Monday, December 7, 2009

Lights, camera, action!

When we were kids, or at least when I was a kid, the family camera was a sacred thing. You were not allowed to touch it. The camera was my moms domain and she kept it on a very high shelf. The idea of even taking 1 simple picture was a laughable offense. "Film costs too much," my mother would say. And that was that. It was made very clear to me at an early age that the camera was not a toy.

When I was ten I decided to buy my own camera. This was considered a weird undertaking for a kid back in 1982. But I just wanted to have the chance to take all the fun and silly pictures I had always dreamed of. I thought my pictures would tell stories and be worthy of praise to the highest degree. I imagined that I would be making movies in still life. I could recreate Star Wars with kodak film and some action figures.

My first roadblock was my parents. They thought I didn't need to spend my paper route money on a frivolous purchase. Why couldn't I save my money like my brother? My brother never spent any money as a kid. If he wanted Van Halen's 1984 he would simply convince me to buy it, then he would reap all the benefits. (there is a lesson there. Hmmm?) Anyway I convinced my parents that $39.99 was a good deal for a camera. It was a disc camera. In the early 80's it was the cool new thing because it was cheap and you didn't need to load the film. Just snap the disc in place and you were ready to go. Wow! Fucking technology!

I proceeded to take all sorts of silly photos. I still have many of them in a special album I made. Before and after shots of me with a BB gun and then me with a bloody ketchup stained forehead. My pictures were never as much fun as I imagined, mainly because I would take them and then I would have to wait to develop them, which cost money. Then of course more film cost more money. I quickly was distracted toward other things. What I really wanted was a polaroid. Instant pictures! If only I could afford it. Sigh.

Years later, in my 20's, I bought a Polaroid and took tons of fun pictures. I took them with the same enthusiasm I had when I was ten, but I could see my great pieces of art instantly. It was amazing! At this point in history disposable cameras were all the rage, so if my wife and I went on vacation we just bought a couple cameras, used them up, and had them developed.

So here we are. In the future. the magical year 2000 is in the past. Now we have digital cameras. You can take as many pictures as you like, and you can see them instantly. It blows my 10 year old mind. So when my 4 year old son asks me if he can take a picture, I hand the camera to him and say, "go nuts." Kirk took a bunch of pictures. Most of them were of his own fingers or the TV. We've come a long way baby.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Mr. Mom

I survived my first full week as a stay at home dad, and I've got to tell you--It's the most awesomest thing ever!! All I do everyday is hang out with my kids. I feed them and watch cartoons, and sometimes we cuddle. It's the greatest. The other day I wanted to take a bath, and my 9 month old daughter just stood at the edge of the tub the entire time smiling at me. I had to keep giving her toys to bang around and drop in my bath, but that's not REAL work. After so much time at work under pressure and under stress and paying the high cost of daycare, I couldn't believe how happy such a simple joy could make me. I would rather be here doing this than anything else right now.

However as an ad student I am still working toward my eventual career. I did find that I don't really have much time to write with these kids bandying about, but I find that I don't care. I can write when their mother gets home. I am as a whole so much better suited to do this than anything I have ever done, however temporary it may be.

This week we brought Christmas into our home. Kirk and I had plenty of fun just setting up and decorating our tree. Then I built him a toy boat out of a tin can, a cork, a pencil, and a twig we found outside. He loves it.

The greatest thing was when I learned I could join the YMCA and get up to two hours of free daycare while I work out. This is good for daddy, and the kids get to socialize with other children. They love Mr. Mom at the Y, and I can have some time to myself to think about advertising ideas while I exercise and relax in a hot tub. The Y is cheap and I get a discount through our health insurance, which is paid for by breadwinner mama Belsum's salary.

I am looking for other daily activities for the kids, and plan to set up playdates with some parents I know. I am also working with Kirk to get him ready for kindergarten by teaching him to read and write, and to count to 100. Everytime he asks for a big boy thing, like being able to play with sharp knives, I tell him he can't until he can learns new things. It's working pretty good so far.

After a fun day of play and naps and learning I get supper ready for when mama comes home. Sometimes the kids help me cook. I take extra care to make sure the house is neat and tidy before she comes home, so when I leave for school she won't have to worry about those things. So far this has been the best job I have ever had, and with the daycare savings, it is far from the lowest paid job I've had.

