This is the way of fathers and sons

I remember bike rides and baseball. Our dog was the shortstop. I was never very good at baseball. He wanted me to be good at it like he was. This is the way of fathers and sons.

We went fishing often. Early mornings spent getting the boat in the water, looking for the perfect spot, coming home empty handed. This is the way of fathers and sons.

There was a lot of vinyl then, many hours spent listening to the Beatles and CSNY. Many hours spent listening to him play guitar and sing. Believe it or not he didn't want me to play guitar when I was very young. We see how that turned out. This is the way of fathers and sons.

Our family was never rich, but I never lacked. This is the way of fathers and sons.

I got older and we began to butt heads often. This is the way of fathers and sons.

I played guitar and quickly surpassed him. I was growing up and we struggled to find our middle ground. I'm sorry I never became a famous rock star, he only requested I buy him the first house on the left in key west.This is the way of fathers and sons.

He tried to tell me what to do and I got angry. He tried to be too involved and I resented it. He tried to relate in the way he knew how and it hurt me. I needed to strike out on my own for my own. This is the way of fathers and sons.

He drank too much and I hated him when he was drunk. But he was never violent, only irritating. This is the way of fathers and sons.

He helped me to go to college. He supported my pursuits, sometimes too forcefully, he wanted to participate instead of stand back and be a proud father. But he was never absent, and he was proud. This is the way of fathers and sons.

He got cancer and I said goodbye. He fought back. I was angry he didn't take better care of himself. He got very sick and I said goodbye. He hung on. All the pain and treatment and drugs and illness and coma and surgery changed him. He was not the same man I grew up with. I said my piece and I made my peace, as much as I could, but the man I really needed to talk to was gone. I said goodbye. This is the way of fathers and sons.

We settled into a good relationship, somehow him finally understanding the adult I had become, and me understanding why he did and what he did to make me that adult. He loved me and I will always love him. One last time he fought his body, but it was time to rest. I am saying goodbye again, for the last time. I will spend the rest of my life missing him, cursing him, being angry at him, wishing he was still here, loving him, being grateful for the time we did have, because this is the way of fathers and sons.


Pics from my Utah 2011 trip

Digital pics ready to go, gotta get the 120 film developed. Utah September 2011



A random smattering of other recent Colorado photos. These pictures really take themselves out here.


Momentary Pause

Instead of the usual opinion and music geekery, I figured it's been a while since I posted some photos from my travels. I still get out and about, still like to see new things, and still prefer rocks and trees over people. Last weekend I went to Lair Of The Bear Park, near Evergreen CO. 


Sorry Mom and Dad, your generation failed

Images from dshort.com

Just let that image soak in for a minute. I'm part of the orange line there. What this image means is that people like me have seen no real increase in income in the past fifty years. In fact, the only people who have see a real increase were those who were already rich. The richest 20% of Americans are the only ones who've done better over that last three generations. 

Here's another view:

Twenty percent of the country takes home half the income. Picture this: You go to a party with 4 friends. You order a pizza, and when it arrives, one of your friends takes half the pie. Why? Because he can. Because the system has been gamed over the past 50 years to make that possible. And what's worse, he'll take that half, then use his disproportional influence to make the rest of you fight over the other half and ignore him. Blame teachers. Blame municipal employees. Blame the poor. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain.

Here's a fun chart. Grab the sliders and see how incomes have changed over time. From 1917 to 2008, 51% of the income gains in the US went to the richest 10%. That's like most of us growing up thinking pizza only comes in halves.

Here's one that will blow your noggin:
Nearly 1/4th of all children under 6 in the US live in poverty today. And mind you, the poverty line in the US is currently defined for a family of four as an income of $22,050 per year. That shames me. I could barely get by as a single person on that. How can a family survive? Why is the poverty level so low? In Colorado the minimum wage is $2 less per hour than the calculated living wage. For a SINGLE PERSON. Forget adding kids to the mix.

