Friday, November 28, 2014

Post Gig: Thankgiving Eve

The drums, in rock star mode.
Well, aspirations true photo-journalism have been foiled by circumstance. Sure, I have a few photos from the band's job last Wednesday, but, in my head, I pictured getting down among the crowd and capturing the silly drunkeness of "Thanksgiving Eve" in North America. Sadly, that big crowd resulted, mostly, in my being pinned to the stage between sets. And, when it came down to the real visual feast of the post-gig, the logistics of breaking down the equipment and getting it through the hammered hoards meant that the cell phone stayed in my pocket. Nevertheless, there is still a tale to tell.

I left the house at around 7:00. We were to start playing by 8. We got up on stage and the place was just filling up -- on the half of the bar opposite the band. I don't know about the rest of the guys, but I felt a little like we were in quarantine.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Pre Gig: Thanksgiving Eve

We blog writers walk a line (though some that I have read don't seem the least big conscious of crossing it) that divides the blogging world into hemispheres. On one side is the realm of autobiographical sharing  in a way that offers readers exceptional insight into life, in general (as do the bloggers zmkc and Steerforth). The other side is the incessant prattling of those who think everyone cares what they had for lunch.

I try to be careful. My posts are not always autobiographical, because, if I wish my life were more interesting (which I do), then why would others want to always hear about its most superficial details?

Yesterday, though, I was talking to a co-worker. I mentioned to her that my band had to play tonight (Wednesday, Nov 26) and she mentioned how interesting it would be to tag along and see what goes into being in a working band -- the implication being, I think, a not-famous band; a band in the trenches of "gigging."

So, why not? Maybe some others will find it interesting. At the very least, this is an aspect of my life that is "out of the ordinary" and this might be cool for my sons to read when I am, as my father-in-law says, "toes-up."

Me drums. 
Today, since the club is close to my home, I'll finish work at my school after a half-day schedule and I'll head to a bar -- a pretty large room -- to set up my drum kit. This will happen at about 1:00, PM. In the U.S., the night before Thanksgiving is the biggest bar night of the year; people have off of work the next day; students are home from college. Setting up any time after dinner is really not an option, especially for the drummer, because the place will be too full or revelers for me to walk through with the gear.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Me vs. the Thirteen-Year-Old Drummer

Here is an embodiment of how it is frustrating, sometimes, to be a musician. A friend posted this on Facebook: What is frustrating, in music, is that most people don't have any real understanding of it and they judge it anyway. Or course, everyone is allowed to have an opinion, but it is always slightly annoying to see something like the video above. (For the record, my friend is a musician and I am sure he was just trying to get a rise out of me.)

To be clear: she is an exceedingly talented young woman and what she is playing is impressive for someone her age. But, to any drummer worth his salt, what she is playing is actually fairly easy; however, it sounded impressive enough for a video-poster to, even jokingly, say that the girl is "a better drummer than you will ever be."

What she is playing is based on a drum rudiment, the paradiddle. She has just moved it around the drum kit...which, again, is impressive for someone her age. To a pro-level drummer, it should be simple.

Things like this make me wary of offering opinions in other people's areas of expertise. Still, when it comes to art, it does seem that everyone is pretty darn sure of himself...

Let's face it: it was just the title that got me going. Not -- though this would be the easy way to try to humiliate me -- because I feel challenged by the drumming of a thirteen-year-old (I have no sense of competition when it comes to drumming) but because it is conceivable that there are those who don't really understand drumming who might really think this girl is a master of her instrument.

That's the part that could be bad. For her.

Friday, November 21, 2014

No One Cares About My Beard

One of the best parts about "growing up" -- at least to me -- is the ever-deepening understanding of how truly unimportant I am to everyone around me. I'm not saying that we are not all important in our little ways. Each of us has an effect, either grand or minimal, on those around us. But, for some, it is hard to latch on to the concept that we are not the center of everyone else's lives.

