I'm part indian princess form outer space ...on my mother's side.
October 29, 2010 9:28 AM   Subscribe

Who is Joe Wall? Why he's an author and ambient electronic musician who works in a clock tower and loves to sing. But most Mefites know him as sonascope, author of many vast and beloved comments. His touching 2004 show, My Fairy Godmothers Smoke Too Much, is available free and complete online.

And yes, he has his own blog.
posted by The Whelk (28 comments total) 37 users marked this as a favorite
Capital fellow. His brother used to play in my band. Small world.
posted by jetsetsc at 9:33 AM on October 29, 2010

I really enjoyed the 12 minute travelogues that he linked to in this comment.
posted by joedan at 9:50 AM on October 29, 2010

I'm glad he's getting a lot of attention around mefi recently. Hopefully this is the start of something big for him.
posted by Think_Long at 9:51 AM on October 29, 2010

OH! I almost forgot to say: I liked him before he sold out.
posted by Think_Long at 9:52 AM on October 29, 2010

posted by Devils Rancher at 9:52 AM on October 29, 2010

So... In other words he manages to take time out of his illustrious short story/comment writing career to do other presumably awesome things which gather interest. Beautiful.
posted by CrystalDave at 10:07 AM on October 29, 2010

Yay!!! Thanks, The Whelk! I'm a fan.
posted by ErikaB at 10:28 AM on October 29, 2010

"Fan" by the way isn't an option on the "Add As A Contact" page, but it totally should be.
posted by ErikaB at 10:29 AM on October 29, 2010 [1 favorite]

Eh, just MeFi marry him. That's what the rest of us do...
posted by hippybear at 10:55 AM on October 29, 2010

Eh, just MeFi marry him. That's what the rest of us do...

Family: ✓sibling ✓spouse ✓kin
Romantic: ✓muse ✓crush ✓date ✓sweetheart ✓stalk-ee ✓would totally have babies for
posted by Devils Rancher at 11:23 AM on October 29, 2010 [1 favorite]

Wait, is this *not* the guy from Galway who the Saw Doctors sing about? Cause that guy sounds all kinds of awesome:
posted by wenestvedt at 11:51 AM on October 29, 2010 [1 favorite]

Whenever I'm flipping through a tl;dr thread on MeFi, and scroll for an unusually long time without seeing any yellow text, I scroll back up and start reading the comment, because it's probably by Sonascope (and therefore probably awesome)
posted by schmod at 12:11 PM on October 29, 2010

sonascope is incredible. Close registrations - Metafilter is complete.
posted by Rumple at 12:13 PM on October 29, 2010

A clocktower lair and a masterful mustache!
posted by gamera at 2:38 PM on October 29, 2010

Having lost two hours in the depths of that blog, Joe I am now speaking as a representative of the book-buying public and asking you to finish Scaggsville. Now.
posted by The Whelk at 3:07 PM on October 29, 2010

I debuted my new nitro-glycerine Nun character

I want to have his babies.
posted by Halloween Jack at 3:11 PM on October 29, 2010

Wonderful. Thanks Whelk. And Sonascope.
posted by Ahab at 5:04 PM on October 29, 2010

Oh there is video of that!
posted by The Whelk at 6:18 PM on October 29, 2010

Well shucks, as they say.

Thanks to everyone for the attention—I should have poked my head in sooner but my natural instinct to that moment when I'm at the side of the stage and the crisp blue-white circle of the follow spot clunks on is to do a sort of vaudevillian panicked run around the theater trying to get away from the light. I keep saying I wish I was a puppeteer so I could do myself as a muppet, then fling down the puppet and run for the stage door when the show was over, but it's tricky, you know.

I'm never sure whether I should hide and watch from stage left or put on my puppet, in these cases, but I've been writing and performing a long time without going very far largely because these are my initial instincts. It's the strange thing about writing, and telling stories, that there's this weird surface tension that makes it hard to know what will or wont break the spell. Stuff is so fragile, in some ways.

That said, to hell with surface tension.

Here are a few links to some of my past and ongoing projects:

• The "Lurleen" stories.

