As you might expect, I’m doing things wildly out of order. I have several songs I should record for you before this one, but this is what I’m working on right now, so this is what you’re getting right now.
This is what I call a ‘low down and dirty’ recording. I’ve recorded it with a USB mic that I already know breaks up when the volume on my vocals goes up, so you’re going to hear that. I just plugged it into audacity and ran with it. Though, to my credit, this is an improvement on me being like ‘fuck it, I’ll just do it on my phone’, so there’s that.
Also, I am accepting suggestions for a better title. I have no idea wth to call this damn song.
Tech specs: (CAD U37 USB mic, audacity, kmise uke with Low G Aquila Red Series Strings)
Anthem (Working Title)
I can’t predict what tomorrow brings
Or in what direction my mood might swing
But I love you right now
That’s the important thing
And if that’s not enough
Then I don’t know what to say
’cause I took my pink, frilly baby shit
And I threw it all away
I’m not the kind of girl who’s good at romance
And I curse like a sailor when I’m mad
When something is broken my first impulse
Is to search the house for all the tools I have
But this is not an independent woman’s anthem
It’s not a field guide to going it on your own
If anything it’s just explanation
So you’ll stop asking why I’m still alone
I’m not saying that I’ve given up
Just that I’m tired of trying way too hard
To fit the mold that people chose for me
To be the person they want me to be
To give those people what they want
Is more than I have to give
I lose way too much along the way
I’ve got my own life to live
So I think that I deserve a little say
But I never really talk about my feelings
Except inside the lyrics of a song
I hate pink ruffles, high heels, and lipstick
Sneakers account for half the shoes I own
There are people who will say
you’re different, so you’re wrong
And you need someone to help you find your way
But those people are brainwashed to believe
The weight of those expectations
Is slowly crushing me
So I’m banging up against coffin lid
Screaming someone’s still alive down here
And I’m giving it all the breath I’ve got to give
Because I’ve got my own life to live
And I’m not giving up
But I’m tired of trying way too hard
To fit the mold that people chose for me
To be a version of me that I can’t even see
To give those people what they want
Is more than I have to give
And I lose way too much along the way
I’ve got my own life to live
so it’s long past time that I demand a little say
I’m fully going to admit guys, that this was an impulse buy. I was on ebay, and it advertised at me for $26.99 + shipping, ending in twenty minutes, with no bids. And dammit, it was PRETTY. I wasn’t about to go in a bidding war over it, but I realized quickly that this pretty thing could land at my doorstep for just about $35. It was advertised as having a solid spruce top, and I decided that was a worthy gamble. If I won it with a minimum bid, then cool. If I didn’t, oh well.
I mean, just look at this thing, guys! It’s seriously pretty, and that’s from someone who doesn’t normally go for flowers. Still, I saw it and fell in love, and while I’m not typically a person for making purchases based on my feelings, I also won’t deny that any time I’ve bought a musical instrument that I honed in on that way, it was the right choice. We tend to connect with our instruments in a way that isn’t entirely logical, so I went with my instincts, deciding it was cheap enough to take that chance.
Now, Kmise is a brand that retails cheaply. What you’re looking at here, at full cost, is still only about a $50 uke, and that’s important to know because an instrument’s budget tells you a lot about what you can reasonably expect.
At a $50 price point, you’re generally expecting a full laminate body, a nut that may or may not be plastic, and string action that might not be as exacting as you’d like. But, you’re still looking at an instrument that is playable and should stay more or less in tune. (Note: I did say ‘more or less’. I have ukes ranging in price from $30 to $250 – so I do know the difference between ‘stays in tune’, ‘stays in tune well enough’, and ‘is a tuning nightmare’.)
So, when I analyze this Kmise uke, I should be comparing it to other ukes in a similar price bracket, but the thing is, I can’t, because I haven’t honestly come across anything similar to the Kmise in that price bracket. This kmise has a solid spruce top, bone saddle, rosewood fingerboard, and the string action is pretty much spot on. It’s biggest weakness seems to be in the tuners, which, honestly, are still pretty on target, so it’s probably more accurate to compare it to ukes in the approximately $100 price bracket.
What I’m telling you here guys is not that ‘omg this is the most amazing ukulele you will ever see’, but I am telling you that it is a lot of bang for your buck, and probably the nicest piece of equipment I’ve seen at this price point. It produces a nice amount of volume, the sound is clean, it stays in tune reasonably well.
