Tuesday, May 7, 2013

The Footsteps I Follow (and the Few I Avoid)

It's Teacher Appreciation Week. Well, at probably every school except for the one where I work. We had ours back right before Spring Break. The Powers That Be decided that with it being so close to the end of school having Teacher Appreciation Week and End of Year gifts to think about was too much; so they moved it. 

A good friend posted on his Facebook account a list of 12 teachers by name and had nice things to say about them. This has prompted me to do something similar. Being that I am verbose I had to do it in this format, so David Slagle, thank you for the inspiration.

1st Grade - Mrs. Underwood. Yes, we called her Mrs. Underwear behind her back. She was mean. 1970s public school teacher mean, but she saw something in me and chose, for whatever reason, to not smack it down, but encourage it. We were making paper mache piggy banks and I decided to do mine all different colors instead of just one like everyone else. When she shouted out my name after looking at mine I thought my world was coming to an end. Instead she made everyone else do like I was doing.

2nd Grade - Mrs. Gartrell. Sweet, old southern lady that gave me a great line for my classroom, "Don't blame your mother for not having your homework."

3rd Grade - Ms. Rosen. She played "Disco Duck" on the record player for the class and one day when more than half of the class was out sick she took us on a walk around the neighborhood. I can't even imagine that nowadays.

4th Grade - Mrs. Pullen - Beautiful woman. Very kind. She left for a large portion of the year due to breast cancer, I believe. Her substitute, not so beautiful, not so kind. Maybe I'm holding a grudge because she busted me forging my mom's signature

5th Grade - Mr. Boyd. My first male teacher. Tall, salt  & peppered afro and goatee. Drove a silver Trans Am. He would leave the class for 15 - 20 minutes at a time. One time when he was gone I got up and was goofing around, looking out the door to see if he was coming. When I turned around to go back to my seat he was standing outside the building at the window of the classroom, just watching us/me.

6th Grade - Mrs. Rainey - Another kind, kind woman. I don't remember much other than she was basically the antithesis of the other 6th grade teacher we had - Ms. Stallworth

7th Grade - Mrs. Thomas. I sold Mrs. Thomas a lottery ticket from the Briarcliff Community Sports raffle and she won $100. That's what she wrote in my yearbook, "To my $100 friend."

Growing up in DeKalb County in the early 80s we didn't have middle school we went from elementary to high school. Starting in 8th grade I started a fairly consistent downward  slant in my academic career.

From 8th grade to the end of 10th grade nothing really stands out as positive. I know there are some moments there, but by and large it was a very negative experience for me academically. Unaddressed attentional issues, not understanding the importance of actually doing homework and knowing how to study guaranteed that these were not smooth years. I almost didn't pass 8th grade ELA because for some reason I could not grasp the concept of diagramming sentences. To this day I cannot stand the idea, and will avoid it at all costs.  My 8th grade composition teacher told me that everything I wrote was absurd. Granted, it probably was, but would it have killed her to throw me a little encouragement, or to try to steer my writing to something less absurd? I failed Geometry at mid-term in 9th grade and was convinced I would fail it altogether. I had one of the vilest, most evil teachers that I have encountered. I was horrified to find out that she was still at my high school 20 years later and was still spreading malevolence and ill will at students. She is the teacher that would literally smile as she handed back test papers with grades of F.

In 10th grade I asked my mother to move me out of advanced classes to general ones, but at the encouragement of a neighbor who taught ELA classes at my school she kept me in,  and then something happened in 11th grade that made the last two years of high school not just bearable, but mostly enjoyable.

11th Grade - Mrs. Merkle & Mr. Glass - Mrs. Merkle was the school yearbook editor, junior and senior ELA teacher and the teacher of my favorite class ever, Humanities. For lack of better wording it was a class on appreciating all aspects of the arts; music, architecture, literature, art. Mrs. Merkle was probably the first teacher since primary years elementary school that I wanted to please. I had her my junior and senior year. She was, to my memory, the first teacher to not just assign a book to read, but to actually talk about the book. She was the first teacher to help me relate to the characters in the stories. She got me to see that novels and short stories are more than just words on a page.She was a significant influence on me as a teacher. Sadly when I saw her again at the unveiling of the new additions at Lakeside High School she looked at me with absolutely no recognition at all. I was more than a little hurt inside. 

