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.