Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Guns in hand and Fingers Crossed

I suppose it would have made more sense to post this song at the beginning of this blog, but I really don’t want to make this blog a “poetry / lyric corner” so I haven’t done so yet. I have had some questions about the title of my blog and what in the world it refers to. The blog title comes from a song played by my band, ‘Leaving Denton.’ It says a lot about my views on the state of things in the modern world and how I feel about a lot of issues and what not. You might get it. It might say absolutely nothing to you. To each their own. So here you go...

guns in hand and fingers crossed

into the dark so fast so slow
headlong into that good night we go
we can’t get there soon enough
and we’re gonna take you with us
yeah we’re not going down alone
we’ll fight the good fight again
cause we’ve been told
fighting will prove what we believe in
technology will make us faster
and help us to define the masters
as we pray to our computers
and build our better futures

into the dawn of a new day
headlong into a new yesterday
we know we’re gonna crash or else
cause history repeats itself
but we won’t go down alone
we’ll fight the good fight again
cause we’ve been told
fighting will prove what we believe in
dressed our best for this disaster
the world is spinning ever faster
we pray to gods our fathers lost
with guns in hand and fingers crossed

to each their own
we’re all in this together
to reach the throne
we’ll have to kill each other
the seeds we’ve sown
here in the morning sun
will soon be grown
and we’ll see what they’ve become

into the new world same as the old world
headlong headstrong headed for destruction
we now know what it means
to be destroyed by our dreams
but we won’t go down alone
we’ll fight the good fight again
and convince ourselves
we did it for our children
front to back all in a line
we’ll toast the past now one last time
and pray a prayer for what we lost
with guns in hand and fingers crossed

Tuesday, January 19, 2010


I grew up without any kind of Cable or Satellite TV. I only had the standard channels that could be picked up by an antenna. I know you probably find this shocking, but I assure you I was not abused in any other way. This lack of cable continued on through most of my life, with the only exception being a year in an apartment that included basic cable as part of the monthly rent. A few years ago, my wife and I built a house and realized that we could no longer pick up television stations with only rabbit ear antennas. This was before the digital conversion and was due to the fact that we now lived in a somewhat rural area. We decided at that point to do a combo deal. When we got our internet set up, we went ahead and had them lump in a Satellite TV plan as well. We then had Satellite Television for a little over a year before deciding recently to get rid of it.

Below, I am providing a detailed listing all of my personal accomplishments during the year+ that I had Satellite Television.

1. Watched a lot of Television

Many Blessings.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Something you might not have known about rhinos

I enjoy learning things I did not previously know, particularly if the knowledge will be completely useless to me in the future. From time to time I plan to post a blog on here in the vein of "something you might not have known about (insert the something here)," and will then proceed to tell you something you might not have know about that something I am telling you about. The something which you learn will most likely be completely useless information to you, but will hopefully be interesting to know.

Today’s useless something will be about Rhinos

Topic: The Rhino
Clarification: Rhino is short for Rhinoceros
How to recognize a Rhino in case you are unsure what one is: A Rhino is a fairly large animal, best recognized by its having a rather large horn on its nose. This often furry eared mammal is indigenous to Africa and the southern parts of Asia and looks kind of like the love child of a pit bull and an elephant. There are five species of Rhinos and they are not all the same. Some species of Rhino have two horns, some have one. Despite the number of horns, Rhinos are easily recognizable due to the fact that most animals don’t have horns on their noses. So, Horn on the nose generally = Rhino.
What you probably didn’t know about Rhinos: Rhinos are not born with horns (a fact which the female of the species is said to be eternally grateful for) and these horns are in fact composed of hair. They are made up of Keratin, which is what hair and fingernails are made of. The super matted up hair grows and forms the horn of the Rhino over time. Rhinos are an endangered species now because some cultures believe their horn to be an aphrodisiac. I can not confirm or deny this supposition, having never sampled Rhino Horn. The horn, when ground up, has been used for other medicines and what not as well.
What you probably didn’t know about Rhinos Part 2: Some Rhinos have a Prehensile Lip. That’s Right. Prehensile. If you are struggling to remember where you have heard that term before, it is generally applied to Monkey Tails. Some Rhinos have a prehensile upper lip and it basically operates kind of like a finger, to grab things and pull them into the mouth. This is especially useful to the Rhino, who has no hands with which to stuff itself with food.
Summary: Horn on nose = Rhino. Horn is made of hair. Prehensile Lip.

