Monday, November 28, 2011

don't wanna be...

Fatherhood has brought me many unexpected circumstances, attributes, and attitudes. One I really was not expecting, though, was the loneliness.

I love my daughter wholeheartedly. Her smile makes me melt, and her laughter makes my heart explode. But, despite my best efforts, she's not speaking yet...damn lazy five and a half month old. So when I spend time with her, there's very little variety of interaction. She can only ask for a few things, and she really only has one preferred way of asking for anything...namely, screaming at the top of her lungs. She screams as if stabbed when she gets hungry. She screams as if stabbed when she's had enough to eat. She screams as if stabbed when she wants to sleep, be get the idea. And yes, I realize she gets the drama from my side of the family. She also grunts, groans, and occasionally bursts out into peals of laughter (a sound which is all too rare...not that she's an unhappy kid, but this is the greatest sound in the world, and I just don't hear it nearly enough). The majority of our interactions, though, are me talking to her and her either grunting, groaning, or yelling...which, while I love her dearly, can be isolating.

I don't see my beautiful wife as much as I would like. When she gets home, she takes care of our daughter...which means her attention is (quite naturally and understandably) on our kid, not on me. My wife also puts our daughter to bed...but as our kid, as a result of her 3-4 hour "go to bed" process, might very well be renamed "She Who Will Not Sleep," this means we get very little husband/wife time. So even when she's under the same roof as I, I miss her.

I also don't get to see my friends all that much. Of course, I knew I would not be going out nightly, so this was one for which I could kinda prepare. And I do get to practice on Tuesdays, hang out afterward, and maybe escape one weekend night. Still, people tend to think more of me as "new father" rather than anything, and the new father is not the one people think to call and invite out. I can really only remember one time in the last couple of months where a friend specifically contacted me to ask me out. People don't come by the house, either...I guess the possibility of encountering a potentially loud kid doesn't entice visitors. All understandable, I guess, but it doesn't help the loneliness all that much.

But now I have a cold...and this means I can't hug my wife. It means I cannot hold my daughter. So, even though I am in the same house as the two people I love more than anyone, I still feel isolated.

When I was single, I'd often get lonely. At this stage of my life, though, I wasn't expecting more loneliness.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

misery without company

I'm a terrible sick person.

Whenever I get ill, I feel like the world's biggest wimp. I cannot handle being sick in any way. I whine, I moan, I become horribly neurotic and high maintenance. Yes, I know many may claim I am that way all the's one of the side-effects of having perpetually low self-esteem. I honestly do strive toward self-sufficiency, and I try to be a good man, a strong man, a worthy man. But when I'm ill, I lose any of the resiliency and cheer to which I aspire. I become a sad, pathetic little man.

I'm always astounded when I accidentally give my wife a cold. I will go through my death-throe convalescence. Then my wife starts to display my symptoms of a few days earlier, and I leap over myself to apologize for infecting her with my death-cold. I promise to be as good to her as she was to me. Then, as her cold progresses, I compare her stages to mine...and I wonder if she just picked up some lesser-variant virus or if I'm as bad of a patient as I suspect. Where I was aching, moaning, holding onto walls, chugging cough syrup, she is light, sprightly, and tough beyond ken.

Now, though, it's infinitely worse. I still ache. I still have to stop my head from spinning when I get up. I still surround myself with a siege-worthy cache of tissues, cough syrup, and canned soup. But instead of just swelling in misery, I'm now dwelling in misery, watching my gorgeous wife care for my gorgeous child, immensely sad that I can't touch either of them, can't kiss either of them, can only love them from afar. The two people I love most are next to me, but I have to keep them at arms (or virus's)-length
Sad and lonely indeed.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

illness and time

How much is time worth?

Where's the point of no return?

I'm wondering this for several reasons. First, I'm sick and on cough medicine, and that brings back memories. I make it a point to record interesting-looking films from time to time..I want a backlog of them on my dvr for a rainy day...for sick days and such. A few illnesses ago, I watched the classic Soviet science fiction film Solaris. It wasn't particularly wonderful. It looked good, but to call it slow would be an understatement (particularly the massive/eternal/never-ending "driving to the airport" scene). But it had been talked up so much, I felt I had to finish it. Maybe I missed something that further viewing would clarify. Maybe perseverance was the key. Maybe there was some ultimate grand payoff which would bring enlightenment. So I watched.

I finished the film. There didn't seem to be anything with which I could connect. I chalked it down to a difference in cultural attitudes...and the cold and its corresponding medications.

Today, I again have a cold. I went to bed last night with the slight tingling in the throat. I woke up feeling bad. As the day progressed, I felt progressively worse. After my wife went to put my child to sleep for the third time tonight, I was searching my dvr for something to watch. I had already plowed through whatever light, frivolous material I had. I had watched the Bogie-starring vehicle Sahara (which started out with grand pretensions yet ended up not able to become as notable as it dared). I came down to the 2002 Clooney remake of Solaris.

Clooney is one of my favorite actors. I had the relevant cultural context. I was, as when I watched the original, dazzled by the direction, the photography. The film, though was still exceedingly slow. It was like the song which refused to kick into the power chorus. It never improved. Still, I watched. Was it the cold which was doing it? Or did I just consider my illness-addled time to be so valuable as to not waste the thirty minutes or so I had invested?

Is it because my sick time is just not all that valuable? Feeling rotten, apparently, just is not enough.

Monday, November 14, 2011

an apology

I would like to officially offer this formal apology:

To anyone I've engaged in conversation with about the future of academics, I would like to formally apologize for the tone and content of my interactions. The last thing I want to do is to let my poisoned mood infect anyone who still believes and still has faith.

The problem? I used to be a believer. I used to believe in the power of thought, the power of thinking, the power of discussion, the power of learning. And while I never thought I would be a superstar in academics, I always thought there was at least a place for me within the ranks of thinkers. Over the last six months, I am starting to fully realize the extent to which all of this was least for me.

And there's a lot of reasons why I think I failed. I am, for the record, fully willing to admit blame for much of my academic failure. There was always more I could do; in the words of one of my favorite songs, I definitely "could've been stronger, could've been smarter"...and I know this. I still feel overwhelmed by the structural roots behind my personal failures, but I am going to try to quit bringing them they are probably news to no one (particularly anyone who's read this blog).

I am, for the record, trying to work on it. I realize I've been dwelling on all this way too much, and I realize it is one of the major (although not the only) reason behind my current slide toward depression, a slide I am trying desperately to halt and to not share.

So here's what I'm going to do. I promise only to participate in academic discussion when someone specifically asks me to do so. I promise to blow by scholarly links, discussions of the job market, blanket invitations for interactions. If you post something somewhere that raises my gloom, I will do everything I can to look the other way...and I will by no means indulge in an effort to spread my gloom. As it's clear the academic world really doesn't consider me a member, I'm going to try and quit bemoaning that fact or dwelling on it in any way. I would really hate it if my own bad attitude got into someone else.

Let me make clear that I do in fact envy all of my academic believer friends...more than you can know. For those whose career has worked out or is steadily progressing, I salute you. But more importantly, for all those who still get excited by ideas and think there's a future in pursuing them, I covet your faith and your optimism and wish you the greatest success imaginable. The life of the mind is a truly noble goal...and I wish you better luck than I experienced.

Monday, October 31, 2011

on kids and definitions.

A couple weeks ago, I realized that I didn't know how many weeks old my daughter was. Moreover, I started to think of her age in months rather than weeks. Eventually, I'll start thinking of her age in fractions of years...then years. I will probably think of her grade as her age for a little while. Then it will go back to years.

Right now, my daughter is still X inches long. At some point, that will become "tall" instead of "long." Then feet will be added to the equation.

Right now, I think of my daughter as weighing X pounds Y ounces. Pretty soon, ounces will no longer be a consideration.

I never guessed how much fatherhood would make me aware of definitional terms.

fallen metal

Tomorrow, the most anticipated (by comedians, anyway) album of the year comes out: Lou Reed and Metallica. Yeah. We know. But it does put me in the mind to reflect upon the Metallica I used to know.

The first time I heard Metallica, Ride the Lightning was still an indy record. I was used to heavy...after all, I listened to Black Sabbath and Iron Maiden. Nothing, though, could've prepared me for my first listen of the bay area thrash band. A friend of my brother's made a cassette, and I remember him telling me I "had to hear this." "Fight Fire with Fire" came on, and I stopped in my tracks. Could you even DO that? Could music actually sound like that? They seemed to be breaking rule after rule...and it worked! Over the course of the next year, I utterly devoured that album.

Later, I went to a record store (remember those?) to try and find Metallica's first album. When I went up to the counter to pay, the clerk complemented me on my taste and told me their new album was coming out the next day...did I want it? Hell, yes, I wanted it. When album four came out, I would throw the cassette in my car radio, drive around endlessly, and turn up the volume until my windows shook.

