Here it is.
Perhaps the fastest production of any music video EVER.
by Joe Leonard
I take a deep breath, exit the bathroom, and walk down the hall to the mezzanine entrance.
There are perhaps two dozen people inside. On instinct, I beeline for the bar and relax a little bit in the vicinity of the familiar liquid tonics. I look across the long room to the far end where the band is setting up. I am not sure if Joe sees me, bundled up as I still am in my coat and scarf. He is busy setting up music equipment with his band.
I take off my scarf as the bartender, a petite brunette girl who looks barely old enough to serve alcohol, comes over.
She doesn’t say anything, just raises her eyebrows as if to say, “You know the drill.”
“Do you have red wine?” I ask.
“Um…I think so,” she says, looking around behind the counter. “Hang on. Hey, Mary…?”
She's addressing a middle aged woman who is struggling to carry a case of Bud Light behind the bar. The discussion between the bartender and Mary as to the whereabouts of the elusive red wine fades as I turn back to the band.
I’m startled to see Joe about 10 feet away, coming toward me.
“Hey, stranger,” he says, smiling and opening his arms in what I interpret as an invitation for a hug. “Fancy seeing you here.”
We embrace quickly and awkwardly, but not unpleasantly.
“Can I get you a drink?” he asks.
“I may already have one coming,” I reply. “But thanks.”
Do I apologize for not replying to his Tinder message after our date last week? Maybe best to let that slide since he seems happy to see me and unperturbed. But wait…is it good that he’s unperturbed? Shouldn’t he be a little perturbed that I blew him off?
“I wasn’t sure if you'd come,” he says, forcing my hand. I feel awkward again.
I try to sound sympathetic. “I am sorry I didn’t text you back. When you have a three year old son, it’s hard. But I'm here...at your show.”
“Here’s your wine,” the bartender says behind me, offering a welcome distraction. I turn toward her and reach into my purse for money.
“Put that on my tab,” Joe says to the girl. “And anything else she wants, too.”
I can't repress a small smile. I am glad I came after all. Maybe I will go on another date with him, if he asks. He may be a writer and a musician. But he’s a gentleman.
Here is my first draft. I am sure what I submit will be different, but I would love your feedback. I am limited to 500 words and I am a little over that now, so subtraction would be more helpful than addition.
He’s even letting me write this at his work computer, when he should be working on those IT compliance documents. But…boring!
I have been persuading Joe to take his creative writing more seriously the past few years, the way he prioritizes playing music. He's been resistant.
“I am so used to writing for other people that it's hard to write for my own enjoyment,” he told me once while we were in the shower.
Joe has a Masters in science journalism and writes professionally for The Man. He’s published a few news and trade articles, and even co-authored a peer-reviewed study in the Journal of Chiropractic Medicine in 2004 when he worked at the vitamin company.
About four years ago, I convinced Joe to do 10 minutes of creative free writing a day. He started a blog and has been writing almost every day. His writing has definitely improved a lot as a result. Now I want him to try to get his creative writing published.
He wrote some great travelogs during his family’s Australia trip last fall. “If you had money,” I told him. “You should totally just go places and be a travel writer.”
“Money’s always the issue, isn't it?” he replied wistfully. “I will be lucky if I can save enough for the bike trip to Ireland in August.”
Just before the Australia trip, I was chilling out on the periphery of Joe’s subconscious. Through the sliding door I could hear the audio files he was archiving for the Radio Literature show on Madison’s WORT FM, where he volunteers. The guest was Kathie Giorgio, talking with the host about the online writing classes offered through her All Writer’s Workshop in Waukesha WI. Joe was too engrossed in his task, but I was paying attention. I leapt from my hammock between the palm trees in Joe’s happy place and burst into his conscious mind.
“Dude! You totally have to get ahold of that chick and find out about those classes,” I bellowed. “This is opportunity knocking.”
“OK, OK,” he gave in. “I will email her. But I can’t commit to any classes until this Australia trip is behind me.”
“Excuses, excuses,” I muttered, wandering back out into the sublime wilds of Joe’s brainstem. I could tell from the sunshine and sea breeze that he was checked out on Australia wanderlust. But there was an excitement in the air that wasn’t there before.
I wasn't exactly sure where I was going, so I gave myself ample time to get there and explore parking options before the 9 AM workshop began. I chose the Lake Street public parking ramp and walked the couple of blocks to the Lowell Center. A cute college co-ed working the reception desk directed me to the classroom and I arrived about 15 minutes early.
The workshop instructor, Laurie Scheer, and one other student were already in the lecture room.
The class was basically a discussion about the elements of creative non-fiction that make it different from journalism (pure factual reporting) and fiction (fabrication, reality-based or not). Creative non-fiction is a form of writing in which the writer's perspective is an integral part of the reality that is being written about. In some cases, the author is a participant narrator and in some cases they are just providing an informed analysis of reality, adding their own slant. But the key element is that the writer is not objectively outside of the writing, as with journalism. They are mentally or physically "in it." Creative non-fiction is exemplified in the work of Hunter S. Thompson (Gonzo Journalism; participant narrator) and Jon Krakauer (informed expert analysis; "Into the Wild"). Creative non-fiction goes beyond reporting on reality. It incorporates the thoughts, experiences, analyses, and slant of the author. To that extent, it is more subjective than objective journalism is, but it is still a rendering of reality as filtered through the writer's mind. In the case of Hunter S. Thompson, it is unclear how reality based the rendering is after it passes through the meat grinder of his drug- and alcohol-addled neurons. But it still makes for a compelling read and most people get something out of it, albeit heavily slathered in the gooey gray matter of Thompson's thought patterns.
