Summerfest Lineup Should Include These Bands

Milwaukee's Summerfest, the huge summer music festival (as the name suggests), is always looking for good musical acts to perform.

I hope they have good A&R people actively scouting for talent. If so, they will probably discover these bands and invite them to be on the Summerfest schedule. At least I hope so.

There is a phenomenal new punk rock band out of Madison WI called EDDIE ATE DYNAMITE. This is the kind of band that is a game changer and comes around rarely. When bands like this appear, everyone loves it. They rise far above the sea of mediocrity out there and people long for that. I would bet money this band is famous within two or three years. Summerfest should beg these guys to play. They blow people away every time I see them and their music is irresistibly catchy, clever, and good. The house is always packed when they play a venue in Madison.

Another great band, that I think is out of Minocqua WI originally, is the DRIVEWAY THRIFTDWELLERS. These guys are a five piece country band, with pedal steel, but not the bland pop country that is on the radio. They do old school country and also write quite a few of their own original country and country rock songs. These guys played the ULINE stage at Summerfest in 2013 but they have not been back since I don't think. Dear Summerfest, please have them back. They drew a great crowd there when I saw them there last time.

DRIVEWAY THRIFTDWELLERS AT SUMMERFEST IN 2013

A third band is the all original hard rock operation out of Madison WI called GUPPY EFFECT. These guys write all their own material influenced by the likes of Black Sabbath and ACDC. The music is simple but riffy and the lyrics are a trip, way ahead of their time. They would melt faces off at Summerfest.

All three of these bands would be good for Summerfest because they are awesome and different than the usual smorgasbord of bands out there.

I hope Summerfest's organizers are doing their homework and find these bands. They would push Summerfest over the cliff in terms of rock-n-roll awesomeness.

I am sure Summerfest has an algorithm of how they pick bands, but if that algorithm does not pick these bands, then they need to fix the algorithm, IMHO.

Ciao!

State of the Union - Things are Pretty Good Under Obama

Barack Obama has been President of the United Stated for a little over six years now. Contrary to the alarms sounded by right wing ideologues before both of the elections that he handily won, America has not crumbled under Obama’s “liberal, communist, socialist, fascist, Kenyan, Muslim” watch.

Indeed, unemployment and gas prices are both way down. Gas was $1.89/gallon in Madison this morning. That is almost back to pre-Bush/Cheney prices. Whatever the reason for the cheaper gas, it happened under Obama’s tenure in the White house. That’s just a factual observation.

I am neither an optimist nor a pessimist. I try to be a pragmatic realist and not an idealist. I am looking around and I am seeing a world that is pretty darn good under Obama. It’s not perfect, and we should all try to make it better, but in a lot of the important areas that matter, things have improved a lot under Obama’s Presidency. I am no fan of the Affordable Healthcare Act, but it is a better than what existed before it (nothing).

With the exception of Obamacare, one cannot make a direct causal connection between the President and the State of the Union. A lot of people and circumstances are involved in making the world the way it is, including you and me. But the President is a major player in greasing the wheels to make things happen and a correlation cannot be ignored.

After eight years of Bush-Cheney, no one would argue, the economy collapsed, destructively and traumatically. After six years of Obama-Biden, the economy is resurging and growing (“the car has reversed direction,” to revisit that tired analogy). People are having meaningful discussions about social issues like the minimum wage and health care now, rather than divisive and irrelevant ones like abortion and gay rights.

Observing just the here and now, with no other available information, one cannot ignore the fact that Obama’s Presidency did not destroy America. In fact, America is improving and healing under him. You can argue that America is improving IN SPITE of Obama and his diabolical executive powers (though I don’t), but that leads you to the logical conclusion that the President is not an important player in the State of the Union. If that’s so, then it doesn’t really matter who you vote for to be President. Right?

Most intelligent people though, I think, would argue that the Executive Branch of government is an important and powerful contributor to the overall state of affairs in the United States and to a large extent the world. If you are such a person, reason dictates that Obama’s policies and actions as President have helped, not hurt, the State of the Union. Ideology aside, reality does not lie.

It’s possible Obama has a diabolical scheme to destroy America within the next two years, but I don’t think so. Conversely, what I believe is inconsequential (and so is what you believe). Reality waits for no one.

