vuzh: seven (death cap)
Having a difficult time coping with all the anger, fear, sadness, self-hatred, worry.

Some days it's worse than others, but it's just constant. I feel like I'm on really shaking ground, metaphorically speaking.
vuzh: seven (vuzh music)
Keith Helt of Pan y Rosas Discos sent this questionnaire as part of a project to document and archive personal histories of people involved in netlabels. Fantastic project, I was happy to participate. Here's the questions & answers I gave. LiveJournal gets a shout-out along with several people I met here.


What is your name?

C. Reider

Where are you located?

Front Range, Northern Colorado.

Do you save any materials - digital files, emails, physical materials - related to your netlabel? Are you interested in organizing or archiving them?

I have more interest than time and energy for it. The primary thing is to get the music out, and propagate it to a diversity of platforms.
I recognize that I am my own archivist, and but the balance between archiving what has come before and doing new work has to lean heavily toward the new. I have only a small time to do the work, and music is my main thing.

How and when did you first learn about netlabels?

I can’t remember the specific year, it was probably around about 2003. My hometaping / cassette-trading label Vuzh Music had run into problems because people at the time wanted to trade CD-rs because, back then, they viewed them as a superior medium to cassettes (ha ha ha, so much for that shit). Furthermore, no one wanted to hand-write or type letters to send by mail because email was so much more convenient. Trading tapes & letters through the mail was what the cassette underground was all about, so the late nineties and the early zeroes were a rough time because no one wanted to do either of those things. I think it was about 2002 when I got a computer and finally managed to convert much of my catalogue to digital so I could burn CD-rs, but even that didn’t seem to be working out too well. I built the website that became the Vuzh Music netlabel to sell CD-rs. I would have preferred trading, but it seemed like the cassette underground had nearly completely evaporated. There was a site called where they allowed you to upload three mp3s of your music (it sounds ludicrous now, doesn’t it? I think later they increased it to five. No wonder they’re not around anymore.) I had dialup internet, and the phone lines in the mountains where I lived were notoriously dodgy. I managed to get a few mp3s up though. That was probably the first digital music I uploaded.

I was active on the early social networking platform LiveJournal, because I was looking for the same kind of communication / community as I’d experienced in the cassette underground. That’s where I first started to hear about Netlabels. There were people talking about them on the ambient & experimental music communities on LJ, and specifically I recall music friends I'd met on LJ such as Thomas Park and Chris McDill talking about them. I clearly remember those two planning out their netlabels (Treetrunk and Webbed Hand), McDill was particularly public about his thought process. Wasn’t long before I converted my CD-r label to a Netlabel – even though it was pretty hellish uploading that much stuff over VERY SLOW dialup (over lines that were prone to dropping calls).

What was the first netlabel you heard of?

It is really hard to say. There were a lot of Russian ones back then that are no longer active – I can’t recall the names of them. Musica Excentrica was one of them, I think Clinical Archives was in there somewhere.

What are some netlabels that inspired or influenced you? Or that you admire?

I can’t say that any one netlabel inspired me. There are many that I specifically admire, and I admire the movement on the whole, for certain. In the early days I did admire Chris McDill’s energy for promoting Webbed Hand, self-promotion has never been something I’ve had much energy for.

What made you decide to start your own netlabel?

It was the obvious thing to do, really. At the time, I already had a decade worth of music of my own, and several things by other people on my label, and I wanted it to have an audience. Some other people were getting into arrangements with companies like, as they evolved into selling CDs, or continuing to pursue the standard model of sending demos to big labels trying to get a contract that way. To some people the whole idea of letting their music be downloadable for free was and is appalling. They have their priorities, and that’s okay for them. I would rather have my music be listened to than be paid for. The occasional gift of money (and other stuff) from listeners is a nice morale boost, but it's not something I am working toward. I am continually grateful that people listen to the work that I do.

What were the reasons you had to choose releasing music for free? And why did you choose to not release physical albums?

With physical albums, I had already done it. I’d done cassettes and CD-rs. I found the process of dubbing & making covers kind of tedious, and it was expensive too. It was a confluence of convenience & expense that pushed me toward ditching physical releases.

What is the name of your netlabel?

The main one is Vuzh Music.
I’ve done a few others, Dystimbria, Derivative Netlabel and Drone Forest’s archive are the others.
All of these are kind of either permanently inactive or currently on hiatus, but all exist as archives. It's important to me to maintain availability.

Why did you choose the name you chose?

Vuzh Music was the name of my tape label in the 90s, and it carried over. “Vuzh” was a word I heard in a dream.

When did you start your netlabel?

The for says I got it in March of 2003, but for a little bit it was a CD-r label. I’m guessing late ’03 or maybe early ’04 was when I started up with free downloads.

What is the focus of you netlabel?

Vuzh Music releases whatever I like, which ends up being experimental music for lack of a better term. There’s some drone stuff, quasi-ambient, quiet noise, synth music and some beat stuff too. The tag-line for the label’s kind of music is “working-class esoteric abstractia”, which is jokey but sorta correct.

Dystimbria was a project exploring the nexus of ambient and noise, using recycling / resampling as a required method (i.e. each new release had to sample from the prior release).

Derivative is explicitly sample based, with no genre restrictions. The point is to make new music from samples derived from net releases permitting derivative works under Creative Commons, (or material from the public domain.)

Drone Forest is the archive of the work of a single group that I was involved in. It was drone music that operated with the dictum “no rhythm, no melody” although we certainly pushed the boundaries at times. We were a collective that shared sound sources but each worked independently.

Are your albums released under creative commons, copyleft or copyright? Why did you choose the method you chose?

My own stuff is almost always CC BY NC SA. I don’t want someone to use my work to make money without asking and compensating me, and I want credit when someone uses my work. These seem eminently reasonable requests. Otherwise, it doesn’t bother me to be sampled or shared, in fact I like it.

With regard to netlabel activities, however, either the project on the whole has license guidelines or a set license (as with Dystimbria / Derivative, since their entire focus is on derivative work) or in the case of Vuzh Music, when releasing another artist I defer to the artist to set the license, though I always make a case for CC licenses allowing derivative work.

What is your relationship to the artists that you release? Do you maintain any contact once you’ve released their work? Do you help promote them outside of their release itself?

In some cases we are friends, but we’re all comrades. I have released work by people I don't know well that I received through demos, but a lot of what I release is friends that I've invited to release. In most cases I like to promote the work of the artists I release because I admire what they do. They are all trying to get people to listen to their work, just like I am, so it seems logical that when we all boost work that we like. I think it’ll come back around.

How do you decide what artists you want to release? Do you approach them? Do they approach you? Do you have any specific guidelines that you follow? Do you act as a curator or is it all luck of the draw?

With Vuzh Music it was absolutely curated. I rejected many things. Usually I invited artists, but on occasion I had demo submissions I thought were really good. It was all based on what I liked and thought fit with the overall sound of the label.

With Dystimbria and Derivative, if they followed the guidelines, it was released. The guidelines for each project were painstakingly communicated on the websites.

