Wednesday, October 04, 2017

early October happenings

I have a band!

Using methods beyond my own comprehension, I have assembled yet another backing band (The Antidepressants version 4.0, I think). I can now bring a full band rock show to my second album's songs. This makes me mighty happy. We played as a four piece on Black Swamp Arts Festival weekend. We did a three piece performance at a party adjacent to the Luckey Fall Festival. And this weekend, we get to do it again!

This Saturday, I'm playing at Stone's Throw (my home away from home). I will be splitting sets with the immensely talented April Freed. I go on for an acoustic set from 9:45 to 10:30. After April's second set, TheMikeDuBose and the Antidepressants bring the rock from 11:15-midnight. It will be a blast and a half, and I'd really love to see you there.

Tonight, though, I'm doing a warm-up at The Hump Day Revue, where I'll get about four or five songs on acoustic. Also, my horn player Nick Zoidberg will be joining me. I will have copies of both albums for sale, and I'd also love to see you tonight.

In the meantime, isn't this weekend's flyer very green?

Monday, August 21, 2017

my second album's release

It's been entirely too long since I released my debut album Skeleton Coast. I really wanted to get a follow-up out fairly quickly. Life, though, has a way of intervening whenever possible. There was production issues. There was a year-long detour into a cover band in an attempt to actually make money playing music (spoiler: it didn't work). There were work crises. Some times, it seemed like everything possible which could delay my work did delay my work.

No worries, though. Depression Monster is on track. Recording is done. Mixing is done. Mastering is done. Test copy has been ordered, delivered, reviewed, and approved. The final order has been shipped. Files are on Bandcamp.

It's really hard for me to get perspective on my work anyway, and when I've been working on an album this long, it's nigh impossible. Nevertheless, it sounds very, very good to my ears. I've given it to a few people I really trust, and they tell me it's as close to "official major label release" in sound as one can get. Nick Zoidberg, my compatriot, is relatively gaga over the album. All these are good signs.

There will be much more coming about the album in the next few weeks. Today's news, though, is that the scheduled Saturday album release show has been cancelled due to accidental double booking. No worries, though, as I'll now be playing at Stone's Throw (my home base) the next three months: on September 9 (Black Swamp Arts Festival weekend!), October 7, and November 11. I'll also be hitting many other area establishments, so there will be many opportunities to see me and snag a disk. Can't get to a show yet still want the physical artifact? E-mail me at themikedubose@yahoo.com and I will work something out.

If you're the kind of person who does their music digitally, the album is available for pre-order on my Bandcamp page. If you order now, you get an immediate download of the opening track "Mileage." The full album goes live this Saturday, August 26.

Big things are happening. Stay tuned.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

recording update

I have a hard deadline for finishing my album. There's already an album release show set for August 26, so I need to have the recording sent to the printer by the end of July. Luckily, I am on track.

I finished background vocals a week ago. Bass guitar was finished last Friday. About ten minutes ago, I completed the last guitar track...a wicked double-tracked outro solo which makes me sound like a wizard.

I'm taking another blast at the lead vocals, and then, it's just mixing and mastering. I've been tightening the arrangements as I go, so the mix should proceed in a swift fashion.

I'm getting excited. I can't wait for y'all to hear it. It's been a long time coming.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

My Onion horoscope

"There will be nothing you can do to avert the disaster of next week, although there will be plenty that a reasonably bright and competent person could do."


Thanks, guys.

occupation

Today, my child is at her summer care program (run by her school). She's on a field trip to the zoo, so I have the day to work. You think that summer for a teacher would be a time of vacation, of international travel, of lazing about, but that's not the case for me. Already, I have spent a over a week grading AP exams. I've played an area festival. And I'm close to finishing my second album.

Why do work when one doesn't have to? Well, in the case of the grading, it's that I need the money. Grad school leads to a lot of debt, and I still haven't come close to clawing my way out of it. Next year, I might even have to look into additional grading employment, as I recently found out that I'm ineligible for the government program for forgiving public servants of their student loans. Why? Because I took advantage of another government program to consolidate my loans over a decade ago. This is a blow, because getting my student loans forgiven might've helped free up enough cash to me to make some headway on my credit card debt. That ain't happening now.

I discovered my loan forgiveness ineligibility yesterday. In spite of that, however, I'm in a pretty decent mood. While the therapy and antidepressants certainly have a large role in my peaceful state of mind, they are far from the only factors. Having a great family also helps (see my previous posts about my strange child), but managed expectations also play their part...and they are largely a product of science fiction.

After dropping off my daughter, I came home, broke out the Aeropress, and put on just a little television. Last night, I found out that Hulu has the television version of Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, so I watched an episode or two while drinking my coffee and plotting the day. That's when I heard this quote:

Perhaps I'm old, but the chances of finding out what really is going on are so absurdly remote the only thing to do is to say, "Hang the sense of it" and keep occupied.

This quote (along with its radio, novelization, and cinema versions) resonates with me and also explains my summer shenanigans. Why play music? Why work on an album which, in the grand scheme of things, few people will actually hear? Why in fact try to accomplish anything?

To me, this is answered in another Hitchhiker's quote (this time from the book):

there comes a point I'm afraid where you begin to suspect that the entire multidimensional infinity of the Universe is almost certainly being run by a bunch of maniacs

Will thinking about things help? Probably not. Instead, focus on what you can do. Me? I can raise my kid. I can write songs. I can keep moving.