Mr. Glass was the art teacher at Lakeside. He was a meticulously dressed and groomed gay man. I have no idea what he was doing surrounded by the stinky, unkempt hormone crazed high school students that clearly repulsed him in so many ways, but he was always there. It was well known that art classes were where most of the stoners, rockers and punks could be found. Being that I was none of those I'm not sure how I ended up there. I had several friends that took art and loved Mr. Glass, so probably by way of those folks. Mr. Glass was incredibly patient with me. As Glitter Queen can tell you, I am a painfully slow painter. He would offer encouragement and snarky critiques as I finished my pieces. He was entertainingly offensive and offensively entertaining. He did not suffer fools and spared no one. At the same time, you could tell that he really cared for some of his students. You could also tell that he couldn't stand others of them.

12th Grade - Ms. Shelfer - Ms. Shelfer was the teacher that made me love to write. She was the first teacher since probably primary elementary school that I wanted to please. I loved that woman.

I was going to go into some vitriolic diatribe about the teachers that were so horrible, but it's not Hate on Hateful Haters' Week, it's Teacher Appreciation Week. So for all the teachers that have had a positive impact on me, THANK YOU! For all those other teachers that just had an impact on me and so many others, well,unwittingly you showed me how NOT to be a teacher, and because of that I will also say thank you.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

LP means Long Play

If you have old records and you haven't taken the time to play them lately you really should do yourself a favor and do it.

And look, it takes time. It's not a quick scroll through your Playlists to find what you're looking for, click the button and then go. No.

It. Takes. Time. But man, oh man. It is time well worth spending.

I grew up listening to records. Not just the radio; although that's the only place that I heard current stuff, but my dad's record collection. I've written about this before. Chuck Berry, Little Richard, Elvis, etc. In our basement we had Dad's stereo set up with all of his records taking up about 6 feet of space on the bottom shelves. Going through those record covers, flipping by them, pulling them out to inspect. I literally spent hours of my youth doing this.

At first we had one of the turntables that you could stack up several records and after a side finished playing another record would drop down on the turntable and it would start up. It was fun, but you know if you want to listen to an entire album you either had to have to copies - which we didn't - or you had to not do the stacking method. 

[aside]Nothing is convenient about records. Nothing. And that's probably one of the main reasons that they went out of style. As I said above, it takes time to listen to a record. Very few of us want to take that time to do that nowadays. Nowadays? Good grief. [end of aside]

So sometime around 7th grade I started getting my own records. We upgraded the turntable around the same time. Gone was the stackable option. That was okay because I didn't do that too often. I think maybe that was really for playing a stack of 45s for a Rompus Room Dance Party. I never had a Rompus Room Dance Party. Promise. My dad was a member of Columbia Records Club. I enjoyed going to the record store more than ordering records from the Club though. Again it is the visual and physical sensations of flipping through the records, looking at the front and back album cover art and design.  In the the Club if you knew what you wanted that was one thing, but in a record store a big part of the experience for me was browsing.  [I still enjoy it today; although I can't tell you the last time I was in a store that sells records] 

I think the first record I bought with my own money was Rush - Moving Pictures. 

Great record. Great cover and inner sleeve design too. I was a little worried that I wouldn't be able to keep the inner sleeve in good condition because it was printed on really thin paper. Really thin. As you know, 7th graders aren't necessarily gentle creatures so as you can imagine, my fear was well founded. Even the record cover paper was thin. I was surprised. I was used to handling thick cardstock covers from my dad's collection. This was so thin. So was the vinyl. Dad's Ventures album was about two times thicker than my Rush album.

If you had your own record collection, or were allowed to use your family's then you know how to handle records. I just said that 7th graders aren't gentle, but to have access to the records in my house you had to prove that you knew how to handle them correctly. Fingers had no part of holding a record. Dirt, oil, grease, who knows what else could be on those fingers. The less skin contact you were able to make with the record surface the better. That was one of the harder things about the Rush album. It was so THIN and flimsy! Holding it between your palms, (or once my hand got big enough to put a finger in the hole of the record my thumb on the edge of the vinyl) showed a lot of flexibility. Lots more than I was used to. I remember being at friends' houses who didn't put so much care into their records. Finger prints all over them. Dirt and scratches. Not at the Benefield house. As I said, you had to prove that you were ready.

