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writing

Tuesday – Keep Calm and Carry On

There is a lot of stress in the world right now. Unease mixed with outright fear, I think even those who are professing anger and disgust are deeply afraid inside that this will turn out to be everything they say it is.

The bottom line is, the British were right, Keep Calm and Carry On. Thats all you can do. In that vein, I’m enjoying my Spring Break mornings, the kids are sleeping in, the dog is relaxing on her bed, and I’m enjoying some coffee, and catching up on reading. I subscribe to a few literary journals, but I read mostly, “Gulf Coast” published by the University of Houston that I’ve been reading since about 1993. Back then I didn’t plan to be a communications guy, or an english major, I just liked the poetry and the fiction. It’s fully edited, published and managed by the student body of the U of H English department, though it was originally founded by the Blumenthals.

A few years ago I learned that Austin Community College publishes a journal as well called “The Rio Review” and I find that I enjoy it equally. The Rio still has some of the raw creativity that I originally enjoyed in Gulf Coast, but with suitable polish to prevent it being a garage journal.

The University of Texas has a number of journals, each with an area of focus, but I like “Bat City Review” most consistently, as its focus is on creative writing, both fiction and non.

There are so many writers out there with wonderful voices that will never find widespread publication just by nature of the writer’s market these days. We’ve all read stories of the literary journals of old where a writer such as Arthur C Clarke made a solid living publishing short stories in science fiction magazines before publishing a novel, but those days are seemingly behind us. I think that most of us these days just write for our own satisfaction. Sharing our views with the world outside of the shout chambers of the internet, and satisfying that creative urge that drives us all in some way.

If you enjoy creative writing, and you can live with the occasional rough edge, you should absolutely pick up your local university’s journal, it can open your eyes to great gems out there hidden in the creativity crushing muck of the modern world.

I wrote this post while listening to Herbie Hancock’s “Takin’ Off”, which was his first release, and dropped some pieces like “water melon man” into our laps. For which we should be ever grateful. I enjoy that defining track as much as anyone, but I find “Alone and I” and “Driftin” to really speak to me. A lot of folks today only really know Herbie from his later works, during the MTV era, like “Future Shock” and some of the other techno jazz stuff, but he’s as classic as Miles or Coltrane behind all that.

Have a Nice Day.

Categories
music thoughts writing

Jay-Z “Blueprint”

One could make a strong argument that what this album brought to New York on September 11th, 2001 (the original release date) is a bit of what’s missing from America right now. A little bit of a plan, one that doesn’t fly by the seat of the pants, or appeal to nothing more than the base emotions of a group of the uninformed masses. The back and forth lurch the country is making on any given day in any given week is giving us all a collective case of motion sickness, when we aren’t going anywhere in particular it seems. No blueprint.

There is a lot of baggage wrapped up in the back story of this release, with Kanye West having produced half the tracks, there is the weight (for better or worse) that his name lends to things today, that may not have been present when it was released. “Takeover” in particular drips with his influence, but not in a bad way in this listener’s humble opinion. Sampling Jim Morrison adds some excitement to a track that might just be self-aggrandizement with a different artist and producer mix.

Its’ important to remember that when this album was released, Kanye West was not the universal clown celebrity we know today, he was not married to a Kardashian, had not yet stormed the stage at the MTV Music Awards, had not yet proclaimed himself the voice of the nation, nor had he established his undying love for the reality TV star we elected president a few years ago. While I could go on and on with his publicity stunts, the reality was that he was a young and hungry music producer that did some fine work on this and a few other (Ludacris) albums, in the same early 2000s era.

I think my favorite track on the album is “U dont Know”, which was produced by “Just Blaze”. The Motown soul connection is heavy in this one, despite the sped up, almost falsetto chorus line. This is a theme that has appeared in a few other Jay-Z tunes, most notably “Otis” from “Watch the Throne” where he and Kanye worked together sampling the man himself called out in the title within the song.

Another big standout is “Renegade” produced by Eminem, who also accompanied Jay-Z on the recording. It’s missing some of the juvenile flavors that Eminem likes to sprinkle into his recordings, enough so that I, as a grown man, can listen to it without looking around to see who’s watching (judging).

Motherfuckers

Say that I’m foolish I only talk about jewels (bling bling)

Do you fools listen to music or do you just skim through it?

See I’m influenced by the ghetto you ruined

That same dude you gave nothing, I made something doing

What I do through and through and

I give you the news, with a twist it’s just his ghetto point-of-view

Those lyrics are straight and to the point unfortunately I think, they are also often underappreciated for their accuracy. Jay-Z’s universal popularity means that much of the intellect in his writing is glossed over by the pulp populace. Folks that listen to his recordings because he is currently the person they are told to listen to. When you listen to his words, when you dig into the thoughts and emotions of the writing, he is without a doubt the equal of any of the more heavily lauded poets of the literary world.

Categories
critic music thoughts writing

A little John Coltrane

In honor of the release of “Blue World”.

Tidal’s review and backstory