Friday, October 26, 2012

Friday Unrelated Information

1. The Drum Doctor and his Literate Lady recently moved into an apartment in the swanky Avenues neighbor hood of SLC. Tomorrow, to christen their new pad, they will be hosting a housewarming party. Interestingly, it is starting mid-afternoon; to get the partying started early, I wonder, or to ensure its early end? I will have to find out.

2. Earlier in the day, the final door-to-door campaign push for west-side state-rep candidate Angela Romero will be going on. I am planning to participate, although the last time that I did a certain needlessly hostile former friend was there as well, emanating ice cold vibes and insisting to meet the campaign manager in a separate spot at the end of the walk - I suppose because, oh my god, I am just such a dangerous and terrifying person, she feels threatened being anywhere near me. I mean, god forbid, I might try to say "hello"...Oh, it would just ruin her day. I certainly don't need to senselessly torment myself, but I want to do all I can to push Romero to victory, even if that means exposing myself to another round of passive hatred from a delusional narcissist.

3. I have three new songs in the works: one is kind of a ska/punk number with some interesting changes, another is a lament for lovely girls that self-sabotage due to insecurity, and the final an ode to my so-called 'crazy' best friend Mr. Bombs. The final song is a little bit disjointed, with a distinctly different feel to the verse and chorus, which I think mirrors the theme of the lyrics - although Remodel Man just found it frustrating. I was showing the song to the band last week, and Remodel Man proclaimed "That was fucking confusing! Dude, I don't play math rock!". While I share his distaste for songs that are needlessly complicated or overly jammy, I think the song is an interesting mash-up of styles, with just a slightly unconventional structure...but, perhaps it will have to stay in my solo catalog...

Have a great weekend everybody, and don't let the haters bring you down!

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

War Story Wednesday: Improvise, Adapt, Overcome

So I really do want to write an essay-style post about my personal experiences with female service members and my outlook on women in the military in general. Still, it is a difficult topic for me, on which I am emotionally conflicted. I'll work on organizing my thoughts, outlining what exactly I am trying to say, and get it written up in the near future.

For now, I was thinking about doing something topical, though hopefully not too politically divisive. In the final presidential debate this past Monday night, one of the topics discussed was military spending, with Romney advocating for increased defense spending and Obama pressing his view that it is unnecessary. Romney's contention is that in an increasingly unstable world, with the U.S. apparently stuck in the role of world police, our military needs to be even larger, stronger, and better equipped. Obama in turn spoke to a change in the nature of modern warfare and emphasized the efficient use of resources to obtain the maximum capabilities at the least cost.

This reminded me of the make-do attitude prevalent throughout the Marine Corps. Almost from the beginning of its creation, the Marine Corps has been a target for critics as unnecessary, outdated, or redundant. As a result, Marines get far less funding than other branches, often relying on Army 'hand-me-down' equipment and vehicles. I found these charts to help make my point:

First, we have a breakdown of the composition of the military by branch:

A little bit out of date, but if anything, the size of the Marine Corps has decreased since 2007. I believe the figures I heard recently were drawing down the total end-strength of the active-duty and reserve component of the USMC from roughly 220,000 to 190,000 Marines, roughly. I think the other branches may have had force reductions recently as well, but the ratio is probably the same.

Now, here is a breakdown of military spending by branch; notice that the Marine Corps funding comes from the portion allotted to the Navy:
A quick division problem shows us that the Marine Corps' $24.9 Billion makes up a paltry 4.8% of the $515.4 Billion in total military spending. So, while the Marines make up 14% of our total armed forces, they receive less than 5% of the money. How does that work out? Because Marines pride themselves on doing more with less. I mentioned army-hand-down equipment: The M1A1 Abrams tank was the deadliest and most survivable tank the world had ever seen when it first came into use by the U.S. Army, though the Marines didn't get them until a few years later. Since then, a newer version, the M1A2, has replaced the older version in the Army. Not so for the Marines, who have inherited the old army tanks. And, rather than buy brand new M1A2 tanks from the manufacturer, the Marines did an extensive maintenance overhaul to keep their tanks in top form (known as 'Service Life Extension Program', or SLEP). 

More recently, I saw the Commandant of the Marine Corps (their top man and representative to the Joint Chiefs of Staff) talking about prioritizing new Marine Corps spending in light of reduced budgets, around the time of the debt-ceiling debacle. During my time in the 'Corps, the hot new vehicle in development was the Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle, a replacement for the aging fleet of amtracks. Even though this new vehicle was the stated number one ground-combat priority, the Commandant voluntarily recommended that the program be cancelled. While there was pressure to reduce all military spending, since the EFV program was the Marine's highest priority, they could have kept it. But, it was already starting to run over-budget, and the Commandant instead opted to put off developing a new amphibious assault vehicle while in the meantime the current amtracks, you guessed it, got a service-life extension re-fit. 

If the Marines, the Few and the Proud, can get so much done with so little...if they can be so few, and get fewer dollars still, yet remain proud...maybe the rest of the military could try as well?

Thursday, October 18, 2012

The Cat Attack Continues

Isn't she just precious? She sure is! And very silly, too:
But how is she getting along with her cat-uncle, the notoriously ornery Rowdy? Well, they certainly enjoy playing together:
 How do the gruff old tom and the new tiny terror do outside of playtime? Pretty good...
I think that's enough cuteness to get anyone through the second-to-last workday this week!

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

War Story Wednesday: A Few Good WOMEN

For today's installment of War Story Wednesday, I wanted to address another disturbing occurrence that I personally observed: the treatment of women in the military (and the Marine Corps, specifically). Now, I have some specific anecdotes I could share...but I got distracted from writing my post, and now that the day is going on...I don't feel up to getting into it.

Rather, for now, I wanted to point out a couple of non-personal items relating to women in the military:
  1. First, I hope everyone out there understands that the nature of the two recent 'wars' has necessitated the involvement of female service members in an unprecedented way. Due to the quick overthrow of the governments in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the resultant lengthy and turbulent occupations, women served on the front lines in a direct way like never before. Many of these brave women were near the action so that they could be close at hand in the event that a female Iraqi/Afghan needed to be searched. 
  2. Unfortunately, this was because of the enemy's willingness (sometimes even preference) to use women as suicide bombers. Although, I think that this was a rarer occurrence than it was hyped to be.  For example, there have been over 160 suicide bombings in Israel since the year 2000, only 8 of which were women. In Iraq specifically, an intelligence report showed that female suicide bombers were mainly used to assassinate specific individuals.
  3.  As a result, female Marine Corps officers will be attending Infantry Officers Course at Quantico, for the first time ever. One of my college professors, himself a former Marine officer, expressed his mixed feelings on the matter to me. His hesitation, shared by many, is the potential danger of female soldiers and Marines serving on the front lines being wounded or killed. Before you fly off and call him a condescending patriarchal male control freak and declare that women should be able to decide for themselves, it isn't simply the 'patriarchal male protective instinct' skewing the opinions of guys like him. It is the idea that most decent men are instinctively more protective of a wounded female than a wounded male, and, are more likely to freeze up or break down at the death of a female than a male comrade. My professor's hesitation was especially aimed at the idea of infantry units being under the command of a female officer; again, I know it sound patronizing and bad, but let me explain a bit more on his behalf. He was worried that a unit under the command of a woman would be much more likely to fall apart if their female commander were wounded or killed. At the risk of inviting feminist wrath onto myself (a statement that itself is likely to incite said wrath - sorry ladies, it's true), I have to say that I agree with him to a point. I know that there was only one female operating from my base in Iraq who was killed, and I spoke with her exactly once, but when I heard about her death...well, I was totally shaken. I remember her name: PFC Steele, from the Army National Guard. I don't remember the names of any of the guys from my base who were killed, even though there were 8 from my own battalion and several more from a supporting unit serving with us. Okay, I guess that is sexist? Go ahead and tell me how I am part of the problem...
  4. To end the list on a positive note, I recently discovered the facebook group "U.S. Marine Corps Females". I am a huge fan, because it isn't an exclusive group only for the Women Marines themselves, it just celebrates the idea of women being Marines, and the Marine Corps in general. Semper Fi, my sisters!
Overall, I have the utmost respect, pride, and brotherly/sisterly love for my comrades of the female persuasion. There are just a lot of problems that go along with it, though yes, the majority of the problems are spawned by indecent men. The kind of jock-bro men's men who view their sisters-in-arms as merely a less-capable soldier/sailor/air(man)/Marine, placing them at risk with their girlie-airheaded incompetence, good for little else than sex - "but she'll probably claim it was rape just to be a bitch." I think that prejudiced assholes like that should be made to serve on a "don't-ask-don't-tell" policy; I won't ask you if you're a total dickhead, and you don't act like one. 