So along comes the Walkman and suddenly music is totally portable. At first I was content to record my albums on cassettes. TDK Chrome was the best blank cassette you could buy of course, but I didn't get those as often as I'd like.

 Then I started just buying the cassette versions of the music I wanted. In my mind it was far superior because it saved me the time of making that recording. Making sure I had the levels just right so it sounded good on the cassette. I got a little obsessed with cassettes. I had so many cases that I would take with me on trips because I had to have ALL of my music with me in case I wanted to hear a particular song. Obnoxiously I would take three or four cases full of cassettes on trips.

The Walkman to the Discman to the iPod. Portability and convenience. I love it, but it is still a different experience listening to music on the iPod than it is on a record player. Like so much else that goes on today it's quick and impersonal. The picture you see of the album cover, if there is one at all, is maybe one square inch. Liner notes? Maybe on the Internet. Convenient, yes. An Experience, no.

So again, if you have records and a way to play them I would encourage you to take set some aside some time, grab 10 - 15 of your favorites and immerse yourself in that aural joy of records. It's good by yourself, but it can be even more fun with a friend. I need to get my turntable fixed so I can share this with my Girls.

Thursday, November 22, 2012


With today being Thanksgiving and all, I have been seeing everyone's holiday greetings, their daily post on the 30 Days of Thanks, and other assorted Thankfulness stuff that was making me feel a little guilty about my lack of postings about this.

Don't get me wrong; I'm very thankful.  I feel like it is something that I try very hard to concentrate on - being Thankful. Blessed, fortunate, lucky - however you choose to interpret it. I am very thankful for my life and all of those who are close to me. But I haven't been posting about it because 

  1. I'm lazy
  2. I'm forgetful
  3. I already spend enough time on the computer, I don't really need to commit to anymore by doing a daily posting of something I'm thankful for.
  4. See #1
However, this afternoon as I was waiting for dessert to happen I was sitting at the table with Grand Dot (GDot). GDot is basically The Girls' Great Grandmother. We don't get to see her often, but when we do she is so excited to see us and is so very kind and gracious. So GDot and I are sitting talking at the table as other people were cleaning and preparing leftovers to take to my parents (Mom's sick on Thanksgiving; that sucks).  

We started talking about a clock that is hanging on the wall in GQ's mom's house. GDot tells me that the clock was in her home growing up. She grew up in Decatur, over on Avery Street near Agnes Scott College. My mom grew up in Decatur, Oakhurst really, on Feld Avenue; so we had some City of Decatur things to talk about. She told me about some other pieces of furniture in the room that had been in her grandfather's house. He had a dairy farm out on Cheshire Bridge Road apparently. "Oh it was so fun!" she said, "We would go out for the day. We called it 'Going to the country.'" We talked about how much DeKalb has changed, and how I can't imagine Cheshire Bridge as a dairy farm when I don't even know if I've seen a tree on the road over there lately. We talked more, and she told me about the clock again as well as the piece of furniture she had already mentioned. Each time both items had been in different places of her family's, but it didn't matter because we were having a very nice conversation.

Here's the odd thing: I don't really like old people.  I don't dislike them! I don't go out of my way to avoid them, but they aren't high on my list of Favorite Things. I don't know why, well that's not true. I do know why.

  • The stories
  • The ailments
  • The complaints of how things were better when...
  • The speed I have to slow down to
I know. That's a petty, shallow and horrible list, but it's true. At least to me.  However, this afternoon none of those came up in my head as a signal to Get Up and Get Away From the Old Person.  I don't know why. It could be because I had eaten too much and to get up and move somewhere would've required energy that I didn't feel like expending at the time.  Regardless, I am very, very glad that I stayed and very, very glad that I spent that time talking with GDot. It was a spontaneous incident, and I don't know if it could ever happen again, but it made me think about my grandparents, great-grandparents, aunts, great aunts and great uncles that I have had the privilege to know over my life time. I cannot say that I have taken every opportunity to make the most of these relationships. I haven't. But I can look at my life and I can see things that I got from these people; tangible and intangible. GQ might prefer if I hadn't gotten my noise-making genes from Granddaddy Crouch, but I think it's kind of neat to think that some things that aren't THINGS are passed down the line as much as any heirloom.

