Archive | October 2012

Harder to Defend

I have two Liberal Arts degrees. I earned a BA in English from the University of Utah and a Masters Degree in Library Science from Emporia State University.  Both degrees were invaluable for my career as a Librarian.  Though it was never my intention to find myself working in libraries, I found an unexpected home in them. If I had followed my childhood aspiration (professional athlete or musician aside) to teach, my advanced degree would have been in English or Education. Making lots of money was never my goal, though I would not have turned down a job that paid a fortune. Anyone who finds their passion knows that the money you make from it is always a bonus, never the reason.

I knew going in that a degree in any of the “liberal arts” was an investment in me, not my future wealth. It is the very reason I went to college, to make ME better. I am finding more and more that my motivation is not everyone else’s motivation and that the purpose of college is shifting. This has not been a sudden shift. In the The last 40 years, more and more degree programs are designed to prepare individuals for specific careers, rather than offering  more broad experiences. Liberal Arts programs followed suit, with programs with more focused and specific outcomes. Unfortunately, Women’s Studies and Cultural Studies programs (while infinitely interesting)  offer fewer career choices than more general degrees like History or Art.

I am a firm believer in the ‘old school’ university mentality-Learning for the sake of learning. Logic, rhetoric, writing and critical thinking skills have aided my life much more than any course in business or computer science did. Of course, the things that interested me were logic, rhetoric and critical thinking.  Regardless of my interests or wishes, modern higher education must fulfill a different role than it has in the past.

It is harder for me to defend someone choosing liberal arts programs when they cannot easily prepare people for careers in science or technology, economics or engineering  While learning how to think, write and communicate are skills every professional needs, those skills cannot be the entire focus of  the university experience.  There will always be people (thankfully) who have passion for art, music, languages, history and those people should continue to pursue degrees than cater to their desires and skills. Universities should continue to provide opportunities for all students- require all students that obtain any degree to understand the value of writing and critical thinking- allow the shift towards skills training to continue.

Most importantly, universities should expose students to all sorts of ideas, even ones they may not agree with. Being able to look at an idea, study it, learn and explore it without necessarily adopting it is a skill that every needs.


Because I Wanted My Life Back

For a week or so I thought I had mono again. Because I nearly killed myself the last time, by riding in 104 degree heat, I chose to stop exercise until I was certain. I am not certain, but I am tired of sitting around, getting fatter, feeling lousy and watching my will disintegrate.

I made myself walk today. My usual route is spectacular right now; crunchy leaves on the ground, brilliant fall skies, brisk temperatures. It felt so good to be out, breathing, walking.

Less than a week ago, snow blanketed this hill, these trees. I felt it was too early for winter.

The most encouraging moment came when I realized I was not feeling tired, feeling as dazed. Plus, I was thinking about something other than the fact I was out walking. The last few months, every physical exertion has been by force of will.

To walk and just be, I wont soon forget how that felt.



Saw some interesting things as well.




It is not uncommon for deer to be killed crossing Foothill Blvd.

Still, I am always fascinated and horrified, startled when I come across a carcass on the road side.  Usually I look away. Today I didn’t.





 On the corner of 21st south and Broadmoor Street is a home inhabited by a group of 20 somethings.  They often have friends over and the parties spill out into the street. There is always an ample supply of beer cans, cigarette butts, broken glass, condom wrappers.




Today, this partially broken bottle caught my eye. Lying there among the leaves and cracked cement, causally cast aside, I had to stop, give it one last bit of attention.





Discarded vices.

This should be the subject of a Bruce Springsteen song.

I left all these things as I found them.



Not Going to Mention the Snow

Been a rough and rugged day for music news.

You would think with all the fancy Internet sites I use, I would be more up to date on what is going down with bands I like.

First, I discover that the vocalist (Grace Perry) for a hardcore band I really dig, Landmine Marathon, has left the band. The new (also female) vocalist seems really good, but it is never the same once the singer leaves. Some bands go on to make really good music, but it really never feels like the same band.

