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!

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Readers Digest 1959 Part 2!

I know all 1.8992 of my readers have been itching with anticipation for more fifty year old Reader's Digest articles. This one shows how things never change in our government, which is why when they tell you that the new healthcare ripoff is "only" going to cost three guberzillion dollars you should mentally note that it's really going to cost eight guberzillion dollars.

Click on each image to see it clear eyed and giant sized.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Review - Owen Pallett - Heartland

Owen Pallett is perhaps best known as the string arranger for indie-rock favorites Arcade Fire, though his work with The Pet Shop Boys shouldn’t be overlooked. Neither should his sporadic solo albums which until recently were recorded under the name of Final Fantasy, a name owing much to his love of turn-based gaming and all things geeky. Throw in the fact that Owen plays the violin and that his latest solo album, Heartland, is a concept album packed with meta-narratives between himself and Lewis, the ultra-violent farmer who lives in a world called Spectrum and is trying to come to terms with his creator, Mr. Owen Pallet, and surely I’ve lost ninety-nine percent of my readers.

Admittedly this music is a bit eccentric. It’s also playful, complex, gorgeous, lush, thrilling and a bit goofy. Despite the high-concept subject matter and orchestral setting, it is a feather in Mr. Pallett’s hat that Heartland never comes across as stuffy or pompous (indeed how could it with a song titled “Oh Heartland, Up Yours”?). Instead it’s a modern fairy tale, a musical for the innocently demented.

The album is one massive Pet Sounds on steroids. The greatest example is “Lewis Takes Action” where grand hooks, woodwind flourishes and sheer strings contrast with violent lyrics such as “I’ll bludgeon til’ the body’s cold.” But it’s a catchy, violent melody that will leave you humming for days! Another excellent example of Pallett’s prowess is “Midnight Directives,” the opening track which sets a tone of delicious anticipation, building a grand orchestral setup for the rest of the album with lush strings, compliments of the Czech Symphony Orchestra, augmenting the synthetic arcade blips that provide an eerie, unsettling background. Lots of drama in this one, yessir! Another excellent combination of quirky synth tones and traditional orchestra occurs in “Lewis Takes Off His Shirt”, an upbeat, invigorating song full of bright melodies and a memorable, defiant chorus of Lewis singing to his creator, “I’m never gonna give it to you.” “Tryst With Mephistopheles” is also bouncy and fun with eager horns and cheerful strings that radiate sunshine over a peppy beat driven by a spritely bass guitar, a masterful combination of chamber orchestra and rock instruments. And how can I not mention the frivolous Elfman-like cartoon silliness of the orchestration in “Flare Gun”? Apparently I can not!

Heartland is far from the usual rock album to which someone glues a string arrangement. Nor are they stuffy art songs with rock instruments painfully inserted. Rather Owen Pallett writes regular songs that encompass a greater breadth of instruments, placing each in their natural place. I strongly suspect that this album is a slow grower. I’ve listened to it a number of times with my magic headphones and though it hasn’t completely grabbed my heart I can tell that there’s something I haven’t “got” yet, something just out of my reach. Maybe this is what Lewis is singing about when he mockingly asserts that “I’m never gonna give it to you” and I’ll never be privy to this inside joke. But at least I’ll enjoy a few more listens as I try.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Catching Up

Eighth grade is over
Put the clarinet away
Joshua’s last show.

Volunteer regret
It’s a good thing to do but
There goes my weeknight.

Five ounce Dixie Cups
Come in lots of cool styles but
Only tease your thirst.

If you did not know
It seems that I like music
More than most fellows.

Always more to do
But there is joy in the toil
Chip, chip, chip away

A treat for ol’ dad
My oldest son bikes six miles
Thanks for joining us!

I drank all my drink
For Friday on a Monday
Now the week drags on.

It’s great to hear Tim
Play bass on the Lost Dogs disc
A friendly “Hello.”

Friday, May 14, 2010

Rambling Incendiary Lincoln Post #1

About five or six years ago I got a kink in my neck that perhaps Abraham Lincoln wasn't the superhuman demi-god of a President that he is made out to be. The thought kind of festered in my brain, fighting against the myth created through twelve years of public education as well as working at both Lincoln National AND The Lincoln Museum (sure, I was just the store and daily operations guy but you spend every day simmering in a warm bath of Lincoln worship.) It's a strong myth. Besides, how can you diss the guy who freed the slaves? Right? Can I get me an "Amen"?

