Some More Thoughts on John Mayer

Some More Thoughts on John Mayer

One of the things I’m beginning to do is take a deep dive into music. Making it, to be specific. I’m interested in teaching my daughter about music and she shows an interest, thankfully. From birth, she’s been surrounded by and exposed to me and my amateur efforts on guitar and my non-stop soundtrack of my life. I always have music playing it seems.

I don’t care if Cecelia hates guitar, but surely there’s an instrument that will interest her (although I think it’s guitar) and to that end, I have all sorts of instruments lying around the house. Ukelele, banjo, mandolin, xylophone, mouth harp, slide whistle, tambourine, castanets, and quite a few others. Cecelia has already wanted to jam with me on guitar, which of course was one of the best moments of my life.

My guitar collection has grown to be ridiculous, impressive and one reason I can’t turn back now. I’ve been playing guitar for decades, and at times been much better than I am now. I’m very out of practice. While I was married, I sort of dropped all my hobbies and interests, but I’m slowly picking them back up now that I’m only taking care of 1 child and not three, which consumed my time I previously dedicated to personal pursuits.

Immersing myself in musical influences is one way I think keeps me focused and gives me goals to strive for. I also can see how certain things are played. One of the guys that keep popping up in my quest to shred is John Mayer.

I’ve written about him on this website before.  He’s been on my radar for a long time, and I used to go see him gigging in Atlanta before he hopped on a rocket to explode out of the guitar stratosphere. I really think he’ll go down as one of the all-time best guitarists ever. His songs may not be for everyone, but he can play anything, with anyone, in any style, and has become a serious master of the instrument. And he’s young enough so that he has a lot of open road before him. He’s filled in for Jerry Garcia which is one of the biggest tributes to his playing abilities there is, I think.  But he keeps reaching higher and he’s serious about the music and instrument. He’s let go of his ego and filled with creativity and ability.

When I juxtapose him with, say, Dave Matthews, I see Dave as kind of out of fresh ideas, middle-aged, burned out and ready to kick back and enjoy the fruits of his labor. John Mayer, like Bob Weir, has too much music left in his soul to do that.  He’s a font of artistry that is far from running dry like other musicians that came on the scene around the same time he did. The way he’s learned was to lock himself in a room and play for hours on end. He got some loopers and just started playing and making jams. That’s the way to do it. And I’m doing the same thing with my limitations kept in check and ever-present.  But like John Mayer, I’ve got a lot of miles yet to cover, and this isn’t a race. It’s a journey on which I collect things along the way to make each leg of the route even more fun and better.

 

How to Get News Without Cable

How to Get News Without Cable

I haven’t subscribed to a cable service in a very, very long time, and I don’t watch TV like I did growing up. Everything’s changed. The way I consume media, and the way it’s offered, both for the better.

People  I grew up around used to get their news from one of the 3 or4 stations they picked up on tv: ABC, NBC, CBS and PBS. from around 5:30-8pm each weekday night, households across America had one of the old-school, much revered, talking heads telling them what was going on in the world. Walter Cronkite, Dan Rather, etc… They also had a subscription to a local newspaper, the State newspaper and possibly a few other periodicals like the WSJ or NYT. They also subscribed to magazines like Newsweek and Time and that was how we stayed on top of the current events. Usually, a few days or even weeks after things had taken place. If at all, and carefully (and responsibly) presented by journalists.

Flash forward to today when it’s clickbait headlines, noise, absolute bias, ulterior motives, activist journalism, and a firehose of information given by people who have no idea what they’re talking about to the actual source and SMEs themselves.

Additionally, no one much gets “cable tv” anymore like in the ’80s or even ’90s. Maybe satellite for rural areas. And subscriptions to newspapers has fallen off the chart. Social media has replaced a lot of the time we used to spend absorbing the current events and thinking and learning about where we along the timeline of global history, politically, economically, politically, culturally, etc…

The way I’ve learned to best manage it and stay sane and unbiased and well-informed is to curate the information that’s out there. A co-worker asked me how I get my news. She listens to NPR on the way to work, gets it from social media, and maybe a couple of other sources.

info-overload

The way I’ve chosen to get my information isn’t from the sources, but the topics. I know who provides the material, and I’m aware of their certain leanings, whether politically, or how in-depth and insightful I on their on their reporting. As useless as USA Today and CNN are, they still have a lot of resources dedicated to acquiring and distributing information. I feel I should take advantage of that. I’m fairly smart enough to filter out the bias and read it from the author’s perspective, even if it differs from my own. That helps give me a more balanced idea of what’s really going on, and how our society is really reacting to it.

