Just seems wrong not to have a “Random” post on the page…

It’s weird.  I looked at the blog today and realized that NONE of the posts being displayed were of the “random” variety.  I guess I’ve had a lot of specifics on my mind.  So let’s do one…

  1. Exhausting day at work today.  We’re being SLAMMED with new claims and it’s been pretty busy.  That’s not BAD, mind you.  That’s how we get paid, and I’m grateful for the paycheck.  It’s just tiring.  Which I guess is why they call it “work.”  It’s still pretty fulfilling to have the president of your company say, “Good job, Derek” though.  That makes any swearing I may or may not have done under my breath—or right out loud—today totally worth it.
  2. My brother and I are going to get together tomorrow night and try to shake some of the rust off of our playing.  Gonna take an acoustic over to his house, and when the twins and/or Tessa aren’t crying and screaming, we’re going to try to play some of the Blue Tattoo stuff.  Should be good.
  3. Next episode of Doctor Who looks like it might reference something from back in the first season of the re-launch.  That’s kind of cool…but might be kind of confusing to my dad who hasn’t seen that episode…
  4. I’m pretty hungry…but I don’t have any access to buffalo wings.  That’s a shame.
  5. “Empty Checking” (my podcast) seems to be pretty well received so far.  However, a couple of people HAVE pointed out that it was a LONG one.  Yeah…it was…it was 40+ minutes…  But it’s also the first one.  I had to get my feet wet, explain the concept, etc, etc…  The next one will be more of a “I can listen to that in one sitting” length, I promise.
  6. Been cranking up the Iron Maiden and Dream Theater in preparation for the concert Dave and I are going to in Chicago on his birthday.  Looking forward to it.  I downloaded their new single, and I basically like it…but I agree with Bruce Dickinson when he rips it saying that it sounds like an MP3 and the digital medium is sucking the life out of music.  (Hmm…maybe we’ll save that for the podcast…great…now I’m thinking like this…)  But still, been loving the Maiden…and wondering what HAPPENED to Dream Theater.  Used to love those guys…but I’m finding myself seeing one of the newer songs coming on my iPod, and I’m hitting “next.”  It’s just not as good (sorry).  But I guess they’re 10 records in and they’re just doing what comes naturally or something.  It’s not that it’s BAD (and I’m pretty sure that it’s not just me).  I think it’s just a band suffering from the producers being IN the band (and seriously…who told Portnoy he could sing?!?).  They really need Kevin Shirley back to produce, if you ask me…which obviously they didn’t…  But still, I’ll buy whatever their next album is, and I might be blown away.
  7. I also busted out the “Hard Core Logo” soundtrack this week.  Part of me still wants to form the “HCL” tribute band and just play THOSE songs.  I realize that only a handful (at best) of the blog’s readers have any idea what I’m talking about…so I’ll stop…but yeah…good record.
  8. People are shooting off fireworks in the neighborhood.  Right now.  When did I become the grumpy old man who’s thinking about calling the cops on them?
  9. Which reminds me…I wonder if we get any days off for the 4th…  The 4th is Sunday.  Technically, we already have the holiday off…hmm…I should find that out so I don’t accidentally come in and work on a day I have off.  🙂

I think that’s it for now…kinda brief, compared to other “random” posts I’ve done…but whatever.  I’m kinda tired and I’m forgetting all of the things I was going to write when I started out…so I’m going to eat something and maybe go to bed early (yeah, right).

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Quotable Quotes: (This one’s just for Larry)

  • Jasmine (to Derek): “My hero!”
  • Larry: “Dangit!”

“Empty Checking” is Online!

I’m officially a podcaster!  The inaugural “Empty Checking” podcast is now online.  You can click the tab at the top of this page and there’s a link to the audio there…OR you can visit the blog that now exists as a home to the podcast.

