Sunday, December 27, 2015

Still standing

Just when I was starting to get back into a bit of a writing groove, wouldn’t you just know that life happened? Odd how that works, isn’t it? There’s a little more to it than that, though.

Like almost everyone, I got fairly busy around the holidays. Not unpleasantly so, but there was just enough going on that I didn’t feel like writing. I hope everyone had a nice Christmas! Ken got me some cool and unique things, and I’ll write about that in the near future.

It’s also crunch time for my reading goals. I had two. First was the Facebook reading group I belong to, in which our individual goal is to read 50 books during the year. I was starting to sweat whether or not I’d get there, but I buckled down and reached that last week. Yay me! My second goal is my personal one through my Shelfari and Goodreads pages, and that is 52 books for the year. I’m currently reading #52, so I’m going to be able to meet that goal as well. Double yay! I had a brief period where I just didn’t feel like reading, which is unusual for me. But my goals made me resolve to keep at it and not just take the time to read, but to make it. I will work harder on that in the coming year. I have a lot of books to read (that’s the understatement of the decade), including getting back into the Modern Library Top 100 list. (I’m working my way up to #1, and I’m currently due to start #57.)

We’ll be heading down to Kansas City for our New Year’s celebration, so I’ve been thinking about that and getting our plans set. We’ll be hanging out with what I’ve come to call the Kansas City gang, including Bob and Michele, Joe and Maria (actually from Chicago), and Pat and Whitney. We’ll get to see Bob and Jeff play Wednesday night, and then the Rainmakers are playing New Year’s Eve! They are an amazing live band and I’m excited not just to see them play again, but to enjoy our time with them as friends. We have fun!

Finally, although there is much to discuss in the world of politics, I find myself retreating from it to an unprecedented—for me—degree. I’m hoping that if everyone stops giving Trump oxygen, his candidacy will asphyxiate. I can’t quite express how dismaying I find his candidacy and how upsetting it is to me that he has supporters who think he’s capable of leading our country. Especially knowing that I’m sure there are people I know that are supporting him. They walk amongst us.

I’m still paying attention, of course, and watching all the debates and reading plenty of articles, but I’m finding that I’m having a hard time discussing it with anyone who thinks that Trump would make a dandy President. It’s so irrational and illogical that my brain just can’t wrap itself around it and I sometimes feel that a portion of our populace has gone stark raving mad. It is unsettling, to say the least, and I have a hard time writing about it. I’m doing my level best to be fair and to raise the discourse to a reasonable level, but when it comes right down to it, I just want to take these people by the shoulders, shake them, and shout, “Are you fucking nuts?! Stop it! Just stop it!”

I’m learning that for my own health and well-being, it’s best not to discuss it with them. My blood pressure runs a little high, and I’ll be really pissed off if Donald Trump gives me a thrombo. What a horrible way to go.

Anyway, things will settle down soon enough and I’ll work on getting back here a little more often. Lots of fun music stuff happening (Duran Duran 4-evah!), and when I do write about politics, I’ll try to keep it either substantive or funny, and leave the anger to the unwashed masses who hate that the world is changing around them and that they have to be “politically correct” (but thank goodness Trump is there to “tell it like it is!”) and who think that their billionaire spokesmodel will somehow help them feel like less of a loser by reasserting their white privilege and God-given place at the top of the heap. Everything will be okay once we build that big beautiful wall and get all the browns out, right?

[deep breath]

But that’s for another day. Have a Happy New Year, and let’s work together to make 2016 a good one...for all of us!

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Beth’s Books: The Walking Dead Psychology

It’s been a while since I wrote about The Walking Dead, and with the midseason finale of Season 6 coming up, this seems like a good time!

Besides, I absolutely loved this book. It takes a serious look at the psychological aspects of the show, both why viewers watch and the toll the Zombie Apocalypse (or any other type of apocalypse) takes on survivors and affects their behaviors. Psychology has always been a casual hobby of mine, and of course, I am truly obsessed with the show, so this was right up my alley. The book is a collaborative effort of several Psychology professors and counselors, and they all offer interesting insights on varying aspects of the show.

So why do we watch? One of the authors posits that it is because we have a longing for a sense of community, deeper relationships, and connections. There are no cell phones or computers in the ZA. No television, no Internet, and none of the constant bombardment of stimuli that we are subjected to on a daily basis. The survivors have to rely on each other for everything and deep relationships are formed. When you place your life into the hands of others on a daily basis, forging such strong bonds is a major contribution to your survival.