One of the most frequent, easiest and best tools I use for this is Refind. It’s awesome. And it is well-integrated and has simple ways to save and view articles. And there’s a social aspect to it, but not too much.  I’d highly recommend trying it out. An extension I find handy, if not slightly distracting in a good way, is that every time I open a new tab in my browser, I’m given the latest and newest stories that might be of interest to me. I can quickly scan the articles and see if there’s something to bookmark for later, share, or save to a collection to little libraries I’m building on certain topics, or about certain events or people. In this way, I can filter out all the things I’m not interested in, and only get the relevant stuff. And it learns my preferences and makes suggestions on who and what to follow as well, which just makes it more and finely-tuned and dialed in.

Try Refind today, feel more enlightened and sane tomorrow.

 

Ain’t Life Grand?

Ain’t Life Grand?

I’m sitting here after just getting back from a Christmas party, reflecting on this year’s Christmas versus last year’s. And I’m feeling very grateful and counting my many thanks. Although last year I still had my sweet dog Annie by my side, right now I have another dog I’m watching laying beside me. And a fire in the fireplace. And the house is completely decorated and ready for Christmas. This is going to be a very good Christmas.

My daughter will be rejoining me in a few days and I cannot wait. I’m as excited about Christmas as she is, because she’s so excited. It’s just a great time of year. She’ll be with me for a long stretch of time and I cannot wait. She’s so much fun at this age.

I have a long gratitude list to write. My cup overfloweth. I’ve managed to dial everything in just right so that I went from last year being in the most miserable place ever to today, where every facet of my life is perfect. Totally amazing. I guess they’re right: you have to hit rock bottom to appreciate all that life has to offer. I’m ready to embrace life with Cecelia by my side and we couldn’t be in a better position to explore this amazing world we live in.

Time to start setting some goals for 2019! And beyond!

grateful for my grate

I know one goal I’m thinking about involves something along the lines of the following:

911s porsche guards red

I think Ronnie Van Zandt said it best in his musical masterpiece: “I’m as free as a bird now and this bird you cannot change.”

My Big Night Out

My Big Night Out

I went to see a Grateful Dead cover band play tonight at a bar/”concert hall,” which I’d been to before but decided to venture out to alone tonight. My daughter is away for Thanksgiving holidays, for TEN days, which is absolute insanity for a parent to legally be away from their child, but that’s the reality of life these days. So having a long holiday weekend has resulted in a days-long overindulgent production of hedonism which has been long overdue.

I’ve been doing different things as a new divorcee for a while but they’re a little more understated than what I went to tonight.  I’m a little more protected, or in a place where I don’t need protection. And I don’t mean from other guys looking for fights or trouble. I mean women looking for trouble, which is far worse.

I don’t drink so my plan was to lurk in the shadows of the bar/concert hall and just enjoy the music for a few hours. And I’m a little down on most females at the moment so I haven’t been looking for any attention from women. My ex, by contrast, seemed to have a Tinder account set up, waiting and ready. Which would still render a more fulfilling experience than what resulted tonight.

The first set went by no problem and was pretty good. I saw some familiar faces, in fact, which are the same old deadheads that go to these shows when this particular band plays here every time. I’ve been going to see them for 8-years now, amazingly. And the same old people are still showing up to these things. But the second set was when everyone seemed to loosen up a lot.

I guess everyone was pretty buzzed or had an eventful break between sets, or I was emitting a pheromone that smelled like patchouli oil because every snaggle-toothed spinster and over-40 barfly was pulling me out to dance and putting their arms around me. It was like a prank-based television show. People were even noticing how absurd it was and pointing and laughing, rightfully. I’d been in this situation before, so it’s not unfamiliar to me, and I try not to be an utter wallflower in any case.

