Music on Monday: Places (acoustic guitar)

For me, music is emotional. I think that is true for most people. Music conveys the feelings of the composer without having to explain the impetus behind it. Can these emotions be misinterpreted? Of course they can-but that isn’t a bad thing either.

When I write music, I have certain ideas of what the music is saying to me, and I don’t expect others to feel that same way, but hopefully it does evoke a feeling or memory in the listener. Because that’s what music should do.

I started to write this latest piece, before I decided what it meant to me. I am working on a video for it, which I will share at a later date. The music may mean something completely different to you (it probably will), and that’s OK. It’s kinda like a gift card that you can go buy whatever you feel you need at the time.

-Leon

Moderation

How much is too much? Anything is OK in moderation, I’ve heard. Think about that. Anything? Of course, we don’t take that saying literally. If we did, there would be a lot less of us around.

There are somethings that I enjoy, that if I enjoyed them too much, wouldn’t be enjoyable anymore.

  • The first big of a Big Mac. Each bite gets exponentially less pleasant. It’s also better if you wait at least a year between attempts (having one, not bites)
  • Chips (potato). So good, but not the whole bag. Well, maybe sometimes…and Pringles don’t count, you have to finish them. You can put the top back on all you want.
  • Exercise. Yes, you can overdo it-and it hurts when you do.
  • Alcohol. Here are a few of may favorites (in no particular order): Beer, wine (red, white, cava), tequila, whiskey, rum. Now that may seem like a lot, but never all at once. And I know that many people struggle with addiction and in no way want to make light of that. Can I have only one drink? Yup. Does two taste better than one? Sometimes…but that’s the limit.
  • Cigars. Yes-smoking is bad for you. But I do enjoy the occasional cigar-usually once/year- especially around a campfire, with one of the above beverages-usually rum or tequila.
  • Food. All types. How can I support this activity? See point #3.
  • Laughing. Hard to get too much of this.
  • Punctuation. What is the rule for commas? Oh yes, there are 634 different rules, so here are a bunch just to be safe: ,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,
  • Coffee. In college, I once sat with friends and took advantage of the unlimited refill policy at the local hangout. Twenty cups too much? Want to stay up for 24 hours? (By the way, that aforementioned policy? Yeah, we got that revoked…for everyone.)

Enjoy things that you like, as long as it doesn’t have detrimental effects on your life or the lives of others.

-Leon

Funny Fridays: When Does This Become That?

I started this a few weeks ago, so now I feel compelled to come up with something to amuse readers each week. As you may have noticed before in some of my earlier posts, I have an odd sense of humor, which borders on the surreal at times. If this is your first time here, go ahead, read some of my previous posts. We’ll wait.

(We won’t really wait. They can catch up.)

In my poetry book, I included a comic called, “When Does This Become That?” I have no clue what prompted me to come up with the idea, but it is a good example of what goes on in my head…

When Does This Become That?

I know what you are thinking. Either, “What the heck was that supposed to be?” or “Is there anymore of this hilarity” (see what I did there? No? I’ll give you a moment…)

To answer those questions: I really don’t know, and yes.

Happy Friday.

-Leon

Thursday Thoughts: Poetic License

Thursday Thoughts vs. Thursday Ideas. Why do we like alliteration? Probably the same reason that we get annoyed when the gas pump goes to $20.01.

We manipulate language, like music, to create a pleasing sound. Kids love saying rhymes, lyrics and poems usually rhyme, and when they don’t, it can be a bit unsettling. It can also be exciting when things done happen in the way we expect.

There are ways for poets to get away with “almost rhymes”. I believe it is call poetic license, which is short for “I can to whatever I want because I like it that way”. This can also be applied to how a poem is crafted into its individual lines. For example, here is a humorous poem from my first book:

Give it a read and we’ll discuss my thinking.

The Sock

Is there anything lonelier than discarded clothing?
A sign of disappointment, of rejection, of loathing
Threadbare and stained, no fight left within
Wondering what events caused this great sin
Did you wear out your welcome, what did you do?
Was it a weakness of cotton that allowed the big toe to come through?
Was it your owner’s odd gait that wore through the heel?
Taking the blame, how did that feel?
Was your partner discarded or saved for another
Pair that shares the same fate and just the right color?

