A Pontification on Writing Songs

I started thinking the other day about writing songs. Now don’t worry, I am not going into the song writing business, after all, I have enough problems writing blog posts that make sense, can you imagine what my songs would be like? Not that I haven’t tried.

My guess is anyone who spends long periods of time alone, whether driving or doing any solitary activity, has made up songs in their heads. After all you can only listen to the radio or CD’s or MP3″s for so long, hearing the same songs over and over. So it isn’t long before you start singing and making up songs.

Those of us of a certain age remember a day when there was nothing but AM radio to listen to. In those days you were quite limited to what you could listen to, especially during the day. At least at night you could pick up signals from some of the more powerful AM stations for quite some time. I remember picking up WBZ from Boston one night in Tennessee. During the day it was common to have to change the station every hour or so. And there was no scan or search feature on those radios, nope, you had to slowly turn the dial. And your listening pleasure was limited to where you happened to be. Top 40, talk radio, country or western, and who could forget Sunday morning gospel music in the south or various Lithuanian, Polish and French music.

But then life turned good. FM came into being, although even the music selection was somewhat limited, again based upon where you were. Nothing like elevator music to get you going on a long drive. Ah, those 1,ooo strings. This led to eight track tapes and cassettes. An improvement, but even that was tiring after a while, but at least it would fill the gaps. Yes those were truly the good old days. But once again I digress.

Where was I? Ah yes, writing songs. I consider myself from the in-between generation, growing up at the end of sixties and early seventies, a time of great change in the world. and I have to admit I was very naive about a lot of things. For example, when people would tell me that songs were about drugs and not really about what I thought, you know innocent things like love and breaking up. Now I have to admit there were a few out there which I agree were drug induced but then there were others, I just couldn’t believe. But now that I am older, I do see things differently.

Take the classic love song from Melanie, “I’ve got a brand new pair of roller skates.” Obviously a nice little ballad about a girl who likes to umm, roller skate around the neighborhood. Maybe not so much.

I ride my bike, I rollerskate, don’t drive no car
Don’t go too fast, but I go pretty far
For somebody who don’t drive, I been all around the world
Some people say I done all right for a girl. –  Melanie Safka

Just saying. Although I do remember roller skates and roller skate keys.

Anyway, the problem I have always had when trying to make up a song, actually the same problem I have if I ever try to write poetry, is the last line of the verse or stanza or whatever it is called. I never can get it just right. It’s a lot like writing a blog post..

 

Roller Derby Firestar Girl’s Roller Skate, Size.-Jr 1

Shortcuts to Hit Songwriting: 126 Proven Techniques for Writing Songs That Sell

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A Pontification on Bridges

curved bridge

I was thinking the other day about bridges, highway bridges to be specific. After all I do seem to spend a lot of time either crossing them or going underneath them. Now I suppose you are asking yourself “What could this guy possibly be thinking about highway bridges?” And that would be a good question, unless you live in Massachusetts like I do and where every time we cross a bridge we have to worry about whether it will fall or not. However that isn’t what I was thinking about.

No, I was thinking about the fences on the bridges. Can anyone tell me why the fence on one side of the bridge is curved and the other is straight? It isn’t like this on all bridges, only some and there appears to be no rhyme or reason as to which is which. The obvious reason for having a curved fence would be to deter people from throwing things over the bridge on whatever is below (and I have noticed curved fence are only used on bridges over other roads). After all we don’t want people throwing stones, bricks, bodies or themselves  the cars below. But if this were true, why are these curved fences only on one side of bridge?  The road below doesn’t stop half way does it?

This one-sided observation led me to further theorize on why there would a curved fence on only one side, perhaps there is only a sidewalk on the curved side therefore this is where someone would be more likely to throw something from. This hypothesis soon falls apart after you realize that this isn’t always the case, sometimes there is a sidewalk with a straight fence aside it. In addition, if someone wants to throw something off a bridge, the lack of a sidewalk will probably not deter them.

Some of the other theories I have posited have included:

  • Wind deflection – Obviously I threw this one out rather quickly for the obvious reason that a chain link fence, whether straight or curved has very little effect on wind deflection.
  • Snow Control – Other than the same reason as for why they wouldn’t be used for wind deflection, I have seen the “One Curved Fence” phenomenon in places which are not prone to snow.
  • Total Randomness – For some time this was my most likely reason for why some overpasses have one curved, no curved or two curved fences. However, since these fences more than likely have to go through some form of extensive government design and approval process, the chances that these are in fact random, is highly unlikely. After all government agencies are certainly models of efficiency.
  • Space Issue – This is another theory I held for some time (and admittedly probably the lost likely), and that is if there is no sidewalk the amount of room between the guard rail to which the fence is attached and the travel lane it is possible a large truck or other vehicle could hit the fence if it were curved. I have yet had the opportunity to test this theory as any time I drove a truck which would potentially be high enough to hit this, I needed my job more than I needed proof.