You can find full-posts relating to the “Empty Checking” podcast every time I do it at http://derekbrink.blogspot.com.  This blog (at WordPress) will continue being my day-to-day blog.  Think of the Blogspot one as more-or-less a business account.  It’s ONLY for things related to “Empty Checking.”  I’ll keep doing whatever it is that I do here…but that stuff’s there and there alone.  I like how the Blogspot page looks, I’ve got to say…but this is my home.  🙂

I promise that I won’t do a full post for this every time.  Usually, I’ll just put a quick note in the footer of a post or something…but this being the first one, I thought I’d give it a full post.  Hope you listen to it and enjoy it.

Just Thought I’d Share

Y’all know I’m a comic books geek and I love Batman, right?  Well, my friend (and drummer on the “Out from the Light” record—still available at iTunes, etc) Dave Knobel posted something as his Facebook avatar that made me laugh out loud.  (That’s “lol,” to you kids.)  I don’t know the context or if it’s even a real panel, and I don’t know where it came from, other than Dave’s avatar…but this is awesome.

😀

Right?  RIGHT? 

He just looks so happy!  🙂

…check back tomorrow or Sunday for the first-ever podcast.  It’ll be largely about comic books, unless plans change.  But hopefully even the non-nerd will like it.

Sometimes it all comes together…

I’ve identified myself as a Humanist a few times on the blog.  Also as an Existentialist.  Also as a Christian.  As a quick primer…  Humanists are interested in Humans.  Existentialists are people who believe that you’re responsible for your own happiness and overcoming the obstacles that would rob you of it.  Christians believe in the Diety of Jesus Christ and are supposed to be nice to people in His name.

Got to touch on all of that today.

I. My Humanist Experience:

I find people interesting.  Whatever their quirks—even if they piss me off—people are always INTERESTING.  Today’s interesting person was someone I ran into in the hallway at work.  Don’t know her name or anything about her particularly.  Don’t even know what office she works for (though I could probably guess).  She was trying to balance a Coke, a box from UPS, and an attaché case of some sort while also trying to get a cup of coffee.  What interested me was the coffee.  She already had a Coke…why the coffee?

“Can I give you a hand with any of that?”

“No…I’ve got it.”

She didn’t.  Attaché case hit the floor while she was setting down the UPS box and she got her coffee.  She managed to rebalance everything and set off down the hallway.  I got my own cup of coffee and went back to work.  I never found out why she got the second beverage…should’ve asked.

So there’s no real ending or message to that story…but that was fun to watch.

II. My Existentialist Experience:

(Side-note: “The Existentialist Experience” would be a neat name for an amusement park…with no rides.  So…just a park, I guess…)

This one involved comic books.  It was new comic book day and I mentioned that at work.  One of my co-workers has a 10-year-old son and somehow or another it came up that she thought he might enjoy reading some comic books, and was there anything I could recommend?  Hmm…  That’s a tough one.  Most of the stuff I read is a little bit gritty (or VERY gritty, depending).  Even Batman’s gotten kind of violent and graphic in the past few years (I cite Alan Moore’s “Killing Joke” as the transitional story).  But there was one thing I knew I could recommend without any doubts.  For a half-hour, I raved and praised the work of Jeff Smith.  I told her all about “Bone.”

“Bone” is, hands down, THE best comic book I’ve read in my life…and it’s easily in my top five pieces of literature overall.  (That’s right.  I stack it up there with Salinger, Vonnegut, Hornby, etc, etc…even on par with Tolkien.  It’s that good.)  It’s innocent, but also epic.  It’s cute and funny…but there are moments that have you near tears once you’ve invested in the characters.  I think I made Jeff a sale on that one.  She seemed like SHE might even read it (and she’s not into comic books at all…like most women, as it happens).  I was about the same age as that kid the first time I read an issue of “Bone” and it’s kind of the thing that kept me interested in comic books during the time period that I wasn’t buying comic books.  I think it’s a great place to start and I was glad to give the recommendation.  (If you get a chance, visit Jeff Smith’s website, at www.boneville.com.  I swear it’s not porn.)