My next step is to start organizing this house I live in. I have time, and I'm sure the kids will help in between being fed and snuggled. My mother was right, being a stay at home dad really is a full time job, but I never knew how much I would love it.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009


I know I am old dammit!. I'm reminded every day by consorting with people who can't remember a time before the internet and those who find it funny that I call CD's "records." It's RECORDED music you idiots. It's made worse when I tell my "first time I did something stories" and it was in the year my subject was born. But I am not old. Even the kids who make fun of me don't think of me as old. And I am not young either. I am in that nebulous in-between stage of life. It happens to everyone, but it is never glorified. No matter how old or how young I seem, I will never, ever, not be seen wearing a cardigan.

This bold statement of intent would have been better if I had stated it when I was 20, but when I was 20 there were no blogs to state it on. You'll just have to trust me. I am a cardigan guy. I wore them when they were hip, when they were not hip, and then when they were hip again. (Fuck, I really am old.) Still, I am a life-long cardigan wearer.

...And now I'm struggling to figure out what my intention for this post was.

Oh yeah! Just because I wear a cardigan everyday doesn't mean I'm all old and crusty. Sure in time I will be old and crusty, and be in a cardigan, but that doesn't mean I'm wearing the cardigan because I'm old, but rather because It's part of who I am. It's my brand.

This entire post could be summed up in one line.

Chris Hill digs cardigans.

Thursday, November 12, 2009


My 8 month old daughter is quite a little menace. We put her to bed and she gets up repeatedly. Nothing seems to work. I fed her a bottle tonight and got her to fall asleep on my arm but as soon as I put her in the crib she was crying again. I decided to try a different tactic. I took her downstairs, where I keep my lazy boy. I let her crawl around the floor as I picked the perfect cassette. I should probably explain that I have a music nook in my basement where I can relax and listen to albums and tapes. It's where all my outdated but still awesome music collection resides. The tape I picked tonight was Establishment, the first band I was ever in. Good music from 1989.

I held my little girl and listened to the music her father made 20 years ago. It was a pretty low-fi affair, made on a 4-track recorder, but there is something about it that I still love. My most recent CD was released less than a month ago. It was recorded in a professional studio, yet I could still see the connection from where I was as an artist then, and where I am now. Basically I am, and have always been, a pretty pretentious and morose musician. Establishment had songs about sadness and suicide. There were definite influences from Joy Division and the Cure, and the drummer was a machine. Mercurial Rage is really the grown up version of Establishment in many ways.

In 1989 I spent about 2 months reading The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand. It took that long to read because it is a big book, and well, It takes me awhile to read things. I still read pretty slow. I think I read it slowly because I was trying to impress the chick who lent it to me, and also because it was blowing my mind. The book left an impression on me. I can remember being in study hall quickly doing my analytic geometry homework so I could get back into the world of Howard Roark. I would imagine myself as a detached genius whose true soul comes out only in his creations. It was really a lot of bullshit, but it influenced the content of my music at the time. Establishment is not a good name for a rock band, but to me it spoke of the importance of creation, creativity, and the foundations of art as a necessary function of mankind. One of our songs was called Abysmal Altruist which was basically and homage to Rand's notion of individual freedom being a greater good than social equality. My biggest problem today is I still find myself more akin to Rand's thinking than I do with the prevailing logic prevalent in Obama's America. I often feel like an outsider in politics. I'm not a republican, but I certainly am not a democrat either.

I held my little girl and patted her back. I was happy, at peace, listening to me from 2 decades past, express myself through song. Of course there were other members of Establishment. Guitar god Paul Erickson, and singer Joe Allper from Seattle. I really can't rightly speak of them in this simple bloggity post. They each deserve their own. All I can say is, 20 years later, Establishment is still catchy as fuck pop music. I am proud to have been a part of it.

The little girl started to cry again, so I gave her to her mother. I think I need to go downstairs and finish listening to that wonderful Establishment record.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009


This is a transitional period for my life as well as for my blog. My last post was in April. Jeepers! I haven't written in so long. Far too long. A lot of things have happened since April. I will endeavor to make sense of things forthwith.

