31 December, 2008

New Year's Eve

On New Year's Eve seven years ago, I was at a party making out with a girl underneath a ping pong table.

I just felt that it needed to be said.

30 December, 2008

Music In Review

Deep Purple - Burn (1974)

I picked up Machine Head years ago when I was first starting my classic rock collection, because it's one of the pinnacle albums in classic rock history (four words: smoke on the water). Since then, I've picked up Made in Japan for the live angle, and The Very Best Of for a smattering of the non-Machine Head hits. Even so, I've been wanting to dig into some more actual Purple albums for awhile - and now I have.

Burn is the debut of Mk III of the band, featuring David Coverdale on vocals in place of Ian Gillan. Ritchie Blackmore is still on guitar and Jon Lord is still on the keyboards (and Ian Paice is still on the drums). The new bassist Glenn Hughes also serves as secondary vocalist, creating a pretty cool "two singers" effect on some of the songs. The standout tracks are the title track, Burn, which is every bit as good as the straight-up rocker that opens Machine Head (Highway Star), and Mistreated, a slow (for Deep Purple) bluesy number. Also, the track "A" 200 is an interesting synth piece, with an awesome guitar solo thrown in for the hell of it, and the bonus track Coronarias Redig, is an exciting jam. Altogether, I am really enjoying this album.

Dio - Metal Hits (1983-1994)

I think I remember being rather intimidated by Ronnie James Dio at one point - him being this "heavy metal" singer with scary-looking album covers. Somewhere along the way, I learned that he started out in a less-metal-and-more-rock band called Elf - named after Dio's short stature. So much for the intimidation factor. Well, I picked up the Elf albums, which are pretty good, and over time, Dio's voice has really grown on me. And I think it's a great voice for "metal".

I'd say Dio's material is, in a sense, comparable to Ozzy's solo career. Seeing as they're both classic well-known vocalists in the metal arena, and they both started out playing in popular bands before really making a name for themselves (in addition to the little-known Elf, Dio also made a splash in the band Rainbow which Ritchie Blackmore formed after leaving Deep Purple mid-70's, and also sang for Black Sabbath around the turn of the 80's). And while I really liked Ozzy's voice in the original Black Sabbath, I think I'd have to say that Dio has the better metal voice.

As for the Metal Hits compilation, it's great to have Rainbow in the Dark and Holy Diver on CD, and I suspect I'll get to like the other tracks as I get to know them better, over time.

Roy Buchanan - You're Not Alone (1978)

You probably know that I'm a huge Roy Buchanan fan, even though I don't yet own very much of his material. Even so, I was uncertain of how good this album would turn out to be. From what I've read, Roy played around in a lot of places with a lot of bands before ever getting "noticed" (to the extent that he actually /was/ noticed), and so he had been around before he ever started recording early in the 70's. Additionally, Buchanan seems to me to be the type that's more concerned with playing the guitar than writing songs. Which, is actually one of the reasons I like him so much. But because of this, I've read that the people in the biz who wanted to get Roy some visibility had to resort to various musical stunts in the studio, without really knowing how to tap into Roy's style - which is self-evident on the live albums on which he appears.

So anyway, I wasn't sure what kind of experiment You're Not Alone would be, or how successful it would be, and frankly, knowing Roy's unique and versatile playing style, I wasn't quite sure what kind of an album it would be. On the other hand, that also made the experience of listening to it for the first time more exciting. And it was exciting. Turns out the album is almost completely instrumental - which earns an automatic thumbs up for me. Roy's never been much of a singer (something I can sympathize with), although when he does sing, his vocal delivery, though plain by vocalist standards, in my opinion, fits the kind of songs he sings perfectly - that is, slow, depressing, blues. He doesn't belt out the emotion like a lot of great blues singers have been known to do, but when he sings, you can hear the depression in his voice, and it's just as effective.

