Enough to Be Dangerous

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There is a song by the bluegrass/country singer Allison Krauss that can make me a little obsessive.  It’s called Forget About It.  The singer essentially is telling her ex-boyfriend to move on from her.  I know enough music theory to be dangerous, and I can tell you that the song is mostly in a minor key.  I know this (thank you high school band director, Mr. Cook) because a major key sounds “happy” and minor key sounds “sad”, and for the most part this song has a sad sound to it.   I say for the most part because of the key changes for the chorus to a major key, where the singer then reverts to happier memories.

Honestly, I am oversimplifying this analysis; and that’s doing an injustice to this song.  This song is about a strong woman, who won’t let someone from her past into her present.  It is gentle but her repetitive “forget about it” in the lyrics stands to make it clear that he needs to let go, and the minor key gives an edge to those words.  Then we get to the chorus, and it begins with just a strum of a mandolin and a brush of a cymbal.  The major key change doesn’t leave the current note structure so it almost guides itself into the new feel.  The singer does go for higher chords, adds volume, and becomes more uplifting.  The words she now sings are about times when things never felt so right.  She isn’t telling him to move on, she’s telling herself to move on.  She wants to forget him, and she isn’t as convincing anymore.  Yet before we can wrap ourselves completely in those happy times, it shifts back just as easily to that minor key and we are back to pushing him away.  It’s so quick that I find myself repeating that song over and over again, each time getting goosebumps on that key change.

Problem is, I don’t know if it’s a key change.

As I said, I know just enough about music theory to be dangerous.  I can easily pick up a 1-4-5-1 chord progression, but then again most people can without knowing what the heck it is.  I know the difference between a 4/4, 3/4. and 7/8 count (7/8 is my favorite, by the way).  And of course, happy and sad chords, right?  The more advanced concepts fly over my head easily.

So what, you may ask … well, sew buttons.

Years of working for different managers and different companies have caused me to take tons of personality tests.  The point of these tests usually are to show how each person on a team interacts and intertwines into the others.  Meyers-Briggs being the most notable (I am an ISTP by the way).  While they all see to bounce around or shift over time, the one thing that tends to be consistent is that I don’t vary too far from the centerline.  In the world of right brains and left brains, I am a guy that is in the middle.  That doesn’t mean I am not creative nor analytical, it usually means I am both … but not enough to one side or the other to know better.

I’m heading into my marching band season, a time when I spend some weekends running around the country adjudicating high school band competitions.  While I am not at the top of the field in this work, I’ve honed my skills enough overtime to recognize this “middle of the brain” process works in my favor.  My strongest area of judging is called “Visual Ensemble”; a role that requires a judge to breakdown how the show is designed, why it was designed a certain way, and credit the performance and performers on their ability to meet the design approach.  You can’t get caught up in the beauty or entertainment value, because that’s another judges job; and you can’t get too caught up in what is right or wrong, because then you aren’t crediting what is being done.  It’s a balance of the artistic and the analytical.  That’s why I enjoy judging that caption.

It’s the rest of the time that it frustrates me.  I hate being that guy that can’t answer why something works or doesn’t.  I hate that I can’t get it there myself.  I want to know how Monet held a paintbrush and controlled his pallette to ensure the cityscape he created was so beautiful.  Or why the camera movements so unique to Wes Anderson films create such constant interest in me the viewer.  I want to know why Allison Krauss can give me goosebumps with a strum of a mandoline.

The flipside of all this comes from advice I received back when I was just getting into the marching band adjudication/teaching.  I went to a contest in hopes of gaining greater exposure to different performances and interpretations of movement.  I didn’t think I was learning much, so I turned to a friend with more experience.  I noted that I wasn’t sure what I was seeing or if it was right or wrong.  Our conversation went:
Him:  Did you like it?
Me: Yeah
Him:  That’s all that really matters, doesn’t it.

Okay, he was right and everything but … still … I mean, while it’s kinda nice to know enough to be dangerous, but come-on already … someone help a brother out.

When Summer Never Really Won

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We had a change in the weather in the last couple of days, nothing major but nice enough.  In the morning, the marine layer dominated the lower levels and pushed the drier air back to the desert.  This left things cooler, and just a bit humid.

Or maybe more poetic, think of things having a fall feel to it.  Cooler air, fog, the smell of the dried grasses and leaves finding the moisture they hadn’t seen in months.  Southern California Augusts are hot; though far from the worst.  Heat in the nineties means most daytime and early evening activities become a challenge but not impossible.  The things you typically do outside you wait to do for another day – but you don’t avoid.  Plants and things, unwatered, have died usually set up for what is our typical burn season in September and October.  The cooler mornings recently are a break from that pattern.  It’s not fall weather, because it’s dry and windy in the fall here.  This is more unique, the mornings of the spring with the heat of summer.