I'm not specifically blaming my parents for this, or my part of it. I am laying blame, or at least a fair share of it, at the feet of progressives and liberals from the baby boom generation of the 1960s. I've seen enough movies and tv shows and documentaries over the years to have a thorough understanding of the nostalgia for the 60s, and for the actual progress that was made. Gains in civil rights, gender equality, and environmental laws should be lauded. Life today isn't perfect but would be far worse with segregated schools and unclean drinking water. But somehow the movement fell off the rails. You fell asleep at the wheel mom and dad. Somewhere along the way in the 70s you all decided you'd rather snort coke and dance to disco tunes at Studio 54. I do remember my parents campaigning for some Libertarian 3rd party guy in the early 80s, but that was just some vestigial activism heaving it's last breath.

Where did the passion go? Where did the desire to make the world better for everyone go? Was it the assassinations of Dr. King and Bobby Kennedy? I can imagine the loss of two iconic progressive leaders would take the wind out of your sails. Was it Watergate? Did you think that for every Watergate you catch, there must be ten you don't? Did you think there was just no way you could win, so better to spend your money and be a good middle class consumer? Did you just tire of the fight? That's too bad, because the other side has more money and always has had more. And money doesn't get tired. After a brief flurry of progress, we've settled into dumb numb consumerism and we can't be bothered to care.

I can't say I'm any better. I haven't really fought the good fight. Not in the streets like my mom did. I don't really expect my parent's generation to suddenly jump up and do something. These are just observations and things I think about, especially when I hear someone reminiscing about the good ole 60s, or meet some neo-hippy college drum circle fashion statement who is all show and no substance. What worries me most is that though my parents knew things had to change and they tried with varying degrees of success, I feel like it's too late. My generation can't even think about changing the world for the better. I have no hope.I've known for a long time that I'm part of a generation that struggles to do better than our parents. But now I feel like I can't because the system was rigged before I was even born.


Fence the wire... or wire the fencer

Something I'd like to do a lot more of. Wire sculpture is a lot of fun. It's like scribbling in 3D.


Once more unto the breach, dear friends

I've been back behind the recording console these past few weeks, and had my eyeballs buried in Sibelius notation files. This is the part of the music I like best. For some, being on stage is the ultimate musical joy. For me, it's setting notes to the page and tinkering with wave forms and effects plug-ins. If I weren't a musician I think I'd be a watchmaker or a mad scientist in a secret lab. I enjoy the meticulous, focused, hands-on tasks.

The notation files have been moving for new Strange Land material. Brad and I have quite a few songs with their full skeletons (and then some) in place. We've also been talking about taking a different approach to the release of these songs other than the traditional full cd route.

I've been tracking music with my new metal band Delusionist. Bass players are near impossible to find (well, good ones who want to be a creative force in the band and not just show up for the money), so we are recording a fresh demo and I'm doing the bass parts as well as my guitar parts. Delusionist has been flying under the radar and I don't want to give away too much until the demo is done and we're really rolling. I've never liked to say too much about my projects until I really have something to show for it. I've always felt this way, and I'm not the only one. Talking about your plans actually makes you less likely to accomplish them.

I've also made some progress with a painting project, but alas, the rest is top secret for now.


Painted phone table

Forgot that I had taken a photo of this when I was last in Wisconsin. It's an antique phone table I had painted as a project a long time ago. The design goes all the way around the table, but I only took a pic of the side with the moon. Enjoy!


Dispatches from the gray collar

Years ago I wrote an essay that I never published. Probably about ten years ago, but I'm not going to go dig up the original. This was in the days before blogs, so I didn't really have an outlet for it anyway. I titled it "The Gray Collar" (I'm going to stick with the American spelling here). It was an attempt at the the time to figure out where I fit in America's class structure. I knew I wasn't white collar, yet I didn't feel blue collar either. These years later, as I watch the current events in my home state of Wisconsin, I can't say that anything has changed for me. I'm really no better off than I was, and I still don't know where people like me fit in.

