Thursday, December 31, 2015

stringing together this year's notes

I still get nervous before shows. It's not horrific or anything, and it's certainly not close to being called stage fright. It is, however, still there. My stomach feels a little funny, and once I get to the venue, I have problems talking to people. So I have to apply a laser-like focus to getting set up and mentally prepared (which I hope doesn't come off as jerkish). The second I hit the stage, though, and break into the first chord, I'm generally okay, fine, wonderful even. Everything else is downhill.

I played an emergency gig last night at The Stone's Throw. They have the best open mic night in the area (The Hump Day Revue), so whenever I feel the need to break in a song, blow off some steam, or just get back on the stage, they're my go-to spot. I got there early enough to hear the host break into a Buddy Holly song. Grabbed my pre-show Guinness and grabbed a seat, only to see that the second act was a friend (and the singer for my old band The Black Swamp Rats). I went to set up my merchandise suitcase just as my friend went into "Demons," my favorite song of his (from his band Kitty Glitter).

Then it was my time to hit the stage. It was a strange night in that the bar was packed...but it was mostly middle-aged adults and beyond, plus a couple of families doing a late dinner. Because of the families, I didn't think it would be right to do my newest Christmas song ("Consenting Elves," about partying elves at the North Pole and sexual consent), but I did do "I Don't Wanna Be Depressed This X-Mas." I had to do one of my holiday songs, as I now can't do them until after next Thanksgiving. I also did an acoustic cover of Motorhead's "Overkill" (RIP Lemmy)...which was probably the first time anyone anywhere has ever thrown a kazoo solo into a Motorhead cover. I got six songs total, and then I packed up to make room for a ukulele trio. Really.

It has been an interesting year for my music. I had a great run with one version of my backing band The Antidepressants, which included a festival gig. Then the drummer dropped out, the bass player moved to drums, his neighbor came in on bass, and several more gigs (including another festival). Then that drummer bought an RV and left to drive across the country with his girlfriend.

Solo-wise, I started the year determined to break into new markets. I got a gig at a farmer's market in Michigan. The first one was rainy and sparsely attended, but it was still fun. When I pulled up for my second date, I found out they had double-booked the I turned around and fumed on my two hour drive back home. I also booked a bunch of shows with a new venue in Michigan. I played the first show with my trombonist and had a good time (even though no one was there). Then the rest of the shows were cancelled on me. I still had my Bowling Green and Toledo venues, however. Partway through the year, though, the Toledo booking company went out of business, not even allowing me to finish out my last scheduled date. None of this was exactly good for the soul, but luckily, I still have Bowling Green. Still gotta expand, though.

My alt-country band Midwest Tourist started the year with a bang. We played an early January show (videos of the whole thing!) with a dear friend and songwriting inspiration Micah Schnabel. We played a February show where I moved over to electric guitar (and briefly changed the genre of the band). In March, we did a Couch-By-Couchwest video (in which I wore a funny hat). Then we just kind of stopped. We were going to record an album, and we got started. Then we were interrupted by band personnel turmoil. We got close to recovering from losing a member, and then said member rejoined the band on a limited practice schedule. Now it's been months since our last rehearsal, and there's no telling if, when, or where we will play again. Welcome to the holding pattern.

I had plans to record and release a decent amount of stuff this year. I announced 2015 album project number one. It stalled. I announced a Christmas single. It never happened. I announced album project number two, which I'm doing all by myself. It's going fine, but I had my computer die on me right when I had budgeted recording time. Tomorrow, I get back to it. It's gonna be great (I'm already getting much better quality than on the last disk). It's just not gonna be a 2015 release. Better late and great than never, I guess.

So I've had a lot of strange feelings towards my music career this year. I've lost gigs instead of gaining them. I've lost one band and seen the other one effectively mothballed. I've seen music projects pushed and pushed. On the other hand, I finally did get to hear my music played with a full band. I am still writing new material, and it is getting better with each song. And when I do get on stage, it is glorious.

I was thinking of all this as I packed up my gear last night. Then someone came up to buy a cd from me, and my spirits lifted. I sat down to talk to a former boss and her husband (who was also one of my professors), and they told me I sounded great. I got to talk to my former band member for the first time in ages. The Hump Day host thanked and complemented me about five times. I talked to the mighty Mechanical Cat, who told me he's seen real growth in my performances...before going on to buy a shirt. As I was packing up my shirts and albums, Mechanical Cat told me I had the best merchandise suitcase ever. Then I discovered five bucks in my tip jar. By the time I was loading up my car, thinking about everything just made me laugh out of joy.

It's been an up and down year, but ultimately, I can't think of anything I'd rather be doing...because nothing makes me feel better. I've got big plans for next year (at least one album, more festival and other gigs, a new cover band so I can make money, a new version of The Antidepressants)...but there's plenty of time to let that all unwind.

Saturday, December 26, 2015

today's reason i wish i was rich

If I had stupid money? Enough to spend truly frivolously? I would commission a study to measure the accuracy to Netflix's recommendation algorithms. "Because you watched 30 Rock, you might like Broadchurch?" Really??

Friday, December 25, 2015

taking stock

Some time this morning (whilst my kiddo was no doubt playing with one of her awesome new My Little Pony toys), my wife looked at me and said, "I'm so glad you're in a much better place than this time last year."

This took me aback a little. "Was I in a bad mood last Christmas?" I honestly couldn't remember.

"All I can remember is that you seemed to be mad at me."

This took a moment's contemplation before it hit me. "Ah. It must've been the gout, followed by the kidney stones, which all meant I was behind for months, panicking."

"Well, that's not the only thing. Getting your meds adjusted and therapy. But I think it was mostly getting your meds fixed."

She's not wrong. There have been plenty of complications. I wasn't expecting to have my Buick explode...but it did, and the car payment and the insurance bump are just unavoidable realities. I was expecting my music career to go better, and it was for a while...but then my solo band broke up, my alt-country band has pretty much ground to a halt, and my full schedule blew up for reasons which are still unclear.

Yet in spite of these, I persevere and actually do okay...for the most part. And I have even have optimism for the forthcoming year (upcoming classes in poetry instead of only "welcome to college" classes, a cover band which should also morph into a backing band, and another album in progress and coming along nicely). I feel it would be unwise to dwell on such things, though. Better to manage expectations.

Survival is a laudable goal, no?

Monday, December 14, 2015

thoughts during several arguments lately

"What are we? The PC police?"

I've heard this phrase bandied about lately. It irks me.

"If you can't handle it, you should just shut up and get out."

I am not afraid of anyone having a strong opinion. I am, however, worried about misplaced priorities.

"We don't need guidelines to stop offending people. What are we? In middle school?"

I know the chances of my words really affecting any change are not great. And I know this is something which shouldn't need saying. Yet I feel compelled, so here goes...

Being afraid of political correctness? That's really just you saying "My right to be offensive is more important than your right not to be offended." And if you really feel this way? This means your priorities in life are really messed up.

Tuesday, December 08, 2015

on semester's end

There are plenty of ways for teachers to think romantically about their chosen profession. We don't get paid all that much...this is basically social work for the the rewards have to come from elsewhere.  Our ultimate dream is to, years from now, have former students tell us that our course changed their lives.

This has happened to me a few times, and it always knocks me out. However, if I'm to be honest, it doesn't happen all that much. Part of it is the nature of my position. When people are successes, they tend not to really think about the person who taught their "welcome to college" classes as major influences. It took a while, but I'm actually okay with my job's main feedback being either delayed or absent. It is, after all, my mission to plant seeds which, if they bloom, rise up sometime in the I gotta be okay dealing with very little immediate gratitude for doing my job.

Still, though, it would be nice...and because of this (and something relatively perverse in my nature), I still tend to do the post-semester tally after my last class. This semester, one "happy holidays" and one "you have a nice semester too." But that's okay. Good work is its own reward. Right?


Tuesday, December 01, 2015

black humor, parent style

As I have a kid, I watch a decent amount of kid's programing. Some of it (such as Octonauts or My Little Pony) are quite awesome. Others are...much less awesome. And it seems that the worse the show, the worse my tolerance.

When faced with the worst shows, my only real coping mechanism is bleak humor. I don't really have a good outlet for this humor, though. Additionally, I could also (much like most parents) use extra cash.

I just, however, figured out how to solve both problems. I will start a series of bleak versions of kid's shows, such as:

The last episode of Doc McStuffins. Doc, on the cusp of becoming a teenager and losing her ability to talk to toys, faces the ghost of every toy she couldn't save.

Calliou's parents finally break the news to their son that his cancer is no longer in remission.

Jake and the Neverland Pirates enter adolescence, start experimenting with pixie dust, and get mortally wounded by pirate/pusher Captain Hook.

Daniel of Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood realizes he's a carnivore and eats everyone at his daycare.