That's enough.
Who cares? Perhaps I'm old, but the chances of finding out what really is going on are so absurdly remote the only thing to do is to say, "Hang the sense of it" and keep occupied.
Read more: http://www.springfieldspringfield.co.uk/view_episode_scripts.php?tv-show=the-hitchhikers-guide-to-the-galaxy&episode=s01e04

Friday, July 07, 2017

another exchange

Me: "I wonder what it would be like to have a normal child."

Daughter: "It would be horrible. Normal is boring. Strange is much more fun."

Ah. My child.

on my inability to fool anyone

Hi. remember me? I've been buried in the album (it has to go to the printer by the end of the month), but I have a story that must be told in spite of the damage it will do to my ego.

Me and my daughter we're driving to the grocery store when we saw a bus from her old daycare. We started to speculate on where they might be going. My kid shot down my suggestion they might be going to the pumpkin patch for jack-o'-lanterns or to the Christmas tree farm. I then suggested they might be traveling to Toledo to see a statue of me.

"I don't think so, daddy," she replied without a second of thought. "I really doubt anyone knows who you are."

Ouch. At the very least, I'm pretty sure she will not really ever let people take advantage of her.

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Music news

Quick music news!

  • I play this Wednesday, 5/31 at 10pm at Stone's Throw Tavern in BG for Hump Day Revue. This will be a rawk show,
  • I play this Saturday, 6/3 at 3pm on the Old West End Festival in Toledo OH , on the Art Fair Stage. This will be a rawk show.
  • I'm at Stone's Throw Tavern in Bowling Green again on July 7, from 9 to midnight.
  • August 26th will be my album release show for TheMikeDuBose's Depression Monster! At long last!
  • Nick Zoidberg will be joining me at any number of these shows.
You can bet there will be more details forthcoming on all of these events.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

required viewing

While I might have uncertain feelings on Google as a mega-corporation and the unreal amount of influence they have over people's lives, one thing they really have working in their favor is their public applications of quirk. I particularly appreciate the special Google Doodles. Today's doodle (Wednesday, 4/26) is particularly amazing. It is a celebration of the Cassini spacecraft that, if you're anything like me, hits you directly in the "feels."

I wasn't really a space nerd growing up. In fact, in my late teens, I got the idea that all the money spent jumping into space could probably be better spent feeding or educating people. But as I grew up, I got a bit wiser. I became more aware of the space program working as a catalyst for intellectual discovery in general. I learned about any number of real-world benefits from NASA's work. Most importantly, I became aware of the sense of grandeur of the pursuit.

I can't point to a specific instance that made me fall for space. Most likely, it was the photos streaming in from the Hubble Telescope. They made space real to me in a way nothing else had. I was able to sit at my desk and see pictures of galaxies, of planets, of nebulae. Every one of them was beyond my science fiction dreams. In each image, I saw brilliance. I saw majesty. I saw wonder. And slowly, my ability to feel anything other than attraction for space started to dissolve.

It was when I became aware of the Cassini, though, and its mission to Saturn where I finally turned a corner. Saturn is close enough to be real to me in a way that distant space objects (such as The Pillars of Creation) can never be. Yet it is also is more outlandish and weird than anything I've seen in films. It has a total of sixty two discovered moons. One of those, Titan, has ethane and methane clouds and liquid hydrocarbon lakes (a Cassini discovery).  Another, Enceladus, has subsurface oceans of liquid water (also discovered by Cassini) and has volcanoes which shoot ice into space. Then there's Mimas, a moon which bears more than a passing resemblance to the Death Star.

As awesome as are the moons, the key feature of the planet--and the one that jumps out in every photo sent from Cassini--has to be the rings. They are its defining feature. They are what visually distinguish it from all other planets. They are where the distant astronauts of many science fiction narratives are sent to mine supplies. And they are what haunt me.

Today, Cassini starts a series of swoops between the planet and its rings. It will undoubtedly discover more mysteries to keep the scientists awash in new discoveries. It will take more stunning photos. Then, by the end of the year, it will crash into the planet.I will miss the sense of wonder I feel whenever it sends a new photo. I will miss the marvel of every new discovery. Most of all, though, I will be thankful to the tiny machine orbiting a distant planet. Without it, I might not have fell in love with space.

Bon voyage, Cassini.

music update

Just to prove I haven't been completely slacking in the music department, here's two bits of music news.

First, I am on the home stretch of the follow-up album. It will be called Depression Monster, and it should be out this summer. I'm hoping I can have copies for sale by the beginning of June. Stay tuned for details. In the meantime, here's an early mix of the opening song "Mileage":


Secondly, I will once again be playing at the Old West End Festival. This year, I will be at the Art Fair stage on Saturday, June 3rd at 3pm. I'm currently working on trying to assemble a full horn section for the gig. It should be fun!

I've got a few more days of grading to do, and then I'm off my day job until Fall. I will be recording, recording, recording, and then I'll be looking for gigs to support the album. I've already got album number three written, and I promise that one will go a whole lot quicker than did album number two.

Thanks for your support!

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

my Onion Horoscope, 4/25/17

Because we haven't done this in a while, my Onion horoscope:
You will definitely be remembered by all people for all time, a fact that should make you feel much more shame and disappointment than it may seem.

