Another Sabbatical

I've got some other irons in the fire, and I can't seem to come up with anythng that would fit on this blog. Instead of turning it into a personal journal kind of thing, I'm going to take a short sabbatical. Check in every so often...I'm sure I'll be back (even though I'm kinda disappointed with what Blogger has turned into).



The 30 day challenge

There’s this pastor of some church (a "Relevant" church in Florida) who, in response to a disturbing divorce rate amongst his flock, has exhorted all the married people in his congregation to have sex every night for 30 consecutive nights. He call’s it “The 30 Day Challenge”. Maybe all the married men in his church are young whipper snappers with remarkable stamina or maybe just a 30 day supply of Enzyte. Perhaps all the married woman have been frigid for too long, and maybe this coolness has contributed to the excessive divorce rates. So, for 30 days at least, the fire needs to be kindled again. Do whatever you have to do, women, to get in the mood for 30 headache-free nights of coitus. Look at some pornography, watch a soap opera, take a long, hot bath, read a romance novel, go to the sex shop and get turned on looking at all the dildos…whatever it takes to get those juices flowing and those legs uncrossed.

Then fuck, fuck, fuck, suck, fuck, fuck, suck, suck, fuck, fuck, fuck, suck, fuck some more…I do believe the pastor called it “hanky panky”. Grow up, you dolt. If you’re going to advocate such a radical course of action the least you can do is call it what it actually is: a month of uninhibited, balls-to-the-wall, sweaty, animalistic, birth-control-protected, Officially sanctioned booty knocking.

The campaign sounds good when you first think about it, but after further consideration you realize that IT could well backfire. Thirty days is a LONG TIME to fuck and be fucked every single night. Maybe it’s different for the kids, maybe all those young hormones and libidos are up to it, but I’m sure I’d get sick and tired of sex if I did it that often. I’d want to take a long vacation from nookie at the end of that month. My wife would be walking funny at about the second week mark. 30 days of sex in our relationship would be more apt to lead to divorce court, defeating it’s intended purpose.

I can’t for the life of me understand what that pastor is thinking. Can he really believe that such a challenge is going to revitalize the marriages of those who want to tackle it? 30 days of sex with a different woman or man every night…well, that’s different, but I don’t think God intended for married folk to do the bunny hop with such frequency.

Maybe this minister is just trying to make some kind of point, not really thinking that people are taking him seriously. After all, he also issued a challenge to unmarried church members to abstain from sex for 30 days.

Something mighty fishy about that, ifn’ you ask me.


Just what I need

I just got a spam e-mail in my Yahoo inbox that read:


Of the millions of spam messages I've recieved in the 9 years since I came online, I think this one is the funniest. I'm almost tempted to open it, to see what it's all about, how I can get my "copulation organ" enlarged. Or is "copulation organ" some new-fangled sex toy that boasts of it's width and girdth? That would seem more logical, because if it were my OWN copulation organ it would have to be GROWN. But then, if it is an inanimate object how can it copulate? And how can it be an inanimate object if it's an organ?

My mind is boggled, but I'll forget it later on tonight, after I have brought it up a couple of times to rouse a laugh from a couple of friends.

It is comforting to know that my wife claims she doesn't want or need a bigger copulation organ than the one I'm sporting. And mine isn't exactly what you'd call "small" by any standards.

Even so, it would be pretty cool to look into the mirror one day and think, "Yep. Porn star."


A true account of the time I wasted with a guy named Champ

I met Champ in the early 90s…1990 or 1991. Me, my brother and a friend had a band going and we were playing at a jam session. He was a guitarist and was planning on doing a solo type thing. When he saw us he changed the plan and asked if we would back him on some simple blues stuff. We were happy to do it, as we enjoyed being on stage any time.

He was pleased with how it turned out and we were, too. We talked about the possibility of putting a band together with him (though my brother couldn’t do it because he lived too far from us…we knew another drummer who was looking for a gig). The end result was that we DID form a band. I still remember sitting in a booth at Mazzio’s Pizza brainstorming ideas for a band name.

Champ worked at Taco Mayo, and had only been there for a short time, having had some problems with the franchise in the town where he was from. You see, he turned out to be a recovering alcoholic. Doing pretty well, at that, until he met up with us. His parents were totally against him hooking up with a band; they knew that if he got back into playing music on a regular basis he would start drinking again, because alcohol and music were too closely associated in his mind. But Champ was in his late 20s, maybe even early 30s, so they had no real control over him. He was only with them because the shit had hit the fan on some previous occassion and had landed him into their charity.

As soon as we had a band name and he knew we were serious he moved out of his parents house into a motel in the town we were from. Not a high dollar affair, to be sure, but certainly no cheap fleabag joint. What I’m getting at is that he wasn’t pulling in the kind of money that would support a lengthy stay in ANY motel room. And top that off, he spent his entire savings on a cheap Fender Squire Telecaster and a pathetic small amplifier.