There is also a strong sense of nostalgia for things lost. The survivors feel it as they make their way through the wasted land filled only with walkers; something as simple as the ice cubes in Andrea’s glass of lemonade at Woodbury are seen as a long-lost luxury. After Rick and Carl flee the prison and find refuge in an empty home, Carl looks at the video games in a kid’s room and the big screen TV with longing...then rips the cord off of the useless TV to use to secure the front door. The viewers feel it, too. Seeing abandoned homes and signs of the people who lived there, seeing rusted cars grown over with kudzu, seeing a world that has ended for the vast majority of human can you not feel a sense of longing for what has been lost? The premiere episode of the show is called “Days Gone Bye” for a good reason.

Another author believes that part of the show’s appeal to so many of us is that it causes us to reflect on existential questions such as the meaning of our lives and to what purpose we would continue in such a scenario. It may cause us to confront our fears and think about how we would react in the ZA. Would we retain our humanity? Would we grow hungry with power like the Governor, or would we do whatever it takes to protect our family, like Rick is trying (and not always succeeding) to do? The author draws an analogy between survival in the ZA and survival in the death camps of the Holocaust. It’s not a bad analogy because surviving both would take courage and the ability to confront the worst that humanity has to offer. How can anyone deal with such inhumanity (in the ZA, both from the walkers and from certain other survivors) and come through unscathed? It’s natural to question our own abilities to deal with such extreme circumstances.

As for the survivors’ response, they are all suffering in varying degrees from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. They have all seen and done some incredibly horrible and brutal things and are under constant stress and constant fear. All of this can result in unpredictable behavior and bad decision-making, both of which can cost you your life or the lives of those who are looking to you for protection, resulting in further stress and survivor’s guilt. Many of the survivors have experienced psychotic breaks, such as Morgan after losing his son Duane, or Rick after Lori died. Michonne spent months by herself, talking to her dead boyfriend as if he were there. One of the big questions in the series has been, “Do you get to come back?” In other words, after all you’ve seen and done, do you get to survive with your humanity intact? It’s a question that is still being answered for many of our survivors.

The most interesting chapter to me was the one that considered Daryl Dixon’s transformation from angry redneck to reliable soldier, and even to transformative hero. The author looks at Daryl in the context of Joseph Campbell’s ‘hero arc,’ in which the character embarks on a journey of self-discovery. Daryl is compared to the classical hero Ulysses, who experiences hardships and tests in his travels and learns much about himself in the process. Daryl was an abused child, growing up in sad circumstances; he looks for Sophia with such dedication because he thinks about how he wished he could have been saved when he was a child. It has taken the ZA to make Daryl realize his potential as a human being with meaning to his life, and a valuable, trusted member of the group. As such, Daryl is a symbol of much-needed hope in the apocalyptic world. If Daryl can overcome what he did and grow into a position of trust and leadership, then there is hope for all of us. Daryl sets the bar high and challenges us to become our own “better angels.”

The book also does a few case studies of some of the characters to see if they fit the profile of a psychopath. Shane, the Governor, the Claimers, Negan, and others are examined using professional criteria.

The book concludes with the thought that zombies help us confront one of our biggest fears: our own mortality. We see that the zombies are simply bags of meat, without purpose or meaning other than finding their next meal (and hopefully it’s not us). We all have a desire to find meaning in our lives, to be more than another bag of meat. The book feels that The Walking Dead succeeds in showing the human struggle to find meaning in life, even knowing that our mortality is inevitable, and that our struggle matters.

So why do I love the show so much? Because it makes me think about all these things. Yes, you can say that it is “just a TV show,” but I’ve always felt that good TV can speak to us on a level that makes us address certain things in ourselves and also connects us with others who feel the same way. The best shows make you wonder how you would react in certain situations, whether it’s Walter White confronting a cancer diagnosis or Don Draper dealing with his past and the rapidly changing world around him. The Walking Dead makes us wonder what we would do in order to survive...or would we even want to? And why?

Highly recommended for anyone who is a fan of the show, comics, or novels.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

The Golden Door

Here is what I would like to say to the Governors who issued statements refusing Syrian refugees, including (unfortunately) my own Governor (unfortunately), Mike Pence.