For the most part, the poem has a simple rhyme scheme: AABBCCDDEE. I’ve had readers question the last two lines. Firstly, another and color don’t really rhyme. I’ll pull out the poetic license card on the last ones: another/color. They are pretty close, right? Well, close enough. Secondly, what’s up with last line? It doesn’t make sense. Well, it does to me.

It took a lot of crafting to get it to say what I wanted it to. Read it this way as one complete line:

Was your partner discarded or saved for another pair that shares the same fate and just the right color?

See what I mean?

When I split the line, I find that it feels like it is hitting the crest of a hill on the word another, then falls away quickly on the last line. I’ll give you a moment to try it. Like I said, it took a bit of manipulation, and it’s not perfect. But guess what? That’s that way I want it.

The power of poetic license.

-Leon

Leon Stevens is a multi-genre author, composer, guitarist, songwriter, and an artist, with a Bachelor of Music and Education. He published his first book of poetry, Lines by Leon: Poems, Prose, and Pictures in January 2020, followed by a book of original classical guitar compositions, Journeys, and a short story collection of science fiction/post-apocalyptic tales called The Knot at the End of the Rope and Other Short Stories. His newest publications are the novella trilogy, The View from Here, which is a continuation of one of his short stories, and a new collection of poetry titled, A Wonder of Words.

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Returning to Roots

November 2019

When I was growing up, my father would read or make up science fiction stories when I went to bed.  As I got older, I began to read short story anthologies and novels from some of the pioneers of science fiction writing. I was filled with wonder at the fantastic visions of the future. Just like a child’s imagination is unfettered by boundaries, these writers were able to make the unknown their own.

I grew with the writers, following the up and comers with their new approaches, styles, and understandings. More discoveries made for more scientifically accurate writing, and gave the next generation of authors the opportunity to stretch the boundaries of belief even farther. The advances in science however, revealed the folly in some of the earlier ideas that were put forward, making some of the stories that I was so fond of just a little more absurd. While the new technical knowledge gave credibility and possibility to the stories, I missed the early days when any idea was considered  fair game.

I decided to write a series of short stories in the style of the early years of science fiction, where scientific knowledge wasn’t king and imagination drove the author to create something that a young boy could read and dream about travelling to the stars and having fantastical adventures, while falling asleep to the voice of his father… 

(Addendum to post – November 28, 2020)

So, that was a year ago. When I wrote it, I was close to publishing my first book, a book of poetry. I had a few science fiction stories written, but at that point, I don’t think that I was planning on publishing it anytime soon.

While my poems were a therapeutic activity, which I decided to share because I thought that others could relate to many of the themes, or to simply entertain, my science fiction writing was pure imagination. Some of the stories came out fast and furious, others took longer to hone. My stories tend to come to a natural conclusion sooner rather than later (say what you will about my attention span). My early reading memories were of short stories – Ray Bradbury’s The Illustrated Man comes to mind.

Not to leave poetry by the wayside, I included a series of poems I call Found. I envisioned these writings being stumbled upon by a traveler in a post-apocalyptic world. Remind you of the book: A Canticle for Leibowitz by Walter Miller Jr? As I was writing them, I realized that too.

Here is a sample:

Found

I can feel it seep

Through my boots

         the heat

My skin, it crawls

My hair,

         it falls

The pain, it lingers

Till I can barely feel

         my fingers

Vision is weak and fading fast

I do not know how long

         it will last

Too tired to move, I take a seat

Nothing left to drink

         or eat

So, I leave my body and this note to be found

Beside this shallow grave

          in the rocky ground

And if the horror you can face

Please lay me in my final

         resting place

When I was putting the book together, I couldn’t think of anyone but my dad to thank, so I wrote this dedication: To my father, who gave me the imagination to dream about the stars.

My mom told me that he teared up when he read it.

Thanks, Dad.