I feel very fortunate to have been able to have good, loving and long relationships with both of my grandfathers. They were able to see me grow into a young man with a family. The time that I got to spend with them, I know, is so valuable. I also know that some people never get that, or got that. It is something that I am sure I have taken for granted over the years.  I feel this especially when I think back to sitting with them at a dinner table, or in their hot, stuffy living room kind of talking, but kind of not, wishing that I could be somewhere doing something else. But there are other times that I know we had good conversations, spent good quality time watching the Travel Channel or listening to country music on the radio. I think my earliest memory is being with Granddaddy Benefield in his corn field. My brother and I were visiting Grandmother and Granddaddy and we were in the corn field with Granddaddy when all of the sudden, BOOM!!!!!! Granddaddy was shooting crows. I don't know if I knew that going into the corn field or what, but man, I remember that sound, and I remember being there with my brother and Granddaddy.

As I get older family Family becomes more important. The Girls are getting to have some of the experiences I was able to with my grandparents. GQ's and my parents both live in town, and the Girls have very close relationships with them. They happily go to their houses and spend time with the grandparents. R got to know her great-grandfather a little before he passed away. She was young, so there is not a lot of memory there, but she clearly remembers him, and has heard me tell stories about him enough to Know.

Going back to my not liking lack of liking Old People I think is a fear, a knowledge, that God willing, I am going to be an Old Person some day. I'm going to be the old guy that people aren't taking the time to sit with and talk and listen. I think about it kind of often these days. I guess it's because the Girls are getting older,  my parents are getting older, so dammit I must be getting older too. I know, right? Ridiculous! However, it's true; Time is marching on, and like it or not, it is carrying me with it.

So, on Thanksgiving 2012, something that I am Thankful for is the generations of my family that have come before me, and I can only hope that some day, years down the road some person will be sitting with me at a dining room table following Thanksgiving dinner listen to me ramble on about Super Heroes and how much DeKalb County has changed since I was little. God willing, I'll be there waiting for my dessert.

Monday, September 10, 2012

The Replacements Are Better Than You Know

I first heard of the Replacements in the pages of Rolling Stone. I hadn't heard their music, to the best of my knowledge it didn't get played on regular radio until Don't Tell A Soul, unless 96 Rock was doing Smash or Trash, which if so they would have probabaly gotten trashed - which is perhaps fitting.  What I read was here was a new album from this great band that so many people had never heard of. The article went on to talk about how they never really get into band practice and sometimes stop their shows in the middle of songs and other tales that to a 17 year old with Rock Star Dreams made it seem like, here's a band I can relate to. Also hearing that Tommy Stinson started at the age of 13 in the band was exciting and interesting. Apparently  I could not relate enough to engage myself to go out to Turtles Records & Tapes to get this new release though.

I actually heard the band my freshman year of college. I really don't remember if I heard a song from Don't Tell A Soul first or heard one of their songs from a friend's mix tape. I want to say "I Don't Know" might have been the first listening experience. Holy crap. What a great introduction if it was. "One foot in the door, the other one in the gutter." That line really sums up their career. They were always there at the door of success, but I guess they felt the need to keep themselves away from the middle of the road.  It's like Neil Young said, you meet some nice people in the middle of the road, but you meet a lot more interesting ones off the side. I bought the cassette of Don't Tell A Soul and liked it. Later I bought the cassette of Tim. (I kind of cringe now thinking of all those cassettes I bought when records were still readily available) "Left of the Dial", "Kiss Me On The Bus", "Bastard of Young", and "Waitress in the Sky" are the songs that stand out most to me. I had forgotten about "Hold My Life". From there I went straight to Let It Be and Hootenanny.  "I Will Dare" off of Let It Be is such a great, great song, and at the time I loved to associate it to myself and GQ b/c she was so much younger than me. Westerberg said they were going to name the next album Let It Bleed just to show that nothing's sacred in rock 'n roll.

