Thursday, December 30, 2010


Here we go again
The long drive down to old world
Plus Trader Joe stop!

Thanksgiving buffet
Is a memory to keep
Unlike the perv clown.

Even though yummy
Be careful when you reheat
Green been casserole.

Love Wolf’s BBQ
And a few quiet hours
To read some Westlake.

Great rivers of tears
Provide the soundtrack for the
Long dark drive home.

She’s rightly depressed
And having withdrawal from
The family she likes.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Just Ordinary People

Recording again,
The annual Christmas song
For my lovely wife.

Does anyone want
A free flu vaccination?
Free formaldehyde!

Larry the Ladder
Has finally returned home
From his adventures.

Lots of guys tonight
Hanging out, drinking a beer,
Playing darts for free.

Our cars are working
And for that I am very
Thankful to our God.

New experience,
Though perhaps a bit diff’rent
That Blessingway was.

Today’s morning snack
Have been brought to you by ol
Raw carrots and squeak,

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Another Couple of Sticks

Oodles of driving
Down to Evansville and back
And I’m not done yet.

Despite the long wait
We had a wonderful date
At the Flat Top Grill.

“No, you cannot go
“To your friends house once again.
“Stay home and do tents.”

What? Another date!
To Avilla we shall go
My gal is the best!

I got the date wrong
Ignorance of the church year
Made it darts for two.

It is a sad day.
No more dairy for Miss Brooke.
She’s taking it well.

Clueless managers
Have pushed me to the point where
I no longer care.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Crawling to the finish line

Once every decade
Melynda gets new glasses.
The time is at hand.

Daylight Savings Time:
I will keep my mouth shut tight
And drink more coffee.

Seeker friendly church
With segregated worship
Wacky like a zoo.

That I have hit a dead end
No chance for job growth.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Change and Chips

That Buster Keaton
He sure is a funny man
From my memory.

Hangin’ with Hrehov
Watching election returns
And enjoying brew.

Massive victory.
Let’s hope they don’t forget their
Principles while there.

Sweet little Tessa
Said “My mouth is for cookies.”
Wisdom from a child.

How have I missed out
On 10cc for so long?
I lived in a cave.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

A Big To Do List

I like not to train
And even when I try hard
Stress spills into home.

I have some good news:
There are only seventy
Haikus left to write!

I have a problem:
I find that I am writing
The same haiku twice.

Haikus are quite brief
But the best short sentence is
Simply “I love you.”

About that last one,
It could have come from Hallmark
But it came from me.

I am way too stressed
Over training the new guy.
I need to care les.

This is the first day
Driving far to get the boys
But they are worth it.

“Oh, did I tell you
“That you would be paid that much?
“I was wrong. My bad.”

Like a pointed stick
Oft jabbed into left eye
Is my employer.

I have this feeling
I have forgotten my youth

My oldest offspring
Went trick or treating alone
And did not get lost.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Black Monday

A day off from work
To catch up on the housework.
It’s all about work.

One full day at work
Before we leave once again.
Jet-setting lifestyle.

Pack the kids in tight
Miss an exit, stop to nurse
Princeton, here we are!

The in-laws are great
But the highlight of each trip
Is our date alone.

Back at one thirty
How could I tear them away?
They are all so sad.

Have I failed to note
That my “tired gland” has grown
Ten sizes too big?

The boy needs a stand
For his snare. Found one cheap at
The pawn shop. WHOO HOO!

It’s been quite hectic
So much so that I forgot
Today is Wednesday.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

October Seems Like Just Last Month

One is in high school
So that makes me a geezer
Or so I am told.

With each new password
I have to forget one thing.
Was it your birthday?

We have an old fish.
It is older than the kids
And just will not die.

My foot, it still hurts
But if I see a doctor
It will stop that day.

My note for today
Simply says to write of gold
What was I thinking?

In my working space
I traded a throat clearing
For a bottle squeak.

It’s all about maps
For our pending vacation
I bet I get lost.

Leaving tomorrow
With the best wife in the world
Sitting by my side.

Ann Arbor was packed
But the museum was nice
And the pool was warm.

We like the fruit store
And Deerfield and Ikea
A day for the books!

Bronners was plain huge
What’s the deal with Frankenmuth?
We are not shoppers.

It was quite sunny
And the beach in October
Was all but empty.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Super Blasty

I think I’ve finally hit a milestone in my never ending quest to find the genesis of my musical inclinations – that is, why so I like the music that I like. This still doesn’t answer the “chicken or egg” question of if I was drawn to this music because of my chromosomes or if my personal tastes were formed by hours of listening so that years later when I heard music that was similar I found it comforting and likeable. I know that my love of movies, and particularly monster movies, is from trying to get close to my dad. My few memories of doing things with him as a child involved him taking us kids to the drive in or to see Star Wars or getting to stay up late and see twenty minutes of some scary movie he was watching on TV. But this here post isn’t about my failure to make the all-important identification transition to my father as a young child… it’s about MUSIC!

My connection with this un-named seminal album probably happened around age five or six. Before that there was Sesame Street albums and read-along “turn the page when you hear the ding” records but as best as I can recall this was my first foray into the music of grownups.

And what a foray! The album is the 1971 cast recording of Jesus Christ Superstar. Before I get into the music itself I’d like to digress into a few comments on the lyrics. Back when I became a Christian nearly a quarter century ago I remember listening to the album again and having a few problems with it (mostly the “Always hoped that I’d be an apostle” bit) and the lack of the resurrection but overall thought it was benign. I now see how this album can be terribly damaging and misleading to someone who has no knowledge of the Gospels. The biggest issue is that Jesus is presented as a self-aggrandizing, whiney, lime-light seeking, doubter. Though I have no doubt that His heart was pounding in his chest as He prayed that dark night He ultimately laid down His will. Plus is doubting a sin? Well, it’s not trusting (faith) in our Father and I don’t think anyone would say that Jesus didn’t have faith. ‘Nuff said.

On to the music! First of all it is a large format piece with repeating themes, setting up my lifelong “tolerance” for music longer than three minutes. It also blends a full orchestra with a heavy rock band which maps easily to my current enjoyment of classical and hard rock plus my love of orchestral/symphonic rock. The music is also heavily dramatic which, though not a top requirement for my tastes, is something I enjoy in moderation. On top of all this is the fact that the music is exceedingly melodic, something which IS a requirement if an album is going to get much play into my eager ears.

Also of interesting note, and something I hadn’t noticed before, is that the music is quite adventurous and progressive. A number of songs venture outside of standard 4/4 time and/or jump stylistically all over the place from measure to measure, leaping from mischievous to spooky to energetic to enthusiastic. These days I’m a sucker for melodic heavy progressive rock with orchestral touches and rather enjoy it when a song screeches to a halt and takes off in an unexpected direction. Déjà vu.

The playful nature of JCS seems to almost have been ripped off of Prokofiev, a personal favorite. In some cases it seemed like the very arrangements were lifted from the cannon of Prokofiev. The piece named The Crucifixion is a very modern sound pastiche of very different parts playing simultaneously in the mode of Charles Ives, another favorite.

Having heard the album for the first time in two decades is quite enough. It’s time now to listen to vintage Sesame Street!

Monday, November 1, 2010

Review from the Archives - The Terrordactyls

I haven't listened to his album much in the since two or three years ago when I wrote this review. Perhaps I should for I remember it fondly.

Imagine if as a very young boy Da Vinci was given blunt-tipped scissors, construction paper, glitter, pipe cleaners and gobs of paste. The result would likely hint at the genius of things to come while basking in the simplicity and innocence of childhood. Such is the music of The Terrordactyls and their debut self-titled album.

Listening to this album gives you the impression of being allowed to join in with old friends as they sit around and play cherished songs from their past, not unlike listening to albums by Ed’s Redeeming Qualities. Hollow acoustic guitars, toy pianos, invigorating two part vocal harmonies and enchanting two part kazoo harmonies all come together to form instant childhood memories overflowing with joy and melancholy.

“Zombie Girl” finds them opining over “the awesomist girl in my school” with whistling, kazoos, and a smattering of French, making the brief two minute song sheer perfection of irony with English lyrics such as “You have no nose / But that’s okay / You can hide treasures / Inside your brain.” “Facelift” is another weird sad tale of a girl with no face, plus robots and Black & Decker power tools. Instantly appealing with amazing vocal harmonies and a brief electric guitar solo this song packs a massive punch in 1:34, similar to the kind of friendly yet twisted humor They Might Be Giants used to exhibit. You’ve never heard a better toy piano solo than in “Decoration Daniel” where impressive lyrics such as “He’ll decorate the zit / On your pretty face” and “You’re the magic in his marker” are backed with a breezy melody, simple strummed guitar, and crisp hand claps. The band duets with Kimya Dawson on “Devices”, a charming duet of rushed lyrics and kazoos, a song so sweet that when you hear “You and I are meant for each other” you believe it. Incidentally this song was included on the soundtrack for the indie hit Juno and it succinctly captures the relationship of the two young leads. While nearly all of the fourteen songs are memorable, one final zinger is “Fall” where a sugary melody is offset by lyrics such as “Shoot me in the face / I’ll shoot you in the face / See which one of us / Can shoot the other in the most accurate place.” It gets more macabre from there but it’s such a happy, silly song that you can’t help singing along.