So I went out and danced some because I was having fun and I’m not a total prude, but they kept wanting to talk and were all obviously kind of drunk. I guess they couldn’t figure out I was there to listen to the band and not socialize since I was, you know, ALONE. But I ended up leaving early just to escape. I now feel like joining the #metoo movement. Here’s some video of me last night: me dancing

So, I’m going to need to restrategize my social callings it seems. Next time at least bring a wingman along or even better: a chick to serve as a decoy.


Imagine Jan Hooks here as a Deadhead. Those are the ladies that go to the shows I go to.

This video made me think of this one, which has nothing to do with anything but is still hilarious. Phil Hartman was the best.

Let Us Give Thanks

Let Us Give Thanks

It will be Thanksgiving in one hour, Eastern time, and although I’m sitting here by myself, it would be hard to recall the last time I was this much at peace and feeling grateful. I make an attempt to remind myself regularly during the day of all the things I should be grateful for, but tomorrow’s the official day most people in America do it. Usually while gorging themselves on plenty of carbohydrates, starch, and butter and before too long whatever’s in the bar or the wine people brought over.

This is my 49th Thanksgiving. That’s a lot of them. Looking back at what I was doing over the years on Thanksgiving is a wild roller coaster ride involving people, places, ups and downs and usually a turkey. I’ve spent Thanksgiving in all sorts of places around SC, where I’m from, as well as Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Virginia, Alabama, North Carolina, New Jersey, and probably a few locations I’m forgetting. I’ve spent it with Koreans who had no family in the US. I’ve spent it with a pair of lesbians and their adopted children who had no one else to spend it with. I’ve spent it doing charity work, and spent it with huge groups of people and, like I will this year, spent it alone. More often than not during my adult life, I’ve been the chef for Thanksgiving. It’s a job people happily give away, with lots of praise and high expectations to make each dish just like they like it. I’ve reached a point where I can manage a kitchen and cook things for everyone without problems; the trick is in the planning. You have to do a LOT of preparation, but it makes the day much less stressful if you’ve also been tasked with feeding a small army of picky eaters.

I miss my daughter terribly, and I still miss my old dog Annie, but other than that, this Thanksgiving is a perfect day to reflect and give humble thanks for all that has been bestowed upon me. This year is a stark contrast to last year’s Thanksgiving. And I suspect each year’s Thanksgiving will become incrementally greater from this point onward. I have optimism, and I’m grateful for that, and I give thanks for the reasons I can be optimistic.

The reasons I’m thankful are many. Mostly because I now know how dark someone’s life can become, and I’m thankful I have the health, both mental and physical, and wherewithal to take care of myself. Not everyone can do that, as we see each and every day. And I’m thankful not only that I can take care of myself, but that I can take care of my daughter in a way that she deserves. I’m thankful for all the decisions I’ve made over the years that have culminated in where I am now and where I’m headed. I’m thankful for a family that still supports my goals and dreams and cares about me, even though they themselves may not be as healthy and have their own struggles. I’m thankful for the people I work with because a lot of them are rare men and women who are kind, humble and genuine. And they enable me to work at a job I love that makes a difference and is rewarding. I have everything a man could ask for and more and don’t have any wants. Anything that matters, anyway. I have a beautiful, healthy, smart daughter. I thank God every second of the day for her because she’s so special to me. My adoration for her is unequaled by anything else and everything else combined. She’s just amazing to me, which I’m thankful for. I’m very thankful for the opportunities I have in life which have enabled me to work and take care of her.

I’m thankful that tomorrow is going to be better than today and today is pretty great.

 

 

Bob Weir & The Wolf Brothers

Bob Weir & The Wolf Brothers

I had the opportunity to go see Bob Weir and the Wolf Brothers perform at the Louisville Palace Theater last night, and it was a memorable experience. I was able to sit in while they did their soundcheck, and had a front-row seat. Doesn’t get much better than that, other than just hanging out with the band, which I don’t know what I’d do, even if I had the chance. What do you say to the guy whose guitar playing you’ve emulated for 35 years that doesn’t come across as absurd?

The soundcheck was fun. He taught the bass player “Passenger” which I found funny. How could he not know that song and be playing with Bob? Even if you don’t know how to play it, he acted as he’d never heard it. May not have, for all I know. I don’t know anything about the Wolf Brothers, and still don’t other than they’re pretty hairy and play a drum set and an upright bass barefooted.

