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Chasing the Dream, 3 Years Later

In my song, “The Other Side of Nowhere,” the mentor criticizes the student for “doing what you should, not what you want.”

I did what I should for 40 years.  I’ve been doing what I want for the past 3 1/2 years.

The plan was hatched around the time I wrote “The Other Side of Nowhere” in 2009.  I cut expenses and began saving my money.  I had no illusions that I’d be able to make a living at music, although, I confess, I did have that hope– or dream.  But I knew it was a longshot.  I just wanted to see how much I could accomplish with music if I didn’t have to spend 8 or more hours a day working for a corporation.

I left my IT job in March, 2014 and have been studying, writing, composing, recording and performing music full-time since then.

What surprised me was the praise I got from so many people.  “You’re chasing the dream!” they said.  One friend said she was living her life vicariously through me.  When I ran a crowdfunding campaign in 2015 for my Total Flower Chaos recording project, support for “chasing the dream” was cited by many people as a reason for their contribution.

I didn’t expect that.  If anything, I expected the opposite.  “I have to work.  Why should you be happy?” was more the reaction I expected.  I’m still trying to understand this.  I think it says something about our society, when people admire a person just for doing what they want to do.

But all good things come to an end.  My savings is about gone, so I have to take a day job again.  It was a good run.  So what did I accomplish?  Was it worth it?

In the last 3 1/2 years, I did the following:

  • I wrote several new songs, started dozens more, and recorded several home demos of the new songs.  Although I wrote some in the acoustic singer-songwriter style, I focused on writing rock music.  This was important to me, because I love rock music, but I hadn’t really figured out how to write in that style.  I feel like I’m starting to get it now.
  • I released a 3-song spoken word over rock music EP, “Word.”  This was also a radical departure from my previous acoustic singer-songwriter-oriented recordings.
  • I released a 5-song instrumental rock CD called “Roses,” under the band name of Total Flower Chaos.  I really went out on a limb here.  At the time the project began, I had never written even one instrumental rock piece.  I had never even composed a melody on guitar.  I was conscious at the time that I might fall flat on my face with this, but I did it anyway.  I grew as a composer and musician as a result.
  • I went back to school for 2 years to study music theory, piano and composition.  I learned how to put circles and lines on paper and make them sing.  But I learned much more.  I learned what professional musicians go through;  the sacrifices and hard work it takes to become a professional musician.  I can speak their language now.  I learned how to practice.  I learned discipline.  You don’t feel like practicing tonight?  Tired?  Too bad, you have a test tomorrow.  Get your ass on the piano and practice.
  • I continued to perform live in my acoustic singer-songwriter group, Scupanon.  Despite my commitments to rock music and classical music theory, I still love to play folk music.

But all good things must end.  My savings is running out, so I am going to have to take a day job soon.  I hope that’s not too big a disappointment to those of you who have been living vicariously through me.  It doesn’t mean I failed.  Making a living at music was never an expectation, only a dream.

So one chapter of my life is coming to a close and a new one begins.  I will once again sell my labor power to a corporation for money to live on.  I will still create, record and perform music, although I will have much less time for it.  What’s the plan?  That’s the subject of my next blog.

–Rob Roper, September 12, 2017

 

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New Song “Metadata”

This was inspired by the documentary CITIZENFOUR about Edward Snowden.  Snowden worked for the National Security Agency and exposed their program of spying on all US citizens, supposedly to protect us from “terrorists.”  Snowden had to flee the country of his birth to avoid persecution for revealing government secrets and was given political asylum in Russia.  The NSA program exposed by Snowden includes the collection of “metadata” of all phone calls, text messages, internet searches, social media posts and other information about citizens.  By “metadata”, they mean the time and date of a phone call or text message, from whom and to whom the call or message was sent, etc., and not the content of the call or message.  The metadata can then be filtered, analyzed and searched to supposedly identify potential “terrorists”, but obviously could also easily be used to identify and persecute opponents of government policies.  Here are the lyrics to my latest draft.