Then Metallica's fifth album (The Black Album) came out. I bought it on my way to work. Heard the commercial polish and sheen. Got through the first six songs. With each song, my heart dropped. Quoting nursery rhymes? Ballads? Why on earth was the most innovative band on earth (or at least in my (admittedly limited) listening experience) moving closer to the mainstream? Why did they sell out...after hitting it big? I sold the cassette to someone at work that very day.

Ever since, Metallica has dropped further and further away from my attention. The only real time I think of them is when I find a student wearing a Metallica shirt. What does Metallica sound like to them? I have tried to explain to a few what hearing "Fight Fire With Fire" (or any song off their debut) was like, but I know I'm never going to come close. What was once the most exciting band in the world to me has become classic rock....and rather lame classic rock at that. When they announced the Lou Reed collaboration, my only thought was "of course they'd try something so obviously stupid."

I used to love Metallica...and the saddest thing is I know I will never think of them in quite the same way. But at least I still have their old...their REAL music.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

the baby headache silencer

Have the most beautiful girl in the world, but she loves spending days being (how shall we say) grumpy? Why, you need a mixed drink! I call this one "the baby headache silencer":

  • make one glass of cocoa

    • note: while you can use any cocoa you like, home-made is best. here's a recipe:

      • combine 2 cups powdered sugar, 1 cup Dutch-process cocoa, 2 1/2 cup powdered milk, 1 tsp salt, 2 tsp cornstarch, 1/4 tsp ground chipotle
      • mix well, store in a sealed container
      • use 1/4 cup of this mix for each cocoa mug

  • add one splash of peppermint schnapps
  • add one splash of wild strawberry liqueur
  • stir
  • take painkiller of your choice
  • enjoy while trying to remember what it was like to be pain-free
  • apply heating pad to shoulders

final frozen food fantasy

For those of you keeping track of such things, I decided to give my frozen food thing one more try. I was planning to do steakums, but one box now costs over $11...which, if you follow the math, means a full cow would retail for the price of a small house in a quiet suburb. Instead, I got a box of frozen chicken cordon bleus.

I've been trying to figure out a good metaphor. White board eraser? A cross between cardboard and packing foam? All I know all the moisture was cooked out around it...along with all the cheese.

I have come to two ultimate conclusions. First, frozen food might've actually gotten worse in the last few decades. Second, there's utterly no way I'm going to eat any more of it than absolutely necessary.

a post about competing songs

One of the reasons I love my wife is that she understands my need for release. She understands that I love her and my kid entirely...but I still gotta have something else. And since that day I bought my first guitar (a Chicago-brand Les Paul copy) with saved-up lunch money, that thing I need most is music. It is my sanity, my release...and possibly the the only thing keeping me sane at this point.

Last Friday, my band played a show in Bowling Green. Things went rather well. Several friends showed up (more than for my first Black Swamp Rats gig). The other acts (Mark Hutchins and The Half Hearts) were both awesome. I only moderately aggravated my bad shoulders loading my gear in and out of the bar (via the fire escape, mind you). And if my friends are to be believed, I even played well. Well, hell, don't take my word for it:

I would be lying, though, if I said I didn't feel guilty about leaving the wife and kids to play...but experience has taught me that it's much worse, though, for everyone involved if I don't have music as my outlet. In spite of shoulder pain and slightly ringing ears, I was a much better person after this night than before. Still, though, as I made my way into my house and crawled into bed, a song popped into my head:

Yeah. It's just like that...except Kenny was a rich man singing about someone who's poor but still thinks he might possibly be able to make it. I, on the other hand, am poor and hold no illusions of ever being otherwise. The need for what we do, though, is the same.

Oh yeah, our song is better.

in perfect harmony

should've been smarter
should've been stronger

When I sing, my girl is my audience...and she's the best audience in the world.

She doesn't judge me. She doesn't, upon hearing my voice, break into wild laughter as did one former band member. She doesn't leave the room as has my wife (to be fair, though, as she's only four months old, she doesn't walk yet and thus couldn't walk out...but I like to think she'd listen to me even if she had the option of leaving). She finds my voice calming, much, that is, as her mood, health, and general disposition allow her to find anything soothing.

Nevertheless, I find myself undergoing a crisis of songs, of singing.

I have a pretty good vocabulary of songs I can sing. I generally, while singing my girl to sleep, last about an hour ten before having to repeat myself...and this is, mind you, just the excludes instrumental breaks and the like. But I need more...because so many songs are, the more I think about it, just not suitable for the occasion.

Some are just too peppy or weird for sleep time. Can you imagine, for instance, falling asleep to Hendrix's "Manic Depression?" Others seem inappropriate. The first time I performed the Rolling Stones song "Dead Flowers" for her, I caught myself before I got to the line about being "in my basement room with a needle and a spoon"...because their first year of life is just a itty bit too early for heroin references. There are a few Wilco songs which got pushed out right away for having poetic lyrics which get a bit too close to spousal abuse for my taste...and while I understand irony and metaphor (and thus understand what Tweedy was getting at), it will be at least a year before my girl reaches that level of lyrical sophistication.

I mentioned earlier that my girl likes the Eagles. Therein lies another problem, though, because most of their songs are of the "trials of men and women in relationships." This is what most of all songs are about, though...which adds an additional level of difficulty.

I am worried about my daughter getting (on some level) the idea that people are only defined by their status in relationships. I have seen this happen to many people, and it is sad--someone walking around the earth, desperate for someone to "complete them." I am also worried about the normalization of drug use, the damage to self-worth, the use of violence (ironic or not) as a metaphor for...well, anything. There are a lot of ideas in music which, if one is not prepared to take them in context...or see them with irony...or understand them as metaphors...well, they have the potential to wreak havoc.

None of these reasons, however, are why I'm having a crisis of songs.

I have, as of late, found myself singing Two Cow Garage (my favorite band in the world) to my girl. I love Two Cow wholeheartedly, unreservedly. I love them for many reasons, but one of the chief ones is that they are fully aware of what it means to be a non-major band. They sing quite often about what you do when all hope of ultimate success is gone. What if you knew you would never achieve your dreams? What would you do? How would you act? Would you fight?

This is all well and good for me. Hell, many of the bands I listen to have similar lyrical concerns. I have known for ages that I'd never be a star, never be a success, never be a mover and shaker. First I gave up hope of being a professional musician. Then I gave up hope of being a scholar. I am, in the end, used to giving up hope....and I need art which speaks to my personal needs, my personal disappiontments.

I don't, however, need or want that for my child. Instead, I want her to see a world of possibilities. I want her to discount limits. I want her to ignore barriers. I want her to dream big.

How, though, do I do this when I myself have essentially quit dreaming? How can I help her hope when I can't make myself hope? When I don't believe in hope? How can I inspire her towards something I don't believe anymore exists?

What songs can I sing?

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

a dialog about whining

background: My darling kiddo hasn't been sleeping well, and that makes her cranky...and while I know a baby's only real method of communication is to yell, our girl seems to take this to the extreme. She gets a little hungry? Yell as if one is being stabbed by a porcupine and drug over salt flats. I realized, in some ways this reminded me of myself.

So last night, I went up to my darling wife.

Me: I'd just like you to know that if our girl ends up being overly dramatic or becomes a whiner, it's probably my fault...and I'm sorry.

Wife [after face drops]: Mike, have people on Facebook been mean to you again?

Friday, October 14, 2011

frozen food week two: pot pie

Hey, remember when I promised to write about my frozen food of the week experience? Well, yesterday's lunch was a frozen pot pie. The damn thing required a 35 minute bake time. I could've used the microwave directions, but I, dunno, like browning. I then let the thing rest for ten rather than the instructed five minutes...not by choice, but by screaming kid. When I finally got to it, I noticed:

  • As frozen food is now designed for microwave rather than conventional oven use (the real oven directions are even in smaller print), they contain weird elements...such as a paper pie plate? Really?
  • The crust, as it's also designed for a microwave, burns quite handily along the outer edges. Yum....blackened pastry!
  • Ten minutes of resting is not nearly enough. One day later, I can still feel the scars in my mouth from the lava flow within.
  • While the product doesn't taste bad by any means, it also didn't really taste good...or like anything you'd ever go out of your way to eat ever again...even if one was a vulture.
  • For a pie which is supposedly beef, there's very little actual beef in it. What is there is rather stringy. Okay, everyone...please quit baking with fact, if you use round beef for anything other than cube steak, you will be shot.
  • A quick perusal of the ingredients shows hydrolyzed soy protein and garlic juice to be key ingredients. They also list "beef flavor," which includes autolyzed yeast extract....mmmm, just like mommy used to make!
  • This "single serving" is about half the size of an actual single serving of anyone's measure.
  • It also contains 50% of a day's saturated fat, along with 800mg of sodium. Healthy!

I'm now reconsidering actually continuing with the frozen food of the week...because I want to live and be unscarred.

life twists

Get ready...the 21st century
is when everything changes
--Capt. Jack Harkness

When I found out I was gonna be a dad, I make one simple vow: to not change too drastically into a slobbering moron. Some people become parents and can then only talk about everything their kids do in glowing terms. "Oh, he let out the cutest toot today!"--that kind of stuff. An infant walks into someone's life, and their IQ drops thirty points. That, I swore, would never be me.