Okay…so how is that at ALL an Existentialist story?  Well, it’s pretty simple…  I was kind of having a bad day up to that point.  I’ve got a little bit of a cold—nothing too bad, but my sinuses are a little swollen and I’ve got a bunch of crap in my throat—and on top of that, there was just a LOT of weird stuff at work today.  (For the record, none of the work stuff was exactly BAD…it was just complicated and difficult to figure out…which is exactly the kind of thing I get paid for, so there’s no reason to complain.)  I wasn’t in the best of moods and I wasn’t feeling well, so I decided to bring up a subject I enjoy and just casually mentioned new comic books day.  Then talked about “Bone” for a really long time and ended up making myself feel a LOT better because I got to talk about something I love with enthusiasm and energy and maybe even got someone else interested in it.  I made my own happiness.  (And did so again at the comic book store, later…but that’s another story.)  That was pretty cool.

III. My Christian Experience:

I spoke to a friend of mine on the phone about someone we both know who had recently died.  That’s kind of sad…but don’t dwell on it.  Better place and all that…  (FYI – I’m going to leave out the names because of a few factors…)

During the conversation, I said that the thing that struck me most about the deceased was that, even though he was an elder in his church, he never struck anyone as one of “those” Christians.  You know the ones I’m talking about.  The ones who are just shy of…well…being full-on Glenn-Beck-crazy.  (Glenn Beck, of course, is a poor example since he’s both a Mormon and is crazier than a giant bag filled with crazy cat-ladies…but you get my point).  The guy who died was NOT that kind of Christian.  He shared his faith, yes…but he was much more interested in just being GOOD to people (y’know…like Jesus was). 

He was one of the first Christians I’d ever known to express that every person in the world deserves to be treated with kindness, regardless of who or what they call their “god.”  He worked with the homeless, worked with youth groups—even in his 70s, and treated everyone the same way.  He also enjoyed a drink and/or cigar now and again.  (This is why I’m leaving out the names…because even though he’s in Heaven now, a lot of people would use that information to post their thoughts that such things sent him to Hell…and those people, of course, are full of shit.)  He was a GOOD man who cared about people.  Even though we weren’t very close at the time of his death—we’d just grown apart, there’s no bad story there—it was kind of a bummer to hear he’d died.  But it was also a good reminder of who Jesus is…a good guy, doing good, loving things for no reason other than that’s what God does.  And that’s probably the nicest thing I can say about him.  Or anybody.

…so that’s how my day went.  It’s kind of nice when all of the different philosophies I agree with come together like that.  Reassuring.

————

Comic books purchased this week—All of which will be discussed in the inaugural podcast this weekend!

  • Batman: The Return of Bruce Wayne – Issue #3 of 6
  • Sam & Twitch: The Writer – Issue #4 of 4
  • Batman: Detective Comics – Issue #866
  • Joker’s Asylum: Killer Croc
  • (Heroic Age) Avengers – Issue #2
  • Justice League: Generation Lost – Issue #4
  • The Unwritten – Issue #6 (YAY!)
  • Neil Young’s Greendale — YAY AGAIN!!!  And as a side note, this is proof of how nice the guys at the store I go to are.  The guy I buy from most often remembered I’d asked about it a couple of weeks ago and specifically made sure to let me know about it.  I didn’t HAVE to buy it or anything…but the dude remembered and did me a solid.  He’d also specifically tracked down a couple of issues of “The Unwritten” for me—like the one above.  That’s pretty cool, and I’m glad some stores still treat their customers like that.  I’ll probably mention that in the podcast, too…but I wanted to put it here just in case I forget.  🙂

Tributes

(For the record, I occasionally struggle with if it’s “right” to post something.  Sometimes I worry that things I write that I feel are legitimate criticisms or are meant to be “matter-of-perspective” posts might come off as sour-grapes and/or just mean-spirited.  This is one of those…but I think I walk the line without going over it.  I may feel different at a later date…so in case that happens, I’m going to go ahead and apologize in advance.)

