February 2, 2004


Remember this? Three years ago yesterday we were here. Three years ago I asked Peter how to access my UMD web account, grabbed a copy of Adobe GoLive and swore for a week straight. I enjoyed the vocal liberation and anti-social practices of web design so much I stuck with it. As evidenced by recent photo galleries, the last few weeks have seen heavy experimentation with CSS design and moldy vegetables, so I thought I’d push the trend and see if I could recreate former incantations of Brainside Out.

Brainside Out. Dane’s Bored. Cromlech. By any other name, it’s still like flapjacks for the insane.

But where have we really been? To answer that question we really have to look at where we were. It was January 2001, my sophomore year in college, and I was outside Goldfine Apartments in the cold taking a smoke break with a drunk Jesse. I was still a jazz major at the time, and my friend was lecturing me on how I had really good talent, lots of talent, maybe more talent than I had when I was a sophomore, but you need to focus more, Dane. If you really want to become a better musician, and I mean really want to get better, want it so bad you can taste it… you’re gonna have to put in the time. Get in that practice room. Play until it bleeds. You could be damn good, fucking good, man. You just need to stop fooling around and find that grindstone.

It was typical Friday night drunk banter, but it caught me right under the ribs. Suddenly I was questioning myself, questioning the path I was taking. I had decided to become a music major my junior year in high school, after an epic week of skipping class and gigging almost every single day. It was an intense week, but it had a visceral life that was completely intoxicating.

I remember one concert that week, at the Hamline jazz festival, where I stood up to tear through my solo on Sausalito Strut. A smarmy kid sitting in the front row of the audience leaned over and whispered something to his pimply friend. They both shook with laughter and I felt my blood boil. I was convinced that they were laughing at me, cutting me down, talking about how could a kid that short, that puny, possibly play baritone sax worth a shit? I clenched my eyes and channeled every ounce of my soul out the end of that horn, and before I knew it my solo was over and the entire auditorium was going nuts.

I sat down panting. What the hell just happened? I asked myself, even though I knew the answer. I had found it. I found what I was looking for. I found what every human scratching around on this big old earth is looking for. A reason. A purpose. A calling. From then on everyone else could scurry about their petty random lives, but I knew what I had to do for eternity. Music let me channel the white-hot soul from my body in such great waves that it was the only thing keeping me from bursting into flames. It was either this or burn to death.

People would ask me what I wanted to do with my life, and though it was so clear to me I always fudged the explanation. Some quasi-sophisticate answer about changing people’s lives with music, touring with a band, playing saxophone, dancing with pyrotechnics, throwing concerts on a lake where the audience is all in canoes… I never had a word for it until I met a friend in college who was so passionate and unapologetic about his desires that he summed it up in one word:


While I was busy finding elaborate justifications for my need to study music, Chris Fahey had a singular explanation. He wanted to be a rockstar. Nay, he was a rockstar; he just needed to make sure the whole world knew it as well as he did. And slowly I began to realize that what I wanted to breathe eternal wasn’t jazz, wasn’t the saxophone, wasn’t 20th century atonal fugues, but the life of a rockstar. I wanted dark stages and bright lights and screaming fans and roadies and bad tour food and late nights and hard drugs. I wanted the glitz and glamour and intensity of a life on the road.

And then suddenly, in the course of one drunken conversation, I realized that this wasn’t all I wanted. Or if it was what I wanted, I was no longer willing to subject myself to the punishment necessary to reach it. In my maniacal dedication to music I had to forsake all my other interests in life. To remain focused and competitive I had to treat any non-musical activity as a distraction at best, a complete waste of time at worst. Had I stuck with music at the demanded intensity, my life would have had no time for learning to snowboard, no time for working at summer camp, no time for living in Hood River and no time for teaching little grommets how to ride the snowfoot eel.

After that fateful Friday night, I spent the weekend digesting every nook and cranny of Lileks.com. In F403 Stadium Apartment I laughed my ass off for hours on end, much to the stifled annoyance of my cowboy, surfer and Hong Kong roommates. Lucky for them I moved downstairs to the swingin’ bachelor pad of E101, which was ripe with a bloodthirsty capitalist, a mad-scientist libertarian and a snowmobile artist who always wondered, “Was she dripping?”

It was in this rich soil, the rich, orange carpet soil of E101, where I threw down the roots for a complete redistribution of my efforts. In the same week that I moved downstairs I started teaching myself how to write Engrish and build websites, and soon thereafter I changed my major to what would become Interdisciplinary Studies – New Media Writing. Had I not chilled out on the music bong I would have had no time to learn how to write, and certainly no time to teach myself web design. Three years ago, had I not slackened the grip on my neck to let myself breathe again, there would have been no writings, no news reporting, no humor columns. Certainly there would be no weblog, no photo galleries, and no Brainside Out to speak of.

But then, there was. And there is.

It is with my great pleasure that I introduce to you all, for the second time ever, Cromlech version 0.009.

Very nice!
Dane, I just got my camera! Olympus Stylus 300 digital! It only has 3.2 megapixels, but I got a bigger memory card, so now it holds a grand total of 163 pictures! YAY!

Amen, brother, amen. I’ve been thinking about similar issues ever since I got to math grad school, where nonmath activities are regarded, if not as a distraction, as a luxury, certainly. Seeing as I’ve never been close to the practice room (or needlessly impenetrable math journals), I’ve also been worried about “wasting my potential”, whatever that means. However, though many very talented people are singlemindedly devoted to their craft, many of the best are not. Parker was a voracious consumer of philosophy. Einstein played the violin. Not to take away from the hard workers, but intelligent people are generally interesting people, and interesting people generally have more than one dimension to their lives.
Peace out,

not so much the focus of intensity on a point of singularity, but a movement to drop intensity into everything, to squeeze the juices out of life and drink deeply. what the hell is the point if we just bob aimlessly along in this ocean? pick a direction, swim, dive, drown in possibilities, and breathe deep at the beauty that most people choose to miss.
as per usual, dane, you’ve written a worthy portion of a great tome.

noblehobo: I intensified your grammar manually.
As for all ya’ll, thank you for the kind and gracious words. There is no warmer feeling than knowing that I can embrace you all with nary a whisper.

I could get really sappy and say that the finest jewels have multiple facets. Yeah… I think I will be sappy. Dane you are an infinitely interesting person. w0rd.