But still it ate away at me as I grew to learn more about the founding of this country and (gasp) even read the entirety of our Constitution for the first time. I mean, the Constitution is the Bible of our government... it is the rule book, the basis, the place you go for the definitive word. And it's not that difficult to understand. Unlike current legislation, which can run thousands of pages and contain large amounts of caveats and twists and turns meant to give lawyers something to argue about, the Constitution is remarkably succinct and readable, almost like it was written so that it could be understood by the average citizen.

Which led me to question the very reason for The Civil War.

The very name is questionable. A Civil War is when two or more related parties are trying to own the same thing. In this case there were some states (southern) that just wanted to be left alone and others (northern) that wanted to force them back into the union. States that wanted the rights to control their own destiny vs. states that thought that all states should be under the control of a federal government. After all, these states voluntarily joined the union less than one hundred years earlier with the clear understanding that they could withdraw at any time, provided their individual state voted to do so.

So essentially a shotgun wedding occurred, more descriptively called The War Between the States, to prevent the divorce.

But wasn't the war about slavery? Not in the least, but more on that in a minute.

Remember how some southern states withdrew from the union immediately when Lincoln was elected? It was because everyone knew that Lincoln was pro-strong centralized Federal government. Lincoln got elected solely with northern votes, and the south could read the writing on the wall and left the union. Lincoln was a big follower of Henry Clay, the Whig. The Whigs wanted the mercantile system of government here in the U.S. like they had over in Europe. To refresh your memory, the mercantile system favored high tariffs, a strong federal government, and nationalized banks so that they could dole out political favors. Clay tried again and again to get these pushed through congress, with mixed success, but it wasn't until Lincoln got into office that the Whig ideas were whole-heartedly adopted. In the first year of his Presidency Lincoln pushed through a massive amount of legislative changes (shades of Obama, anyone?) resulting in a national bank and high tariffs.

I know this is disjointed but keep with me.

So Lincoln gets in, pushes through a bunch of strong federal government legislation, which takes rights away from the states, and the southern states withdraw from the union because their Constitutional rights have been taken away. Half an empire isn't as good as a whole one so Lincoln waged war to force these states back into the union at a staggering cost. When things got rough he issued the Emancipation Proclamation, which was a complete joke and was mostly intended to dissuade England or France from supporting the south. This great, heralded Emancipation Proclamation only freed slaves in the south, where Lincoln had no authority to do so, and keeps slaves as slaves in states that were supportive of the north as well as southern territories under the control of the north. So much for wanting to free slaves! In fact, Lincoln spoke very little about slavery until the Presidential election and then he was in favor of shipping them back to Africa. However he wrote and spoke oodles about growing the Federal government.

Lincoln. Big government. Huge power grabs. Political favors for wealthy men of industry. Republican.

Have you ever wondered, as I did, why the Republican party keeps giving us lame duck candidates that don't seem to reflect conservative values? It's because they are Whigs. Always have been. They will pander to the religious and conservatives only as much as necessary to keep power but they have been in favor of bigger government from their inception. Where the Democrats grow government directly the Republicans grow it through business favors. That is until recently and now the Democrats and loving it up with General Electric and General Motors and big banks.

What about Reagan? I tell you what... while I don't agree with everything he did that man is DA BOMB! DA BOMB, I TELL YOU! But he wasn't the Republican parties first choice - they wanted George W. Bush and eventually got their puppet. No, Reagan kind of dark-horses slipped under the radar and suddenly they were stuck with him as a candidate, a man they couldn't control. Reagan was great for the average American but did a lot of damage to the goals of the Republican party. I doubt they let a slip up like THAT happen again.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

The Last of the Best of 2009

Another fine album that I have little inclination to hear again but once I start listening I have no regrets.

Everyone likes a good mystery and what’s better than a mysterious rock band whose artists hide behind cartoon personas? You might think you know who they are but despite repeated listens and grasping at various sonic clues (“Hear that? So and so does that!”) you can never be 100% certain. However the rumor ‘round the water cooler is that for Neon Horse the vocals are by Stavesacre’s Mark Salomon while the majority of the music was written by Starflyer 59’s Jason Martin with his brother Ronnie, the keyboard wizard behind Joy Electric, taking up some of the synthesizer burden.