Maybe next time I'll actually get a little more into my personal examples...

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

A Little Lower than Literature...

...but still some great reads!

I've been reading a fair amount lately, as the written word can be so wholly-engrossing, to keep my brain stimulated and to help lighten my heavy heart. I finally finished up Outlander, by Diana Gabaldon, about a World War II nurse mystically transported to 1700s Scotland. If I understand correctly, this is the book responsible for popularizing the literary genre of "time traveling romance." Well, it was pretty good, although it ended a bit abruptly and without satisfaction - no doubt to entice readers to grab its sequel, "Dragonfly in Amber". I am not so excited to start that book, as the friend who recommended the series to me is presently upset with me and being intentionally distant, so...I won't really have anyone to discuss the next novel with.

Also, I've gotten myself wrapped up in another series: the Sookie Stackhouse novels, by Charlaine Harris. These books, which are the basis for the popular HBO series "TrueBlood", are a quick and captivating read. Also, having seen three seasons of the television show, it is interesting to note the many differences. In a way, it is that rare example of the transition from page to screen adding more content instead of cutting this. A lot of it has to do with the narrative structure and first-person perspective of the novels; every book is told from the perspective of Sookie, so all of the scenes involving other characters that form the numerous subplots of the HBO series are either absent altogether or are mentioned in past-tense to Sookie. But overall, they are very enjoyable - vampires, shape-shifters, and telepaths - oh my!

Well, that is what I have been up to; that and writing a couple of new songs. I guess I'll get back to it. Hopefully I'll have a good Wednesday War Story to tell tomorrow, but in the meantime, I will be enjoying Sookie's vampiric escapades.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Cat Attack Thursday!

Look at these cuties! 

On the left we have the elder Frankish statesman: Anri Rowdy les Chat,

 on the right, his darling young Latin cat-niece: Lilliana Bella las Gato.

  They are getting along fairly well, even maintaining civility at mealtime:
I'll have to keep the camera handy and snap some of photos of their cuteness in action, come playtime...

Friday, October 5, 2012

Friday Unrelated Information: Choose Wisely

This Friday night, there are no less than three (3!) events competing for my attendance:

1. The violinist from Genre Zero has taken up with an additional band, the gypsy ensemble "Juana Ghani". They are playing a show tonight at Fats Grill. Support our fiddler! And also, maybe, ask her about that certain alt-rock band that she plays in...

2. I've been volunteering on weekends with a friend, Angela Romero, who is running for the Utah State House of Representatives. Tonight, she is hosting a fundraiser/birthday party, with a 'roaring twenties' theme. The theme was explained to me as stemming from the fact that her home district is #26, so throw on your best zoot suit (isn't that from the twenties? Or more like the thirties? Oh well), shiny dancing does, and tear it up with SLC's moving-and-shaking young democrats. At the Frida Bistro/Rico Warehouse

3. It's the 'First Friday' of the month, and that means that the monthly community gathering is going on in the garden under the billboard, AKA Urban Growth Community Garden. This is probably where I will actually end up, as it is just a few blocks down the street. Also, I am curious to see if those hooligans will come back!

Have a great weekend, and be sure to check back next week for the return of "War Story Wednesday"!

Thursday, October 4, 2012

We Interrupt This Regularly-Scheduled Broadcast... bring you a kitty!
I brought her home from the shelter on Tuesday, and she has hardly stopped purring since! It was kind of meant to be; I went looking for a smaller 8-week-old kitten, but the one I was looking at was taken. Curiously, while I was looking at the younger kitties, this slightly older black one in the next cage over was mewing at me. When they told me that the small gray guy I was holding had already been adopted, and was just awaiting pickup, I then went over to this little gal's cage to check her out...and she cautiously crept to my outstretched hand...then started enthusiastically loving on me! We totally bonded then, and I knew that I just had to have her...

...I've since named her Lily, and she's been following me around the house, only pausing her demands for petting and cuddling to eat, sleep, and explore. She's even been getting along great with our old-man kitty, Rowdy. We were worried he might feel that he was being 'replaced', but just this morning they were laying on the same chair, and he was grooming her!

Say it with me now: "AWWWWW!"

Friday, September 28, 2012

Friday Unrelated Information

1. Last night Mom, Frog, and I sang karaoke at Pipa's Asian Tapas Bar. If you haven't been to Pipa, you are really missing out. They've won the City Weekly "Best of Utah" award for best Asian fusion, and it is well deserved. From standards like BBQ pork and lettuce wraps, to exotic dishes with shark and eel, Pipa is hands-down the best 'chinese food' I have ever ingested. You're life is sorely lacking if you haven't experience the culinary masterstroke of their Snowball Shrimp. The new karaoke night, Thursdays from 7-10pm, is a lot of fun too. I tore up The Cars' "Just What I Needed," Mom nailed "I Will Survive," and Frog even stepped up to do an especially accurate rendition of Garth Brooks' "Friends in Low Places".

2. Tonight, Genre Zero is putting on a very special dinner show at Sun and Moon Cafe. What is it that is going to make this show special? We're going to break out all of our current material, and maybe even a few of the newer songs that we've been working out. Also between our two whole-band sets our bassist, the legendary Remodel Man, will be performing a solo acoustic set. Following that, I'll be dusting off a few of my most personal and poignant songs, before the band rejoins me to crank out our dazzling electric set.

3. Though I don't attend any more, that doesn't mean that you shouldn't stop by The Peoples' Market this Sunday, for their annual Animal Appreciation Day. This has been one of the most enjoyable days at the market in past years, featuring dogs and cats up for adoption, various animal advocacy groups, and the pets of vendors and customers alike. Perhaps if a certain someone has cooled off enough to no longer consider my mere presence an act of harassment (as the police advised it could be construed - hence my lack of participation in the market this summer), I might even stop by briefly, as I am looking to adopt a kitten...

Have a great weekend everybody!

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

War Story Wednesday: It's Not so Simple...