I would say, for comparative purposes, it stays in tune roughly as well as my Quilted Ash Snail. It’s far, far better than the Rubin RS-400L for this, and better than both my Kala KA-15S and my Lanikai SMP-T, but not as good as my Ibanez UEW20SLME, so the Snail is probably the closest comparison I have in my current collection. And, don’t get me wrong here, I do love my Snail, but my Snail cost me about $120, if memory serves, and the Kmise landed at my door for roughly $37, so it’s a bit crazy to be comparing the two at all. Still, my ears and fingers know what they’re telling me here, and it’s that I got a steal.
Now, to justify the cost of another uke I didn’t need, I decided to try something different with the Kmise, and bought a set of Low G strings for it. I haven’t tried Low G tuning before, but I already have two concert ukes with standard tuning, so I thought doing the new one up in something a little different would be worthwhile and decided on Aquila Reds.
The Red Series gets some pretty mixed reviews, but having been fiddling with them for a few days, I’ve managed to form my own opinions. You get quite a lot of reviews on the reds that say they break too easily. I have a strong suspicion that the people who say that have never handled guitar strings. Let’s face it, guys, traditional uke strings can take one hell of a beating. Guitar strings are more fragile, and I think the aquila reds feel closer to what you would expect out of a guitar string. On the one hand, they settle more quickly than you’re regular old run of the mill aquilas. On the other, that’s because they’re thinner and more vulnerable if you over-wind them. I can’t tell you how many times I broke a guitar string while stringing the guitar when I was first learning to do it. it happened pretty often on thinner strings. I haven’t had that issue with the aquila reds, but I suspect people who have had that issue with them likely are people who fell into that same trap.
So, when you look at the aquila reds, they’re named for the wound G string, which is bright red (though, color does seem to wear off as you play). The other strings are more or less a burgundy-brown color. Doesn’t bother me, but I’m not the type of person who cares half as much about how strings look as I do about how they sound. So you’ve got three nylon-like strings and one wound string that looks rather a lot like a guitar string. The latter almost makes you want to try playing your uke with a pick, which actually does work out pretty nicely if you want to play around with a different sound. (I gave it a try with a .38mm pick. They’re still uke strings, after all. I don’t want to be too hard on them.)
Overall, I like them. Their similarity to guitar strings makes me wonder if they’ll wear out faster than more traditional uke strings, but only time will tell on that front, so we’ll see. At the moment, I dig the sound. It makes my new uke sound a bit like a hybrid between an ukulele and a very small guitar, really, which puts it in a sonic space that allows me to justify having yet ANOTHER one.
No more ukes for a while, gosh darn it! I have run out of places to store them.
Okay guys, I know, I’ve been quiet for the last little while. I still owe you a bunch of song recordings that I haven’t done, and I am still working on the chapbook project (though I admit I needed a bit of a break from that after banging out five of them, so it’s on a very brief hiatus while I give my poetry-brain a breather), but, I’ve also got two new toys to talk about, so I figured, since I’m unexpectedly home today while waiting for a dentist appointment, I could at least talk to you about that. I’ll do them as separate posts, for sake of efficiency.
The first thing I’m going to talk about is the Vorson Concert Ukulele.
I’ve had this on my to do list for a while. While I have several ukes, I just didn’t really have any I was fully comfortable calling a beater. My Kala KA 15S would technically fit the bill. It’s reasonably inexpensive and I don’t play it often, but it’s also my primary soprano, since my Rubin RS 400L tends not to be the best at staying in tune, and overall the build of the Kala is just plain better. Sure, a soprano upgrade is in my future at some point, but even then, I probably won’t feel comfortable chucking a wood uke in the back of my car for any extended period of time. That’s just me.
So, I have had it in my mind for a while to get an all-plastic uke with the purpose of using it as a car-lele. I wanted something cheap and plastic that I could chuck in the back of the car and mostly forget about, so it would be there to work out ideas on when I find myself out and about with some time to kill. Basically, I was shopping for something that I’d be comfortable beating the hell out of.
That’s where the Vorson came in. It’s all plastic, except for the tuning pegs, so can stand heat, water, or whatever else I want to throw at it, it had good reviews, and as a bonus, it was even a concert size, which happens to be the size I tend to favor.
At the time that I write this post, it’s retailing at around $30 USD. So, I forked over for the blue one, because it was the 2nd cheapest when I was shopping. I wasn’t willing to have a pink ukulele, even as a beater, just to save a buck. I would have totally gone for the orange one, since that’s my favorite color, but I wasn’t willing to pay an extra twenty bucks for it. So, blue it was.