I didn't get into them in time to know the whole Bob Stinson story, so Slim Dunlap coming on with Don't Tell A Soul didn't mean much to me.  Listening now to the transition from Tim to Pleased to Meet Me to Don't Tell A Soul I definitely see the difference Stinson made in the band. In my opinion, he kept Westerberg not just grounded, but also tethered. It was Bob's foot that was 100% in the gutter. He didn't want to be in, or go through the door. Again, my opinion. Paul's songwriting and ability to create a melody was so strong, (and probably still is) but Bob's influence over him was so strong that that ability had to be tamped down. I've read several articles about how Paul would bring stuff in to the band only to have Bob tell him to "get out of here with that".  Westerberg must have had either extreme patience and durability or the elder Stinson had extreme charisma or or something to influence him so strongly. As I said, that transition of sound between those three albums is significant. Then to the almost acoustic All Shook Down, I'm surprised it wasn't put out as a Westerberg solo album.

Hearing that "I Will Dare" is the first song that Westerberg wrote on the acoustic guitar makes me question what took him so long to arrive at that spot.  I guess the idea of being a rock 'n roller was stronger than being a singer-songwriter. I wonder if he were just coming along today if he would have done it differently now that there are so many Jack Johnsons, Jon Mayers (regardless of your feelings about him, he is quite a gifted songwriter), and Jason Mrazs out there that are popular and accepted.  At the time he was coming up though it was a rock 'n roll world being injected with the punk rock ethic.  

Listening to the early Replacement recordings you definitely hear that punk rock influence. Loud, fast rules. That was an early name of Soul Asylum, one of The Replacements peer bands who have some great music of their own. A main difference between the two was that Westerberg had three other guys to present material to by himself while Soul Asylum had Dave Pirner and Dan Murphy as a team of songwriters that could play off each other.

After they kicked Bob out of the band and made Pleased to Meet Me and Don't Tell A Soul a lot of long time fans grew disenchanted with the group. Don't Tell A Soul was a polished, late 80s record. I don't remember who they had produce the album, but it was slick. Either they, or their record company was trying to get them on the radio and get the recognition that they deserved. I don't think it worked like they hoped it would. That article that I first read had a quote from Westerberg on his hopes of it getting picked up by the radio along the lines of, "Well, if this doesn't work we'll just go and do it again next year." I think that must have been how it was with each release for them.  That would have to get tiring.

With the addition of Dunlap, Westerberg finally had someone that would encourage his songwriting over his 'Mats image. A Spin article at the time had Dunlap and Tommy Stinson hanging out talking, and Tommy said something about how All Shook Down could be seen as Paul's solo album to which Dunlap replied, "He's put out six solo albums already." That didn't go over too well, as you may imagine.

I only saw the band one time, and it was to support Don't Tell A Soul.  I was really excited to see them, and was even more excited to see Paul Westerberg out in the audience watching the opening act, Tommy Keene.  I approached him, asked him to sign my ticket and told him that I really liked the new record. He thanked me awkwardly and then took off. I felt a little bad. I don't know if my bothering him while he was watching another band made him leave, or if he just thought he could blend into the crowd, or what. Regardless, I got my ticket signed and watched the band put on a great show as I was right up against the stage, and did more damage to my hearing.

I remember reading something that Chris Robinson of the Black Crowes say about the Replacements along the lines of they could have been the next Faces; Paul Westerberg had the hair, but not the balls to do it. I guess I see his point, but I don't think I could see the Replacements going that direction. The Faces were a great band, but so were The Replacements in a very different manner.

I'm sad that they fizzled out the way they did.  The deserved much more recognition and accolades from people than they ever received. They deserved more of a chance to prove what a great band they could be and less expectation for them to show up completely drunk and put on a sloppy show with unfinished songs, bad covers and verbal abuse to the audience. See that's what some people thought they were supposed to do live. To them I guess it was a comedy routine. That's sad to me. Someone with Westerberg's songwriting abilities deserved more respect from the audience and he should have given more to them as well.

I didn't keep up with his solo stuff other than the two songs that appeared on the Singles soundtrack, which I liked a lot; although they were very different. I have a funny memory of a roommate singing along loudly to "Dyslexic Heart" in the house when she thought no one was there. I heard a lot of disparaging remarks from friends about that song, but you know what, who cares?  I know that he put out several records, and as far as I know continues to release music and tour.