The previous title to my blog was "Cascade." I began blogging a year and a half ago during a period of intense creativity. Cascade was the title of the record I was endeavoring to bring into fruition with my band Mercurial Rage. The title Cascade was present throughout the writing and recording process of that record and it seemed a fitting title to my blog as well. During that time I also conceived and witnessed the birth of my daughter Ronnie, quit a job I had held for 7 years, and began attending a school for advertising. There have been many changes in my life, changes that need sorting out. I have spent the past year working on the new record, getting adjusted to my life as a student, and becoming a father for the second time. It has been a weird and wonderful ride, but not immune to the pitfalls of gloom and uncertainty. I have tried to keep a straight face but too much change at once scares me.

I haven't written much in the past year because I have been stretched to my limit with work, family, band, and school. Cascade is now released, and it is awesome. That chapter is completed. I made the record I wanted to make. I want to continue to make music, but for now it can be placed on the back burner of my life. The job I took after leaving the cafe has become too much of an obstruction in my life. The daycare costs, and the time it takes me away from my studies and my children have made it not worth the time or energy I spend there. We are poor now, and will only be the slightest amount poorer if I quit. So quit I did.

I have always wanted to be a stay at home dad. This is the perfect time for it, while my kids are not in school yet. I can spend my days with them and then be able to use my nights to focus on becoming the best copywriter possible. (As a copywriter I hate everything I have just written.) This is the time for my to hone my craft.

I have two focuses in life now. Family and school. Without my day job I should have sufficient time to give to both. I have changed the title of my blog to Ad Dad, because that is now the best representation of myself I can provide.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Important Day

Today is one of those days where everything lines up in a serendipitous manner making me want to believe in the Fates I often find so cruel in their cunning. Whew! Anyway, today is an important day for several reasons. First of all it is Robert Smith of the Cure's birthday. That is cause for celebration enough don't you think? Happy birthday Bob. Thank you for writing such plaintive music to help me muck my way through my adolescence. The second awesome factor about today is that the brand new Depeche Mode album is coming out. So go to your local record outlet (if one still exists) or go online and buy Songs Of The Universe. I haven't heard it, but I know it's good. It's fucking Depeche Mode. Of course it is good. And thirdly, today my band Mercurial Rage who have been monumentally inspired by both The Cure and Depeche Mode are putting out our new single. It is available as a FREE digital download by going here.

Okay that's enough glee for me in the morning. I still have countless hours of day job ahead of me. But seriously folks listen to your assignment and follow through.
1. Go into your library and pick out a favorite Cure record to listen to.
2. Buy the new Depeche Mode album.
3. Download Mercurial Rage's new sigle for FREE.

You won't regret it, and after listening to these three new wave gems you will be filled with as much glee as me!

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

I love my daughter.

Ronnie is here! Yay! And she is adorable. Naturally. She is just a teeny little thing too. Super cute. We have taken to calling her "Bundle" because we are always wrapping her up in a little bundle. It's cute to hear Kirk referring to her as Bundle too.

She is a really good baby too. Very agreeable. No fits of screaming yet. She likes to be held, and is awesome for cuddling. Everything you could ask for in a baby actually.

I took her on her first daddy date. We went out to meet my friend Patrick and his two month old son Henry. It was her first time away from her mother. I dressed her in a new outfit and put a bow in her hair. We met at Hooters. You tend to get a lot of attention if you bring your babies to Hooters. Patrick arrived before I did and was basking in the fawning over his two month old and then I go and bring in even a smaller baby. I kind of stole his thunder. Heh. It was fun for us guys to catch up and talk about fatherhood while our babies slept.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

I am my daughter's father

I'm growing a beard. I do that sometimes. My new job allows it so I figure what the hell. Actually I'm trying to get all the fellers at work to grow one too. It's a fun diversion, and frankly it's just something to do to pass the winter. But I have an ulterior motive.

The first step in any good beard project is to stop shaving. Simple enough. Then once you've got a decent beard rolling you can shave parts of it off and make fun facial hairstyles. I think Im gonna do the reverse Abe Lincoln this time. You know the one where your sideburns hook up with your stache but your chin is naked. I'll rock that for a couple of weeks and wait for my mustache to get good and bushy and then shave the burns. I figure by the time my daughter is born I will have a full on Burt Reynolds, state trooper, 70's style stache.

When Ronnie is born I will be in numerous photos. I will be pictured holding her. Her daddy will be the tough looking guy with the bushy mustache. I'll have to make sure I'm wearing my Iron Maiden t-shirt when she is born. This all plays into the double standard for boys and girls. For my son its okay to be the silly dad, but with my daughter, I want to project the image of the scary dad not to be trifled with. Maybe I should always carry a fake mustache to wear whenever I'm photographed with her so I can maintain the mystique. So when boys come over she'll point to my picture in annoyance and say, "thats my dad" and those little pricks will think twice about doing her wrong. This is going to be so much fun!

