new song, mostly finished, see the process:



my first song written for a paid assignment. i’m working with a new organization called Sum Greater Entertainment. we put on concerts in Hillsboro, just outside of Portland, Oregon. part of the proceeds go to a charity, and this song is for that charity.


i actually touched up the audio a bit, and added some backing instruments, but when i uploaded the .mov file to youtube it had, very oddly, stripped it of all the edits to the audio. i uploaded the file 3 times, and each time it uploaded quickly but didn’t have the edited audio. very strange. if i listen to the same file, from my desktop, it has the bass and drums. anyone know what is up with that?

i thought about writing this song for about 2 months, and i actually wrote it in 1 night. that is often how my creativity works. i picked at the idea of writing a song on such-and-such a topic and imagined how the tone of such a song should feel, for weeks, only thinking about it once every few days. 1 month in, after i had mulled a bit, i had the idea of using a riff and melody that i’d made up without the charity in mind at all, and then after a few more weeks of mulling i realized that i’d stopped imagining using any other tunes. at some point, without really realizing it, i had decided on this melody.

then, at around 2 am a few nights ago, i picked up the guitar. i didn’t think very hard or long about what i was going to write, in the same way that a boxer might study theory before the fight so that it becomes second nature and instinctive, during. once i had a mood and a free moment and the opportunity to play without anyone bothering me, i just slipped into it. i wrote the lyrics in about an hour. here is the first draft:

lend a hand in spring get one to lead you in the autumn

plant a seed and turn your back and it grows

i’ll teach you how to walk for an iou

then you can help me cross the road

spend a bit of time on it, take interest in the spinning

in the cycle as it comes back around

the best part about falling down

is getting back in touch with the ground

i don’t owe you nothing

and you don’t know me

something tells me

we’ve got more in common than not

we both know the bottom like a second home

on second thought

i guess i’d like to give it a shot

if “we’re” all “us” then we’ll always get to the top

if you shiver in the winter come inside or give the winner

nasty looks for playing king of the hill

applaud the upstart sneaking up to reign ’till they catch a chill

right now we are still designing our website, but i’ll post the relevant links we have so far:

Sum Greater’s facebook page:

my first blog post about our show at Clark’s:

buy my music:


sum greater entertainment


the saturday night before halloween this year saw Clark’s Pub in Hillsboro, Oregon packed to the brim with sweaty monsters and demons drinking microbrews. Clark’s was hosting their annual party, Boos, Booze, and Brews: Bayou, and this year i got to participate both on stage and behind the scenes as part of a new Hillsboro entertainment business, Sum Greater.


Clark’s has been a major part of my personal musical experience for the last year, as they do rock and roll shows several times a week and open mics and jams to boot. As for the acts they hired through Sum Greater Entertainment, none could claim that we have been unaffected by the open atmosphere, great stage, and opportunity to try out new sounds that Clark’s provides.


a few facebook pictures won’t quite do the evening justice, but take my word for it when i say the place was packed to the gills. i opened up the show early while people, decked out in their trick-or-treating finery, were just starting to trickle in, and by the time Brotherman played the stage had disappeared in the swaying – and shouting, and singing – crowd. in between our acts the pub shook like a subwoofer to the amazing talent of Loveless Root, Tied to a Grizzly, and Swampy V and the No Motives.


the show, with the musical talent and the energy and the positive atmosphere and the creepy sexualized dollar store dress-up, was a blast, but it meant even more for me because this was the first event that Sum Greater Entertainment helped organize. it was satisfying to see 100 people lining the walls around the bar, and it felt like it confirmed what i and a few friends had been hoping to find: that Hillsboro is excited about live music, and the people in the city love original art and rock n roll, and that Sum Greater just might have a shot at making a big impression on the music scene in Portland by organizing more shows, at more amazing local venues, with more amazing local talent.

the idea behind Sum Greater is to make an entertainment business to help connect musicians that want to play their music to venues that want to hear it. all of us who are involved with this fledgling pursuit are either artists or patrons ourselves, and we can see opportunity for downtown Hillsboro to keep expanding as an artistic hotspot. Sum Greater Entertainment is, for now, just an idea crystallizing into a real thing, but our foundation is solid:

  • we want to encourage the Hillsboro music scene and start-up artists by connecting them. we don’t want a single empty stage on a friday or saturday night at any bar or coffee shop, and we hope that we can fill those places to standing room only as our talent builds followings and ties with the community
  • we also know that we want to find a way to make Sum Greater profitable enough to use our business to generate income (51% of our proceeds) to a charity founded by one of our board members – more on that to come in another post.

i’ve never tried to start a company before, and i have to say that the process is confusing and exhilarating. already, we have a core group of Oregon musicians involved, along with visual artists, and we can boast years of combined experience in business and the music industry.

we have a lot of work to do: currently we have graphic designers whipping up our business cards, a twitter account and a website in the works, and, of course, a few piles of paperwork to file. i’m encouraged by the interest that i can already see from the community, and from the outstanding success of our first show, made possible by the fine people at Clark’s. and we are looking towards the next show: last friday i and a few other reps from Sum Greater met with the board of Influence Music Hall, a Hillsboro institution that has become synonymous with great music downtown, and in just a few minutes managed to come up with some exciting ideas for future shows (nothing set yet, but consider this a teaser of big things to come).

