Monday, February 23, 2015

the weekly lynx, 2/23/15

  • Point/counterpoint time! Personally, I think there's nothing wrong with employing a little of column A/column B thinking here, but what do I know? I'm far from an expert. These two, however, will get you asking the right questions.
  •  The Oscars ceremony was this weekend...last night, in fact. I found myself caring even less than usual. Yeah, I think there's value in knowing what the media says about itself, but I am no longer a media scholar, so I have no professional interest. And while I am both a consumer and creator of art, we're also talking about the most corporate kind of art, and a glitzy display dedicated to the most artistic corporate production? I'd rather spend my time writing songs, thank you very much. But if there is a good reason why this should be important, it's because of the horrible record Hollywood has in representation. Case in point? Women in Film shows some pretty scary statistics that pretty heavily suggest that females really have a pretty huge case for getting angry at the film industry.
  • The best bit of sculpture you will see this week is the Oscar Mayer Wienermobile in Lego. Must I say any more?
  • My birthday is coming up this weekend. And while I would be happy with someone just wanting to hang out with me for a change, I do have two suggestions for gifts if you're feeling generous:

Thursday, February 19, 2015

a plea

My department is undergoing some kind of evaluation. This requires us to each submit an updated curriculum vita. This required me to dig up and update my cv.


justice (or lack thereof)

Today, I ran across the article Wal-Mart Just Announced That It's Giving 500,000 Workers A Raise. Each Associate will, it seems, make $1.75 over minimum wage. This is good, as they have traditionally been a horrid place to work.

However, I couldn't help but feel jealous, as I haven't had a raise since 2010 (thanks to a horrid contract negotiation), with none in sight. Ah, the life of a teacher. I mentioned this to my wife (an academic advisor) who reminded me she just had a pay cut.

I'm happy for Wal-Mart workers. I really am. However, there's a feeling I can't seem to shake: the opinion that something ain't right.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

teaching genius

Today, in my writing class, we were going over a sample student paper. The essay was a relatively dull and broad analysis of sexism in the Tomb Raider video games. In order to make my point about the writer's thesis, I showed them this video:

and this video:

after which, I showed them this image:

It occurred to me that the image above would best be viewed while the Britney Spears song was playing. Try it. It certainly worked as an educational paradigm.

Monday, February 16, 2015

changing strings

For those of you not in the know, in addition to being a solo musician and having a solo band, I'm also in an alt-rock/alt-country band called Midwest Tourist. My job is to be the resident banjo player. This suits me just fine...less gear to haul, and the banjo is, after all, the heaviest of the acoustic instruments.

We got asked to play a fellow musician's birthday concert. Shortly after asking my band mates if we could do it and after telling the bar we were a go, we realized our guitar player couldn't do it. Then it was decided that I would move over to guitar for this show. No problem for an experienced musician such as I, right?

As it turns out, this really threw me for a loop. I know the songs on banjo, and although I play a 6 string banjo (tuned like a guitar), it's a completely different animal. First, banjos have absolutely no sustain. None. You hit it, and the note completely dies. This, for me, leads me to treat the instrument as much like percussion than anything else. So it translates much less than one would expect.

Add this to the fact that I figured out my parts specifically to fit into a band's complete soundscape--and now I have to not only learn new parts, but I have to take a much more widespread sonic approach. This means the first two practices with me on guitar did not go well. I was messing up constantly and felt like an a amateur. This actually triggered a small depression fit last week: the fear that I would bring shame to my clan.

I've been practicing like mad, though, and I have the parts nailed. The band will not sound the same, because I can't figure out how our regular guitar player does what he does. But with me, while I am somewhat adaptable, I have a pretty definite style...I can only really sound like me.

We play this Friday at Iggy's in Toledo. If you're in the area, you should really come (and contact me for tickets). We're going to sound pretty good in this configuration...and who knows if we're ever going to play in this configuration again?

