Thursday, May 25, 2017

A Speck, just a Speck!

The Morning Show is a blog companion to the Podcast Audio

Good morning!  I spend a lot of time working to elevate my profile in the world, and maybe you do, too.  There's always branding, marketing, influence, and the like...we talk about it on this podcast, and walk it in life.  So, sometimes, after an especially busy day, it helps me to look up at the night sky, and get a perspective check.  Last night was cloudy, but found me reading "Death by Black Hole", a bestseller by Neil DeGrasse Tyson.  He explained how humanity first thought the heavens rotated around the earth, but then the heliocentric universe (sun-centered) emerged.  Then we thought the solar system was the center of the universe, but we figured out that was wrong.  THEN we thought our galaxy was all their was, but THAT was wrong.  THEN we thought that the universe was expanding away from us equally, and we were the center of the origin, but THAT was wrong. He says then

"What are the lessons to be learned form this journey of the mind?  That humans are emotionally fragile, prerenialluy gullible, hopelessly ignorant masters of an insignifically small speck in the cosmos.  Have a nice day."

WOW!  That's pretty darn awesome, man.  I put the book down, and wandered over to the record player to flip the vinyl over.  I saw The Beatles albums on the wall, and thought how we're all specks on a speck.  Austin Kleon writes in "Steal like an Artist" to embrace obscurity, and all the benefits it affords...experimentation and trial and error with no judgement of an expectant audience.  I know the speck thing freaks people out.  But, I kind of like to be reminded that I'm a speck in this mad dash of marketing and branding and the wild west of the Internet and modern soceity.  It lets me chill a bit, puts things in perspective, and grounds me. cool we get to be part of the universe, the whirling, rushing, burning, spinning, fierce beauty.  That's the exciting thing, be we specks or supernovae.  So, as Mr. Tyson would say...Have a nice day!

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

For Chris

Hey there, and good morning.  Well, it's Friday, but today's show is a bit somber.

  I'm sure you've heard by now of the passing of rock legend and voice of an age Chris Cornell.  He was 52, and after a concert in Detroit on Thursday, he took his own life.  It's a sad, sad thing, and I"d like to talk about it with you.

  The sun shone through the trees this morning as I peered out my door to greet the day.  The world turns, it's another Friday, and I'm here to experience it, the humid mid-atlantic air caressing my groggy and grateful face.  Many people are not.  Some people, like Chris, friends, and a certain family member of mine, are absent for the same reason.

  The Facebook posts with the suicide hotlines are starting, and that's good to see.  Rare is the man who faces no struggle in life, although not all of us are brought to the brink.  Yet I observe with a glad heart that most of us feel a kinship with each other when a sadness like Chris' is brought to the light, and an urge to help each other back from the edge.  Sometimes things are just sad,  and sometimes life is tough.  Society tries to ignore this, deny this, numb this.  But this only makes it worse.  It's OK to be sad.  When we accept this, then we can reach out and let those who care about us know.  And trust me, there's more of us than you'd think.

  I didn't know Chris, although I'm a fan of his work.  His high-profile tragedy is one that I will not understand, not being in his head, and I'd like to let him and his family sort that out in peace.  I have no place to even try to understand.  But his sadness is a reminder of my duties as your fellow man.  Know that you matter, know that I care, and know that you need not suffer in silence.  I'm always around on Twitter @DontJoshMe, and of course, the national suicide hotline is 1-800-273-8255.  As aggravating and divisive as the world can appear, there's lots and lots of people in your corner.  If you're having a hard time, reach out.  Do it for me.  Do it for Chris.  Do it for you.


Friday, May 19, 2017


The Morning Show is a blog companion to yesterday's Podcast Audio

Good morning, and happy #ThrowbackThursday!  It's one of my favorite days of the week, hipster that I am.  Check THIS:  My brothers gave me an old 1970 John Deere riding mower.  It is OLD SCHOOL, BABY, and like many old school things, doesn't exactly work.  I put a new carburetor on it, a new battery, new fuel line, had to grab the rusty blades and get them spinning again, and now I've ordered a new tire to replace the flat.  It runs, smokes like a BBQ, sort of cuts, and my lawn is half-hacked to bits.  The new battery died, so when it stalls out, which is often, I drive my SUV over the lawn to where it's stuck, and give it a jump start.  It's a work in progress, but it's GETTING THERE!

