Tuesday, January 27, 2009

368 : 4/13/99 : Sundeath Inc. (The Inertia Machine 2/36)

A partial record survives of the Sundeath
Corporation. Having perfected a method
of accelerating stars to nova and
subsequent collapse to singularity,
the privately held Sundeath Exploration Group
was faced with the hurdle of
marketing this remarkable service.
As the first prototype projectiles were
entering simulated environment testing,
the Sundeath engineers were
envisioning vast arrays of storage batteries
set thousands of millions of miles from the
targeted sun. Mile wide solar sails would serve
to propel the batteries toward the engineers’
home planet while simultaneously collecting
the massive radiant energy produced by
the nova. In a few thousand years
the batteries would arrive by the millions,
ready to form the power infrastructure
for a massive orbital factory. Unfortunately
for the Sundeath engineers, these
ideas were still merely notions when
the recently incorporated Sundeath
discovered another relevant fact about
emerging technologies on
entirely new scales: Industrial
accidents also occurred on similar
orders of magnitude.

You can read an explanation of the origin of these lyrics here

Monday, January 26, 2009

367 : 4/12/99 : The Inertia Machine (The Inertia Machine 1/36)

1,366 : 3 ?

They say that once the universe was
perfectly balanced: the forces that
tumbled things apart were counter-matched
exactly by the forces that caused things to
be conjoined together. And everywhere
people had the freedom to pursue
understanding for its own sake, because
in the time of the Steady State, life
was very easy. And one race
pursued questions of celestial mechanics,
and in them perceived that a machine
could be constructed that would never
stop running. They believed such
a machine could be
harnessed for divination.
They spent many years designing and building
what they called the Inertia
Machine. When they activated the machine,
it operated just as they had
predicted. But when they sought
to use it to predict the outcomes
of things to come, they saw
visions of worlds they could not
understand. They saw a time
when the will of the individual
constantly foundered on the
ambivalence of the collective.
They saw a time when life was
very hard and even had to
steal the life energies of
other individuals by physically
consuming them. The visions
they had when they sat circle
around the machine filled
this people with a feeling they
had not known before.
When they broke circle, the visions
stopped but the feeling remained.
This is when they realized that
there was no way to turn the
machine off. Because it was
created to run forever, they
had not considered a method of
deactivation. They applied many
forces, the entropic and the creative,
they symbolical and the diabolical,
trying to tip the balance of the inertia
machine and cease its
perpetual motion. But all their
methods failed: the inertia
machine’s balance remained perfect.
Finally, they placed the machine in a
vessel and sent it towards a place in
the universe where they believed there
was a great black hole. The trip would take
tens of thousands of years. They say
that by the time the vessel carrying the
machine reached the black hole, the people had
forgotten what they had done, and
had no understanding of what was
happening when everything changed.

You can read an explanation of the origin of these lyrics here

Sunday, January 25, 2009

briefer: introductions new and old

I decided to tighten up and consolidate the introduction and various explanations of this blog and the daily songwriting projects that make up the bulk of its content. The new introduction is here.

For the record, here are the original introductory and explanatory essays:

Let’s begin again (posted 7/18/06)

In 1998 I was in a very strange band called Tao Lepton, and as the ostensible chief lyricist I found myself struggling to find the inspiration to write. I decided to start a project of writing a lyric each day, and after a couple of false starts, I started daily writing in earnest on April 11, 1998 with the song "Huntress Moon."

Maintaining this sort of practice is very difficult, so from the beginning I decided that if I missed a day, I would allow the project to continue as long as I made up the missing lyric. In my own draconian viewpoint this is cheating, but I knew that if I demanded 100% on-time delivery, the project would not last for long, and if I allowed myself to simply skip days and not make them up, I would just end up skipping more and more, defeating the central purpose which was, after all, to do more lyric writing.

A little less than three years later, the band was long since history and I questioned my motivation for keeping the project up. It felt like work for work's sake and I was doubting whether the practice was really doing anything for my ability as a lyricist... indeed, whether I was a lyricist at all. I decided 1,001 songs was a nice figure and on January 5, 2001 I wrote the last song of the original project, "My Masterpiece."

Over the next four years I got married, bought a house, worked a couple of jobs, and became a father. From time to time I paged through some of the old song books, I wrote a handful of fragmentary new lyrics, and didn't think all that much about it. Then some train of thought I can no longer remember made me decide to start it up again, and on May 4, 2005 I wrote the aptly titled "First Song," with the stated intent of writing 10,000 consecutive songs - a project that (if I persist) will take over 27 years, at which point I'll be around 61. As of this writing that project is up to date.

