Saturday, November 12, 2016

Risks and Faith, Moving On

A lot of my vote in this election included a lot of faith. The reality is with whatever changes are made, it very well may hurt me and my current situation. If I loose my "food stamps", that's serious. But more than that, I may not be able to get the disability status and/or Medicaid that I'm applying for. And with still not being able to get a job...interstate underpass here I came. Literally.

My prayers are that the economic changes are for the better and I finally can get a good job, one in which I can not only recover but thrive. That is my goal, my dream. And I know many other men that feel the same way. Because without a job, a man just doesn't feel like a real man.

Were ALL hurting in some way. But one of my biggest blessings is praying for my friends and family. Some are grieving the loss of a loved one, a devastating betrayal, chronic pain, and a fatal illnesses. I am proud to lift you up for healing, peace and comfort. And a always, I appreciate the prayers you lift up for me. I'm certain I wouldn't still be here if it wasn't for you. At the very least things would already be a lot worse.

Peace, joy and happiness.

Friday, November 11, 2016

Answer to Prayer about Patience and Persistence?

Over a year ago to cats stared coming around the house and eating the left one food from the other I was feeding. They seemed very friendly but very shy. When coaxing them to come closer, you could tell they wanted to, with tails high in the air and very quiet mewing.

The one with longer hair, whom I shall refer to as Long", was the bravest. Months passed and finally after about 8 months or so, Long would come close enough for me to scratch her head ever so, easily and briefly.

Well, after many more months of progress at a snails pace, she will finally let me pick her up and hold her in my lap. She even jumped up on her own last night. Once there she gets comfortable, sometimes bathing, sometime just enjoying the scratching. Even to the point where she resists being putting back on the ground.

Those that know me know how much I love animals. One of the first things Gretchen and I did after marrying and moving in to the new house was to adopt sibling kittens. And as per out expectations, it was one of the best things we ever did. They brought us so much happiness, laughter and unconditional love.

The month after Gretchen died in 2011, one of the cats, Tom had to be put down: liver disease. Tom was Gretchen's cat. From the beginning he gravitated to her and vice-versa. Likewise, the other cat Bob and I were best buds. Nice how God works that way, isn't it? So then it was just me and Bob. And while I was grieving Gretchen, it was obvious that Bob was grieving Tom. His behavior changed. He became less "independent". He stuck to me more and more. And that was ok with me. There must have been a hundred times I'd sit in my chair with Bob in my lap and I would thank God aloud for that furry goof. Then a couple of years ago I had to have Bob put down. He had developed some sort of internal rupture to some organs. The doctor said that they could do surgery but it really wouldn't make much difference. So since Bob was in so much pain, I sent him ahead to be with Gretchen and Tom.

Over the years since there have been the average neighbor hood cat come around for a while to eventually disappear. And I'd feed and talk to them and that was good.

But right now it is such a blessing for Long to accept me this way. (I know this probably sounds pretty silly. And if you're laughing or scoffing at it, you can just kiss my ass and unfriend me, because apparently you are not a friend anyway.) The timing is perfect. She may come from a house in the neighborhood and just has the freedom to go where she wants, I don't know. Friends have urged me to get new cats, but I've declined. Maybe this is God timing and I should just take her in, make her an inside cat too. I don't know.

But maybe this is God showing me that patience, persistence and HIS timing pays off. Because He knows how much I want a job and how badly I continue to feel at failing at all of this. And I seriously worry about what's going to become of me.

I hope that's what He's doing. But in the meantime, He's reminding me of the little blessings and joys in the face of overwhelming circumstances and despair. Sometimes blessings have semi-long hair, a Batman mask and like to try to lick the skin right off my hands if I let her.

Stop, look. Take a magnifying glass if you have to to find the small blessings. And if you have a pet you love, give it some extra noms or whatever it is they like. Peace to you.

Friday, September 02, 2016

Not That You Asked For It - My Top 10s - the 60s

Music

This might be as good a time as any to do some of my Top Ten lists. Usually this is done at the end of the year for that preceding year. But since I’ve been giving your my tour of the last 40 years, that’s where I’m going to begin.

