#352: Why No One Cares About Your Songs

This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #352, on the subject of Why No One Cares About Your Songs.

On a Christian musicians group someone posted the question, as near as I can reproduce it,

I have written 1200 songs; why does no one care?

I replied, mostly copied below, and apparently he benefited from my answer and deleted the question from his original post, but I kept thinking that what I wrote might have value to others.


Wow. Tough topic.

I’ve been writing songs since 1968. Some of them are great, not just in my opinion; most are not great. It’s very difficult for the creator to evaluate the worth of his own material. Conan Doyle hated Sherlock Holmes; Isaac Newton believed he would be remembered for his works in theology. Identifying which are the good songs is a major challenge.

I remember a guy I knew who called me one Monday to report that on Friday night he had been baptized in the Holy Spirit and over the weekend God had given him five hundred songs. I had to come hear them. I was not overwhelmed–he knew three chords and had to stop to change between them, sang almost monotone, and all his lyrics were direct passages from scripture without any work to make them poetic. I didn’t want to discourage the guy, but I’d heard better commercial jingles. (Not to denigrate commercial jingles.) Not to say your songs are all bad songs, but if you’ve written as many as you say I suspect a lot of them are below par.

But let’s suppose I’m wrong, and you’ve written 1200 great songs.

First, it’s been demonstrated that songs are not popular because they’re good; they’re popular because they’re popular. You don’t get a following because you write good songs, primarily (although if you write bad songs, that gets in the way). Your songs are loved because you have a following, because people already like you. Many of my songs are as good as some of the best out there, and most of the ones I still sing are better than a lot of the popular ones, but I have maybe a handful of people who really like them and most people don’t even bother to listen when I post free recordings of them. I’m not popular; that means my songs aren’t popular.

Second, have you any idea how many people have written how many original songs? They get posted here every day. One of my hobby careers is that I created a role playing game, one which got good reviews (O.K., it got bad reviews, too). I’m a known RPG theorist and writer; many of my articles get translated into French and republished abroad. For several years I participated in web sites that helped aspiring game designers. One thing we were constantly telling people was don’t worry about sharing your ideas: they aren’t worth stealing. I had to learn that about my music, that nobody was going to steal my songs because even great songs are not usually worth stealing. Everyone and his brother, or nearly so, has written a song and thinks that people should care. Songs are no longer significantly marketable. I can teach people to write them. Your great songs might be better than songs by famous recording artists played on the radio, but the songs people listen to are not the greatest songs, they’re only the most popular, and usually because the artists are popular.

Third, a friend once asked me why I, as the most promising musician he ever knew, didn’t make it. Well, there are a lot of reasons for that. Oddly, though, I once went to a Renaissance Faire and heard a band that was making a living doing genre music, had several CDs, and their lead male vocalist and rhythm guitar player was a guy we used to joke about in high school as the worst drummer in town. I asked him after the show whether of all the musicians who played in his garage anyone would have picked him to be the successful professional, and he laughed. You get there partly by chance, partly by hard work.

I was a CCM DJ in the early 80s, and I’ve been writing a series on the history of CCM/Rock from the time. You should read the stories of Chris Christian and Amy Grant. They both just about fell into their careers.

Finally, though, no one cares because that’s not where God is leading you, and He needs you not to care so much about all those great songs you’re writing and just use them where you are, how you can.

I hope this helps.

I want to give you those links, but while I was looking for them I found this one: web log post #163: So You Want to Be a Christian Musician.

This on Chris Christian.

And this on Amy Grant.


I want to add one more link, web log post #107:  Miscellaneous Music Ministries, not for itself but for the links it contains to the series on music ministries.

#351: In re: Evil Star

This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #351, on the subject of In re:  Evil Star.

Regis Pannier and his kind staff over at the French edition of Places to Go, People to Be, who frequently translate my gaming articles for distribution to their audience, recently provided me with a link to a section of what is called the Internet Archive, complete with The Wayback Machine (I knew Mister Peabody had invented something useful) in which a very large number of my Game Ideas Unlimited articles have been preserved in whole, and a few more in part, along with some Blogless Lepolt entries (my old Gaming Outpost web log) and a couple of book reviews.  With encouragement from readers I am going to attempt to republish most of this material.  Most of the Game Ideas Unlimited material will go to the current RPG-ology series at the Christian Gamers Guild, although some of it might come here; one of the web log posts (about Harry Potter has been slated for the Faith in Play series early next year, and probably a few articles and particularly the book reviews will be coming here.

This is the first of those, originally published November 5, 2007.