The show lasted 3 hours. That’s a long time for a guy Bob’s age to stand up there and play and sing as he did. He once said he knew he was put on this Earth to make music, and he’s living up to that statement. He carried the whole show, playing both acoustic and electric. All the Grateful Dead songs he played I noticed were played on a stratocaster that had a skull and roses guitar strap. He switched between 2 strats and an acoustic whose make I couldn’t see because of a device on all the headstocks of his guitars, which I think holds picks, even though he grabbed spare picks from the mike stand. So I don’t know what they were. Traditionally, he plays Alvarez acoustics, but you never know. He says he has over 100 guitars.

The Brilliance of Radiohead

The Brilliance of Radiohead

I know Radiohead has a huge following, and I’m not the first to point out any of what I’m about to point out. But I simply am always amazed at how wonderful they are as a band, and commercially they have done “OK” but their best work, by far, is the stuff you’ll never hear on the radio. Of course. It’s for that reason I pretty much ignored them for so long until I stumbled upon their “In the Basement” recordings. Which I advise anyone to give a watch/listen to.

Even though a lot of their sound is attributable to electronica, it still stands on its own when stripped down to the minimum, as with this video of Thom Yorke and a guitar:

I will never tire of hearing the song Reckoner. Since it’s hard to interpret the lyrics in falsetto here they are:

Reckoner
Can’t take it with you
Dancing for pleasure

You are not to blame for
Bittersweet distractor
Dare not speak its name
Dedicated to all human beings

Because we separate
Like ripples on a blank shore
(in rainbows)
Because we separate
Like ripples on a blank shore

Reckoner
Take it with you
Dedicated to all human beings

A Timely Commentary

A Timely Commentary

I’ve been working for a while on a post which details what just happened recently with my life. I had a bit of a downward turn, in most every way. It’s coming and it’s a doozie. That is, how I went from having a steady, years-long happy marriage with a newborn baby and stepdaughter that I had helped raise for a decade, to suddenly being thrown to the curb as trash.

But while I craft that narrative, which should entertain, educate and be a warning for all men, I happened upon this video post from Paul Joseph Watson, whom I share many perspectives with. His offerings usually are political in nature, but this one veered to the side, and into an area where I also have to completely agree. My ex-wife just got engaged for the third time, not 4 months after our divorce was finalized. Beggars can’t be choosers, sure, but it goes deeper than just being willing to marry the first person that crosses your path. Paul explains it quite well, indeed. It’s a mental illness.

An Ironic Piece of Writing

An Ironic Piece of Writing

Here’s an ironic bit of foreshadowing I stumbled across tonight. Something I wrote obviously about 2 years ago prior to my stepdaughter’s mother divorcing me. There are 2 passages that are particularly ominous, which I still hold to be true. And has become reality, as I haven’t seen my previous stepdaughter since June, 2017. I wrote this when she was 14. I last saw her when she was 15.

A Shoutout to All the Stepparents

One of the most thankless jobs in the world is that of a step-parent. Sure, praise is awarded when she or he goes above and beyond expectations from time to time, but generally, the role is status-quo. And the expectations are usually pretty high to begin with. At least those of the biological parents. And, of course, those standards vary wildly from person to person, but most parents at least consider their own parental standards to be high, even if in the scheme of things they aren’t.

I don’t write this to pat myself on the back, having been the surrogate father for a girl from age 4 to age 14. If you’re accepting the role for the accolades, you’re going to be highly disappointed. And that isn’t what the job is about anyway. The job is its own reward. Or at least that’s how I view it. You really have to, anyway. It’s a critical and very important job that has been awarded and should be viewed as a privilege. Same as I view my role of parent.

Stepparents have no legal rights regarding the children unless for some reason there’s adoption involved. That’s rare, however. So your input can be viewed as ancillary by some of the legal parents if that’s the view they’ve chosen to take. I’m sure every situation is different in what the agreement is as to how much influence the stepparent’s opinion and decisions have in the arrangement. It’s a discussion that must be initiated, an agreement must be made, and the situation evaluated, reviewed and tweaked as necessary through life as the child gets older and family dynamics change.