A cousin to bands like Danielson Famile, the focus is on songwriting and feel instead of studio perfection. The Terrordactyls sounds like it was recorded in a bedroom and this intimacy and lo-fi nature is part of its appeal. The Nuevo-folksy songs are filled with clever wordplay and the giddy feeling of summer vacation. Rediscover a new old friend.

September Is In The Can

It took but six years
But I finally blew up
At a bumbling peer.

She twitterpates me
With her laugh and her loving
And her fine figure.

It’s a chipmunk, yes?
And yet it avoids my traps.
Get out of my floor.

No Huntington trip
This weekend we shall stay home.
Pioneer burnout.

It took a full month
But my garage is now dry
Small retaining wall.

Christmas is coming
And I have yet to pick out
A song for my wife.

The night was just right
Not too warm or not too cold
Cuddles till we slept.

Have you ever stood
And just looked at the night sky?
I saw a space ship.

I love distortion
For it covers up my lack
Of precise technique.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Astounding News!

Shhhhh.... I'm working on a Unified Consumption Theory.

The basic premise is that we should throw the food pyramid back at the corrupt government who made it and instead eat food in the proportions of how much work it takes for one family to create it before the innovations of the last two hundred years.

A few examples that ran higgildly piggidly through my brain as I came up with this theory:

Vegetables - Easy to grow. Throw some seeds in the ground, water, fertilize, hoe, pick, reap your rewards. Sure, lots of work but nothing compared to everything else... so eat lots of vegetables.

Fruit and Nuts - Medium easy. Plant some apple seeds or raspberry plants, prune, water, wait, grow, grow, a few years later you climb or gather and eat.

Grains - Not as easy as it first appears. Sow seed, water, fertilize, hoe, etc. Then gather up a whole bunch of it, thresh it, sweep up the grain heads and grind them into a flour and make your bread. Or your pasta. Quite a bit of work goes into that one loaf so go sparingly. And this loaf has lots of the germ and vitamins still present. Want fluffy white bread? There's more work involved so by my theory you can eat even less of it.

Sugar - I'm no expert on extracting sugar from beets or growing sugar cane. Heck, I'm not an expert on anything. However I suspect that it takes quite a bit of work. Extended boiling and evaporation may be involved (which it certainly is for maple syrup, which falls into this category) so you have to gather up or cut lots of wood for the fire - loads of work! So use sugar sparingly. As for honey, not a lot of work to harvest but how often do you find bees nests? And hive cultivation, I would suspect, is quite a bit of work so again, go easy on honey.

Meats - If you raise meat then you have to raise grain to feed them... but you don't have to thresh, grind, etc. the grain. Or two hundred years ago you could hunt it. Work but deceptively not as much work as all that threshing. Eat meat. Enjoy meat. Your body knows what to do with it.

Milk and cheese and butter and eggs- Again, you raise the dairy cow and you sit on a bucket and milk away. Then you churn the milk for butter or add cultures and time for cheese. Eat medium amounts.

Beer and wine - This stuff literally grows on trees so enjoy all you want. Or perhaps it takes medium work to ferment and grow the items that go into these. Enjoy moderately.

Chocolate - Now this stuff really does grow on trees. And I can't say anything bad about our friend Chocolate.

So how does this translate to more modern foods?

Ice Cream - Forget the guar gums, look at a package from Breyers. Cream, eggs, sugar. The Cream is medium, the eggs are easy and the sugar is labor-intensive. Plus the hauling of ice and the work involved in churning. Go easy on the ice cream but yogurt and custard are more permissible.

Soft drinks - Water is ultra-easy. High fructose corn syrup and/or aspartame are not. Consider it a treat.

Ring Dings - You've got highly refined "sorta" flour and waxy nearly chocolate-like stuff and sugary whey-based filling. Yeah, a rare treat.

Frosted Sugar Pops - Puffed corn meal coated in so much sugar that you smell it in your urine. It's like candy for breakfast!

What am I missing?

Wednesday, October 20, 2010


I am not quite sure
If I’m fully recovered
From my night shift stint

Stone’s Trace Festival
Beats that Johnny Appleseed
By a country mile.

Another great date
Just me and my lovely mate
And Andrew the Great.

Leonard’s Lane is not
A bowling ally. Big oops.
It’s a halfway house.

He had him a beard
And a burger and collar.
A nice thank you lunch.

The bigwigs are back
Visiting our humble burg
We sure is such hicks.

Still recovering
From one nasty, icky cold
My eyeballs still itch.

Mr. Socialite
Is having lunch with others
Two times in one week.

On this day back in
The year 1945
My father was born.

Some weekends are foul
But this time I can say, “Wow!
“What a great Sunday!”

Met a guy for lunch.
Hoped for friend material
But he was all gab.

A refreshing day
Because I no longer work
With cussing sailors.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Retro Review - P. Hux - Kiss the Monster

Here's an excellent 10+ album! Two years later and I'm still listening to it regularly. Outstanding power pop from one of America's many under-appreciated songcrafters. The song "Bones" is, quite possibly, one of the most perfect songs ever written.

Parthenon Huxley makes writing a phenomenal song look easy. His ninth and latest album, Kiss the Monster, is crammed with eleven timeless songs that effortlessly capture the youthful awe of a summer day at the beach. It’s no wonder he’s been called the American Andy Partridge and spent the better part of eight years as the singer/guitarist for ELO Part II, capably filling the unfillable shoes of Jeff Lynne.

Speaking of E.L.O., “Yesterday” has the amazing power pop feel of this group with subtly distorted guitars and lyrics that expertly capture the tentative moments early in a relationship (“Now I don’t want to scare you / And say too much too fast”). In “Perfect” The Spongetones meet REM with a breezy and hopeful song that layers Parthenon’s relaxed vocals into harmonies the just beg you to join along. “Come Clean” is a song about confession (“And when I finally tell her everything / There might be nothing left between us”), starkly admitting that the line of “it was just physical” is poppycock (“effing really effing matters”), while some unorthodox bass noodlings adorns the subtle string orchestration. Frail vocal harmonies will squeeze your heart in “Better Than Good”, a sunny summer day on the beach where an autumn breeze ominously intrudes. The album closer is “Everything’s Different Now”, a gentle, beautiful lullaby to his daughter (“I’m under your tiny thumb”) filled with great lyrics every parent will understand: “Everything’s different now / There’s no more ‘More of the same’” and “One day you’ll get me back for making you look like me.”

As good as these songs are there are two that will simply drop your jaw, revealing why P. Hux is a songwriter’s songwriter. “My Friend Hates Me” opens with a creamy tube-drenched guitar that leads to a crunchy rhythm, poppy “Do Do Dos”, an astounding melody and line after line of humorous lyrics as to why he lost his friend - “Maybe I’m just a loser / Maybe he’s back on drugs / Maybe I was an a$$hole / Maybe he needs a hug.” Do you remember that great A.M. radio pre-disco sound? P. Hux nails it in “Bones”, a ballad full of Wurlitzers, light electric guitar, horns, real strings, and a romantic chorus set to a melody so achingly good mere mortals are unworthy: “I’ll take everything that you’ve got / Even the stuff you don’t want / Take the good and the bad / I want it all.” Wings? Hall and Oats? Novices!

Kiss the Monster should come with a warning sticker- THESE SONGS WILL STICK IN YOUR HEAD. It’s obvious that this man has been drinking from the wells of Joe Jackson, Gin Blossoms, Elvis Costello, The Beatles, XTC, and Fountains of Wayne. There’s an enduring quality to these songs, a gentle truth free of musical clichés and trendy studio gimmicks. What else do I have to say?!?!? BUY THIS ALBUM!

Review - Ty Tabor - Something's Coming

I don't mean to sound like a crusty ol' curmudgeon but I know that this man is capable of so much more. And The Choir, while it's a good album and I'm grateful that they release new music even if it IS five years between albums (at least it's not ten years and counting like Daniel Amos) but it's not the classic that all the raving fanboys are saying. It's solid B songwriting with A+ production.

Music nerds such as myself have a detailed and complicated relationship with the artists who supply the fodder of their addiction. Case in point is Ty Tabor. He is a founding member of King’s X, a band whose early albums filled my life with hours of enjoyment. Then they put out a few mediocre albums and I stuck with them. Then Ty released a solo album which I dutifully bought, mostly to find out if he was the reason for the magic of King’s X. It too was somewhat bland though often showing promise if only the right producer had taken the reigns and prodded the artist to greater heights. For over a decade now I’ve been dutifully buying King’s X albums with the unmet hope that they will one day hit their earlier greatness. I have also spent the same decade buying Ty Tabor solo albums with the same “ho-hum” results.

