed.

Blueberries – fresh is best but frozen will do – a handful

Raspberry/Strawberry/Blackberry – a few will do if you’ve got them.

2 dates – medjool dates pitted

2 figs – I like the big Turkish figs but any fig will do.

Kale – 2-3 large leaves ripped up – I prefer Lacinto Kale but Curly Kale is yummy as well.

Spinach – a handful of leaves

Hemp Seed – about a tablespoon

Flax Seed – about a tablespoon Ground up (we use Bob’s Red Mills but any kind will do)

Chia Seed – about a teaspoon.

 

Here’s what we do:

 

1.Pour 2-3 cups of water in a small saucepan and boil the Ginger and Turmeric root.

 

2. In the blender add the rest of the ingredients. (We use a Vita-Mix, I recommend them)

3. Pour the contents of the Ginger/Turmeric tea over all of it.

4. Blend until smooth. Add more water if too thick. Use less water next time if it is too thin.

Usually makes 2-3 pint glasses full.

Here’s to your health,

Drink.

Thanks for reading

 

Josh

 

Not Click Bait

An individual commented on one of my earlier blog posts suggesting that I “monetize my traffic” with ads. That I shouldn’t let my “amazing content and traffic” go to waste. (He obviously doesn’t read my blog) I marked it as spam and deleted it. But why wouldn’t I take the advice?

 

Idealism?

 

Yup.

 

That should be the end of this post but perhaps it deserves some explanation.

 

 

I started writing this blog because I wanted to share how my family applied various philosophies like a vegan diet, zero-waste, minimalism, and mindfulness to our daily lives. The blog was a way for me to share a series I was doing on Instagram easily with others. So those people who found it useful could refer to it without having to dig through my Instagram page to find the posts again. It seemed helpful and I hope it still is.

 

Idealism.

 

We don’t have programmed TV in the house (cable, satellite, or antenna). Primarily because the content is horrible and you have to suffer through 20 minutes of ads for every hour you watch. So TV is gone due to bad content and ads.

 

We pay for services like Netflix, Amazon Prime, and Apple Music so that we can choose the content and there are no ads.

 

I use an ad blocker on my computer so when I visit weather.com, YouTube, or any other site I see the content quickly without my attention being bombarded with ads. Ads I do not want to see.

 

Here’s an example. We’re a vegan family and sometimes on the videos I post on my YouTube Channel; YouTube will run ads for things like Omaha Steaks. They will do this whether or not I monetize my videos. That is their business model. Sell advertising space with analytics so you can carefully target your audience. (Got your money’s worth Omaha Steaks??)

 

I pay for a version of wordpress so no ads run on my blog.

You’re welcome.

However, as far as I know I cannot control ads from the “creator” side of YouTube. YouTube users can pay to have an ad free experience with YouTubeRed but the creator does not get to decide that for their specific channel, nor do I have any say in what kinds of ads run on my channel. That’s why I don’t spend a lot of time on YouTube. (If I am wrong about this please comment and set me straight)

What I am really talking about here is creative control. For advertising I think the State of Vermont in the USA has got the right idea. Vermont is one of the few states that does not allow billboards or large signs promoting businesses, products, or services. As a small business, we know that a certain amount of advertising is necessary to make people aware of your brand, products, and services but there are more considerations than just financial and target audience:

The Landscape

The Reading Experience

The Viewing Experience

The Listening Experience

The Shopping Experience

 

Imagine if a movie trailer were to run at the 1 hour mark in a movie in a theater. That would be like reading a blog or a news article and a window pops up urging you to sign up. MY GOD I ALREADY DID!!! LEAVE ME ALONE!!!

 

What kind of experience do you want to take from my blog/website/music???

 

Hopefully it is similar to the one that I want.

 

Simple. Thoughtful. Not Distracting. Useful.

 

Is advertising really the only way to make money using the Internet?

