My Life As A Digital Immigrant

by Alex Walsh

Someone told me recently that I am a digital immigrant. Young people are digital natives.

This made total sense to me.

I’ve always felt like I’ve been playing catch-up with the latest technology. I eventually do catch up but then things change again and I fall behind. The changes were much easier to ignore before the internet.

I think my digital immigration started with video games. My first experience with anything digital was playing Pong after a soccor game in a Pizza Parlor in the early 1970s. Then it was Space Invaders and other games at the arcade and Atari at friend’s houses.

When I graduated from high school in 1985 my parents gave me a typewriter. In college I discovered the computer room, which they called a computer lab. I could type my papers there surrounded by other students. I stopped going because I had no idea what I was doing and the lab assistant got really frustrated with me.

A few years later I was in San Francisco where you could rent a room and live on minimum wage. I started performing at open mics and doing gigs. Record stores sold CDs. People I knew bought digital tape machines. They helped me make demo recordings. A roommate of mine worked at a software company and hogged the phone line to send messages to his friend in Germany on this thing called the Well.

I bought my first computer in 1999 and signed up for AOL. Ten years later I had an iphone, broadband, and wifi.

I always went to the next digital thing when it became unbearable to not do it. Does that make me a digital immigrant or a digital refuge?

The digital immigrant vs digital native idea came about in 2001. The argument made sense. It’s based on age and how old you were when you got online. Asking a young person today when they “got online” is the defining question because they’ve always been online. If you remember when you got online, you’re a digital immigrant.

I was talking to a singer/songwriter friend of mine, Francesca Lee, about how things have changed for her since social media started. She said her last CD release was in 2010 and she didn’t use social media very much then. With her latest CD she’s going to take a completely different approach. She’ll release each track of her album as a single online. It might take a year to get them all out. Why? Because with social media the idea is we’re in constant communication with our network of online friends and we need to always be posting something new.

This is a lot of pressure if you take the old school approach of perfecting everything before you release it. As a digital immigrant this is my natural tendency. If I want the outtakes I’ll buy the box set! But there is something freeing about the reality TV approach too. Just put everything online and try not to worry about it.

Technology is changing so fast I think we’re all going to be digital immigrants!

My Step-Mom, My Hero by Alex Walsh

Yesterday I attended a ceremony at San Francisco City Hall honoring my Step-mother, Conny Ford, for Women’s History Month. She was nominated by District 6 Supervisor Jane Kim for her work spearheading the campaign for Free City College in San Francisco. Now I can go back to college for free and take all those math classes I blew off!

But seriously, Conny is a great lady. At the party afterwords in Jane Kim’s office many toasts were made to her from her colleagues, neighbors, and young labor activists whom she has mentored. Conny is working hard to make sure the next generation has a chance, and from the looks of it, I think she is succeeding!

Congratulations Conny!

SF Labor Council Blog: Honoring Labor Leader Women on International Women’s Day in San Francisco

Conny on the steps of City Hall

 

 

 

 

 

 

Who Would I Be Without Sesame Street? By Alex Walsh

Who would I be without Sesame Street? Mr. Rogers? The Electric Company? Zoom?

I was a kid in the seventies. Those were my shows. Mr. Rogers was my guy. Kermit the Frog, Bert and Ernie, Grover, Big Bird, Cookie Monster, The Count, Oscar The Grouch (and all the humans) were my heroes. I lived for watching the Sesame Street Baker fall down the stairs carrying all those cakes!

And the music for those shows? Incredible! I interviewed Denny Zeitlin in 2015 and was completely surprised to learn that he wrote some of the music for those Sesame Street shorts. Remember 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9…10? That was him!

In the early 90s I used to cover the Sesame Street theme song with my group the Young Blue Bucks. When we played it people thought it was cute but it also brought out their innocence.

Now I hear that Trump wants to eliminate funding for the Public Broadcasting Corporation, NEA (National Endowment for the Arts, and NEH (National Endowment for the Humanities).

Can you imagine life without public funding for the ARTS?

Where would Morgan Freeman be today without the Electric Company? I remember when I started to see him in movies in the 80s. “Hey, isn’t that the guy from Electric Company? It is? Cool!”

I have no idea what kids are watching today, but I do know there is a 24/7 kids channel on PBS and you can watch Sesame Street reruns at midnight if you want to. Is this progress? I think so!

Why would anyone want to cut funding for these important public services?

Oh yeah, the Arts and Media are always the first to go in the twisted minds and diabolical budgets of Totalitarian Dictators and the Conservatives who serve them. How could I forget?

Watch Mr. Rogers Persuade Congress to Stop Cutting PBS Budget in 1969: Would It Stop Trump from Defending PBS & NEA Today?

What can we do?

Sign this petition on the AFM website

Sign this petition from Change.org

Fight The Power (With All Your Power) Part II of II by Alex Walsh

here’s part I

I wrote this song in early December 2016, the week after Trump was elected. The world was in shock! And so was I.

A couple weeks later an EDM (electronic dance music) producer friend of mine said he wanted to do a version. I said, “Awesome!” I recorded some acoustic guitar and vocal tracks and sent them to him and he went to work. We went back and forth with ideas. It was the first time I’d heard my voice autotuned.

By now Trump was President. We got the track back from the mastering studio and were ready to release it. Then Trump did his travel ban.

My friend, who will remain anonymous, is here on a work visa. He decided he didn’t want to have his name attached to the recording because it was too risky given the current circumstances.