How many albums have you released?

Gosh, you’re going to make me, count aren’t you?
Let’s see, Vuzh Music has 50 net releases and a small handful of physical things.
Dystimbria had 19 releases by 19 artists, which are now archived in four releases (grouped by year) on
Derivative Netlabel only made it to four releases (artists found the guidelines too onerous, I guess)

Who are some of your most notable artists?

Hoo boy. “Notable” is one of my trigger terms. I find it exclusionary. I find them all notable, or I wouldn’t have released their work! Notability on the internet, as embodied on sites like Wikipedia is bullshit. If you’re not notable, it’s like a black hole it’s impossible to get out of, you can’t be notable unless you become notable! Woo! I got burned out on the word while trying to write about important people in the cassette underground, people who had big impact on the culture, none of whom are notable, apparently. Notable to whom?

Which are some of your most significant releases?

I’m unsure how to answer this. I hope that all releases have been significant to the artists and the listeners who took the time to attend.

Do you release your own work on your netlabel? What do you think of that practice?

I do. I can understand that some people find it uncouth. You have to understand, I come from a very DIY background. When I started out no label would put out my stuff, so I made one that would. There’s a lot of precedent for self-releasing on one’s own label. Why not?

What do you enjoy about running your netlabel? What do you get out of it?

I’m really into sharing cool stuff! I feel like the netlabel community, at least the experimental music wing of it that I am involved in, is really just a bunch of friends saying “hey check out this cool thing!” to each other. And that’s alright by me. There’s LOTS of cool things out there, and I want to do my part in boosting the stuff I like, whether it’s recommending it via Twitter or my blog or email, or by releasing on my netlabel.

What are some difficult things about running the label? Or what are some challenges?

I think the biggest challenge is that it requires a lot of time, and a lot of it is clerical / bureaucratic stuff, making sure ID3 tags are correct, making sure all the info is correct and consistent in every instance that the release shows up, hand-coding web pages, writing descriptions… There’s a lot of “stuff” to do, and it takes away from other pursuits. This is why I’ve decided to take a break for the last couple of years. I’m focussing now on my own music, but I’ll probably come back to releasing other people’s stuff on netlabel. Kinda thinking about starting a new netlabel / tape label hybrid but we’ll see.

Has anything about it been disappointing or frustrating?

To be honest, it’s pretty disappointing how much resentment there is against free music from certain people who are following the standard pay-model. It’s like they seem to feel we’re taking sales away from them. They seem to think: ‘if only these people weren’t giving away their music, then we’d be rich and famous’ or something. Like we’re crowding ~their~ field. Fuck that attitude. No, there’s plenty of room for everyone to make music and participate in culture, and if you don’t like it, you’re an exclusionist, elitist asshole.

It also bugs me when I get pushback for trying to assert the term “netlabel” as being only the free-release model. Admittedly the term is pretty compromised at this point. There needs to be something to distinguish free-release music from labels who require payment, because these are very different phenomena, with very different motivating factors. A lot of people have agreed that we need new terminology, but no one has come forward with anything that is succinct and descriptive. Sometimes lately I say free-netlabel, but I’m not really committed to that name. I mean, to me a “netlabel” that requires payment is just a standard, normal label with internet distribution. There’s nothing new or special or distinct really, other than that it’s on the internet. It’s just a label.

How much time do you put into running the label? Approximate hours per day, week or month?

Not too much at present, as I said above most of my netlabel activities are on hiatus. When I was very active there was a lot of time spent on emails, and preparing a release could easily eat up my entire weekend, and several days after would be spend on promotion.

Can you describe all the work that you do on a regular basis in order to run your label?

There is communication with the artist behind the scenes, communicating your vision for the label and how you think the artist would fit in (or not as the case may be). Trying to get artwork from the artist at the proper size to be useful or doing art for them if they need it. Talking about licensing, explaining the options and my opinions about what’s best, while at the same time making clear that it’s their choice.

For releases, it’s pretty standard to double check all the ID3 tags, convert all the files to the proper format, compress the files into a .zip and upload. I hand-code the release pages for my website (the others too, although Derivative Netlabel uses WordPress). At this point I’ve got templates, so I fill in the appropriate information, write a description, find background imagery (often variations of the album art). Then check and double-check that everything is correct. I hate releasing something and finding an error afterward. Finally I put the link on the home page and start promoting.

Where do you share your releases? On your website? Free Music Archive? Internet Archive? Et al? A combination of these things?

Most of the files are hosted at my website, as I have a pretty good deal that allows unlimited space & more bandwidth than I’ll ever use with a humble netlabel. I’ve also (when I have time) been backing up at I used for Dystimbria to back up the website initially, but more recently I've put a second back up at I’ve been strongly considering doing a backup and upgrade of Drone Forest’s work at Bandcamp (most of the stuff is only available on mp3, would like to upgrade to FLAC quality), but I need to discuss it more with the guys.

I’ve really been intending to dive in and get stuff on Free Music Archive, but I haven’t dedicated the time & effort yet… someday.

What do you do to promote your label?

I promote mainly on Twitter, but I also have a mailing list that I use… I often post something to and the announce list for microsound. I’ll make a notice on clongclongmoo and make a blog post to promote. I gave Reddit a spin for promotion, but I think people on there don’t seem to actually like discovering new music, so I probably won’t use that again. I should probably discover a good forum or two to use for promotion, but I haven’t bothered with it. I post to Google+, I’ve had a few people discover releases through there. I don’t use FaceBook at all, so no promo there. The most effective thing seems to be Twitter, I get lotsa traffic there & when someone retweets or makes mention of a release on their Twitter that’s the absolute best, because it gets the word out to an audience I can’t reach on my own.

Do you send releases out for review? If yes, is it traditional media - review sites, magazines, blogs, etc. Or are there non-traditional methods?

I don’t do this. It seems like a lot of expense for little reward. Blogs are great because they’re passionate about music and they’ll discover your stuff and write about it, but I never seek it out. I have huge admiration for people that write music reviews for their blogs, it’s basically the same impulse as sharing stuff I like on Twitter or through the netlabel or my blog or whatever. Traditional media, on the other hand, I have a bit of a problem with it. They are very, very biased in favor of traditional releases. Most publications insist on physical releases to review, but the netlabel phenomenon is a non-object one, it’s inherent in the entire approach. One less object in the world, one more exchange of art outside of Capitalist structure. I can completely empathize with the point that mainstream music publications are getting TONS of music to consider for review (we live in a Golden Age for music!) and so why bother downloading something when 100 CDs and LPs and tapes arrive every day? But if a journalist wants to really cover the world of music, non-object free netlabel culture is one huge omission in the story they’re telling. It reminds me a lot of how home-dubbed tapes were ignored during the cassette underground days. There’s always some barrier to exclude the “little guys” who aren’t “notable” enough to deserve coverage. That doesn’t describe everyone in traditional music journalism, but it certainly describes enough to count. At any rate, I’m mostly so burned out on the elitism that I don’t pursue reviews at all.
The only exception is when I come out with a tape I send one off to Tabs Out, ‘cause they have their heart in the right place – they love music on tape and want other people to discover it. I’d like there to be more people like this but for freely downloadable, non-object music on the internet.