For this week's installment of War Story Wednesday, I wanted to elaborate on my previous description of the small-mindedness and naked aggression often present in the military, and to offer a counterpoint to some of the responses I received. The feedback I received regarding the write-up from last week, while thankfully free of any hateful personal attacks against myself, was entirely one-sided and also overly simplified. I would hope that by offering my (few) readers a deeper insight into my own wartime experiences, and by extension the military culture and lifestyle in general, they might be inspired to engage their peers in an informed dialogue. This same hope was one reason why, during my street performances this summer, my guitar case displayed a sign reading: "Iraq War Veteran Musician - ON TOUR - tips greatly appreciated!" The other reasons for the sign were more selfish in nature, namely the possibility that pedestrians who might otherwise pass by would see the sign and instead stop to listen, and perhaps be more willing to leave tips. The sign worked: one listener, who I can only assume was a veteran himself, left me a $12 tip! However a rival busker, already upset that I had arrived early and taken "the best spot in town", saw the sign and seized on it as a point of contention. I had the suspicion that he was just trying to run me off, but he was a Vietnam-era veteran himself, and he hostilely questioned me as to what being a veteran had to do with music. I tried to explain to him that my identity as a veteran is just as important to me and as relevant as the identity of being a musician; many of my songs are specifically inspired by either my own service (such as my love-letter to the stateside base where I spent most of my enlistment), the inspirational service of others ("Folded Flag", an older recording of a song written when my friends were deploying yet again while I was left behind), or the aftermath (the previously mentioned tribute to Dan Lessig). He finally left in disgust, calling me "low" and "shameful". In the moment, shocked by my accuser's bitter recriminations, I forgot to tell him what I have said here - that I aspire to keep the cost of the recent wars in the public consciousness, to keep the dialogue going, and to help people better understand the veterans that they know.

What I am trying to get across with the story of the accosting busker is an illustration of the intent behind these long-winded, emotionally exhausting, and sometimes scathing posts. What I am not trying to do is merely glorify myself, show off, say "look how cool I am and look at all the bad-ass stuff that I did". Honestly, I didn't really do anything 'bad-ass'; I was a truck-driver, and not a very good one. When I told the story of preventing the beatings that my fellows desperately wanted to mete out to civilian detainees, I wasn't trying to put myself above anyone, nor was I fishing for compliments or sympathy. Rather I was trying to present my view of what happened, how I handled it, and how it continues to effect me.

Further, while I did not condone and certainly continue to oppose unnecessary violence, I do understand where the anger was coming from. My deployment was fairly representative, I think, of what the vast majority of our troops experienced during the majority of their deployments. That is, long periods of boredom punctuated by short periods of extremely grueling and physically demanding work, all under the shadow of seemingly unending mortar and rocket attacks and the looming unseen threat of roadside bombs. Of the entire reenforced battalion stationed at our forward base, only a handful of Marines ever even laid eyes on a known insurgent who was actively engaged in hostilities. Rather, mortars land inside the wire, the Quick Reaction Force rolls out to investigate...and find abandoned mortar tubes, if anything. Convoys and combat patrols range the freeways night and day, often without event, sometimes spotting IEDs which Explosive Ordnance Disposal comes out to defuse, and sometimes they miss those IEDs...usually with no enemy to retaliate against. Intelligence operatives spend weeks gathering information and cultivating informants, only for the raid mission to inadvertently search the wrong town.

So...I fully understand the anger and frustration, the ceaseless fear and stress, and the feeling that here they are, we have them...this is the enemy! We've finally got them in our grasp! Only most of the time, it is just not that simple...

Echo-Four-India, out

Monday, September 24, 2012

Do A Good Turn Daily

My preferred routine for writing this blog, typing it up earlier in the day following the first few cups of coffee,  was interrupted this morning by heading out to do a good deed. Frog and I had gotten word over the weekend that our close family friend was having car trouble - specifically, her sturdy grandma van wasn't starting. The problem had been ongoing, and even after getting a jump from our godly mutual friend, the battery would not hold a charge. 

She had planned to take the van to a mechanic, asking us only for a jump and a ride in to work. However, after looking the van over, we gauged that the most likely cause was simply a bad battery. We went ahead and gave her the ride to work, removed the old battery, and installed a new one. The Voyager roared its return to the realm of running automobiles, and I drove it over to the HUD apartment complex she manages. 

This lady is pretty selfless - working extra unpaid hours each week to go above and beyond in aid of the complex's mostly refugee population - and it was my pleasure to help her out this morning. I am an Eagle Scout, after all, and the 'scout slogan' is "do a good turn daily". Consider today covered!

Friday, September 21, 2012

Friday Illogical Ideations

1. I believe in ghosts, but not in the way you might expect. I think that when we actively remember a person who has passed, the chemicals and electricity in our brains making up the thoughts and memories related to that person form the 'ghost'. When we are faced with a decision and contemplate how the deceased would have handled it, or draw upon an inspirational person who is no longer living, that is the ghost 'speaking' to us. I know, kind of strange, but I am a strange person I guess. One of the songs I do, Shut Your Mouth, is my abrasive tribute to a fallen classmate and fellow veteran whose death was mocked and used as fodder for gossip by many of our more immature and insensitive peers; I like to think that live performances of this song are a kind of seance.

2. I've been struggling lately to find a good balance between promoting my music and being a pushy, tiresome, overly zealous used car salesman. On the one hand, if I do nothing to 'push' the tunes on people, no one is going to hear them. On the other, I have had a fair amount of people on the dreary facebook get upset at me for inviting them to all of our shows, and especially for posting about the shows on their profile. Ashlee"Pay attention to my blog that's all about promiscuous sex and my eating disorder so I can feel better about myself"Raggle even called me an internet troll and un-friended me because I 'shared' a couple of our show pages on her facebook wall. It's my belief that as an artist I have a bit more leeway that the average huckster. That is what I consider my music - art. I do like to have a good time when playing, and I hope the audience does, but I go to great lengths to write meaningful lyrics, and I aspire to write interesting, creative, worthwhile music as well. For me it is about something very different than just shaking asses, impressing babes with swagger, and getting free drinks.

3. In the same vein at the previous item, I have often been accused (lately even more so) of taking myself, life, and generally everything too seriously. I am constantly being told to lighten up, take it easy, get a thicker skin, not to worry about things, to stop making a big deal out of it, et cetera, etc. There have been some situations that were supremely frustrating, because these were things that I felt really deserved to be 'taken seriously', yet my carefree companions kept to their lackadaisical disposition and continued to encouraged me to do the same. A prime example: several months back while on a weekend shooting trip, the guys were doing several things that violate the four basic weapons safety rules, and when I stopped them to give them some instruction, they kept interrupting me with funny anecdotes about shooting accidents...all while they continued to wave their guns around with fingers on the trigger (although I had made them unload prior to my safety lecture). Now I am not trying to lay judgement on those dudes, I certainly wasn't trying to ruin their fun, and one of them did eventually speak up on my behalf and helped to reign in the others. But it was my strong impression that when I insisted on shutting down the shooting to give them a safety talk, they were thinking something like "Oh god, here he goes again. I've handled guns a lot before, why can't he just lighten up?" But seriously - that is how people get accidentally shot! Oh well...I am probably just over thinking all of this and taking it all too seriously.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

War Story Wednesday: Still Catching Hell...