The other Replacements cotinued on their musical paths as well.  Tommy Stinson was part of a pretty good group called Bash and Pop and then went to play some bass with one incarnation of Guns 'n Roses. I think it must have been his hair that got him that gig. Chris Mars put out a number of solo albums after he left/was fired from the band. He was quite prolific. I don't know if it was a George Harrison type of thing where he had been writing all these songs and wasn't given the opportunity to put them out there, or was intimidated to put them up against Westerberg's songs, or what, but he he put out several releases all with his bizarre artwork on the covers.  He didn't have that great of a voice, but I admire that he put his stuff out there and didn't just bow out.

Here are my top Replacement songs. Some rocking, some not, but all with great songwriting - regardless of the seriousness of the subject, or lack thereof.

Within Your Reach
Kiss Me On The Bus
Anywhere Is Better Than Here
Color Me Impressed
I Will Dare
Left of The Dial
Waitress In The Sky
Can't Hardly Wait
I Don't Know
My Favorite Thing

Do yourself a favor and go check the band out if you haven't already.  If you already know them go back and listen to  some of those tracks and see what memories it brings back for you.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Fleeting Magic

R came into GQ's room last night and threw a question out there.  Not only did she throw the question out, she threw it out with the stipulation that GQ had "to tell [her] the truth."
"Is the Tooth Fairy real?" she asked.

I don't know how much time was between the question and the answer, but if you know GQ you know she's a straight shooter. Especially when given a directive like that.

So she told her that no, the Tooth Fairy isn't real.  Then asked why she asked.  Turns out she overheard some girls in her class saying, "I got $5 from the Tooth Fairy, and my mom's the Tooth Fairy."

This confirmed what she had already thought.  Well, maybe not thought, but there was a nagging bit of doubt in her mind already because while she was looking through GQ's jewelry box she came across her old teeth. 

The Tooth Fairy didn't start off taking her teeth.  The first time he (more on that in a minute) came to visit he didn't take the tooth with him.  R was pretty puzzled by that, but we just told her that our fairy seems to not take the teeth with him.

"Why is your Tooth Fairy a guy?" I hear you. Valid question.

Last year R wrote the Tooth Fairy a note.  She asked for a name. I came up with Reginald, but you can call me Reggie. I can't remember what else Reggie put in his note, but there was some good info that made a then 8 year old R and 5 year old Coco feel pretty good.

So some doubt was already there when she discovered the teeth in the box.  Luckily GQ is a quick thinker and instead of just crumbling right there and confessing she claimed absolute ignorance to the teeth's presence. It was truthful ignorance too because I'm the one that placed the teeth in there. In hindsight I see that a mother's jewelry box isn't the best place for a secret hiding place, but, well, no buts just bad hiding spot.

Some of you may be asking what is a 10 year old doing believing in the Tooth Fairy to begin with?  If so it's because I believe that a strong imagination is a necessary component to a life well lived.  There's enough garbage that we have to deal with on a daily basis and I want my girls to be able to be able to have that escape.  GQ agrees, but perhaps not quite as strongly as me.  I have spent a good bit of time building up this foundation of all things fantasy derived. Answers to questions of "Do _____________ exist?" are usually met with "Well, I've never seen one, but that doesn't mean they don't exist." or "I sure think so."  If your parents aren't going to believe in something I would think it would make it awfully hard to believe in it yourself. Therefore I have always taken it as my responsibility to make sure that childhood magic is there for the Girls.

So with R's discovery that the Tooth Fairy is just something parents do to make losing a tooth a little less scary (GQ's explanation) another little piece of her youthful innoncence is gone. And not in exactly the same way, but in a similar way as when they hear a cuss word for the first time - it can't be undone.  She can't and won't go back to believing in the Tooth Fairy.  That part of her youth is gone.  She's that much closer to being OLDER.

Just like when a child turns 5 she is no longer a baby, she's a kid; the passing of belief to disbelief - ack - even metaphorically eating from the tree of knowledge - you can't go back. And I realize that part of this is the acceptance of not only is R getting older, but so am I.  

