Rest in Peace, Earl Scruggs

I’m just kind of writing this without putting a ton of research or forethought into it, so please bear with me if it’s a little choppy.

When I got home from church tonight, I sat down at the computer and clicked around a little, eventually finding a link on Facebook (from my local awesome record store, Vintage Vinyl) that told me that Earl Scruggs had died at the age of 88.  If you don’t know who Earl Scruggs is, then you have probably never heard of the banjo.  He is perhaps most famous for being half of Flatt and Scruggs and writing the theme from the Beverly Hillbillies.  But there is SO MUCH MORE to Earl Scruggs than that.

Comedian/Actor/Musician/Severalotherthings Steve Martin took to Twitter after hearing of Scruggs’ death and called him, “The most important banjo player that ever lived.”  He is absolutely correct.  Scruggs played the five-string banjo like nobody’s business, and developed a finger-picking style using three fingers that has influenced everyone to pick up the banjo since.  Others used a three-finger style before him, but he perfected it.  And it’s not just ME saying that…in the banjo world, that style of playing is now referred to as “Scruggs Style” picking.  He literally revolutionized the way people played the banjo.  For examples of Scruggs at his best, do a Google search for “Foggy Mountain Breakdown” or “Earl’s Breakdown.”  Or just go out and buy the first “Will the Circle Be Unbroken” record that the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band put together.  Earl’s heavily featured on that.

How impactful and influential was Earl Scruggs?  Well…that three-finger picking method?  The Scruggs Style?  When I was playing bass as a TEENAGER (I am now in my 30s), I got into learning how to produce chords and melodic lines on the bass.  I began exploring fast picking methods, different approaches to chording, and experimenting with keeping a root note going while moving melody parts around on other strings.  And I did it by using the Scruggs Style picking method.  I just didn’t know it was CALLED that.  I was playing prog-rock, punk, and metal songs, using a picking style pioneered by a Bluegrass musician, meant for a five-string banjo.  And I still employ the Scruggs Style on the bass today.  That’s how far his influence reached and reaches.

There will NEVER be another Earl Scruggs.  There CAN’T be.  You only get to have one “most important banjo player that ever lived.”  And today, he died.  I mourn him as a fan of bluegrass music, as a fellow banjo player (albeit a four-stringer), and as a member of a generation of entertainer that is quickly fading.  As sad as it is to lose another country/bluegrass icon, I admit that a small smile crosses my face when I consider the Circle forming in the guitar-pull in the sky.  Cash, Scruggs, The Carters, The Louvin Brothers, Hank Sr, Waylon, etc…  That’s one hell of a Circle.  We’re poorer for not having them here, but I can’t wait to see that when I get there.

Rest in peace, Earl.  You’ll always be the king of the five-string.

Words and phrases I’m tired of hearing…

There are words and phrases I hear on an almost daily basis that I find especially irritating.  So here’s a list of some of them. My apologies if you’re guilty of using any of them.  I’ve even found myself using a couple of them here and there.  But if we address it, we can grow together.

Words and phrases I’m tired of hearing:

