21 May, 2010

Consumerism + Greed = Obesity

I know that those "double the size for just a dollar more" ploys are just meant to get you to spend more, but I can't help feeling like they're a conspiracy to get me to consume more. If I buy the smaller size, even though I'm spending less, and I don't actually want any more stuff, I feel like an idiot because I'm getting less of a "deal". You see how salespeople take advantage of your good old-fashioned American sense of opportunity in order to cheat you out of your hard-earned money? Hell is populated by lawyers and salesmen - although frankly I think politicians are worse than lawyers. Politicians make the rules, lawyers just try to find ways around them. Do people even realize how much deception is built into the system? Just how often they're getting scammed? Why doesn't anybody care about honesty? Here's a good article that touches on the value of integrity.

19 May, 2010

Sex as Vice

Seriously, stay away from H.

I just watched a German movie about heroin addiction (based on a true story, I hear) because it stars a really gorgeous young girl. It took me three hours to watch the two hour movie, on account of my constant pausing to take screen caps. I thought to myself, if I had an opportunity to interact with girls as gorgeous as this one more often in my everyday life, I might not be quite so compelled to save images of them when they turn up in movies - because I wouldn't be so desperate for that wonderful feeling I get from gazing at a pretty girl, that I'd feel the need to horde every instance of it that I come across. Then again, it might just be the photographer's impulse in me to capture beauty whenever I see it.


It was a really great movie - I don't want the following rant to suggest otherwise. But during the (really graphic) scene where the girl and her boyfriend go through withdrawal, I thought to myself, why is it that this is the kind of scene I have to settle for if I want to watch a 14 year old girl writhing around in her underwear? [As an aside, why do I even need an excuse? Why can't a person admit that watching 14 year old girls writhing around in their underwear can be a pleasurable experience? Why doesn't anyone make films to satisfy that specific need? Or, more importantly, why is it that if somebody made such a movie, they'd probably end up in court or jail or on the gallows?] I could watch a "cleaner" movie that doesn't have the grim drug abuse angle, but I doubt such a movie would include the sexual aspect. Why is it that sex is married to vice? Whether it's drugs, violence (the best thing about the horror genre is gratuitous teenage sexuality, by the way), or just the darker side of sex itself - rape, prostitution, disease - it seems the only way to find anything more interesting than boring, married, under-the-sheets sex is to go underground.

Withdrawal is not pretty. Well, sometimes it is.

There are two issues at work here, the combination of which is making my job as a writer exceedingly difficult. The one is the marriage of sex and vice, and the other is the issue of underage sexuality. I find that the first is amplified in cases involving the second. Underage sex is inherently a controversial topic, that nobody wants to be accused of promoting. Yet it happens. And so, people write stories about it. But it seems like instead of emphasizing the cases where the sex could be a positive experience, it's only acceptable to broach the subject if you paint it in darker colors. Adult sex may sometimes be a happy affair (even when it's not boring, married, under-the-sheets sex), but any serious exploration of underage sex has to associate itself with the seedy world of vice, or else nobody will accept it.

After all, good kids don't have sex, right?

The reason this bothers me is that I don't like the assumption that if I'm attracted to a girl who is only 14 years old, that automatically means that I also want to get her hooked on heroin, and involved in prostitution, and god knows what else. The truth is, she's gorgeous - can you deny that? And if I could be her friend, I'd support her and admire her and I would do everything I could to keep her from going down the path of drug abuse and prostitution, or offer my concern and devotion in the hope that it would help her find the strength to kick the habit. I'd love to see her living a happier life, without having to turn tricks on the street just to afford the next hit, watching her friends die one after another. At the same time, I still think she's attractive and while I don't condone engaging in indiscriminate, unprotected sex, I don't see a problem with acknowledging the sexual side of her nature (like admitting that she looks great in underwear, and even better out of it). It's the whole "sex as vice" attitude that automatically paints this as a dangerous thing. Whatever happened to responsible sexuality (no, I'm not talking about abstinence)? To me, the way I approach sexuality (which doesn't even have to involve sex), it's not a dangerous thing.

It's a beautiful thing.

The older I get, the more keenly aware I am of the prejudice against men who refuse to deny their attraction to girls under the age of majority - even those who are already sexually mature. But because I continue to find young girls attractive, I increasingly feel the need to make the point that there's nothing inherently sinister or criminal about such an attraction. I feel almost stupid having to defend myself on this count, because it's really quite natural the feelings I have, and very common ("18 and over" is a social construct, not a biological mandate). But, the way the world has been moving lately, you'd think it was a crime to admit a girl is sexually desirable if she's under 18 (I certainly get that feeling at times), unless you're strictly her age-peer. Perhaps through honesty we can eventually come to the point where we can separate positive sexuality from vice, so that sex can be seen as more than just a weapon the experienced use to exploit the innocent, or that the innocent wield naively, resulting in blind mutual destruction. For me, it's simply a celebration of life and pleasure and all things that are beautiful in this world. Unless you're a Puritan, where's the sin in that?

