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April 2010
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July 2010

Pigs Fly

There's only scattered clouds as our plane soars over the Appalachians.    We can look down between the fluff to see the mountain contours.  Twenty-seven years ago I marveled at the same sight as I flew back to Wisconsin from my associates interview at NLM.  I can no longer count the number of times I've made this flight, but there's still magic to it.

I've got Tom Petty on the headphones, reminding me that there are so many songs the Bearded Pigs need to learn for next year!    The Nucleus did a fine job on Sunday night with American Girl, but I think it'd be better with the full band.    And I've been working up a solo version of Won't Back Down that'll sound great filled out....  

And we need to work up a Lady Gaga song or two, based on the twitter & blog chatter from late Sunday.  Tambourine Grrl is recommending Just Dance....   Maybe Beautiful, Dirty, Rich?  Requests, anyone?

And, of course, some Prince since we'll be in Minneapolis...  Let's Go Crazy seems like an obvious choice...  And I've always been partial to Little Red Corvette...

Too many songs...  not enough time...

We didn't come close to playing everything we wanted to on Sunday night.  How does three hours go by so fast?

But it was good.  I didn't feel like the band really caught fire until two or three songs into the second set.  First set was okay, but we weren't quite in the groove.  Not surprising, I suppose, since we hadn't all been on the same stage together in two years.  But it came together, as it always does, and the last 40 minutes was quite right where I wanted things to be.

And here comes my glass of wine...  Time to sit back, listen to the Heartbreakers...  I wonder what comes next?

It May As Well Be On the Front Page of the NYT

There was an article in the Times the other day on the number of clicks it would take to make all of one's personal information on Facebook private.  "To opt out of full disclosure of most information, it is necessary to click through more than 50 privacy buttons, which then require choosing among a total of more than 170 options."   And I'm reading it thinking, But if you want all of that information to be that private, what in the world are you doing on Facebook in the first place?

Lynn, who is very strict about her privacy, has no trouble at all with the Facebook policies.  She doesn't have a Facebook account and, as far as I can tell, has no intentions of getting one.   Problem solved.

A few years ago, I was sitting next to someone at a conference dinner and we got to talking about my blog.  I'd never met her, but she'd been following the blog for some time and asked me, "How does it feel to be revealing all of that personal information for anybody to read?"  I said, "Oh, there is so much more in my life that never gets on the blog.  I'm not revealing very much at all."  My rule of thumb for two decades now has been that you never put anything out into the internet that you're not willing to see on the front page of the New York Times.

I've been trying to decide if I should get a smartphone.   I sort of feel a professional responsibility.  All of the trend pronouncements claim that mobile devices are where it's at and that's what we have to be paying attention to.  But I was in Chicago the other day, standing at a street corner during the evening rush hour.  A bus pulled up in front of me and when I looked in, every single person was looking down into their little screen, thumbs flailing away.  I was watching the rain mist off the tops of the skyscrapers as they pushed up into the low clouds.  I decided I just don't want to be that connected.

I do understand that people feel as if Facebook has pulled a bait and switch.  They believe that they were led to believe that they would have more control over who gets to see their information than they now do -- or at least than they now do unless they go through those 50 buttons and 170 options.  The level of outrage is high.  But seriously, I think it's misplaced.  The whole point of Facebook was to build an application that enabled personal information to be shared with people that you don't know!  So it makes sense to me that the default would be sharing and that you, as the user, would have to do something extra to prevent sharing.   Being outraged that Facebook is developing new ways to share information without asking you first seems to me to be the antithesis of what Facebook is designed to do.

Marian knows someone who was outraged when she discovered that people that she didn't know were reading her blog.  "That's just for my family and friends," she snapped.  I could only shake my head in wonderment.

There is no guarantee of privacy on the internet.  Never has been.   If Facebook is important to you (as it certainly is to many people) then you're faced with making a number of compromises.  Facebook provides tools that give you some control over those compromises.  That's the best you're going to get.