I was up at the VA Medical Center yesterday, and while waiting to see a doctor who was unfortunately unaware of my appointment, I struck up a conversation with a fellow Iraq veteran. For the most part, our chat followed the typical model for these kinds of casual introductions: what branch did you serve with (mine is of course the Marines, his the Army), what was your Military Occupational Specialty (MOS - mine being motor transport/LVS operator, he claimed 'recon'), where you deployed, etc. However, when he initiated the obligatory trading of war stories, I was painfully reminded of why I don't generally seek out my fellow veterans or have many veteran friends. What with his being infantry, and belonging to a scout platoon, he had much more exposure than I did to actual combat. Or, at least he claimed to - I'm not trying to call the man a liar, but, when I meet younger veterans from the Army they all claim to have been some kind of sniper, ranger, special forces, or otherwise deadly bad ass. Where are all of the Army truckers, cooks, and engineers? I know that the Army is big, but, they certainly aren't all snipers...

Anyway, in an attempt to find common ground, I truthfully stated that most of the 'action' I saw was in the form of raids - missions to seek out and capture potential enemies or disrupt suspected insurgent activity, based on either human intelligence (i.e. information proffered by informants), or less frequently as the result of hostile behavior observed first-hand by friendly forces. The Army vet happily volunteered that he had been a party to many raids, taking many prisoners, and was also quite happy to share the brutal manner in which he and his unit handled said detainees:

"Yeah, we'd lock 'em down, zip-tie and blindfold or bag 'em, kick the shit out of them - a little or a lot, you know it depends man; maybe get our translator to interrogate 'em some, if we thought they were lying we might kick 'em in the ribs or maybe just slap 'em around a little. Then we'd pile all their dirty asses in the back of a humvee..."
Now, I would have been mildly appalled by his description, except that I've been 'over there' and seen this go on myself, many times. One of my earliest missions was a late-night raid to an isolated homestead that was suspected of producing Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs). Now, I'll admit that it was kind of cool and very exciting the way our vehicles swept down and surrounded the compound, an assault team breaching the door and tossing in flashbangs (stun grenades, for the uninitiated) before securing the main house. Word flew quickly that we had indeed found what we came for: a whole bomb-factory setup. However in reality the search had turned up no guns (save one pistol for which the owner produced a license) and no bombs, but, a substantial length of wiring. The 'wiring' uncovered in the search consisted of a spool of telephone cord and a box of cut and crumpled wires, loose wiring terminals, and phone jacks. I want to stress that this is not something that came to me after the fact as hearsay; the infantry platoon commander had me setting up my truck to transport detainees and so I was right there when the results of the search were relayed to him. I saw the single pistol; I saw the box of wires. I was right there when the interpreter questioned the compound's head Iraqi male, who stated that he and his family had been wiring their house for phone service.

Here is where it starts to get a little disturbing.

Deciding to err on the side of caution, all of the males except one old man were to be detained and taken back to our base to be questioned more thoroughly by our battalion intel shop and the Human Exploitation Team (HET), so those males not already zip-tied and blindfolded were prepped and loaded into my truck. Two of the infantry Marines were chosen to ride in the back with the detainees, the platoon commander explaining that there had been instances of prisoners escaping by jumping out of moving vehicles. The infantry Marines chosen were somewhat upset by their assignment, expressing their concern over the filth and stench of the Iraqis and worried that they might 'get pissed on'. Someone, I don't remember who exactly, assuaged their trepidation by encouraging them to deal with their discomfort by beating the detainees. Further, I was instructed by the two infantrymen to make it a rough ride. Having finished the loading, our vehicles assembled and drove back to Camp Korean Village. I am ashamed to say that I went along with the excitement of my assistant driver and gunner, hitting every pothole in the road, slamming on the brakes when the convoy slowed, and making abrupt jarring turns...while we guffawed like madmen and cracked jokes about the pathetic natives that were our cargo. When we arrived, the situation turned from unpleasant to downright awful.

The rest of the vehicles from the raid proceeded to the 'fuel farm' to top their tanks while I drove my truck over to the camp's small detention center. We were met by the detention NCOIC, a Staff Sergeant that I didn't know, who showed the guards who had ridden in back and myself how to get the detainees down from the truck bed; MTVR 7-tons are rather large and even without being handcuffed and blindfolded one can have difficulties dismounting. We unloaded the first detainee by having him sit on the edge of the bed while a Marine on either side supported his legs and back and lowered him to the ground. The Staff Sergeant then demonstrated proper detainee handling: with one hand on the zip-tie cuffs and another firmly on the arm, the detainee is sort of 'pushed' along, given a nudge to indicate any steps up or down. However, this Staff Sergeant took twisted pleasure in his job: he guided the first detainee to the detention center steps, but didn't nudge him in preparation, letting him fall on his face as he tripped over the step. He helped the detainee up, but at the next step, gave him a vicious knee to the back of his thigh, yelling "STEP UP!"directly in the man's ear. Upon reaching the detention building, the Staff Sergeant purposely tried to shove the detainee through the doorway off-center, ramming the man's left arm into the door frame. He did this repeatedly, each time screaming at the detainee "GO THROUGH THE DOOR, STUPID! GO THROUGH THE DOOR, STUPID! YOU'RE TOO FUCKING DUMB TO EVEN WALK THROUGH A DOOR!" The infantry Marines on guard detail found this highly amusing, each rendering their own variations of the Staff Sergeant's performance, further humiliating and battering the Iraqis - who each emerged from my truck with conspicuously fresh blood and bruises not present when I had loaded them in. When we had unloaded about half the detainees, the Staff Sergeant approached me with a maniacal grin, asking me enthusiastically "hey, you wanna take this one?" as we lowered him down out of the truck. I obliged, but I did it the right way: with a firm grasp to maintain dominance and discourage resistance, but without brutality. After I had escorted the Iraqi into his cell, the Staff Sergeant actually berated me for not being rougher with the "terrorist rag-head". I passive-aggressively refused to help after that, with the excuse that I badly needed to take a piss. When the unloading was finally, mercifully  over, the infantry Marines and my gunner left the assistant driver and myself to return the truck to the motor pool. As the assistant driver walked out in front of the truck, guiding me back to the staging area, I started to cry...until I sucked it up, pushing those thoughts waaaay down and out of my mind; better to bottle it up for later than let it overwhelm me in the present, when I still had the majority of my deployment to muddle through. It was then, as I wiped the tears away and choked down the sobs, that I started to acquire the hard resolve that results in the fabled "Thousand-Yard Stare".

Back to my conversation with the Army vet: I actually didn't relay the above story to him. I told him about a later raid wherein we drove through the night to search an entire small village, but upon arriving shortly after dawn, the Captain in command of the mission realized we were about fifty miles too far north and consequently at the wrong village. Figuring that we had lost the element of surprise, and that the time it would take to drive the fifty miles to the correct village would allow insurgents there to flee or otherwise cover up their activity, he decided to go ahead and search to village we were at anyway. It was an all-day affair, the women and children separated from the men, and the men questioned one at a time. While the infantry searched each building, and the intel boys interviewed each detainee in turn, us motor transport Marines were tasked with keeping vigil over the males awaiting their turn to be questioned. I told the Army vet (omitting the previous story above and how the barbarous handling of civilians had so impacted me) that my fellows had wanted to brutalize this set of detainees, but that what with it being the wrong village, I intervened and stopped them. To which he replied, with an incredulous look:

"Why the fuck did you do that? They're all the same over there, fucking scum. They all deserve a beating..."
 While he halfheartedly accepted my reasoning that the village was not our intended target and the search revealed no contraband, I could tell from his expression and the changed tone of our conversation that he had lost any respect for me. This isn't the first time I've ruined a fellow veteran's perception of myself with this story, but, at least this guy didn't call me a faggot or a pussy. So I can be thankful for that. 