  With all the things I like to tinker on...the 7 antique clocks, the camaro, all of these guitars...I'm working on enjoying the process.  It's so easy to say "I just want it to work!"  I mean, sure, it would be nice if the lawn looked good, but hey, it's getting there!  With machines, people, and careers, things are a process.  If we solve one problem, and get to the end of our to-do list, you know what we do?  Go out, and buy a jigsaw puzzle.  TO SOLVE.  So, note to myself:  enjoy the process!  Gonna go make some friends at the tire shop tomorrow.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Three Friends

The Morning Show is a blog companion to the Podcast Audio

  Good morning!  Man, what a beautiful day.  I was practicing my guitar for a bit out on the back porch today, and I heard a rustling.  I looked over, and there was my buddy the snake.  He lives under the house.  He's pretty intimidating looking, but he's not poisonous, and he's got a special spot that he hangs out to sun himself.  I value friendships with people that are very different than me, and I guess that extends to animals, too.  We tend to agree on two points:  that's his space, and that we limit our dealings to friendly waves in the distance.  Cool with me!  He keeps the mice away, and is darn cool to watch.  As I worked on my Bach, I saw a little lizard sunning himself on the porch.  He seemed to want a similar arrangement as the snake.

  So there we were, three beings living our day, side by side, worlds apart.  And nobody felt the need to throw a snarky Facebook meme at the other one.  And nobody was offended.  I'm gonna be thinking about how this might relate to the rest of my life.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Happy Birthday, Mom!

The Morning Show is a blog companion to the Podcast Audio

(Note - this show aired YESTERDAY - I didn't forget my mom's birthday!)

Good morning, and welcome to The Morning Show!

  I'd like to wish my mom a very happy birthday today!  HAPPY BIRTHDAY, MOM!  Got my party hat on...seriously!  Check out Instagram @JoshUrban to see a video of this show.
Now, some people know how to party, but my mother has the distinction of knowing how to celebrate.  Her birthday, our birthdays, other people's birthdays, life events, small victories, major accomplishments...And in doing that, in choosing to make a festive big deal out of things we could easily overlook, she consistently chooses to summon the magic of the occasion.

  It's so easy to stop doing that as the years go by.  Life can be gray, and we compound the dreariness with little choices.  Mom's celebration isn't because the lack of hardship, or the ease of the occasion, often quite to the contrary.  Sharing joy doesn't have to wait till the sun comes out - indeed, it often precedes it, and coaxes the rays to break through the clouds.

  Happy Birthday, Mom!  Toasting you today, and looking forward to celebrating with you!

Tuesday, May 16, 2017


This is a blog companion to the Podcast Audio

Hey there, and Happy #MusicMonday!  It's been 72 episodes, and it's time for a music Monday one!  So, bringing you a story, and of course, a metaphor.  

  I'd like to introduce you to one of my guitars.  This is an old Harmony acoustic.  My buddy Bernie gave it to me.  It's kind of a junky guitar, and one of my favorites.  One of my students was looking at it today.  "It looks nice."  "It's really not" I replied.  "Look, the strings are all hard to play, you can't adjust the neck, it's warped, it sounds clunky...But if you use it for a gritty slide sound, it's killin'."  

  In most respects, it's not even worthy of a practice guitar.  But for the right application, it's magic.  Take another listen.  

  I've spent so much time and money searching for the "perfect" guitar.  But what is ideal, really?  Out of context, there isn't.  That's one of the things I love about art and music - a "nasty" sound is just the ticket for certain tracks, while other songs require that high-dollar acoustic tone.  But it's application specific.  

  Maybe anything and everything has a beautiful song within, and it's our job to find it.

Saturday, May 13, 2017

The Morning Show: The Complexities of Mother's Day

The Morning Show is the blog companion to the Podcast Audio

I keep yelling at my students and pointing fiercely, demanding "DO YOU KNOW WHAT SUNDAY IS?"  Why, it's Mother's Day.  Like anything else, it's a complicated day.  I'm incredibly lucky to have a living mother that I'm close to, but many of my friends aren't in the same boat, for a variety of reasons.  With the flood of mom pictures flooding the Facebook news feeds this weekend, comes a complexity of feeling for many people.

  So, be it that you're planning on taking great selfies with your mom like I am, or will be grieving yours like many of my friends, or feeling the lack of a strong female influence in your life like others, I propose a cool idea.

  This Sunday is a perfect opportunity to honor those feminine role models in our lives - those who nurture, those who listen, those who guide, those who love.  Let's take a moment out to honor them, and to let them know how much they mean to us.  And if you're one of these women, take a moment to appreciate yourself.  Children come in many forms, not just offspring. I challenge you to drop a note, send a card, or pick up the phone to tell an important woman in your life other than your mom that she makes a difference.  (And, of course, if you're close to your mom, let her know, too!)  And I say, to all you ladies out there...Happy Mother's Day!  Thanks for doing what you do!