While I would like to think I am, at my core, the same person, it is in fact true that fatherhood has changed me in quantifiable ways. How so?

  • I have a permanent glassy look to my eyes...because I'm never quite sure what the hell is going on.
  • Although I am not on night duty (my wife, as the Milk Producer, has the late shift, while I work primarily days), I am usually called upon to spring into action immediately after awakening...usually in the middle of a cool dream. As a result of never being allowed to awake organically, I'm usually walking around in a zombie state.
  • As the result of the point above, my per capita coffee consumption has skyrocketed.
  • I find myself doing strange things with my taking my kid to the...chiropractor? It actually helped, by the way...and she giggles while being adjusted.
  • What free time I used to have (which I would've used for, say, showering) is now taken up by endlessly buying and replacing batteries...which now require a screwdriver to get to. Seriously, are there no kiddie toys that don't require batteries? And every one is a different size. I now have a reserve of A, AA, C, D, AND 9volt. Now that I think of it, I kind of miss the B size.
  • What income I used to consider disposable is now taken up by either hospital bills, doctor bills, or battery bills.
  • I notice myself violating my oath "I will never do baby babble." Hell, half the time I speak, it seems I start lisping and using a sing-song voice. I sound like a Disney reject, actually.
  • I also find myself talking in the third person an awful lot...doing things like saying "that's why Daddy really needs to drink tonight." Maybe this is how The Rock got started.
  • I've become slightly immune to medicine stains, droll stains, milk stains on my clothing. I actually have to stop and ask myself "do I look presentable?" before leaving the house...and I also find myself caring about the answer a lot less.
  • I still carry ear plugs with me everywhere, but now they're for my daughter, not my drummer.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

doom and burritos

I've been having writing issues as of late...and it's all due to my current crisis of faith. So naturally, the solution is frozen food.

First, to be completely accurate, I'm really having crises (plural) of faith, not just a single crisis. Although I know I haven't had a future as an academic for years, it is, for reasons I would really rather not discuss, hitting particularly hard as of late. This adds to my crisis in my scholarship (namely: why do any?), crisis in identity (if I'm not a scholar or an academic, what exactly am I?), crisis in hope, friends, life, television viewing, you name it. However, if you've been paying any attention to this blog whatsoever, then none of this should be a surprise.

I've started to write several blog posts about said crises, but I generally get three long paragraphs and four re-writes into them before realizing I don't really have anything new to add to what I've already written. It's a shame, really, because writing always helps me work out my issues, but if I can't say anything original about the issues, what, really, can I work out? How can I improve?

Compounded with all this is the fact that I really don't wanna be that guy who always complains about the same stuff. Complaining is, I admit, an essential part of my identity. I still remember when one of my old bosses, while smoking cigarettes with me before work, had a dawning look of comprehension and said "Mike, you sure do like to complain." I just looked at him with one of those "thanks for stating the obvious" glares. None of this means I like being the complaining guy, least not as a primary identity, that is. Moreover, I don't want to lose the friends I have who still actually wanna hang out with me. I also don't want any normal readers of this blog to feel like they're eavesdropping on a therapy session.

I know I have to expand my level of thinking. I gotta hit new subjects. I need to broaden my scope. What, you ask, might be the solution?

Strangely enough, it hit me when I was grocery shopping. There was a logjam of idiots in the aisle I wanted to travel, so I instead cut through the frozen food aisle. As someone who is proud of turning himself into a pretty good home cook, I was a little surprised at the variety of food-objects for sale. Many were of the "oh, holy hell, people actually pay for something that looks this bad on the actual box?" Others, though, were updates of things I ate occasionally growing up. Glitzier packaging, more "extreme" flavors maybe, but in the end, pizza rolls are still definitely recognizable.

My mission suddenly became clear: I would relive the frozen food of my youth, one meal a week (as to not die from chemical intake). It would make blog fodder!

Week one was frozen burritos. As a teen, I would occasionally grab one for lunch...pile on some cheddar, nuke until the burrito was hot and the cheese had plasticized on the plate, douse with salsa, and you're done! My brand was Patio. My flavor was beef and bean. Authentic? Of course not, but it was pretty tasty.

They don't sell Patio up here. In fact, I couldn't even find a beef and bean burrito in the freezer case. Everything had gotten all gourmet-looking, particularly in terms of flavors. Frozen burrito makers in the eighties had no clue what chorizo was, for instance...but now it shared a wrap with eggs. Funky.

I settled on a steak and cheese burrito. The next day, I nuked it. I tried to eat it. It was awful. I know memory plays tricks on us, and I definitely know my tastes have changed...but this had the consistency and taste (I presume) of dog food. The ends were spackle-like, the middle was gross and paste-like. There is no way my teen burritos were this bad.

Score one against nostalgia, one against current food trends, one for my frozen food memories over the reality. One would hope this week's attempt (the frozen pot pie, currently in the oven) fares better. If not, it might be a sign that the bitterness in my life is poisoning even the mass market frozen food conglomerates.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

up, up, and away

I have come to realize as of late that my daughter is a superhero. My evidence? She:

  • is able to eat more than her body weight in a single sitting!
  • has a piercing cry with the power to cripple any parents in 1.2 miles!
  • can fight nap and bed time with an intensity belied by her diminutive size!
  • is able to bend time to her own purposes! She can make a simple diaper change seemingly take an hour.
  • can squirm with the strength of ten babies (see above point).
  • can cause intermittent memory loss in outside observers! Yesterday, for instance, five minutes of laughter while the two of us were playing "hoot" made up for all the yelling and screaming of the entire grumpy day.

...but then again, I always expected she would be special.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

update...or why academics is doomed

Hey, remember the post the other day about my bad attitude towards scholarship? Well, there's been developments.

Remember how I mentioned two papers I've had trouble placing? Remember the one I called a "massive leap forward in terms of both theory and writing" and considered the best thing I ever did? Well, the essay was under review by an appropriate journal. When I sent them the submission, the journal required I print off three hard copies and mail them to the editors. At the time, I presumed the journal had yet to hear of e-mail, fax, or even teletype. Well, I just got a rejection....via e-mail. I am highly tempted to drop them a line reminding them that all rejections must be sent via hard copy....or, barring that, they need to send me a check to reimburse my shipping costs.

Secondly, the text of the rejection itself is enough to drive one up the wall. After explaining how their decision process works, they list their criteria for rejecting (not publishing, mind you...they only quantify why they don't like something) submissions. An exact quote:

  1. The subject matter or approach is not suitable for the interests and readership of [journal name redacted];
  2. The argument was deemed unconvincing; or,
  3. The argument fails to distinguish its contribution to existing literature on the topic.

Wow. That certainly clears up things. Gee, thanks.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

brain trying to kill me yet again

When I was still a scholar, I used to plan my work based on fairly logical assumptions. I tried to see where the academic world was, what was the focus of most culture studies scholarship, and I used this information to try and find myself a niche, some place where I could do what was most needed, do work which both filled a gap and precipitated curves in the scholarly world. I thought my work would come out right as a new big trend came, I would ride the crest of this new scholarly wave, and that I would come off as a leader, a pioneer.

I was, however, pretty much universally wrong in my predictions.

When I started doctoral work, I noticed how everyone in culture studies seemingly was obsessed by the race/class/gender triad. Surely, I thought, identity has to be more than just these I avoided doing race, class, or gender. The scholarly world, however, still really loves race, class or gender...and shows no sign of changing. Moreover, my idea that our concept of "mainstream" is both under-formulated yet still drastically important seems to only draw the wrath of most academics. Strike one.

When searching for a dissertation topic, I noticed that no one was doing 1980s studies. In general, I realized, people think of history as something that only starts fifty years in the past. So you are either current, historical, or in some kind of limbo. However, the eighties seemed to be an especially important decade, one where a lot of current trends and crises have their roots...the credit crunch and real estate bust, for instance, must be connected in some way to the Reagan "deficits? who cares about deficits?" angle. And time and time again, the eighties seemed increasingly relevant and ready to break as a new subject of analysis. So I started doing eighties studies in hopes of being at the front of that scholarly wave. However, in spite of multiple possible Eighties Studies-launching event after event (reinvading Iraq, the Reagan legacy project, Reagan being mentioned again and again in every presidential election (by both sides in 2008)), academics never started caring about the eighties. No one wanted to hire an Eighties scholar. Where did that leave me, who wrote a dissertation on the intersection of 1980s politics and popular culture? Facing strike two.

My job market failures made me realize I had to reinvent myself. There were, I noticed, tons of film studies jobs...but in order to land one, one had to hold a film studies degree. Television, I reasoned, was a different with more possibilities. Hell, TV, with the likes of Deadwood, The Sopranos, The Shield, The Wire, and tons of other great programs had become the creatively dominant medium. So why not refocus myself as a television scholar? This is what I did. I wrote several great articles on television, with the highlight being a publication in Television & New Media. I gained some level of prestige (or at least a minimal presence in the field). However, 97% of every television-oriented job I've seen requires production skills. I have none. My refocus as a television scholar leaves me still unemployable. Strike three.