Read this as a long, rambling draft. It's one of the core narratives in the manuscript I'm working on for a book that'll be called Scaggsville in honor of my home town (a little knot of farms outside of Laurel, Maryland). It'll also be changed a bit once I get it together, because The Simpsons ruined the name "Lurleen" by making a joke of it. My Lurleen was named Lurleen for a very good reason, which is that her parents adored George Wallace, who was married to Lurleen Wallace. George Wallace was shot outside our Woolworths, almost on the steps of my mother's bank, in 1972.

I don't know what happened to Lurleen. I can't find her in any records, but she'd gotten pretty cagey. She may be out there, or dead, or what. It's been so long since I've had her around to calibrate my stories that I don't know if I'm even remembering things right, but I don't really care too much about such things.

I thought I saw her a few times, about five years ago, but phantoms abound, you know?

I wrote about typewriters, writing, and a poet I knew.

This one's also going into the manuscript, but I need to tighten it up. There's a problem with the kind of serial writing you do in a blog—I love the format, and like that I'm working in the same arena as Dickens, Jean Shepherd, and Armistead Maupin, but it's hell for editing, too, as you tend to treat the whole blog as one gigantic four thousand page manuscript, full of interacting references, in-jokes, and reader/writer feedback.

I'm also not sure I need details about turning down awful mid-day internet hook-ups in favor of spending my time

I write about my father quite a bit.

It's easy because he's dead and can't interrupt me to tell me that I've got something wrong. I get a lot wrong, but I don't care. We have this weird belief that things are either true or they're not true, but everything changes, depending on where you stand. All I can do is write everything down as it comes and hope it's true for you.

I tell my mother I'll write about her when she's dead, so she can't correct me. This, somehow, is not comforting to her, and she threatens to return from the grave to edit my writing.

The thing is, much of what I write is what they call a family romance because my family is amazing. My sister used to live in Greenwich Village and introduced me to a world of amazing music, performance art, and the joy of NYC pizza. My brother was a professional furniture pornographer, is married to a malaria scientist, and has a kid. Most people just shove a camera in their kid's face when he's all covered with food, but my brother makes esoteric masterpieces that make you laugh and cry and cuss because your stupid little brother has a talent that seems so easy and effortless. He's also a musician who can play any instrument in the universe and played with our fellow mefite's band, back in the day. Stupid brother.

My nieces manage to inspire, too. Some of us just get lucky, it seems.

• I love trespassing and rooting through trash.

• Sometimes, I have a hard time paying my bills.

I like to sing in the car.

Sometimes people ask me how I've managed to do all the things I've done in my life, which doesn't seem that exciting to me on a day-to-day basis, alas, and my advice is simple:

Don't finish anything.

Did I say advice? I think I meant my horrible self-hating confession. That's the problem, really—and why my manuscript for Scaggsville has been in a kind of limbo since I first assembled it into a manuscript back in 2004. I left my job in '04 and a career field I'd been immersed in from childhood and had this nice artistic fantasy that I'd work as a freelance gentleman craftsman and write and edit in the mean time.

I am a pretty decent craftsman, but man, I am not a good businessman. I went completely broke, freelancing for two years, turning $13,000 in savings and cashed-out 401k (I did beat the crash this way, though) into no savings and $18k in debt. At least I finished my—

—well, I'm not a very good editor, either, and managed to spend two years mutilating my work into something Emerson, Lake, & Palmer would have found pretentious and overwrought. I've since reverted to my original manuscript, leaving my Ralph Ellison computerized fuck-mess to the recesses of the hard drive. I could say I lost a few years, but I won't. Sometimes you just have to learn your lessons the hard way.

There's a great set of rules from Heinlein that basically says:

• Write something every day.
• Finish everything you start.
• Send out everything you finish.

That's not an exact quote, I think, but it's the form that applies to me. I pretty have have the first part down cold. I write every day, sometimes just a quip or two for facebook, sometimes something long for livejournal, and sometimes something else. When I run my archive on my livejournal, it adds about to about 4500 pages, if you printed it out at the font and page size of a standard trade 6x9 paperback.

