Thursday, September 19, 2013

Mixed Meters is Eight Years Old

I had a birthday.  It was a while ago.  Birthdays are hard for me.  What I mean is that I have a hard time with birthdays.  By that I mean - I have a hard time with my own birthday in particular.  This was true when I was a child and it's also true now as an adult.

Over the years I have learned to cope with the problem of my birthdays by trying not to expect much from them.  In fact I expect nearly nothing,  And that's what I get.  I'm fine with nothing.  It's the Expectations themselves which are the problem.

I have a blog.  Blogs apparently have birthdays too.  My blog, this very blog called Mixed Meters, just turned eight years old.  In Internet years (which are something like dog years - an anthropomorphic fiction derived from the notion that online lifetimes are somehow more comprehensible if we equate them to actual human lifetimes), Mixed Meters seems to have reached its early sixties.  That's not surprising because so have I.

If you're one of Mixed Meters' Three Readers you will have noticed that my blog, like me, has been slowing down recently.  There's not as much going on now as when the blog was younger.  Posts are less frequent.  Subject matter repeats.  Topics don't arouse my indignation or excitement like they used to.  This is a natural result of aging, of course, both internet aging and human aging.

I also believe that the slowdown is a result of isolation.  Mixed Meters just doesn't get that much attention.  Frankly, I would not have started blogging eight years ago if someone had told me just how little attention I would actually get.  Back in 2005 I expected to create some sort of community, even if only a small one, around Mixed Meters.  Like with birthdays, the real problem turned out to be my own Expectations.

With few exceptions, MM posts barely reach triple-digit hit counts.  If someone looks at a MM page for a fraction of a second, then goes away never to return, that counts as one Hit.  Google helpfully counts my Hits.  If someone else looks at a MM page, reads it beginning to end, listens to the music, and even spends time thinking about the content - that also counts as one Hit.  Hits far outnumber Thoughtful Readings.  Google does not care how many Thoughtful Readings I get.

Comments are also rare.  Google does keep track of those.  Over eight years, Mixed Meters has averaged 6 comments for every 5 posts.  That includes my own comments.  Honestly, more feedback would be nice.  Sometimes "comment free blogging" makes me feel like I'm just pissing in the wind.

Theoretically, blogging less means I have more free time.  This leads to the question "What do I do with my extra time?"  Well, you would ask that question if you were reading this post, which you have probably stopped doing already.  The answer is that my extra time goes into my life.  Overall, I do have a good life which I am thankful for.  I'm an extremely lucky person, bitchy blog posts not withstanding.

My life revolves around  the Four Ws.  These are Working, Walking and Writing.  Also my Wife.  The Four Ws are those things I have identified as being essential daily activities.  Described without W's, the four are earning some money, getting some exercise, doing something creative and being a good husband.

Each of the Ws leaves me plenty of room for improvement.  There are days when doing all four is quite difficult.  I formulated the Four Ws philosophy after reading a greeting card I saw in a gift shop. It said "The most important things in life are the ones you do every day."  Imagine what life would be like if every greeting card you receive, like the ones from doctors or insurance agents who never forget my birthday, were as life changing as that one I saw (and didn't purchase) in that gift shop.

My other activities include eating, sleeping, picking up the mail, cleaning up cat and dog shit, drinking coffee, reading and, of course, Facebook.   More important than any of those, I think, is taking out the garbage once a week.  I have even enshrined the act of taking out the garbage into my music.  I call this musical structure "Garbage Day Periodicity".

"Garbage Day Periodicity" can be heard in my on-going once-a-day composition project called The Seasons.  Garbage is an easy problem to solve.  If you have garbage you simply put it in the dumpster, put the dumpster at the curb and, eventually, someone takes the garbage away.  Problem solved.  If only I could do the same thing with my Expectations.

I spend much time thinking about music I would like to write.  I would like to spend more of my time actually writing that music and less time thinking about it.  I post all my new pieces on Mixed Meters. Alas, people don't listen much.   That makes sense because, like blogging, writing music is something else which I do in isolation.  With computers I can make performance-free music.  Also audience free.

The important thing is that I enjoy the process of creating music immensely.  I try to tailor the process to intensify the aspects I like and avoid those I dislike.  Luckily this has worked out pretty well for me.  I'm extremely fortunate that I can spend as much of my life writing music as I do.