  1. Retarded – It’s not that I’m offended by the word retarded.  I don’t really know how it got to be offensive to call a handicapable (not a word!) person retarded, but I get why it would bother some people when the term is thrown around as a synonym for “stupid.”  But the main thing that bothers me is that the majority of the time you hear someone call someone or something “retarded,” they’re either referring to themselves or to someone who is definitely not retarded, but who did irritate them.  And that just doesn’t seem an accurate use of the term.  Look, we’re all kind of at the point that even if we don’t think it’s wrong to use the word to describe someone with legitimate mental disabilities, we still realize that it’s going to piss off their family and friends to hear it.  So just give it a rest.
  2. Hubby – Particularly from anyone younger than my grandmother.  That man is your husband.  Please stop thinking you’re being cute.
  3. Stupid/Idiot – Especially when used to describe someone who did not actually do anything stupid, but who just didn’t do what you wanted them to do.  You hear this a lot in offices or in retail situations.  “That guy didn’t include a description of the weather-report in his story.  Pfft!  Idiot!”  No…he described it as he saw it and didn’t think it was worth mentioning that it didn’t rain or snow or whatever.  When you’re describing an educated adult who made a mistake or just didn’t know better, but can otherwise be trusted to zip up his/her own pants, you’re not describing an idiot.  You’re just being mean.
  4. Made-up curse words. – I don’t think I need to discuss why this is on the list.  If you don’t want to say “shit” and instead say “shoot” or “crap” (hmm…crap-shoot?), I get that…  But the middle-aged ladies who say, “oh shibbldy-shop” or make up some other inanely crazy gibberish just drive me nuts.  Although I know one person who regularly says “dingle-berry” and has no idea what they’re describing.  They also think they invented the word “wanker.”  And I think that’s pretty funny.
  5. “It is what it is…” – Of course it is.  You don’t have to tell me that.
  6. “Yeah…but…” – People say this one thinking that they’re appeasing the person they’re arguing with.  they think they’re validating the other person’s argument and giving them a slight victory with the “Yeah…”  However, they’re really just dismissing the person and waiting to follow-up the “but…”  Just make your point.  Don’t placate.
  7. Obamacare – Kind of a controversial one on the list…but I mostly just think it’s poorly managed on both sides.  As is my understanding, the Republicans who are cranky about Socialized healthcare started calling it “Obamacare” in mockery.  The Obama camp then embraced it to wave it around and say, “Yes!  Obama GAVE you this!  You SHOULD remember that!”  So now both sides are regularly using it for either mockery or praise…and it just fails on both sides.
  8. Black guys using the “n-word” and saying that it’s okay. – It just isn’t.  I don’t care if you DO change the “er” to an “a,” you’re still degrading yourself and your race by calling yourself a word that is meant to be used to dehumanize and express hatred.  Why would you even WANT to embrace that?
  9. “Less is more” – No.  It’s not.  Less is by definition LESS, and that’s all it can be.  I understand what you think you’re saying, but you’re wrong.
  10. “The Lord works in mysterious ways.” – No, He doesn’t.  He works in the exact same ways He has always worked since the dawn of time.  Just because it’s difficult to comprehend why man would choose to be inhuman to man, that doesn’t mean God’s suddenly decided to drunk-dial His answers to prayers.
  11. “That’s a winner!” – Used most frequently in baseball contexts in reference to Jack Buck’s use of the term when the St. Louis Cardinals would win a game.  But I’ve always hated that expression.  Just seems like the most obvious thing you could possibly say.  And also, isn’t EVERY game a “winner” for someone?  It just seems wholly uncreative and particularly irritating in the context of Facebook posts.
  12. Bro – Stop it.  Just stop it.
  13. And are white people still adding “-izzle” to the end of real words?  If so, then that too.  I liked when Snoop did it…but that’s where it should stop.

…and those are just a few of the many sayings and words I hear people constantly use that bug me.  Hope you enjoyed it and are as irritated by some of them as I am.  🙂

Current Listening:

  • Miles Davis – Kind of Blue
  • John Coltrane – Giant Steps

Hold it right there Switches of East Face!

As you can tell by the above Simpsons reference (this time a Chief Wiggum quote), it’s time for another random post.  For infamy!  (EDIT: Damn!  I had a typo in the blog title!  Sorry everybody who subscribes and got a title sent to them that made even less sense than the corrected version!)