As often happens to me in these sorts of classes, I got excited once the discussion began and ideas began swarming my mind, like screaming banshees, distracting me from the topics and discussion as I began to jot these ideas down in my JUICE journal, which I had fortuitously brought with me. It is probably 80% this inspirado that makes these classes worthwhile for me. For some reason, when I attend these workshops, my mind explodes with ideas and I am able to focus my mind like a laser. The only problem is, my focus is on my ideas, not the topics of the workshop itself. So I probably only gleaned about 20% of the material the instructor covered, which was OK given that a lot of it I already knew...I just sought reinforcement of my knowledge base. That said, I acquired a few new tools I am going to use to try to improve my writing. The instructor also offered to critique up to 1,500 words of our creative non-fiction as part of the course fee, which to me is far more valuable than the knowledge gained. Provided I can get her my piece by the deadline of February 9, that feedback will be great.
It is both an up side and a down side of these classes that they inspire me to write. Ultimately, it is all about the writing. You can learn all you want about a genre of writing, but ultimately you have to put pen to paper.
One idea that came to me during the class was this one...
The personal essay is a popular form of creative non-fiction (this blog post is one!). One reason is because it is fairly easy for people with a grasp of English to write about personal experiences. Almost anyone can do it. The personal essay is to the field of non-fiction as the pun is to humor. The pun is an easy form of wit. Most people, even those without a sense of humor, stumble on a pun every once in a while (hence the cliche "no pun intended" uttered whenever a pun manufactures itself from the mind, unbeknownst to the punner until the very words cross their lips). Likewise, anyone can type out a personal essay. It's just writing what you know, feel, and experience. However, continuing the analogy, there are good puns and bad puns, just as their are good personal essays and bad ones (thus far, I would rate this blog post mediocre, but if you are still reading it, then I have underestimated my prose powers). You can write a personal essay even when there is no other inspiration to draw from. It is "filler" in many ways, something you can do to practice the mechanics of writing about personal experience.
About four years ago, I set a goal to blog for at least 10 minutes every day. Writing books that I read always suggested free writing for 10 minutes a day to practice the mechanics of writing, the way an athlete goes for a 5k run to stay in shape for the big marathon in a few months. It's a way to limber up the writing neurons in the brain. I didn't always manage to write for 10 minutes every day, but I did most days and after four years I definitely feel like I am a better writer and writing comes a lot more easily to me now.
The reason I am taking writing classes and workshops over the next couple of months is actually to get beyond the personal essay and do some more meaningful and hopefully publishable writing. I still have a goal to publish my JUICE YOUR LIFE book before I am 50. I have no illusions of becoming a profitable writer, making a living on my writing passion. But if it happened, that would be totally fine. It does happen to some people. Not very often, but it does. And I suppose what separates the wheat from the chaff is DOING. That is, writers who write prolifically push the odds in their favor, because you can't help but get better and better at something if you practice it all the goddam time, as I do with these blog posts. The goal with the writing courses I am signed up to take is to focus my skills and direct them to creating a viable written product that people will read and appreciate. If it brings enough VALUE to others, maybe they will even pay money for it. That correlates with writing something that is awesome. Not just good or great. Awesome. Because it has to rise above all the other good and great things out there and be sought after above those things.
I am totally optimistic I can get there, with diligence and focus and practice and DOING. However, if I only get most of the way there, that's cool too.
I call it LOTTERY THINKING when I think about success in the arts, like music and writing, my main passions. When you buy a lottery ticket, your chances of winning are somewhere between zero and epsilon (a number slightly larger than zero). But the chances that SOMEONE will win the lottery are better than 50% usually. It is this fact that someone usually wins the lottery that keeps people buying a ticket.
In pop music, only about 1% of signed artists are successful enough to make a living at their art. But naive artists continue to quest for the elusive record deal in the uber optimistic belief that they will be the next Rock Gods. It's true that SOMEONE will be selected by the record industry corporate suits to be the next Rock Gods, but that someone is very unlikely to be most musicians and artists. There are a lot of reasons why this is. Even among artists who get signed to record deals, the odds of success are highly stacked against them because recording contracts favor the industry executives, not the artists. A label can sign an artist, have them record and album with a cash advance, and then decide not to go forward with the record. The artist owes the label back its advance. When they got the money it was all bitches and drugs and fun, but the Piper has to be repaid.
In high school, I was so naive that I was sure I was going to become a rockstar, sign a record deal, and become famous. Then I learned about the music industry and I don't even want to be a signed artist now. The music business is totally corrupt and exploitative. I much prefer the DIY approach. Plus, the record industry has a demographic and a specific sound it is looking for. It's very narrow. There is so much great local independent live music in most places in the world that will never even be considered by the record industry. And who can blame them. They go after the money, and that's usually "the kids," who buy music with their parents' money.
As I get older, my tastes in music expand exponentially and I appreciate all kinds of local music. It's really good. It's just not especially "marketable" on a large scale. Some DIY artists niche market to their friends and fans, using crowd sourcing. That's a delightful way to bypass the corrupt music business.
That's how writing is too. It should be about doing great art, even if it is not commercial. Someone will appreciate great art, even if it is only three people. You can definitely stack the lottery odds in your favor by practicing and trying to be the BEST. That's where the lottery analogy breaks down, because the lottery is by random chance. Success in the arts has a big chance factor, but also a big DOING factor. They say it takes 10,000 hours of doing to be great. I don't know how long that is, but someone figured out that the Beatles had played about 10,000 hours of shows, including street busking, before they hit it big. Numbers don't lie.