I think it was our drummer who took pity on him. He had a girlfriend who knew someone who had just bought an old run-down duplex that she was planning on giving to the Salvation Army. That deal was still sometime in the future, so they talked the owner into letting Champ stay there, rent-free, untiil such time as the Army took it over.

What a lucky break for the guy. All he was responsible for was the utilities. I don’t remember the details of how it happened but about a week after he moved in I became his roommate. No doubt he was happy to have someone there who would pay half of the bills.

By this time we had already begun rehearsing, playing in the garage of a friend’s girlfriend’s house. She would invite a few people over to listen to us and they were always very encouraging. I still have cassette tape recordings of some of those practice sessions and we were pretty damned good. We didn’t have any shows lined up at that time, but it was looking like we would have some gigs booked before too long.

I decided, one night, that we really needed to clock in some experience at a “real venue”, and I had an idea. There was this little shit kicker bar in a neighbouring town…I suggested that we load up all our shit into the van and go there. We would go inside and ask them if they’d like a free band for the afternoon. They didn’t usually book bands, but hey, it was free. That kind of offer doesn’t come along often.

The bartender thought it was a cool idea. We told her that if she liked us, maybe she could book us for a “real show” at a later date. She was open to the suggestion. We sat up and played all of our stuff, and the people who were there (maybe 10 or 15) loved us. We actually got a booking for the next month. That was a lot more than we expected, so things were looking up.

Then Champ quit his job. Fucking idiot. Apperantly he was so sure that this band was going to bring in a financial windfall that he decided he didn’t need to hold down a real job (like the rest of us were doing, btw). Moreover, he had begun drinking again (no surprise there, we always knew his parents were right). I don’t know where the hell he got the money to buy the cheap-ass Schlitz beer he claimed to like, but the refrigerator seemed to always have a six-pack in it (even as it had very little food).

We did get one show around that time. We were supposed to open for some friends that we had known for a long time. I think we were supposed to be second on a three band bill, but our buddies had to cancel, so we got pushed up into the headlining slot. We were all happy about how it turned out, but Champ seemed euphoric. We played for about an hour, everything we knew and all the songs we had written (we had a knack for composing songs quickly and there were probably five or six in the set, including a couple that Champ had written before he hooked up with us). The audience seemed to really appreciate what we were doing and we got an excellent response. We weren’t the kind of alternative band that these people had become used to in this place. We had a slight alternative feel, to be sure, but our sound was much more influenced by classic rock, the blues, and the kind of free-form jamming most often associated with the Grateful Dead.

Champ was indeed a Dead Head. He practically worshipped Jerry Garcia. His playing style was like a cross between Stevie Ray Vaughn and Garcia, with the main emphasis on Captain Trips. He was actually quite good with those styles, mixing a strong blues sensibility with looping scale runs. He was very familiar with all of the Dead’s songs and albums, but somewhere along the line in his booze haunted life he had lost all of his records. I had practically every Grateful Dead album released by that time on CD, so I recorded some of the better albums onto some cassette tapes and gave them to him.

Then things began to get weird. I woke up one morning to the sound of someone breaking in to the window of our apartment. I was freaked out and not a little bit frightened. I may have retrieved an implement of self-defense, but my memory is vague about that. It turned out to be Champ, who was trying to get in by the window, having locked himself out the night before. I let him in, totally clueless as to where he’d been and what he’d been doing all night. He was pretty fucked up. I don’t know if he’d just found some hard liquor (as opposed to the weak Schlitz he’s been drinking) or if he’d turned on to some drug or another (I don’t think it would have taken much more than a joint or two to send him into the stratosphere at that time).

He wanted to talk. We sat down in the living room floor (which also doubled as his bedroom…he slept on a blanket in the floor…where the only furniture was the chinsy Squire guitar and the cheap-ass amp). He always had a lot of “road trip” stories. Some of them were plausible. Others were obvious bullshit. I wasn’t too sure which side of the scale the story he told me then leaned to.

The only thing I remember about the whole tale was that he had been hooked on heroin for a while in his life. This kind of freaked me out, because I have never known anyone who has so much as TRIED heroin. I had already seen how easily he regressed back into alcoholism and the way it had fucked up his world even in the short time I knew him. I had good reason to believe he would have no qualms about hopping back in the saddle and riding the horse for a few years. After all, as far as he was concerned, that was just another thing that “musicians do”.

