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Monday, January 23, 2012

Every Little Thing She Does: The Police Saga and Tribute

While the rage in Britain had turned from The Beatles to The Rolling Stones, then to Led Zeppelin and ultimately, The Sex Pistols, a trio of older musically competent man-boys set out rule the Material World.

They called themselves The Police.

On drums, Steward Copeland drew on classically-trained licks, infused them with Reggae (and a driving snap-time personal metronome), and thus, designed a better beat with a cosmopolitan ethos setting off a vigorous pace. He is considered by Rolling Stone to be in the top 10 amongst the greatest drummers of all time (7th). (I'd say top 5...)

Essentially, The Police just played better than the average bloats thrashing about in the West End of London. To further the mix, Stewart's family connections (Miles Copeland III, I.R.S. Records founder) and band experiences with Curved Air, a once popular band, meant the rock beat was set; now, for a singer, songwriter, and a guitarist, to match the musical and business chops of Copeland.

Not to be outplayed, ever really (superego-id-ego stuff), was Gordon Sumner, a.k.a. Sting. He is underrated as a bassist, but likely, just as overrated as a songwriter, meaning: he did both equally well - and gave The Police the material it needed to grow from a faux-punk band to a record-setting popular rock band. (Below is a basic demonstration Sting's dual talents (songs and bass) in his classic brooding obsession song: Every Breath You Take, played more than any other in July and August of 1983 on MTV. As a youth, it was the theme song for a local radio station, Q101 out of Chicago.)



Guitarist Andy Summers gets overlooked as the combustible pairing of Sting and Stewart meant the eldest of the bunch, Andy, played a very flexible and transparent membrane between the two. He was like a dad influence without much fathering, instead, mostly rocking. Andy's chops on guitar were under-appreciated, as he could play subtle and a wide variety of licks flawlessly, never really showing off - as the solo was not much desired (Sting v. Stewart) in his playing. That said, Summers could do that, too - So Lonely, a classic Police show closer - was his time to shine.

The Police had only a handful of albums (and a bunch of greatest hits, reissues, box sets, that created a much larger discography), but they had a sound, and a range, that shone brightly in each record.
The best songs, frankly, were these:
  1. Roxanne, So Lonely, Can't Stand Losing You off Outlandos
  2. Message in a Bottle, Walking on the Moon off Reggatta
  3. Driven to Tears, Canary in a Coalmine, Man in a Suitcase, When the World Is Running Down... off Zenyatta
  4. Spirits in the Material World, Invisible Sun, Hungry for You, Too Much Information, Omegaman on Ghost in the Machine
  5. Synchronicity I and II, Every Breath, Tea in the Sahara, Murder by Numbers off their final studio release Synchronicity
In all, about 25 tracks (some not listed, obviously) are first-rate for anyone's listening pleasure. No argument really to be had. Others, had their quirkiness, off-putting sounds, or did not jive up. Every band has them - that's the process of music, and stretching.

From 1978, after barely knowing each other six months, they were to be on world tour by 1980, getting huge publicity that would make the current music idols and gods envious. It was a different time for the Police, for music, for the world, really.

Murder by Numbers (9/10/83)


Murder by Numbers' partial lyrics:

Now if you have a taste for this experience
And you're flushed with your very first success
Then you must try a twosome or a threesome
And you'll find your conscience bothers you much less

Because murder is like anything you take to
It's a habit-forming need for more and more
You can bump off every member of your family
And anybody else you find a bore

Because it's murder by numbers, one, two, three

It's as easy to learn as your ABC
Murder by numbers, one, two, three
It's as easy to learn as your ABC

Now you can join the ranks of the illustrious
In history's great dark hall of fame
All our greatest killers were industrious
At least the ones that we all know by name

But you can reach the top of your profession

If you become the leader of the land
For murder is the sport of the elected
And you don't need to lift a finger of your hand

By 1983, they put their final album together during fist fights, and childish and jealous rants. It would be hard to know - as no one directly connected wants to say what exactly caused it - but they outgrew the basic concept of the band. And stardom, travel, and musical directions resulted in their breakup at the height of their commercial success. (Their last album, Synchronicity, spent 17 weeks at the top of the American Billboard top 100 charts, interrupting Thriller's run.)

