Monthly Archives: September 2016

The Devil Is In the Details

Today was an exciting day in Ancapistan: I made my first Forex demo trade today.  Does that seem fairly unimportant?  It’s not.  This is probably one of the most important days of my year, actually.  I have been working for six and a half months to get to this crucial point.  It’s a big fucking deal.

I haven’t made all that many comments about my quest to learn how to trade currency because, well, I’ve frankly been afraid that I’d jinx myself.  My main fear was that I’d lose motivation and never get to the point of even demo trading and backtesting, let alone making a real trade with my own cash.  I guess I just didn’t want people to think I was delusional about the reality of currency trading and talking out my ass or something.

The reality of currency trading is that it isn’t that hard to learn, per se, but there is a lot of information out there about it to parse through.  Some of it is good information.  Some of it, well… Some it is crap, to be perfectly honest.  There are websites and forums for retail traders – places where they can exchange trading strategies, thoughts on brokers, feelings about trading, etc.  (If you think feelings about trading aren’t important, think again, and read on.)  There is one terribly important thing to remember about trading as you read through the forums, though: trading, by nature of what it is, attracts certain types of people, and those people don’t always have your best interests at heart.  In fact, it’s safe to assume that they don’t.

A fine example is Forex Peace Army.  As far as I can tell, it was long considered to be just about the best place to go to get honest reviews of brokers and where brokers could potentially defend their reputation.  I enjoyed reading reviews on FPA because, frankly, the government makes it very difficult for US citizens to find a good offshore broker who will take them.  If you want to know my thoughts on government involvement in the markets, that’s for another post (spoiler: GET THE FUCK OUT, UNCLE SAM!!!!), but when it came to light that FPA was accepting money from brokers to pad their reviews, it was disappointing.  But not unexpected.  You have to expect that sort of thing in the Forex world.

Nobody is your friend.  The guru whose word you would follow to the blowup of your account?  He’s not your friend.  That dude on the forum who seems like he knows everything and can recommend a great broker?  He’s not your friend.  For all you know, he is the broker!  The broker ain’t your friend, either – market maker brokers least of all.

So getting good information is your first worry.  Learning that information is the next step, and that takes time.  I spent a lot – and I do mean a lot – of nights sitting up after the kids went to bed, reading about technical analysis, margin calculation, money management systems, price indicators, and market psychology.  I put together spreadsheets that will calculate position size for me, show me where my equity is based on two different MM systems, and I’m in the process of creating a points-based system for my swing trading strategy.  I can say with perhaps just a smidgeon of conceit that there are few endeavors I have put as much effort into learning as I have put into Forex trading.

Almost everyone who knows me and knows about what I’m doing has asked me why.  Why am I doing it?  Where did I get the idea?  How the hell do you even go about learning it?

I’ll start with the idea because the answer is simple: I don’t remember.  I read about it somewhere one night after I did some online seminar.  The person in question had discovered it, found they loved trading, and did extremely well with it.  Their friend had tried it and quickly realized that it wasn’t for him.  I fell down the rabbit hole on Google, and I was hooked.  Instantly.  It was like being hit by lightning.  It excited me, and that sort of leads onto the why.

It excites me.  Trading is risky business, and risky business excites.  That’s why it attracts the people it does.  But I also love learning about it because for one thing, it’s dead useful in other areas of life, but also because you will never learn everything there is to know about the markets.  It appeals to two different but strong aspects of my personality.

The third why has to do with money and personal/financial freedom.  I like the job I’m in right now, but I’m bored, and I don’t make enough money.  Having watched my company, which has been good to me and which I have loved working for, balloon from small potatoes just a few short years ago into what I expect to be one of the dominant market players in crop insurance, I have realized something: I don’t want to work for corporate America forever.  Sometimes it seems like it might be nice to climb the ladder, but honestly, the siren song of power over others is one that I can more or less ignore.  I’d prefer to have power over myself, which I think is probably a trait that sets me generally apart from many others.  Also, it’s something that no more than a handful of people can claim for themselves, and I want it.

When I think about what I want for myself – what I really want – it looks something like this: free time to read and, more importantly to write; palm trees and a beach; sandals year-round; travel more or less at will; and a good education for my kids.  It doesn’t include wasting my life in an office, kissing ass for a paycheck or a promotion, wearing the company logo, or being a “team player.”  I just don’t care about those things or even particularly like them.  I love knowledge for its own sake, reading and writing, warm weather, adventure, and time spent with people I care about.  That’s what makes life: living it.

You know what one of the great things about Forex trading is?  You can have the trading platforms and charting software on your laptop, tablet, and phone, and you can do it any time, anywhere.  The markets are open somewhere almost all the time.  How many “jobs” can you honestly say you can carry in your pocket?  And if you’re a swing trader (the style I would prefer, at this point) or playing the long game, you probably won’t spend more than two hours a day “at work.”  Now, if day trading is your jam, by all means, chain yourself to your computer and grow some gray hair, but I ain’t about that life.  Might as well be back in corporate.

It sounds pretty good, right?  Make your own hours, make a bunch of money… Well, the sticking point is that most people don’t make money trading Forex.  If the numbers are accurate, over time, 95% of traders get out by choice or run out of money to throw at the monster.  I think in the short-term, the number is probably closer to about 75% and winds up being about 95% over the long-term.  But before you pearl-clutch and say, “The horror!” think about the following: 95% of people are not technically successful, and that’s not just at Forex – that’s at everything.

So I stand by what I said that Forex isn’t that hard to learn, but it is time-consuming, and you do have to stick with it and sift through a lot of crap.  I have sat around reading and making notes on many, many nights when I wanted nothing more than to turn on a movie and space out before bed.  I can’t tell you the number of nights I passed out on top of my computer with my pen in-hand.  I’d wake up at 2:30 in the morning to a black screen and be pissed off that I hadn’t gotten in 30 more minutes of study.  I wrote myself tests, emailed them to myself at work, and did them on my breaks.  I sat out on my deck one afternoon while the kids were napping and got a pretty roasty sunburn because I got so absorbed in reading about options for US clients seeking foreign brokers.  It’s been six months of that shit, and that’s nothing.