I haven’t addresses the 60s. That is because I didn’t really experience music in the 60s (having been born in 1959) because I didn’t really think about it until the very end of the 60s. My memory of that time was sitting on the floor watching television, usually the news and constant coverage of Viet Nam and all the unrest that resulted in our society. So I’m going to start there. The first two years will not be a full ten, but I feel the few albums must be recognized. 

1962
Bob Dylan - Bob Dylan - whether you like is voice or not, directly or not, he influenced everything after 
Time Further Out - Dave Brubeck

1963
Please Please Me - the Beatles - nothing needs to be added :)
Surfin’ USA  - the Beach Boys - America’s response to the Beatles
The Freewheeling’ Bob Dylan - Bob Dylan
With the Beatles - the Beatles 

1964
A Hard Day’s Night - the Beatles - not just a soundtrack to their movie
Beatles for Sale - the Beatles
The Times They are A-Changin’ - Bob Dylan 
The Rolling Stones - The Rolling Stones - rocks bad boys, heavy blues influence in the earlier albums
Another Side of Bob Dylan - Bob Dylan
The Kinks - The Kinks - although never really poplar in the US, very influential 
The Animals - the Animals
Stay With the Hollies - the Hollies - takes the Beatles vocal harmonies to the next level
Here I Go Again - the Hollies
Wednesday Morning, 3am -  Simon & Garfunkel - helps begin the folk influence on rock

1965
Help! - the Beatles - again more than just a movie soundtrack
Rubber Soul - the Beatles - their creativity kicks into high gear
My Generation - the Who - a four man band, each a genius 
Highway 61 Revisited - Bob Dylan
For Your Love - the Yardbirds - throughout their career, will feature rocks greatest guitarists
Mr. Tamborine Man - the Byrds - America’s version of the Hollies, however not inferior
Turn! Turn! Turn! - the Byrds
December’s Children (And Everybody’s) - the Rolling Stones
Whipped Cream & Other Delights - Herb Alpert - rocks first horn star. You’d recognize the songs.
A Charlie Brown Christmas - Vince Guaraldo Trio - ok, which album off all time deserves to be in everyone’s collection

1966
Revolver - the Beatles - consider it Rubber Soul part 2
Pet Sounds - the Beach Boys - the ultimate BB album was mostly a Brian Wilson solo album, a true masterpiece
Buffalo Springfield - Buffalo Springfield - the most influential band you’ve probably never heard of
Fresh Cream - Cream - the debut of the ultimate power trio, featuring Eric Clapton
Jefferson Airplane Takes Off - Jefferson Airplane - debut album before Grace Slick proves they would have made it without her
Blonde on Blonde - Bob Dylan - keeps pushing the envelope of song writing featuring Just Like a Woman
A Quick One - the Who
The Monkees - the Monkees - yes, that’s right, used the best songwriters and musicians of the time, can anyone say Neil Diamond?
Sounds of Silence - Simon & Garfunkel
Soul & Inspiration - the Righteous Brothers - blue eyed soul magnified

1967
Are You Experienced? - the Jimi Hendrix Experience - the first of three perfect albums before this star burned out
Buffalo Springfield Again - Buffalo Springfield
The Who Sells Out - the Who
The Doors - The Doors - debut of the Lizard King and classic band, what a wonderful mess
Mr. Fantasy - Traffic - supergroup featuring young Steve Winwood
Surrealistic Pillow - Jefferson Airplane - now with Grace and White Rabbit and that other song that’s played every seven minutes
Disraeli Gears - Cream
Days of Future Passed - the Moody Blues - starting to dip a little into prog-rock with extended orchestra
Forever Changes - Love - I don’t quite know how to describe it, just incredible
Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hears Club Band - the Beatles - yes, number 10, so many of the albums above it inspired it and did it better