Haunted Horse: Songs of Love, Defiance & Delusion is the second album by this enigmatic group and it’s a bundle of creepy good fun! Upon hearing the first few songs my wife said it reminded her of coffins, even without seeing the cover art. While it’s far from the spookiest album in my collection there is most certainly an eerie vibe that runs throughout the ten songs. The biggest factor in Neon Horse being peculiar are the vocals, which is to say that there aren’t Theremins and overtly creepy melodies or sounds. But the vocals are certainly unorthodox. To shake things up, and help keep the mystery, there are either multiple singers or multiple voices, each one a bizarre, gravelly, almost cartoony manifestation. The one which really made my skin crawl sounds like Udo, the singer for the 80s German metal band Accept, a voice that sounds like it’s shredding itself with every syllable.

The music itself is an equally odd jumble of contradictions, a kind of noisy, sloppy guitar garage rock that falls face first into bizarre new wave. The list of influence is equally incongruous: ZZ Top, Devo, David Bowie, Talking Heads, AC/DC, Depeche Mode, Oingo Boingo, Steppenwolf, the Eurythmics. Which is to say that it sounds like everyone and no one. Songs like “Follow The Man” are full of loud, angular guitars with insistent piano while the amazing “Some Folks” feature a slinky bass laying out a sexy dance beat over moody keyboards. “Haven’t Sinned In Years!” is packed with gritty guitars and unnerving background vocals, in contrast to the twitchy new wave tale of lost innocence found in “Strange Town.” My own personal favorite is “Chain Gang, Bang Bang”, a raucous swinging party of a song full of horns, overlapping vocals, and competing melodies that are happy to distract you while you toil away.

No matter who they really are Neon Horse is comprised of artists who are more than capable of crafting a catchy tune, filling Haunted Horse with sleezy but safe rock songs, a kind of family friendly haunted house. This side project provides an equally safe haven where the musicians can let their hair down and have fun, a relaxed vibe that permeates each song, making this album a thrilling listen.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010


The date was da bomb
Even though we arrived late
Amid fake accents.

Sick on Saturday
Is as much of a waste as
A guitar sans strings.

My kids have it made
Because their mom is superb-
Happy Mother’s Day!

The Monday drags on
Slower and slower because
There is no chocolate.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Current Review - Transatlantic - Whirlwind

I submitted this one for publication over two months ago and it's just now seeing print. It's another Neal Morse project (see next entry) and it's unfortunately not one that has drawn me back to it since the review. Hmmmm....

As the songwriting nucleus for Spock’s Beard Neal Morse wrote some amazing music, following firmly in the melodic rock footsteps of such legends as Yes, Kansas, and Genesis. About ten years ago he got himself saved and decided that the band format chaffed his faith and so went solo, a song we’ve all heard before. Since that time he has continued to be prolific but his quality has been a bit schizophrenic. I caught his first solo album, found it tepid, and then didn’t pursue his music much. In doing so I missed out on reviewing the amazing Sola Scriptura, a prog-metal rock opera about the life of Martin Luther but jumped back in for Lifeline, which was musically on par with Spock’s Beard but lyrically a bit limp.

It was with not a little curiosity to see what would happen to Morse’s song crafting when he again joined forces with three other titans of prog to record a new Transatlantic album, the first in eight years. The other members are bionic drummer Mike Portnoy of Dream Theater, bassist Pete Trewavas from Marillion and multi-instrumentalist Roine Stolt of The Flower Kings. Regardless, as in past Transatlantic albums this is a Neal Morse album as he wrote most of the music and lyrics, this time making a seventy-seven minute epic album formed around a metaphor for like, curiously named The Whirlwind.

My first few listens left me cold. So did the next few. In fact with so much music it took nearly two months of casual listening before I “got it”… and I’m still not sure if I have all of it or if what I’ve gotten is a touch less than spectacular. Musically it’s quite top shelf. Mike Portnoy is, as always, a phenomenal drummer both in technique and taste. Stolt adds his unique vocals as well as some mighty fine guitar textures and Trewavas booms forth plenty of mid-range pingy goodness that serves as a melodic anchor. There’s the usual Morse grand orchestral overture and uplifting dramatic final track as well as some amazingly melodic rock that would find a home with many who normally fear the label of “progressive rock.” Of special note is “Out of the Night” which is not only an exceptional song by itself but allows all four to sing, forming Beatlesque melodies. “On the Prowl” takes time out for some adventurous instrumentals similar to very early Pink Floyd, going almost psychedelic with the guitars. The album is broken up into twelve “songs”, each containing bits of musical themes that are used and repeated throughout to give the album the kind of cohesion and symphonic integrity characteristic of Morse’s best work.

