Wednesday, November 11, 2020

Fall 2020

 I've been teaching now for 22+ years, and students never fail to astonish me. I've often thought that teaching is in part like falling in love many times a week. Students are generally nicer than I was at the time. They're generally more inquisitive than was I. They're more kind. And they're so full of potential. I get caught up in their lives for these brief 75 minute sessions, and then, four months later, they disappear from my life.

With very few exceptions, I teach first and second year courses. I hope to plant something that will help them get through the next few years and maybe leave a permanent mark. By the time students graduate, though, they've probably long forgotten about me, and I never get to see them progress. It's tough.

There have been a few times when I've run into old students, but not many of them. I remember running into one in the parking lot who had me four years before. He was becoming a teacher and doing his in-field work. He saw me and wanted to thank me for talking about stuff none of his other teachers mentioned. I was flattered and floored. I hope he's still doing okay, and I really, really wish I could remember his name.

This semester has been one for the books. My student have had to deal with an election from hell, with a global pandemic which seems to be without end, with the turmoil of the Black Lives Matter protests. This week, I gave them an extra credit assignment which simply asked them to tell me how they are doing. I just finished grading class three's responses, and my heart hurts for so many of them. Anxiety, depression, illness...more of them are affected than not. And I'm now only a face they see on their screens. I wish I could do so much more for them. I ache for them, really. 

If you know any young people, be nice to them. They are working through stuff farther than have any of us.

Saturday, October 17, 2020

how to fix politics

Before we get going: obligatory buried in work/no time/sorry for not blogging/I will do better/album coming soon statement.

If I were to tell you the current political landscape is a mess, I would be telling you nothing that my nine year old doesn't already know. And if I were to expand on my personal politics (which, as I age, get more and more radical), I would probably only be helping to establish/adding to my FBI file. Besides, I'm still buried in work, so I will stick to something simpler: how to fix everything.

This morning, I ran across a pretty cool video on ranked voting:

It's hard for me to disagree with anything in this video, but it did inspire me to sketch out a plan for improving our sucky world of politics and elections. Some of these do require a non-contagious world to work, but we could filter them in one by one.Ready?

  • Automatic vote registration. You turn 18, you are registered. It's gotta be easier for people to participate [source].
  • Election day becomes a national holiday, and businesses that do not close are required to give employees a few hours off when the polls are open [source].
  • A playground with supervision attached to every polling place. Having to look after the kids should not be an excuse. 
  • Fail to vote? Then you are three times as likely to be called for jury duty.
  • Early voting is mandated across the board. Everyone should have at least a month to vote [source].
  • No questions absentee ballots. So far, no one has come up with any real evidence of organized voter fraud [source] [source] except maybe for the Republican Party in California putting up fake ballot drop-off boxes [source]. Note: it probably won't help them.
  • Ranked voting. Having more than two parties is in everyone's interest [source]. We are not a binary society, so there's no reason our politics should be binary.
  • Codify into law the common sense realization that corporations are not people [source].
  • Term limits are pretty silly. If someone is doing a bad job, they will be voted out if elections are fair and equitable, and if people really have choice [source]. Saying, "you can only do two terms" is like saying, "sorry, we don't want people with experience."
  • Electoral college? Sorry, you are too antiquated and stupid to survive. Nobody really liked you in the first place [source].
  • A fair, codified order of succession. I was actually shocked to hear there's actually debate on if we have this. Specifically, if both the president and vice president were incapacitated, it's not clear whether the Speaker of the House can actually head the executive branch [source] [source]. There is the Presidential Succession Law, but there is debate on whether that's actually constitutional [source]. 
You see that in all of this, I have resisted the urge to be silly. THAT is how screwed up politics currently are.

(ps: did you know that if a source is behind a paywall, you can probably open it up in your broswer's incognito mode?)

Tuesday, June 30, 2020

the hang

After experiencing some of the standard hijinks at the pharmacy yesterday (We don't have your prescription! We have it but at the other location! We only have three pills, so you'll have to come back!), I decided to flip around on my MP3s on the ride home. Somehow, I landed on this song:

Way back when, I used to be the guitarist for Black Swamp Rats, and we were fairly regular fixtures of the local scene. We played repeatedly with a few bands, and one of them was Mennonite Death Race from Mansfield, Ohio. I don't know how we hooked up with them. They must've been friends of someone in the band.

