All Obsessed


11 years ago, past tense me was in the midst of a self-directed challenge to release a weekly collection of tracks (aka, an album) under the moniker Echo Root. Originally bearing the collective title of “Zen Junk” (volume 1, volume 2, etc.), the albums were later retitled using the title of one of the tracks in the collection. Zen Junk, Vol. 7 became All Obsessed thanks to the album’s first and most memorable track, which was named for the featured spoken word clips from a non-existent horror movie taken from a Sony Acid loop pack.

Despite the fact that Echo Root only existed as a creative entity for the 4 months between December 2007 and March 2008, there is a noticeable aesthetic trajectory from Sludgehammer through Clockwork Angels, to the yet to be re-released 10th and final album, Evil Things. The “science fusion” improvised modal guitar meanderings of the earlier albums are not as prominent on All Obsessed, which has a bluesier feel overall. Only the third track, Profusion of Matter, really harkens back to the experimental, quasi-serialist aspirations of Glass and Spiralology.

Technically speaking, all of the tracks were produced in Acid Pro in my home studio, featuring my HR Giger signature Ibanez amped and re-amped through Guitar Rig 3.

Squelch


Squelch happened 3 years ago today, when I was living in an over-priced studio apartment in the University District. Composed of glitched ghosts and pixelated pipers, this performance was tweaked and squeeked into existence using a combination of modular synth gear, a Radioshack cassette recorder, and a handful of iPad apps.

Disorder


Inside the claustrophobic space of a fractured mind 
Memories and delusions intertwining 
Combining the external and internal 
Eternally blending and swirling 
Spilling and filling nonexistent voids 
Spaces between treacherous thoughts, feelings and faces 
Both real and unreal dancing, embracing 
Chasing dreams through nightmares and blank stares and who cares… 
Do you?


Originally released 4 years ago today, Disorder is a glitchy, atmospheric, durational piece weighing in at almost 42 minutes. It was composed and produced on a couple of iPads and features some spoken content synthesized from Wikipedia content.

The cover art includes source art from Wikipedia Commons, and is the first Mood481 cover to feature the custom “Struct” font used on 8 other releases in 2015.

On Wounds of Class

In Wounds of Class, the late Mark Fisher recounts a memory of visiting a tea room with his sister and mother, specifically noting the discomfort level of his mother, who was not “half clambered out” of her class, as Fisher and his sister had become. For Fisher’s mother and father, taking up space alongside the middle-class occupants of an award-winning tea room equated to an existential crisis:

Stalked by fear and shame in such places, their sense of not belonging there, of being intruders, of being implicitly judged and watched and the anxiety that somehow they will be exposed is ever-present.

Though Fisher did not feel threatened by the tea-room, he did remember having felt the same way going to University, and equated it to his sister’s social anxiety and his own inability to “do anything” with his novels because of a need to engage with them. The underlying theme is an unrelenting feeling that no matter what you accomplish, you’ll never be good enough:

These are the wounds of class, ever-present, life-long. Knowing that you’re common, not good enough, not one of the decent people. That for some obscure reason despite all your work and care, being a good parent, educating your children, paying your taxes and scrimping and saving you should be ashamed, not of what you have done or failed to do but of what you are.

In the second half of the essay, Fisher contrasts the “wounds of class” with the “balm of class”, recognizing the benefit of the belongingness his mother earned from a lifetime of being part of the working class:

 In a sense, living there for so many years, the repetitions, the routines, the small talk and the familiar faces, growing up an old in the shadow of that shipyard, in this provincial, working-class world that seemed to us as kids, encouraged to think about a life beyond it, sterile, grey and joyless, was the daily work, the daily investment that is being returned and repaid to her now by the whole town and it has helped immeasurably with her grief.


British educator and blogger Rich Will reflected on Fisher’s essay in his post, Some thoughts on language, education, and class, expanding on these two primary aspects:

The wounds of class run deep, but then, as both Lynsey Hanley and Helen Mort have articulated brilliantly, the sense of discomfort at being stranded between classes, particularly at being a working class person in the more rarified echelons of higher education, can also be uncomfortable.

It is in Will’s essay that I found myself, akin to Russell Brand ( who was a subject of Will’s piece and of Fisher’s admiration), as an autodidactic imposter in the academic world. Here I sit, reading, as Owen Hatherley put it, “writing of a sort that wasn’t supposed to exist anymore”, developing a presentation for a session of Methodologies of Artistic Practice Now, a seminar at The New Centre for Research & Practice, as a certificate student in the school’s Art & Curatorial Practice Program.

How did I manage to sneak in here?

I graduated high school on the good graces of my teachers, since I was too burnt out to attend most of my senior year. I left college for the US Army Infantry after less than a year, with no credits and a string of incomplete classes. A veteran of the first Gulf War, I left the military after 5 years with no transferrable skills and a “General Under Honorable Conditions” discharge (meaning I retained all my benefits except my educational benefits). At the age of 24, I was back to living with my parents in eastern Kentucky, seemingly doomed to a working-class life with no hopes of paying for a higher education.

However, like Fisher and his sister, I somehow managed to “half clamber” out of my class by moving to Seattle, teaching myself how to code, and stumbling into the tech world. Two decades later, sans academic credentials, I work at the University of Washington, holding a position that would require of any other candidate a degree that I don’t have. Of course, I know intellectually that there is no school on the planet teaching the unique set of skills I bring to work every day, but there are still times I feel, emotionally, the imposter.

