Wednesday, December 31, 2014

the obligatory end of the year summation

With less than five hours left in the year, the time seems right to come to terms with the year that was. I normally am not one for too much sentimentality, but as someone who has committed to catalog his life in a public forum, I feel I owe it to my readers...both of them.

There has been a lot of bummer events this year. Gout is not fun. Surgery one was not fun. Surgery two was measurably worse. Neither was cheap. I'm still working under my 2010 contract, so I haven't had a raise in the last few years. My car already has had major repair work and has more major reconstruction in its future. All these add up to enough expense to kill push my dream of home ownership back another year.

In spite of all of these, I am actually in a fine mood. Yes, I've had occasional flare-ups, but my depression is at its most managed state ever. I released a solo album (available online). My daughter keeps getting more and more fun, and my wife seems to still like me for some reason.

There are (of course) things which need changing. I need to figure out how to expand my musical fanbase; I'm fiercely proud of my music, and I really want to share it more effectively. I would love to get back into photography and actually use that DSLR camera gathering dust in my closet. And I need to find some more friends...I go too long between hanging out with people.

Overall, though, I'm not too shabby...and that is a nice feeling.

emergency TheMikeDuBose show this Friday!

Once again, I get an emergency show at Howard's Club H in Bowling Green! I play this Friday (1/2/15) with Good Personalities and Chris MtCastle. I haven't seen Good Personalities yet, but Chris played with me the other week, and he's fun. We got a Merle Haggard cover! I'll have a bunch of originals for you, including many off my album Skeleton Coast. I'll have copies for sale, or you can get it online as a pay-what-you-want (even free) download at Bandcamp! If you're in Northwest Ohio, I would love to see you there!

Monday, December 29, 2014

testing zen

New Years Eve is the day after tomorrow, and I have no plans. None. This hasn't happened since junior high. I was invited to a party a few weeks ago, but all traces of the event have disappeared from social media...for me, at least.

Two days after that, I will be playing a show at Howard's Club H (my favorite bar in the world). This will be the first of three January shows.

These two have to balance out, right?


my 2014 best of music and media

  1. The Both, s/t
I've been a big Aimee Mann fan for a long time, but her last two albums have been...well, let's say “dull.” This one crackles from minute one.
  1. Counting Crows, Somewhere Under Wonderland
The best thing this band has done in ages. This is fun and loose...and I suspect that if it was any other band in the world, this would be ranked a lot higher in the general population. Plus let's face it: the song “Elvis Went to Hollywood” alone should earn them props.
  1. Centromatic, Take Pride in Your Long Odds
Damnit, why do so many bands break up right after I start to really get them?
  1. TheMikeDuBose, Skeleton Coast
Is it self-serving to put my own album on my top ten list? Sure. Selfish? Undoubtedly. But this has had the largest impact on my understanding of music of any album. It would be ranked higher, but I heard it so much in the recording process... Available on Bandcamp.
  1. Lydia Loveless, Somewhere Else
Lydia is something else, and she's firing on all cylinders. Also, I met Todd May this year, and he was just too cool.
  1. Against Me!, Transgender Dysmorphia Blues
Politically, this would be one of the most important albums released in recent history. But forget all that. Against Me! just really rocks on this one.
  1. Band of Skulls, Himalayan
I've got a soft spot for these guys. Much more solid than their last album.
  1. Mastodon, Once More 'Round the Sun
I like the variety of The Hunter a bit more than this one, but this is still really cool.
  1. Kitty Glitter, Meow Hear This
Personal choice, but these guys just bring a really nice mix of pop sensibility and heaviness. Available via Bandcamp.
  1. Flaming Hot Marbles, We Play For Keeps
Prog rock meets good rock and roll. These guys are one of my favorite area bands and one of my favorite overall. Available via Bandcamp.

Also: Black Swamp Casket Company, Fish Fisher, TroubleGiant demos.

Disappointments: Ryan Adams (I generally like him, but snoozeville this time), Tweedy (gotta love the guy, but honestly, I haven't cared for much after Sky Blue Sky), The Hold Steady (horrible production).