18 May, 2010


I had a series of interesting dreams last night, which I'd love to remember better. As it is, I hardly remember anything. But the last one involved a government cover-up regarding aliens. A guy with a gun faked me out, and then let me inside the evidence room. It was like Rachel, but actual real evidence.

Anyway, the important dream was the one involving the girl I liked in college. A bunch of people, mostly from those old days, were seated around a long table in a conference room (no idea why). She was there. When the group broke after some kind of presentation or whatever, I was brushing my hair in front of her, and she said something to the effect of, "your hair is finally as nice as mine was" (considering that she'd eventually cut it). I felt like that was some sort of vindication, that I had finally reached and/or surpassed her, and no longer had to be living under her shadow. Course, I still felt the same way being in her presence. It's funny that I've interacted with her more in my dreams than I ever have outside of them. But it's appropriate, considering that what I liked was the fantasy inside my head, more so than the actual person she was.

The Role of Government

Years ago, I overheard a friendly musician acquaintance speaking about labels. He said that he didn't like to be labeled because it limited him. It was like putting him in a box, defining who he is and who he can be. At the time, I could only think to myself of the benefits that labels have. I was just getting into the nudist lifestyle around then, and fresh on my mind was the feeling of acceptance and belonging I felt when I discovered that there were other people out there who derived pleasure from disrobing (that wasn't intrinsically related to sex) - and that they were called nudists, and that by calling (labeling) myself a nudist, I could gain an identity.

Well, these days, I'm more inclined to agree with what that musician said. Labels can certainly be useful, but they do have their limits. A label invites a stereotype, and no member of a group is perfectly represented by that group's stereotype, or collective image. In the case of nudists, they have a tendency to err on the side of caution regarding the topic of sexuality - for a number of good reasons, chief among them the fact that nudism is not a sexual practice despite common misconception, and that the best way of gaining acceptance in a sex-negative society is by distancing themselves from sexuality. I support that, but I don't take the ultra-conservative view that nudism and sexuality are incompatible. And because, as an erotic photographer and model, sexuality is an important part of my life, I've been hesitant to over-identify with the nudist label, as much to protect the nudists' clean image as to protect my own freedom to indulge in the pleasures of sexuality. There's no difference in my behavior, just in the way I choose to label myself.

I go back and forth on the issue of feminism as well. The bottom line on that is, that feminism has pretty much become a meaningless term. I have a number of beliefs that I would call feminist, because they have to do with girl power and the empowerment of women, but I also have views that contradict certain feminist doctrines - views that could be described as being masculinist. I see a lot of criticism leveled at male sexuality, and it's very much an anti-sexuality stance that I just can't accept. As a guy with a feminine mind and a male libido, it's not about which gender deserves more equality than the other, it's about accepting the natural course of sexuality, for all people, without concern for PC modes of behavior. But this is getting difficult to discuss without specifics, and this isn't the point of my essay today.

The point is, I don't like to identify with labels, because it limits me. It reduces me to a stereotype and dictates the beliefs I can be expected to have - based on whatever the "party line" is. I'm an individual, and I think for myself. No group is more important to me than the individuals that make it up. Nudism is not more important than the nudists. Feminism is not more important than the feminists. America is not more important than the Americans. I've never even really considered myself to be an American, except in a strictly technical/legal sense, because I don't see myself as a member of a country. I see myself as an individual who happens to live in a country. Sure, I have to follow the country's laws, but it's not out of any sense of duty, it's only because there are penalties for my refusal. I never signed the agreement to be part of society - I'm just being coerced to participate.

Anyhow, I consider myself an individualist above all else. Or at least, I did until very recently. That is, when I started thinking about the true role of government. And when I say that, I'm talking about government in a very broad, philosophical sense, as the intangible body that "governs" a society. To an individualist, the individual is sovereign, right? The individual rules his own life. The individual is God of his own world.

But what do you do with a colony of Gods? Just let them each do whatever they want? How then do you stop war? And if the Gods do not all have equal strength, as would inevitably be the case in a human society, how do you stop the stronger ones from oppressing the weaker ones, thereby denying the weaker ones of their divine liberty and autonomy, which is so important to the individuocracy?