First of all, super geniuses, you can’t do that. You can protest it until you’re blue in the face—perish the thought of turning blue!—but you can’t just refuse to accept them. Our refugee program is a federal one, so that means that they trump your puny little protestations. You might remember a little thing call the Supremacy Clause in the Constitution, which states that U.S. laws are the supreme law of the land. We even fought a war where that kind of came up...remember that?

I suppose you could do whatever IS in your power to choke off any aid to these refugees, but is that really the path you want to take? Could you really turn a blind eye to starving and suffering children? Would you order the National Guard to stand at the state line and turn away any of these people trying to enter your state? How exactly would that work? Planning on building a wall, are you? Checkpoint Charlies at all points of entry? People are allowed to freely pass between states, if you recall. I don’t need a passport to go to Chicago. I can just drive there! If the federal government screens these refugees (a lengthy and arduous process) and allows them entry to our country, they are free to travel about as they wish. FREE. Quite a concept, isn’t it?

I don’t think any of you really thought this through, did you?

Secondly, I’m sorry that your compassion—and many of you claim to be Christians, so I find this surpassingly curious—perished in the flames of your xenophobic ideology. Your kneejerk bigotry has caused you to completely ignore the facts about these people and about WHY they are fleeing their homeland. You see them all as enemy combatants who want to destroy our country. Apparently, even 5-year-old orphans. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen such a horrid display of hatred and a complete lack of compassion and humanity in my lifetime. You should be ashamed of yourselves.

Finally, I was reminded of something I read a while back about other refugees trying to find asylum in the United States. We turned them away, as did Cuba and Canada. Why? Because we were worried about some of them being Nazi sympathizers and spies. We turned away the MS St. Louis in 1939 and the 908 German Jews on board were sent back to Europe, where various countries took them in. It is estimated that a quarter of them were killed in Nazi death camps.

So you go right ahead with your chest-thumping and political posturing. I’m sure there are a lot of people at the moment who are impressed by your strength and resolve. I’m not one of them. And I don’t think history will judge you kindly, either.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Like a bad flashback

Don't blame yourself
Don't blame me
But we're the ones
Who can feed the ground
So this poison tree, don't let it grow again
And from this glass and broken earth
There is a way that can be built
A better life for everyone

~~ Duran Duran, “Point of No Return”

I’m still processing what happened in Paris on Friday, and still reeling from the horrible news. I don’t think I’ll be able to sleep until I get some of these thoughts out of my head, so I’m just going to let ‘er rip here for a little bit. If I word something wrong, please forgive me. Know that I am heartbroken about what has happened and I have the utmost sympathy for the French people and for all those who are suffering tonight.

  1. This reminds me a lot of how I felt on 9/11. A sense of disorientation, disbelief, followed by horror. One thing I learned from that experience, as well as the coverage of Hurricane Katrina, was that you have to step away from the media coverage. It is almost overwhelming and you need to protect yourself by not watching every moment. I watched quite a bit early in the evening, but Ken and I watched a movie after that and tried to give ourselves a break for a bit. I’m staying informed, but I’m trying to stay healthy, too.
  2. It hits close to home that the worst attack was at a concert. I know how much I love going to concerts, and it is always a joyous occasion for me. Live music, sharing a communal experience with other fans, just losing myself in the music and the fun of a live show. Music is supposed to be a celebration, and it hurts my heart that that joy was taken away from some people...maybe for good.
  3. We are going to the Notre Dame football game on Saturday, and I’d be lying if I said I felt no trepidation about it. The stadium holds upwards of 80,000 people, and what a horrible thought to contemplate some sort of attack here or anywhere. However, I refuse to live my life in fear. That’s what this is all about. They want us to be afraid, just like any other bully. I refuse.
  4. I don’t care what your agenda is, whether you’re on the right or the left, religious or not religious...stop making this about you and your agenda, okay? I’m seeing quite a bit of bullshit spinning it one way or another. Just drop it already, try not to politicize it for one fucking day, and just stand with the people of France and let them know that we’ve got their back, always. That goes for any atheists who are ridiculing prayers or wondering if your god let this happen and blah di fucking blah. Just let people deal with this as best they can and stop putting your spin on it. This is a tragedy for all of us. People died and their loved ones are grieving tonight. That is what matters.

Everyone try and be a little nicer to others tomorrow. I know I will.