I’ve been reading a bunch of reports online where the widow of Ronnie James Dio is upset with some of the bands and organizations who she feels are “misusing” Dio’s name in putting together “tribute” records and events.  Her contention appears to be (from what I’ve read—of course, I don’t personally KNOW her) that some of the artists look to potentially make personal profit from the releases/events and that they are not donating to Dio’s “Stand Up And Shout Cancer Fund.” (As an interesting side-note, many of the rock blogs are no longer linking to it in posts.  You’ll notice that I have followed that example.)

Now…  Wendy Dio lost the most important person in her life just BARELY over a month ago.  I know it was devastating.  I’m not even a Dio fan and even I gave him a nod on my blog and was a little bit saddened, as a metal fan.  I can’t imagine the pain she lives with every day, waking up and knowing that she’ll never see him again.  I have all the sympathy in the world for her and hope that she can pick up the pieces and carry on as soon as possible.

That said…  I feel like she is giving Ronnie a black eye on this one.

If you’re in pain, you have the right to deal with it however you need to…but it’s a REALLY bad idea to lash out against people within the same industry as your departed, who grew up knowing every lyric, solo, and cymbal crash.  The answer isn’t going to Blabbermouth (website) and bad-mouthing Manowar (of whom I’m not particularly a fan) for putting together a Dio tribute record.  She’s specifically singled them out, for some reason. 

First of all, Manowar isn’t exactly a household name (though they’re bigger overseas) and stands to make less-than Manager-at-Arby’s money off the record.  Tribute records typically sell poorly and only their hardcore fan-base will buy it in the first place (Dio fans, shockingly, are more likely to buy Dio records).  Manowar may as well be making any given record…but they’re not.  They’re making a record that they feel honors one of their heroes (and, more-so, a guy one of the band-members personally knew, though the level of their friendship is disputable).  Who knows?  Maybe one of their fans will discover Dio’s music for the first time and buy records that put money in the family trust’s pocket—much like the royalties they’re getting from those bands paying for copyright and use of the songs (and I wonder how much of that will go to the Cancer Fund…hmm…Wendy?).

Let me put this in my own pocket…  If Pete Townshend died tomorrow, you can bet that my next solo gig would include an ASSLOAD of Who songs…and I probably wouldn’t donate anything to the “Whatever Killed Pete Fund.”  I’d play the songs because I love Townshend’s music, will miss hearing him play new shows, and want other people to hear SOMEONE play those songs, since Pete can’t do it anymore.  (Of course, I recognize that I’m not anywhere near as good as him…but I’m all I’ve got.)  It would be a cathartic gesture to help myself overcome my own sadness at the loss I’d feel at the death of someone I grew up watching and emulating (in guitar playing…not in some other ways, just to be clear).  And yes, I’d make money off of it—probably.  Not a lot…but there’d be money to be had…some of which would go to paying myself back for expenses for travel, strings, etc, etc…  Some would go to paying bills that I need to pay in order to keep—y’know—living.  The rest, I’d probably blow on more music, books, movies, or comic books.  There would be no intended disrespect to Townshend…in fact there’d be nothing BUT respect intended.  And if I walk away with a little pocket-money, it doesn’t really take any awareness away from whatever disease killed him…and I (like Manowar, et al) wouldn’t be selling it as “raising money” for anything.

It’d be one thing if any of the show/record promoters or bands were coming out and saying, “All/A percentage of the profits will benefit the Stand Up And Shout Cancer Fund” and then didn’t deliver the money.  Then there would be a legitimate gripe.  But to my knowledge, no one is making that claim…people are just putting out cover versions of Dio’s music and celebrating what he did for metal…just like they always did.  For YEARS, people have been covering Dio songs and/or name-checking him without giving any proceeds to charity.  For example…Tenacious D wrote “Tribute” talking about how awesome Dio is, adding on that they feel they should be passed his torch.  It’s funny and minorly irreverent…and Dio liked it.  He put them in one of his videos, appeared in their movie, and kind of buddied up to them.  And they didn’t give anything to a cancer fund from any of that.  Not a penny.  Even Dio himself made some substantial profit off of playing songs live to which he didn’t necessarily own a legitimate copyright (hence why “Heaven and Hell” went by that name instead of “Black Sabbath”).  This isn’t new.