Make plans, y'all,

Sunday, February 15, 2015

puzzling observation 2/15

I will freely admit there is much about this life I do not understand. Today's example? I don't understand why my daughter is running full-speed through the house while shouting "apple fishes."

Sometimes, though, it's best not to waste too much of your time on some of these observations.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

the weekly lynx (2/14)

  • 5 Problems in Movies You Only Notice If You're Old--This is a worthwhile article to read in general. However, if you want the short version, it is this: when you're older, you gain more empathy, and you start to realize how horrible people in the films treat each other. I've been working with teens since I was myself a teen (first at the pizza place, then as a teacher). I'm not one of those to stereotype 'these youth today,' but if there is one commonality, it is that most of them are unable to see anything from any perspective other than their own. I firmly believe that most people don't get a good sense of empathy until they live a little. That is why the thing that makes me proudest about my kid is that she is as much concerned for others as she is for herself. This, however, is not something you see in the media all that much.
  • Invisible Islands: Privacy is a myth on the Internet--If I have one chief disappointment with the last decade or so, it's that people's right to privacy has been slowly eroded. We're spied on everywhere. Someone is watching everything we do. And yet very few people care. I mentioned to a friend that I use Spider Oak, an online storage site focused on privacy. My friend's first response is "that would be good if you were a child pornographer." The idea that the only people who want privacy are those who have something to hide is repugnant to me. But how can you combat the constant surveillance, particularly when online? One of the scarier things I've learned about our government is that simply using privacy-oriented web material (such as TOR) is enough to get you on the NSA watch list. This is definitely something that everyone should educate themselves on...and then get angry and do something.
  • 11 Facts That Will Change The Way You Think About Jails In America--Radicals used to talk about the military industrial complex. Well, now we really have a prison industrial complex. More and more, laws and law enforcement seems to be more than anything else about terrorizing and imprisoning anyone who thinks or looks differently. Hell, in my little town of Bowling Green OH, we have a SWAT team, a bomb dog team, an armored personnel carrier, and hi-def surveillance cameras. This has got to stop.
  • Jim Crow lynchings more widespread than first thought, report concludes--History is darker than most people are taught. Hatred is widespread than most people thought. And this stuff isn't just in the past either.
  • Having the brakes removed from your car is a personal decision--The awesome Cory Doctorow's Swiftian answer to the anti-vaxxer movement.
In spite of what these links suggest, I'm actually not in that bad of a mood this week!

a musician's lament

    I have, for professional purposes, to follow a lot of people on social media who I don't like or don't really know. One of them is this bar/booking company (locals can guess who I'm talking about). Whenever you play there, they make you sell tickets if you want any money. This bothers me, because I always thought it was the bar's job. I can't wait until they make us start serving drinks as well...or maybe cleaning up the bathrooms.

    Anyway, someone associated with this particular group posted an article on the stuff bar owners hate about bands. It's not the first time I've seen such things from venue owners. The article boiled down to "these whiny musicians don't fill my bar to the rim and still expect to be treated like humans." The key, it seemed, is that the article assumes bars are doing bands favors by booking them, and bands should therefore do whatever the bar wants without complaining...and that this is particularly the case when a band draws less than ten people.

    I think about this a lot, because one of my favorite places to play makes the bands play the sound engineer before the musicians get paid. This means that the first 22 people's cover charges go to a bar employee before the artists get paid. This, in spite of the fact that if I bring five fans, those people alone will buy enough drinks to make the bar enough money to pay for the sound engineer. Now, I'm not expecting to get rich off of this, but I also don't want to be the only worker who doesn't get paid. My labor is worth something. And this is at one of the friendlier places to play.

    Look, I realize that the bar needs to make money if musicians are able to play, so bars have to be taken care of, financially. But on the other hand, if no one plays at most of these bars because the musicians are tired of being treated badly, then the bars will be empty and close anyway. Both sides of the equation need to be taken care of.