You are now prepared to discuss Rhinos, should they come up in the conversation (as they so often do). Or, you could take your fella/ladyfriend to the zoo and show them what a genius you are (the zoo is an excellent place for a date, incidentally). Whatever use you find for this info, I hope you find it useful.

Many Blessings

Sunday, January 10, 2010

I like Dragons and the people who write about them.

I enjoy reading. Reading has had a monumental influence on my life since I was five years old. I enjoy reading a lot of different kinds of books from many eras and from many genres. I enjoy classical literature by Charles Dickens and Alexandre Dumas. I enjoy early 20th Century authors like Steinbeck, Hemingway, and Fitzgerald. I enjoy some deep thinking literature by the likes of C. S. Lewis and G. K. Chesterton. I enjoy some modern writers like Ken Follet and Kurt Vonnegut.

I also enjoy Fantasy Literature.

(insert pause for derisiveness)

For reasons unknown to me, Fantasy literature and Science Fiction literature are considered as some sort of sub-genre that is substandard to other literature. I have encountered this prejudice on numerous occasions. I'd like to say I'm above it, but when I get to the check out register at Half Price Books, I sometimes feel the need to pretend that the Fantasy novel I am purchasing is a present for someone else. I will at least make sure it's on the bottom of the stack, underneath the Wharton and Salinger. I am not sure why, but if a book involves anything happening outside the realm of normal experience, it is somehow considered to be a lesser work of lesser value. (This snub carries over into the film world as well, where Fantasy and Sci-Fi movies are regular passed over for the ''serious'' awards and seem to only be eligible for Best Makeup, or Best Effects.)

Today I'm taking a stand! No longer will I feel the need to justify myself for liking Dragons and Wizards in the same way I enjoy The Sun also Rises. I can like Tolstoy AND Tolkien.

There are some amazing writers in the Fantasy world and they shouldn't be disregarded. There are also a lot of Hacks who can't write. Every genre has the greats and those we don't know how they found a publisher. Here is a short guide to the Fantasy World. I encourage you to broaden your horizons and dive in.

1. J. K. Rowling - The Harry Potter Series
Some have chosen to disregard this series simply because of its popularity. It isn't cool to like something that is so universally loved. That's lame. Quit being lame. If you dislike something simply because other people like it, then you are as simple minded as those people who like something simply because other people like it. This series is amazingly written and is much darker and deeper than you might guess. I enjoyed every minute of every book and have read the series multiple times. Great Characters. Great writing. Great books.

2. Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman
These two authors have teamed up on numerous occasions, but I am going to give you my two favorite series they wrote together. They write beautifully and create deep and moving characters.
The Death Gate Cycle - This is a seven book series which starts with the book "Dragon Wing." I started reading this series when I was in Junior High School and spent the next six years in agony, waiting for each subsequent book to come out. The truths of the book come across a little Taoistic in nature, but that didn't stop me from enjoying every page of each book.
The Dragonlance series - The Dragonlance world can be a confusing world to navigate because after it was created by Weis and Hickman, many other authors wrote books in their world and used many of their characters. Some of those writers could write very well. Some of them were ogres which somebody taught to type. The original book was titled "Dragons of Autumn Twilight" and if you start there you won't go wrong. I am going to be honest with you. I cried several times reading this series. I'm not much of a crier. Not that this series is sad. It's just that you can grow quite attached to the characters.

3. Orson Scott Card - The Homecoming Series
Mr. Card is most well known for his book "Enders Game" but I enjoyed this series much more. Book one is titled "The Memory of Earth." Deeper messages abound and the characters are quite compelling.