The old familiar imposter syndrome is even stronger as I consider presenting these thoughts to my peers, an inner voice that sounds like Jeremy Paxman questioning Russell Brand, the drift being, as Fisher wrote:

What gives this working class person the authority to speak?

Blogging Again

I need a place to collect my writing and other output. Facebook’s algorithms favor memes over original content, burying anything of true value. Medium is nice, but has a certain media hustler flavor that I don’t find appealing. I don’t feel like managing a server right now, so here I am at WordPress.com.

What’s in a Name

Image: green handwritten text reading “Qid Love” on a black background.

I’m in the process of editing my identity across the internet. I’m methodically hitting dozens of apps and websites, changing my display name, pronouns, profile pictures, and all that. I’ve got brand new cards to hand out at networking events, and I’m becoming more comfortable with introducing myself using my new name. Today, I talked with my boss about communicating my change of preferred name to my team and department, possibly the scariest part of all of this. Thankfully, for the most part, everyone has been very supportive.

I’m not sure I would ever have felt completely secure and ready to begin asserting my identity in such a bold way. If I had waited for “the right time”, I’m pretty sure it would never have come. Ultimately, I just did it; one big Facebook post to out myself, and no looking back. However, it was far from an impulsive act.

I’ve been in perpetual identity crisis mode for my entire life. Like most kids with adjustable-length names, I shortened my given name to a four letter word before I was out of elementary school. I’ve picked up, carried, and discarded a number of nicknames provided for me: Bubba, Duck, Stone. As a performing musician and recording artist, I started with my own name and later moved through a handful of personas (Echo Root, Mood481) as my musical styles changed.

Image: directional road signs with arrows pointing in opposite directions, reading “one way” and “another way”.

My diagnosis with Asperger’s Syndrome at age 43 was the signpost pointing to the fork in the road that ultimately led me here, now. That moment was my Point of No Return. The changes I’ve gone through in the past 5 years seem inevitable, like destiny. Finding my name was like coming home with the elixir at the end of my own hero’s journey.


“Qid” came from a completely different thought experiment, a broader brainstorm on the nature of Queer IDentity. I wasn’t even thinking about names. Synapses fired, neural pathways formed, planets aligned, the muse whispered… and Qid was conceived. As soon as it hit me that this could be my name, I was utterly euphoric.

Image: purple-tinted photo of the artist Prince playing guitar. Image by jacther; original Flickr image, By penner [CC BY-SA 3.0 or GFDL],

I mean, it starts with Q, which is really enough. But it speaks queer… queer identity. It sounds like “kid”, so it queers age. It pays sonic homage to The Kid, hero of Purple Rain and Graffiti Bridge, The Purple One’s handmade personal myth. I love words, especially richly-encoded, made-up words that seem like they were there all along. “Qid” is more than a word; it’s a language.

In the language of Qid, “qid” means “we are”. We are Love.

Chronofluidity, or Neuroqueering Age

On the set of “Something Nasty”. Photo by Rich Fought.

I recently directed my first narrative film while wearing my pajamas. I’ve seen plenty of interviews with directors and behind-the-scenes footage, but I can’t remember ever seeing Scorsese, Spielberg, or Tarantino wearing sleep pants and slippers. While I do dress a bit more conservatively for documentary shoots, as long as I have a choice in the matter, this will be the set attire of choice.

Of course, there was some practicality in my choice of clothing. Like many spectrumfolk, I have some sensory issues and tend to blow through spoons a bit quicker when forced to dress like an “adult”. Comfort was a concern since we were working non-stop through the weekend, and quiet clothing was desired due to close quarters. Mostly, however, I just wanted to be comfortable emotionally and help the rest of the team be comfortable by being my authentic self and maintaining a playful environment on the set.

Dressing in graphic tees with funny memes or characters from Marvel movies helps me maintain a little better parity between my internal and external age. Shopping for “men’s clothes” is a borderline traumatic experience for me, and when I had to be fitted for a suit recently for an Oscar gala, I felt like a complete imposter hiding out in a man’s body. When I need clothes, I generally gravitate towards the young men’s section of department stores, sheepishly browse the Hot Topic or Spencer’s Gifts at the mall, or give up and shop online.

Chrononormativity

It seems that there is a connection between progression along heteronormative developmental timelines and age identity, but honestly I followed my southern-born script by joining the Army, getting married, and having my first kid by the time I was 21. By the time I hit my early 40’s, my kids were grown and I was over a decade into my career as a programmer. By all odds, I should be feeling my age and then some, so I largely attribute my internal youth to my neurodivergence. Many of my friends on the spectrum also have the feel of having aged on a curve, not necessarily stuck at a certain mental age, but not being generally concerned with (or consciously avoiding) “growing up”.

I’m thankful that geek culture makes it a bit easier and safer to dress down at work and surround myself with comfort items like bobbleheads, spinners and beanie babies to make it through the workday. I might lose my shit if I had to work in cubicle-land with nothing but a stapler and some paperclips to keep me company.


Performing Age

There are plenty of ways besides Groot t-shirts and Funko Pops to bring your external and internal age identities into balance. My mom is an avid gamer. A lot of my friends watch anime or cartoons, and read comics or YA books. Honestly, with Disney and Marvel pushing out so much content, no one really has to feel guilty for indulging their inner child a bit these days.

There are also plenty of us who find cuteness and playfulness attractive or downright sexy. There’s a certain warmth and intimacy to putting your adult away and letting your inner child fumble around a bit. I’d personally choose a cuddle party over a dance club any day of the week. 🙂