When the uke arrived, I had a few surprises in store. First of all, I liked the sound of it way more than I expected to. Don’t get me wrong – it still sounds like you’re playing a hollow hunk of plastic, but in a way that’s more kitschy than outright crappy. It ended up being sort of acoustically fun and quirky. Buuut…the first try had to go back due to two crappy tuners. It would have been easy to fix myself by just swapping them out, but since getting replacement parts was not an option, replacing the entire uke was how it had to go.
Soo, they shipped me a replacement uke. The 2nd one arrived in a completely unsealed box. Okay, let’s back track, the first one, which was defective, arrived in an uke box inside a box almost as tall as I am, filled with paper padding. The second one arrived in an uke box, with no padding, that wasn’t even taped shut. Guys, this is a $30 plastic uke. my issue is obviously not the lack of padding. My issue is that they took a box off a shelf, stuck a label on it, and sent it on it’s merry little way without sealing it at all so anyone could have just opened it up and taken it right out without disturbing the packaging, that if someone dropped that box, the uke would have fallen right out and gone flying. Also, a bit confused about the packaging inconsistency.
But, I digress on the packaging issue. The 2nd uke arrived…better. While the first uke had one tuner that was a bit stiff and one that was almost completely immobile (you could hear grating metal when you attempted to turn it), the 2nd uke arrived with one tuner that was stiff, but usable. I decided to leave well-enough alone. I could be exchanging a $30 uke into infinity if I didn’t.
Still, the lesson here is that the Vorson comes with some of the crappiest tuning pegs I’ve ever seen, and I will eventually swap them out. Even with that, though, it is a good deal for what it is. Remember, everything is about perspective.
-inexpensive, durable, keeps tune reasonably well in spite of the horrible tuning pegs, the plastic uke sound is honestly kind of fun
-horrible tuning pegs, action is a bit too high
The down sides, I think, for an uke in this price bracket, are to be expected, and it’s still entirely playable in spite of them, so I’m overall calling this a win. It will make a good beater uke, or a beach/pool uke since you don’t really have to worry about getting it wet. I would, however, go in planning to replace the tuning pegs if you buy it, and just be pleasantly surprised if you don’t have to.
I know, I know. I’ve been posting literally nothing but ‘new chapbook available’ for the last several posts. Sorry about that. I know it’s got to be getting boring, but I’ve been working on them three at a time (while I’m waiting for confirmation on one, I’m designing the cover for the next. When I’m waiting for a proof on the first and waiting for confirmation on the 2nd, then that’s a good time to start editing the third.)
The pacing is going to slow down a bit at this point. It just happened that this last batch didn’t require a lot of time to be spent on editing. On the current one (which will be number 6, the editing process is going slower, so you can be relieved that you might get a bit of reprieve).
Still, I’m doing stuff, and the whole point of the blog is to talk about the stuff I’m doing, so I would be remiss to decide not to talk about an item on that list of stuff just because it’s the same sort of post as the last few. Can’t be helped. I work at intervals of manic productivity between large swaths of excessive laziness. That’s just how I roll, so I’ve got to chase the inspiration to get shit done while I’ve got it.
And on that note, tonight, I got the proof of the latest chapbook in the mail and I’ll be damned if the proof actually didn’t require a single edit. It’s a fricking miracle. So, I’ve hit the handy-dandy publish button, and the latest will be popping up on Amazon within the next day or so. This brings me just shy of the halfway point of the project. I say just shy because while I am officially through the first half of the basic chapbooks, there are a few other random pieces that still need to either put in one of these collections or decide what else I feel like doing with it. Until I make a decision on that, I can’t say if I’m halfway through or not. They might get smooshed somewhere in the 2nd half of the chapbooks. Or, they might end up warranting their own thing. Not sure yet.
So, unlike my last post, I actually am on the lappy, so can grab a piece from this book to share with you, pretty much at random. It’s 3:30 in the morning,as I noted above, and I no longer have the mental faculties at this point to be particularly selective about what piece I feel like sharing, so I’m going with something simple:
I traced the lies on your lips
while you were sleeping.
I guess that means the honeymoon is over.
The boxes left packed in the closet
make me wonder if I’m coming or going.
When I read poetry praising the power of love
I think about how you
never put the toilet seat down
and the trail of dirty laundry you leave behind you.
When we met I told you:
‘I’m not the kind of woman who does dishes’.
Now, we spend a fortune on paper plates.
I shouldn’t have been so specific.
You want to talk about love?
You steal the covers,
but we still sleep in the same bed.
