Now that I am between construction teams, perhaps I need to apply:
Now that I am between construction teams, perhaps I need to apply:
THAT was a long day. Hell, it was a pretty trying week, all told. As I’ve said, my car had a massive computer-related infarction. It took the shop four days to track it down….
1. “It’s the ECM. We’ll get you a used one, won’t be too bad. Should be here today.”
2. “Won’t be here today in time to get installed. First thing tomorrow.”
3. “Seems that the instrument cluster is the culprit; it shorted and the resultant signal fried the ECM. We’ll get a used one of those too.”
4. “…has anything else gone wrong lately, related to electronics? Just asking…”
5. “Here’s what happens when I plug it in here. The ECM is freaking out and making everything hell. But when I plug it in HERE, the ECM is OK and the dash cluster is screaming digital gibberish. Short story: still don’t know. But we have many thousands of dollars in diagnostic equipment telling us MANY things we don’t know….”
At this point, since I had a mission critical meeting I needed to get to, they let me borrow their little shop truck. I had rescheduled the meeting from Wednesday 10 AM to 7 AM today, and then needed to catch up in the office until about 1:30 AM, updating drawings and printing plans. 2 Hour stressful meeting, as we are behind schedule, then back to the office to work on the new marching orders….
3:30. Mechanic on the phone “Good News or Bad News?” Shut up. Is my car fixed? “Yes. and ultimately it was NEITHER the car computer NOR the dash cluster.” Turns out it was a wire connector located near the bottom of the fire wall that had some errant salt water work its way in. So although I didn’t have to pay for the electronics, the technician took several hours to track down the short. They billed me for 5; I know they spent way more time than that (over four fucking days), so I’m OK with it; I effed at them a bit over how I kind of needed my car, and that I had spent much Ameros at their shop over the years. Other than, you know, the whole damn week without my car; if it wasn’t for that damn meeting I would have been OK cuz I could have bussed in to the office.
However, I had to pay them with a check, because yesterday my bank card was “compromised” and the bank canceled it to send me a new one. I will be seeing some paperwork to file the fraud claim and get my money back. I may see a replacement card tomorrow. Or not.
AND I have a client that has three months of arrears, to the tune of $30,000. So I got THAT going for me….
So, halfway through the day I got a text from Zorgy reminding me that we were meeting to see some music tonight. At the Riverside Theater, this humble little palace:
to see this band:
[I think they’re from New Zealand]
The opening band, Mini Mansions, features a Lead Bass player from Queens of the Stone Age, but they played a lovely set of 80’s inflected synth pop that channeled a healthy bit of Sniff ‘n The Tears. How 80’s were they? They not only did a dirge-cover of “Heart Of Glass” but they opened with a cover of “Sherlock Holmes” by Sparks.
After the long day and stressful week, I was more than happy to be sitting in the audience watching a couple of great bands, and drinking beers with my friends. I was tired and my feet hurt. But after a bit, Tame Impala and the light show started something, flickered a bit of internal warmth…
That clip up there does not do the band justice. The other live clips are closer, but the sound is mostly borked; and with the exception of the reedy thin vocals (which I still have not decided on) the music was muscular and rich. It was deceptively simple and unassumingly complex the band started and stopped and went into digressions that made you think it was a different song, then brought it back hime before you figured out what they were doing. It was contemporary, with some trip-hop and some EDM flourishes, but there was something naggingly familiar about the whole thing….
The light show encompassed the entire back of the stage, but there were several pole-mounted LED Varis behind the band, and more standard ones mounted on the sides of the stage and above; they kept spinning, arcing beams of light and spinning stars out into the crown and on the sides of the theater. The band was shrouded in mist and shadows, the focus was on the music and the light show. It felt so familiar….
It wasn’t until they added the bass pedals to the mix that it struck me; we were watching spiritual heirs to the mid-period Genesis when they still had Steve Hackett and before they started pursuing pop stardom! All the elements were there; they often used Tony Banks keyboard sounds, the bass pedals made the bottom end shake your rib cage, the light show was splendid and dovetailed the music, and even the drummer, on a small kit, did some Collins-style drum drops. The only thing missing was the occasional twelve string guitar. At one point, I could have sworn they were ready to launch into the organ intro to “Watcher Of The Skies”!