I've been thinking about bucket lists.  Until recently I thought that I didn't have a bucket list - you know, a personal list of as yet unfulfilled experiences.   Then I realized that I do have such a list.  The difference is that it's filled with unfulfilled composition projects.  Lately I've crossed a few items off the list with The Seasons.  There are many more to go.  Someday I will actually write that parody of Mendelssohn's Violin Concerto, only, instead of a five-year old prodigy performing it, mine will be played by a ninety-five year old prodigy.

I'm also still posting my pictures.  I don't go looking for pictures, they find me.  My pictures are found objects in the truest sense.  If I notice something visually interesting on my walks or elsewhere, be it tree or trash, I whip the point'n'shoot out of my pocket and snap a couple photos.  I take enough that a few usually turn out well.  I post some to my other blog, Mixed Messages.  You can see the latest ones here, in the righthand column.

I suppose I will still find the occasional blog topic which gets my excitement and/or indignation up, you know, over politics or society or whatever.   Some topics force me to drop everything and write an essay of doubtful value and indefinite logic.  Naturally these postings produce Expectations that others will read and get excited and/or indignant as well.  After eight years, that idea has been completely disproven.

And, speaking of politics and society, my disappointment knows no bounds when I think about my youthful Expectations for the country I live in.  During my lifetime the U.S. has invented the Tea Party, fracking, Miley Cyrus, megachurches, Shock and Awe, Dick Cheney, Walmart, the NRA, the rapture, Real Housewives, Three Strikes laws, Grand Theft Auto and mass murder in schools - to name just a very few things I would gladly live without.   Society is SO fucked, people, and it saddens me to admit that my generation, the Baby Boomers, gets much of the credit.  I would like to apologize to the world for all these American things - and more.  Sadly, I have no Expectations that my apologies will help.

One thing I don't seem to do with my time any more is doodle.  I found the doodles gracing this post in a stack of music and other papers I had put away for later use and forgotten about completely.  Click on them for enlargements.  I suspect they date from the early 2000's before I started Mixed Meters.  You probably see things in them the same way you see things in Rohrshach ink blots.  The numbers will allow you to make comments about specific doodles, telling the world which one looks like a pregnant shark riding an upside down motorcycle.

Like these doodles, things out of my past are easy to turn into blog posts.  Mixed Meters could easily become a compendium of work I did years ago.  Realistically, you should expect more and more of this.  I have boxes and boxes filled with projects either only I remember or I have already forgotten.  If I don't post them here no one will ever know about them.  Then again, if I do post them here nearly no one will ever know about them.  Gradually my blog will become my autobiography - disorganized, incomplete and totally non-chronological.  Already, after just eight years, I discover my own posts that I've completely forgotten about.  My memory isn't what it used to be.

And so, the question "Why to blog?" remains without a satisfying answer.  Honestly, I could completely stop blogging and the world and my life and everything in between would not change one bit.  I could post completely random gibberish or I could give the real irrefutable answer to the meaning of life, and the reactions would be pretty much identical.  Hey, maybe the real answer to the meaning of life is random gibberish.  How wonderful that would be!  Probably I will continue blogging because I'm not ready to stop.  Until I am ready to stop I will simply continue.  Meanwhile you should expect more of my random gibberish and pessimistic drivel here.  I hope you enjoy it.


John Marcher said...

Happy 8th anniversary to Mixed Meters, David. As one of the three, I'm pleased you're still at it. #10 looks like a vagina.

Scott said...

I have just realized I am part of the problem. I receive Mixed Meters as email, therefore my reading of it does not register as a hit. So, sorry for the low hit statistics, it was all my fault.

David Ocker said...

Thanks both of you for being members of "The Three". And there's no need to apologize Scott. Google tells me that MM is up to 18 email subscribers! I genuinely appreciate them too, even if they don't generate "hits". The other hits I didn't mention are the ones on the Google Ads in the right column. Someday Google promises to pay me for those ... my future earnings average about 30 cents per month. Cool, huh?

Anonymous said...

I am Waldo. My culpability for Miley Cyrus is palpable. I hope Google will pay me for that soon. By my estimation, I'm owed a pancake.