Well.  Not nothing.  Actually, it’s been a lot of hard work and a lot of nights going to bed long after I would have liked.  It’s been days of feeling like I knew it all and other days feeling like I had lost my fucking mind and what the hell was I doing, deluding myself into thinking I would ever be any good at this.  That last part is the worst: the self-doubt.  The self-doubt and the loneliness.  Because I literally know no one who is doing this.  I don’t know anyone who does anything more than long-term stock investments – blue chips that are destined to have good, long runs.  I told my cube mate what I was doing, and she just blinked, smiled, and said, “I have no idea what you just said, but it sounds scary.”

But oh my God.  The self-doubt.  I have made it into bed some nights when I was done and just stared at the ceiling, wondering what the fuck I was even doing.  You are wasting your time.  You don’t have time to waste, and you’re wasting it pretending that this is ever going to do anything.  You’re not that great at math.  You don’t know anything about the markets.  People go to college for four years and can’t get the hang of this crap.  Nobody can beat the market – even Warren Buffett basically believes that.  What the fuck are you doing?  Go suck someone’s dick at work and try to make it there! 

I have no idea what kept me going other than sheer stubbornness and the belief that somewhere out there, somebody had made it work.  And if somebody – some nameless somebody – could make it work, there was no reason in the world why I couldn’t, too.  That voice in the dark is an asshole.

I haven’t made it as a trader – not even close.  I have a solid six months more of demo trading left to go before I even consider funding a live account.  That’s six profitable months.  If I can’t be profitable, I’m not investing.  Period.  It’s a fool’s errand to invest money before you can be profitable in demo.  Because the emotions are real when real money is on the line.  All those pretty lines on the graphs equal two emotions, greed and fear, and you will find out how strong they are pretty fucking fast.  I am convinced down to the ground that trading will lay bare your soul to you, and if you can deal with what you see and get a handle on yourself, you’ve won 95% of the battle.

I fear both fear and greed.  I’ve asked myself what I would do if I eventually got to the point of turning handsome profits every year.  Would I buy a big house?  A fancy car?  Expensive jewelry?  Fur?  Men?  Drugs?  Would I still be a good person?  Worse still, what if it exposed the fact that I never was?  Would it be like looking upon the portrait of Dorian Gray?  Would I see someone draped in all the splendor the money of the world could buy but who was rotten down to the core?

And what about fear?  What would I do if I found out that I was a coward after all?  What if I let the fear keep me from winning?  What if I couldn’t get a handle on my emotions and allowed my inner fears to sabotage me?  What if I was secretly afraid to win?

These are all questions I’ve wrestled with, and some of them I still don’t have good answers for.  I don’t know if I’m a good person, and I don’t know if I would be with money.  I think money just magnifies the qualities that are already there.  I think I would be arrogant.  Self-important.  A lot above it all, instead of just a little.  Spend too much.  But I don’t think I would do others really wrong.  I might not be the nicest person who ever walked around, but I don’t think I would be bad.  I’d probably just end up hurting myself, more than anyone else.  I think.

And fear, well… If you can manage the voice in the dark, you’ll probably be okay.  Fear isn’t always wrong, either.  Sometimes it can be a good flag when you’ve made a rash decision based on greed.  But you have to be able to hang on when the trade goes against you.  Your stop-loss is there to save your ass if you evaluated the market incorrectly.  But you have to be able to stomach some drawdown.  You can’t be afraid just because you’ve had a losing trade or five.  Everyone loses.  The best traders in the world aren’t always right.  Nobody is always right.  Accept that you have to lose, and you’ll sleep better at night.

Now, ladies and gents, we have come to the point where I answer your question: how did the first trade go?  I mentioned back in a post a month or two ago that I wanted to lose my first trade, I think because I didn’t want my ego to get away from me, and I also wanted to be able to learn from my mistakes.  Well, I got my wish… And I didn’t.

I made my first demo trade going short on the Australian dollar against the US dollar.  I did my analysis last night and determined that I’d look at it this morning before work to see if it was going the way I thought it would.  It did.  Almost down to the letter, it did what I was thinking it would.  So I set my stop-loss, my take-profit, and let’er rip.  And I watched and waited.

Interjection: If you’re a long-term or swing trader, I don’t really recommend checking on your open trades throughout the day.  It feeds the ego, and it feeds the fear.  Just set your trade and see what happens when the market has closed and the candlestick has formed for the day.  I got a little taste of both of those emotions because the trade did move against me for the better part of the morning, actually.  It turned around about 11:30 and went very nicely from there. At the end of the day, I was a tidy little 25.3 pips ahead.  Not too bad for a first day out.

Except for one thing.  I screwed up the position size.

Scoff all you want.  I understand how position size works.  I know how to calculate it.  I’m not a total rube, but I am really bad about one thing: reading the damn directions.  It’s one thing to write this crap down on paper, but it’s a little bit different to do it in the trading platform.  In my head, for whatever stupid reason, units equaled something much larger than the broker platform seemed to think.  (I’m not using MT4, which is the industry standard, because it doesn’t run on Mac without Wine or whatever it is.)  Moral of the story is, my position size was comically small.  I mean, I think I beat my head on my desk for making such a rookie mistake.  But, you know… I am a rookie.  A dumb one, at that!

After thinking about it for a couple of minutes though, I had to smile, because honestly, I really believe what I said about trading laying your best and worst qualities bare, and one of mine was neatly exposed the very first day: I’m careless with “the easy stuff.”  I always have been.  And it’s because I lose focus, get in a hurry, and don’t check myself.  It plagued me in school, and it plagues me still at work.

It’s easy to laugh it off when it’s fifth grade math or some piddly little thing at work that I missed, but it’s not funny when suddenly there’s money involved.  Thankfully, there wasn’t real money involved this time, but I learned two very good lessons today.  The first and most obvious was that carelessness won’t do here.  There’s no re-doing your homework in real life.  You damn well get it right the first time.  So I shall strive, in all areas, to be more careful and give the details their due because that’s usually where the devil is: in the details.  The second thing is that every single trade, whether it goes my way or kicks me in the face, is a potential learning experience.

I’m calling the whole thing a win, including the stupid fail.  I like to think I got the best of both: the kind reassurance that I’m not totally clueless, but the sound kick in the ass in relation to my own personal shortcomings that need cleaning up.