Good Friend Rory, later admitted that he felt let down. He had seen the band a couple of years earlier at one of the other stellar venues in town, and remembered being completely amazed. He allowed that alcohol may have affected the memory. I argued that they were actually pretty awesome, the music was great, the mix near-perfect, and the light show stellar. I had no complaints (other than my sore back and aching feet goddammit doesn’t getting old suck).
But GFR was having a troubled, emotional day; remembering his recently departed parents and also more current troubles. I drove him home, and spent some time in the car listening; I liked his Dad quite a bit, and never actually met his Mom. So I cut him some slack, because his memory of the band was most likely colored, and his memories of his parents were uppermost in his mind. My parting wisdom (such as it was) was to go to bed, get some real sleep, and cuddle with his dogs. I am reminded that for all my angst and distress, I still have much to be thankful for…..
This is normally the point in my music post where I reference the Soul Asylum line (when they were still angry and not polished and before mikey had ever heard of them and this is still one of my favorite lines) but tonight that is not quite right. It’s not so much a ringing in my ears as a vibration in my bones, a rumbling in my soul. No less heaven sent for that….
There is something so vital about seeing live music. It’s less artificial; no overdubs, fewer electronic trickses and no studio carry. 3 or 4 or 5 (or, in the case of the upcoming Mekons shows 7 or 8 or 75) people actually playing instruments and feeding off the audience response to boomerang it back out. It’s a wonderful feedback loop and the best way to experience it is in a small club. Because that is where the amplification factor is most evident.
GFR talked about spending hundreds of dollars to see Jeff Beck, which is perfectly valid. But I compare that to the $25 we spent to see this show tonight; or the $15 I punched out to see Murder By Death, or a similar amount to see World Party. The first concert tickets I ever bought were to see BOC/ UFO at Alpine Valley and they were fifteen bucks and I was a mile away. Decades later, I paid fifteen bucks to see them at a 300 person club and you know what? THEY WERE AWESOME and I was right up in front of them (they are kind of short).
With very few exceptions, I will almost always not spend my money on the “big shows” and spend it on smaller clubs, smaller venues, and younger bands. I was encouraged to see several folks of my age cohort in the venue tonight…But then, I am admittedly atypical. It doesn’t make me wrong….
Now that I have been summarily dismissed from the Robotics team, I am hoping to be able to devote more time to more important things: professional life, taekwondo, Wife Sublime, the rundown shack we live in, and profanity-laden chuffing about politics. Music blogging will still happen, but we are rapidly moving into Summerfest season, so that will be moving to Summerfestblog very soon.
1) In fact, I think I may re-title the Fuck You Friday tag to Fuck You Forever, as Turdwaffle Shit-Knocker is working overtime to make himself attractive to the Republican shit-eating moran dimwit base. For instance:
A couple days after a multiple-victim shooting in Menasha, the Walkershit-for-brains trust put out a 2nd amendment rah-rah post that was illustrated by this photo. Nicely done; next up is squashing baskets of kittens and puppies on National Pet Day, while he is eating live goldfish and chasing rabbits until their hearts burst. He is a foul animal that would be considered to egregiously villainous to appear on Game of Thrones. His ambition and directions from Koch Central Fuckery Towers make him conscienceless and remorseless, and his recent actions would be considered ridiculous and fucking too horrible to publish in a Frank Miller dystopian comic. Since the beginning of the year, he has spent so little time in Wisconsin that the Republican Legislature has even fucking backed off on his “Kick The Fucking Poors and Blahs EVEN HARDER” budget (it’s the actual name, you can look it up). Even now, the fuckwit who once said to a gathering of the Tribe, “Molotov!” is visiting Israel on a “Listening tour” in which he will listen to war criminal Netanyahu about how much fun it is to strafe and carpet bomb civilians and residential districts. Next up, I guess, will be knob-gobbling Dick Cheney while being butt-fucked by Kissinger.