Wednesday, April 05, 2017

today's weird grading notes

I'm grading tech writing documents, so I have to comment on document design, picture arrangement, formatting, and many other fun things. Today, I find myself repeatedly telling the students to label all the images they use (as 'figure a') and to refer to those labels in the text. However, my fingers have been failing me, and I have been instead typing "label mages."

Admittedly, it would be a lot more fun to label a magician than a graphic in a technical description. At first, though, I thought I was just making a typo. It wasn't until the 'fun center' of my brain started to shut down, though, when I realized I was actually indulging in wish fulfillment! Screw technical report writing. I want to instead focus on spell-casting and alchemy. Surely I can't be the only teacher who thinks this way.

It is at that point of realization, though, where my logic center starts to reassert itself. After all, I find myself, instead of typing 'white space,' actually typing 'shite space.' Certainly that can't be wish fulfillment, can it?

Or maybe it's just unconscious description coming out. Hmm.

what I've learned about mental illness

I'm currently grading papers. This semester, in my Composition II class, I decided to use a reader Pursuing Happiness. It looked like a good choice, and not just for the cute puppies on the cover. I read it before doing my syllabus, and I seemed satisfied with the selections inside.
called

About halfway through the semester, I realized two things:

  1. In general, most of the readings were real bummers. I was making my students learn about universal suffering, the obedience-driven nature of religion, and depressive realism. None of these ideas are generally seen as pick-me-ups. 
  2. Based on not noticing these depressive themes, when I previewed the text, I must've been in a not wonderful mental place. Was my depression kicking in with a particular vengeance? Or was I just lulled into complacency by the puppy photo? It is a question worth pondering.
I think the students are getting a lot out of the readings, but one can never be sure...so I am doing an impromptu survey on their attitudes towards the readings. At the very least, they should be learning a lot. Is it, however, information they want to know? Well, only time will tell.

After reading their last essays, though, I know I certainly am learning a lot, including:

  1. People with depression and anxiety cannot have free will, because institutionalized people always have someone running their lives.
  2. Philosophers only give their personal opinions on matters.
Yes. Sigh. Now I have to decide if I really want any more of these insights.

Friday, March 24, 2017

wither America?

Let us all have a moment of silence for TrumpCare. Now insurance companies will have to continue to cover emergency room visits, mental healthcare, maternity care, and pre-existing conditions. Oh, poor billionaire corporations! How will we ever survive as a country???

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

linguistic weather

Every year about this time, we get the "ha, you thought winter was over" snowfall. Every year, it takes everyone by surprise. You'd think we'd learn to expect it, but we never do. Monday, as I was retrieving my snow brush from my car trunk, my daughter let me have it. "I TOLD you we'd get more snow!" Let me tell you: a five year old looking smug is a sight to behold.

I've been wondering what the final (?) Winter blast actually does to us. Two events have provided valuable clues.

First, as my kid and me were grocery shopping, I gave her a hug. An aisle later, she confided in me: "when you hug me like that, I feel like a bottle of mustard." Hmmm.

The second clue came yesterday in a class discussion. It came out that I'm a vegetarian. One student stopped the class to grill me over it. Expressing his shock,, he said, "But you don't LOOK like a vegetarian!" Hmmm.

While I might not know how a bottle of mustard feels or what appearance is standard for vegetarians, I now suspect this: that the final snow of winter does something silly to the language centers of our brains.

Friday, March 10, 2017

an application

A few weeks ago, I  learned The Mall of America was hosting a contest for a Writer in Residence position for the summer of 2017. This will obviously be unbelievably awesome, so I applied. Here's my answer to the application's "What would you like to write about during your residency?" question:

The world is ending. At the very least, the world as we know it is definitely ending. While what will exactly happen to the world is unclear, the two ends of the spectrum of possible outcomes are either the singularity (where we all merge with our technology, becoming one with computers and thus transcending our humanity) or utter societal collapse (where we will be fighting off radioactive mutants with mop handles). Deep down, however, I suspect that our ultimate fate will be less dramatic.

This (believe it or not) brings me to the Mall of America. The mall itself rose out of the ashes of an old sporting stadium. It has somehow combined the best attributes of a capitalist shopping edifice, a tourist attraction, a people-watching arena, and an amusement park. And its success in doing so is immense, to the point where even in the coldest part of the dark Minnesota winter (assuming, that is, there ever IS another cold winter), it is heated by the ambient warmth coming off the mall patrons and light fixtures.

The Mall of America is thus notable for its resiliency. Most former sports arenas do not have all that exciting as a second life. The Pontiac Silverdome, for instance, is the former home to the Detroit Lions. Instead of transforming into a valuable attraction and financial success, the Silverdome is more a picture of devastation, denuded of its dome, collapsing, and the victim of a fire. When you compare the former Silverdome's fate with that of the former Metropolitan Stadium, it is clear just how miraculous is the Mall of America's success.

Moreover, the Mall of America is a place of wonder. While "wows" are not something one normally associates with malls, this Mall certainly delivers. It isn't just the sheer size or number of tenants, although both are overwhelming to visitors only familiar with their own local shopping center. No, it is clearly "something else." It would be an extraordinary place just for the Lego shop, but no, it also has an aquarium and a friggin' amusement park. Just being cool clearly isn't enough.

So, what actually IS the Mall of America? How does it negotiate its various identities as an amusement park/tourist attraction/shopping complex? What effect does this collage of identities have on its visitors? Moreover, what is its symbolic identity, and how will that adapt to this most interesting of times in which we live?

These are the questions I wish to explore. I have visited the Mall of America twice, and each time, I had to take a few minutes to adapt my mind to its scale. It is an edifice which makes a definite impact, and indeed, after both visits, I found myself spending the following weeks trying to understand and come to terms with its expanse, both in mental and symbolical terms.

Moreover, we clearly live in an interesting time, and there's every chance that we're in the middle of a massive cultural change. We are clearly in the midst of continual rapid technological advancement, as evident from the rise of smart phone technology alone (which did not exist the first time I visited the Mall of America). New technology is only one factor in societal change, but it is a big one, with a particularly strong effect on commerce and the economy. From there, its a quick snowball roll into social change, political change, and every other change imaginable.

The Mall of America has already survived massive change. It is a center of commerce while still a massively popular attraction even in the time of e-commerce. So how the Mall has survived and adapted is important and deserves to be studied. In addition to this, I am also interested in how the Mall of America will continue to adapt as the world goes through whatever tectonic shifts in our future. Both of these will be centers of focus for my term as writer in residence.

As far as writing form, I can see two major approaches. First, a week in the Mall of America is an opportunity for wonderful journalism. While I know I can get several articles out of my residency, I am certain there's enough material for a popular approach non-fiction book combining reportage, social science, and cultural analysis.

Secondly, the Mall of America seems the perfect setting for speculative fiction. How will it adapt to the cataclysmic societal change which might be in our future? Would such an evolution be recognizable to its inhabitants? In the event of planetary catastrophe, I do believe the Mall of America would likely survive. Moreover, it would be one fascinating place to be, and I'd love to write a speculative novel exploring its potential future.

The simplest answer, then, to what would I like to write about during my writer residency is twofold: adaptation and speculation. There's more material in the walls of the Mall of America than any one person could harvest, but being able to write both a cultural/social analysis non-fiction book and a speculative fiction novel would be the experience of my writing life.

3/10's realization about life in the midwest

When one finds himself excited to to to the local grocery store at 8pm on a Friday night, it says something about the vacation he's on.

Additional realization: 8pm on a Friday must be a popular time for hunters to shop for groceries.

Saturday, March 04, 2017

a book report on Redshirts, and a few words about sympathy and art

One of the best parts of not having to worry about trying to be a scholar in the absence of any success as a scholar is that my schedule is less packed than it was before. This means I actually have time to read for pleasure again, something that, if I'm to be honest, I haven't been able to regularly do since 1994. I try to balance light and fun reads with heavier stuff (both more intense science fiction and non-fiction). Earlier today, I finished the John Scalzi novel Redshirts, and I can tell that although I thought this would be one of the light reads, I will be pondering this one for a while.

Redshirts is set on a spaceship in the distant future and focuses on a group of entry-level shipmates. The obvious parallel is to the red shirts from Star Trek...not the main officers/heroes of the ship, but the people who do the grunt work...and, as a fun bonus are more likely to die than the officers. Soon after boarding their ship, the protagonists realize that the non-officers on the ship have an annoying (and statistically unrealistically high) tendency to die while on away missions.

After some adventure and meeting a sage figure, our heroes eventually discover their exploits are the basis for a 21st century science fiction television show. I don't mean that they influence the show, but rather, the show determines their reality. While the characters are, to themselves and those around them, real people, many of their exploits are determined by the writers of this much earlier television show. Did I mention the television show in question is really cheesy and hackneyed?

Once the protagonists realize their fate is at the mercy of a centuries-before hacky television writer, they decide to go back in time and confront the writer in question. And then it gets weird. And then the twists start coming.

Redshirts is actually billed as "a novel with three codas." The novel portion of it stays pretty light and fast-paced action sci-fi. It's a very "metafiction" type novel, and the blurred line between reality and fantasy is mostly played for laughs. Good laughs. My daughter kept asking me why I was cackling, and I really couldn't explain it all to her. I blew through this portion of the book, and it was a hell of a lot of fun.

Then the codas hit, and they each added different perspectives, both to the narrative and to its philosophical depth. While one of the cool things the novel did was shine a light on who we'd normally think of as minor characters, the codas took the minor characters from that arc and made them the center of their own story. Each one only served to deepen the weight of the novel. You know the saying, "every character is the hero of their own story?" That's definitely true of Redshirts, except the more "minor character" you go, the more important and emotionally deep the stories get, and, by extension, so did the main narrative.

We don't think enough about the fate of those in the background. We don't think enough of the characters in our stories leading vastly richer and deeper lives than our stories let on. This is true of the art we create, sure, but it is equally true in our real world experiences. Nobody is entirely a villain or a hero. No one is simple. And when we ignore their complexity, we can and do only get a particularly shallow view of any story to which they are connected...and, by extension, to the world as a whole. To our own stories, for that matter.

I'm a songwriter. One of the things I try to do is to present vivid characters, because it gives the song that much more of an impact. Even so, I have to constantly remind myself to delve behind the easy surface. Case in point? One of the most appreciated songs on Skeleton Coast is "Totally Low Standard Blues." It's the narrative of a guy who's circling around  a relationship with someone who is fairly broken. The narrator, though, is more obsessed with his own brokenness, though, and he interprets his crush's affections for him as her biggest fault.

The line more than a few listeners have latched onto is, "If I was the best you can do, then what does that say about you?" And yes, it is a funny and catchy line. However, it's a line brimming with loathing...for everyone and everything, I guess, but mostly for the narrator himself.