During the first project, I had a fairly strict system for recording and tracking whether a song was written on its designated day or not. I never crunched the final numbers, but I was averaging a little over 80% of the songs written on their designated day. With the new project, I decided to not bother with this. I keep no record of when the songs are actually written, though I continue to aspire to write them on their designated days rather than later. One rule I maintain with both projects is no writing ahead. But the slacker guidelines on the new project have unquestionably made it more vulnerable to procrastination: on several occasions I have gotten seriously (as much as a month) behind, requiring some marathon writing sessions to get back up to the present. Thus the most likely cause of the premature demise of the new project will be not consciously deciding to give up the 10,000 song goal, but rather falling so far behind that catching up becomes functionally impossible.

(Note added later - I've since added a couple of elements to the song blogging that captures the status of the current project in terms of whether I'm getting behind, described here, and how I'm doing with writing songs on their designated days, described here).

Getting the songs transcribed (the vast majority exist solely as handwritten entries in formerly blank hardcover journals) has been an ongoing goal I have trouble keeping up with. Probably less than ten percent are transcribed to a digital format. Part of the motivation for deciding to blog the songs is to encourage this (boringly clerical) effort. My current plan is to post a song a day, every day I can. Of course, on this schedule it will be years until I even get to the second project, and if I were to keep it up (and not abandon the second project, and not die, and if modern society does not collapse into a plutocratic technological dark age, rendering the internet obsolete) I would not catch up until several years after the 10,000th song of the second series was written, finding me about ready for retirement (except retirement age will probably be about 75 by that time, but that's a whole other blog).

When you make a commitment to a project like this these kinds of speculations are inevitable, but they aren't really what it is all about. It is about one day at a time, and creating something concrete that reminds you that yes, those days do keep going by, and my, there are a hell of a lot of them.

I started this blog a while ago, publishing both old and new songs without much structure, but I didn't like it so I decided to delete everything and start over, preferring instead the one-at-a-time presentation most true to the original project. I also decided to eschew making comments and asides about the songs, and just let them stand as they are. If anyone is curious enough to ask about something specific, they can leave a comment in the relevant post and I will try to respond to those. I may inject the occasional aside relating to projects that utilize these lyrics - for example, one of my (very few) recordings of one of the song lyrics is on the playlist of a compilation CD of musicians who are members a community website called Metafilter, and I will probably make a small post about this when the CD is available for sale.

A final note: I have engaged in a few collaborations with better musicians than myself on some of the songs and I've been happy with the results. So if a lyric happens to capture your fancy, my email is available on my profile page: please feel free to contact me about setting my words to your music.

And so on to the songs.

the fairly secret song of the day blog: now with weekly drama (posted 11/19/06)

I've been wanting to bring the current song of the day writing project into this blog in a small way. I don't want to introduce any new lyrics: I want to preserve the flow of the daily writing from the original project. But I'd like to have a small reminder that I am doing this now, it's not just something that happened 8 years ago.

So: each Monday, prior to the day's actual song, I'm going to post a little status report on the ongoing project. It will consist of the number of the current project's song, and an icon that represents how well (or poorly) I'm actually keeping up with the current writing. Here's a key to the meaning of the icons:

Songs are current. There is no backlog of work to do.

Songs are less than a week behind schedule

Songs are between one week and a month behind schedule

Songs are between a month and three months behind schedule. So far, the worst it's been. It was very difficult to get back to current.

Songs are more than three months behind schedule. If it ever gets to this point I think the project will be in severe jeopardy. Aren't you feeling anxious just thinking about it?

At first I was going to use a "threat level" graphic in the style of the whole Homeland Security Terrorometer thing but I decided I was sick of all that shit.

I have another motive for this small window into my day to day. As I mentioned in the original project explanation, unlike the first daily writing project, I am no longer indicating in the actual writing whether I wrote a song on schedule or as a catch-up on a later date.

While I've never felt it was realistic to expect I'd never miss a day, with the old project I followed the simple expedient of writing late songs in red ink. I don't know if it is the lack of this crude psychological goad or just a more complex life, but I've been significantly more lax in the current project with allowing myself to get behind schedule. I figure a little public accountability couldn't hurt.

As for "drama," I'm a behind right now, as Monday's post will show. As these things go, I have relatively good reasons for having gotten behind, but I'm not going to get into the reasons here or anywhere else. I'll just let the numbers speak for themselves. Hold on to the edge of your browser as my aspiration to write 10,000 lyrics in less than three decades surges forward with all the dramatic tension of an encroaching glacier!