2) I am being pissy today because I woke up to find my car flashing a “no bus” message to me, but since It still started, I drove it to the bakery to get Wife Sublime’s favorite Apple Pie Bread. And then the car promptly refused to start, so I had to have it towed to the neighborhood repair garage, and tomorrow will wait with EXCITEMENT to find out how much a new car computer is going to set me back. Research on the Internarfles indicates it may range from simple fuse replacement to a full new computer, so a couple hundred bones up to $1000. AND EVEN still, whining about this makes me feel like the whiniest of the whiny whinersons when I heard from a Friend of Blog that had even worse news.
3) In Extremely Great, Magnificent, Incredible Zombie News, it turns out that the Mekons are planning a short tour of the Midwest and Selected Points East this summer. There are a couple of Chicago shows, of course, but no Milwaukee show; my new FaceHell Friend Sally Timms says, however, there is a show in Mineral Point. WTF, Sally. the Point? In their defense, we will be seeing them in a small, VERY intimate restored historic theater called Mineral Point Opera House, and we have friends in the area who will be joining us. The tagline says “A theater for all the people” but do they really mean include Mekons obsessives and zombies?
The thing about the show is that the band is warming up for a show in New York called MEKONCEPTION which is intended to be an old-OLD school recording, a big band with one microphone; stepping up to the mic for vocals and solos; of all new songs. The whole, big band is coming along including Lu Edmonds (weird, self made instruments) Tom Greenhalgh (original member, guitar, and vocals), and Suzie Honeyman (crazed librarian violin, dumbed down to Mekons level). Seventy-five audience members, who will be included in vocals and perhaps instruments, and the whole thing will be recorded in 2 hours for release with minimal or no overdubs. I would so love to be there, and would pay more money than I have to do so; but given the short time frame (it’s happening on 7/23) I am probably not able to pull it off. I have asked a couple of friends with some contacts in New York bar/entertainment biz, but have not heard back. Mineral Point it is, and I have to figure out what I want to take along for signatures. If Scary Joe and/or Some Bastard come through, I will make both of them happen…
So here is a wonderful demonstration of one of the reasons I am so obsessive about this band, as well as one of the reasons that they have survived as an ongoing and vital operation for nearly 40 years. They are restless and refuse to allow others to dictate their career path; and they insist on following the muse that they feel at any given time. They have done art projects, theater projects, book projects and performance art projects. If it isn’t interesting to them as a band, they don’t do it and allow other band members to do it. One of their recent albums was inspired by their gathering for the funeral of a friend, and they did a “musical marriage amongst the fields and stones” and a great album resulted.
The only thing that ever interests them is doing something that is artistically compelling. If it is not musical, they will do something graphic or literary. I have books they have written. I have various art elements, including some lovely woodcuts based on their songs; awesome prints of various signed iterations….
My love of this band reflects my own unwillingness to rely on repetition or copying others.
4) While I was being snubbed by the other mentors at the FIRST Championships, I received notification that I have received my fourth Mayor’s Design Award, for the rehab/vertical addition project previously discussed. It enabled me to spend the rest of the time there with a satisfied smile. I tried for Mona Lisa, and probably was closer to Alfred E. Neumann, but fuck it; either way the other mentors were likely to be disturbed…
5) just announced is a Milwaukee performance of Penn & Teller. We saw them last time through, 25 years ago. Later, Young Zombie became enamored of their Bullshit program (and kudos for learning about skepticism, and I think he has also learned to be skeptical about P&T themselves. Question Authority, you know?) and we saw them in Las Vegas, during a remarkable episode in which they called me up on stage and put my phone into a fish.
6) Mumford and Sons. Yea or Nay? Wife Sublime liked their rocking new song on Daily Show.
7) Future planning. Where should the Zombie Fam travel for the next vacay?
The Replacements were going to save rock ‘n’ roll. They were part of the Holy Triumvirate of MPLS punk – along with Soul Asylum and Husker Du- and the latter two were both more serious and less informed of rock history. Huskers were speed punks, and Operation Pirner was intent on making rock fame. At the same time, The Replacements were both the quintessential “we don’t give a fuck” punks and still they managed to figure out how to play an amazing array of covers. The simultaneously didn’t give a shit, and still gave a shit. They all played the same clubs, and the ‘Mats were pretty much banned from all of them… The still managed to release some albums, titled “SORRY MA FORGOT TO TAKE OUT THE TRASH” and containing stupidity like songs entitled “Fuck School;” And yet, and yet….