 

Thanks for reading,

 

Josh

 

 

The Journal

When I first started writing songs I used yellow paper with blue lines on it. I would write the lyrics in pencil and keep all of them in a folder. When it came time to practice, I would pull out the lyrics and work on them. Back then – Junior High and Early High School – I didn’t understand the value of revision. I would write and then erase something if I didn’t like it, thus destroying the original idea. I didn’t realize the importance of crossing out and rewriting while still being able to see the original while working on a newer version.

 

As songs stacked up it became clear that a folder filled with loose sheets of paper wasn’t going to cut it and I switched to a three-ring binder. For most of my high school and college life I kept all of my song lyrics, compositions, sheet music, and class notes in a growing collection of binders. I protected really important sheets within plastic sleeves.

 

Sometimes I would type lyrics from these sheets into the computer and save them to “floppy disks”; big ones for the Apple IIE and smaller ones for the Mac 512k Enhanced. However, as the computer world changed, I could no longer open the files and the stack of floppies with all of that “valuable” information became inaccessible. Unless you are diligent about converting file formats and updating any ideas on those disks, they will be lost to planned obsolescence. That’s about the time I discovered The Journal.

 

I have come to see the journal as a piece of resistance. It doesn’t use electricity and it is not owned and controlled by a corporation. Its contents are available year after year without fail. This is really important. Think about all of the things we entrust to large storage systems owned by outside forces. Photos, music, movies, documents, grade books, stock portfolios, insurance plans, and on and on. Data waiting to be mined and sold or erased when they decide they no longer want to hold all of your stuff or you decide not to renew your subscription. But the journal remains private, deeply personal and with care will last decades or even centuries.

 

Certainly the journal has its limitations:

Hard To Share on the internet.

Handwriting can be hard to read.

Handwriting is slower than typing.

 

But it fits on my music stand.

It doesn’t break when I drop it.

They are inexpensive.

They only do 1 thing so they are not distracting.

 

When writing in a journal there is a focus and freedom that does not happen when writing on a computer. I am not constantly attacked by green grammar lines or red spelling alerts or frustrated by formatting presets.

It doesn’t autocorrect or insert annoying bullet points when I make a list.

Now that I think about it, there are many apps that try to make a tablet or computer work like a journal, but like an acoustic instrument’s digital counter part – they fall short.

 

I have come to appreciate both worlds but for creative writing I prefer the analog version.

 

Long Live the Journal.

 

Thanks for reading,

Josh

(This blog post was written by hand in my faithful journal).

Real Things

Some students were playing a song on the piano in my chorus class and one of my students said “That sounds so much better on a real piano than on a keyboard. When ever I play something on the keyboard at home and then play it on the piano here it just sounds so much better here”.

I answered, “Yeah, it’s like meeting someone in real life. You are so much more than a picture of you.”

We laughed.

There’s something about the three dimensionality of live instruments that can not be replicated by electronics. A recording of my guitar playing may be nice but it is not the same as me sitting in the room and playing. In the same way that you get a certain amount of information from a “profile picture and bio” that barely scratches the surface of who that person is. The electronic representation falls short.

 

These students were voicing something that is deep within all of us, a desire for real things. Tangible things. Things you can hold, things that have been shaped by hand. There’s nuance and feel and breath. It is the difference between a potter’s hand tossed pinch bowl on display at their studio and the mass-produced bowl on the shelf at Wal-Mart. It is the difference between the natural singer baring their soul in a coffee house and the auto-tuned pop song on the radio.

 

As a society, we have gotten use to things being mass-produced and engineered to be blemish free (with Free-Shipping!!). And though one may marvel at the appearance of a perfect strawberry, one bite tells you that it’s beauty only goes skin deep. The real flavor is missing. The reason we love strawberries is subtracted and in its place are the flavors of shelf life and idealization.

 

Give me an independent bookstore over Amazon any day. There is nothing better than browsing a well-curated bookstore shelf to find an awesome book. Have you ever browsed for a book on Amazon??……ugg……(of course when I can’t find a specific book locally then Amazon works great, usually…but for browsing…yuck…)

 

I think it is why we love sitting around a campfire with nothing to do but look at the flames, tell stories, and watch the stars come out.