Film of the year: Grand Budapest Hotel

TV of the year: Agents of SHIELD (man, did season one pick up)

Book of the year: Information Doesn't Want to be Free by Cory Doctorow (essential reading for anyone in the arts)

an exercise in theory

Today was the kind of day where nothing seemed all that interesting. This usually means television time, but in spite of having three streaming services, I struggled to find anything to pique my interest.

Eventually, I settled on home improvement television...and, as I write, I am on the eighth episode of Home Again. This is the series Bob Villa did after leaving This Old House. I wanted to watch the original TOH, but it doesn't seem to be available beyond the current season (which I finished last week). I've seen these all before, but it has been a while...and I do have an obsessive streak.

I actually know an awful lot about home improvement. This knowledge does not come, however, from personal experience. I rent rather than own (having my own place is a dream which recedes with every car repair and surgical bill), and although I worked briefly in construction, my job as an asphalt pigmentation application specialist (painting lines on parking lots) doesn't really translate. I have, however, watched an awful lot of home improvement television...and that's gotta count for something, right?

There was a time when I expected my second or third scholarly book to be about the phenomenon of home improvement television. The scholarly life, however, is long gone. I still kinda remember what I was gonna argue, but I can't really bring myself to dwell on it while I watch the in this sense, these shows are as inapplicable to my current situation as is the repair hints angle.

So here I am, continually watching my (now ninth episode of ) Home Again for no apparent reason. Even I cannot figure out exactly what is keeping me sucked in. Is there really a point to watching this? There has to be more exciting programming available...and I have no real need of even more completely irrelevant, impractical theoretical knowledge.

Maybe, when you cannot actually try, there's some value to suspecting that, if given a shot, you might stand a chance of succeeding. Maybe that's enough.

I've told myself this on numerous occasions, for many different reasons, on many different subjects, though...and it's never really satisfying.

Friday, December 26, 2014

holiday recap

We spent yesterday at my sister's place. Some observations:
  • On the car ride, we discovered my 3.5 year old likes Band of Gypsies. I knew she was cool, but this just rockets her to another level. She was jammin'.
  • A scary sorta in-law did make an appearance...but he was quite fine. The only thing he did that really bugged me was him taking about 23 minutes every time he had to take a turn in euchre. This came close to pushing me into a blind fit of rage.
  • My Michigan nephew was brow-beaten into playing Christmas carols on his tuba. This, while weird enough on its own, was nothing compared to when my 3.5 year old daughter decided to accompany him on piano and vocals. Wondrous and hilarious.
  • I got the coolest of all possible gifts: a quilted Space Invader!This, of course, means that I win case you were wondering.
  • I got to sit next to my Florida dinner became a long attempt to make him laugh/look at me weird. He's really a great guy. I just wish I got to see him more often.
  • When one has been mostly vegetarian since August, prime rib (no matter how tasty) might not be the best option. I've felt sluggish ever since.
  • There was only one offensive part of the whole day: when one of the extended family said that fascism and socialism were both always evil. This didn't offend my morality so much as make my head hurt.
  • When the nephews don't really want their Atari Flashback 5, it's good to be in the right place at the right time.


The parents are coming to stay with us for a few days, so it's time to do all the cleaning and organization our 3.5 year old usually doesn't allow us to pursue. For me, the major labor of such tasks is mainly mental triage...I do this, then this, then this.

The major difficulty I've found cropping up in this household when I apply such an approach is that my triage expression is, according to my wife, indistinguishable from my "I'm about to have a mental breakdown" face. This of course means my carefully planned labor is generally delayed by my need to repeatedly say, "No, I'm okay," "No, I don't need to lie down," or "While a therapist might indeed be a wise idea, I don't actually need an emergency appointment... but thanks anyway."

Friday, December 19, 2014

the last 2014 TheMikeDuBose

Tonight, I play what's probably my last show of the year. It's been an interesting year. I've played a decent number of shows. I played my first music festival. I finally assembled my own backing band for the occasion...which broke up a few days later. I finished recording an album, Skeleton Coast, which was released to great acclaim (hey, it could've happened) and sold twos of copies.