Anyway, I have a hot date, and I need to go shower. There is a high correlation between scoring chicks and personal hygiene, and damned if I am not going to push those odds in my favor.
P.S. This is clerical, but I just needed to throw a backlink to Summerfest lineup here, for SEO reasons on another post. Thanks GOOGLE...love you!
Cripes this weekend is going to be tasty. I hope I can survive it. But when you do battle with the Demons of Debauchery, it is fun even if they completely dominate and conquer you.
The thrills kickoff tonight after work when I will meet my friend Alissa and anyone else who wants to show up at Tex Tubbs on the east side of Madison for happy hour. That takes care of dinner as well.
Then I have two local live music options to choose from tonight, at High Noon Saloon and Mr. Roberts. I will likely hit both, taking care to pace myself...
...because tomorrow morning I have a writing workshop at UW from 9 to noon and need to have my wits about me. It is fortuitous that I am on a fitness kick for January that involves no booze (Drynuary).
Saturday afternoon, I sequester myself in the Rock Cave for a few hours of music practice in anticipation of Sunday's maelstrom of rocknroll, which I will get to shortly.
Saturday evening I have a Tinder date for drinks and if that goes well I WON'T be meeting my friend Sherry for a house party in Lake Mills WI. But that's the backup plan if said date has term limits.
Sunday morning I will probably hit a service at the west side Unitarian Church (I know...I know...), in part because I am trying to involve myself musically with them, and the choir has a big concert this Sunday after which I might make some connections, but principally because there is a foxy brunette in the choir that I have my eye on, haha. Yeah, I would never attend a church for churchy reasons!
In the afternoon on Sunday, GUPPY EFFECT is rehearsing and we may then cruise down to Cardinal Bar in the early evening to play an acoustic set at 5 PM for the ArtNest music and art show there.
If we don't do the hippie art thing, I will probably have Rita Witter's band over to my house at 5 to practice before the open jam at Funk's Pub.
And speaking of which, EDDIE ATE DYNAMITE is going to showcase at their first Funk's Jam EVER tonight. So those strapping lads will be over to my place about 6:30 to run a fast and furious set of fun punk rockers before we head to Funk's around 7:30.
EAD is calling all hat wearers and head gear afficianados to flash mob Funk's on Sunday night because we want to capture some video for our hit single "I Like Your Hat."
Sunday night I will sleep like a baby, sans the crapping myself and waking up every three hours to cry and eat.
When I want good news, I go with science news. Yahoo seems to have figured out that I am quite interested in cosmological and physics news, and it throws up a bunch of these headlines for me when I open a browser on my computer. Before I give a quick summary of some of this wholesome goodness in science news, let me say that a lot of the information in these articles sails cleanly so far over my head that I don’t even feel the turbulence in its wake, notwithstanding that these articles are written for the general lay reader.
THE MILKY WAY AS GALACTIC TRANSPORTATION DEVICE
I have no comprehension of how these scientists came up with this theory that our galaxy might be a wormhole allowing for intergalactic travel, but I believe them when they say the math allows for it to be so. The trick is finding a way to test such a theory. It has to do with the elusive DARK MATTER, which has yet to be physically observed. It may be that DARK MATTER is just a fudge factor needed to explain the observations of the universe under current theory. Perhaps that theory is wrong and DARK MATTER isn’t needed after all.
SUBATOMIC PARTICLES MAY SELF PROPEL
Again, it is all in the math. Using relativity and quantum equations, scientists determined that some particles may accelerate themselves up to close to the speed of light without the need for an outside energy source and without violating any physical laws. Weird.
WHAT MAKES A PLANET EARTH-LIKE?
It's fun to think about other habitable, or at least life supporting, planets. Scientists predict that some worlds around other stars may support life, if they have a certain chemical makeup, the right size, and orbit their suns at a distance that is "just right" for life (called, appropriately, the Goldilocks Zone).
Click the links above to read the full articles.
Breakfast today consists of two organic bananas and an organic apple that I ingest over the course of said three hours at work.
I go home at 11 AM, stopping at the bank en route to withdraw some cash. I let my dogs out, picking up some of the dog turds that accumulated during the recent fortnight of frigid weather, when it was too cold to foray into the yard.
I wash my hands thoroughly after this chore and then eat a bowl of the remarkably good chili I made last night, before returning to work for a 1 PM meeting.
After the meeting, I go over to CostCo and buy a large bag of grain free dog food for the lads. I ride out the rest of the day in my cubicle and return home about 5 PM to decompress for a couple of hours.
About 7 PM, my musician buddy MG comes over with some other musicians and they rehearse some songs in my basement, while I catch up on some volunteer work for WORT FM Community Radio.
I got to bed about 10 PM.
This is the plan anyway.
Anything that happens in the world or to me has to be explained by reason and science.
Anything unexplained is not necessarily unexplainable with reason and science. It just hasn't been explained yet.
I cannot explain how sometimes the COSMOS seems to be working in my favor, but that does not mean it is not explainable.
On the recommendation of a source I trust, I downloaded a book to my Kindle (Android phone with Kindle app) called "Write It Down - Make It Happen."