Weekly status, now with continuity tracking (posted 11/12/07)

I explained my original intentions behind the weekly status report here. I've decided to add an additional marker that indicates how long a string of songs I've written without missing a day during the ongoing project. By way of example, today's status:

926 : 1 ?


Icons indicate if I'm running a song backlog and if so how much.

926 : 1 Songs written in the current project : Songs written without missing a day

(Whenever I'm running a backlog the latter number will be zero)

The question mark links to this explanation. I'd like to say that I've only written one song without missing a day because I purposely skipped a day to officially start the public count. But that would be a lie. Although I've been avoiding serious backlogs, I'm still missing a lot more days than I'm satisfied with. As usual, increasing the amount of status data I'm publishing is an attempt to motivate myself to better performance.

Including the 1,001 songs written in the original project (the one I'm currently blogging) I'm nearing 2,000 daily songs written so far.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Speaking of origins

I've been dealing with some computer issues, now resolved, and found things at a good point for one of my semi-frequent interruptions of the lyric stream. The songs enter an odd phase for a while now. The Inertia Machine, a 36 song series that commences with the next eponymous song, is something of an enigma to me. I remember writing it only vaguely, and although I can see some definite themes running through it I don't really know what the unifying element that makes it a series is supposed to be. Maybe in the end there wasn't much of one. I think it is something of a frustrated response to the last posted song, The Sound of No Walls, which I remember writing pretty well and recall distinctly started with being pretty excited about a concept that really failed to transfer to the page. Only the title remains to suggest much promise (there are bits of that song I like but I think it fails decisively as a whole).

Why my reaction to this was to write a lot of, essentially, speculative fiction, much of it looking like a prose paragraph or two chopped up into psuedo free verse, again I don't much recall. Maybe it will become clearer to me as I transcribe the rest of it. I suspect, reading it, that I am under a particular literary influence, but I'm not at all sure what... I'm pretty sure my W.S. Merwin phase came earlier, my Brian W. Aldiss phase later. Whatever the case, it comprises a not-inconsiderable chunk of the whole first project - more than three and a half percent - and I'm not very satisfied with it. Of course I'm not very satisfied with a lot of it, it's the nature of the beast. Wait till we get to the point nearer the end when I decided I needed a vacation and wrote a bunch of two-word "songs." That'll be a proud couple of weeks.

Last thing I'm going to do before I get on with the songs is clean up, consolidate and rewrite the introduction to this blog, something I've been meaning to do for a while. Keep an eye out for Monday's status summary - I'm a week behind on the current project (which should be on song number 1,363 but remains stuck on song 1,356... the first time I've let it fall this far behind in a while, and getting dangerously close to a point I promised myself I wouldn't get to again, having two separate notebooks going at once - though why this particular sign of neglect should get to me I don't know). So I'm going to try to get it caught up by the end of the weekend. Don't feel bad about taking a break if the gripping drama becomes too much for your nerves to bear.

You can read an explanation of the origin of these lyrics here

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

366 : 4/11/09 : The Sound of No Walls

It’s always this way a little notion
Comes in the night whispering in my ear
Mine to take and hold and shine
Meanwhile above me two have a finer idea
and find oblivion in the arms of the night
In the heart of darkness whispering
Sweet nothings into the void of the well
of the souls of all the saints
Why not me
there are always reasons
why not me why is that not
my cry of ecstasy this moment
I want revelation no waiting
I want the whole show right now
I want the mountaintop
I want it all I want it all I want it all
I want it all I want it all I want it all
I want it all I want it all I want it all
I want it all I want it all I want it all
right here right now right in
this moment

But instead I got just this
a lagging spirit and a cramped
hand such a shame such
a shame and all my little
notions never seem to add
up to enough to make me
feel as if I’ve finally gotten what I
think that I deserve and I don’t deserve
anything anyway what do I add to
the world but toxic waste just another
American parking any damn place he
wants to drop the goddamn bombs I
don’t care I’ve got a mortgage and
these kids are gonna kill me what the
hell is wrong with everyone these

The big finale
wrap it up with one bold stroke
Is life a subtle symphony
or just a cosmic joke
I’m tired of the moment that never comes
While I watch you making millionaires of bums
While I watch you making millionaires of
men who wouldn’t cross the street
to pick you off the pavement
If you failed to land on your feet
But anyway I just don’t know it
You get your row and no choice but to hoe it
If this is genius then we’re all in trouble
Well I guess if we both survive to survey the rubble
We’ll just have to figure it out then
Maybe I’ll be better then

You can read an explanation of the origin of these lyrics here

Monday, January 19, 2009

365 : 4/10/99 : Million Dollars

1,356 : 0 ?

