Saturday, August 25, 2007

You Say Tomato, I Blog Tomahto. Who Cares?!

You know, the thing about blogging is that you're out there. Everything you choose to write about, the way things affect your life or your opinions or experiences, it's all out there. That's why they call it a Weblog. It's like an online diary. Some of it is focused in topic areas like this one generally is, and others are deeply personal.

This is of course not without risk. I've been taken to task a number of times since launching FTLOB for anything from how little I know about coal mining (give me strength, my back 20 acres was strip-mined) to how I misrepresent various players or other people or events. Alternatively I have sometimes received a gracious note from readers who had personal experiences with the subject matter or even from musicians or their associates, and those unexpected moments make up for the rest.

The one downside of a blog is that, with little exception, it's a one-way street. Hundreds of readers stop by every week and don't comment, but it's not a requirement. Some of those folks are friends of mine, and we have a two-way relationship that sometimes includes dialog off line about my blog. Other than that and the two hundred or so other visitors who are led here because of a relevant bluegrass search term, there are a tiny number of people interacting with other members of my family who come to check up on me, and rather than send an email and start a conversation, or take me up on an invitation for coffee, continue to hide. If you're looking for clues, here's one: the best way to get to know a person is to get to know them. Do you think you know Tom Friedman because you read the New York Times?

I have made a few friends in the process of this blog and am happy for that. I also came close once to losing a very good friend over this blog. It was the one time I made a significant editorial change, and I will always regret it a little because it had to do with something deeply important to me and millions of other people. But in the end it taught me how tricky an editorial existence can be. I wanted desperately to write about an issue that to me was real and important, but my friend was successful in persuading me to believe in the perceived series of consequences my friend felt certain would follow posting the piece.

I've since accepted that I have pretty limited responsibility (read: none) for my friends' relationships, the way they live their lives, or what they tell other people about me. Consequently I have a hard time buying that, other than rushing out ot get the latest Stringdusters release or downloading a song, someone reading this blog is going to alter their behavior or relationships because of something I wrote. Hell, if I had that kind of influence, by now the war would be over, every child would be a wanted child, we'd all have decent health care and housing, fuel efficiency in cars would be at an all-time high, and the Bush administration would just be a bad memory.

Maybe this is similar to the position in which a music critic might find himself or herself, writing about an off performance and hurting a few feelings of friends in the ensemble. The review is about what he or she heard during the performance, whether the entrances were off or the third movement lacked a certain expected energy or a soloist was too mechanical. That's what they heard. There might be a few single ticket buyers who take a pass, but it's not going to sway season ticket holders, the true loyal die-hards who think for themselves.

Like writing a review, blogging is all about the experience. I am trying to teach my children the value of live music. Each performance is unique; a player has one shot at that particular moment of delivering the goods. You can listen to the same Mozart concerto on a CD over and over and the soloist will deliver the same performance again and again. But whether its Mitsuko Uchida with the Cleveland Orchestra at Severance Hall or Bela Fleck and Edgar Meyer with the Nashville Chamber Orchestra at the new and beautiful Schermerhorn, the musicians in a concert setting will deliver a unique live music experience that will never, ever be repeated.

Likewise, once you've made your series of choices and taken a certain action, you can't take it back, and whatever impression it leaves is the one it leaves. It's like saying something you can't take back. Imagine Yo-Yo Ma grimacing at a conductor over a cue or Doyle Lawson forgetting to introduce Jamie Dailey because he's mad at him. It ain't likely gonna happen -- especially since Jamie left the band, darn it -- but if it did, you wouldn't forget it.

Sometimes those experiences become stories. One part of my story, a recurring theme, has worn itself out, kind of like that old chestnut Orange Blossom Special or Saruman's theme in Howard Shore's LOTR score. Just today, a very good friend shared with me a terrific article that essentially deconstructed the value of retelling the same story over and over. An excerpt goes like this:

It's good to know that all of your stories were created by some life event (big or small) that actually happened. Then, the mind/ego assigned a specific positive or negative meaning to these events. We invite you to notice this week which stories you tend to repeat to people. Are they positive or negative stories? Who would you be without these stories?