Second, I read today that back in March, Made out of Babies broke up. Julie Christmas has such a unique voice.  I love when she screams screams screams…I certainly hope she finds a new project or makes another solo record. A new band has risen from the ashes, Bad Powers (also female fronted), that shows promise.

Some good news-An Isis compilation comes out on the 6th of November. Demos, outtakes, remixes and some   the songs from the split with Melvins, previously only released on vinyl.

Turn Your Head and…

Yep! Spent the after-morning with the  doctor, getting pinched and poked, checked and checked again. Nothing interesting in not liking getting a physical, though I did enjoy the new, larger gown I was able to wear. Little things.

My motivation for seeing the doctor was different this time. Usually, I go in feeling everything is fine and expect to hear such. Today, I wanted to hear some reasons for why I feel so funky.

All summer I have experienced a continual deterioration in my stamina when it comes to exercise. My performance on the bike has been less than stellar. Every time I go out, it is a chore and my results have been worse as the months have passed.

A few weeks back, I was out climbed by my brother. Not just by a few or fifty yards, but by a distance that was hard to estimate. This has never happened in the three years we have ridden together. Worse than being out climbed, I didn’t care. That is not like me at all.

For the past few weeks, my life has felt like it was being lived on a very potent antihistamine, funny at first, less so now. There are moments when I have to pinch myself, feel the pain, to remind that while it might be extremely funny to run naked through the supermarket, I am indeed really at the supermarket, not dreaming a very vivid dream.

When it is not an emergency, getting in to see a doctor takes time. Today was my time. Of course I learned nothing, really. I get to go in tomorrow morning for blood tests, which take another week to evaluate. I hope to have some answers, or at least a direction after that.

I have theories, some better than others. My money is on one in particular, but we shall see.

Self diagnosis is always a scary idea. Patience, Ryan.

Top Stuff 11

I spent a great deal of my childhood playing games I made up in my head. My imagination was my best friend. That being said, like any kid, I loved watching television. Some really great cartoons were on when I was a boy.  I liked all sorts of television, watching shows from the late 60’s like The Wild Wild West, Star Trek, some Perry Mason and the Monkees, to the biggest hits of the late 70’s. These shows added fodder to my imagination and gave me interesting avenues to explore. A few of these shows stick with me and I have fond memories of watching them.  Today’s list-

Top stuff 11- 70’s TV I liked as a boy.

Love Boat-Hard to go wrong with a cruise ship full of love starved people, beautiful scenery and a bald, fat captain. I remember watching this right before Fantasy Island (which I never really liked. Sometimes it was too scary). I had such a crush on that damn Lauren Tewes (Julie). I was never much for Vicki. Her voice was too soft for me. Plus, Julie was a bit more androgynous. I knew she was a woman, but she had the short hair, small breasts. I own the complete first season on DVD. Sheryl and I watch them together, laughing at the 70’s celebrity cameos, clothes and cavalier sexual attitudes. The story lines are actually decent from time to time. Also, anything that has John Ritter (in drag), is worth a watch.

Chips-I have fond memories of riding my motorcycle (bicycle) around the streets giving people a thumbs up and chasing down bad guys, just like my hero, Jon Baker. So many fantastic car chases and spectacular freeway crashes, the show was intense and funny. I have to admit, this one is harder for me to stomach as a grown up. The drama is often way overdone and I still struggle with the extent of crime solving these highway patrol officers are involved in.  Every routine traffic stop results in a high speed chase. Drug dealers and bank robbers have their plans foiled by Ponch and Jon. It is very over the top. Still, throw in the standard freeze frame ending with faces caught in laughter, surprise or amazement, and you have some classic 70’s TV.