I play at Howard's at 10. I'll be doing a bunch of stuff off the album, which I will have for sale. I'll be doing my Christmas song "Xmas in the Drunk Tank," and I've also learned a version of "Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas" with the original, highly depressing lyrics. I have a trombonist joining me.

Come join me.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

sometimes you eat the bear

Life is always full of pluses and minuses. Last night, I was in a bad mood...a "slay walruses" kind of mood. Then I went to do some writing.While there, the bartender told me she thought my flyer for this weekend's show was (and I quote) "freakin' sweet." Then I came home, and my daughter (who really should've been in bed) came running to the door, arms spread open, to give me a "welcome home" hug.

Today, I had to drop by my daughter's day care on the way to work to give them a check. My daughter's home sick, and when the kids heard that, I heard a few "aww"s...even though she's only been going there a few weeks. I get to work, and I get a call from the hospital. I found out two things:
  1. the last few bills haven't been reaching me, and I have an outstanding balance; and
  2. my insurance helped my surgery bills, but I still have a sizable amount of money due.
This last one is pretty depressing, because we were hoping to get into a house this summer. Then I find out that, for this weekend's show, I might have musical accompaniment...which is cool. I have two students scheduled for the "I have questions about my final grade" talk. However, neither of them are whiners or criers (I usually get some of each).

Right now, I'm trying to figure out to which side I currently reside on the ole ledger sheet. What impact all this might have on the rest of the day? Should I let this affect what I have for lunch?

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

TheMikeDuBose plays at Howards this weekend!

Want to come see the TheMikeDuBose acoustic act but haven't had the opportunity? Well, wait no more! I play this Friday at Howard's Club H in Bowling Green. I go on at 10 (with possible allowances for bar time). I'll be playing a nice selection of original songs, including many from my album Skeleton Coast.

As it's the season, I'll probably also be playing my original Christmas song for the first time since last January! It's called "Christmas in the Drunk Tank." It's only sorta inspired by real life events, promise! I'm also going to work up a version of "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" but with the original lyrics. Before Judy Garland did it, it was a real upper; the original opening line is "Have yourself a merry little may be your last."

A fun time will be had. The other players are great, and I'm not too shabby either!

what becomes of a formerly social institution

I'm at Howards. When I was a grad student, we made a point of trying to get out and socialize on at least one, instead of standard drunken weekend activities, we could have one night to discuss our new academic life outside the confines of schoolwork...when we weren't actively trying to avoid school talk. Eventually, this started happening here, at this bar. Then we settled on Tuesdays. It became one of my institutions. More than anything or anywhere else, it became my place and time to make and be with friends.

This tradition continued on for years, with people joining in and leaving when they finally moved on with their lives. But more always came to take their places. The drinks flowed, the conversations rambled, and release was certainly had by many. We kept it going on so long, I was sure it would never end.

But then it did end.  I kept finding myself by myself but not sure why.

And yet I'm still here. My focus changed from exploratory critical thinking to group socializing to now solitary writing. I now have a beard with gray hairs. I have my own mug at this bar even though I now don't drink. The bartenders all know and seem to like me...we talk as they pour my cran juice and water. I still go to my same seat at the same table, but instead of being surrounded by friends and colleagues, the only patrons I now see are the girls who come in to practice their hula hoop dance moves.

I still am having problems figuring out how all this happened. I went from being the weird kid who no one wanted to hang out with, to carving out a circle of friends in spite of my introversion, to moving across the country and carving out another group of friends, to doing that time and time again as people filtered in and out of this town, to discovering I was really an extrovert held back by my clinical depression, to getting as mentally healthy as I've ever been, to now finding myself with hardly anyone who wants to hang out.

I also still don't understand the hula hoop dancers. I doubt I ever will.

At least the bar's still hope's still also here.