Collars in general refer more to the type of work you do, not directly to the money you make, though the two are usually connected. Wikipedia has a number of entries on classes, including the gray collar. I didn't even know that was a real thing when I titled my essay. There are several definitions, but one list includes skilled trades and technicians. I guess that's pretty much what I do. I can call myself gray collar. It's a decent catch-all for those not white or blue collar (there are also green, pink, and gold collar workers... I'm not any of those either). I am college educated, technically skilled with my instrument, a knowledgeable specialist in the software I use, but except for hauling gear and the occasional 3 hour gig, I don't work a physically demanding job.

Another element of class definitions is based on how much money you make. From 2006 to 2010 I had a regular job in an office, with good benefits. For seven years before that I was mostly self employed and part time. I am fully self employed again, and can't ever picture myself not being self employed again. So let's call that 4 years with built in benefits an anomaly. As a contractor, I currently average $30,000 per year. I say average with a caveat. Being a contractor in the music industry leaves you open to wild swings. I've seen as little as $20,000 and as much as $40,000. There's no predictability here. One of the biggest hurdles in my profession is that there's no built in increase of pay over time. There's no raise for what I do. There's no growth, no "moving up the ladder" as there is in most jobs. Gradually over time rates for private lessons, hourly rates for music engraving, charges for artwork and the like can go up, but I have to stay competitive with everyone else out there. I can't really predict any regular increase in my income.

The only real way I can make more money is to work more. Yeah, me and what time machine are going to find the hours for that? Ok, I can find some time, but I can't squeeze more out of the same clients. I could teach private lessons again, but I can attest to the burnout one gets from doing that full time. It's like a second shift babysitting job, 45 kids a week, one at a time. More work as a contractor is not like getting more hours at a regular job. It's more like getting a second (or third or fourth) job. And, that $30,000 isn't far off from what I was making ten years ago. The arts are hurting and have been for years, another reason growth is slow, if there at all. That much income is decent for an unmarried guy with no kids and I get by fine. Reasonably comfortable. But that's it. I get by, and that's all I can ever see doing. It gets really tricky when I try to think of how I'm going to manage retirement. That might not be in the cards for me.

By various definitions, that pay level makes me working class,  just barely low middle class depending on what definitions you're looking at. As the numbers break down, the median income of a male, over 25, with a bachelor's degree is over $52,000/year. Glad to do my part to drag those numbers down. Bwahahahahaha! If I didn't laugh I'd cry. Maybe I should have picked a different major in college. I followed my dreams. Sorry mom and dad, but in hindsight maybe you should have encouraged me to be practical instead. I love my parents, but because they encouraged me to follow my dreams, I'll never even come close to making what they do. I want to support my teacher friends, but I also want to remind them that you do have it better than me, and a lot of other people, even if it gets a little worse.

I want to be clear on this: I love music and art and can't imagine doing anything else. I've been an office drone and a warehouse 9-5 guy. There's no joy for me there, just a paycheck. And sometimes those jobs can be such a drag I don't have the energy for the things I really like to do. The idea of getting a haircut and getting a "real job" makes me cringe. Sometimes I wish it could be easier. Punch out and go home, leave the work at work. I just don't seem to be wired that way. But don't you dare call me lazy. That's not how music is. I'm on 24/7. Whether it's practicing, writing down an idea that popped into my head, or schlepping an hour each way to play in a pit band, 9-5 Monday through Friday does not exist in my world. You might see a cd for $10 and think it isn't worth it. I see the hundreds of hours that went into making it. Perhaps I can leave you with this friendly reminder that art isn't a career for the lucky. I have the skill I have because I worked my ass off, and I make your world a little less dark whether you realize it or not. This gray collar seems to fit just fine.



Catharsis keeps rolling

Sweet! For the second year in a row, Strange Land gets a nod from the Progressive Rock Hall of fame! This year Catharsis was selected as best progressive hard rock album: http://www.progressiverockhalloffame.com/