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Of Monsters and Men

Of Monsters and Men

So recently I got to check off one item from my bucket list:  getting to see the amazing song Little Talks performed live by Of Monsters and Men.  I just love that song so much; from the moment I first heard it I just swooned.  Every part of the song just brings a goofy smile to my face– the music, the singers, the lyrics– and just etched into my soul the need to see it, feel it, and bathe in the performance.  So when I saw the announcements months ago that they were going to come right here to Richmond to play, I prepared to snap up tickets the moment they were available.

I’m glad I did– the show sold out weeks ago!  But I had my tickets…

Unfortunately, I couldn’t seem to find anyone who wanted to go with me to the show, so I ended up selling the extra ticket.  Thankfully, I did know two friends who already had tickets so I was able to sit with them and enjoy the show in friendly solidarity rather than having to be alone in a crowd like when I went to see the last show (Neko Case).  While I loved getting to see Neko Case live, it was a mixed blessing… being alone in a crowd of people who were all in groups of two, three, or more really kind of emphasized the rather lonely situation of being an older divorced father who’s friends are mostly all paired up and settled down.  Which makes me a bit of a oddball who doesn’t seem to fit in with anyone socially.  I left the show feeling both elated and melancholy.

Thankfully for the Of Monsters and Men show I had two friends to sit with, which made all the difference in the world.  We are really such social animals, and the security of being part of a small group within this huge, sold-out crowd gave me the ability to just lose myself in the music and the energy of the live performance.

This is an actual pic from the show that my friend Tommy took from where we sat

This is an actual pic from the show that my friend Tommy took from where we sat

And oh, what a performance!  Of Monsters and Men is a seven-piece band of some really talented musicians, and they had a joy about them, an obvious love of playing music for a live audience that was infectious and riveting.

The drummer was electric– so full of energy, it seemed to be an effort for him to keep seated and pound on the drums (and quite often he would leap up and run to the front of the stage to get the crowd pumped up before rushing back to his kit).  He was dressed in a suit, along with the base player beside him, though they were just in vests without the coats.  Like most base players, he held down the beat in a low-key way.  The lead guitarist was surprisingly not flashy or looking for attention– he spent most of the show to the side, working his guitar and producing a lot of interesting sound effects via a whole host of effects pedals on the floor at his feet.  He gave me the sense of being a quiet maestro plying his art.

On the other side of the stage from the drummer and base were a man and a woman at two keyboards, though they often jumped up and played other instruments.  The woman played trumpet, accordion, and for one song banged on a huge base drum; the man got up and played accordion on a different song.

Last but not least were the two lead singers, who also played acoustic guitars.  The man was short, round, and red-haired, and reminded me of a gnome.  He had a cool and real interesting singing voice.  The woman was short, dark-haired and waifish, and sung like the Icelandic angel that she is– her voice reminded me a lot of Björk from the Sugarcubes, a high-pitched lilt, but without Björk’s weirdness.  The two singers’ voices were different but sounded great both solo and harmonized together.

The band not only demonstrated great musicianship but great showmanship as well.  They obviously subscribe to the notion I do as well, that art isn’t just what is being produced by the artist, but it’s what’s found in that space between artist and the audience.  They got a real charge out of getting the audience singing along, clapping along, stomping along, waving and cheering.  They gave me a real creative jolt being a part of the experience, and my mind whirled with ideas as I drove home.  I was grateful to be able to experience it with my friends Tommy and Amy, to be part of a little group within the crowd, so I could both experience the thrill and the joy of the music without feeling lonely, and also have someone there who I could talk to, smile with, and just share in the performance.

If you ever get a chance to see Of Monsters and Men, I heartily recommend it!  Below the cut I’ve got a link to a Youtube video of them performing live (in a more intimate location), as well as lyrics to the song Little Talks — I really love the words to the song, it strikes me as a ghost story, with the girl’s part being the living person, and the guy’s part being either a ghost or maybe a voice in her head.  What about you?     (more…)

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Genius is one percent inspiration, ninety-nine percent perspiration.
— Thomas Edison

I went through a brief phase where I thought I was going to be an artist when I grew up.  I loved to draw, and one thing I really loved drawing the most was cartoons.  For a while I wrote a comic strip called Cheese that was basically The Odd Couple but with mice.  Then I started writing illustrated stories, and finally pivoted to comic books, which I was obsessed with for a long while.  I just knew my future was in drawing comic books.  I cooked up all kinds of cool stories around my own batch of super-heroes, and had fun laying out the frames and drawing the scenes.

The only problem… my artistic skills just didn’t cut it.  I’d write these great story plots and characters, and try to draw it out… and it just looked lame to me.  I mean, it wasn’t bad, just wasn’t nearly as good as I wanted it to be.

I tried to improve my skills.  I got a book called How To Draw Comics The Marvel Way and practiced.  But it felt after a while that I’d reached the limits of my drawing ability, and it just wasn’t good enough.

I was crushed… but I found that my mind was still churning out characters and stories, even after I stopped trying to draw them.  Maybe I didn’t need pictures to tell my tales…

From eighth grade through my early 20s, I spent a lot of time writing stories and outlining ideas.  I dabbled in screenwriting for a while, which was fascinating as totally different craft from free-form fiction writing.  Eventually though, life got in the way and I stopped writing.

Only, I actually didn’t stop.  I got caught up in a collectible card game called Magic, and got involved in the Magic community and soon became a regular writer about Magic for various venues.  I wrote about Magic for websites and magazines.  I’ve been writing at least 2,000-3,000 words about Magic every single week for 12 years.  That’s… *quick calculation*… 1,560,000 words, and that’s probably lowballing it.  That’s quite a lot of writing.  Granted, it’s writing about something that I love, which I consider relatively “easy” to do, but I’ve recently realized that I’ve gotten really, really good at it.  Sure, some weeks I don’t do my best work, but in general I know I do a great job of it.

