Go, Thief! Writing as Collaborative Piracy


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“A thief who steals from a thief is pardoned for one hundred years”—Eli Wallach as Calvera (Magnificent Seven/Seven Samurai remake soon in theaters near you)

As a grad student taking creative writing classes, I did a lot of workshopping, but received little practical advice.  Most everything learned is earned, not given.  However, the best counsel I got was as an undergraduate toiling away in my Intro to Fiction course: “If you see something you like, steal it” (the professor/novelist who uttered these words will obviously not mind my failing to attribute to him here.)

There’s not much stealing of money by novelists, short-fictioneers, playwrights, and poets going on (we leave that to the publishing houses).  On the other hand, the best and worst of us do steal material pretty liberally from each other.   Some of this is unconscionable laziness, but I think those who take their craft seriously do hold themselves to a few self-imposed rules, which I’d like to codify here by supplementing my old professor’s advice with what I call the “Rule of Three O’s”: “By all means, steal: but try not to steal too often; nor too obnoxiously; nor too obviously.  Penalties exist for each.

  • Too often. No one likes to be labeled an unoriginal hack.  I mean, if you do this daily, you might as well become a television journalist and get paid well.  None of them seems to have recognized that Donald Trump has lifted most of his campaign platform from Adolf Hitler (“Make _______ Great Again,”) but you know that if one did, they’d all be parroting it.  Because there is no honor among thieves: they turn on each other.   Genre writers are in greatest danger of returning to the well too often, killing the golden goose, choose your cliché (a word-level version of this crime).
  • Too obnoxiously. You wouldn’t carjack a Corvette and then drive it around the same county without at least a re-paint, would you?  That’s just not right.  A plot, for example, needs to be sufficiently re-dressed to make it palatable.  Some recognize that the story of Jason Bourne is a retelling of Frankenstein, just as Blade Runner was (and to some extent the Wolverine and Deadpool tales): Scientist manipulates human limitations; scientist gets re-visited over and over by the subject of his experiment (“Why would he come back now?”)  It’s a good story with much psychological depth and breadth, as well as moral/ethical implications, which is why it gets told every five years.  Another version of obnoxious theft is a too-clever playing with familiar phrases.  Some writers get so good at this, they’re dangerous:  “Code of Dishonor,” “Twice Bitten,” “Can’t Stand In Heat.”  Seriously, why would you even crack the cover of a book entitled “For a Few Zombies More?”  Do you expect the writing to improve after that?
  • Too obviously. If last week’s marquee title is The Terminator, and you rush-premiere a B-movie called The Decimator, The De-resonator, or The Decaffeinater, even the trolls on the forums will crucify you (now there’s a story worth retelling,) without even watching it. And you deserve it.

Which leaves us with the question of how to do stealing right.  There are perhaps a hundred ways, so let’s “borrow” a few from the greats:

Allusions. Usually at the word level, these nuggets are on full display for those in your audience who may have read more than three or four books.  When John Steinbeck cribbed his novel’s title, In Dubious Battle, from the proem of John Milton’s epic Paradise Lost, it was more than a pretty phrase he admired.  He wanted to signal, perhaps, that workers in contemporary America (the many and weak) were being warred upon by Satanic forces (the few and powerful).  Steinbeck, in fact, grifted several of his titles from Biblical or semi-biblical sources: The Grapes of Wrath, East of Eden, and other writers (Of Mice and Men).

Homages/parodies. In Young Frankenstein, Mel Brooks wasn’t trying to get away with piracy, but instead to rely on the audience’s familiarity with both the story and previous remakes from Hollywood.  The result is wonderful: How I did It is the title of the Baron’s journal. The great danger I see, today, is that in a semi-literate culture, exposure to 2nd, 3rd, and farther-removed parodies takes the place of reading the originals, rather than supplementing it.  Children, of course, will claim they can survive on candy; and so it’s no surprise to hear twenty-somethings argue they can distill the important news from The Daily Show and Saturday Night Live.