It was thoughtful and well-timed. It really asks a good question. I realized everyone is pretty sick of my story, including me. The characters are dull and refuse to change. Same story line, same dialogue, same ending every time. Not worth retelling at all.

I am grateful, really grateful for having turned a page and seeing what really matters: the future.

Turn the Page Again

December nights come early, wait a while to see the light again
A question left unanswered, sent out on the evening wind
If winter is a stranger, maybe spring will be my friend
Seasons change, turn the page again

Summer days are longer, I'm still waiting for your call
Left hanging like a promise, like summer leaves the fall
Sometimes she's a stranger, sometimes she's my friend
But people change, turn the page again

The car is packed and runnin', my heart is racin' fast
Kiss you just one more time and hope it's not my last
The past will be a stranger, the future is my new friend
So let it change, turn the page again

I'm soaring like an eagle, I'll find a place to land
I'll let the west wind take me, see what he has planned
My home is in my heart now, or any place I stand

I'll go where I'm a stranger, I'm gonna try to be a friend
I'm not afraid to turn the page again
If winter was a stranger, maybe spring will be my friend
Seasons change, turn the page again


At August 26, 2007 8:49 AM, Blogger Shameless Agitator said...


I am willing to listen to your story as many times as you need to tell it, until you reach that time when you realize you are done, that it doesn't matter anymore. I know you do the same for me.

The beautiful thing is that when the switch is turned off, it happens quickly and almost unnoticed. It just happens, click.

Much love,

At August 26, 2007 9:58 AM, Blogger Mando Mama said...

Hey Shameless,
Thank you so much. Your love and friendship have always been an enormously important gift and a guide in times of darkness, a real comfort. Thank you for the positive energy you send our way.

You are right about the click. Maybe the same switch that shut off the movie also turned on the light so that I could experience a little rational clarity. Yes, me! LOL! It's glorious. And I'm grateful.

Love you,

At August 26, 2007 10:31 AM, Blogger MichaelBains said...

....and the Bush administration would just be a bad memory.

Yeah, I wish you'd get on that a little more diligently already, eh! What's the hold up???


All I know for sure is that anyone who would get rude with you for anything you've posted is a numskull. They may even be a generally great person, but You are Wonderful! You're considerate and conscientious and it would take a real bully to give you a legitimate hard time 'bout anything o'er which you write.

Keep up the great work, and, as Ms. Shameless said, it happens "click", but not 'til the time is right.

Hopefully (I blame my silly self for it not happenin' recently) we'll be to gettin' together for a coffee or walk again soon.

BTW, I've still got your 8-stringed friend over here. Poor guy. It's been every bit as neglected as my 3 guitars this summer. {sigh} Still, no worries, eh! {-;

At August 26, 2007 11:07 AM, Blogger Shameless Agitator said...

I've been blogging for almost five years. I've watched other bloggers impose bizarre editorial rules on themselves.

My blog editorial style is simple. It's my blog. I'll do what I want with it. I'll edit posts as many times as I need to make my words clearer. I'll delete posts whenever I want. I'll reinvent my template, my style, my topics as much as I want. It's my creative playground.

Don't worry about what others say about your blog. It's yours and yours alone. Don't let others take away your creative outlet. Don't let others deprive us readers of your beautiful words of wisdom.

Much love,

At August 26, 2007 11:08 AM, Blogger Mando Mama said...

Hey Mr. B,

Thanks for your comments. You know as well as Shameless and anyone else that I do indeed have a pretty sharp edge, but unfortunately if all people do is read the only the edgier posts they are most, um, interested in or directed to, that may be all they see about me. But, I can't worry about that anymore. If I were only that person, I would never be able to function professionally the way that I do, would never be as happy as I am in my personal life, and I wouldn't get the kinds of private messages from musicians and their associates that truly remind me my heart and head are on the right path.

And speaking of path, I'm always up for a stroll by the Big E! And I've been thinking A-bel is about ready to try that little 8-stringer so perhaps we can arrange a swap sometime soon. Looking forward to walking and catching up.


