Tuesday, July 5, 2011

The Unexpected End of a Weblog

Well, crap.  I guess this may finally spell the end of my happenin' blog here on Google Blogger.

Oh, not due to lack of interest.  In fact, I have enjoyed maintaining this blog in an "infrequent" status and having it serve as something of an archive of my own creative projects for the furious or curious.

No, the problem is that I recently moved to IMAP-based mail, after getting a smartphone that supported it (an iPhone), and since Windows Live Hotmail supports only POP and not IMAP, I have migrated to a GMail address.  I have been going through the usual process of updating all my web accounts with my GMail address, and discovered that Google will not permit a GMail address to be associated with this account.

How strange is that?

This blog predates Google's changeover from Blogger Beta to just Blogger, and as a result it has been semi-crippleware for some time -- a number of functional upgrades that work just fine on my other blog (that I maintain for my non-fiction pen name, which DOES use a GMail address exclusively) are not available on this one.  It looks like Google is just not letting anyone cross that threshold, or perhaps just not anyone who has already associated their Google account with a Windows Live Hotmail email address; I have no idea.  They just want the Beta blogs gone, or something.

Whatever Google's reasoning, the whole blog situation just crossed the line from "no worries" to being "more bother than it's worth."  My connected YouTube account with my band videos is easily enough rebuilt with a fresh account linked to both my GMail AND Google Plus.  I don't want to leave legacy web logins out there that are associated with my old email address -- that's just begging for security issues down the road.  Even worse, in order to log in to this blog at all, I have to log out of everything Google, which is a bother.

Thus, it appears it's time to wrap this up once and for all.  I will leave these pages static until I have had time to archive the blog's complete contents (or as much of those contents as I care about), and then I'll be deleting it at long last.  The final cog in the engine will probably be when Google Plus gets out of beta, because there's a fair chance I can just export the blog contents to that, and I'm willing to hold off just long enough to find out.

At some point, I may migrate over to WordPress.  We'll see just how necessary or relevant that becomes.  If I don't have a project underway that benefits from it, I won't have anything prodding me to get on with it... and as busy as I have been lately, anything unprodded is very likely to be left unaddressed.  Priorities are priorities.

For the few who will read this before it goes away:
  • Late this November, my third child and first son is due!  The name is as-yet undecided, but I'm super-excited about it.  I love my daughters dearly, but there are some experiences that are meant for a father and son to share, and now I get to have those.
  • Congratulations to various of my friends: Jay and Katie on their wedding, Pat and Suzanne on the arrival of their second son, Ben and Kristin on their upcoming wedding, Jer and Melodi on their upcoming wedding, and new jobs for Jay, Brent, Mike G., and hopefully soon Aaron.
  • Here's hoping for the Cardinals to put together a good season in 2011 and reclaim the NFC West throne!
Thanks, all!
-Mike

Friday, June 10, 2011

Rush: Theme in Writing and Composition

Greetings all!

Next week, I will be attending the Phoenix performance for the 2011 leg of Rush's "Time Machine" tour.  I have been a Rush fan since grade school, so I consider any occasion to nerd out and listen to the virtuosity of Lee, Lifeson, and Peart to be cause for celebration. 

Though time has been kind to Rush in a commercial sense, the band was never truly mainstream, and part of that is a simple consequence of genre.  Progressive rock music is less accessible to the casual listener than simpler forms of pop music.  Simplicity is not necessarily a defect; certainly the beautiful and elegant utility of Apple products vindicates simplicity qua concept.  Conversely, complexity for its own sake is not necessarily appealing even to a dedicated listener; one need only look at the impressive but compositionally marginal work of DragonForce to understand that.  However, with complexity there is room for more meaning, should a band find a direct enough voice with which to express it.  Rush are masters of filling this room with consistent and unifying themes throughout their albums.

As veterans of the "prog '70s," Rush is known for lengthy, epic songs as much as for having that "classic rock feel."  And yet by some astonishing turn of fate, Rush has never produced a concept album!  I know it sounds impossible, but it's true: 2112 only filled one side of the record; Hemispheres likewise; Jacob's Ladder but half of that.  Perhaps it is because of Rush's consistent strong thematic approach to albums that their lack, thus far, of a concept album has largely gone unnoticed.  That will finally change with Rush's forthcoming album, "Clockwork Angels."

Two tracks from Clockwork Angels were released as an EP last year: "Caravan" and "BU2B" (Brought Up to Believe).  Both are excellent and explore new ground while bearing the trappings of Rush's authentic voice and sound.  Beyond those, however, nobody knows quite what Clockwork Angels is going to sound like or precisely what story it will tell, or whether it will turn out in time to be counted among the best progressive rock concept albums.