 

 

I think it is why I like physical books and storytellers to movies and TV.

 

And why I return to my classical guitar over my electric just about every time I want to play.

 

A full size keyboard has a prominent place in my studio. It can be my bass guitar or my string orchestra and when making a recording of a song it is a lot more useful than a real piano. However, I prefer to write songs sitting at a real piano. It has to do with inspiration, feel, and density of sound. I suppose it is like the writer who prefers the deliberate attack and dynamics of the typewriter to the computer. There’s just something about it. I write all my song lyrics by hand with a scratchy pen in a journal.

hmm.

For my next post I will hand write it and see if it changes the blogging process……..

Thanks for reading!

Josh

 

 

A Story of Success?

I was playing the other night at an Open Mic event at my daughter’s school. I performed a classical guitar piece called “Shakti Flow” and a song called “Rainbow Butterfly Unicorn Kitty”. The first piece is a serious composition for classical guitar, the second was part of my “write, record, and release a song a month challenge” and is seriously just a lot of fun.

 

After the performances were done I started talking to another guitarist father at the school. It turned out that he had toured Europe with a heavy metal band – which I thought was super cool – and when I told him I was a music teacher, choral, band, and jazz band director, to my surprise – he thought that was super cool. You see he now spends his days as a graphic designer for a print company and he was envious of how I get to spend my days making music with kids.

 

This has happened to me on more than one occasion. We’ll host a fairly famous kirtan group at our yoga studio and when we’re talking about what we do inevitably the fact that I am “doing music” as my “day job” seems to inspire a certain amount of awe. Of course they are seeing the “imagined” view of what they believe that job entails – picture kids happily jamming and hanging on your every word because you are soooooo cool that they can’t help but love you – like some Pied Piper. And likewise, for many years, I thought the touring musician life was it!! The Grass is Always Greener!

 

Then one night, while we were hosting a fairly famous kirtan group, I noticed how exhausted they all looked. Falling asleep on the living room floor because they hadn’t really slept in 3 days and were living out of their van. They hadn’t seen their partners or been home in weeks. This is the side of touring most people don’t see and it applies to all kinds of touring – book tour, speaking tour, rock star yoga teacher tour. What we are shown is the glamour side. The view of the stage, the lights, the crowd, but that part only lasts for a couple of hours on any given night and then it is back in the bus, gulp down some unhealthy food, then go to a crumby hotel room or someone’s couch and try to sleep. On the really special days you sleep in van with four or five others so it turns out that someone’s couch is paradise. There are definitely bonuses – the applause, the song on the charts, the money (maybe but probably not as much as you think – the drummer for Slayer was only making about $67,000 on a tour -roughly $1,000 per show) – the Taylor Swifts of the world are very very few.

 

So from that vantage point, teaching music at a public school with health and retirement benefits not to mention a dependable salary close to that of a Big 4 Metal Drummer seems pretty nice. And in reality it is. I have supported our family of 4 for over 20 years as a public school music teacher. Sure there are days when you want to quit but I suspect that is true with any job.

 

At the end of the day, I have had an impact on young musicians’ lives (many of which are on tour as I am writing this) and I get to eat a healthy meal with my family. We share our lives and then we sleep in our warm house, in our warm beds to the sound of the river.

 

And then I have to fix the toilet or something…….(just bringing it back to reality, this week I fixed our bathtub faucet – how to spend your Spring Beak “Adulting”)

 

Success has been portrayed in the media as being something larger than life. The #1 blogger, #1 musician, #1 athlete, #1 teacher, #1 Company CEO, – and certainly these examples may inspire or will go down in history but is that the only matrix for measuring whether or not you are successful? What if the view from that other side isn’t quite what they’d have you believe? What are you striving for and Why? What did you sacrifice and was it worth it?

 

I think there is value in creating your own definition of what a successful life is and then go live it.

Thanks for reading,

Josh

There’s a Fox among the Chickens

While listening to Mark Zuckerberg testifying before the United States Senate the other day, I was struck by two pieces of information.