One can make the claim that six years of Obama correlates with an improved State of the Union. No ideological argument is needed to state that this is the reality at the present time.

Your thoughts?

I Am Through With Mainstream Media News

I have become disgruntled by even NPR's mainstream news coverage. So I am going totally dark. From now on it is rock-n-roll radio only, most notably 105.5 MMM, which plays enough variety to not bore me with bland generic mainstream pop. I will try this mainstream news fast for a fortnight and see how it goes. Ignorance is bliss and I am in dire need of bliss.

I'd Rather Be Writing...

...about almost anything other than technical writing.

There's a popular blog called idratherbewriting.com.

It's all about topics and trends related to technical writing.

BORING.

Technical writing is a means to an end. It is a way for writers (about anything else!) to pay the bills with underwriting from THE MAN.

I don't know any writers who would "rather" be technical writing. They must exist though, because that site does.

I am starting a beginning writing class via the All Writers Workshop in Waukesha WI next Sunday 1/25/15. It's an online class so I don't have to go to Waukesha (from Madison).

It is a six week course, with one topic per week. Lectures and assignments are given on Sunday and the assignments are due Thursday, with grades returned the following Sunday.

I am excited about the class and I think I will be driven to work hard and succeed because writing is my main passion in life.

Like when I did well in organic chemistry in college because my passion in life (at the time) was synthesizing my own designer hallucinogenic drugs.

NOTE: I subsequently chose a more promising path in life.

She Left Me for Jesus

She Left Me For Jesus by Joe Leonard
© COPYRIGHT 2015 Joe Leonard

“She left me for Jesus, and that just ain’t fair.
She says that He’s perfect; how could I compare?
She says I should find Him, and I’d know peace at last.
But if I ever find Jesus…I’m kickin’ his ass.”


She Left Me for Jesus” by Hayes Carll, musician.
For about a year, I dated a hardcore fundamentalist Lutheran woman. Let's call her Janet, a name that is about as far from her real name as can be. And if anyone asks, let's just call this a fictional tale.

I met Janet in 2010 and probably started dating her in the winter or spring of 2011. She was a barrista at a coffee shoppe in Lake Mills WI, where I sometimes performed music during my "sabbatical" from 2009-2010, when I spent a year and a half as a self employed musician and freelance writer until economics forced me back to working for THE MAN again.

In my experience, and contrary to popular mythology, being a rock-n-roll musician (aka Rock God) has not resulted in an increased probability of women throwing themselves at me, and in retrospect, Janet is the last woman on Earth I would have expected to pursue me as a romantic interest. 

You see, I am an unashamed and die hard atheist.

I liked Janet as soon as I met her. But I didn't initiate our romance. I didn't sense she had any interest in me, first off. In my presence, she was usually quiet and reserved, though I later discovered this was her normal MO. She was also about 20 years younger than me and with blue eyes and blonde hair, she wasn't the usual "type" of woman I was attracted to, although ironically most of the women I have dated have been blondes. I thought she was a sweet and quite pretty woman, intelligent and well versed on the rare occasions we spoke. She often took an interest in my music, which I appreciated, but I never thought it was anything more than admiration for my art.

Then Janet "seduced" me, in her subtle way.

One day, it seems like it must have been in the fall of 2010, we were chatting at the coffee shoppe. I asked her if she was in school. She said she had graduated college a year or so prior, majoring in art, but was taking some remedial course work in biology because she wanted to apply to a medical illustration graduate program and one day, hopefully, make some money doing art professionally, similar to the way that I am a creative writer who pays my bills by technical writing for THE MAN.

Janet was a fantastic artist.

"What class are you taking?" I asked.

"Right now I am taking Immunology," she said, none too happily.

"How is it going?" I followed up.

She hesitated as if debating how to answer. Janet was never a whiner or complainer, I discovered later.

"Not so good," she finally said. "It's really hard. I am struggling."

Janet had a slight accent that sounded a bit South African, a result of spending a large part of her childhood growing up in Zambia, where her dad was a Lutheran missionary. I didn't know these details at the time of this conversation, but I found her accent extremely intriguing.

"Well, Janet, you might be in luck," I said. "As fate would have it, I majored in biology in college and actually taught undergraduate Immunology when I was in grad school. If you ever want a tutor, I would be happy to help you study."