Still, it discourages me from being involved with my veteran peers when I am still catching hell for behavior that they perceive at best as simply 'being soft', or at worst as 'aiding the enemy'. I want to make the distinction, though, that 'detainees' are NOT the same thing as 'prisoners'. A detainee is a civilian who is, for whatever reason, merely detained for some period of time so as to be questioned - comparable to the difference between one who is taken in for police questioning and one who is sentenced to prison. In both the raids I've described, no outright damning evidence was found to incriminate the Iraqis, nor were they captured whilst involved in an action against friendly forces. In the case of the earlier raid, with the telephone wiring, I found out later that further investigation confirmed their account of wiring the house for telephone service. In fact, most of the phone cables found in their compound were a type not really suitable for wiring artillery shells into IEDs. The second raid I described, on the wrong village, turned up no weapons, no explosives, and no practical intelligence. None of the males that were questioned were further detained - everyone was released at the end of the day as we left the village. Imagine how we would have turned that village against us if, in addition to disrupting their day, we had beaten and brutalized them? 

It is not "scared little bitches," as I've been formerly derided, that give the military a bad name - it is overly zealous, prejudice, indiscriminate meat-heads like the Army vet I spoke with yesterday. And one last idea along that point: it has been my experience that people who eagerly present themselves as "recon" or "S.F." or "sniper", who indulgently talk up how many they've killed, and like to use words like "bitch," "pussy," and "faggot" to describe everyone who doesn't fit their idea of 'manly'...they are probably lying. Everyone I've known that is legitimately some form of warrior elite is haunted by the lives they've taken, speaking about it only with great difficulty, with the purpose of illuminating the horror of war rather than glorifying their own person. 

But who knows, maybe that Army vet from yesterday isn't a liar...maybe he's just a sociopath?

Monday, September 17, 2012

Monday Musical Madness

As they say in Utah, oh my heck! The show at Urban Lounge was easily our best yet, owing much to a greatly improved violin rig and a deft setup by the house's sound man. In case you were wondering, our fiddler used the pickup I got in Tucson and played through our drummer's amp, which was miked along with everything else and fed through the house PA. Other factors contributing to the high quality of the sound included miking the drums (the kick in particular), and the best monitor setup we've played through yet. Every member of the band had their own dedicated monitor wedge, and the engineer made specific mixes for each of us. For example: the drums and bass had mostly each other in their respective monitors, the makings of a tight rhythm section, while I had a little bit of everything and a lot of my own mic. I can't stress enough how great the sound was on stage; pretty much every other show I've played has found me straining to hear the band, and especially my place in it. In the past I haven't been able to hear my voice, resulting in my pushing it too far, hurting my throat and the audience's ears. Thank you so much, Urban Lounge, for your professional stage and sound!

We weren't the only ones who benefited from the exceptional audio. The bluesy band that followed us, Candy's River House, sounded just like the gun-slinging pros that they are. The Wild Ones, seeming to disregard the owner/soundman's concerns about recent noise complaints and excessive stage volume, blasted the crowd with a sonic assault more evocative of a festival or stadium than a nightclub. The next group was an amalgamation of recent transplant Ammon Waters, who was releasing a single, and The Red on Black, and they sounded great as well. Everyone involved had a good time, sounded great, and even got a little bit of pay.

While I am beginning my job search in earnest today, I am also going to continue working on my home recoding projects. Last week, on the eleventh anniversary of "9/11", I recorded and posted some of my songs relating to my military experience. There are several more, and I'd like to get them polished to a high sonic sheen, with hopes of releasing them this coming Veterans Day in November. Also in the works is a bumping, thumping, sardonic punk song to be performed with The Wild Ones' energetically bad-ass singer. Stay tuned for a demo!

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

War Story Wednesday: Panic! at the Garden

What with yesterday being the eleventh anniversary of 'September 11th', it is taking a great deal of my willpower to resist flying off the handle and writing out a manic diatribe indicting all of the people who pay lip service to 'the troops' and tragedy to make it look like they care. So, instead, I will share an anecdote from my recent life that can perhaps give you some insight into why I get so incised and consumed with the desire to go on mouth-foaming rants.

Last week, at the monthly First Friday 'community gathering' (because wine-fueled hippie party doesn't have quite the same ring), some hooligans used the giant sunflowers surrounding the garden as cover to lob apples into the crowd. Maybe they were just some teenagers getting kicks but the community garden there has been the target of some criticism lately regarding said giant sunflowers obstructing sight lines, making the intersection unsafe for motorists, so I suspect perhaps these were aggressively shitty and spectacularly immature activist cowards. The first time that their projectile produce came down on the crowd, I thought perhaps ripe apples were merely falling naturally from a tree. When one hit me in the shoulder, with a clearly thrown-not-falling trajectory, I realized that there is no apple tree in the garden.

Now, I am all for shenanigans, tomfoolery, and semi-illegal, good, clean fun. But when I was the only one actually hit with a projectile, and no one else around me even noticed, I felt like a target under indirect fire. Now, as my fellow veterans of that certain hostile-takeover-but-its-not-about-the-oil can surely attest, indirect fire was a near-constant occurrence that became very unnerving over time. Sure, the further one gets into a deployment, the less they seek cover when mortars come flying into their base. But the constant harassing attacks, by an unseen enemy that you are unable to return fire on, cause a lot of frustration and feelings of helplessness. It was that frustration, and also the fact that everyone around me was oblivious to the incoming fruit bombs, that made me acutely feel my differences from 'normal' people.

I felt suddenly like the butt of a very cruel joke, that not only had I been assaulted via food, but that if I made others aware of what had happened, they would merely reprimand me for being uptight - which some asshole did when I informed the hostess what had happened. It is this kind of thing that I have to deal with all the time - not just the panic attacks, the subtle flashbacks, the difficulty in social interactions that stems from an acute knowledge of mortality and human frailty - no, it isn't just that, or the difficulties other people have relating to it. It is the constant stream of condescending claims that people do understand and care, the laughter that erupts when an unexpected BANG sends me sprawling onto the ground, and worst of all - that people see me react to being threatened and then somehow jump to the conclusion that I am dangerous.

If you really want to 'support the troops' how about taking down your yellow ribbon sticker, and instead, just be in your veterans' lives without trying to fix them. Thank you, that is all.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Are You Ready to Rock?

Our good friends The Wild Ones hooked us up with this show; in fact, they were originally going to have us headline, but circumstances changed and now we'll be opening. I'm not complaining - Urban Lounge is one of the hottest venues in town, and, our mostly middle-aged-working-stiff fanbase will be more likely to see us if we play earlier in the evening. Doors open at 9:00, we'll go on around 9:30. Not sure what the cover charge is, but I assume there is one. While I assume that we won't get a piece of it,  the more people who show up and pay early in the night will help us look good. The same talent buyers run Kilby Court, and we'll probably get more promotional backing for our upcoming show there if we make a good impression this Thursday. Hope to see you there!