Don't get me wrong; I do like this song a lot, but it did shape me a lot as a writer. Do I want to be the kind of songwriter who only focuses on the negative? Who only sees the worst in things? Who ignores any depth his characters might have in favor of the clever impression?

I was actually not all that concerned about the narrator. In case you haven't guessed, this song is fairly autobiographical, but although it could be read as self-hatred, I have plenty of other songs in which to make my own case. The damaged object of affection, though, was another issue for me. She is partially based on a real person, and it's a real person who has endured a pretty rough existence, and for that, I have a lot of sympathy for her. By only focusing on the damage, I was being unfair...and not a little bit of a jerk.

But in addition to being unfair to a real person, I realized I was being unfair to my writing. I was being unfair to my characters. And I was also being unfair to my listeners (all six of them). Moreover, I was taking the easy way out. I was closer to the comedian going for the cheap crack about someone's appearance than I was being an artist. And that bothered me.

Before you think of me as guided by delusions of grandeur, I don't think of myself as high class or elitist when it comes to my music. Nor do I ever see my number of listeners going into even the triple digits (although it would admittedly be nice to play an arena at some point). No, I'm mostly doing this for myself. Writing songs makes me feel sane. Moreover, it makes me feel significant in some way. So a few years after I wrote "Totally Low Standard Blues," I decided I had to be fair to its subject. I wrote another song largely about the same person (called "Side to Side," which will be on the album after next), and when I first played it, I felt like some kind of karmic balance had been restored.

I bring up this digression into my own songwriting to (more than anything else) make clear why I was so knocked out by Redshirts. While yes, it is a fun and goofy sci-fi romp, it's also a pretty good meditation on art and perception...on how, if we want to be honest, we need to see everyone's story, and to treat those stories with respect and reverence. To do so is essential for art.

Moreover, I think that the respect and reverence for others is essential for life. That, though, is another post.

Monday, February 27, 2017

easily amused, 2/27

I am an English teacher. I teach composition classes which are basically the "welcome to college; here's how to write" classes. I don't really focus on grammar. However, I have a student in one of these writing classes whose last name is (I kid you not) Verb.

working contradictions

We are all people of contradictions. It is who we are, and the most important measurement of self we can perform is how effectively we negotiate those contradictions.

Okay, maybe this isn't my most insightful insight. Maybe it's even bordering on "duh" territory. Nevertheless, it was something that was very much on my mind this past Saturday when I had a show. The main contradictions? I am an interesting suspension of lazy and workaholic. Secondary to this is my balance of introverted and extroverted, but this one will have to wait for another post.

I have more projects on my plate than I can ever finish in a reasonable amount of time. I'm still working on my often delayed follow-up to Skeleton Coast; it should've and would've been done ages ago but for personnel changes, recording delays, technical issues (such as The Great Computer Blow-Up of 2015), work crises, and the like. I've had enough songs for album three for some time. I find myself writing album number four (which I'll have time to record....when?). Finishing all this would be tight if I didn't have a job I have to do and a family. With all this, I feel more sympathy for Sisyphus than should most mortals.

Still, when I get time at home without immediate commitments, I find myself doing...nothing at all. I like my couch time (but, however, not the couch itself. Avoid Furniture Row. Anyway...). And somehow, I'm able to avoid the feeling of wasting my precious time. Give me quiet, and I'm gone from the world.

Keep me from getting anything done while anywhere other than in public, though, and I start to crack...and this was the case on Saturday. I got added to the bill because the scheduled headliner dropped out. Then, a week late, a touring act was added to the bill, making it five bands total. The promoter makes you load in your equipment an hour before doors open. If there are lots of people in the band, I can understand this, but when it's just me with an acoustic guitar and kazoo, it seems like a little overkill.

Then comes the waiting. This night, I had to be at the bar at 8. When they posted that night's schedule, I was chagrined to find out I didn't go on until 12:45 am. This meant I had almost five hours in a bar with nothing to do and (as I didn't know the other bands and my trombonist had to work) no one to talk to. I thought about writing (I've got four new songs fighting for space in my head), but that's not really viable in the middle of a crowded, distraction-filled room with loud music. I thought about breaking out my Kindle, but again, that's kind of hard and weird in a crowded room. So I resigned myself to playing on my phone...until only an hour into the night, I found it down to 30% battery life.

So what did I do? Pretty much nothing at all. I tried and failed to get interested in the college basketball game on the television. There was an interesting crowd there, but there's also a fine line between people-watching and being a creep. So mostly I just wished the time would hurry up and pass so I could go up and play.

Of course, as I was a telemarketer, I realized that watching the clock only makes it move slower, and that was indeed what happened. So, because I couldn't just go into a catatonic fit until my set, my mind decided to simply stew on how much I could be getting done,...which is always fun.

Ultimately, the set was worth the wait, though...even though the crowd...well, I'm conflicted on the crowd, and that, as it turns out, is another post. After all, I gotta get back to my other work.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

on being the subject of international espionage

I just received a communication that stated one of my E-mail addresses was compromised by some "state-sponsored actor" between 2015-2016. This was discovered by the company's "forensic experts."

Normally, I would be thrilled to get expert help, but this was far from what I expected to discover about my life today. The uncertainty of it all is the weirdest part. Not only do I have no idea why my account was desirable to said actors, but I also have no idea which state was the sponsor. North Korea? America? The Royal Order of Malta???