4. J. R. R. Tolkien - The Lord of the Rings
See Above. Don't disregard something just because it was made into a beautiful movie. This is a great story and worth your time. This series was originally intended to be one book, but since the publishers did not see it that way, you will need to start with "The Fellowship of the Ring." If you want to do it even better, you should first read "The Hobbit." This children's story is not part of the series, but does tell you what happened earlier and introduces you to the characters you will meet in the much more adult Trilogy to follow.

5. C. S. Lewis - The Space Trilogy
I am sure you were expecting the Chronicles of Narnia. I also love that series also, but I REALLY love Mr. Lewis' Space Trilogy. Book one is titled, "Out of the Silent Planet" and begins the story of Ransom and his adventures through space. The second book of the series will teach you a great deal about the concept of Original Sin and the choices we make. The third book is an apocalyptic novel and gives the reader the opportunity to consider the end of the world from a rather unique perspective.

So there are five opportunities (though actually more than 40 books) to enter the world of Fantasy Literature and not be immediately turned aside by the aforementioned ogres of the writing world. I think the broadening of horizons can be a good thing. See if yours can stretch a little.

Many Blessings.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Quit being a Troll and pay attention to the lyrics.

So I've always been a fan of lyrics. I never have been able to get into those bands that had a great sound if I didn't connect with what they had to say. I started writing lyrics long before I ever picked up an instrument and the writing has always been the most important thing to me in playing music. To me, music provides the emotional atmosphere for the lyrics, but it is mandatory for me that the words say something that I can connect with. I love that a song can mean something to me entirely independent of what it meant to the person who wrote it, and that it is going to be different for each person who hears it. With that in mind, here is another list for you.

Here are Ten albums with amazing lyrics that you should listen to unless you are a troll who just wants to nod along with the beat. Don't be a troll. Again, this is not a top ten list, but is rather a listing of ten albums that will hopefully plunge you into some uncharted waters and will be impactful in your musical world. Don't settle for songs that say nothing. Dig deeper.

1. Adam Again - Dig
Speaking of Digging Deeper, this is an older album and holds up well with each listen. The lyrics are powerful and aching. I especially appreciate the songs "Dig" and "River on Fire."

2. The Violet Burning - Demonstrates Plastic and Elastic
There are moments on this album that can change who a person is. "Oceana" is particularly poignant, and "Gorgeous" is one of the strongest romance songs I am aware of. It was especially wonderful when, seeing them live, I finally understood that the 'two angels painted blue' were angels tattooed on the inside of each forearm of frontman Michael Pritzl.

3. Aaron Sprinkle - Moontraveler
This is one of the solo albums from the lead guitarist of 'Poor old Lu' and is simply wonderful to listen to and learn from. I also hate the motor cars with racing stripes that keep getting in my way.

4. Tanya Donelly - This Hungry Life
This live, alt-county CD from the former lead singer of 'Belly' has been in heavy rotation in my mix ever since I borrowed it from my friend Dave. "Invisible One" makes me realize how far I still have to go before I get there.

5. Damien Rice - 9
It is hard to say too much about this album. The opening track "9 Crimes" is beautiful and tragic. I can't get enough of the way the male and female vocals intertwine. Don't listen to this album (or really Damien Rice in general) if you are borderline suicidal. He doesn't strike me as a particularly happy human.

6. Pedro the Lion - It's hard to find a friend
Another older album that has stood the test of time. The story of Hosea has never been better than in "of minor prophets and their prostitute wives." An appreciation for sarcasm is a handy thing to have going into this one, particular for songs like "when they really get to know you they will run."

7. Wilco - Sky Blue Sky
This is the rare album that marries unbelievable music with equally wonderful lyrics. It's a tough call, but this is my favorite Wilco album thanks to songs like "Either way" and "Please be patient with me." If you could not care any less about lyrics, then you can enjoy this album as my favorite guitar album of all time instead.

8. Daniel Amos - Mr. Buechner's Dream
A double CD with twice the opportunity for lyrical brilliance. Terry Scott Taylor has long been one of my favorite songwriters whether it's his work for the Lost Dogs, Swirling Eddies, Daniel Amos, or his solo work. "The Author of the Story" and "Flash in your Eyes" are two favorites.