Swiper gets tired of trying to rob Dora the Explorer and just decides to shank her.

The Teletubbies have a bad trip.

The gang on Little Einsteins crash their ship in the Andes and have to resort to cannibalism.

I think many parents would appreciate seeing these. Go out and find me some backers!

Monday, November 23, 2015

it's getting rough in here

We're still several days away from Thanksgiving, and I have been accused of being a "humbug" for the first time of the year. Record timing on my part, sure, but it does show the extent of what I'm up against in this place.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

album update 11/22

So, how's my new album coming?

I had yesterday to record, which is good. I got all of my vocal overdubs for my album done, which is also good. Moreover, I refined my recording technique, so the vocals sound better than ever...which is essential for anyone with a voice like mine.

However, the recording spirits are nothing if not fickle. When trying to install some effects plug-ins (so I might better manipulate my recordings), I also got some malware on my computer. The act of removing said malware somehow disabled my computer's ability to connect to the internet. Then, as I was mixing in the overdubs, I realized they sounded so good, they made it clear that I now have to totally rerecord several songs worth of vocals. No problem, right, as I have all of today to record...except my sinuses have started acting up and my throat is getting sore, so no singing today. Sigh.

It will all be worth it in the end, though. I'm getting really good guitar and vocal sounds, so I will be able to keep the song arrangements relatively spanrse  (at least as compared to Skeleton Coast's kitchen sink approach) while also having it sound very full. The drums sound great, and I had a blast indulging my percussive quirks...not to mention I have a magnificent bassist recording tracks for the album.

One of the best things about doing a DIY project and being one's own producer is the ability to fully commit to the "there's no reason not to do everything right" dictum. I should be ready to release the album by January, and I think you will like it.

Stay tuned.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

more things to think about

If you read a plea to think, you know I've been thinking about the whole ISIS situation. You also know I feel it's more complex than people believe. Here's some further readings:
  • I Was Held Hostage by ISIS presents a good inside look at the terrorist group. They come off less as malevolent evildoers and more like angsty teenagers desperately searching for something in which to believe.
  • How Islamic is the Islamic State? largely undermines the notion of the terrorists as fanatical ideologues. The author writes: "Religion plays little, if any, role in the radicalisation process...It is an excuse, rather than a reason. ISIS is as much the product of political repression, organised crime and a marriage of convenience with secular, power-hungry Ba’athists as it is the result of a perversion of Islamic beliefs and practices."
  • ISIS Has Studied the Past Successes of Terrorism All Too Well undoes the idea of a real distinction between terrorists and legitimate methods of social change. Terrorism, the author argues, often works quite well as a means to achieve political goals: "neither Sinn Féin, the IRA’s long‑denied legal political wing, nor Hezbollah could ever have acquired the power, influence and status they enjoy today if not for their terrorist antecedents...while governments regularly decry terrorism as ineffective, the terrorists themselves have an abiding faith in their violence, and for good reason"
  • What Americans Thought of Jewish Refugees on the Eve of World War II points out some fairly frightening parallels with the anti-Syrian refugee movement. "[M]ost Western countries regarded the plight of Jewish refugees with skepticism or unveiled bigotry (and sympathy followed only wider knowledge of the monstrous slaughters of the Holocaust)." Hopefully, we won't follow the same path.
Okay, next time, I'm moving on to other things (my album, existential philosophy, or new recipes).

my Onion horoscope, 11/17/15

"Remember, people like you for who you are: an incredibly insecure person willing to do almost anything for acceptance."

Get out of my head, Onion!

Monday, November 16, 2015

a plea to think

"Just remember...there are reasons"-- Spider Jerusalem

It was a difficult weekend. Like many, I spent a lot of time checking the news feeds for updates on the Paris shootings/bombings. I spent a whole lot of time thinking about meaning. Mostly, though, I spent a lot of time being scared.

I am not afraid, for the record, of the terrorists. This is not, for the record, naivety on my part but a conscious choice. They are scary, yes, but if you're actively afraid, you're helping them achieve their goals of terrorizing. And living in fear never ends well.

To tell the truth, I actually find many common reactions to Paris to be scarier than the terror. I saw way too many people who allowed the killing to in turn make them equally frightening and bloodthirsty. Almost as if to consciously prove the "violence begets violence" adage, cries of "wipe these people/religion off the face of the earth" flooded the internet. Even politicians got in the act, ranging from Senator Ted Cruz saying we had to be okay killing more civilians to former Governor Jeb Bush proposing only helping Christians. Personally, I have doubts that being more narrow-minded will solve much.

It is true that I did see a lot of good, including various French groups offering their help, their support, and their houses. And it was obvious from just a glance that the general tragedy certainly touched many people in social media, when before too long, French flags started showing up on Facebook.

It was at that point I started to notice something else scary. There was a ton of sympathy for France. Just a day before, though, Lebanon had been hit by similar terrorist attacks...yet they got no sympathetic outpourings. Where were the cries for Russia after an ISIS bomb took down a commercial airline flight? Where, for that matter, was the outrage over any other recent act of violence, no matter what group was at fault?

Why did we all latch onto the Paris tragedy? Is it because they're European? White? More like us than any of the previous victims of recent violence? Was it because we don't expect bloodshed in France like we do in other places? Why are we so hurt by unexpected violence yet immune and numb to violence where it is a fact of existence? And if this is the case, how screwed up are we as a species when we can actually not care about people in a specific place getting hurt because they're always getting hurt? These questions had special importance, because the bad behavior of only caring about the French victims? I first saw it in myself.

Maybe it's naivety on my part, but I feel that shortsightedness is not only a problem on the part of the terrorists. We're equally guilty. A seemingly senseless act occurred, so how did we react? Simplistically, with either a "kill 'em all"/blood-centric approach or existential "why do bad things happen" angst. Neither of these will solve anything.

There are reasons. And if we want to avoid tragedies, the first step has to be to find those reasons so we may address them. This requires analysis, though, and one of the prime rules of analysis (as I tell my students with some frequency) is that base assumptions such as "they must be insane/ignorant/stupid/bloodthirsty are pointless, as they tell us nothing.

We have to be willing to see other perspectives...even those of the people who are trying to kill us. To that end, I present two must-reads, What I Learned From Interviewing Imprisoned ISIS Fighters and Confessions of an ISIS. If you take nothing else from them, just realize that the situation has no simple truths. It would be easier to go by our stereotypes, but if anything is to ever change, we have to learn just how complex the world can get. It's hard knowledge, to be sure, but it's the only viable first step.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

my favorite bit of praise

Today was my daughter's picture day at preschool, so I got to take her there three hours earlier than normal so she wouldn't miss the photo shoot. Knowing how much I utterly love mornings, this was a bit of a burden. However, I did get to have her rest in my arms for a while, and that's one of my favorite things in the that eased the pain a little. But the part about the early day which made me feel the best? As we pulled up to daycare, my kid (totally unsolicited, mind you) told me, "Daddy, I like your head."

The rest of you could learn something from my girl.

on a university walkabout

Every so often, I get antsy at work and get overwhelmed by the desire to wander around campus. I never actually do this, though, because my schedule is usually kinda packed on work days. Today, however, I got to be on campus three hours early, so my time today is more fluid. I wanted to pick up some books on existentialism at the library and I had time to kill, so out the door I went.

This was, ultimately, a mistake.

If you haven't been to a university library lately and feel the need to murder any nostalgic feelings you might still have for the institution, you really should make a special trip. Floors one and two of my university library are now utterly devoid of any books, magazines, catalogs, or journals. Here, the spaces are called "the information commons." What this means in practice is that they have wifi and a bunch of close-to-obselete computers. I guess this is cheaper to run than hiring librarians and actually doing, you know, library stuff. The upper floors do have some books, but they are in an utterly lovely environment which includes stained carpet and a significant supply of dank.

I walked through the food court on my way back to my office. It was at least a new experience. Before today, I'm not sure I ever completely appreciated the scent of artificial flavor.

Captain Willard ultimately got this one right: "Never leave the boat."

Thursday, November 05, 2015

philosophical states

It was about two weeks ago when we made a grand breakthrough in therapy. The day had already started weirdly, when an auto repair place offered to fix my car for free (why? Were they perhaps fans of my music? Doubtful, as I remember all 20 people who've bought my album). After describing the latest pseudo-tragedy in my life, I found myself saying, "I bet it would be much easier to cope with this kind of stuff if I believed in any sort of order or justice in the world. That would probably be nice."

My therapist, asking the natural question: "Don't you believe in anything?"

"Well, at one point in my life, I believed in my skills, and I believed they would be enough to pull me through...but getting rejected over 500 times on the job market kind of beat that out of me."