The only thing that has changed is that Ronnie James Dio is dead.  People loved him in life.  People love him in death.  Some of those people are working through their own personal catharsis by playing his music and screaming his name into microphones to the delight and applause of audiences.  Wendy Dio—who, make no mistake, sincerely loves him way MORE than anyone else—is working through her own grief by calling “fraud” on bands that still sleep in their vans.

She has every right to do that.  Were I in the same boat, I might do the same…  But I’m not…  I’m just the guy that’s telling you that Wendy Dio is working through her grief by yelling at bands that stand to make less money off of Dio’s name than she does.  (That’s harsh.  I know it’s harsh.  If it helps, I stand to make less money at my DAY JOB than Dio made off of waking up in the morning…so that’s what I’m worth, on the scale.)

But…  This has inspired me to say the following.  If I die of some kind of weird disease and anyone out there wants to play my songs in my absence…  I’d appreciate it if you mention who wrote the tune, but keep the money.  The $7 you’ll make off my name won’t cure cancer and won’t bring me back to life anyway.

————

On a side note…  If all you have in an 8-hour period is 2 cups of black coffee, some red Twizzlers, a Mr. Pibb, then another cup of coffee…your mouth kinda tastes like throw-up.

Things I Think Obama Should Do

As is common knowledge among readers of the blog (if any) and my immediate circle of friends and family (if any), I helped to elect the current President of the United States of America, Barack Hussein Obama.  I think he’s doing a pretty good job, and it’s my hope that Americans see the “big” picture and aren’t just judging him on not having the superpower to make everything better overnight.  I think we’re making good progress and we’ll get there, if we just stay the course.

However, as a patriotic American, I think it is my duty to offer my elected officials advice for the improvement of their public image and/or policies.  In that spirit, I would like to offer the following ten suggestions to the Obama camp of things I think the President could do to help his image and really establish a foothold for future programs and policies.

Here we go:

  1. Bowties.  Nothing but bowties with suits from now on.  It’d do a lot for morale.  If you can take a look at Mr. Obama in a bowtie and not giggle and smile a little, you’re a terrorist.  (And I don’t mean those classy, tuxedo bowties…I’m talking red ones, plaid ones, striped ones…big, goofy bowties…)
  2. “Hail to the Chief” replaced by “Single Ladies.”
  3. Hug A Supermodel Day.
  4. Televise himself “kicking someone’s ass” over the BP oil spill.  In the Octagon, if possible.
  5. Begin every speech with the phrase, “This speech was written by Joe Biden,” thereby excusing any gaffes and/or making it look like Joe’s actually improving.
  6. When walking into an event at which he is NOT speaking, upon walking though the door, shout “West-Side!” as loudly as possible.
  7. Three words: Judge Judge Reinhold.
  8. Arrange for the next Pope election to be held in America.  When white smoke billows out of the Washington monument, not only will we know we’ve got a new Pope, we’ll also all get to make some really dirty jokes.
  9. Crack down on grown men riding bicycles in the middle of the road on my commute to/from work.  (I voted.  He owes me.)
  10. Add one star to the American flag, but not mention it to anyone.  Just let people speculate.

…and I think that’ll get him re-elected.

————

Current reading:

  • “Palm Sunday” by Kurt Vonnegut.  Started it at the end of last month, but for some reason had trouble getting too far into it.  Now I’m about halfway and it’s pretty good.  It’s made up of essays and speeches and whatnot.  That’s pretty interesting because you get the author’s ACTUAL thoughts rather than having to dig a message out of a plotline.  It’s pretty informative and was written when I was about 1 or 2 years old…kinda cool to read KV’s weird, warped view of the world in my formative years, as it was happening.

The Weekend’s Ending…

Here’s a brief summary of stuff that’s happened since I last posted.  Be forewarned, this isn’t necessarily linear.