An Album named Tim. The first time I played it, I fucked up and played side two (you youngsters, check out the museums to see what “albums” were, and what difference the sides made, and why it mattered) And the first Replacements song I ever heard was Bastards of Young, and the third was Left Of The Dial and my silly stupid brain was almost instantly re-wired and last night when the first guitar cranks of Left Of The Dial were played, I felt the same tingle up my spine that I did thirty years ago and I sang all the long forgotten lyrics and teared up and hugged my wife and….
Tim was produced by Alex Chilton. [oops] If you don’t know that name, shame on you , and check out Big Star and then check out the documentary. The subsequent album by the ‘Mats included a song named Alex Chilton and did they play the hell out of it last night? I guess they did. “Never travel far/ without a little Big Star” The Replacements were poised to save Rock n Roll. \ I will go back to my old “songs that made me Zombie.” They had the ears of the critics, but never cared enough to play as if they cared. Westerberg was a compelling front man but sometimes could hardly care enough to remember the lyrics, let along be sober enough to deliver them. The first time I ever saw them Chris Mars the drummer played in crappy clown makeup, and Westerburg was so drunk that for the encore he came out and had to have a chair to allow him to play a weird medley of “Skyway” and “Fuck School”. The Replacements amalgamated the best of rock and roll history: R&B, Rolling St0ones, The Who, The Ramones, The Fugs, and every drunken garage band who never made it anywhere. They distilled all of that into a package and, at the end of the day, never gave a shit if it made it anywhere. The central concept here is that they never gave a shit. They got so drunk that Saturday Night Live banned them. They never forgot that rock and roll was meant to be raw and unrestrained and sloppy and kind of dangerous. The kind of thing that was likely to make your daughters lose their virginity Rock and Roll was supposed to be the Kingsmen and not Bandstand. It was supposed to be DIY. Garages. The Replacements were the band that were able to save rock ‘n’ roll. The got too drunk to play SNL and then they broke up. They got to the point of being too great to be denied, And they fucking declined. Because there was nothing more punk than to do that. Because rock and roll was no longer able to be saved. Hold my life, indeed. I might just lose it, I might just be ready to use it.,…Save my life, I love the Replacements. And last night, they were sublime indeed. Mixing many of their own sloppy punk past, in with a random sampling of cover songs… The Replacements are no longer able to save rock and roll. But they are still able to make it vital. I walked out of the venue sore in feet and back, and the only thing I could think is one of my favorite lines from another MPLS band: “there’s a ringing in my ears thats heaven sent” Going to sleep, so good….
So. That Happened.
Yeah, I mentioned that my robotics team won a regional in Chicago, which I could not attend due to work loads. So we got to go to the Big Show in St. Louis; and I wasn’t going to miss it, so between bus wi-fi and phone hotspot, I kept work alive (also with a contract colleague who kept some things going). It was much fun and I have much to say, but first I want to back up a bit….
OK, Wife Sublime has been part of this team since it’s inception; I joined after two years. This is the seventh year. My first year, I knew nothing of robots, but I knew about tools and construction and project management and the design process. Not to mention teaching taekwondo gave me a handle on working with kids and teens… so I became the lead mentor for design and construction. The first year, we managed a robot with NO drive train issues – no broken chains, lost wheels, burnt motors. A big step up. The second year, we managed to have a competitive robot that placed 22nd in a field of 60. The next year, we had a disruptive year, and WS and I were unable to be fully focused on the competition because her sister died and we went to the funeral during the Regional; we also had a disruptive mentor that made the rest of the competition dysfunctional, and we couldn’t help…
That year, we learned the importance of control of the schedule. We had allowed development of a mechanism go on far too long with no real progress, and it kept the rest of the progress delayed. So the following year, I developed a rough chart of progress, but more importantly a couple of triage dates where if something was not making progress, it would be addressed directly: discarded, modified, or allowed to progress.