This whole Life thing. It fascinates me how most of the time the big changes that we experience come gradually, but at the same time seem to fly past. A teacher I work with summed it up best; The days crawl by and the years fly.

R has handled this very maturely after her initial shock and disappointment. Part of that may be from the fact that GQ and I are going to let her help us with Coco's Tooth Fairy experience from now on. She thinks that's kind of cool.

Ironically, the day after she found out The Truth her Safety Patrol post in the Library she was confronted with a book about the Tooth Fairy. "I just had to sit there and look at it all morning.  Finally, I couldn't take it anymore so I went and put it back on the shelf where it belongs."

Acceptance and knowledge are bittersweet pills that we all take at one time or another.

Friday, August 17, 2012

These Things. THESE THINGS!!!!

So this guy, this cyclist, goes whizzing between two lanes of cars today as I'm on my way to the doctor and it made me kind of mad  really pissed me off.  I wanted to yell, "You're the reason so many of us motorists hate cyclists!" but he was gone, and I'm trying to keep my fits of rage down to one a month, and there's still a whole half of August left. So I have decided to do a Grumpy Man Post and give you a Top Ten Some Things Currently Annoying Me. 
[On a positive note, I couldn't even come up with 10, so that's good, right?]

1. Cyclists who think that the road is for their sole use.  I have friends who bike and I understand their desire/need to have space on the road.  There have been countless biking tragedies, and I don't want that to happen to anyone else, but inevitably it will. I've written already about the thing cyclists do when they go through stop signs ("can't break our momentum!"), but then there's the move this ass did today: biking through two lanes of traffic.  Honestly, when they pass me on the right it kind of frustrates me because they're moving and I'm sitting still, but it really comes down to the school rule of "No Cutting!" Of course after this guy goes between the cars, and we're on Ponce de Leon heading toward Decatur by the way! After he goes between the cars he totally slows traffic down having to pedal up a hill.  The driver behind him was much more patient than many people would have been. Again, I will restate my claim that cyclists wearing their Cyclists Outfits are closer to Super Villains than Logo Sporting Bike Enthusiasts.

2. Imbecilic higher ups that are in charge of running things that are incapable of doing an even slightly good job because, well, because they're imbeciles. Gah! I'd go on about this, but I don't want to bring any trouble.

3. Puppy Pee & Poop.  We got a puppy recently. No, not Marley who made my good Top 10 list this Spring, but a puppy.  Padfoot is her name, and she is not on my bad list. Her waste; however, is.  Dammit, man, I don't like cleaning up pee and poop in the house and apparently this is going to go on for 9 more months.  9 MORE MONTHS!!!!!

4. These damn mosquitoes! I can't step outside with the puppy to keep number three from happening without coming away with three or more bites.  We pay a monthly service for our yard to be sprayed.  I can't imagine what it would be like if we weren't getting the yard sprayed.  Stinking blood sucking parasitic nuisances is what they are.

5. Presidential Election Politics.  Both parties are in the pockets of special interest groups that don't have the best interests of the Country. Regardless of your political bent, the presidential election typically brings out people's inner asshole, and quite frankly, it's an inner thing because it's not supposed to see the light of day.
Cartoon Credit

6. Dave FM changing its format from whatever it's classified as to a Sports Talk station. Great. Less options in the already crappy ATL radio market. Here's another plug for WMLB 1690 AM.  I wish the DJs would completely abandon their format and just spend their remaining time on the air playing what they want to hear, perhaps with a good healthy dose of listener requests.  I guess they can't because they want to make sure that another Corporate Radio Station hires them to be the mouthpiece for the crappy format that they take on.

7. That I'm thinking about going off Facebook for a time so that I can get some art done.  I think I've already mentioned my robot painting.  Well, it's still there with no new progress yet, and I can't think of another way, other than greatly reducing the amount of time I spend on FB.  Some people don't get why I'm on there as much as I am anyway, and that's all right. When it's On, it's really a whole bunch of fun, but when it's just Meh, then it's just a time sucker.  So, I'm annoyed on two counts: 1. That I'm going to have to limit myself to get something done that I should want to do. 2. That FB's been more Meh than On lately.