How much success have you had in getting people to review your releases in magazines, blogs or websites? Any frustrations regarding this?

I expressed a lot of this above. I have had some coverage in blogs and I appreciate it tremendously, I don't know to what extent it gets people to discover the music I release, but it doesn't hurt. It makes the artist feel good, feel like someone listened and enjoyed their work enough to write about it. It's a morale boost.

Have you had success in getting people in general to listen to your releases?

In general, yes. I definitely always aim at expanding my audience because I think the music I do, and the music by others that I’ve released on my labels, is very high quality and worthy of attention and respect. It’s a long process finding receptive ears and convincing them to spend time on your work though!

Do you feel that the lack of a physical object - vinyl, cassette, eight track, etc. - is a hindrance to building an audience? To getting any media to pay attention? If yes, why do you think that is the case?

I discussed this in the previous answer about music journalism.
It is a HUGE hindrance to being taken seriously. I think non-object music releases provided for free is the most radically accessible culture-building thing happening in my lifetime. Unfortunately, there is a Capitalist-enculturated expectation of a product to go with the music. It’s all about the 'thing'. Even if the end-user listens to music on Spotify their phone, they still want the CD on their shelves so their grandkids can landfill it when they die. Producing an object in this era with an overabundance of unnecessary objects seems profoundly counter-intuitive to me. There are all these myths built up that people are very invested in about how physical objects are somehow more special, they sound “better”, they’re “warm”… Decades of Capitalist marketing has done its trick to convince you that you need to have a thing, and then another thing and another and another. Die with the most toys, you know?

When I was a kid, well before the internet, I loved music, but I was ridiculously poor and couldn’t afford as much as I wanted. Now I’m happy and proud that some person out there who can’t afford to buy stuff can have mine for free with my complete blessing, just click the button and it’s yours.

Has the lack of a physical object been a problem for any of the artists that you have worked with? If it has how have you responded?

I haven’t had a problem with this, as I’ve always tried to be as upfront as possible about what to expect when I release stuff. Also, I am explicit in saying that I claim absolutely no ownership over the music, and if they want to re-release it they have every right to do so.

In addition to promotion, publicity and releasing albums do you organize live performances or festivals for your artists?

I have done some things like the sound art exhibition and concerts I did called Sound Through Barriers, and the Disquiet Junto Denver concert I helped organize with Carl Ritger and Marc Weidenbaum. None of that was about the netlabel work though. The scene in Colorado, especially for those that don’t live in Denver, is pretty tepid, and I don’t have the energy or resources to fight that fight.

How do you finance your netlabel, including the labor you put into it?

I just pay out of pocket. My income from the pewter foundry for the last 22 years has paid for my musical career.
Counter to expectation, though, I seem to be making more money with music through Bandcamp through voluntary donations using their ingenious pay-what-you-want option than I ever did when I was trying to sell it. It’s always been a money losing option, I don’t do it to make back some investment. I’d be miserable if I had that expectation. I think a lot of people who have that expectation ARE miserable from my experience. Making money from music enough to pay back the investment you put in, it’s an almost insurmountably difficult thing to do. Those who can make a living off of music are very lucky -- and I do think a lot of it is pure chance / luck, because there are too many people who work their asses off and never get to that point. In my case, if I can continue to put out the music I want, and people want to listen to it, I'm happy.

What do you think about Bandcamp and any similar music hosting sites?

Love it. They’re getting a lot right.

Do you think netlabels are sustainable? If yes, what do you think the future is for them? Should there be more?

Everything comes to an end sooner or later. In the meantime, yeah, I’d love more netlabels, more music, more community, hell yeah!!

Does your netlabel align with any political or philosophical positions or thoughts? Do you get involved with politics at all as a netlabel?

I hope I’ve made that pretty clear. Art is a political act, it’s unavoidably so. The choices you make reflect your political and moral values.

I think of doing netlabel work as a benign and friendly community-oriented action, but at the same time deeply rebellious against the Global Capitalist forces that are destroying the planet. Most activities that build community without the members having to buy anything are the same in that regard.

How do you feel that netlabels as a phenomenon overlap with any other artist practices - cassette trading, mail art, etc? Is there any overlap with podcasts, podfiction/netfiction, or any other art that is distributed for free?

I love the overlap. I love people integrating my work into theirs, that’s how culture happens. I think there is huge opportunity for more, and I wish the interconnectedness was more prevalent, but it’s always great when it happens.
I think permissively licensed free music is perfect for podcast and podfic producers, I’d love to see involved collaborative efforts between those communities, but just using the music as a resource is one hell of a great start.

I do think of the netlabel underground as having grown out of the mail art underground and cassette culture of the 80s & 90s. It’s not an explicit historical connection, but the impetus is the same: make art! Share it! Dig art by others!

Are you aware of a chronological history of netlabels? If yes, what is it?

The history is fuzzy, that’s why projects like this are important. I know people were offering music online beforehand, but it’s my understanding that netlabels in their present form flashed into being when set it as an archival category. It is a happy accident that this aligned with the popularization of Creative Commons and integration of CC into archive. The rest of the history is personal, so it’s time to start collecting personal histories!

Is there anything else you would like to write about that wasn’t included here?

What questions would you ask other people who run netlabels?

.I’m just looking forward to reading what other people have to say.

vuzh: seven (Default)
I've written my life story many times (mostly here at LJ) and in many ways.

A young friend of mine from Twitter sent me a set of interview questions to answer for a paper he's writing for an Anthropology class. I obviously felt like writing, cause I spurted out twelve pages worth just like that. Here's what I wrote: (bolded text is the set of questions he sent)

OK. So here are some questions to get this Life History thing started! I tried to make them very open-ended and stuff, and have categorized them as well. You don't need to be too open about everything so leave stuff out if you feel like you need to. While my paper is mostly about condensing your answers chronologically in an objective way, I do sort of have to give an opinion about your life (stuff like what I think is your values and experiences) once I finish this. Have fun with it. 
PS: Thinking of doing another one as a video chat on Skype. Idk how it'll work but my skype is (pkshep8).
1. QUESTIONS ABOUT YOUR LIFE COURSE: What have been the important age-graded (events relating to your age), history-graded (events relating to the era or generation you were in), and non-normative influences (some specific things that set you apart from an age-graded/history-graded perspective) to date on your life course? When did they happen and how have they shaped your life?
2. QUESTIONS ABOUT TRANSITIONS IN LIFE: What are the major transitions you have gone through? Were there ruptures or interruptions in which you were doing one thing and then suddenly had to do something different? Why? Were there bridges or gradual transitions to new stages of life (e.g an internship is a bridge between school and work)? Why?

3. QUESTIONS ABOUT PEOPLE WHO AFFECT YOUR LIFE: How is your life linked to particular other people? What are the major roles they have played in life? How are those roles defined?