One of the most challenging aspects of being a stepparent is not having legal rights. So you don’t have any skin in the game to begin with but you’re doing at least all the work of a legal parent. You’re doing the job for the sake of wanting to help raise a child properly, in a home with a stable family consisting of a mother, father, and child. So it’s a rewarding job in that respect.

Depending on the age of the child, that aspect can be extremely important, and in the case of divorces, is a horrible reality the child must face day-in and day-out. There is no father in the house along with a mother, and the fact the parents don’t show affection or love towards one another surely causes psychological problems, or will cause relationship issues of their own when they get older. A small child sees nuclear families as the norm everywhere they look, except for their own new set of houses(they have no one place to consider “home” any longer), and they aren’t a part of such a traditional arrangement. There’s a lack of love that exists in the triangle. But that’s a whole different post.

Depending on the age of the child, that aspect can be extremely important, and in the case of divorces, is a horrible reality the child must face day-in and day-out. There is no father in the house along with a mother, and the fact the parents don’t show affection or love towards one another surely causes psychological problems, or will cause relationship issues of their own when they get older. A small child sees nuclear families as the norm everywhere they look, except for their own new set of houses(they have no one place to consider “home” any longer), and they aren’t a part of such a traditional arrangement. There’s a lack of love that exists in the triangle. But that’s a whole different post.

So not only is the child not genetically yours, which may even be a fact you’re reminded of from time to time by the child, parent, or other parties for any number of reasons(sometimes just to be rather rude), but you perpetually must walk a fine line with what type of input you give. Even figuring out if the input is needed or wanted can be difficult. As a natural parent, of course, you give it. But as a stepparent, it may be crossing certain unspoken or spoken lines. What you deem as support can be viewed as criticism or in any number of unexpected ways by the other parent and/or child. And then relationship problems may emerge between husband and wife where there were none. Minefields everywhere for the stepparent.

In addition to that problem, the stepparent doesn’t just have inlaws. He/she now has a whole, strange family to contend with in addition to her/his in-laws. The biological father/mother may be a fine person, but because of the disposition of the divorce(in most cases – you may have married a widower/widow, but that’s a rarer case) that led to the child being separated from one parent for at least half their lives, there’s usually some friction that exists already which you’re now a part of. Differences of opinion and arguments arise between the biological parents that you get stuck in and must help mediate, and some tricky negotiation often is necessary.

And it’s not just the other biological parent. Their parents, or the other, 3rd set of grandparents(at least, depending on your spouse’s family’s family tree), are involved. So you have two sets of in-laws, one of which you had no intention of dealing with. Can it get any better?

As you help raise the child/children as a stepparent, you have to keep a focus on the reality of the bond that’s established as well. You obviously can’t love the child to the degree a natural parent would, and even trying or allowing oneself to would be dangerous. That’s a bond that will be destroyed in a catastrophic way if you get divorced. That child or the children suddenly are no longer part of your life. It’s as if they’ve died since your involvement has suddenly been reduced to zero, and you likely won’t see them much again, if at all. And once again the piece of the family puzzle you’ve existed as in their life has been removed from the child’s life suddenly, and not in a loving way, to say the least. Needless to say, this has negative consequences for the child.

That’s a bond that will be destroyed in a catastrophic way if you get divorced. That child or the children suddenly are no longer part of your life. It’s as if they’ve died since your involvement has suddenly been reduced to zero, and you likely won’t see them much again, if at all. And once again the piece of the family puzzle you’ve existed as in their life has been removed from the child’s life suddenly, and not in a loving way, to say the least. Needless to say, this has negative consequences for the child.

These are all factors that the biological parent may realize but probably doesn’t dwell on much. Why would they? But for a person to accept the role of a stepparent, as much of an honor as it may be, is agreeing to add a whole universe of strangeness to a marriage. I don’t mean the child is strangeness, of course, the role of substitute is unchartered territory.

father daughter dance

The State of Children’s Media

The State of Children’s Media

My daughter recently turned three, and for those unaware, that’s plenty old enough to want to be entertained with electronic devices like iPad, iPhones, and TVs/DVDs. The toddler years. Her vocabulary is developing, she’s learning to potty train, and doing daily tasks like brushing your teeth and washing your hands needs to be reinforced.