  1. Haven’t been feeling entirely well for a couple of days, but think I’m back on my feet now.  That’s the short version.
  2. Just ordered a new laptop.  Been lacking one since before Christmas, as longtime readers (you poor, poor souls) may recall.  Going with an Asus this time.  Been hearing good things about them, so why not?  Although laptop shopping has pissed me off quite a bit, as I’ve discovered that Firewire is apparently on its way out after being STANDARD on machines as recently as two years ago.  My recording gear uses Firewire, exclusively…because Firewire provides an information-exchange rate that USB (even USB 3.0) just can not match.  But the computer industry has decided to go with USB 3.0 instead, meaning those of us who paid an assload of money to buy 8-16 channel recording gear or nice video equipment are up the creek.  Because there is absolutely NO conversion from Firewire to USB.  So once my one remaining computer with Firewire ports dies, I’m screwed for being able to run my studio anymore.  Thanks a bunch, geeks.  …but still…cool new laptop coming my way next week.
  3. I’ve been listening to the band Heartless Bastards a lot in the past couple of weeks.  I mentioned them to my brother and he said, “So, do you just not remember that we saw them open for Drive-By Truckers?”  I do not, but I’m sure he’s right.  He reminded me that the lead singer had a cold that night and her voice  was extra raspy.  Apparently we said hello to her at the merch area that night and she apologized for the quality of her voice and that she usually sings better, but she’s been sick.  Dave also said he has more than once had a CD of theirs in his hand and hasn’t bought it for one reason or another.  Whereas I…vaguely remember Dave having a conversation with a girl who had a cold once, but that’s where my memory stops.  Apparently I used to drink a lot—and let me emphasize a LOT—at DBT shows.
  4. Watched The Muppets (new movie) at my brother’s place this weekend.  It’s wonderful.  Exactly what I wanted out of a Muppet movie.  Got a little teary-eyed during “Rainbow Connection.”  Then I probably made a dick-joke or something to cover for it.  But still, great movie!
  5. So there’s this thing that’s been going on in the St. Louis area around Tower Grove Park.  It’s called the “Knockout Game.”  It started out with a bunch of punk-ass kids trying to knock out (usually) older people with one punch to impress the self-proclaimed “Knockout King.”  And like all diseases, it mutated.  It has turned into people beating the hell out of others and leaving them unconscious, often leaving them to DIE, but taking no money or possessions from the victim.  Violence for the sake of violence.  A YOUNG man that several of my friends know (but who I do not) was very badly beaten recently in a crime that the cowardly city officials are refusing to acknowledge as being a part of the Knockout Game, even though it bears ALL of the signs.  (They seem to be trying to say that his multiple facial fractures, contusions, broken ribs, collapsed lungs, and other assorted injuries so severe that he has tubes coming out of his chest keeping him alive were caused by “falling off” his bike.  Cowards.)  So…  As a matter of serious petition, please search the Internet for the name Peter Vincent Kruchowski, read his story, see what you can do to help, and drop a line to the city officials telling them that we as citizens of the GREAT city of St. Louis will not put up with them failing to bring those responsible to justice for the sake of their public relations.  Thanks for humoring me.  This is MY city, and this pisses me off.
  6. Dick Cheney got a new heart.  I toyed with several jokes I could make.  Had it narrowed down to a Grinch joke or a Tin Man joke…but instead I’m going to take the high road (kind of) and say that though I do not like the man, completely disagree with his politics, and stand behind every last dirty word I’ve ever said about him, I’m glad he’s not dead, and his family gets more time to spend with him.
  7. In similar news, my aunt Shirley is not doing so well—though I like her a lot more than I like Dick Cheney.  She has been in the hospital with pneumonia so bad that she developed a spinal fracture from coughing.  Her health has been poor for a while, and she’s been in particularly bad shape in the last week or two.  I’d appreciate any good thoughts you could send her way.  She’s the kind of person who always says exactly what she thinks, steps on toes, and then lights a cigarette for good measure (though I think she’s stopped smoking in recent years).  And I’m not quite at the point that I’m ready to pick up the slack and take on that role in the family…so we need to keep Shirley around a little longer!  🙂
  8. Still considering a fountain pen.  Found one online I really like, but can’t find locally to test before buying.  Still, Neil Gaiman uses it, so it can’t be too bad, can it?  It’s a TWSBI Diamond 540.  Also have a contact through my brother’s store who I might like to talk to—though I’m sure it won’t be that specific pen if I go through him.  Either way, thinking I’ll put Noodler’s Blue-Black ink in it, or maybe a midnight blue or dark black…  Crap…  I’m going to end up with six pens just to have a variety of inks, aren’t I?
  9. As a heads-up, my music will soon be coming down from iTunes, Rhapsody and Napster for a little while.  I don’t like the service I’ve been using.  It was supposed to be a $20/year renewal fee for hosting, but they’ve abandoned that and it would cost me $160 to keep all three records online.  So I’m switching services.  I will likely be ONLY on iTunes going forward, but for a LOT cheaper.  The records will probably go up one at a time, starting with the newest one…but we’ll get them pulled from the old server first.  And, working musicians…don’t bother with Tunecore.  CDBaby is the way to go.

Otherwise, I’ve got a handful of things I fully intend to write about this week.  If I actually do or not is up in the air.  Wish me luck!

Current Reading:

  • Kurt Vonnegut – While Mortals Sleep — It’s great.  Short stories.  Wonderful short stories.

