Credit Where Credit Is Due

If you were told that someone had a talent that only a handful of people on the entire planet had, wouldn’t you be impressed? Wouldn’t you be even more impressed if you knew that person was also a free speech advocate, had been in a few films, organizes for street performers, is a storyteller and has a radio show?

Meet Abby the Spoon Lady. This woman is talented beyond measure. She’s also intelligent, well-traveled, and dedicated. That should be all anyone needs to know about her.

But that’s not how the world works. If you check out her Youtube channel or Facebook page, both of which show you dozens of amazing performances, you’ll be enchanted. Unless you start reading the comments. Then, if you’re like me, you’ll be infuriated. While many people recognize her talent, trolls abound. They criticize her looks. They criticize her clothes. They criticize her lack of teeth.

It seems to me that if Abby were a man, she wouldn’t get this type of feedback. But being a woman in the music world, you’re supposed to be glamorous and perfect in every way, or you can’t be taken seriously. I don’t find Willie Nelson particularly attractive, but you don’t hear people discussing that to the point where his talent gets forgotten, do you?

Give Abby a break. I think she’s beautiful. I think her talent is also beautiful. I think the world is a much more beautiful place because she’s in it. I hope I get to see her perform live someday. And if I do, I hope the trolls stay home.

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Check this out, y’all. I wrote a book! http://amzn.to/2mlPVh5

 

Hiding Your Light under a Bushel

I used to be in a relationship with someone who wrote a diary every single solitary day for decades. That’s pretty darned impressive. He wants to donate it to the Smithsonian someday.

The thing is (yeah, yeah, there’s always a thing), no one will want to read it except the most steadfast historians. His diary is as dry as toast. It was an arid recounting of the facts. “Today I had eggs for breakfast.”

I used to say, “Why don’t you tell them how you felt about the eggs? Or how they tasted, or smelled, or looked?” People in the future will care about the way we perceived things, not just what we did. But no. Just the facts for him.

The readers of this diary will never know his opinion about anything, or what he thought about, or what his dreams were for the future. (As far as I could tell, he had none, which is one of the many reasons we went our separate ways.)

Even though I didn’t agree with his writing style, I knew how much writing meant to him. I think that’s why I shied away from writing when I was with him. In some twisted part of my brain, I sort of felt as though if I wrote too much, I’d somehow overshadow him. So I hid my light under a bushel. I refused to take flight. Or something.

I thought I was being kind, sacrificing for someone I cared about so as not to crush him like a bug. Sometimes the dam would burst and I’d be compelled to write an article for a local paper, and I’d always get tapped to write company newsletters and things of that nature, but I didn’t start this daily blog until a year or two after we called it quits.

I made the wrong decision. By not allowing myself to shine, I was damaging a part of my soul, and I was depriving him of the opportunity to adapt and change and grow. And let’s not overlook the fact that he missed out on knowing a really special part of who I am.

But he was complicit in my self-warping behavior. He must have seen the signs. He refused to acknowledge them or nurture them in any way, but surely on some level he saw them.

If you feel the need (or are passive-aggressively encouraged) to hold yourself back for someone, please know that that’s very unhealthy. It harms both you and the person who is acting as the wind above your wings.

Always try to fly as high as you can. Otherwise you’ll never get where you deserve to go.

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Support Creativity!

What a strange world we live in. We are surrounded by creative people, people with talent that we can only dream about, and for the most part they’re the very people who have to struggle to survive. And that struggle often takes away from their ability to create.

Imagine a world in which creativity were rewarded; a world in which uniquely talented people were given the time and space to produce beauty, and use their imaginations for good causes. Creative people are often the problem solvers of this world, if only we’d get out of their way and allow them to do their thing. We need more people who think outside the box.

Well, you’re in luck! You have an amazing opportunity to support the arts, and it won’t cost you a dime. I have a dear friend named Sean Kagalis, and he’s an incredible folk musician. He’s part of a website called ArtistSignal which has a really interesting setup. You go to the site. You create a password. You vote for your favorite artist. Each month, the artist with the most votes gets $10,000. This month, Sean is currently ranked third, but the month has only just begun! With your help, he could win that 10k, and be able to tour more, and this would do wonders for his career.