Something’s Coming is the sixth time I’ve forked money over to this man and once again, or rather “still”, he has some great ideas that just need a strong driver to force him to go that extra mile to make it superb. The good news is that if you liked his past solo albums then you will not be let down. Furthermore if you liked his stupendous guitar tone in the past then you have nothing to fear for Tabor coaxes another bevy of tones that will leave guitar-tone-junkies drooling on their amps. These astounding tones are used to form intense walls of sound for songs that, for the most part, don’t get out of third gear.

Lyrically this album has some strong moments but for the most part Tabor remains somewhat aloof, eschewing the painfully personal lyrics of his Jelly Jam side project, lyrics whose vulnerability made them horrendously appealing. Instead he looks to themes of personal liberation, clearly evident in “Free Yourself” which sports an unorthodox guitar solo that will leave some scratching their heads. Tired of being yanked around, “Politician’s Creed” takes aim at both sides of the aisle and seeks freedom from their equally greedy tyranny. In “Mr. Freeze” Tabor uses his relaxed southern voice to implore tolerance in the arena of ideas with “I don’t expect you to be like me / So don’t expect me to be like you.” Gorgeous vocal harmonies adorn “Slow Down Sister,” a slow simmer of a song which cautions an un-named woman against giving up her freedom by rushing into marriage. And so it goes through the rest of the album, culminating in the ominous “Something’s Coming” where a massive end of album chorus caps lyrics of “I don’t know what it is / But I can fit it / It’s in the air.”

Something’s Coming won’t spin your head around with musical innovations, but it’s not trying to. At this stage in his career Ty Tabor can easily write and record great songs and sees little need in shaking up his comfortable routine. The result are professional, well written songs a bit too much on the comfy side. Maybe I’m expecting too much but it’s difficult to be content with a nicely dressed gourmet burger when you know darn well that the man is capable of filet mignon tender enough to cut with a rubber spatula.

Review - The Choir - Burning Like the Midnight Sun

The Choir knows how to treat their fans well. Burning Like The Midnight Sun is their twelfth album in a hundred zillion years. Or almost thirty. Look, this isn’t a statistics lecture and you’re getting me off track. The point is that this time around the band went hog-wild with fan friendly flotsam. You can buy the album, with its lovely tri-fold format full of nice artwork created somewhere near a computer but not with a computer, or you can download the album and rip the band off by sharing it with your friends. You can also get the “Directors Cut” CD which plays the album in full with the band rudely talking over the music. Sure, they’re telling about the making of the album and the stories behind the songs but still… MANNERS, PEOPLE. The complete freak can get the “Stems” DVD which has all the parts for each song broken out into its own track so you can mix and remix your own version of the album. Or said freak can just listen intently to, say, just the drum tracks or backing vocals until their eyeballs shoot out of their head. It’s a free country.

But all the options are worthless unless the music is good. Which would be the question. Is it? Or maybe the question is “Will the reviewer answer the question before his editor gives him the axe?” I’ve been writing for this hear paper for about half as long as The Choir has been cranking out albums, though suspiciously I seem to have dropped off their Christmas Card list. Hmmm…. In a nutshell, or a clamshell if you’re feeling rich, Burning Like The Midnight Sun is a fine, fun album. Not their best, though. Not the “instant classic” that many of their fans claim. But then again, what do I know? If “many of their fans” hail the album as a classic and this one old grouch in Indiana says it’s a strong A minus my guess is that most listeners would do well to disregard said reviewer. In which case I’m out of a side-job so forget you read that.

This time around the band heads back to their roots, recalling their spartan Chase the Kangaroo days (that’s one of their early albums, 1988, to be exact), conjuring up sonic textures akin to The Church and Cocteau Twins while simultaneously forging ahead. Translation: it sounds a bit like their late 80s albums but instead of being a boring rehash the band packs in lots of fresh ideas. There’s lots of gauzy guitars and spacey sax floating around in linear melodic lines that draw you in, stuff that sounds simple until you realize how the two guitarist are dancing around each other (though in the studio they didn’t, or at least they didn’t in the many “making of” cuts they posted on You Tube, another friendly gesture to their fans) and hooking in the bass. Unlike some past efforts there aren’t loads of layers, instead stripping back the bark to effectively focus on the core of each song. A few of the songs rock, though none as hard as their excellent Kissers and Killers, a few songs dreamily drift by in anesthetic glee and at least one will leave you scratching your head at their psychedelic wit. Since it’s been five years since they released their last album, O How the Mighty Have Fallen (in my meager opinion a creative pinnacle and available from the bands website for a disgustingly low price), the band hit the studio hungry – unlike many of the albums by bands with their tenure or “Grammy-nominated” status there’s no sign that they are phoning it in.

Lyrically The Choir has always been a favorite of fans because of their willingness to flay open their hearts, writing candidly about friendship, marriage, and parenthood. “Friendship” they have covered as many of these songs are about (wait for it…) themselves! Yes, drummer/tambourinist/lyricist Steve Hindalong wrote songs about a humorous run-in at the airport involving their bassist, Tim Chandler, a song in honor of second guitarist Marc Byrd hitting a milestone birthday (“Legend of Old Man Byrd”), a song about the passing of Tom Howard (“A Friend So Kind”) and a ditty about an occurrence years ago when their sax player Dan Michaels fell off a four foot stage (“I’m Sorry I Laughed”). Two songs (“The Word Inside The Word” and “It Should Have Been Obvious”) remind us that Hindalong is more poet than theologian (‘Nuff said) and “That Melancholy Ghost” is an excellent, echo-drenched song about a nearly grown daughter who is plagued with depression and the pain and helplessness a parent feels in the face of a child suffering.

This leaves the relationship songs. The relationship songs… where did they put those again? Huh? Oh yeah… on the “Directors Cut” Steve mentions that his revealing “insider secrets” of his marriage on past albums has caused negative tensions with his wife so he scaled that back. Good for his marriage, bad for us. The lone track that almost touches on this subject is “Between Bare Trees,” a song which likens the necessity of winter “death” to make way for the colorful explosion of spring to relationships that also undergo tough seasons that clear the relationship rubbish, clearing the way for better times. The album highlight comes at the very end with “Say Goodbye to Neverland,” a song about growing up even if you’re pushing fifty. Just as the rest of the album contains a sprinkling of lyrical references to past albums, Neverland contains multiple meanings: aside from the obvious Peter Pan reference it’s also the name of guitarist Derri Daugherty’s previous studio, the contents of which were liquidated in his divorce, an event that no doubt forced much inner searching and growth. While most of the song is a midnight vigil of stark piano and sobering lyrical melody they allow the beast known as Tim Chandler to fuzz out a bit near the end before reining him back in. Like the rest of Burning Like The Midnight Sun the song works magnificently. And if you want to find out what the title means, well, I’m not gonna spill the beans. Buy the album. Better yet, buy this album and their previous album. You won’t regret it. Or maybe you will… I’m just some hack music critic, not a fortune teller.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Surprise surprise... musical musings!

I had a revelation last night while washing the dishes.

It had nothing to do with dish soap making my hands soft as silk (though it IS true that my velvety hands are the result of my relaxed, pampered lifestyle). Rather I was listening to music to pass the time and decided on an early album by Guster. Hearing their breezy vocal harmonies and intoxicating melodies impressed upon me just how easy they made it sound. Sure, they probably spent a week working out just the right chords for one song or singing harmonies, polishing and perfecting, but in the end if all sounds so effortless.

Just prior to doing the dishes I had been in the basement for my weekly “music hour.” This week I decided to play the electric guitar and buzzed through some old and new favorites. I’ve been playing guitar now for close to ten years and I can honestly say that I really haven’t improved all that much, at least in the past five years. Not that I practice or take lessons, which I suppose would help. No, the only thing that currently helps my playing is a beer or two, and that only makes me sound better to me.

Contrasting the two items, the easy perfection of the Guster songs and my struggled mangling of a guitar that even at $300 is about $250 above my skill level, put me in mind to think about my own songs. Last year was a bumper crop of songs while this year has been busied with a few ideas but very little output. The songs I write follow the form of my playing – gasping, struggling things birthed in anguish and tension. Usually I get a melody idea for a song and if it sticks around long enough for me to remember it by the time I get to a recording device then I know it’s a keeper. Later I fumble around to figure out guitar chords or compose music around the melody that may or may not be in the same key. Instrumental parts for bass, guitar, keyboards, or accordion come to me as ideas in my head, not as a natural, instinctive overflow of my playing so I have to do my best to hammer out how to play the part of the chosen instrument and practice it a few times so it can at least be played technically without errors, though there isn’t quite enough skill in my fingers to bring out an emotional aspect, like how Eric Clapton can make the guitar spring to life full of emotions? I got none of that. The result is a sterile though functional song aching to be given all the little detailed nuances that real songs have when played by real musicians.

I recently had someone over and he asked me to play a song that I had written. Give me a CD player and I could but not with a guitar in my hand. For me the studio is as much an instrument as the bass or drums. But that’s me, I guess. Most of my musical life has been spent in solitude so the studio has had to step up and be my bandmates. I remember years and years ago when I was writing and recording songs with a high school friend he wanted to try playing live. Aside from the fact that it would mean him showing up with his guitar while for me it would mean days of programming MIDI plus packing up, loading, unloading, and setting up keyboards, drum machines, and a Commodore 64 (which would mean a TV, computer and giant disk drive) plus all the MIDI cables there was also the issue of the purpose. Why play live? The songs had been created so why bother playing them over again? My wife finds it bothersome that when I play songs of others I’ll rarely play the song through – once I get a verse or two and a chorus played what else is there? Repeat the same chord progression again a few times? Or maybe I’ll just skip to the next song I want to play.