This is a very deep set of questions that probably any person could potentially answer in a very lengthy way. I’m now forty-five years old, I’ve had ample time to have experienced a huge amount of important events that changed the course of my life. Rather than try to individually answer each of the questions, here's a segmented text that should give you answers to them in a less stilted way.

a.) I had a pretty ideal, happy, early childhood. I was born in October 1971 in Houston, Texas. I had a large, close family. Most of my family lived in a row of houses in a quiet neighborhood. I could bike down and visit my Aunts, Uncles, Cousins & Grandparents. It is something I look back on with great fondness. I was the first child in my family, and I had a very independent character because my younger brother, Dylan, was a lot younger than I.

b.) The first important event was when my immediate family (Mom, Dad, Dylan and I) moved to Colorado. This was when I was eight years old, during the election in 1980 that elected Ronald Reagan. This was hugely formative for countless reasons, both good and bad. On the good side, the mountainous area we moved to was such a vastly different environment from Houston in terms of plant, animal and insect life… weather… smells… the way the sun felt… this stirred my interest in noticing things in nature. I was fascinated by harvester ants, whose mounds were made of pine needles instead of dirt! I was fascinated by ant-lions whose little cone shaped traps were everywhere in our yard. I was fascinated by tiny hummingbirds, who made an everchanging drone sound just from flying and hovering. On the bad side, my transition into the new social sphere of school was extremely difficult. The culture in Colorado was very, very different than any I had experienced in the tiny, private school I had attended in Texas. The boys were extremely rough, they all played football, hunted, and wrestled each other and that was not anything I was interested in at all, so I immediately found great difficulty integrating. The girls were very expressive of the gender norms of the time, interested in dolls and other stuff I was uninterested in, so it was tough getting along with them too. Honestly, I don’t remember having any friends for a number of years… which on one level I could cope with because I was already fairly independent and “lived in my head” for entertainment. On another level it was quite painful because, well, of course we are social creatures and being rejected is no fun for anyone. I had a desire to fit-in and please my peers, but these new kids seemed very unaccepting of the fact that I had different ideas about what was fun. Looking back, I still kind of wonder why I didn’t make more effort to change myself to conform to my peers, it mostly didn’t seem possible. The gameplay of football seemed needlessly rough, and the rules were complex and boring. Hunting was right out because I wasn’t about to kill something, I found the idea appalling. I had started school a year early, so I was younger than all the kids in my grade – and MUCH smaller, so I wasn't gonna be wrestling anyone.

c.) The same year we moved to Colorado was the year I discovered music, listening again and again to 8-track tapes of the Beatles, Jethro Tull, Star Wars & Close Encounter of the Third Kind soundtracks and things like that, I listened on big, white, clunky, plastic headphones.

d.) We as a family had been going through a bunch of church-hopping as my parents tried to find one that suited their needs. We settled on one that was being held in the basement of a church building that wasn’t theirs… they didn’t have their own building yet. There were only about 15 people that came to those early services, but this church ended up becoming what would now be described as a mega-church. So I grew up exposed to the church as it grew and transformed from the old-time-religion type into the contemporary fundamentalist type with huge attendance. The pastor’s daughter Trina was my first major crush, (she never liked me back.) The social dynamic with my age-group was nearly identical to what it was in school, I was thoroughly unpopular and sidelined. My family became more and more involved in the church, and more and more radicalized in terms of religion. Our family life during this period changed radically.

e.) My father took all of his rock and roll albums to the dump, after we attended a service in which a guest pastor dimmed the lights and played rock records backwards, while showing slides of demons. He scared the bejeezus out of everyone. I was disallowed from listening to any music that was not Christian, and even the Christian stuff had to be pre-screened by my folks to see if it was ~really~ Christian. This happened when I was about ten or eleven, I think, so 1982-ish. I’m sure this prohibition against “secular” music happened in many households, looking back on it now, it sure seems like a good marketing ploy for the Christian music industry to have its audience actually prohibited from checking out the competition because you’ll go to hell! An analogy could be drawn to Fox News and the narrative set up about how all other channels are biased and don’t give you the truth. Ha ha, I should stop analyzing, that’s supposed to be your job! Anyway, I had a deep attachment to those records, and having them taken away was a pretty deep blow. I did listen to and enjoy some of the Christian music. The music thing served to isolate me further from my social group at school, because I’d never heard the songs that they were all so fond of. The same went for TV and movies, when everyone was bonding about how much they loved the new movie E.T., I couldn’t join in because my parents had decided E.T. was a demon, so I couldn’t watch the movie.

f.) I could say I definitely would have described myself as a believer at the time, my intensity of attempting to conform to the expectations of the faith grew around my 14th and 15th years. At the same time, I felt a gnawing melancholy, as the faith really seemed to only give me strictures and guilt (there was so very much guilt about having lust, for example… a bit problematic as a teen boy to feel like a jerk for masturbating.) There was also just a ton of emptiness to it, for me… I wasn’t accepted by the church kids, and I’d pray to God and even though everyone around me claimed to have constant talks with Him, I heard nothing at all. With the growing radicalization into the faith of my family, the interpersonal relationships became more and more strained. I resented all of the prohibitions, and more prohibitions were piled on, to the point of what having to say things in certain ways and thinking in certain ways. My Mother became, in hindsight, a lot more erratic – although it wasn’t so strange at the time, in context. She began to claim she was a “prophet” and that the Holy Spirit was telling her every single thing that I did at all times. This led to a not insignificant amount of paranoia on my part.

g.) I had a best friend during these years, his name was Larry. We camped together at a church youth retreat. Weird that we bonded so closely, since he in fact was into football and hunting and all the shit that should have assured him a place as a popular kid, but I guess he somehow felt isolated as well. We were terribly close, together whenever we went down to church, (it was in another town) and constantly on the phone when apart. We shared our frustrations about our desperate interest in girls and their desperate disinterest in us (although he seemed to have a little more luck than I did.) On the bad side, I gained from him an intense homophobia, something that was present in the culture at large, but was particularly intense in him. He was also kind of closed-minded about a lot of things, he was probably what I'd now describe as a redneck. Thinking about the intense closeness of our friendship now is strange, we haven't seen each other in over 20 years.