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

New President

I'm glad to have the 43rd person to add to my list of Presidents. Don't ever forget to count Grover Cleveland twice. At mid day today as the inauguration was rolling I hoisted my coffee cup and realized that it was now obsolete. My coffee cup has all the presidents on it, or it did until today. Now I'm missing one. I need a new cup.

So now it's midnight. After inauguration. The parties are probably still going strong in Washington, but I hope Mr Obama takes a few minutes away from the revelry to just wander the halls of the white house by himself. I hope our new president can find a moment to be just a man and to savor the awesome position he has achieved. Before he gets put through the harsh, aging process our presidents go through, I sincerely wish President Obama one night to just be giddy with the excitement and the novelty of it all, before the job itself puts it's crushing pressure upon his shoulders.

I hope he is allowed to wander the darkened halls of the White House tonight, alone, in his pajamas, to just explore his new domain. I love that image. Hopefully too he can be left alone in silence so he can hear in the distance the shadows of those who occupied that house before him. As he wanders and passes by the portraits of his predecessors I hope he quietly listens to their ghostly murmurs, and finds solace in his membership in this exclusive club. And I hope he passes the portrait of James K. Polk and pauses for a moment, and smiles and nods to the old curmudgeon. Across the hall ole Harry Truman gives the "new guy" a wink and wishes him the best.

Then as our newly elected leader walks into his new office I hope he sits down at his desk and rifles through all the drawers thinking to himself, "this is my desk now." Then I truly hope in one of the drawers is a gift that looks like it was wrapped by a seven year old and has a big bow on it and a tag that says, "To Barak, from George" Barack is spelled wrong. He opens it and within is a special totem passed down from one chief executive to another, and a note from Mr. Bush wishing him the best, because in spite of all our political fighting I like to think of all of us belonging to the fraternity of America. Under the gift I hope Barack sees carved into the bottom of the drawer, "Bill was here."

I wish this for him. Before he is expected to perform miracles, I hope he can just be the man who is in awe of his own accomplishment. To be able to enjoy his moment.

Good luck sir. I'll be sending you your card on Presidents Day. Someday no matter what you accomplish you will have a stamp, and a coin, and a few schools named for you. Do your best. Follow your conscience, and do what you think is best for us. Be true to your principles, for even if we don't agree that is all you can do. Make the hard decisions. Be willing to make the unpopular decisions, and lead. People love to have someone to look to. To be our king. So be our king for 4 to 8 years and then step aside graciously. This republic can succeed. It will succeed. And don't forget to have some fun.

And listen to the ghostly voices murmuring in the halls. They know how you feel.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Rocka Rolla

So I have been playing music for 20 years now. I just got done playing a rock show at the Kitty Cat Club and I thought it was fantastic. It was so much fun. This was probably the 400th gig I've played in my rock career, or something like that, and I was able to play and sing and feel comfortable and confident onstage. I can look at my band mates and smile and nod and even carry on small talk occasionally. I have even developed stances, and I strike my guitar with exaggerated flourish. I love performing. But it wasn't always this way.

Music does not come naturally to me. I've had to work at it. It's taken me 20 years to have the confidence and presence in a band that some of my peers achieved in their first couple years of playing. Creative thought however does come naturally to me. In high school I began my musical journey by writing song lyrics when I should have been paying attention to algebra. Three of my earliest songs were called, "My Head Explodes", "Fucking Gay", and "Battling Nations". I would show these to my buddy Paul who had already at that time made his first solo demo and was the guitar player in his brothers' band. Paul was and is very good. He put music to the latter of those three songs and it came out on one of their demos. My name was in print. I liked it. I liked it a lot. Paul wanted to start his own band and decided I was weird and flamboyant enough to be the front man. I could write lyrics, so it seemed the perfect way for me to become musical. It was perfect, I wouldn't even have to learn to play an instrument. But there was a problem. I couldn't sing. Singing is an instrument I later realized that has to be learned. I just couldn't get it right. I was off pitch and I didn't even know what that meant. I was clueless. Useless. It wasn't like singing in chorus. Sigh.