There has to be rules. This is something I've always known intrinsically, but I haven't put a whole lot of thought into, because I'm used to rules being the tool of oppression. Rules as restriction. You can't do this, you can't do that. If I catch you doing it, you will be punished. Why? Because I say so. But that's not what rules are meant to be. Rules should not restrict and punish, they should PROTECT people. And most of all, they should protect LIBERTY.

I happened upon a lengthy speech by politician Ron Paul regarding the difference between a Republic and a Democracy, and it really opened my eyes on this issue - the fact that laws can (and should) be used to protect freedom rather than limit it. In a democracy, people rule, and when given equal power, the majority oppresses the minority(ies). This is a flaw in democracy I've been aware of for a long time - the tyranny of the majority, which I've discussed in the past. But what I learned is the role of a constitutional republic - a government in which it is not the people who rule, but a constitution.

Granted, such a system is only as strong as the constitution it's built upon, and can only work so long as that constitution maintains its power (the US Constitution, for example, though a well-written document, is absolutely powerless in the modern United States). But the idea of a good constitution is that it protects people's individual liberties. I see this as a manifestation of the ancient concept of philosopher-kings. On the one hand, it's dangerous to let one or a group of people decide what's best for society on the whole - because what if their decisions are not truly in your best interest? But, in the perfect conception, you would find truly wise and intelligent individuals, truly interested in justice and freedom, whom you could trust to lay down a fair and just system for governing society.

This is how I view the US Constitution and the debates that factored into its formation. A group of political philosophers discussing the true role and perfect form of government, and working out, to the best of their abilities, the best approximation they could come up with. The fact that we've lost the true spirit of liberty in this country today is depressing - and also scary. But let's get back on topic.

In my opinion, the best ethical code I've come across is the Wiccan Rede - an it harm none, do what you will. I think this should be the basis of all law. There are two elements of ultimate importance here. One, is the liberty to do what you will. The other, is the responsibility not to harm others. There is naturally a balance at work between these forces, because ultimate liberty would lead to people being harmed, but ultimate protection would lead to an unacceptable compromise of freedom. This concept can be summed up in the phrase, "my right to swing my fist ends where your nose begins". One's liberties extend only insofar as they are not violating the rights of others - this is something of a cosmic balance of the liberty of individuals. An individual's liberty is infinite, so long as it does not impede the liberty of another individual.

I think I've got the point across. The important idea is that, to empower the individual, certain reasonable limits must be set, so long as there are other individuals whose liberty must be protected as well. Individualism is not about making one individual all-powerful - except in a world where only that individual existed. Otherwise, you'd simply have a tyrant - one all-powerful individual ruling all the others. Or, you'd have anarchy in the bad sense of the term - everyone doing their own thing, likely to resort to a primitive strength power-based system. (I'll point out that real anarchy is, not unsurprisingly, unlike it's negative stereotype, and actually pretty cool). So what becomes all-important is not the sovereignty of the individual itself, but the guiding principle - the governing law - that protects the individual's sovereignty (otherwise, it would not be stable, and could be stolen away). So it becomes not an individuocracy, run by individuals, but a libertocracy, run by a guiding code.

Of course, we must be careful that that guiding code is noble and true. Or else we get what we've got today - moronic laws that restrict individual liberty rather than protecting it. Take police powers, for example. Where else but in an authoritarian system do we give police so much power? They are above the law. And noone is above suspicion. Police should not be enforcers of the law, but protectors of the peace. They should not have the power of independent action. Any action they take should have to be commissioned by a citizen's complaint, and even then, they should not have the power to act above the law in any capacity. The police should be mediators, they should be friends of liberty and the individual. They should be our protectors, not our oppressors and our enforcers. Ask yourself this question, when was the last time a police officer served you?

And by god, in a free country, there should be no such thing as consensual crimes! And in a country that (supposedly) prides itself on religious freedom, there should be no such thing as a moral infraction (a.k.a. crime of offense)!

America, I'm disappointed in you.

(It's late and I should have been in bed an hour ago, so instead of polishing this rant and removing its teeth, I'm just gonna hit "publish", and then go right to sleep.)

10 May, 2010

2D Complex, or How To Never Be Rejected By A Girl Again

This is a notice to all you geeks who are tired of being rejected again and again by every girl you've ever worked up the guts to approach. Follow these four easy steps and I guarantee you will never be rejected by a girl again. No, I'm not going to teach you how to be a pick-up artist, I am going to show you how to develop a 2D complex so you can experience the unconditional love of a fictional character. Sure, you'll have to sacrifice the possibility of ever touching, speaking to, or even seeing a real girl again, but it's worth avoiding the humiliation of being rejected yet again, right? Of course it is. Just don't back out halfway through, because the farther you get, the less likely a real girl will ever want to share your company, okay?