Anyway, the album is awesome. It's like an instrumental soundscape, shaped by Roy's playing, with more atmospheric pieces and also some pretty good rockin' shuffles (including an awesome take on Joe Walsh's Turn To Stone). And the cover of Down By The River, here in studio version, is very good. It's similar but not the same as the live version I have - another thing about Roy that's great, he has a tendency to play the same song very differently at different times (take Roy's Bluz, where the two live versions I have are almost completely different songs). I'm very impressed with this album and my appreciation for Roy Buchanan has just jumped up another notch.

Harvey Mandel - Baby Batter (1971)

Speaking of instrumental albums, Baby Batter is also amazing. I've heard that Harvey Mandel has done some pretty experimental things, and in the opening track on Baby Batter, where a baby speaks the titular phrase (the only vocal utterance on the entire record), I was a little scared of how weird things were gonna get. But, rest assured, this album is pure Harvey Mandel as "The Snake" we've known from his previous albums. Fluid, slithering guitar lines over a groovy, at times almost jazzy, musical background.

With Harvey Mandel's stuff, songs don't really stand out from the overall musical experience, but it's an experience I really enjoy. The guitar work is tasty, and it's the kind of music that I can put on and just absorb as I do other things, and it makes me feel better, because it's like damn, great music like this actually exists? It doesn't impose itself, but it's more than happy to show-off if you choose to give it that attention. I just have to say, Harvey Mandel is amazing, and he too has jumped up another notch on my appreciation belt.

Joe Bonamassa - Live From Nowhere In Particular (2008)

This is a different sort of live album from 2001's A New Day Yesterday Live. Joe's come a long way in these short years, and he's managed to garner a pretty solid and totally loyal fanbase. And he deserves it. While this live album might not have as much raw energy as the earlier one, it's still a great album and features its own charms.

It seems that, since ditching Joe's original backing band - of the power trio variety - he's been more focused on the songwriting aspect than the rock band aspect. Although, to say that he doesn't still rock out would be completely wrong. But the kind of soundscapes he's crafting like on India/Mountain Time show a different sort of focus than hard blues rock - though no less impressive. Even Sloe Gin, an amazing song, and likely Joe's new showcase song, to replace A New Day Yesterday, is a different kind of bluesy rocker, with a bit more introversion and crying compared to Yesterday's extroverted screaming (of sorts).

If Heartaches Were Nickels, an emotional electric blues, was another of my favorite tracks on the earlier live album, and here, it makes a surprisingly acoustic appearance. Knowing my proclivity for electric music, I don't like it as much as the earlier version, but it is still quite interesting to hear the difference. The track that opens the live album, Bridge to Better Days, works as a great opener, though I think I like Takin' The Hit better as an opener (a la the Rockpalast DVD), after all. The Django/Just Got Paid jam alternates between the soundscape and hard rock approaches, finishing with the instrumental Dazed and Confused solo jam just like I heard Joe play the last time I saw him live - great to get this on a live album to listen to for years to come!

Coming to A New Day Yesterday, the track that closes the album - it's quite a bit different from the earlier version. You almost feel like Joe's only playing it because it's one the fans like to hear. It's still a fantastic song, but it doesn't have the raw energy it used to - and the Yes jam at the end of it has been extended since the short riffs Joe played at Rockpalast. You definitely get the feeling from this album that Joe is stretching out and really expanding his playing repertoire, not content to exist within the confining walls of "the blues". Although this isn't surprising, as Joe has from the beginning had a liberal approach to what the blues is and what the blues could be, but here you can really hear him exploring some alternate realms. It's very exciting, and I look forward to hearing what Joe's got in store for us in the future. I just hope he doesn't venture so far that he forgets that hard rocking edge that made me a fan of his in the first place.

29 December, 2008


So I was browsing the ample magazine stock at Border's tonight, and I came across two different naturist magazines in the "adult interest" section. Which was a pretty interesting find, because I've read about naturist magazines, but I've never actually seen one, so I was kind of curious. But something really bothered me. I'll forgive the naturist magazines being placed in the "adult interest" section, which really isn't right, and I can't really complain about the fact that the magazines were bagged like all the other adult interest magazines so that you had to buy it in order to look through it - since that's just the way a lot of magazines are.