My therapist, after taking a breath: "Well, we're swaying into the realm of philosophy here. I'm completely happy to go there, by the way. This is very much existential angst...and many people have it."

"Maybe we could start a support group for them."

"Hi, come on in to the church basement. Grab a coffee and tell us why you're doomed."

"We could make them read Kafka before joining."

My therapist, after another breath: "I'm not sure that would help sell the endeavor."

After the session, I continued my day, which went about as expected; after grabbing a coffee and then leaving my Kindle in the coffee shop bathroom, I went to an appointment to get my face blasted with liquid nitrogen...but the idea of philosophy, I realized, had finally started to resonate with me. I'd tried to read the great philosophers while getting my Master's degree, but I never really got them. It took the advice of mental health professionals to make philosophy stick.

Later on that week, I had a psychiatrist appointment, and I told that doctor about the existential conversation. He immediately recommended I get and read a "philosophical textbook/novel" called Sophie's World. I've been plowing through it ever since it arrived, and while it hasn't actually helped my diseased mind just yet, I am learning a lot. There's one part where the protagonists are discussing Existentialism, and the philosopher says (paraphrasing), "Existential angst is always a starting point on which to build a new philosophy."

I'm not yet sure what new philosophy I'll build. I am, however, working towards finding one.

dream interpretation needed

Last night, I dreamed I was in some kind of big competition. My team consisted of my mom, dad, and a few other people. The mission? We had to find out where Tom Bombadil was hiding.

There were tons of competing teams, but after camping out (in the tent me and my brother used in Boy Scouts, no less), I had an idea where we could locate Mr. Bombadil. I found him hiding in his condo. As my reward, I became Tom Bombadil. After saying hello to everyone, I returned to the Bombadil condo (widely furnished with Ikea products), where I hung out with Swedish flight attendants. Then my alarm went off.

If you believe dreams have hidden meanings, I'd love to hear your take on this one.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

emergency gigs, 10/28 and 10/29

Two emergency gigs! I will be playing tonight at Stone's Throw in Bowling Green at 9:30. Tomorrow, I play at Howard's Club H in BG at 10:30. I will be accompanied by Nick Zoidberg for both sessions. Come see me!

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

the most depressing thing you will read today, 10/27/15

Still think racism is all in the past? Then read "School is Racist." What makes this that much more sickening is that this is all from kids. C'mon, people. We should be better than this.

today's dose of truth, 10/27/15

The New York Times nails it in the editorial "Political Lies About Police Brutality." Maybe some good will come out of all the horror. Hope so.

the most awesomely halloweeny thing you will see today, 10/27/15

informalities, language, and fruit

Ages ago, I had a colleague read over something I'd written for an annual review, and he fixated on my use of the word "amongst." "Among," he pointed out, was the more acceptable and contemporary word, while "amongst" was merely archaic. This was true, I admitted, but since I get so little opportunity to express myself in formal documents, I'd rather just use the strange word as a release from the institutionality of the required document. Said colleague just shook his head and called me weird.

I am weird. I have no problem with that. The language bit, though? I'm very much into letting my personality come through my writing, and I have no problem tweaking the expected language requirements to let that happen. There's nothing wrong with giving one's personality through, and using archaic and just plain weird words whenever possible allows this to happen...while still maintaining the required standards of formality. After all, amongst is still perfectly acceptable from a grammatical standpoint. So why not use it?

Language should still be a reflection of the writer's personality, and if said writer can use it as such whilst still maintaining the proper grammatical standards of the situation? So much the better. And this shouldn't hold one back from applying the same approach in less formal situations.

I like old-timey words and phrasing. Maybe this comes from my dear foreigner mother, who still peppers her language with phrases like "donkey's years" (meaning a long time ago). I default to either overblown academic sentence structure (see the first sentence of paragraph three) or 19th century-esque Southern colloquial slang. This is one of the reasons why, if we would've had a son instead of a daughter, I would've made a half-hearted push for Delmar as a name. My lovely spouse, for the record, is relieved that this never became a serious argument.

Today, at breakfast, we (really more me, with my mom and wife as leery bystanders) got into a discussion of the types of berries included in a mixed berry yogurt. I expressed dismay that boysenberries and huckleberries were not on the ingredient list. My spouse didn't know what a huckleberry looked like, so I pulled up the Wikipedia huckleberry page so I might show her some photos. Then I stumbled upon the subtopic "Use in slang." It's so awesome, I'll quote it here in full:
Huckleberries hold a place in archaic American English slang. The tiny size of the berries led to their use as a way of referring to something small, often affectionately as in the lyrics of Moon River. The phrase "a huckleberry over my persimmon" was used to mean "a bit beyond my abilities". "I'm your huckleberry" is a way of saying that one is just the right person for a given job.The range of slang meanings of huckleberry in the 19th century was fairly large, also referring to significant persons or nice persons.
First, this alone justifies Wikipedia's existence. More importantly, we need to start a movement to return huckleberry to the contemporary slang lexicon. We have to turn this viral! I want to see huckleberry memes! All hail the great huckleberry!

I realize that the task of getting the common folk to actually use these slang terms might be a huckleberry over my persimmon. I will still try, however. The fruit deserves all of our best interests.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Monday, 10/26's dose of truth

The article "Everything Doesn't Happen for a Reason" tells an awful lot of truth. Is it good to try and grow from tragedy and heartache? Of course it is, but to then say tragedy and heartache are essential and good? That's a sentiment only a sadist would support.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

on gigs, merch, and cats

I played an impromptu set at an open mic night tonight. I always come into these with zero expectations, but tonight went pretty well...and this is most visible in two items.

First, I made a sale! New fan! She got a CD...and a sticker...and a guitar pick! She paid partly in quarters...which means I can do more laundry!

Second, and most awesomely, I made another fan..and it's Mechanical Cat! Bowling Greeners will understand how awesome this is. Not only did he complement my stuff, he sat down, and we talked for a while. He even told me the plot of the hopefully forthcoming animated series.

So I call tonight a success.

Friday, October 16, 2015

TheMikeDuBose music news, 10/16/15

I have a show next Saturday, October 24. I have high hopes that I will be joined by my colleague/tromboner Nick Zoidberg. This time, I will be splitting the bill with Max Machon (a nice guy and a good songwriter). The show's from 8-11, and as soon as I find out when my slot is, I will let you know. I will have copies of my debut album Skeleton Coast for sale, alongside my handmade tee shirts. I've got new originals and new covers to debut, so it should be a really fun night. I would love to see you there.

I am currently recording an album. No, not the album I told you about a while ago (which is still being delayed, reasons). I'm talking about the previously announced second album project. I have drums recorded for all the songs. I have acoustics and vocals recorded for three of the songs, and I have distributed these to my awesome bassist Steven Guerrero, with whom I play with in Midwest Tourist. Steven also does solo music under the name Flat Earth Agenda, and you should buy his album. I'm thrilled that Steven agreed to play on the new album.

I still have to do more acoustics and vocals, so I can get the rest of the songs to Steven...but this damn death cold/flu/plague I have is slowing up the process a bit. As soon as I get the bass-added tracks back, it's time to finish the arrangements and record the rest of the instruments...and I'm thrilled that Nick Zoidberg has agreed to help me with all this.

I might throw some demos up pretty soon, so you can hear what I've been up to. The one thing I'm lacking? A good name for the album. Suggestions are welcome. Hey, give me a great name, and I'll even give you album credit!

Oh, did you hear me say I have new tee shirts for sale? I did these a little while ago, and they're pretty cool. It's all handcrafted, so each one's a little bit different. Hey, it's the arty touch! Supplies are limited, so shop now! Plus you know you've always wanted to have my face on your chest.

I also just got a November show at Iggy's in Toledo. I will be playing on November 27th, opening up for My Hated Friend. They're pretty funky and trippy...good dancing music! I'm not sure what time I go on, or who else is on the bill, because I just found out about the show this week. As always, more details when I get them.

Other than that, I'm still working on more shows at new venues. Losing the Adrian shows was a blow, but I"m pushing to recover. Hey, any of you own a music venue? Need an old, fat guitarist to entertain your friends?

Wednesday, October 07, 2015

children are a linguistic treasure trove

My daughter, on the way home from school, was telling me about a game they played. It was apparently "so fun, it will make your teeth fall out." Ponder that one for a while.

She also told me a joke. "What keeps your teeth together? Toothpaste."

Friday, October 02, 2015

genetic musical talent

My daughter seems to have inherited my musical abilities. Not only can she make a whole heck of a lot of noise (something at which I too excel), she also writes songs. Like my songs, hers have something a little...unusual about them.

This morning, she sung me her latest composition. The lyrics: "One, two, three. I love me. I love rocketship and red raspberries."

She's an artiste.