Monday, September 10, 2012

Monday Methuselahn Musings

So I've mentioned my affinity for Vampires before, from reading about them in the novels of Anne Rice to role playing them in Vampire: The Masquerade. What I have not revealed until now is that in my strange brain, the mythical immortal bloodsucker functions as a great analogy for how I perceive myself and my close friends in relation to all of the human masses. Sounding weird? It goes like this:
  • Vampires are forever mourning and trying to reclaim their lost humanity, to the point of becoming 'more human than human', loving more deeply and feeling loss more keenly than mere mortals. While I have not (yet) been accosted in a dark alley, drained of my vitae, and doomed to a life of eternal hunger and darkness...I have experienced a few major tragedies which have left me feeling, at times, distant from the happily well adjusted masses.
  • Preternatural senses are usually attributed to vampires, ranging from merely heightened human sight and hearing all the way up to near god-like omniscience via telepathy. I have often been accused of being hyper-sensitive, usually with a negative connotation, but I believe this to be one of my greatest strengths and the source of my artistic insight.
  • Another common ability of vampires across folklore and fiction is the ability to hypnotize or otherwise influence humans. This is a bit of a stretch, but I feel like I sometimes 'hypnotize' (or at least thoroughly confound) people with my music, or more simply when I turn on the charm.
  • Being powerful immortals, fueling their great power by literally sucking the life out of others, these are creatures possessed of great physical strength. While I am not going to win any weight-lifting contests, in moments of distress or anger I am able to summon up a level of strength far beyond what my small body would suggest. Just ask my friends: you are probably only going to snap me with a towel or engage in some other variation of 'grab-ass' with me once, because doing so will bring down my altogether frightening and surprising wrath.
  • Finally, vampires are usually depicting as being very well dressed, albeit in an old school way. While I am not clinging to the styles of old in an attempt to stay connected to a former existence in a bygone era, I do embrace the classics of style, and look with disdainful pity on those who get swept up in the passing trends.
Now, I want to be clear - I am not delusional, I don't desire to consume blood, nor do I (ultimately) believe that I am really all that different or better than anyone else. Rather, I believe that The Vampire is a relatable monster...a character with which I am able to consistently identify. At least the sexy, stylish, beautifully-tortured-soul kind, lamenting each kill while simultaneously acknowledging that nature is a far deadlier mistress.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Finally...Friday Unrelated Information

1. All of us big-time gaming nerds let out a string of collective "ooohs!" and "ahhhs!" a while back when this video of a life-size Warhammer 40,000 Rhino APC made the rounds. Created as a promotional item for the PC game Dawn of War II, this 'model' is actually a functional vehicle. Now, while seeing one of our tiny toys enlarged to human scale is plenty cool in itself, imagine how much cooler it would be to see this tank engage in a demolition derby with some similarly life-sized xenos vehicles. Well, that geek's wet dream may make the transition from our imaginations to the plane of physical reality sooner than expected. Madd Matt recently returned from Burning Man 2012 to report that this year saw a new theme camp added to the party on the Playa: Warhammer 40,000 Orks, replete with madly-engineered 'wartrukks' and 'warbuggies', green body paint, and trophy Ultramarine heads. While he wasn't able to get any photos, and we've yet to track any down online, I believe that Space Marines and Orks will be staging full-scale mock-battles in just a few short years. Keep your eyes on You-Tube!

2. I am now back home in SLC. Tuesday night, Genre Zero practiced for the first time in over two months, and while we a were all definitely rusty, it was a great relief that no one had outright forgotten songs. We've got several shows coming up, stay tuned for specifics. Also, I showed the band two new songs that I finished while on the road. I was able to record some partial demos with Mr. Bombs (who is thankfully out of the hospital and doing better than ever) which I plan to finish up over the weekend. I've rearranged the loft the create a cool home studio space. Check it out:
It's kind of set up in stations. From left to right: the "Leads & Overdubs" station at the desk has my first instrument ever, a crazy Yamaha keyboard with synth-style controls for custom sound-sculpting, the center is the "Control Station" with the mixer, monitors, and laptop, and on the right would be the "Main/Rhythm" area with digital piano. Okay, so I know it is silly to think that my little music area is cool and any kind of 'studio'...but it IS cool and it is the best studio I've got at the moment.

3. I know that this made the internet rounds a long, long time ago, but John Waters is still right.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

War Story Wednesday: Chicken VS Turtle

 If you have been around chickens, you know that in the picture below, the chicken is giving the turtle "the one eye", prompting the little reptilian to retreat into his shell:

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Cat Attack Tuesday!

There exists no better blues-banishing companion, perhaps, than adorable and adoring cats.
 You know them, you love them, Eva & Gabby just can't help but love to rock. I guess they learned from Mr. Bombs! Although, it just might be that these speakers are carpeted and make an epic indoor cat tower:
...And sensing my emotional state like a cat-yoda (which she is), Gertrude snuggled with me right through the crisis hours:
You have my frank and sincere thanks, faithful felines!

Saturday, August 18, 2012

"It'll Pass Away in a Slow Parade..."

Well. A lot has been going on, and none of it particularly good. I won't go into too much detail, as I have neither the time nor presumption to explain everything. The short version is: Mr. Bombs is in the hospital. That is the big thing. A smaller bummer would be that my second show in Lincoln fell through.

So I am going to just go ahead and declare the "Greyhound Runaround Vaca-tour" OVER.

"...that's leaving, I just don't know how soon."

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

War Story Wednesday: In the Trenches of Rock

Well, there isn't much time so I'll explain it quickly: Above you can see the recording session for Secret Meetings. Below is a mixing process to get the basic tracks off of 4-track cassette and onto a digital recorder:
 Then tonight we are going over to record the vocals.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Thoroughly Rocked-Out Thursday

The full-on Rock'n'Roll schedule doesn't particularly lend itself to making regularly and timely blog posts, I've found. My days in Tucson this past week have generally started around noon, with a pretty consistent morning routine of coffee, cigarettes, and some combination of television and acoustic guitar practice. I'll start to get my act together around three or four in the afternoon, making calls and packing up gear, and head downtown anywhere from 5-7:00 PM. Then it is rock-out time for Mr. Bombs and I, or he'll have rehearsal with HAIRSPRAYFIREANDGIRLS...or maybe one of the other bands that share the practice space will have rehearsal. I've taken to calling the practice space the "Rock Office," "Office of Rocking Out," and other similarly silly epithets.

The photo above is of the band Secret Meetings, an excellent band featuring a husband/wife bassist/vocalist team and the HAIRSPRAY Joshes. Mister Bombs is going to be doing some recording for them this Saturday, and I'll get to play assistant engineer. The plan is to isolate the amps, so that a live recording of the whole band will have each instrument on a channel for mixing. Noah and I recorded takes of two of my songs that way, but we haven't really listened to them. Speaking of Noah and I rocking out, our show this past Sunday was incredible! The touring bands Olsen Twinns and Little Ruckus made the dance a party! The whole show was laid back, low key, and relaxed, but, also totally punk rock at the same time. Mister Bombs and I were very well received as the openers - the songs were much more rock than dance, but the all-ages audience of roughly twenty were into the music and took all of my remaining demos. Somehow, the touring incarnation of 'Genre Zero' (AKA: Me, playing under the band name which was made by Robb, the Doctor...of drums...the instrument being played by Mister Bombs, who is usually one of the best guitar players around and created some Fruity Loops, simple synth backup tracks that we played with for 2 songs) fit just right. Before the pop-punk-dance bands, Donut Shop Death (AKA: Mari Safari) played a set of frosted-flake-level g-g-great punk songs, like I am talking Weezer-level good. She also used a backtrack for her songs, prompting Mister Bombs to ask if she might want him as a drummer at her next show. Then Olsen Twinns and Little Ruckus taught us all about Sweat Power - go to their show and you can find out, too. To close the evening down, gracious host and undisputed most-enthusiastic-dancer Mullarkey retired some of his Run On Sunshine songs by performing them post-dance, outside in the misty sprinkles, and a-Capella. Awesomely great songs about cats and life in Austin MadMatt generously drove our gear and helped us with the load in-and-out. You remember his awesome bus, right:
There is a very 'artsy' panorama wherein the frames totally don't line up but, everyone who was there is in a frame: The Gals checking out the cool stuff taped up inside the bus in the blue, MaddMatt driving in the dark red, and me grimacing in a silly way that I meant to say "Party in the Bus"...but just looks scary. Tuesday after Geeks Who Drink, we all went to check out Matt's new pad:
Tonight, the Electric Blankets (who also share the practice space) are playing a benefit show / roast of Tyler, a friend of theirs who was jumped and beaten just a few blocks from 4th Avenue, the bar district in Tucson. He had several bones in his face broken, jaw split...all for telling some guys to leave a lady alone who was trying to tell them to get lost. Someone got mad at me when I was busking, and luckily I escaped a savage beating, but Tucson is a rough-and-tumble kind of town...