That was when I was handed the bass guitar. There was an electric spark of destiny as I put that thing on my neck. Only four strings, and they were big ones, it was like remedial reading class. I figured it would be a snap, but I had to work at it. It was difficult at first. I learned some easy songs, and then I started writing my own parts. The thing is while I was really bad at playing bass, I was very quickly able to actually write simple things. I had the creativity but none of the skill or talent.

Anyway that was 20 years ago. My first band made a demo which I am still strangely proud of and drawn to. We did things out of ignorance which I now would never even consider. It was awesome. When we played our first show I was meek and nervous. My tongue was probably sticking out as I was counting every plunk in my head, nervously studying my fingers, terrified to look away for even a micro-second lest I fall off the groove. Later that night I met a girl, and she seemed to think I was interesting. I never looked back.

A year after my first band began I decided to learn how to play guitar. Maybe I was hoping for a promotion. I took it very seriously and I learned what all the notes were. There were lots of kids back then who couldn't tell you were a G was on the guitar, they did it all by ear. I figured if I understood guitar I could at least communicate with my bandmates better. I wrestled with that damn guitar. It was so hard. Chords! Fuck me. My fingers were not meant to bend in all those strange shapes. I can remember lying on my bed crying because I could not transition from a C chord to a G chord without ten minutes of prep time. And bar chords? Forget it. Simply impossible. I was not going to get that promotion any time soon. After time I did learn to play guitar, but I've never been more than adequate at it. I have guitars lying around all over my house now, and I play them everyday. I write songs on them and play Beatles songs for my son, but I've only played guitar onstage once, and that wasn't anything to brag about.

After I mastered being really crappy on guitar, I went on to learn how to be really crappy on the piano, and then later how to be even crappier on the drums. That entire time I was still practicing on how to be a crappy singer. And I wrote songs. I kept writing songs. After a couple years I began to realize that I was not crappy on the bass. I was somewhat adequate. When I would jam with people I was even complimented occasionally as having a "style" of my own, (which I was ripping off from Peter Hook and Paul McCartney). People seemed to like me on bass, and I liked playing bass, so I just kept doing it. I became and have remained a bass player. And I am now proud to be a bass player. Bass players rule! But I wanted to write music too.

My problem as a bass player, was that it is difficult to bring forth song ideas on that instrument. Guitar players need more to go on than I was able to provide and I would often have the songs I wrote being changed simply by my inability to communicate my vision. The other big problem was that while I could sing to myself, or hear the vocal melody in my head, I simply could not sing and play at the same time. I worked on this all the time. I eventually was able to sing while strumming chords on a guitar, but singing while playing bass was simply not a feat any human could accomplish. Except people did it all the time. I then spent years simply not trying to communicate my ideas. I became just the bass player.

Ten years ago I was in a really good band. I was having fun playing bass at shows, but I was still terrified on stage. I was obsessed with not making mistakes. I could barely make eye contact with another band member while playing a song. I had to focus on the task at hand. That worked for the shoegazer style of music we were doing, but I wanted to do better.

After some time I found myself without a band. I spent about a year just writing songs on the guitar. I practiced writing entire songs, with beginnings, and ends, middle eights, verses, choruses, codas, etc. I just wrote. And I did some demos. I loved the demos because I could track everything separately. Most of it was crap but the bass lines were good. I then learned to bring those crappy demo ideas to other people and have them put their own talents into them. Somewhere during this time my confidence was building. I learned to communicate with other musicians. I was able to step up to the mic and sing while playing. It just happened. Suddenly I was capable of singing backup vocals live. I'm still not the best singer, but damnit I can sing and play at the same time finally. After that I was able to let my concentration drop while playing. I was able to look around, to smile, to develop exaggerated movements. And I didn't care if I made a mistake, I was able to simply enjoy the moment and get back on track if anything went wrong. I still try to not fuck up, that's what practice is for, but still this was a major breakthrough for me.

So here I am now 20 years later, and I'm just finally doing what I want to do musically. But I'm still honing the skill. It doesn't come naturally to me. I'm continually working to be better. Maybe in 20 years I'll be that grandpa musician who makes it look easy. I'm a slow ass learner. Actually that applies to every aspect of my life. Possibly the effort is what generates wisdom. I hope so. Tonight I played adequate, but I felt awesome while doing it. All that really matters in the end is that you enjoy the ride.