The book's premise is simple. If you ask things of the COSMOS in writing, things that you really want, those things will come true. What it is essentially saying is if you write down your vision and goals, you will find ways to achieve them...at least most of them. This is basically how the creative process works. You envision something and then iteratively go about achieving the envisioned thing. This book is just saying you can make these envisioned things more manifest by writing down the things you want (wishful doing), as opposed to just thinking about them (wishful thinking). Writing them down locks it into your psyche and pushes it out into the COSMOS, so it is more real and concrete and memorable and actionable by said COSMOS (i.e., you).
The COSMOS (your COSMOS, the reality you create) hears the request and grants it when you open your mind to receiving it. For example, you may be more focused on a goal because you wrote it down and made it more concrete, and subsequently, you might recognize opportunities that facilitate reaching your goal when they appear in your quadrant of the COSMOS - opportunities you might not have recognized before writing it down and giving it some tangible girth in the real world.
I bought a new journal last week, and I have made this journal my COSMIC REQUEST journal. I use it to write down the things I want the COSMOS to provide to me. Important things. There are essentially three major requests I have for the COSMOS (I am not going to share those things here though, to keep them unsullied...they are for me and the COSMOS) pertaining to my overall quality of life and the pursuit of my life passions. There are some smaller sub-requests that tie into those big items - complimentary adjunct requests. I can also use the journal to request things at random as needed, even if they are unrelated to the primary requests.
I thought the book's concept was a bit hokey, and perhaps I still do, since the author doesn't try to give any rational scientific basis for how these cosmic requests may manifest themselves. But yesterday, before the open jam at Funk's Pub, I wrote in my Cosmic Request journal something to the effect of: Dear Cosmos, please make audience attendance at the Funk's open jam really good tonight.
Typically, the jam is poorly attended. It's a Sunday night, so most people who have day jobs are at home curled up on their bedroom floors in a catatonic fetal position, weeping uncontrollably from the fact that they have to go back to their dreaded workplaces on Monday morning. Most of the people who do come to the jam are the musicians who want to jam (some may not even have day jobs). There might be three to five attendees who are friends with the musicians, but attendance is consistently poor at the jam.
Oddly, last night, we got the highest attendance I have ever seen at Funk's Pub on jam night. It was a packed house, at least early on, because a fairly popular 11 piece funk band showed up for the jam and they brought a large entourage of people with them.
My cosmic request appeared to have worked remarkably well, and all I did was write it down. A superstitious man might have made the mistake of thinking the COSMOS was a sentient being that has the power to grant any wish. In a sense, the COSMOS is a sentient being...because it's YOU. That is, your experience of existence is your COSMOS. You create your own reality and your destiny.
It may be hard to explain how just writing down my request for a high audience turnout at the jam could manifest that, since I don't have much sway over anyone else's decision to come to the jam. However, I am confident it is explainable. There is a rational explanation.
In retrospect, Tyler, the guy who runs the open jam, did post on Facebook that there would be an 11 piece funk band at the jam. I had forgotten that when I wrote in my Request Journal, but the fact was residing somewhere in my subconscious mind. The subconscious mind is responsible for a lot of strange thoughts and behaviors.
Today (Monday) is also Martin Luther King Jr. day, a fact that in retrospect I knew but did not consider consciously when writing in the journal. Some people did not have to work today (the ones who work for less racist employers), and so last night they may have been prone to coming out for the live music and some drink).
So while I did not consciously realize that turnout would be very high because of the funk band and the partial holiday, perhaps subconsciously I did make that connection. That's easy to say in 20/20 hindsight, but thus far it is the only rational explanation I have been able to come up with for why when I requested a good turnout for the jam, it came true.
It's true that I had no way of knowing what kind of a draw the funk band would garner, even if I had consciously remembered they were coming. However, it was statistically likely that a band that large would bring in a lot of people. If you have 11 musicians and each one brings three friends, that's 33 people, not counting the musicians themselves. So someplace in my big brain, an algorithm was probably run that favored a good draw at the jam, and my request in my journal was the conscious manifestation of this subconscious algorithm, thus making it appear as if it were MAGIC.
This appears to be what happened. I did not consciously know the draw would be high, but I may have subconsciously known it would be when I made my request. So it appears that the COSMOS was answering my request, but it was kind of already sort of known...to my inner COSMOS (subconscious), which is more intelligent than I give it credit for.
One of the sub-requests tied into one of the three main requests I put to the COSMOS was to lose a pantload of weight this year, sooner than later. I wrote this request in the Cosmic Journal on Saturday (two days ago) and received a strong sign from the COSMOS on Sunday (yesterday) empowering me to achieve this weight loss goal. The strong sign amplified my power to achieve the goal, because it was very meaningful. I don't need to go into what the sign was exactly, but suffice it to say it was quite motivating, because it ties into one of my three primary requests to the COSMOS (that I cannot mention here).
The weight loss goal is to lose 40 pounds. It just so happens that from today, there are exactly 40 days until the end of February. Exactly 40! The timing could not be more perfect. Granted, the end of February is an arbitrary end point, but arbitrary end points are exactly what this boy needs for cosmic empowerment to achieve my requested ends.
The modified goal now is to lose 40 pounds in the next 40 days with the aid of the COSMIC empowerment that was received yesterday. The 40 day challenge begins today and I will track my progress for you here.