These kinds of shenanigans like rehearsing for shows, going to shows, playing in shows, hanging out with all my old friend in a party bus...well, they last until 3-4:00 AM, and sometimes I'll still be up for a bit after that. Hard to find time for the morning blog write-up when I am going to sleep looking at the sunrise...

Friday, August 3, 2012

Friday Unrelated Information

1. Tucson has this establishment, called "The Loft Cinema", that is the local indie theater. They also happen to serve beers that you can take into the movie, a la Brewvies in SLC. Tonight, a group of us are getting together to go to the late-night showing of High Fidelity. This film was highly influential on the young Mr. Bombs and myself, in fact it is probably the source of much of our music pretension and snobbery, and the book by Nick Hornby upon which it is based has been on my 'need to read' list for a long time. Maybe after tonight I'll be re-energized to seek said book out.

2. We've got a lot of work to do so that we will be ready to rock worlds at a show we're playing this Sunday at The Pound. We've been working hard at getting the songs really fine-tuned, getting our loop timing just right, and building some dancy-ness into the tunes. It is a live dance music show. Sunday at 7 at the Pound: better bring your dancing shoes.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

" put another dime in the juke box, baby!"

Joan Jett and the Blackhearts conquer in the name of rock; if you're lost and don't get my references, follow the link and be conquered. Listen for the guitar solo and how it pwns nØØbs! It was another whirlwind music weekend, wherein I:
  1. Did not play the violin in public for the first time in many years. I chickened out because I failed to obtain any kind of backup. I was trying to figure a way for me to back myself up, with keyboard loops, but the PA I was able to practice on wasn't really accessible to me to just take to the show. No back from Mr. Bombs, who had to the venue. I tried to lighten things up by playing some in the kitchen, running around being goofy, and hassling the smoking-room-loiterers. I stayed pretty still to concentrate on playing this new song; it is hard to capture the magic on film (Or digital media? On disk? What do we even call it these days? Thanks to MadMatt for sending me the video, whatever it's called). I think my friends who played in the orchestra can at least partly validate my feelings that in all of that early-aged playing, I learned to depend on the teacher/conductor and fellow students/players for things like rhythm, dynamics, and especially hiding mistakes. The violin needs bass and harmony notes underneath it, and, I want to use it sparingly.
  2. Watched Mr. Bombs and HAIRSPRAYFIREANDGIRLS conquer the 1000^2' or so of patio at one of 4th Avenue's hot bars. Now, I don't want to air anyone's business on the internet, so I will try to tell the story without divulging details that aren't known by any observant witnesses that happen to be out there. Mr. Bombs had a bad interaction with the venue, which I can vouch for. I was helping out as roadie for the band, during which the owner and staff actually made it really difficult to load the gear in, getting in the way while carrying nothing but a bad attitude. So Mr. Bombs performed the first set with his back to the audience:
    The bar's patio is arranged in a strange way, with a lot of hard-to-reach seating, no good place to watch the band, and no space at all to dance. Still, the second set started to rock and cook and smoke and quake. The band was really tight, some "muthafuckin ladies" showed up and had songs quite properly dedicated to them, and one of the Lillies even laid siege to a harshly rude cabbie:
  3. Spent some quality time staying in with the old junior high gang. See them up there in that panorama? Throughout the whole evening, we kind of focused in on music as one of the common threads really uniting us. We watched goofy Lonely Island videos, listened to some awesome records, and played many good-spirit though half-executed jams. It was very humbling, enriching, gratifying, comforting, nostalgic,restorative, and once. Feelings: I have many.
  4. Worked out some shows. Well, if Monday is part of the weekend for partied-out rockers, than  I did this 'over the weekend', although it is kind of a continuous process.  I'll post more when I have something to actually post, like maybe specifics for when/where all the shows are and hopefully even some cool posters/fliers/silly DIY promo images.

Friday, July 27, 2012

"Hell's Bells ringing, my secret music..."

So if you recall, I've been reading The Vampire Chronicles, by Anne Rice. While I am on the fifth book now, the second and third have a hefty number of pages devoted to Lestat, the vampire rock star. Interestingly, during the latter days of Lestat's mortal life he runs away from home to Marie Antoinette-era Paris with his friend, the soulful but rejected-by-the-masters violinist, Nicky. I wish that I had the books with me, or had a better memory, because there are some great descriptions of Nicky's playing. I remember one passage wherein the violin is described as being able to communicate emotions in a way that no other instrument can, that it is the most haunting. In the books, Lestat uses his vampiric powers of mimicry to play a medley of Nicky's songs for the Vampire Queen, causing her to briefly wake from her endless slumber. Also, it is rock music that awakens Lestat  in a 1980s New Orleans graveyard, and there are great descriptions of the "electronic amplification's ability to sustain notes into eternity".

Well, tonight marks the end of over a decade I've taken off from playing the violin. Once I got a guitar, I started to slack a lot in the school orchestra, and once I was out of high school I set the violin down completely. I even sold my old student violin. Being out here on the road, trying to put together shows and pickup bands, I've been frustrated by the lack of a string player. Then it dawned on me: we were walking through downtown Tucson right by the Chicago Music Store, where I rented a violin for the school Orchestra way back in 3rd grade. I got a nice contact pickup, so we can run the fiddle through an amp. This useful piece of gear will work better for the Genre Zero violinist back in SLC; she currently uses a clip-on mic that produces a lot of feedback. Also, I've acquired a clip-on all-instrument tuner, which I can use when playing the violin to make sure my notes are actually in tune. Finally, I had them rig my rental up with 'fret' markings. I'm only going to whip out the violin for a couple songs tonight. I'm either going to blow minds, or, get mine blown away by an angry audience. Here's hoping for the former!

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Bored; Need Bombs

Well, I've been busy living the Tucson nightlife; band rehearsals, bar-hops, the Geeks who Drink Quiz. MadMatt has been kind enough to drive me around in his Volkswagon Bus-o-Awesome, Stella. Of course, my main man G Money has been carting me around plenty as well, and we've been practicing the songs at least once a day. Also, I wrote a new song about life on the road and it is inspired by all of my dear friends. It has been so deeply inspirational, humbling, and motivating to see so many of my closest and best people, even though we're now scattered across the country. Also, I have met a lot of really great people through my friends...and now we are all cross-country friends with each other!