Step 1: Become a shut-in. [Hikikomori Stage]

If you can't win, give up.

You know that feeling you get every time you look at a girl when you're out in the real world? You know, that horrible feeling you get in the pit of your stomach when you realize that your very purpose for existence - pairing off with an attractive member of the opposite sex in order to immortalize your genes in the form of wonderful, precious offspring - is hopelessly out of your reach? The feeling of knowing - knowing! - that that girl you would give the entire world to if she asked for it, wouldn't so much as spit in your general direction - that is, if she had any idea you even existed? The only reliable way to eliminate that feeling is to stop going out into the real world. Shut yourself in, so that you'll never have to feel bad while looking at a girl again. After all, real girls are just a reminder of how much of a failure at life you are, right? They are the enemy.

Now then, in order to survive, you're going to need a steady supply of food. If you're lucky enough to be loved by your parents more than you obviously deserve, you can take advantage of their unselfish good will and force them (by threat of the shame of having to admit that their wonderful, precious offspring, with whom they share their genes, is a socially awkward, incompetent loser) to provide you with the basic necessities of life. Otherwise, you'll need a dishonest source of income that doesn't require you to interact with society (like inheritance - hint, hint), so that you can sneak out under the cover of night to your nearest convenience store to pick up a crate of cup ramen and a case of soda every few weeks, as necessary.

Step 2: Immerse yourself in the world of anime. [Otaku Stage]

Now that you're sufficiently cut off from the world and its constant reminders of your inadequacy as a human being, you can begin to lose yourself in the wonderful world of fantasy. In this day and age, it is imperative that you have a reliable internet connection, so that you can steal enough media to keep you entertained for the 20 hours of each day you'll spend staring at your computer monitor with nothing better to do. If you have the cash, you can boost your power level among other illustrious shut-ins (with whom you will be conversing on web-based image boards, of course), by padding your shelves with rows upon rows of anime DVDs and manga compilations. It's a great way to show off both your personal taste, and your dedication to the lifestyle.

Step 3: Choose a waifu. [Moe Stage]

By now you should already be aware of the great appeal of 2D girls. All 2D girls are pretty, and they're always pretty - even when they have bad hair days, they are still adorable. And they never age. They are perfect because they're drawn to be perfect. Spend enough time with them, and you'll never be able to appreciate 3D girls with all their gross imperfections again - and this is a good thing, because 3D girls rejected you, remember?

With 2D girls, no matter how much you stare at them and drool, fantasizing about all the nasty things you'd like to do to them (probably fueled by those fan-made hentai doujins you were reading earlier), they will never - I repeat, NEVER - so much as glance at you with a disapproving look (unless that turns you on, because seriously, every interest is accounted for). They never complain, they never nag, they never get mad at you for saying the wrong thing, and they don't care how revolting you look or smell, or how wretched a person you are. They will still love you! They will let you do anything you want to them, and they will always be available to listen to you complain about how much life sucks, without interruption.

So what kind of anime girl is right for you? The Lifeless Doll, who won't ever bother you with memories of what it's like to feel? The Magical Girl, an ordinary schoolgirl who moonlights as a crime fighter? The Pop Idol, whom everybody adores? The Tsundere, who is just as likely to kick you in the groin as kiss you? The Quiet Bookworm who wears glasses? The 900 Year Old Child, combining the wisdom of maturity with the spryness of youth? The choices are endless!

Truly, endless.

If you don't know what you want, then I suggest playing a few dating sims, so you can try the different types of girl out, until you find something you like. And why limit yourself to one? You could choose to lovingly dedicate yourself to a single waifu, or you could spread yourself around - it's entirely up to you and your principles. I, personally, am polyamorous. My affection knows no bounds. I'm not jealous, either. Beware, if you don't like to share, you may have a lot of angry fanboys to fend off when you finally announce your choice of waifu. But stand strong, and don't ever let anyone tell you you can't have the one you love, just because she loves another. She's your waifu, only you know her true feelings. =D

Step 4: Create a shrine. [Hentai Stage]

Once you've got a waifu, you must honor and cherish her. The best way to do this is to post likenesses of her up and down the walls of your room (posters, cloth wall scrolls, and even pencil boards work well), and to purchase plastic effigies of her to line your shelves, and especially your computer desk.

Welcome to my harem.

And don't forget to feed her! Holidays are a great excuse to have a romantic dinner.

And when you're finally ready to consummate your fantasy marriage, you can look into getting a nice, soft, huggable version of your waifu, that you can actually take to bed with you.