Friday, November 6, 2015

I’m no cat and I’m still kickin’

I saw this on the Goodreads newsletter and it immediately resonated with me.

This blog’s motto is “Boredom is not an option.” It’s right up there under the title, see? I never feel bored and feel like there is always something out there to do or learn or explore. One of the best things my parents ever gave me was an abiding sense of curiosity about the world around me and the ability to find joy in learning about even the most mundane things.

The growing stacks of books in our spare bedroom attest to this. It’s gotten so bad that on the rare occasion that we have a houseguest, I feel that I’ve done right by them if I “clear a path.” I’m not kidding. Ken said, “We probably need to clear some of these books out of here.” I said, “No, he can get in there. See?” Our last houseguest seemed to sleep pretty soundly, so I don’t think he was overly bothered by the books!

I fully realize that it’s unlikely that I’ll be able to work my way through so many books in the years I have left. But it gives me great joy to know that no matter what I’m in the mood for, I can browse my library and find something that will interest me. (Thank goodness for my Kindle! Without it, there would be books piled up even higher.) I have books about politics, memoirs of rock stars, classics, post-apocalypse sci-fi, art books, science books, mythology collections, horror, legal thrillers, psychology, microbiology….

[deep breath]

But it doesn’t stop at books (or music or movies or documentaries). I’ve somehow managed to maintain an abiding curiosity about interesting things that catch my eye. A spider sitting in its web. A stick with a really interesting pattern. A bluebird splashing around in the bird bath. The way bananas will get all liquidy inside if you let them ripen long enough. (That one is kind of gross, but there is no denying that it’s kind of cool, too!)

There is just so much out there to fascinate me. At times, I almost feel overwhelmed and somewhat scattered as I go from thing to thing.

That’s not an entirely bad thing to deal with, though. I am ennui immune!

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Taking your ball and going home

I’m sure all of my politically minded friends have seen what transpired at the last Republican debate, as well as the aftermath.

It was the usual tactic of attacking the media, saying that they were giving them “gotcha” questions, accusing them of being liberal, blah blah blah.

And this debate was on CNBC! The same CNBC whose Rick Santelli gave birth to the freakin’ teabaggers! Give me a break.

Anyway, it didn’t stop with several candidates piling on the media at the debate. Subsequently, the RNC decided to cancel the debate that it was holding with NBC because of their supposed liberal bias. I guess “liberal bias” means everything except for ass-kissing ClusterFox. ::eye roll::

Granted, some of the questions from the CNBC moderators were phrased poorly. However, the accusation of the Republicans that CNBC asked no “substantive questions” is absolutely absurd. They asked plenty of substantive questions, including about how so many of the answers and plans just did not add up. In other words, they were doing their job as journalists. The accusation that CNN wasn’t hard on the candidates at the Democratic debate is also absurd. They asked hard questions and pressed the candidates for answers, even putting them on the hot seat with questions to Sanders about his electability and to Clinton about her private email server. It was not “Which of you is more handsome and wise?” as Ted Cruz put it.

Here’s the thing: journalists are supposed to be journalists. They are supposed to ask questions about the candidates’ positions on various issues, and if the answers don’t make a lot of sense or don’t add up, or if the candidate just refuses to answer the question, they are supposed to press them on it. Debates are not held to let candidates have a free forum in which to speak uninterrupted or without further questioning. They are held to showcase the candidates’ positions, the difference between all the candidates, and it is the actual, bona fide JOB of the moderators to ask follow-up questions.

So the Republicans have decided that that is unacceptable and are calling for people like Sean Hannity or Rush Limbaugh to moderate upcoming debates. I find this quite amusing on several levels.

First, they are coming across as petulant children who don’t like being challenged. At the first sign of criticism, they have decided they are going to pick up their ball and go home.

Second, if anyone thinks that Hannity or Limbaugh is unbiased and will be a fair moderator, let me just say right here that you need to go see someone because you are delusional.

Finally, if these candidates are going to bitch and moan about how the CNBC moderators and the “liberal media” are being mean to them, how in the hell do they think they are going to play with various actors on the global stage? If Putin disrespects them, are they going to throw a hissy fit? If Kim Jong-un decides to test a bomb, are they going to get the vapors and take to their room and cry themselves to sleep?

Come ON.