That’s Matt, our team Captain and driver. He’ll pop up later in our story…
So anyway, in my first year, I became the Drive Coach, working with the drive team and helping to translate our team strategy not only into robot design, but informing the controls team and bringing that into the actual drive actions. And in the subsequent year, all those things came together; while our facilities and budget do not allow for the highly sophisticated robots some team launch, ‘Whatnot’ as we named the robot, was competent and robust and reliable and looked fucking great. And finally, our team was selected for the playoff rounds in Chicago. It was a team high water mark, and the robot is still functional, to be used for demos and such.
This year, we went into the season with great enthusiasm and high expectations. And strategy & design sessions went pretty well. Do you feel the impending drama? Do we have dramatic music playing yet?
Partway through the production process, I became concerned about the lack of progress on what we called the “chuck” – a mechanism to grasp the game pieces. I suppose I should have been cued in to the discord when the mentor assigned to lead the design and construction of this refused to call it the chuck, but insisted on saying ‘claw’.
At the same time, one of the programming mentors kept questioning many of the overall design decisions on construction of the robot, particularly in the case where I was looking for more robust construction – the element which allows for the robot to be reliable and free from constant repairs. Since turnaround times in the pits tend to be very tight, being free from repairs allows for focusing on actually improving the performance of the robot. I may only be a silly, drunken, zombarchitect, but that has been part of our success in the past couple of years…
At this point, we had a team meeting to discuss progress, and I was very concerned about the chuck mechanism. I pushed strongly-yes, aggressively and perhaps abrasively- for reconsideration of the concept, because we still didn’t have a real operative prototype or even design, and we were falling behind. As mikey has said, I am a Zombie of Strong Opinions, and I aggressively made my case, but the newer mentors thought everything was Just Fine and All and All would be Okay in Time…. I made my case and when it didn’t go my way, I expressed my concern and left. Yeah, it was a bad move, but I was the one that was in charge of the process and this was dangerous….
I confess that I was wrong; the team mostly managed to make a mostly workable chuck. But I was also right; the chuck was not ready on schedule, and we had no time for program debug or drive practice before we had to seal the robot and stop working on it. Although I had helped get the team to finish this robot, I had created bad feelings among several mentors….
Yeah, I did. In my defense, those mentors apparently have not yet figured out how to work with team members and work through differing personalities. So in the next couple of weeks, we worked on several things (including creation of a new battery cart, which was assigned to one of the new mentors and frankly, what resulted was a piece of shit).
So we drifted on….
And the first regional hit. And the robot was not so bad, but the biggest problem was that both guys on our drive team were also doing stage crew, and they were exhausted, fatigued, and pretty crappy at driving. One of the other mentors angrily took me aside and all but told me I was the problem, but that we needed to create an opportunity for driving practice. It seemed obvious to me that the subtext was that if we could get a new coach to work with the team, everything would be cool…
So I worked in the shop to build a practice test-bed robot that they could work with. And did so, because I am damn good at getting things built, dammit. And after a sleepless night, where I couldn’t figure out a good way to repair the burned bridges (as well as figure out how to get my actual real paying work accomplished). I went in and told the mentor who wants to take over the team that I would be unable to join them in Chicago and thus, really didn’t need to be part of the practice.
Listen: After this brief discussion, his response was an enthusiastic “Cool!”
I worked my ass off that week, but kept up through social media, as we do. And when the team was selected near the end of the process, joining the second-seeded team, I was sitting at the dining room table with my ZomBook and doing work, while watching a shitty feed that had the tendency to insert ads at the most inopportune times. However, I got a text from Young Zombie well before the final match because the math indicated we were going to the Show. And when the matches were over, I scared the dog by Zomdancing….
So. In the subsequent discussions about the trip, it was revealed that after all that effort, I was not only to be not allowed in the pit, but that I would not be the drive coach either.
Ouch, fucking ouch.
Look, I know I am not the most Zig Ziglar type of guy. I consider mikey a good friend, and I still antagonize and taunt him on a continual basis (of course, he does the same to me). But I never hide shit. If I disagree, I will tell you. If I am upset, you will know. If my arm has fallen off, I will beat you with it. On the other stump, if I like you or think you are brilliant or really good at something, I will let you know in no uncertain terms. As Saint George Carlin once said, “he was just a very honest guy”. I recognize that as an architect that kind of makes me an outlier, but then, Mekons…
There’s a whole side-drama issue on this whole fucking thing between Wife Sublime and a Parent who conceals everything until they get their way.