I may not – will probably not, in fact – ever get rich as a Forex trader.  Fortunately, that’s not the goal.  The goal is, eventually, to wrest control of as much of my time and potential freedom and can reasonably be expected, given the limitations of a reasonably comfortable, modern life.  I don’t really care if I live in a big house or drive a Ferrari.  I do want to be able to travel and show my kids the world, and I want them to have a decent education and a comfortable life.  I want to not waste my entire adult life in a cubicle or an office.  I want to have the time to write a book or two, maybe get it published, and spend some time jamming on my 12-string.  I’d like to spend two hours or so a day working out, and I’d like to go to concerts on a regular basis.

I consider these to be reasonable goals.  Attainable goals.  Financial freedom doesn’t necessarily look like a condo on North Lake Shore Drive with three cars in the garage and a lake house in Geneva.  Sometimes it’s just being content with fewer material things but happier at the time you have to enjoy the immaterial things.  That’s the life for me.  If wanting to become a “full-time” trader means that I have to give up some of column A for the fruits of column B, then I will gladly surrender those things.  I’ll take back my time and right to self-determination.

I will just as gladly settle for a second income that allows me to live my life a little bit better than I do now.  And if I never have financial freedom or that second income, at least from Forex, well, dammit, at least I can say I tried.  I’m not going to go to my grave saying that I was too damn scared to try.  That’s the worst thing that fear can do to you: paralyze you into inaction.  That’s when fear really wins because if you never try, not only are you a coward, but you’re a true failure, as well.  I don’t know about you all, but I ain’t about that life.  Give me long odds and a desperate struggle any day.

Signing off from Ancapistan: good night and good luck!

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Hamstrung

It’s been a slow week.  I haven’t felt like working out, eating right… I’m not sure what’s up with me.  I’m going to see Tarah this weekend, and I’m ready.  I need to get away for a few hours and refresh my mind.

I have a problem, and I don’t quite know how to address it.  Well… I do, but I don’t know how to stop caring about it.  Not giving a fuck is this incredibly valuable life skill that I have yet to master.  For most people, completely throwing hands up and not caring in any appreciable way anymore is impossible.  The only person I ever saw that came close to it was my grandfather.  He didn’t give a fuck.  As a direct result of his not giving a fuck, you knew that when he told you that he thought you were a moron, he really thought that.

My grandfather was from a different time, when people cared less, I think.  To rather illustrate the point, a story about how he caught a guy trespassing on his hunting ground down on Meredosia Island.  My uncle was with Grandpa.  The man had his hunting dog.  Grandpa shot the dog dead.  Of course, the guy was irate, threatened him with the law, etc.  And my grandpa very calmly told him, “You are trespassing on my property.  That was your warning.  Next time I shoot you.”

And he meant it.  He didn’t give a fuck.

My situation involves behavior that is out of my control.  I know that I should not worry about it because I can’t control it.  The problem with the behavior is that it’s trying to control me.  Having just gotten out of a really horrible relationship that was based largely on the other person trying to control me, you can imagine that I’m not too keen to take the bridle again.  I resent people trying to use messed up behavior to get what they want from me.

I see it everywhere: dishonesty in relationships.  It doesn’t matter if those relationships are professional, personal, romantic, or friendly.  People have this wild tendency to not tell the truth.  Nobody wants to stick his or her neck out.  Everyone is afraid of losing their head.  They’re all hamstrung by fear – fear of consequences, fear of what others will think, and fear, perhaps, of what they’ll think of themselves for demanding honesty in their interpersonal interactions.

Here’s the thing, though: bravery is rewarded.  Open communication makes for honest, healthy relationships.  Does that mean you have to be honest to the point of asshole?  Absolutely not.  You can be straightforward and tactful at the same time.  You can have a good opinion of yourself and maintain humility.  You can ask for what you deserve without being pushy or selfish.

It seems to like the reward for that kind of levelheaded, frank, kind communication would be happiness.  It would mean deeper, more meaningful relationships with loved ones.  It would mean greater efficiency and improved dealings at work.  So why are people so scared to have these open conversations?

I think it’s partly fear of poor reception and partly laziness.  I don’t mean laziness in the physical sense, but rather a certain emotional laziness and a tendency to go the route that ensures the least amount of personal discomfort.  There’s a certain short-term efficiency with dishonesty.  First order consequence.  Of course, that leaves open the question of second order consequence.

In my mind, relationships are like exercise, studying, or really anything else in life that you expect to get something out of: sometimes you have to endure a little bit of short-term discomfort for long-term gains.  People don’t like being told things they aren’t necessarily prepared to hear, but at the end of the day, sometimes those things need to be said.

Where I get genuinely bothered is when people are irritated or even angry about something but hide it behind false acquiescence, and then they later do things contradictory to their previous words.  They quietly withdraw support or say things about you when you aren’t there.  If you don’t like something, that’s fine, but be honest with me.

More and more, I see what I don’t want out of my relationships.  And the thing is, I feel like I can generally be honest with people.  I don’t try to hurt people’s feelings, but I’m not going to hide my thoughts away, either.  The result is that people think I’m a straight shooter, on the one hand, but they also regard me as something of an asshole on the other.  One thing I can guarantee is that people don’t ask for my opinion if they don’t really want it.

And I take that as a compliment, truthfully.  I know that when someone asks for my thoughts on something, they are genuinely interested in my response and not just looking for someone to reflect the answer that they want.  I expect the same courtesy from others.

I’m finding myself lately in the position where people are not honest with me.  They make passive-aggressive statements, don’t communicate the real problem or invent problems where there really are none, and then attempt to make amends by offering something they know I don’t want.  When I refuse, I look like the guilty party, and they get to be justified in slagging me to everyone who will listen.

I don’t care if people smear my name, really.  I am fine with who I am, and I know that I haven’t done anything wrong.  I’m not going to be anyone’s punching bag, and I’m not going to roll over and let someone gaslight me into oblivion like I did before.  What hurts is realizing, for good and all, that I’m not ever going to have the relationship that I want to have with the people in my life who behave like this.  One the one hand, I suppose you could make the argument that I shouldn’t want people in my life like that anyway, and I don’t, but there is always this hope – hope that things will change and suddenly be okay.

But I’m an adult.  I’ve been through a lot.  I’ve been in a horrible, manipulative relationship, and I know enough now to know that things aren’t going to change just because I want them to.  I have to acknowledge the limitations of the situation and the other people involved.  I have to recognize that the reality looks very different than the ideal in my mind.

