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About Joan

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    A Muse's Muse

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    Lovettsville, VA, USA

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  • Lyricist, Composer or Both?
  • Musical Influences?
    dave carter, stan rogers, patty griffin, guy clark, leonard cohen, joni mitchell, david massengill

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  1. See? There ya go. Jim we might be talking past one another a little bit, making some of the same points as if the other hadn't already said or acknowledged that 1) singability can be a lot more important in a lyric than lyric content, and that 2) in some song forms (though as you say, not folk), the words just wash over the listener and don't sink in so it just doesn't matter as much. Also, as I've said, "bites the dust" isn't a cliche as I hear it. And as I already wrote upthread, "I love you" isn't trite. A phrase can be very, very familiar without being trite. A cliche is a figure of speech, plus being over-familiar. Not just a saying, but a figure of speech. Here's that link again: figure of speech. A cliche is basically an overused literary device: a simile, metaphor, hyperbole, etc. What can save a phrase from being a cliche is taking it out of its familiar context. "Belle of the ball" is not a figure of speech. And as familiar as it's become (which again, doesn't make something trite, as "I love you" and "I hate you" and "Take care!" and "Glad to meet you" and "You're welcome" demonstrate), you sound like you're taking it out of its over-familiar context by bringing the hot girl into the club. That freshens it up, gives it new life, and it might work well. Some of the incredibly corny wordplay of the 1980s and 1990s tried to do that with cliches in country songs. They didn't just use cliches, they twisted them into something else, which is what made them memorable, for those who like that sort of thing: "Better Love Next Time," "She Can't Say I Didn't Cry," and "This is Our Last Resort" and "I Guess You Had to Be There" come to mind as examples. Use it but change it into something else, or give it a double meaning. But don't just use it bare; do something different with it. Or don't, it you're pretty sure nobody's listening anyway. Even if I were writing in a different genre, if something was stale and boring to me, I wouldn't be laying it on a listener. I would never intentionally put something as mock worthy as a cliche in a piece of work with my name on it.
  2. Just my two cents probably qualifies as a cliche, which was possibly intentional. You can do fresher than that when the occasion demands it, no doubt. The Dylan phrase doesn't sound like a cliche to me. Except for Papa Was a Rolling Stone, I don't remember hearing it used in a lyric. Maybe I missed out on other references that make you consider it overly familiar. We shouldn't have to worry too much about coining a future cliche. "Bites the dust" is a cliche? Did it seem trite to you in Pancho and Lefty? Or did Van Zandt twist it around enough and pull it into literal relevance effectively enough to keep it fresh? And "drop it like it's hot" is a figure of speech for sure, but I only ever heard it in that one work as best I can remember. None of those phrases ever struck me as stale or lazy, to be honest. There is a subjective element to this, right? Whether a phrase seems trite to you is what makes it a cliche to you. If you're using a phrase you yourself think will seem stale and trite to your listeners, do you really think it's not better to try for something fresher and more memorable? Or are your songs mostly not about the lyric so the words are just meant to wash over he listener and it won't matter? The songs I listen to and write are definitely lyric-driven, which of course not all songs are. If a phrase bores the crap out of me, I don't want it in my song. But I'm a very slow writer, and if I had to turn over my material much faster, I might have different feelings about the words I use.
  3. A cliche isn't just a familiar phrase, it's an overly familiar figure of speech, usually a simile or some other type of metaphor, and nearly always non-literal. When you say someone was "eating like a pig," which is a cliche, you don't literally mean they were moving food around on the ground with their snout. You just mean they were eating greedily: too much, or too fast, or both. "I have to go now" is a familiar phrase, but there's nothing trite about it. Same with "Look out!" or "It's good to meet you." They're not cliches, no matter how often you hear them, because they're not figures of speech and because they're often the exact right thing to say in the moment. A cliche is never the exact right thing to say in the moment. It's the thing you might say in the moment when you're on the spot and can't think of anything better. It's not the thing you'd have your novel's hero saying in the moment, because your hero can always think of something better. "Wanna have my baby" is weak or strong in a lyric depending on where you take it, but it's not a cliche. Any time you go looking for well-received songs that have a cliche or two, even in their hook, you'll find them. Those songs would have been better yet without them; those songs don't prove that cliches are good phrases to use. If anything, they suggest lyrics matter less than melody, arrangement, performance and singability for a song's overall success.
  4. Eclipse 2017

    My guy and I are headed down Saturday for four days in Walland, Tennessee, where an old high school friend has a farm in the totality path. We’ll see the total eclipse for, I think, a minute and eight seconds. Through eclipse glasses scored from a gift shop at the Smithsonian’s Air and Space museum. I had only just reconnected with my friend Susan a couple of weeks earlier, and had no idea she was in the path. Our place in Virginia will have something like 98 percent coverage, and that was going to be awesome enough. One upside of crossing the country every year by car is figuring out what friend I might take a detour to visit on the way. My parents moved away from the city where I’d gone to high school before I’d been in college for a year. So after Freshman year, I no longer had a home base to keep returning to and keep renewing those old friendships. And Susan’s not on FaceBook. If you have the chance to reconnect with someone from your deep past, I can only say this was profoundly moving and a billion times more than worth it. We were up late into the night talking about stuff, after four decades of very little contact.
  5. Song Politics

    An actual moral right can prevail over a legal moral right, in the public eye if not in the courtroom. These song choices by campaigns can seem like attempts to create an association in the voter’s mind between the qualities of the artist and the qualities of the candidate: iconoclasm, defiance, hard-nosed nationalism, youthful vigor, whatever's going on in the song. This can elevate the candidate, but can also debase the artist’s brand when song use constitutes a perceived endorsement. It doesn’t matter whether the artist has retained the legal right to make the candidate stop using the song. The artist still has the right to complain publicly and embarrass the candidate into agreeing to stop. To so complain is sometimes necessary for the artist to protect his good name and make sure his fans know he has not personally granted permission or made an endorsement of the candidate. This also helps the opposing candidate, which is often part of the artist’s intent in making the public complaint.
  6. Song Politics

    It is such an embarrassment to the campaign, and so preventable, when an artist publicly denounces some candidate's use of a song. Why on earth wouldn't the campaign contact the artist’s agency and get permission first, and spare itself all that bad publicity? If Bruce Springsteen has come out for the other guy, you leave yourself wide open if you play “Born in the USA” at your campaign rallies. It does your campaign no good to have the whole world hear from Springsteen that he doesn’t appreciate your using his good work to promote your political aspirations, when the policies you endorse are the opposite of what Springsteen himself endorses. It’s not a difficult concept. Maybe it’s happened, but I’ve never heard of a Democrat trying to use something like “Courtesy of the Red, White and Blue” at a campaign rally, or “Proud to Be an American” and then get shot down for it by Toby Keith or Lee Greenwood. If you’re running a campaign you need to stick with songs by artists who are on your side, make sure it’s okay if you’re not already sure, or else get yourself publicly humiliated when it blows up on you. Every campaign has a staffer who can do the research and make the phone calls. I say “the artist” rather than “the publishing company” or “the record company.” If anyone is going to make a stink it’s the artist, probably on the advice of that artist's manager, and no campaign should leave itself open to the public smack-down.
  7. A cliche isn’t about simplicity, though in this thread you'd think the two were interchangeable. It isn't the vocabulary level of a lyric or whether it uses a beloved chord progression. A cliche is a trite and stale phrase. It means time, distance and sheer repetition have sucked the life out of it. By distance I mean at one time it might have had a literal correlation to reality, but it's somehow migrated from its literal component. Like "brown as a berry." What berries, exactly are so brown that we would use them to epitomize brownness? "Cute as a button." What's at all cute about a typical button? "Pretty as a picture." A picture is only pretty when it's a picture of something pretty. A picture of a crime scene is probably not pretty at all. "Red as a beet." Isn't a beet more like reddish purple? "Red as blood" would be more to the point. Though "beet-red" might be perfect when you're using it to describe something with just that shade of purply-red beet juice. "Neat as a pin." I'd think the salient quality of a pin would be its sharpness, not its absence of clutter. Unlike some cliches, these had a long, long time to dry out, and they would now be hallmarks of archaic language. As Paul wrote upthread, cliche is in the eye of the beholder, because if it works on me it doesn't seem trite at all. To me. It’s not just how old and weathered a phrase is, but also whether it still has the power to evoke a sense image, which it needs to be able to do if it's going to be able to make the listener feel something. In phrases that don't last very long once they're coined, it can also be about who the phrase has trickled down to. If a middle-school orator is using "at the end of the day” to mean "when all is said and done” or "in the final analysis,” it’s probably time for Anderson Cooper to retire "at the end of the day." The death knell for a fad is when the big kids see the little kids playing with it. At that point the big kids drop it like a hot potato, like a bad habit, like a sack of bricks, like a ton of shit. Fads have their life cycles, so do phrases. Like fads, trendy phrases don’t hit everyone at the same time. By the time it’s all the rage in Picayune, it’s done for in LA where it was coined, where they’re now off to the next thing. Writers are supposed to be the LA or Seattle or Boston or Manhattan of phrases. But if you’re putting cliches into your work because you haven’t developed the radar to know when phrases have played out, you’re the Podunk of phrases instead. A good writer won't ape trendy phrases, though there's nothing wrong with coining them ourselves. “And I Love Her” doesn’t have a single figure of speech. Which is kind of the difference between dark as the night and dark is the night. The second is a statement of fact, while the first is a figure of speech. Took something old and turned it around. There’s no phrase in that lyric that started off fresh and then degenerated into boring and stale. That’s one of the reasons it's aged well. Figures of speech, even if they’re sharp at the time we use them, can really tie a song to the year it was written. In thirty years, or two years or maybe even by two months ago, nobody will be moved by hearing about something being on fleek. I think the coolest thing to do as a writer if you want to write that something is "brighter than a..." or "as black as..." or "as cold as..." or "meaner than a..." is to come up with something you haven't run into before. Come up with it yourself, and then google it. It might show up, but maybe it won't show up in a song lyric. That's pay dirt. That's as fresh as this morning's mushroom, and it's associated with no lyric but yours. Melahide, one reason I-V-ii-IV is so insanely popular is that when we first see a list of all those songs that use it, the list surprises most of us. Most of those songs don't remind us of one another. The progression is the same, but the songs riding over that progression are different, even though we could superimpose the tunes on top of one another and they'd be in harmony. "Someone Like You" doesn't bring to mind "I'm Yours," not to me anyway. I think of I-V-ii-IV as being like the dog genome that way. The same species parameters give us all these incredibly different-looking beasts. Elastic as the dog genome. Is that in any lyric out there? The nerdiest lyric ever if it is...
  8. Political Hate

    I think natural selection tells us that a healthy society needs a robust share of both conservatives and liberals, that we are supposed to share work and power within the same families, neighborhoods and workplaces. So that our temperaments and outlooks will enable us to specialize in a large variety of vocations. Also, that conservatives exist to keep society from degenerating, and that liberals exist to keep society from stagnating. Put another way -- and this is not an original thought -- that conservatives clean up the mess that liberals make in forcing civilization to advance. Or if you prefer, God made me liberal, and God doesn’t make mistakes. And I think most people are comfortable with that basic sentiment, or have been until lately. Conservatives might get along better-than-fine with their liberal shrinks and their kids' guidance counselors, and liberals might get along just as well with their conservative accountants and electricians, when it lines up that way. When you need a lawyer, you don't seek out one who agrees with you politically, but the one who won that big settlement for your brother.-in-law. But I think people tend to be adamant that whichever way they lean politically, that their own side should hold more power than the other. Like most people, I want the politicians who represent me to share my basic view of the world. Obviously, I get that conservatives want that for themselves too. We can’t change one another’s minds. Liberals can't blather on to conservatives about why we think they should turn liberal. A light switch isn't going to become a ukulele. All we can do is try to defeat them on election day as they try to defeat us. But however any new laws are made and whether old laws survive, the purpose of the laws should be to make life better for all of us, not just their biggest donors. Congress is supposed to enact laws to promote the general welfare of the people. All the people, including the ones who voted against them. This Congress, these day, seems like people who are only in it for themselves. Oh, they'll say, "I'm everybody's Senator," but you wouldn't know it from the laws they sponsor and the way they vote. They act like they're somebody's bitch, is how they look to me. The political hatred we all deplore feels like it comes from a place of contempt, or fear, or both. We used to have to get along with whoever life threw us in with. But as we got more mobile we have been able to surround ourselves instead with people who resonate on our own wavelengths. This makes our real-world relationships seem more dispensable. With our electronic devices we have the option of spending more and more of our time hanging out with people who agree with us and who tell us they think we're clever and good. Which emboldens us to haul off and spit out some harsh and reckless and damaging opinions to some of the people we know best. If you're conservative, I might say I basically think you are wrong because your outlook does not reflect the way I see the world. That the politicians you admire are lying to us all, and that you’re buying it. That I'm afraid that if your power grows in that wrongness of yours, you and your kind will become more dangerous. You might think the same of me, and people who believe what I do. I'm just not convinced that every single issue that comes up in the political sphere has to be tied in with identity politics. Abortion didn't used to be a conservative/liberal issue. It's kind of recent -- since the "sexual revolution" -- that it has become so. Before that, conservative women were as likely as liberal women to jump off tables or hurl themselves down stairs or ask a friend of a friend for a referral when they needed to break the law. And, for crying out loud, we all want lower taxes. It just comes down to what we are willing to give up that taxes currently pay for. We all want affordable health care. So how much more are we are willing to pay in taxes to make that happen? Do we have a problem with our own contributions paying for the care of others? Health care has always worked that way, shared risk spread out over the covered population. Why is that only a problem when tax dollars would be paying for it? We are paying for it already, in higher premiums and higher hospital bills to cover the care of uninsured patients whose illness and injury we all absorb. And in the raises we don't get when our bosses tell us that premiums have gone up so much they can't afford to give us raises this year.
  9. Political Hate

    I'll tell you how far the climate has worsened in my lifetime. For most of my voting life, it's been more or less true that conservatives think liberals are stupid, and liberals think conservatives are evil. Now, conservatives think liberals are both evil and stupid, while liberals think conservatives are both venomous and vacuous, both dim-witted and duplicitous. I don't know what it'll take to take things back to where they were in the 1990s and the early 2000s. As lately as the George W. Bush years, it seemed to me people could separate their feelings for political leaders from their feelings for those who'd voted them in. We'd give each other a pass, as in, "Okay, you wanted lower taxes, I get it. And you couldn't get them without bringing on the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and making promises to the pro-lifers. You give something to get something, I don't like it but you didn't do it; it's not personal between you and me." Similarly, no matter how much conservatives might have hated Bill Clinton, it didn't necessarily poison their feelings toward their liberal friends, families, co-workers. There was still a lot of dating across party lines. In 2017 that's mostly out the window. There's actually a lot of divorce this year along party lines.
  10. Political Hate

    Yes, you're right. After the Revolutionary War but before the War of 1812, still touch and go as to whether the colonies would hang together as a nation. If you dispute my larger point, that the Second Amendment was a concession to the South enacted to help preserve slavery, would you be willing to share your reasoning on that? If I'm remembering correctly what I've read, the South pushed for the Second Amendment both as a tool for subordinating slaves and for facilitating duels, which were far more prevalent in Southern than in Northern culture at the time.
  11. Political Hate

    Bob, I haven’t been through the agony of an abusive relationship myself. You’re not alone in wondering why anyone would stay. The easy answer, though it doesn’t always apply, is that in some homes violence feels normal because it’s reminiscent of scenes a person had grown up with. I’ve seen friends through family violence and leaving a time or two, and have had a lot of conversations with other friends who’d been through it before I knew them. Here are a few of the constants: 1. By the time he’s first laid a hand on her, she’s already very much under his control because of all the steps leading up to it. By then she’s isolated and alienated from all her friends, most of her family, and sometimes her livelihood. Sometimes the people she reaches out to are his friends and family, who tend to be more sympathetic to his point of view than to hers because they know him better than they know her, and they've never seen that side of him. 2. She blames herself for him not being himself. She doesn’t want to change him, she just wants him to get back to being that guy she first fell in love with who was so sweet and gallant to her. And she blames herself for a lot of what he does. 3. She keeps waffling between staying and leaving, which makes her incredibly difficult to support. If you know them as a couple and are under pressure to socialize with the two of them after the things you’ve heard, you can feel kind of manipulated yourself. 4. If you know her through the guy, it crosses your mind more than once that whatever happened, she had provoked him into violence he wasn’t really prone to. Unfair, unkind, and maybe untrue, but it does cross your mind. 5. Some of the help she needs is difficult to provide. Like babysitting her wild kids who might be prone to beating up on your kids. Things like that. 6. Sometimes the abused one is the husband. A friend of mine killed herself a couple of weeks ago, the first friend i ever lost to suicide. A depressed and alcoholic friend who physically attacked her husband, also a friend, just as he thought she was about to go for inpatient rehab treatment for her out-of-control drinking. He left the house for his own safety, and she hanged herself while he was gone. You never know all of what’s going on with people, or what a dark and dangerous place they might be in. 7. i couldn't see myself adding firepower to the mix with any of these people under any circumstances. But I do know that it’s more complicated than helping someone who asks, because asking means telling, and telling brings on the shame. And at least one (female)friend who left an abusive husband did arm herself, and did feel safer for it. In fear for your life, sometimes there's a place for that.
  12. Political Hate