h.) In school, I had become deeply interested in computer programming, as our school had acquired a bunch of Apple II computers. I liked the solitude, and analytical thinking required to do it, and I think I started to like the fact that I was getting to know how to do something that neither the other kids, nor even the teachers knew how to do. My folks were poor, and as a rule seemed generally disinclined to encourage my interests, so I never got a computer at home. There were a few other kids at school that were into computing then too, so I fell in with a crowd that was pretty much the epitomy of the 1980s NERD stereotype. Nerds were outgrouped and ridiculed, just like you see in movies. I was very comfortable with having non-standard interests, but at the same time very uncomfortable with the social stigma that came with that, and so was a pretty miserable time in my life. This was Junior High years, 1983-86

i.) It’s pretty clear that when I turned 16 (1987) that marked a big transition in my life. I had always been a very obedient child and a very good student. I’d done my best to be a “good” kid in my relations with authority figures, people in positions of trust. My Mother had a very hard time emotionally with my sixteenth birthday. Her own life at sixteen was tumultuous. A breakdown between her & her Mother led to her running away from home and being homeless and hooked on methamphetamine for a few years. I think she projected a lot onto me being 16, even though I really had no fucking clue what it was all about - because I knew next-to-nothing about her earlier life, although I did learn a whoooole lot about it during that time. I identified as a “good kid” - so I certainly wasn't about to scream “I HATE YOU MOM” and run off to be homeless in some other state. So, she had what I guess you could call a mid-life crisis about me turning sixteen, and I felt responsible, unsurprisingly. She had been a stay-at-home-Mom for my entire life, and she decided that she wanted to get a job. I don't fault her at all for wanting to get out of the house, and get some independence from Dad's income, (I was going through the same thing, working, and getting some independence!) but I do see this as the first major step in her escape from the family, especially considering how it went down. To my memory, she only had that job for like a month and a half, maybe it was the whole Summer, but she pretty quickly became the subject of many rumors that came back to me through people my age. She started taking lots of drugs and had some affairs with the employees of the restaurant that were nearly my age. Hey dude, so and so banged your mom. Cool. Over the next several months, her and my Dad had a bitter, extremely painful, extremely ugly divorce. Dad got custody of the kids, due to her bad behavior. I went from being an ‘A’ student to a ‘D’ and ‘F’ student overnight. It hit me pretty hard.

j.) I became very resentful of the strictures that had governed my life up until then – I had been a good kid, playing by the ever tightening rules, felt huge guilt when I misbehaved, and now the main authority figure of my life had rejected everything and rebelled against the rules that governed her life. Looking back as an adult, I can sure see that all of these weird radical fundamentalist Christian cultural expectations were having as much of a negative effect on my parents as they were on me. In my view at the time, I felt the whole religion bullshit had been proven to not work. My Father has since (recently) tearfully apologized for the way we were raised. At the time, though, he tried to keep things as normal as possible, kept us going to church. Maybe my view would have changed had the church actually supported us during our rough time, but we were the victims of a lot of gossip and outgrouping, even more than before. We’d been there since the damn megachurch was a tiny little thing, we were like O.G. and they didn’t do shit for us. Some fuckin' supportive community. To be honest, I wouldn’t have accepted help if they’d offered. I was good kid before, but I’d discovered my rebellious side, and I’d pretty well made up my mind about that lot.

k.) I’d been working during the Summers from the time I was 14. We lived in a tourist town, so there was always ample opportunity for Summer jobs. I’d bike down to town, do my bit, and afterward I’d wander around town, enjoying my liberty. I’d been prohibited from listening to “secular” music for the last near-decade, well… I had some money in my pocket and didn’t give a fuck about that rule anymore. The tiny little town I lived in didn’t have a record store, but it had a Radio Shack with a rack of tapes for sale. Walkmans had also only recently become available. I don’t know what other kids did with their money, but I bought the fuck out of tapes. They were pretty expensive, frankly, 10 or 12 bucks a pop, but I still got a bunch. You couldn’t really preview anything, so I’d browse and buy stuff based on cover art or whatever. Even if I ended up not really liking what I bought, I’d still listen to it because my collection was small, and I was very deeply into music, I felt a kind of ravenousness about it, since I hadn’t been allowed it for so long. 1986 and ’87 was the year that the new wave of heavy metal with the totally dorky name of “thrash” was starting to get pretty popular, and I fell into that pretty deeply. I adopted the identity of a little metalhead, enjoying the anti-authority aspect quite a lot. Having seen a lot of High Schools at the time, the populations really did separate themselves into groups like the stoners, the jocks, the nerds, the metalheads, the new-wavers… Our school had that phenomenon, but the school population was small enough that the group of metalheads & new wavers was really small, so instead of being antagonistic toward each other like you might have seen in larger schools, we all hung out together. This was important because there was a lot of cross-pollination of musical tastes. I got word-of-mouth recommendations of lots of heavy metal music, but also started getting into stuff by the Cure and Skinny Puppy and other artists like that. My tastes were able to widen in a way the might not have otherwise. I consider this to have been pretty anomalous at the time. Culturally there was a lot of homophobia within the heavy metal community, and new-wave music seemed effimate and “gay” to most of the people into heavy metal – most notably including my best friend Larry (I didn't have luck talking to him about my taste for that kind of music, had to avoid the topic). I found I could not discuss my interest in that music outside of my small circle of friends at school. This aspect of the heavy metal subculture came to feel pretty confining. There was also this weird confinement of the genre... if an artist tried something new, it was considered “not real” true metal. With the heavy disincentivization of experimentation, the genre had a hard time progressing. Since I wanted progress, and sounds that challenged me, my time with heavy metal as my main interest was quickly drawing to a close.

l.) Sadly, I couldn’t afford any musical equipment by myself, and Dad wasn’t going to be able to help either, so I wasn’t in bands like my friends were, but I wanted to make music. I ended up buying a friend’s guitar in my senior year, but didn’t have a good amp, so I still couldn’t be in a band! Argh. I did do weird tape experiments at home, but I didn’t consider it to be music at the time (of course now I do). I remember being frustrated at the technique I’d discovered of recording sound-on-sound by playing from one tape recorder aloud and playing something else at the same time to layer up sounds. I was frustrated because the sound quality degraded so badly. I really had no idea how music was made back then, until one of my friends described multi-track recording to me and mentioned having a 4-track. I became obsessed with the idea of using my friend’s 4-track (he wouldn’t lend it to me!) – so I was probably really annoying there for a few months.

m.) 1989 was my Senior year of High School, that was when I met my partner Carrie, she was a Freshman in my school that year. My Dad gave me an old used car for a graduation gift, so I could drive down to visit her, she lived about half an hour away from the town. Dad and I were having more and more problems, many of them related to his insistence on my going to church and being involved in that world, while I had completely abandoned my faith and didn’t want anything to do with it. I didn’t like any of the people there, they didn’t like me, and I didn’t believe any of the things they were teaching. The gossip at church about our family ended up centering on me in particular: my new identity as a heavy metal fan scandalized the church members apparently – I have a tape somewhere where the youth pastor was scolding the kids for all of the gossip about the kid in the Metallica jacket (the only kid that described in the whole church was you-know-who). Honestly. Dad and I had several fights during that time, one of them was bad enough that I packed up all of my things into the car & moved in with Carrie’s folks.

n.) Carrie has easily been the biggest influence on me and my ethics and philosophy. I may have had an inclination toward appreciating nature, leftist politics and oddball tastes, but essentially I grew up around a bunch of rednecks, in a completely closed-minded, homophobic, conservative, very white culture. She was so far ahead of me in thinking about things in a fair-minded, life-appreciating way. I can't even get into all of the ways that she's helped me be a better person, at this point I tend to take it for granted, since we've been together for more than half our lives. I don't want to get too detailed about our relationship for this paper, but Carrie is a towering figure in my life, I would not at all be the same person if we weren't together. I owe her so much.