I have to remind myself that, at the end of the day, the only person I can truly control is myself.  I can make the choice every day whether or not I’m going to be happy, kind, dedicated, cooperative, helpful, loving, sensible, and truthful.  And that’s what I’m going to do.  I’m going to choose to be happy.  I have to.  I have to stop worrying about the shit that I can’t control.  I have to stop giving a fuck what people think.  Treat other people better than they deserve, and it will never be an issue.  Or if it is, the world will know the truth because you’re better than your detractors’ words.

So that is what I will do.  I will be better tomorrow than I was today.  I am not going to cry for what never really was and never shall be.  I will accept things as they are with a shit-eating grin on my face, and I will make do with what comes.

I’ll leave you all with the parting thought that we should all be happy at what comes merely because it’s coming.  One of my coworkers’ parents passed away with no warning at a rather young age two days ago.  That person has no more chances, and I’ll bet he never saw it coming.  Tomorrow is not guaranteed, and life is too short to give a fuck.  Shoot the dog.

Observations of a Wallflower

I went to see OAR at the Pageant in St. Louis last night.  I had two tickets thinking someone would go with me if I paid for the ticket.  Turns out the answer to that would unanimously be, “No.  Just no.  You’re on your own, Marge.”  I had a vague idea in my head why people wouldn’t want to go.  I can now confirm it.

First of all, I had a great time, even going alone.  I’ve been doing stuff alone – mostly by choice – for years, and it doesn’t bother me at all.  I don’t feel sad or lame showing up to things on my own.  To the contrary, actually.  Sometimes going by myself to an event or even traveling alone for a few days makes me feel kind of cooler than everyone else.  Maybe sometimes it is just flat-out more fun to go with a group, but I honestly think most people are just scared to do things by themselves.

I was not into OAR back in the late 90s/early 00s, when they were fresh and new and probably at the height of their career, in terms of coolness factor.  I had a few Chicago friends who liked them, but nobody around here that I knew listened to them.  I never gave them much thought because jam bands were not my thing back in those days – still aren’t, by and large.  I was listening to Rammstein, System of a Down, and classic rock, for the most part.

I don’t know what made me listen to OAR one day, but it was over a year ago.  Maybe I thought about my camp friends who liked them, or maybe I randomly thought of the burned OAR CD one of my friends had.  I don’t really know.  I listened to them, they were upbeat, and it came at a time in my life when that was really what I needed.  I didn’t need more introspective, dark hipster shit.  I’m half-ashamed to admit that I think I teared up the first time I heard the ad-libbed part of the 34th and 8th version of “Crazy Game of Poker.”  That was my life in that moment, and it really kind of sucked.

So last night, I left the girls with Grandma and drove down to the Lou to hear my guys.  Friends, I didn’t get the memo.

First of all, I am apparently not a typical OAR fan.  I’m not saying that with condescension, either – I just legitimately do not fit in with that crowd.  Like, at all.  Not the STL OAR fans, anyway.  Usually when I go to a concert, I slot right in with the rest of the crowd.  Man… Not this time.  I stuck out like a sore thumb.

There is a uniform for OAR fans.  If you’re a guy, you shall wear a plaid or patterned button-up shirt with khaki shorts and Sperrys or leather flip-flops and a perfectly trimmed beard or perfectly clean shave.  You will have good hair, nice teeth, clear skin, and excellent muscle definition in your arms.  The eye candy was outstanding.  I have literally never seen that many attractive men packed into one place in my life.  Ever.  It was like being back at Mizzou.

The girls were all hotter than me except that one random lesbian over there.  They were predominantly thin, blonde, wearing skinnies, booties, and a half-slutty, cleavage-baring shirt with lace and/or cutouts.  Giant bag optional.

Enter Marge.  I was wearing my skinny jeans because they were clean.  So check by default, I guess.  I was wearing Chacos because it’s still hot out, and I don’t put away my Chacos until it is just too fucking cold to wear them.  Also, hello!  Concrete floors!  Sensible footwear is a must.  And, of course, I was wearing my ancap flag shirt that’s a little too big but oh-so-comfortable.  I didn’t have time to change.  I really thought there would be at least a few laid-back stoner types there.  Nope.  Not a one.

Now, to be clear, I know OAR is a “party band.”  I know they aren’t “super-deep” like Radiohead (fucking gag me, I hate goddamn Radiohead) or any number of the other “hipster” bands I listen to.  I get that.  But it’s okay to want to listen to something that is upbeat.  OAR absolutely helped bring me through one of the darkest times in my life.  That’s why I went to see them.  I felt like I owed them a ticket.

I’ll be honest, though: I am not enamored with the other OAR fans.  When I think of “tools,” these are the people I think of.  Current or former Mizzou Greeks.  Attractive, certainly, but completely shallow and incapable of meaningful conversation.  These are not “ideas” people.  They are absolutely delusionally self-confident, and they could afford to give some away to me.  Actually, I think they did.  After observing their behavior last night, I walked away thinking that there is literally no reason on Earth why any of them should have more money or be more successful than me.  Most of their quality physical attributes can be gotten through exercise and good diet.  Their success rests solely on the fact that they’re so delusional, they aren’t afraid to act.

And I hate to say that about an entire group of people, that they’re ridiculous and annoying, but that was my feeling, leaving the Pageant.  I have never been surrounded by a more ridiculous group of people.  If I were in a famous band, I would be ashamed if my average follower acted like that, especially if the fanbase is supposedly aging out of their 20s.

The thing that drove it home for me was the drinking.  Holy fuck.  The drinking.  Now folks, you all know I like my whiskey.  I can drink a lumberjack under the table, but I don’t do it every time I go out or go to a concert.  I’ve had plenty of nights that ended with my head in the toilet.  I’m 32.  It takes less time to recover from minor surgery than a massive hangover.  Also, frankly, I like OAR. They’re fun.  I came to listen to and watch them.  That’s the major reason I go to concerts.  It’s not that I don’t want to have a few drinks with my friends and have fun, but I want to be able to remember the concert, you know?  I don’t get to go to that many, and I don’t understand not wanting to appreciate what you’re listening to.  So I guess there’s probably a fundamental difference in motivations there.

I watched people go back to the bar literally a dozen times, in some cases.  Friends, drinks were not cheap.  I bought one double Jack on the rocks, and it cost nearly $20.  I should have brought my flask, and I will the next time I go to the Pageant.  I can’t imagine wanting to spend that much money on drinks.  Like I said, I love liquor as much as the next person, but seriously, you can get white girl wasted very cheap.  Believe me, I know how to do it.  What are people out to prove, spending that much money on cash?  Do they really have so much to blow that spending $10 for a cup of cheap beer is nothing, or is someone else footing the bill?