Shakespeare, yes even he of the cranium enormous, raided the Plot and trappings of Hamlet, Julius Caesar, and probably Othello and Romeo and Juliet from earlier sources. Now, given what he accomplished with them, and the relative scarcity of masterplots, this is forgivable.  How many people recognize that The Terminator is a thematic retelling of Sophocles’ Oedipus Rex (by attempting to avoid predestined events, one can actually bring them to pass)?  Cameron simply converted prophecy to time-travel (two sides of the same coin).

Update/Remake for a modern audience. Emerson said that every generation had to reinvent its stories (here I’m paraphrasing—at least I’m giving the guy credit!)  Especially the out-of-copyright ones (wink to the publishers and movie studios there.)     I suspect 2016’s Birth of a Nation will not much resemble the original.  You did know that was first made by D.W. Griffiths in 1915, adapted from Thomas Dixon’s novel The Clansmen (1905,) didn’t you?  Film and literary critics fascinate themselves with analyzing how remakes tell us much about the culture that produced them, by emphasizing and deemphasizing certain elements of the ur-story.

Recasting from a different perspective. Euripides is perhaps the most prolific of western writers here.  He recast much of Greek mythology from the point-of-view of “the other,” the marginalized characters: Medea, The Trojan Women, The Bacchae.  A very neat and risky trick.  How many Americans do you know that would enjoy a film about how the Russians sacrificed twenty million souls to defeat the Nazis in World War II?  And yeah, that did happen.

Which brings us to pseudo-history. Spielberg’s Amistad, Mann’s The Last of the Mohicans, Stone’s JFK, anything by Michael Moore in a more documentary mode, are all masterful narratives.  They are not history, by any serious definition.  BUT, they weren’t meant to be: they ARE meant to raise the spirit of inquiry in the audience, to challenge them to learn more and seek the truth themselves.  Poe did this with his unreliable narrators, but the solutions lay within his stories themselves.  Here, the facts lie outside the story, in other accounts one would have to research.  Sadly, this is all too infrequently done, and the pseudo-history stands as the somewhat-removed Truth.

So writers, don’t worry so much about books getting stolen, in either analog or digital form.  One way or another, it’s all in the public domain, there for the taking–isn’t it?  Put it this way–no one ever promised to pay you, anyway.  Given the choice, you’d rather give it away than keep it to yourself.




Ethics vs. Morals in A Game of Thrones


The binary pair of philosophical terms in my title has for twenty years served me in class lessons on Twain’s Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, but it seems an update is in order.  Though little has changed, philosophically speaking.  As I write, on my left hand I observe striking workers with signs decrying Verizon corporate greed, and on my left, a candidate who has never held public office, yet has occupied eerily similar positions to Verizon’s CEOs, has effectively secured the Republican nomination for President of the United States.

Both the terms “morals” and “ethics” denote codes of behavior with regard to right and wrong.  They don’t even differ most materially in the kind of behavior; the real distinction lies in the source of the code, and the extent of responsibility.  Imagine three concentric circles, each larger than the last.  Smallest, at the center, is the personal sphere of the individual.  Largest and farthest reaching is the moral sphere: this encompasses all one’s relations to other human beings, and covers behavior as diverse as killing and how to drive an automobile.  Between these two circles, much closer to the individual and covering far less area, lies the ethical sphere: here, the code is much more murky, because laws and rules simply don’t / can’t cover every nuance of all human relations.

The epitome of an ethical commitment is a promise (giving one’s “word.”)   With few exceptions, no police officer forces these upon the individual; no court passes sentences on the breaking of them.  If you promise your daughter to spend more time with her this weekend, and you break your word, there may indeed be a consequence, but it won’t come in the form of a fine or time served, and thus the violation can be easy to ignore/forget.

In my textual analysis and application, I’ll confine myself to just two pairs of parallel scenes in the recent season 6 debut episode of Game of Thrones. These issues are of course shot through the entire series.