Planning has gotten me nowhere...except out.

Lest you think all my moves (to paraphrase Clouseau) are carefully planned, I have also experimented with just letting my muse direct my writing. A few years back, I was watching the first post-Katrina New Orleans Saints home game. The broadcast, in spite of covering post-Katrina quite thoroughly as a matter of design, meticulously avoided mentioning race. It was a paper I just had to write. I still can't place it. Later, at the beginning of one of my summers, I found myself unable to sleep at night because my mind was deconstructing the traditional notions of political economy in relation to television production. My mind immediately started thinking of the then-still-in-production show Dollhouse, and, as a result, I ditched the two articles and book revision I had planned and focused on this new, "I can't get it out of my head" paper. It took me seven weeks to write. It was good, thorough, a massive leap forward in terms of both theory and writing. I still can't place it.

Following my heart didn't work out any better than following my head. This is one of the reasons I've pretty much abandoned scholarship and thinking of myself as an academic. Now, I'm trying very hard to look for nothing out of my popular culture experiences other than just killing time and occupying maybe 3% of my mind.

Today, while watching Bones (my new television addiction), I figured out a way to tie in the research from my abandoned CSI: paper with my understanding of both NCIS and Bones. It would be very doable. It would even incorporate much of my research on hierarchical authority structures, and of nerds. I even have a thesis statement in mind: "the concept of liberalism within contemporary media and society is dependent on the social positioning of geeks, nerds, and experts."

It would, in short, be good. However, it would also, if past experience is any indication, be completely pointless. No one would care. And even if a few readers liked it, cited it, used it in classes (as has happened with my scholarship in the past), it would do utterly nothing to add to my infinitesimal chances of ever finding a tenure-track job. Moreover, I don't have any time whatsoever to immerse myself in the necessary research, let alone chain myself to the computer's word processor to write the damn thing.

So why won't this idea just go away? Why did it come into my mind to begin with? Why can't I quit thinking, accept where I am, and just be?

Friday, September 23, 2011

then and now

Back when I used to think of myself as a scholar, a day without class would generally mean getting up around 8, eating while browsing the web, writing until lunch, watching a half hour of television while eating, and trying to continue to write until 4ish. I would then cook, hang out with my beautiful wife, and climb into bed around midnight. My main regret would be avoiding my guitars.

Things are different now.

Today, I woke up at 7:30 to the sound of my beautiful daughter giving us her "good morning" scream. I hugged her, changed her, and fed her. We then played "hoot" for a little bit, she hit a whale and octopus on her play mat, and then we did TummyTime. While the kiddo was napping, I checked my mail, avoided a few Facebook academic arguments, and just finished lunch when I heard the "I'm done napping" scream. When I went to get my daughter, though, she was smiling. We fed, did a trip to a produce stand, and tried to keep everyone (meaning her) happy while stuck waiting on a train (both on the way there and back). My wife came home from work, and I immediately hit the chiropractor (to get relief from hauling around my kid), hit the grocery store (to get kid supplies), picked up dinner, got to hang with my wife for an hour before she started the "get Mighty sleeping" routine and I started housecleaning. Currently, "get Mighty sleeping" is in phase two while I unwind with a vodka and apple cider.

Oh, I also avoided playing guitar again.

Monday, September 19, 2011

night is weird

I have an infant. I love her dearly. It does precipitate several lifestyle adjustments...the main one being an adjustment to irregular sleep patterns.

While I have always been a light sleeper (no doubt in response to my inherent paranoia), I don't sleep anywhere as deeply as I once did. This is probably because of the increased likelihood that either I or my lovely wife might be called into action at 3am. To be perfectly honest, it would most likely be my wife as I, after all, am not personally a food source. Furthermore, our kiddo has actually been sleeping through the night for a little while. However, I still expect her to wake up, and those expectations keep me up. Moreover, I often hear phantom kiddo sounds...I think I hear her move, cry out, hiccup...but it always turns out to be the television, a passing car, (most puzzlingly) an extraction fan, or something similar.

There is a plus side to never getting deep sleep, though: I have more vivid and rememberable dreams! Here's two from Friday night:

  • I thought I was the last survivor of a zombie apocalypse. It was, though, a pretty wimpy zombie apocalypse, because the dead only became reanimated for about two, by the time of the dream, I was more bored than scared. After a few weeks of boredom (told in dream-montage), I met another living person! And it was....either a girl from high school I used to have a huge crush on or the brunette from That 70s Show...I'm not sure which. However, the only other survivor, whomever she was? She didn't want to have anything to do with me...because I personally bored her.
  • Later that night, I dreamed I found out Sylvester Stallone was a major historian of 1980s video games. For this reason, he was called in as a consultant for Jersey Shore. He quickly became a friend of everyone in the cast. For this reason, I was called in to write an article for Esquire on him. When I got to New Jersey, I went to the beach, and there was Stallone, sitting on a weight bench in the sand, pumping iron. Only he wasn't using weights...he was bench-pressing a car axle with two tires on each side.

I'm just happy I've given up on finding meaning in anything.

Monday, September 12, 2011

my shiny weekend

Much of last week was dominated by my darling Progeny Unit's case of being illin'. The poor little kiddo has acid reflux, so we have her on a drug and off the natural BoobJuice and onto a special formula (cost as if made from ground gold, awkward to construct, makes poo smell horrific). What's worse is the little tyke is still obviously in might be getting better, but it ain't there yet, and she ain't comfortable.

I don't want to minimize her discomfort, and I know she must be feeling terrible. I cannot, however, shake my personal viewpoint. Namely, I feel horrible and useless. She's not happy, and there's utterly nothing I can do about. My knowledge goes to feeding, to diapers, to rocking her, and to singing Eagles songs in my limited, creaky voice, and when all those fail me, it's frustrating. It generally puts a black cloud over my mood.

This is where I was when my Spousal Unit came home from work on Friday. She took one look at me and told me "you need to get out tonight. No, it's really need to get out."

Luckily, there were entertainment options. I live in an awesome town, and it was the weekend of the Black Swamp Arts Festival...which is truly one of the greatest weekends of the Bowling Green social calender. This year, it caused the clouds to lift.

Because of the BSAF, everything became shiny.

I walked downtown, hit the Thai food vendor (chicken on a stick, fried rice, and a noodle dish), and headed toward the parking-lot-turned-beer-garden. The chicken particularly is awesome and shiny...I half suspect they baste it in butter. Halfway through my meal, I saw my former bass player. In spite of her duties as festival chair, she sat down with me, hung out, and, as I shoveled delicious Thai food into my gullet, we had a great talk about our former band and our changing relationship to music. She was called away for festival duties/hobnobbing, but then some other friends came by...then some more...then some more. Eventually, some of us got close to the stage to watch the very cool Stone Foxes play before I had to head home.

Next morning, my Spousal Unit had to work, so I was back on kiddie duty...but, far from being uncomfortable, the kiddo was in a positively bright mood. The Progeny Unit woke up just fine. She was happy when I woke her, happy when I changed her, happy when I fed her, and happy afterward. She fell asleep in my arms, and she was calm when I was able, with very little effort, to get her back asleep in her crib. She had a good nap, during which my spousal unit returned bearing carry-out.

After a meal/brief conversation, we got a call from an awesome friend who asked, "would you like me to come over and babysit your daughter so you two can go to the art festival?" So, an hour later, my darling Spousal Unit and I were walking hand in hand down main street, sun shining on our faces, looking at art, meeting friends, sharing an order of freshly cut french fries, and just having a wonderful time being a married couple again after a few months of being parents only. The art was even shinier this year...lotsa new artists, really cool and inventive stuff. Spousal Unit bought a postcard from this local artist who did watercolors of Halloween-esque stuff and interpretations of The Wizard of Oz. I saw about thirty seven things I just really needed to have and vowed to become a millionaire by next year's fest.

We got home, and our kiddo was just fine...beaming, even. After a good afternoon and dinner, I had to go back downtown as my new band The Black Swamp Rats was playing a show at the auxiliary rock stage.

I got there a bit early and loaded my stuff into the bar. For some reason which escapes me, they had some hip-hop guy playing in the rock club, so I jetted out of there and went back to the main stage. I ran into my new bass player, we met my old bass player, and went to the front of the stage to see Black Joe Lewis and the Honeybears. The band was, for some reason, all wearing matching black pants and shiny white (albeit not matching) shirts...but in spite of the pseudo-costumes, they utterly rocked. Joe Lewis in particular played guitar as if he was strangling the thing...which is the way it should be.

When my bassist and I got back to Howards, there was (again, for reasons which escape me) a trio playing. There was a guy on a computer. There was a guy playing death metal guitar (albeit with less melody). There was a drummer who was wearing a gas mask. They weren't as good as they sound as if they'd be, and we were to follow them. Luckily, though, the room filled back up as we set up. It was a new experience for me...playing in a new band (with whom I haven't had a full band practice), without a set list. It went fine, though. Actually, better than fine. There was a packed room. There was fairly raucous applause. There was dancing...I first noticed the woman in the shiny red dress swaying, but there were multiple dancers in the crowd.