There is also another wrinkle. Do I look at this as supporting evidence for my rampant paranoia? Do I take this as a sign I am more consequential than I originally assumed? I don't even know if this should make me feel good or bad.

One thing, though, is certain: I am now international, baby!

Monday, February 13, 2017

plans turn icky

I had such great plans for this weekend. I was going to get grading caught up,  complete a fellowship application, finish a song lyric, do some work on my long overdue album, and restring my electric guitar. I was probably also going to do the dishes, but it's hard to get excited about that.

Of course, that's not how life works, is it? Because Thursday, I started to feel some sinus drainage. Then by Friday, I was into a full-blown plague which allowed me to do pretty much nothing at all. My "this should've been productive" weekend was instead spent just laying on the couch, drinking herbal tea, moaning incessantly, and watching approximately 57 hours of Tabletop.

The only real plusses of the weekend were my kid telling me my head was shaped like a cauliflower and me recognizing a Neil Diamond song on one from of her video games.

So I guess it wasn't a total loss.

Thursday, February 09, 2017

music and convictions

The December before last, I joined a cover band. I never really had anything against cover bands, but I just didn't think I would be in one of them. I write too many songs to be playing someone else's material exclusively, I thought. Limited hours in the day was also a factor in sticking to original stuff.

That changed during that December on the promise of music actually becoming lucrative. It's one of the weirdest facts about being a non-famous musician is that audiences and venues will more greatly award bands copying someone else's stuff over performing their own. I was tired of not making anything from playing music, and I did need money. If I had to take on a second job, being a cover musician would be the best possible of all options.

December of 2016, I decided to leave the cover band. I love everyone involved, and it was an amazingly educational experience. I learned so much about songwriting and became a drastically better guitarist. But the money never really came, and I instead became haunted by the hours involved. Gigs were longer, so practice was longer. If I didn't have a family, a job, and my own music career, I could deal with it. However, my refusal to let my family or job suffer meant that I cut down on my own music...and that was something I could no longer abide.

I'm back. TheMikeDuBose is at a full active state. I have gigs scheduled. I have songs in progress. I am back working on my next album...and, in fact, the one after that.

Stay tuned for details.

Wednesday, February 08, 2017

so maybe the world isn't entirely wicked

I've been in a pretty good mental state lately in spite of the world sprinting towards some black hole of refuse. Alternate facts? The Bowling Green Massacre? A Secretary of Education who never went to public school (nor did anyone in her family)? I'm actually dealing with everything pretty well.

Let's be clear here. All the evidence still points to our smoking doom. The world still sucks, people are horrible, and there is no such thing as hope or salvation. These are still the End Times, and I still very much expect for all is society to come under the tyrannical reach of the evil gerbil demon of Ipswich. But for whatever reason, I'm still personally okay.

Maybe it's because underneath all the dread and ichor, I'm able to see positive signs. Yeah, our country is being run by a narcissistic dimwit, but at least he still didn't win a majority. I'm still seeing people standing up in resistance. There are very few people who are tuning out. So we got that going for us. Which is nice.

But I'm seeing goodness beyond my desperate search for a silver lining. Today, for instance, I had to head to the post office after picking up my girl from school. So we got in line, and I waited while my kid twirled endlessly around in circles (as she is wont to do). I got to a cashier and told her I needed to mail my package, but then I discovered my wallet had fallen out of my pants. I started to apologise, but then the gentleman behind me offered to pay for me.

I have no idea who this guy was. He didn't​ know me. But still, the act of kindness. I dunno. Maybe I'm wrong about our fate. Maybe the world's a better place that I think. Maybe there's more goodness in us than I expect.

I'm still not sold on our salvation. I do know, however, that for us to have any chance at all, we need all the random acts of kindness we can get.

Monday, February 06, 2017

pepperoni parables

Long-time readers know that when younger, I was employed at a pizza place for nine and a half years. You also probably know that I've often and quite regularly dreamt I was back working there. Well, the dreams persist, but lately, they've taken a turn for the strange.

For years, the dreams shared a common narrative structure. I was sent to a store that had severe problems, and once there, I turned out a heroic figure, helping them overcome inordinately large difficulties. This was how it was when I did in fact work there (I was "the fixer"), but of course, my dream versions were slightly overblown and fantastic in the way only dreams can be. Stupidly large stores, zombie-like customers, unbelievable tsunamis of orders? I have defeated them all.

When I was at the worst stage of my mental breakdown, the dreams took on a similarly sinister, apocalyptic bent. The obstacles started to border on the insurmountable territory. I quit being able to stem the overwhelming tide of orders, of difficulties. The parallels were obvious, but still, I couldn't help but be struck by the extent that my high school job had become the central setting for my life in microcosm.

Over the last year or so, the dreams started to fade in frequency, and I thought maybe my subconscious had moved on from my early employment. I even started to dream of teaching, something which until that point had yet to happen....which was itself interesting, seeing as by that time, I had been teaching even longer than I had flipped pies. Yet during the last month or so, the pizza dreams slowly started to reclaim their position as the dominant topic within my slumbers.

These dream versions of course sport their own organizing principles. The stores to which I am sent no longer even vaguely resemble those of my youth. Rather, they sport gourmet ingredients such as quail eggs and prosciutto. New menu items include stromboli and exotic soups. That kind of stuff. And rather than entering the store as some pizza-eyed savior, I find myself in stores that are running just fine for what they are, and I find myself with few relevant skills to contribute. So I tend to seem inessential and then leave early, to do naught else but wander around a hyper-dream version of my hometown.