Leon Stevens is a multi-genre author, composer, guitarist, songwriter, and an artist, with a Bachelor of Music and Education. He published his first book of poetry, Lines by Leon: Poems, Prose, and Pictures in January 2020, followed by a book of original classical guitar compositions, Journeys, and a short story collection of science fiction/post-apocalyptic tales called The Knot at the End of the Rope and Other Short Stories. His newest publications are the novella trilogy, The View from Here, which is a continuation of one of his short stories, and a new collection of poetry titled, A Wonder of Words.

Creations from Quarantine

Today I am going to share some of the poems that I wrote this year. Most writing, like music, art, and all the other expressions are meant to be shared-I say most because there are some on my creations that are just for me to enjoy.

2020 is a year that will not be forgotten, although many of us probably would like to. We are all waiting for that arbitrary date of December 31, 2020, so that we can put this year behind us. Things will change-hopefully, and the world will move forward.

Here are some of my creations inspired by 2020.

Written after the murder of George Floyd and the ensuing protests:

I wrote this after seeing news stories about the environment during the lockdown. Smog levels in major cities were falling, you could see the summit of Mt. Everest for the first time in many years, wildlife began to take back parks, trails, and harbors, and bees were enjoying all the wildflowers that normally would be mowed. It got me thinking about the positive effects of the lockdown measures.


My cartoon, “The Miniscules,” were affected as well.

I wrote a few blogs on my website-mostly satirical/humorous. Here are some favorites:

How to Shop Without Looking Like a Doomsday Prepper

Spring Cleaning: Isolation Edition 

Shopping…sigh…

Fitter or Fatter

And finally, lockdown inspired music. Despite the name, it’s a lively tune!

I hope you have enjoyed my 2020 recap!

-Leon

Things I used to…draw

Don’t ask me why I was thinking of this, but I was thinking about things I used to draw as a kid. Usually during class. Usually in my scribbler. Sometimes on my desk. I don’t want to give away any clues, but most of my desks in elementary school still had holes in the upper right-hand corner. Their intended purpose was unknown, but it made a great garbage hole.

The top of the desk had a pencil groove, which didn’t do much good if you lifted the lid. It did, however, provide a handy area to fill with pencil graphite (we still believed it was lead) and coat any of your fingertips with a shiny, gray powder.

Anyway, these are some of the things I remember drawing:

There were some favorites, though. Full points of you guess them all.

– Leon

Monday Music (on a Tuesday…Tuesday Tunes?)

So I dropped the ball this week. I was going to start posting some of my music on Mondays, but got distracted and wrote a cartoon/humor related post. I think perhaps I will use Tuesday as my music related post (should I still tag it as Music Mondays? Can I?)

Short back story: I play guitar.

Not such a short back story: I have always enjoyed music. I took piano lessons as a child/teen, as well as guitar lessons (wanted to be a rock star – How’d that work out you ask?). After bouncing around college for a few years I decided to pursue music studies, and after 6 years I received my Bachelor of Music, majoring in classical guitar. I wasn’t a great performer. Nerves, stage fright, and blanking memory doesn’t make for a successful career.

Life got in the way. I forgot/lost many of my early acoustic pieces, but then began to write again.

As with performing, recording is a difficult process-perfection isn’t an option-but I am starting to get a few compositions recorded to the best of my ability. I hope that you enjoy them too.

Miniscule Mondays

I took up sketching a few years ago. I am always amazed at the talent people have to create realistic drawings. I never focused on a specific subject; I just started to draw what came to mind.

Some examples:

I think that I’m a funny person. I like to make people laugh. I also have an odd sense of humor, which led me to try to draw cartoons. But alas, it was not to be. I never quite liked my creations, and it was the content of the humor which was more important to me than the visuals themselves.

That led me to create “The Miniscules,” who find themselves in odd situations (due to their minisculeness), and later, comment on some of the current events. But wait, you are thinking. Isn’t miniscule misspelled?

Well, according to merriam-webster.com:

The adjective minuscule is etymologically related to minus, but associations with mini- have produced the spelling variant miniscule. This variant dates to the end of the 19th century, and it now occurs commonly in published writing, but it continues to be widely regarded as an error.”

So, to answer your question, Yes-kinda. Does it detract from the loveableness of the characters? To answer my question, I hope not.

