Odds and Ends #4 (Game of Groans)

Hello, friend. Marketing people say you should address your audience directly as if you are communicating with a single individual. As if you, friend, are the only one reading this. So that’s what I’m doing here. I wrote this blog post just for you. I know how much you love reading about Game of Thrones. I know you love it when I write about the Milwaukee Bucks. I know you love reading my reflections on what it’s like to be a musician with big goals in 2019 on Planet Earth. This one is for you! 

There’s been stuff happening, and things have been on my mind. You, friend, need to hear about it all. It’s time for another “Odds and Ends” blog post. Let’s get started! 

Please Protect Reproductive Rights 

Don’t worry, friend – that sweet, sweet Game of Thrones content is coming up shortly. But first, let’s talk about reproductive rights for a second. 

As a musician and public figure, I have a platform. Don’t laugh. Yeah, I know it’s not a big platform. But it’s a platform. I have a website. I have an email list. I have an audience. It’s a small audience at this time, but it’s an audience. And my responsibility to that audience is to be authentic, to express myself and to help people understand who I am and what I believe in. Some people might say, “shut up and stick to the music!” I say, “Fuck that!” I’m not interested in being a troubadour for a Handmaid’s Tale-version of our world. 

So today I’m using this platform to speak out against the extreme anti-abortion legislation that’s happening in states like Georgia, Alabama and Ohio. It’s a bunch of bullshit. Read up on it. Talk to the women in your life about it. Instead of boycotting states, which also means boycotting the good people of those states who are on the front lines fighting this shit, donate some money to organizations that help protect reproductive rights and provide easier access to abortion. 

Here are some options: 

I’m sure there are many other wonderful organizations that deserve your dollars, time and/or energy. If you know of any of them, please let me know and I will add them to this list. 

I also encourage you to donate to political candidates who support protecting reproductive rights. Or if you can’t donate, offer other types of support. This stuff is really important. But don’t take it from me – please talk to the women in your life about these issues. Hear their stories. It’s about real freedom and real equality. For all of us. 

Game of Thrones Only Cares About Big Moments Now 

***SPOILER ALERT*** – the content between the previous heading and the next one was written by a person who has watched all 72 aired episodes of Game of Thrones. If you don’t want to know anything about that shit, skip ahead. 

Okay. 

Friend, this season of Game of Thrones has been disappointing to me. This is not a unique opinion, so I’m not going to go into it too much here. It seems like much of the rest of the internet agrees the story has been rushed to an almost comical degree. And characters are making decisions that have nothing to do with who they are and everything to do with what the plot demands. It’s been a mess. 

It has also been quite enjoyable. 

It seems to me that Game of Thrones has evolved into a Big Moment Delivery System. It exists, in season eight, to serve spectacle and widen audience eyes. Its purpose is to wring as many “WTF?????”s from its viewers as possible. It’s working! Is this a development that honors the time I have spent with these characters for almost a decade? NO! Absolutely not! But it is really fun to watch in the moment. 

What’s not fun anymore is thinking about what I just saw, or trying to place the events of an episode into the context of the series as a larger whole. It just doesn’t matter anymore to the showrunners, apparently. Which is fine. But it’s a different show now. It’s a show that doesn’t give a shit about the plot elements it used to be so careful and clever about setting up. It’s a show that doesn’t give a shit about honoring its characters – not when that would get in the way of another “HOLY SHIT” moment. 

So we get stuff like the “Clegane Bowl,” which is something certain fans have been clamoring for for a while now. I mean, yeah, it looked cool, I guess. But I didn’t need that. It was fine. It’s a sign, to me, that the people running the show (David Benioff and D.B. Weiss) are more interested in satisfying lists of fanboy demands than telling a compelling story. 

And I’m supposed to believe Daenerys was triggered by bells? By seeing a building? Yes, I know, the whole Mad Queen turn was foreshadowed. I even wrote about it after episode one of this season! But the way it was pulled off was just stupid. Yeah, we got spectacle and a bunch of Big Moments. I just don’t care about Big Moments if they are not supported by the story or by what we know of the characters’ motivations. 

What are they even trying to say with this season? That there’s no point to anything? That women become unhinged lunatics when they are upset? That people can’t change or grow? These are some of the messages I’m getting from the show this season. In previous seasons, Game of Thrones seemed to be about much more than just, “Oh well, the world is shit and there’s nothing anyone can do about it.” 

Whatever. I’ll watch the series finale on Sunday and I will enjoy the shit out of it. I will probably cry and jump up and down and laugh and feel lots of feelings. That’s all I want from a TV show. It used to be that Game of Thrones was capable of giving me something more than that. 

So there’s a part of me that’s all like, “fuck this show!” now. But then there’s a bigger part of me that’s all like, “Just enjoy the ride, man.” The people telling this story are not interested in telling the story they used to be telling (and the story I was so compelled by). And that’s okay. 