Friday, May 12, 2017

Attacking the Corners

The Morning Show is a blog companion to the podcast audio

Hey there, and yay for Thursday!  It's the Morning Show!  I have this cool book called Zen Guitar, and there's a great quote in it.  "The Samurai say:  Attack the Corners."  I've been doing this with a Bach piece.  There's a delightful flute spotlight in the Orchestral Suite #2 in B minor, and while I've learned half of it years ago, I never tackled the rest.  For the past week, I've been chipping away at it for 15 minutes a day, attacking the corners.  It's not perfect, but it's GETTING THERE!

  We were talking about impossibilities yesterday, traits of our lives that we consider intractable.  For example, I'm a clumsy guy who's terrible at sight reading musical pieces.  With 15 minutes a day of attacking the corners of a Bach piece, I'm changing the sight reading impossibility.  And what about the clumsy part?  Did I mention the Latin Dance practice?  It's even sillier than you'd, a clumsy white boy, trying to move to a beat.  But hey man, with a little bit of consistency, it's getting there.  Not only is it fun, but transformational to think "Hey, one day I might be able to consider myself...graceful."  That day is a long way off, but the fact that the journey has even been started is a fact that has changed my perception of myself.  So, what will you do today to attack the corners of an impossibility?

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Sneaky identities

The Morning Show is the blog companion to the podcast audio 

Hey there, and welcome to the Morning Show!

  Speaking at schools, I see how early we start to develop identities, and how blinding they can be.  We start with such a limited range, but if we're a little better or slightly worse than our buddy at say, throwing a ball, or solving a math problem, we start to build reasons why.  "Oh, I'm better at writing", or more dangerous still, after one or two failures of athletics, "I'm better at writing than playing basketball."  (This was me.)  One or two failures!  And we build a life identity around this, our prophecy self-fulfilling, because yeah, if you don't practice a skill, you will be bad at it.

  Looking at the kids doing this, I can trace it all the way to present-day me.  Part of my identity is a clumsy, goofy guy, but that's changing.  I'll get into how I'm doing that in tomorrow's episode, and hopefully you can join me in this process of reinvention.  For today, see if you can spot any of these "Impossibilities" that you've told yourself.  See you tomorrow!

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

The Morning Show - Creativity and Limits

The Morning Show is an blog companion to the podcast audio

Hey there, and welcome to the morning show!  Wanted to share an idea about creativity that will hopefully help you, regardless of your field of expertise.  As you may know, I'm a musician, and musicians like to buy gear.  We often make the mistake of thinking that we need more gear to create new things.  I was searching for a good keyboard sound the other day.  My first thought was "MORE SOFTWARE!"  I almost dropped $350 on an upgrade.  I wisely decided to think about it.  Sometimes having a limited budget is the best thing for creativity.  Rummaging around in my studio, I hooked up a weird guitar effect that sounds like a keyboard, and recorded that onto an old reel-to-reel tape recorder a friend had given men.  I sampled THAT into my software, and boom, had the coolest old school sound you'd ever want to hear.  Not only did I have it already, and not only did I save myself $350, but I created a custom sound that nobody else has, and learned more about sampling and recording in the process.  Bottom line:  I was able to use limitations to create something unique. PLEASE remind me of this next time I start whining that I need more gear.  And let me know what you cook up!

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Free Market Entertaining

The Morning Show is a blog companion to the podcast audio

Good morning, and welcome to the Signalman show!  MAN what a blast at career day last week!  I had the honor of speaking with three 4th grade classes at Berry Elementary in Waldorf, MD.  We had FUN!  As a matter of fact, I'd like to dedicate this week's podcast series to some of the themes illustrated from this event.

  We've heard of Free Market Economics, but when it comes to speakers and entertainers, most of us are communists.  We demand attention, and make the "government" (the teachers in this case) corral the market (the students) into giving it to us.  I heard guys saying sternly to 9 year olds "Hey, voices off."  Dude, you're lucky they didn't throw things at you.  Here's the thing about that:  sure, they'll be quiet, but man, they'll hate you.  As a musician, I see this happen when artists bemoan the fact that people "just don't appreciate good music anymore" or "the room is too noisy."  Man, we've gotta EARN this!  I went up to some poor kid, got right up in his face, and started yelling drill-sergeant style "WHO'S THE BOSS HERE?  WHO'S THE BOSS HERE?"  Startled, he kept saying back "YOU ARE!  YOU ARE"  "No" I said in a normal voice.  "you are!  Tricked ya!"