Now the dilemma was: Where to put them? I’m not a big social media participant, but I had an Instagram account just waiting to be used to 3.54% of its full potential. I created Miniscule Mondays, where, if you haven’t already figured out, I post a Miniscule… OK, I don’t have to explain.

Just get to the cartoons, I hear you say. I have all (most) of them posted on my website, but here are three of my earliest:

Here are a few of the pandemic inspired:

Finally, a few of my favorites:

I hope you have enjoyed “The Miniscules.” Stay tuned for a “Miniscules: Origins” movie. There is a teaser trailer on my website as well.

-Leon

Instagram: @lines_by_leon

PS: Here is today’s:

Funny Fridays: Humor/Humour

I like to think of myself as a humorist/satirist. Making people laugh was a goal of mine from a young age. Many of my stories, blogs, and poems have a humorous tone to them. I’ll start this weekly segment with some reposts of my writings.

Humor/Humour

What is funny? Anything that makes you laugh, I suspect. Or chuckle, snicker, chortle,  giggle, or smile. The measure of real humor is something that makes you laugh when you are alone. Think about it. When was the last time that you laughed out loud all alone? For most of us, it is rare, if non-existent. But, as they say, laughter is the best medicine. One feels contented after a good, long laugh.

I remember a time when I was sitting in the mall with my sister reading a newly purchased Calvin and Hobbes book. I remember it fondly because of the tears running down my cheeks from laughing so hard. There was the occasion when I couldn’t place my drive-thru order because I couldn’t talk through all my laughter (I don’t remember why, though). Then there was the time my mom said something that no one expected her to say…

You can’t feel angry when you are laughing. Or sad, or alone, or helpless…Pain disappears for a while (not counting the pain in your side). You can laugh so hard that you cry, and those tears can wash away any sad thoughts- at least for awhile. Laughing is contagious. Try to hold a straight face while others around you are partaking in the joy.   

I like to make people laugh. It makes me happy. Most of my writing these days has a humorous edge to it, even with some of the more serious topics. Some of my ideas were the catalyst for my cartoon, The Miniscules.

People’s sense of humor evolves. What was funny as a child (farts) is not necessarily funny as an adult (notice that I said not necessarily, I bet you know someone who still laughs at them). Children get some of their sense of humor from their parents, and they also get it from peers and pop culture. Schools can be a breeding ground for hurtful humor, but I know that our educators do their best to teach what is acceptable.

Humor is constantly changing. What was thought of as humorous in the past is no longer acceptable. Many comedians went through times (some still do) of pushing boundaries and limits, using race, gender, sexual orientation, status, profanity, and taboo subjects in order to get a rise or laugh out of the crowd. People supported this hurtful, questionable content, demanding more profane, edgier routines. 

I know. I was there. I admit, I laughed. Now I don’t.

Comedians now have to adapt their craft and evolve with the times. Many will fall and fade, while others will use their talent to give us the laughs we deserve.

One last thought: Has anybody ever actually laughed at a “Knock, Knock” joke?


Poem

I played around with several items: underwear, pants, shoes, before deciding on the lowly discarded sock.

The Sock

Is there anything lonelier than discarded clothing?
A sign of disappointment, of rejection, of loathing
Threadbare and stained, no fight left within
Wondering what events caused this great sin
Did you wear out your welcome, what did you do?
Was it a weakness of cotton that allowed the big toe to come through?
Was it your owner’s odd gait that wore through the heel?
Taking the blame, how did that feel?
Was your partner discarded or saved for another
Pair that shares the same fate and just the right color?


Cartoons

My attempts at cartooning failed (in my eyes) due to the fact that I just couldn’t draw people very well, and when I could, I could not keep consistency. This was my solution.

The Miniscules: Three of my earliest

Story: Reasonable Hand-drawn Facsimile (Short Story from: The Knot at the End of the Rope)

-Science fiction has a history of humor, from authors like Asimov, Vonnegut, and Adams to shows and movies like Red Dwarf, Galaxy Quest, and The Orville.

I actually laughed out loud when I thought of this story (and so did my editor). Here is a free reading link to it on my Medium.com page:

Reasonable Hand-drawn Facsimile

That’s a wrap for this Friday. I hope that I have entertained you!

-Leon