Saturday, September 01, 2007

Hurry up and wait

Here's some general news about what's happening in my life. There will be no encyclopedic treatises on musicology this time. I know I've written about music a lot, and will again in the future. It is after all a major presence in my life.

I'm taking a short break from writing about music. I'm glad most of you seemed to enjoy my epic breakdown of 1980s music, and thanks for your own insights.

It sure beats writing about my other professional field, accounting! Would anybody like to know about how pipeline inventory accounting works. Anybody?

I hear crickets chirping.

What follows is just general stuff:

In case you didn't know (how could you not?), Wendi and I are expecting a baby boy. Soon. Thursday was the due date. Both of us, especially Wendi, are beyond ready for Simon's arrival.

But the kid is stubborn, just like his parents. Wendi has been having increasingly intense and frequent Braxton-Hicks contractions for some time now, but there has not been any definitive sign that labor is imminent. The irony is that we've educated ourselves thoroughly on the ins and outs of child birth attended many hours of childbirth classes, consulted several doctors, talked to numerous experienced mothers and read half a dozen or so books; we still don't have a clue as to what is happening! Heck, Wendi knows better than I do what's happening in her own body. A lot of times she describes some-or-other sensation she's having and I can only mumble in agreement, because I'm not female and have no idea what she's talking about.

I think we both feel it's time for this ripe bean to come O.U.T. Wendi is increasingly miserable. Particularly in the past month, aches, pains and cramps have multiplied exponentially. Poor girl! I am doing what I can by giving her lotion rubs and massages daily, as well as moral support, but of course it's not enough. Only popping that kid out will bring any real relief.

Yesterday evening we thought Simon was on his way! We dined at a little Vietnamese restaurant up the road that we discovered shortly after moving to our new neighborhood a couple of months ago. We had almost made it through a plate of egg rolls when Wendi's face scrunched up, her eyes widened and she said "oooooo!"

As I said before, I'm not female. I can't tell what she's feeling. I must rely on her descriptions of what she's feeling, and her body language. "This feels different," she said, slightly out of breath -- meaning it wasn't a typical, common Braxton-Hicks. I hated to see her in pain, but I think that we were both excited that it might actually be happening.

The contraction faded after a few minutes, but by the time the waiter had brought Wendi her plate of pepper shrimp, she had already had another. Which was followed by another. By this time she had lost her appetite (which was a shame -- the shrimp was very tasty) and left the restaurant to wait in the car while I hurredly scooped our food into boxes and settled the check.

We kept joking with each other that it was the spicy food that caused it. If palates really do develop somewhat in utero based on the food choices of the mother, as I've read, then Simon will definitely crave hot peppers, green Tabasco sauce, curry, Mexican food, Vietnamese food and Thai food. We definitely like some kick to our meals.

Sadly, no baby last night. The four or five regular contractions ended almost as soon as we arrived home. So now it's back to playing the waiting game. The past three weeks, since Sy has been officially full term, has seemed to last almost as long as the entire preceeding eight months.

This won't go on much longer, though. Wendi's next doctor's appointment is Tuesday. If the baby hasn't come by Thursday, she will be scheduled for an induction next weekend. We hope it doesn't come to that, but either way this means that there will be pictures of Simon posted on this blog within a week or so. So stay tuned!

My job at TransMontaigne is so-so. I've gained a lot of invaluable knowledge and experience at my new position for the last ten months, and I am very glad that I work with the accounting group that I do -- my boss Nick is a genuinely nice guy and he's very smart and good at what he does. Most of the problems I have with the company are with the organization itself, or lack thereof as it were. The corporate culture is of a notoriously chauvanist, good-ol' boy sort. Fiefdoms and petty rivalries abound there.

And the stories I could tell you about our trading group, the type-A personalities who trade petroleum futures and contracts all day on the NYMEX exchange! These guys think the that the company exists for them, and them alone... which I guess it kind of is. See what I mean? Jerks, all of them... as I am fond of saying, they are not paid for their kind dispositions and sunny personalities. They are paid as they are because they make money.

On to music. I haven't really recorded any music or done much writing at all for nearly three years, for various reasons -- college, estrangement from/reconciliation with my beautiful wife, financial difficulties, all too many moves, and now an imminent baby. Entire seasons have gone by with me barely touching my guitar.