Monday, April 24, 2017

The Morning Show - Bizarro Metaphors

The Morning Show is a blog companion to the podcast audio.

Happy FRIIIIDAY!  Yo, let's check out some bizarro chords, so you too can be driving north on I-95 saying "well, this strikes me more as a sharp eleven chord."  Argue my metaphors, man!  If you're just tuning in, we've been looking at music for non-musicians this week, and how certain scenes in life can be related to with the color of music.  Hopefully this will not only help you add a dimension to your poetic outlook, but also give you a closer look at the music you love.

  We learned that if we take 7 of the 12 notes and play a scale, we get this sound.  Then, if we take certain notes of that scale, and play them all at once, we get a chord.  Selecting different notes, or modifying them, alters the chord.  Yesterday we looked at three note chords, or triads.  But, what if we play more than three notes?  If we start off with the first note of a scale, the third, the fifth...what if we add the seventh?  Sounds like this!  How about the ninth?  Like this!  By the way, when I say the ninth, I mean nine scale tones, or degrees, above where I started.  You'll notice that the triads are akin to primary colors, and the more sonic information we add, the more subtlety we invoke, and more dissonance we involve.  We can really start to mess with things and play these big fancy jazz chords like so...And here, ladies and gentleman, is that chord I was referring to driving north out of Richmond on that beautiful sunny Saturday afternoon last week.  The thirteenth chord in all it's glory.

Have a great weekend!  And see what chords you see!

Friday, April 21, 2017

The Morning Show - Pugs not Drugs

The Morning Show is a blog companion to the podcast audio.

Good morning, and welcome to the Signalman show!  It's 420...but pugs not drugs, bro! OK, so yesterday, in our quest to understand music for non-musicians, we looked at notes, and a major scale.  Now, let's build some chords - combinations of notes- from that scale.  On it's own, a note doesn't really tell us much.  It's just sitting there, minding it's own business.  But when we put it in a context of other notes, then we start getting these beautiful colors.  I'm going to take the do-re-mi scale I did yesterday (plays scale) and then select certain notes to combine.  The most common is the first, or root note, the third note, and the fifth note.  This gives me a major chord.  Note how it sounds happy or warm.  If I slide the third back one notch, listen to how it's suddenly sad, as if a cloud has gone over the sun at the picnic.  If I slide the fifth back one notch too, now it's raining at the picnic.  If I put the notes back, but raise the fifth one notch, now it's a flashback to a picnic in 1979.  Technically speaking, these are major, minor, diminished, and augmented triads, or three note chords.  Now we're getting some color, and a few new ways to relate to the world.  Tomorrow we'll look at those weird chords.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

The Morning Show - Building metaphors (and scales)

The Morning Show is a blog companion to the podcast audio.

Yesterday I was going on about some nonsense about how a northbound road trip on a beautiful spring afternoon felt like I was driving through a thirteenth chord.  What does that even mean?  Musicians might nod knowingly, but I'd like to introduce the rest of you to the beautiful language of chords...and to give you a new way of seeing the world!  To understand chords, we have to understand scales, but don't worry, it's easy.  Western music is based on a system called the even tempered tuning system, which breaks sound up into 12 blocks.  I can start with this note, A, and play up 12 blocks, and then it repeats again as a multiple.  So, if A is ringing at 110 cycles per second, or Hertz, once I play through all 12, I arrive again at A, ringing at 220 cycles per second.  From A to A is called an octave.  If I take 7 of these 12 notes, and arrange them in a particular recipe or formula, I arrive at a major scale.  This is the do-re-mi we've heard about.  FYI, the formula is WWHWWWH, with a whole step being two "blocks", frets on the guitar, or keys on the piano, and a half step being one.  So, there you have it.  One step closer to understanding a metaphor, and using it yourself!

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

The Morning Show: This Afternoon brought to you by Limeade!

The Morning Show is a blog companion to the podcast audio.

Good morning, and welcome to the Signalman show! Happy Tax Day.. Man, what a fun time in Richmond this past Saturday.  Got to host a four hour radio broadcast on the six year anniversary of my first show, and spin some records for retired soldiers earlier.  Got to talking to a gentleman wearing a WWII hat who had landed on the beaches of France, and driven a captain 7,000 miles in a Jeep all through the back roads of the European theater.  The captain also was from Richmond, and after the war, they both went out to dinner.  How cool!  I get to hear these stories while I set up gear!