This is a big step, and you might be feeling uncertain about whether you're ready for it, but how can you show true dedication to your waifu if you're sleeping alone? Go the distance; she'll thank you for it, and you won't regret it. Plus, if you're feeling especially excited, there are certain devices you can look into getting that will enhance your time together. ;)

That's it! Follow these four steps and you will never be lonely again. If you do it right, your attraction to 3D girls will subside, as they can never measure up to the untarnished beauty of all the 2D girls in your life. You'll be just as disgusted by them as they are by you. And that's a step above where you were to begin with. Of course, you'll never get to experience the feel of warm flesh against your body, or know the intimacy that can exist between two individuals who selflessly dedicate themselves to each other, and you can definitely forget about those wonderful, precious offspring you didn't have any hope of having anyway. You could always suck it up and look past your own flaws and failures, lift your head up, and march toward a more confident future - giving real girls a reason to notice you. But really, that's hard work, and the chances of success are too low, and loving a collection of lines on a piece of paper is so much easier. After all, your waifu exists primarily in your mind, and no real girl can ever get that close.

05 May, 2010

Bridge To Better Days

"I'm on a bridge to better days, better days are coming now."
- Joe Bonamassa

Here's some background music for you to play while you read this entry (this is optional, but highly recommended):

Otis Rush - Got To Be Some Changes Made
(tip: open it in a new window)

This month marks the four year anniversary of my college graduation, and thus, the point after which I'll have spent more time out of college (since graduation) than I did in it. Naturally, this is an important milestone for me, especially considering that my post-college existence has consisted of "taking a break from life". At this point, it becomes increasingly apparent that I need to do something with my life, regardless of what it is, because I cannot continue this lifestyle indefinitely (as much as it seems like I could).

Now, I'm not really proud to admit that I've spent the last four years as a NEET (though I can admit it, at least here) - unemployed and not enrolled in education or any kind of professional training program. But there are two factors in my defense (more or less - depending on your perspective). The first being that I have certain psychological hurdles that I cannot credit as being a normal obstacle that an average person has to face (at least not on this magnitude). And for the second, I am only too eager to describe why the last four years of my life have not been wasted, despite not being spent in servitude to society.

On that count, allow me to elaborate. Though I have not been enrolled in an educational institution, I have not for a moment stopped learning. My virtually unrestricted internet access, in conjunction with my natural curiosity and propensity for learning, has enabled me to study indefinitely - at my leisure, and on topics that actually interest me and engage me (like the spiritual benefits of a naturist lifestyle, or how the scapegoating of a sexual minority affects the rights and liberties of decent, law-abiding citizens) to the point that I seek to learn them even without any reward other than the satisfaction of having my curiosity sated. You might roll your eyes at this, but I could argue that the last four years out of school have been far more fruitful (especially on an intra-personal level) than any four years of my formal schooling. Certainly, being the master of my own curriculum has allowed me to empower myself with the knowledge that is relevant to my interests, rather than that which is assigned by the cult of public education. But we'll side-step the issue of socio-political paranoia for now. You could argue that real world experience trumps book smarts - and I'd be inclined to agree - but that's not something I ever got from school anyway.

So then, what sort of things have I learned? Well, let's talk about the primary interests I've cultivated. I may have been good at math and science in school, but I did those things because I could do them, and because I was asked (eventually) to choose something out of the limited list of academics on offer to specialize in. It's true that I had at one time held a passion for "unlocking the secrets of the universe", but the higher up I got, the more the niggling details got in the way of that idealistic dream. It turns out the professional physics community is built on paradigms, and the likelihood of my becoming an Isaac Newton or an Albert Einstein was too small for me to be willing to bet a life of tedium on it. So in their wake, I've discovered things that move me, on a more basic level. No more head in the clouds, I want to express my individuality, and share the feelings I have with the world, the things I see of beauty in it, and the sounds that stir my soul.

Around the time that guitarist Joe Bonamassa put out his album The Ballad of John Henry (inspired by folk hero John Henry, the railway worker who "raced against a steam powered hammer and won", the legend of which has been a frequent muse for musicians), an interview was featured in Guitar Player, in which Joe explained his working class strategy for modest but enduring success as a blues rocker. Guitar Player says, "he embodies a refreshing work ethic and outlook on life that says no matter how fortunate you are, how many breaks you’re given, or how much god-given talent you possess, it doesn’t mean you don’t have to work at it." Although I am not well-suited to the hard work ethic, and not particularly motivated by longterm gains (I have to see results to be convinced), for some reason I became inspired by Joe's approach. Right then and there, I got into the regular habit of practicing guitar daily, and my skill has improved remarkably over the last year (in fact, it only took a few months for noticeable results to surface). Little by little, I'm trying to incorporate that approach into other facets of my life.