The screenshot above shows Tyrion Lannister attempting to bestow a coin on a beggar with a child, yet unable to speak her language.  Varys must complete the act of charity for him.  Tyrion has a conscience and compassion, but he’s smart enough to know that the city’s unrest can’t be solved by treating the symptoms.  He’s probably identifying with the smallest and most helpless person he finds on the steps of the beggars, epitomizing Hobbes’ principle that nothing is done without some shade of self-interest.  Moreover, his detachment as Varys must translate for him accurately models the cold distance of government welfare programs.  The morality of his act is understandable; we sympathize; but ultimately empty.

A direct analogue to this scene is not far to seek, as we catch up with Arya Stark, recently blind, reduced to destitution, rags, and a money-bowl.  Rather than a handout, she receives a beating with a quarterstaff from the Waif.  She has only words, at present, with which to defend herself: “I can’t see.”  Her antagonist isn’t buying: “That’s your problem, not mine.”  So much for handouts.  In fact, the Waif promises “See you tomorrow,” and leaves Arya the staff, presumably with which to practice for the next encounter.  What looks on the surface like an act of petty cruelty, I predict is actually an attempt to break Arya out of her cycle of dependence upon charity.  Clearly of mixed motive, Waif’s actions have no relation to the established moral level, and their good component belongs to the ethical realm only, serving a “greater good” than most people can see on the surface.  “Tough Love” is ethics in practice.

Second parallel.  Sansa Stark is rescued in the wilds by Brienne of Tarth, who formerly served her mother.  Brienne’s oath: “I will shield your back and keep your counsel and give my life for yours if need be.  I swear it by the old gods and the new.”  Sansa’s reply: “And I vow that you shall always have a place at my hearth, and meat and mead at my table, and I pledge to ask no service of you that might bring you dishonor.  I swear it by the old gods and the new.”  Vows and oaths, especially ones that can be learned by rote, are an artificial means of encouraging both moral and ethical commitments, and sometimes oathbreaking is punishable, as on the Wall.  So they occupy a sort of nether-ground between morals and ethics.  But my concern here is with the nature of this agreement.  First, notice it works both ways, as an exchange.  One might argue that Lady Stark has the better of the bargain, as her commitment involves no hazard to her life, as Brienne’s does.  Hers might even be claimed to be a token response; however, this is hardly true in the world of Westeros.  Aristocrats often demand immoral and dishonorable acts of their thanes, and maintain their very hearths and tables by those same acts.

As for the Maid of Tarth, it’s important to notice that her vows (accompanied by the laying of her sword at Sansa’s feet,) and her earlier commitment to her mother, are undertaken wholly voluntarily. We might, having witnessed the fate of Ned Stark in adhering to a standard of honor, worry about Brienne’s future in making such alliances.  There is one vital difference: Ned was essentially pressed into service as the Hand by King Robert, and forced to import a vulnerable code of behavior into a hostile environment at King’s Landing.  Brienne, by contrast, remains a free agent and bestows her service where and how she judges it is most needed and deserved.

If I can for a moment contrast their relationship to that of a modern day employer and employee, the analogy is not as tortured and uninstructive as it might first appear.  After all, Sansa offers sustenance in exchange for labor.  But what’s more useful is to notice what else is in this agreement that is absent today.  In offering to shield Sansa’s back, Brienne essentially promises not only competent service, but loyalty.  Ask any professional ball-player today what loyalty is, and you might be baffled by the response.  As for the average corporate or industrial employee, they might, not without legitimacy, reply that they don’t give any where they don’t receive any.  On the other side, Sansa’s pledge not to demand dishonorable acts might find little recognition in today’s competitive workplace.