  1. Seem to have hurt my gums somehow.  It was either the Chinese food or the burger.  I think it was a stiff bit of Crab Rangoon from the Chinese place, then having to stretch my jaw for the burger just didn’t help.  It’s on the mend…just not fast enough for my liking.
  2. Saw my friend Amanda on Saturday.  We got coffee at one of my favorite coffee houses in St. Louis, Meshuggah Cafe (they have a website, but it’s been “under construction” for a very long time, so I’m not linking to it).  It was actually Amanda’s ex-husband (who may or may not have a website) who introduced me to the place in like 1999.  They still make a really good cup of coffee.  Anyhoo…  Good to see Amanda.  We sat and talked about nothing for about three hours.  Hadn’t seen each other in probably 5-6 years, so that was really cool and a nice way to spend an afternoon.  Her son Tobias (who is now 11, and that’s weird because I remember when he was born) has a website and makes pretty cool amateur movies.  You should check out his stuff at www.txbergystudios.com.
  3. Also on Saturday, I reached the one year mark.  I have not had a cigarette in one year.  I posted that on Facebook and got a pretty big outpouring of support that took me by surprize, and I’m very grateful for those people.  Had I known they were there all along, I’d have started talking about it a lot sooner!  🙂
  4. I’ve like COMPLETELY missed the World Cup.  I’m actually not that into it anyway…I prefer to watch teams that work together all the time and function strongly as a team (ie – English Premiership) to watching international mishmashes of psuedo-soccer-celebs who may or may not have MET one another before game day…but still, you’d think I’d watch at least a COUPLE of games.  I don’t even know who’s doing well and who’s doing poorly.  Oh well…there’s always the next one.
  5. Father’s Day was today (err…yesterday…whatever).  Happy Father’s Day again, Dad.  We went over to Dave and Valerie’s place and had dinner and cake and played with the kids and dog.  The cat bowed out of the evening, as per usual.
  6. I watched the latest episode of Doctor Who.  It was part 2 of a 2-part episode.  It was okay, but kind of got into the area of Doctor Who that I have some trouble with.  It dealt with these monsters who supposedly have inhabited the Earth since before humans, but they’ve been asleep underground, and we’ve disturbed them, so now we’ve got to come to some sort of arrangement…blah blah blah…  Whatever.  The monsters looked like Sleestaks anyway.  However, I liked the foreboding implication that the TARDIS will soon explode and cause all of the problems that the Doctor’s been fighting against so far this series.  That’s kind of interesting…but let’s get some Daleks or Cybermen up in here again and veer AWAY from the things that apparently predate humans on earth.  Let’s get back to the Doctor f-ing up ACTUAL history.  🙂
  7. I finally read that issue of the New Avengers I referenced in the last post.  They acknowledge that The Thing is pretty busy with the Fantastic Four and might not be TOO available for the Avengers…so that solved that.  Looks pretty good and I hope they go somewhere cool with it.
  8. Remember when you’d always be sure to watch South Park?  When you’d run home early, set the VCR, and/or turn off something else you were watching to see the new episode?  Me too.  But now…  One just started coming on after Futurama and I actually flailed my arms looking for the remote so I could get it off the TV.  Sad day.  The thing is, I’d probably even still enjoy it if I watched it…but it’s a little one-note, isn’t it?  I’m just kinda over it.  Plus, the whole thing they had earlier this year with the Muslims really soured me on the show.  Not because I agreed or disagreed with either side.  Mostly, I heard that they were going to bat against Comedy Central because they wanted to show an image of the prophet Muhammad on the show and the network wouldn’t let them, and my immediate thought was, “What?  Again?  Or is it still 2005?”  They KNEW they wouldn’t be able to do it, but they tried anyway, then cried when exactly what they knew would happen HAPPENED.  I don’t really respect that.  I’m not saying their position was wrong…I’m saying they’re idiots.
  9. And…I think the only other thing that’s happened since I last blogged is that I’ve done my laundry.

…and that’s it.  I’ve got some stuff I want to write when I am a little more focused…but we’ll see if I actually get to it.  🙂