So, who caters to entertaining this age group? What’s available to them? It’s a lot different than when I was her age, of course, but it’s interesting from a parent’s perspective to think about.

For a very long time, Cecelia and I were into Peppa Pig. And the same group that produces PP has another show, which I like the best of any of them: Ben & Holly’s Little Kingdom. The characters’ relationships are better developed and the plots are awesome. They’re both well-written, and not overmarketed. Same voices as Peppa Pig. Peppa is around a lot, but it’s not like she’s at McDonald’s, checkout lines, all clothing, room decor and everywhere you turn like Disney’s strategy.

But I figured out why I prefer them to every other type of show out there. They actually have plots and have fun and are funny and creative. Others try it, but and there are some very creative shows out there like Storybots and some with interesting art direction like Calliou, but they all MUST teach something. There’s never any plain old fun; every single show and episode is about learning something, from ABCs, 123s, brushing teeth, using the potty, how to control anger, how to share, or whatever. It’s waaaaay overdone.

Parents should be quite capable of teaching, preferably via routine demonstration and positive reinforcement, how to do any of these things. But the people who produce these shows never skip an opportunity to create lesson after lesson. And when they pile up, like they tend to, on YouTube, it becomes brainwashing propaganda that isn’t too removed from a Clockwork Orange. I’m up to my yarbles in too many monkeys jumping on the bed.

oh my lovlies

I’ve also come to realize, as I’m sure all parents eventually do, that there are only about 8 toddler age songs, and they’re repurposed over and over. Ba-Ba-Black Sheep is the same as Twinkle Twinkle Little Star. And some shows have no shame. They’ll just make up some melody and “sing” the lesson over it, in a way that resembles improvised freestyle rap, that doesn’t rhyme. The only way rap could actually become worse.

On top of that, there are some decently-produced shows, like Calliou, but the writers have decided to have the kid whine, complain, and act pretty much the opposite of how children should act. And don’t think my daughter doesn’t notice and try things she sees. She is VERY attentive, and absorbs everything going on around her, and files it away to replicate at a later time. The strongest learning force seems to be by example, which will certainly make a parent with good intentions stay on his toes. He unnecessarily complains about everything, which I make sure to point out when I watch these shows with my daughter, which I make sure to do.

What about the standards, like Disney, Sesame Street, and PBS you ask? Well, they’ve decided to make some changes since we were younger. Disney repurposes everything that can be merchandised in every possible way, and charges for everything. Disney’s about money. Their offerings for toddlers isn’t anything to even mention. They have more PG-rated material than anything. Sesame Street has become some sort of weird idealist-run subliminal propaganda machine and my daughter isn’t interested in it anyway. PBS has Daniel Tiger, but again, it’s about how to cope with feelings and how everything revolves around feelings. If there were a show that was the polar opposite, it would be a show about nothing but computer-coding. Which would appeal to me, but hardly is interesting to a 3-year-old. She tries to be into it because it looks like it should be interesting but just isn’t. Daniel Tiger’s guilty of the rhyme and melody-free songwriting mentioned above.

super grover

And the political correctness. It’s run amok. However, the person most noticeably absent in most shows is — you guessed it — the father. Don’t think I’m going to miss that. It’s actually RARE to find a toddler-age show with a married white Christian mother and father with natural children. There’s always got to be a twist, or the producers just said “screw it” and made the characters muppets or fruits or something that absolves them of having to choose a race, gender, religion, or even in some cases, species. Some shows are subtle about it, like Peppa Pig. The doofus who always oversleeps and loses things, and otherwise screws up is Pedro Pony, who is the metaphor for America. Dauphin Donkey, the jackass, is France. There’s one show, “Dave & Ava” which is two small children that always wear animals-themed jammies and are Swedish they’re so Aryan. Of course, they have a black mother, which isn’t even explained. There’s also a cartoon aimed at Mexicans, and every character is unhealthily overweight and borderline diabetic. Just to normalize it in children’s’ minds. But can you name a show that portrays the father/husband as a strong role model?

dave and ava and mom

Remember when parents only had to worry about commercials? All media produced for toddler-age children is a form of marketing, or else it doesn’t get made. ALL of it.