Thursday, October 01, 2015

sleep, or the lack thereof

Last night, after a productive yet mostly uneventful day, I got some bad news about a friend of mine who's in trouble. It tears me up that I can't immediately fly across the country to be with him. If there's a downside to being a failure in one's chosen field, this is certainly part of it. As-is, though, there's little I can do from here on the sidelines but send good vibes...for whatever good that does.

It's frustrating that I'm rendered merely an observer where I want to be a friend, but this is part of the "if you thought about it, you'd only grow madder/crazy/whatever" school of thought. So I tried to put my personal anger and disappointment at the world out of the way and focus on doing what I can from the sidelines.

Of course, this never works. To the credit of my therapist and my psychiatrist, I did not fall into a depression fit, instead merely getting sad. I must've been sadder than I realized, though, because in spite of my sleeping pills, I did not get to sleep until around 4:20am. Let me tell you: the 8am alarm felt really scary.

This is sure gonna be one interesting day.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

increase in rank

It seems I have received an unexpected yet completely welcome promotion. While we were eating breakfast, my daughter informed me that I am now "King of the Robots." Needless to say, I am thrilled and honored. And, if any of my royal subjects are reading this, you have a full week to bring me your tributes.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

an informal judgement about the medical profession

I am at the age, mental, and physical condition to where I have seen and continue to feel a certain number of medical professionals. This means that I know waiting rooms. And while I don't have enough data to extrapolate with any degree of statistical significance, I can say this: if this swanky leather chair waiting room is any indication, psychiatrists have the nicest digs

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

new insect taxonomy

Today, my daughter showed a certain amount of aptitude towards becoming an entomologist. As we were walking towards my car, we saw some wasps flying around. My girl looked at me and solemnly informed me, "Daddy, you see those bugs? Those are daytime bats."

Admittedly, she might still need more direction.

collective creativity

When I teach a class I've taught before, my usual modus operandi (or however you spell that; why doesn't my computer's spell check do Latin?) is to look at the lesson plan from the last time I taught that day's class, copy it over to the current class's lesson plan file, and tweak as needed. Today, when I looked at last semester's lesson for today's Business Writing section? Frankly, I have no idea what I was thinking. It pretty much had to be scrapped.

Luckily, I have a secret weapon: TedTalks. They are almost always entertaining and informative, and I can usually find one which fits my needs. Today's one, in spite of the distraction from the speaker's shoulder pads, was particularly up my alley:

If I had a time machine, I would go back and make all my former bosses see this. Ah, life could've been so much better.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

and another joy!

Back in December 2013, I recorded a live set for the local PBS station. It was for their live music show Livewire. It was the acoustic showcase. Additionally, they asked us to do Christmas songs for a holiday special. So I did my set, complete with my own original Christmas song "Xmas in the Drunk Tank." And then I waited for it to be aired. And waited. And waited.

I just found out they actually broadcasted the acoustic showcase episode back in March. No one told me. And they don't have Youtube clips to show me.

It's one of those days.

Adrian shows cancelled

A while back, I was booked for a bunch of shows at a venue in Adrian, Michigan. They had me going through the end of the year, and I was ecstatic. I thought I made a break-through as a solo artist. I was starting to actually make profit! Moreover, I was able to meet my "I need to play a gig a month or I start to go crazy" requirement.

I played the first show, and it was really fun. The place was pretty empty, but I assumed I just had the worst luck of the draw. Crowds can never really be all that predictable. Nevertheless, I vowed to really polish my act and make sure I was ready for the next gig. I wanted to keep coming back. I wanted to become a regular draw.

About ten minutes ago, I just found out that the venue has decided to quit doing music. Apparently, their business is down, and they just could not afford to pay talent anymore. Those remaining gigs of mine, all the way through December? Cancelled.

Anyone need an acoustic guy? Or better yet, anyone got anything to stop me from having a depressive fit?

manic thrills

Where does a sober person find joy? It's been a question ever since I quit drinking. I don't do illegal drugs. I don't eat any meat, not even barbecue. And I'm too broke to even do shopping therapy. So what can one do?

Lately, I've started to act like a madman. My biggest act of pure insanity occurs when I use the restroom at work and no one else is inside. When this is the case, I use both of the air hand dryers to dry my hands. At the same time! Wooohooo! Party!!!!!

I'm dangerous, baby.

Monday, September 21, 2015

another album project

I seem to be at a stage of music overload lately...and I'm okay with that.

I've never understood people who have problems writing new songs. I treat songwriting as a muscle; if I don't exercise it regularly, it will atrophy. So I keep writing. I finish writing ideas that don't start out too well...because by the time I'm finished with them, who knows? And, as a result, I tend to get ideas pop into my head. Saturday, as I was getting ready to go into the living room, I had chords and a melody pop into my skull. That one will be the next writing project

unlocking a key to the universe

Lately, I'm on a roll. I'm caught up on grading. My wife and kid still seem to like me. I got to hang out with friends, and it wasn't even a special occasion. All of this on top of mastering the art of folding a fitted sheet? Unbelievable good luck.

Today, it got even better. I work at a university, so of course most of my work day's energy is spent trying to find a parking spot. There is absolutely never enough parking. I'm not sure who said it first, but the old adage, "a university is a diverse group of students, faculty, workers, and administrators who all come together to complain about parking" is absolutely true. Why, the building in which I work, in the plaque describing all the green technology and ideas they used in its recent reconstruction, even brags about not adding any more parking spaces (in a supposed effort to "encourage ride sharing"). Add to this parking services's habit of randomly closing off spaces, and it is assured that many people start off their school day trying to suppress their parking rage.

The lot by our building is (I am told) completely clogged up by 8am. If you get here later than that, you can only get a space by endlessly circling the lot in the hopes of spotting someone leaving and getting there to grab their space before someone else snipes it. One day, I circled the lot for 40 minutes before finding a space (and then accidentally locking my keys in the car while exiting...sigh). So I've started to park in a faraway (read: other side of the campus) lot and just hoof it. What the hell...I need the exercise.

Today, though, when I went to park, parking services had (of course) randomly shut down a significant portion of spaces, so there were no vacancies. I tried the lot near my building, but it was full...and I didn't feel like going on a snipe hunt. I left, resigned to parking a good mile away.

I turned into a lot on campus on a whim, even though the front was stuffed with cars. Lo and behold, I turned a corner to empty space! Then another...then another? The lot on the side of the building (which I will not name) was 10:30, no less. Spaces! Regularly open spaces! Glorious spaces!

The skies opened, and I was hit by rays of light. The angels began their choir. Everything took on a technicolor hue. I have been given the key to the universe of parking on campus!

I promise I will try to remain humble.

Thursday, September 17, 2015


I've been saying for a while now that the older I get, the more politically radical I get. Well, earlier, I found myself reading an interview with the head of Communist Party USA...and I couldn't find myself disagreeing with anything he said. I wonder, however, how 1980s me would've taken this news.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

one more RnB thing

Emma Franklin's version (the original) of "Piece of My Heart just came on, and with apologies to Joplin fans, but it blows away the more popular cover. But then again, I feel the same way about the aforementioned "Tainted Love" being superior to the 80s cover. A few other songs have come on, and in every case, the original was better.

The lesson? It's cool to cover old RnB, but don't ever expect to outdo it.

creepy songs

I'm stuck in traffic, at what would normally be two minutes from my exit. So what am I thinking? About how creepy the world is. And what's causing me to think think this way? Current events, yes, but mostly RnB.

A while back, I combed through my mp3s and put together a 180 song folder of the best of Motown, Staxs/Volt, Chess, Atlantic, and Muscle Shoals. Whenever I'm working on songwriting, I put the folder on random play when I'm on the road. It's very awesome and educational usually. Today, though, it's a bit unnerving. I seem to keep hitting the most frightening lyrics. "Tainted Love" is, when done by the original female singer, so much more obviously about an abusive relationship. Then I hit "He Was Really Saying Something." Stalking. "Jimmy Mack?" Stalking again..but also about how weak-willed women are. And "Shake, Rattle & Roll" is just straight misogyny.

I realize it could be much worse; after all, Country music even has a standard sub-genre called "the murder ballad." But really, there's not a genre which comes off okay upon examination. Today's selection is just peculiarly focusing on how rotten it can be to be a female.

It's not like it's easy to be any non-dominant person...just ask Ahmed Mohamed. Yet that songwriters (and other artists) feel free to be so blatant and open about it? Frightening.

It definitely pushes me to ignore lyrics whenever I listen to huge swaths of music. It does, however make me feel better about my insistence to, when writing my own songs, to make sure I'm treating them with respect and trying to actually say something.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

mood swings

The more I think about it, the more I've come to one conclusion: my mind just doesn't make any damn sense.