  Heading north after a fun day of music, I marveled at the sunlight filtering through the budding trees and fresh green leaves, and the good news of spring greeting even the stern and focused concrete of the interstate.  If Limeade could have sponsored an afternoon, this would have been the one to pick.  As a musician, I have a few extra things to relate experiences to, in addition to delicious drinks.  "I feel like I'm driving through a 13th chord!" I thought to myself, which sounds like this (plays chord.)  Sure, it's a slightly strange Josh thought, but as a instructor of music, I'd like to include you, the listener, in this thought, and give you a new set of metaphors and ways to relate to the world.  Don't worry, you don't have to be a musician.  I'll make it easy to follow.  Tune in tomorrow when we start our journey!

Friday, March 10, 2017

The Morning Show: The Talking

The Morning Show is a blog companion to the podcast audio.

Relationships?!  We're STILL talking about relationships?  Yeah, I guess so.  I mean, as cynical as I can be, after all, we've only got each other (and I'm so very grateful for that.)  I've been reading a great book called Just Listen by Mark Goulston, and he talks about shifting the dialogue from talking AT someone, to talking TO someone, to talking WITH someone.  I see myself do this on Facebook all the time.  It's so easy to talk AT someone.  "Here's why I'm right.  Here's what you need to do.  Here's what's up with me."  Today I'm going to see if I can move a conversation from AT to TO to WITH.  Seems a good way to relate to each other.  Let's see how it goes!

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

The Morning Show: Building the Skill

The Morning Show is a blog companion to the podcast audio.

OK, we're working on relationships this week, and gettin' a bit philosophical, bro!  I wonder what Dr. Phil would say.  Oh wait, I know.  "You need to take a close look at your podcast, and evaluate it, young man!"  Whatevs, doc!

  Just like I practice guitar, I'm interested in improving my skill with people and relationships.  What are some of your favorite ways to do this? Let me know!   Here's a few of my favorite books: Dale Carnegie's "How to Win Friends and Influence People", M. Scott Peck's "The Road Less Traveled", Jonathan Haidt's "The Righteous Mind - Why good people are divided by politics and religion", and Mark Goulston's "Just Listen" are all high on my list.  What are some of your faves?

  I continually catch myself saying "Oh, I don't know what her deal is" or "why would that guy say that?"  Seems like it would behoove me to turn the rhetorical question into a quest for knowledge.  Oh man...This is tricky!

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

The Morning Show: On Relationships

The Morning Show is a blog companion to the podcast audio.

Goood morning!  I hope you like your Tuesday breakfast with marmalade and absurdity, 'cause got a doozy of a theme for you this week.  Was talking to my adopted sister Rachel - not REALLY my adopted sister, but close enough, and she suggested I do a theme on relationships.  I was like "WHAAAT?"  Then I was intrigued. Let's start off with the question of "what isn't about relationships?"   Or, "what's important that isn't about relationships of some kind?"  Of course, I'm not just talking about romantic relationships, as nice as they are, but all relationships.  The further I get in the entertainment industry, the more I realize almost everything is about people.  I'll have been teaching guitar for 13 years in September, and while I've learned much about music, I've learned way more about people from my extremely patient and kind students.  Again, almost everything is about people.  And yes, this includes those epic Tinder fails and dance floor horrors, too.  But that's for a comedy podcast...

  So, for today, I'm going to do this, and I invite you to join me.  I'll be looking at every single interaction, from other drivers on the road to highly personal conversations, and I do, and what I'd like to improve.  Let's see how it goes!

Monday, March 6, 2017

Mr. Mayor

Let's set the stage, shall we?  Walking out of the house side of the US Capitol, you decide you just need to clear your head and get away from the typical politicians.  You start walking...and walking.  South Capitol street winds its way past the stadium of the Washington Nationals, over the Anacostia river, through some of the rougher parts of the city, into Maryland, past apartments and concrete, turning into a proper highway.  "Indian Head 21 miles" a sign says above the roar of the rush-hour traffic.  A casino looms in the distance, and still you walk,  Gradually, the cars thin, the trees gather, and you arrive in Indian head,  a Navy town that's seen better days, with some of the buildings sporting boards instead of windows. Trudging up the steps to the little town hall, you can buy a mug with the town's seal on it for only $3, and when you ask to see the mayor, you might first be surprised to learn that he's only 21, then doubly impressed with the seriousness and gravity that he carries himself.  Unlike some of the fellows back where you started your walk, he's here to get stuff done.  Elected when he was 19, he's working to revitalize the blighted community and make his hometown a better place for all of us.  He graciously agreed to an interview, so let's listen in.  Ladies and Gentlemen, Mayor Brandon Paulin!

(Here's the interview.)

The Morning Show: On the Cackle

The Morning Show is a blog companion to the podcast audio.