I was handed a reviewer copy of this book, Evil Star by Alexander Horowitz; it is billed as the second book in The Gatekeepers series.  The first, Raven’s Gate, escaped my notice despite being on the New York Times’ Best Seller list at some point.  (That has more to do with my inattention to such lists than with any lack of merit in the book.) It is entirely accidental that I received this book.  It was tossed in the bag with my copy of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, because the bookstore was celebrating the release of the book and looking for things they had around that they could give away.  The person who gave me this book had no idea that I was a reviewer (he did know I was an author, and had read my novel), and no expectation that I should review it.  However, I read it, and since it was a pre-release “early reader edition” copy I thought I would write a review.

I am sorely tempted to call this series, “Harry Potter Meets Cthulu”.  The connections seem to scream at me.

The hero of the series, Matthew Freeman who prefers to be called Matt, is in this book fourteen years old; that makes him a bit older than Harry was in his second book (he had just turned twelve).  It is not clear to me, however, how old Matt was in the beginning of the first book.  Like Harry, Matt is an orphan, although it seems his parents really did die in a car accident and not until he was eight.  That tale is told, apparently, in the first book.  Like Harry, Matt has powers he does not understand and cannot always control; he was aware of the car accident before it occurred, and he sometimes has similar premonitions here.  He also sometimes causes telekinetic events, but through severe emotional upset, not intention.  He is even described as thin with unkempt dark hair and blue eyes.

The similarities to Harry don’t end there, though.  We are told that there are seven gates, and apparently each book revolves around the effort to keep the next one closed.  first grade math says that means there will be seven books in this series, just as there were in the Potter books.  Matt is the hero, the focus of the stories; his friends, young and old, help him, but in the critical moments he is the one on the line.

In fairness to Horowitz, at least some of these are the tropes of the genre: fantasy books for adolescents have adolescent heroes.  Cry of the Icemark* was similar in some ways.  Matt does not have a group of adolescent friends; he has the friendship of a young adult reporter, and the support of a secret international organization, but he is completely estranged from his peers.  No one is helping him learn to use his powers.  He is not exactly unique; there is much in the book about “the five”, of which he is the first to be identified, and he dreams about the other four trying to reach him.  Still, in this book one of the others does reach him, recognizing him from his own dreams.  He, too, has powers he does not understand, but they are very different powers.

As to Cthulu, he is never mentioned; however, the series revolves around a set of gates through which the “Old Ones” threaten to return to bring darkness to the word, and this book focuses on an ancient newly discovered book which tells how to open one of those gates.  A wealthy reclusive businessman is the evil monster attempting to get the book and open the gate.

I did not feel that Matt was as familiar a character as Harry.  It was a weakness of the book that I had trouble identifying with its hero.  Harry stayed with family members who did not like him, but Matt had an insane former foster mother trying to kill him.  Harry was alone at school but for a couple of friends, but Matt was alone on the streets of the Peruvian slums with a boy with whom he shared no common language.  Harry meets creatures of fantasy and learns to control his power through the mentoring of those more experienced than he, while Matt meets Incan survivors and struggles to work through his own use of his powers.  Where Harry’s powers made us feel that he was special, Matt’s powers make us feel that he is different; we want to be like Harry, but not like Matt.  Even the fact that Harry goes to school in what seems a very ordinary way (despite it being a school for wizards) gives us a point of contact; Matt is behind in his education, because his life is constantly interrupted and he has to move to another school.  It just never felt like Matt was a sympathetic character.

On the other hand, the author takes us on quite an adventure.  Matt is the reluctant hero here; he wants to be a normal boy, but he’s not normal, and fate will not leave him alone.  In his new school he is the outcast, and the fact that he pulls the fire alarm before the explosion that would have killed almost everyone only makes him less accepted.  The Nexus, the organization that is fighting this battle, wants and perhaps needs his help, but he is trying to avoid getting involved–and yet gets pulled half way around the world and into the midst of the trouble as events unfold.  It is not always clear who are the villains and who the allies, and more than once he flees from those who would have helped him.  Scores, maybe hundreds, of people are trying to help him, but at the critical moment he stands alone but for the other, younger, boy.

The book is laced with some wonderful images, many of them descriptions of Peru from its ancient wonders to its modern slums.  If there is a fault here, it lies in the interlacing of fantasy elements–a hidden Incan city, secret passages in those preserved wonders known only to the surviving Incans–with the hard facts.  Even I am not certain where the facts ended and the fantasies began at times.  That is only a fault because of the wonderfully clear portrayals of the realities of Peru, the author’s skill at bringing us into that place, and because (being published by Scholastic) it is targeted at a teen or pre-teen audience who will benefit greatly from the look at that society, if they can sort out the reality from the rest.