At August 26, 2007 11:27 AM, Blogger Mando Mama said...

Shameless wrote,

"It's my creative playground."

Right! And it's a place where I meet some really interesting, cool people. I don't want to waste their time or yours, know what I mean?

I should point out that this isn't to say I won't write about myself personally. It really is hard to separate myself from the music anymore, and I think about music and my role in it almost 24/7. Music helps me get through nearly everything. So the personal stuff won't ever go away.

At August 26, 2007 11:48 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

As a blog peeper and one of the faceless massses who stop by I thought Id give my two cents. A blog should be as much cathartic as it is informative….as poetic as it is instructional. This almost requires a retelling of certain stories that have made us who we are today or pushed us towards change and in doing so we are able to touch the souls of others-perhaps even propel them to change. A blog is a totally voluntary experience for the reader. Keep writing and don’t ever sensor yourself! You write beautifully and forgive me but your wit ,humor and the commonality of our experience are why I come back, not out of a love for blue grass.
Is it possible that the friend who pointed this out to you has another purpose in doing so?
....and the Bush administration would just be a bad memory.

I agree with your friend…….Could you get to work on this?! Oh well the end is slowly approaching anyway : )


At August 26, 2007 3:19 PM, Blogger Mando Mama said...

Thanks, Amy! I'm glad you enjoy the blog and find some meaning in it regardless of your musical tastes. And you are right -- if someone doesn't like what they read, they don't have to read it!

I have only censored myself once and won't do it again. The last time I was asked to remove something I refused, not only because the reasoning was so wobbly but because there was no reason to do so. Give me strength. Forget what someone MIGHT see on my stupid blog, how about addressing what the same person WILL see right in their own home? I'm done solving other people's problems for them -- something YOU unintentionally reminded me I do all too often. Glad to have you 'round!


At August 26, 2007 9:22 PM, Anonymous Expanding! said...

Out of the mist and into the clear light of day!

Dropping the bag, you gain freedom of movement!

ONE in 10,000!


At August 27, 2007 5:33 AM, Blogger Mando Mama said...

dear expanding!
-- The page is blank -- my favorite kind!

At August 27, 2007 8:20 AM, Blogger Ipsissimus said...

As someone who just met you and therefore is just started stopping by your blog, I've been enjoying your unique style and personality that shows through your writing.

I think we all tell the same story, over and over, with just variations because we all live the same themes, the same interactions. It is our individuality in the making of these themes and stories that make it so fascinating to read and experience. Thanks for being willing to express yourself in the open like this - it opens new possibilities for me by showing me new areas of life to enjoy.

ps. Four Bitchin' Babes will be at Midland Theater in Newark Friday October 26th at 8pm.

At August 27, 2007 6:46 PM, Blogger MichaelBains said...

A stroll down the ol' Edge would be wonderful. I'm kind of zonin' lately as I wrenched my right arm otta its socket on Friday. Softball game, eh. Anyhow, all's well, but I'm on teh Vicodin for another day anyhow. Then it's back to work on Wednesday.

I'll call ya! or you can always feel free to call for kicks.

BTW, all the stuff I wrote is true, but that doesn't mean ya can't be a True Snark sometimes! It's not only your blog, it's your Right! ;-D

At August 27, 2007 7:21 PM, Blogger Shameless Agitator said...

MBains, True snark is a duty!

At August 27, 2007 8:15 PM, Blogger Mando Mama said...

O my!
Ipsissimus, it is nice to see you! And I really appreciate your comments from one writer to another. You and Amy are right, there are lots of experiences that at the core are shared. Were it not for themes like these, Hollywood would be out of business, I'm afraid. The kids and I heard "Gonna Make Friends With My Gray Hair" the other night on NPR and I thought of you and Shadow! (Hm... I feel another blog entry coming on.) We may need to drag him to Bitchin Babes! I do believe I'm free!

Bains, you know I would be nothing without my snark. Shameless and Shadow gave me the best compliment ever -- they remarked what good snark Son of Mando has going. I have to say, as much as I don't want him snarking at his elders, he does come up with some good ones. When you are healed, we walk! And Snark!

Love y'all!


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