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.