"I would like that," Janet said, smiling appreciatively.

It had been many years since I had called upon the neurons in my brain that stored my biological knowledge, but I was sure that with a bit of remedial study of my own, it would come back to me.

I gave her my phone number, fully expecting to never get a call from her.

A couple weeks later, more or less, I drove out to Ames IA to reunite with my old college band SINEMA and play a show at an all ages venue called The Space. I remember vividly being in a college bar called the Welsh Avenue Station, near Iowa State University - my alma mater - when my cell phone vibrated. The call was from a Wisconsin number I did not recognize (I didn't have Janet's number yet). As is my policy with unrecognized numbers, I didn't answer it. The bar was too noisy with the din of partying college students anyway. A couple minutes later, the phone vibrated again indicating I had a voice mail. Curiosity got the better of me, so I stepped outside the bar onto the street and dialed my voice mail (this was an old school flip phone).

I remember being remarkably thrilled to her Janet's voice on the voice mail, requesting that I make good on my tutoring offer. Up until that moment, I had not considered Janet romantically, but her voice on my phone made my heart flutter a little bit. Her voice sounded nervous and wavery, which I interpreted as her polite hesitancy to ask me for a big favor. But later on, Janet told me she had been terrified to call me that first time, and it had taken all her courage to do so, because she liked me as more than just a biologically knowledgeable friend.

I called her back and explained that I was in Iowa for the weekend but could meet her the following week. We arranged to meet at the library in Lake Mills in the early part of the following week.

That went swimmingly, and I think I transferred some knowledge about immunology to her, even though we talked for a long time about a lot of different things. 

Soon after that, I invited her over to my house for a tutoring session, after which I made us dinner and we watched some TV, which at some point morphed into making out, and the rest was history.

We dated for about a year and it was one of the most fulfilling relationships I ever had, even though I realize now I didn't understand Janet very well at all. All I knew is that we had great chemistry and enjoyed each others' company. We did a lot of things together, traveling, biking, eating, dancing. She was a huge music lover and introduced me to quite a bit of African music that she had listened to growing up in Zambia. She amused me with her ability to make the click sounds used in some African languages, but not in Western ones.

All the time that we dated, Janet was actually struggling with her Christian faith, a fact that was unbeknownst to me, and I was probably oblivious too as a perfectly happy and content atheist. She was wracked with guilt, as most Lutherans are, and believed herself to be a terrible sinner, even though she was the sweetest, nicest person you could ever meet, always friendly and accommodating.

I loved Janet in a true and deep way that I had not felt with anyone before. I was both surprised and grateful that she had chosen me as a boyfriend. Humbled in some ways. As pretty, fun, and big hearted as she was, she made it easy to be a good boyfriend. She brought out the best in me most of the time. We were quite in love for a while.

Then the Christianity creeped in, slowly and unnoticed at first, then more assertively, and eventually unstoppably.

It wasn't the fact that Janet was a virgin who did not believe in sex before marriage that divided us. I was actually fine with that after the initial shock. Most of the women I had dated up until Janet were aggressive about having sex. Janet was the opposite. She was loving and intimate, but not assertively sexual.

We made out and fooled around and it was actually kind of cool not to have to perform the actual act of penetrative sex, which usually results in a male orgasm at some random point in time that terminates the fun for a while. So we could and would make out for hours on end and it was incredibly hot. I pretty quickly got used to the orgasm-free "love making" and could finish myself off if I got a bad case of the blue balls. That's probably TMI, I know.

Ironically, my romance with Janet improved my abilities as a lover. I mastered and came to appreciate extended periods of foreplay, since the end point of vaginal sex and subsequent climax was removed from the equation, and now I feel like I am much more attuned to the needs and boundaries of my sexual partners as a result of my forays with Janet.

Initially, Janet let me sleep over in the same bed with her. But she said she felt a lot of Lutheran guilt about this, and after a while she made me sleep on the couch when I stayed over. Eventually she forbade me to stay the night, and it was frustrating to have to drive all the way home after a lengthy makeout session that went late into the night. But I made the sacrifice for Janet because I loved her and thought she was awesome. I knew early on in our relationship that I fully intended to marry her one day and that we would then have a lot of boning to do to make up for all of those unrequited nights while we were dating.