I did a few screw-ups during the set, but they were the kind that, unless you knew my parts, you wouldn't really notice. Fortunately, I'm really the only one who knows my parts, and in general, my playing--particularly in my solos--was shiny. I think I passed the audition, because as I was getting my stuff off stage, my bassist came over, shook my hand, and thanked me for joining the band.

I got a good audience reaction as well. Although there weren't a lot of my friends in the bar (two of my closest were there for the set, but my gig lined up with someone else's birthday), I did receive several compliments. My singer told me [name redacted-local rock star] was checking out my guitar, and the singer for a cool band (with whom Analog Revolution played our first gig) told me I sounded really good in The Black Swamp Rats. Later, I got further confirmation that I did alright when, as I was hauling my equipment out of the bar, [name redacted-local rock star] (with whom I've never talked) bounded over, shook my hand, and told me I did "an excellent job."

The next morning, my Spousal Unit told me the Progeny Unit went to bed around 9 and slept through the night. When the kiddo woke up, she was again happy. After the feeding, I put her down on her play mat, and she was smacking the hanging octopus and giggling...generally in a bright mood.

Strangely enough, right about the time The Black Swamp Arts Festival was over, my daughter turned cranky again. The only real lesson from all this? Art festivals make everything glow.

Friday, September 02, 2011


Sitting at home on a Friday night? Watching your spousal unit feed your progeny unit while others are at the bar? Why, you need a drink! I call this one the "Drinker to Daddy":

  • four ice cubes go into a highball glass
  • add one measure of dark rum to remind yourself of the exotic life you used to lead
  • add a half measure of peppermint schnapps for the zest your drinking friends are no doubt experiencing
  • add a half measure of strawberry liquor for sweetness to rival the smile of your kiddo
  • top with cran-grape and stir

Thursday, September 01, 2011

road trip!

I'm on a music mailing list, where, for the last few days, people have been sharing stories of their most notable concert roadtrips. Here's my entry:

I was not, at first, a big fan of the Black Crowes. They came to my hometown of Jacksonville, FL on the Southern Harmony and Musical Companion tour. I heard them occasionally on MTV and our otherwise Classic Rock-obsessed radio station (which, to this day, has a playlist which is 95% stolen from 1986), but none of their stuff really bowled me I decided not to go. Day of the show, I'm sitting at my computer doing homework (be fair and honest: I was probably playing solitaire), and the retro rock radio channel, in honor of the show, decides to play two straight hours of the Black Crowes. The more I listen, the more I'm getting into them. After about an hour, I decide I really wanna go see them...just as the dj announces the show has sold out.

Grrr. I decide to instead do what anyone disappointed in life would do...go to the bar. On the way home, I get pulled over. I'm driving a 1973 Plymouth Duster that is, without a doubt, the worst car in the world (passenger door only opens from the inside, driver's door only opens from the outside, the roof leaks so much holes got punched in the floorboard to drain the car, there's an ecosystem of some unkillable alien mold, and there's no foam padding in the front seat...only a folded rain coat prevents me from having a metal enema whenever I drive), and it's about 30 outside, and my heater doesn't, in spite of me going relatively light on the beer, I'm shaking from the cold and can't pass the field sobriety test.

I head to jail. I pass the breathalizer test, but the technician decides to book me anyway, telling me that, under Florida law, if the arresting officer thinks I'm drunk, my blood alcohol level only has to be relatively close. Legal precision! Nice!

They put me in the holding cell. One of the cellmates was convinced the skin around organs was peeling, so he was walking around with his pants around his ankles, scratching himself (that is, until the nice officers came in, grabbed him, slammed him against the wall, and moved him into an isolation cell). Another gentleman was cold and kept trying to steal people's jackets...but everyone just basically told him to screw himself. An intimidator, he was not. Then he took to yelling at the guards, saying he had a health condition. Then he started to insulate himself by wrapping himself up with toilet paper. Then they moved me into a cell block, where my cellmate was a crack dealer.

All this because I didn't go to a show. It was a mistake, I vowed, which I would never repeat. So, when the Black Crowes toured again in our area, I decided to go. Problem one: it was in Gainesville, roughly two and a half hours away. Solution: get a bunch of friends to go with. Problem two: I got suckered into driving, which was an issue because, by that time, the Duster had died (threw a rod the day after I gave it to my brother), and I was in a not-all-that-spacious-bordering-on-microscopic Honda Prelude. Solution: cram a total of eight people inside as if using a clown car. Problem three: tickets were pricey. Solution: wait until band put special $3 "crowes nest" tickets"...because we were all cheap/broke.

We somehow got to Gainesville and untangled everyone in the car. It was at the arena where University of Florida plays basketball, which seats roughly eight thousand or so. There were about two hundred people on the floor, and the rest of the arena was pretty much empty...except for these "crowes nest" cheap seats, which were fairly full but as far away as humanly possible from the stage. I sat down as The Dirty Dozen Brass Band (the openers...who were awesome) least I think it was them and not a bunch of ants with miniature tubas. Then a guy next to me asked me if I wanted a hit...not off his joint, but off his two foot tall water bong. The security guard in the area just shook his head. I politely declined the offer, by the way.

The Black Crowes came on, played for exactly one hour and fifteen minutes, were fairly lame, and then the lights came on. We left the arena and lubed everyone up to squeeze into my Hot Wheels-esque car for the ride home. Our travel time was longer than the show itself...which, itself, was fairly unimpressive.

At least, though, I didn't get arrested this time.

Friday, August 26, 2011

bone creak

(warning: whining content ahead)

I feel old.

It hasn't always been this way. Until recently, I never really thought of my age. Now, though, I feel it in my bones.

Physically, I'm worn out. On top of my right shoulder pains, I now also have something pulled/torn/silly puttied in my left shoulder...which means my good shoulder now has the unmitigated audacity to hurt more than my bad shoulder. To add a hilarious twist, the exercises which keep my right shoulder at bay seem to exacerbate my left. Do the exercised and increase the pain on one side, or take an exercise break and increase the pain on the other side? Hum.

I'm tired. My progeny unit's erratic sleep schedule is starting to get to me, in spite of my spousal unit taking care of most of the night stuff. Night before last, the progeny unit slept through the night. This is only the second time this has happened. The first time led to about 4 hours of sleep the following night. Yesterday, the pattern of not wanting to sleep at all after a full night's sleep held true, and I fear I might have to tell my daughter she's doing it wrong. Additionally, the erratic sleeping on her part means it was a particularly bad time for my insomnia to return. Moreover, I can't even start on the coffee until she finally wakes up because my burr bean grinder sounds like a jet engine...and I have definitely learned not to wake up an under-rested baby as to not unleash her fury.

Work-wise, I'm disconnected. Summers are normally the time to do writing, reading, research...basically remember why I became an academic. This summer, I have only read thirty pages of one of the dozen scholarly books I brought home from the office, have spent a few hours finding a possible place to submit one of my two unpublished papers (which still required I mail in three physical copies; I resisted the urge to introduce them to e-mail or the 21st century) and failed completely to find a home for the other. Furthermore, I have more or less abandoned my closest-to-being-ready-to-write essay as being too far removed from events to be relevant...much like myself.

Job-wise, I'm stagnant. Yes, I should be thankful to even have a job, but this year, a record number of friends and accomplices found their field...with possible futures. More than one have had encouraging news from book publishers. Me? It has been, unless my memory fails, about four years since I've received anything other than a form rejection from anywhere I've applied. I am at a dead end. I am trying to come to terms with the fact that I will never be anything other than what I am, that there is essentially no longer an upside to my career, but it's hard; in spite of having really known this for years, to have your failure finally driven home? It is wearying. A while back, I used to tell my students that the difference between me and some much smarter MA colleagues was that I was a better worker, which is why I went on to get my PhD and they did not. However, these people do the exact same job as I and started doing so immediately after getting their MA. So the real difference? I have earned less, have higher credit card and student loan bills, yet we have the exact same career path. At least the world respects my highest of academic degrees....right? Right?

Life-wise, I feel I've missed out on so much. Why, I've been asking myself lately, did I not take the two years I took off between getting my two year and four year degree and do something interesting, like move to Colorado? Why did I not follow the lead of some friends and move into some career which would've allowed me to have a house, a new car, a pool table, something that would've meant I'd never have to life in the student ghetto for a decade? It's gotten to the point where I've quit watching any and all home improvement television out of the sheer jealousy and class hatred it evokes.

Socially, I feel isolated. A new crop of faces has entered our college town, and I've met none of them. Several people left our town without having a chance to say goodbye. And the people that are still here? The holdovers? Well, I rarely see anyone. I have one weeknight where I can go out--the Tuesdays at Howards, and this was the first time in weeks I've seen a few of my friends. Others, I haven't seen in close to a month. One friend called me several days last week to invite me out after I told him I couldn't go out anymore.