Friday, a simple discussion on household finances threw me into a horrible depression. I'm talking about "the entire world is doomed"/feeling weighed down by a thousand pounds of sludge/punched in the torso-level depression. Saturday, my apathetic audience threw me into a less intense but longer funk. Typical depression...the slightest tremor causes an unpredictable level of fit.

Yesterday, though, everything changed. When I got close to work, the oil pressure light in my car started blinking. On the way to grab my kid from day care, I looked at the oil pressure gauge, and it was just a hair away from the red zone. I stopped to check the oil, but it was fine. When I got home, I did some research online which was confirmed by a call to my mechanic this morning. The verdict? My car's time is swiftly approaching. It will not last through the winter. It's almost time to grab a rifle and take it behind the barn.

Surprisingly, I'm actually feeling fairly zen about the whole deal. My car is well beyond saving without investing roughly three point seven times its blue book value into the repairs. And I can by no means afford to replace it. Yet, for some reason, the prospect of taking even more debt than I have already to buy a new (to me, anyway) car I had no intention of getting has me feeling...pretty okay, actually.

The randomness of my depression often surprises me. Now...anyone got a car they want to give me?

Sunday, September 13, 2015

alternate explanation

I've given some thoughts to the events of yesterday, and I now have a different interpretation: I must be a wizard.

Think about it. I was able to play four sets and barely be acknowledged. Invisibility. I was able to perfectly fold a fitted sheet. Manipulating the laws of physics. I have arthritis in two places and bursitis in one, but they are all on the right side of my body. Cursed.

The only bummer here is that my apparent wizardry did not manifest itself in a heavy skillet of alchemy. I could use that. I got credit card debt.

Saturday, September 12, 2015


Today I played four sets to the most staggeringly indifferent crowd to whom I've played in ages. This was at my favorite bar, during a local festival which is usually my favorite weekend of the year. I had three people clap, and the rest ignored me totally. During the last set, no reaction at all...and I started to question my actual existence. I walked back to my car with my head battling between "some people do claim to like me, so what happened tonight?," "how did this happen when I thought I played pretty well?" and "Geez, I must really suck."

On the other hand, I did tonight finally master the skill of folding a fitted sheet.

One must take whatever balance one can get.

the future looks bright 9/12/15

Earlier this morning, my daughter took a bite out of her waffle, examined it, and said, "hey, this looks like PacMan!" She then got up and started running laps around the kitchen, yelling "wakkawakkawakka...."

As I've said, the future is in good hands.

Wednesday, September 02, 2015

ups, downs, parking

It started off so well, this day. A rare shower where my next door neighbor was not alternately scalding and freezing me by random water usage. A good hair and beard day. Cold brew coffee. Snuggle time with my daughter, followed by her non-stop comedy routine as I drove her to daycare. No traffic on the ride to work.

Then it went all wrong with parking (as it is wont to do). Got to campus in plenty of time, only to have to circle various lots for an honest forty minutes (including waiting for five minutes each for two different cars to leave, only to figure out the drivers in question were just hanging out, with running car and lights). Finally got a space, only to have the keys fall out of my pocket when I exited my vehicle. A good twenty five minute wait for the cops to arrive. Five minutes for said officers to break into my car.

Surprisingly, I'm in a decent mood. There you have it, folks: therapy actually helps!

Tuesday, September 01, 2015

lyrical realizations

I just realized that a good twenty percent of my songs mention scars or carved lines. So if I ever say I don't think at all about getting older, please point me towards my own words.


Writing night. I'm chipping away at a song, even though I know the chances of breaking it open tonight aren't great. I know it will be an acoustic song, and I know it won't be exactly upbeat in tone. The rest, however is still cloudy...and I know I will have to live with the uncertainty at least another week.

The semester is under way, and I've just reached the time where the students are getting to know what's at stake. They are, however, a few weeks from insight. They will, for the next few class sessions, have a lot thrown at them, and it's still unclear if they will sink or swim. Meanwhile, while they circle around the uncertainty, I begin my own cycle of seemingly endless grading.

This is usually how things go. One of the hallmarks of my younger days was that I expected stuff to build to some grand conclusion...the search for ultimate meaning and all that. Now? I don't expect any real resolution, just one damn thing after another. And when we do get closure? It will be way too ultimate, way too final, and, most likely, won't be something to which we should look forward. Certainty is too close to being an end.

I believe this, I really do. But every so often, I get reminded that being certain of uncertainty is itself too definitive...and then I really don't know what to do.

Today, while I was getting ready for work and getting my daughter ready for day care, she turned to me and sweetly asked, "Daddy, are people permanent?" When I asked her what she said, I got "are people permanent? Do they break, or do they go on forever?"

This hit me, but I realized I couldn't let it stop me in my tracks. So I gently replied, "I don't know, sweetie. I hope they go on, but I don't really know." Surprisingly, this answer seemed to satisfy her, and she moved onto other things.

I wish I could tell her how much I envied her in this.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

The Onion is killing it

Oh, I love The Onion. They have a way of hitting the perfect spot in my morbid humor brain lobe. They have been particularly awesome today. I thought about linking to every single article I loved, but that would be the entire site. Here are my favorites so far today:
  1. Hubble Telescope Discovers Giant Amelia Earhart Statue on Distant Planet shows they don't have to be political to make me do a spit take. The headline's funny enough, but the photo is awesome.
  2. This is not to say that giant biting political commentary which somehow perfectly straddles the line between being funny and being way too real to be funny isn't their forte. See: Scott Walker Watches Candidates Emerge Shaken from GOP's Female Experience Simulator.
This is exactly what I need as I try to adjust to the new semester.

Friday, August 21, 2015

quote of the day, 8/21

"It's not art unless it has the potential to be a disaster"
--from a sign at Banksy's Dismaland

food for thought, 8/21

"The most growth happens in moments of discomfort because...that's where boundaries are being broken, and you're learning new things. I think people don't really, truly get old until they don't want to do anything new anymore, and if something's not growing, it's basically dying."
--Chris Hardwick, Nerdist Podcast

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

emergency gig, 8/19

Emergency fig tonight. I will be playing at the Hump Day Revue at 9:45. It's at the Stone's Throw in Bowling Green, and my trombonist will be joining me. Make plans!

reason to be scared vi

Jeb Bush, GOP presidential candidate, thinks the government does not spy on us enough. Sigh. This pinhead was actually my MA graduation speaker.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

'tis the season (but not really)

Back in my pizza-making days, I worked at one restaurant in a strip mall that piped Christmas music throughout the entire walkway. They started this November one. They didn't switch it off until the second week of January. Now, I was not the biggest fan of Christmas music anyway (due to my general disdain for manufactured sentiment and nostalgia). However, after working through (I believe) two holiday seasons at this location, the slightest hint of holiday music began to send me into fits of blind apoplectic rage.

So why, then, am I now thinking of Christmas music? In August?

Way back in December 2013, I was invited to play at a taping for an area music television show. It was the singer/songwriter episode, so I was fine doing it without a band. They then told me that they were also going to do a Christmas episode, so I was welcome to do a holiday song. Out of some perverse desire to be different, I decided to write my own, a lovely little carol called "X-Mas in the Drunk Tank." It actually went over pretty well. I'd love to embed the video to show you, but they still haven't even scheduled an air date yet for my you'll just have to take my word for it.

So I have a pretty cool Christmas song...but the problem with having an original Christmas song is that you can't play the damn thing for eleven months out of the year. I worked pretty hard on it, and I want people to hear it. I am a professional (of a sort), after all.

So I've decided to record a version of "X-Mas in the Drunk Tank" now. This way, I'll have plenty of time to finish it before the holidays start. And then, because I just can't leave well enough alone, I decided that, in order for it to be able to release it as a single, I really needed to pair it with a backing track. So I just finished writing another Christmas song. This one's called "I Don't Wanna Be Depressed (This Christmas)"... and it's also pretty cool.

Hey, give me enough time, and I might even quit being a Bah Humbug!

Thursday, August 13, 2015

musical fates and a riff

Ever since my band broke up (thanks, drummer, who insists on having his own life and moving didn't think of me, did you? DID YOU????), my musical future has been uncertain. I was torn between trying to assemble yet another incarnation of my band or pushing my solo career...and frankly not having much luck at either...that is, until last Wednesday, when I got booked in one fell swoop for solo shows through December. The fates, it would seem, have spoken on the side of solo musicianship.

Of course, the fates have to send me the requisite curve ball. Today, as I was leaving my podiatrist appointment (The summer of wart colony removal is over! The warts have tasted the wrath of medicine and have been vanquished! All hail!), a riff popped into my head. I raced home to record it before other thoughts crowded it out, and by the time I walked into the door, I also had a chorus and bridge. As I blasted out a quick demo, I realized the song (a stomper which crosses The Ramones and surf music) would've been perfect for my old band The Black Swamp Rats. And I am not above adapting it for my band...but I don't have a band right now, do I? And anyway, the musical fates decided I'd be an acoustic act.