9. They Might be Giants - Flood
Fine. Go ahead and mock me. I still think this is a lyrically brilliant album and haven't gotten enough of it in the 20 years since it was released. "Dead", "We want a Rock", and "Whistling in the Dark" still speak to me on some deeper level that I have never been able to successfully explain to anyone else. In 1990, I made a little birdhouse in my soul and have never turned off the nightlight.

10. Centro-Matic - Navigational
"Not Forever Now" will always ring through me, as well as favorites like "Ordinary Days" and "Numbers one and Three." Will Johnson has been a favorite songwriter of mine ever since he stepped out from behind the drum set of the Funland Band. This album is one of his finest, though least appreciated.

Please enjoy good music responsibly.

Many Blessings

Thursday, January 7, 2010

10 books for a better 2010

I’ve never posted a blog before and frankly it feels kind of strange and possibly a bit pretentious. But then I suppose I am rather pretentious. I’m making the assumption that what I say in the following list is of value and that you would be better for having read it. What could be more pretentious than that?

What I am offering to you, my fine reader, is a list of ten books which you really should read at some point in your life. Why not in 2010? Perhaps you have already read some or all of them in the past. Read them again. Some of them are better the second time through. These are not necessarily my ten favorite books of all time or anything of that nature. They are just ten books that I think would be good for you to read and would help maximize your enjoyment of the year ahead, while broadening your literary horizons. So visit your local used book store and get started. You can read them in no particular order.

1. The Winter of our Discontent – By John Steinbeck

This is an outstanding book from my favorite author. It is a must read for every human. Are you human? Then read this book.

2. The Areas of my Expertise – By John Hodgeman
I laughed a great deal. You will laugh too unless you have no sense of humor. Do you want to be thought of as a person with no sense of humor? Then read this book and find it funny. I especially enjoyed discovering the truth about squirrels. It’s shocking.

3. Bridges with Spirit – By Adam Voith
This is a little known book that is truly an amazing read. You can usually find used copies online. I bought my own copy at a Pedro the Lion concert. The author had a table set up in the back of the venue.

4. Cat’s Cradle – By Kurt Vonnegut
I discovered Vonnegut for the first time in 2009 and promptly read a more than a dozen of his books. Cat’s Cradle is very unique and, while it doesn’t have quite the impact of Slaughter-House five, it is an extremely enjoyable book.

5. East of Eden – by John Steinbeck
This one is asking a lot out of you because it is a book of Epic proportions and is a commitment to read. If you survive and make it to the end, you are rewarded by such profundity as is rarely realized. It can be a life altering experience and quite liberating.

6. Ecclesiastes – by Solomon
Dust off your Bible and turn to a little known book towards the center. You can read this one in about an hour. It’s rather depressing until the end. Then you are enlightened, though still slightly depressed. I recommend reading it from the New International Version of the Bible. It has a nice flow in that translation.

7. Till We Have Faces – by C. S. Lewis
This retelling of the myth of Cupid is fascinating to read and quite unlike anything else written by Mr. Lewis.

8. For Whom the Bell Tolls – by Ernest Hemingway
Everyone should read some Hemingway at some point in their life. If you are alive and have not read any Hemingway, then you should keep in mind that you might die soon and miss this opportunity. This is my favorite Hemingway novel. Maybe it will be yours as well.

9. Nine Stories – by J. D. Salinger
Okay, so technically this one isn’t a novel. This is a collection of nine short stories by Mr. Salinger and is unbelievably depressing to read. The last story in the book, “Teddy” is one of the greatest short stories ever written. You should read one of the greatest short stories ever written. Everyone should.

10. Pillars of the Earth – by Ken Follett
This is not the normal Follett in that its setting is medieval. I got angry a lot while reading this book. I’m not a fan of injustice. No one should be a fan of injustice. So unless you are a criminal, you should read and enjoy this book.

So there you have it. Ten books for a better 2010. Reading is good for you.

Many Blessings.