You can vote once, or vote once an hour like I’m doing. I just leave his web page up the entire time I’m logged into the internet, and click the vote button whenever it tells me I can again. It only takes a second, and you could really help change a wonderful person’s life. Wouldn’t that feel great? Go here to vote, and to check out his music, too!

Come on, guys. You know I don’t ask you for much. 🙂

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Music Sampling

I have a long-standing debate with a friend of mine about music sampling. He contends that it’s nothing but theft, and that it shows no artistic ability whatsoever. I, on the other hand, think that in this modern age, a snippet of digital code can be a musical instrument every bit as much as a violin is. You’re still manipulating sound, just as you would when you run a bow across strings. I know that I personally couldn’t take a music sample and turn it into anything melodious, so I believe there’s talent there.

Granted, if you’re stealing huge chunks of some other artist’s work, you should be paying them for it and giving them some credit, but a lot of minor sampling is an homage to the original artist and should be taken as such. It also probably drives listeners to the original composition, thus generating revenue.

I couldn’t even begin to tell you when you’ve crossed that fine line and taken too much, however. I don’t know when your composition stops being yours and starts being someone else’s. I don’t think anyone has come up with a clear distinction. I’ll let the brilliant legal minds out there conduct the copyright debates, and a simple Google search will pull up thousands of articles on that very subject.

But as I keep telling my friend, I once saw Stomp in concert. They make percussive music using everything from trash cans to buckets to cigarette lighters, and no one who sees them will ever dispute their musical talent. Why should that be any different for people whose music is electronic? You’re still creating, and to make this creation you are compiling a lot of sounds. There are no sounds on earth that haven’t been heard before. It’s how you combine those sounds that constitutes creativity.

So, no, I’m not opposed to music sampling. I look forward to hearing what people can do with what already exists. I’m a strong proponent of recycling in all its forms, so more power to them.

[Image credit: wired.com]
[Image credit: wired.com]

Some of Us Don’t

After taking a semester of one-on-one guitar lessons many years ago, my instructor decided to be brutally honest with me. He said, “Barb, some of us have it, and some of us don’t. And you don’t.”

When I tell that story, a lot of people are outraged at that teacher, but actually I appreciated his comment. Deep down, I knew it was true. I am no guitar player. I would much rather that someone tell me the truth, rather than waste my time and my money and fill me with false hope.

The brutal reality is that we can’t all be good at everything we try to do. Trust me when I tell you that you don’t want me to sing, either. Or weld. Or skateboard.

We live in a society that tries to tell us that we can do anything that we set our minds to, but that’s unrealistic. Yes, some things we can all learn. Facts and figures. Those things just take effort. But others, the things that take a certain level of talent or skill, you will either do well or you won’t. Eventually you’ll figure out where you stand. It may take time. Some things take years to learn. By all means give things a try if they are important to you.

But there’s usually a point, and deep down you know it, when it’s time to focus elsewhere if you haven’t risen to a level that you are content with in a given field. You don’t have to be the best, by the way. But you do have to be satisfied with your level of proficiency.

I’m perfectly okay with the fact that I can’t play the guitar. I mean, it would have been cool to be able to do so, but I am quite good at other things. I would like to think that writing is one of them.

If we were all uniformly good at everything, this would be a monochrome world. There would be no challenges. There would be no reason to go to concerts or art galleries or sporting events. Nothing would be special or outstanding or amazing.

I like being in awe of people. And I like being proud of myself. I like knowing that there are things I do better than others, but for that to work for everyone then there has to be, purely from a mathematical standpoint, things that I do worse than others. If that means I won’t be playing Greensleeves on a Gibson any time soon, that’s a sacrifice I’m willing to make.

[Image credit: apkxda.com]
[Image credit: apkxda.com]

How Delicious It Is to Feed Your Ego

There’s nothing more satisfying than doing something you’re really good at. That feeling when everything falls into place. That sense of being in the zone. It’s almost like you have a calling. For a brief shining moment, you are superhuman.