i’ll be writing about Sum Greater for the next few weeks as we keep working. consider this a cattle call for all music acts, visual artists, and performers of all kinds who want to be a part of a scene. we can make it, but we need you: Sum Greater needs board members, partners, and venues that are as passionate about live music and great shows as we are. if you are interested in helping or getting in on the ground floor, or if you have any questions, feel free to hit us up on the facebook page, and stay tuned to my blog for updates as we polish up our social media outreach. if the halloween show was any indication, this could be the start of something big.

analysis of stewart lee’s charity routine (comedy vehicle s2e3)


when i was 8 or 9 years old, i asked my parents if it would be possible for them to send some of the money they normally spent on my christmas presents to a charity, of the starving african variety. i don’t know where i came up with the idea, but the odds are an even split between sunday school or an infomercial. my parents had a christmas fund budgeted, and told me that i could volunteer to sacrifice any percentage of that amount. i deeply regretted asking, and after a long time determined to give exactly 0%, because i wanted every toy that i could get. fortunately, not a speck of that residual guilt has lasted longer than the rest of my life.

in this unethically uploaded vimeo clip, british comedian stewart lee uses the familiar vernacular of stand-up to craft a really intricate commentary on charity (starts around 11:45 in episode 3 of the 2nd season of stewart lee’s comedy vehicle, from the bbc two). i love this sort of comedy, because i recognize so many of the elements that make good poetry. he obfuscates what could be presented as a very straightforward, moderately liberal, authentic outlook. i probably would have agreed with his perspective if he performed in a direct observational style, and depending on the quality of those jokes i may or may not have laughed. but i prefer poetry that works like a riddle, or a magic trick, where a certain amount of time (or cleverness, or effort) are required to let the words sink in enough to get a clear view of the objective. the payoff element is a similar experience to finishing the final episode of a crime show, or simultaneously paying attention to both the story and the clues in a detective novel to try to guess the ending. or like getting a joke.

he does this whole bit about russell howard. lee compares how much money the comedian made in a year to how much he was able to make for charity by riding in a four day bike ride. the joke is textbook verbal irony, with 3 principle layers. 1a. he honestly is talking shit about russell howard and mixes in plenty of real insults and digs at his reputation. so stewart doesn’t like russell howard, though 1b. he recognizes that he is being resentful and pompous. 2. he makes his point with ludicrous logic; russell howard couldn’t in reality be expected to bike every day of the year, even if that were somehow financed without decreasing returns to scale. no one can hold to that standard (with some exceptions, such as monks who imitate christ, who is famous for preaching exactly that unattainable ideal. lee actually does bring up christ, but only to imply that russell howard’s attitude toward jokes about handicapped people puts him on the level of a mocking onlooker at the crucifixion). correlating the suffering of poor people in foreign nations to howard’s failure to completely sacrifice himself for a calendar year is unreasonable. so lee’s point is wrong, emphasizing 3. that people who actually act that pompously are dishonest. or, they honestly believe that slandering someone with passive aggression is less violent than direct confrontation. this type of person is the implicit butt of this routine. they don’t hold to their own standards, and use doublespeak in a manipulative sort of politically correct irony.

“i don’t hate him, i mean, i can’t say anything against him, i just don’t get why some people don’t care about saving the planet.” that sort of thing.

at the risk of overextending, 4. lee is arguably suggesting that russell howard, while not in truth morally culpable for world hunger, is guilty of actually presenting himself in the light that lee reflects in layer 3. nothing that lee said convinced me if he really wanted to denounce howard, or just to use his celebrity identity as a prop. it is possible that howard is the character singing lee’s refrain throughout this whole clip; the endlessly escalating boasts about his own charity work. 

the way lee presents himself to the audience is dynamic. at the climax of the russell howard bit he turns his back on the crowd and acts out a scene while looking down at the stage. a moment later he transitions to mocking us, not the crowd audience but the viewer audience, in the british version of a rich-new-york-elitist-stereotype mocking a rural-southern-redneck-stereotype. he continues with the theme of charities, telling an anecdote about the cost of baby sitting while he performed at a fundraiser. but he deviates, turns away from the crowd, and looks directly in the camera. he is like a malevolent craig ferguson, who isn’t breaking the fourth wall to reassure us we are in on the joke. jekyll to hyde. it is visually retributive that lee’s widow’s peak mohawk and sweaty face, distorted by proximity to the lens, make him look like a claymation weather-demon.

stewart lee and heat miser

the effect of manipulating camera shots mid joke is cinematic. if this isn’t poetry, it might be a painting. impressionism was conceived as a revolt against only depicting one point perspective, a sort of visual equivalent of black and white morality or objective truth. cubism abstracted a still life into a barely recognizable heap, like the combined subjective perspectives of an audience crowding around the object at varying degrees and distance. this is what lee is doing with concepts.

stripped of his irony, stewart lee might say something along the lines of, “i think that charity is important. but sometimes it is hard to give, and i feel guilty when i don’t give enough. i try to rationalize it by thinking that celebrities who are richer than i am are more morally culpable. speaking of celebrities that are richer than i am, did i mention that they are all shit people?” but, instead of listing those thoughts out in a logical progression he jumbles them together for the type of rhetorical engagement that heightens the effect of tragedy or comedy. it mirrors how conflicting it is to wonder whether you are living a worthwhile life, and to doubt, and to argue back again against your own doubts. that sort of introspection, mixed with a healthy dose of rationalization, inflamed by the inferiority complex of the non-psychopath, resembles a stewart lee routine more than a reasonable conversation that moves from point to point with transparent intention. subjectively speaking, it is more organized than order, and more honest than sincerity.