    And yes, I'm aware this rant won't accomplish any of those structural changes. My main purpose here is to make clear that live music is a fragile thing. Already, the venues and the performers are locked in an antagonistic relationship. This is especially going to be the case when people don't come out to support local music. Art being created by artists is a fragile thing. Without an audience, it becomes downright precarious.

    Let's leave aside the matter of whether friends have an obligation to support other friends (short answer: of course they do. What kind of friend would rather watch a film or tv show then support a friend's creative endeavor?). Live music is vital. Art in general is vital. When art doesn't have to lock itself up to the goals of some capitalist edifice to survive, it will most likely be particularly vital. So the least you can do is give it a checking out new bands, painters, whatever.  And if you find something you even kind of like, you should support buying albums and other merchandise, by going to the shows, by taking advantage of musician pre-sales, however you can.

    And yes, there is a certain amount of self-serving going on here...because I would like to be able to keep laying and maybe even make a second album. But I'm also fine if you have tried but still don't like my stuff. No one is required to think I'm a genius...or to even find me tolerable. It's okay to think I suck. It's okay to not support me.

    But for Zeus's sake, at least try to support someone.

    (inspired by Music 101: Why you should support local music)

    Wednesday, February 11, 2015

    change of scenery

    Weekly writing time. I have an agenda, even, and the chances of getting two songs are pretty decent. I'm thrilled to be back at it after a week off, particularly when I haven't finished a song since December. So of course I'm throwing everything in to doubt by changing my routine.

    Tonight, instead of camping out at my normal Howard's table, I'm at the local coffee shop. Why? A couple of reasons. It's Wednesday instead of Tuesday, and I have no idea who's working bar. This is important, as bartenders unfamiliar with my long, illustrious drinking history might not be completely tolerant of a sober patron who isn't really spending money (and therefore not tipping all that much).  Plus Howard's tends not to turn on their heater, and while it's not all that cold tonight, I'm still shivering at the memory of my last frigid visit.

    So instead, I decided to become the stereotypical tortured artist type and do the coffee shop thing. So far, I'm struck by how bright it is, comparatively speaking. Dessert access is nice, but as I want to sleep tonight, I got a decaf...and it is relentlessly mediocre, as its kind usually is.

    I'm not sure how this all is going to affect the work, though. I guess there's only one way to find out.

    Tuesday, February 10, 2015


    1. A while back, I talked about TheMikeDuBose luck. In that post, I said, "So, I figure I have about two more weeks before I get sick or pull a muscle or something." As it turns out, I now have a pulled back muscle. While I am glad it is not something worse (it didn't feel like a pulled muscle, but I do have doctor verification), it still does illustrate the luck holds as always. Luckily, though, I have a full drug cabinet thanks to the various surgeries of the last year.
    2. In a vegetarian recap, I mentioned that "I've had to move up two belt I'm clearly shrinking. Strangely enough, though, the scale still says I'm as gargantuan as always." Yesterday, immediately before going to the doctor for the aforementioned pulled muscle diagnosis, I weighed myself. When they weighed me at the doctor's office, I had gained 6 the course of an hour and a half...without eating. I can only imagine my boots are heavier than I realize.
    3. In writers write, I expressed questions as to how easy it would be to get back into the swing of writing. I didn't get much done that night except for a thematic structure to one song's lyrics. Since then, I have begun to again explode with ideas. Of course, I wasn't actually able to write last week. Here's hoping I don't have to miss this week's session. I'm particularly curious, as I've been listening to nothing but old school r&b for the last two weeks, and I'm really looking forward to finding out how that's going to affect the songs.

    Sunday, February 08, 2015

    West Wing and me

    For whatever reason, I spent lots of today binge-watching West Wing. This struck me:

    "it's about the next 20 years. In the '20s and '30s it was the role of government. '50s and '60s it was civil rights. The next two decades are going to be privacy. I'm talking about the Internet. I'm talking about cell phones. I'm talking about health records and who's gay and who's not. And moreover, in a country born on the will to be free, what could be more fundamental than this?"