One more thing about this. This article by David Atkins at Political Animal raises an excellent question about whether or not the media and journalists everywhere will stand up to what is essentially bullying of their profession and an attempt at controlling the message. It’s a legitimate concern. You know who else controlled the media, right? Sure you do. Don’t make me Godwin myself.

Friday, October 30, 2015

Duranland and Electric Barbarella

Cousin Shane messaged me yesterday and said he was loving a new CD that we both recently got, and I had to admit that I hadn’t listened to it yet because I’m still in Duranland!

It’s true. After a month of listening to the new album, Paper Gods, and nothing else, I’ve managed to listen to some of their other albums lately. (When I’m in the house, I usually listen to satellite channels, so I do have other music playing throughout the day.)

Today I revisited one that I have not played much: 1997’s Medazzaland. This came out when all of the Taylors (John, Andy, and Roger) were not in the band, although John has songwriting credit for a few of the songs. Warren Cuccurullo was the guitarist at this point, and I dig Warren’s work with them. I think he’s a great guitarist and added a real edge to their music, and that is not at all a slam against Andy Taylor or their current guitarist, Dom Brown. Different iterations of the band, lots of great music, and I won’t disparage any of them.

One thing that I miss very much on this album, though, is the heavy bass groove that John Taylor provides to the band. I guess it’s one of those “don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone” things, but you can really tell when he’s not a part of the recordings.

That being said, this album holds up better than I originally thought. It has almost a trippy, psychedelic feel to it. There is some darkness to it, too, with the creepy stalker vibe of “Be My Icon” and the track “Electric Barbarella.” It’s a standout track with a great groove to it, about taking a sex doll home from the store. The video is great but also has a creepy vibe, with all three of the band members sharing their new, artificial girlfriend. Yikes!

This is also a nice opportunity for a trivia question. Who knows the connection between this song title and the band’s name?

Enjoy. Who doesn’t love a happy song about three boys and their sex doll?

Thursday, October 29, 2015

True Confessions

These boots are made for walking
And that’s just what they’ll do
One of these days these boots are gonna
Walk all over you
Are you ready, boots? Start walkin’!
~~ Nancy Sinatra, “These Boots Are Made For Walkin’
I have to admit it. I’m a walking stereotype.

But least I’m walking in cool shoes!

I’ve always tried to kind of make my own kind of music and sing my own kind of song. I don’t think I’m much of a stereotypical anything. I’m a bookworm, but I love sports; I love music, but I prefer to find off-the-beaten-path things that few others are listening to; I’m firmly rooted in science, but I can completely suspend disbelief and enjoy movies and stories that make little to no sense and have no basis in fact; I was raised in rural Indiana, but I’m super liberal and am no fan of the Republicans. Ha! I just had to throw that last one in there after last night’s debate. There are a few things where I simply cannot suspend my disbelief, and one of them is trickle-down economics!

Anyway, I’ve always liked to make my own pathway and avoid stereotypes. However, I’m a walking talking stereotype when it comes to one thing: shoes.

That’s right, I’m that person that people make fun of when they talk about “women who buy shoes.” I mean, obviously, ALL women buy shoes, but I have a bit of an obsession with fun and unusual shoes. I think I’ve pretty much always been that way. Picking out shoes for the new school year was always fun for me, and I was pretty excited about my first pair of shoes with a heel in sixth grade. Even more exciting was getting a pair of Earth Shoes for Christmas one year when I was in high school! My parents didn’t indulge my shoe obsession, but when I got out on my own, it was Katy bar the door!

I recall fondly the pair of thigh-high suede boots in the ‘80s. Also the black suede ankle boots from that era. There were the platform sandals I wore out clubbing in the ‘90s (a white pair, a sparkly black pair, and a silver pair). A while back I found a great sale on some Keds I really like—like regular Keds but with an open back—and bought several pairs: white mesh, white canvas, black mesh, turquoise, red, tan, and navy canvas. I love casual platform sandals and I love flat gladiator sandals. Thankfully, I don’t have expensive tastes. No Blahniks or Jimmy Choo for me. Heck, I don’t even own a pair of Doc Martens, and those are some very cool shoes! One of my favorite pairs of footwear ever was a pair of moonboots I found at Goodwill back in the ‘80s. Bright yellow vinyl with a white wedge platform heel. I wore the hell out of those moonboots but finally had to say goodbye when the soles completely cracked. Farewell, moonboots. I still remember you fondly.