Is art imitating life? Life imitating art? I was very disappointed, but he said I could release it anyway, so in his honor here is the link:

Fight The Power (With All Your Power) – Electronic

***

Here is a stripped down acoustic version:

Fight The Power (With All Your Power) – Acoustic

And here are the lyrics:

Fight The Power (With All Your Power)

Boots are marching, hear them pounding
Bashing in doors in the middle of the night with the sirens sounding
Your indecision, an apocalyptic vision
Another strong man rules the world with historical precision

You only had to vote
You didn’t even try
You just stood idly by

Oh, now that you know
How it can go
You’ve got to fight the power with all your power
Oh now that you see
How it can be
You’ve got to fight the power with all your power now

The wind is turning, the fire’s churning
History books are jumping off the shelf ready for burning
False allegations, ethnic registration
Innocent people dying in camps under mass migration

You didn’t hear the cries
Screaming all along
How could you be so wrong?

Oh, now that you know
How it can go
You’ve got to fight the power with all your power
Oh now that you see
How it can be
You’ve got to fight the power with all your power

You don’t have to feel like you’re fighting on your own
If we all stand together you’ll never fight alone

Oh, now that we know
How it can go
We’ve got to fight the power with all our power
Oh, now that we see
How it can be
We’ve got to fight the power with all our power now

Fight The Power (With All Your Power) Part I of II
by Alex Walsh

I didn’t think Trump would be elected, but then he was. Ughh.

So, what does a songwriter do? Write a song? A protest song?

I hadn’t tried to write a protest song in many years. My previous attempts had been…unsuccessful (that’s being charitable). I figured other people could do a better job of it so I just left them alone.

But things are different now.

Trump to me is a direct descendant of Adolf Hitler. How could I not write something?

Shortly after his election in November 2016 I wrote this:


Fight The Power (With All Your Power) by Alex Walsh

Boots are marching, hear them pounding
Bashing in doors in the middle of the night with the sirens sounding
Your indecision, an apocalyptic vision
Another strong man rules the world with historical precision

You only had to vote
You didn’t even try
You just stood idly by

Oh, now that you know
How it can go
You’ve got to fight the power with all your power
Oh now that you see
How it can be
You’ve got to fight the power with all your power now

The wind is turning, the fire’s churning
History books are jumping off the shelf ready for burning
False allegations, ethnic registration
Innocent people dying in camps under mass migration

You didn’t hear the cries
Screaming all along
How could you be so wrong?

Oh, now that you know
How it can go
You’ve got to fight the power with all your power
Oh now that you see
How it can be
You’ve got to fight the power with all your power

You don’t have to feel like you’re fighting on your own
If we all stand together you’ll never fight alone

Oh, now that we know
How it can go
We’ve got to fight the power with all our power
Oh, now that we see
How it can be
We’ve got to fight the power with all our power now

 

Here’s a recording: Fight The Power (With All Your Power)

 

How Do You Unwind After Your Gigs? By Alex Walsh

I played a gig last night and it was awesome! Amazing! Inspiring! A dream come true! The kind we all live for!

And then it was over and I went home. I didn’t realize how jacked up I was until I was in my living room and had put all my stuff down. I was tired but wide awake. Sleep was the last thing on my mind. I didn’t know what to do.

The gig was a songwriter’s in the round at the Bazaar Café. The Bazaar Café is in the Outer Richmond District of San Francisco and a mainstay of the singer/songwriter scene. It’s an all-acoustic listening room (no p.a.), and it sounds great. My last few shows there have been reasonably well attended, but last night was off the hook crazy. The place was so packed we had to start 45 minutes late because the café staff was so backed up. This was a very happy problem! Wow!

There were two other songwriters onstage with me, Liz Riley and Tom Gewecke. A songwriter’s in the Round is a show where we each take turns playing our songs, and improvise playing and singing on each other’s songs. I had met Liz at a Peter Case songwriting class last spring at the Blue Bear School of Music in SF. We hit it off and decided we would do a show together at some point. Liz knew Tom and suggested he play with us. Songwriters in the round are fantastic when the other musicians have some chops. I had never played with either of them before, and I had just met Tom that night, so I didn’t know what was going to happen.

I had an inkling it was going to be a good audience when I saw the response from Liz’s friends on our Facebook Events Page. 21 people said they were going. Impressive! But I didn’t want to get too excited because you never know.

When the show finally started the room was electric. With a crowd that size, everything is magnified—at least from my prospective as a performer. Jokes are funnier (because laughter is infectious), dramatic moments at ends of songs where you can hear a pin drop are more profound (a room full of people focused on silence is very powerful!) and grooves are a little funkier (maybe that’s just me). I opened the show and got the crowds attention and then we went around four times and finished our first set. I was very entertained—these guys were “better than I thought”, to quote Eddie Alley.

At the break a lot of people wanted to know if we had rehearsed for this. They were amazed when I explained that this was our first time playing together. And I was surprised that they were amazed! Sometimes it’s easy to forget that what we do as musicians is not something everyone can do (maybe that’s the next blog). That’s something I need to work on—putting value on the skills I’ve developed from my talents.

The second set was even better. By that time a few people had to leave (it was a Sunday night after all), and the room was comfortably packed. The laughs kept coming and the music took on a life of its own. We were asked to play an encore which is always heartening, and we each walked away with some good tips. It really was a magical night!

And then it was over and I went home.

Home?

It was only 10 o’clock! And I was starving.

But it was too late to go out again. So I made some popcorn and tried to unwind by watching TV. I thought about doing some work but my mind was racing and I couldn’t concentrate. I replayed moments from the gig in my head, even talking to myself out loud as I went over what I said to the audience, or what I could have improved. When the popcorn was gone I made more. Then a sandwich. Pretty soon it was 1 am. I had to get up and go to work so I forced myself to crawl into bed.

Next time I’ll plan my after gig experience a little better.

So, how do you unwind after your gigs?