T. Simpson Parker said...

Happy birthday, MM. It looks like these years have been pleasurable for your creator.

With regard to disappointing audience numbers, I have struggled to accept an annoying truth: making something and getting attention for it require two different kinds of work. I was slow to realize that making something, even if I make it well, does not guarantee any amount of attention. For years I thought that famous people got famous simply because they did something really well. Now, having glimpsed a little of the work involved (just look at how much trouble and expense goes into attracting people to a movie or getting an audience for the LA Phil), I see that gathering attention is simply another craft. Some people do it instinctively, some do it with plan and purpose. Some, like me, don't do much of that work, and the results are predictable: relative anonymity. And that's just fine as long as I don't slip into thinking that my work somehow deserves more attention than I have sought.

David Ocker said...

Thank you Waldo and Simpson. I'd rather call you Joe and John. Waldo, I'll put your pancake in the mail right away.

John, I've heard this argument before and I think it misses the point. Spending more time to create an audience is not an option for me because it replaces time doing stuff I enjoy with time doing stuff I don't. It's really too late in my life for nonsense like that. Such effort would raise my expectations and cause me to end up feeling bad. That's precisely what I want to avoid. And why I wrote this article.

What I do ask myself is whether I ought to give up the blog entirely and desert my loyal audience of several dozen in order to have a few more hours per month writing music. And apparently the answer is no. Possibly that's because I enjoy the crazy creativity the blog demands - like writing something exactly 21 paragraphs long because I had exactly 20 doodles to fit in between them.

John Steinmetz said...

That's exactly my point. Sorry I made it clumsily. Do whatever part(s) you want, whatever part(s) you enjoy. Forget the rest.

Anonymous said...

Blog on, brave blogger. I'm still enjoying both your visuals and your music. This makes you probably more talented then I am, so I could get peevish... nah. Thanks for it all.

Peter (the Other) or Harry Happenstance (whateva')

Joe said...

Hello David:

I emailed you 4 or 5 years ago asking for help creating a website, and you graciously offered advice & gave me some pointers, then said "let me know when you're finished, I'd like to see it." (or something like that, not a direct quote.)

Anyway, in the meantime I moved & changed email addresses, managed to lose your address. It took me a while getting the website up, not knowing what the hell I'm doing. But I ran across your website again recently and the first thing I see is a near suicidal sounding rumination on your lack of attention as a blogger. Very disheartening to me, since I could've been "officially" following you all these years!

Don't give up, please. This is really one of the best sites by an artist/musician/writer I've ever seen, and is an inspiration to me. So much to look at and listen to!

My site is: The music I've posted was pieced together from longer jams recorded on an Olympus handheld recorder, so are very lo fi.

Here's to you and a great site (hoisting a seltzer water). Blog on!


Pasadena Adjacent said...

8 years is a long time - I've been at it for around 5 years and am nearing my 500th post. Your take on expectations is true AND touching. Expectations - thats what can really get to you.

I never truly quantified what I was expecting... but I wasn't expecting that I might have expectations. And down the line, those expectations turned out to have a bit of jealousy attached to them. Jealousy? really you say? yeah really. That 'circle' was a little more competative then I had bargained for and while they began to gather a larger following, I kind of fell off the radar. Ego and the recognition that my psyche was taking a beating was my turning point - so yes, in solidarity, I've joined the 'less is more' club

Your doodles are beautiful. They remind a bit of Inuit art
4 bird
5 fish
6 bull
8 christmas tree
9 chair
10 vulva
12 bird
13 drunk wearing lamp shade
15 man with snake arm offering violets to a swimming bird, 16 Vulva wearing a sombrero
18 cat
19 person grabbing a fish that is biting a mouses nose which is being held aloft by a distressed star fish
20 society lady being attacked by an insect with a blue jay head

David Ocker said...

P.A. - Thanks! - "person grabbing a fish that is biting a mouses nose which is being held aloft by a distressed star fish" was EXACTLY what I was going for. Your descriptions just kept getting better and better.

As for Inuit art: Leslie (my spouse) brought me two works by Benjamin Chee Chee (not Inuit but a native American artist). She said they reminded her of my doodles. I like them a lot.