Thursday, April 30, 2015
Wednesday, April 29, 2015
Magic 8 Ball needed
Is there legitimate reason to be hopeful at all about politics? Normally, I would say that any optimism in this area is really just delayed disappointment. After all, I didn't expect Obama to increase the police state when I went knocking on doors on his behalf.
This time, though, presidential politics could get interesting. Why? Bernie Sanders is running... and if there's anyone who can upend the process (as Matt Taibbe argues), it's Bernie.
Still, it would be nice if someone or something could tell me if I should I should have hope.
Thursday, April 23, 2015
research ideas for sale i
For a while, I have been fascinated with fake product reviews on Amazon. I particularly love it when they move into activism (usually aimed at some example of industry malfeasance). The most known of these are the Amazon user reviews for the Bic Cristal 'For Her' pen. Yes, this is a pen specifically marketed towards females. It differs from normal pens by having a daintier barrel and pastel packaging.
This is truly a product which deserves to be mocked, and the customers do so in wonderful ways. One of my favorite parts of this listing is in the user questions. Someone asks if the pen is safe for her husband to use, and the reply is "It is unknown if a male can actually use these with their big strong hands they might just end up snapping the pen which would result in ink spillage and possible ink stains." And if someone is not currently working on an analysis of the gender activism in the contents, I would be mightily surprised.
My idea for sale, though, goes deeper into the phenomenon. The product in question is the AudioQuest K2 Terminated Speaker Cable. Unlike the pens, this originally became the target of snarky reviews because it was listed with a $6800 price tag. The reviews are generally great. What's even better, though, is that one reviewer went further and created a science fiction story review.
Hence, my brilliant idea: literary analysis of sarcastic/activist Amazon reviews!
Wednesday, April 22, 2015
agony and the ordinary
The hardest thing I ever have to do is, while in the midst of a depression fit, try and perform some/any normal task. Everything in my mind wants me to shut down and whimper. Every part of my body wants me to just stagnate. When I, on top of all this, have to hold back the floodgates to do something... total and complete hell.
Tuesday, April 21, 2015
it runs in the family!
Her mom came in to change my kid's socks. As soon as she finished, my daughter turned to me and asked, "would you like me to play more songs for you?"
That's my girl.
the greatest thing you will see today, 4/21
Monday, April 20, 2015
I'm at the coffee shop with my kid. John Mayer comes on the radio, and she turns to me and says, "this is good music to go to sleep to." Wise beyond her years, my girl.
Sunday, April 19, 2015
letting the Depression Monster loose
Thursday, April 16, 2015
and now, to balance the doom, a moment of cuteness
Yesterday, when she woke up, she came into my room to snuggle. After a few minutes, she turned to me and said, "Daddy, when we play hug & kiss in my bedroom, I put your kisses in my heart." Of course, I started to liquify. But then she clarified: "My heart is in my back. That's because I'm a unicorn." I started to laugh, and then she looked at me, adopted the look of a sage, and informed me that "girls are unicorns, and boys are trucks."
Where trucks keep their heart, however, is still a mystery.
an update on pain
Shortly before writing the post, I started to experience discomfort in my right hip. I thought I'd pulled a muscle or something...but seeing as the pain still hasn't gone away, I guess you can chalk up another body part to the arthritis monster. I've been puzzling for ages as to why all my arthritis seems confined to my right side. This morning, however, there was a bit of soreness in my left thumb. Yay.
Be prepared for an increase in the admittedly sizable volume of moaning! Also, I probably should start buying Aleve by the barrel.
in defense of bullies
So, when I ran across the editorial "It's Okay to Bully Corporations," I couldn't help but be a little thrilled. I completely agree with the point that we should use every tool in our power to fight for economic justice. But I'm enough of a wordsmith (sorry to be pretentious, but I can't think of a better term) to really cheer for the article's claims about diction. I have more than a bit of wrath for anyone who co-opts the language of the oppressed to support the oppressors.
We should also be allowed to bully those nimrods.
Wednesday, April 15, 2015
time to be scared v
Tuesday, April 14, 2015
it's been that kind of day
One of the best things about embracing the randomness of life is that it saves one a lot of trouble and heartache. If, for instance, one has the kind of afternoon as have I, it's easier to believe that there's no order...because if there was, I'd feel way too persecuted to be able to function. It's hard to be paranoid if you know that life is just a bunch of random, heartless crap.
time to be scared iv
Monday, April 13, 2015
My 3.75 year old (who should really be sleeping) informed me she was getting ready for "super hero unicorn school." The school apparently provided her with her Hello Kitty backpack. The cape (a bra, with her head through one of the arm holes) is her own.
Sunday, April 12, 2015
stupid fingers, dead skin, and pain
Dead skin. My fingers are coated with it, calluses like I've never had before. Tender, sore fingertips.
I've been playing guitar about thirty years. Before that, I played classical violin for a few years. I played bass in the high school jazz band for a year (the band teacher really hated me). I briefly dabbled on the dulcimer. A while back, I bought a 6 string banjo which is strung like a guitar (some people call this a banjitar; these people should suffer great pain and agony for their sins). So I have a varied background on many stringed instruments.
None of these has confounded me like does the mandolin. It's tuned way differently than the guitar, so not only does no knowledge translate, my knowledge of the guitar fretboard actually interferes with my mandolin attempts. The frets are very close together, so my fingers have to bend in new ways...so I don't even have muscle memory from which to pull. It has thin double strings under high tension, and these dig into my fingers.
I bought it over a year ago, but after playing it for a few weeks and a brief appearance on my album (just buy it already), I got busy and set it down. When I realized it had been months and months since I put it away, I vowed to make a concerted effort to become competent on the thing. For the last couple of weeks, I've been spending at least a couple of hours a day practicing. Today, I had stupid fingers that didn't want to cooperate with my brain (which itself had trouble switching into mando mode), but that's just part of it.