Yeah, I know. I'm whining again. Moreover, I'm ignoring all the wonderful things that are happening in my life, especially my beautiful spousal unit, my awesome progeny unit, my cool new band. However, I said a while ago I was going to be honest and open...and if you know me, you know whining is part of that honesty.

Last night, I took the second of what turned out to be many attempts to put my daughter to sleep. I picked her up, took her to the bedroom, swaddled her, and she started to scream, to flail. It was one of those times where she just would not be placated, where all of my (normally successful) tricks abandoned me. It's hard enough emotionally to bear her screams in the best of times. She yells with her whole body, her bottom lip starts to quiver, and she gains an Exorcist-esque pitch and timbre. Factor in my flaring shoulders, the mounting insomnia, and I came close to weeping myself.

Please tell me it will get better. Barring that, please tell me I will get tougher.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

The Heating Pad

Have two types of tendinitis in one shoulder...and a pulled muscle in the other (which actually hurts worse)? Still working on recovering from the insomnia which had the bad timing to ruin for you a rare sleep-through-the-night session from your progeny unit? Afraid to say too much about your afflictions in fear of having friends call you a whiner? Why, you need a drink:

  • take a double dose of some generic ibuprofen variety
  • place three ice cubes in a cocktail glass
  • add one measure of Tennessee whiskey (although rye or bourbon would do in a pinch)
  • add one half measure of triple sec
  • top with a good ginger beer
  • hope the concoction quells the aches in your torso


For the second go-round (hey, the recipe only uses half of the ginger beer...I have to make another!), as the original drink used up all my Tennessee whiskey, I was moving to rye....although I wasn't singing "this will be the day that I die" or indeed anything else. I decided to similarly replace the triple sec with some strawberry liqueur. The resulting variation? I call it The Ice Pack.

Monday, August 22, 2011

The Urchin Sabbatical

Contemplating a semester with no student contact? Had a long day being parental/homemaker/cooking unit? Need a pick-me-up? Well, then, you're in luck...because it's time for a new drink! I call this one The Urchin Sabbatical:

  • put a few ice cubes into a highball glass to remind yourself what a cold, lonely world it can be
  • add a measure of vodka in honor of all the drunken undergrads you will never meet
  • add a half measure of raspberry schnapps in salute to the fruity comrades who are taking your classes while you wash diapers
  • top with a good ginger beer...because you're a zesty guy, damnit
  • stir, sip, enjoy, while contemplating late night feedings

Saturday, August 20, 2011

a conversation

An exchange:

"Sorry you didn't get much sleep last night. I tried to get her to go down, but she was fighting it."

"Don't worry. You tried hard. You're a marvelous daddy."

"It's just so aggravating. I just want her to sleep, and she's regressing. She's sleeping like a two week old again."

"It'll get better. Remember, our doctor said some babies start to sleep regularly in two months, some take four..."

"Yeah, I know, but it just seems to be getting worse. Honestly, I'm just really exhausted...and you're getting less sleep than I am."

"Well, don't take this the wrong way, but I'm just a less cranky person than you."

"Duh. The only person I know who is more cranky is [name redacted]. Honestly, I'm so cranky, I'm surprised no one's offered me my own talk show."

Friday, August 19, 2011

on bad ideas

Do you ever have one of those thought which you just know is a horrible and rotten idea, the kind of thing which no one in their right mind would do or even condone, yet the idea persists nonetheless? My latest experience with such thoughts centered around my daughter.

Tuesday and Wednesday nights were not exactly quiet and peaceful in the TheMikeDuBose household. The progeny unit, for reasons which will remain a mystery until she learns how to talk (which should be some time next week, right?) decided that sleep was for chumps. Furthermore, she also decided that if she had to sleep, there was no point falling off unless she had spent an average of six hours, seventeen minutes actively fighting sleep...mostly by screaming and flailing. Now, for the record, I love the little bugger wholeheartedly, but the sleep ... um, difficulties ... did not have a positive effect on household morale in general.

Wednesday night, we gave her the supposedly calming and soothing bath, and by 9:30, my darling spousal unit went to put the progeny unit to sleep. I was catching up on chores, so I don't know exactly what was happening. Enough was clear, though, to realize that whatever was going on in the nursery, it didn't involve slumber, rest, or anything else we parental units might actively desire.

A half hour till midnight, I took over get-thee-to-rest duty so the spousal unit could lay down. The progeny unit, however, had no intention of doing anything of the sort, and she made this very clear in an extremely voluminous manner. She's a darlng girl, but if she's not happy or doesn't want to do something, she will let you and your ear drums know. Things got incrementally worse if I had the gall to, say, try sitting or even leaning against something. Somewhere after an hour of holding my darling, wonderful girl who insisted on flailing, screaming, and generally acting like a stunt double for The Exorcist, I had an idea.

What, I pondered, would happen if I matched her scream-for-blood-curdling-scream? If every time she yelled in my face, I yelled back in hers? If every time she flailed her body, I did likewise? It would, I decided, be tremendously stress-relieving (and, by this point, I had more than a little stress). It would be therapeutic in that it might take my mind off my tendinitis-weakened shoulder and inflamed back, both glowing after a few hours of pacing and rocking the little bundle of hellion-esque joy. Moreover, it would, to an outside observer, probably be pretty funny...imagine walking into a room and seeing a father holding his screaming daughter, leaning into her face, matching her scream-for-scream, decibel-for-decibel. Kid lets out an "EEERRRGGGGHHHKK?" Parent leans over, looks on in pride, and then lets out an even louder "EEEEEEEERRRRRRRRRRGGGGGGGHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!"

Even in my mentally weak state, though, I realized such an action, while cathartic and possibly entertaining, very well might not be in anyone's best interest. Luckily, somewhere around 1:47, the progeny unit calmed down on her own and fell asleep. I kissed her, laid her down in her crib, and told her that I loved her in spite of any demonic fits she might display. I then crawled into bed for some blissful, restorative slumber, my thoughts of screaming directly in my daughter's face receding.

In case you're wondering: the benefit of this particular struggle/yelling session? A little over an hour sleep on each side.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

somebody get me a doctor

A little over two months ago, me and the spousal unit welcomed our progeny unit into the world. Ever since then, it has been landmark after landmark: first time rolling over by herself (which actually happened her first night home), first sleep through the night (which hasn't happened since), first word (which sounded like "BBBBBRRRAAAWWWAAAGGGHHHH!!!" ... but very loud), first unbelievably scary diaper (the less said, the better), and first stock market tip (for a cryogenics company). This week, we have hit another landmark: first hospital bill.

Frankly, I'm glad. That means only a few more payments, and we'll own that kid outright.

They would've started rolling in earlier, but there were, of course, insurance mix-ups and bureaucratic snafus. At the hospital, they insisted our darling kiddo have the spousal unit's last name on all paperwork even though we were giving her my last name in real life. Of course, this led to rejected insurance claims, and I had to make separate calls to straighten out the mess with the facility's billing and the hospital's billing...which apparently are separate corporations in spite of occupying the same space/time coordinates. Stephen Hawking should be consulted on this anomaly.

We got the first actual bills yesterday. Honestly, they weren't as scary as I was expecting (which cannot, incidentally, be said about placenta). Unlike many of my fellow countrymen, I actually have pretty good insurance...which is one of the reasons I urge all you to join me in a rousting chorus:

The bills are, however, still curious. Both of them are from companies which label themselves "consultants," and this is frankly something I don't understand. If it's just a name thing, okay...hell, trucking companies are now "logistics corporations," so if a fancy title makes you sleep at night, I, as a former asphalt pigmentation application specialist, certainly understand. However, now when I see a statement from "Anesthesiology Consultants," I have to start wondering if it was an actual anesthesiologist whose services we used. Did the person who delivered my spousal unit's drugs really need to consult with someone? Will we get a bill for both actual and theoretical anesthetic services? How many medical people does it take to deliver an epidural?

Now...when is that damn diaper consultant gonna show up?

Saturday, August 13, 2011

the second band

Time for a new mixed drink? Why, yes, it is!

  • Fill a highball glass half full of ice
  • Add one measure of cheap Scotch
  • Add one half measure of Raspberry Schnapps
  • Top with Seven Up
  • Drink, enjoy, and wonder how you're going to learn a full set in one week before your debut in a new band

Friday, August 12, 2011

life in the swamp

Ripple effects. They're everywhere. Even, it seems, in rock and roll.

Way back at the start of the night, when my old band Analog Revolution played our first show, I remember being on stage, nervous as all hell, setting up my equipment. As I was running wires to my effects pedals, the guitarist from the third band started hauling his equipment through the stage door. He stopped and said, "Hey, cool homemade pedalboard, man!" Partway through the set, said guitarist hung out on the side of the stage for a song or two to watch me play. After we finished, said guitarist was the first person to come up to me to tell me we sounded good.

So went my first introduction to Sr. Bob Wobbly.

Bob started showing up to most of our was a sure bet that if I would look off the stage, I would see his ball cap. When his first band started not playing out frequently enough for him, he started another. When he got bored, he recruited my awesome singer and bassist for a third band. And when he found out Analog Revolution was breaking up, he asked me if I wanted to join him in what would be his fourth band. The man, it must be said, really likes music.