1968
Electric Ladyland - the Jimi Hendrix Experience - amazing two album set
Wheels of Fire - Cream
Last Time Around - Buffalo Springfield
Astral Weeks - Van Morrison - the perfect poet and songwriter debuts after leaving Them
The Beatles - The Beatles - the end of a era featuring many successful experiments, a great single album, too bad there were two in the sleeve 
Cheap Thrills - Big Brother and the Holding Company - Janis Joplin, ‘nuff said
Tons of Sobs - Free - debut album featuring the vocal gold of Paul Rogers
Child is Father to the Man - Blood, Sweat & Tears
Bookends - Simon & Garfunkel
Three Dog Night - Three Dog Night

1969
Led Zeppelin - Led Zeppelin
Crosby, Stills & Nash - Crosby, Stills & Nash
Tommy - the Who
Goodbye - Cream
Blind Faith - Blind Faith - only release by supergroup with Eric Clapton and Steve Winwood
Chicago Transit Authority - Chicago
The Allman Brothers Band - The Allman Brothers Band - blues and southern rock debut
Yes - Yes - the year progressive rock expends
The Rod Stewart Album - Rod Stewart - did you know Rod used to be able to rock-out? 
Abbey Road - the Beatles

There you have it. So many fantastic album but not enough room (Pink Floyd, King Crimson, Fleetwood Mac, the Guess Who, Santana, Grand Funk Railroad, Elton John, David Bowie, the Zombies, Cat Stevens, Spirit, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Genesis, and others).

 


 

Thursday, September 01, 2016

Comic Book Movies (Part 1)

Let me throw some ugly truth out there.

Brandon Routh and Henry Cavill were both better Supermen than Christopher Reeve. For no other reason than the Reeve movies were crap. Yes, Superman is supposed to be the ultimate boycott, but Reeve portrayed him so wimpily, there really wasn't much human about him. More sad puppy than man of steel. Also, the supporting characters were cast badly and it felt like the Superman version of the old, campy Batman TV show.

Ben Affleck is the best Batman. Better than Christian Bale, George Clooney, and YES, even better than Michael Keaton. Similar reasons as above. Keaton looked like he weighed 105lbs WET!! That's not Batman. That series of the Batman movies let his suit do all the heavy lifting. The real Batman doesn't need armor (except to fight Superman, of course), because it would just slow him down and get in the way. Batman is a big, strong man who has worked long an hard to get that way. Keaton should have just done more Beetlejuice movies. That's what he's good for.

So, come at me :) This is my opinion having read the comics for the last almost 50 years. I too grew up on the Reeve and Keaton movies, but they failed to satisfy. And I think a lot of fan-boys out there would say the same except they're too caught up in the "mob mentality" of trashing the new movies. So many people complained that Man of Steel was "too dark". So DC lightened things up a bit for Suicide Squad, and suddenly it's "not dark enough". Ok "baby bear" guess what, there probably isn't a "just right".

Over all, Marvel does a great job with their movies. But after what,11 years now, it's getting a little old. Last weekend I finally watched Captain America: Civil War". I think the action sequences were great, the story flowed well, the pacing was good: but I was underwhelmed. It felt like, "here we go again". (Which remind me of something else I've noticed. People complaining about Superman fighting Batman. "What's the point", "they're both good guys", etc. But what dues Marvel do in every one of their movies? Heroes fighting heroes. To the point that there was practically no reason to have a villain in CA:CW).

I hope DC keeps making movies. They have the better characters by far. As long as they stick to the cannon, hire good writers and directors, it should come together. And guess what else: there is plenty of room for Marvel and DC movies. When one gets it right, EVERYBODY wins, regardless of who.

I am most looking forward to Doctor Strange. After that, the Justice League movies. Beyond that, who knows. Things and schedules change all the time.

Let's just have some fun while it lasts, shall we?

Saturday, April 16, 2016

My Music of the 00s - All That You Can't Leave Behind

Music

Music at the turn of the new century continued at trend, at least in pop music, to blend together. Blurring the lines of genres, or at least creating a few new ones. Pop artists using rappers, and vice versa. Many of my generation and older believe that “real” country and western music is long dead since it also blended with pop. It was probably inevitable and there’s not necessarily anything wrong with it.

For me it made pop music kind of muddy and indiscernible. More of the music seemed prefab and formulaic. It was increasingly different to tell one artists from another by their sound.