Battlestar Galactica-I have talked about this show before. It seemed this show was on for at least five years. It seems impossible it was not even two seasons. I loved Star Trek, and this show was a cooler version of that. This was about warriors, not explorers. Adventure and space battles, robots and danger, this show had everything I wanted from my science fiction. This one has moments that hold up with my older self, and I still wish there was more of it. Lucky for me, the 2004 version satisfied my cravings and then some.

Buck Rogers– Another show that seemed to be on for the entire decade, but really only ran for two seasons. Buck Rogers was and still is, a good way to remember the 70’s. The cast was pretty (oh, Erin Gray) and they wore such tight clothes. The producers of the show decided that the clothing, hair and music of the 70’s were the epitome of human culture as they somehow survive the nuclear disaster of 1987 and find perfection in the 25th century. People dancing to bad electronic disco music, wearing shirts with the top seven buttons open, women with curtain hair styles, men with thick chest hair, it is wonderful to watch. Many of the stories are riddled with sexism and some covert racism, others are poignant and well done. I bought the both seasons in a single package for 10 dollars. Worth every cent.

Eight is Enough-Man, how I wanted to be Tommy Bradford. All the girls thought he was the cats meow. Plus he had great hair and was in a band. Tom Bradford seemed the perfect father, knowing what to do and say, even when he claimed not to know what to do or say. This show was serious drama for me. All the perils and pitfalls of growing up in a big family and how easy it was to get lost, make mistakes, find redemption. It was still cheesy, but so much better than the sap fest that was the Walton’s, Eight is Enough was one of my favorite shows. I haven’t seen many episodes since the 80’s when it was in syndication. Perhaps it is much worse than I remember.

And because it was a great cartoon, I am adding Battle of the Planets to this list. Mark was the coolest and I loved Princess. Many a good afternoon was spent imagining myself as part of this awesome team. The Japanese do Animation right.

All My Questions are Honest

Nope, this is not a political blog post.

Yesterday, I made plans to meet a friend as she discussed planning the food for an upcoming party with a caterer. I have been feeling a bit off lately (a lot off, actually) and my sleep schedule has been knocked out of whack.  I need 9 to 11 hours of sleep to feel remotely able to function, yet I refuse to go to bed at a decent hour. The meeting with the caterer was set for 10. Reasonable time for a meeting, yet I had to set an alarm for 9 to make sure I woke up.

The alarm is set to a local radio station that Sheryl and I have listened to for over two decades. Morning talk, lots of chatter and silliness, some crass crudeness and mocking meanness at times. Its comforting.

Yesterday, as I struggled to wake after a meager 7 hours of sleep (oh, the horror), I heard the distinct chalk board grating sound of pop music. In my morning haze, I did not recognize the “artist”, but did recognize all the words she was singing. Every phrase , every hook, each verse, chorus and verse was one cliche’ after another, lined up in meaningless babble. As I became more lucid, I gathered this was a song about a bad break-up and the recovery process, though my certainty on this issue would be below 50% at best. The song could have been about getting rejected by American Idol or The Bachelor.

I am a firm believer that there is a gem in every genre of music. My criticism is not so much about the style of the song as much as the lack of effort into making the song interesting. Cliche’ is easy, sloppy lyric writing. People use them because they think we all understand them when in truth, most of us ignore them.   Of course there are artists who try and flip cliche’, play with meaning, make them different and interesting. I love these kinds of songs and singers, but this song yesterday was not one of those moments.

Regardless of genre, lazy songwriting is a turn off. A metal band called Cephalic Carnage, a hardcore band with heavy, deep, guttural vocals wrote a song about their fans and being on the road. The lyrics were “the road is hard, our fans are great.” Yep. Insightful. The one song made the entire band too ridiculous for me and I gave the disc away.

While I do find some pop music interesting, too much of it falls into this category. So many great singers, fantastic, talented voices wasted on sloppy, stupid songs. What I don’t understand is why this has to be the case? I know many ‘artists’ are at the mercy of record labels and those labels hire song writers. The talent get very little say in what they sing, or even how they are presented.  That said, I know how these kids get into these situations in the first place-They want to be famous and if that means singing garbage for pre-teens, so be it.