I don’t have a poem from this one to share with you at the second, since I’m writing this post from mobile while on that run and the poems are on that lappy, but, it exists, and has for a few days, so that brings me up to 4. Fifth is currently in the proof process, and I’ve started work on the 6th. If I am very, very lucky, I will have them all out and be up to date by the end of the year.
The cover came out pretty, though. (BTW, all covers are designed/photograpged/drawn/etc by me. I’m not sure if I mentioned that, but I guess I should before someone asks why I’m not crediting the artist, or whatever.)
The flowers are actually part of the bundle that sits on my kitchen table during the holidays. Took forever to get them separated from the background and smoothed out for use here, and left my hand pretty sore. It might be time for a replacement stylus for my drawing tablet.
Let’s see…what else…
Currently in process of writing a few funny uke songs. Hopefully will get around to recording and uploading new tunes soon.
Also, I really must clear off my camera before a festival next month, so there will probably be more photos coming. I forgot to upload my last several walks here, so there are probably more pics coming from the phone, too. You might, possibly, get spammed with nature pics soon.
That is all.
I’m trying to behave myself and be better about actually doing the whole ‘promoting shit I’m doing’ thing, so here you have it:
I just hit the appropriate button to make it available on amazon, though it can take a few days before it’s listed as available.
When I was working on this one, I joked with Roomie that I should change the title to ‘Trigger Warning’ because the chapbook, by and large, is about grief. I spent more time working through this one than the previous two. It just happened, when I separated things out based on content to form the collections, ‘The Dark Hours’ ended up having a higher number of seriously old pieces that needed some work. One of them actually ended up being removed entirely, as I realized it made a better song than poem (I’ll record it eventually. Really.)
So, I figure I should share something from this book with you. My choice of poem is more or less arbitrary, but I’m intentionally choosing something quite old, since anything recent may be in my archives on the blog somewhere already.
In This City
I’ve come to talk with you again
about the white line
on the broken mirror,
and the gray stone you left behind you.
In this city,
there’s a deep chill you get from living
one lie at a time,
with your arms outstretched
against a cracked moon.
I watched you stare out the window once.
It was raining,
so I made a comment on the weather,
something unexpectedly poetic
about things as cold as they are beautiful.
‘I want to be like that,’ you’d said.
If I took a pen,
I could have traced the scars
up and down your arms
and drawn the world there,
mapped out a whole life
like it’s a paint-by-number
and revealed, with care,
the portrait of a weeping face.
Now, in a cemetery,
I trace your name,
if everything in life is transitory,
then this must be love.
At this point, the 4th chapbook will be available as well in the very near future – I’m waiting on the proof as I write this post, and I’m starting to format the fifth. As mentioned in an earlier post, I’m releasing them all in very quick succession. I expect I will very likely be getting to work on the sixth by next week. Nothing new in music land (that I haven’t been promising but not doing for ages, at least), since I’m focused on this project for the time being.
Okay, guys, it’s time for another Happy Happy Update post. I know I’ve been a terrible blogger recently, throwing up things mostly at random and not at any sort of regular clip, and once again, I am grossly behind on my blog-reading, too. I think we’ve all realized at this point that the latter can’t be helped; no matter how much I try to become a person who keeps up-to-date, I’m a chronic binger. I ignore a thing for ages, and then absorb massive amounts of that thing all at once, so given my almost complete absence, a blog binge is probably pending. So is the recording and sharing of a song I wrote thanks to binging on science articles. And, another song that I’m still ironing out. And, ANOTHER song, that came out of a poem I wrote as a teenager. I’ve got a few photos, too, though not as many as this time last year, since we have had a very wet, humid summer, and for reasons I don’t quite understand, I’m just not handling the heat well this summer, which has reduced photo ops. Penny pinching has also reduced how many concerts I’ve gone to this summer, so I haven’t really had as much of that to post about, either.
I’d like to say, “I have a whole bunch of stuff ready to share with you right this very second!” But, I don’t. I’m diligently at work, though. The third poetry chapbook is just about ready to proof, so will likely be out in about a week or so. The second is already out, and I was negligent and don’t think I posted about it when I released it. (It’s available on Amazon.)
I did my due diligence and made a few purchases on bandcamp last night, when they were doing their Transgender Law Center benefit. I know I’m probably breaking some rule of blogging that will attract an army of trolls for saying so, but whatever, I delete offensive comments anyway, because I just can’t be bothered with that sort of petty shit. Besides, bandcamp is awesome, and I’m of the opinion that once you believe that every human being deserves basic human rights, and once you acknowledge that some groups of people are at higher risk than others of having those rights taken away, then, frankly, buying your independent music on a Friday instead of a Thursday to see that some of that money goes to the cause of protecting those higher risk people is kind of a no-brainer . (In the interest of full disclosure, I am not trans. I’m not even non-binary. I just think it’s as good a cause as any, given the current state of things.) That’s my soapbox on the matter. Back to the usual music/art/poetry rambling.