We joined the team for an AMAZING sendoff at the school (who amazingly came through with some Ameros)
We took the bus and had some time to stop, so we stopped in Springfield at Lincoln’s home. It was very cool to watch high school students, mostly African-America, overcome their boredom, be much interested in the history of Lincoln . And the drive team decided they would buy the cheesy semi-top hats for themselves to wear on the field. Great to see them decide on their own mufti…
So we hit the stadium, and it was pretty awesome. For my part, I was satisfied to allow the team to enjoy the whole Big Time and I had no need on my part to be shitty about all the previous drama. We hit the Arch, and I folded myself into the funky little capsules for the second time in my life….
So here’s the thing. I helped drive this team to this point. And somehow, we have mentors who are able to ignore all of that; in looking at some of their photos of this trip, it is remarkable in the ability to not include my visage. I imagine that they will use Photoshop to further erase my memory….
Wife Sublime and I have managed to create, format and develop a world-class FIRST team. We are being shoved out. After getting back home early sunday morning, we talked over the whole shit show over several beers, and, yeah, the whole crappy drama thing is stupid. We are going to allow the others to do what they want….
During the Champs, the drive team came up to sit next to me for some matches. They said the pit was dysfunctional, mentors were yelling at each other, and they wanted me to join them on the field as Coach, partially in recognition that I have done so much but also partially that my involvement made for a better functioning team. I guess sometimes you need a hardass.
However, I knew better-this was not something that the Other Mentors would accept. So I ran it by the Teacher-Mentor and the look on his face while he scrambled to find reasons that it was unreasonable told me everything that I needed to know: I was persona non grata. I told him “Look, Chris, I would love to be able to let the Drive Team have their request, but fuck, if this is so difficult for you guys I have no desire to insert MORE drama into this shit show.” These mentors make a big show of allowing the students to make the decisions, but when the students decide something they don’t like, it’s time to clamp down.
The Teacher mentor as much as told me that the mentors with which I have problems are the more important, as they are connected to funding. And are younger. I guess I am Old and In The Way…
Don’t get me wrong. This was Several Functions of Awesome. My wife started this team, and I made it work; we taught many kids how to use tools and to use them well (OK, maybe well is a stretch). We developed the team and stretched it into new expansions and got it to a point where the teams that once mentored US now view us as peers. Out of the 60 or so teams in Wisconsin, we were one of eleven teams to make it the Championships.
I went out for happy hour with Zelmo, and we talked about this. One of the things we agreed about is that when you are on a team that is suddenly being successful, there are many people who want to elbow their way in. Back when it as all struggle and strife, we were on our own. OK. One of the other things we agreed upon is that I am an asshole in several interpersonal ways. OK.
So I am content to move on, and let much less qualified mentors take over. OK.
It strikes me that if I had focused my life on my professional life, or my martial arts work in lieu of this robotics crap, I would at least be a fourth degree black belt if not a fair bit more successful in my real life. It is likely that I really should pay more attention to those aspects…
and, considering that I recently received a Business Journal award for a project and am going to receive y fourth Mayor’s design Award for a project, I feel like the fact that my robotics team made it to the World Championships, with or without the acknowledgement of the newbies, makes me feel like this is a year of awards for me.
…or maybe for the Robotigers.
As I have posted, we are trying to get to St. Louis for the World Championships. Takes about 12 grand, all told.
We’ve gotten the registration fee of $5000 covered, but still need transportation and lodging and maybe a trip to the City Museum for the kids.
We are working on several angles for funding, but we need it by 4/21. For you stoners, we need it by 4/20.
The team worked so hard, and maybe they don’t want me along for the ride anymore, but that’s no reason these kids can’t experience some world-class success.
So, we set up a GoFundMe site to get a little gap financing. If you are able and willing to help out, I will see that you get a break in the upcoming zompacalypse. Paleo has already stepped forward, and is comped.
Thanks, you breathers.