o.) I had been doing ‘zines already in High School during my junior & senior years. After I graduated I discovered the mail art network, and I became a very active visual artist, trading art with people all over the world. This was a pre-internet social network that really exploded my worldview. In trading art through the mail, there was always a written letter exchange as well, so it was a really intimate way of getting to know total strangers by trading art & letters. I never bonded too closely with people in my town, but there were people around the world that were creative and shared my sensibilities, and that was extremely encouraging. I had also been doing some recording with friend’s 4-track machines, my first recordings were done 88-89. Finally I bought a used 4-track from a guy, and could do my own recordings. Since I only had a guitar and amp, and a delay pedal, I couldn’t really do the more structured song-type things I wanted to do, so my recordings ended up being a bit more experimental, like my earlier sound-on-sound recordings. I mostly used guitar for droning with long delays, along with radio and weird little items I contact-mic’d. My interest in sound came together with my interest in mail art for my first major project, where I asked people in the mail art network to send me pieces of cassette tape that they found on the roadside. During this time, cassettes were still the main format that people used, CDs had come out, but weren’t very common yet. For some reason a lot of people seemed to toss their tapes out their windows, so cassette tape was a very commonly seen thing at the roadside, tangled in weeds, fluttering in the wind. Over 100 people sent me tape and I spliced a bunch of it together for my first tape, distributed to contributors and others who paid for it. That came out in 1991. Through doing that tape, I came into contact with the global cassette underground, people who traded tapes of their own music by the mail. Finding the cassette underground was a major turning point of my life, doing my own music and trading it with “amateur” musicians became my lifelong project. The people were my community, and I felt it deeply satisfying that some of my favorite musicians were people I knew. I had little exposure to popular music of that decade because almost all of my listening was tapes by my friends. I ended up writing music reviews for a couple of zines, notably Autoreverse, the hometaping 'zine by my good friend Ian C Stewart.

p.) Carrie and I moved to a little apartment after I got a year round job in town (year round jobs were a little rare, since it was such a seasonal tourist town.) I still work in the same industry, essentially for the same company even though the factory has moved to a different town & the ownership has changed. The work is in visual art, so some of my urge to make visual art on my own is satisfied by the craftsmanship of it. Perhaps if I didn’t work here, my visual art life would be more active

q.) It might be useful to note that I have no affinity for the term or concept “Generation X.” The first time I even heard the term I was already in my mid twenties. It struck me as a bullshit marketing term, something to help advertisers get a handle on the sensibilities of “everyone my age.” I didn't share those sensibilities, and I resented being grouped together with so many people who'd rejected me for most of my life, and whom I now reject in turn. I am reminded of my feelings for this when I hear the term “millennials.” I think there are some key differences between these age groups that justify describing people in generational terms, but a lot of it has to do with marketing and advertising, all of which repulses me.

r.) Two major technological advances were highly disruptive to my community: the cassette underground. The first was the Cd-r. When CD-r burners hit the market, those hometapers who could afford them started switching from “hissy” tapes to “pristine-audiophile” CD-rs. Often they could also print full-color cover art from their computer printers too. Quickly, fewer and fewer people wanted to trade for tapes – CD-rs were viewed as “more valuable”, so the people who published them usually had policies of “no tapes for CD-rs.” Computers were way out of my price range, so I had to stick with tapes for a long while. The second disruptive technology was, of course, the internet. When the internet started getting into people's houses in the late nineties, it had a hugely disruptive effect on the art networks I was involved in. People became less and less interested in hand writing or typing letters, when they could instantaneously email each other: conversations didn't take weeks to play out in the exchange of letters by post. The community moved online, but I didn't have access. Technology broke my community. [There's a hint here about why accessibility is such an important thing for me now – so much was kept from me because I couldn't afford it, it's important for me to provide what I can to people who can't afford it] Something that had become deeply important to me over the course of the 90s seemed to vanish entirely within a couple of years. Internet wasn't even available in my tiny little mountain town until several years after everyone else had it, and Carrie & I couldn't afford a computer very easily... we ended up taking out a loan from the bank to get our first computer set-up, in 2000. I view the current resurgence of tapes as a popular underground medium with some bemusement... In the 90s it was nearly impossible to sell your work on tape as a home-recording artist. Now it's a cinch. That's good, obviously, but it's weird that it's happening now, and didn't happen then. I guess I can view the underground culture of the 80s & 90s as a seed for what's going on now.

s.) After I got online I started using LiveJournal, where I started to build a new community of friends. I kept in contact with some of my hometaping friends by email, and convinced a small handful of them to join LJ. I friended pretty much anyone I could find that did weird music. I also had my label converted to a CD-r label, but found that few people wanted to buy the CDs I had. Further, when I did sell them, the shitty, early CD burning technology took almost as long to burn as it took to play, and half of the damn things would skip, or just be duds. I hate CD-rs with a passion. Hate them, hate them, hate them.

t.) After a little while, I started to hear about people uploading their music to something called the Internet Archive, and referring to their labels as “netlabels.” This seemed like a pretty good fit to me. Concurrent to this phenomenon was the rising popularity of Creative Commons licensing, which was an alternative to Copyright. I'd long felt antipathy about copyright, after some of the high profile legal losses of people like Negativland and even Vanilla Ice. I liked using samples, and manipulating them into something new, and I never saw how that hurt the original artist. Creative Commons seemed like a really good, rebellious thing to adopt. Netlabel distribution felt like a great fit, because I was really tired of producing objects (CD-rs) that never seemed to work right, and just felt trashy. I didn't use so much at first, mostly I uploaded my work to my own website, which had good storage and bandwidth. Giving up a requirement for payment for my work also felt really right to me, since I had begun in the trading community. I had long had a very small income, and couldn't afford to buy music. I'd always loved the fact that trading tapes sidestepped the requirement for money. Netlabel distribution was the best way to get my music to anyone who wanted it, no matter if they could afford to pay.

u.) I'll more or less wrap this up here. The most formative events in my life have really been described. There have been other events that were very important in my life, and had huge emotional impacts, but I'm not certain if they've been formative, in the sense of changing the direction of my life. One year ago, I had a very near-death experience, and spent an entire month in the hospital... it is possible that this might count as a life-changing event, but I honestly still don't know how it'll play out – I'm still too close to it.

4. QUESTIONS ABOUT YOURSELF AT A SURFACE LEVEL: What are the most important things that someone should know about who you are in order to really understand you? Can you think of an incident or occasion that really expresses or demonstrates your important qualities?

I think most of my values could probably be pretty easily gleaned from the things I wrote about above. My core value is respect for life, my way of showing it is to attend – to pay attention. Attention is the practice through which I come to respect this amazing beautiful experience. Most of my way of interpreting the world is musical. I see things that are seemingly unrelated, and refer it back to music... lately I'm especially interested in global weather and the incredibly complex interworkings of society-at-large as musical in nature. It's all math.