The album's title (Synchronicity) was inspired by Arthur Koestler's The Roots of Coincidence, which mentions Carl Jung's theory of synchronicity. Sting was an avid reader of Koestler, and also named Ghost in the Machine after one of his works. (Wikipedia)

But in synch, The Police were not. By 1984, the band was abolished but for a one-off attempt in 1986 that went nowhere. It took 21 years, aside from a few drink-inspired get togethers, before they would only see the light in 2007, or rather, the dollar signs. (To be cynical like Murder by Numbers.)

The things I remember most are haunting lyrics intertwined with a tight playing drummer and a ethereal guitar player. She wore a red dress; drove you to tears; when the world is running down; while every breath you take was inspired. We sent a message in a bottle and our SOS could be heard. And we all are Spirits in the Material World...Boom crash!!!

The saga is done, but the memory of their works are not forgotten.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Paying the Price of Forty: Education and Situation

While no one is immune to feeling out of place, or not amongst their friends, or surrounded by critics who would like nothing more than you not to succeed, or indeed, would find humor in your failure, you would like to believe educated minds would be otherwise. Or maybe, learning-to-be-educated minds is a better label.

This week has been one of those. Certain classmates, and places I've grown to visit, were not the friendly atmosphere I desired. Now, it did not result in overt conflict. Just...you get that gut feeling that you are the outsider, the outcast, and there in lies the bulk of the barrier.

Being comfortable with myself has been an issue for years. But it was getting better - really, not a problem. Sure it was not easy given the year of 2011, but that was an aside, a crisis to grow from, thus to my own development. Now though, I wonder, "what do these people really think?" It does not matter - unless - they provide grades, which I get to see later if they are really worthy of their titles.

Many times people are a bit too oft-putting when they expect a great amount of explanation of what writing is or is not. Or the tumultuous ride of breaking down what someone else said. Even as you know, and have said so, in a rather unambiguous way - through writing. Explaining it out loud, well, I still have some work on that.

I have not decided yet whether to go The Full Monty, leaving inhibitions to the lonely crackers down by river. (That's a mash-up of metaphors.) But, there is risk to that: many see me as the 40-year old putting back to academic sea without any map, or hope of making any real landfall. That the island of washouts is far, far more likely than successful navigation to a fruitful and flourishing paradise of my own visioning and construction.

Now, that is trepidation. The intrepid musings of someone probably caught between knowing more about what he does unconsciously (yet, conscious of it) while others meander around their abilities, consciously flawed, but also, consciously making little room for others doing, being, and expanding abilities in it.

The direct approach has never been too successful. Unless...we just talk together in some unsuitable setting - a bar, a gym, a greasy soup off some highway at four in the morn - there, in that moment, I'll tell what it really is. Not the philosophical high-mindedness that academia loathes to admit is never too far from being as useless as a religion without spirituality, or a life's work without true love.

No, instead I have to hide some intellect, or pretend, because people say, "if you were so smart...you wouldn't be here in a basic class." Really? Who are you, anyways?Whether titled, or hairless, like a deposed king in the 8th century, you are but a rocking dingy on a sea to essentially nowhere. All the best laid plans, and dreams of glory, will (and can) shatter in the course of a single life decision. I've see it - and done it, as most 40-somethings and beyond have.

Experiencing utter failure is wisdom's handmaiden.

As I approach forty, I get more looks of disdain or incredulity at being apart of the milieu that is the college experience. I suppose some figure me a loser, a slacker, a person that has paid no prices, or does not even know the cost. Admittedly, I did not do much of the leg work and long hours it would take (and will take) these scholars-to-be to become marginally-talented to an expert-to-a-bias some twenty years ago. But I'll suggest, that in a decade of time, I have paid more a debt or service to this present craft than many will likely be able to understand.

I have to pay more to prove that investment turns into a picturesque sunset just as I sail into a harbor that fascinates and enlivens me forward to a better destiny I often thought I should easily reach, but never saw a treasure map guiding me to it. While some will give over to religious exposure and decry anyone that will not go to that altar freely, and devotedly, I suspect my long-term still does not include me proselytizing to the lost masses (or the throng of people devoid of anything called a moral compass).

These are the thoughts, behind the simple utterances, as I sometimes wander, off-topic in the mind during my introductory courses. I want to add more; but the stares and the smirks just really put one in a public box. But that has to change - if I ever will overcome the conformational bias that is creeping into my mind.

By February, I must take the unknown heading I diverted from, first to assist a dying mother, then to make a go at college work, once again. By that, I mean, I must put out the final representation of six years of hard work.

The education and situation warrants it.

And my future depends on it.




Monday, January 16, 2012

Waiting for an Assignment: A Purdue 1st Week

As you probably guessed, I am an impatient sort. Waiting is not something I do well - it leaves me too much time to think, to mull, or otherwise, to wish things otherwise. (Can't imagine why.) Living in the moment is something I am still discovering anew without my mom's presence in this world.

That said, I have been relatively patient at the start of my first semester in 16 years. While I do the readings, and work better to do note-taking this time, I have been pressing to do something more active.

So I did.

I wrote a 3,000+ word research paper on mortgage-backed securities and the impending cycle of recession to hit China soon over the last few days. I explain the history of the American growth in housing, the hurricane that swallowed a few investment banks (Lehman, Bear, Merrill Lynch) and the investment boom that will shatter China's economic dreams very soon. The parallels are there - shadow banking, overconfidence, a need to make numbers (profits) - but the differences are present too: top-down China edicts and local corruption versus bottom-up hyper-driven consumerism in the USA with politicians buying votes; a growing and flexing of the muscles in China versus the stagnating perils of middle-class America. The long cultural desire to renew the power of traditional China versus the America whining that we were once (a very short while ago) number one, but now, are reaching for mediocrity.

This is a very informal analysis of the paper. I will post the link to the actual one later, after the prof offers a grade, or tells me to cut 1,000 words so she will not have to read too much. Or reorganize the thesis to be a very specific instance - which is a part of writing to satisfy a college template. Not much can be said in 1,500 words where you cannot delve into the back history. (Which I did exceedingly too much of, I presume in this paper, but cutting is easier than adding too.)

For my bet, pros and cons or for-against papers can be sliced and diced anyway you want them. Whether you take an economic, social norms, or ethical path, the audience can ignore it, no matter how fluidly you frame the argument. Long papers give you challenges of finding more data, supporting a pronged argument, and the quest for what is to come. Because, really, if you cannot surmise, or give an example of the destiny of humanity via the present problem discussed, what does it matter?

I write this too to satisfy the requirement of blogging. Not that it has ever been hard to put something down for me. Life misadventures, book reviews, movies, sports, economics, history, and whatever catches my wandering eye shows up in the blog over the past six to seven years.

But the real assignments will come soon enough. And I'll ferret out the details; flush out the crap I suppose still lives inside my ho-hum life; and determine what angle is appropriate given the templates that are a college writing.

Just be patient...

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

My Spin of a Bull Durham Quote: Crash Davis's Rules of Life


From the Movie Bull Durham

 Crash Davis: Well, I believe in the soul, the cock, the pussy, the small of a woman's back, the hanging curve ball, high fiber, good scotch, that the novels of Susan Sontag are self-indulgent, overrated crap. I believe Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone. I believe there ought to be a constitutional amendment outlawing Astroturf and the designated hitter. I believe in the sweet spot, soft-core pornography, opening your presents Christmas morning rather than Christmas Eve and I believe in long, slow, deep, soft, wet kisses that last three days.

My monologue version of this: Well, I believe in good sex, money for nothing, loud-ass music, and, as Americans, we all need an in-house masseuse issued to us once we reach 30. That the movies of Quentin Tarantino are overrated, blood and gore fests painted up to teach a moral - only i don't need that fucking lesson.  I believe happiness is a beer, a pizza, a kick-ass ballgame, and a woman that enjoys those things too. I believe George W. Bush acted alone; or at least, needed no real prodding to make his religion-inspired decisions. That the versions of the Bible are too many, like strippers name Chastity, or Destiny. I wish every day was Halloween. That a man's home is his goddamn castle, a baseball game is a holy experience, and all men need Viagra so three days of fever-pitched sex means a long weekend with a woman not named Chastity. And the Cubs will reach their destiny of holding up a World Series trophy some Halloween.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

College Acceptance and Attendance: A 2011 Memoir

Chapter 18 of My Life and Times at Purdue University
Engineering Mall at Purdue University
 The following is the letter (appeal) I used to regain admittance & financial aid to Purdue University.


