2017 Pride

I completed a number of projects in 2017 and started a few more. Setting goals and keeping an eye on the prize during the vicissitudes of daily life can be hard, but I’ve gotten better at it over the years (thanks mostly to my loving partner, Alison). I already mentioned stuff about my exercise routine, and posted about my exhibition of recent work (that opens today!).

Back in May I set some goals for the year while at the Wakonse Conference on College Teaching in Michigan. Here are my written goals:

I’m happy to say that I’ve worked to complete most of these items and even those I’ve not yet finished have been pushed forward. I’m glad, given how agitating 2017 was socially and politically, that at least in terms of family and my work I’ve been stable and focused. The results are things of which I am really proud.

Probably highest on my list is the publication of my essay On Scholarship: Empathic Attention, Holy Resistance. It appeared in SEEN Journal and explores the importance of attention in an environment of political vitriol and “fake news.” I hope you’ll pick up a copy and read it – it’s one of the best things I’ve written in years, and it shares space with artists and writers and thinkers I admire. I’m really thankful for the opportunity to have this piece out there.

A shot of the cover of the SEEN Journal and a copy of the first page of my essay. Above is a copy of The New Territory.

I am also super excited to be working on a piece for The New Territory. If you are a Midwesterner, you need to get this publication. I am working on a piece exploring the work of Joey Borovicka and adjacent ideas about interiority, Midwestern space, and solitude. I can’t wait to get it finalized and ready for the editors to sort through. Getting to write about key ideas and the work of others is very important to my identity as an artist and educator. I also just love being involved with publications like The New Territory and SEEN. They are labors of love and works of passion that really do the hard work of shoring up meaning, intellectual effort, and spiritual yearning.

I hope to continue this trend in 2018, as I’ve got the Promotion to finalize!

 

 

An Update on my February 2016 Resolution

Of the last 685 days (since my heart attack), I’ve worked out on 627 days, beginning the second week of April – those early months were light. I worked out exclusively under supervision by the Cardiac team at the University of Missouri Hospital. After 12 weeks of observed/monitored exercise, I was cleared for doing it on my own.

By September 2016 I tried to do a heavier workout every other day. In January of 2017 I began to do those workouts daily. I am up to 359 days (including today) of “full” work outs – 45 to 60 minutes of elevated heart rate and an average of 4.6 miles of walking/running. Maybe that doesn’t seem like much. Even to me it doesn’t seem like a lot… but when you factor in my medications and how they change my energy and recovery, as well as the time it takes to get to and from the gym, shower, coordinate schedules with my wife and kids and teaching… yeah, it’s a major commitment.

In the past when I was more of an athlete and worked out consistently (before we started a family), my endurance and strength were much higher than they are now. But I’ve always been prone to overuse injuries – both rotator cuffs have problems from those years in my late 20s/early 30s when I lifted weights. Now I work on weight machines for only a small portion of my workout and try to keep impact to a minimum. I generally cycle through squats at 80% of my body weight (I press between 180 and 210 lbs), pectoral presses at 120, 100, and 80 lbs, curls at 100, 90, and 80 lbs, abdominal crunches at 150, and tricep presses at 150 and 130 lbs. The most important part of this work out is the squat portion, since my hips, knees, and ankles are pretty weak and painful. I’ve definitely grown in strength, endurance, and bodily comfort over the last year. I feel better than I have in 5 or 6 years.

Most of my workout time is spent walking, running, biking, or using an elliptical (I cycle through the different exercises over a few days). I also do some rowing and stair stepping from time to time.

So what’s the point of sharing this? I don’t have any big triumphs. I’m not reaching my ideal weight. I’m not prepping for a marathon. I’d be one of the first to be cut down in the Zombie Apocalypse. I still struggle with eating right (though we are mostly vegetarian in our daily diet as a family). I still love beer and carbs. I’m not sure that all of this effort is really helping me physically. But I do feel my awareness of my self and my experiences of living are more present in my mind these days. I do think it makes a difference for my heart health. Beyond all of this, though, the time spent working out is time for reflection and thinking about what interests me. It’s personal time. It’s mental health time.