"Give me the hammer that killed John Henry, 'cause it won't kill me."
- Joe Bonamassa

And then there's my photography. I won't go into all the details of it here, but the fact is, my experience as an erotic photographer over the last few years has given me at least a basic knowledge and feel for the medium, and most importantly, it's fueled within me a sort of hunger. There are photographs that I want to take. And I can imagine fulfilling myself through photography in ways I've long given up on in my regular life. For example, I may never be a PUA, or rich enough to attract girls out of my league, but if I have the photographic skill, and a vision, and the drive to achieve it, I could have a legitimate excuse to surround myself with attractive photomodels. Okay, that makes it sound like the photography is a tool for getting close to girls. Actually, the photography itself is the fulfillment of the desire, it is the end and not the means, and the result, if I can live up to my expectations, will be the creation of true beauty, that can inspire others. (I've seen the seeds of it already.)

There's a little problem, though. I'm kind of afraid to go outside. I'm overly sensitive to the perceived judgments of others, and the sheer complexity and unfamiliarity of the world at large intimidates me to the point that, well, that I've kept myself locked in a hole for the last four years - of my own volition (see: VIII of Swords). Moving on and moving up is thus entirely dependent upon me overcoming the problem that has plagued me all my life, and that, even in the best situations, has kept me barely scraping by through the social arena, rather than allowing me to get the most out of my life.

"If I could only change my way of living, it would mean so much to me."
- Robert Johnson

For those who have not yet been briefed, I met a new friend a number of months ago, and on my request, she has (just in the past few weeks) helped me to scale The Wall between me and "help" that had previously kept me stuck in my comfortable and well-fashioned rut. As such, I am currently giving "therapy" a try. Yes, I said currently. It's not just a fantasy, it's a reality. The Wall has yet to be brought down, and I don't think I am yet convinced that it can be brought down, but I know that it must be, if I am ever to live. And so, like Indiana Jones taking that leap of faith into the abyss that spreads out before me, I reluctantly force myself forward, hoping to catch my foot on some solid ground ahead, because wherever I may be headed, I can't stay here in this hole forever.

Jessie Sammler is my role model.

Therefore, I am changing the name of this blog. Although I may still remain a NEET for some time yet - depending - I must be committed to moving forward into the next phase of my life. I was thinking recently about my college days, and how for so long they've seemed still alive within me, and contemporary. Like I was almost still living in those days, just slightly removed. But then, recently, I looked back, and realized that those days have finally faded firmly into the past. Which means that my life since then is becoming the new "just slightly removed", and thus a brand new phase, still mostly imperceptible, is now advancing upon me.

So I've hopped the Bridge of Sighs, and for now I stand on the Bridge To Better Days. A day somewhere yet further ahead will come, when those Better Days will be upon me. And for now, it is that future I work toward. I can think of two goals, other than battling my anxiety in general, that will mark that period. And they pertain to my two interests. I will be playing in a band. Rock, blues, whatever feels right, even if it's just cover songs. I'll no longer be afraid to interact with other musicians, and I'll have more confidence in my playing. And with my photography, I'll have the courage to promote myself and to work with other models, and, taking David Hamilton's advice to heart, I will learn how to approach attractive girls and ask them, if the conditions are right, to model for me. It's all pretty overwhelming for me to imagine, but I wouldn't be satisfied with anything less.

(I really should have ended this two paragraphs ago, because I think that would have made for a more compelling ending. :p)

P.S. (Preemptive Strike) You needn't patronize me with any sort of congratulations, as I have hardly done a thing...yet.

04 May, 2010

My idea of a perfect day

I was drying my hair after getting out of the shower, and thinking about how showers make me feel good, and for some reason my mind strayed to thoughts of the lake resort atmosphere of my childhood family vacations. When I think about those days, and that atmosphere, they are very happy thoughts. So I started to elaborate on that thought, and came up with an idea for a perfect day. Not the perfect day, mind you, just a perfect day, out of any number of potential perfect days that could be arranged.

Rather than go into minute-by-minute detail, which is frankly unnecessary (and only serves to turn a happy swirl of thoughts into a tedium of attempted consistency), I'll describe to you the general gist of the particular details which most contribute to the feeling of happiness and perfection in this hypothetical day.

Firstly, I must mention that the day would be spent in the company of an insanely attractive young woman, my sincere affections for which would be entirely mutual. I can't overstate the importance of this detail.