Rambling done. Time to get back to the stuff of life.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010


Humpty Dumpty Day
When we all sit on a wall
And crack our poor skulls.

Play some Irish tunes?
Sure! I’ll play about anything.
Practice that squeezebox.

Nix those Irish tunes
And the accompanying
Beer and fellowship.

‘Tis a long weekend
So make a big ol’ breakfast
And let your hair down.

What was that you said?
You have tadpoles in your socks?
You are one weird dude.

Joints and booze at lunch
Labor unions raise prices.
Labor Party blues.

The third shift is done
Back to working the daylight
Work is still boring.

I really, really,
Really, really, really, uh,
Really love my wife!

Dinner is super
Or perhaps it is supper.
I get so confused.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Since I Can't Write My Own...

Since I'm unable to come up with my own material I thought I'd steal from a 1970 Reader's Digest. Quite illuminating. If there was voter fraud then and has been it's highly unlikely that it stopped during the 2008 election. Or the 2010 election. Or the 2012 election. Or the 2004 election.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Only Thirty Days Behind!

Time to buy some food
And chip away at the bills.
Gotta love PAYDAY!

Who dug those deep holes
Right behind my grey garage?
It was an opossum.

Not something I do
Darts was surprisingly fun
A rare guys night out.

Up early, eat fast
The summer is now over.
Back to school with you!

Matthew: Middle school
Joshua is in high school
I don’t feel too old.

I had a spare pint
So I let them stick my arm
And drain out warm life.

A very warm day,
For the summer could this be
The last slip and slide?

I have a secret:
That when it comes to web logs
I have another.

Feeling very foul
Depressed, alone; Been a while
I wish I knew why.

Perhaps I am down
And grouchy because I have
One more week of third.

The Amish are here!
They showed up at my office
To tear down a wall.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Filling in the Gaps

My brother and I
I wish we were much closer
Happy Birthday, Chris.

Coffee in the morn
Is a simple joy of life
Learn to relish it.

In my last haiku
I was unclear. Do not put
Relish in your drink

If I could make time
I would spend it with my wife
Laughing, talking, RRRAAWR!

I like weird music
It seems to reflect my mind
Sounds normal to me

Where is everyone?
My coworkers are now late
Oh wait, it’s Sunday.

Barry’s intestines
Appear to have exploded.
I now work at night.

Working the night shift
Has a few nice benefits:
Weekend starts at noon.

There is a reason
And I don’t know what it is.
Things happen worldwide.

Working on Sunday
For just a few hours let’s me
Sleep in until six.

At six in the morn
There is almost no traffic
Bike ride into work!

8/17/2010“Joe Satriani”
Is the kind of name that has
All five syllables.

I injured my foot
Riding my bike. It seems that
My shoes are worn out.

The first week of nights
Is nearing its wretched end.
Get well soon, Barry.

Thursday, September 16, 2010


Excuse me, dear sir
But could I kindly ask you
To stop kicking me?

This day is taking
Far more than its rightful share
Of sweet work day hours.

Where did I misplace
That thing I was just holding?
It was oozing grease.

That Martin Luther
Was a very fine old man
Face washed – frying pan.

Seven more minutes
Until I can return home
And my wife hugs me.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Haiku 4 U

She fell off the bed
Sleeping just like a opossum
Tessa’s bloody nose.

I sure love my wife
But do not tell her enough.
I’ll write her love poems.

If I were a doc
You could pay me in fresh eggs
I’d still make house calls.

Man, it’s loud in here
This used to be an airport
Stop the drum machine.

John Linnell is fixed
His brain problem is addressed
His music suffers.

It sure has been nice
Not being depressed lately
Thank you, Great Doctor.

Gold is on the rise
The economy stinks bad.
Could Glen Beck be right?

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Mean Grownups

We called them the Alley-Oops. They were named after the Alley-Oops of my childhood which were named by a friend of my older brother after the 50s novelty song. And now they are gone.

The Alley-Oops were a set of bmx-style jumps and ramps and dips that were about a mile east on the River Greenway off North Anthony. Often it would be a destination on bike trips with my kids, though we didn't dare try the more impressive set where the top of the ramp to the bottom of the gulch would be six feet or more with ten feet between the massive dirt mounds. Rather we would take the easier circuit where you could easily coast over one foot mounds without getting air or even chicken out and take the trail to either side of the small training mounds.

But the big circuits... they were impressive! Often we would watch as greasy biker kids would take turns tempting fate on this frightening jumps... usually without helmets or pads. The most impressive thing, however, is that these incredible interloping circuits were created by these kids, or possibly generations of pre-teen and teens. I'd see them out there with shovels, repairing a mound or making a new one. I wish we had the foresight to take pictures. Seriously, these would easily rank in the Seven Wonders of the Kid-dom World.

And now, like I said, they are gone. We hadn't visited them this summer because that part of the River Greenway was closed off due to construction further down the line. Now the "entrance" is chained off, the ramps bulldozed to fill the gulches, and nasty little shrubberies have been planted all over. It's sad, really. These kids, who would normally be written off as losers or wastoids or slackers put in sweat and time to create sometime truly impressive, something that was theirs. Until some bureaucrat decided that it was a legal risk continuing to turn a blind eye. Yes, I blame the lawyers. Now what are these "at-risk" kids to do? Go play some more video games? Loiter outside the Quickie-Mart? Train for the Olympics?

It reminds me of something I read in an old Reader's Digest. It seems in this town there was a pipe that went over a creek. The problem was that the kids kept walking over the pipe and breaking it, causing no end of problems. The town tried many things to keep the kids off the pipe but those pesky kids continued to play on the pipe. At one town meeting the various methods were being discussed on how to keep the kids away from the pipe until some old geezer stood up and said "Why don't we support the pipe so it won't break?" Sure, that wouldn't fly in todays world, which is a sad shame, but really, how much of a grumpy old gus do you need to be to take away a kids playground?

'Tis truly a sad day.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Retro Haiku

I'm catching up...

Tuesdays are my days
Well, from nine to ten P.M.
Break out the gee-tars!

It’s high time I write
A song for my oldest son
But the well is dry.

Her mind is focused
It’s all labor, all the time
Need to distract her

Only two weeks past,
Andrew is finally born!
He was worth the wait!

The house is quiet
The kids are away with friends
Peaceful, resting days

The woman is SORE
But that’s to be expected
A twelve pound baby.

Happy birthday, late
Andrew is the best gift but
I got this for you.

I got a birth gift!
One gallon of New Castle,
Thank you, John Hrehov!

Lyndi went to camp
Had lots of fun and bug bites
Glad to have her back.

Wine gladdens the heart
But doesn’t remove ink stains.
So says the Psalmist

Oh, where is that rain
To give relief to dry ground
UPS is late.

Monday, August 23, 2010


The 4th- Almost here
We can only think about
That boy being born.

I am being told
That I really, truly must
Reboot my PC.

Irony, it is
To purchase all our fireworks
From Commie China.

Today is the day.
Where are you? We’ll just wait here.
The boy is tardy.

A busy summer.
At long last, a break at work
A deep breath is good.

While we are waiting
At least we had a great date
I sure love my wife!

Brooke had surgery
One week ago – She had some
Body parts removed.

Crappy dumb data
That I doubt they really use
You go, Plan Member!

The haiku format
Is perfect for expressing
A single idea.

I think she will wait
Until the boys week is done
Though I don’t know why.

My car makes a clunk
When the thingy is engaged
Then it goes ker-plunk.

Tired of waiting
And waiting a little more:
Tempers are stretched thin.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

More Wacky Thoughts

Yeah... I'm that crazy Uncle with his weird conspiracy theories that if you listen long enough start to make sense.

Since you mentioned Lincoln being against secession, and actually illegally starting a war because he was sooo opposed to states succeeding (and not at all starting the war because of a brazen power grab) it should be of interest to know that "honest" Abe was all for secession when it was in his interests. This is why he helped "West Virginia" from Virginia and become it's own state. Lincoln's own attorney general, Edward Bates, believed it was unconstitutional for state to split in the manner that it did, being helped out by the Federal government instead of forming grass-roots-like. And get this, this Great Emancipator in favor of this split had nothing bad to say about their legislation which allowed for the people of this new state to vote on a gradual emancipation policy, the very position Stephen Douglas held and defended in the famous Lincoln-Douglas debates.

One other juicy tidbit of lucid mania: an Ohio congressman by the name of Clement Vallandigham had the audacity to publicly state that Lincoln's dictatorial acts were not to free the slaves or even to save the Union but "national banks, bankrupt laws, a vast and permanent public debt, high tariffs, heavy direct taxation, enormous expenditure... strong government... no more State lines, no more State governments, and a consolidated monarchy." For this, merely expressing his First Amendment rights, he was arrested without a civil warrant, thrown into a military prison and then deported by Lincoln to the Southern states. Read those things that Lincoln is being accused of and just try not to think about Obama's actions. I double dog dare ya!

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Lincoln Was The First Obama

It's been nearly a decade in my coming around in my thoughts on Lincoln, so bear with me as I try to cram all that into one blog entry.

Most of us grew up with Lincoln being highly revered as a President. There's Washington, and Lincoln, and um, all those other guys who weren't as great, right? This has been beaten into our heads in public schools from the time we start there, plus I worked at Lincoln National, a place that also holds the man in near-religious esteem. However I've always been one that is willing to change my mind IF adequate facts can be provided. And there are facts. LOADS of facts!

So my premise, that Lincoln was the first Obama, is that Lincoln was 100% for building a bigger, stronger centralized Federal government, even at the expense of ignoring the Constitution. It's a way of thinking that says, "Hey, this government is do great that I'm going to ignore the very rules that make it great so that I can make it greater!" It makes no sense, but then again, Lincoln was a lawyer. In the same vein, Obama is pulling all kinds of crap that isn't allowed for the Executive Branch by the Constitution (and often not allowed for any of the branches).

Lincoln was the first Republican president but before there were Republicans there were Whigs. Remember those Whigs from U.S. History back in the day? Whigs were for making the federal government bigger and reducing the rights of the individual states as well as having a federal bank. Hold that thought.

When our Founding Fathers wrote the framework of our government they had fresh in their minds an all-controlling centralized government, that being of course England. The states were operating much like the individual countries of Europe (Virginia, South Carolina, New England vs. France, Germany, and Denmark, if you will). Each state had it's own constitution and pretty much operated independently, though in cooperation, with the other states. None of these states were going to willingly give up their sovereignty to a centralized government... what sovereign government would? So inherent in each state's willingness to voluntarily allow this new Federal government to provide certain limited* functions was the ability to withdraw their membership at any time, provided this withdrawal received the proper okee-dokee from their state legislatures. This was the ultimate check on the Federal government to keep it from being too bossy. It was a way for each state, if they didn't like the rules, to take their ball and go home. In school I was never told that this threat to succeed was invoked more than once, most notably New England who threatened to succeed in the early 1800s because they believed that the policies of the Jefferson and Madison administrations (especially the Louisiana Purchase, the national trade embargo of 1807 and the war of 1812) were disproportionally harmful to New Englanders. Debate raged on this issue but one item that was never debated was their right to succeed.

* footnote to above - If you take the time to actually read the Constitution, which should take an average reader much less than an hour (AND it should be pointed out that it is a very readable, understandable read - not the legal twistings of todays governmental documents) you will find that what little the federal government is given much to do is explicitly spelled out and that (GASP) any task not explicitly spelled out as belonging to the federal government is given to the individual states.

Let's fast forward to the 1850s. There is, and has been, a lot of policies in place that disproportionally harm the southern nations. The north had lots of manufacturing while the south imported most of their goods. High tarriffs were in place that pretty much fleeced the southern states and sent their money to the pockets of the big corporations of the northern states. Enter Lincoln, who had a history being very friendly to his corporate pals (there's a great story of Leaping Lincoln, if you want to look that up) AND was strongly in favor of adding power to the Federal government. When he got elected with no votes by the southern states they felt even more greatly disenfranchised and that their interested were not being represented. They ultimately decided to succeed from the union.

At this time most of the newspapers and populace felt that they should be allowed to peacefully succeed. Indeed, Confederate President Jefferson Davis even offered to pay or give back to the Northern union any of it's property which remained on southern soil. Lincoln needed a way to change public opinion and did so with the attack on Fort Sumter. Here was a Northern fort on Southern land. The south would no more allow a northern military fort on southern land than the Americans would have allowed a British military fort. So here was Fort Sumter, running out of food. They could have peacefully left at any time and Lincoln had been notified of such by Jefferson Davis. However Lincoln forced Davis to fire first by sending a heavily armed battleship with supplies. Here was the South, not attacking Fort Sumter and just waiting for them to leave and suddenly here's this armed battleship with more food and ammo to help Fort Sumter last even longer. So the south fired first. Lincoln turned this event into the South firing on ships that were only attempting to provide food for hungry men, and the tide of public opinion began to turn.

Now that Lincoln had his war he ran all over the Constitution. Even scholars favorable to Lincoln call him a dictator, but a friendly one, as if such a thing can exist. For one thing, he suspended habeas corpus. Imagine in Obama suddenly said that anyone can be arrested at any time, not be told why they were being arrested, not be given a trial, and held indefinitely. We treat our illegal aliens better than Lincoln treated U.S. citizens! And who did he have arrested? Anyone who disagreed with him - newspaper owners, state legislators, joe citizens and even clergy! During elections they would post people inside the polls and have people cast their votes using different colors of paper. Cast a green ballot and they would toss you in jail! At one point there were thousands of citizens under arrest without ever being charged. Oh, and the different colored ballot trick is equal to free elections being suppressed. He also suppressed the free press by putting editors and reporters in jail, making many afraid to speak out publicly against Lincoln's policies.

Lincoln also launched an invasion of the South without the approval of Congress, something required in the Constitution, declared martial law, blockaded Southern ports, censored all Internet, er, telegraph communication, nationalized the car companies, I mean railroads, created several new states without the consent of the citizens in those states, ordered Federal troops to interfere with elections in the North by intimidating opponents to his policies, confiscated firearms and private property in direct violation of the Second Amendment, and pretty much was a rats patooty!

But didn't he do this to free the slaves? Wasn't the end justification of the means? HORSE-PUCKY! Lincoln's well known position was that the slaves should be sent back to Africa and even helped found an organization to do so. The Emancipation Proclamation was an act of war, and a weak, symbolic one at that! It only freed slaves in the places the north didn't have a right to (the south) but actually KEPT PEOPLE SLAVES IN THE NORTH (and north-friendly southern areas under the control of the Northern armies). That doesn't sound very liberating to me!

A direct result of this is the 14th amendment, which states that you are automatically a U.S. citizen if you are born on U.S. soil. This was put in because some were fearful that the children of freed slaved would be deported. Today it's used for illegal aliens to have children here, illegally and on the taxpayer dime, and have them be legal. Or even better, did you know that some countries actually have "vacation" packages designed so that pregnant women come here and give birth, making their children U.S. citizens and eventually able to bring over their families? HARUMPH!

And that Federal bank? The one that issues all the dollar bills you hold? Privately held. No accountability. No audits of their activities.

So now when I see a Confederate flag I understand. They aren't saying "We hate black people!" It would be safe to say that Lincoln liked the African Americans less than most Confederate flag fliers. No, these people are expressing their belief that the Southern states were fully within their rights in peacefully succeeding and then fighting against an aggressive Northern army that was attempting to force them to remain part of the North just so they could continue to be financially fleeced to enrich Northern corporations. Countless lives, North and South, just so some can get rich in money and power... it's an old story.

That's all for now... I may gush out more later. Suffice it to say that the demi-god known as Lincoln was a scoundrel who worked to enrich the bank accounts of his corporate buddies at the expense, of lives and dollars, of the general population he supposedly represented.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

CD Review - The Lost Dogs - Old Angel

I'm still not 100% sure of where this album lands in my personal collection. I like it more every time I hear it, which makes it a grower. But it's a slow grower. I definitely appreciate that all the members are writing the songs instead of just Terry. Nothing against Mr. Taylor but The Lost Dogs was conceived as a collaborative effort and in the past its fallen away from this ideal.

Two years ago The Lost Dogs piled into a van and drove the length of Route 66, starting in Chicago and ending up at the Santa Monica Pier. Along the way, they stopped at failing diners, truck stops and mom-and-pop stores, setting up and giving free concerts. Joining them on this trip was a newfangled GPS system that allowed fans to track their progress online and in real time, giving those fans an inside glimpse at the band and each wrong turn and lead-footed move. It was a great (vicarious) ride. Too bad you missed it.

Having logged all those hours behind the wheel, the band wrote scads of songs about the journey. Real songs about real people and real places. Places from the glory days of Route 66 that you can find on Google Earth, but you’d best be quick because these non-corporate businesses tend to become ghosts overnight. Presented in the form of Old Angel, The Dogs’ ninth release, these songs capture the tone of this trip, ranging from “it seemed like a good idea at the time” silly (“American Main Street”) to somber moments of longing for times past (“Desert Flowers”). They pay tribute to Wild Bill Hickok in the rocking “Wicked Guns” and humbly ask for safety while on the road with the gentle “Traveling Mercies.”

Throughout the album, the boys couch these Americana songs in a subdued rock vibe and assorted countrified instruments such as fiddles, mandolins and pedal steel. This approach ensures that these songs won’t fit into the preset playlist of any local radio station, though, like the ghost of a road they traveled upon, the tunes would have been gobbled up by the long-gone album format of decades past.