After we moved to Englewood, I decided that I really need to accomplish something musical this year. I forced myself to start playing regularly again, and we bought a 12-string guitar recently on a whim. In short order I found some inspiration coming back... it's funny how the muse never really goes away and can be awakened again with a little bit of effort.

There were times in the past couple years when I felt like I just couldn't write music anymore. Ideas would be tossed aside, forgotten or half-baked and left for dead. Sometimes I didn't have much focus and when I did try to concentrate I often was stymied by a lack of ideas and frustrated that I couldn't finish the ones I had. Most of all, I often just couldn't work up the motivation to sit down and write something.

It's funny how it works. I've always thought that anybody can write a song. They do take effort, concentration and willpower to create, but some of the best ones I've ever written have just popped into my head out of nowhere -- a fragment of melody, a chord change, a chorus, a line of lyrics or sometimes just a song title -- while I was hiking, or doing the dishes, or something equally unrelated to music.

I don't know where this stuff comes from, nor do think that I'm specially blessed. Long years of appreciation, practice and love of music have just allowed me to listen to and follow my ideas where they lead... sometimes. On a good day. I'm nobody special and I've had my own fallow times and failed experiments with music.

Anyway, I've now written about twelve songs for what I'm planning to be a full length "album" of almost completely acoustic music... just me and my guitar for the most part. The songs are mostly introspective and more than a third are purely instrumental. Sometimes a piece of music just doesn't need words to make a statement, and I've really enjoyed having a 12-string guitar for the first time in my life. I want to show it off, as well as my new set of bongos.

This is an ambitious project, given the limited amount of time I have. Heck, I will have a new son to take care of, and my job ain't getting any easier. But I need to do this, and I think people might even enjoy listening to it. I don't record songs that I don't want to enjoy listening to. I've got all the gear and software I nead, and recording will allow me to learn Sonar (my exceedingly, indimidatingly complex recording/mastering software) the way I've been telling myself I will for the past two years, since I've had my computer.

I'm not doing this for money. I don't care about being famous anymore. That stuff is all a racket, anyway. I'm doing this because... well, music is what I do! If that's tautological, so be it. Music is a passion in my life. I will never, ever give it up for any reason, as long as I draw breath (and as long as I have fingers to play).

And now, movies. Since we moved, we've been going to see a movie every other weekend or so, among them Sunshine (an intense science fiction thriller), The Simpsons Movie (very, very funny and just as bitingly satirical as the TV show, though I utterly tired of the marketing campaign behind it), and today we saw Sicko.

Uh oh.

I know what you might be thinking: "Here goes Matt again on one of his political tirades." No, no. I'll save that for later. Sicko is a documentary made by Michael Moore about the U.S. health care industry. Whether you love Michael Moore (he's one of my personal heroes) or hate him should not prevent you from seeing this movie, which I believe to be his best.

Michael Moore has an undeserved reptutation as an America-hating, left wing extremist. He's been painted that way for a long time by the right, and though I thought Farenheit 9/11 was rather shrill in a preaching-to-the-choir sort of way, I was happy that he had the guts to make that movie.

I don't think Michael Moore hates America at all. I think he wants to see it become a better place. What could be more patriotic? He's only anti-American if you consider dissenting from the Bush administration/neoconservative agenda to be equivalent, which I don't. Watch his conversations with average Americans in his movies and then tell me how much he hates America.

One quality that makes Sicko so powerful is that the stories it tells are mostly not of people without health insurance, but of people who had health insurance that failed them spectacularly. I think most Americans would agree that our current health care "system" is headed for a train wreck in the near future, or at least that the system as it exists now is grossly ineffecient, unfair and wasteful. For all the talk of a market-based system being the most inherently effficient one, we have tens of millions of people with no health care at all, and large corporations with a manifest interest in providing less health care to control costs.

These are fundamental flaws in the capitalistic, corporate model we currently use to provide healthcare to Americans, and other countries do it better and more cheaply. The current system cannot continue for much longer. America is losing its competitive edge to the rest of the world. No amount of flag waving and singing of anthems will change that. You want America to be the best country in the world? Listen to people like Moore. And me, of course.

But don't take my word for it. See Sicko for yourself. It is Moore's most compassionate and least shrill movie -- though there is plenty of sarcasm and more than a few of his trademark absurd moments -- and at the very least it will make you think, even if you disagree with some or all of it. Check out his website here.

See? He's not some raving monster after all! He's a very funny and compassionate guy. There should be more patriotic Americans like him :-p

That's all for now. Look for baby pictures soon :-)