Metadata (We’re Watching You)
by Rob Roper  3rd Draft  Aug 25, 2017

We’re watching you, watching everything you do
We’re watching you, it’s for your own good
We know what you like
We know what you don’t
We know where you go
We know how you vote
We’re watching you

Privacy is dead, freeedom long gone
if you’ve done nothing wrong, then just go along
Don’t you see?
Both parties agree
It’s what we need
to keep us all free
We’re watching you

There once was a man, who ran off with the plan
but you didn’t understand, so now he’s living in a… cold land.
and now he’s fading out
we got the news blacked out
one less boy scout
who stuck his neck out
…for you

Hitler, Hoover, Stalin, in their wildest dreams
could never have imagined, such a beautiful scheme
So hang onto your phone
Take it everywhere you go
’cause that’s how we know
what we need to know
We’re watching you
watching everything you do.

We’re watching you
It’s for your own good

Don’t worry
It’s just…
metadata

 

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Powerless

Powerless (poem)
by Rob Roper 1st Draft May 25, 2017

It’s a kangeroo court

Those in authority can lie
They can invent evidence
They can falsely accuse me of things
They can say I said this or that

What they say
is gospel truth
Whatever I say
is disregarded
Their lies are accepted
my truth is rejected

They can
convict me of crimes I didn’t commit
They can
take my money
They can even beat me
and they’ll get away it
they’ll win
They always win

Those in authority have always abused me
It’s happened over and over
all my life
And there’s nothing I can do about it
nothing I can do.

People say, “Yes there is!
You can unite with others
against the people in authority!”

But they never unite.
Nobody ever backs me up.
They leave me standing all alone
to fight the powerful
It’s a losing battle

For I am powerless
I am in the class of losers, the rejects

And you wonder
why I have no confidence
you wonder
why I have no hope
It’s the result of experience
lessons learned the hard way

This is what I’ve learned:
Superior force always wins
Justice always loses

I have no power
They always win
I always lose

always lose

always lose

always lose.

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My People

My People (poem)
by Rob Roper 1st Draft May 26, 2017

I have no use for the winners
The frat boys
now yuppies
with their careers
and families
Taking the baby out for a stroll
with their expensive pure-bred dog
(probably ordered him online)
and their boring mainstream clothes
mainstream haircuts
mainstream facial hair
according to the current fad
staring at their mainstream stupidphones
their boys and girls on bicycles with
training wheels
but wearing helmets anyway
living in their big yuppy triplexes with
3 living rooms
5 bedrooms
and 4 baths
where a small house from the 1950’s once stood
generic boring
shrubs and grass planted by
Mexicans
hired by
the developer landscape company
not a single flower to be seen anywhere
all neat and orderly
like their haircuts.
I have no use for these people.
They bore me.

Give me the losers
the misfits
the rejects
rejects
not because society rejected them
but because they rejected society.
Those who
worked odd jobs all their lives
and never had a career
because all careers seemed boring to them.
Those who never made it
due to lack of enthusiasm for “it”

Bring me the failures
those who have been searching all their lives
but never found it
The wannabe poets, artists and musicians
Well-read
with and a sick and twisted sense of humor
and a healthy dose of cyncism
who know that American politics is corrupt
and whose taste in music
is a rejection
of the mainstream
and an embrace of the subversive

These are my people.
People like me.

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New Poem “The Switch”

The Switch
by Rob Roper Jan 29, 2017

I used to think
I would never
be one of the prisoners
who dug his own grave
before being shot.

I would never
be one of those Jews
who meekly boarded the train
to the concentration camp
to be gassed.

No, not me!
I would have refused
to let them
degrade and humiliate me.
I would have said,
“Shoot me now, motherfucker!”
I would have died bravely
and with dignity.

But then I remembered.

“Get me a switch,”
my Mom would say
after I had committed
some infraction.
(It seemed like this happened everyday when I was little.)

I would have to go into the backyard
and break off a branch
from a row of bushes
that divided our property
from the next-door neighbor’s.

I would strip the twigs off the branch
leaving nubs
that made it hurt even more.

Since it was green
it was flexible
so it would wrap around my legs a little
when she struck.

I remember thinking
the one advantage I have
is that I get to choose the weapon
of my punishment.
I remember
trying to figure out
which is better:
a long or short branch?
smaller or bigger diameter?
But I never figured that out.
I resigned myself to the fact
that they would all hurt about the same.

I would bring my selection inside
hand it to Mom
bend over
and she would lash me across the back of my thighs
no doubt
all the while
chastising me for my crime
whatever it was
whatever awful crime
a six-year-old can commit.

So now I know.
I would dig my own grave
I would meekly board that train

Because, afterall
I got my own switch.

Didn’t I?

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