Good morning, and welcome to The Signalman Show.  Happy MARCH, yo!  So, continuing with the idea that we're entrepreneurs of our lives, the CEO of our happiness...Here's a question:  what's your personality "brand?"  Here's a fun way to figure it out, through a little challenge:  find something that makes you cackle today.  You know, that delighted, mischievous laugh that shows your funny bone has been tickled, and is often uniquely you.  For example:  I recently got the Kimoji app, Kim Kardashian's texting app that lets you send weird emoji pictures of her face and all sorts of items via your phone.  I also got the book on Abe Lincoln called "Team of Rivals."  Yes, the book is awesome and will make me a better person.  But I like the app, too.  I think there can be both...and the app sure makes me cackle.  I've been annoying the heck out of my buddies by sending them all sorts of obnoxious Kim faces.  NOT that I'm suggesting that.  But still....Find something that makes you cackle.  It's fun...AND it'll help you learn more about yourself.

Thursday, March 2, 2017

The Morning Show: The Entrepreneurial Life

The Morning Show is a blog companion to the podcast audio.

"Well, I guess my teacher was just trying to get me ready for the real world" he said.  I was talking to one of my guitar students, and he was telling me what a dreary picture one of his teachers had painted for him.  I should just wear a shirt that says "don't get me started."  I've faced my fair share of that, and man, the "real world" that people warn about sure is BLEAK.  But is it even true? It brings me to the theme of the shows this week:  The Entrepreneurial Life.  Is that even a word?  Whatevs, man.  The idea occurs to me as a lifelong entrepreneur:  I can't just do what I want. There ARE real challenges.  But I often can build what I want.  Or at least aim in the general direction.  Zooming out a bit here, couldn't this apply to anything?  I want to be exceptionally careful here, and preface the question with the realization that circumstances can be crushing, resistance is everywhere, and pain is all too real.  But the question remains, with the utmost respect:  aren't we all entrepreneurs when it comes to our lives?  And if so, how does that realization change things?

Thursday, February 23, 2017

The Morning Show: Goals v. Process

The Morning Show is a blog companion to today's podcast audio.

Good morning!  Continuing Ambition Week, let's look at the Goals vs. Process mindset.  For me, the most moving scene in the movie Jobs (about Mr. Steve Jobs) is when he's crying on his father's shoulder after suffering a huge setback of his goals.  In the background, you see a photo of his friends, waving and smiling at the camera, loving the process when they were building that first computer in the garage.  It's caused a bit of cognitive dissonance for me.  Can one enjoy the process while maintaining focus on big goals?

  With a dedication to the burn, talked about in the last episode, I believe the answer is YES.  If I'm burning to burn (my phrase for dedication to putting in the work), then I'm focused fully on the process, and that intensity is the way for me to move forward to new heights.  If I'm viewing a goal as an oasis where I will find rest and happiness, not only is it often a mirage, but negates the joy of the grind and the hustle.  What do you think?  Let me know!  For now, light 'em up!

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

The Morning Show: Burn to Burn

The Morning Show is a blog companion to today's podcast audio.

I've been sick, and it must have gone to my head.  I even cleaned my house for no reason.  This worried my mother.  After lounging around like a cat and falling asleep in the sun, I'm back, man, and I'm ready to shake things up.  This week's theme is ambition, and man, I want to be strong.  Strong mentally, strong in conviction, strong physically, strong in myself.  Something clicked in my head (besides the usual strange noise that happens when I walk funny), and I'd like to share.

  Previously, I've looked at Ambition as the striving for lofty goals, which would allow a rest, a reward, or other goodie once reached.  BUT - what if Ambition was the dedication to the burn.  

  What if we looked at ourselves like rocket engines, stocked with an unknown amount of fuel for our lifetimes.  We could burn fitfully and slowly, dying with unused fuel wasted.  Or, brightly, intensely, and with a roar that lights up the sky.  We'll still be here for the same amount of time, and the heights we reach - or don't reach - are irrelevant.  We dedicate ourselves to the burn, because that's what we do.  Who knows  how much fuel we have, or how far we'll go,  Only time will tell.  I'm reminded of gym rats - the men and women who go there to pump iron for the sake of pumping iron.  They get hooked on the process.  Sure, they're pleased with the results, and some may even win a few medals and movie roles along the way.  But they burn to burn.

 We'll be looking at this a little more in the next episode, but for today, try burning for burning's sake.

Houston, we have ignition!