I was sitting here struggling to come up with a title for several minutes and the best I could do was “Bass in Your FACE!!!” I’m very, very sorry about that.

I realized something the other night while I was up late thinking about tacos and donuts.

The very first electric bass I ever owned was a cheap, pawn-shop purchase.  I loaned it to someone who was then my friend who more or less disappeared and presumably sold it for either rent or drug money and I never saw it again.  For some reason, I was thinking about that bass the other night, when I realized I bought it when I was in sixth grade.  So that means…wait for it…

I have been playing bass for 20 years.

I know, right?  I don’t look that old.  That’s nice of you to say.  But, yeah…20 years.  Of those years, I’ve probably only been GOOD at it for like 15-18 of those years, because the first year or two of playing anything, everyone sucks at it.  It’s your dreams of grandeur that keep you playing…  But even still.  That’s a huge chunk of my life.  I’m 31 (32 in May—you have 66 shopping days left), so that’s pretty much 2/3 of my life spent on four strings.

I want to mark that somehow, but I don’t know how.  I own five basses.  Is it time for a sixth?  Some awesome, ridiculous bass to mark 2 decades of filtering being pissed off through a power amp?  And where the hell would the money come from?  Maybe not.  Maybe I’ll take some pictures of the basses for the Tumblr page and document some stories about them.  Maybe I’ll record a few bass solos and throw them on the website (which—side note—is in the early stages of a re-design, as I’m also working to get music for Two Hangmen online and on iTunes).  Or maybe I’ll do all of that, or none of that.  I’m not sure just what I’ll do yet.

But some time, before the Mayan Apocalypse, I WILL mark the fact that I have been playing the bass for 20 years, and you WILL know about it, unless you don’t come back and read the blog again or just don’t give a damn or something.

So there.

Comic Book Catch Up

Haven’t written about my comic book obsession for a while.  I’m still reading and buying every week.  In fact, I have so many regular titles that I pick up that I’m almost embarrassingly not reading any proper books at the moment, and I’m just catching up on comic books.  Anyway…here’s a quick post to keep you up to date on what I’m reading and why.  Not that too many of you care about that…but hey, at least I’m blogging.

And for those that are true believers, but are behind on their reading, this post contains some spoilers if you are not up to date.

Stuff I’m reading (in no particular order):