But marriage was never to be.

In retrospect, I wish we could have kept the religious discourse out of our relationship. But Janet's religion was too important to her, and I wanted to be respectful of it and understand it too. It seemed to me the best way to do that was to talk about it.

It became pretty clear we had some irreconcilable differences on the religious front. While I generally concurred with Jesus' message of peace and the Judeo-Christian ethic in general, I was about the farthest thing from a Biblical literalist. Janet, however, believed every literal and inerrant word of the Bible and that Jesus "wrote" on peoples' hearts, so that the chosen KNEW they were chosen. I felt no such writing on my heart, though it didn't bother me in the slightest that I might not be chosen, being an atheist and all.

These differences resulted in a few heated debates that might have been called arguments. We got along great most of the time and never argued with each other about anything, until the conversation turned to religion. It became evident that we held different beliefs not only about the Bible but about science and evolution too. She was a firm Creationist and no amount of scientific evidence to the contrary could shake her faith in it, a trait I actually found admirable in a weird way.

The concept of fate played a protective role in our relationship for a while, which could explain why we lasted as long as we did. When it became clear we were very different people in many ways, she began to have doubts about us. When this happened, we usually agreed that things happened for a reason. This was easier for her to accept because she believed in her heart that God had a plan for her and everything in the world, including me, was part of God's plan. I had no strong feelings one way or the other if there was a master plan in the universe, but I believed in natural laws and an ordered cosmos. I generally believed that people create their own realities, within the boundaries of the natural laws that govern the universe. But out of desperation, I have to confess I may have used the concept of fate in a manipulative way sometimes, though unintentionally, to smooth things between us.

"We love each other," I would say when I wanted to pacify things. "No matter what, that's true. Sure, we have our different beliefs, but maybe this God of yours brought me into your life to mix things up a little, give you some contrary ideas to think about, and test your faith. And maybe you're supposed to teach me about God. I mean, why else would we have crossed paths and fallen in love like we did?"

This usually appeased her for a while, but one point of contention for her that was hard to surmount was my atheism.

"Look, Janet," I told her. "If we have kids someday, I am totally fine with raising them Lutheran or whatever you want, as long as they grow up with good values. I won't try to teach them there is no God or to worship Satan. The important thing is that kids get exposed to many different ideas and make their own decisions about what to believe."

"It's more than that though," she pleaded. "Christians believe that the only way into Heaven is through accepting Jesus Christ..."

It took me a moment to wrap my head around what she was saying. Then the light bulb went on over my head and subsequently exploded, showering my head with shards of glass. She wasn't talking about our future children. She was talking about me.

"Oh," I replied, comprehension dawning on me. "So you are worried that when we die, you will go to Heaven and I will go to Hell, so we can't be together for eternity..."

She nodded. It was actually a very sweet sentiment and I was touched, even if she firmly believed I was destined for an eternity of having the Devil ram white hot pokers up my arse.

"I tell you what," I said by way of compromise. "I'll learn about Christianity and try to understand it. Maybe we can do a Bible study or something. I like to learn about new things."

"Really?" Janet asked, a big smile lighting up her face. "You would do that?"

"Of course," I said. "I can't make any promises, but I'm not a closed minded atheist and for you I am willing to explore this and educate myself."

I didn't realize it at the time, but we had very different interpretations of what I meant by "learning about Christianity."

I wanted to understand her religion so I could converse intelligently with her about it and respect where she was coming from. But I had no intention of converting to Christianity, which is how I think she interpreted what I said, in her own head. Or perhaps she thought if I was exposed to her belief system, I would eventually "see the light" and spontaneously want to convert to Christianity.

I set about reading some books about Biblical history, most notably those authored by Biblical scholar Bart Ehrman. What I learned was eye opening and very much not information that would make my relationship with Janet smoother. 

The Bible is a poorly transcribed English translation of a Latin translation of a Greek Bible of which no original copies exist. The Gospels were not written by the Apostles to whom they are attributed and were in fact written (in Greek) long after Jesus and the apostles were dead, by literate middle class Greeks (Jesus, his disciples, and the apostles were most likely illiterate paupers, with the exception of Paul). The Biblical canon was compiled by church fathers (all male) in the 5th century and excluded a vast number of Christian writings considered heretical at the time (some written by women). The list goes on.