The copy I have has a number of errors in it which caught my eye as an editor, which may also have caught the eye of Scholastic’s editors before the finished version went to press.  Most of these are minor typos, a wrong but similar word here or there.  The mistake which most bothered me involved a description of the actions of a minor character, a truck driver on his way to be beaten and robbed.  Before the incident we are told that he is thinking about asking a certain waitress at a certain truck stop out on a date; after the incident we are told that his wife was contacted and gave them important information.  I prefer to think that the author overlooked part of what he was doing, rather than that he perceives married truck drivers commonly asking women out on dates; I hope, at least, that this was a mistake, and that it was corrected before the final copy.

I am tempted to attempt to obtain a copy of the first book.  After all, it is often the case that one book in a series is weaker than the others, and this might be the weaker book.  It is not a bad idea for a series; the Lovecraftian horror concepts are present but not terrifyingly so (although I’m probably not the best judge of that–Lovecraft has never frightened me).  There is madness, there is betrayal, there are evil people working toward evil ends.  Matt does not always emerge victorious, does not always make the best decisions, and is not always eager to do what he must do.  However, he proves the hero through his efforts, and moves an epic story forward a significant chapter.  I wouldn’t expect this to be the stuff of a best seller, but then, such things are determined by factors other than how they appeal to fifty-something author-reviewers.

*A review of Cry of the Icemark had been previously published, and has been saved, and will be copied here within a few weeks.

#350: The Return of Vazor

This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #350, on the subject of The Return of Vazor.

What seems a long time ago, someone who posts under the name “Vazor” found Temporal Anomalies in Popular Time Travel Movies, and read extensively the articles on the site, including particularly the theory articles.  He then wrote Analysis of the Replacement Theory of Time Travel, in which he praised the ideas but also raised questions.  If the dates are to be credited, our interaction, including my reply Vazor’s Time Travel Questions First Response, appeared at the end of June of 2008.  Obviously from that title I was anticipating a reply from him, and now he admits that it is long overdue but presents for my consideration A Long Overdue Time Travel Post in which he raises some more questions.  Of course, since 2008 I have added a significant amount to my site, and I’m not certain what he has read from it, but we’ll see what we can cover.

I would say I have a lot of reading to do.  He is responding to something I wrote twelve years ago in response to his comments on articles I wrote before that, and getting a clear notion of what articles he has not seen will be part of the problem.  I have read his recent post, but I think I will have to read both his previous post and my response before I can tackle this.  Also, I am doing the initial draft as a web log post, but if it gets too long I am going to have to reformat it to add to the Temporal Anomalies site in the Conversation section that has been untouched perhaps since our last interaction.

Vazor spends a fair amount of time discussing parallel dimension theory and distinguishing it from what I have called divergent dimension theory.  I have not put dates on my pages, but I made the same distinction between parallel dimension theory and divergent dimension theory in my Theory 101 series originally published at TheExaminer.com.  I don’t see any complications there, other than that I think we both reject both of those theories as not being time travel.

I am then quite surprised when he says

I really only have one big question left.  How does an infinity loop get created?  Why does the fact that the young Traveler will not travel back, destroy the future of the C-D timeline?  Won’t Traveler and younger Traveler just live on in peace following the future of the C-D timeline?  In my original post I asked this question, but it was never answered.

I am surprised because it seems to me that this was the first thing I answered in my original post.  However, I will attempt to respond more briefly.  I discussed the infinity loop in that same theory series, in the section What Is an Infinity Loop?.

The short answer is that the arrival of the time traveler in the past is caused by the departure of the time traveler in the future.  Should the time traveler not depart from the future, he will not arrive in the past.  That part is simple.  The part people don’t get is that having arrived in the past the time traveler has created an entirely new history, and that history replaces the original one (hence the name “replacement theory”), moment by moment erasing the events which had occurred and replacing them with new ones.  Eventually time will reach the moment at which the time traveler departed for the past, and that departure is erased; since that departure is the necessary cause of his arrival in the past, that arrival is also erased–unless in the new history the alternate self, the version of our time traveler for whom this is the only history of the world, makes the same trip to the past for the same reason.  Failure to do this undoes the causal chain that created the history in which the traveler arrives in the past, and so restores the original history.

I feel like this is the hundredth time I’ve attempted to write that explanation for someone, but hopefully those three iterations together will be adequately clear.

Vazor seems almost to grasp this, but then asks

Why does the C-D timeline need to exist?  With the way the rest of the theory treats timelines, the timeline is determined from the moment of the Traveler’s arrival.  So wouldn’t it be at that moment that the cause is no longer found and the adult Traveler must cease to exist?  I suppose this is equivalent to saying that time travel is not possible, unless the traveler jumps with the planning and preparation that will ensure that an N-jump will happen.