The album highlights are legion. “Dancin’ on the Devil’s Elbow” opens with rhythmic sawing (not one of those newfangled musical saws but a real saw creatively working its way through a piece of real wood) before becoming a joyous remembrance of friends meeting in a restaurant in Missouri. “Pearl Moon” opens with quiet acoustic guitars, recalling Hooverville camps with lyrics like “Does hunger have a lesson to teach?”

Then come the stark realities of life when one of the vocalists passionately sings “And our babies died” while trying to cross the desert. I mention “one of the vocalists” because three of the members sing, often joining their voices for rich vocal harmonies but nowhere as effectively as they do in “The World is Against Us,” a track in which they combine to create a sound worthy of the best of Crosby, Stills and Nash. “Dead End Diner” tells the story of a dying diner through the eyes of a waitress who, despite cutbacks in hours and reduced benefits, finds hope in both a regular who she’s “almost sure that he ain’t gay” and Obama making promises on the radio.

The best track is perhaps their remake of Daniel Amos’ “Glory Road,” a tune that originally appeared on an album chronicling the journey of a fictitious older couple as they took their final vacation on, yep, Route 66. The original song, though charming, was all elbows. This time out the Dogs ironed out the kinks while retaining the charm, forming an absolute masterpiece of a rocker in the process.

As much as I like it now, Old Angel continues to grow on me with each listen. The songs speak of dusty roads and deep friendships that have weathered the years, of lonely times and intoxicating celebrations. The Lost Dogs are four stellar songwriters and lyricists, packing in well over 100 years of experience, and these are some of the best songs you may never hear. Route 66 may have become neglected. It would be a pity to neglect Old Angel as well.

CD Review - Nod Arvefel - Can I Get A Witness?

Every nine months or so this guy puts out a new album of original songs. The style isn't exactly my cup of tea but I admire his sense of humor and passion for his faith. It's been nice to listen to him improve as a songwriter and in the studio.

Can I Get A Witness? is Nod Arvefel’s 142nd album in the past eight months. Okay, maybe he hasn’t released quite that many, but it seems like every time I turn around this guy’s waving a new album in my face. If the music wasn’t so thoroughly enjoyable I might find his prolific output annoying, especially in light of my own current dry spell.

This time around, Nod, who is the alter ego someone better left unmasked (though I’ll give you a tnih), decided to put together an album about death. No, not a death metal album with growly vocals, though he’s included some of his rockiest songs to date. Rather, many of these songs are stories about people meeting their maker as they pass on to the other side, all told with Nod’s usual blend of compassion, humor and keyboard-centric compositions. For instance, “I Saw Elvis Leavin’ the Buildin’” is about hearing the fat lady sing “Amazing Grace’” with egg all over one’s face. “Howlin’ Wind” combines a Steve Wonder “Sunshine of My Life” Wurlitzer sound with a Western feel, tossing in jangling spurs and jazzy horns to tell a tale of a sharpshooter who comes face to face with death. Rounding out the death cycle are “Silver and Gold,” an invigorating track about an unfortunate fellow who finds you can’t earn or buy your way to Heaven, and the twangy, soothing “Keep the Light On” which begins with “As I stood as the bedside of a dying brother” against a fluffy backing of strings and gentle guitars.

As on past albums, Nod throws the listener a few curve balls. While traditional songs like “Take a Ride on the Carousel” and “My Child, There’s No Goodbyes” (another death song I overlooked earlier) could easily be enjoyed in any church without causing the blue-haired ladies to blink an eye, Nod’s mischievous nature cannot be restrained. The rocky “Comfort One Another” will never have anyone crying out “More cowbell!” because cowbell is all over this thing. Seriously, one listen to this lounge song will fulfill your cowbell quota for the rest of 2010. The instrumental “Star Spangled Rock” is impressive in its mastery of synth-guitar soloing, tossing in a Kink’s reference and heavy drums for credibility. Likewise, the final track, “You Still Here?” is an amazing instrumental formed of jazz piano, bass and drums that will get your feet moving right about the time it abruptly ends, leaving you wanting more. Nod even uses vocoders on two songs: the unnerving “I Am That I Am” which tells the listener of God’s love in the first Person (I kill myself with these thinly veiled theological jokes), and “Jesus, You Are the Glory” tempers the ballad with an angelic choir and (gasp) real guitars playing off impressively emotive vocals for an album highlight. And then there’s a song like the title track which makes you wonder if Nod mistakenly brought home a Kraftwerk CD from the library, filled as it is with a techno beat, squishy synth sounds, a very fat bass and clever lyrics like “Don’t care how much you know / I want to know how much you care.”

Overall, Can I Get A Witness? is a remarkably adventurous collection of songs. One moment you’ll hear a dramatic arrangement of strings and piano, the next a soothing hymn appropriate for church and then an offbeat quasi-techno 50s rocker. Arvefel is as genuine in his faith as he is talented in his songwriting, honestly expressing God’s love for humanity through tears and laughter.

CD Review - The Candles - Between the Sounds

I just realized that I'm way behind on posting CD reviews as they are published... BAAAAD ME! This first one is a great album. I suspect I'll be dragging this one out for years to get a fresh listen.

Multi-instrumentalist Josh Lattanzi has spent the better part of his life recording and touring with blokes like Ben Kweller, The Lemonheads, and Albert Hammond Jr. of The Strokes. Fortunately for fans of quality music Josh spent that time carefully observing the fine art of songwriting instead of rolling dice with the roadies. When he finally had a decent-sized break in his touring schedule Josh enlisted a few friends and headed to the studio to make a permanent record of his songs under the project name The Candles.

Between the Sounds springs to life with “Waiting For The Truth,” a song which personifies the adjective “jaunty” with a spritely beat driving pleasingly warm organs, slightly countryish guitars, retro synth tones, and a bouncy bridge. Dour lyrics of “By the sound / I know you’ve found / Another reason to give up” are offset by the elfish melody for an endearing contrast. “Here or Gone” sports more of a Meat Puppets influence with close two-part vocal harmonies throughout, easily gliding along on punkish pop melodies backed by rootsy chiming guitars. The theme continues in “Let Me Down Easy” where piano and steel guitar add their spice to spine-chilling vocal harmonies and melancholy melodies. The rocking title track is an ode to being on the road while “Not Enough” invokes the spirit of the early 70s when bands were free to cross musical genres at will, pitting a mellotron against rich vocals that beg you to pick a part and sing along. “Road Song” is marked by sizzling lead guitars, jangly rhythm guitars and a sorrowful sense that “Days are getting farther away / I’m getting further behind” even though the hyper-sweetened melody leads one to believe otherwise.

Each of the ten songs on Between The Sounds is crammed full of country-tinged pop goodness. Its Meat Puppets, Ryan Adams, Jackson Browne, Gin Blossoms, Eagles, acoustic Foo Fighters (sans screaming), and Tom Petty all rolled into one infectious gob of fantastic music. There are no sonic gimmicks here, just beautifully crafted songs artfully and tastefully recorded, allowing them to stand on their impressive strength.

Sausage Machine

Muggy and humid
Are the days of this summer.
Every day August.

Second ultrasound
Checking on his position
That durn boy is breech!

Decades since the last
So forgive me – I forgot
Bug spray to drive in.

Working from home still
Pushing to meet a deadline
Weeks since I rested.

Sunday E.R. trip
Glad my heart is in good shape.
“Too much stress,” they said.

I met the deadline
But I seriously doubt
It was worth the costs.

A free lunch at work
Doesn’t make up for low pay
A nice gesture, though.

Friday, August 6, 2010

More Ketchup

What was I doing
Nearly two whole months ago?
I haven’t a clue.

Brown County State Park
Humidity off the charts
Hiking on the trails.

Tessa just turned two
Big curls and a bigger smile
Character in spades.

That little red car
Was fun. Even better was
The walk back with Brooke.

A birthday party
In advance came too quickly.
Good thing he cared not.

Another Friday
Let your hair down and relax
Time spent with my wife.

Fifteen years go fast
When your son is nifty-keen
Happy Birthday Josh!

I could fix the car
And spend all of my Sunday
Or spend phantom cash.

My right palm is numb
Torque problem. Tight bolt. Break bar.
Now I take it in.

It’s either a lot
Or I could consider it
Eight months of payments.

It’s the new Lost Dogs!
Could I be souring on them?
Maybe it will grow.

Monday, July 5, 2010


Ah, the 5th of July... a great day to be born, don'tjathink? Let's see if Andrew agrees.

So this morning I awoke at 6:59, the result of my usual inability to sleep much past seven on any day I don't have to work -though on work days I can sleep way into the morning, almost durn near close to 7:30. Once downstairs, awake but still groggy, I decided to spend some time with a group of old friends. Not in REAL LIFE... that would be, for me, a work of fiction. Rather I spent a couple of chapters with Dortmunder and his gang. Life's been a bit, er, stressful lately (not so much bad stressful but busy and work-stressful and life-changy anticipation stressful) so when I finished reading my last novel I decided that I needed something that would A) make me laugh and B) be enjoyable. This led ultimately to a Donald Westlake book for his comic novels can always be counted on to give my funnybone a tickle, and true to form I found myself laughing out loud a number of times during the first few chapters and continuing to chuckle ever since.