So this reciprocity agreement, or quid pro quo, has a strong ethical component that many human relationships sorely lack.   If the reader doubts this, consider how other players engage in the Game of Thrones.  Jamie Lannister to his sister/lover Cersei: “Fuck prophecy, fuck Fate, fuck everyone who isn’t us. We’re the only ones who matter, the only ones in this world.  And everything they’ve taken from us we’re going to take back, everything and more.”

Our lives are infused with ethical problems, great and small, for which no “official” or actionable rules exist.  We receive guidelines and encouragements to “do the the right thing,” but no consequence exists for a multitude of transgressions. “Shall I take thirty seconds of my day to return the grocery cart to the corral, against the off chance that it will damage someone’s car and the certainty that someone else will have to collect it for me?”  As my common example suggests, the number of people out there operating in the world without any ethical sense, again demonstrating Thomas Hobbes’ claim that people only act out of selfish motivations, is high enough to cause concern.  Once the cart has served the shopper, she abandons it on the spot with no regard to the hazard it poses to others–there’s nothing in it for her, that she should bother with it any longer.

Because few people’s ethical commitment is as high as Brienne’s or Ned Stark’s (or Captain America’s,) a civilization must have a set of moral rules, in Westeros enforced by the Sparrows: “Sinners confess.”  Yet moral codes often reside in the custody of sadists, hypocrites, and people who believe they are personallyA  above the rules.  Hence the need for codes of honor, promises, and ethics.

Westeros, though clearly a land where moral codes function often to shield the actions of ambitious power-players and where ethics are rarely and cryptically rewarded, still may be offering us incentives to be more ethical in our own society.  On a visceral narrative level, we hate the bad (paradoxically “moral”) characters and, with as little love as some of the others may invoke, we are invited to explore how their motives might be put into better practice.

Students can especially benefit from training in how to distinguish the moral decisions and acts of fictional characters from ethical ones.  And these are visually observable as well as narratively.  In a late, brief moment absent from Steinbeck’s novel, for example, Tom Joad in John Ford’s screen adaptation of The Grapes of Wrath (1940) observes a water faucet that careless children have left running in the government camp.  He wordlessly shuts the tap and moves on.  An easily missed moment, and some audience members might puzzle at its inclusion.  Ford wants us to connect with how far Tom has come, ethically, from the man who bitterly smashed a whiskey bottle in the road in an early scene.  Who thinks of other people?  Conserving water, if only for a generation that might not appear on Earth a hundred years into the future, serves as a pertinent example of how ethical people may be far ahead of their time, spearheading good actions that only become moral imperatives, for the masses, at a late and convenient hour.


Why Teachers Should Never Be Paid Anything, Ever


by Ed Anger

If I only had a dollar for every dime an American educator rakes in. . .wait. . .ugh, let me start over.

Right, money. Teachers.  Money and teachers.  Seems almost criminal to put them together in a sentence.  Who ever authorized those yupsters to dip into their own pockets for classroom supplies like post-its, highlighters, Sharpies, pencils and crayons, staples, paper clips, notebooks, props and costume bits, not to mention treats for Halloween and Christmas, anyway?  Students ought to do without them–all those computers the school district provided aren’t there just to set your espresso on, you know.

And since time is money, likewise for any minutes whatsoever spent grading essays, exams, lesson preparation, professional development, parent meetings, tutoring, and all that, either after school or at night or on weekends.  That’s ridiculous.  Teachers should be out shopping the boutiques and mall stores for those luxuriant wardrobes they all seem to possess.

A young teacher, like a young artist, ought to live on the ragged edge of starvation.  When he can’t be offered hospitality, he’d best consider himself as “fasting,” cleansing both body and spirit, like a freshly mopped lavatory.

But (I can hear someone beginning a lecture,) “Teaching is a calling, like becoming a Jedi Knight–it takes the highest commitment.”  Bah.  It’s a gig.  They really ought to hold classes at night, so they can all work real day jobs and contribute to a responsible citizen’s tax bracket.