  • Morning Glories – I’ve mentioned this one on the blog before.  One of my favorite titles out there.  It’s got a “LOST” type of quality to it, while still existing in its own universe and feeling completely fresh.  My only criticism is that it takes them a LONG time to get back to individual stories and the overall plot is moving VERY slowly.  I enjoy the slow-burn quality, and that makes the major moments feel even BIGGER when they finally do happen…but man it’s slow.  (Then again, we all said the same thing about “LOST” from time to time…)
  • The Unwritten – This is one of the few books that seems to deliver EVERY time.  I really don’t know why I haven’t been trying harder to turn others on to this title.  It’s brilliant.  Takes place in a semi-Harry-Potter-ish world, but it’s like if the kid who played Harry grew up only to discover that the Potter movies/books weren’t just stories, but were actually his autobiography, and now he’s got to deal with that here in the 21st century.  It’s literate, it’s at times WAY more brutal and dramatic than you expect out of a comic book, and it’s an engaging story that doesn’t let you down.  Plus, lots of people say “fuck” in it, all the time.  So there’s something for the kids, too!
  • Batman – I drifted away from Batman under the Grant Morrison helm.  Scott Snyder has been running the main title ever since the DC Comics re-launch (if you missed it, DC relaunched EVERY title in their arsenal.  Superman, Batman, etc, etc…all back to Issue #1—though most of them don’t really feel like full re-starts).  I’m going to put this as simply as I can.  Scott Snyder has saved Batman.  The “Court of Owls” arc he’s got going is a masterwork, and I am overjoyed every time I hold a new issue in my hands, and literally pissed off every time it ends and I’ve got to wait another MONTH for the next amazing issue.
  • Batman & Robin – Almost as good as Batman (the main title).  Seems to be more focused on the relationship/workings of Batman and the present Robin, Bruce’s son Damian Wayne.  Also does not seem to follow the same time-line or be impacted by the same events as the main title, so it has to stand on its own two feet, in its own continuity.  It works way better than it sounds like it should.
  • Thief of Thieves – Relatively new title.  It’s cinematic and has a little bit of an “Oceans 11” vibe (the good one with the Rat Pack, not the remake crap).  Haven’t QUITE fallen in love with it, but I think I’ll get there.
  • Captain America & Bucky/Winter Soldier – Those are two different books.  Cap & Bucky is okay.  Winter Soldier is a lot better.  I’ve honestly felt VERY let down by the Captain America franchise ever since the “Fear Itself” fiasco that Marvel released.  Marvel just doesn’t do very good crossover events, and the Cap titles suffered badly.  I’m still reading (though I’ve dropped the “Captain America” main title), but it’s nowhere near as engaging, even though it’s the same writer, whose style I adore.  Marvel really screwed over their BEST title with the craptacular crossover of the past year.  That’s a shame.  “Fear Itself” had a TON of potential that it just BLEW around issue #3.  It’s so bad that it hasn’t ended and they’re still releasing a “Fear Itself” based title trying to retro-fit the bullshit they created.
  • Locke & Key – Written by the brilliant Joe Hill, who has quickly become one of my favorite authors.  (Check out his non-comic book novels “Heart Shaped Box” and “Horns,” both of which will stick with you a while.)  Locke & Key is engaging, a little scary, and altogether spellbinding.  I must confess that I’m “trade-chasing” on this one (I’m buying it in bound–or “trade”–form once major arcs come to a conclusion) because I got in too late to start collecting single-issues…but it’s wonderful.
  • Fatale – Only a few issues in, and it’s one of the creepiest, most mysterious, haunting tales on stands.  I don’t even know how to describe it…  A pulp-novel that has a foot—or maybe entire LEG—in the occult?  That’s kind of close.  Whatever the hell it is, it’s genius.
  • Justice League – I seem to be in the minority in how much I’m enjoying Justice League in the reboot.  We just ended the first major story where they more or less “got the band together” and I thought it was fun, though there were moments where I think the criticism that it’s out of step with the characters is valid.  (IE – Batman ripping the apparent DECAL off his shirt and taking off his mask to do very un-Batman-like things to save Superman–wtf?)  Still, I think there’s a TON o potential here, and I look forward to seeing where it goes.
  • Justice League International – Just when I was about to drop this title, they released the last issue, which was PHENOMENAL.  They killed one of my favorite characters on the team, but rather than make me want to stop reading, it made me think, “But…they can’t do that!  What are they going to do next?!?  I have to keep reading this!”  When a writer can kill off a guy you like, but still keep you on their side, it’s a title worth reading.
  • The Flash – Haven’t been enjoying The Flash quite as much as I was pre-Flashpoint, but it’s still good.  I think it just had to find its feet again after the reboot.  It’s getting stronger, and I think it’ll be back on my “favorites” list soon.  Because, hey…it’s the goddamn FLASH.
  • iZombie – Fun, silly, creepy, ridiculously entertaining book that could also be called, “I was a 20-something zombie, and I loved it.”  Trade-chasing on this one as well…but it’s well worth the chase.
  • Detective Comics – It’s another Batman title, and “Detective” was the one I KEPT reading even when I gave up on the main title for a little while.  (Scott Snyder was writing Detective Comics while Morrison was butchering the main title.  DC made a VERY smart move when they moved him over to the main title.)  Detective is falling a little short for me, post reboot.  They threw the Joker into the first issue (which is what we all WANT to see, of course), but then he immediately disappeared after literally having his face ripped off, and we haven’t gotten back to that.  HOW DO YOU NOT GET BACK TO THAT?!?!?!?!?  Instead, we’ve gotten a crappy love story that somehow involved the Penguin.  I literally felt like I hadn’t been reading the book during the last issue, because I just kept thinking, “How did we get HERE?  Where’s the damn JOKER?!?”  Might drop it soon if they don’t get back to…well…anything that made me like the first issue.
  • Action Comics – Probably best of the Superman titles, though the whole Superman series seems disjointed and hard to follow…  Oh wait.  Grant Morrison’s writing it.  That explains it.
  • Superman – See above, but remove “probably the best…”  Which is a shame, since this title is actually CALLED “Superman.”
  • No Place Like Home – Something that seems to be vaguely based on the Wizard of Oz (maybe?), but definitely has something darker lurking beneath the surface.  It’s only on issue #1…and I’ve GOT to read issue #2 and find out what the hell is going on.