Sunday, December 14, 2014

ten years of bloggage

Ten years ago today, I was one year out of getting my Ph.D. I was on the job market with a vengeance. Someone told me the average Ph.D. took 5-7 years after earning the degree to get a tenure-track job, and although I had very little luck up until that point, I was determined to beat that average. To that end, I was working to finish my grading so I could start on the several papers which would keep me an active scholar, which would help land that job for which I'd been training for years. Most days, though, my brave "I'm going to make it" facade hid cracks, and, instead of working, I would mostly focus on trying to hold myself together. The idea of never making it was one I tried constantly to tamp down, but it would explode at irregular intervals and knock me on my ass...sort of like Old Faithful...but random...and full of poison.

Nowadays, I tend not to think about the job market all that much. The last time I did scholarship, it was for a book for a conference I did not even attend. It was a revision of an article which failed to find a publisher years before, when it would've been somewhat notable. A friend wanted it, though, so I went to work. I was struck by two things. First, it was a surprisingly good paper. I was shocked to see the level at which I used to think. Simply put, I had serious game. Second, nothing about the process was fun. It was slow, it was nitpicky, it was laborious. I'd long past the time when I could deal with the delayed (if at all) gratification of the job market. If revising that paper did nothing else for me, it let me know the scholarship part of my life was long gone.

Ten years ago today, I was finishing up one semester of part-time teaching and planning the next. I had almost finished the grading, which required my mind to jump back and forth from discipline to discipline...none of which were ones in which I was trained. Every class seemed like a barrier between me and what I planned to be doing. Worse still, I felt completely disconnected from each of the places I worked. On my last day at any campus on any semester, I realized (and sometimes hoped) I would never step foot in those buildings again. This was juxtaposed in a frightening way by me only having two classes the next semester, and that was not enough. I was sliding further and further into debt, but having my income cut in half would've been catastrophic. And this just further pushed me down.

Now, I am settled. I've been in my non-tenure job long enough that my label is Senior Lecturer. The "lecturer" part surprises no one who knows me, but the "senior" part is a little different. Although I still moan about the grading load from time to time, I've generally gotten the job down pat. I can do any class they want, and I've made them all work well for me. I get along with my colleagues. Generally, I know what I'm doing, and I feel I'm making a difference in the that's good. I don't make a ton of money, but I've got good benefits and a nice secure retirement. The idea that I'll do this job for 20-25 more years and then retire to, I dunno, continue to play music and maybe take another stab at writing a's something with which I'm comfortable.

Ten years ago today, I was still feeling transient. I'd always assumed I'd live in Bowling Green until I'd finished my degree, and then I would be onto another place. I'd already hit that planned time limit and was feeling antsy. So many of my friends had moved on...why hadn't I? That my life had been on hold was one of the things contributing to my fragile state.

Now, I never lay awake at night and wonder where I'm going to end up; rather, I love being in this town. I love the idea that my child will grow up here. I've already introduced her to so much stuff I love, and I look forward to helping her discover more about this great area. Her eyes light up when I tell her we're going to the diner, to the park, to so many other places.

Ten years ago today, I felt creatively disconnected. I would run from class to class. I was almost done with the semester, and when the school year ended, I would work like hell on scholarship. When I would see my guitar in passing, I would think back to what it felt to just lose myself in the instrument. I would remember my teenage dreams of playing with others...and they felt as distant as my dreams of becoming a professor seemed on my worse days.

Now, I have started planning the set for my next solo show at an area music festival, for which I have assembled a backing band. I'm excited, because I get to break out my electric guitar again, pair it with my new amp, and let loose. Later this week, I get back to my acoustic, which is cool, because I've had riffs and lyrics floating in my head for the last few weeks, and I gotta get them out. On Wednesday, my band continues recording our album. And, as I write this, there's a photo of one of my past bands hanging over my computer desk. I've started back on this blog. The upshot of this is that, most of the time, my head is buzzing with ideas that I just have to get out.

Ten years ago today, I was working such a wacky schedule, that me and my wife frequently saw each other in passing. When I wasn't teaching, I was grading or doing frantic class prep. When I took breaks from this work, I was frequently too tired to do anything other than fall onto the couch and look at her.

