forty

24
Aug

I guess I’m officially “old” or something now. Empirically, when considering actuary tables, I’m on the downslope now, whatever that means.

I don’t feel that old, at least mentally, I don’t feel any different than I did ten years ago. Physically, the body is sometimes letting me down, but for some reason, I’ve had to re-institute a teenage skin care regimen, because I’m breaking out in pimples left and right. I guess that’s a wash.

Otherwise, the day wasn’t bad. I got to play rock star. That’s always cool.

Anyway, as I’ve said before, I’m not going to suddenly assume “old” person behaviors (other than the usual responsible, job-holding, bill-paying person I’ve been since it was necessary) because the world expects me to. I’m going to keep doing what I want. And, since I never really tried on the “staid, mature, adult” personality, I’m not going to feel the need to grow a ponytail and run out and buy a convertible. No need for a midlife crisis when I’ve never pretended to be anything else than what I am.

Still might buy that convertible someday, but when I do, it won’t be a sad effort to recapture my lost youth; it’ll be because I need a Miata to enter in autocross competitions.

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inspiration in strange places

21
Aug

One of the things I’m doing this week at the office is reading and evaluating all sorts of documents I can’t talk about because of the many non-disclosure agreements I signed saying I wouldn’t. And I won’t, but I did find a single sentence buried in a disused paragraph somewhere in that stack of hundreds of pages that struck me as profound:

Make interesting new mistakes.

That’s a pretty good philosophy, when it comes right down to it. We’re human. We make mistakes all the time, but we learn from them, often just enough to set us on the path to make completely different mistakes. That’s the goal – keep learning and trying new things; a pretty good signal you’re making that ethos work is that you find yourself trying different things and screwing them up in intriguing new ways.

If you’re repeating the same mistakes over and over, you’re not making any progress…but if you fail brilliantly in a completely novel manner each time you stumble, you’re building up valuable experience, which is kind of the point.

It turns out, of course, that this bit of wisdom isn’t entirely new. In fact, I mentioned a variant of the idea in this very space a few years back. At that time, I was making mention of Neil Gaiman’s Keynote address at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia in 2012, which closed with the following:

And now go, and make interesting mistakes, make amazing mistakes, make glorious and fantastic mistakes. Break rules. Leave the world more interesting for your being here. Make good art.

Closing with Neil Gaiman never hurts. That guy can shape some words. So, to paraphrase, go screw up in some interesting new ways – it’s good for you.

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announcing my dragon*con schedule

21
Aug

In case you missed all the subtle hints around here the last few months, you’re probably aware that I’ll be a performer/guest at Dragon*Con in Atlanta this year, serving as bass player for Cary, NC’s premiere wizard rock band The Blibbering Humdingers. If you weren’t aware, please consider this your official notification.

Dragon*Con, for the uninitiated, is probably the largest sci-fi/fantasy/comic/nerd/whatever convention on the east coast, taking over much of downtown Atlanta, and attracting somewhere north of 50,000 people over Labor Day weekend. It’ll definitely be the biggest con I’ve ever been to, and the first con where I’m an honest-to-Cthulu guest rather than just a reasonably well-socialized attendee. Kind of intimidating, but I think it’ll be a lot of fun.

So, how’d I get myself into all this? The Humdingers (Scott and Kirsten) and I run in some of the same regional nerd circles, and have become friends over the years. Musicians as we are, often find ourselves talking tunes and playing together in filk circles, and eventually, that becomes me sitting in with the band for the occasional con set or wizard rock show. When D*C gig came up, they decided they needed a full band, and I was willing and available.

I spent last weekend deep in rehearsal with Scott and Kirsten at Humdinger central, and we’ll be doing the same thing this weekend, adding in our drummer and hopefully knocking out our set lists. Lots of songs, and an instrument that’s not my primary talent, but something I’m forcing myself to get a bit better at. I’m also getting a crash course in live bass sound (thanks to the advice of my friend and Cha-Cha’s Cadillac bassist Steve Wyse), which gave me the excuse to buy some new gear this week. All kinds of stretching of my boundaries…exactly the kind of thing I ought to be doing on the eve of my 40th birthday*.