The first ten years of the 00s was mostly following artists from the past who have kept going or made comebacks. Still recording good stuff was Pat Metheny, Mark Knopfler, Eric Clapton, Colin Hay, Diana Krall, Chris Isaak, Van Morrison, and Seal. Back were Steely Dan, U2, The Allman Brothers Band, and Steve Winwood.

Of the new artists I was attracted to were Jamie Cullum, Adele, Snow Patrol, Fleet Foxes, and Amy Winehouse. Some of the key albums were:

InterstatemanagersRiding with the King - B.B.King & Eric Clapton
All That You Can’t Leave Behind - U2
Going Somewhere - Colin Hay
The Look of Love - Diana Krall
Speaking of Now - Pat Metheny Group
Hittin’ the Note - the Allman Brothers Band
Twenty something - Jamie Cullum
Welcome Interstate Managers - Fountains of Wayne
Fingerprints - Peter Frampton
Raising Sand - Robert Plant & Alison Krauss
Fleet Foxes - Fleet Foxes
19 - Adele

Just a few albums per year. Other than that, record companies were putting out their back catalogue with the material remastered or remixed or otherwise different. Most not worth dipping into again. Some were.

I can’t remember the last time I was in a record store. I still try to get my music on CD because I like to have hard copies. I immediately digitize them for my computer/iPhone, etc., so the CD is my back up. But I have bought some digital downloads. mostly because some music is only available in that format. I like what Amazon does often, the offer a free digital download when you buy its CD copy.

Albums don’t mean much anymore. The younger generations are most focused on individual songs and that’s how they download their music. I feel a little sorry for what I believe they’re missing. As I’ve mentions in previous posts, we had such a great time with our rituals and habits with vinyl (and to a lesser extent, CDs).

There is obviously a lot of music ‘out there’ that billions of people love that doesn’t interest me. That’s good. I have my collection so when I do find something new, it’s just a great surprise.

This is my last post of the decades. I thought about doing my top ten for the decades but that might be a little redundant. Instead, I’ll mix it up with movies and individual albums or artists. As well as maybe some rants or whatever is on my mind/heart.

Until next time, enjoy a little B.B.King & Eric Clapton:



Thursday, April 14, 2016

My Music of the 90s - Novocaine for the Soul

Music
At the opening of 1990, we have, comfortably or not, moved from vinyl to compact disc. And hey, I admit I embraced it. The potential for “higher fidelity” and longer albums caught my attention. Part of the problem is, the record companies were so afraid of change that when they finally jumped into the water, they did it half-assed. They eventually realized the potential of making millions more dollars on properties they already owned and could repackage it so people would double and triple-dip. But that was later. For now it was only the records companies producing compact discs of classical music that were trying to take advantage of the technology. Not for for rock. I remember buying the first Elvis Costello album, My Aim is True, on CD expecting it to sound unbelievably clean and clear. Because my vinyl copy was pretty worn out. Holy crap was I disappointed. It sounded muddy and not nearly as good as my worn out vinyl. Another time early on I bought a CD where you could actually hear the needle drop onto the vinyl to record the CD. Wow!

Also, we lost many good traditions and rituals when we lost vinyl albums. Sure, we lost a lot of great large album art to reproductions less than 1/4 the size. But when I bought an album I would sit on the floor next to my bed listening to the album over and over. During which I was reading and analyzing every inch and letter of the album cover and liner notes. I learned song writers, musicians, record producers, recording studios and everything else that drew me in, creating a more complete experience of the music. It did make a difference. Also, let’s face it, there are few albums where we love EVERY song. Now we just hit the skip button or take those songs out of the playlist all together. But listing to the vinyl, we let it play through our less favorite songs. We didn’t break the spell. The only time we stopped was to turn the album over. At least during the onset of the CD, some record companies made an effort and provided booklets in the case with that information. It was very welcome, but it just wasn’t the same.

I got my first CD player as a graduation gift from my parents in the fall of 1986. They said I could have a class ring or the CD player. Well… My first CD was First Circle by the Pat Metheny Group. An undergrad had turned me onto Metheny in my junior year. From there I went in to a little jazz phase. And I needed it, it helped me see other venues in the absence of the rock music of my “youth”.