DAY 1: I went to Copps grocery store near my house on Saturday, soon after making the weight loss sub-request in my Cosmic Journal. Guided by that request, and thus being more mentally open to opportunities, I secured a great deal of vegetables and salad fixings. Salads are filling yet low calorie and I make a ridiculously good spinach and tofu salad. This morning, I decided to fast until at least noon, to reduce my daily calories intake. I worked out on the bike trainer for 60 minutes just before lunchtime, and then I made a salad. It was good and it should last me through Jazzercize class with Sherry tonight. For dinner, I will most likely make turkey chili, rich in vegetables and legumes. Then I will watch my portion sizes. My dad's chili recipe, that I make, is delicious and it is compelling to eat more than I should. But I am on a mission now, so let's see how it goes. I am going to be roughly following the 4 Hour Body diet plan, which is 6 days of strict adherence to a health diet, and one free day per week, which will most likely be Sunday, but might be Friday or Saturday sometimes.
Somewhat related to this post's theme, I don't believe in Demons. But Demons are a good way to anthropomorphize life's challenges and obstacles so you can "do battle" with them to eliminate them from your true path in life. It makes life sort of fun to think you are fighting a mischievous imp. Overeating is one of my Demons. Even though I generally eat healthy and exercise, I eat too much. I recognize this and I am putting this Demon on notice. The other Demon is beer. I have cut way back on my beer consumption, but I am extremely carbohydrate sensitive and beer is empty calories. So for the remainder of the 40 day challenge, no beer or booze (never drank booze anyway, but just to be clear).
The COSMOS has given me weaponry to fight these Demons directly. And so I shall.
I ask that everyone please keep their weight loss advice and beer drinking peer pressure to themselves during my challenge. I know I cannot make you stop, but those kinds of things are not helpful. What I need is acceptance and support. If you cannot offer that, perhaps we'll just keep our interpersonal interactions to a minimum until after February, eh?
I am lucky to be alive.
My 47 years as this particular individual Homo sapiens has definitely been hairy at times. When I think about the early years, I am sometimes amazed that I survived at all.
But then I think about my “life” for the 3.8 billion years before my current conscious mortal existence and I have to say I have had it pretty damn good in this particular incarnation of life on Earth compared to that of my evolutionary ancestors, if the scientists are to be believed.
Sure, I don’t remember all that history between the first reproducing molecules and prokaryotic cells in the primordial muck of the early chaotic Earth and my explosion into this world as a feeble and helplessly needy Homo sapiens infant some 47 years ago. That’s a limitation of the cycle of life. Heck, I don’t even remember a good portion of my college years, for that matter. But the evidence suggests they happened, and that goes for evolution too, the process that cooked along on the Earth for 3.8 billion years and finally pooped me out (and you too, if you are reading this…KUDOS TO YOU, SURVIVOR!).
The science indicates there’s a continuous line of living organisms (life) between me (and you) now today and those RNA based microbial pioneers billions of years ago, when the Earth was being pummeled by meteorites and the atmosphere was a balmy methane rich smog, essentially.
All those intermediate species between then and now had to navigate a pretty brutal world that was constantly trying to kill them, while at the same time having to find time to produce offspring to keep the cycle of life going. I am damn proud of many of my accomplishments in life, but I literally could not have done it without the hard work of my ancestral lineage. Their accomplishments, in quantity, if not quality, were outstanding. I realize there’s a bit of anthropic principle at work there, since had they not succeeded, I would not be here to praise their narrow escapes from the talons of wily predators (for example). And indeed, there are a lot of species that didn’t make it to today. They went extinct. Their train reached the terminus and all passengers had to disembark.
But here I am. Alive, with 3.8 billion years of evolution under my belt. That’s calls for a beer or two, don’t you think? (Note: 9 PM at Vintage in Madison WI tonight, January 9, 2015).
I am always amused by the saying “life begins at conception,” usually regurgitated by anti-abortion proponents (most of whom, ironically, still report their birthdays as the date they emerged from their moms’ abdominal cavities, not the date their parents made the “two backed beast...”). Conception is usually defined as the fusing of an egg and a sperm to form the zygote embryo of an individual organism. But when you think about it, life doesn’t begin there. That’s just an arbitrary transitional time point, just as arbitrary as the day and time that a baby human gets traumatically ejected from the cuddly warm womb room of its mother into the blazing and awesome expanse of the outside world, after which it hits the ground running and GAME ON!
But an egg and sperm are alive. They are cells with complex cellular machinery and they were produced from the meiotic division (replication) of other cells called germ line cells. Their chromosomes comprise a selection of genes from the father (sperm) and mother (egg), and when they merge at conception, the resulting zygote has a full complement of genes, mixed and matched from the parents and totally ready to rock-n-roll. A zygote begins at conception, but life (that exists today) has been rocking and rolling on the Earth for 3.8 billion years or so.
Granted, an individual’s life span is important. Any given organism is essentially tasked with preserving its complement of genes and transferring them on down the evolutionary pipeline.
We humans tend to have fun with that evolutionary duty, manifesting it as having meaningful, healthy, happy, artistic, and productive lives that generally facilitate the having of more sex that leads to the propagation of said genes into the future.
So happy 3,800,000,047th birthday to me. I invite you to celebrate my high level of Darwinian fitness against the forces of natural selection (and yours too, even if it’s not your actual birthday today…I mean, what’s a few months compared to 3.8 billion years, right?) with me. I’ll be raising a glass (or two) to my ancestors at the Vintage Brew Pub tonight around 9 PM and if you are in the vicinity of Madison WI, feel free to stop by.
In other birthday related ramblings, I was born on January 9th in Melbourne Australia, where the temperature yesterday (my actual birthday correcting for the International Dateline) was about 80 degrees F warmer than Wisconsin was. I wish I were there.
So up I got.