A few months ago, when his second band (the awesomely named Black Swamp Rats) were opening for Analog, I realized they were (in all deference to Kitty Glitter and , both of which I like) my favorite band of his. When I booked Analog's final gig, they were the first band I asked to play with us. And during that final gig, I ended up dancing/fake moshing/hurting myself when they were blasting on stage...all the while thinking "man, I'd love to play with them."

Now, Bob and I had already decided to play together, and I had
thought long and hard about the new we would sound, what we would do, what the theory behind our approach would be. I wrote about 11 songs, recorded eight demos, and had been (sort-of) working on lyrics. Only one problem: we had nowhere to practice. I would've offered my house, but there's not enough rock band rehearsals and 2 month old kiddies don't mix. We couldn't play at Bob's place, because he now lives above a pizza joint. While the band had good songs, a good approach, and would itself have a lot of up-side, it was also looking like that potential would take ages to reach...and it might be up to a year before we could actually play out.

Wednesday night, I got a call from Bob asking me if, rather than start a new band, I would rather just join the Black Swamp Rats as a second guitarist.

I thought about it for about half a nano-second before saying yes. I told him (honestly) I was honored. If he would've asked, I would've told him I would've rather played with the Swamp Rats than anyone else around...particularly since The Hold Steady continues to not call for my services.

So it's official: I am now a Black Swamp Rat. So we're going to meet Monday and discuss strategy. I know not all of the songs we wrote for the 4th Bob band project (which, incidentally, was gonna be called The Bombastics) will work for the Black Swamp Rats...but hell, I don't care. They have a definite sound, and it's one in which I think I can easily fit and even enhance. Plus, I know they kick it should be really, really fun. Hell, the drummer's already sent me a "welcome to the band" e-mail.

Ever since the call, I have been slightly giddy. The last two nights, I've had problems getting to sleep because my mind won't quit working on guitar parts. It's gonna be good.

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

empty houses

It's just a line from your old town
where we're still drinking to the times
when you were around

Last night, I told a friend that we were at what was both the best and the worst party I've been to in a while. The two of us were on the front porch swing, as friends inside listened to music, talked, and drank to our friends who were leaving the state in the morning.

One of my friends got an awesome tenure-track job in Washington state, so both of them decided to hold an empty house party last night before getting up this morning for their cross-country trek to their new home, to their new lives. Naturally, I am truly happy for them both. You gotta love new adventures, and you particularly have to love when someone's career path/dream pans out...because that is increasingly rare nowadays. So a large part of me is thrilled that life was going in a good direction for them.

I also realize how greatly enriched my life has been by knowing both of them. Without these two, I wouldn't have played in a band, got to know several other people, had so many fun nights listening to music together, talking at the bar, hanging out on our back porch, discussing new (to me) ideas, generally and genuinely connecting with two wonderful people.

So there is a lot of good here. Yet they're still leaving my life. That street, that house, they will now just be another addition to the increasingly long list of places where friends of mine used to live.

I've mentioned before that my father was in the military. Even though he made great efforts to try and give us as close to a normal life as he could, there was still a lot out of his control. He might keep us at one base for five years, but our friends would still regularly move out. Starting school each year was starting over. Who would be here this time? That person who you used to talk to during recess? They were now in Guam, or on the west coast, or somewhere didn't really matter where, because the only real important thing was that they were far from where you lived.

When my Dad retired, we moved to his hometown of Jacksonville. The first immediate difference I noticed (apart from the hellish heat and humidity) was that when I went to school that first day, there weren't a bunch of people who were looking for new friends because their best friend's dad just got transferred to the other side of the world. No, everybody had a full array of friends, because they had known the same people all their lives. That, it seemed, was the big difference between being the kid of a military man and being the child of a civilian.

I lived in Florida for fourteen years, and I kinda got used to knowing the same people for years on end. When I entered my doctoral program, though, it flung me back into the realm of short-term friends. Although the people I have met up here are the best friends I've ever had, I still have to brace myself for their eventual departure.

Each year, the list of places where friends used to live grows, and simple strolls around town become an exercise in mental three dimensional archeology. I walk down this street, where my friend is now in Minnesota. This house is one a few people I know shared; now they are in Pennsylvania, Connecticut, and Maryland respectively. I turn down another street. My friend from Romania used to live in this apartment complex. I walk past another house, and I have no idea if the dear friend who used to live here is permanently a resident of Michigan or of Norway. I head home and pass the complex where my friend used to live who died unexpectedly this past year.

It's wearying.

I had these thoughts last night, as my soon-to-be-departing friends were holding what was admittedly a righteous party...good music, good friends, good food, good drink, good conversation...yet it was already a prelude to an empty place where yet more departed friends used to live.

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

late night realizations

One of the awesome gifts someone got my progeny unit in one of her thirteen baby showers is a stuffed bear which plays sounds designed to calm or keep a child asleep. Choices include waves crashing on the beach, rain, a mother's heartbeat (recorded in utero), and whale songs. It's honestly pretty push a button, and it provides an hour of sounds while you (supposedly) get your urchin to sleep.

Last night/way too early this morning, my progeny unit woke up. Spousal unit fed progeny unit and then handed her off to me (seeing as I am the daytime caretaker unit and she has to work). Progeny unit, though, was decidedly un-tired. I had every trick in the book (literally; someone just recommended The Happiest Baby on the Block, and I was pulling out every bit of advice, to relatively decent effect), but that little kid was fighting sleep with all she got.

After three hours, several sleep sound machine re-sets, and two failed feeding attempts, she finally went back down to la-la land...and in her crib, no less! I then collapsed in my own bed. As I lay there trying to shut off my mind, I could still hear the whale sounds playing from down the hall. They say whale songs are language of a sort. This immediately set me thinking: what exactly are these particular whales saying? What if these whales are trying to corrupt my kiddo? What kind of insidious whale-messages exactly am I unwittingly piping into my daughter's room?

What if these whales are terrorists? Drug addicts? RIAA supporters? Karaoke singers? Tea partiers? Baseball fans? What if they're evil in some other way, like maybe being Rachel Ray fans? You see? We really have no idea what they're saying...and this is something I never considered until I became a father...more specifically, a father awake at 5am, running on two hours of sleep.

Yeah, sure, they're probably just talking about plankton availability...but can we really take that chance? What about the children? Won't someone think of the children????.

I am, by the way, realizing exactly how much I now need coffee.

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

sing and scream

I have a seven week old child who, in spite of being loving, lovely, loved, and generally sweet, also in fact...well, she's a seven week old child. This means that, no matter how awesome she might be the vast majority of the time, there will inevitably be anywhere from 1-7 daily screaming fits/meltdown periods lasting anywhere from five minutes to three hours apiece.

I was, on some level, prepared for this. People, particularly pernicious parents, went out of their way to describe the screams I would face. Our parenting classes even had a video about this called The Blue Period...which inexorably built to the moral: no matter how much your kid might scream, don't shake them. Somehow, they left out telling us we should not drop-kick our kid, put said child in the microwave, slip in vodka into her bottles, or so forth (which, I guess, were inferred to just be common sense, unlike the shaking thing).

The thing is, though, as much as one can intellectually prepare for events, sometimes there is no substitute for actual experience. When my lovely, beautiful, exceptional-in-every-way child started to get upset, I expected screams. I did not, however, expect Exorcist-level wails...or, for that matter, the accompanying spinning head.

I do all the standard things to calm her down. I cuddle, talk in reassuring tones, pace around, perform a sacred hoop dance. The thing that tends to have the most effect is (to the extent anything actually helps, that is) singing to her. I sing Wilco songs. I dive into Son Volt, Neil Young, classic rock, indy rock, all kinds of things. But what, you might ask, has the highest "soothing loud babies" quotient? What artist works the most wonders on my kiddo?

It's The Eagles.

Seriously. My kid is, more often than not, soothed most effectively when I sing Eagles songs to her. My progeny unit finds The Eagles's Their Greatest Hits: 1971-1975 to be both calming and relaxing. She seems to like "Take It to the Limit," "Lying Eyes," "Desperado," and "Take It Easy" above the others. While I'm not saying they're the key to Magical Sleeping Baby Moment, more often than not, if my girl starts to come down from a meltdown, I've been singing one of these four songs to her.

This is actually fine by me. While I know how fashionable it is to utterly hate The Eagles, I've always kinda liked them...and I am now old enough, secure in my identity, and generally don't give enough of a rat's tuchus to feel bad about admitting that in public. I know this puts me at odds with many of my friends (including my old bandmates, who, when I suggested doing a punk version of "Lying Eyes," looked at me like I just suggested adding cannibalism to our stage show). I can't tell you why they hate them so much--probably something to do with irrational country music hatred--but ultimately, I don't care.

As long as their songs help my daughter take it easy and dry her crying eyes, thus giving her a peaceful, easy feeling, I don't care if The Eagles give my friends a heartache tonight. I will continue to like The Eagles and encourage my daughter to do the same. If my daughter is crying as if suffering from a heartache tonight, I will sing, sing, thus, in some small way, giving her the best of my love.