But there's something fundamentally wrong about the fact that of the two naturist magazines, one of them had a blank, text-only cover that almost looked more like a newspaper than a magazine cover, and the other one, with a full color cover, had a bag with a large silver bar obscuring the majority of the cover - obviously covering the supposedly "offensive" bits of the presumably nude woman featured thereupon. And yet, while not featuring fully nude women, all the Playboys and Penthouses and whatnot with their scantily clad women in provocative poses had their covers in full display.

Okay, I can see the thought process behind this. "Glamorous near-nude? Nobody's offended by that anymore. Non-provocative bare nipple? Ban it!" But it really doesn't make any damn sense. If I were to pick up a Playboy and take it to the checkout, it'd be like, okay, I'm buying a Playboy. But if I were to take one of those innocent naturist magazines to the checkout, it would be like, oh wow, you can't even see the cover, I wonder what dirty and perverted things are contained within. I shouldn't feel dirtier buying a naturist magazine called "Health & Efficiency" than I would buying a Playboy. This, is injustice.

This society has really got its priorities mixed up.

28 December, 2008

Xmas Acquisitions

It's really not my style to brag, but for those who are curious, here is more or less what I got for xmas this year:

CD's -
Fleetwood Mac - Showbiz Blues 1968-1970
Rolling Stones - It's Only Rock N Roll
Jethro Tull - Stand Up
Jeff Beck - Beck-Ola
Stevie Ray Vaughan - Texas Flood
Neil Young - Rust Never Sleeps, Ragged Glory
Roy Buchanan - You're Not Alone, Live Stock (Live)
Joe Bonamassa - Live From Nowhere In Particular (Live)
Deep Purple - Burn
Harvey Mandel - Baby Batter
Dio - Metal Hits

DVD's and Games -
Gary Moore & The Midnight Blues - Live At Montreaux 1990 [DVD]
The Happening (M. Night Shyamalan) [DVD]
Silent Hill Origins [PlayStation 2]

Books -
Berserk (Manga) Volumes 24, 25
Clive Barker - Books of Blood Vol. 4-6
The Watchmen (Graphic Novel)

Other -
5 Guitar Folding Stand
various snacks and candies (including, but not limited to, Sarris Dark Chocolate Pretzels, the inevitable Terry's Chocolate Orange, and a huge jug of cashews)
other neat stuff that is really really awesome despite not warranting a specific mention on this list

Plus, a couple gift cards for Best Buy. Maybe I'll finally buy a working record player?

23 December, 2008


A person can do a lot of things alone, but success requires people.

The other day, I was thinking about the daily grind of work, and how people do stuff to get paid, and I thought, I'm me, I do the stuff I do because I'm the person I am, so why am I not being paid? I should be paid to do the stuff I do.

So I thought about music. Sure, I'm no professional musician, but I play music, and people applaud. If their applause isn't sincere, then that's their problem not mine. But they should turn their applause into cash. I should be paid to entertain people with my music, even if I'm not at a professional level. I should get something.

So I thought about how it would be possible to get some money just from playing, even on an amateur level (in relative terms), and my thoughts strayed to busking. And I thought, making money out on the street, just playing tunes for passing people. I should be doing this.

And so I read up a little on busking, and I read that you can actually make some decent money busking, if you can do it well. So naturally, I was curious about what it takes to "do it well" such that you can actually make some decent money. And I kept reading these "tips" that basically amount to "be a good showman". The "tips" are really "tricks" - the kind of tricks you use to manipulate people into feeling happy and joyous and loose with their change purse. The exact kind of dishonest tricks that get used in all professions, just disguised by the fact that they appear on the surface to make people happy.

Look, I have utmost respect for a good Thom Merrilin character, but that's just not me. I'm not here to put on a show. If being successful at busking means wooing an audience, rather than having anything whatsoever to do with the music you play, then what the fuck, mate?

