Thursday, September 23, 2010

pushing and pulling

This morning, I got to get up early and go to my physical therapy treatment. I seem to have a case of rotator cuff tendinitis, coupled with mild bicep tendinitis and some impingement...which actually sounds a lot more impressive and bitchin' than it is in reality.

It's one of those annoying injuries, because I don't even know how I injured myself...I just woke up one day in pain. I've been trying to come up with good explanatory stories, such as:

  • I pulled it carrying my singer's amplifier (which has the benefit of picking on said singer and making me look like a self-sacrificing kind of guy--neither of which are, in reality, all that fair).
  • I injured my shoulder playing one of my band's particularly intense songs...meaning I put my physical well-being on the line for my art, man! Rock 'till you hurt!
  • I had to break up a gang-fight made up of perturbed supermodels, and one of them got some licks in.
  • I strained it holding up the very integrity of my species (whatever this means).

The problem, though, is that since no one believes or even listens to anything I say, such fictive explanations all go for naught.

I do hope that my upcoming P/T schedule will be beneficial. Ultimately, I want to be free of any pain, even of the lingering variety. At the very least, though, I do know it will be a learning experience. I even learned something today, in the first session. As I had my shirt off around two women, and as neither of them threw themselves at me, I learned some very hard truths about how well I'm aging.

Oh, well. I will try to focus on the least the sight of a shirtless me didn't cause any of the staff to become physically ill.

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

battling the insect invasion

This morning, the spousal unit and I were carpooling. As a result, not only was spousal unit up ridiculously early, but so was I. I was finishing up my breakfast and e-mail, and spousal unit was putting on her face paint in the study. That's when I heard "wooooooo!"

It wasn't, I'm afraid, an excited wooo either.

"You okay, babes?"

"There's bees in here."



Sure enough, there were two bees in the study. Spousal unit killed one yesterday, but I suspected it just snuck in when we came home. That didn't explain why there were two more flying around by the study's light fixture.

We had to get to work, so we left the light on, in hopes that they would "walk to the light"...and hopefully fry. We planned to, upon our return, clear out some of the kibble from the study so I could call our maintenance man the next day.

When we did get home and start shoveling out the room, we found another bee on the floor. Then another. Another still. Spousal unit got to kill one, but we must've found about twenty of the dead little bastards.

This is, of course, fairly puzzling. We haven't had the window in the study open all summer. So where are they coming from? The attic, via the light? Is our window broken? Spontaneous generation?

We will find out tomorrow. In the meantime, just pray we can repel the invaders.

Friday, September 03, 2010

tuning out

It only took a few days for it to happen. And while I'm happy to have direct evidence of some religious doctrines, I just didn't think it would come when I was teaching.

The first week of school always means lots of adjustments. I have to wear pants, shave, and look presentable...well, at least as presentable as I ever get. I have to be prepared. I have to have notes. I have to reestablish the to-do list routine.

Then I get up in front of strangers and talk. I have to look like I know what I'm talking about, and do so while making them pay attention. Personally, I cannot succeed at this by trying to be entertaining or friendly. Rather, I slam them with information delivered in a "this is vital" tone of voice. Luckily, I do in fact know what I'm talking about, because otherwise, I would be scared out of my mind.

There is normally routine to help me through. I have my standard "first day of class" bits for my Comp I (which I have taught continuously since 2003). However, this semester, I also had a section of Writing About Literature, a course which I've never taught I had to develop a new first day discussion/lecture. So I pulled material from other lessons from other subjects, boosted the level of intellectual intensity (after all, I have mostly upper classmen), and I funneled it all into the study of literature.

Halfway through the first session, however, I realized my attention was wandering. My consciousness was worried about what I would do when I got home...when I hung out with friends, would I drink wine or bring beer? I screamed to myself, "Hey, idiot're in the middle of teaching!" Then I focused on the lecture I was in the middle of delivering to find out, much to my surprise, that I was actually firing on all cylinders in spite of paying no attention to what I was doing...and I didn't even have the "I've done this 1.7 million times" excuse to blame.