Now, I'm trying like hell to finish this grading so I can be with her. I also have a wonderful 3.5 year old daughter who I can hear running up and down the hallway. Every so often, she will come in the study to give me a sticker, an imaginary cup of tea, or a hug.

Ten years ago today, I lived in constant expectations of feeling awful. I would feel like I was being smothered. Any optimism I had would implode, and I'd fixate on all the ways I was doomed. This blackness was tidal yet random, and it always threatened to drown any interactions. I had briefly been on antidepressants before, but I had no health insurance, so I couldn't even afford the doctor's visit to get a new prescription. However, I could fix this myself by working a little harder, getting a job, and ending the poverty-stricken transience which was my life.

Now, I'm quite comfortable admitting that I have a mental disease. I'm on medication, and I will be for the rest of my life...and thank the sky chicken for that, because I am much closer to the person I want to be now than at any time in my life.. And while I still have turns, they are much shorter and less frequent. I can honestly say that I love my life, that it is better than it's ever been in most ways.

Ten years ago today, at 4:15pm, I started writing this blog.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

the state of the world in which we live

Today, I have seem at least two articles on how to defeat the DRM in the new Keureg machines. Think about it: is a world where people have to circumvent copy protection in their $125+ single serving coffee maker really one in which you want to live? Sometimes, I have my doubts.

Tuesday, December 09, 2014

On jealousy and turtles

Sometime over the last couple of months, my daughter became a fan of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. While I as a teen wore a Leonardo shirt a friend made in high school graphics class, I was never really a huge fan growing up. I wasn't into comics at the time, and the first incarnation of the show was just way too little kid for my taste.

My daughter became exposed to the new Turtles show when she saw them whilst I was flipping around Hulu. I thought it might be a bit old for her (she's only 3 1/2, after all), but my girl disagreed and soon became an addict. One day, I decided to pay attention to it, and I soon became hooked as well. It's just a clever, fun show.

My daughter has a plush Raphael. It is, she's informed me, her 23 year old brother. She likes to regale me with their adventures. On the way home from day care yesterday, I learned how he likes to climb pine trees to harvest pine cones. He painted one rainbow and planted it, and it grew into a rainbow-colored tree. They also keep his toy box on the top of one such tree. Then they took a bath in the pond outside the tree, which wasn't cold because it had a hot water tap. Then the adventure got unusual.

Today, we were playing nap. My daughter insisted on napping with Raphael instead of me, and for the briefest of moments, I become sadly jealous...of a stuffed turtle.

Fatherhood is weird.

Monday, December 08, 2014

if I were king...

If I were king, Black Friday sales would still be allowed. Any vendor caught selling any object in a color other than black, however, would be publicly flogged.

(first in an ongoing series)

on belief

In my recent post if I were a filmmaker, one of the things the narrator mentions is how Edgar Wright will not miss an opportunity to use every tool at his disposal to both advance the story and to make the audience laugh. The narrator compares this to other filmmakers, who he calls "lazy" in comparison. Now, I can't speak for the filmmakers in question, but I suspect that any laziness is probably tied to a lack of real confidence.

Quite often, I tell my students that it is hard work rather than brains or natural talent which will cause them to succeed. This is true, but I suspect confidence is equally key. Whenever I've approached anything with timidity, that lack of ooomph tends to lead to me making every silly mistake at my disposal. Acting as if I'm confident helps me not make mistakes...or, if I do screw up, tends to make others either ignore or gloss over them.

Before I started teaching, I was talking to one of my MA professors. He told me that before his first class, one of his professors sat him down and said, "Just remember, Bill, you're smarter than them." Personally, I would amend that to say "for all they know, you're smarter than them"...and if they think you're smarter, they will give you the benefit of the doubt. It's good advice, and I found it particularly valuable before I finally got this teaching thing down. Hell, whenever I do a new day, I still live by that mantra.