Even if I think about photography... I've taken some pretty good pictures, I think. I've had some good concepts, and I've had a few successes turn out. But I can't help thinking that if I was taking pictures of a better subject, there would be a lot more interest in my shots. I mean, we could debate about how much credit the photographer deserves for the photographs he takes, and how much credit nature, the world, or the model deserves (and let's ignore the ridiculousness of post-processing in this day and age), but if you give an intelligent person with a passion for photography a decent camera and enough time to learn how to use it, and then you put a gorgeous model in front of him, I have to believe he'd be able to take some good shots.

So how do you become successful? Charisma. You have to be good at working with people. Okay, maybe this applies less to different types of photography (landscapes, for example), but for the kind of photography I'd really like to do - nudes - the bottom line is that you have to be suave enough to get the women all begging to take their clothes off for you.

Even if we ignore the issue of subject, no matter what field we talk about, the key to success is networking. It's meeting people and expanding your web of influence. A physics professor I knew during college once described his experience trying to get a job after he graduated college. He applied for a bunch of positions but didn't get accepted for a single one. So then he spent some time traveling instead, meeting people "in the business", so to speak. And just like that, he got offered a position. It's all about who you know.

Like if you're a musician. You gotta know people who know people. "Hey man, I got this gig goin' down and we could use someone to warm up the crowd." And then a promoter goes, "hey man, saw you at the show tonight, you were smokin', how'd you like to play this other place this other night?" And it goes from there. It's meeting people, it's knowing people, it's communicating with people.

Even if we ignore the networking aspect, success, in the traditional sense, don't come without people. Unless there are people who like what you do enough to pay you, you ain't gonna make a living. Particular in the entertainment fields, you gotta have people that like what you do, or you're nothing. In the media arts, you gotta be worth something to people. You gotta have fans, of some sort. You might be appreciated long after you're dead one way or another, but unless you've got it now, you're not successful. And you've got to be successful. Else you're dogmeat.

God, I'm tired. I just wish there were paths set out for the people who don't want people. Of all things in the world I could be bad at, why did it have to be people? I may as well have the inability to breathe air. It would do me just about the same amount of good.


I just remembered, it's been just over a year since I started this blog (last winter solstice). Looking back, it's been a good ride. I originally started the blog as a way of following in the footsteps of two of my friends who had started blogging about their working lives. I didn't (and unfortunately still don't) have a working life, but I wrote about my living experience just the same. My one friend all but completely abandoned his blog after not too long at it, and though my other friend continued his for awhile, he sort of "finished" it. He's tried a few other blogs since then, but so far, none of them seems to have really "stuck". :p So as far as I'm concerned, I'm the winner! Although I seem to have inspired my brother to start one, too, and he's still going at it. Yup, victory just runs in the ole family blood. Ha, I wish. I'm still a failure at life...

Those early entries were incredibly exciting. I was really struggling with coming to terms with certain aspects of my identity, and certain interests that were blooming. Specifically, I was trying to gain acceptance of my interest in nudism (from myself as much as anyone else). I was also still early in the process of learning about paganism, though that was more discovery than revolution. I also spent some time discussing sexuality more openly than I think I ever have before. And I've reflected on things that have occurred in my past. Overall, I like to think it's been a journey of self-acceptance, which is something that I've always needed more of (and still do).

It's okay to enjoy being naked. It's okay to "worship" trees. It's even okay to like sex - and you know what? It's okay to talk about it, too! I've still got a long way to go, though. And in the grand scheme of things, I'm not appreciably closer to where I want to and need to be than I was a year ago. But maybe, the little pieces I've built up are worth something.

Ha, you know what? While we're on the topic of self-acceptance and all that, there's something I've been sort of hiding. It's about Second Life. I've heard a lot of grief from people about SL, and you know, it kind of makes me ashamed to admit that I have anything to do with it. Or at the least, if *I* accept my involvement, I'm less inclined to share my experiences with "non-users" because of my fear of criticism. But if y'all don't like it, blow me.