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

A Dust Mote with a Mohawk

The lights glimmer in the distance, twinklings of civilization on the edge of the city. They're greenish in the fog of memories, while the interstate signs sternly fly by overhead with a cold reality of physics contrasting the What If thoughts, induced by the hum of the wheels and the empty passenger seat so quiet next to me.

  The old man danced with his wife earlier to Nat King Cole.  Three gigs deep and on the road all day, I hyped "Unforgettable", like it needed it, dropped the needle, and almost dropped my mic when I saw him move the oxygen tube out of the way so he could get a picture with her as they danced. "Oh wow, they've been married like fifty years" someone said.  I think it was a staff member of the assisted living facility.  Even my cynical heart was jolted out of it's track of snark.  The mask slipped, and there was a vacuum where there should have been a face, pulling me into vastness of concrete and steel, a night  vast lit by sodium vapor orange and a world so big.  There's the terror of never finding home, and the awe of the void.  

 It's Valentine's Day, and I've been on the mic in more ways than one. I'm telling my audiences what they're listening to, and myself what I'm doing.  I'm the pilot, the DJ, a cool guy with a trendy T shirt, panicked about the numbers, and ignoring the real questions. I'm a dust mote with a Mohawk, floating through the blackness.  I never realized how much that being cynical, lazy with some philosophical thoughts, and fond of  the simple answers was like building a little space ship that I could use to build a tiny world to claim to understand.  

I cannot stop listening to the Poets of the Fall song Rewind.  Dig this line:

If Life itself has a meaning, is it anything more than what we choose to call it.  Sweet words make appealing, but they only serve to mask the smell of what you buried.  

Try that on for size next time you're dreaming on the Interstate.  Who needs audiobooks?


The Morning Show: Valentine's Day

The Morning Show is a blog companion to today's podcast audio.

Goood morning, and HAPPY VALENTINE'S DAY!  Now, this is a complex holiday fo' sho'.  Let's talk about it.  Actually, to quote the crazy preacher in "Oh God" starring George Burns and John Denver..."LOVE!  Let's talk about LOVE!"  

V day, as I like to call it, is typically only good if you're in a happy relationship, which, as we know, is a tiny percentage of the population.  Seems like everyone else hates it, resents it, is inconvenienced by it, grumbles about how much it costs...If you fall into this camp, take solace in the fact that the original St. Valentine got what was coming to him for being so disruptive to the State.  Trouble maker!

However, here's a novel idea, taught to me by my mama.  It's a day to celebrate love of all kinds, be it romantic, platonic, or even just the love of life.  Just as Thanksgiving presents us with the golden-brown baked opportunity of the observance of gratitude, so too does V day with letting people know they matter.  

As one of those little candy hearts would say..."Nifty!"

Saturday, February 11, 2017

The Morning Show: Start Today

The Morning Show is a transcript of today's podcast audio as a blog companion.

Welcome to the morning edition of the Signalman show, bringing you a cool idea each weekday!  This week's theme is disproving the Equation that Cool = Money.  That is, attacking the misconception that we need to spend lots to create marvel.  

It's Friday, and today let's talk about something a little different than spending money - let's talk about technique and qualification.  Yesterday we talked about how waiting for fancy gear wasn't required to write that hit song, and today let's continue that thought about how ideas and technique (and qualifications) aren't always related, either.  Technique lets us express an idea.  Qualifications allow us to speak with authority on a subject.  But they are not the idea itself.  Sure, you might have a musical idea after practicing an advanced technique, or an insight while studying for that fancy degree.  But you also might have it walking across the street.  When I was 20, I decided to record a demo CD.  I had been playing professionally, had 40 guitar students a week, and...couldn't write a darn thing.  The development of ideas was a separate skill, far more disconnected to my technique and qualifications than I had realized.  So, don't wait to start thinking up cool things.  Sure, practice, study, get as good as you can, but don't wait to start speaking your mind, and your heart.  Good luck!  I'll be in the front row, listening.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

The Morning Show: It's Not the Gear

The Morning Show is a transcript of today's podcast audio as a blog companion.

I've been fortunate enough to have been a musician for a little while, and along the way, I've been able to put together a modest collection of gear.  Nothing fancy, but lots of cool stuff to play with.  

 I remember being a teenager with one guitar...a black and white Squier Stratocaster that I treasure to this day. I would read the guitar magazines and catalogs, dreaming about how those fancy guitars on the pages would make me sound so cool, and how this gizmo or that gizmo would be tone heaven.  

 I learned an expensive lesson along the way.  They won't.  