It's not the first time I've entered a trance state. When I do student conferences, I often find myself giving the exact same advice, over and over. And fairly regularly, I go on auto-pilot during these sessions. A few years back, however, there was a conference where I could swear I had an out-of-body experience and could not just hear myself carrying on this conversation with a student, but actually see it happen....from a position somewhere up in the ceiling.

Later that night, post-lit class trance, I was on a friend's porch, bottle of Merlot in one hand and a cigar in another. I asked mycolleague if she'd ever done the trance-state teaching thing, and she replied, utterly unsurprised, "Oh yeah, it happens pretty regularly."

Trance/fugue states? Alternate consciousness? Out of body experiences? I think teaching might be the new Eastern religion.

diversity, music, and art

Yesterday, I posted my internet meme post of 15 albums in 15 minutes. Yeah, i don't normally do these things, but I needed a mental break from conferences and class prep. Hey, at least I didn't tag anyone...which is important, because I hate coercion...unless I'm getting paid to do it.

Anyway, within a stupidly brief amount of time, a friend of mine pointed out (on some social networking site...apparently, she's too good to comment here) that I had a very "dudely" list. Yes, it's true...there were utterly no female artists on it at all.

After I saw this comment, I had to go off to my lit class. We had a bit of discussion on the general concept of heroes in general. When I asked what the first thing that came into my students' minds was with the word "hero," the answer was, of course, super heroes (hey, an area of specialty!). So we made a list and talked about what being a superhero (and, by extension, heroes in general) meant. After class, one student came up to me and asked if we were indeed going to talk about how heroes seem to be male and white. I assured her that yes, it was all part of my maniacal plan.

Of course, when I started driving home, the two incidents coalesced. When thinking about my lit course's readings, I did think about the general variety I tried to include (working class, Latino, different genres, and so forth)...but it still wasn't as diverse as I would've liked...there is only two black authors, for instance, but as this was my first time teaching this class, I had to pick from people I knew. I was constrained by my own experience.

Then, I started thinking of my albums. Of course, Aimee Mann (most likely I'm With Stupid) should've made the list. Caitlin Cary, if I had more time to think, would've also been in serious consideration. But what other female artists? No one came to mind. I also realized my list was very, very white. Yes, Living Colour would've rectified this (and, as they were one of my most important high school bands, they would've earned their place)...and Hendrix of course was a serious contender. And I love Motown, Sam & Dave, and Taj Mahal, but greatest hits albums and box sets seemed cheating. But there was no other Latino artists, for instance.

For music, there's a certain narrative at work which determines the music I've experienced. I started off with heavy metal (the British variety more than the American/glam-inspired variety), as I was particularly drawn to the virtuosity and power of the guitar-playing (undoubtedly because of my personal inadequate feelings of my own masculinity, or something like that). Yet metal is also a fairly non-diverse genre, so there just weren't a lot of non-white male options to chose from even if I would've thought of artist diversity at the time. At any rate, Vixen did nothing for me.

When I started to wane on the "shock value" and the "play it close to the genre conventions" aspect of much of the later metal I heard, I moved to Something about the Johnny Cash-meets-Replacements sounded more "real" to me (whatever that means) while still stressing the power and crunch of a guitar. But was it more diverse? Well, there were a few women, but that was about it. I then moved to greasy bar rawk, but it was pretty much, in terms of diversity, the same thing.

I like to think that when it comes to music, I'm not really constrained anymore by genre conventions, by labels, or any of that...but unfortunately, I still tend to move within predictable music styles. Yes, I'm more diverse than I ever have been in terms of the artists to whom I listen, but my friends can still easily point out "Mike Music." And unfortunately, what counts as MikeMusic is still mostly performed by a narrow group of people.

I know I should be diverse. I know I'm missing out by not following a wider variety of artists, and I do want to expand what I experience. However, in the music, I'm constrained by my tastes, and I just need to hear the power of a G chord. Diversity is a definite requirement of the lit class, so as well as wanting to include a variety of writers, I know I must do so. Music is different, though, because while I know I want diversity, I'm also unable to give up the sound of a raunchy guitar.