I wanted Buddy to wake me up before the alarm went off at 7:30. In fact, I wanted him to wake me up even earlier than he did, like maybe 6:30, notwithstanding the added sleep deficit that might have caused. I had high hopes for a solid hour sweating it out on the bike trainer while watching "Californication" on Netflix (my current binge addiction) before I had to go to work.
My other dog Foster is not at all a morning canine like Buddy. Being a small, short-haired Boston terrier, he prefers to stay curled up and warm on his doggie bed in the morning, until I raise the thermostat a few degrees, and who can blame him? Even then, he kind of stumbles around like he has the Palsy for a while and doesn't quite know where he is.
Buddy has always been a voracious and unfinicky eater, sometimes with dire gastrointestinal outcomes. Lately, he has taken to sneaking vegetable scraps out of the compost pile in my backyard. I have to keep an eye on him. He ate an entire slightly moldy daikon radish a couple weeks ago, and now he's after the cabbage leaves (not moldy, but definitely not fresh).
Foster, on the other hand, is the finickiest dog I have ever had. I feed both my dogs at the same time, but while Buddy is scarfing down his food without even chewing it, Foster just sniffs at his dish and then walks away, like a spoiled prissy boy. He does this a few times and usually won't eat until after he has been outside. I adopted Foster, so I don't know if he learned his food snobbery from the last humans he lived with, but in my house you eat or you go hungry. I mean, it's not like I skimp on dog food either. They get a high end grain free brand.
I have to be careful when I feed the dogs together, because sometimes Buddy will try to pirate Foster's food while Foster is wandering aimlessly around the house. Sometimes Buddy succeeds, if I am off wandering aimlessly around the house too and not paying attention. That happens pretty rarely though and when it does it just means Foster is hungrier at the next meal and more likely to eat, the prissy boy.
Buddy eats just about any food scraps I throw him when I am making a meal, even vegetables. He doesn't like mushrooms, but pretty much anything else is fair game. Foster wants nothing to do with vegetables, but he will sometimes go after a scrap that Buddy misses, just to be a dick. He'll even chew on it for a little while without swallowing it, to really bust Buddy's balls. But eventually he just leaves the mangled vegetable masticant on the floor, and Buddy still freakin' eats it. Buddy is like Honey Badger. He don't give a @#$%.
Foster won't eat treats either, unless they are the super high end irresistable ones, like Beggin' Strips.
I fed the dogs. As usual, Foster didn't eat his food right away, so I set his bowl on the kitchen counter where Buddy could not get to it after he was done inhaling his own kibbles. Then I put on my jacket, scarf, gloves, and hat let the dogs out through the patio sliding door. I also put a doggie sweater on Foster. He hates the cold. And damn was it cold!
One of those global climate change induced arctic ass blasts is "plunging southward" from the North Pole right now and it has been far colder than normal the past couple of days. Snow was predicted for today, and it came, but it had not yet started by this morning.
Foster's paws get painfully cold if he stays out in this kind of weather too long. One by one, he will start lifting his paws off the ground because they are too painful to walk on. He is smart enough to know that he should quickly do his business before this happens, but when it occasionally does, I have to pick him up and carry him inside because it is too painful mentally for me to watch him try to walk like that. Again, Buddy is a trooper and he has a pretty thick coat of long black hair. Over the years (he is 14), he has adopted a habit of going potty while walking across the yard. It's kind of funny and kind of sad as he waddles along dropping poop pebbles as he goes. He's a multitasker. He's also deaf, so he can't hear me call him and I have to flail my arms to get his attention when it is time to go back inside.
After the brief foray into the sphincter clenching cold, I put on my workout clothes and did 30 minutes on the bike trainer. I showered and got dressed for work. I should have pulled up the weather on my phone before I put my work clothes on. It was going to start snowing around mid-morning and keep snowing for most of the day, according to my my smart phone weather app.
I pondered a few seconds, then made a decision to work from home today. I can do that. I have a cool boss and a very Internet and computer driven job in an IT group. I pulled up the web mail at work and saw that I had no meetings today, so I was home free. Even if I had had a meeting, it probably could be rescheduled easily enough. I emailed my boss telling her my plan and asking her if that was cool. I never like to presume with people, most of all bosses. Ever since I started at my current job, my boss has encouraged me to work remotely from home, even when I didn't want to. I almost started to think she didn't like me being around. But no, she's just cool and hip and laid back. Plus, I am a contractor, so she probably sees me as kind of a free agent.
I have noticed, and this is only an anecdotal observation, that there is very little you cannot achieve by simply adding the query, "Is that cool?" to the end of requests that you make to others.
Nobody wants to not be cool. So these are kind of like magic words. It's almost a Jedi mind trick. If you ask, "Is that cool?" when you are requesting something, and granted the thing has to be rational and reasonable, a person feels compelled to comply, because there is the implicit implication that to not do so would therefore be uncool in the eyes of others. And nobody wants to be seen as uncool, even by inferiors.
I need more scientific testing of my hypothesis about the persuasive power of, "Is that cool?" So try it, people, and let me know your results. I realize there could be some inherent bias in this analysis, because most people know when something is cool and when it isn't. So you probably aren't going to add, "Is that cool?" to something you know full well is not cool. Because then you are just a douche or a creeper.
Anyway, working from home is, for me, totally cool, and both my boss and I know it, but as a courtesy, I asked for her verbal affirmation and I soon received it. For most of the day I have been remotely connected to work through a magical portal called Citrix. I don't know or care how it works, but it transforms my old tired and slow Mac computer at home into my work computer. I work about half as fast from the home office because of the slow Internet connectivity, but I am also interrupted less, so it is probably a wash.