We went to a Bible study class, as I had promised. It was the first and last. I went into it with an open mind, thinking it was going to be an open and free dialog where I could ask my tough questions about the Bible stories and Biblical history, and see how they assimilated science into their belief system. If God created light on the first day but didn't create the sun until the fourth day, where did the light come from on days 1-3? Evolution by natural selection is conclusively supported by science, but the Bible says God created all the living things as they are today, so how do you reconcile those two things? And what about fossils of extinct species?

The Lutheran pastor we met with for the Bible study at a Lutheran church in Cambridge WI was a chubby and disheveled middle aged man. We sat down in a little recreation room with a video projector and screen. He gave us loose leaf binders with some reading material.

Before we discussed anything, the pastor asked us to watch a short video. We complied. The video's thesis was clear...the Bible is the inerrant word of God and Darwin was a misguided heretic. The theory of evolution was bogus because it does not comport with the Bible. Boom.

I am glad we watched the video first, because it made it crystal clear where the subsequent "study" of the Bible was headed. I was completely turned off. As predicted, the discussion with the pastor was more of a one sided affirmation by him of the WELS Lutheran ideology that the video had just puked all over me. I did not nod my head in agreement with anything the pastor said because I could not in good conscience do so. I just sat emotionless and went to my happy place as I was verbally raped by the fundamentalist Christian world view as espoused by this chap. I could not get out of there fast enough.

Janet apologized profusely afterwards saying the Bible study had not been at all what she expected. I wasn't mad at her and I still wanted to learn and discuss her religion with her. But the Bible study had left a bad taste in my mouth.

After the Bible study disaster, we decided that a better approach might be to read books together on relevant topics and then discuss them. This didn't work either.

She picked devotional Christian screeds that were devoid of reason and focused on acceptance without question using faith. I picked books on Biblical history that contradicted her firmly held beliefs based on the Bible.

It was when we tried to read "The Blind Watchmaker" by Richard Dawkins that everything kind of came to a head. It was hard for her to grasp the concept of evolution by natural selection. She was stuck on the idea that humans evolved from chimps and she resisted the idea that humans and chimps could have evolved from a common ancestor, a little bit human and a little bit chimp.

"Where are the intermediate species then?" she would ask, as if these fossils did not exist (they do).

I tried logic and made what I felt was a strong case for evolution.

"We know all life on Earth is based on DNA, would you agree? I mean, puppets don't just come to life and start eating and talking and walking around, right?"

She agreed.

"And everything we know about DNA shows that it evolves and contributes to variation in populations. Take dogs for example. Humans use artificial selection to create all the wildly different breeds of dogs. That happens in nature too when certain traits are selected for over time. I actually highly respect a God who would use something so elegant and simple as four DNA bases to create all the rich diversity of life on Earth. You can set genes in motion and they kind of take control of their own destinies. But if you accept DNA as the building block of life, you kind of have to accept evolution too, even if you believe God whipped up all life forms in their current form 6,000 years ago."

She disagreed.

But mostly, she couldn't get past Dawkins' snarky belittling of religious fundamentalists (her people). I understood her resistance. I just didn't know how to break through it. That frustrated me and she became more and more frustrated with my resistance to faith in a supreme being, which contradicted everything I knew about science.

On a car ride from the Minneapolis airport to my parent's cabin in northern Wisconsin, near the end of our time together, I spoke these blunderful words...

"If science contradicts the Bible, then according to your religion, it must be a deception," I argued, more antagonistically than I intended. "But your God does not deceive, as I understand it, only the Devil does. So by that logic, science must be the Devil's work and you have to reject all science, not just evolution."

She fumed. I apologized. No progress was made and Janet's love for me seemed to drop off in proportion with her loss of faith in my likelihood of ever becoming a Christian believer.

Ultimately Janet did go off to medical illustration school, in Georgia, and we broke up when she left. It's a shame. She is the only girl I ever dated who I gave serious thoughts to about marriage. She was a phenomenal woman and human being. 

I am now even more soured on religion because it had such a destructive effect on our relationship. But I have no hard feelings against her or religious people in general.