The other thing I noted was that the event was very “couple-y.”  Everyone was hooked up except for me and that one lesbian over there with the gay guy.  Everyone.  Even the “unattractive” (read: average) people had dates.  Groping happened a lot.  It didn’t bother me to be the like, one single person (story of my life), but I was just impressed by the sheer number of hooked up people.  Do OAR fans have an easier time finding mates?  Is it because they’re all hot?  I don’t even know.  I don’t get it.

The one single, straight man in there was like, 50 and dressed like a frat boy.  And he found me.  Old men always do.  He acted like he thought he was 25.  I have met very few men over the age of 40 that I would still consider to be tools, but this guy was a tool.  It took forever for him to take a fucking hint, and he laughed like a donkey at everything I said, even though I was just politely answering his questions.  Like, dude.  I’m 32 with kids, not some frat house floozy hoping to snag a sugar daddy because I failed with the hotties my own age.  Sheesh!

Incidentally, I always get hit on by older men.  Always.  Very rarely do men my own age go for me.  I suspect I’m scary.  Even when I was 20, it seemed like I attracted men 5-15 years older than me.  It was cooler when I was 20.  Now 15 years older is getting pretty close to 50.  Sorry, aging men: 45 is my ceiling.  Fifty-year-old who thinks he’s 23 is a solid hell no.  I’m horny, not desperate.

Anyway.  I’ve read a few things that seem to indicate that OAR fans – and party/jam bands, generally – have a reputation for being unruly and kind of obnoxious.  Drunken antics, drugs, and stupid behavior were par for the course not that many years ago.  I think there have been efforts to curtail that behavior, but the fact that the original fanbase is aging out of that kind of behavior naturally probably helps.  Although honestly, most of the people I saw last night were younger than me.  I’ve seen online debates about OAR’s “sellout” status and that factor driving away “true” fans (i.e., the older fans closer to my age).  For the record, I don’t think they sold out.  I think they don’t want to make the same record over and over, and I think that their label probably pushes for certain sounds to sell albums.  Selling albums is hard these days.  But I doubt the people I saw last night care about selling out, anyway.

The truth of the matter is this, in any case: my fellow OAR fans disappoint me.  I know it’s no good to make generalizations, but the vast majority of them are people I would never seek out under normal circumstances.  I talked to a couple sitting near me, and they seemed cool and relatable, but they were the only people I saw who looked like hippies.  “Frat douche” would be how I would characterize the bulk of the people I saw last night, and that’s not my tribe.

But I really enjoyed the show, despite the audience factor.  I still enjoy the music. For audience interaction, they rank #2 among the concerts I’ve been to.  Ani DiFranco is far and away the most authentic performer I’ve ever seen live.  I won’t say OAR isn’t authentic, but I think they know their brand and have been doing it long enough that they’ve gotten really good at phoning it in.  And you know, when you’ve been touring for 20 years, that’s a good thing.

I think they enjoy what they’re doing – you’d have to, to survive that long living on buses and performing two-hour shows every day or two for months and years on end – but I also think they have learned how to give a good show disguised as a great show.  They have learned conservation of resources (effort) – in other words, they’ve found their “McDonald’s point.”  They give essentially the same show (with some minor variations) every night, enjoy it enough to put in some effort, and have figured out how to make it look like they’re putting in more than they are.  They’re delivering the expected product without killing themselves.

Does that sound like a harsh review?  It’s not.  This is a band that goes out and plays their instruments and sings their songs.  They interact with the audience some, and they give a solid performance.  I give a lot of credit to performers who are still musicians because when you look at the “big” acts – Britney, Taylor, whatever the fuck else is popular right now – most don’t sing live, many can’t or don’t play instruments on stage, and they get up there selling sex.  OAR plays live, and best I can tell, they aren’t selling sex, although Jerry DePizzo ain’t too hard on the eyes, in my humble opinion.

I would go see OAR again, but I’ll be honest and say that they would be better outside.  Part of that is me wanting to be able to sit on the grass and just listen and enjoy while drinking beer out of a cooler without having to fight 150 drunk people for overpriced beverages.  I also think it’s a band to enjoy with a group.  Flying solo or even with fewer than 4-5 people people probably isn’t your best bet.  They’re a party band.  Roll like you’re actually going to a party.

Overall, a great night.  My general disdain for other OAR fans didn’t really detract from the experience.  I went because I felt like I owed them a ticket for helping me keep my chin up on the bad days I’ve had over the last year and a half.  (I don’t know if you know this, but there have been a lot.)  Music doesn’t have to be pretentious or somber to be meaningful; it just has to strike a chord in you.  OAR strikes a chord in me, and I am utterly grateful that it struck the positive ones because that was what I sorely needed.

So thanks, OAR.  I have a quote from one of your live versions of “Poker” up on my cube wall at work.  You put a smile on my face on days when I had precious little to smile about.  That’s worth a lot – enough that I can forgive your fanbase.  I’m up for game two.  Maybe not next year, but I’ll catch you again one of these days.

 

The Great Online Dating Experiment

I’ve been contemplating the particulars of getting back into the dating world for a while now.  It was bad enough the first time, but it’s going to be doubly interesting with a divorce under my belt and three kids in tow.  And let’s be honest: as we get older, the pool shrinks because people have married off.  Also, ladies, it’s not a foregone conclusion but a statistically probable truth that if a man hasn’t attempted marriage by 40, he’s probably not in the market.  That’s okay, for the record, but don’t go expecting that you’re going to be the one who changes him.  So between the jobless layabouts, fuckwits, alcoholics, perverts, toxic bachelors, nontoxic perma-bachelors, dudes who have three kids with three different women, and mental patients, it’s a shark tank out there.

It always was.  But there was more choice when I was younger.  Man, if the wisdom of age could go back and counsel my 21-year-old self…!  No point in lingering on the foolishness of youth because it is known, Khaleesi.  I do say, for any potential young readers, don’t sell yourself short.

Anyway, I’m lonely and bored.  I need adult conversation – preferably intelligent conversation that doesn’t revolve around people known to both parties (read: gossip). I would be enthusiastic if that conversation happened over a drink or two or perhaps a quick lunch.  Really, anything.  I would be doubly enthusiastic if it led to other extracurricular activities.  God, would I.  Celibacy is, in fact, the worst form of self-abuse.