I would pay a million dollars
I would take an acid bath
To stop thinking of the future
To stop worrying about my path
I would stop my mouth with plaster
I would close my eyes with glue
Just to be in this one moment
just to know that only this is true
But I don’t have a million dollars
I don’t have the will to fight
I fought Lord oh a long time
I was born to struggle with the dying light
I didn’t ask to be this person
Didn’t ask to bear this cross
I didn’t ask to always have to
see the foul truth underneath the gloss
And I’d pay a million dollars
For those rose tinged glasses that you wear
man I’d just sit in the park
man I’d just sit there and stare

You can read an explanation of the origin of these lyrics here

Sunday, January 18, 2009

364 : 4/9/99 : Apollyon

Apollyon, Apollyon are you getting lazy
we’re so good at screwing things up ourselves now
I read about you in the book of Revelations
But it seems we have decided to pull our own wrathful plow
Apollyon Apollyon is your time at hand
Are you coming soon to finish what we started
will the righteous be lifted from the conflagration
Before the heavens fall and seas are parted
Doesn’t it seem like it has already happened
Like those days are dead and long gone
Doesn’t it make you kind of wish for the old days
Doesn’t it make you wish Apollyon
Did things go the way you thought
Is this all running by the plan
Are these the cities of heaven
is this the inheritance of man
Apollyon you’ve got the answers
You have seen in from both sides
You know how the dice roll up there
You know where the truth abides
Whisper in my ear and tell me
If this one may be the last
I just want a chance to wrap up
Just a few loose ends in my past

You can read an explanation of the origin of these lyrics here

Thursday, January 15, 2009

363 : 4/8/99 : Images

Images that circle up and wheel around me
I remember the time you found me
Standing staring into space
With a baffled look on my face
The wheel spins around and tumbles at you
bursts into flames reminds you of the time that you
drove all night away from that town
drove that river road all the way down
Images from the past or future tense
Living in a world that spares no expense
Our collective vision of the new age
Oh children please its time to turn the next page
The diamond the hanged man and the snake
The cup the sword and the lady of the lake
too many images I see them in my sleep
Who do you pray your soul to keep
I see a skull and crossbones on a vial
A yellow circle with a big smile
And in your monochrome world I hide my many-colored coat
Till the day comes when we all sing as with one throat

You can read an explanation of the origin of these lyrics here

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

362 : 4/7/99 : Phantasm 5

1,354 : 1 ?

Well the mind blows
out from the inside
Forth and out in
every possible direction
face the perfect complexion
of the sphere that lies
At the center
I asked him if he meant her
or someone else I’d never known before
Or someone who had just walked through the door
And he said it’s just like
Phantasm Five
This silver sphere flies through his head
And his mind blows
out from the inside

You can read an explanation of the origin of these lyrics here

Saturday, January 10, 2009

361 : 4/6/99 : Vicious Cycles, Three Visited

At the intersection of Vicious Cycles,
three visited together after two thousand years
talking about the trip they made so long ago
three kings chatting over beers
They recalled the gifts they brought him
The gold the frankincense the myrrh
And laughed to think how they never guess
that the little guy would raise such a crazy stir
Kasper said it never really caught on back East
We stuck with the Buddha, Confucius and Lao-Tzu
Heaven knows that’s a lot of disbelievers
Well that chalice of myrrh was from them too
And Balthazar said don’t I know it
I should have asked him to let my people go
When I handed the frankincense over
I should have asked about the end of the show
Well Melchior said well you know boys
I’m the one who laid out gold
Though I must confess I never
figured out exactly what I’d been sold
But it seems now in the end
It’s just this world and it’s wicked ways
All our sacrifices always
Wind up winding up as passion plays

You can read an explanation of the origin of these lyrics here

Friday, January 09, 2009

360 : 4/5/99 : Lucky Number 13

What’s that sound I’m hearing
A train is coming ‘round the bend
And soon old number thirteen will be appearing
that’s my lucky number friend
When that train comes rolling in
I’ll know I’m on my path again
Oh lucky number 13
Well I guess I’m really fortune’s fool
Waiting for fate to tap me on the shoulder
I should have tended to my lessons in school
I should have known every year I’d be another year older
And when Fate taps me on the shoulder the last time
Who knows if there’ll be any reason or rhyme
To the tracks I traveled on
Oh lucky number 13
Well if you miss the train I’m on
There’s no need to carry on
‘cause the whole thing just comes looping back
a toy train on a cheap toy track
Make no mistake I’m coming ‘round
Next time old thirteen passes through
I roll along then go to ground
It’s strange what I get paid to do
Well I guess I just gotta roll with the machine
Well I guess I just gotta roll with my lucky thirteen