Anyway, if you’re in Atlanta Labor Day weekend, be sure to stop by a show or four, and enjoy some music, comedy, wit, and occasional wistfulness, and lots of songs about house elves and unresolved literary sexual tension.

As it stands right now, our schedule of performances looks like this:

  • Friday 8/29: 4-4:30pm Concourse II – Hilton
  • Friday 8/29: 7-7:40pm Hyatt International North
  • Sat 8/30: 5:30-6:30pm SCA/Medieval Music in Hyatt basement “Edgewood” room (just the medieval scholars here, not me)
  • Sat 8/30: 8:15-9pm Hyatt International North
  • Sun 8/31: 8:10-9pm Hyatt International North

I expect there may be a couple of ninja gigs stuffed in there somewhere as well, if the spirit moves us. The official schedule of the filk track (featuring performances from lots of great acts, including Tom Smith, and our friend Mikey Mason) can be found here, though bear in mind, the organizers stress that nothing on the schedule is final until after it’s actually happened.

So, that’s the big news from here. Now I need to get back to rehearsing.

__________________________

* – This boundary stretching does not, however, explain why my skin is suddenly breaking out like I’m a pubescent teenager. I swear. This is not something an adult should have to go through.

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seven

14
Aug



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long time coming

13
Aug

“There is no doubt that Virginia is ready for the freedom to marry…” – James Parrish

Virginia could begin issuing same sex marriage licenses as early as Wednesday.

Excellent news.

Of course, the US Supreme Court could jump in here with another stay. It might. It did in Utah a while back. But, I’m going to bet it doesn’t. That’s the way the wind feels like it’s blowing to me. I hope I’m right.

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a few words on depression

12
Aug

Warning: uncharacteristically serious, and maybe a little personal

The news about Robin Williams, by all accounts, sucks. Lots of people loved the guy’s work; I wasn’t what you’d call a super-fan, but I really liked and respected a lot of his performances, particularly the more dramatic stuff – you know, the bearded roles. For all the comedic, spastic antics he was known for, the guy could really play serious, even dark, effectively. I think it’s because he actually had a lot of darkness buried in there, which he covered up with the comedy and schtick.

That sort of thing feels familiar. Reminds me of my dad. And of me.

According to the publicist statement and all that, Williams’ death is pretty clearly a suicide, sparked, primarily, by depression. Again, feels familiar. Really familiar. Williams even kind of looked like Dad.

Clinical depression’s really a strange, unfortunate thing. It’s a disease; an actual disease with with it’s own entry in the DSM-IV and everything, but it’s one of those diseases that society doesn’t always treat like a disease. People are sympathetic to things, but don’t understand that it’s not a thing that can be cured by simply *cheering up* – chemical imbalances in the brain just don’t work that way. It’s a frustrating thing, and this kind of “helpful advice” can actually be pretty detrimental, because people with depression don’t always get it either. If you don’t have the information, trying to take that at advice, and being patently unable to actually cheer up, can actually aggravate things and make it worse.

It’s a hard thing to address. John Roderick tweeted something overnight that captures the situation better, or at least more succinctly, than I can:

Talking about depression is hard primarily because you have to endure helpful responses from people that don’t understand.

And there are a lot of people who don’t understand. For the longest time, I didn’t understand. Even people with the proper factual medical knowledge who haven’t actually experienced it still don’t understand, because the societal pressure to just “cheer up” (and if you can’t, to fake it), and encourage others to do so is so deeply ingrained in us, and those sorts of unspoken social contract things can totally overwhelm actual factual knowledge. It’s just he way people’s brains work.

And that’s why so many people don’t get help, or don’t get help soon enough. They bury it, hide it under a veneer or geniality, humor, whatever, and suffer in silence, until it eats them up inside so much that they can’t handle it anymore.

That’s how you get situations like Robin Williams. Or in my case, situations a little closer to home.

About twenty years ago, one of those situations hit about as close to home as is possible to do for me. It was, as they say, a defining moment, one of those that totally changes one’s perspective on life, and points one in an entirely new direction. It didn’t happen right away, but over the course of years of life and self-reflection, I recognized some things about myself, and made a decision about the way I was going to deal with things. I noticed a lot of the same things about myself that I saw in people like my dad, but decided that I wasn’t going to deal with them by burying stuff because of the societal pressure to do so, or because there was some perception of shame for feeling a certain way.