And while we are on the subject of bridges, over the years I have also concluded I do not want to ever see a bridge with me name on it. Now there are some who might think this would be quite an honor but have you ever noticed one thing in common about bridges which are named after people? They all have signs with the person’s name and these signs, aAmidown1910t least once a year if not more often, are adorned with wreaths and flowers. If your name is covered with a wreath, it means you are no longer among the living. No little white signs covered with flowers for me thank you. A building would be okay, after all buildings with people’s names on them are usually named for the owner or builder. For example in the town I grew up in there is a building named “Ammidown” named for the original owner. Now you may think “But this guy is still dead.” Yes, but he built the building was built when he was alive.

Back to fences… The question remains as to why there is a difference between the two fences on the bridge. I really would like the answer.

Now, a totally random, well maybe not totally, quote from Robert Frost:

And on a day we meet to walk the line

And set the wall between us once again.

We keep the wall between us as we go.

To each the boulders that have fallen to each.

And some are loaves and some so nearly balls

We have to use a spell to make them balance:

‘Stay where you are until our backs are turned!’  

Please feel free to share this post with those you know as well as comment on it. After all any comments will give me even more to think about while on the highways and byways of America.

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A Pontification on Ice Fishing

pauls ponderings ice fishing

I started thinking the other day about ice fishing. You see I was travelling through northern Vermont where there is still ice on the lakes and people ice fishing. Honestly, I just don’t get the point. After all if you need ice just put water in your freezer or go to the store and by a bag. Do you really need to sit out in the cold trying to catch it? Okay, I  know when you are ice fishing you aren’t trying to catch ice. But I still don’t get the point, therefore I pondered on it for awhile and hence, this pontification.

However, before I begin, let me put a few things out there about me and especially why I have so much time to ponder and pontificate. For the last twenty years I have spent the majority of my time behind a windshield. I have made a living, not a great one but a living, driving around in various motorized vehicles. This has given me much time for pondering the mysteries of life. This is why anyone who drives for a living, whether a truck, car or bus (as well I suppose a plane and train) knows everything. Whether it is the fumes, watching windshield wipers go back and forth for hours, or something else, I can’t say for sure, but it is definitely a trait amongst all drivers. Personally I think it has to do with the fact drivers spend all their time alone and have no one to contradict them. If you have no one to argue with, you will always be right.

Anyway, where was I? Oh yes, ice fishing.

Last week I was driving in northern Vermont, through what is called the “Northeast Kingdom.” Now I have no idea why it is called that and I suppose I could look it up if I were really that interested but I am not. I also drove into the “Great Northwoods” in New Hampshire. There are some really large lakes in the area and many times I see ice fishers (fishermen? fisherpeople?) on the lakes, and this got me to thinking about the whole ice fishing thing.

What is the thrill of sitting on a little stool or metal lawn chair, on the ice, in the cold waiting for a little flag to pop up? And it is cold up there, maybe not now as winter is almost over but it has been cold all winter. There were a few times this winter when the temperature was way below zero, like 13 below. That’s cold enough to make your nostrils stick together. And now you are sitting in the cold, putting a line with a hook on it into a hole where the fish are probably sleeping for the winter anyway? Are you hoping to maybe hit one of them on the head with the hook? Don’t get me wrong, I like real fishing, you know when it’s warm and there isn’t any ice on the water, but sitting in the cold..I don’t think so.

Sure, I have seen some little out house looking things out there, in fact I swear I saw one that may have been a converted porta-potty, and they probably can be heated, but so can’t my living room. And I know there must be all kinds of equipment out there that can be purchased, like heaters and chairs but I still don’t get it. But then I guess I have never been the outdoorsy type. I get all the outdoors I need when I look out the window of whatever I happen to be driving at the time.

I have to admit though that the snowmobiling thing appeals to me. When I am up there in the north woods I see lots of snowmobile trails and I could get into buzzing down these trails through the woods and fields enjoying the scenery. But then that has also started me thinking. What happens if you are tooling along and come around a bend and there is a moose standing there? I have encountered moose while driving and they don’t always tend to move. In fact I had one actually stare me down once, until she finally decided I wasn’t worth the trouble and slowly ambled across the road. If they didn’t move for a car I don’t think they will be particularly interested in getting out of the way of a buzzing snowmobile.

So what do you do? Moose are pretty tall and I suppose you could try to go under them but then there is a reason for the expression “Hung like a moose.” Okay maybe it’s “hung like a horse, but same difference. I don’t think it would be all that fun getting your bell rung by… well you know.

I imagine the bigger problem in the woods would be wild turkeys. While not as big as a moose, and not hung like one, although I have no evidence of either, they tend to jump up at you when startled.  And, like moose, wild turkey’s don’t seem to want to move to quickly when approached. I suppose if you hit one you could take it home for dinner, not as easy with a moose, but then that would get us into another subject altogether, road kill or trail kill in this case and that could be a subject for a later pest, I mean post. Did you know that Benjamin Franklin actually wanted to make the wild turkey the national bird?

So what is the attraction with ice fishing? Is it really worth being in the cold for endless hours on the off chance some half dead fish will bump into your hook?  Wait… there is another kind of Wild Turkey isn’t there? Maybe that’s the attraction…

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