The main issue is that I don’t have time to go out trolling the bars for undateable alcoholics anymore.  Also, have you seen what lurks in the dark corners in the Jacksonville watering holes?  I mean… It’s bad.  There are occasionally decent college guys from IC or Mac, but they’re in college.  My friend Tarah scrounged one up for me the last time we went out, and I should have just taken the opening and run with it because he was into it, but fuck!  He was 22!  It just made me feel old.  We weren’t even inhabiting the same planet.  And he was smart and sweet enough, but seriously.  Twenty-two is still a baby.  I’d feel like I was committing statutory rape or something.

Anyway, given that I don’t have scads of free time and the little that I do have is usually devoted to some other project that I consider to be more important in some way, there isn’t a lot of hope for meeting someone out on the town.  So what do you do to cut to the chase?  Well, most of America gets on Tinder or some other manner of online dating platform.

Online dating used to be one of those things that was reserved for social retards and people too hideous to get dates with “normal” people, but the scene has changed a lot since I was beating my head against the wall the first time.  Most of my Chicago friends are on Tinder (for sure), Bumble, or any number of other free online dating sites that promise you the person of your dreams – for one night, at least.  What the sites don’t promise but will definitely deliver is an untold amount of creepiness and fuckwittage.

I clearly remember Adrienne taking to Facebook one evening, raging with moral indignation.  She had been talking to this guy – good-looking, presumably employed, seemingly nice.  They were scheduled to have drinks, and he didn’t show up.  She waited around for an hour, got hit on by someone already there, but she was so bummed/furious at being rejected by this other person that she passed on the one who was there.  The logical person in me says that second bit is a fail on her part, but I get being so miffed at a situation that you just aren’t in a position mentally to take advantage of it.  She posted a long Facebook rant, and I was like, “Dude, common decency is uncommon.  Life is hard.”  (She says, “Life is hard,” a lot.)

The reality is that in a place like Chicago, where the dating pool seems virtually bottomless, online dating reduces you to numerical status, and the massive amount of options gives people the illusion that there will always be someone better.  It’s a logical fallacy, but in a world of endless choices, it’s easy to fall into that trap and not be happy with what you’ve got.

I, however, have never had such a problem.  They weren’t beating down my door when I was in my prime, never married, and childless, so my expectation is that I will find the scene far harder now.  And I’m fine with that.  I personally don’t care if someone has been married before and has kids because hey, at my age, it’s a lot harder to find people without a storied history.  That’s life, and I’m cool with it.

That said, I fully expect the Internet to be full of freaks.  Full.  You hear stories about dick pics, gross messages, and bad dates.  Well, I am here to be your guinea pig.  I will wade into the pissed-in pool of online dating so you don’t have to.  You can sit on your couch with Netflix, popcorn, and your phone and read about all the stupid shit that happens to me.  I can pretty much guarantee that there will be at least one cringe-inducing experience because that’s how I roll.  One of my coworkers was heard to remark just this Friday past, “Margaret, that is a very odd story.  You have a lot of strange, uncomfortable things happen to you.”  You’re just now noticing?

So here’s what I’m going to do: I will make myself three (honest) online profiles on OKCupid, Tinder, and Bumble.  For those of you who haven’t done the online thing or who are just kind of out of the loop otherwise, here’s the skinny on these three different services.

I feel like everyone knows about Tinder.  It’s a notorious “hookup” app that has gained massive popularity among the college and 20-something crowd.  The crowd is growing steadily older though because hey, us “old” folks need lovin’, too!  Tinder is where the infamous “swipe right, swipe left” thing came from.  People make profiles that are primarily based on photos, and if you like what you see, you swipe right.  Don’t like them, you swipe left.  It has generally been my understanding that guys swipe right almost continuously, so it falls back on women to be more selective.  I have a lot of friends who use Tinder, to varying degrees of success.

Bumble was created by a fired exec from Tinder.  The premise is mostly identical, but men aren’t allowed to message women.  I think the idea is to cut down on the amount of creepy, gross messages that most women receive on dating apps because women have to make the first move.  It’s supposed to give women more control and weed out the weirdos.  I’ve heard tell that the quality is generally higher on Bumble on all fronts – looks, education, jobs, etc.

I will say up front that while I don’t relish the idea of gross messages from random strangers, in real life, I don’t generally approach men.  I might look, I might smile, and I might accidentally “bump” someone in the bar, but it’s been a damned rare occasion that I went chasing.  Call me old-fashioned, call me sexist, call me anti-feminist, but I honestly feel like it’s part of the natural order of things for men to do the chasing.  I’m not saying that women shouldn’t go after what they want, but on the one or two occasions that I’ve chased, it didn’t work.  You know why?  Because for the most part, I think if men are interested, they’ll put in the work.  If they aren’t willing to work for it, there’s a reason.  He’s just not that into you.  My experience across the board has been that when a guy is into it, he will come after you.  And honestly, if a guy isn’t man enough to show interest and stick his neck out, I’m not interested.

I know it’s all the thing now to want sensitive guys who cry or whatever, but I ain’t about that life.  I mean, don’t be an asshole, but be a fucking man.  I feel like there’s this small but vocal subculture in the West right now that wants to castrate men and make them into giant, lazy, man-children.  They want them weak and easily dominated, and I am just not about that.  Be a fucking man.  Chop wood and go kill something.  Be the hunter.  Be good to your wife or girlfriend or boyfriend or whatever the hell you have, but for God’s sake, man up.  Okay, rant over.

OKCupid has been around for a while.  I actually did it for a very brief period in college when it was brand new.  One of my friends was ordered to do it for a class, and she actually got a date off of it, so I gave it a go.  I ended up meeting someone about a week before I left for Korea the first time, but you know.  Left on a jet plane.  So it goes.

Like most of the major sites, they talk some crap about algorithms or whatever.  I think that’s mostly marketing.  There isn’t a lot of solid proof that any of that works because it’s hard to account for the spark.  I think probably the best you can do is search for people who seem both reasonably attractive and interesting to you.  Common interests are a good place to start.

I’ll give this thing a month and see where it gets.  I promise that I will report back at the beginning of October and share the creepy messages and random shit that gets thrown at me.  Maybe that will even include a bad date, but I’m not holding my breath.  As always, I hope for the best but expect the worst.  Whatever the outcome, I will make another post about it with the results from all three sites.  Wish me luck!  Given my dating history, I will absolutely need any you can spare and more.