I have a lot of things going on (and it feels like even more than that because of the busy Christmas season), including working on becoming a better guitarist (I think I can play the first three notes of I'm Tore Down better than Eric Clapton does on From The Cradle (though not as good as Freddie King plays it), but unfortunately that's about as far as I can get), and trying to learn the ins and outs of semi-professional photography with my shiny new dSLR (which is hard when you're shut in a house at night in the middle of winter with little inspiration and as many as zero hot naked chicks), soooooo, I'm trying to make a point not to let Second Life absorb my first life. However, the fact remains, I enjoy SL - it's fun, and beyond that, I think it may have the potential to help me in terms of my inability to interact with people. So I feel like it's important for me. And I won't let you take that from me.

So what I've been hiding isn't the fact that I've been on SL (I don't think), but that I've started a new blog about my thoughts and experiences there. And I'm not holding back. SL is a place to learn about yourself, and I've already covered the topics of naughty tentacles and the indiscretions of underage avatars (though not underage users, mind you) on the new blog. I anticipate it'll be a fun ride, but I'd love some input/feedback from other residents of SL. In time, they may come. In the meantime, if you're curious, non-residents are welcome to read the blog, too. If you're observant, you won't have any trouble finding the gateway. ;)

15 December, 2008

'Tis The Season To Be Spending (or Bling-A-Ling-A-Ling A-Bling-Bling-Bling)

It's not officially Christmas until you're mall-hopping in the snow. I took the Lincoln out tonight because the van's dying. Taking a snazzy unfamiliar car Christmas shopping - this takes me back to the infamous days of the ZoSoCar back in '01, where I did the exact same thing. Well, this obviously wasn't as revolutionary (ZoSo had a lot to do with the revolutionariness of that past experience), but it is a bit nostalgic. Christmas shopping is still a pain in the ass, though.

I was thinking about it, and yeah, the whole consumerist thing is pretty stupid, but I don't think that's the part I hate most about the whole game. It's all the guessing and the secrecy. I suppose other people will have different opinions, but they way I feel, I'd rather gift-giving be a spontaneous thing than a planned surprise. Instead of going out alone, shopping for other people, Christmas should be a time where people shop together, and if something jumps to one person's eye, one of the other people in the group can buy it for him/her as a gift. That way, they're getting something you know they like, and you get to spend time together so it becomes more personal than handing over a box and saying goodbye. And plus, I would hope that in this case, shopping would become more of a fun, relaxing activity, than the hectic, stressful dash for the goods that it seems to often be.

Bah humbug, all the same.

12 December, 2008

The Weather Outside Is Frightful

It was raining earlier, judging by the sounds of it on the rooftop, but I didn't pay the weather much mind. However, after the house went to sleep, I went to use the bathroom sometime around 1 am-ish. The toilet drained fine (thank god), but I noticed that it didn't refill with water. And then at the sink, the running water had been cut down to a bare minimum low flow.

Then I looked outside and well, it's your typical ice storm that occurs when there's rain and then it freezes and then it snows. It's like everything has been frozen and then coated with a layer of powdered snow. Except for one minor detail. Looking out front, the road is neither frozen nor snowy. It's actually running with a heavy current like a stream out in the woods somewhere. Wow. That's what that quiet rumbling noise in the background was.

So I guess there was a problem up the hill a house or two. Frozen water pipes? Broken water pipes? I wanted to go out and check it out, because this is a very rare situation, and maybe get some idea at least of where all that water's coming from, but after suiting up for the cold (and reviving some of the gear I used at Burning Man), I looked again and there were some trucks just up the road, obviously dealing with whatever the problem was (and is). I decided to stay inside for obvious reasons.

I wonder just what happened, and how long it will take to fix. And what kind of damage the problem is causing. There's a stream going through the front yard and under the van, a sort of offshoot from the main stream - not as heavy, but you can tell the water's run through because the snow is melted in those spots. A very interesting sight.

Oh great, I was okay earlier because, if weak, there was still *some* water pressure, but now it seems to have stopped altogether. Oh dear. There's a guy out on the street shoveling stuff off the road - at least one item looked to be a stick/branch, dunno about the rest. The current in the road seems to have lessened a bit. I really hope it doesn't take 24 hours or something to get running water back...