First gig we played together, I (and the rest of my band) were blown away. They sounded so unlike anything I had ever heard, and the performances were overflowing with passion. I went to say hi to them after their set and ended up sitting with them for the rest of the time I wasn't actually on stage. In fact, I think they had to kick us out when the bar closed.

After that first gig, we played many shows together. We hit a number of places in our area, traveled out to Mansfield for a show on their turf, and played a Columbus gig later on. The bands, in other words, really bonded. One of my biggest sorrows of Black Swamp Rats breaking up was that I never got to hang out with Mennonite Death Race again.

Flash forward 8-9 years, and I haven't played a show in so long, it's not funny...certainly not since the COVID lockdown started. Some of my local venues are booking bands again, but as much as I need to play again, I have not submitted my name as a possible artist to anyone.

Why not? Well, I know everyone wants a return to normal, but that just is not wise right now. COVID, rather than going away, seems to be picking up steam. Infection rates are rising. Do I really want to lock myself in a room with strangers for several hours? I haven't even seen most of my friends in over three months. I'm certainly not going to risk my health or anyone else's for a show. And there's no way I can do a set while wearing a mask and face shield. My horrible voice is muffled enough as it is.

The problem, though, is that I miss it. I miss being on stage. I miss performing. I miss having people hear my songs. Most of all? I miss the hang. I miss talking to the bar staff, chatting with my bandmates, meeting the other bands, turning acquaintances into comrades.

The thing is, I don't know if any of it is ever coming back. Will the venues be able to survive if there's another shutdown? Will we ever be free of pandemics again? If things get bad, will we ever want to sit in a crowded bar again?

I don't know. I wish this was something I didn't have to think about, but I can't help wonder if I'm ever going to see my name on a flyer again. I can't help wondering, if life ever does return to normal, if I will have aged out of our music scene.

Right now, there's a hole in my life where shows used to be...and I know I'm not the only one.

Please find a way to support local musicians. Buy our music. Listen to our songs. Hell, at this point, I would be happy with a hug.

Thursday, May 28, 2020

stasis fields

I'm lucky in that, throughout this pandemic, none of my friends or family have become sick. I'm lucky to still have a job. I'm lucky to have my wife, kid, and cat with me. I say this to make clear that I'm aware of my favored position.

But damn, I'm bored.

Very little happens. I mow the yard once a week. I clean house. I cook and do dishes. I record for an hour and a half each night. Rinse and repeat. Over and over.

I miss seeing friends. Hell, I miss seeing anyone other than my fellow grocery store shoppers. I miss having any sense of variety in my day, or in my week, or in my month. 

I really wish I could be sharing some news here, but there's no real news to share. 

If this is ever over? If we ever get to the point where we can hang out again with our friends in person? I just know we're going to be almost exploding for a conversational outlet...then we'll tell our friends how happy we are to see them....and then we'll realize we have utterly nothing to say.

Stasis is boring. 

Friday, April 24, 2020

album 3 update (or why Dell sucks)

The enforced isolation is having a weird affect on my third album. I've been trying to get this album done for a couple of years, but life has had a way of throwing obstacles up in my path. So you think that being not allowed to leave the house bit would mean time to record, right?

Of course things aren't going as smoothly as they should. My wife needs the computer all day for her work, and I still have to teach online after spending some time with the family. Truth is, I average about an hour of recording time a day. The only days I get sustained work time is on the weekends.

So I've been working in a piecemeal procedure, and, in spite of not ever being able to reach that mythical flow state, it actually has been going fairly well. All bass and drums are done. I've been bouncing back and forth between guitars and synths, and I've got over 50% of those done.

An hour here, an hour there is a pattern no professional musician would ever do but and is certainly not how I would ideally like to proceed. In spite of this, the album is actually working out pretty well. I have the time to really think out the arrangements, and I can also really focus on making all the sounds mesh. I'm already happy, and I bet the finished project will exceed my expectations.