Secondly, this perfect day would take place at the aforementioned lake resort (or a comparable one would be fine). Ideally (after all, that's what this fantasy is, isn't it?), we'd be residing alone (together) in a beautiful lakeside cottage, with a nice yard and view of the lake, complete with a private dock, and our own boat (or two or three).

As for the activities that the day would be comprised of, there are a number of combinations that would be satisfactory. My girl and I would wake up together, spend the majority of the day in little to no clothing (little in public, no in private), and engage in no lack of casual, playful intimacy.

The weather would be, in a word, gorgeous. That is to say warm and dry. And bright and sunny. We'd spend most (if not all) of the day either within view of the lake (likely either on a beach or a deck), or out on it - and certainly, a good deal of time would be spent boating, and swimming from the boat, and quite probably making love on the boat, under the bright yellow sun.

But we would not spend the entire day alone. Some of it would just be us, but it would also be fun to hang out with close friends, playing games and chatting and eating together, and whatever would be fun. Lunch would most likely be grilled, and eaten on a deck, overlooking the lake, in swimwear.

There would definitely be live music, and I would definitely be playing in that live band. The band would all be friends. We'd play to other friends, and also to other guests at whatever favorite outdoor lakeside hangout we'd be playing at. There could be a more formal performance later in the evening, after dinner, but right now I'm thinking about a more casual performance during the day, under the sun. We'd send out our rockin' vibrations into the air and across the lake.

In the evening, my girl and I would return to our cottage momentarily, to get dressed up for dinner. It would be almost like a ritual. Wearing our finest in elegance, we would have a romantic candlelit dinner at a fancy lakeside restaurant, watching the sun set over the lake. After dinner we might partake in some dancing, or a live performance, probably with friends.

Towards the end of the day, we'd make our way back home to our cottage. It would still be mild out, even after dark. We might strip down and have a playful swim in the shallows by the foot of our private dock. One way or another, we would eventually end up entangled in each other's arms, in bed, and after exhausting ourselves, we would drift off to sleep, to rest up for another beautiful day on the lake.

01 May, 2010

ZML^2 - Bonamassa Does British Blues

This is a theme I'm very excited about, and one I've been wanting to do for a long time. In spite of the title, however, there aren't actually going to be any Joe Bonamassa songs. This theme is about the British blues songs that Joe has covered over the past decade. I've stated on many occasions how great a cover artist Joe is - both in his taste in selecting songs to cover, and in his ability to perform them well - and now you'll be able to discover first hand some of the original source material he has worked from. Joe has recorded a lot of truly great covers, so this isn't going to even necessarily be the songs that inspired his greatest covers, but a thematic selection focusing on one of my favorite sub-genres of blues rock - the British blues boom of the 1960s (with a tiny bit of leeway). Let's get started.

John Mayall & The Bluesbreakers - Steppin' Out [Bluesbreakers With Eric Clapton, 1966] + Jeff Beck - Rice Pudding [Beck-Ola, 1969]
Comments: Unique to the live version of the A New Day Yesterday album (Joe Bonamassa's first live album, and the first album of his that I heard) is a guitar instrumental mash-up consisting of two great tracks by two of the greatest rock guitarists of all time. The first is Steppin' Out, recorded by Eric Clapton with John Mayall's Bluesbreakers for the album many consider to be the quintessential representative of the 1960s British blues scene (informally referred to as the Beano album, thanks to the comic Eric is holding in the photo on the cover); and the second is a quirky meandering piece titled Rice Pudding (as far as I know, the abrupt ending is intentional), from Jeff Beck's second solo album, Beck-Ola. In Joe's composite jam, he manages to flawlessly weld the two central riffs from these songs together.

Jethro Tull - A New Day Yesterday [Stand Up, 1969]
Comments: This Jethro Tull track from 1969 (granted, they may not have been a straight blues rock band, but they were bluesy to start) lent the title to Joe Bonamassa's solo debut album, which is the first of a few of his albums named for a prominent cover song. With all due respect to Jethro Tull, Joe's version of this song is incendiary, and the version from the live album was the track that single-handedly introduced me to and got me hooked on Joe Bonamassa, for good reason. Honorable mention goes to Irish blues rocker Rory Gallagher's Cradle Rock, which also appears on Joe's debut album (as well as the live version of the album).

Jeff Beck - Blues Deluxe [Truth, 1968]
Comments: Jeff Beck returns, with the track that titled Joe Bonamassa's third studio album, a riveting blues penned by Beck and bandmate Rod Stewart, appearing on Jeff's own solo debut album, Truth. Bonamassa again shows his ability to smooth out the original Jeff Beck Group's rough-edged recordings, creating a very compelling track that, in addition to showcasing his celebrated guitar talent, features an impressive vocal performance which demonstrates his continuing improvement as a singer in addition to guitar god. Joe's eighth studio album, Black Rock, features another winning Jeff Beck cover in the form of Spanish Boots (found on Beck's second album from 1969, Beck-Ola).