I'm less good at the second bit, but I'm getting there. You have to steamroller your way through doubts and obsessive, icky perfectionism that says "oh, maybe it could be better, maybe it could be tighter, maybe it could be more poetic," and some such bullshit. That's huge, really, and when you don't get it right, it's paralyzing, and you end up with manuscripts just sitting there, waiting for you to feel like you're good enough to finish them.

The last one kills me. I'm not completely hopeless, there, and my "send out everything" has often meant "stand up on a stage and tell the stories," which I've done fairly well. I get a little embarrassed by my earlier attempts at the form, which seem sort of arch and overengineered, sometimes, and I have a gigantic, unwieldy piece called This Nonstop March Around the World from 1991-1992 or so that kind of collapsed from its own weight and the technical limitations of the gear I was using then, but it had a lot of good moments. One of these days, I'll find a new four-track portastudio so I can port the surviving bits over to mp3 and see if I can do justice to what I was trying to do.

When this FPP showed up, I had the momentary thought of oh no, I'm not ready for this, because my website's sort of a mess, with lots of unpublished subpages waiting for me to collect my recordings and other materials, and my livejournal's still mostly locked-down from my job search in 2009 (they tell you these days to hide all that stuff), and I have little flashes of feeling exposed, because I've written a lot of really horrifyingly vivid stuff over the years.

The thing is, though, that you're never ready, unless you never change, producing the same thing over and over, so yeah, here's what I'm working on, and it's rough, some of it's too close to me, and some of it's fluffy and pointless, and there are grammatical disasters, historical inconsistencies, and really clunky storytelling moments, but it's out there. Now I just need to find a mate who's an editor by profession with boundless patience for a mercurial, difficult guy and who won't drug me and beat me to death with a claw hammer.

I wrote something over the weekend.

Thanks so much for taking the time to look in on my odd little universe.

BTW, I'm assembling pieces for the manuscript that'll follow up on Scaggsville while I'm working on finishing that piece. It's called The Philistine in Red Underpants, which is what I was once called in a backstage memo while I was playing a bit part in Samson et Delilah with the Washington National Opera. Did I ever mention Gian Carlo Menotti was my penpal?

This time, however, I'm hoping not to take my own advice.
posted by sonascope at 6:41 AM on November 1, 2010 [1 favorite]

"I'm also not sure I need details about turning down awful mid-day internet hook-ups in favor of spending my time"

--should end with "fixing a typewriter." I got distracted looking up a piece I wrote about that guy later down the line, when he'd become a meth addict, and a mortifying nooner that ended up with me showering with a bleach bottle, but thought better of posting it.

Always the distractions.
posted by sonascope at 7:20 AM on November 1, 2010

Also, here's my favorite way to cook an egg, from the archives.
posted by sonascope at 8:11 AM on November 1, 2010

those eggs look like zombie amoebas
posted by The Whelk at 8:15 AM on November 1, 2010

Delicious zombie amoebas, you mean.
posted by sonascope at 1:14 PM on November 1, 2010

We will never succumb to the gooey yoke infidels.
posted by The Whelk at 1:29 PM on November 1, 2010

Anyone know anything about the recording of The Desert Music in the clock tower video? I thought MTT's was the only one out there but I'm happy to have been proven wrong...
posted by Thomas Tallis is my Homeboy at 7:32 AM on November 2, 2010

The version of The Desert Music I used was the version performed by Alarm Will Sound, who gave us the miraculously amazing orchestral rendition of Aphex Twin's "4." I love the lush and languid MTT version (MTT also did one of my favorite versions of The Rite of Spring, in which that lingering, lyrical ar-ti-cu-la-tion that he does so lovingly makes me swoon), but the AWS version is just electric and gives me goosebumps every time, hundreds of listenings down the line.
posted by sonascope at 6:23 PM on November 3, 2010

Another request for the publication of Scaggsville, sonascope. It is destined (sadly, I can't do justice to the background story) to be the best gift of the holiday season for one of my friends. I think there's an excellent chance that it would even rank higher in my overall gift-giving history than the Christmas mouse that played "Ice, Ice Baby," and I scored major points that year.
posted by EvaDestruction at 4:46 AM on November 16, 2010

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