I took a break around 4 PM to shovel the snow off my driveway. As I was doing so, my neighbor came home from work and offered to snow blow my sidewalk for me in the morning. I thanked him profusely and we bantered a bit before he said he had to go inside because his balls were freezing off, as were my own. Well, more accurately, mine had packed their things and migrated up into the warmer climates of my body cavity. My house is on a corner and there is sidewalk on both sides, all of which must be shoveled. While I do not mind the workout of shoveling snow, his offer did save me a bit of time.
However, not enough time to allow me to make it to the Jazzercise class my friend Sherry had invited me to. In an attempt to be more social and outgoing (and exercise more), I accepted a free month trial that her Jazzercise studio was offering. It's basically aerobics but a little more dancy and not very much jazz (mostly pop and hard rock songs). Sherry told me that mostly women attended her Jazzercise classes and very few men. A light bulb blinked on over my head that perhaps I might meet a few fit and active women at Jazzercise as well. But so far I have only made it to one class. That's weak. I could make the excuse that I have been fighting a cold, but that's an excuse that a weak person would use, so it is still weak.
There's still three weeks to go on the free pass, so I am sure I will hit a few more classes. I could see getting into it, but I am literally one of the most uncoordinated people in the world when it comes to aerobics. I look like a flailing imbecile. But I don't give a @#$% and it's fun to flail about and imagine that I'm getting leaner and fitter. Still, I am a strong believer in not paying for exercise, notwithstanding the social benefits. The whole world is my treadmill, as are the treadmills at work which I can use for free, and I don't even like treadmills. I prefer the bike trainer in my basement. But that's not very sociable.
Notwithstanding tonight's failure at flailure (did you like that?), I still planned to be Sherry's +1 for a poetry reading social thing at 7 PM tonight, 12 hours after Buddy had whimpered me into consciousness this morning. The blizzardly weather, though, had apparently also shriveled the cajones of the poetry reading social thing organizers, because they canceled it.
The silver lining, or course, is that I had a time window open up for writing this blog post, which if you are still reading, God bless your sympathetic little heart. It was not a very exciting day, so I hope this post wasn't too boring for you.
I must now retire.
I saw an article posted on the Facebook today that said writers are physically and mentally healthier. So I am going to try to write this cold away too.
After I finish this post, I am going to write a letter to my mom (and later enclose it in an envelope and send it to her, along with my quarterly car payment).
Then I will do some more random writing later today as well.
I am tickled pink that I got my Bluetooth keyboard synced up to my smart phone. Now I can crank out blog posts several times faster. This is probably a bad thing if you hate my blog posts. But so it goes.
Since my mom reads my blog posts, I will go ahead and start this one by saying my quarterly car payment is in the mail. I bought my mom's car last October, for anyone else who cares.
I have a bit of a cold. It's not super bad, but it is a bit flu like. I got a flu shot last fall. So it is either not the flu at all, or else it is a weakened form of the flu since I had a shot.
This one started as a cough and sinus drainage, which led to a scratchy thoat and lung butter. I am pumping fluids and taking all kinds of OTC and homeopathic remedies, hoping for any kind of placedbo effect.
I made a pot of pinto bean chili today. I also went to the Unitarian Church with Sherry this morning. It was OK. I wish the people there were a little bit more sociable after the service.
Since I shoveled snow today for about an hour, I think I will skip my bike trainer workout until tomorrow morning before work, since I am under the weather (sort of a pun) and need to accomplish some other things.
Yesterday, I practiced a bunch of piano, and I will probably put another hour in tonight. It's weird, I practice more now than when I was taking lessons. I think it is psychological, because my teacher was always giving me stuff to practice that was far above my skill level, so I didn't make any progress and got discouraged.
But then last October, I took an easy piano improvisation class via the UW Extension. It was much closer to my skill level, so now I have songs I can work on that are actually playable and masterable, at least within a time frame that makes me feel like I am progressing.
Time management is something I am getting better and better at, but in 2015, I resolve to make sure I block off reasonable amounts of time for things that I want to do. For example, I need to practice piano for at least an hour to feel like I have made progress. 90 minutes is even better.
It's 7 PM now. I know I want to go to bed by 10 PM. Thus, to get 60-90 minutes of piano in tonight, I need to start no later than 8:30. That's reasonable. I have time to eat dinner and chillax.
I have a new New Year's Resolution.
It is to try to always be doing something I want to be doing.
There are many possibilities.
Seeing live music.
Hanging out with friends.
Of course, there will always be times when I cannot be doing what I want to be doing.these will be "neutral" times in this paradigm.
For example, I have to go to work. I don't want to be doing that, but I need to generate income.
I also don't want to be shoveling snow. I did that today. In this case, though, I can re-categorize that as "exercise." It was quite a good workout, as evidenced by how sweaty I got doing it in 10 degree F weather.
For this resolution to work, I have to set a boundary. That is, when I am in neutral time beyond my control (like work), I won't worry about it. But when it is MY time to do what I want, I should choose to be doing something I want to do.
For example, I am writing this post because I want to. I took a break from watching Netflix to do it, because watching Netflix is something I can do any time. Netflix watching is "neutral" too. I would rather be doing something else, but sometimes downtime is needed and Netflix is a good way to pass that neutral time.
I have paired my wireless keyboard with my smart phone via Bluetooth. I don't know why I didn't do this sooner. Now when I type posts at home, I don't have to use my phone's tiny touch keypad.