"Hate the sin, not the sinner," as they say, although in a very different context.

The bottom line is I can't share a woman with another man, even if that man is Jesus.

David Duchovny vs. Hank Moody - Reality Parallels Fiction

I recently binge watched the Showtime series “Californication” on Netflix over the course of a fortnight or so. That’s seven seasons with twelve 30-minute episodes per season for a total of 42 hours of immersion in the show, which follows the life of a hard-partying, womanizing fiction writer named Hank Moody who is trying to rekindle a romance with his ex-girlfriend, Karen, who he believes is the love of his life, while building (but mostly destroying) a healthy relationship with his teenage daughter, Becca (the accidental result of a long ago sexual liaison between Hank and Karen).

I liked it. Most guys do, since Hank (and almost every other male character) gets more trim than a barbershop floor on the show. Most girls don’t like it, since Hank is a ridiculous womanizing alcoholic and completely unreliable, totally undeserving of the gorgeous ever-horny women that throw themselves at him, presumably because of his devil-may-care charm.

If you have seen the movie “Love in the Time of Cholera,” you can kind of understand how Hank in “Californication” can contentedly pursue his many sexcapades without guilt or remorse (or happiness). He simply does not care about any other women besides Karen, the one he truly believes is his soul mate and love of his life. All other women are trivial playthings to him. He even makes reference on the show to biding his time with meaningless sex until he can reunite with his former lover. Sadly, old habits die hard, and when he is finally reunited with her (season 2 and a few other times), the sex on the side does not stop - it actually gets worse. That fact and his disregard for the feelings of most of the women he sleeps with probably explains why women don’t like the show as much as men. But you don't have to like it to understand it.

Hank’s character is played by actor David Duchovny, perhaps better known for playing FBI agent Fox Mulder on the show “The X-Files.” Hank’s character is likeable and good natured, even as he struggles with his addictions and troubled life situation, trying to win back his ex and develop a relationship with his alienated teenage daughter. In some ways, Duchovny’s real life parallels his fictional one in “Californication.”

David Duchovny married actress Tea Leoni in 1997. They separated in 2008, a year after the first season of “Californication” aired and about the same time as allegations appeared in the British tabloid Daily Mail that Duchovny had had an affair with Hungarian tennis instructor Edit Pakay, while married to Leoni. Duchovny has denied these claims (and they were retracted by the Daily Mail after threats of a law suit), but has admitted publicly to having a sex addiction and checked himself into rehab for it in 2008, a year after "Californication" first aired.

“Californication” ran on Showtime from 2007 to 2014 and I could not help but think to myself how sometimes fiction mimics reality. An actress I know once told me that there is a lot of an actor’s real personality in the characters they play. Considering that, one could see how a penchant for sexual indulgence in David Duchovny could translate to his on screen character’s shenanigans. Or perhaps after seven seasons of immersion in the show’s Hank Moody character, and regular exposure to bare female bodies on the set of the show, Duchovny’s own dark side came out. This is speculative, of course. But the parallels are uncanny.

Duchovny reunited with Leoni after their first separation in 2008, but they separated again in 2011 and were ultimately divorced in 2014, when the final season of “Californication” aired, in which, ironically, Moody reunites with Karen and lived, presumably, happily ever after with her and their now college age daughter, Becca.

Duchovny and Leoni have two kids together, another parallel with “Californication,” where Hank Moody is co-parenting teenage daughter Becca with Karen, a fact that keeps them physically, and sometimes romantically, close in the TV show.

Leoni has said that even though she divorced Duchovny in part because of his sex addiction, she still loves him and they are connected by their mutual love of their children.

"David gave me the two greatest gifts on the planet; I don't know how I could ever hate him. We've always loved each other, and we adore these kids," Leoni told Parade magazine on Sept. 19, referring to her two children, then ages 15 and 12 (REFERENCE).

Leoni also refers to Duchovny as “a good guy,” and that’s general the feeling I have toward Hank Moody’s character in “Californication.” Hank has a moral code and he does good deeds, at least as he perceives them (he never backs down from a fight with a disrespecting douchebag, for example). He is finding escape in sex, booze, drugs, and rock-n-roll, but he truly means well and wants more than anything else to reunite with Karen and do right by his daughter Becca as she comes of age. So to that extent, I can believe there is a sizable part of David Duchovny’s personality in his Hank Moody character.