Whether we know it or not, we all have a talent. If you think you don’t, you simply haven’t identified yours yet. It might be something basic, such as making the best pancakes. Or it could be something more complex, like having the ability to memorize pi to the 22,000th digit. But you have a certain something, I guarantee you. Ask friends and family, “What am I good at?” You’ll see a pattern emerge.

I used to know a guy who made the most amazing pottery you’ve ever seen. I haven’t spoken to him for about 20 years, but I still have some of his pots sitting on my shelf. His was a rare talent, and it made me crazy that he had absolutely no plan to make something of it. He used to say to me, “Just because you’re good at something doesn’t mean you have to do it.” And in fact, he became an electrician. You’d think he’d at least have a pottery wheel in his garage, but no.

I don’t think you have to make a living from your special abilities, whatever they may be, but it’s a great disservice to your soul and to the wider world if you don’t exercise the gifts you are given in some capacity. Let your light shine.

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[Image credit: community.becomeanex.org]

What I’d Love to Say to Tom Cruise

Ah, Tom Cruise. Known for your acting, of course, but also the poster child for Scientology and crazy, couch-jumping hyper-romanticism. I’ve followed your career closely over the years.

We had a moment, you and I. I happened to be in Las Vegas when you were filming Rain Man with Dustin Hoffman. To be honest, I was looking for Dustin. You aren’t really my type. So I wasn’t in Cruise-control, so to speak, when I was standing in front of one of the casinos, camera in hand, waiting for the valet to bring my car.

Just at that moment, an SUV drove up and the parking attendant said, “Here comes the Cruiser.” I’m thinking, “Toyota Land Cruiser. Who cares?” So when you stepped out, I drew a complete blank. You also had a blonde on either arm and I wonder what your wife would have thought about that. You walked past, and I turned to watch you go. You looked back and stopped for a second. You’d have let me take your picture. But I just stood there slack jawed, so you continued on. And that was that.

What a putz I can be sometimes. Ah well. And, God, but you’re short.  But it has made me focus on you slightly more than the average actor. Actors rarely pierce my thought bubble for more than a second or two. But I’ve had whole conversations with you in my mind.

If we were ever trapped on an elevator, for example, I’d tell you that you have an amazing talent, and you should own that. Scientology is not why you are successful. In fact, it has taken much more from you than it has given you. Not only has it taken a boat load of money from you, but also an obscene amount of your precious time, your sense of free will, and untold numbers of personal relationships.

Yes, they’re adept at massaging your ego, but Scientologists don’t truly care about you. In fact, the higher up they are, the more they laugh behind your back, and the lower down they are, the more they resent you for the shiny, squeaky clean image you portray of this cult which does nothing but chew people up, take their money, and spit them out the other end. And frankly, everyone who isn’t into Scientology laughs at you, too, for being so duped for so long.

You can come off as arrogant or at best extremely self-assured, but the very reason you got sucked in to this cult is that you have no confidence at all, deep down. That makes me worry for you, because Scientology is dying, and it has been for a long time. Sooner or later this pyramid that you find yourself standing atop is going to crumble, and then where will you be? What will you do?

When that day comes, and it will, I hope you will be able to hang on to the fact that your talent is yours, not theirs. You’ll have to learn how to live in the real world for the first time in your adult life, and that will be terrifying. Sadly they’ve brainwashed you into thinking that seeking help from the mental health realm is bad, and Xenu won’t be around to hold your hand. But at least you’ve got your talent, and that’s a solid foundation on which to build. So take heart.

Unfortunately, even without Scientology, you’ve got fame to contend with, and that means you’ll never know for sure if anyone around you is sincere. That’s my definition of hell. Maybe you’ll luck out and find yourself trapped in an elevator someday with someone who’s willing to give you honest advice.  Even so, I wouldn’t want your life, Tom Cruise, whether you finally free yourself of that parasitic cult or not.

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