Curse you, you musical fates, you and your confounding, contradictory ways.

Thursday, August 06, 2015

the speed of expectations

When I was younger, I was a bit obsessed with speed. No, not cars. I always drove (and still drive) tremendous hunks of declining autos. My youth obsession was in instant gratification. Like most youths, the idea of long-term planning, of eventual payoff was not high on my radar. I always thought, "make me happy now, damnit." Immediate payoff. Maybe that was why I drank.

Slowly, surely, I eventually had to give this up. Yeah, I got older, but I also went back to college...and while an education offers you many things, immediate payoff is not really a normal benefit. Instead, you get into long-term planning...first for a semester, then until you get a degree. Grad work means the plans extend beyond just classes. This paper becomes a possible publication...which becomes a step towards assembling the perfect curriculum vitae, which becomes the thing which helps one land a tenure track job, which leads to career and legacy. At some level, that is how all grad students start to view their work. This is right and good. Without long term planning, an academic career is an impossibility.

So this is how I learned to think. Unfortunately, though, in this day and age, it is entirely possible to do everything right, to make a good plan and work like hell towards it...and to still fail at the long term goal. I found this out the hard way.

The habit of making long term goals is, however, one which survived the apocalypse of my academic career. This probably best manifests itself in my summer plans. When summer hits, I am relieved of a large number of my burdens. I still have a list of things I gotta do, like cooking, cleaning, taking care of my kid, going to therapy, and so forth, but the tasks are all really maintenance. I don't really have to do anything productive until a week or two before fall semester begins...and, bearing in mind the stress of the school year, this is both nice and fully necessary.

But this is where one of my inherent paradoxes comes in. On one hand, I would love to do little other than play with my kid...because I am inherently lazy (or, to be kind to myself, sedentary). However, battling with my desire for immobility is a surprising drive to get stuff done. Because in spite of how lazy as I can be, I still need to accomplish things, to make my mark, to figure out all the puzzles, to do something worthy of being remembered. I guess I'm a type A obsessive hiding inside of a sloth. That is how, for ill or good, how I apparently roll.

So I rarely approach summers without an agenda. When I still had scholarly pretense, my summers were about trying to fit a year's worth of research and writing into a few months. But you know how this works. Yeah, I got a lot of work done (one boss told me I published as much if not more as the tenure track assistant professors...and doing so wasn't technically part of my job, like it was for them). But ultimately, in spite of the work I invested towards the goal, I never got the tenure track job...or the resulting career, or eventual impact on the world. So, in the end, I did a lot of stuff but accomplished very little.

Then there were the summer workloads which just dwindled off into failure. The first summer after I gave up scholarship, I had the grandiose plan to read a biography for every US president. I made it all the way to...Jefferson. In this case, I felt I needed to stop before I started to view the survival of my country as a fluke in spite of the bumbling, incompetence, or hypocrisy of our leaders. But this is just one example. Pretty much every summer works this way: grand visions which lead to diminished expectations and few accomplishments.

This year, my major summer mission was to make my music career a little more serious, productive, and professional. It started off well, with my band getting booked for and playing a music festival (go to videos to hear a few songs). Of course, the band then broke up when the drummer moved. Then I wanted to expand out of Bowling Green, particularly by breaking into the Toledo market. Well, I did get Toledo gigs...but they have been essentially unpaid, without even one album sold. I did expand my collection of merchandise...but no one's bought any of the new stuff so far. I sent out and delivered a bunch of semis to get more paying gigs...with no callbacks so far. You get the picture.

Everything changed yesterday, though. I was doing some work on the computer, and I got a message from a Michigan bar I hadn't heard from in a month. They wanted to book me...for a paying show, even. Then she kept asking me about other dates. By the time I got off the phone, I was scheduled for six more paying shows, all the way through December. I started the afternoon frustrated with my lack of progress. By late afternoon, I had exceeded my own modest expectations.

Plans can actually come to fruition! Long term plans, at that...and it was a better rush than I ever had when I was younger and just wanted quick gratification.

Saturday, August 01, 2015

a quick recommendation

I just finished reading Neil Gaiman's The Ocean at the End of the Lane. Now nightmares, mythologies, childhood, lies, and the truest truths in our fragile existences are all swirling from one side of my brain pan to the other and back again. If this sounds like a good thing to you, please pick up the novel for yourself.

rock star

Last night, I was a rock star. This was due to many factors. Several friends who had never seen me do a solo original show came out. One of those was someone who hadn't seen me play in over a year and a half. My musical compatriot Nick Zoidberg surprised me by not only showing up but also joining me on stage. My set went awesomely. I got a crowd singalong going with my cover of "You've Lost That Loving Feeling." There was disproportionate applause for the size of crowd. I had more fun on stage than I've had in ages. And the bar staff all seemed to like me.

Of course, today I'm suffering through a flare-up of my arthritic hip, so I'm feeling much less a rock star. That's okay...on balance, I'll take it.

Friday, July 31, 2015


I have a gig tonight. As with any performance, the key is to be (as Fats Dominoes said) "ready, willing, and able to rock and roll all night." Welll, I am ready. Actually, I am way too ready

My readiness started a little over an hour ago , when I found myself completely unprepared. A friend texted me, asking when I go on. I told him I had no idea, and then I went online to find the bar's phone number. Only I found out the show was scheduled to start at 7...and it was already 6:15. So I grabbed my gear and a few pieces of cold pizza and ran to my car. Of course, when I got to Frankies Inner City, I found out I don't actually go on until 11:30. Sigh.

Getting ready for the gig really only meant hauling my guitar into the bar. I went ahead and also set up my merchandise table, but even with the handy dandy new TheMikeDuBose shirts, that only killed a few minutes. I would just hang out with my band, but my drummer is currently in his rv, driving westward. That is all anyone knows. Hell, he doesn't even know where he's going. So I don't have a band with whom to hang. I would hang with my trombonist, but he's at home, resting up after a hospital stay where he had a tube stuck down his throat. Said tube was sucking lettuce out of his colon. That's all I know, and frankly, that's all I want to know.

So now I am ready to go, but as I don't actually go on for four hours, my level of readiness is a little too high. What do you get when you are way too ready? If you're like me, the answer is "bored."

So please come down, talk to me, and maybe even buy a shirt.

food for thought 7/31

"The worst thing in the world is to kind of start thinking you know what the score is, 'oh, I know about that, I understand because the minute you do that, then you start to close down, you get old."
--John Cleese, on the Nerdist Podcast

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

the future looks bright.

In case you ever hear anyone complain about "the kids today" and how we're all doomed, you can tell them all that the future will be in fine hands. How do I know this? Because the last few days, whenever I help my daughter out of the car, she grabs my hand and says "thank you, my fellow."
Relax. We're in fine hands.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

writing in new forms

Tonight was a writing night for me. I've been pretty productive as of late, and I have about 5 or 6 songs which I haven't played out as of yet. Tonight was a good one, as I polished off/up two songs and got a draft of one which has existed only as a fragment for several months. As I was packing up my supplies, I realized my songs have been really different lately...and I figured out why. It was all because (sorry about this) I took a look in a book.

(Insert theme music here)

I've known for a while that I needed to expand my music career. For the most part, I play a lot of shows which are both low exposure and low paying. Most of them are in only a few area bars. I think and have been told that I'm reasonably okay at what I do, and I feel my music is good enough to where I'd like to get more people a chance to hear it. So, the summer mission was to get a bit better at this music game.

One of the things I decided to do was to learn a bit more about the songwriting process as practiced by professionals. I have never really had the desire to be a professional songwriter myself because my songs are largely my own attempts at self therapy. But I thought if I could benefit from seeing another view of the craft, I could maybe make my own process a little more effective and productive.

I got a pretty good book on songwriting (I'd tell you which one, but it's late, and I don't want to wake up my kid) and dove in. The biggest takeaway for me was thinking more explicitly about the process and the theory. I started to think about exactly what I'm doing. And the theory indeed does help me write more effectively. I'm still me while writing, but I am much more aware of what I'm doing...and I think that has led to better songs.

As I was packing up tonight, I realized my last five or six songs haven't had choruses. I've long known that songs didn't have to have choruses. One of my favorite bands the Drive-By Truckers have tons of songs without choruses. It wasn't something I ever did myself, though...with the exception of a blues song or two. Now I have lots of them.

So what does this mean? I have utterly no idea. I don't know if this a new weapon in my arsenal, or if it's one of those things. The songs are cool enough, though. And they are different enough from what I have been writing to stand out in my sets. So, if it is because of the book, that's pretty cool.
And to think it all happened because I looked in a book.