And what’s all this nonsense about irony, symbolism, lowest common denominator, long division, evolution, and debates about Pluto, anyway?  Computers, I say!  Fast ones.  Get on the train, people, or get off the tracks!  Not everybody gets summers–almost all of July and well into August, except for mandatory meetings, plus several Fall and Spring holidays like Veteran’s Day–off!  Who the heck, today, has the leisure minutes for long division?   And Pluto never fetched me my slippers!

Someone named Thoreau (Odin’s son in Norse mythology, as I recall.  Take that, Mrs. Spencer!) whined: money corrupts everything it touches.

He was right.  Benefit packages, retirement pensions, and that God-forsaken tenure should go, too.  Any CEO will tell you those are not normal.  Anyone who spends ten-twenty-five years in a job ought to grateful they still have it, not looking for more handouts.

Speaking of tenure, don’t even get me started on college professors.  What’s that?  Sure, most of them work part-time.  Right, adjuncts.  Those layabouts.

Grading countless dozens of essays, tutoring into the night, teaching semi-literate students in courses no one else wants, no office space, no benefits, little pay.  Every aspiring teacher should look at them and see the writing on the wall.  Change majors while you can, guys and dolls.  Meanwhile,  anyone with that level of masochism needs to jog down to the Psych Dept. and get herself a nice dose of free therapy.


[Contributor’s Note: Ed Anger freelances when and where he pleases, and can appear in any guise.]


Poem at Christmas, Inspired by a Reassimilated Astronomer


By Shawn Stjean

A Ray, high in the window of East, flashing on this single patch of desert

Arrives Here and Now, a missive from a thousand years ago, or two.

A Wanderer stands, or kneels, or sprawls alone, only as sand or stars are alone,

Hurled by the fist of Cosmos,

Not haphazardly or forgotten.

Near Moons and Mountains eclipse,

Snow blankets,

Time and Tide part,

Shadows lurk at one’s heels, wading from shore of the terrestrial Sea.

But to eyes raised for the next Word, we wait in the clear.

Read the Book of our Song.

Thrust your arms–push off, past the weeds, drink, and breathe in.

Swim with us:

We Stuff of energy and matter, gravity syncing us in swirl.


Vote For Something That Matters: Books!



I try here at Clotho’s Loom to promote these guys a few times per year–they’ve done a lot to increase the visibility of Indie Authors, and I’ve never heard of them never asking for a dime from anyone.  Goodreads provides forums for writers and readers, hosts giveaways, allows one to rank books on any number of reader-generated lists, and make friends as with any other social media.

So take a few moments off from following those other less-vital campaigns, and see if you can’t discover your next several reads, while helping keep literacy alive in America.

P.S.  I don’t have a book in the running. . .this year. . .

Stephen Colbert Follows Suit; But Is the Joker a Card or a Player?

Republican Presidential candidate Jeb Bush chats with Stephen on the premiere of The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, Tuesday Sept. 8, 2015 on the CBS Television Network. Photo: Jeffrey R. Staab/CBS ©2015 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved

Review by Google“>Shawn Stjean

It’s literally true that men’s suits are tailored too small these days, and visibly obvious as the veteran comedian struggles to fill the large seams of David Letterman’s/CBS’s Late Show.  For years following his apprenticeship as a correspondent on Jon Stewart’s Daily Show, Colbert ran his own Comedy Central program back-to-back with Stewart’s, and the pairing guided liberals through the American media landscape with satire akin to a crime that, a few hundred years ago, anyone from Jonathan Swift to Benjamin Franklin’s brother could have been tossed into prison for.