  1. There are over 2 billion Facebook users worldwide.
  2. Several Senators seemed to think it would be a good idea for Facebook to help write the regulations for Internet Companies.

 

 

Facebook is in the business of collecting massive amounts of personal data and using it to sell advertising on its platform. Advertising, at its root, is form of manipulation. Through the use of suggestion, a particular product, service, or idea is promoted. If you can know, predict, or influence a person or group’s behavior then you can tailor messages that will resonate with them and they will act.

 

Facebook knows intimately the private lives of over 2 billion people worldwide. Not a single government or person has this kind of reach for their potential influence. Facebook also owns Instagram, What’sApp, and host other companies and all the personal data contained on them. With access to that many eyes and ears it is possible for Mark Z to be the most influential person on the planet and our government wants to let his company write the regulations that are to keep it from abusing its power.

 

With all of the idealist statements of worldwide connection and free use to everyone, I cannot help but be skeptical. I suspect that the fox is among the chickens and the chickens are oblivious.

 

So what to do? Well, I am one person with a blog that only a few hundred people follow but limiting your exposure to Facebook and its companies is probably a good way to reduce the potential influence it may try to have on its users. In the same way that having a variety of news outlets allows for a broader view of a news story, having variety in your social networks (off and on the Internet) will increase your resilience to any one group having too much influence on your life.

 

Thanks for reading,

 

Josh

Internet Pointz

As I have been experimenting with a life without Facebook, I have noticed a common thread that connects so much of the “Social Media” fabric. Likes, Hearts, Retweets, Shares, Views, Followers, Streams, ect. all amount to the same thing: “Internet Pointz”. I went on Twitter to see if one of my favorite authors/thinkers, Yuval Noah Harari, was there and he follows 0 people.

 

I started thinking about the tendency on sites like Instagram. Maybe you’ve experienced it.  Someone follows you and you follow them back and then they unfollow once they’ve collected your follow. It’s like “Farming” for experience points in a video game. You go through these tasks to gain points to level up. Getting to the higher level makes it easier to beat the game. “Click Bait” is a form of “Farming”, “Unfollowing/Followback” is a form of “Farming”, having a title like “Top 5 ways too……” is yet another form. If my post/video/meme/whatever goes viral, is at the top of the Google Search, or if I reach so many Followers, then I am “Winning the Game”.

 

Video games are fun for a short burst of time but do I want to live my life inside the Silicon Valley video game?

 

Do I want to spend my time trying to gather the crumbs that fall from Google’s table?

 

I installed an Ad Blocker in conjunction with Duck Duck Go search engine and the satisfaction I get when I go to weather.com and just see the weather is amazing. I get an even deeper level satisfaction when I go to YouTube and there is a little broken file frowny face instead of an advertisement.

 

I am still experimenting with what my relationship to the Internet is but surely I am not particularly interested in playing their game.

 

Thanks for reading,

 

Josh

The Clean Out

By now you have heard the latest Facebook/Mark Zuckerberg fiasco with our personal data and Cambridge Analytica and the Trump Campaign. It made me think about how much information I gave Facebook. Where I work and live, tons of pictures of my family and friends, likes and dislikes, and at the time it seemed pretty harmless. Who cares if I tell them what my favorite music is, all the books I’ve read, or movies I watch. But that is Facebook’s business model. Get all kinds of information on everybody and sell it to anyone willing to pay for it. In return we’ll give you a platform that You, the user (addict), get to share your life quick and easily with all of your “friends” for “Free”.

 

Hmm. Maybe not Free. Didn’t realize the cost.

 

Today I spent sometime, ironically the most time I have spent on Facebook in months, deleting all that personal information and business pages and other items that are not serving me but certainly serve the Business Model.

 

What if our value wasn’t measured in what could be sold for advertising?

 

I stopped using Google as my search engine.

 

What if our lives and all of our habits were not commodified?

 

I stopped using Facebook.

 

Is selling that information really the only way to make money?

And if the companies who are selling our information are making huge profits why are we giving away that valuable information for free?

 

Hmm. I going to ponder that for a while.

 

I’ll write again later,

 

Josh