Wednesday emergency gig

This Wednesday (tomorrow...or today, depending on when you get this), I will be doing an emergency show. I play the Hump Day Revue at 9:45. There will be several world debut if you like me, there are good reasons to come on down.

There's a bigger reason to show up, though, as it is the Bowling Green farewell show of my friend Maddox. For those who don't know, I've been playing with Maddox for some time now. I met him when he joined my band Magnosaurus, where he played drums. During that, when he heard that I was thinking of recording an album, he agreed to play drums on it and then offered to record it.

We really got to know each other during the process...because, as I've said before, recording is a long, dull, and generally boring process. But we both cared deeply about the process, and we taught each other about the art, recording, and ourselves. I am fiercely proud of our work together. Maddox was also the only constant in every incarnation of my band. So, to say I owe him is an understatement.

So if you don't come to see me, come out to see Maddox.

today's food for thought

"Just being self-reflexive and self-deprecating, that doesn't make you a bigger person, it doesn't make you a smarter person. Sometimes it's just being...selfish, or being insecure."

-Simon Helberg, The Nerdist Podcast

Monday, July 27, 2015

gig, gig, and potential gigs

Shows are on my mind...both real and potential.

First, the news. Friday, I play at Frankies Inner City in Toledo. This was originally scheduled a few weeks ago and should've been our last band show. Then...something...happened, and the show got delayed to the very day my old drummer is moving. So it's now a solo show. Should still be a good time, though, so contact me if you want a ticket.

I probably will not have my trombonist with me, though. He's currently in the hospital, getting lettuce sucked out of his intestine through a tube. If you see him, ask about's sure to be a humorous story.

Contrary to previous reports, I will not be playing Saturday. I was scheduled to do a benefit, but said benefit sort of imploded...or is it exploded? Gotta get my metaphors straight. So if you wanna see me this weekend, you have one option.

I do have a farmer's market show in a few weeks, but that's the only thing on the schedule. My attention is now on finding new places to play. As well as spending this weekend upgrading the website, I also put together a new demo and took off Saturday with a colleague to hunt for new venues. We hit three places. The first was a chain place that was a cross between a Scottish pub and a Hooters. The manager was very nice, though, and he seemed genuinely interested. This is more than I normally get from bookers...they are generally not the most effervescent people in the world.

Place two was an outdoor bar with a good firepit. It looked really cool. The booker wasn't there, but the bar manager said he was looking forward to listening to my demo on his way home. They also have the place next door, so that could be a nice score.

Place number three was a nice tavern which happened to have the same name as a southern restaurant chain which is known for their pies. The booking manager for this place also not there, but the bartender told us she runs a booking company which covers several places. Later, I found out said booking company also extended to several states. Again, this has the potential to be a wonderful score.

In addition to these places, I have a list of other potentials. In addition to wanting to break into a more financially viable array of Toledo shows, I also want to expand my reach. Ideally, if I could get a paying show once a month, I would be over the noon.

Details forthcoming as soon as I get them.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

vegetarian side effects

I've been a non-meat eater for about a year now, and I'm still discovering new stuff. My latest realization is entirely about mustard.

I like mustard. We used to be connoisseurs of the stuff, always having several varieties of mustard on hand at any time. At the least, we would have a yellow, a whole grain, a Dijon, a German, and  honey mustard. Since I quit eating meat, though, my mustard consumption has plummeted. I hardly touch the stuff anymore. I never realized it was such a meat-centric condiment.

And now you know this as well.

physical artifacts and ego

I've always had geeky rock star fantasies. While I always knew at some level that I would never be a world famous rock star, I did still want some of the trappings. This was the impetus to do silly things such as get customized guitar picks. Yeah,  not absolutely necessary, but there's something to be said for stupid joy in what is at least partially an exercise in ego in the first place.

This is why, when the rest of my first band was less than enthusiastic about getting tee shirts made, I set up an online store at a print on demand company. There were a lot of drawbacks, most notably that the shirts were very expensive...too much so for our few broke fans. Plus we didn't have anything to sell at shows, so we ended up selling next to nothing. That was okay, though; I mostly just wanted a shirt for myself.

My next band did get shirts made. Moreover, they were both good sellers and moneymakers for us. Quite often, we would make more money from merchandise than we would get paid for the show itself (which, to be fair, is also due to how badly we were getting paid as much as anything else). In fact, we would've ultimately done okay financially, but we broke up a few days after ordering more of the damn shirts. We had to give away our back stock of shirts at that last gig just to get rid of them.

My next band didn't stick around long enough to get shirts made...much to my chagrin. I didn't even get a sticker for my car, and I'm still ticked about that. Any my current alt country band doesn't have any merchandise either. In a certain sense, it's like those bands don't fully exist in a physical sense...I have no evidence of my efforts in either, and that hurts my geek sensibilities.

For my solo work, I have made progress on the physical artifact end of things. I got stickers early on, mostly so I could see my name in print. I released my album, and I got actual CDs made in addition to making it available online. I spent way too much time doing the artwork, particularly for something so few have purchased. I don't care. I just wanted a physical manifestation of the album. After all, I do have an ego...somewhat.

To this point, though, I have not done shirts. Even though they could be moneymakers, I just haven't had the available cash. Hell, I'm still trying to pay off album one while socking away enough to get album 2 pressed. But shirts have been on my mind. Aside from the ego thing, I could use another source of income. I do hope to be able to do more albums in the future, and they don't come cheap. I just hadn't figured out a way to make it work.

A couple of weeks ago, I discovered something which might change everything. I ran across a web page on how to make bleach stencil shirts. The end results look pretty damn cool, actually. They would also be a whole lot more durable than any other DIY shirts I've seen. Every home silkscreened shirt I've had has started to peel within two washings, and that just can't happen with a bleached design.

The best part about the process, though, is that it seems eminently affordable and doable. All I would have to buy is some shirts, bleach, and freezer paper. Finding the freezer paper would actually be the hardest part. And this should be cheap enough to where I can have an attractive price point. I'm going to have to engage the crafts-oriented portion of my brain (which generally are not tremendously adept), but I'll do it if it gets me cool merchandise.

So, hopefully, I will have shirts by this weekend's gigs. Shirts. My geeky fantasies demand them.

rethinking my online presence

I've been trying to think of a way to make my online presence (primarily as a musician) more effective. Online really is all I have. I have no budget for advertising, and putting up fliers only is able to target so many people. The internet can be a great tool, and I've decided I need to make it work better for me.

This is particularly an issue for poor broke indie musicians such as myself. I have a ReverbNation page, but I don't know how effective it is, and, the more I explore it, I think it's mostly designed to get musicians to buy into their advertising and services. I have a Facebook music page, but at best, they only send my updates to 25% of my followers. It's usually much lower...again, they just want me to pay money for ads, and I don't have the money to spare...being a starving artist and such. Anyway, Facebook is kinda creepy, and I'm trying to minimize my patronage of their service.

So I've decided to centralize everything around my blog. I've added a music page which has a few songs available to stream. There's also a video page with my latest live music videos. I list my upcoming shows in a widget on the right. I've also started a mailing list for updates about my music; sign up in the box on the right, and I will update you with any news and developments about upcoming shows, recordings, and whatnot.

Of course, this website is still first and foremost my blog. If you're only here for the music stuff, I'm perfectly fine with that. The tools I've added are there for your benefit. If you want more of me, though, please feel free to read the blog. I talk about my music here, yes, but it's pretty much a place for me to open myself up and explore anything which comes to mind. Dive in as deep as you wanna, and if you feel like engaging in the comments, that is always welcome.

I'll still keep ReverbNation and Facebook somewhat active, but I think this should be a much better venue for my music career. And if you want to get to know me better, the blog and comments sections are there for you.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

the lessons of asphalt fumes and hard work

They just redid the parking lots in my apartment complex...fresh layer of asphalt, new lines on the spaces. Constant repair on roads, sidewalk, and parking lots is one of the realities of living in the North that I didn't expect when I was getting ready to leave Florida. Our winters are very hard on the infrastructure, so everything is in a constant cycle of dis- and re-pair. Quite often, when I smell the tell-tale odor of asphalt, my mind can't help but thing of structural issues. This time, it's different. This time, every time I step outside, I'm reminded of high school and work.

While I spent the vast majority of my 16-28 years working at the pizza place (and yes, I still have dreams), my first job was actually working in construction during the summer before my junior year. My brother was in community college and got a summer job working at a pavement marking company--they painted lines on parking lots and roads, installed concrete parking bumpers, and so forth--and his boss asked him if he knew anyone who could use a job. Pretty soon, I was working with him.