Neither The Colbert Report nor The Daily Show ran perfectly: at just a half-hour per episode, four episodes per week (when we were lucky,) only four hours of content stood on offer, and half that devoted to increasingly lightweight interviews with authors promoting books, celebrities on junkets pimping movies, with an occasional human rights’ activist or even president thrown in.  But although a few real questions made it through, they were not often answered, with Stewart reduced to posting extra content online.  Still, these retirements left a couple of hours that America could ill-afford to lose: the foibles of politicians mocked, the mis-doings of the corporate power structure targeted.  I haven’t been this disappointed by a major player cashing out since Borders bookstores folded.  Colbert, in his persona as a staunch reactionary, remained impervious for a decade or so to the slippery slope we’re all on; meanwhile, his mentor couldn’t help but take it more personally.  Perhaps both men wished to move on before machinery of the 2016 election season really got cranked up: Trump and his clown-car of other knaves meant to distract us for a year and more from the real players dealing from the bottom of the deck.  I’m sure Stewart had grown weary of his part in the charade.  Meanwhile, Colbert, slightly shifted to the left and into the palatial Ed Sullivan Theater, remains in the game–sorta.

More great talent flushing.  Letterman wasn’t really kidding with all those jabs at “the Network” over the years.

Others will replace the discards, of course.  John Oliver, who stood in for Stewart-on-leave and now gets a half-hour per week on HBO’s Last Week Tonight, has proven something of a wild card.  He devotes a sustained 15-minutes (watch the program–this is more than anyone else) to one of our nation’s social problems, anything from the plight of chicken farmers to prison system injustices.  He doesn’t dilute the content with interviews, either; while these must have been the cost of doing business on basic cable, HBO can afford the ante.

But it appears as if Stephen Colbert has begun to tread the path of greats like Drew Carey and Craig Ferguson, whose diminution into ever-lower-stakes venues confront us all with the cost of extended play, even when The Price Is Wrong.  His expanded format requires Colbert to interview even more now, and even though his presence is edgier than Letterman’s (he and Oliver flipped each other the bird this week,) and he has the cred to draw celebrities with the gravitas of Tom Hanks now, it’s mostly going to consist of “good fun.”  At least he’s retired the worn-out Letterman staples such as the Top Ten list–and viewers may miss Dave’s flannel, dry wit and relentless repetition of a gag until the laughs came.  Stephen, by contrast, flashes like sharkskin and shows as many teeth.  It’s part of his schtick to represent himself as wealthy enough to buy the pot, but I have to wonder if the muscles at the corners of his mouth aren’t already aching, his armpits chafing.  How long can he keep up the bluff?

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British Infiltration: Rockers Ryker Sear, Lux Lisbon Fight the War for Discoverability


Ryker Sear is fronted by Regan Vincenza and James Torselli

Review by Google“>Shawn Stjean

I’m about as far from a London music-scene insider as an introverted teacher from east-coast US with few social media connections can be; and yet, they found me.  And if these up-and-coming bands can root me out and evoke a review, they’re a lot closer to the mainstream than maybe even they know.  That’s the beauty of the great artistic endeavor in the 21st century: if you’re a writer, a painter or illustrator, a musician, a prophet or pundit–whether you’ve got battle scars or henna tattoos–you can scream your message to a global audience.   If you’ve got the the talent, the brains, and the balls–not necessarily in that order–then dare to deafen the masses!

I admit I’m a little concerned over the ultra-competitive gene such an electronically facilitated/driven marketplace will breed into the DNA of the younger generation.  Social Darwinism is never pretty, and social-media-darwinism (SMD) won’t likely class it up (“she with the most friends, wins”).  But maybe there are enough followers to go around.

Sure, you’ll have to give your art away for awhile, which is how they found me.  But ask yourself: is that any worse than an office internship, or signing five figures deep into student loans, or pulling an oar on the good ship EvilCorp until your passage is paid?  As Lux Lisbon themselves put it, “Money doesn’t make a man a man.”