Satisfactory Academic Progress Appeal
In reapplying and going to Purdue, my end goal is to put right a life that has twisted down many roads and came up short of the promise I held at a younger age, when youth is potential to be mentored, educated, and directed. The hope is this letter can explain my future plans and reveal the now better character that I often did not possess from 1990-1996, when I attended and graduated with a B.S. in Industrial Engineering.

Past is not Prologue
My first trek through the university system saw me abuse alcohol, skip class, refuse to deal with personal issues (father in prison, aunt controlling), and specifically, my lukewarm feelings about my major. I liked certain things – mathematics, management, finance, economic justification, and design – just not much on the thermodynamics, statics, material science, manufacturing processing, or electrical engineering. And my grades in those latter courses were abysmal. I squeaked out a 2.07 GPA. And so, I got my money’s worth out of the eleven semesters spent at ol’ Purdue.


In my ‘professional’ career, I did well enough in three jobs to continue to get more responsibility (project management), raises (twice), and opportunities to diversify my skill sets (technical writing.) However, I was seriously flawed personally. I ran through money like a pig does slop, made relationships like Napoleon – burning bridges behind me, and otherwise, behaved as if I expected to die young. (I attempted suicide in 1999 while in the U.S. Navy as a deck seaman wannabe OCS candidate.)


These things lead one to believe craziness is a family trait; or that, I couldn’t leave the fatalistic narcissism at the check coat station of Studio 54 in my unorganized, never-far-from-a-bender life. I made a bed filled with poor choices, complained a lot, listened to no one at all, and hurt the only woman I figured to romantically love, but could not have, given what I said to her because she rejected my woe-is-me shit. That last bit garnered me a stint in prison – an apple not far from the family tree.


I can’t say I immediately whipped about to a better state. It took me several years, different readings of self-improvement books (Hill, Maxwell, Robbins, Canfield, et. al.), my own book project, a family financial crisis turned medical emergency, to change the maladaptive behaviors long engrained, but changeable via what I was ‘college taught’, but never applied personally, in industrial engineering.


From 2005 to the present, I worked on a baseball history that is up at dcfpress.com, a currently mediocre website for an LLC I formed in March 2010. (Not a web guru.) I read hundreds of books and articles on baseball, downloading vast amounts of statistics too. Contacted people for images for illustration and edited (best I could) my own 750-page plus title. I had the intent to formalize for publication Bringin’ Gas & Dialin’ 9 in late 2010, however, family matters were at a fork in the road.


A Year in the Life
Most educated people (street or formal) can handle their problems. They can see an end path long before they start the hop from one choice to the other. My prior education was about options, changes, engineering a plan, designing for contingencies, etc. However, that usually means you have some resources and team players to forge your bridge from point A to point Z. As discussed, I left the road of wellness in the early 21st century, and a lost decade of career, firm relationships, and tangible resources in a watery depth of what we’ll call Davey Jones.


These are the highlights (and it does not do proper justice to my mother, Donna Mae Powers) of my last calendar year (September 27, 2010 to September 19, 2011):


o Mom has numerous cancerous masses removed from her abdomen: Sept 27 2010.
o Late October, mom’s state alters slightly as she cannot do basic math (she was a self-employed shop owner and bookkeeper.)
o Mom has emergency brain surgery (Nov 18 – metastatic cancer) and is not given much hope by the UIC doctors.
o Received my first professional writing gig in late October – completed, but Quarasan is unlikely to rehire given these issues.
o Mom admitted to VA home in West Lafayette in December. She attempts suicide (dementia) and sleeps rarely. They suggest I move her from the facility after only a week.
o Move again, to a Value Inn kitchenette in January 2011. Mom settles down a bit. Has mood swings. Schedule MRIs to initiate radiation treatment later on at UIC.
o Apply for her Social Security and SSI in late December and January 2011.
o I transport my mom to hospital, clinic appointments, etc. at least 30 times. Once took her from West Lafayette to Chicago for emergency room admit.
o Rehabs in a 115-year old dilapidated house that is facing foreclosure, while her sister ignores the gravity of the situation, no matter what I say to create options.
o November 15, 2010: Aunt blows up at my mom while I was not around, I take her in for the altered state she is in.
o I move out on November 19, 2010 taking a beat up car and computer to a Motel 6.
o Visited mom five times from her surgery to end of November. My car overheats - $700 estimated to fix – and I also take Power of Attorney of my mom’s affairs. I ostensibly take a car away from my aunt (moms) to continue to see my mom regularly.
o I move from a Motel 6 to a kitchenette. I move my mom to this new place. She cannot be left alone – as I find out when she turns a gas stove on while I deliver papers nightly as I have for 6 ½ years.
o Two more masses found in her brain. Radiation for two weeks. I managed her diabetes, psych drugs, high BP, and other meds. We eat in and out. Watch TV. Go to bookstores. Enjoy what we can do daily. (Jan-May 2011.)