I know for most of you reading this, that is nothing to write home about. But for tech-unsavvy me, it's a very cool thing.
I am typing this on my wireless keyboard right now.
I mean, there are all the obvious things like getting home safely and not being hung over on the first day of the new year. There is also the inner altruistic satisfaction of DDing your friends home after the celebration, so they can party hearty without consequence. However, last night the only person I DD-ed home was Spots (aka Matt), the bass player in my band EDDIE ATE DYNAMITE, and he doesn't drink at all anyway. Oh the irony!
Before I left the Frequency rock club in Madison WI last night, I made sure my band mates had their safe passage home secured. Drummer Frank (aka Dano) told me he and Kayla would cab it if they did not find a suitably sober volunteer. I believed them for the simple fact that we had all car pooled to the club together in my car, so I knew there could be no option for them to get behind the wheel of their own car after the show when inhibitions are gone.
"Are you OK to drive?"
"Totally. I drive better after my 10th beer."
Lead guitarist Eddie (aka Tim) had his friend Mel as DD.
The NYE party I attended was fantastic, in no small measure because it was the second show ever of my punk rock band, the aforementioned EDDIE ATE DYNAMITE, but also because there were four other excellent bands on the bill and I got to enjoy them all.
We headed over to the Frequency about 7:30 to load in our gear, along with the other bands (we were sharing drums and amps and things with some of them), and do a soundcheck. Since we got there early and we were the first band, we got to do a nice long sound check and get everything dialed in perfectly. The sound guy last night was top notch. I could hear all the instruments and the three vocal parts clearly in the stage mix. The Frequency is a good place to hear music.
We kicked off the show about 9:45 and plowed through our 30 minute set of original power punk rock tunes. Everyone loved "I Like Your Hat," as always and we introduced the crowd to a song they had not officially heard live before, "Drunk Dialed Your Mom." That will be a singalong anthem pretty soon, I think. The room was packed with people, even at that somewhat early hour and we must have sounded good, because we didn't scare anyone off.
Even though I have been playing live rock-n-roll for more years than I can remember, I still get a little nervous before I play. I am a perfectionist and I want to make sure the songs are performed as tight as possible and that I biff minimally, while maintaining an engaging stage presence. With this band, I really have nothing to worry about. They are top notch musicians and we won't even play a song live unless we know it is rock solid at band practice. It is great to play in a band where I don't have to worry about stuff like that...they will be solid. Still, I have to give the performance a lot of mental focus to uphold my end of the bargain, because nobody wants to be the weak link in the rock-n-roll chain, so it is stressful in a good way. After we finished our set, I could relax and enjoy the four other bands that followed us, and I did.
My favorite was the second band, called DEVIL TO DRAG. Their original songs rocked and they have a female front woman with amazing vocal "pipes" and great stage charisma. Their bass player also played standup bass, which was cool and eye-catching.
Some dickhead ruined the fun at one point when he became aggressive on the dance floor and had to be forcibly removed from the venue. We didn't let that dampen our fun though and the party soon resumed.
After the last band finished, Spots had to leave pretty quick for his marathon drive back to Kenosha WI. I did a quick survey of who would need my DD services, if anyone.
Finding no one, Spots and I loaded our gear in my muscle car (Prius is the new Mustang), along with some of Frank's drum stuff, and then we drove off in the direction of Burrito Drive with intentions for a late night post rocking meal. Sadly, the eatery was no longer taking orders when we arrived at about 2:40 AM this morning. Plan B was the 24 hour Denny's near Frank's house. I refueled on a Supreme Skillet and a milk shake, and I treated Spots to a double cheeseburger, since I knew he had a long assed drive before him.
My drive home from Denny's was only about 15 minutes, and by that time of the night, the roads were largely empty, except for some sneaky cops trying to bust people for drunk driving. I secretly kind of hoped I would get pulled over, since I was 100% sober (although "drunk" on greasy restaurant food). But my driving was flawless and I gave them no excuse. I got home about 4 AM and soon fell into the deep slumber that only a fully satisfying rock-n-roll performance can induce.
This morning, my dog Buddy woke me up about 7:45 AM to let me know he was hungry and wanted to go out. Bleary eyed and foggy headed, I satisfied his need and then fell back into a fitful sleep for another 90 minutes or so. However, I was too high on life from the show to fall fully back to sleep, so I didn't fight it. I just got up about 9:30 and made some strong coffee before sitting down to write this post.
I am excited for 2015. I am feeling really energized about my "resolutions." Today I am going to spend about 90 minutes on the bike trainer to burn off the massive caloric intake at Denny's last night. My workout regime is going to correlate with my dietary patterns, with basically three tiers. Tier 1 correlates with good dietary habits (whole foods, low calories, high nutrient density). Tier 2 correlates with average dietary habits (somewhat healthy food, carbs, eating too much). Tier 3 correlates with poor dietary habits (junk food, sweets, excessive carbs).
Tier 1: 30 minute workout, the minimum maintenance workout when adhering to my usual good healthy whole food diet the day prior.
Tier 2: 60 minute workout to counterbalance the mild caloric overload of the day prior.
Tier 3: 90 minute workout, when I really indulged the day prior.
Now these are guidelines, of course. Scheduling sometimes precludes a long workout, especially after work when I have music stuff in the evenings. My goal is to get my workouts completed in the morning, before the day's responsibilities interfere. I have maintained this kind of fitness pattern in the past, so it's totally doable. I just need to get into the mindset.
That's enough for today, I suppose. Have a happy 2015.