I mean, SURE, my rig today sounds better than it did, but Eddie Van Halen was right - tone comes from your brain and your fingers, not your gear.  It's a lousy feeling to realize that new gear you just bought isn't the answer in itself, just like a new hammer won't make you a brilliant carpenter.  SURE it lets certain things happen, but you need the idea in the first place.  Far better to have the idea without fancy gear than the other way around.  So, while this is aimed at musicians, it applies to any field that you're in.  It's the ideas that are cool, man.  Not just the gear.  So, start rockin' today!  That hit song will sound a hit no matter what you play it on!  

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

The Morning Show: Broom Guitars

The Morning Show is a transcript of today's podcast audio as a blog companion

I have a lot of guitars, man.  None of them are outrageously priced when compared to other guitars, but compared to a block of wood with strings on it, well…..

Did I ever tell you the story of my broom guitar, though?  We might be friends because of it, actually.  I went to NYC on  my first street music tour with my fancy acoustic guitar, and...nobody noticed me.  There's a million acoustic guitarists in the world, and put next to the statue of liberty on stilts in Times Square, well, BORING!  I went back next year with a cigar box guitar that I had built, and people started to talk to me in the subway, on the street...everywhere.  THEN I made a broomstick into a guitar.  Props to my brothers for making sure it was pure broom, and not a weird guitar hybrid.  I put a guitar string on a broomstick, along with a a tin can, and an electric guitar pickup, and plugged that bad boy in.  Girls even talked to me, man.  I'm such a fan of innovation!  And I think it cost me a whopping nine dollars.  

(And the first broom guitar music video is HERE.)

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

The Morning Show: Stomp Fiddles and Building Frogs

Happy Tuesday, and welcome to the morning edition of the Signalman show, bringing you a cool idea each weekday!  Wait...what?  Ladies 'n gents, I've started a podcast!  I do an interview each Monday, and a thought Tuesday through Friday.  Seems cool to have the idea in blog form, too.  So, here goes!

  This week's theme is disproving the Equation that Cool = Money.  That is, debunking the idea that you need to shell out in order to climb up.    I just did a workshop with some 4th graders yesterday.  I stopped by Mrs. Fisher's music class at Matula Elementary in La Plata, MD, and showed the kids how to build stomp fiddles - boards with nails in them, AND WASHERS - nobody was making weapons, I promise.  When you slam the board into the ground, it jingles.  We had a blast.  I bored them on purpose at first, saying "I should like to teach you an economics lesson."  Oh you should have SEEN their faces.  It got better from there.  I asked them how much they thought my guitar rig was that was sitting in front of the class.  A little girl nailed it.  "A thousand dollars!"   "Yes!  We have a winner!"  Then I wrote the equation that cool equals money, and then I crossed out the equals sign.  "A musician needs to get NOTICED, and here's one of the ways I've done that."  I then showed them how to design one, passed out the materials, and went around the room, hammering the nails in for them.  I felt like God must have felt like building frogs...the jingling and stomping grew and grew, until the whole room was armed and dangerous with these things.  Then we sang "Jump around" by House of Pain.  EPIC!  Don't way for a fancy guitar!  Here's the podcast audio: a video of us jamming!

Monday, January 9, 2017

In Praise of Here

"THUD."  The ax bounces off the frozen tulip poplar log, sending me off to hunt for a wedge to be a little more persuasive.

  It's a cold, dark January night, and I'm running low on firewood.  "I really should have hustled and ordered those furnace parts already" I think to myself.    It snowed on Saturday, just a magical sugar powder dusting, but it's quite a contrast from the beach pictures on Facebook and Instagram.  Brine coats the cars, and the freeway is salty white here in the DC area.

  I think there's a perception among us "YUCCIES" (Young Urban Creatives as opposed to Young Urban Professionals) that if it gets cold, be it the air or your heart, you pick up and head for the tropics.  Sure, that's awesome, and if you can swing it, take me with you!  For the rest of us splitting firewood in the dark, I'd like to propose a bold new idea, without sounding like a bro country song (again, I'd love to be on a beach right now, so I ain't knocking that, dude!)  Here's the idea:  It's actually pretty cool to be chopping firewood.  It's great to be at work.  The gold can mined in the mire, not just the glamour.

  One time as the train hurtled through a New Jersey evening,  a fascinating gentleman told me that he thinks that there's a lot of joy in the grind, and a "good clean life."  This seems especially relevant at the start of a new year.   Where you are, right now, is where you can begin to build your castle (or simple hut.)  Let that cold air wash over your face, splashing the awareness of life into your startled breath.  Taste the salt that drifts through the wind of the ordinary parking lot, and smirk at the ruffled seagulls as they huff away on indigent yellow feet.  What will you build right here?


- Josh