5. QUESTIONS ABOUT CORE VALUES/CULTURE IN YOUR LIFE: Do you believe that you belong to or have one or more cultures? If so, try to describe it or them. What are your core values and where did they come from?

The cultures I feel most strongly part of are small, niche cultures... netlabel culture, creative commons culture, noise / drone culture, vaporwave culture, post LiveJournal culture, post hometaping network culture. I don't feel a very strong connection to local community, my generation, or pop culture. I feel some connection to the culture of leftist politics, because some of our values align, it seems easier to find people who have respect for life, and who know how to attend life within that political culture. I (strangely) have an unexplainable connection to other people who live in the mountains... though this connection cannot be described as very deep. There is merely a shared set of experiences there.
vuzh: seven (Default)
My birthday is October 28.
It is hard for me now not to view my birthday as a personal version of New Year’s Day. It is beyond ignorable now that it is like a blazing sigil marking a transition in my life. I’ve long tried to ignore the fact that my birthday is an important event. It is, and it's kind of sad that it took more recent events to make me see it as it is.

This year I am forty-five years old.

One year ago, today, I was feeling just fine, I had a lovely day. I didn't know that I had a time bomb inside me that was ready to go off. Three days after my birthday, on Halloween, a severe intestinal issue called a Meckel’s diverticulum flared up, causing me to fall ill with what I thought was food poisoning, but it was so much more serious than that. My kidneys failed and I was close to death when Carrie took me to the Emergency Room to begin a hospital stay that lasted for just short of the entire month of November, 2015. I described my ordeal in writing in some detail (link to earlier LiveJournal post from December of 2015)… but the detail isn’t nearly grueling enough – reading it back again, it’s funny how I held back, like my actual experience was so horrifying, that I didn't want to share it with anyone. How did I manage to live through it?

long, personal text and graphic photos are behind the cut: enter fully informed )


Oct. 8th, 2016 10:12 am
vuzh: seven (Default)
I dreamed that some band of young people were making a little career out of performing my old songs in nice shoegaze arrangements. I didn't mind, because, after all, i'm not using them. I'll bet most people who know my music now don't know that side of me at all.


Sep. 5th, 2016 12:03 pm
vuzh: seven (death cap)
I dreamed I lived in a palacial estate in the mountains. I remember the gardens best, it was on multiple levels as the terrain rose & fell & was bordered by cedar walkways. There was a large fountain surrounding a large pond. Lily & Lumpy were there, Lily seemed to enjoy watching the fountain.


Jul. 8th, 2016 08:34 pm
vuzh: seven (Default)
This was kind of a weird one.

I dreamed that someone kidnapped a bunch of people, including me, and was keeping them, naked, in a very large recessed area bounded by thirty foot tall concrete walls, painted white. It was basically like a nice large park for the maybe 10 or 15 kidnap victims to stay in. There was a house at the top of the wall where the kidnapper lived. He (presumably he, I never did see the person) would give us provisions by sliding it down a long metal slide connected to his house by a garage door. We couldn't climb up the slide because it was too slick.

The kidnapper ever day, multiple times a day, would show us live projections of... I don't know what, mostly it was an empty set. Almost nothing happened in the projections, and there was almost nothing but light. Each projection would end by a countdown indicated by a rod pushing down a numbered trough, this would often be the only part of the projection that had any kind of action or object to look at.

At a later point somehow I got into the kidnapper's house. I don't know how, but it was apparent that the kidnapper was dead. The house was very empty, not much furniture or decorated, but there were these strange model structures all over the place. The kidnapper was making these model structures out of various materials, like bamboo and plastic. They were bulbous, and looked like gazebos with rounded bottoms.

The reason for our being kidnapped was never disclosed, and there was nothing that could be inferred about a reason from my inspection of the house. I did find the empty set where the projections were filmed. There was a note there with instructions about how to shoot the films every night. It occurred to me that I could do the filming for the people who hadn't yet escaped into the house.
vuzh: seven (Default)
Dreamed that someone in a Minnie Mouse costume was trying to seduce me while i was asleep. They woke me up with their body all rubbing against me. I rebuffed them, but they didn't give up until Carrie woke up. She was pissed & told them to fuck off.
Then i actually woke up, which was confusing, because i'd just woken up in the dream! Waking up, then waking up again is discombobulating!
vuzh: seven (Default)
I rather hope my mental state can level out someday soon. I haven't been in a good way for a long while. I suppose it's to be expected after the traumatic last 12 months, but it's really getting old. Aside from the well of self-hatred that has been sloshing around for a good while now, I've experienced a nasty bout of impatience. I'm not normally an impatient person, but recently I just HAVE TO GET TO THE NEXT THING GET OUT OF MY WAY. It's awful, I hate this feeling. I suppose I probably ought to get back to meditation.


Apr. 30th, 2016 12:00 am
vuzh: seven (cold snap)
I dreamed I was visiting some town I'd never been to before.

I walked past a bakery, and their sign enticed me to go inside with the normal descriptions of pastries and breads, but also an admonishment to "Ask us about noise"

I went inside and asked the head baker about noise. She was very reticent to explain, and seemed very impatient with my questioning. I wondered why the sign seemed to suggest that they wanted to be asked about noise, when they appeared to not want to answer once asked.

Finally I managed to find out that the head baker, whose name was Gigi, was some sort of professor/expert of noise music. I asked if we could have a friendly coffee sometime and discuss noise, because that sounds like a conversation I would enjoy. She agreed. Some of the other people working at the bakery winked at each other, and I was embarrassed because I didn't want to ask Gigi on "that" kind of date.


Mar. 26th, 2016 10:38 pm
vuzh: seven (Default)
I dreamed that a crazy person broke into a safe space where I and some loved ones were. I resisted his entry as much as I could, but he overpowered me and came in. The man was large, bald and muscular. He seemed like a dangerous person, but, aside from his violent entry, he did not harm anyone. It became quickly apparent that the poor man was very unwell. My loved ones and I embraced and consoled him while we waited for authorities to come and take him to a place where he could get some help.
vuzh: seven (Default)
When my grandmother died, on September 1, two months before I got very sick, a part of what grieved me about it was that I'd never visit her house again. My grandparent's property had a unique personality that made its impression on my identity. There's a sinking pit of a feeling when I think about my loss of the place and the person, they're linked so heavily in my mind.
I recently received a modest amount of money which came from my share of the sale of the property for commercial development. The check really felt like the final evidence of the loss of the place, when I'd months before lost the person.


Feb. 20th, 2016 07:42 pm
vuzh: seven (Default)
My hospital stay occupies a weird part of my emotional brain, where I want to forget all about because it was too awful, and want to never forget it because it was too awful.

Carrie described having PTSD about the whole experience, and I think that's probably appropriate.
vuzh: seven (Default)
There is a big warped section on all of my fingernails that coincides with my severe illness in November. It's finally getting close to growing out so it'll be cut off. I feel a little melancholy to see it go, but then... to be frank, I just feel melancholy in general. The whole situation really spun my head (and the rest of my body)


Feb. 10th, 2016 10:09 am
vuzh: seven (Default)
I've been remembering more things from dreams in the past few days, perhaps a symptom of trying to wake up earlier.