But let us assume time travel is possible regardless of where the new timeline will go.  In that case, my question is, why does the C-D timeline need to revert at that particular time?  You might say “because that is the point at which it is now certain that the young Traveler cannot recreate the events of the C-D timeline.”  However I posit that you could be certain of that at different times.  Perhaps the point at which the Traveler changes the younger Traveler’s mind should be the revert point?  No, the young Traveler could change their minds.  Perhaps the young Traveler is delayed a little but would have left from the C-D timeline at a little bit later point in time than D and successfully recreated the events at point C?  I can see that you need to resolve the cause and effect somewhere, but wouldn’t it be simpler if it happened at the moment of the jump back to C?

I am again surprised because Vazor previously mentioned having read The Spreadsheet Illustration of Temporal Anomalies; however, many people who have read that have missed some of its critical points.  Permit me to clarify.

What the spreadsheet illustration attempts to posit is a chain of causes and effects that create either a stable or an unstable loop.  In essence, the value of cell A1 is dependent on the value of cell A5, which is in turn dependent on the values of A4, A3, A2, and A1 in sequence.  If this chain of formulae results in A1 having the same value derived from A5, we have a stable loop, and the rest of the spreadsheet can be derived from the value of A5.  If, on the other hand, the value of A1 keeps changing, then the value of A5 keeps changing, changing the value of A1, and the rest of the spreadsheet cannot be calculated because the value of A5 is not constant.

What people miss is sort of two-fold:

  1. The value of A5 changes instantly when the value of A1 changes, because A5 is dependent on A1; but
  2. Sequentially before the value of A5 changes the values of A2, A3, and A4 all change, and those steps are necessary for A5 to change even though they, too, change instantaneously.

In exactly the same way at the instant the time traveler arrives in the past he changes all of history up through the moment he departs or fails to depart from the future, and in that sense his arrival in the past is instantly either confirmed or undone, but all of the events that lead from his arrival to his departure must happen before that confirmation or undoing can occur.  Further, we experience those intervening events as time, and thus we have a CD timeline because we need the causal chain which determines whether or not the traveler will depart from the future.

Did we make sense this time?

How does replacement theory explain the conservation of matter problem?

Honestly this question has been asked before, but not quite this way.

Conservation of matter is simply that matter and energy cannot be created nor destroyed.  Under the replacement theory, there would appear initially to be a creation of matter at the arrival point, as the time traveler (and whatever he brings with him) are introduced as matter and energy that were not present, and there is an increase in the total mass of the universe.  Since any sane time traveler aims for a space in which the matter currently there is easily displaced–air, typically–I would not expect there to be a problem of matter arriving atop matter.  It is, I suppose, a plausible problem, and one that would also occur if we were talking about matter transmission or replication, but generally speaking the worst ordinary outcome would be an increase in atmospheric pressure of a small amount.

That increase in the total mass of the universe is effectively borrowed from the mass of the universe in the future, and has to be repaid at the moment it was borrowed–that is, if we send two hundred kilograms back from 2020 to 2010, we increase the mass of the universe by two hundred kilograms at 2010, but decrease it by the same amount at 2020, thus preserving the total mass of the universe.  In a sense, we moved the barbells to another room and then moved them back.

As to the four proposed time travel stories, they would need more details to know what is intended and whether it is possible.  The third, though, is something similar to something done (or at least discussed) in a Multiverser game.  Let us suggest that your villain built his robot and his time machine in 2018, and sends his robot in his time machine back from 2020 to 2019.&nbsp Since in 2019 he already has a robot and a time machine built in 2018, he now has two.  In 2020 he sends back both robots and both time machines, which both arrive in 2019, and now he has three of each.  He can continue doing this interminably, but we’ll say he stops at ten, so now in 2019 he has ten robots and ten time machines.

To clarify, the first time through he has one robot, and in 2020 he sends it back to 2019 so that he has two robots, which we can call #1 and #2.  In 2020 he can send #2 back to become #3, but he must also send #1 back to become #2 or #2 will not arrive in 2019 in the third iteration.  Thus by sending two robots back from the end of the second iteration he has in the third iteration three, not four, robots.

The problem is that he must send back nine of them (and technically the right nine) at the right moment in 2020.  After all, number ten is technically number one whose history includes that he has traveled to the past nine times, and if number one now fails to depart for the past, all the others will cease ever to have arrived in the past, and we crash into an infinity loop in which our villain has one robot, one time machine, and a plan to duplicate them by using time travel.  Further, to move beyond the departure point in 2020 our villain must systematically send back eight, seven, six, and so forth until only the last robot, who has been sent back many times, is the only one which remains, and then one robot continues with the villain into the future.

So he has to be aware of this, and make good use of his robots in 2019 before he has to start sending them back.

I don’t think I’ve answered everything, but I think I’ve addressed everything that matters.  I look forward to Vazor’s response perhaps a dozen years in the future or, if he figures out time travel before I do, a dozen years in the past.