Now if I could only manage to sleep more…

My End of the Year List for 2016

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End of year lists are jerky and predictable, and so I generally make fun of them while joining in. I almost always turn away from the year in question and just make a general ranking. I also like to make a list of material that’s been endlessly parsed already. Click on the linked songs to listen.

Today, I’ll be putting my own order on the nine studio albums of the great Led Zeppelin, a band I grew up hearing (one of my earliest memories is listening to records while standing against the Panasonic Thruster speakers my dad had). I’ll throw in a bit of commentary as I go. Happy New Year, folks!

Rank | Album Title | Order of Release | Release Date

9) Led Zeppelin I: 1st release – January 12, 1969

Key Track

  1. Your Time Is Gonna Come

8) Led Zeppelin II: 2nd release – October 22, 1969

Key Tracks:

  1. Whole Lotta Love
  2. What Is and What Should Never Be
  3. Bring It On Home

7) Houses Of The Holy: 5th release – March 28, 1973

HotH has a great opening quartet of songs; for me it is essentially tied with Zeppelin IV. Its drawback is a weaker second half, particularly (to me) Dancing Days and The Ocean.

Key sequence:

  1. The Song Remains The Same
  2. The Rain Song
  3. Over The Hills and Far Away
  4. The Crunge

6) Led Zeppelin IV: 4th release – November 8, 1971

This record is Zeppelin’s most well known. It’s classic and iconic, and always worth returning to listen to again. Four Sticks is, however, the real standout for me over time.

5) Led Zeppelin III: 3rd release – October 5, 1970

Obviously Immigrant Song is the most popular song here. But Track 5, Out On The Tiles, is my favorite. It’s all strut and bombast, much like Zeppelin was during this period of time. The stylistic development from 1968 to 1970 is mirrored across the songs of Zeppelin III. I especially love the weirdness of the final track, Hats Off to (Roy) Harper.

4) Coda: 9th release – November 19, 1982

I love Coda, a posthumous offering from Page and the boys. Basically a complication album made from unreleased tracks recorded during sessions for previous records, Coda shows how even the cast off bits from Zeppelin’s oeuvre were damn fine stuff. I really enjoy the opener (We’re Gonna Groove) and closer (Wearing and Tearing) of this fast-paced charge through the band’s years.

3) In Through The Out Door: 8th release – August 15, 1979

I am a sucker for the ballad/love odes All My Love and I’m Gonna Crawl on this album. But the epic core of In Through The Out Door is Carouselambra. This 10 minute powerhouse is a journey all its own. It retains its energy and over-the-top spectacle, and it sits next to Kashmir and The Song Remains The Same as an example of the real creativity and showmanship of Led Zeppelin.

2) Physical Graffiti: 6th release – February 24, 1975

Physical Graffiti was my main Zeppelin choice during my teens and early 20s. If I could go back and hear Kashmir completely fresh again I’d do it in a second. So many great memories… Also huge for me are In My Time of Dying, In The Light, and The Wanton Song.

1) Presence: 7th release – March 31, 1976

My go-to Zeppelin album over the last decade or so has been Presence. It is huge, sweeping, and doesn’t shy away from a kind of nerdy excess that would eventually be the realm of Prog Rock. In the 1970s they made most of this stuff without irony, and so the Genesis, Yes, Camel, ELO and King Crimson (etc, et al) albums of the 70s were earnest. In Presence there is a seriousness that, perhaps, earlier records didn’t always have. To me, you just can’t get more quintessentially Zeppelin than For Your Life, Royal Orleans, and Nobody’s Fault But Mine. It’s just about perfect.

Key tracks:

  1. Achilles Last Stand
  2. For Your Life
  3. Royal Orleans
  4. Nobody’s Fault But Mine
  5. Candy Store Rock
  6. Hots On For Nowhere
  7. Tea For One

Have you seen the bridge?