We got another gig, though it wasn’t exactly a real show like the earlier one. The girl whose house we practiced at asked us to play for an annual party that was coming up. I want to say it was a 4th of July party, but I’m not sure what the occassion was (or if there even WAS an occassion…the occassion was most likely “Drunken, Stoned Revelry Day”). It was the kind of affair where you were paid in beer instead of cash.

Which turned out to be not so good a thing for Champ. Surely the rest of us realized that the whole thing was a disaster waiting to happen.

And it wasn’t too long before disaster stopped waiting and reared it’s ugly head. Lots of people showed up, it looked like it might be a good night. We played a set, then Champ disappeared during the break. No biggy. He came back on time for the second set, though he was reeking of beer at that point. After the second set was over he disappeared again. I went into the house and he was sitting in the floor with a few fellow revellers, drinking, and ~GASP~ passing a doobie around. I seem to remember saying something to him, some kind of plea for him to take it easy, and if memory serves, he got a little miffed at me, basically saying he was a big boy and could take care of himself, thank you.

Only I knew better. I knew that he was one crazy mother fucker when he drank. And I also knew that it didn’t take too much too get him sloshed, since his tolerance level had gone down during his last valiant effort to walk the 12 Steps.

Third set came around and Champ did not show. He wanted the thing to turn into a jam session so that he could hear what the other musicians at the show sounded like…which was so much bullshit. He just wanted to stay with his newfound disciples and continue the boozing and the toking.

So we did just that. The thing turned into a cluster fuck of a jam session. Players, both blessed with talent and cursed with incompetance, came into the fold and played to their heart’s desire, as we had turned into nothing but a back-up band. My brother happened to be there, and our drummer was cool with him playing a few songs (he was eager to take a trip to the fields behind the house with our host’s daughter…who turned out to be quite a firecracker).

My brother played several songs, as he knew a lot of them that we did. Our own drummer seemed to have given up on the party, having more important things to concentrate on at the moment. We figured Champ had decided to ditch the gig, and it was getting late. We decided to call it a night and pack it in.

We were halfway through tearing down our shit when Champ came out, incredulous that we were quitting. I guess he’d finally imbibed enough to get inspired. He really wanted to play. But not as much as we wanted to get the hell out of there. It had been a shitty affair and he was the main reason for it.

He got beligerant and began to rail on my brother because he was packing our drummer’s gear. Our drummer would not have minded (indeed, he surely appreciated it), but for some reason it really got under Champ’s skin.

I don’t know what he said, but he did say something that was the straw that broke this camel’s back. I have never before in my life, and never since, got into a man’s face and wailed like I did with him that night. I frightened myself, I was so intense, hate-filled, determined to bust the fuck out of this prick if he didn’t shut up with his goddamned complaining and get the hell out.

I saw the look of fear in his eyes. I saw him cower. I saw the buzz he had been tying on crumble into confusion. And, most satisfying, I saw him back down. They had to pull me away from him and our drummer, still frolicking in the fields quite a ways away, later told me that he could hear me scream from where he was, that it scared even him.

I decided there and then that I was moving out of the apartment THAT NIGHT. My girlfriend lived in an apartment complex in the same city and I was welcomed there. Always had been, I was just a fool who wanted to be closer to what had become the band’s headquarters. I don’t know if I was afraid of him…Let’s just say that I wouldn’t have had any problems facing him man-to-man, but that I had my suspicions that he just might do something bad behind my back, maybe while I was asleep, sounds absurd, sounds extreme, but I would not put it past that son of a bitch. So I bolted with the implicit understanding that I was through with Champ and any band (or anything at all) he was involved with. Which also meant that the band was, for all intents and purposes, broken up…I know the other guys were not too keen to move ahead with this psycho.

But here’s the deal. Do you remember the gig we booked for the rat hole dive bar? It was still scheduled, and it was like a week after the big blow-up. We had even promoted it, which is really pathetic, printing up flyers for a show at a place this small and nasty. As far as I was concerned the show was OFF. I think I already stated that I wanted nothing more to do with this dead-beat.

But Champ had talked to the other guys and of course he was all hopped up about playing the date. I think part of it was because he wanted the money (which wasn’t going to be much, but hey, it would buy a case or two of Schlitz). He pointed out to them that we “had a responsibility to the club owner” to fulfill our obligation. I had a feeling that it had a lot more to do with realizing that he’d fucked up, and he wanted to set things right, hopefully the band would get back together.

So the guys spoke with me, and even though they were basically on the same page as I was about not wanting to play with Champ anymore, it looked like they had bought the “obligation” BS (they probably wanted some easy money, too, no doubt). Against my better judgement, and after taking a good while to think it over, I decided to do it UNDER ONE CONDITION: This was going to be IT. No more. I didn’t want Champ begging me to get back on board. I wouldn’t do it, so he might as well save his breath.

