Category Archives: Potpourri

George Carlin called them “Brain Droppings”. Random thoughts, updates and observations separate from the historical narrative of “The Latest Installment”

I’ve been thinking a lot about Veteran’s Day and I can’t be more honest than to admit that I will never understand what our servicemen and women or their families experience or how it feels to have been through one or more tours of duty.

I can say, however, that I have seen, first-hand, the damage combat can do to people. I had one friend return from Desert Storm profoundly changed by his experience and so deeply disturbed that he genuinely frightened me. And then I have another friend who returned relatively unscathed.

The closest I ever came to military service was obediently submitting my Selective Service form when I turned eighteen. I felt no obligation to serve and was grateful that I never had to (although I likely would have if called).

So, what do I feel about this holiday? Well, I used to work in a VA hospital and I remember seeing lots of patients waiting for treatment in clinic after clinic as I walked through. I don’t believe we (as a country) fulfill the promises we make to our veterans. I am also embarrassed when I witness someone taking their frustration toward an administration’s policies out on the individuals who serve. We are all in this together!

No, I can never fully understand what it means to serve, but I do appreciate the difficult, vital and unique work our servicemen and women do to protect and preserve our way of life AND I AM GRATEFUL FOR YOUR SERVICE; NOT JUST TODAY, BUT EVERYDAY.

My Old School

OK, a couple generations may have passed, but this is still my high school and it’s STILL the home of some of the most talented kids on the planet.

Here is the official entry for the Trib Total Media Lip Dub Contest for 2014. Voting begins next Friday (11/14).  If your high school isn’t in the running for this contest, please vote for this video (Thomas Jefferson High School). Can I get a ‘whoop-whoop’?

Pardon our dust

I know I haven’t posted anything in a while and for those of you who have been following the South of France thread, there’s one more installment in the works that includes our drive around the Saint Tropez pennisula (talk about yer twisties!).

For those of you who have been following the autobiographical thread (The Latest Installment), I got stuck in the doldrum years after getting together with Donna and before I started writing and playing regularly again. (To me, it’s boring. But, I can’t explain where I am without telling you how I got here so I promise to write it down.)

The truth is, I’ve been busy with the more mundane activities of life (I’m sure  you understand) and have had to travel often and unexpectedly. That’s the reason I cancelled my last show and why I haven’t booked any others.

But…I have been playing and even writing a bit. I’ve got enough rough mixes of new material for about half an album and that’s WAY ahead of the pace of WORK IN PROGRESS (which took me about ten years to finish/surrender). Most of my practice time over the last month has been finger-picking (classical and some folk favorites) so I offer you this Simon & Garfunkel classic as a particular favorite of mine and a topic that has been on my mind as I crossed the half-century mark this spring.

“So…I continue to continue to pretend my life will never end and flowers never bend with the rainfall.”

 

I’ve been given a songwriting assignment. My task is to write a few songs about greyhounds (dogs, although references to busses and highway travel may figure into the mix too). I’d love to have your thoughts on this (particularly  those of you who have known the ‘joy’ of greyhound ownership).

I’m looking for sound bytes I can incorporate into lyrics. I’ll take anything from rhyming couplets, literary imagery, anecdotes, truisms, limericks, pictures, poems, memories…anything that will resonate with greyhound owners or dog people in general (melodic ‘roo-ing’ for example).

And if you already have a song, please share that with me. I’d love to hear it and with your permission, I’ll add it to my repertoire.

Funny…Frustrating…Maddening…Sad…Sweet: Help me convey all the dimensions of sharing our lives with these quirky, lovable creatures.

The ultimate goal is to put a show together for next year’s Dewey, DE Greyhounds Reach the Beach event in October. I promise you’ll know in advance if I’ve used your contribution. I’ll even share the copyrights with you.

Oh yeah…. And if you’re looking for a world-class companion, you really can’t do better than a retired greyhound. The smallest big dog you’ll ever love and the world’s only bonefide 40mph couch potato.

Thanks everybody!!

The Frets On My Guitar

I posted the lyric to this song a couple weeks ago, but only got around to recording it today. The mix is rough and I could edit lots of things, but wanted to share it in its raw state.

I hope you enjoy it.

The Frets On My Guitar (c) Words and music by Dr. Ken Miller 2014 All Rights Reserved

Dr. Ken

Auditioned a new song for Donna today tentatively titled “The Frets on My Guitar”. (I know, another punny title, but you’ve come to expect that, right?)

It made us both cry so I guess it hit its target. She says it’s good. I even inserted some prurient jazz chords (m9, 6/9, etc.) I just have to find time to record it….

Here’s the lyric.