I only see one solution: a government grant to increase the diversity of rawk performers by getting a guitar and a distortion pedal into every child's hands! A Marshall in every bedroom! Loud noises as a government mission!

Thursday, September 02, 2010

15 albums in 15 minutes

So, I got tagged in one of those "15 albums in 15 minutes" things. Rather than use a social networking site, however, I decided to post my response here.

  1. Wilco, Yankee Hotel Foxtrot. When I first heard this, I hated it...but, for some reason, I couldn't stop listening to it. There was so much variety, so much unexpected in the album. This disk had to teach me how to listen to it. In doing so, I had to rethink a lot of my conceptions about music. Plus, "Heavy Metal Drummer" still makes me want to dance (which I do not do).
  2. AC/DC, Powerage. Yes, it has absolutely no hits. Yes, it is the AC/DC album most people are least likely to hear. But this one is their blues album. It is loose, free, and cool. Moreover, it's very pissed off. "Down Payment Blues" alone wins this album a "desert island" slot for its snarky feelings towards poverty, in addition to having the best sounding guitar solo of all time.
  3. Slobberbone, Everything You Thought Was Right Was Wrong Today. Slobberbone is one mighty live band, but this is their shining moment of studio glory. Forget that, because of its mix of country, rawk, Replacements-esque punk, and aggression, you can't really classify in most normal genre terms. It hits hard while being surprisingly intelligent.
  4. Two Cow Garage, Speaking in Cursive. Two Cow, as most readers know, is my favorite band. This album is good proof why. Lyrically, this album can be summed up as "What happens when you realize you will never be a superstar musician but still can't quit the music game?" As someone who has similar feelings about his chosen career, I can relate.
  5. Black Sabbath, Volume 4. Of course, Sabbath was gonna be here. This is a wall-to-wall album. Just listen to "Supernaught," which was doing what grunge tried (and failed) to do decades later.
  6. Frank Zappa, One Size Fits All. This is the perfect mix of humor, virtuosity, and attitude. I'm not sure it gets more beautiful than "Sofa No. 2" or more jaw-dropping than "Po-Jama People." Bonus points for the unexpected heart of "San Ber'dino."
  7. Drive-By Truckers, Decoration Day. DBT is the band which made me rethink southern identity, and this was one of the albums which served as a main soundtrack to my adjunct "years of hell."
  8. Metallica, ...And Justice For All. It is impossible to explain the impact that Ride the Lightning had on sounded utterly like nothing else I've ever heard. Justice, however, is better...the band at their peak.
  9. Son Volt, Wide Swing Tremolo. Son Volt came along right at the time where the cliches of heavy metal were getting to me. This album felt somehow more real, more organic.
  10. The Faces, Ooh La La. Why did it take me so long to discover the awesomeness of this band? There's very few feelings better than riding with my spousal unit, singing "Just Another Honkey" while plowing through the countryside.
  11. Rainbow, Richie Blackmore's Rainbow. An album of startling depth and variety that is utterly uncontainable by genre labels. Neither Blackmore nor Dio ever showed this much range elsewhere.
  12. Judas Priest, Sad Wings of Destiny. Beautiful, sprawling, orchestral. This is where heavy metal should've went, instead of the shock value genre it became in the 80s and 90s.
  13. The Beach Boys, Pet Sounds. The first album I played for my beloved (later to become my spousal unit).
  14. Rolling Stones, Exile on Main Street. It actually took me ages to find this on cd, but when I did, whoooboy. The Stones had more range than anyone suspects. This whole album is a Saturday night party that stretches into Sunday morning a good way.
  15. Green Day, American Idiot. I'm one of those who think Green Day really never did a bad album (except maybe Insomniac), but this is perhaps their most solid effort. Moreover, I was astounded at how much it made my students think and question things they thought they believed. Plus "Letterbomb" is an awesome rock song.