Today, though, one of my few days with sustained work time, my computer decided to stop working. It's been giving me grief since I got it, with random freezes and crashes. I haven't even had it for a year, and nary a day goes by without me wanting to throw it against a wall.

What makes this so much annoying is that this is the first time I have ever bought a brand new computer. My last two machines have been refurbished units, and each one lasted about five years. So did I follow my tried and true method?

Of course not. I decided to get a new Dell. My computer guy at the University, upon seeing its specs, said it looked like the machine he was planning to build, but it only cheaper. So I thought I was set.

But no, my brand new Dell started screwing up that first week, and now, this about a year old machine is dead. Moreover, I am going to have to pay emergency repair rates, because my wife requires the desktop for her work. Sigh.

Somewhere, album three is locked in a digital prison, screaming for release. And it's jailor? Dell Computing.

Saturday, April 11, 2020

another update on our future

A conversation in our house:

Me: Did I hear myself blamed for something?

Daughter: Not at all.

Spouse: Well, she did blame you for not being able to get online.

Daughter (sheepishly): Sorry, my good sir.

[General laughter]

Daughter: See, THAT is how you bank some credit.

And now you know what we've all got to look forward to when the future generation takes charge.

Thursday, March 19, 2020

international weirdness

There's a pandemic going on, so you think that any weirdness would be along the illness lines. Maybe the weirdness would be the massive bread shortage at the grocery store. But no...the world is outdoing itself with the strangeness.

Yesterday, I was contacted by someone from the China internet domain registration people. Someone is trying to register the Chinese versions of my domain and wanted to know if I was associated with them. I told him a firm no. Today, I was contacted by someone from the company who's trying to get the domain, and they were telling me that in spite of the domain guy recommending they try a new name, they are going ahead and gonna keep trying to poach my name.

So I wrote to my own domain registration people to see if there was anything I could do. Afterward, I decided to do some research, and I found out the company who wants the Chinese version of themikedubose is...a pharmaceutical company.

Naturally, I do not get this at all. My only hope is that they're going to name the COVID-19 cure after me for some reason. I would be okay with that as long as I get a bit of royalty payment.

This is what my life is like.

Monday, March 09, 2020

the future generation

My daughter was sick last week, and we had to keep her home from school a couple of days. When this happens, it's important to use your time wisely. So, two important milestones:
  1. The real advancement we made happened when, somewhere within the morass of my daughter's awful YouTube videos (one person she watches calls himself, "the Christian Jake Paul"; when I told one of my classes this, a student observed, "that sounds horrible!" He was right.), I was able to introduce my darling child to Buckethead:

  2. One morning, she told me that she was coughing way too much the night before, but she just watched an episode of Bob Ross:

Sothat's what you have to look forward to when the next generation takes over. You're welcome.

Tuesday, March 03, 2020

quandries and consciousness

I'm tired. Even though I got my normal amount of sleep last night, I woke up feeling like I did when I was 20 and pulling all-nighters. I woke up as sluggish as...hell, I was too tired to even think of a metaphor for my exhaustion.

The irony is not lost on me.

This semester, I moved from a four day a week schedule to just Mondays and Wednesdays on campus. This sounds like a benefit, but I now teach from basically 2:30 to 8:30. After three straight classes, my brain moves into lethargy.

But I also drop my daughter off at school around 8:30 am, so I'm up and about. I could go home for a few hours, but when I reached campus, parking would be nigh impossible. So I just head to campus, get a good parking spot, and get to work early in the day.

The problem, though, is  that then I'm on campus for almost 12 hours. By the end of the day, I'm damn near catatonic. I'm pretty much useless by the time I get home. I'm also not productive whatsoever the next day. I'm old enough (187 years old, I think) to where it takes some time to rebound.

So what should I do?  Tough out the long work day and embrace the next day lethargy? Or relax a bit before going to work, budget a half hour for finding parking, but then have to actually bring more work home?

I'll have to puzzle it over...but maybe after a nap.

Saturday, February 29, 2020

faith in humanity

Most of my students, I have found out, are pessimists. They have no hope for the future of humanity. As I have, over the last few years, became a much more optimistic person, this makes me more than a little sad. I wish they'd just have a little more faith.