    Wish we were paying attention.

    Saturday, February 07, 2015

    the weekly lynx, 2/7

    • Eternal life could be achieved by procedure to lengthen chromosomes--Ray Kurzweil predicts that the singularity (the merging of humans and machines) is coming. I tend to believe him, and this development is but a step on the road. I hope it comes in my lifetime. We tend to forget that we're living in a science fiction world already. Keep your flying cars and jetpacks; I'll take the world we have any day...but I'd rather have the future. Make me King, and this stuff gets tons of funding. Get to work, science monkeys!
    • see also One of the World's Top Aging Researchers Has a Pill to Keep You Feeling Young.
    • How secular family values stack up--Food for thought. There's no reason not to be a good person...and people who blame bad behavior on stereotypes are more the problem than anything else. We're all stuck on this rock together (with the exception of the few ISS crew), and life is a whole lot nicer and easier when we get along. Make me King, and one of my priorities would be to eliminate stereotyping.
    • Dave Wyndorf: why Monster Magnet 'Can't Get Arrested' in the US--There's a crisis in music here in the US. I'm not talking about the music industry dying. It might be dying, but frankly, I couldn't care less about millionaires. They are only a small portion of music anyway. Much more good stuff in fact happens at the street level. But people don't want to support good music. I have played to completely empty rooms. I have seen phenomenal bands play to single digits of people. We need to figure out how to get people interested in music (hell, in Art) again.We need to support art. It's good for the soul. Make me king, and I would tax the ever-loving wallet of the rich and start a national salary for artists.
    • The Trip Treatment--With the exception of my mental health prescriptions, I don't do drugs. I am, however, completely sickened with this country's drug policies. They seem to be more about keeping people in jail than anything else. Make me king, and I would legalize everything. The money could be used for treatment and for research for this kind of thing.
    • Astronaut: Here are all the sad things I realized while floating through space--Perspective can be a lovely thing. It can be depressing as well. But let's use that perspective to actually do something. Make me king, know.
    • Notice: Travelers from the Future--Someone knows more than they are telling. Make me king, and I would tell all.

    Thursday, February 05, 2015

    teacherly musings

    If one were to be a fly on the wall of the hallway outside my office, one would pick up some pretty strange impressions of the existence of non-tenured faculty. To wit:
    • "Are you going to the union meeting today?" "No. Having the ways administration is screwing us numerated interests me not in the least."
    • "...and they treat us like its our duty to do their job for them." "Heh. You just said 'doodie.'"
    • "I notice that whenever I send out a notice on Starfish [the early warning system for success mentors], the student then quits coming to class." "You should use that power wisely."
    • "When you made that crack about 'doodie,' I felt the need to tell you I have similar thoughts with the word 'retention.'"
    • "You ever notice that it's the students who complain most loudly who do the least work?"
    • "I've learned to do as little as possible as a survival mechanism. It's tough, though, because I actually like my job."
    • "Somehow knowing that you were also made a 'University Diversity Champion' kinda ruins the honor for me."
    • "It seems that every time I go to the public library, I have to deal with someone else's mucus. There's always some guy hacking away on the computer next to me. I agree with the ideas of public access in general, but on the other hand, gross."
    • "I'm impressed that you own your own level and hammer. Do they live here?"
    • "I normally despise meetings with every fiber of my existence, but when they affect me directly--such as when they're supposed to answer the question 'Will we get a new union contract before I retire in twenty years?,' then I make an exception."

    Tuesday, February 03, 2015

    on not being behind

    I'm caught up.
    It's a weird feeling. Last semester, I was pretty much constantly behind. Doctor's appointments, emergency room visit, surgeries, pain, recovery. Don't get me wrong; I realize that, on a scale of injuries and illnesses, pseudo-gout and kidney stones are on a relatively not-serious level when compared to some people's situations. Yet it still sucked.

    It did take a lot out of me physically and mentally, but in some ways, the worst part was how much it took of my time.

    I was constantly behind on my school work. I was teaching five classes (writing classes, which are grading-intensive anyway), and I would go a couple of weeks between being able to grade or even answer messages...and when I did get to my email, it was clear that the students were feeling abandoned. But what could I do?

    Right now, I am fully caught up on my grading. I already have a few days of lesson plans ready. Right now, my students are watching a film which I've taught dozens of times, so my attention is free to wander. I can actually plan out my afternoon without having to perform triage on my school work.
    It is a weird feeling, but it is one I could get used to...not that I'll probably get a chance. Life has a way of happening.

    Monday, February 02, 2015

    the weekly lynx (2/2/15)

    One of the things I did when on social media was to send along any interesting web links I found (usually under the heading of "the most interesting xxx you will see today" or some variant). While I hoped people enjoyed them, and I always think it's a good idea to pass on interesting reads, the main reason I did this was so I could have a nice online record of things which I might want to revisit. Only it's not nearly as easy to find a specific post on social media as you might think, so this didn't always work out.

    It's not the first time I've tried something similar. Ages ago, I used to have a blog dedicated to neat stuff I found online...but maintaining more than one blog and getting anything done turned out to be a herculean task. But I've found I can do one blog just fine, particularly now I've quit social media. Seriously, I did more posts last month than I did in the whole of 2012. So I've decided to just post a more-or-less weekly roundup of all the neat things I've run across during the week. I'm gonna call it "The Weekly Lynx" (get it? see the photo? get it?) This week's entries:

    Sunday, February 01, 2015

    out of downs

    As a kid, I remember liking football. I don't know how much I really understood it, but I do recall enjoying it. At the time, the Terry Bradshaw-era Pittsburgh Steelers were my team. I liked to play football with my brother in the yard...I recall being hard to tackle. But I wasn't fast at all, and I had problems throwing and catching (due to a turn in one eye and not being able to see in 3-D which wasn't diagnosed until years later), so I never tried to play in any formal sense...and eventually, my interest burned away.

    In high school, I found myself friends with several football fanatics, so I decided to take up the sport again. We decided to play fantasy football, and although it seemed a bit too much like Dungeons and Dragons, I formed my own team. One thing Fantasy Football really is good for is that it requires you to be hyper-aware and hyper-knowledgeable about the sport, so I got up to speed pretty quickly. By the end of the first season, I knew pretty much every player in the league...and I was thoroughly sucked in.

    When my hometown of Jacksonville was awarded an NFL team, me and my dad got season tickets...and for the four years before I moved to Ohio, we would go to every home game. This, on top of going to a sports bar with my dad to watch Monday Night Football, made me appreciate the sport as a social opportunity. It was probably the most time I had spent with my dad since I had become a sullen teenager type, and watching games with him was absolutely vital to me being able to move past seeing him as "father" and truly get to know him. Plus it led to lots of beer and chicken wings, which is always a good thing.

    When I moved up to Ohio, I still kept the faith. It was harder, though, because academics are, in general, not only not big sports fans but in many cases actually anti-sports. At least this describes most of the ones I knew. I couldn't understand it. If they didn't appreciate the intricacies of strategy or the feats of physical wonder, couldn't they at least appreciate the social aspect? How football lends itself so well to (and even creates and maintains) community? But save two good friends (both of which soon left the area), I had a very hard time getting anyone to come see the games with me.