We played the show, there were a few people there, it went over pretty good, and, of course, Champ implored me to get the band back together. I knew he would, but we were almost finished for the night when and it was easy to ignore by the time he got around to begging.

And I never played with him again.


Bob Mould: "Workbook"

I have tried and tried and then tried some more to enjoy this album. I love Husker Du (especially Mould's contributions), I like Sugar and I like a couple of his solo records.

But for some reason I just can't seem to appreciate "Workbook". I know it's lauded as possibly Mould's best album, and it does have it's strengths...the guitar playing is consistantly good and so are the arrangements. The lyrics are, for the most part, decent.

I think the problem is that his voice just doesn't sound right to me when it's mixed to the fore on such a relatively soft musical backing (relaitive to Husker Du and even Sugar). He has that sort of tough vibrato free vocal style that works quite well in the harder edged material he's known for. But it just doesn't fly on a subdued album like this one.

I know the decision to tone down far the first post-Husker solo album was made as an effort to conscioulsy get away from that band's sonic trappings. Seems like it would be a pretty good idea, in theory.

And yet it doesn't work for me. I'm sure I'm the exception to that rule, and I should give it a few more spins and see if it grows on me.


Mike Oldfield: "Amarok"

There are some very intreresting ideas scattered throughout the 60 minute duration of "Amarok". Unfortunately by the time you have a chance to appreciate them Oldfield has moved on to something else. They may pop up later in the work, but by then you've been bomabarded with so many other ideas (some good, some not so good) that you've practically forgotten them.

Even so, it is an entertaining album, filled with trademark "Oldfield-isms". A bit too long (at least 15 minutes could have been easilly sacrificed) and since there's only one track, once you're in it, you're in for the long haul. But it could have been no other way, because the bits and pieces that make up the album fly by much too fast to have been given individual tracks for each one.

"Amarok" is better than the two or three albums he put out previously, I'll say that much for it. And it's probably one of the last records he did before the tag of "new age" began to be used in describing his work. Recommended only for the tried-and-true Mike Oldfield fan...and the patient ones, at that.


Elton John: "Don't Shoot Me (I'm Only the Piano Player)"

This album, hot off the heels of the successful "Honky Chateau", finds Elton John making himself comfortable with the fame he earned with "Rocket Man" and "Honky Cat".

Music critics generally view "Goodbye Yellow Brick Road" as Elton's most notable acheivement. There's no denying that it is one of THE great albums in the classic rock pantheon. But as far as I'm concerned, "Don't Shoot Me" is every bit as good as that one, and it has fewer clunkers (clunkers on "GYBR"="Jamaica Jerk-Off", "Social Disease", "Your Sister Can't Twist [But She Can Rock and Roll]", clunker on "DSM"= "Midnight Creeper")..

It does more with one LP than "Goodbye Yellow Brick Road" does with two, which is mighty high praise, because "Yellow Brick Road" contains several of the man's greatest songs. A couple of the tracks here are, IMO, better than anything on that seminal record ("Have Mercy on the Criminal" & "Blues for Baby and Me").

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, especially to anyone whose only exposure to Elton John has been within the last 28 years.

Best tracks:
"Elderberry Wine"
"Blues for Baby and Me"
"Have Mercy on the Criminal"
"Texan Love Song"
"High Flying Bird"


John Lennon: "Plastic Ono Band"

I have to make a confession. I have basically avoided this album my whole life. I've probably listened to it MAYBE twice in my 45 years. Why? I think it was because it scared me. It scared me to listen to someone exposing himself and his pain in such a direct, unflinching manner. "Plastic Ono Band" is a harrowing experience from first to last. And it's not just the Janovian Primal Scream stuff. The album is the audio equivalent to the "Two Virgins" album cover, ie. the man shows himself naked to the world...not his physical nakedness in this instance, but his psyche. To hear the litany of things and people that he doesn't believe in anymore ("God") is to hear a man who has torn down every wall and psychological support, stripped away all but his essential reality. Abandonment, enlightenment and love. That's what this album is about.

All I can say is that it was a good thing that I was so scared of it. I don't think I would have connected with it so deeply until now. When you stack this up against Paul's first couple of solo albums...well, Paul always had a knack for a good melody. That's his saving grace. But nothing he has ever done since the Beatles will ever stand as the classic that "Plastic Ono Band" already is.


13 year old boys don't like Hannah Montana

In yesterday's post about the outrageous extent of Hannah Montana marketing, I mentioned a little joke I was going to play on my 13-year old son. The idea was to cut the Wal-Mart "Hannah Montana Blitz" circular into a small poster and hang it up in his room, directly over his bed.

The outcome of this experiment was exactly as I expected it would be. Some good laughs for me and my wife and a reaction from my boy that defies description.

But these "before" and "after" photos tell the whole story: