Check out the eschorama substack newsletter for a monthly update, mostly news about recent podcasts I’ve been a part of.
Over at substack, you will find my year-end roundup of books I finished reading. Here are my favorite reads from 2020:
- Nickel Mountain
- To the Lighthouse
- Zen Mind / Beginner’s Mind
- Poems of Exile
- The Art of Solitude
- One Robe, One Bowl
For details, check out the eschorama substack newsletter. Happy New Year!
Modestly adventuresome tales of record collecting
When the world gets me down, I often turn to my stereo for solace. Needless to say, the lasers and needles have been getting quite the workout this season.
Since high school, I’ve been collecting records on vinyl and CD, and I like to keep an eye on the rapidly shifting landscape in the recorded music industry. What’s new this tumultuous year? The trends are interesting. The RIAA has issued its mid year revenue stats for 2020. Overall revenues are up 5.6%. Streaming music revenue continues to dominate with 85% market share (and revenue growth of 12%). People are streaming more than ever. Digital download music, however, continues its downward trend (6% market share).
I’m most interested in the state of physical products, good old LP’s and CD’s—what impact has Covid19 had on them in the first half of the year?
In pontoon boats, the tourists leave Page, Arizona and head up Lake Powell, past slot canyons, buttes and far off mesas. To the east rises Navajo Mountain, like a benevolent yet all powerful god. They dock the boat and walk across the planks to the shore, then snake through a narrow canyon, rounding bends deeper into what is feeling like a rock cathedral. Then they see it. Behold the rainbow rock bridge, gateway to the Navajo holy realms. Although no tongue is there to give voice to sacredness, they feel it. A hush descends on warm beams of sunshine.
For reasons he can’t fathom, he suddenly thinks of Baroque architecture. Perhaps because it is so antithetical to this place, worn by time into smoothness and raw, energetic grandeur. This is nothing like Venice, he thinks, with its ornaments and opulence, the walls with slotted windows, the domes and spires arising from the mist. This is nothing like that. Then he sees there could be some fundamental connection between the places. Rainbow bridge and Navaho Mountain seem haunted by ghosts of a nation mostly missing in action, lost to time. And parts of Venice linger too, forgotten by all, like the ghosts who haunt the asylum on Poveglia island, where shadows linger over the plague pits, and dark, nameless fish lurk in forbidden canals.
Can memory be written into a place? Until Lake Powell and the rainbow bridge, he wasn’t sure. Now he thinks maybe so. The atmosphere is at once thick with longing for history, yet utterly barren and forgetful, as if the clear sky and air have no need for paltry sediments of time past. Something tangible is here, persisting, but the language can’t be deciphered.
I intended to post this a couple weeks ago, then life got in the way. A new short story about a boy, an imaginary friend, and a lot of other things. It’s a blend of realism and magic realism. Read “August Goodbye” at substack.com.
On keeping a writing journal
Most any book on writing, any writing class or workshop you will attend, will advise you to keep a journal for observations, inspirations, memories, dreams, fantasies, ideas, and plans. A journal is the place where creativity spawns.
When I was 11, I must have made it known to my family that I wanted to be a writer, because Christmas day 1975 I got my first writing journal. It was called The Nothing Book. A paperback of blank pages to fill. Hundreds of thousands of copies were sold in hardcover and paperback. I envy the person who came up with this bestselling concept. Maybe they knew the guy who came up with The Pet Rock, which came out in 1975, too.
My entries were sporadic, embarrassing kid stuff and adolescent ramblings. Honestly, those blank pages were too blank. I didn’t know how to fill them. I wondered if I had anything to say. The act of putting something inside those pages felt too momentous and intimidating. The Nothing Book petered out by the time I got to college and lurked in a shoebox until I rediscovered it this summer. I’m writing in it again. It’s cool seeing one page end in 1983 and the next pick up in 2020.
After The Nothing Book, I moved to spiral bound notebooks, beginning with my high school senior year creative writing class notebook. They contain diary entries and reflections, draft poems, songs, stories, and essay fragments. This continued into college and beyond into adulthood. I didn’t have a method, though. The notebooks were scattershot and loosely dated. As I waddled into my middle years, the journaling spread even more chaotically across multiple paper notebooks—a disorganized amalgam of lecture notes, book notes, to-do lists, feverish rants, manifestos, ideas. Like rampant suburban development, notebook sprawl was becoming a real problem.
I thought technology would solve it. I explored the world of digital journaling, tried desktop applications and private posts on Internet blogs, which oozed into public blogs. I feel like I’ve tried and outlived most of them: blogger, Livejournal, Typepad, WordPress, Posterous, tumblr. Technology only made the sprawl worse.
If Marie Kondo were to assess my cluttered, half-assed attempts to keep journals, she would have a heart attack. What a total f*cking mess.
In May I started writing a newsletter about my creative life at substack.com. It contains essays, creative nonfiction pieces, short stories, poems, songs, reviews of books and music, podcast announcements, and talk about the craft of writing and creativity in general. I’ll use this blog to announce new issues, which come out every 7 to 10 days.
If you like what you see there, sign up to receive new issues by email. Go to eschorama.substack.com
Thanks for checking it out.
There is sobering news in higher education. It did not start with the Covid19 crisis, but that is certainly the flashpoint in what appears to be the early stages of a collapse. We are seeing more and more evidence of furloughs, layoffs, non-renewals of contracts, mergers, and outright shuttering of some colleges. Choose your metaphor–house of cards, demolition derby, imploding sky scraper–it is a film that will surely make you wince.
For a while now, the winds have not been favorable. Declining pools of first year students due to demographic realities, the student debt debacle, obscene tuition hikes–all have indicated that the higher ed biz was overripe. Now the fruit is dropping off the trees, and it looks like the branches have rotted through. The Chronicle of Higher Education is tracking the damage. You can even input news from your own college. For those of you who work in higher-ed, I hope you survive the cuts. For those about to be cut, brace yourself for a career change. A lot of these jobs aren’t coming back, I’m afraid.
Freezing daffodils nod against
April snow. Long queue at the
food store. Brilliant deaths cut
the day. Hal was only 64. He
had sung kaddish for someone
else not long ago and no one
expected – even the lark does
not see the Open, someone
said in another time.
Note: “even the lark does not see the Open” refers to a claim made in the work of Heidegger.