My first introduction to the world of work was laboring over chemical fumes on freshly laid asphalt in the 100+ degree Florida summer. The work would be grueling even if not for the heat, but with the sun, it was nigh-unbearable. Add to that our boss. He was a really nice guy, but he was as amped up as anyone could imagine. He'd bring us coffee, for instance, but it was terrible convenience store coffee, and he wouldn't bring cream or sugar because it took too long. We got a half hour lunch break, but when he was with us, he would inhale his food in five minutes and spend the rest of the lunch rushing us so we could get back to work. And what could we do? Knowing that we needed the money and could be easily replaced, we complied.

As for the job as a whole, I was torn. There were things I did like about it, and (forgetting the boss/worker tendencies of all involved), I liked my coworkers. However, I hated feeling drained to the point of collapse each day, and I hated knowing that ultimately, I didn't really make a difference to the organization as I was so easily replaceable. And if there was anything the job taught me, it was that I did not want to do construction.

I learned a lot from each of my jobs. I worked for a temporary work service, and that taught me how easily workers can be seen and treated as disposable entities. I worked in several warehouses, and that taught me I could continue to physically operate while mentally checking out. My time in the pizza industry taught me many things: how to deal with coworkers, how the general public looks down on those who serve them (that is, when they see them at all), how to talk on the phone, how to multitask, and many more things. It did also reinforce the "disposable worker" element as well, because for my first few years, the company refused to hire plumbers to clean our grease trap and made the employees do it (which was highly illegal, particularly when they told us to throw the hazardous waste in the dumpsters).

For years, I wondered if the "disposable worker" thing was just me. I know that being treated as a replaceable machine cog helped facilitate my mistrust and hatred of authority figures and structures...but then again, I always have been a bit of a depressive. But several years ago, I started a day in class where I polled the students on their worst jobs and what they learned from them...and surprise, surprise, I found out that everyone knew in their guts that workers are almost always disposable. Two years ago, I started asking students who've worked register (at restaurants, retail, or grocery) how many customers actually looked at them in their eyes. The answer? Usually around 5%. This means that 19 out of 20 customers treat the person taking their money as beneath their notice.

A week or two ago, one of the 2016 presidential candidates said words to the effect that people just need to work more hours, and everything will be okay. My students certainly know better. Even the ones who are not hard workers know this, because they have been taught that workers and work are not particularly valued. I learned this throughout most of my jobs. Hell, one of the reasons I stayed at the pizza place so long was because, as I was in management, I honestly felt I was making some kind of impact on the company and my area...and one of the reasons I left was when I fully realized that I was as replaceable as anyone.

Workers are not the problem. I know that in my heart. I know that in every bit of work experience I have ever had. I know that from the tales my students tell. And I'm reminded of that every time I smell the asphalt fumes.

Monday, July 13, 2015

the logical fallacy referee

I'm always looking for a way to liven up my teaching and grading. So when I found Logical Fallacy Referee, I knew I found a good tool. And because I love y'all, I thought I would share

Sunday, July 12, 2015

gifts are welcome!

While I never really expect anyone to buy me anything for no good reason, I would certainly accept free stuff. Generally, I try to have some type of humility, but greed does overtake it from time to time. So, if you ever feel the need to indulge me, I would, for the record, be just fine if someone bought me this mounted T Rex head trophy.

random weekend observations

In lieu of a proper post, here's what's been on my mind this weekend:
  • Feel lost in this world? Well, heroes do exist...and they look good in costume.
  • I got to see my tattoo artist to set up an appointment to finally finish the Lego half sleeve! I was unable to convince my wife to set up an appointment for a full back piece. Ah well.
  • The best thing to do when caught in a dying field is to find interesting ways to fiddle...such as when a friend who works in radio did a segment entitled "men's tennis or gay porn."
  • I saw articles about how Michigan natives and idiot twins Kid Rock and Ted Nugent both support Southerners who want to keep flying the Confederate flag. Look, "I wasn't trying to offend you" is a legitimate response to a claim of offense. Every one of us has done thoughtless things. But, once someone tells you that you did in fact offend them, you can no longer use "I didn't mean it" as a response. And if you continue the offensive behavior in question, you are just putting your own desire to be a jerk over a fellow human's emotions and dignity. And if you do this, you're a real ass.
  • My daughter told me she loves me because I make her smoothies. Take this how you will. When I told our favorite diner cook about this, he thanked me for finally telling him how to please women.
  • I saw some friends's bands on Friday night. It was great. It did, however, make me think about how none of them ever came to see my band. Cue Saturday's depression fit.
  • We went to the Maumee Valley Unitarian Universalist church today and watched a documentary on the 2014 Elk River disaster. Just a hint: everything even slightly related to coal and coal mining can kill you.
  • The church was weird. I didn't have a single instance of anyone telling me I was inherently evil and was doomed to burn. I don't know how to handle that.
  • They do have a church kid's area. At first, the very mention of it caused my daughter to start crying. By the time we went to pick her up an hour later, she asked me if she could come there every day.
  • I love it when I get to experience the "small world syndrome." When we dropped off our daughter at the kid's area, I thought the adult in the room looked familiar. After the service, I found out she was a friend of our from about 12 years ago. Neat!
  • I also got to post a video of my band playing at the Old West End Festival!

Friday, July 10, 2015

entering yesterday's new internet

I like to think I'm a pretty forward-looking guy when it comes to technology. I got online in 1995 and had my first e-mail address (using the glorious PINE e-mail program, no less!); there were computers in the university library, and I had time to kill between classes, so I thought, why not? As I've been sticking with the tech, I've seen many trends come and go. Some left deservedly (IE4's push technology, for instance), and others have stayed undeservedly (Facebook). None of this has really freaked me out, because I keep in mind that the internet is far from settled technology. It is instead still constantly in flux. Really, the internet is so young, we don't really even know what it is yet, so it only makes sense to ride the wave. As a result, I tend to dive in and give everything a try. Why not? In the end, no one's going to hold my brief time on Friendster against me.

Yet in spite of trying to adopt this view, I am often frighteningly behind the curve. I didn't get a cell phone until 2004, for instance, and I didn't get a smart phone until last year. Finances often hold me back. Other times, though, I just have no excuse. I did not, for instance, listen to a podcast until last week. And this is one I wish I would've corrected a long time ago.

I don't have a large listening list yet (I am open to suggestions; to what should I be listening? let me know, please). However, I can full-heartedly recommend Mark Maron's WTF podcast. Yesterday, I finished his talk with Laura Jane Grace from Against Me!, which was inspiring as hell (I'll write about this after I have a chance to fully process it). I'm now listening to the Barak Obama episode, and it's also revelatory. I love the depth of insight you can get from a less structured discussion, and I wish I would've started this earlier.

I wonder what current thing I'm ignoring?

Thursday, July 09, 2015

flags redux

I really, really hate to admit this, but I was wrong. In my 6/22 post a controversial opinion in the aftermath, I argued that the battle over the Confederate flag only really had value as a distraction from the real issues of racism. This view of mine was (shudder, shudder) not right. The flag controversy has, instead, real value in that it has brought a rang of conversations into popular debate.

Two articles in fact stand out so far in my readings. First, Their Flag and Ours examines the competing Northern and Southern Civil War nostalgia. It's great as a study of how victory (or lack thereof) affects memory. The second, The South's Heritage Is So Much More Than A Flag (written by Patterson Hood of The Drive-By Truckers, no less) makes the case more eloquently than could I that the flag is the worst possible representation of the South anyway.

New opinions are always good.

Monday, July 06, 2015

my Onion horoscope, 7/6/16

Once again, my Onion horoscope goes beyond humor into "peering deep into my soul" territory:

"It's rare that people can live a happy, healthy life without friends, so the crushing depression you're feeling is perfectly normal."

Friday, July 03, 2015

bloatware labor

I work in a University where, even in the face of budget crises and such, has an ever-increasing administrative level. This makes it much like every other university in this (and probably other) countries. Under our last administration, class sizes and teaching loads went up because of lack of funds. But at the same time, the College of Arts & Sciences was split into five separate colleges, each with its own level of administration. It never ceases to amaze me that the powers that be favor everyone except those who do the actual work of the institution.

Note I said "amaze," not "shock." When I teach my students about the traditional model of class, my undergrads are all quite clear that the middle managers don't bring any capital to production nor actually produce anything. I tell my students that some organizational theorists say that the heightened pay of middle managers is only really a symbol of power for workers who, in the end, don't really add anything of value to the chain of production. My students are not surprised by this...indeed, they already know it instinctually.

Unnecessary software on computers or phones is called bloatware. But what do you call uneccesary workers? I don't have a good term. I do know they, with their artificial power and lack of productivity are usually annoying. But there's another angle on this I did not consider until I read the article (salty language warning) On the Phenomenon of Bullshit Jobs. Yes, the article comes with an inherent bias, but to my mind, it hits pretty much spot-on. Besides, who couldn't get behind the fifteen hour work week? Imagine how much saner it would make the world.