Here is one of the old-gang reunion photos:
This already made the rounds on facebook, but, who knows...I might have to delete that again if I get too excited! You can see Matt's bus behind us.

 Also this week, Matt took me around showing me some of the best graffiti art around town. Tucson is pretty spectacular in that there are large swathes or town where you can't go a single block without seeing a psychedelic mural, a graffiti collage,  or some other excellent piece of art:
I really like how the artist used the decaying bricks as teeth! We're trying to put together a video (!!) to show off a bunch of the cool public art in Tucson, so keep your fingers crossed...

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Kitteh Weekend Bonus Edition

If you love cats like my friends and I do, if you have a soft and pliant sweet spot for our fastidiously furry friends, then you'll want to check out The Kitty Comp from Burger Records. An adorable feral stray was rescued after being run over behind a California cassette-tape label, and the story just reminded me so much of our long-gone family dog Cisco that I had to share it. Cisco was thrown out of the back of an SUV in front of my mother's office in Tucson along with his five or so litter mates. The disowning driver then actually reversed a bit to get pointed out of the parking lot, gunned the gas, and ran over all but two of the puppies. I wasn't there, but my mother relayed the story to me, her having rescued the two survivors. A coworker took one pup and Mom brought home the second, Cisco - who was much-beloved for years in Tucson and now rests faithfully beneath our SLC herb garden. So maybe the Kitty-Comp and my nostalgia is comparing cats and dogs, but the compilation tapes aren't no-account doghouse jams. There is previously unreleased material from Ryan Adams, among many talented others:
I've had the pleasurable good fortune of meeting several interesting cats during my travels. Remember the green-thumbed friends I made in Lincoln? They have an unassuming house-cat that leisurely greeted each guest in turn before settling in at her own spot within the conversation circle. I hadn't quite figured out how to work my camera's flash back on July 4th, and the image was too dark to see, so I messed with the colors of the picture similar to the stylized band pictures on my old MySpace page:
Also in Lincoln was the Game Room store cat, who was friendly enough to crawl up my clothes in search of loves:
Most recently, here in Tucson, are the catty companions of some of my dearest. Meet Gabby; she's a little bit skittish, but will warm up to you eventually. Here she is hanging outside, talking cat-trash with a neighborhood stray on the other side of the fence:
Inside, her younger gal-pal is taking a break from it all:
Enjoy your weekend!

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

So Much to Do

I arrived in Tucson yesterday and there is so much to get done before the show tomorrow at Sky Bar.
Still too far out and overcomplicated (not to mention unprofitable) to try to bring some the the SLC band members in, but my good friend Noah and I have put together a solid pickup band, to play a one-off. Going to try to mix things and alternate between electric and acoustic guitars, and a little keyboard and synth.

So...I am off to take care of business. In the meantime, savor these words of wisdom I picked up from a friend of the family in Austin, who is Vietnam-era veteran of the "Old Corps":

Monday, July 16, 2012

Texas Express

Well my relaxing time in Austin is over, and I am presently waiting to board the bus that will carry me across Texas, back to the West, and into Tucson. I owe a huge thank-you to all of my extended family in Austin, and an apology to those in the Austin area that I wasn't able to connect with. From picking me up at the airport, introducing me to other musicians, and getting me to my two small shows...well, Austin isn't a very easy place to get around, and I genuinely appreciate the family support.

Thank you to my aunt for for being so nice and helpful. She turned me on to her extensive rubber stamp collection, so that I could class up the Genre Zero demos:

She also put on a private all-ages show in her house; it was somehow very different yet also very similar to the house shows in Lincoln. Basement music: Westlake suburbs style! I was hamming it up good for the children, and I think they enjoyed it:

It was a really good show, actually! I pushed my musical boundaries in a way that I haven't in a while, what with being able to fully indulge in the possibilities present in a rock n' roll band. I learned some hymns to play on the piano, which I think my aunt's church friends appreciated, and those were really fun to sing. Really good melodies, and challenging too; one refrain's lilting and lyrical melody line wound its way through my whole vocal range. The acoustics in the piano room and nearby living room, which the audience overflowed to, were excellent.

I am still trying to throw together a second leg of the tour; hopefully something in Vegas that maybe some of the band can come down to, then it is looking like a stop back through SLC (and potentially a show at Sun & Moon cafe), I'm trying to get some things going in Lincoln so as to stop back through there, relatives in Ada Oklahoma are putting something together, and then maybe my new musical friends in Austin can turn me on to something. For now, it is off to Tucson to put together the Sky Bar show. Rock on!

Friday, July 13, 2012

"In the Suburbs I, I Learned to Drive..."

 Well here I am, in the suburbs of Austin at my aunt's palatial hilltop villa, reconnecting with a lot of my extended family that I haven't seen since I was discharged from the Marine Corps five years ago. While the West Lake / Southwest Parkway area on the outskirts of Austin is hardly the "Weird Austin" of downtown and Sixth Street, it is still pretty cool - the Spike-Jonze directed short film "Scenes from the Suburbs," included with the deluxe edition of Arcade Fire's album "The Suburbs," was filmed here. My first night in town I was lucky enough to meet some local musicians, via my father's brother, and we had a very enjoyable evening sharing our music with each other.

I did get some sad news yesterday. One of the bands in our little West-SLC music clique, "The Wild Ones", is breaking up. Always a drag to see a good band cease. Selfishly, I am disappointed because we never got to do a show together. But in the bigger picture, I just hope that the relationships in question aren't too strained, that there is no bad blood. Who knows, maybe this had to happen to give everyone some fresh perspective...and they'll end up playing together again some day, in a better and more mature incarnation? They say that there is a silver lining to every cloud...

Well...the piano, for my show tomorrow night, is being tuned up right now...

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

"...Oh, and the blues, I got the blues, that's me..."

Just a quick update for today. I played a set with the Mojo Blues Band in Oklahoma City, and it went pretty well. The band was made up of extremely skilled musical gunslingers, so them not being familiar with the Genre Zero songs was only an issue for the songs that have a lot of sudden stops or starts. Otherwise, it was fairly spectacular. I was warmly received by the audience, despite NOT playing anything resembling "the blues", and one fast friend was kind enough to take some video of the show:

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Leaving Lincoln

Wow! The whirlwind fun of Lincoln is finally, sadly, over. It was actually very embarrassing, the way that I didn’t want to leave and how I scrambled around trying to savor even the last minutes of my time there. I am glad that after a week hanging around the Bolzen Compound, I hadn’t fully worn out my welcome. I felt like I was starting to a bit, like the seeds of expectation and resentment had been planted and were starting to grow, and like my gentleman’s courtesy was gradually becoming either just rote niceties or falling away completely in the wake of familiarity. For example: right at the very end, I was trying to say my heartfelt goodbyes, but I was distracted worrying about my luggage and things...I even got called out on it; someone was trying to say their heartfelt goodbye back to me, but I kind of ruined the moment.

I think we all understood and shared the feelings of exhaustion, awkwardness, and bittersweet anticipation that are attendant on the end of the temporary. Still, I cannot say thank you enough to my hosts, so here we go again:
Thank you Brian and Jandi for your epic hospitality!

In my continuing quest to improve myself, or more specifically to improve the effect  I have on the world around me and the people in it, I learned a lot. This past week in Nebraska, meeting new people and experiencing a different rhythm of life, really changed a lot of my outlook. It was such a breath of fresh air, not to say anything bad about SLC, that I am leaving Lincoln with an improved perspective.

Onwards and upwards!