Thursday, December 08, 2016

depressive realism and experiments

One of the changes I've seen as I grow older is that I have an increasingly long list of "things I really shouldn't think about because doing so will only make me crazy(ier)/despair/whatever. I still love to think, but many thoughts have to get quarantined as soon as possible merely as a survival mechanism.

But is that healthy? Is it a good idea, particularly for someone with mental issues? I'll have to discuss it with my therapist, really. One thing that's already come up is how people who suffer from depression (like me) tend to view the world more accurately than the neuronormatives. The name for this is depressive realism. I'm not sure I like the concept, but the name is at least pretty cool...maybe I'll use it for an album title somewhere down the road.

Usually, these types of thoughts are personal or emotional. Lately, however, the scientific world has started to breach my "don't really think about these things" list...because the more I learn about it, the more I realize that science is sure wackier than they told me in high school. Some scientists, for instance, claim we are living in a giant simulation. It seems we may not be any more than software in some highly advanced being's computer program analyzing the nature of identity or something.

I'm actually torn on this one. On the one hand, it would explain an awful lot. However, if the vast scale of human suffering and pain is really only a data point on some galactic spreadsheet, that would inevitably mean that the experiment designer is obviously a maniacal psychopath. I dunno. I certainly feel real, but that could only mean I'm a well-designed piece of software. Maybe my own depression is really just the result of some errors in the code which escaped the debugging process. These thoughts, though, are one reason why science is increasingly on my "don't think about it list."

However, I've got to say one thing to any cosmic experimenters (if any) out there. Take a break, already. Your experimental protocols are becoming increasingly transparent and defective. Look, I can accept some pretty wild things, but a reality star for a president who's already appointed a wrestling CEO, a blindingly stupid neurosurgeon, and a fast food franchise owner to his staff? A state government which wants to allow concealed weapons on college campuses? The criminalization of constitutionally protected acts? The rampant xenophobia? Enough's enough.

Your work, Mr. Alien Experimenter, will suffer if you don't take a break and go do something fun or enriching. If you get obsessed with testing the limits of our simulated species, you're going to seriously lose it. So go outside and have fun. At least watch an episode of whatever passes for comedy television in your dimension. Listen to some rock and roll. Learn an instrument. All work and no play makes for a grumpy manipulator.

Trust me, I know. I am, after all, in the middle of grading final portfolios, so I understand the pressure.

Thursday, December 01, 2016

algorithmic fashion

While killing time in my office today, I glanced at one of my social networking sites and saw a very strange targeted ad. For whatever reason, their ad service seemed to think I would be interested in a sale on selected waistcoats.

At first, I could only think, "this is weird." I have, for the record, never worn a waistcoat in my life. I'm not usually the first person you think of when you think of waistcoats (assuming, that is, you ever think of waistcoats in the first place). So I naturally wondered how the targeted advertisement could possibly be so far off.

Of course, my brain works in weird and mysterious ways, because in less than ten minutes, I had completely rethought my position on the previously uncontemplated garment. Some time in the last year, I have started to dress more formally. I'm more likely to be found in a button-up shirt than a weird tee shirt. I've largely replaced my jeans with khakis or green cargo pants. I even bought cowboy boots for some reason.

For the record, I really don't know why I started to dress up. Maybe it has something to do with losing some weight last year. Maybe it's some coming to terms with getting older. Maybe I just needed a change. I dunno...but in light of this, maybe a waistcoat wouldn't be such a bad idea.

I brought this up to my students. My first class was relatively unimpressed by the idea, with about half shaking their heads and about another half giving me an "eh, why not?" My second class, however, seemed to think it was a capital idea. A few of them expressed such approval of the idea, I seriously considered jumping online to buy a few right then and there. My wife, though, suggested us having a dinner then shopping date, so we could test out the effect of such a fashion shift in the real world.

What's the point of all this? I dunno. Maybe I'm just much more impressionable than I suspect. The other possibility is, however, a little bit frightening...because maybe the computer-determined advertisements actually know me better than I know myself.

I never thought when the science fictional universe finally came true, it would concern itself with my style of dres.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

TheMikeDuBose X-mas single!

A few years ago, I found myself playing a singer-songwriter showcase which was to be filmed for later television broadcast. We were also invited to do a Christmas song for an additional Christmas Special. Well, I couldn't think of anything I wanted to do, so I wrote my own holiday song: "X-Mas in the Drunk Tank."

I don't know if the Christmas special ever aired. I found out after the fact that the singer-songwriter episode aired. I never saw it, because I never actually heard about it until later. And none of these have ever turned up on YouTube or the show's website, so I just like to think of my television career as an unsubstantiated rumor.

But, as a result, I had a Christmas song. I liked the song, which made the fact I could only ever play the song one month out of the year just a little bit aggravating. But dealing with aggravation is just a fact of life for us non-famous musician types.