o March 2011: Mom’s parent loan is nearing default. I get two doctors to fill out forms to nix this dilemma. Sallie Mae constantly irritates about this $1,000 debt. (While a $160,000 bill is due to UIC for the surgery.)
o I move in early August 2011. My original car (that overheated) was fixed. The fix lasted two weeks. I sell it for $250 (right on the highway) as a head gasket blew.
o My 5-year old found-in-a-junk-pile computer finally crashes. Spend $450 to replace.
o Rejected for admit to Purdue. Write letter. Then accepted last week. Contact a student about apartment – must clear the rental company’s hurdles. ($300/mo.) Applied for a clerical position creating brochures via job board. All last week.
o December 2010 – June 2011: I pay the IRS (back taxes), VA, Sallie Mae, Credit Acceptance, and Speedway what is owed them by my mom. JPMorganChase pursues legal end to foreclosure. Donna’s sister attempts three contacts, but does not apologize to me, or to her sister right.
o Car (‘99 Camry) is technically owned by Credit Acceptance. I’ve use it to keep an income – but the plates expired September 14, 2011 and they want $3,147 for the payoff. They refuse to transfer title (for registration) though I pay on it for my mom for 10 months.


This is my life. Moved four times, left behind personal items (books, clothes, and worn out assets), moved my mom three times while seriously ill, took her with me on my paper route for four months nightly. (She had mild sundowners too.)


I am not complaining about it now. I lost some battles. But my mom lost the ultimate war with cancer at 59, as her parents also did at age 60, and 64. Just relates the struggle of living as my karma came back around.


And it took my mother…that really deserved a better life. She worked 40 years for $4,600 in Social Security benefits that paid her funeral. That’s all she is to her former creditors – a number, and an estate she lacked.


Her legacy is me.


A Dream Deferred or Denied?
My dream is to complete a B.A. in Economics by the fall of 2014. I have to get grades I never have at a time when people’s trust in ‘economics’ or ‘the economy’ is sorely tested. I started my preparation for this career via books by Ph.D. economists and those schooled in Wall Street (Roubini, Krugman, Skousen, Lewis, Cassidy, Lowenstein, Smick, Rubin, Posner, et. al.) To put into context, I can’t name or cite an industrial engineering book I’ve read in a decade. Shows my interest. And my inner thinking.


The rationale is simple: to overcome my past, I have to put a future together in the present. Day by day, sweat the small details, and do the work. The degree is a stepping stone which hops toward an MBA program, if allowed, and if: my relationships, my spirit, my course work warrant further  consideration toward such higher learning.


It is a risk. Risk and reward – the supply of capital for the demand of a new venture of education, achievement, and career. In these tough and never safe economic times, people worry a person won’t pay off on their debts to them. Or that their own dreams will vanish under the auspices of a foolish banker, or an irresponsible credit seeker never intent on repaying what they owe, causing billions of dollars of storm clouds to brew, like 2008. Deferring money for the future (saving) is what many are doing now. I do so also – anti-Keynesian – yet, I have to put my chips in sometime – investment in rebuilding – Keynesian. As John Maynard once said, “In the long run, we are all dead.” So, I might as well take a calculated risk; enjoy the outcome; and, work hard to create a better humanity, a better life.