This manifested itself in a lot of ways, but the main one to talk about here is the fact that I got over the stigma (which, let’s be honest, was a tough thing to do), and got help dealing with depression. I made a few changes to the way I live my life to avoid ending up in one of those bad sitautions. Among other things, I talked to my doctor about things, and we came up with some stuff that works, and makes this weird chemical imbalance of mine a lot easier to deal with.

So folks…if you’re struggling; get some help. There’s nothing to be ashamed of. Talk to someone. Don’t get so far down the path that you can’t find your way back.

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bottom end preparation

11
Aug

Things are quiet in this space. That’s because I’m busy learning songs and earning new calluses as I play lots and lots of bass guitar. The big gig is coming, and I am working dilligently to not embarass myself.

my goal is to be off-book for two dozen songs or so by the end of the week before live rehearsals start, and I’m nearly there. We’ll see.

So, that’s why things are quiet. I’m working, or trying to find a local source for Wedgie rubber picks, which have revolutionized my ability to sound competent while playing an electric bass. These picks are amazing, though wear out quickly (and leave a field of pencil-eraser leavings between your pickups to prove it); but it’s all about the sound – the precision and accuracy of a pick in the hands of a six-string guitarist of 30 years, and the sound of fingers on a bass guitar string. They provide exactly what I need. But no local stores seem to sell them. Thank the maker for amazon.

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a week. a weekend.

04
Aug

Spent much of the past week feeling pretty awful. There was some sort of viral thing kicking around the office the week previous, and it landed on me, hard, over the weekend, so much so that I took last Monday off and slept for something like 16 hours straight.

I’d mostly gotten clear of it by the end of the week, just in time for it to start to hit some of the kids; this time with fever! Yay. Otherwise, the week was mostly quiet (other than the fevered moaning), with some bass practice, and other rehearsals thrown in, both for stuff a few weeks down the road and for a quick road trip this weekend to play at UC Norfolk on Sunday morning (they’ve been having a rough time of late, and some of our folks filled in to help out). Special points for the meal afterward at Pasha Mezze; if you’re out that way, try the lentil cakes.

The other big deal this weekend, of course, was taking in a screening of Guardians of the Galaxy on Friday (late night Thursday just wasn’t going to happen), which is not just as amazingly entertaining as you’d heard – it’s better, and deserved every penny of it’s huge opening weekend. Go see it.

Oh, and I lay the blame straight at my friend Mike for this:

At least maybe it’ll improve my fitness level…

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there’s no one left

30
Jul

Windows 95 Tips, Tricks and Tweaks. How have I never seen this before?

It’s brilliant, and more than a little unsettling. Like io9, I need this to be a story, or movie, or something…immediately.


There’s so much here, in such an economical package. It’s the stuff of nightmares, even for those of you who weren’t around back then in the dark ages, and never had the experience of fighting Windows 95 into submission.….who am I kidding, uneasy detente was the closest any of us ever got.

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i never could get the hang of thursdays

24
Jul

It’s not every day you get to drive north in the southbound lanes of the interstate, and go backwards up an exit ramp.

It’s also not every day it takes one six hours to travel the 14 miles from my house to my office.

Today is not, apparently, every day.

my car is just out of frame in this traffice camera shot from this morning

I left for work at just past the normal time today, and ended up stuck on 95 south for more than four hours, less than a quarter mile from this, a rather unpleasant overturned tanker truck incident, which is going to keep the road closed pretty much all day. I had no chance to bail before encountering the back-up, as it had happened scant minutes before I arrived near the scene.

Eventually, after several hours (during which my morning coffee began to insistently make its presence known at the back end of it’s cycle) and the appearance of pretty much every Fire, Rescue, Police, and Hazmat resource in the county, traffic control guys in nice yellow vests started turning cars around, parading us up the shoulder in the opposite direction, and backwards up the exit ramp to get onto an alternate route. Once that was done, I only had another two hours (thanks to bottlenecks, traffic lights, and several secondary fender benders along the way) until I pulled into the office parking lot around noon.

So, that was fun. And, as it looks like the highway will be closed until at least 4pm for cleanup of all the spilled gasoline, I’m already planning alternate routes home.

At least I got some reading done.

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