It made me remember a few days back some seven years ago.

For new readers to the Bear Feed, something I should tell you about my life.  I used to live in Alaska.  In fact, the Bear Feed started as a way to tell friends and family about what it was like in Alaska.  The first posts were basically the last days before leaving my previous home in Wichita, and it’s that transition that popped into my head these mornings.

Weather-wise, moving from Wichita to Anchorage couldn’t haven’t been more drastic.  It was the first week of August 2012.  I spent the last two weeks in Wichita in a poorly air-conditioned house during 100° days preparing to move.  The nights were no reprieve, as it rarely dropped below 85° after the sun went down.  There was no rain, no humidity, just a steady hot wind coming across the plains and drying out every bit of you.  I stepped onto a plane at 8am when it already was 95°; then stepped off much further north where the high for the day was 55°.  Overcast.  Foggy.  The clouds curling along the mountains as if screaming for attention.  The roads were wet, but not from rain but just not having a good reason to get dry.

There’s a song lyric I love, “Summer’s beginning to give up the fight”.  As much as I love that lyric, I don’t really see that here.  Wichita, like SoCal, goes from the bursting heat of summer to the dried leftover of what couldn’t survive.  Around here, it’s Spring that gives up the fight.

In Anchorage, summer never really won.  The warmth hovered like a reason to wear a t-shirt, but the mornings came with that wet mist it hid in the corner.  I liked it that way, though.  I would keep the windows open all the time, wrapping myself in blankets, even for months into the fall.  I could smell the plants, the trees, the moss, the dirt.  The cool air surrounding me reminding me that life lived there.

When I first moved to Anchorage in 2012, I lived in a small apartment rented by the week.  Fully furnished, it was intended for long term vacationers (and Mormon missionaries, but that’s a different story).  I cooked fish curries, pancakes, potatoes sitting at a barstool counter.  The TV didn’t work, so I would spend my evenings streaming shows in the early days of Netflix.  I went to bed early, though, not to sleep but to lie in that bed, comfortable and warmly tucked, to listen to the world and to feel the cool air come in.  The part of town I was in was actually a bit sketchy.  One night there was an angry discussion between a homeless gentleman and a guy who just wanted to go home.  I remember nothing of the details of that discussion, but I remember it for the air, the cool, the comfort I felt in that little apartment.

I sometimes think that a good conversation can begin just with talk of the weather.  That’s not really my point with this post.  I just liked how the weather these last couple of days made me remember a happy time in my past.  The last couple of weeks, I’ve struggled to keep the blog going, struggled to find something worth writing about.  I’ve had a couple of little challenges to my memory, so I began to think maybe it’s timed to capture some of those things I want to remember.  So I might be using this blog to capture them, remember them, share them.

If you have a problem with that and you would rather talk about the weather … I hear that the weather channel does some things with maps and hurricanes.

And It Starts Again

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The last time I was on an airplane was June 5th.  In two days, I fly out of town for the week, ending a stretch of two months.

For those of you ‘normals’ out there that can go two months or two decades without flying, this probably sounds refreshing, or comforting, or … well, I don’t know because it’s just plain weird to me.

My job requires travel.  That’s just the way it is.  I’ve worn this hat since nearly the early 2000s, and I enjoy the life of being a road warrior.  Sometimes it’s too much – like the job I had in 2015-16 where two-thirds of my life was spent in a hotel.  Sometimes it’s routine – like in Alaska where I traveled four a couple days every four weeks.  Just like all things, when you get used to something, you kinda get used to something.

It’s been two months since my last work trip.  You could guess that with my recent health issues, I pushed back travel.  Honestly, that didn’t play into it.  It’s actually been a shift of some of my duties, most of which required ‘boots on ground’ work before booking something out of town.   Now that schedules are coming together the travel is returning.

And it’s returning with a vengeance.

This week is more pleasure than work.  It’s my nearly annual pilgrimage to Indianapolis for the Drum Corps International World Championship (so expect stuff on banging and blowing all week from me).

In a couple weeks, I am off to Colorado for a week of work followed by a weekend of mountains.

The week after that, my second try to get to Michigan Tech to perform a Graduate Seminar after the first was rudely canceled due to United Airlines craping out on me.

A couple weeks after that, back to Michigan, this time to Ann Arbor for meetings.

September is the start of my judging season as well, when I prance around the country going to marching band competitions, convincing people to let me sit in the best seats and tell them stuff about their show.  I don’t have my schedule well set as yet, but there is always a weekend or two of madness out there for me.

Oh yeah, and I have a request from someone to do work in Germany too.  Not sure when, but it’s there.

So yeah, the travel part of my job is coming back.  It’s the season and it will be crazy.