Now, that's a beard.
For instance, at the moment, I have a beard. It is not much of a beard, if you ask me, but it is a beard. There is no mistaking it for a beard, grant you, but it is not Gandalf -level robust. The fact is, be that as it may, that I never would have had a beard if it were not for a charity "Movember" event at my school for the benefit of one of our students.

Let me be clear: I bristle at things like this. The ice bucket challenge? It made me angry and I refused to participate. I like my charitable acts to be anonymous. (Also, to me there is nothing more annoying than a campaign to pressure people into good deeds... I could write a whole post, but I won't... Besides, Mike Rowe did the job already.) But this group-inspired fundraiser, I did. Why? Because this was for one of our kids. One of my kids in the school in which I work.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

A Rebellion in Socks

My boys are both in middle school. They are both in a few activities. Both of them are in the chess club. Both of them are in the band. One of them is in choir. They have also done things like "Lego Club" and they both earned quite a few belt-levels in karate. They come home from these activities and they "knock out" their homework. Then, we all eat dinner together.

Yes, you heard right. All four of us at the table, talking and eating.

After dinner, the boys will play their allotted video game time. My wife and I might read or watch something on Netflix. I might go up to my studio and work on some music or practice my guitar. On some nights, we will all watch a movie together in the living room.

Near the boys' bedtime, my younger son and I almost always go upstairs to read a chapter of The Lord of the Rings together. By then, it is time for them to go to bed.

Once the boys are in bed, I usually go up to bed and read until it's sleepy time for me. Karen, who may have been finishing up studying for a class comes up soon after.

Monday, November 17, 2014

My Stupid, Beautifully Ugly Genius of a Daughter

I hate the words "liberating" and "empowering." They drive me crazy for some reason. Probably just overuse. But it occurred to me today how "liberating" it can be to have a dog for a four-legged daughter.

I was sitting on the couch with her this morning (my fur-daughter, Krimpet) and (I'm going to come clean with  you here -- I do this a lot) I was talking to her and petting her. And I, I mean, I talk -- like, full paragraphs.

We have a lot of one-sided conversations, Krimpet and I. She seems to try hard to understand.

Actually, a better way to put it is that she looks as if she is trying, with everything she has, to convince me that it is perfectly okay that I keep talking even if she doesn't have any idea what I am saying. In fact, she encourages it with all intense sincerity: "Really, Dad -- I'm interested, even if it makes no sense. Just keep throwing words at me... I love every minute of it, especially when you scratch my ears like that. You are the most important person who ever lived. Every vocal noise you make is like another beat of my heart..."

In short, she's good for the old ego.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Everything May Be Forgivable, But Everything Is Not Excusable

I keep coming back to the tectonic shifts in societal thinking because it keeps creeping under my skin. Here comes another post where my deep love for my fellow humans is bound to be interpreted as a judgemental rant by those who think we should be nice to even the most insidious and immoral among us. So be it.

Here is an article by a mom who was in a supermarket with her child. The little guy, the author's son, has Down syndrome. A cashier sees the boy in the stroller and "[spits], in a poison whisper," these inexcusable words:

“I bet you wish you had known before he came out. You know they have a test for that now…”

The test she is referring to, of course, is amniocentesis and/or a triple screen blood test, which were offered to my wife and me with our two sons and which we turned down because we would never have aborted because of a chance of Down syndrome. (The results of the blood test, by the way, are not even 100% reliable, so there is a chance of aborting a "normal" child, too.)

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

No Free Passes for Jerks

Everyone gets angry; everyone gets overwhelmed; everyone faces occasionally unfair challenge levels; everyone gets ill. These are intermittent states of just about any human life. 

But, have you noticed that, while we all face the issues listed above, some people seem to see those conditions as a license to treat others poorly? 

For some reason, I have never really functioned that way. I'm not saying that I have never been snippy on a bad day, only that I don't make it a habit, the way I see others do. If I do snap, I am well aware and I am usually apologetic for it. And, no matter how bad things are going, I can still manage to say hello and give even the slightest smile of greeting to people whose fault it is not that I am in a funk. 

