Saturday, April 13, 2013

Grape or Raspberry? (This post is about jamming.)

On the Nerdist podcast the other day, Divine Fits members talked about jam bands, a newer research interest of mine.  In explaining why they didn't like jamming, the guys speculated why fans like repetitive improv, bringing up the drug culture as one explanation.  Even allowing that many modern fans stick to alcohol or even stay completely straight during concerts, there is a party vibe at many jam band concerts.  The band becomes a tapestry, a reason to gather rather than the focal point of all attention.  Like club music, the primary goal of jamming is to inspire dancing, physical movement instead of complex emotional movement.  There are different flavors of jamming, often associated with different bands.  Some jams might focus more on collective consciousness, bringing everyone together into an awareness of each other and how we all interact. Other jams could be about inspiring creativity, or to make political statements. Length is directly related to the purpose.  A thirty-minute jam will lose any connection to politically-minded lyrics of the head tune, and if the jam hasn't changed the groove, the hypnotic effect will wash away any conscious inspiration.  But a short burst of jamming between verses of DMB's "Everybody Wake Up" can be social commentary, and a five-minute closing jam can send audiences home ready to create new worlds.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

I've Been Judged

Last evening Andrea and I pled our case(s?) for the JudgeJohn Hodgman podcast.  Andrea brought the case, complaining that I (sometimes) point out when she sings in the wrong key when singing along to a recording or with other people.  The case was not one that I felt strongly about, beyond the fact that not trying to sing in the right key is unfathomable to me. But I agreed to submit the case, for the entertainment of being on the podcast.  While it was very fun to talk directly to His Honor and expert witness Jonathan Coulton, two people whose work and humor I admire very much, afterwards I found myself in a quandary.

Part of the problem was caused by a fever that struck me before the podcast, but tamped down by extra-strength Tylenol so I could be mostly lucid in my arguments.  The fever spiked again last night, and I am still recovering from the flu(?)  This has made my thoughts fuzzy, muffled in gauze as I attempt to figure out how I am feeling and what I should be doing.  I stayed home from work today, something that always makes me feel guilty, even when I know that I am too ill to drive to DePauw.  But even after making that decision, and getting some much needed rest, I still felt too tired to do grading or scholarship.  So I watched some Netflix (Buffy, Benson Interruption, and Portlandia), and played some Solitaire on my iPhone.  As I did so, I kept having these nagging thoughts on what Hodgman, Coulton, and David Rees (the other expert witness for the case) would think of my choices, whether it was the choice to watch another episode of Portlandia (ironically the one with the couple who obsessively watches Battlestar Galactica) or that I moved the Four of Clubs from the play pile rather than the Four of Spades from the row.  Now I even fear judgement for the fact that I don't know the official names of the different card piles in the various versions of Solitaire.  

This nagging feeling of judgement brought up bigger guilts, that I haven't been pushing myself to my potential.  I have let this blog founder for nearly a year.  I only submitted one paper proposal this year, and have not been writing articles or books like I feel I should.  It isn't for lack of ideas, but rather for a lack of willpower.  I am very good at devoting myself to my kids and step-kids.  I play games with them, cook good meals for them, help them with their homework, talk with them about their desires, etc.  It can take a lot of energy, but it is an easy call to make.  Even when I was my most depressed during the divorce, the one thing that would get me out of bed was the need to take care of my kids.  

It was that devotion that led me through the pain of the divorce, and I think it was around then that I started cutting corners with my own scholarly activities.  I have always had a shyness about promoting myself and my work, but the combination of my children's needs and the divorce-caused blow to my self-confidence made me even less likely to want to communicate with others through my blog, through articles and books, through conferences.  I think it was being formally judged last night by people I really respect which led me to this breakthrough.  I feel a strong need to communicate this epiphany, and to get off my metaphorical ass about creating things for the world.