Since theme is an important aspect of writing and composition alike, I figured that revisiting Rush's album themes would be a useful exercise.  They are:
  1. Rush - no theme (or: It's Our First Album)
  2. Fly By Night - Experience
  3. Caress of Steel - Life
  4. 2112 - Volition
  5. A Farewell to Kings - Progress
  6. Hemispheres - Balance
  7. Permanent Waves - Force
  8. Moving Pictures - Perspective
  9. Signals - Interaction
  10. Grace Under Pressure - Conflict
  11. Power Windows - Motivation
  12. Hold Your Fire - Time/Instinct*
  13. Presto - Expectations
  14. Roll the Bones - Risk
  15. Counterparts - Duality
  16. Test For Echo - Socialization
  17. Vapor Trails - Persistence
  18. Snakes and Arrows - Belief
  19. Clockwork Angels - to be discovered...
None of the above is my interpretation; the members of Rush have identified the themes of their work explicitly in interviews and in books like the circa-1988 band biography Visions by Bill Banasciewicz. 

In retrospect, like the answer to a riddle, once you know the answer, it seems obvious and you wonder how you didn't recognize it without being told.  What do you think about the themes?  Is there an album where you don't think the theme held up cohesively throughout?  Or is there an album where it is so pervasive that there is something of a narrowing effect taking away from the scope of the work?  (I'm looking at you, Roll the Bones.) 

Whichever way you interpret it, I don't think there can be any denying that Rush's themes are at the very least identifiable and distinct.  Contrast that with pop music, most of which conveys only the general theme, "Hey, baby, I want to get into your pants."  That is certainly a laudable purpose, but one would think after a while that the subject of sex is getting adequate artistic coverage, and that there are perhaps other topics worth examining.  You know, for a little while.  And then we can go back to sex.

*Peart specified that Hold Your Fire was a dual-themed album.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Five Haiku for My Daughters

Five Haiku for My Daughters
by Michael Bahr, 2011

Spring is in the air
Endless wells of energy
Let's go to the zoo!

Early season's lunch
Sweet banana chocolate pie
Smear it on my face!

Shining sun above
Dora roams the grassy field
"Swiper, no swiping!"

Sunrise comes so soon
Waking up before the dawn
Surely Mom won't mind.

Seasons come and go
Mommy loves and Daddy smiles
Future, here we come!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

At Some Point Preparation Must End

I haven't had much to write these last two months due to being busy with one thing or another (or one of six or seven other things).  That's a positive problem, as I see it.

I have a non-fiction book wrapping up this week.  Following that I have another one on deck that's much smaller in scope and should only take forty or fifty hours to write, which means evening and weekend work spread out over a few months if I want to take my time with it, and I do.  Other than spending some time doin' the taxes and finding a way to fit some actual "free" weekends in there somewhere, that's the story of the first half of my 2011, at least as it projects out from here.

Once the second nonfic is done, I'm actually going to take a hard left.  We'll see how this works.  I have decided it is time to finish Space Dudes (working title).  I've been writing (and rewriting, and then scrapping, and restarting, and writing again, and rewriting again) that book since 1999.  Twelve years is enough.  By this time, even Tolkien had finished his worldbuilding.  By this time, Rand had gone from Anthem to The Fountainhead and was halfway to Atlas shrugging.  Come hell or high water, Space Dudes needs to be finished.  I don't know whether it's going to take half a year or two years or five more years or what.  But I need to do it, and it will be published (or rejected) under my real name, not my nonfiction pen name.

I've been studying the craft of fiction in greater depth in these past two years than in the first 34 years of my life and certainly since the first 17 years of the start of my writing "career" at 19 (see links at left).  I think I finally understand enough to roll with it, though of course I am always seeking to learn more every day.  And I think I've finally "broken" my story for Space Dudes.  "Breaking" a story is the writer's term for finally grasping/determining/asserting the essential structure of the narrative that will carry the story from It Was A Dark And Stormy Night to And They Lived Happily Ever After.  And in terms of the craft, I have arrived.  I finally appreciate conflict as the glorious tool it is, and I have finally (I hope) overcome my fear of probing into the uncomfortable, the forbidden, and the unsociable in order to reveal the truth those conventions are used to evade.  I've never been sharper at exploiting tropes.  I'm obnoxious enough to stomp on the boundaries, but humble enough to know I'm better off leaving those boundaries intact and relishing the way they force my creative focus.

Nothing left to do but get on with it.