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11:44 am - Thurs 11/1/07
The X Factor

The X Factor

Weds 10/24/07 (10:28 a.m.)

Wildfires, mudslides, earthquakes–I’m starting to think people weren’t really meant to live in California.

Half a million people have been displaced by the wildfires, some of which were apparently arson (Sometimes when I think what people are capable of...well, words fail me. Just makes me ashamed to be part of the same species).

The situation has been declared a federal disaster, so we’ll see if FEMA will do better with this disaster than with Katrina (I’m guessing they will, since a lot of wealthy white people are being effected by the current situation).


I’ve done a fairly bad job of writing recently.

Basically, I’ve written about interesting things...but left out the interesting parts.

“Jam Camp” is still percolating in my head, which suggests it really was a good thing for me to do.

The first time I ate with a group of fellow jam-campers (on Friday night), talk centered, as you might imagine, around all things harmonica.

There was one old guy that quickly got on my last nerve, bragging about his performing experiences; He brings down the house whenever he does “Hoochie Coochie Man”, he never practices, but just “feels it” when the time comes, blah blah blah (He was perversely proud of not practicing, as if he was just blessed with God-given talent and didn’t need to practice; I, on the other hand, was absolutely stricken when some of the others guys talked about working on their playing an hour or two–or more–every day. Cause unless I’ve had a performance to prepare for, I’ve never done that. And maybe not even then).

(Some of you might imagine I was in the thick of this harmonica-themed conversation. After all, I'm an outgoing guy. And I’ve had my own performing experiences on the harmonica–sitting in with the Uptown Band, performing in Tom H’s Riverwalk fund-raisers, bringing down the house at karaoke, and playing in the pit for three productions of Big River–but I actually didn’t say anything until “Hoochie Coochie Man”, aka “Richard”, finally said, “So what’s your story?”.)

Of course, when I actually heard “Hoochie Coochie Man” play, he was absolutely terrible. No game to his playing at all (“Hoochie Coochie Man”, when he performed it, was the way watching an old white guy in a bad toupee singing “Hoochie Coochie Man” would be entertaining); I sounded better than this guy shortly after buying my first harmonica (And this was his second “Jam Camp”).

I know it’s a cliché, that people who brag on themselves usually don’t have much to brag about (And they’re doing it because no one else will), but in my experience that’s usually been the case. And even if it’s not, talking yourself up, particularly in a situation where you’re just getting to know people, is a losing proposition–If you’re as good as you’re making yourself out to be, you’re a conceited asshole, and if you’re not, you’re a deluded idiot.

I’d much prefer the proof be in the pudding. I don’t want to tell people I’m a good actor, or harmonica player, or singer, or what-have-you; I want to get up and show them (And if I can’t show them, if I can't bring anything to the stage...I don’t want to get up).

This is part of my problem with “marketing” myself–1) I don’t want to have to “talk myself up”, cause it feels like the “bragging” I find distasteful (Obviously, I’m going to need a publicist at some point, to do the dirty work for me), and 2) Even if I wanted to “brag”, A) There’s nothing to brag about, in my mind (I’ve done little to nothing out here that shows I can actually act or do anything of much interest), and B) I’d be bragging to people I don’t know, and people who could, by and large, give a rat’s ass about me and whatever it is I’m bragging about, so what’s the point?

Thurs 10/26/07 (11:24 p.m.)

Just read over what I last wrote...

Makes me sound like “St. Jim The Modest”, which is really not the case. I’m just saying that when I hear people brag about their accomplishments, real or imagined, it makes them seem like jerks (I think that especially when I catch myself going on about “the wonder of me”).

One of the other things that stayed with me from "Jam Camp" was the Sunday afternoon "jam session".

Pretty much every level of expertise was on display--from beginners to professional working musicians--and it struck me that it wasn't just the most experienced, technically proficient players who were entertaining.

I guess that's an obvious point to make (It's not just skill that counts), but seeing it on display - how important it is to "connect" with an audience, to have a sense of humor about yourself, to take pleasure in what you're doing
("Show them you love the Blues", as Jon G. said at one point), and how that makes up for a multitude of technical sins - still somehow felt instructive.

I'm not anti-skill, by any means, or using what I just said as an excuse not to work on my proficiency. On the contrary - knowing that I have a certain "X factor" (I have the stuff - whatever it is - that makes you want to watch me on stage) makes me want to work harder on my skills. Because then I think "how cool would be if, when I get people watching me, I could really take them somewhere...?".

But right now, since I had a worse-than-usual night's sleep (How is that even possible anymore?), I'm heading back to bed for a bit.


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