Not wanting to spend the entire pre-awake-children morning reading I decided to head out and do my "chores". Since just after mother's day I've been rather engaged in a rather large project of sanding, assembling, staining, varnishing, sanding, varnishing, sanding and varnishing ten new dining room chairs. TEN. Hey, ya gotta plan for future growth, right? Some people would have guests but we're not very good at entertaining. For this first pass I'm just doing six chairs with the remaining four to be completed probably in 2011 'cause when I'm done with these six I'm taking a break. A looong break. Each chair takes 30 minutes to sand, 20 minutes to assemble and about 40 minutes to stain. Each coat of varnish has to be done in two passes (bottom half of chair and top half) with each of these two passes taking about 20 minutes and the mid-varnish sanding taking a mere seven minutes. All tallied up that's 3.75 hours per chair, not counting varnish dry time and brush cleanup. That seems low.

In any case, such large amounts of child and wife-free time (for no one wants to venture into the varnish-stinky room where I'm working) has given me the chance to listen to some long-format music. That's right, I'm listening me to some classical music! Lately I put on an old favorite, Prokofiev's 3rd symphony. If I were one to make lists, and I am, Prokofiev would easily be in my top five favorite composers. Possibly top three. His music is, in turns, lively, sarcastic, humorous, stark, emotional, inventive, offbeat, and passionate while always remaining melodic. If you like Danny Elfman (and nothing against the elf-man) but have grown tired of his three styles (wacky-silly [Beetlejuice and PeeWee], hero [Batman], and romantic strings [other stuff]) then hop on over to Prokofiev and find out who's the REAL MAN!

But I digress. The third symphony is, in my mind, an early prototype of horror movie music, though when he composed this symphony in the late 1920s the horror movie really hadn't been invented yet, being a good four years before Frankenstein saw the light of day. However the music is downright chilling and I have no doubt that Bernard Herrmann used the third movement as inspiration (if not outright note for note copy material) of his classic Psycho soundtrack. Not the famous staccato stabs but the unnerving title music that appears elsewhere in the film. Of course Prokofiev creates much more tension than this one intense section of one movement and it's all there for your hungry ears to enjoy.

This third symphony is based on material from Prokofiev's opera The Fiery Angel. The entire concept of Prokofiev writing operas puts me in a bit of a quandary. Try as I might I just can't get into operas. My man Beethoven only wrote one and Brahms, another top-five-possibly-top-three favorite of mine didn't write any. But Prokofiev wrote quite a few, which means he was fond of the format which means that perhaps there's something to it that I'm not getting so I can't just mentally write it off as a bunch of snobbery. To my ears, though, opera sounds like a platform for some showboat vocalist to spend two hours dazzling the audience with technique while the actual music sits lamely in the background. My next piece for chair varnishing accompaniment, therefore, was The Fiery Angel which I had to dig out of storage. I think I've listened to it three times since I bought it back when I had more disposable income. I'm nearly done with it and though I can pick out the music that Prokofiev culled for the starting points of his excellent symphony I'm still not impressed. Maybe I should read along with the libretto, something which gave me a greater appreciation for, though not a greater enjoyment of, his Love For Three Oranges opera. Or maybe I should try harder NOT to let the male lead's voice remind me of the Cowardly Lion in the Wizard of Oz movie and expect him to start belting out "If I... were KING... of the FORE~E~E~E~E~E~E~E~E~E~ST!" every few minutes.

Gotta go... the kids are awake!

Thursday, July 1, 2010

♪ ♫ ♫ ♪

Do I mow the grass
On this fine fresh Saturday?
It will just grow back.

“Secret Agent Man”
Was a nice bit of songcraft
Unlike that Elvis.

Devo wore those hats
And White Lion wore that hair
Bands these days wear masks.

My magic headphones
Allow me to hear it all:
Squeak, breath, grunt, fret noise.

I don’t much for
That Letterman character
Or his evil chin.

It is tradition
To make at least one haiku
About my great wife.

Outside the country?
Allergic to iodine?
Time to give some blood.

I am way behind
On writing music reviews
Today I catch up.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Current Review - Devin Townsend Project - Addicted!

This review was submitted MONTHS ago and finally saw print. It is definitely worth the wait... where most albums get a week or two of my attention before I move on to something new. This album is STILL getting regular play through my head. And I'm even more convinced that Poederooyan RAWKS!

A few years back I had the pleasure of reviewing a Devin Townsend album and found it a highly enjoyable, albeit Canadian, album. Of particular note was his drummer who had the good fortune of having the unpronounceable last name of Poederooyen. That was in 2003 and I had intended to pick up more Townsend albums but instead squandered my money on licorice bites.

However Townsend has not been idly waiting for my attention, instead forging bravely ahead and making many more solo albums. Fortunately for me I decided that I was tired of licorice and formed a mini tax shelter by purchasing his latest album, Addicted. It was good to find out that the man was still Canadian, still had Poederooyen as his drummer, and had kicked some rather nasty habits, including licorice whips and other things, hence the title.

As part of his recovery Devin has recording this smashing album full of high energy, fun, peppy metal songs. It’s almost like Cheap Trick, My Bloody Valentine and White Zombie got together outside a dance club. The title track is indicative of the entire album – a bigger than life arena rock sound with industrial metal guitars and an uplifting, melodic chorus that somehow manages to remain light and airy on top while staying dense and distorted on the low end. “Universe In A Ball!” is a spacey dance song with a caustic bass that telegraphs out a rhythm while synthy effects lend a sense of weird glee to the festivities, breaking for a brief moment of operatic calm before slamming back into the metal crunch. Cheap Trick comes to the front in the Euro Pop “Bend It Like Bender!” which wastes no time in stepping up the party vibe with a zany guitar riff and lyrics of “Hey boy / We’re ya goin’ with that little toy?” This is not overly deep stuff, just carefree music made for driving around during the summer with the windows down, injecting the joy of being alive into your veins with a cheerful dance-beat chorus sung by Anneke van Giersbergen (seriously, does he hire people based on their names?) of The Gathering.

“Supercrush!” (and yes, every song ends in an exclamation point) is an album highlight, opening with a thunderous guitar riff that builds to a symphonic crescendo before dropping off to allow Anneka to sing a calming chorus which is counteracted by Devin as the music ramps back up and he passionately sings “I don’t want to save my soul / I don’t want to lose control” against a massive rock symphony, forming an angel vs. devil duet. This emotional song explodes as Devin hoarsely and cathartically confronts his addiction with “You want me to die?” and the song crashes in a gloriously chaotic finale. As if to ease the tension a bit the next song, “Hyperdrive!” is little more than a carefree nuclear fueled party song with the message of “Everyday’s a new day” and “Ih-Ah!” is a lilting, restrained pop song of non-distorted instruments that will annoyingly stick in your head like licorice with it’s endearing nonsense chorus of “Ih-Ah” sung by both Devin and Anneka, who this time around sounds like the Wilson sisters of Heart. Well, one of them, anyway. The final track, “Awake!!” (note the extra punctuation because it’s just that good) has fuzzy, crunchy riffs and a cheerful melody to back up comforting lyrics of “That’s alright / You’re only human” before turning up the tension in the bridge, growing energy like a chia pet grows hair until Devin shouts “DECONSTRUCT!” and one by one the instruments peel away over the next two minutes until all that remains is an echo of an echo, fading into the dark.

The more I hear the songs of Addicted more I like them. The lyrics and music are both addictively simple but with enough depth that keep you coming back. Or maybe Devin Townsend is just so talented that it all sounds simple but instead has a fertile depth that can only be appreciated with more listens, depth that sneaks up on you while you are innocently enjoying the heavy jams and boundless energy that makes Addicted approximately 1052% better than that other post-addiction album, St. Anger.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Displaying 1 of 2 Blogs

My big “To Do” list
Does apparently include
“Write six more haiku”

The last day of May
Means that the end is quite near
For public school kids.

In my haste to write
I failed to give respect for
Memorial Day

It’s tough to recall
What happened three weeks ago
I’m sure it was fun.

“School’s Out for summer!”
I now owe some royalties
To that Cooper guy.

Driving with my wife
On another short road trip
Love her by my side.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010


Haikus are easy
When you are not overworked
Hence the current lack.

Hunter green plaid shirt
And brown plaid shorts. It must be
Fashion Faux-pas Day!

Before one can rest
Ya gotta hustle and toil:
The three day weekend

My deepest desire
Is that I could one day sleep
Past seven A.M.

Monday, June 14, 2010


For some warped reason, if you search for "How to build monkey bars" on Google this blog is #2! YAHOO! I pity the foo who actually tries to build them from my plans, but it brings me pride and joy nonetheless.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Haiku backlog

I am far behind.
Very close to one whole month
Kids, it’s just haiku.

My TV dinner
Exploded in the micro
Popcorn: Bad idea

Weather should be checked
Before riding into work
To prevent drenching.

Just one man against
One hundred ten thousand files
Only one survives.

Defenseless against
Coughs, throat clearing and chit-chat:
Headphones left at home

It takes just one hour
To stain just a single chair.
Just nine more to go.