With The Whirlwind Morse has been able to reverse his post-conversion lyrical decline, this time artfully incorporating his faith into a larger metaphor that is explored throughout the album. He’s still not back to his Spock’s Beard heyday level, but I’m tired of whining on this subject so will instead shut my stinkin’ trap.

Sometimes I come across rock albums with progressive touches that I can confidently recommend to non-prog-lovin’ friends. The Whirwind is not such an album. Transatlantic creates classic genre music, dense and complicated, making no bones about tipping their hat at melodic forefathers while spinning up something more modern. Fully listening to The Whirlwind is a big investment in time but one that will pay off with audible enjoyment not only now but, I suspect, for years to come.

Past Reviews - Neal Morse - Lifeline

I still listen to this album now and then, which is a good sign that it's good. Good? What a silly word. Goooood. I think I prefer the album he did before this one, Sola Scriptura, which is a bit more "metallic" and is about the life of Martin Luther.

It’s not that I bear any grudge toward Neal Morse for abandoning one of the best melodic progressive rock bands of the last century for a solo career. I mean, a man has to follow his muse and if for some reason he is unable to create the music in his heart with his current band then it’s time to move on. Except that this man needed that band to flesh out his music, making it more diverse and interesting. Since going solo Neal Morse has yet to create an album of the scale and grandeur that was Spock’s Beard but with Lifeline he finally comes pretty durn close.

The opening title track goes a long way toward Morse re-earning his status as one of the best writers of progressive rock. Tight breaks, complicated arrangements that remain easy on the ear, a few odd time signatures and emotional melodies rule the day, slowly starting with a pensive solo piano before slamming into a big Spock’s Beard-type instrumental overture. Four minutes into this dramatic orchestral song vocals finally see the light of day before gusty guitars and heavy riffs take over again. You’ll be amazed at how quickly these cheerful thirteen minutes fly by, a testimony to Morse’s songwriting prowess.

The other overtly progressive song is “So Many Roads”, coming in at a massive twenty-nine minutes. This dramatic masterpiece is broken into six different sections, the centerpiece being focused on the lyrics “’Cause there’s so many roads to nowhere / So many places I could try / … / Maybe it’s time for me to fly / And search for the on that will save me / That will lead me in the light.” Of course these lyrics cannot convey the melody to which they are attached, one which pulls at your heart without wallowing in maudlin emotionalism. Highlights include a five minute section of acoustic guitar and jazzy saxophone and pretty much every drum smack put to tape. As on most of his solo work the drums are handled by Dream Theater’s Mike Portnoy and this recording proves why he is considered a living legend. Wowee zowee! Bass duties are compliments of Randy George of Ajalon and once again he is able to lay some pretty massive and complicated grooves while always keeping one foot firmly humbly planted in melodic phrasing.

“Leviathan” is perhaps the heaviest thing Morse has ever recorded. Opening with spooky synths and dark choir you can easily imagine the Vikings out at sea on a dark night, evoking an image that intentionally just manages to keep from teetering into Spinal Tap territory. From there rhythm section bass kicks in on this monster of a song, leading to a horn section, a stomping, playful chorus and a xylophone solo. Yes, I said “xylophone”… trust me… you’ll like it. If you’ve been wondering when you’d hear the next quirky “21st Century Schizoid Man” you need look no further.

The four remaining songs are much less progressive, often sounding like modern versions of Kansas or Styx. “The Way Home” is a passionate seeking for comfort with chiming guitars, mellotron flutes, and an eventual buildup into a lush string orchestra. Visions of Yes are found in the hopeful “God’s Love” before jumping into “Children of the Chosen,” a bright acoustic-based song with a chorus that would not seem out of place in many churches. Decent songs but not as strong as the first three mentioned or the final song, “Fly High”, a powerful and invigorating song of beautiful piano and gorgeous strings that slowly build to an amazing guitar solo by Paul Bielatowicz that is as melodic as it is technically impressive.