Last night, I started at a freshly opened combination pizza place/upper end fine dining establishment/working class tavern. Even within those parameters, though, the place just didn't make any sense. We had no posted hours or schedule. We had twice the number of employees as we required, and no one had assigned them to any specific schedule or duties. The back of the restaurant was three times larger than the dining room yet even more out of proportion to what was needed.

I wandered around the back for a while, trying to figure out what I was supposed to do yet failing to find any insights. I then went up to the manager, who listened to my concerns before sending me on a deep sea mission of some sort. I completed my task and returned to the restaurant only to discover the manager was some Christ-like demigod who claimed we were engaged in an epic struggle with evil and chaos, because of which the fate of the souls of all humanity hung in the balance.

For whatever reason, this revelation did not surprise me in the least. But when I asked the manager/deity a basic theological question, it became clear He was merely making it up as he went along. So I handed him my uniform before leaving the restaurant and walking into the hyper-dream snowy town in which I live, resolved to figure out the ultimate truths on my own.

The metaphor will work itself out eventually, right?

Friday, February 03, 2017

on aging 2/3

My feet are cold.

This is something that's always happened, but today, for whatever reason, it's making me feel particularly old. And it's not the feet so much as it is the absent-minded walking around the house, trying to remember where I might've put my slippers.

Moreover: they are actually normal, adult slippers. They are not in the shape of any animal or cartoon character. They don't have any silly writing on them. Maybe this is connected to my recent desire to dress in a more typically adult fashion. Maybe not. I dunno.

It doesn't help that when I say something to my daughter, she offers no sympathy. Instead, she looks at me, purses her lips, and lets out a loud "ppppthhh" sound. No empathy at all there, only the "Daddy's being silly again" attitude.

Isn't the kids not taking you seriously a sign of age? But that can't be the case with me, can it? No one has ever taken me all that seriously.

Something to contemplate once I find my Metamucil.

Thursday, February 02, 2017

on aging, 2/2

Of course, there's really a chance that when it comes to all these aging observations, that I am completely wrong. I blame enlightenment.

I played a show Saturday night. I'd never seen Vester Frey (the artist who played after me) before, but he was great. He focused on old timey country and blues, even playing a prohibition-era song or two.
It was cool, but I was mostly surprised that someone who appeared to be in his late twenties yet played songs from the 1930s did not appear to be an anachronism. There was in fact a decent amount of what could be called retro in the evening, yet none of it seemed out of place.

Why is that? When I was growing up, I was seen by some as a bit of a weirdo because I liked a lot of sixties and seventies artists. But for my situation to really be comparable, I'd have to have been listening to music from the 1890s when in high school. But I've long known 'the kids' are more apt to listen to old music than I when I was their age, dad-gummit. I've known plenty of undergraduates who knew more about Iron Maiden than I, and when I lived across from an undergrad hell apartment complex, I frequently heard them pulling out of their parking lot while blasting "Feels Like the First Time" or its ilk. I even once had a student tell me no good music had been made since The Beatles had broken up.

What's going on here? Don't get me wrong, because it's nice to see the kids show some sense of historical memory. But this historical musical awareness doesn't extend to history or any other cultural forms. Why retro music? I was discussing this with a friend at the show, and he suggested it was because kids now have more access to older culture via the internet. This has some possibilities, I argued, but when in high school, I had plenty of access to 1950s and 1960s music yet never started a Bill Haley cover band.

It's great that we can access more music from the past, but I suspect that we embrace old music is, I feel, not just that experiencing it is not just a matter of technology leading to increasing availability. Maybe people are actually becoming less time and genre-bound. Maybe, I argued to my friend, it was instead people of my generation who were too bound to fitting into categories. Maybe that means we are slowly becoming less culturally bound and more aware.

However, we stopped our conversation because we were way too close to having an old geezer "back in my day" moment. There are, after all, limits to enlightenment.

Wednesday, February 01, 2017

on aging, 2/1

One of the most variable aspects of aging is its resulting change in perspective. Frankly, it's weird enough to be a matter of science fiction.

I was wandering around our awesome coffee shop/used book store last week. I walked through the sci-fi section to browse. I didn't, however, find very many authors I recognized. At first, I thought it was just because I live in a smaller town. After some reflection, though, I realized it was because I'm old.

When I think of sci-fi, I think in two categories: classic and contemporary. However, these categories are not givens. What is contemporary for me is obviously not contemporary nowadays. I get that. But why was there no classic science fiction?

I scanned the shelves and couldn't help but be struck by the absence of Clarke, Besser, and Niven. Weren't these the authors of the science fiction greats? I browsed some more before I realized that there was also no Verne, Wells, or Burroughs either. While these were also sci-fi greats, it dawned on me that it's not like I'm intimately familiar with Buck Rogers or anything, even though I should be.
Classics, I realized, are relative. I knew that taste was definitely a factor, yes, but it didn't really occur to me that classic science fiction would also be relative to age. As I walked up and down the aisle of unfamiliar genre fiction, I realized I should've figured this out a long time ago.

No Philip K. Dick. No Heinlein. No Bradbury. I was surrounded by the familiar smell of used paperbacks, enveloped by texts of a familiar genre, but still, my familiar touchstones were nowhere to be seen.