However, sometimes that faith gets tested.

I was walking to one of my classes the other day, and some complete stranger flagged me down. "Excuse me, sir," he asked. "do you believe in the moon landing?"

This took me by surprise. Out of all the questions I expected, Of course,  I panicked and went into smart ass mood. "Yes, I do...because I've been there," I replied, before getting the hell out of there..

Do I still have my faith in humanity? I dunno. However, I am now wondering if my university needs to rethink its entrance standards.

Tuesday, February 25, 2020

change and growth.

When I was 14 (or maybe 15; I really can't remember), I saved up money to buy my first guitar. This was hard as I didn't have a job, so I just took the money my parents gave me for school lunch and hid it away (sorry, mom). That first guitar was a Chicago-branded Les Paul clone. It wasn't really what you could call a great guitar. After a few months, the pickups started to fall out, and my brother had to screw them back in with wood screws. Still, I wish I still owned it, but, after I upgraded, my parents made me sell it (out of revenge for using my lunch money, maybe). I thought about looking for one online, but I can't find records of any of them existing.

I practiced a lot and basically learned how to play off of AC/DC and Black Sabbath records. I really wanted to play in a band, but bands kept eluding me. Jacksonville FL had way too many guitar players, and I never got in a situation that survived to getting a show. I was also working a whole lot (a probably illegal 35 hours a week while in school), and I'd often drop the guitar for months on end...and that certainly didn't help me on the band front.

Still, I kept trying right up until I got accepted into doctoral school. I dedicated myself entirely to my studies. Strangely enough, though, this is when my guitar playing started to really improve. In spite of my improvement, I always thought that playing out would just elude me forever. Then one weekend I went to the bar, and when I came out, I was in a band. We practiced, learned enough songs, and then we actually got a gig. At the age of 39, I played my first show.

The first band lasted a couple of years. After they broke up, I joined another band. I got band number three a few years later, and then band two broke up. I started playing in band four (an alt country outfit) about the same time I started doing solo shows. Band three broke up. I got my own band, which then broke up, new lineup, broke up, new lineup, and repeat a few times. Alt country band broke up, but I still kept playing shows.

Lately, though, I'm in a dead zone of shows. I used to do sets for a local booker and was playing about every month for a while. Then they quit booking shows. Then they started booking shows again, and I got one every few months. Then they quit booking me. Then, nine months later, they quit altogether.

Right now, I've had one gig in the last few months, and that was a songwriter showcase that had four people in the audience even though I invited everyone I know. I have absolutely nothing on the books right now, and that is way too familiar of a feeling.

By all rights, I should be panicking about the lack of shows, but if there's one thing I've learned on this voyage, it's that all movement is cyclical. As long as I keep working, something will happen. I'm just trying to keep myself ready.

Earlier this week, I was flipping around YouTube guitar videos, and I caught one about B.B. King taught by Tomo Fujita. I went down to the basement and ran through some of the material, and a lightbulb opened. Suddenly, the guitar just started making more sense. I realized that I've been doing this almost 35 years, and I'm still growing. If that's not motivation to keep going, I don't know what is.

So I'm about to pick up Reverend Guitar number two and get back to practicing. Later this week (after I get some grading done), it's time to turn back to album number three and get those guitars recorded. I am also contemplating other ways to get my music out. So look out for new moves.

Wednesday, January 08, 2020

get those engines firing

Man, it's been a while, right?

It's been a busy period. After a year in a cover band that never made any money, working too much, buying a house and moving, working too much, and generally trying to get my head straight, however, I am going to get back into the swing of things. I've already restarted my social media presence. It's time to rock.

I do foresee difficulties, though. The Toledo Promotion company whose been booking me is shutting down. My main musical collaborator is in a much more successful band and about to go back to a job with unpredictable hours. No matter. I will still rock.

Right now, I'm finishing up on some school prep work and working on my guitar playing (scale visualization, sweep picking, and the like). I've got drums and bass recorded for album number three. Next I lay down guitars. It's been in progress for too long, and it still has a ways to go, but the next TheMikeDuBose release (entitled Happy Go Lucky) will be done before you know it.

Nice to be back.