…and I’m reading a few more titles on and off.  But those are the MAIN ones.  Hope that wasn’t too boring to those of you who foolishly think comics are for kids.  Seriously.  You’re very, very wrong about that.


Current Listening:

  • Heartless Bastards – “Arrow” — It has grown on me quite a bit, and I think it might be headed to the top ten for the year, if it’s not careful.

Vacation Wrap Up

Well, my vacation is over as of 9:00 tomorrow morning, when I clock back in at work.  (EDIT: Actually, I guess that’s THIS morning now…wow…this took a long time to write.)  Deliberately didn’t blog during it, so I’m probably going to forget some stuff…but let’s do a summary of the week.  Random style, of course.  (Though this will be semi-in order by day…so organized-random.)

  1. Monday and Tuesday I went to work.  Same old…
  2. At 5:00 on Tuesday the vacation began.  It was a fairly normal night, all-told.  Had a rehearsal with Two Hangmen.  Went pretty well.  Then I just watched TV and such until I went to bed.
  3. Wednesday was my first real day off.  Slept in, but only a little bit.  Put on pants around 10:00, then watched a decent amount of an Andy Griffith marathon.
  4. Did some mixing/level-tests on some of the material I’ve been working on for the new record (“Pop Art Manifesto”).  Some of it sounds pretty good.  Some of it doesn’t.  Trying to fix the latter part.
  5. Met up with my friend Shara Lyn and Moya (see her blog in the links for details on Moya, if you don’t know who that is) for dinner and ice cream.  It was nice.  It’s weird, I’ve seen more of Shara Lyn since she moved to Haiti than I did in like 5-10 years prior.  It’s always great to see her and it was kinda the highlight of the week—with all due apologies to my church group, which I skipped out on.  We seem to just pick right back up from where we left off every time we meet, and that’s a rare, wonderful thing to find in a friend.
  6. Thursday, I don’t think I did anything at all.  Seriously.  I’m a complete blank on anything I might’ve done on Thursday.
  7. Friday I spent most of the day doing nothing, then went out to my brother’s place and did more nothing.  We watched some Father Ted on DVD and got Sonic for dinner.  Then I left there and stayed up late watching MORE Father Ted.  Not a bad thing.
  8. Saturday was the big St. Patrick’s Day celebration.  For whatever reason, I was irritated for most of the day.  Probably from having to get up so damn early to get a parking space.
  9. (St. Patrick’s Day—continued):  Camped out in St. James the Greater Catholic Church, as always.  Watched the Irish Aires play a set or two.  Watched one of those horrifying, just barely a step above “Child Beauty Pageant” step dancing kids’ groups perform.  (I mean no real disrespect to the kids—they were very talented—but are the wigs really necessary?  Just seems like the organizers are trying to make them look TOO adult, when they could look like, y’know, KIDS doing an awesome thing.)  Ate some kind-of-okay corned beef.  Then it rained its ass off, and I was very irritated that we didn’t leave before that happened.  Once we did, it was BRUTAL traffic, more pouring rain, and car accidents on both ends of the street, resulting in an hour journey to go three blocks.  But hey…corned beef.
  10. (St. Patrick’s Day—continued):  Somehow, I made it until 6:00 without drinking a Guinness.  The church didn’t serve Guinness (I KNOW, right?!?) and I didn’t have a ton of time to pick any up.  Showed up to a party at the home of my friends the Blacks and had my share of Guinness there.  Good thing, too.  I’m Irish.  If I don’t have Guinness on St. Patrick’s Day, I’ll go to Hell.
  11. (St. Patrick’s Day—continued):  The party at the Blacks’ was fun.  Saw some friends I only see at their house when they have get-togethers.  My good friend Larry was in attendance.  (Long-time readers of the blog—how sad—will remember that I used to work with Larry.)  Larry and I sat on opposite sides of the couch and just bullshitted all night and kept ourselves entertained.  I’ve missed that, ever since he moved to Kansas City.  Then again, we text each other so often, it’s sometimes like he never left.  Andy and Tara (aka “the Blacks”) provided corned beef, cabbage, and potatoes, and it was excellent.  WAY better than the stuff at the church.  Tara makes an actual ROAST, as opposed to offering that sliced nonsense most people seem to try to shove down your throat.  Much appreciated that she goes to the effort.
  12. (St. Patrick’s Day—continued):  St. Patrick’s Day kind of drew to a close for me around 11:00 at the Blacks’ house.  Someone at the party decided that it was movie-time and that we’d watch that Irish classic “Creepshow 2.”  Ahem.  (Actually not sure they ended up watching that, as there was some opposition.)  I wasn’t really in the mood for a movie, and I was tired since I’d gotten up so early for the Dogtown festivities, so I split around then.  But I think a good time was had by all.  And Guinness was had by some.
  13. (St. Patrick’s Day—concluded):  I plopped myself down on the couch and watched a few more episodes of Father Ted, finished off the home-supply of Guinness and went to bed to get up for church today, and St. Patrick’s Day officially ended.
  14. Church was weird.  We’ve been going through the Beatitudes and we were on “blessed are the persecuted.”  So they had us meet in a dark room, with no real format, telling stories of church persecution in other countries.  I got the point, but I didn’t really care for it, if I’m honest.  Telling me stories of persecuted missionaries and how they’re often tortured, raped, murdered, and worse…that just cements my decision to not be a missionary to a country where Christianity is illegal.  And those were the stories today.  Don’t particularly care to hear about that kind of thing and found the whole day depressing, as they stated that they didn’t really even want us to have any fellowship time as we left, unless we really needed to talk to someone.  And I’m not sure if there was any HOPE described today.  Seemed hopeless, dreary, and dark.  The kind of stories where you not only feel disturbed hearing them, but also are pretty much told (though no one actually says it), “…so your problems barely even COUNT as problems.”  But they do…and though services like that are impactful and serve a purpose…I just don’t like them.  They’re not why I go to church.  And I guess that’s a “first world” problem, huh?  I guess there was supposed to be an implied “but it’s worth it, because of Jesus,” but I didn’t really catch that part.  I just found the whole thing depressing to the point that I then went on Facebook and asked if anyone had any NICE stories to share.   Maybe it’s me.  Maybe I don’t get it.  (Probably.)  But I’m just not sure how being beaten, tortured, raped, and killed is supposed to “glorify” God in the first place, quite frankly.  Why must we mourn that we don’t have that kind of persecution in America?  Shouldn’t we be grateful and happy about it?
  15. Sorry to be a bit of a downer in that last bit…  Say…  Aren’t cakes awesome?
  16. Presently waiting for my laundry to finish, and then it’s off to bed.  Work in the morning is going to be a struggle.  On Monday and Tuesday of last week, I was thinking I should’ve just taken the whole week off.  I think I’m going to feel doubly strong about that tomorrow!