Today, I’m going to start work on the 4th chapbook. This is a really wild process, in a way, because so many of the pieces that I’m including are really old, or sat on my computer unfinished for years, or, I discovered, were actually songs in disguise.
When I was a kid, I used to fill notebooks with terrible song lyrics. I didn’t play any musical instruments, so I would write these ‘songs’ and then not remember what the melody was or have any way of recapturing it. Over time, that evolved into me writing poetry. Now that I have a guitar and an ukulele, there’s a way in which I’ve sort of come full circle, but some of those pieces from the original transition, where I thought ‘I’m not a musician, maybe I should write poems’, that period of maybe four years in high school and early college, when I revisit those pieces now to pick them apart and edit them into something more polished, sometimes, I discover the thing that’s hiding in my clumsy teenage verses is a song in poem’s clothing, or a poem that wants to be a song, but isn’t, not really. I guess what I’m saying here is that, right now, I’m going through this strange process of collaborating with my younger self. Sometimes, that self has already collaborated with her younger self, so I can end up looking at a piece that 20 yr old me edited that 16 year old me wrote, that 24 yr old me took a third pass at, and that me in 2017 thinks still has potential but isn’t what it ought to be, and takes another pass at. Other times, the process is more fluid – ideas sketched out in my mid-20s that I never polished into anything. Or, a piece I started to write 2 years ago, but, at the time, didn’t really know what I was trying to say, so couldn’t finish.
On that last note, I think I do have SOMETHING, I can share with you. When I was working on my 2nd chapbook, ‘Just Saying’, I joked that I should rename it ‘This is the Book That Will Get Me Trolled’, because it was full of all the pieces that touched on subject matter for which the discourse is still alive and heated. There’s what I jokingly call my ‘angry feminist poem’ in there, and another piece that’s really popular in LGBTQ+ circles that’s kinda/sorta about gender identity (and actually, I think might be my most popular poem), another piece is about bullying. There are a lot of sore subjects that get touched on in that chapbook, so I ended up calling it ‘Just Saying’ based on that thing we all say as a get out jail free card. How, any time people say something controversial, they’ll tack on ‘I’m just saying…’ at the end as if that removes all culpability.
The trouble I ran into with that book though, was that while I had several reasonably strong pieces in the mix, reading it felt like a ship lost at sea. It needed something else I couldn’t quite put my finger on to anchor it. There was just something missing. So, I started sifting through the folder on my computer of stuff I have that either needs major edits, or just plain isn’t done, and I found a piece that was rough, but close to complete. It just needed a bit of fine tuning and a good, strong push in the right direction, so I got my head into finishing it. Once I did, it turned out to be just what I was looking for to complete the book.
So, that’s what I’m going to share with you today, an Old-New Piece from ‘Just Saying’ called ‘How the Game is Played’. I’ll get back to sharing songs and photos you a little later, once I start to see a little daylight on the other end of this poetry project.
How the Game is Played
All this pick-a-team
has left me so pink and blue
that I’ve turned purple.
I am walking wounded
from all the teams I’ve been shoved onto.
They say the average toddler,
has learned to pick gender-appropriate toys
by the time they’re three.
I was late.
And thank god for that,
because some days I’m shirts,
some days I’m skins,
and every day I have to be ready for battle.
Because everything I say puts me on a team,
and it’s practically a capital offense
when that team changes.
I am tired of sneaking across the line
to the appropriate side in the dead of night,
so that no one has to see me as I am in the light of day.
But, someone is going to hear my words
and apply a label to the middle ground,
as if putting me on yet another team There solves the problem
when they’re all still keeping score.
I am not a convenient extra member
for either side of an argument
that’s constantly coming up short-handed.
And I am not okay with being told:
“You belong Here.”
Because I didn’t choose to play this game,
and I don’t have a favorite team,
but I’m forced to fight or flee
because every time I say nothing when I’m put Here, or There,
it all starts over again
and I am tired of playing a game that I can’t win
so escape is my only option
and I am looking for higher ground
on a leveled field
where the hits keep coming
and the hands are heavy enough to leave scars,
and I have to do something,
because if you don’t do something, they’ll make you bleed
then tell you that it’s a small thing,
that you’re okay,
that that’s just how the game is played.