So, there you go.  These things are pissing me off recently. Now, on a scale of 1 - 10, none of them are really even a 10; although that cyclist came awfully close to scoring an 8.  What's eating you these days?

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Sometimes You Need A Horn (or Two)

Free digital image from  FreeDigitalPhotos.Net

Let's just jump into this. I recommend you start off by listening to this first song.

I'm not sure if I've always loved songs with horns, or even more so, bands that have horns in them.  I didn't grow up listening to jazz or even classical, so they were not necessarily part of my musical upbringing.  I can't think of one record in my dad's extensive collection that is jazz or classical. Well, that's not true.  There's the Willie Nelson jazz album, Stardust, that he tried to get me to listen to when I was younger.  I never did.  Willie was all good and fine, but the first few seconds of whatever starts that album off wasn't for me at the time.

I can't remember when it really hit me that songs with horns were just, just...so much more than a song without. Several of the 50s bands that I grew up listening to had saxophonist on the songs.  The guy from "Yakety Yak" really stands out in my mind. King Curtis is his name.  He played on that song as well as on a Buddy Holly song, "Reminiscing". I guess, thinking about it, probably either Earth, Wind & Fire or KC & the Sunshine Band were probably my first real introduction to several horns in a band.  

I've heard all my life "Disco sucks!", but you know what? When it's a full-on band like those two then no it didn't.  It rocked as hard as whatever rock 'n roll songs were playing at the same time.

Earth, Wind  & Fire - "September"
KC & the Sunshine Band - "Boogie Shoes"

So, yeah. Those songs, those take me back to my young days.  When I'd ask my dad if we could pause a song on the radio so that it would start back up when we got back in the car from McDonald's.

Paul McCartney always had some great horns in his music with Wings. A lot of people put down that music. A LOT OF PEOPLE. But I have to say it was such a huge part of my childhood that to me it's just gold.

Paul, of course, had some good input in The Beatles. This is one of my favorite tracks of theirs. 

As I moved into my teens I discovered Madness.  I could easily write a whole entry about them.  They were such a great addition to my expanding musical palate.  I got the cassette of One Step Beyond and played it so much.  Then I got a double sided cassette of that with Absolutely on the back.  Whoa! I mean seriously. I could put so many songs of theirs on here, but I'll stick with one obvious and one of my all time favorites.

Because I could literally go on and on and on I'm just going to list some of my favorite songs with horns in them.  I'm a little embarrassed by how 80s Adam Ant's video is, but well, it was the 80s and he was one of the people making actually entertaining videos.  I was introduced to Benny Goodman through the Chips Ahoy commercial and then again in the movie, "Swing Kids".   I heard Louis Jordan's "Is You Is or Is You Ain't My Baby?" on Tom & Jerry when I was a kid.  Then I heard it again through Joe Jackson's fantastic album Jumpin Jive. More late 80s, early 90s Fishbone and Cake came along and kept the horns going. Just recently through my Madness Pandora station I was introduced to this amazing Australian band, The Cat Empire.  Wow.  Amazing.

Benny Goodman Orchestra - "Sing, Sing, Sing"
The Cat Empire "Hello" & "Chariot"

So, below are some of the bands/artists that really hit home with their use of horns.  Most of course are not being played on the radio except for during the Retro hour, or on a station that plays jazz, real jazz.   I don't think anyone plays Neil's This Note's For You album. This was his first release for Reprise after being on Geffen for most of the 80s.  His time with them ended with the company suing him for not being "Neil Young enough". As if you can fit Neil into a box and expect him to stay there.  Sheesh.

I would find YouTube clip for them, but there's only so much time that I'm going to spend on this.  I hope you go find some though.

Louis Armstrong
Dizzy Gillespie
Miles Davis
The English Beat - "Tears of a Clown"
Haircut 100 - "Fantastic Day"
Neil Young & the Blue Notes
Elvis Costello on Spike (he used the Dirty Dozen Brass Band for some tracks) "Miss MacBeth" & "Chewing Gum"
Big Bad Voodoo Daddy "Go Daddy-O!"
Brian Setzer Orchestra "Jump, Jive & Wail"

I'll leave off with Van Morrison and a song off of His Street Choir