Blind Faith - Had To Cry Today [Blind Faith, 1969]
Comments: Eric Clapton returns this time, and with the song that titled Joe's fourth studio album. This track is from the self-titled (and only) album released by the short-lived supergroup Blind Faith, which was Clapton's first diversion after the breakup of Cream. Even with all the hype, and having become familiar with half of the album before ever hearing it in full (thanks to the popularity of those songs), when I recently picked it up, I was pleasantly surprised by the overall quality of the album. For this song, which has a nice rock edge, and a good jam format, Joe scores another faithful and successful cover, a highlight of his earlier live shows.

John Mayall & The Bluesbreakers - So Many Roads [Looking Back, 1969]
Comments: Joe's fifth studio album, You And Me, marks a turning point of sorts in his career. It marks the beginning of his partnership with producer Kevin Shirley, and thus a crystallization of his "studio sound". One of my favorite tracks on the album is the blues So Many Roads, which was recorded by John Mayall's Bluesbreakers in the 1960s - but this time with Peter Green as the guitarist instead of Eric Clapton. It's a powerful song, and even with Peter Green being one of my top favorite musical artists of all time (granted, even as lead guitarist, he was still mostly backing for John Mayall in that band, and hadn't yet hit his stride), Joe's version of the song rises above this previous version. But don't stop there, legendary bluesman Otis Rush does a pretty mean version himself. Two other tracks worth mentioning that were recorded by the Peter Green-era Bluesbreakers, and were covered by Bonamassa, are Your Funeral And My Trial, and Another Kind Of Love.

Led Zeppelin - Tea For One [Presence, 1976]
Comments: Also appearing on the album You And Me was Joe's much-anticipated Led Zeppelin cover, Tea For One, a slow, melancholy blues featured on Zep's oft-overlooked 1976 album, Presence. Being pioneers of hard rock, Led Zeppelin weren't strictly a British blues band, but they were a British band, and their roots were steeped in the blues. For Bonamassa's competent cover of this song, he utilized a rare guest singer (Doug Henthorn). Whether it was to allow him to concentrate on pulling off his interpretation of divine rock god Jimmy Page's licks, or to mimic the guitar + singer dynamic featured in the original band (Henthorn does sound similar to Robert Plant), regardless, the result sounds good. I can't say that Joe one-ups Led Zeppelin here (that would be a feat), but his effort is impressive, and there's really nothing lacking from this cover. Not many could pull that off. (Zep fans: don't miss Joe Bonamassa's cover of ZZ Top's Just Got Paid on Live From Nowehere in Particular, or the Royal Albert Hall DVD - it's got a long jam that includes the instrumental portion from Dazed and Confused!)

Ten Years After - One Of These Days [A Space In Time, 1971]
Comments: I had been waiting for Joe Bonamassa to do a Ten Years After cover, ever since catching a mention of them in the liner notes to one of his albums, and on his sixth studio album, Sloe Gin, he pulled through. Like Led Zeppelin, Ten Years After were a hard rock band (with a variety of accompanying flavors), and not strictly British blues, but, also like Zep, they were British, and they had a concentration in the blues. Joe's cover of the opening song to TYA's most popular album is adequate, but I regret to say that this is one of the times when the original is clearly superior. Sorry Joe - it's just that Alvin Lee has this totally unmatchable rock charisma, and this song benefits more from the rough edges than the smoother melodies which Bonamassa likes to emphasize. You can't win them all. I'm still very excited that Joe covered this song and I would be happy to hear him try his hand at another, as Ten Years After is one of my favorite blues rock bands, and they deserve the attention and recognition.

Bonus Track: Although it's probably even less British blues than anything else on this list (although still not completely off topic), I just have to mention Tim Curry (yes, that Tim Curry)'s Sloe Gin [Read My Lips, 1978], which titled Joe's sixth studio album. It's a powerfully depressing song, delivered passionately by Tim Curry, and covered impressively by Joe Bonamassa. Joe stays true to the soul of the song, while giving flesh to the bones of its structure, building up a truly captivating piece that stands out even in his impressive catalogue of great music.

Honestly, I could still go on and list even more great covers performed by Joe Bonamassa, but we've reached our limit (and plus some) for this edition of Zharth's Music Log^2. If you're already a Bonamassa fan, then I hope this was an enlightening experience, and if not, then you just may be curious about these covers I keep mentioning. In that case, give Joe a listen, you won't regret it. ^_-