Platform Furniture

It's graduation day, which is why I'm up at my usual too early hour sipping coffee and trying to get my aging limbs to move in a coordinated fashion. 

When the President told us, at lunch last year, that she'd decided to split the graduation ceremonies into morning and afternoon sessions, she left it up to us to choose which we'd go to, although it became clear in the discussion that she hoped that many of us would decide to go to both.  And we did.  After all, we're there mostly for visual effect.  You want to have a lot of people on the stage.

The ceremonies are streamed now, which is a little weird.  You look at the jumbotron in the center of the arena and catch a glimpse of yourself in the funny clothes and wonder, "What in the world am I doing here?"

But I quite like it, to tell the truth.  Yes, there's a lot of standing around and waiting and we all feel a little odd in our medieval outfits, but then you sit there watching the graduates come across the stage and imagine what it's like for each of them and for their families and you get to feel a bit proud for having had a hand in making it happen.

Between the two graduation ceremonies in the arena, there's the doctoral hooding ceremony.   This is a far more solemn and serious affair.  The arena is loud and there are thousands of people there and the atmosphere is giddy and a bit raucous.  But in the concert hall, with the couple of dozen people who are receiving the symbols of their doctorates it's much more somber.  Celebratory, to be sure, but with the acknowledgment and understanding of the sacrifices that have been made for these people to get this far -- and anticipation for what they will hope to accomplish in the next stage of their lives.

For so many of the people that I'll be around today, this day marks a passage from one stage to another.  A day to be remembered.  For me, it's just another episode of filling my role.  I have no responsibilities but to sit there on the stage in my funny clothes, looking academic.  I'm part of the decoration, part of the shrubbery.  But that helps to set the tone, and I'm happy to be there.


I tell the bellmen who help us move equipment around, "When you're over fifty and you're still playing rock n' roll, you've long since given up on the dream of having the hit record.  You don't even care about the groupies (that much).  What you really wish you had were roadies."

I think I've got the gear logistics sorted out for DC.  Every year I ship some of my stuff and we rent some stuff and so I've got to pick up my gear and get it to my hotel room because I'm not going to pay the hotel for storage, and the rented gear shows up on Saturday because it'd cost more to have it delivered on Sunday, so we've got to get that moved and stored and then we need to get it all down to the room that we're playing in on Sunday evening and then packed up and stored Sunday night and then back to the various places it has to return to on Monday & Tuesday. 

That was just one of the wonderful things about the Brisbane gig.  We showed up with our guitars, plugged in and played.  It was heaven.

Next Friday I'll do a solo gig at Marty's.  The logistics are much easier.  A couple of speakers and the mixer.  A microphone and the guitar.  I'm looking forward to it.  I haven't done a solo there in a very long time.  Whenever I've played there in the past few years it's been a tag team with Bestwick.  

Every experience is different.  When I was in Liquid Prairie, back in St. Louis, with Ranger Dave leading the band, I just played my best and sang my songs when Dave pointed at me.  But I wasn't the one making decisions about what happened next.  I was just rhythm guitar and one of  five vocalists.   With the Bearded Pigs, I'm calling the songs, and much more out front.  And, of course, when I'm playing solo, there's nobody to hide my mistakes behind.

It's going on eighteen years since I picked up a guitar at the Venice Cafe Christmas party and played in front of people again after my thirteen year hiatus.  During those years I've played and sang in front of people on five continents, either solo or with the band.   I do get paid when I play at Marty's (which, technically, makes me a professional), but the Bearded Pigs have never played for pay.  We've all put a lot of our own money into making it happen.

And it is so worth it.  I was writing a letter the other day to an old friend and talking about my distaste for the notion of "work/life balance".  The implication that there's your work on one side of the scale and everything else in your life on the other doesn't fit the way my life has evolved.   I strive for a complete life, not a balanced one. 

Making music for people and with people is an important part of that.  Even if I have to do it without roadies.