I am 39. When a Missouri haberdasher in his late 30s was deeply in debt, he managed by hook (and crook) to get to the most powerful position in the land: that of President of the United States. Harry S. Truman took us out of war, and saved potentially a million American lives while trading over 100,000 Japanese souls in dropping the A-bomb. Risk and reward at its cruelest means, and end. It took ol’ Henry Ford until he was in his forties to get a car company on track. His own dad didn’t think much of Henry’s plights. Seventh grade education be damned, Henry did it. (Ignore the ‘other stuff’…)


I can’t say that I’ll achieve their heights in my plights, but I have nothing left to lose in attempting to right my ship of fools to a fortuitous course that I denied for a decade, or longer: that of using my education and experiences, gained often through failing, to achieve more in these next two years than I did in the six in the 1990s. Time waits for no one – and I got goals to accomplish.


1. Publish at least two books while at Purdue University
2. Obtain GPA honors every semester – and work on a thesis paper (if only for myself)
3. Obtain an internship – to pay for school or seed money for the publishing business
4. Successfully run a publishing business – publish other authors, employees, profit, etc.
5. Establish good working relationships with professors – and learn, adding to my knowledge base
6. Take the GMAT and obtain admittance to a top MBA program in international finance
7. Mentor someone who is either wasting their talent, or on a bad road – teaching by example


I appreciate your review of my plan of study, finances, and other documentation. These things support the picture painted, and I whether I go next semester or not, I have at least been admitted back to Purdue. Six years ago, I had neither the courage, nor the story, to tell you to get back to this point on the road.


Thank You.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

The College Game: Time for Schoolwork and Teams


As I obtained the residual part of my loan today, I went into the bookstore and bought my last two course books. Cost: $330 plus. What did I get: an access card ($140), a lab book ($30) and a paperback Economics book ($143). The cost of education: priceless. Or so we are told.

I have been operating under the 'graduate school theory' of getting ahead (or don't get too far behind) on some the courses. Reading two or three chapters into the books. Setting up accounts, word documents for course notes, etc. The last time I was here, I never crack a book until a week into the course, if then. This time, I am operating from getting an A in the course, instead of shooting for Bs and Cs. (I actually did set myself up for failure some twenty years ago...) While I have not had to, I make a daily trek to campus, sit in the Union, and read, write, or somehow open up something that might help me before the classes start. Preparation and routine - that is what it is all about.

To use a tired sports analogy, the guys who win on Sunday, typically did their work Monday through Saturday to put themselves in the position for a team win. For myself, I am going to be proactive hopefully this entire rodeo in order to get As, instead of something else.

2012. By mid-year, forty years of age will be here. Some questions cross my mind. Can I learn how be a better time manager? Can I learn how to force myself to learn stuff I may not always see a need for, given prior experiences? Can I be refreshed and happy, when I am usually alone, and no longer fit the model of "typical college Joe?" Whom will join my support team?

The last one I have not talked about much in my life. A support team. My mom was pretty much my best and only member, so much so, that in my initial business formation agreement for DCF Press, I made her the responsible party in case something happen to me. With her passing, that falls under "things to review and change."

I've been looking for a while. Some guys I know or have met, have potential. Some more as supporting the cause or goal once I figure out how to generate inertia on my own. But I too need mentoring, or someone that sees what the road ahead needs from me before I can lock into that path. So right now, I think college could provide that if I meet one professor that is not closed off to helping someone such as myself formulate a business, or publish at least several articles/books of worth.

You got to have such a team to reach another level. Writing or writers need editors that see common mistakes and oversights. Coaches need coordinators to get parts of team to work like clockwork. Manufacturing managers need maintenance and production workers that impart the wisdom of their experiences on particular tasks to get it right. Even those financial wizards, need someone to point out the risks of doing deals that can generate a chaotic environment for a larger economic world.

By no means have I worked out the path to forming this team. It is just a start of that process.
To improve my plan, as always, I listen to courses, or people that might help:

John Maxwell is putting up a 4-part series:

1. Path Towards Success
2. Add Personal Value in this Economy
3. Become A More Effective Communicator
4. TBA

Its my way to build upon my thoughts. He's not the end-all, be-all on this, but he's accessible (and free) and is doable at this point.

As the cost of college is not without a price.

Time for a new day!