On a somewhat unrelated note, in “Californication,” Hank Moody is the author of a book called “God Hates Us All” that is turned into a movie (part of the show’s backstory). This fictional book was published as a real book in 2009 during season 3 of “Californication,” as a supplement to the show for fans. It was co-written by Duchovny (as Moody) and author Jonathan Grotenstein.

Recording Vox in Eddie Ate Dynamite

Frank grabbed Teddy's coat from where it hung on the corner of the open door and threw it toward the cat, Bojangles, that lay on the bed. The coat landed on the cat as it tried to leap from the bed to escape the hurtling coat, and a moment later cat and coat landed on the floor. Bojangles darted from the room and Frank closed the door behind it.

Eddie stood in front of the vocal condenser microphone holding headphones in his right hand. Teddy sat in a chair to his right. Frank took a position in his chair in front of the recording console.

"Ready?" Frank asked.

"Yep," Eddie replied.

"Let's do this!" Frank exclaimed.

Eddie placed the headphones over his ears and stepped up to the condenser microphone. Frank pushed buttons and moved sliders on his recording console. A couple seconds later, Teddy heard the transistorized sound of punk rock music emanating from the headphone pots on Eddie's head. Eddie began to sing lyrics to the refrain of the song until Frank stopped the recording.

"Cocks Dublin," Frank said, which was band code for let's record that part again to have a double vocal line. It derived from a pickup line Frank had heard in a bar.

"You must be Irish...because my cock's Dublin!" It was immature and ridiculous, which is why the entire band, EDDIE ATE DYNAMITE, loved it.

The recording process was repeated several times as Eddie sang over various parts of the song - verse, chorus, and bridge - until Frank and Eddie felt like they had enough good takes.

Then it was Teddy's turn to sing his backing vocal harmonies. The process Eddie had gone through was repeated again until everyone was happy with the outcome.

"That's a wrap!" Frank says. "I think we are done. We just need Spots' vocals on these."

Spots was the band's bass player and backing vocalist, who was not able to make this night's recording session.

My Work Day

If I could be independently wealthy and self employed, my work day would probably start at noon.

I wouldn't sleep till noon, mind you. I'd probably get up at 9:01 most days, just as a sort of symbolic FUCK YOU to the corporate 9-5 gig, which in this hypothetical scenario, I would no longer tolerate. One minute after all the corporate cube drones had taken up their stations, I would roll out of bed.

I'd make and eat a leisurely breakfast, with coffee, and read some stuff. Maybe meditate for 30 minutes before kicking off my work at noon.

I'd write from noon to about 5 PM, either writing books, articles, or songs. Then I'd make and eat dinner, allowing at least an hour to enjoy it. Around 7 PM, I'd tool off to band practice, depending on whatever bands I happen to be in at the time. Those usually last about three hours a shot. If I have to drive to get to band practice, that usually means I get home around 10 PM, unless the band wants to go out and socialize afterwards (this is like networking and team building, and can totally qualify as "work" in my happy fantasy).

On Fridays and Saturdays, there will be rock-n-roll shows to play in lieu of band practice. Typically, these start later in the night. So after dinner on those days, I might workout and get my endorphin high going in anticipation of the performance. Then I'd don my rock costumery and cruise to the venue to make all those band practices pay off.

I'd work on Saturdays and Sundays too, though maybe getting up a little later due to the gigs, because I would be doing work that I love to do and have the passion and talent for.

I would give myself a day or two off each week. Down time is important.a person needs to decompress and rejuvenate in order to maintain a productive work schedule. One of these weekly days off would probably be a Saturday or Sunday, just because that's when a lot of my friends would have the day off, if they are still working corporate cube drone jobs.

This is my vision for my life. Therefore, I strive to achieve it. Right now, I do work an office job. It's not very fulfilling, but it's easy and it pays well. I'd rather be spending that time working on making art. But for the moment, I need the financial underwriting of a day job.

I haven't lost sight of the vision. I am a free agent. A day job is a means to an end. The progress on my art is slower because of the time wasted working for THE MAN, but I will eventually get there. Nights and weekends are my artistically productive times now, when THE MAN has not taken too much of my mojo.