I have a pair of knee-high black boots with a chain on the back; I have knee-high black boots with several straps on the calf, inspired by Carol from The Walking Dead; I remember my Dad’s black combat boots from when he was in the National Guard and I always loved those, so I have a couple of pairs of that style. I have silver hightops and I have hightops with a record print on them. I have shoes that I wear often and I have shoes that I have never worn—at least not yet.

My most recent inspiration has come from Duran Duran. Of course, I’ve loved the band for years, but as I’ve been watching them lately, my laser-focus shoe eyes immediately noticed the absolutely super cool shoes they all wear. They’ve always liked their fashion, and their shoes are just the best. Check these out. I was especially captivated by Simon’s black and white buckle shoes in the photo at the top, but I also love Nick’s silver oxfords in this photo.
So I’ve been on a bit of a tear lately (although these are not super expensive shoes!). Click to embiggenate.
I got these black buckle shoes with a grey vamp, similar to Simon’s black and white ones, and in my research, I learned that these are called brothel creepers. I remember them from back in the punk days but never had a pair. I think they are very cool and I’m glad they are making a comeback! I wore these to our recent house show with Bob Walkenhorst, and I wore them to the Duran Duran concert in Berkeley. So these shoes have seen some great musicians and I’m sure they’ll see some more!
Along the same line, I got these black wingtip oxford creepers. These will be great concert shoes. They are cool-looking but also comfortable, especially for standing for long periods.
Then there are these gorgeous black and white patent kilties. Squeeeee! These will go great with my black and white checked suit jacket!

I’ve been coveting Nick’s silver oxfords and finally found something similar: these silver buckled creepers! They have been ordered and will be on their way soon!

I think I’m done for a while (I’m sure Ken will be very relieved), and I even went into DSW the other day and walked out without buying a single thing. So I do have some willpower, both with price and with simply saying, “No, I don’t need to buy a pair of shoes right now.”

I may be a cliché, but I suppose there are worse vices to have. Perhaps I’ll see you out for a stroll some evening...just be sure to notice my shoes!

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Beth’s Music Moment: Seek and Ye Shall Find

A topic came up on Facebook today, one that I see pop up every so often. A friend posted a story in which a ‘70s rocker said that something like how rock is “dead” because of downloading and filesharing. That’s some major bullshit right there. Not to mention any names, but maybe this rocker who used to wear a lot of makeup and has an extremely long tongue is just pissed because HIS music isn’t selling much anymore!

Anyway, my friend went on to say that he thinks rock is dead because “a lot of the new stuff sucks.” This isn’t a slam on him, by any means. He is one of my favorite Bookface friends and he posts a lot of great stuff (love ya, Gregg!). But I think he is dead wrong on this and I said that I disagreed with him. We had a productive (if short) discussion there, and he asked for a few recommendations.

I really don’t like this pronouncement and I hear it way too often. No, rock isn’t dead. No, current music doesn’t suck. Some of it does, that’s for sure! But as I pointed out, you aren’t going to hear the good stuff on the radio. This is where the dedicated, proactive music fan needs to step up. There is all kinds of great music being made out there, but you have to step outside your usual zone in order to find it. This is one reason the Interwebz is so great; even if you don’t have a vibrant music scene in your community, you can still check out music that is being made all over these United States and all over the world! It’s wonderful!

Here are a couple of ways to find new music that trips your trigger.

  1. Free download sites like NoiseTrade. This is where I’ve found tons of great new music I never would have found otherwise. You can tip the artists whatever amount you want, but I’ve found that if a band just immediately jumps out at me (one of those “Holy shit, this is GREAT!” moments), I usually seek out their music to purchase via whatever method I can. It is often Amazon, but sometimes I get it through Bandcamp, which is another great site to find new music. Speaking of Amazon, they also sometimes offer free MP3 downloads of compilations or single songs. I’ve found some good stuff that way, too.
  2. If you have a local music scene, GO SEE THE BANDS. Groove to their music, get up and dance, cheer them on, buy their merchandise, and as I always say, show the band some love! We are fortunate in that South Bend has a vibrant music scene and quite a few venues to see these local bands. It’s not like a big concert with the light show and big-time audio. It’s just local bands setting up their own equipment and working hard to entertain the audience. Be in that audience! Let the bands know that their talent and hard work is appreciated!
  3. Have a pal or a relative who is into finding new music and is always willing to turn you onto something they think you’ll love or who posts about the new stuff they find. Shane and I have been Music Buddies for decades, and we are always saying, “Hey, check this out!” One of my fantastic recent finds was, if I recall correctly, a free download from Amazon. That was Temples, one of the best new bands I’ve heard in years. An amazing throwback psychedelic sound. It blew me away and I knew that Shane would love it, too. I was right!