Last year, I had plans to record an album with a friend of mine. For whatever reason, we were very slow to get the record off the ground. I suggested we record "X-Mas in the Drunk Tank" as a way to jump-start the recording process...and shortly thereafter, I found myself with another original holiday song, this one entitled "I Don't Wanna Be Depressed (This X-mas)."

The album never actually happened. The Christmas single which was supposed to jump-start the recording process also never happened. But now I had the bug, and I really wanted to get all these recordings done. So I did what I've always done when dealing with frustrating circumstances: I've become self-sufficient.

So I'm deep into recording the album (and I actually should be done and ready to release in January). And somewhere in the process, I remembered the Christmas single idea.

So, ladies and gentlemen, I present you the fruit of my labors. I call it The War on X-Mas. This contains both "I Don't Wanna Be Depressed (This X-mas)" and "X-Mas in the Drunk Tank." I'm responsible for every lick of it, every sound, every action. And it turned out better than I would've ever hoped.

I sincerely hope you check it out. I like these songs more than I should, and I think they sound amazing. It is now life at my Bandcamp page as a "pay what you want" download. Please do check it out. I will also have CD copies soon, which I will pair with a custom TheMikeDuBose Christmas ornament. More details on those when the physical CDs come in.

I'll be playing one or both of these songs this Wednesday at Stone's Throw for Hump Day Revue and this Saturday at Howard's Club H for the annual Toy Drive show (I go on at 9), Come see me and say hello,

Saturday, November 26, 2016

television, hearing loss, and...something else

As a long-time musician, I count myself lucky to have pretty solid hearing. One doesn't do this, though, and escape with perfect hearing. So every so often, I will catch a little bit of the whining sound fading in and out. It's not enough to really bother me, but it is there just enough to be annoying. The desire to avoid more of this is why I carry ear plugs with me wherever I go.

Of course, this brings me to television. Over the last year, I've become a devotee of the show Archer. I could go off on how the show can be just awesome, but time is limited (I can only justify avoiding grading for so long). One of my favorite elements of the show is their use of the tinnitus sound effect. Yeah, they bring up the ringing sound when there's an explosion or something, but they also bring it up when Archer goes through some emotional trauma of some sort. It's clever, particularly in how it subtly makes explicit the connection between the violence of his job and his emotional barriers.

So how does this relate to me? Well, I was just taking a second away from grading, and I had a minor tinnitus flare-up...only this time, instead of the mono-pitch whine, it sounded like an old school dial-up modem.

What this means, though, I really have no clue.

Monday, November 21, 2016

news of my importance

I just got a wrong number phone call from Mexico. You know what this means? I am now an international mistake!

nutbar mornings

My daughter just came into the kitchen while I was making coffee. She opened up the fridge, peered in for a split second, slammed the door, ran into the living room, and immediately started running around in circles, screaming, "we have too many juice boxes!" over and over, for an honest full minute. She then went back to playing as if nothing happened.

Me? I finished making my coffee... although by that point, I really didn't need it anymore.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

unexpected science

Over the last couple of weeks, I've noticed that, while playing with my daughter, we will suddenly veer into hard science. Earlier today, we were playing with Octonauts. The girl Octonauts were doing ballet. When their ballet instructor (a toy from another playset) had to leave, she summoned a black hole to travel back home.

This puzzles me. On the bright side, though, I now have a good answer if she ever asks where babies come from.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

realities and politics

When I was in grad school, we read a certain amount of postmodern theory. I found it fascinating, particularly in its explanation of how representation starts altering how people perceive and process reality. In our age, saturated by media, representation tends to stack up. This obscures reality to the point where the representation starts to be seen as more real than reality.

It's an interesting theory. While it's nothing that anyone would hold up as an ideal, it does explain an awful lot of how image, reality, and opinion converge. But, as one reads more and more of it,  one starts to feel about it the same way one would that style of art which consists of large color squares on canvas. The thought is that someone is playing a con on someone...but who's playing whom is a matter of opinion.

I've been out of the scholarship game for a while, though, and postmodernism isn't really the kind of thing one reads for giggles. But lately, it's been washing back into my consciousness. I blame politics.

My country has taken some weird turns over the last week. Quite often, those changes seem to be relatively contrary to reality. People voted against their own interests. But they also voted for a businessman because they thought he would be less money-hungry than a politician. This has, for a while, made very little sense to me.

I think that the postmodernism is starting to help make sense, though. But it's not, I'm beginning to suspect, because people are too tied to the media representations of reality as postmodernism would argue. Reality, as a concept, is not really all that definite of a concept anymore for a lot of people. And in the absence of reality, people don't settle on a mediated reality. It's not like there's only one of them. It's a verifiable buffet of competing realities, a potpourri dish of reality options.

If there's no real anymore, then why not chose the alternative that helps you sleep better at night? No matter what the consequences?

The fault with this logic is also the fault with postmodernism. There actually is a Real in there. Even in the absence of narratives, there is a right, and there is a wrong. There is help, and there is harm. Stories are just stories, no matter how seductive they might be. And there is a way back to sanity

I just hope the path is easier to grasp than postmodernism.