Musically the 90s started a little weak for me. In 1990, only 10 albums caught my attention throughout the year. That continued to be the average throughout the decade. But it was better than nothing. Even more, some of the music was truly fantastic. The 90s gave us The Sundays, Seal, Barenaked Ladies, The Cranberries, Diana Krall, Oasis, Ben Folds, Sarah McLachlan, Fountains of Wayne, and the beginning of solo careers by such as Neil Finn (Crowded House) and Colin Hay (Men at Work).

Also different this decade is that for some of the artists listed, many had only one or two good albums. For example, to me no matter how popular Barenaked Ladies got, their first album, Gordon, is the only really good one. It was downhill from there. For the most part, gone were the days of following an artist through their career. Sure there are a few exceptions (Fountains of Wayne, Diana Krull, Colin Hay).

The 90s were the eighth of the record producer being the real star of songs (no longer albums). With the magic of digital recording even the most average singer can sound like a dream. And the record producer would call all the shots, from picking out the songs, to making the instrumental arrangements. The singer just had to just stand there and sing. The singer had become a marketing tool. Because then would come the music video to hype the only average song. And since it played on the radio, the general public were fooled into believing “hey, this must be good because it’s on the radio”.

Here are some of my highlights of the 90s:
  • Reading, Writing, and Arithmetic and Blind - The Sundays
  • Seal and Seal II - Seal
  • Woodface - Crowded House
  • Fear - Toad the Wet Sprocket
  • Gordon - Barenaked Ladies
  • Harvest Moon - Neil Young
  • Talk - Yes
  • (What’s the Story) Morning Glory? - Oasis
  • A Few Small Repairs - Shawn Colvin
  • Breathe - Midge Ure
  • With a Twist - Todd Rundgren
  • Imaginary Day - Pat Metheny Group
  • Try Whistling This - Neil Finn
  • Painted From Memory - Elvis Costello and Burt Bacharach
  • Transcendental Highway - Colin Hay
And again, a lot more.

Just before the 90s I moved here to Lafayette. My record store of choice was Raccoon Records. My apartment was practically across the street from it. It was a great, privately owned record store that tried to carry what Lafayette wanted. From the symphony orchestra patrons to the cajun and zydeco listeners. They held on as long as they could. And that was longer than most. It was a true loss when they closed their doors.

I’m going to leave you with one of my favorite songs from Colin Hay. Hay was the guitarist and lead singer for the Australian band, Men at Work. His solo albums are phenomenal. His guitar playing is fantastic and his voice is a little haunting. If you decide to listen, I hope you enjoy.



What’s next: The “Oughts”, ordering over the internet, and digital downloads.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

My Music of the 80s - I Want My MTV!

All ThingsBefore I get started, I’d like to make a recommendation. Because I also love movies, when you mix the two, magic happens. But this is different. My recommendation is the documentary All Things Must Pass: the Rise and Fall of Tower Records. This film captures the feelings of anticipation and even rituals that music lovers used to go through in record stores. This was a wonderful experience that has now passed. I believe this is streaming on the various services. The last few years have seen the rise of some great music documentaries. I’ll let you know some of these in coming posts.

So here we go.

Music

Crossing from the 70s into the 80s I was a college dropout playing in a local rock band in Tallahassee by night and doing whatever I could during the day to keep from having to move back with my parents. I decided I’d had enough and that I wanted to go to college for real. So I squeezed in junior college into my schedule to get my GPA out of the “laughing stock” category, and decided I wanted to go to Florida Southern College in Lakeland, Florida.

The late 70s bright some great music, particularly from a new genre labeled New Wave. The Jam, Talking Heads, The Police, Blondie, The Cars, Dave Edmunds, Devo, Joe Jackson, The Clash, The Tubes, The Boomtown Rats, and many others. This was especially flamed in 1981 with the launching of a little thing called MTV (back when the M stood for music, not morons). But my first introduction was to an artist who to me, was the greatest of them all: Elvis Costello.