Oh yeah, David Benioff and D.B. Weiss are in charge of the next series of Star Wars films, with the first of their films coming out in 2022. Enjoy the ride! 

***END SPOILER ALERT*** 

Current Shows that Are Better Than Game of Thrones 

With all the coverage Game of Thrones gets, it’s easy to forget that there’s other shit on TV. Of course, the NBA Playoffs are in full swing (more on that later). There’s Barry, which is also on HBO. And there’s Killing Eve, which airs on BBC America and AMC. Both shows are in their second seasons. They are both smart, well written and feature excellent performances. Most importantly, these shows don’t arrive on your screen bearing the weight and capital-I Importance of an episode of Game of Thrones. You can just turn them on and watch them and enjoy them without making a big deal about it. What a relief! It’s kind of sad that these shows are airing at the same time as Game of Thrones, but I’m glad they are available to offer an alternative TV-watching experience. 

Ajax The Dog 

I made a bunch of music back in the mid-2000s when I was learning digital recording and all that kind of stuff. Back then I recorded as “Ajax The Dog,” which is a name inspired by my childhood pet, a beautiful German Shepherd named Ajax. 

I had all my songs on MySpace. But then MySpace fucked up and lost a bunch of data, including countless songs by independent music artists like me. 

Luckily, I had all my old stuff on a hard drive. 

I resuscitated that hard drive recently and put most of my old songs on SoundCloud. I have embedded them here: 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It was interesting listening to these songs again after some time away. They are not like my new songs, but they are more like my new songs than I thought they were. Does that make sense? These were written in ProTools, basically. I just kept recording parts and putting them together until I had songs. They were never performed, only pieced together inside my little eMac. That’s not how I write now. And yet, these old songs are definitely Matt Kollock songs. Interesting. I think I’ve grown in many important ways as an artist. But I am also glad to have held on to some of the elements that have always made me good at music. Nice. 

What do you think? What’s your favorite Ajax The Dog song? Why? 

I Bought an Electric Guitar 

It’s true! This cheap but very well-regarded Strat copy went on sale for $149.99, and I was able to use a coupon code for an additional $35 off. I bought a $2 strap, too. So the total came to $128.73, with shipping. Not bad! 

I am impressed with this axe! It’s basically like a $500 guitar. I’m going to have to do some work on it. I want to replace the pickups and install a new nut. And I need Annie’s dad to give it a proper setup. But I am very pleased. Oh yeah, and I need to keep saving up for a Byron amplifier, too.

Now I need to figure out how I’m going to incorporate my new electric instrument into my live performances. My “Judas!” moment is imminent! 

Please Continue to Fear the Deer 

The Milwaukee Bucks won Game One of the Eastern Conference Finals last night against the Toronto Raptors. I am very excited. I bought a cool shirt that features the Milwaukee Mascot, Bango Buck. I think they have a legitimate shot at defeating the Golden State Warriors, should both teams reach the Finals. 

I got back into basketball a couple of years ago after I decided I didn’t want to pay attention to the NFL anymore. It was a terrific decision! Now my team is, like, the best team with the best player. I am delighted things have worked out this way. Aren’t you? 

Empty Rooms 

Sometimes playing music is really hard. It can be disappointing and heartbreaking. We musicians really care a lot about our music. Other people don’t. And that’s challenging for musicians, who are largely very sensitive, delicate people. 

One of my most recent gigs had me performing to a room full of unoccupied chairs and tables. It wasn’t the first time. It won’t be the last time. It’s never fun when this happens. But I have accepted it. It’s kind of funny, actually. Funny only because if I thought of it any other way, I might not feel compelled to continue making music. And that would be no good. 

A lot of my colleagues have been posting about their similar experiences on social media lately. It’s been really frustrating for a lot of us, especially those of us here in Albuquerque, which is just a weird, weird town for music. Per capita, we probably have one of the most musically talented populations of any city anywhere in the world. Per capita, we probably also have one of the most musically indifferent populations of any city anywhere in the world. 

I would love it if people cared more about local live music, but they don’t. I realize now that I’m not going to make big things happen with my music by expecting people to show up for live performances at eating/drinking establishments. Sure, I can make a few bucks that way, but I’ll never be able to sustain a career that way. 

People still love music. They just aren’t interested in going out to see unfamous people perform original material. They would rather stay at home. Or they’d rather go to a place that has a DJ, a hundred giant televisions and some foosball tables. And that’s fine! Who can blame them! 

It’s frustrating to know that a lot of self-proclaimed music fans only experience live music once or twice a year by going to see some big-time act at an arena or theater. They don’t know anything about their local scene, and they don’t care about songs they can’t sing along to. But I am not mad at them. Just frustrated. 