Since Gregg asked for some recommendations, I told him a few of some of my recent finds through these avenues, and I’ll share some videos here.

First up is Shake Before Us out of San Diego. I immediately loved the ‘70s garage band sound, complete with...not sure about my instruments that a Moog? A Farfisa? I don’t know, but it’s a rave up!

Next is Broncho. They are out of Oklahoma City (What?! I know!) and they are so much fun! We actually got to see them live in Chicago when they opened for Billy Idol on several dates on his North American tour. They were great live, and I only wish they had played longer than a half an hour.

Next is Velcro Mary out of Charlotte, North Carolina (What?! I know!). More garage band sound (are you sensing a pattern?) and it turns out that Velcro Mary consists of one guy, Jason, making music in his home. We exchanged several emails and it was fun to learn more about him and about his music. You can get VM’s new album, “Leave a Light On” here.

Finally, here’s a video from one of our most-beloved local bands, The Rutabega, from right here in South Bend. They are an absolute blast to see live and we do so every chance we get. They make an amazing sound for just two guys, with an additional vocalist on some songs.

If you love music, get out there and look for the good stuff. It really is out there. (I haven’t even touched on long-established artists who are still making great music, including The Rainmakers, Prince, Devo, Bowie, and of course, my beloved Duran Duran!)

Happy listening!

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Be who you needed

A friend posted this on Facebook (I wish I could remember who, but my apologies to whomever it was!) and I was very intrigued by it. I think I actually said, “Hmmm” out loud.

It made me think about who I needed when I was younger. Then it made me think about how much younger. When I was a young kitty-cat, I very much needed my parents, and they were there for me. My Dad, especially, reinforced that I could pursue what I wanted to pursue, and my gender didn’t have to be a factor. He encouraged me to speak up and to not be meek about what I said. Although we came to disagree on things in politics, he knew that I got my outspokenness from him!

But I can’t be that person now because I don’t have kids of my own.

So for the purpose of this exercise, I’ll think about who I needed when I was a young adult. After all, that is possibly our most formative time, in which we set our worldview and the seeds are sown for who we will be as adults.There were plenty of people who influenced me during that time, including my sister Diana, but if I’m going to be totally honest, I have to say that I’m really not sure who could have broken through my stubbornness and sense of invulnerability. No one could tell me anything and I pretty much did whatever the hell I wanted to do. 

Things have changed a lot since then.

Bahahaha! No, they haven’t. I’m still as stubborn as ever and still do my own thing. In that respect, Ken has been the person I needed as I got older because I feel more accountable. I still have fun, but it is tempered with knowing that I am not a solo unit and I can’t just go out and do whatever I want.

Some of the people who had the most influence on me in my career were a couple of managers. Bonnie in Grand Forks helped me realize that I didn’t need to be perfect right off the bat when I got out of school. Yes, I had work to do, but not being a perfect technologist didn’t mean that I couldn’t work towards that goal. I eventually became one of the Employees of the Month in that lab, and much of that was due to Bonnie and her confidence in me. My supervisor in Indianapolis, Paul, told me that he wished he could clone me and he gave me the confidence to keep doing what I was doing. There were others in my career who encouraged me and helped me to work harder and try to do my best. I didn’t always succeed, but I took all their lessons to heart and tried to remember that our main goal was to do right by our patients and give them the best care possible.

As I think about all of this, I struggle to come up with the person who I needed when I was a young adult and how that might translate to “be who you needed” at that age. I had so many influences, but I cannot fathom who, in particular, I might have needed at that age. Did I influence people in my life? I taught many students over the years in the lab, and I hope that I had a positive influence there. Some of the people I had as students turned out to be some of the best techs I’ve ever worked with and at least one went on to become a doctor.

I guess the only thing I can take away from this is that the best lessons I got were from people who encouraged me and who didn’t try to force me onto any sort of traditional path. They told me to be my own person and to find my own way. That’s the advice I would give to anyone, no matter their age. Find your passion, or better yet, find several.

It will keep you from being bored, which will also keep you from being boring.