About Elana’s involvement with the music

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The beginning of this memoir series is here.

The previous essay: About this “golden triangle” of music Elana loved

When Elana discovered this music, she felt extremely intrigued, compelled to discover more of it and to learn about the people who made it. She sought out sources of information and reviews and fellow listeners.

Eventually this enthusiasm led to her leading a group of fans who listened to the music and published their reviews, and then on to her conducting her own interviews with as many of the most significant artists as she could contact. Influential composer Chris Franke was especially helpful when she visited him in L.A.:
franke snapshot
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(I’ll have some more to say about him in the next section.)

It seemed obvious to her to respect her interview subjects by providing them a copy of the edited interview before publication. This way they could correct any inadvertent mistakes, or request any irrelevant personal information to be removed. This courtesy was so unusual an experience for the artists that they were pleasantly surprised and appreciative.

Before starting the newsletter, Elana had a two year degree in graphics, making her familiar with manual page layout using tools like peel and stick lettering and exacto knives. I’m not sure if the formal education included exposure to the early generation of computer graphics and desktop publishing. I do know that she learned rapidly as she went along.

Eventually she became a certified expert in Adobe professional graphics software, Photoshop and Acrobat, and even helped people learn how to use these kinds of tools in a technical support role. She loved the experience of troubleshooting, in her words to have “just-in-time learning” and to “think around corners,” temporarily frustrated but then emerging victorious as though having fought through the swamp in order to have crocodile soup for dinner!

Her banner for an earlier version of this site showed a whimsical look behind the scenes at her design process:
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If a venture like hers were to start from scratch today, it would be natural to begin on the Internet. Remember that when she started, dial-up modems and online bulletin board systems were rare, exotic hobbies of technology geeks. The Web was not only not a household word, it hadn’t been invented yet! Broadband connections and affordable multimedia computing were years away. So, she printed and mailed out her newsletter to international subscribers.

e-dreams-real-pin

(I was asked by one reader, “What is that thingy you are holding. Is it a pin? You should describe it!” That’s Elana’s hand holding something she made. The Electronic Dreams newsletter logo was an ingenious cross between the lines of sheet music, and the lines of an electronic circuit. During some of the newsletter years, Elana worked at a metal plating shop that made trophies, plaques, etc., and was able to do some of her own art work using their facilities. She turned the logo into this metal pin and I’ll have more to say about her own artwork in future essays.)

Before her discovery of this music, Elana had been a victim of extremely appalling, shockingly drastic violence that was from crazy and evil people. I don’t use such terms carelessly; the experiences were truly devastating. They shattered any sense of the world being basically a safe place, and of her being competent and worthy of any success, or respect, or kindness. Her innate personality was delightfully outgoing, bubbly (a word used independently by many who knew her), genuinely caring and interested in others, charming, and had a playful side.

A little saying in motivational poster format – I don’t know if she made this or just found it:
GOML

The intensity of the abusive violence spanning years was so bad that she believed she had to find jobs stuck in a back room. She imagined herself to have been very unworthy an unlikable, to have been the target of the cruelty. She imagined she had to have jobs that limited human contact, so that nobody would have to endure interacting with someone like that. How terribly sad! She would never have sought the spotlight on herself. There was always some emotional tension within her about this aspect of Electronic Dreams; keeping her from simply relaxing to enjoy the experience.

As she described how her passion for the music drove her far out of her so-called comfort zone, in her quest to learn more and share all she discovered, a couple of metaphors come to my mind. She was surfing the top of a tidal wave that developed under the driftwood she happened to be clinging on to. In a storm of activity, she was a lighting rod glowing not for its own sake but because of the enormous energies passing through it. These are the kinds of feelings she had about the entire venture.

As she started the newsletter she made a very wise choice, to get other people involved, to share ideas and discuss what could be done and how to do it. She made good use of the advice and other perspectives from caring people who shared her love of the music. This was done in terms of content, but very unfortunately, not in terms of the money. She had no connections with successful freelancers or entrepreneurs other than some of the artists she interviewed. She had no business plan for the project to ensure it would be self-supporting. At the time of the newsletter, she had mental clutter of half-baked and half-digested secondhand hippie-era concepts of profit and enterprise as inherently destructive. Or perhaps, they were, at best, very dangerous for a moral person to handle as cautiously as a flask of nitroglycerin. She never made much money and she wanted to be kind to other fans as financially broke as she was.
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Therefore, it seemed obvious to her to her set prices so low that even someone as broke as she was could afford them. Unfortunately these were below her costs and after many years of running up deficits she could not afford to continue.

She had nobody offering her the life metaphor from airplane safety: If there’s a need for oxygen masks, put on your own oxygen mask first before trying to help others… because if you pass out first, than nobody’s getting any help!

She did not discuss any of this with other people and she did not explain that it was predominately this financial reason that led to her shutting it all down. This is truly unfortunate and tragic.

I didn’t know this was how she thought about it until she discussed it all with me many years later.

If I had known her at the time, I would have given her the same advice I’m sure others who knew her then would have offered: Charge enough to cover costs and make a profit. Let those who can readily afford more, and would willingly pay it, do so, perhaps with kind of upgrade option. Have a profit to cover temporary shortfalls and to reward her for her work. If she wished to help broke people, offer a sliding scale on request, but not literally at the expense of her own ability to have enough to eat healthy every day.

With the collapse of Dreams, Elana felt – she described this very clearly to me later – that her one and only “cool card in life” had been played and discarded, and her hand was empty of anything else that would ever be worth anything to anyone. Any kindness, friendship, and love, based on who she was as a good person, not on her role as publisher of an international electronic music newsletter, was a surprise to her every day.

Towards the end of her life she started thinking about how to try to explain all this so as to reconnect with some of the people who had meant so much to her, or at least to explain why she had dropped off the radar. I had a general idea of those things she have wanted to explain. I think I’ve done a good enough job providing the overall gist here.

She also started to look into putting the archive online. Unfortunately, her old drive to perfectionism got the best of her. She had long, involved phone conversations with print shops about ultra high resolution scanning, assuming that only something technically astounding would be good enough. She lost sight of the fact that on the Internet, one can make a simple start and update it later, over time. She would have done better to have posted a somewhat legible initial version and invited others to help her edit the online edition as she went along, rather than waiting for a theoretically impeccable first draft as the supposed cost of entry to get to say anything at all.

She also again did not include me, or others who would have been more than willing to help, with any effort to make a sustainable financial model for the site. I think this was from feeling overwhelmed rather than deliberately choosing to avoid that help. Towards the end she did make great strides at overcoming the extremely toxic self-deprecating and poverty-minded habits of thought. I am personally proud and grateful of both her and me for reconsidering some of these negative ideas. With my loving moral support and her own hard work, she turned around the negativity into a more realistic sense of her worth.

Click here as the story continues: From Berlin to B5, via Portland.

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