I don't expect to become bluegrass good on the thing...just competent enough to add different textures to my solo act and my next album. It's going slow, and it can be unbelievably frustrating, particularly with nights like tonight, where I was having trouble finishing a single song without stops and starts...but overall, I am (very) slowly getting better.
It's good, though, to challenge one's self, to push one's boundaries. Plus now, I can brag about my suddenly awesome calluses! Yeah....maybe that will make them ignore my whining about finger pain...
Friday, April 10, 2015
joy and chaos
When I was younger, I used to believe in such things as order, fate, justice, and the like. I used to believe that hard work would inevitably lead to success. I used to think that there was such a thing as right and wrong. Karma, just desserts, whatever you want to call it...while I didn't think of it on the level of dogma, I did believe there was some kind of general structure at work in the universe.
Over the years, this certainty burnt away, and I realized that there was no structure to speak of, that the world was essentially random. I knew this on some deep level, but it took a while for this awareness to reach my consciousness...and when it did (the great mental breakdown of 2011), it leveled it to me. Typical existential depression, yes, but one never expects it when it happens.
It took ages to find my way through the worst of the depression. I never found the structure again or the certainty...and I'm certain it never existed in the first place. Dealing with it was never about reconnecting with the order, though. What I instead had to do was just come to terms with the chaos, embrace it.
So how does one embrace chaos? I used to think the drinking helped, but I found out when I quit , my ability to cope only increased. The music helps. The best thing, though, is finding and latching onto any burst of joy, particularly those outside of any expectations.
Luckily, I have a secret weapon: my child. She constantly exceeds any expectations I might have...it seems she's constantly coming at the world from an odd angle. This would make me wonder, if she didn't have such joy...and if she didn't spread that joy so easily. She's the perfect embrace of joy and chaos.
Case in point? Earlier this week, she was running through the house, and she tripped. I asked her if she was okay, and she said, "yeah,...I tripped when my unicorn tail got tangled up in bubble wrap." She then got up, smiled, and went back to running.
How can one be depressed when in the presence of that?
Sunday, April 05, 2015
two quick observations
Friday, April 03, 2015
shaking in 3...2...
Ever had a "guess I had too much coffee at brunch" moment? That's me right now.
Thursday, April 02, 2015
pills and aching joints
My dad was in the Air Force, and although I was born in America, my first memories are of Germany, where we lived until I was seven. My grandmother only came over to visit once, and she was not a good traveler. She was exactly the kind of person who would complain that the food wasn't the same as back home, that they didn't put ice in the sodas...you get the idea. When we moved to South Carolina, we spent a few weeks down in Florida at her house. I know this would've been a good time to try and know her better, but I was a shy kid and was still a bit shaken up by the move to do much of anything.
When my dad retired, we moved down to Florida...to live in her old house, actually. She was close by, but I still never really got to know her that well. My parents tell me it was because she wasn't easy to know, but I suspect the truth is more that I was still a shy and painfully awkward kid...and becoming a teenager didn't help at all. Still, I did try, but I suspect there was some basic incompatibility at work.
What I do remember most vividly is staying over at her house and watching her in the morning. After she got me cereal (which, after I put some sugar on my corn flakes, she made me stir it into the milk for some reason), she started to massage her swollen knuckles for a minute before taking some pills from her industrial-size bottle of Tylenol. When I asked her about it, she told me that arthritis was just something that happened to us when we got older. But I was in my teens, and the entire concept of getting older seemed somewhere between remote and implausable.
A few years ago, after one of my old band's first shows, my shoulder started hurting. I told my singer it was because I carried her heavy amplifier, but I suspected that wasn't the truth...and she even refused to accept the guilt trip. The shoulder pain persisted, though, and after a few runs to the doctor and through physical therapy, I had a diagnosis: a compressed spinal disk along with arthritis in my shoulder.
This wasn't all that much of a shock to me. I went to the college in the "sling your backpack only over one shoulder" era, and I had played music for (I was shocked to realize) decades at that point...so wear and tear was only to be expected. It was only when getting a suit for a wedding when this was really driven home, when the seamstress informed me that one of my shoulders (the aching one in question) was actually measurably taller than the other. One of my first thoughts was that if I found any more physical deformities, I could change careers and enter a circus freak show...but another early thought was of my grandmother's swollen knuckles.
I soon found I could crack my shoulder joint at will when the arthritis was (to use my grandmother's phrase) flaring up. In some ways, I could look on this as a war wound, a physical manifestation of my suffering for my art and my scholarship. When I told this to my parents, they informed me that being a martyr was also something I probably got from my grandmother. But then one day a few years ago, I started to feel the same twang in one of my fingers. Pretty soon, I could pop it on command. Not every day hurts, but enough days hurt to make me have my own industrial size bottle of pills in my own medicine cabinet, which, with every pain and prescription, starts to resemble that of my grandmother even more.
The last few days, I've started to feel that pain in one of my thumbs...which is undoubtedly proof the arthritis's sphere of influence is surely expanding. The pain usually is pretty ignorable, though. On its most intense days, it's simply annoying yet usually easily treatable. Compared to my recent kidney stone pain, it's quite laughable.Yet it's still troubling. So far, it has stayed out of the hand which fingers notes on my guitars. But I'm beginning to realize that it will eventually grow, spread, start to disrupt, and maybe even take away my music...which is sobering and more than a little scary.
This morning, on the drive to work, the pain started to flair. After pulling into the lot, I sat in my parked car and broke into my car's emergency supply of pain pills. After swallowing, I rubbed my sore hand for a minute. It was only then when I realized that I now am beginning to know my grandmother a bit better.