Thanks to Skip Parvin, I was introduced with the first notes of ECs second album This Year’s Model. "I don't wanna kiss you, I don't wanna touch, I don't wanna see you 'cause I don't miss you that much” - “No Action”. This was the spring of 1978, around the time I graduated high school. I was sent out into the world, mind fully blown. I drank in the music of many of the artists I listed above, something new. At least newer.

But that doesn’t mean there weren’t some great regular rock to be appreciated and loved. Three of my favorite Genesis albums were during that period. And new to the scene were bands like Dire Straits, Heart, Warren Zevon, Foreigner, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, XTC, Chuck Mangione, Bad Company, and others. Still vibrant were Led Zeppelin, Rolling Stones, Van Morrison, Supertramp, Yes, David Bowie, Bob Dylan, and the decade ended with Pink Floyd’s The Wall and, sadly, the death of Keith Moon.

The 1980s were welcomed with some of the best albums from artists such as:
  • Scary Monsters (and Super Creeps) - David Bowie
  • Duke - Genesis
  • Black Sea - XTC
  • Boy - U2 (debut album)
  • Get Happy!! - Elvis Costello and the Attractions
  • Crocodiles - Echo and the Funnymen
  • New Clear Days - the Vapors (debut album)
  • One Step Closer - the Doobie Brothers
  • Pretenders - The Pretenders (debut album)
  • True Colours - Split Enz
  • Vienna - Ultravox
  • Shadows and Light - Joni Mitchell
  • The River - Bruce Springsteen
  • Seconds of Pleasure - Rockville
  • Gaucho - Steely Dan
  • Yesshows - Yes
Also during this time was the dawn of a young jazz guitarist from America’s midwest named Pat Metheny. Pat will go on to produce the most extensive and eclectic catalog of works of any musician in his or any other field. Not to mention winning a Grammy award for almost every album he releases. I didn’t discover him until later, but better late than never.

By the time I moved to Lakeland for college in 1983 I was finding that whereas there was still great music to be ingested, there wasn’t as much as in the 70s. Fewer new artists captured my attention and some old favorites were getting a little “long in the tooth”.

Luckily come R.E.M., Tears for Fears, The Fixx, Naked Eyes, Toad the Wet Sprocket, The Alarm, Talk Talk, Everything But the Girl, Chris Isaak, The Style Council, Sade, Crowded House, Danny Wilson, Jane Siberry, and Michael Hedges. But from 1980 to 1989, the number of albums that I liked dropped, literally 50%. That downward trend would continue into the 90s and beyond.

Not only that, but it seemed that my tastes moved from “guitar rock” to “synth pop”. Not necessarily. I found that the synth bands I liked were long past the novelty aspect and were being quite orchestral with the keyboards. The songs were melody-centric not unlike the best songs of The Beatles.

On the other side of the synth movement, the bass guitarists of this decade really stepped up their game. No longer was the bass just a simple rhythm instrumental holding down the foundation of the songs. In many cases the bass took counterpointal lines to the melody or other instrumental. Chris Squire's work with Yes is the ideal example. Now was also a rise in the use of fretless basses. More commonly used in jazz music, now we had fretless players such as Pino Palladino, Tony Franklin, Tony Levin, and Jack Bruce of Cream.

Fortunately, Lakeland was in-between Orlando and Tampa/St. Petersburg. One hour on the interstate in either direction put my in one of those great cities. Especially in Tampa I found some small, independent record stores that carried a lot of imported and self-distributed albums. It was fairly easy to get my hands on the “odd” stuff. It certainly allowed me to keep up with my favorite artists.

So out of my dorm room wafted the “strange” sounds that often drew strange looks and snarls from other students. I was blessed enough to have a great roommate or at least a patient one. Also the guy in the neighboring room was very eclectic too.

For a decade that marked the decline of rock music for me, there as some damned fine music that I still listen too and dearly love. The music brings back many great memories of people and times that I consider the highlight of my life.

What about you? What stands out about 80s music? As time goes by I’ll be talking about some of these artists and albums a little more in-depth. Keep listening.

 Next: The 90s - Novocaine for the Soul