Maybe it’s worthwhile to describe the tactics by which this war can be fought by the guerrilla non-elite.  My publishing imprint has a Twitter account which is completely automated, to the extent that all I do is choose people and entities to follow back–and if they have anything to do with books, or art in general, I do.  That way, I don’t dilute the imprint “@GlasDaggrePubs” with a bunch of unrelated connections–hoping to attract more writers and artists.  Now, the folks across the pond, being undoubtedly more savvy at the game than I, followed me, and I followed back.  They then thanked me with a follow-up reachout, by name, and offered a link to some free tunes–which I ignored.  Here’s the key: persistence.  The next day, Stu from Lux Lisbon e-mailed me directly, with a cleverly worded message that the link had been broken, but would now work.  A harmless fabrication, there, I suspect.  But, I decided to spare the bandwidth for their new EP, which is routed through their website with plenty of YouTube video links.  Never a single Ask for money.  And now, the crucial requirement, without which no amount of promotion can save an artist:  Much as one would do with a car radio, I decided to give three songs only a listen–for about thirty seconds each.  If nothing grabbed me in that amount of time, case-closed and on to the next thing.  Well, on the third random press of the old electronic jukebox button, “Show Me the Money” got its hooks into me.  So yeah, the talent end of the equation is, and always will be, the necessary bullet in the gun.

Standouts from the Get Some Scars EP include “Demons You Show” (good enough to feature an alternate, acoustic duet version to anchor the album) and “The Devil Got Me Dancing” (instant classic–trust me.)  Stuart Rook and Charlotte Austen trade lyrics clearly influenced by early Springsteen in their relentless resistance to one-and-two syllable words, but more importantly, simplistic meaning. Someone in this outfit happens to be an inventive videographer, as well, and they’re tech-literate enough to offer multiple download formats for all your devices. Check it: http://luxlisbon.com/

A year earlier, the initial process followed by Regan from Ryker Sear had not, details aside, been dissimilar.  She kindly offered me some merch when I wrote to praise a the free video (and remember, I’m nobody special) which I declined on principle until I could at least write a review (both bands have cannily maintained online stores–I agree, screw the middle-man, he earned nothing!)  And, that last vital requirement reveals itself: you’ve gotta be deadly patient–I mean Viet-Cong patient.  Discovery happens, but like songwriting–any kind of writing–it’s slow process and one-soldier-at-a-time recruitment.

Ryker Sear have got HD videos up on Vevo: http://www.vevo.com/watch/ryker-sear/to-the-ending/QMGR31402673 Soundcloud:https://soundcloud.com/rykersear and of course the inevitable YouTube host through their own site: http://www.rykersear.com/ “To the Ending” alone is a great track, a great music video, and deserves airplay here in the States better than 90% of what’s getting it on the commercial stations glutted with tired 80s/90s recycled junk that never was very good in the first place. “Forever Criminal” makes a worthy follow-up. Unlike the lyric-agile tongue-twisting and acousti-fused material of Lisbon, Regan Vincenza’s voice weights her tunes in equal proportion with a punchy percussion and juiced-guitar riffs that will make Sear‘s body of work more appealing to the traditional rock crowd.  Their EP is 2012’s Tell Me Why, with free single release “Forever Criminal” promised for this October 13.  The material of either band may not sound fully cooked in the ears of music-industry professionals, but then again, it hasn’t been commodified, homogenized, and neutered yet by pros, either.

Remember, youngsters, you may not be raking in much on the front end, but you’re also not paying a mortgage payment to the Man in promotional fees, letting an agent take his blood-pound, or signing deals that will lock you up for another three albums, like the rock legends of old had to do.

As for you fans, you need to know that these guys have fanbases still modest enough in size to be appreciated, up close and personal.  Write the band members–they write back!  Years from now, as every twerp with an iPhone17 is bragging to his pals about his great musical taste, you’ll be able to say you’ve been following the greats since the 20-teens.

Do your best, and the money takes care of itself.  Heat the oven, and the bread will bake.  Or, as I like to opine when in a metaphor-mixing mood, sweat always rises to the top.


Lux Lisbon is Stuart Rook, Charlotte Austen, Tom Cooper, Jamie Shaw. EP cover.