You can read an explanation of the origin of these lyrics here

Thursday, January 08, 2009

359 : 4/4/99 : Antiwar

I guess it’s time I came out full-fledged anti-war
Though it makes me shudder to wonder if we can stop it
I guess we must get off on that feeling we been here before
I guess we have a hard time trying to cop to it
I wonder about entropy how somehow all that energy
That got pumped in so long ago must oscillate its way out
In my mind’s I I see terrible synergy
It all comes to head in a long horrific spout
In a few men’s minds the cold equations
locked in matter spelled out in fire
And a little bit of matter is subjected to our persuasions
And Hiroshima turns into a funeral pyre
I don’t want to be around for the next big one
to come along and swear to end all wars
Cause I think that after that the whole show is done
Oh why does a man become what he deplores

You can read an explanation of the origin of these lyrics here

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

358 : 4/3/99 : To Hell With You

Who wants to hear my words my voice
Not you not me what’s the point
We all get to make our own choice
But it makes no difference if it’s all out of joint
So I say to hell with you all
You don’t want salvation and that’s a good thing
Cause we don’t have it for you I don’t have the gall
Anymore to try to make you listen to what I sing

You can read an explanation of the origin of these lyrics here

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

357 : 4/2/99 : Good Friday

I hate the week to week I hate my day to day
I try not to complain too much it’s always been this way
The weekend’s just a bone I’m thrown to distract me from the fact
I think that I’m getting away but Monday I’ll be back
I hate the work week attitude the way it sucks me in
Diverted from my true work waiting for my weekend to begin
And we all rush out Friday night like hounds sniffing for tail
My God the spectacle we’d see if we tore off the veil;
But this one will be different
This time it’s not gonna go the same way
This is the weekend heaven sent
This is my Good Friday
I’d love to live on principles and make a real change
I’d love to live my life exploring everything sublime and strange
Wouldn’t it be something if we all could have that chance
Maybe we would finally pull this culture from its trance
Try for just one moment to imagine what we’d build
If we finally figured out that what we get is what we willed
I guess I must be crazy to pretend I’m so naive
But in the end and in a sense it’s still what I believe
That if we could stop for just a little while
We’d see that everyone had something worthwhile to say
And if we failed at least we would go out in style
On that last mile together on Good Friday

You can read an explanation of the origin of these lyrics here

Monday, January 05, 2009

356 : 4/1/99 : When the Pump Shut Down

1,345 : 6 ?

Oh when the big pump shut down
no one could get any water at all
We had to dig so deep by the time the pump shut down
So deep that it was way too far to haul
I guess we should have thought of that
I guess we really should have known
I guess we really should have though about the big pump
I guess we really shoulda thought a little further
than we coulda thrown a stone
Well it’s all drying up now
And I’m so thirsty I could cry
Ah my baby left me she heard there was water up North
I was too thirsty to get up so she left me here to die
Oh but before I dry up and blow away
On that hot wind that blows now all the time
I’m gonna take my last shot at setting you straight
I’m gonna tell you off cause it’s my dime
Sir every living thing needs water
And every one of us is a living thing
And every one of our poor old pumps will shut down some day
But without water it could be sooner than you think

Sunday, January 04, 2009

355 : 3/31/99 : Rattled

I get rattled every day that goes by
I get scattered by the tyranny of the day to day
So much I’ll never know unless I try
So much to do so much to learn so much to say
This is just a bookmark on a slow sad decline
I don’t want anything but to disappear
I don’t want anything but to throw away what’s mine
I don’t want anything but to get right out of here
This is not a song it’s a complaint box
I’m so sick of all the nothing I’ve got locked inside
I’m so tired of all my keys that fit none of my locks
I’m so sick of having my living taken from my hide
I’m so sick and I don’t know the cure for it
I’m so sick of all you being bad as me or worse
I’m so sick and tired of the same old happy horseshit
If I only had the secret how to lift this curse
Rattle on the bars of this old familiar cage
Rattled and distracted to the point of no return
Rattling off the same lines on this old familiar page
I’ll rattle on and on and watch Rome burn

You can read an explanation of the origin of these lyrics here

Friday, January 02, 2009

354 : 3/30/99 : Accusations

I stand to point at you
and make my accusations
This does not seem to me
the best of all possible worlds
The way the Vikings had it made more sense
the great serpent round
the whole thing curled
this seems like a mistake
doesn’t it?
This one shoulda been thrown back
into the sea of possibility
I guess that option’s up to me

You can read an explanation of the origin of these lyrics here