Oh, and I signed up for a 5k trail run at the beginning of November, and I’m thinking about entering the one here in town for the Pumpkin Festival the third week of October.  If I don’t take any extra days off, and barring any more random acts of God/flu bouts, I should be ready for it.  I will also do a post about that with my final review of Couch 2 5K, possibly including pictures with my fat ass lying across the finish line in a pool of sweat.  Stay tuned!

The Fall 2016 Playlist

I haven’t done a music round-up for a while now.  I’ve been listening to a seriously random mash of stuff lately.  Well, that’s not different from normal, but I feel like I’ve really been running the gamut for the last couple of months or so.  I suppose that could be because I’ve been trying to put together workout playlists, and that always brings me back to rap.  I run to rap, and I don’t apologize for it.  Doesn’t running just wanna make you bust a cap in someone’s ass?  Murder was the case, yo.

Anyway, I haven’t done a music post for a while.  I thought about writing about how my ex-husband threw away my German parka, but you’ve already heard about my mint condition X-Men: Age of Apocalypse comics that bit the dust, and you’ve certainly heard enough about what an idiot my ex is, so there’s really no reason to keep beating a dead horse.

Here’s a slice of what I’ve been jamming out to lately, including a brief review.  I’ll try to keep the trap rap out of the picture…

“Hallelujah” –  Ryan Bingham (live version)

This one popped up on my weekly Spotify recommendations a month or two ago.  It might be a little too countrified for some of you, but it speaks to me.  “I miss living… And living misses me…”  Don’t miss living if you aren’t actually dead.

“Speedom” – Tech N9ne ft. Eminem & Krizz Kaliko

This song renewed my respect for Eminem.  Like, holy shit.  This one is on my running playlist.  I try to time it for when I know I’m going to get tired because it gets me to power through the slump.  If you appreciate stupid-fast rap, Eminem, or Tech, you will love this or already know about it.  Technicians are insane.

“Gods and Monsters” – Lana del Rey

Let it be said that I’m lukewarm on Lana del Rey.  She has some songs, such as this one, that I can listen to on repeat for ages, and then some of her stuff I find totally blah.  Her voice is mediocre and atonal.  I feel like she’s human heroin or some related opiate.  She’s fuzzy, sleepy, and not that exciting, frankly, but like I said, she has her moments.  This song speaks to me.  Actually, this song probably was me, at one point.

Side note to Spotify lovers: I discovered this song on a David Lynch tribute playlist.  HIGHLY recommend said playlist, if your a regular user of that service, as I am.  It’s one of my favorites.

“Been On My Grind” and “Back Up” by DeJ Loaf

I love this chick.  “Been On My Grind,” from start to finish, is pretty much my entire life right now.  My only regret about these songs is that the beats are slow, so they aren’t great for running.  Still great songs when you need a pick-me-up.

“I been on my grind all week.  I ain’t been gettin’ no sleep, but that shit don’t matter to me.  I’m tryin’ to fuckin’ win, man.”

“America’s Sweetheart” – Elle King

Daughter of Rob Schneider and some supermodel.  I love this chick.  She’s got some attitude.  One of my coworkers brought me this song because she heard it and thought of me.  I’ll take that as a compliment.

“Sing to Me” by Tim Bowness and Steven Wilson

I love me some Steven Wilson.  Progressive rock is pretty good, guys.  If you like this song, I highly recommend “Trains” by Porcupine Tree (Steven Wilson).  He actually just put out an album… Name is currently escaping me… But it’s about the imagined life of this real woman that was found dead and decomposed in her NYC apartment.  Nobody had missed her.  I really enjoyed it and have given it a couple of listens now.  Steven Wilson does excellent things with music.  Even Tom Woods, whom I love but is a huge dork, loves Steven Wilson.  Go listen.  Right now.

“Kraken” by Three Trapped Tigers

Tokyo Dave got me turned onto TTT, a British electronic trio.  He’s obsessed with them.  I’m not obsessed, but I’m extremely appreciative.  I’m 95% sure it’s because I associate this band with him, but this band sounds like I feel Tokyo should look like.  That probably doesn’t make sense, but if you could see my visualization of the Tokyo cityscape, it would.  Their drummer is phenomenal, and if you like layered electronic stuff, I expect you will like this.

“Click” by Ultraspank

Terrible, terrible name – great band.  Sheesh, worst name ever.  Anyway, if you liked the industrial and techno-edged rock stuff (KMFDM, NIN, et al) that was coming out in the late 90s/early 00s, you will like Ultraspank.  They never got big or anything, but they’re good.  You’re welcome.

“No Good” by Kaleo

Another coworker recommendation.  These guys are Icelandic, I think, which you wouldn’t believe to listen to them.  They sort of remind me of the Dirty River Boys.  I quite like them.

And speaking of the Dirty River Boys…

“Down By the River” by the Dirty River Boys

Loved this song the first time I heard it.  Still do.

Margielas” by Chief Keef

This one’s for you, Melissa.  In case you forgot who that is, Melissa is my Jewish granny who works on the west side in Chicago (read: the hood).  She said she’s sending me a matzah ball soup kit for Hanukkah so that my masquerade as a Jew in the name of warding off the Jesus freaks around here will seem more convincing.

“I didn’t think you guys were looking for converts.  And also I think I’d lose respect for the Jewish community if you took me, frankly.”
“Well, I wouldn’t be a good Jewish grandma if I didn’t nag you about making matzah balls and keeping kosher and all that.”
“Can’t you just nag me about becoming a doctor and marrying another Jew?  I hate cooking.”
“Me, too.  I can’t make matzah balls.  I think they have these kits…”
“I’m just going to buy the Jewish gingerbread house at Walmart this year as a joke and warning and be done with it.”

Also that weekend, we went to the Boatel with the rest of the crew that was in town.  She ordered a roast beef sandwich that was supposed to come with “tiger sauce,” whatever the fuck that is, and it didn’t.  She complained and made them take it back.

Cue the turn back to the rest of us, holding up her hands, and saying: “I’m such a Jew. But it wasn’t right.  I’m not paying if they don’t get it right.”
Me: “Okay, Myrna.”  (That’s her actual Jewish grandma, and that woman does not pay for dinner if she’s supposed to be picking up the tab.)
Holly: “We were all thinking it.”