This photo was shared by a friend of mine on Facebook. Not sure who originally posted or created it so I cant give credit, but I agree with Bruce Dickinson completely. It is never about making music, only ever about pop star fame.

Not all music has to be serious. Not all music has to be about art. For it to have any value, at least for me, it hast to have some integrity. Too much of what gets spoon fed is about money and fame. I like fame, we all like that sort of appreciation, I would love to be respected and admired for what I create, but there are things I wont do to gain that appreciation.

I guess I am wondering if there is an argument for this type of music that eludes me. I want someone to help me understand that argument, if there is one.



For the First Time

I have mentioned before my youthful desire to be a rock star. Somehow, that desire never translated into a passion for learning an actual instrument. Regrets, eh?

Games like Rockband and Guitar Hero allowed me to fulfill small portions of that fantasy-playing well crafted solos, singing favorite songs as loud and off key as I possibly could. I even had the chance to sing to small crowds when I played at parties or with family. Of course, this only gives a tiny glimpse and actually makes me crave it more.

I choose to ignore the negative parts of such fantasy. The endless hours of practice and failure. Weeks, months and sometimes years on the road, singing the same songs over and over, having to be ‘on’ every night for everyone. Instead, I imagine myself on stage, loving every second of performing.

A week or so ago, I went to the VFW with my brother, his wife and some friends to celebrate his birthday. Austen is the youngest and with 12 years between us, we have only become friends as he aged into adulthood. So good to have such a great relationship with family. I don’t spend enough time out with them, especially Austen so it was really great to take the chance, even if it was on karaoke night.

Seriously, the fact it was karaoke night severely impacted my decision. I have never sang in front of anyone I didn’t have some connection with and the thought was frankly, very terrifying. I don’t have a bad voice, just not a well trained one, and I fear its limitations. If it had not been for Austen’s birthday celebration, I would have found an excuse not to go.

Anyone who has been to karaoke night at any VFW knows the score. The bars are so ridiculously dirty and beat down. At this particular location, a sole bartender was doing her best (and failing) to handle the crowd, which was not substantial, just overly thirsty. The fellow running the karaoke was pleasant, funny, could really sing, and seemed to like his job (which I imagine, helps a great deal). Austen instantly was ready to sing and flipped through the book of songs with purpose. I tried to find something, anything I could sing that fit the vocal range I invented in my head. I convinced myself there would be nothing in a low enough range for me, so I would be able to avoid singing.

After a few minutes, flipping through the pages, I decided I was tired of being afraid of this type of thing. The crowd was small enough, I was a grown up, I could sing something. I have been on a David Bowie kick for the last few months and convinced myself he would be a fine choice, out of my range or not. While Austen sang the holy bejeezus out of Behind Blue Eyes (seriously, the old dudes at the bar were entranced), I picked Ziggy Stardust as my virgin attempt.

So many new experiences. Bad stage lighting masked faces, but not voices. Stage monitor returned vocals that actually helped me stay on key. Uncertainty on how to stand, how to move, how to handle a microphone. Funny enough, I loved every minute of it, even though I chose to sing the Bauhaus cover version, which I like better.

After the song was over, I knew I was hooked. I could have sang again and again right then, right there. Any song I knew would have been find, regardless of if I could actually sing it or not. Unfortunately, the crowd kept growing and the list of  those wanting to play along got longer.




A few hours later, Austen and I sang a duet. We both wanted to sing Cumbersome (which is such a great karaoke song) and while he was willing to let me do it alone, I wanted to sing it with him. We rocked it (in my humble yet correct opinion)!

I know this silly karaoke night is just that, but I had such a great time. I should do things like this more often, despite my old man complex and homebody mentality.

What would be epic-A Carty brothers night at the microphone. The world would never be the same. 


When the Lights Are Out

Power is control.

