This morning I stopped early in my office to pick up a file for a first meeting of creditors down at the Chapter 13 Bankruptcy Trustee's office. I signed on my work e-mail to find a notification that someone on eBay had invoked the "BUY IT NOW!" option
to purchase my CD, "Vibrating Electric Fields", for the princely sum of five dollars, plus shipping and handling. This marks a new genesis in my career as a musician--I've now sold my Art to others. No more just singing karaoke and wondering what it would be like to duet with Gwyneth Paltrow. Now it's serious. I immediately posted off my an e mail in lieu of invoice, and joked with my collaborator Scott that we now had 5 dollars against which to apply recoupment of my massive production costs. The Ramones' first album supposedly cost 6,000 1970s dollars to produce. By contrast, "Vibrating Electric Fields" cost roughly 88-98 dollars to produce. For those whose opinions of artistic endeavor are market-based, this may make some sense, as I figure the Ramones' record is at least 636 times better than my CD, and probably even the 1,200 times better that
the inflation-adjusted comparison figures. But I do not believe that the theories of economic theory like former U Chicago school folks like Richard Posner and Daniel Fischel should define the "artistic market". I personally don't believe that the market is the arbiter of what works and doesn't work in the arts. I commisserate with my truly artistic friends who must be judged on their commercial success as if this is the only mark of artistic achievement.
I have written too often on the past about my vocational theories about art, so
I will leave it at that. To change the subject, though I will say that I got an intriguing indication yesterday of something cool that may happen with my CD, and I'll report here if anything comes of it.
I do like that eBay lets me write silly ad copy, obtain cheap world-wide distribution, and ensure that I am inflicting my ridiculous satire upon people who are willing to pay for the privilege. I noted that my buyer has bid on many auctions of actual electric football fields. I hope that just as my chess poems book drew fans of chess books, electric football field fans everywhere will rise up and say "give us that hum, we'll make it our anthem!".
Meanwhile, my gurdonpoems "100 poem project" just crossed the 23 poem mark.
In the last few poems, I've been experimenting with different forms--rhymed poems (not my forte), dark poems (far from my forte) and even a brief "this is not haiku" mood poem. I like that the 100 poems project notion lets me play with format and style, even when the playing produces wholly unsatisfactory results. But in the past, people tend to like my poetry (whether the meager amounts I've publised or the substantial amounts I've shared more informally) when it is light, aphoristic, and direct---rather like my weblog, with line breaks. I must admit that I like my poetry when it is light (or when 'dark', dark with social conscience) and aphoristic. I think that really I'm a simple man, who best writes in simple, half-witty verse. For that matter, in many ways, my weblog is my poetry, without line breaks. I do not know how many poets consider PG Wodehouse their strongest influence, but I am sure based on my own aspirations that the number is at least 1. When I was younger, I once wrote that my snail mail style was a cross between CS Lewis and Jerry Clower. I wonder if that appellation might still be apt. Soon, gurdonpoems will resume its familiar stand of "obvious little poems about nothing in particular" that is the closest thing I have to a style.
I sat today in the Chapter 13 Trustee's office, where tons of people who had to file for Chapter 13 bankruptcy were there to meet with their creditors and bankruptcy trustee. I have always handled some bankruptcy work, from debtor and creditor side, and frankly, I do not engage in judgmental feelings merely because some people have misfortunes or make mistakes and have to file proceedings. I think that sometimes people forget how close to the edge so many people have to live, such that medical bills, a divorce or a job loss can send them into a tailspin. In fact, I find that people who would never dream of being judgmental about a lot of things tend to be judgmental about money. I'm one of those people who stays virtually entirely out of debt other than home mortgage debt, a conservative saver and a two bit spender. But all one has to do is think how few links in my personal safety net would have to break in order for me to be sitting as a client rather than a lawyer, and my empathy for a roomful of folks really grows. When I am on the creditor side of a case, I still press for whatever is the most the law permits to my client, but I don't let disdain come among my emotions, if I can help it. While, in general, I am the first to urge people to live within their means and to strive to improve their means if they are inadequate to their needs, I get bored of people who speak of debt as if we should still have debtors' prisons. Life is hard, and the instruction manual is poorly printed, and the answer is inexplicably 42. What is the good of so much disdain?
I remember when I was a young lawyer, and spent a fair bit of time evicting residential tenants. That sounds like a cold and heartless thing to do. In fact, though, I found over and over that people who didn't pay their rent were people who merely through immense poor judgment (and some materialism) over-committed their resources and expected their landlord to do without rent while they spent money elsewhere. I do not know why I had this luck of the draw, because some people have a job loss or medical problems, which is a different and sadder thing. But the tenants I evicted all seemed to have a common thread--signing up for an apartment they could not afford, and then feeling disappointed when the landlord actually had the temerity to want the rentals paid. Thank goodness that was what I got to deal with. In this situation, in some weird way, I felt that I was helping, not hurting. You know, events and consequences---sign up for a luxury apartment without the income to pay for it, spend your money on things other than rentals, and lose your apartment. An object lesson in budgeting--albeit a hard one. I suppose one reason that I like doing commercial type litigation, including debtor/creditor work, is that events have consequences--sign up for an apartment you can't afford, pay a penalty. Install a defective mobile home, pay to repair it. On the other hands, none of the consequences are jail, which is why civil work is so much nicer than criminal work.
But law teaches me daily that people face individual challenges and different crises.
One must have a certain detachment about things, or one cannot function at all. At the same time, the rules have to matter. I don't mind applying the rules, even when they can adversely impact another person. I like about my job that there are rules, and I spend each day trying to make them make sense to achieve justice for people.
But I'm daydreaming about recording more electric football fields, which makes no sense at all.