But it's not just teaching. Music? If I act like I'm in command of the stage, then I am.When I'm taking photos, I just act as if I'm self-assured. When I write, I hit the keyboard with zeal. Sure, I quite often don't actually feel that confidence, but faking it seems to make all the difference in the world...although I sometimes wonder if this puts off some of the people with whom I've played. If I'm faking confidence effectively, I could possibly look like a raging egomaniac. On the other hand, if I admit to myself I don't know what I'm doing, then I just sit in the corner, mope, and try to lull myself out of a state of panic...and this probably looks to outside observers as if I'm stuck up. Sometimes, you just can't win.

Yeah, I know that this boils down to "believe in yourself, and others will believe in you." Yes, I realize how new age/hippie-ish this sounds. But it actually has worked for me, and I normally hate any hippie-ish approach. Maybe I'm mellowing in my old age. Or maybe this is a side-effect of me becoming a vegetarian.

on learning opportunities

If there really is some superior force out there in the universe, who has a hand in our actions, I can only assume that this semester, he/she/it has been occupying his/her/its time by seeing how much he can test me. Really, with the pseudo-gout, kidney stone, and now intestinal virus (which I got from my wife, who must've caught it from one of her advisees), I have felt the toll of the year. Luckily, though, for each strike against me, there is a learning opportunity.

Today's lesson: before work, I had to stop by the grocery store to pick up some medication to control Here, I learned several things:
  1. While I thought the store greeters were monotone before, the ones who work the morning shift are positively comatose. I do my best to talk to them as if they're people, and the greeters usually respond. This one? I strongly suspect he was a fairly bored robot. The lesson? There's always a more boring job out there.

  2. While walking back to the medicine aisle, I saw that they are now selling McDonald's K-cup coffee pods. The idea of the pod coffee system (one that removes user control of all the key elements) is bad enough. That people buy a $125 machine which takes specialty coffee pods which average $25-50 a pound is worse. That people then use that to replicate the coffee they get at McDonald's? Bleedin' frightening. The lesson? Sometimes, the William Randolph Hearst dictum "It is impossible to underestimate the intelligence of the public" seems increasingly true.
Of course, take all this with a grain of salt. In addition to getting five classes-worth of portfolios in to grade by the end of the week, I am also sick in a relatively gross way. But hey, that's another lesson there, huh? That having chronic diarrhea tends to make one negative?

Some lessons are admittedly better than others.

Sunday, December 07, 2014

if I were a filmmaker

I like to dabble in a variety of arts. Guitar playing, cooking, singing, songwriting, photos, writing...these are all things which I take frightfully at least some degree. However, I do not do film. I'd like to, but I am nowhere near having the time to do so.

This does not mean, however, that I don't like to arm myself with the knowledge to do film...if, at some later date, I magically find myself with an excess of time and money. And if I ever do, you can bet I'm going to apply these lessons:

on the temporary reemergence of a rock band

Currently, I have no regular means of playing electric guitar. I love playing solo shows...but being a troubador is a completely different skill set. I play in an awesome band, but I play banjo. No distortion there.

Distorted guitar is important. It calms me. It makes me open up, creatively speaking. It's energy, it's catharsis, it's antidepressant, it's so much more I cannot come close to vocalizing.

I have a solo show coming in January, and for the set, I've assembled a rhythm section. I will break out my Reverend Jet Stream and my new tube amp. I will be able to bring distortion. I will be able to solo again. Just the very thought of it is...well, it's glorious.

I will be only able to have this version of my backing band The Antidepressants for this one 30 minute set, though...then it's back to the world of acoustic instruments. I'm trying not to think too much of this, however.

So, friends in rock bands, I have this one message: don't take your musical situation for granted. Ever.

on interesting times

We live in what can charitably described as interesting times. I just read a story about how protests of the Eric Garner death have turned violent. If you don't see why this is strange, reevaluate your morals.

Let this roll around in your head a minute. An unarmed man was choked to death by police. It was all caught on camera. The cop was not indicted. People are protesting. There was violence. And somewhere, this is considered news.

Is it really outside of the realm of expectations that someone protesting cops violently strangling some guy on video and getting off without an indictment might say, "hey, maybe chanting and holding a candle might not do it?"