Self Portrait

not as i am, but
the way i’d like to be seen
(by myself most of all)

any resemblance
to what you think you know
is just a tactic in support of that strategy

surprises couched
in the comfort of preconceptions

the bald head
and general roundness
somehow make the rest more believable

i never imagined he was
such an accomplished musician

the bass makes sense
he was always preoccupied with rhythm

and will you overlook the exaggerations
of my virtues
or at least forgive them
if i overstate my vices?

i will show them here
like a badge of honour
like scars from not yet rumoured duels

such honesty
you will say
so brave

not at all
i will say

and that will be the only truth i tell you here

© Mark Milner, 2019

Back to school

Tonight I’m starting bass guitar lessons again, with a new teacher. The last one, a  good musician but only a fair instructor, was frequently late, occasionally a no-show, and almost always smelled bad. Here’s hoping tonight’s is better.

My goals, having fumbled around with my chosen instrument for a few years now, are somewhat different than they were then. My main objectives are:

  • Improve my right-hand technique
  • Learn some useful exercises
  • Begin to understand theory in a less theoretical fashion – mainly by learning about the construction of the songs I want to play

As for songs, the ones I’d like to learn – my ineptitude notwithstanding – are almost uniformly old (like me!) but covering a range of styles. Some bluesy rock (Cream, Led Zeppelin), some post-punky pop (Joe Jackson, The Police, The Talking Heads), some old-school hard rock (Thin Lizzy, Black Sabbath).

Maybe, someday, I’ll feel confident enough to add prog rock (Yes, Rush), early metal (Iron Maiden) or jazz (Marcus Miller). Maybe, but I’m not counting on it.

Of course, my new instructor may have other plans, and if they seem reasonable I’ll follow them instead.

Ideas for possible future blog posts

50 Shades of Beige (or, life in a corporate veal pen)

Two Wheels, or Not Two Wheels? (Definitely the former)

Back to bass-ics 

Strung out (or misadventures of a middle-aged guitar novice)

Today in Not-politics: 500ish words that have nothing to do with Trump

And now for something completely different

Enough of politics! (At least for now…)

The longer I live, the more I believe it is important to have a wide diversity of interests, hobbies and pastimes. For many years, now, I have ridden motorcycles. Learning to ride – which I am still doing, really, after more than ten years – has been an extraordinary journey, one made up of dozens of smaller journeys. It. Hasn’t always been fun. For example, crashing a few years ago. But even with that, I wouldn’t give it up willingly, and I’m glad I decided to learn it in the first place.

Learning new things and acquiring new skills is one of my chief enjoyments in life. That’s why a few years ago – shortly before crashing my motorcycle – I bought a bass guitar. It’s why I recently bought an electric guitar – so I can learn both together. (If I had a bigger place and more money, I’d probably get drums, too.) It’s why I love to read, to watch documentaries (and films generally), and to attend lectures and exhibitions.

Learning about new places is the best part of traveling. When we went to Morocco a few years ago, I tried to pick up a little Arabic and Berber, partly to amuse our guides and the locals, but mainly because it was fun to learn. Traveling on the motorcycle is like that, too, even though I’ve only been places where a version of English is spoken. Learning to find my way around, though, is a lot of fun, especially if I’m on my own and only have paper maps to go by.

A while back I started to develop an appreciation for baseball, too. I don’t think there’s a professional sport more given to arcanity than that. Learning the different types of breaking balls a pitcher can throw, the infield fly rule, why – generally – you don’t bunt with two strikes: this all takes time to acquire, to say nothing of the history you learn from announcers as you watch the game on TV.

I don’t quite know what it is that makes learning so fun for me. I know not everyone shares this passion for knowledge acquisition. In fairness, though, they may just have different things they like to learn about. Woodworking, knitting, quadratic equations. Different strokes, right?