A million wrongs to a thousand souls, I cannot make them right.
Yet, in the silence of my mind, they wake me in the night.
Nocturnal worries, they compete for attention like baseball bats on cans.
The dissonant reminders of a million abandoned plans.
I’m forced at last to accept the obvious; I’ve peaked, there’s no going back.
I recognize the downward slide. It’s a biological fact.
I used to believe I lived in a world that was big enough for me.
Plenty of room to walk away rather than disagree.
Whenever I didn’t like where I was, I packed up and walked out of town.
But I’m older now and feel somehow that I may have walked clear around.
The land I’m in is scorched and bleak. It feels like I’ve been here before.
I never thought I’d be coming back searching for something more.
(chorus)
I don’t want to hide in the maze.
I don’t want to rant and rave;
Don’t really want to make waves,
But I will not waste a new day.
It’s too late for a family, too late for new friends and I’ve already forsaken the old ones.
Too many loose ends, too many pretends, too many “doings” and not enough “dones”.
Oh, what’s it like to be happy? I’ve never really known.
I don’t even know just what I want. I just know that I want to go home.
I don’t know what would fulfill me or whether it would last.
What is it I’ve still got to learn by dwelling on the past?
I am compelled to be dark, tragic and somber. I’ve never understood why.
Will I carry this feeling of impending doom until the day I die?
I’ll suffer and wither and fade and fail. A waste of this gift of life.
But every time I think to complain, I’m reminded that misery is rife.
In search of the undefinable, I circle endlessly.
Neither reaching conclusions nor self-discovery.
(chorus)
I don’t want to do what I’m good at…don’t know how to do anything else.
I’m too far away from my childhood and not close enough to myself.
I need the comfort of fellowship, but don’t know where to begin.
Hiding in verse is my usual way of getting out what’s in.
Some are driven to distraction, but drive IS the distraction for me.
I’ve been driving myself since I was a child ’cause I really don’t know what to be.
We toss & turn through unending nights and fret compulsively.
For, without struggle, we have no point. Still, we owe ourselves clemency.
So I meet with the dawn, leave the darkness behind and keep fixing what is broken
I’ll fight for my causes, accept wins and losses and isten as well as I’ve spoken.
I do believe we all feel these same feelings from time to time
We struggle, we cry, we win, we lose, we commiserate in rhyme.
(chorus)
I don’t want to die in a maze.
I don’t want to rant and rave.
I don’t really want to make waves.
But I will not waste a new day.
No, I will not waste a new day.
I. Will. Not. Waste. A. New. Day.
Today.

BEFORE EVENING FADES
Doctor Ken (c) Ken Miller 2014
June 6, 2014

I find my views changing over the years
Not so unlike those of my peers.
Trust is eroding and far less abundant
Pundit? Incumbent? It all seems redundant.

Is the world so much different or is it just me?
I thought growing older would start making things easy.
I feel like I’m struggling now more than ever
And it’s not enough for me just to be clever.

There’s a paradox of political power
And a reason why leaders so often go sour.
Candidates are rewarded for glossy perfection.
Why are we shocked when they lie after election?

I am falling into a timeless abyss
And this sense of foreboding I cannot dismiss.
Battered and tired, but my mind still rages.
Courageous or outrageous, I hope it’s contagious.

The view is quite narrow from under a rock.
It all looks the same
From the dove to the hawk,
The geek and the jock,
The shepherd, his flock,
The sneer and the gawk,
The slam and the knock,
The toe and the sock,
The walk and the talk,
The boat and the dock,
Van Halen and Bach.

So, crawl out (if you can) and look cross the land.
We’re all smart enough to build a new plan.
The world’s too small to just draw the shades.
You’ve got to get out there before evening fades.

Well, tomorrow I make my international début here in the south of France. The organizers have rented two guitars for me (12-string and 6-string acoustics) so I didn’t have to fly mine over, All I had to bring were picks, capo and harmonicas.

I’m pretty comfortable with my sets. Lots of my favorite tunes. Hoping to get everybody in a good mood. Thinking happy thoughts.

Bonne nuit mes amis.

I’ve added the two songs I wrote in 2004. These songs mark a transition for me into material of higher production standards, but fewer ‘simulated’ instruments. So, if you had the feeling that the earlier songs left something to be desired in terms of professional qualities, I would agree.

Check them out if you have the chance. I’d appreciate that.

“Photographic Memory”: The names have been changed to protect me.
“My Greatest Fear”: The most personal and stark autobiographical song I’ve ever written about the most terrifying thing that has ever happened to me.

Meanwhile at WVU

There is one anecdote about WVU that I haven’t yet shared: In Chapter 8 I wrote about my trip to California on a Triumph Bonneville, but I didn’t explain what happened back home in my absence.

Although I timed that trip to coincide with spring break, graduate students don’t get spring break off (or vacation of any kind, for that matter). True, there are no classes, but that doesn’t mean the university is closed or the labs are inaccessible. We were still expected to continue our work (or actually accelerate our pace given that we weren’t going to class that week). Nonetheless, I decided to take the week off.

I did not have a particularly amiable relationship with my advisor and chose not to tell him I was leaving town. I just figured I’d do whatever damage control was necessary when I got back.

My roommate and my friends/lab mates joked that they were going to tell my advisor that I really was there and if he was looking for me, they’d say “he was just here a minute ago, you just missed him” or “I think he’s at [a location that you are not]”.

I thought they were just pulling my leg, but when I got back, my roommate told me they HAD actually lied to my advisor all week and he really DIDN’T know I’d been gone.

I’m still not 100% sure they really did this, but I never mentioned it to my advisor and he gave no indication that he knew I’d been gone, so I left well enough alone.