Inspired by the
Weeds that grow around my feet
Thank you, Poor Old Lu.

Haiku backlog

I am far behind.
Very close to one whole month
Kids, it’s just haiku.

My TV dinner
Exploded in the micro
Popcorn: Bad idea

Weather should be checked
Before riding into work
To prevent drenching.

Just one man against
One hundred ten thousand files
Only one survives.

Defenseless against
Coughs, throat clearing and chit-chat:
Headphones left at home

It takes just one hour
To stain just a single chair.
Just nine more to go.

Inspired by the
Weeds that grow around my feet
Thank you, Poor Old Lu.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

As if I Needed Another Thread...

On September 13, 1997 I made my "professional" debut with a short article about the upcoming Fort Wayne Philharmonic concert in WhatzUp, a local free entertainment publication that had started not much earlier in the year. A fellow I somewhat knew during high school was writing for them and, knowing my odd sense of humor and love of classical music, suggested I contact the paper to write a "hip" monthly article to help interest their young target reader in classical music. As the Fort Wayne Philharmonic was an advertiser for the paper it was a no brainer for them to accept my poorly written first piece. I got better over the five years that I wrote this column, then I got worse, then better... Eventually I got bored writing about the same handful of composers and when the Philharmonic started repeating pieces I knew it was time to take my leave.

I don't know how effective I was at stirring up interest in the younger crowd for this type of music... the Philharmonic never offered me season passes or sent me a postcard thanking me. Heck, they wouldn't even give me advance notice of the pieces being performed during the upcoming season so I had a chance to start my research. But it was fun to write and helped provide a nice bit of extra income back in the days when and extra five bucks was hard to come by. Eventually I wrote a review of a classical CD and then another CD review and the next thing I knew I was writing hundreds of those things.

But I digress.

Here is my very first paid piece of writing. It's admittedly rough but still, I hope, enjoyable.

GONZO THE GREAT - Sept. 13, 1997

September 13 marks the opening night of the 1997-98 Fort Wayne Philharmonic season. One of the most highly attended events of the concert season, the philharmonic conductor, Maestro Tchivzhel (pronounced Cheev-zil) has appropriately chosen two very popular and accessible pieces, Scheherazade by Rimsky-Korsakov and Symphonic Dances by Rachmaninoff. Tchivzhel? Scheherazade? Rachmaninoff? If you've never taken the time to enjoy classical music, please don't be put off by the seemingly random jumbles of letters. The opening performance of the Fort Wayne Philharmonic is the perfect place to get started!

Scheherazade (Sah-hair-a-zahd) was written in 1888 by Rimsky-Korsakov who is also known for the piece "Flight of the Bumblebee", the music to which Gonzo the Great once ate a complete tire on The Muppet Show. But I digress. Scheherazade is considered Program Music, a piece that describes a story with music. In this case, the story is A Thousand and One Nights in which Scheherazade (and what a lovely name it is) has been married to the Sultan Schariar. The sultan had been bit by love once too often and had since vowed to put to death each of his wives after the first night. To put off her impending death, Scheherazade tells the sultan a different story each night until, 1001 nights later, the sultan decides to revoke his original death vow. This piece depicts the tales told by Scheherazade.

Opening with the theme of the sultan, a rough, almost angry melody, the music quickly changes to the seductive and exotic theme of Scheherazade. Both themes are repeated often during the piece to signify when a character is expressing themselves. By his own admission, Rimsky-Korsakov did not write the music to be explicitly descriptive but rather as "hints to direct... the hearer's fancy". Thus, he is encouraging the listener to sit back and let their mind drift where the music will take them, over the rough and ancient seas and back into the legend of the Arabian Nights.

The final piece on the program is Symphonic Dances by Rachmaninoff, a man who bears the distinction of being the only composer mentioned in the film "Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory". Rachmaninoff (Rock-mon-in-auv) is known for writing lush, sentimental melodies. In fact, a theme from his Piano Concerto No. 2 was the basis for the 1976 love song "All By Myself". Not bad for a man who once wrote a song called "Were You Hiccuping"! Written in 1934, Symphonic Dances begins with the strings mischievously inviting the listener to come along for an imaginative frolic through "gypsy" folk tunes, changing rhythms, and beautiful, flowing melodies. Through all three invigorating movements, it is quite obvious that this piece is sheer fun, perfect for both those who are well steeped in classical music and for those who just want to get their feet wet.

** Unnecessary side-note: A few years later I discovered the author Donald Westlake, now deceased. One of my favorite books of his is Adios, Scheherazade, no relation to the piece by Rimsky-K.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Powers of 10

If you're not careful you might just learn something.

Review - Guilt Machine - On This Perfect Day

This one is way overdue! I submitted it the end of January and it got misplaced, which took two months to discover. Then it got placed back at the bottom of the stack and just now, four months later, is seeing the light of day. I'm still very grateful, though, to have the opportunity to get paid for reviewing music. Thanks, Doug! By the way, I'm still enjoying this amazing album, another one of those that God placed in my life at just the right time. Thanks, God!

Under the name of Ayreon Dutch musician Arjen Lucassen’s multi-album sci-fi series which spanned over a decade earned my appreciation but not my enthusiasm. It’s not like I don’t care for science fiction or symphonic rock, it’s just the way he put these two together didn’t quite butter my bread, ring my bell, wind my clock, feed my llama, scoot my boot, or any other worn cliché.

Fortunately when he isn’t thinking about DNA grafting aliens the man can write some incredibly moving music. In 2005 he released the first of his Stream of Passion albums, a melodic excursion into symphonic goth rock whereupon he enlisted the help of Lori Linstruth, the best “new” lead guitarist I’ve heard since my hair began to grey. Since 2005 Lori and Arjen have shacked up, plumbed the dark depths of their collective pasts and come up with mutual forgiveness. These topics (or in their own words “the destructive psychology of guilt, regret and the darkest form of secret- the secrets we hide from ourselves”) permeate Guilt Machine, their latest project which goes by the moniker On This Perfect Day.

Each of the six lengthy songs are edgy, atmospheric, orchestral, dynamic, and just gosh-durned pleasing to the ears. The opening track, “Twisted Coil” is full of eerie and apprehensive melodies captured by lush keyboard sounds, punchy drums (compliments of Chris Maitland, previously of Porcupine Tree), and dream-like vocals (some guy named Jasper Steverlinck, a name I wish I made up). Halfway through the twelve minute song the dream fades away and heavy guitars kick in the jam, ratcheting up the tension and the tempo. Where the first half of the song prompted you to “Shut down the guilt machine / And wash your conscience clean of yesterday” the gritty vocals now ask “Did you think you’d find the answer/ Behind the lie?” while thick synth tones throb around Lori’s always tasteful guitar fills. “Leland Street” begins quietly with a silky lead guitar line and morosely delivered lyrics of “This is not how you planned it / Not the life you had in mind / Winding days have spiraled into years / And the past is long resigned.” Turn that frown upside down, Arjen! Fortunately if you like shady metal this song WILL make you smile as it soon kicks up with a roiling rumble of keyboards and a lead guitar line that floats out of the dark skies like an eagle on the hunt- majestic but deadly. A faster tempo, industrial sounds and an 80s British sound immediately give “Green and Cream” a different sound and it’s also the most traditional song on the album with easily discernable verses and choruses, reminding me quite a bit of those Reagan-era bands whose keyboard sounds were as big as their hair. “Season of Denial” is the first song which really grabbed my ear and twisted it like an angry grandmother. Cinematic with sci-fi overtones, a mellotron flute leads to a nostalgic melody plays by lonely strings and clean fingerpicked guitar. The forlorn vocals intone “Turn around and face the darker side of you / Turn around and face the damage that you do” while a gypsy violin dances like a sprite in contrast to the dour melody, gearing up for the astounding solo it gets halfway through before the entire song goes symphonic with stuttering strings set against a vast space of squishy stereophonic synth sounds. ALLITERATION SCORE! The Cars meet Queen on “Over” where a big and bouncy synth bass matches wits with soaring and zealous vocals lamenting that “It’s over” while a wall of guitars and organs body slam you to the floor. “Perfection” is yet another song from this album that likes to hit auto-play in my head, opening with sober OSI clean arpeggio guitars and serene vocals, hypnotizing you with lines of “You look distant in this light” and “Is perfection what you really want?” With almost eleven minutes at its disposal the song takes it time bringing up a simmer but what a deliciously tantalizing journey! A martial snare drum helps crank up the intensity as the song waxes to a crescendo, backing off to the yet another mouth watering melodic guitar solo and ends on a lighter note, fittingly offering the hope while guitars, bass, keys, and strings all play an invigorating figure in unison, forming a symphonic finale worthy of Beethoven. Well, not Beethoven but definitely up to Edvard Grieg standards.

Guilt Machine explores the human condition using sweeping symphonic passages undercut with dark streams of melancholy, at times layering brutal distorted guitars over solid drumming and other times allowing the clouds to part for rays of shimmering synthesizer gothy goodness. I suppose you could say that I’m kinda partial to On This Perfect Day – it floats my boat!