With Lifeline Neal Morse has been able to convey his Christian faith with a boldness and artistic integrity that is rare to find. While revisiting the power-pop prog rock that was a mainstay during his time at the helm of Spock’s Beard Morse was able to retain the song-oriented format of the many classic progressive rock bands mentioned above, forging an impressively strong album that is his best in years.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

It's That Time Again

Has there ever been
A full Funny Five audit?
My faith is shaken.

“Wine is for woman
“and queers,” said the dimwit as
He drank his lite beer.

A long overdue
Internal review process
100 days strong.

I cannot resist
We will surely be buried.
Six tomato plants.

Regretting the choice
That I made in my warm car:
No bike, drove to work.

I just cannot wait
For our private date: Just us
And only one child.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Three Things on a Monday

1) My oldest son really likes juice. He's almost fifteen but I bet if he came across a juice trap in the middle of the forest he would have a difficult time not going for it. Fortunately he rarely ventures out of his room, let alone into a forest, so for now he's safe.

2) Our coffee machine here at work was either designed by a committee, members of management at my work, imbeciles, or the anti-coffee lobby. Or possibly a combination of all of the above. I only drink one cup a day but the experience is so horribly scarring that I'm considering giving it up.

Three or four years ago, before we were part of a massive corporate entity, we bought a coffee maker online and had it installed. Two burners, hot water tap - worked great. About a year after we got bought out they decided that this wasn't good enough for the coffee service they signed up for (where previously we just bought a few giant tubs of coffee and scooped it out as needed) so this very nicely working machine was replaced with a very similar model... which stopped working in a couple of months. This was replaced with an odd bird machine that had the second warmer on top, which made the coffee perilously prone to being knocked over if you opened a cupboard. This machine was replaced by a side-by-side machine that worked fine... until it started going haywire and either pumped so much water through the grounds that the pot overflowed or made half a pot of extremely potent joe.

The downward spiral has led to what is possibly the most ineptly designed coffee maker in the history of mankind. It's a one-pot design so if you want regular AND decaf, too bad. There is no warmer, which isn't a problem in the morning because there is a continuously running flow of new bean juice but in the afternoon... But the worst part is the pot. It is not glass, which would easily allow you to see how much coffee is left (imagine!) but rather brushed aluminum. Is there enough coffee in there to fill my cup? Spin the wheel and take a chance! Now go ahead and try to pour yourself a cup. Go on.... See? If the pot is nearly empty you really, honestly, truly have to turn the pot UPSIDE DOWN! Or even further. Did I mention that the pot is heavy even when empty? Oh, and the hot water spigot is in a deep recess.

Sure, it's a little thing and it's still free coffee but in the morning when you stumble into work why should it have to be so painfully difficult just to eek out a single cup?

3) Tomorrow are the primary elections. VOTE! The primaries are where things are really decided. Ever wonder why in November you're having to choose the lesser of two evils? It's because when people had a real choice of candidates, in May, they all sat home and tried to figure out their coffee machines. GO! VOTE! And once again I'll bring up my idea that if you vote in the primaries you should be a Fast Pass ticket that allows you to move to the front of the line in November, should there be a line.

And if you're in Indiana and lean conservative, I strongly urge you to vote for whichever candidate has the highest rating that reflects most of your values. At the moment Carpetbagger Coats is in the lead for Senate. The conservative vote is spread out among a handful of good candidates. Sure, there is one in particular I really like but I most certainly like nearly ANY of them over Washington-insider Coats. Therefore I would urge you that if your chosen candidate is at six percent or eight percent and has been the entire election, just admit that they aren't going to win and vote for whoever is in the #2 spot. Yes, principles are exceedingly important but the principle at stake here is whether our choice in November will be for Coats, someone who is so far away from your beliefs that he's almost a RHINO, or someone who reflects *most* of your beliefs. Right now it looks like that candidate is Hostetler. He's not my first choice but he's the one that's going to get my vote tomorrow.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Readers Digest

I tell ya, things were different back in the day. I have a bunch of Reader's Digests from the late 1950s and early 1960s and I'm sloooooowly making my way through them. But I thought I'd take a few blog posts and share some articles. In light of today's modern, intelligent, advanced, illuminated thinking many of these articles show that not much has changed. Or sometimes the articles show the beginning of the horrible mess we're in now. I've also included an advertisement for each. Click on each image to see it super-sized (a foreign term back in 1959, the year of these articles.) Enjoy!