This, I realized, is what it likes to get old.

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

on aging, 1/31

Physically, there are many changes that happen when you get older. I'm not talking about the expected ones, like hair falling out (pause to run my hands through my still full hair) or turning grey (pause to look at the cool grey streaks in my beard). No, everyone knows and expects these. The ones I'm talking about are much weirder.

When people get older, their ears grow and droop. I'm lucky enough not to notice this one personally, but it does strike some interesting thoughts. Mainly, I have to reconsider the idea of young people who wear ear weights and stretchers. Are they just trying to look like senior citizens? Wouldn't it be easier to just wear hiked up pleated pants?

The other one was something I really did not expect. It seems as you get older, you feet also get wider. They spread out. Simultaneously, most people also shrink as they get older. I don't know if the two are related or not. Personally, I don't think I've yet shrunk (shrank? Shrinked? I don't know, and I'm a writing teacher). But it's not like I go around measuring myself
.
I do know, however, that my feet are wider. This makes shoe-shopping (which always was a pain due to my large feet) even more difficult than usual. Most places don't carry extra wide shoes, and it's not like I have my own boot maker a la the John Galsworthy story "Quality" (although that would be cool, and I would be much less a jerk than that protagonist).

It has, however, allowed me to see aphorisms in a new light. More specifically, I now know why I am incapable of walking a mile in someone shoes. It's impossible. My feet are just too damn big to fit.
This does, however, leave an unanswered question. If older people shrink and get wider feet, then logically, they should have a lower center of gravity. So why are us old people so vulnerable to falling? Clearly more research is needed, and I might be the man for the job.

Monday, January 30, 2017

engagement

How "here" should you be? It is, I have decided, a political matter.

About a week and a half ago, I mentioned that I decided to take a break from social media. I then shut down Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. The first I will open once a day to check notifications, but I close it immediately thereafter. The other two, I haven't touched since my social disengagement.

The point initially was to clear my head after the inauguration. I didn't plan for my absence to be permanent; however, I have found it to be pretty advantageous to not be so connected. My phone battery lasts a lot longer. Plus I've been able to read a lot more, which is nice. I also spend a decent amount of each morning with The New York Times so I feel better informed. Who knows? Maybe I will just stay away.

The problem, though, is that being better informed is not always all that relaxing. In fact, some mornings, my daily perusal of the news makes me wonder if my world has become downright Lovecraftian thanks to our manic El Presidente. Being informed is nice, but being informed that the world is soon to be overrun by The Elder Ones? Well, it's enough to make me wanna disengage on a whole other degree.

I'm gonna go the other direction, though. After I finally finish my album long in progress (thanks to all the aforementioned free time), I seem to be writing a protest album. I've decided that I'm not going to let them get me to totally disengage. Instead, I will come after them. I refuse to be driven into apathy.

Politics requires engagement. And I'm gonna be so engaged. Take that, you annoyers!

on aging, 1/30

In an episode of West Wing, Josh Lyman says, "there comes a day where every man realizes he won't ever play major league ball." I know how he feels. Eventually, all people becomes aware they are getting older.

It doesn't come all at once but in dribbles. Eventually, they stack up. Still, as they say, there's a difference between knowing the path and walking the path. Then, when one finally admits getting older, all those dribbles, all those signs? You start to see them everywhere.

I'm 45. I am, as far as my undergrads are concerned, fairly ancient at this point. This I know, but one of the reasons it's hard to accept is that I don't really feel all that different than I did at 23...that is, until I get around younger people interacting socially. Then I get amazingly aware I am not one of them.

Don't get me wrong. I'm really comfortable with who I am and where I am...but this aging process is something of which I'm becoming increasingly aware.
Stay tuned

Friday, January 20, 2017

social media break

Effective immediately, I am going to take a break from social media. While there might be the occasional music-related broadcast, I will otherwise not be on Twitter or Facebook. If you wish to contact me, E-mail, text, or Facebook messenger even.

I'm fairly pessimistic about the state of the world, and before I can do anything about it, I have to take care of myself first. Besides, I still have an album to finish, and I'd like to do more blogging.

So if you need me, message me. I'd also appreciate notice if any good news happens to you.

Take care of each other. We're all we have.

Thursday, January 05, 2017

joyous screw-ups

Don't get me wrong. It's important for me to be a sympathetic teacher and do my best to boost my students's esteem. I really do try to be a nice guy, because I really do root for my students and want them to have all the success in the world. True, I have to suppress my snarky tendencies in order to do this (and I'm also trying to tamp them down in real life), but it's worth it. Whenever one of my former students comes up and thanks me for my class, it makes the rest of the day shiny.

However, all of the snarkiness cannot always be held in check. It's one of the worst kept secrets in the university that whenever two or more teachers gather, they tend to either talk about bad teaching evaluations or hilarious student mistakes.

Take typos in essays, for instance. Spell check helps with a lot of things, but typos will still slip through because your computer just isn't smart enough to tell whether you mean 'their' or 'there.' These kind of slip-ups are, however, understandable and thus not all that funny.

Other errors, though, can be quite hilarious. Up until today, my favorite typo of all time was when a student said something "was being taken for granite." Not anymore, though. For, as I prepared sample student papers for my new semester students, I ran across this gem: "...technologies designed to help students out in cretin subjects."

I love it when teaching makes me smile, and some days, I'll take that joy however I can get it.