…so anyway…  Not a bad vacation.  Worst part about it is that it’s ending.

Current Listening:

  • Lou Reed/Velvet Underground mix on “shuffle”
  • The Chieftains – Voice of Ages

On the subject of Fun and Music…I guess…I don’t know…

I keep ALMOST writing.  I keep having things in mind to write about, but then I start writing about them and don’t feel like finishing.  I guess part of that is because the main two things I’ve felt strongly enough to write about in recent days are the Limbaugh thing and the Kony 2012 video that’s been circulating.  But other people on the Internet have done a much better job of writing out my thoughts on those things, and I quickly get tired of writing long, serious, political posts on this blog.  (Short versions, for those who are interested: Limbaugh – I’m opposed.  Kony – I’m opposed to him, but also to Invisible Children.  There, that’s it.)

So then I started thinking about fun stuff I could write about.  But a lot of what passes for “fun” for me is boring to other people.  For example, I’ve spent a large amount of time on the Internet researching different types of fountain pens.  I now know a LOT about fountain pens.  I’m still looking for a supplier in town (there aren’t any, really), but if I can’t find one, I think I know what I’m buying online.

…and for ME that’s fun.  For YOU, you’re wondering where the punchline comes in, and how could it possibly be a good punchline if it’s about pens???  And you’re right.

Of course, I HAVE been working on some music.  Made some progress on Pop Art Manifesto in the past week or two…but there’s a blog all about that…which I also don’t write on enough.