Anyway, she despises trap music, so I make it a point to play it whenever she’s around.  I guess her students love it.  She says Chief Keef lives in LA and can’t come back to Chicago because the cops want him dead.  He’s a horrible rapper, and the beats aren’t great for running, but I love this ridiculous song.  I also love Margiela.  He’s an anti-Semite, but John Galliano is a goddamn genius with fashion, regardless of how you feel about him.  Dior hasn’t been as good since he got fired.  All the more reason for Melissa to hate this song, I guess.  I doubt she’d appreciate the Jew-hating.

“Invitation” by Britney, bitch

I am ashamed to say that I’ve had this song on repeat for a week now.  It convinced me that pop music now is about 10 years behind the hipsters of the world.  I was listening to spacey, electronic shit like this 10+ years ago.  … Please ignore the fact that I’m buying a PBR shirt and a flannel off Amazon.  I can admit that I’m a dirty hipster who loves her indie cred when it comes to music, but seriously, this kind of slathered-on electronic stuff was huge in the hipster scene well before it was mainstream.

Whatever.  I like spacey, electronic stuff.  I don’t pay much attention to the lyrics.  I find the actual synths relaxing, and with the auto-tune in high gear, it almost doesn’t sound like Brit-Brit.  Truth be told, I don’t totally mind Britney, and “Toxic” was a great song.  Hello, Germany 2004… I absolutely remember dancing with Holly and Erika in Heimbar to that song.  Good times.

“Fuck the Po-Po (live)” by Corey Smith

I fucking love this song.  My aunt and uncle took one of those citizen’s police academy classes a few months back, to my horror.  Far as I can tell, it was designed to make people love the bacon, and that is just never going to happen in my case.  I know there are good and bad cops, but, you know, an-cap.  I’m distrustful of authority.

“For every cop who thinks his badge is a crown, this song is for you, and I’ll never bow down.”

“Testarossa Autodrive” by Kavinsky

My ex-husband hated this song.  Hated it.  So play it once just for that reason.  I use it for running because it’s a fast-moving song.  I agree that it’s not something to listen to on repeat, but if you like uptempo electronica, this is a great song.

“Just One Day of Endless Love” by Lalleshwari (Katie-Jane Garside)

This song is almost 20 minutes long.  I find it beautiful and terribly relaxing, and I have used it for meditating.  The vocals are meandering, repetitive, and hard to understand, so I don’t find that it interferes with what I’m trying to do.  The whole album, Lullabies in a Glass Wilderness, is kind of like that.  Back when I was traveling a lot, I would always have the album on my iPod for long flights when I knew I’d need to sleep because the album is quiet and subtle, for the most part, so I would put it on and pass out.  Maybe that’s why it works well for me with meditation – I expect it to relax me based on experience.  Or maybe it actually does that well.  Give it a try and see for yourself.  You can’t miss with KJG.  She is my forever girl-crush.

“13 Ghosts II” by Nine Inch Nails

I never really thought of NIN as romantic or sexy, but this song is both to me.  It sounds like it was pulled out of a slow sex scene in an indie film or something.

“I Love My Lawyer” by Ofelia K

I don’t love my actual lawyer.  I call him Killer Bob (if you’ve never seen Twin Peaks, don’t click that link if you’re also alone in a dark room) because he’s kind of mean and unendearing.  But as I’ve often said, I was not paying the man to be my friend; I was paying him to be an asshole, and he was good at it.  Highly recommend him for all your divorce needs.

This another of those stripped-down sounding pop songs that’s all the rage right now, but I kind of dig Ofelia K, and I’m way into this song.  It reminds me of that 31-year-old German I slept with when I was 20.  He was pretty and had it covered.  And now that I think about it, he wore a black car coat.  He didn’t look like he was mourning, though.  He looked like a model.  … I really need to take a trip back to Europe.  I play better to that crowd than I do to American guys.

“Pursuit of Happiness” – Kid Cudi cover by Lissie 

I don’t really like the Kid Cudi version that much, but Lissie hits it out of the park on the rock cover.  This song has been one of my anthems for a while now.  It’s incredibly easy to play on the guitar, too.

“Wolves (Live at St. Pancras Church)”
“A New Anhedonia (Live at St. Pancras Church)”
“My Dove, My Lamb (Live at St. Pancras Church)”
“Song for Zula” – Phosphorescent

I can’t say enough good about the Muchacho de Lujo album by Phosphorescent.  I really can’t.  I have been listening to it for months, and I’m sure I put “Ride On/Right On” on a different post.  That was the gateway drug.

Please, please, please: if you listen to no other song off of this post, please listen to the live version of “Wolves,” and listen to it all the way through.  If it doesn’t evoke some emotions in you and/or send shivers up your spine, I owe you a Coke.  I had someone actually come up and thank me for sending them the link to this song.  It’s that good.  I highly recommend listening in a quiet place where you can really tune in and get into it.

The whole album is fantastic, and I highly recommend actually buying the whole thing – deluxe edition, or you won’t get the St. Pancras concert versions.  They’re brilliant in studio, they’re brilliant live… I want to see Phosphorescent live so bad.  So bad.

 

I think I’ve amassed a good enough collection of stuff to keep you occupied for a few minutes, anyway.  That’s just a sampling of what I’ve got in rotation right now.  Excluding OAR.  I’m not putting any more OAR up here because literally every single one of my friends mocks me for my appreciation of those guys.  They don’t mock me for Rammstein or my secret love of awful trap rap and crappy (and excellent) techno.  They mock me for OAR.  I feel like they’re among the least of my musical offenses – Chief Keef is the musical crime equivalent of a drive-by – but whatever.  I’m going to see them in St. Louis next Friday, probably alone, and I’m fucking thrilled.  I am so excited, it’s kind of embarrassing.  … It’s probably better that I fly solo so that I can fangirl out and not have to listen to retellings of it amidst peals of laughter later.  I can hear it now:

“Marge got drunk and cried during that song about poker!”
“Only Marge would cry about losing a card game.”
“Okay, I was drunk, and I wasn’t crying.”
“You were crying.”
“… I was drunk.”
“Not that drunk.”
“Marge, you cried at a concert for aging frat boys.”
“Oh, fuck you guys!”

Whatever.  OAR fan 4 life.  Hope you guys find something new and enjoyable on the list!  Happy start of fall!