Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Project Song on NPR

This is really cool. Heard it on NPR yesterday. If you're into songwriting at all, it's worth watching (or listening).


Thursday, October 01, 2009

300-Word Story

I assigned a 300-word story to my fiction writing class. I told them I would write one, too, so here it is:

The Last Time
She carefully sifted through his sock drawer to find the pack of cigarettes she knew he hid there, the two broken fingernails on her right hand like little daggers, catching between the fibers of his dirt-stained athletic socks. Lifting the pack of cigarettes from the drawer as if it was a ticking bomb, she walked to the French doors, opened them, and stepped onto the redwood deck outside, the new fall rain puddling in the wood’s striations. She sat on the first step and lit a cigarette, a mist of rain swirling in the evening air. Delicately she touched the reddening bruise now rising around her eye, the blood on her fingers sticky against her face. The orbital bone is cracked, she thought, running her fingertips over the skin, feeling the heat of the contusion, comparing its discomfort to the others. After several long drags, she flicked the cigarette into the soft, wet grass under the purple dusk light and watched as it billowed smoke like a tiny wreckage. Standing, she pulled the white door handle, noticing her cracked fingernails, the blood like a tattoo on her pale hand. Never again, she thought as she carefully shut the door behind her, wondering why she still moved timidly. A smile cracked her face, and she placed a hand over her mouth. No, she thought, then listened to the silence in the house, the stillness, absorbing the odd calm. She eyed the body on the floor, its forceful frame, its girth, its unbridled power now empty, the hilt of the kitchen knife jutting from its chest. Her heart filled and quickened as she stepped over the body – the sole of her white tennis shoe leaving its imprint in the puddling blood – picked up the telephone, and began to dial.

© Jason Roberts, 2009

Old SXSW kudos

I just found this while cleaning out my email inbox. It's a brief review from our 2008 South-by-Southwest appearance. I stick it here because I'm mentioned specifically, although not by name (I'm the lead guitarist). I don't often get press or kudos, so what the hell:

43 Songs About 43 Presidencies

My first big find of the fest: These guys are indeed billed as you see here, but according to their label's Web site, the "band" itself seems to be called: Of Great and Mortal Men. Yet according to Pitchfork, the project they're plugging (still to be released, apparently) goes by the full name: Of Great and Mortal Men: 43 Songs About 43 Presidencies.

Tonight, we get a total of 6 guys playing 8 songs about 8 presidencies, some with the band's introductory explanations as noted: "Rutherford B. Hayes" (mostly about his beard), "George H.W. Bush," "Zachary Taylor" ("he had the most face"), "Andrew Jackson" ("he was a jerk; he was, like, a genocidal f---wad, so f--- him!"), "Warren G. Harding," "Benjamin Harrison," "Ronald Reagan," and one of the generals who became President, though they don't say (and I can't catch) which one.

Leading the festivities is Christian Kiefer (at left in photo), who wrote the songs with Matthew Gerken and Jefferson Pitcher. And the songs are great. "Hayes" is hard Americana, "Taylor" breaks into a spirited hoedown, "Reagan" comes across like a truly touching Steve Earle song (I kid you not), and "Jackson" — ooooo, this is the best, a real scary thing, like the Coen Brothers taking over A Prairie Home Companion. The band is ragged but right, with a remarkable lead guitarist. By all means, track down the three-disc boxed set whenever it sees the light of day.

Yay, me!

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Richard Price, Lush Life

I just finished Richard Price's novel, Lush Life. In one word: aggravating. It begins well enough. Price details New York City and its people with a gritty clarity ("gritty" is how we all describe urban crime novels, by the way). His dialogue is great, and the story he begins to weave is intriguing -- it's centered around the homicide of a young man, witnessed by his two friends. But after only a quarter of the novel, Price tells us who shot the young man (in retrospect, it was pretty clear even earlier), yet the novel is 455 pages long, so the story just keeps going with no real prospect for a decent or interesting pay-off. I kept going, holding on to the hope that he will surprise me.


Now, like I said, Price delivers with his keen eye for detail about NYC and its characters, and the story of the protagonist is compelling, but he's not someone I was particularly rooting for. And Price does present an idea by the end of the unending cycle of crime in NYC and how the NYC police waffle between disdain and ineptitude for the constant crime cycle. I just don't think it's enough to justify 455 pages.

So, I'm on to Philip Roth's Zuckerman Bound.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Recession Fallout: Fewer Women Having Kids

Recession Fallout: Fewer Women Having Kids

This article is from Time magazine. I think it's an interesting example to which we can apply the Tipping Point theory.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

The D.C. Show on YouTube

The fellow who filmed our Presidents show in D.C. posted a nice clip on YouTube (that's me on the left, hiding in the back).


Wednesday, February 11, 2009


I signed up to participate in February Album Writing Month again (I completed the task in February 2007, skipped it in 2008). So far, in 10 days, I've written and recorded four songs. I'm relatively pleased with the songs, but not necessarily the recordings. I have a bit of trouble singing. I'm sing moderately well, but it's definitely my weakness. I'm trying to write simple songs and focus on vocal melody, my other weakness (you may ask, how in the hell are you writing these songs in the first place?).

So, it's a process, and as many people know, I dig process. I have definitely improved since 2007, so it's nice to grow as a writer and artist. However, the greatest challenge is finding my own voice. I listen to my favorite artists and emulate to them to a degree -- or maybe I emulate too much. It's a difficult distinction to make, really: Where does influence end and originality begin?

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Washington D.C.

Some photos from our gig in D.C. It was a great show for about 460 people. Christian Kiefer, our fearless leader, kept us working most of the time, so we didn't get the opportunity to see many of the monuments, but our host, John Marsh, gave us a tour of some Civil War sites in Northern Virginia near Great Falls. In fact, our hosts were the most hospitable people I've ever met. Great wine, great discussions, and a great place to lay our heads.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Gasp! A New Post!

Since a new semester is beginning, I thought I should update my blog. While I assign blogs for my students, I'm actually pretty bad at updating my own. Since our son, Jude, was born last October, I've been busy updating his blog (http://jasonnicoleandjude.blogspot.com). He's damn attractive, so he needs his own blog.

What's happening? Music. One of my bands, Nice Monster, has released its second record and we're celebrating with a CD release show at the Fox and Goose on January 10th. The other music project I'm involved with -- Of Great and Mortal Men: 43 Songs about 43 Presidencies -- has a show in Washington D.C. on January 17th. This will be the biggest gig I've ever played, so I'm excited. NPR is running a story on the show and project (we hope) on Friday, January 16th, probably on All Things Considered. After that show, we will perform the same show at Marilyn's in Sacramento featuring an all-star Sacramento musician freak-out. Then, in March, we're off to Austin, Texas, for South-by-Southwest.

Then, sleep.