And I realize that it’s made me a better writer in general.  The skills I’ve honed writing about Magic can be applied to all my writing.

I decided last year I wanted to branch out into other forms of writing, to take those skills and put them to work in other ways.  To connect to people outside of my hobby through my writing.  Inspired by a few friends who were dabbling in blogging, I created My Ideal Woman and have had a great time writing here.  Recently I went ahead and expanded my blogging to two other blogs, Talking TV and Ben_Scared in order to keep MIW more focused while also expanding the sort of writing I was doing.  I’m almost up to 100 blog posts.  And I’m still writing 2,000-3,000 words about Magic.

What I’ve noticed is that all this writing has really gotten my mind charged up.  I’m always thinking about something to write about:  something about Magic, something for one of my blogs.  And recently—story concepts, movie scenes.  My brain is always chewing over ideas, in the back of my mind while I’m working, in the shower, while I’m driving, while I’m sleeping.  The brain is an amazing thing when you really exercise it, and I think doing all this writing has really amped it up.

That old adage of “just write” is so true.  Just push through, write, even if it’s not popping, you can always go back and polish up later.  If you get stuck, write something else and let your subconscious work through it.

Knowing how many words I already write each week led me to wonder—how many words are in a novel?  I heard that an average 400 page book is 120,000 words.  That breaks down to 2,300 words a week for a year.  Which is something I already do writing about Magic!  If I translated all the words I’ve written about Magic into pages in a book, that’s 5,200 pages!

Granted, writing fiction is a lot more involved than writing about your favorite hobby, or blogging about life, love and television, but it was exciting to realize—I’m already operating at that level of word production.  If I can carve out a little extra time, I can certainly start working on fiction.  I started Ben_Scared as a way to prep my mind back into fiction writing, by typing up my old horror stories and polishing them with the skills I’ve learned in the 20 years since I wrote most of them.  I hope to reconnect with my old screenwriting group as well, to surround myself with creative people and get my brain back into fictional storytelling.

These are exciting times to be a writer.  As the wonderful subtlekate recently discussed on her blog, “facts are easy” – back when I started writing, you had to log a lot of time in the library to research for stories, pouring through books and magazines.  Now just about everything you need to know is just a Google search away, which lets you spend more time and energy on crafting the stories you want to tell.  Accessibility to facts and source material is no real obstacle anymore.

There are also so many avenues available for self-publication and promotion now with blogging and social media and all sorts of things through the internet.  Granted, there are a lot writers out there who have access to all the same tools and channels as I do, but I have faith that if someone has talent and a compelling story to tell, they will find an audience if they make the effort.

Here’s to making that effort!  Just write.

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The other night I was watching Frida on Starz.  I’ve watched it before, but not lately– not since I started writing this blog, but I think something about being high on two margaritas (two REALLY BIG margaritas) took it up another level, left me in a swirl of emotions, desires and deep thoughts.

In the first post I wrote on this blog, …She Would Be Creative, I talked how I enjoy being around creative people, and creative women in particular.  “The Universe is creation.  Life is creation.  The amazing thing about humankind is our ability to look at the world around us and affect change.”

There’s an energy that flows between creative minds that creates this awesome feedback loop, and as I watched the two artists Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera begin their love affair, I couldn’t help but be captivated imagining how amazing it must have been to add physical and emotional passion to their creative connection.

There’s the scene where they are about to get intimate, and Frida expresses some hesitancy due to her disfigurement from the bus & trolly collision that badly injured her.

Frida:  I have a scar.

Diego:  Let me see it…  (after seeing the scar) You’re perfect.  Perfect.

That scene carried me back to the guest spot I wrote for Simply Solo, The Spice of Life, writing about firsts.  “The first time you learn that something you find adorable in your lady – her nose, her lips, her ears, or her fingers – is something she’s self-conscious about.”  So often things that your lover views as flaws are things that you find precious.  The scars don’t make Frida ugly, the scars are just another part of the woman he loves.

Visually the scene very much evokes to me the feelings I had while writing …She’d Have Curves (pt 2), as Diego’s hands trace Frida’s hips.

Later on in the movie (and well into my second margarita) Leon Trotsky comes to stay with Frida and Diego.  Trotsky has been exiled from Soviet Russia by Stalin and is a hunted man, and as played by Geoffrey Rush he exudes energy and a force that makes perfect sense of Frida’s attraction to him, despite his being 30 years her senior.

It got me thinking that the energy that drives revolutionaries can be very similar to the energy that drives artists– both are creative endeavors, trying to release into the world something new and better.  The people in the movie discussed politics with as much passion as they did art.  I could see modern day parallels.  I don’t imagine it’s an coincidence that so many in the arts and in Hollywood tend to sympathize with the political left — “progressives” — in this country.  There’s an inherent optimism in creation, whether in art, in politics, or in making a child to bring into this world.  Falling in love is the ultimate expression of optimism, right?

What really got to me most I suppose at the end of Frida and all the thoughts and emotions swirling through me is how writing this blog seems to have changed the way I look at things– movies, TV, people I meet, daily life.  The written word is not as visceral or stimulative to the senses as other art forms, but I’ve read plenty that has moved me deeply.  Apparently the act of writing itself can change your own perspective!  Have you ever written something or a series of things that seemed to have changed how you thought or looked at the world?

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