You Will Never Guess Where I Am...

I am walking on a treadmill in the rec room at work.

This is unusual for me because as many of my readers know (all two of them), I prefer to exercise outdoors.

The world is my gymnasium, I like to say. But it is raining in my gymnasium right now...

I am only going to spend 20 minutes on this device. Tonight I am doing a two-hour spinning class that will more than accomplish my workout goal for today. But I needed a break from sitting at my desk, so this is it.

They Liked My Hat

I auditioned on rhythm guitar and backing vocals for a band called Eddie Ate Dynamite, and I landed the gig, which is awesome.

The band leader is named Tim (aka Eddie), a guy I know from the Madison music scene, and also from FAWM, the February songwriting challenge I do every year. I have always been impressed with his catchy and dryly humorous songs, so when I saw he was looking to fill a position in the band for a second supporting guitar (he plays lead) and backup singer, I jumped at the chance.

I am not an awesome guitarist by any means. I’m decent and passable, but I am a bass player by trade. I practiced hard for the audition and also got some good tips from Tim the night before the audish, so that our guitar sounds and vocal lines were complimentary. My guitar playing in this band is largely supporting and filling out Tim’s sound and chunking out the rhythm guitar lines when he solos. The bigger contribution I bring to the band is on backing vocals, because I am really good with harmonies. Because guitar is not second nature to me, the biggest challenge is not the guitar parts or the vocals, per se, but rather combining the two…singing and playing at the same time on the songs, which are often fast and have dynamic rhythms and harmonies.

But that’s a skill that I can gain in this band, which will make me a better musician. So it is a win-win. I really enjoy the music, so I am compelled to practice and push myself and master it. It forces me to get out of my comfort zone of bass and vocals, which is pretty easy.

This is evidenced by the fact that after I got home from the audition, I practiced the Eddie Ate Dynamite material for a couple more hours, honing some of the vocal parts we had come up with at the jam so that I could solidify them in my mind. This is a good sign that the band is a good fit for me.

It is nice to be able to do more guitar stuff in my music projects too. I play bass in the country band DRIVEWAY THRIFTDWELLERS and my rock-n-roll band GUPPY EFFECT, and I am fully pro there and in my comfort zone most of the time. Eddie Ate Dynamite will push me and challenge me, and that’s awesome. The musicians in the band are top notch and people I have respected in the Madison music scene for a long time (although, admittedly, I had not met their bass player until last night). The drummer, Dan, has played in a few Madison bands, most notably Axiom, with whom GUPPY EFFECT has shared the stage in the past. I have their CD and it is great heavy metal music. All of them are really fun people, which is a big part of the enjoyment of playing music.

Audiences will be completely powerless against their catchy brand of power punk rock songs. Here is a case in point…

Note: Most of their songs are the standard 2 to 3 minute face melters. This shorty is just the meme that will rule the world one day. For now, it just explains the title of this blog post though. They liked my hat, where hat = style.

I Finished a Book - YEA!

I finished a book. A novel, in fact.

It is by Ruth Ozeki, and titled "All Over Creation."

The fact that I actually finished a book speaks to its quality, if you want the quick and dirty binary rating, thumbs up or down. That means I gave it a thumbs up. I am notoriously bad about finishing books that do not engage me or that lose my interest.

There are a couple of main threads to the story, one of them individual, the other social. The plot centers around potato farming in Idaho and the growth of GMO foods and pesticide use. A prodigal child (Yumi) returns home to the Idaho potato farm of her youth, from Hawaii, because her father (Lloyd) is dying, and her Japanese mother (Momoko) is too old and senile to take care of him. One of her childhood friends (Cass) now runs a neighboring potato farm, along with her husband (Will), and they've been taking care of the old folks, but now that Lloyd has had a heart attack and Momoko is losing it, they can't handle it, which is why Yumi gets called back from Hawaii.

Turns out, Yumi ran away after getting pregnant by way of her history teacher at age 14 (that aspect of the plot is a little grim, but more on that later). Yumi's dying dad is and was a staunch pro-lifer, and he basically disowned her when she got an abortion. Yumi went off and became a hippie and had three kids, one of them now just an infant, who also return with her from Hawaii.

Cass and Will are grappling with a different human drama. Cass is unable to bear children and she suspects it has to do with the toxic pesticides used on the potato fields. She had not one but two miscarriages in the past and has given up hope of having a child. Will has gone to GMO potatoes in hopes of reducing pesticide "inputs" on his fields.

There is a bit of angst between Cass and Yumi, which is really just resentment by Cass that Yumi abandoned her when they were kids, and now Cass is caring for Yumi's folks, when Yumi should have been there. They hash this out and resume a solid friendship.

Meanwhile, some environmental activists come on the scene (the Seeds of Change) and befriend Yumi's teenage kids (boy Phoenix and girl Ocean), eventually parking their RV on Lloyd's property and getting on Lloyd's good side by appealing to his pro-lifer beliefs in regard to agriculture and seeds and soil. They convince him that GMOs and pesticides and the corporations that make them are anti-life (and they convince the readers too, fairly well) and he agrees to let them hold a big rally on his land.

Well, the rally gets a little out of hand as the activists pull GMO potatoes out of the ground on Will's neighboring fields in protest. Cops are called and things go down.

The other plotline is that Yumi's statutory raping history teacher (Elliot) now works for an evil, greedy GMO and pesticide multinational corporation (yep, a real douchebag), called Cynaco (basically Monsanto). He comes on the scene and somehow manages to manipulate Yumi into having a sexual relationship with him again (he's basically a bully, but she's trying to resolve her childhood issues through him). Then he uses her to get info about the activists and their rally. He ends up hiring a thug to cause trouble for the activists (side note: the activists also run a porn site to raise money for their operations...). Ultimately, an "accident" happens that kills one of the activists (Charmey), who was a new teen mom (her child fathered by another of the activists). The RV explodes while she (but not the baby) is in it and the cops, who are totally in the pocket of the potato agro-industrialists, cannot say it was not an accident. But the Seeds, Yumi, and Cass know. On top of that, the explosion pushes Lloyd into another heart attack that spells his rapid demise. Yumi is shamed because of her rekindled relationship with Elliot and gets a wake-up call about her poor life choices. Elliot does too, because he did not want anyone to be harmed or killed, but he loses control of the situation with the corporate thug. He does redeem himself partially by quitting his sh!tty job, but he is still a creep.

The plot doesn't have a lot of closure. Everyone kind of goes back to where they came from, Yumi to Hawaii, the Seeds off to fight the good environmental fight on the west coast. The resolution I suppose is that Cass and Will end up adopting the infant whose mom, Charmey, was incinerated in the RV explosion.

I think there is a moral theme about pro-life in this book. I think the book was a gift from someone I know who is a fundamentalist Christian, so that would make sense. But this theme wasn't overbearing or even particularly critical to the plot. In fact, it ends up being the Achilles heel that persuades Lloyd to let the activists ingratiate themselves on everyone. Depending on your perspective, you might attribute the disastrous turn of events to the environmental activists (had they not shown up, none of it would have gone down as it did) or to the multinational agri-business (had Elliot not sold out and hired a thug, none of it would have gone down as it did).

Anyway, I fall back on my original review rating: THUMBS UP.

If anyone wants to read it (now that I have spoiled the entire plot...but there's a lot more to it than my summary), I will gladly pay my copy forward. Let me know.