Blah, blah, blahg

World Cup 

OK, so the US just got eliminated from the World Cup by Belgium in an exciting 2-1 match that went into extra time (all three goals scored in extra time).

To all those soccer critics out there I have a few things to say...

First, I acknowledge that some games are rife with players taking dives, whining, etc.  I must say that this is mostly evident in the South American teams, and perhaps Italy.   Today's match was hard-fought, and had none o' that shit.

To those who think that there's not enough scoring in soccer, I say...

It's not just about the scoring.  It's about the pace, the rhythm, and the scoring chances.   On the other hand... is there really much less scoring in soccer than there is in, say, American Football?

The median score of an American football game is 20-17 (http://www.pro-football-reference.com/boxscores/game_scores.cgi).  That's about three touchdowns to two -- or somewhere around 5 touchdowns per game. Yes, there are field goals.  But I would argue that if you count field goals, you almost have to count "near misses" in soccer.  Field goals are a consolation prize -- something soccer doesn't have.  Hit the crossbar?  Too bad.  Keeper makes a miraculous save?  Too bad.

BTW, The average number of goals in a soccer game is about 2.5 (http://soccer-europe.com/Statistics/Goals/GPGEuro.html).  That's about half that of a football game.  Butr then, a football game usually lasts (clock time) about 3-3.5 hours, including all the timeouts, replays, and time in the huddle.   Except for shootout endings, a soccer match is 90 minutes of pretty much continuous play (or 120 if it goes to extra time).  So really, if you don't count field goals, that's about a score every 30 minutes in American football or in soccer.  So I'm tired of hearing that there isn't enough scoring in soccer.   Would it seem like more scoring if a goal counted for 6 points?  Pfft.

To those who think it's just boring...

To each his own.  You pr.  I love all kinds of sports.  But the rhythm of a soccer game is just different than an American football game.  It's more like a hockey game.  Or lacrosse.   Or even basketball (but let's not have the "number of scores" conversation again).  The nice thing about a football or baseball game is that there's plenty of time to get a beer.  Or a snack.   Not so in soccer, or hockey.  Turn away, and you might miss something, because things happen fast.

In football or baseball, there's also a lot of time to talk about strategy.  One of my favorite baseball moments was when my brother, years ago, talked me through all the background behind-the-scenes stuff going on in what looked to me to be a dull game..  The more you know, the more fun it is.

To me, there.s nothing in all of sports like a soccer goal for excitement and release of emotion.  Why?   Because it's damned hard to score a goal in soccer.  It can come out of nowhere.  It usually ends with a goalkeeper flying through the air or sprawled out on the grass. 

To those who complain about "prima donnas" whining about minor injuries...

First, again -- I hate the part of the game that has players play-acting to draw fouls -- especially in the penalty area, which can easily decide a game.   However, soccer isn't the only sport where "drawing a foul" is part of the game.   Get touched on the hand in basketball, for instance; or draw the charging foul.   Who hasn't seen an NFL game where the wide receiver makes the "throw the flag" motion?   Almost all coaches are constantly haranguing the referees.   And oh, BTW, while soccer fans from certain countries have a bad reputation, I've never seen the benches empty as in a baseball game.  So get off it about the prima donnas.

Also... if you think it doesn't hurt to get clipped in a soccer game, you haven't played.  Most pro soccer players run about 6-7 miles in a match.  I challenge you to jog and sprint 5 miles while someone is trying to knock you down, and then sprint as hard as you can and let me kick you in the knee or step on your ankle with all of my professional athlete strength..  Yeah, you're wearing shinguards, but so am I.  Keep in mind that often the "clip" happens just after the "clipee" has made a move that beat the "clipper."    I don't like the "drama queen" acts, either -- but don't get the idea that getting clipped doesn't hurt, or doesn't matter.  I still have trouble with the blood vessles in my shins from my soccer years.

 

2014 

Just thinking that I'm hoping to add a resonator to my kit this year.  I'd also like to add a bit of banjo frailing.  And just generally get on stage more.  Stay tuned (pun intended).

Swannanoa Gathering 

I recently attended a week-long music "camp" called the Swannanoa Gathering at the beatiful Warren Wilson College campus in Swannano, North Carolina, in the Blue Ridge mountains near Asheville.   What a fantasic experience!  

There's too much to write about here, but you can check out my article in the Southwest Virginia Songwriters Association (SVSA) newsletter this month.

I came back renewed and excited, and it must have showed, because I'm now the featured performer every second and fourth Friday night, at Mill Mountain Coffee & Tea in Salem, Virginia.  Check out my "gigs" page.

Choices 

The following is from a Princeton commencement address, give by Amazon CEO, Jeff Bezos, in 2010:

How will you use your gifts? What choices will you make?

Will inertia be your guide, or will you follow your passions?

Will you follow dogma, or will you be original?

Will you choose a life of ease, or a life of service and adventure?

Will you wilt under criticism, or will you follow your convictions?

Will you bluff it out when you're wrong, or will you apologize?

Will you guard your heart against rejection, or will you act when you fall in love?

Will you play it safe, or will you be a little bit swashbuckling?

When it's tough, will you give up, or will you be relentless?

Will you be a cynic, or will you be a builder?

Will you be clever at the expense of others, or will you be kind?

The Gig is ON! 

The Saga of the Unpaid Gig is soon to come to a happy conclusion.

Sean, the manager of Mill Mountain Coffee & Tea on Starkey Road, has agreed to let me play at his venue.  In the end, he didn't offer a free gig after all -- I offered to play for free, and he accepted.   So, all y'all musicians who were upset with him for not paying the talent should please come see ME -- not him. 

I'm really looking forward to this gig.  I will be putting out a tip jar, and Selling CDs, and playing my songs in a public place.  What could be better?