Night before last I had a very realistic dream of working on a steam train. I was hopping back and forth between the engine and the tender, shoveling coal.

Last night I dreamed I was at a house, I think it was supposed to be the house of a childhood friend of mine. The house had many windows and was surrounded by rocky terrain with lots of yucca and cactus. We were supposed to get ready for church, but then the grownups left without us, leaving us to wonder if maybe we should go somewhere other than church, since we were all gussied up.


Feb. 8th, 2016 09:48 am
vuzh: seven (Default)
Sometimes I have a typical (perhaps archetypical) dream. I am journeying to do a task with a team of skilled persons, perhaps military specialists... perhaps athletes of some sort, like climbers... perhaps forest rangers...
I am always the least skillful, least knowledgable among them. I walk last in single file and no one fraternizes with me.
I don't know what I'm doing with these people, but I'm happy enough going along and seeing what there is to see.


Feb. 2nd, 2016 11:09 am
vuzh: seven (Default)
I dreamed that I was shortly to perform in a concert. I would be playing piano, sight-reading a piece that I'd never seen or heard before, in duet with a second piano player. I can't properly play piano (I only had a year of (bad) schooling in it back in the early 80s) and I haven't done sight-reading in nearly 30 years. Sounds like it would have been a stressful, but maybe musically interesting chore.
This dream reminds me of my audition for All-State Choir in 1988. I had to sight-read a piece I'd never seen before a capella in front of a bunch of strangers. It's still hard to believe I passed, with people telling me I had a beautiful voice.


Jan. 23rd, 2016 01:11 pm
vuzh: seven (Default)
I dreamed that I was a world-class sniper assassin guy, but I went to a job and forgot to bring enough bullets and didn't bring a back-up gun, so I guess I wasn't so world-class after all.


Dec. 6th, 2015 05:32 pm
vuzh: seven (Default)
Perhaps I should say something here to commemorate my brush with mortality. Most of this is no fun to read, I'm really documenting it so I'll remember. I've already started to block some of this out of my memory, because a big part of me doesn't want to remember.

I got sick on Halloween, I thought it was food poisoning. Carrie took me to the emergency room on November 3 after several days of being sick, diarrhea and vomiting bile. I couldn't even keep down water. Vomiting bile is the grossest thing you can imagine.

The emergency room people determined that my kidneys were failing because of some mystery ailment. They shoved a nasogastric tube down my throat which is, I'm pretty sure, a kind of torture - note: they tell you to swallow, but it's hard to swallow when you're screaming in pain - and gave me an IV and admitted me to the hospital where I ended up staying for a month.

The IV drip stabilized me, so I wasn't going to die within hours, like I probably would have without going to the ER.
The nasogastric tube sucks so bad. With the NG tube in all you can eat is ice chips, and as soon as you swallow them the vacuum sucks it back out of your stomach. All day long there's this gurgling sound of the contents of my stomach getting sucked out. The tube gave me major sinus problems & constant massive headache & sore throat. Terribly uncomfortable. I was relieved when they took it out after... was it a week and a half? Supposedly I was able to eat after the tube was out, but I found I had no appetite.
After a week & a half, they still couldn't figure out what was wrong with me.

I had 3 CT scans. May you never have to have a CT scan.
The 1st two weren't so bad, but the last... oh dear. They couldn't find anything on the first two scans, they couldn't use the dye that they normally use because it's bad on kidneys, and I was still in kidney failure. After I stabilized & my kidney numbers started to get better, they wanted to get a very clear image, so I had to drink almost a gallon of a dye that tasted a bit like I imagine Windex to taste (they mix in Crystal Light powder to make it taste better - yum!). They'd given me a medication to protect my kidneys which made me brutally, existentially nauseous, making the cocktail especially difficult to choke down. That was a bad day.

The scan showed some sort of abscess so I was rushed into surgery, was it the very next morning? Hard to recall. The whole time was a blur.

I don't remember much about the day of surgery, Carrie was very worried, but I had no real will left, so I think I wasn't too scared. I remember being in prep, and then being wheeled into a room, and then nothing. I remember waking up because they were bringing me out of anaesthesia and everything was blurry and I could hear people talking to me telling me to breathe, but I couldn't, I was drowning but not in water, frantically gasping for air, and I thought I was going to die for what seemed like forever. Drowning with blurry dream strangers telling me to wake up. SO terrifying, I could never do it justice in writing.

The surgeon, Dr. Miller, found something called a Meckel's diverticulum, a remnant of my umbilical cord. It had gotten infected, and was swollen to the size of a tennis ball. The doctor removed that, eight inches of intestine, and my appendix for good measure.

An enormous (seriously like 1/2" tubing!) catheter was yanked out of my penis a couple of days after that, but of course I couldn't urinate because of swelling, so I was RE-catheterized. Good grief, this is too much suffering. After that, I had motivation to pee no matter how difficult. No more catheters for me thank you.

I woke up from surgery with a 2nd nasogastric tube (at least I was under anaesthesia when they put it in that time) so my diet was limited to ice chips again for another week.

I finally started to get nutrition from IV after surgery, I basically had had no nutrition at all for 2 weeks. I don't know how that's even possible. My belly was all distended like starving Ethiopian kids I remember seeing pictures of when I was a kid. I'm sure it was distended because of the illness more than starvation, but what do I know.

The wounds from surgery were two little laproscopic incisions and one really big slice about 5 inches long that skirts my belly button. The big one ended up getting an infection so a doctor came in and unceremoniously took out the staples and pried the wound open before I knew what he was going to do. Imagine sudden, unexpected, blazing, through the roof pain. It took my entire willpower not to punch the man in the face.

So my enormous gaping wound was filled with sponge by a wound-vac team, and they have had to re-pack it every couple of days. It hurts like fuck for the sponge to be pulled out of the wound. Yay for heavy, searing pain every Monday, Wednesday and Friday! I will be happy when this wound has healed enough that I do not need it to be under vacuum. (also, I have a pretty graphic gaping-open-wound photo that I am graciously not posting here, you are welcome)

I got a picc line which is like an IV, but goes into your artery and is about 12 inches long, extending into your heart. That was more just weird and scary than painful, but it gave me access to morphine that I could get just by pressing a button. Finally a bit less pain. I didn't really like the morphine so I got switched to dilaudid? is that how it's spelled? The picc line was also what got me access to some IV nutrition after a couple of weeks without any.

On the 24th I was finally released and I've been home just trying to build up my strength, slowly. Haven't been able to work, or go to school yet. But I'm happy this stuff is mostly in my past. It was a very rough month.

I appreciate the help of the RNs & CNAs & some of my doctors. They saved my life, so did Carrie by taking me to the ER.


Oct. 8th, 2015 08:42 am
vuzh: seven (Default)
I had a dream a fox was following me around. I didn't notice it for a long time. When I did, it went crazy with happiness, licking me & jumping.
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