Having control over their own life is often not enough for seekers of power. They desire control over others as well. Power, like wealth is only understandable in comparison with those who do not have it. It only has value when it is desired, when others desire it. It is not self sustaining (power or wealth) and must be fed.

Rarely is it good enough for the individual that he or she holds a certain belief. That belief must be thrust upon others (examples-Moral standards, political opinions, understanding of government or God, of freedom or truth), until everyone sees and understands, by whatever means necessary.

Of course there are exceptions, but they are rarely men (or women) of power.  Hard words and harsh consequences for the believer  the unbeliever, the indifferent alike flow from the mouths of power, the means to maintain the structure of power, maintain control.

Rules and laws exist to keep us safe, allow us to live together in small communities and large cities. They function best when most agree on their value.  Traffic laws allow us to move from place to place in relative safety. Other laws act as deterrents (in theory) to more serious crimes like rape, assault and murder.

Most of us agree these sorts of rules and laws are good. They allow for a sense of security while setting limits on behavior that feel reasonable. We are free to think as we wish. Our private lives are our own.

Some of us choose things in our private lives that others would find offensive, criminal, morally corrupt, down right evil. While the majority of these things do not affect others, there are some who insist otherwise.

Fewer and fewer things remain private. Our internet habits are easily deciphered as is what we buy,  from whom and for how much. It is conceivable that every movement we make, every word we speak or text or write, every act we commit is easily observable by someone.

And here is the essence of control-if individuals become fearful of what they do or think or say always being observable, behavior is modified. If behavior is modified for long enough, thoughts and beliefs can be changed and altered.  Deviance is criminally obvious. Order is maintained and change is stifled. Secret or dark places are vilified.

We have found ourselves on the cusp of the perfect Panoptic society. The all seeing eye, always watching, always knowing. It sounds like a bad Lord of the Rings sequel.  To throw in another cliche’ -Big Brother is always watching.

At Some Fundamental Level

I am the worst friend. Always have been. I cannot be counted on (in most cases) to keep in touch. I never call (hate phone conversations) and rarely initiate anything. I am thankful for places like Facebook. It allows me to appear a decent friend when really, I am lazy and forgetful. I am grateful for friends that understand that about me and for the most part, are ok with it.

A list of things most of us want in a friend: Honesty, loyalty, dependability, they have integrity and are trustworthy.  A good sense of humor is a plus. Someone who is fun or a good listener might be a good thing.  Compassion and understanding go a long way, especially if your life is a complete disaster or you make a great many mistakes.

Some things are easier to overlook, like political leanings, or fashion choices (equal importance here). Music and movie choices really don’t matter much. Having similar interests can be helpful but we rarely expect our friends to want to do all the same things we do (people who expect such things are meanies). That is the reason for multiple friends. You get to be outside with some, while others are great drinking buddies. Others are good for a quiet dinner or a movie night.  No one can ever be all things to a friend, which is a good thing.

The older I get, the fewer friends I have, the fewer I need.

The best thing about the friends I do have- they expect little from me. We can go months or years without constant communication, then find ourselves in the same room, talking and laughing, picking up where we left off and everything is fine.  I miss them and they miss me, but our lives take us in different directions and places. Our relationships take a back seat to those things. Understanding that makes everything easier, better, makes the time we do spend together more important.

Recently, I spent an evening with a friend I had not sat across from in over a decade. How fantastic it was to reconnect, discover that after all this time we still had a great many things to say to each other. Even more outstanding, he was still the same smart, clever, funny person I remembered.

Too many times in the past few years, reconnecting was a painful disaster. Changes are subtle and slow. When those changes are viewed without the filter of time, in their rawness, when two people realize they have changed in contrary directions, friendships are often over. We rarely see how different we become until something casts light on it.  These interactions uncover and display how I have changed, reveal how much fundamental parts of me, things I used to keep secret, have grown to define who I am. I am grateful for them and the clarity they provide.