Oh, and I'll be debuting a new song, co-written with Mike DeGiorgi, called "Tombstone News" (if I can ever stop tweaking it).

Mike

Mediocrity, the Manifesto, and Religious Overachievers 

I just read a book called "The Overachiever's Manifesto", by Ray Bennett.

Actually, it's

THE
OVERACHIEV-
ER'S
MANIFESTO

...which I thought was fitting.   Or not fitting -- on the cover.  You know what I mean.  Or maybe you don't.

What was I saying?  Oh.  The book.  

I recently began a little journey into the study of mediocrity. Part of it came about with the one line in my song "What's Done is Done" ... and I quote: 

     If I had a dime for every time I looked behind and missed the road ahead
     I'd be a mighty wealthy man, but I'm just a mediocre man instead

I then proceeded to start writing a song called "Mediocre Man" -- which isn't ready for prime time yet.

Along the journey, I purchased a book called "The Underachiever's Manifesto". I highly recommend it. It contains more wisdom in its 100 or so pages than most other books I've come across. (only one left in stock at Amazonat the time of this writing -- but then, having more in stock would be overachieving, wouldn't it?).

I've spoken with friends of mine over the years (written, acutally -- in an email group) about my views on religion, and ultimately that the enemy is not necessarily religion, but fundamentalism. In this book, the fundamentalist seems to be like the "religious overachiever." I found it refreshing.

With apologies to Mr. Bennett, I post here a snippet from the book, which I couldn't resist because I captured the text from the book on my iPhone using an OCR application (and VERY little editing -- very cool).

THE UNDERACHIEVER'S FAITH:
TRUE ENLIGHTEN-
MENT
Would that underachievement were its own reli-
gion, holding as it does the keys to contentment,
happiness, and a well balanced life.
Religion is too often the pretext for war,
hatred, intolerance among different faiths, and
competitive piety within faiths. But the problem
isn't with faith, or even with difference in faith
within the churches, synagogues, temples, and
mosques. The problem is the overachievers in
those institutions.
When people feel the need to prove them-
selves more worthy than their neighbors, that's
when the trouble starts. It can happen within a church,
when some members are absolutely
convinced that God prefers one sort of recog-
nition over another. Or it can happen when
members of a particular faith decide that the
rest of the world needs to see things their way,
and their way only. For too many people, that
becomes another means of achievement. Instead
of striving for the worldly successes of money
or fame, the religious overachiever competes for
special cosmic significance or special favor with
God. To believe that you are God's only gift to
the world puts you at odds with the six billion
other people who might like to feel the same
way. If the faith of underachievement holds
anything to be true, it's that by not striving to
be better than someone else, you're free to bet-
ter yourself.

So, my buddies and I got to talking about this.  Mostly one buddy -- Jeff.  He asked me what the difference in my mind was between a "fanatic" and a "fundamentalist" (religion-wise).  Jeff considers himself a "traditionalist" -- another twist. 

I post an edited version of my response here because 1) it's at least tangentially related to songwriting, 2) I found myself expressing a viewpoint of mine clearly enough to actually help me explain it to myself (unlike this blog entry), and 3) I don't have anywhere else to post it.

. . .

I learned a new word today:
http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hermeneutics

I found this new word along the way towards trying to figure out if there was a difference in my mind between a fanatic and a fundamentalist. I admit that I thought of them as equivalent. Some day I'd like to get back to talking about Hermeneutics (which sounds like Scientology for Munsters or something). I'm sure we will.

A fanatic is all about excessive zeal -- which I suppose is the definition of an overachiever. A fundamentalist, on the other hand, is defined by rigidity; dogma. The part of the Wiki entry that stuck out for me was "unwavering attachment to a set of irreducible beliefs." -- which, oddly, sounds a lot like "Faith" to me, and this could be the source of some of my confusion in the past when I've pondered faith, belief, and the like. In the end, it seems that "traditionalist" and "fundamentalism" could be thought of as the light and dark sides of the same concept.

So. I've said in the past that it's fundamentalism that I am suspicious of -- not religion in general. I'd say that statement still holds, given that most people equate fundamentalism with fanaticism most of the time. I'm not against traditionalism, however, since in my mind at least that term implies at least some openness to interpretation, albeit biased towards the wisdom of the past.

In the end, I am suspicious of any set of beliefs that relinquishes responsibility for personal thought and action to any single source under the pretense of divinity. It's just too convenient, and to easy to abuse. I respect the study and use of scripture as a tool for self-examination, but draw the line at anything that starts to smell like "because God said so", simply because it's all wrapped up in Hermeneutics, even though most traditionalists/fundamentalists would deny it.  (there's that new word again)

To share or not to share 

I very much enjoyed last night's meeting of the Southwest Virginia Songwriters Association (SVSA). As always, I came away with several really useful suggestions for improving the song I offered during the critique session.

I also really appreciated comments from Laurie and Aspen about how to make our group more useful and accessible.

Along those lines, when we talked about "sharing" a song versus offering one for critique, I mentioned that I no longer play new songs of mine for my wife unless I want her comments (as opposed to her approval). This morning on NPR, I learned that singer-songwriter Edie Brickell does exactly the same thing. This isn't all that remarkable until you realize that Edie is married to Paul Simon.

What's Done Is Done 

The CDs arrived on my doorstep on Monday.  I've been updating the web site, uploading and sending stuff to CD Baby, editing clips, etc, ever since.  I'll bet Neil Young never had to do all this.   Not that I'm complaining.  I'm happy with it, and I'm pretty stoked that I finally did it.  

It should be available on CDBaby soon.   Individual tracks might be a little longer.  Also, I want to sell it directly on this site (so that I keep ALL the money!).

Now, to gig...