I'm not sure what else to say about this, other than it seems to be egocentrism of the worst kind. If someone is angry with me for something I have done, okay. But what makes people think they can mouth off to someone else because of unrelated problems? 

I even hear people defend those who do this: "Well, she's very busy and overwhelmed, right now..." I don't think I will accept that. The quotation was not "Do unto others as you would have others do unto you, unless, of course, there is a fly in your yogurt that day."

There are people enduring chemotherapy who have a smile for everyone they see. A backlog of unread emails and a coffee stain on a favorite tie doesn't give anyone the right to throw a stapler at the innocent guy in the next cubicle. 

Monday, November 10, 2014

On Marines and Peanut Butter and Jelly

I heard something really refreshing this morning, from a former Marine.

He called in to a local radio program to answer a question they were asking about the use of certain phrases and gestures by civilians: Is it okay to salute a soldier? -- is it okay for a civilian to say semper fi? That kind of thing. They were worried about being disrespectful to members of the military.

During the conversation, they asked this Marine how he preferred to be thanked for his service. He got a little antsy and said it didn't matter and he added that no matter how it is done, it is "kind of awkward" being thanked.

When they (breathlessly) asked why, he said that he had simply joined because it was what he wanted to do; it was a job he wanted. He said, "Thanking me for being a Marine is like thanking someone for liking peanut butter and jelly."

At this point, the radio hosts started to panic. It was a bit embarrassing to listen to and it was unintentionally comical. What followed wasn't just an attempt to get this guy not to be so humble; it was as if a kid in a Catholic school religion class had said, "Meh -- I'm sorry Father, but I just don't think God is that big of a deal." It was almost as if they wanted to delete what this guy said. He had ruined everything! They almost got abrupt with him.

He stood his ground, quietly and with dignity.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Can Viral Proposals Lead to Marital Sniffles?

I keep seeing these articles and posts about the "most amazing" boyfriends in the world and how elaborately they proposed to their girlfriends. Some guys jump out of planes; some guys propose on the Monstervision at baseball games; some guys hire entire flashmobs; some guys write "Will you marry me?" in fifty foot block letters on Hawaiian beaches and fly their girlfriends over them in dirigibles; some guys get Justin Bieber to ask from the stage...the list goes on.

I get it. Dudes have been doing variations on this for ages, except, now, it all seems so uncomfortably public. "Viral proposal" is, in and of itself, a disturbing (and possibly prophetic) phrase, is it not?

A historical mess, was Braveheart -- but, this...
Look -- people need to make their own choices and we all need to do, in personal matters, what feels right to us, but, to me, certain things are better kept private; even some things that don't fall into the category of obvious. For me, a proposal is something that ought to be private. The world seeps too much into our daily affairs; maybe we should keep it out of certain places.

Monday, November 3, 2014

The Tides of Morality

Over the last few years (while I wasn't paying attention, apparently) certain things that were once considered almost absolutely wrong are now considered admirable. Among these things are bragging, suicide, self-made and self-distributed pornography and incest.

I have heard each one of these behaviors, in print and elsewhere, defended at least once in the past year and, in those defenses, the behaviors above were not just defended, they were praised.

How I feel about these things is irrelevant. The important thing is that these changes serve to convince the active observer of societal trends that when it comes to morality, it really is now just a question of the tides in thought; concrete touchstones of what is "right" no longer exist; it is all a question of what the majority speaks up for. And when one has as many people (as much water) as we do, the movement of the ideas (the currents) is that much more apt to sweep people's thoughts along.

In the past, people were willing to accept absolutes. If God or if the king or if the law said it was wrong, it was wrong. Sure, some didn't think that way, but most did. Authority was something they were used to. Obeying was something they were compelled, either by force or by convention, to do. If, say, the Church told people not to marry their own siblings, they mostly fell in line. Those who did not fall in line were considered "sick."