I am not going to try to change people’s entertainment habits. I am not going to beg people to show up at some brewery to see me play my songs. I am not going to blame venue owners for being clueless, arrogant and ignorant (even though they are all those things sometimes). Instead, I will continue to improve my craft, publicize my name and music, tweak my live show and keep my ears tuned to opportunities in areas where people, money and music actually intersect. 

I would love it if people were as jazzed about local live music as I am, but I understand if they are not. It’s fine. It’s not for everyone. But I’m not going to quit. Even if I find myself in another empty room again and again. 

All that being said, please, PLEASE go out and experience some of the music artists in your town! It’s not hard! Famous people are not more talented or hardworking or capable or compelling. They just caught some breaks. So go out and plop down the five bucks or whatever and give yourself the chance to become a fan of someone new. Everybody wins! 

Swamp Cooler Season 

Here in New Mexico, many people use evaporative coolers, also known as “swamp coolers.” They cool the air by introducing water vapor into the environment. The water vapor evaporates, which uses up the existing heat energy, thus lowering the ambient temperature. They use about 10% of the energy of refrigerated air conditioners and are, of course, less expensive to operate. 

The only thing is that they have to be used in a dry climate. So don’t start getting big ideas about putting a swamp cooler on top of your Wisconsin home. 

We got our swamp cooler turned on last weekend. I almost turned it on yesterday. It’s starting to get warm. 

One cool little side effect of using a swamp cooler is that it creates a nice environment for musical instruments in an otherwise arid and potentially dangerous place (for things made of wood). 

Last Night’s Plane Crash Dream 

Many of my dreams are characterized by tragedy. 

Most of the time, that tragedy manifests in dreamland as a plane crash. I have plane-crash dreams about one or two times a month. This has been happening for about 20 years now. They always suck. I wrote a song about this phenomenon. 

I am never a passenger on these crashing planes. I am always on the ground, helpless and powerless. I look to the sky and notice that something isn’t quite right. And then the plane does its terrible thing. 

Last night I had one of these dreams, but it contained a few interesting wrinkles. 

A Southwest 737 was diving and then pulling up at the critical moment. Then it would go straight up for a while before repeating the dive. This happened multiple times. Are 737s even capable of this? It was like the craft was working up to something. 

Finally, the plane went into its final dive, but instead of impacting the ground, it gathered a bunch of clouds and vapor around it to form a Voltron-like entity. Like a Pacific Rim-style monster or robot. About that size. Once the plane-based creature finally formed and found its footing, it jumped up into the air and landed, creating a massive earthquake. 

In the dream, I was watching from the passenger seat of an unfamiliar vehicle. It felt like I was on a beach or maybe in the desert. No one was in the car with me. I looked over to the driver’s side and thought about hopping over, starting the car and attempting to outrun the ripple of the earth. I figured I didn’t have enough time to do that so I just sat there. The ripple was about to hit. 

And then I woke up. 

Why do I keep having dreams like this? Not sure. I’m not sure I even want to know at this point. Actually, it would be somewhat sad to not have these dreams anymore. 

Here’s what may have influenced this particular plane-crash dream: 

  • Lately, they’ve been flying a lot of fighter jets from Kirtland Air Force Base, which is nearby. 
  • Annie just took off on a Southwest flight the other day. 
  • I’ve been watching Game of Thrones, a show that features some giant, destructive beasts. 
  • I’ve been thinking a lot about hydration and how important it is to me. 
  • I watched Inception recently. 
  • Hot sauce? 

I Went Out for a Run Today 

Physical fitness is very important to me. It’s a crucial component of my plan to dominate the world with my music. I need to feel strong and full of energy. Stuff like that. 

Lately, I have not been acting in accordance with my physical-fitness values. And I’ve been feeling kind of shitty as a result. If you’ve been reading the blog this may sound familiar. 

But I went out for a run today! 3.33 miles. It was very difficult. I can barely type this, it was so exhausting. But I feel great! Maybe I’ll go out again tomorrow. We’ll see. 

I have been a runner, off and on, since my preteen years. I used to be a pretty good distance runner. Then I got way out of shape. Then I got back into running again in my 30s, and I think it probably saved my life. I am going to see if I can keep it up. 

I Have Shows Coming Up 

It’s true! 

Regardless of when you’re reading this, I should have some dates on the schedule. Check it out here, won’t you? 

Thank You, My Friend! 

Well, friend, it’s been great. I’m so glad you stayed with me until the end. I don’t know what I’d do without you. 

What are your thoughts on all this stuff? I’d love to know, so please leave a comment or send me an email or hit me up on social media. I will probably get back to you. 

Now I’m just tired (and Game Two of the Western Conference Finals is about to begin), so I’m going to go. 

Later!

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