    Is that what you do, Bob? How many times have you bought a gun for an abused wife and taken her out to the firing range to make sure she knows how to load and fire it? Or are there more abused spouses out there, even whom we know personally, than we know what their situations are because nobody's talking about it? Because there's always an innocuous alternative explanation for a black eye or a dislocated shoulder or a broken tibia? Leaving an abusive spouse is one of the most physically dangerous moves a person can make. That's the point where the danger really ratchets up, so good for you with your one-on-one self-defense courses.
  13. Political Hate

    You know what’s hardest for me whenever I see the text of the Second Amendment, Bob? It’s the commas where no commas should be. When a phrase is set off with commas, like the phrase about what a well-regulated militia is necessary for, that phrase is supposed to support the phrase it comes right after. But here it doesn’t. But it seems to be trying to. But it’s written with punctuation that isn’t used these days. So there’s that. I’ve read that the Second Amendment was a concession to Southerners sitting on the fence about joining the other colonial states in the rebellion against England, that what they were most concerned for was their continued ability to form organized, armed fugitive slave patrols. I haven’t reached any conclusions on that myself, but don’t worry. Your Second Amendment is safe from the likes of me. You can keep your firepower, you don’t worry me. It’s the crazies and the hotheads and the depressive alcoholics who brood vengefully when their wives move themselves and their kids out of the family domicile to get away from the threats and the yelling and the throwing and the black eyes. Those are the ones who worry me. Nobody’s dangerous with a legally obtained weapon until they are in a high liquid funk. You’re not that kind, I can tell.
  14. Political Hate

    Pushing for gun control is not fighting to ban personal weapons. It’s about keeping guns away from violent offenders and people with dangerous mental disorders. People with diagnosed mental health disorders, who are so impaired by those disorders that they can’t hold a job and are getting disability checks, who are so impaired that those mental disability checks go into the bank accounts of their guardians instead of to them directly, can legally buy guns. Most gun owners agree that this is a problem, but the NRA does not agree, so neither do the congressmen and senators who do the NRA's bidding. This congressman who just got shot was one of the legislators who blocked the bill that would have turned that around, that would have raised the bar just that little bit for being able to legally buy firearms. Which I’m sure you already know if you follow bills as closely as most people do who care about these things. Does it make you feel safer knowing that?
  15. Political Hate

    Kuya, if you're a lawmaker who is perpetually on the side of easier firearms access for more people, of course you must own the fact that some who shouldn't have access, do. The whole point is that some of the millions who have guns, shouldn’t. This guy shouldn’t have had legal access, but he did. This alcoholic, abusive hothead who shot rounds at his foster daughter's dates, whose foster daughters complained repeatedly to the proper authorities about his physical violence, had no problem obtaining and keeping his weapons and his ammunition. People like this gravely wounded congressman — may he recover quickly and fully — make careers out of impeding common-sense efforts to rein in the gore. Yes, you can kill with a knife, with a knitting needle, a vial of poison, a box-cutter or a spork. You can make a shank out of a toothbrush and slice open someone's carotid artery. But it’s easier to kill, and to kill more people from a distance, if you’re using projectiles propelled with gunpowder. Guns don’t kill people but shooters do. That’s where the snark and irony and sarcasm come from, when one of these people who make it more dangerous for us all is caught up in it himself. If your next-door neighbor is armed, I sincerely hope that person has a steady temperament and an amiable outlook on life. So many of the gun guys I know are twitchy, foul-tempered, intimidating, and always with the veiled and not-so-veiled threats. Not all gun owners, just way too many of them are. I live in the country and I can see the type coming from a mile away. Our property is sometimes fired upon during hunting season, despite the numerous posted warnings not to, and despite the quadrupled fines for firing on property with posted No Hunting warnings. Plus, we have gun guys who live on bordering acreage. Not everyone who keeps firearms is a gun guy, just the ones who talk about them all the time and won't go anywhere without them. If that's their hammer and every problem seems like a nail to them, we're all in trouble.