The Blog
Slouching toward understanding

Deep Breath

It's time we take a moment before we react.

Part of the ritual of an annual checkup is when the physician warms the bell of the stethoscope, presses it to your lower back and intones the words "Deep breath." It's high time we take that phrase as a mantra for how we approach what's going on around us and in the world in general these days.

It is far too easy today to read something on the internet, hear something on the radio or watch something on TV and have a visceral reaction that makes us want to post a comment or a screed before we've had a chance to process the information or before all the facts are on the media table. There have been two stories in recent days that are prime examples of what happens when we let ourselves get ahead of the facts.

Last week BuzzFeed published a story that indicated that there was proof that 45* had instructed his "fixer" to lie to congress. The article cited two unnamed sources and raised quite a stir over the following days. We still don't know the actual voracity of the report and the special counsel, Robert Mueller, has disputed the claim. That didn't keep the national media from making the item the number one story for days. No one took a deep breath.

The other story with similar impact was the early analysis of a viral video of the confrontation in DC between a tribal elder and a teenage boy from Kentucky. Once again the media jumped on the story without letting the facts get in the way. Days later, after more video emerged and more stories were collected, the initial reports appear to have gotten it wrong.

We are stuck in a period of the 24 hour news cycle. I am old enough to remember the days of the three network news shows and the calm voices that shared the stories of the day without color or bias. Old enough and lucky enough. My Dad worked at CBS. I sat in Murrow's office chair. When Dad moved to ABC to run the news department I had first hand experience with the people who reported what was happening from space shots to elections. Things were as frantic then as they are now but there was time to breathe.

So what do we do now? Don't stop reading. Don't stop ingesting the news. But take your time in distilling it. Read the other side. Listen to other's arguments. Be slow to react and - more importantly - be slow to anger.

In short, deep breath.

Situational Awareness

It's important to look around.

Though most of grade school I was almost always the tallest kid in my class. That came with a certain responsibility to be aware of what was going on around me so that I wouldn't hurt kids smaller than me. I grew up with almost a sixth sense of what was happening in my vicinity. That manifested itself in different ways. To this day I never walk through a public doorway without checking to see if there is someone behind me I can hold the door for and when I'm in a public space like a theatre or grocery store I am always careful to not block access for people wishing to rush down an aisle ahead of me or race to the produce section with their cart.

Over the years that sense has served me well. When I was writing poetry - long before I started songwriting - it allowed me to focus on what was going on with the people around me and to carefully observe the environment I was passing through at any one moment. As a photographer it gave me a unique sense of what was important in a scene and what I wanted someone to focus on when they viewed the image. For a while I was writing and producing commercials for radio and TV. Looking past the noise and the clutter and the client distraction led to finding the right elements to share with the listening and viewing public.

As a songwriter - indeed, as a writer in any medium - it is important to be able to observe, to see past the obvious, to dig just a little deeper to get at the truth of the matter. Whether that's done in the context of a serious, emotional song like this one or as a way to poke fun at a particular genre or situation, the skill required is the same. Being aware tends to be the difference between nailing it or missing the target.

Now, that skill, developed long, long ago, comes into play almost every day as I navigate the streams of news reports that fill the airwaves, the cable channels and the Internet. Being aware that it's important to sift through the dross that surrounds us and find that element that rings true is not just an important skill, it could be the difference between how our future looks and how we all manage to navigate the rift that has been fostered and deepened in recent years.

In my newest song, It's Time, I make the plea that we get past that which tears us apart. One of the tools we can use to do that is to be aware of what is going on around us, and that includes what is going on with the folks who travel this path with us.

Situational awareness: It's not just for writers.

In My Spare Time

It's good to be busy.

As some of you know I serve on the Board of Directors of Songwriter Summit, a not for profit organization dedicated to improving and promoting songwriting in northeast Ohio. The group has been around for over 15 years and I've been associated with them for just over two years. Since I joined I've done more than just show up for the monthly meetings to present original songs and get feedback from respected fellow creators.

One of the things I have enjoyed doing since my college days is documenting events - then on film, now on video. One of the first tasks I assigned myself was capturing the monthly meetings, creating clip reels and posting them on YouTube to give members a way to share their music and to give non-members a way to see what it is that we do, how we do it and maybe even a sense of why we do it. One of those videos is linked here. Feel free to take a look. If you think you could benefit from being a member of a group like this you'll find more information in the link on the first line of this post. We're always looking for new members, new ideas and new songs. Drop in on a meeting sometime and discover how you'd fit in.

In addition to the video project I also took on the task of editing the monthly newsletter, The Bridge. That has really become a labor of love as we have experimented with features that work, like the member profile, and those that don't, like the calendar of events. We have members contributing articles on everything from recording tech to copyright and publishing and we even have an occasional contributor from England. It's a decent little rag that you can check out since back issues are on-line if you're interested. If you'd like to be on the email list use this link to ask to be added to the distribution list. You just might find something that helps you grow as a songwriter.

Monday, Monday

Another week off to a start.

Being retired from real work - out playing music isn't anywhere close to real work - does give me a different perspective on Monday mornings than most. I don't have to answer to an alarm on my phone. I don't have to deal with a tie. I certainly don't have to deal with traffic. I used to do those things but it's been a while now and I couldn't be happier.

Actually, from my point of view, the week starts on Sunday and yesterday was a good day. The Music Box Supper Club is experimenting with an open mic and last night they held their first. There were a lot of familiar voices on stage but there were also some folks I've never crossed paths with and that made for a very enjoyable evening of music and poetry. From singer/songwriters to cover players to hip hop, the evening ran like clockwork, the sound was quite good and there just wasn't anything to complain about.

On the other hand, the show that was scheduled at Sachsenheim for tomorrow has been cancelled. I was looking forward to playing a set along with a list of other talented musicians and for some reason, unknown to any of us, the plug got pulled and we were notified late last week that it wasn't going to happen. I hate it when that happens. Or in this case doesn't.

Just this morning I learned that tomorrow's open mic at the Winchester has been cancelled because they are hosting a show in the music hall. I had planned to hit that one since the showcase was cancelled. Best laid plans of mice and men, I guess. On top of that the open mic at P. J. Marley's in Medina on Thursday has been cancelled because of the Browns game and it won't resume until next week. So there's that.

On the bright side the I have my solo show at Coffee Corners in Burton to look forward to on the 29th. That's always a good time and never gets cancelled for sports related events. Between now and then I'll probably find an open mic or two because being out playing beats staying home playing. Hope to see you around.

Well Worth The Effort


Over the past few days I've had a chance to work on the redesign of this website and overall I'm pretty pleased with the way it's turning out. The initial pass at getting videos of original and cover songs is up and running and presents a pretty broad view of the music I do. I'm thinking about going back and adding comments to each of the clips but that's for down the road a bit.

Upcoming and previous show pages are working the way they should and if I can keep on top of them they should finally provide a good way to let folks know where I'll be playing. So that's a good thing.

Finally, I've had some good feedback on the site already and that is encouraging. Keep me posted. Use the contact page to let me know what you like or don't like. If there is something you think I should add let me know. I just might find it interesting enough to look into it.
 Page 1 / 2  >>
© 2018, 2019, 2020 Bob Sammon Contact Me