Although, if the singing quits working, one of you might need to bring me a tequila sunrise or something.

Monday, August 01, 2011

time keeps on slippin'

A few months before the "blessed event," I was in my office during the last week of classes, clearing up some last minute tasks...damning students, filling out paperwork, and the like. One of my former bosses (who, once upon a time, had the temerity to actually hire me) stopped by, and we briefly chatted...the "brief" bit being a necessity, as former boss's new position has her transferring from being merely busy to being one of the busiest humanoid beings in existence, apparently. She asked, among other things, how the (then still in-progress) pregnancy was going.

Eventually, she got that demonic look on her face (I know it well; she was my boss) and asked "Do you know what they call the first six weeks after delivery? The worst part of the pregnancy!" She then vacated, leaving me alone to face this portent of doom (as she is want to do).

For the longest of time, I would hear similar warnings about the first six weeks of life as being hell-like. I would, it seems, never sleep, never see anyone, never have a moment of sanity. We were bombarded with warnings, threats, hellacious laughter. This taught me, as I recounted earlier, that parenthood tends to turn parents into least when around parents-to-be.

But there was always that time element. Six weeks. A month and a half. Conquer that, the implied message of hope claimed, and you can conquer anything.

Yesterday, our progeny unit hit the seven week mark...and I've been noticing that, for the last few weeks, the words of warning from prior parents have been changing as our baby ages. First there was one simple "oh, if you get through the first two months, you will be fine." Then someone claimed 2-3 months. Next, I heard "half a year, and it will get easy." Some other well(?)-wisher told me it would be the first year.

What are you bastards doing to me? Enough with the threats! Just come on out, tell me it gets easier after the 22nd year, and get it over with!

daytime caretaker unit diary

Today, I move from just being a paternal unit to being...(pause here for dramatic tension)...a sole daytime progeny caretaker unit. It is an awesome amount of responsibility...not to mention being a lot longer to type.

For the first seven weeks after d-day, the maternal unit was here with me, and we shared the joyous act of caring for the progeny unit. Unfortunately, maternal unit had to go back to work. We would've loved to have her here longer, but she's part time and therefor doesn't get paid when she doesn't work...and we are not, unfortunately, independently wealthy. While I perfectly understand the "you gotta work to get money" thing, I don't really get the whole "parenthood is blessed, but you don't deserve time with your new urchin unless you're rich" thing. A while back, I found out (via this post on the awesome Sociological Images) that the US is one of only six countries worldwide that don't require employers to offer paid maternity leave (go US!). I guess we, as a country, think it's either work or parenthood, but not both. I will agree with my female brethren: this just don't seem fair.

Fortunately, though, I have a good job. Yes, it's outside my field; yes, I have to read a lot of papers (of the "welcome to college" student quality level); and yes, I'm pretty just a worker bee/university slave, but there are real benefits...the chief one (relevant to this conversation, anyway) is my semester of paid parenthood leave...hence me being the daytime daddy.

Naturally, this is gonna dominate my thinking for a little while. However, I promise not to go all "oooh, you should see the adorable thing my kiddie did today" on you. No one wants to read that. Besides, without the accompanying possibility of spit-up, you would only be getting half the story anyway.

But it does mean a few things relevant to our time together, mainly: in between the feedings (one so far today), diaper changes (several, with one in particular bordering on "great googly-moogly" territory), meltdowns (one so far, but that was solved by me rocking her while singing The Eagles), and diaper washing (in progress as we speak...all hail the high efficiency I would really hate to drag these suckers to the creek and beat them between two rocks), I will finally find time to blog again. This will likely happen mostly, I suspect, during naps (hers, not mine).

Now I just gotta learn to type quietly.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

The Sleeping Baby

You know what it's time for? Yepper, a new drink! I call this one "The Sleeping Baby":

  • take a highball glass/juice glass/sippie cup and put in a few ice cubes
  • add one measure of vodka while thinking of the gulags
  • add one measure of wild strawberry liqueur while thinking of the forests
  • add a half measure of raspberry schnapps while wondering why "raspberry" has a "p" in the name
  • top off with orange juice
  • stir, drink, relax, and watch your formerly sleeping child squirm

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

on establishing a permanent record

Because of the blessed nature of being in a really good band, I am and can fully conceive of myself as a musician. One of the things that musicians do (other than annoying their family, friends, passers-by; put on the facade of a monster ego to cover up mass insecurities; and make a lot of noise in loud venues populated by intoxicated people, some of whom would rather be either dancing or playing bar-top trivia games) is record. Hell, even if it wasn't part of the standard musician playbook, I'd want to establish a permanent record of my music if just for the "I must live on forever! MWAHAHAHA!" part of my personality alone.

So, how is the recording process? Surely, you are thinking, it must be fabulous getting the chance to finally document your material. How could it be anything other than interesting taking sounds in your heat, moving them from your fingers, into steel strings, through magnets, wire, effects, tubes, speakers...all in concert with other musicians who you love and trust? How could this not be utterly and completely fascinating? Enthralling? Transcendent?


I still want to eventually do good professional recordings one day, to have on tape (or some digital facsimile thereof) a version of one of my songs which approaches the version in my head. But, if my experiences are typical in any way whatsoever, I am not sure how bands can spend more than a few weeks in the studio and come out with their sanity. How, perchance, might someone be a member of Boston or Guns N' Roses? How could you survive multiple years in the studio working on the same damn collection of ten songs?

The above, though, was my current band's attempt to just do some raw, mic-in-the-room recordings, and there are occasional technical hiccups in any situation which have to be, for the record, we are not usually sitting around, reading, or passed out while someone twists knobs and hits things. We are, however, responsible for each other's feelings, attitudes, and opinions, so we have to give each other a lot of space...which means, rather than a "let's bust out our set in an hour" session, recording tends to be play once, wait while people listen and judge the take, and play again...albeit twenty minutes after the previous take. I understand the lack of flow, but it is still an issue for my level of playing and of interest.

Doing it on your own, though, is not really any quicker or less aggravating.

I have mentioned before that, after Analog Revolution goes away, I have another project in the works. In this new band-to-be, I will be shouldering a decent amount of the conceptual and songwriting load. Well, in the week before the progeny unit showed up, I decided to assemble some rough demos at the other band members would (1) be able to hear the riffs again (since, while I was in the final stages of urchin-readiness, we haven't been practicing) and (2) have a good idea of the structure and overall sound floating in my head.

Stage one was to find a drum machine I possess neither the massively expensive drum set nor the coordination required to play one. There are tons of good programs out there, and some came very highly recommended....but they all cost money, and I am, if nothing else, relatively broke. So I did some arduous searching (well...I googled it) and settled on a nice open-source program.

I then had to learn the program. Operating the software was not really the issues...the program I found is relatively intuitive. No, the difficulty is simply I don't know how to play drums. True, I have listened to drums all my life, and I have known many drummers. Apparently, though, I only gained a slight theoretical knowledge of their craft in the process of hanging out with them. Osmosis, I guess, only gets you so far. Ultimately, I learned the biggest thing to be gleaned by hanging out with drummers is an increased proficiency with profanities.

It took a few days of messing with the program, but eventually, I attained a certain proficiency programming drums. More than anything else, I was amazed by the innate mathematics involved in drumming. Fractions in particular. One song in particular tripped me up for a full day before I realized the drum part needed to be in triplets...which changed the mathematics considerably. This is all funny, because I never really saw any of my drummer friends as math savants...but I guess there's also some intuition at work.

After the drums were programmed, I then set out to record the guitars...which, as I have been playing guitar since 8th grade and had written all the songs in question...well, this should be no problem, huh? Should be "I'm gonna knock out ten guitar tracks, assemble a guitar army, be the envy of Brian May," right? Not the case. When we were doing the Analog Revolution recordings, I was chagrined to find we would only end up with three songs recorded in a three hour session. Why, I wondered, couldn't we speed up the whole process? Hell, Black Sabbath recorded their entire first album in twelve hours.

Wrong again, idiot self. When I recorded on my own, I still did about three songs in a three hour session. I'm not sure if the recording process makes me over-think everything, or if I'm really just that tremendously sloppy/imprecise of a guitar player...probably the latter, which is a tremendous blow to my ego. Even though I was in control of all aspects of these fledgling demos, it still took me forever to do a job that was simply...good enough. Sigh.

I'm now realizing that I need to get back to the live element. I'm much better when there's immediacy between myself and the band, between the band and the audience, when we can get locked into the energy, the emotion, the pure awesome sound, and just let the music take us where it needs to go.

That our audience is drinking and, as a result, has lowered expectations is just a bonus. Yeah...that's what it is.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

delayed notification

I've been understandably busy, or I would've posted about this earlier, but in case you haven't heard from other sources:

World, please say hello to Sylvia Emily DuBose. She arrived on Sunday, 6/12, at 3:35pm, weighing in at 8 pounds, 14 ounces, measuring in at 22". Please be good to her and help her develop into the awesome person she is destined to become.