    So the communal aspect of football eroded for me, but I still held the faith. However, over the last two years, that faith started to diminish. With so many demands on my time (as a father, a husband, a teacher, and a musician), every activity has to pull its weight. Football kept doing things to sabotage itself in my soul. The fact that the sport takes a tremendous toll on its participants became harder and harder to ignore for me, particularly when the head trauma costs became clearer and clearer. I began to be more and more alienated by the displays of obnoxious celebrity, both on-field (why must players, after making a routine play, run to an isolated spot on the field and pose?) and off. With every domestic violence incident, with every shooting, with every general act of spoiled brat millionaire behavior, my interest waned.

    Somewhere in the middle of last season, I realized that I was done. I increasingly felt like I was watching a strange spectacle somewhere between celebrity gossip and gladiatorial combat, and I could not sustain my interest or the time it required. I finished out the season, but after that, I swore off football. I wasn't 100% sure I wouldn't feel the itch and cave, but, as it turns out, that never happened. I saw a game with my dad when he came to visit, but after that, I didn't care to pick it back up. I even had to be reminded that the playoffs had started.

    Today is the Super Bowl. Instead of watching, I spent the day with my family and then working. I have zero interest in watching the game. I never thought this would happen, but here we are.

    Just as well. As a vegetarian, I wouldn't have been able to make my Super Bowl Chili anyway.

    TheMikeDuBose luck

    I've been going to the gym. I'm say this for the purpose of this narrative, not in an "I'm a non-drinking vegetarian who uses natural cleansing products, cooks his own food, and now I exercise, and this makes me better than you" brag...although the latter statement is 100% true...just sayin'. I have arthritis in one shoulder, and exercise helps lessen the effect. Plus, to be fair, I could stand to lose some tonnage. But the reason I mention any of this is that it accurately illustrates my luck.

    First, there's my workout cycle. By this, I mean the process of forcing myself to get to the damn gym for an hour of torture. Then the shame and agony of my gym recovery period. Then all of this happening until, miracle of miracles, I get in the habit of working out. Then, quite naturally, I get a cold...every single damn time. This cold sidelines me just enough to push me right out of the habit of working out. Rinse, repeat. So, I figure I have about two more weeks before I get sick or pull a muscle or something. But I'm gonna keep trying...because I'm stubborn like that.

    Today, though, I got a graphic demonstration of my luck. It's snowing here. There's a storm warning and everything; in fact, they say we should get around eight inches before it stops. So, on the way out to the gym, I figured it would be very decent of me indeed if I were to brush the snow off mine and my wife's car...get a head start, such as it is.  Plus I had to grab my mp3 player out of my car anyway, because the sound of my panting is bad enough on its own.

    I get my mp3 player and then make quick work of both cars. I walk to the gym (which is in our complex) and start to unbundle. When I dig for my mp3 player, though, I don't have it. So,
    1. I search each pocket about five times before rebundling and heading back out to my car. 
    2. I tear apart the inside of my car and find nothing. 
    3. I look on the snow around my car. 
    4. I look on the snow around my wife's car. 
    5. I check my pockets again.
    6. I go back to my car and start kicking the snow around in case my player got covered. 
    7. I then do the same thing at my wife's car. 
    8. I go back and re-sift though the snow by my car. 
    9. I go back to my wife's car. 
    10. I then go back to the gym in case it just fell out as I was getting unbundled. 
    11. I go back to the snow around my wife's car...
    12. ...and then around my car. 
    13. I check inside my car again. 
    14. I start resigning myself to the fact that it's probably gone.
    15. I check my pockets again
    16. I curse (not for the first time, I might add). 
    17. I check around my wife's car again. 
    18. I wonder how on earth I'm ever going to find the money for another player
    19. I go back and look again around my car.
    20. I say out loud, "of course. Why should I expect any different? Why even be surprised? Damnit."
    21. I then see the mp3 player clearly sitting on top of the snow.
    Miraculously, the player worked from the minute I dried it off...but then I had to take about fifteen minutes to calm down. I do my workout and finally return home, two whole hours after I left.

    The thing is, however, that if you ever ask me how my day has been going, I probably always have this kind of story ready to go.