I picked up some new music though.  That’s fun.  (And yes, I know that should go on Empty Checking…but that might be dead.  Didn’t mean for it to die, but I think it did.  We’ll see.)  So let’s review the music really quickly—most of it being kind of obscure and found by reading Magnet Magazine, which my local record store (Vintage Vinyl in U City) gives out for free…so this won’t be THAT interesting to most of you either, since several of these bands aren’t really making headlines.  (And I’m not a hipster for saying that.)

  • Bruce Springsteen – “Wrecking Ball” — We can start off well though.  Everyone’s heard of Bruce.  He’s The Boss, after all.  “Wrecking Ball” is one of the year’s best records, and I’m glad it came early so I’ve got a full nine months left to enjoy it and figure out just how high into the top five it goes.  It set the benchmark for anything else that comes out this year.  It’s kind of a departure for Springsteen.  He marrys the E-Street sound (and this is NOT an E-Street record) to the folk sound of the “Sessions” band from a few years ago, and does it masterfully.  Mixed with loud guitars, Celtic influences, and a buttload of horns in all the right places, it’s all win.  As I described it on Facebook, it’s like The Boss saw how f’ed up America has become and decided to throw a party about it.  Grade: A+
  • Hospitality – (Self Titled) — In the same vein as Camera Obscura, if that means anything to you.  It sounds kind of like something that should be played while Hello Kitty figures dance across a brightly flashing screen, only less irritating.  It’s the kind of record that I listen to and just think, “It’s so pretty outside.  It’s going to be a great Spring.”  And that’s not so bad.  But it’s not for every day.  Grade: B-
  • Heartless Bastards – “Arrow” — Bought for the name of the band, mostly.  It’s pretty close to my cup of tea.  There’s a touch of Americana and a touch of Zeppelin…and a girl lead singer.  That last part doesn’t matter really, but it was a surprise.  Didn’t expect a band called Heartless Bastards to have a female singer.  In the end, it’s good, but I don’t have any of the songs stuck in my head and a couple of the tunes are a little long-winded.  I think I need to give it another couple of listens to decide fully.  Grade C+, but probably a B to B+ by the time it grows on me.
  • Raven Wolf – “Spiritual Jazz …on South 9th Street” — (Link working as of time of writing.)  I met Raven Wolf outside of Vintage Vinyl.  He was standing out there playing some really good saxophone.  Chatted with him a little bit and he was really nice and I liked him, so I bought his CD.  It’s good.  (And cooler than that, I’ve seen him since and he remembered me, which is a sign of a genuinely nice guy.)  I was expecting something from the realm of traditional sax-Jazz, and that’s definitely there, but there’s something else too.  He has some tribal elements to his music and provides a different spin on traditional ideas.  “Spiritual Jazz” is a good name for it.  You can hear Raven Wolf’s spirit flowing through the music and though it delves into some areas that fans of traditional sax-based Jazz might not be anticipating, it’s a very welcome trip off the beaten path.  He’s playing down at Kirkwood Train Station on March 31.  $10 admission.  Thinking about going if anyone wants to come with.  Grade: A, possibly A+.
  • The Chieftains – “Voice of Ages” — Technically “The Chieftains featuring…” a whole bunch of other people including Imelda May (yay!), Punch Brothers (yay!), Bon Iver (I really want to say “yay!” but I’m not quite there yet!), and The Decemberists (meh!).  The Chieftains turn 50 this year and they decided to mark it by pissing off the handful of fans still alive from their hey day.  And that’s awesome.  It’s not your typical Chieftains record, but it’s not NOT a traditional Chieftains record either.  Well worth a listen with St. Patrick’s Day coming up this weekend.  Grab a pint and a friend and have a good time.  Grade A-.  (Too interesting to not give an A, but the “-” is there because it’s not quite all my cup of tea—but it’s close.)

And that’s the reviews…  Was THAT fun?  I think it was…

Fun’s where you find it I guess.  I plan on having some fun this week, as I’m taking off Wednesday through Friday, and I think I’m going to get to meet up with an old friend for a while during that time, so I’m excited, but also a pessimist, so I won’t blog about it in advance just in case she has to cancel for some reason.  🙂  (Seriously though, really looking forward to it.)

Either way, I had to get something on here.  I keep ALMOST posting, and ALMOST convincing myself that something’s worth writing about, then I don’t.  So tonight it didn’t seem as important to write something GOOD as it did to just write SOMETHING.

But I hope you enjoyed the part about the CDs anyway…