Writer's Block

Biff was already up and making eggs for breakfast when Chet shuffled into the kitchen. They exchanged “good mornings” as Chet opened a cupboard and chose a large coffee mug.

“Did you sleep OK?” Biff asked.

“Yeah, the guest bed’s real nice, Biff,” Chet replied. “Thanks for letting me crash here.”

Chet put his hand against the side of the coffee pot in the coffee machine and withdrew it reflexively from the hotness of it.

“Just made it,” Biff smiled. “Not yesterday’s reheat.”

Chet poured coffee into the mug and then retrieved the carton of almond milk from the fridge which he used to top off the hot drink.

He took a small sip. “Ow, still too hot!” Chet opened the freezer sliding lower door of the fridge and grabbed a handful of semi-circular ice cubes from the ice maker bin.

He carefully plopped these into the coffee mug. Biff grabbed a plate from a cupboard and ladeled scrambles eggs onto it as Chet took a long hard pull from the coffee cup.

“There it is,” Chet smiled with satisfaction. “Nectar of life.”

“Eggs?” Biff asked.

“Sure, I’ll have a little bit,” Chet replied. Biff retrieved another plate from the cupboard and dolloped the remaining eggs in the pan onto it.

The two brothers sat down at the small kitchen table.

“Any progress on your book?” Biff asked, small talking. Chet chewed and swallowed a bite of his eggs before he answered.

“I have the Resistance really bad,” Chet confessed. “Every time I sit down to write, I freeze up. Writer’s block.”

Biff scrunched up his face into a look of both commiseration and understanding.

“Brother there’s only one thing for it,” he said. “You need to force the Inspirado.”

“How though?” Chet rolled his eyes. “I can’t come up with anything.”

“Don’t try to,” Biff replied. “Just start writing random shit until the muse gets tired of your rambling and hands you something worthwhile.”

“I have a hard time writing without purpose,” Chet said.

They ate in silence for a couple more minutes.

“The way I see it, you don’t have much choice,” Biff finally said. “You have to go through the motions. If you don’t, you are guaranteed to produce nothing. At least if you pound out some words, you have a chance at hitting on something good. You still might fail, but you tried.”

“I know,” Chet nodded. “That’s the problem though. That’s why I freeze up. I can’t bear the thought of failing at what I love doing.”

“If you don’t write though, you also can’t succeed as a writer. So if you want to have any kind of livelihood, you either have to write like your life depends on it, or you can get a real job.”

“The thought of working for someone else repulses me,” Chet said. “No offense…”

Biff worked a corporate office job and made a decent living, but he wasn’t inclined toward the arts the way Chet was.

“None taken,” Biff smiled, nonchalantly.

“I tried the day job thing, Brother, and I appreciate that you hooked me up,” Chet said. “It wasn’t that bad as far as day jobs go, but one thing I found out pretty fast is that a day job usurps not only valuable time that could be better used for creating something…it also sucks out your energy and will to live. When I would get home from a day on the job, I just wanted to veg out. My mind was depleted of its mojo.”

“I get that,” Biff said. “I often have my doubts about my job. I am basically creating value for someone else, the company and the CEO, although they compensate me handsomely for it. I’m just a commodity to them, generating more income for them than they pay to have me. Beyond the paycheck, I don’t get a lot of return on my sweat investment. I think if I was more artistic like you, I’d have to quit my job too, or work part time.”

“So, now I am even more frustrated,” Chet said. “Because I did quit the job to write, and now I can’t seem to come up with even a complete sentence that is worth anything.”

Biff paused in his eating and looked up at the ceiling. “After a few second, he looked at Chet and said, “Brosef, we need to go out on the town tonight.”

“How’s that going to help?” Chet asked.

“Are you saying you don’t want to go have some fun on New Year’s Eve?” Biff joshed.

“No, I do, but if that’s your solution to my writer’s block, I am not sure I get it,” Chet said, looking at Biff askance.

“I am rethinking it,” Biff said. “I want to get you back to baseline.”

“What does that mean, ‘baseline’?” Chet asked.

“You need to get completely away from writing for a night, maybe two,” Biff said. “Don’t think about it. We’ll have a few drinks, bust some game on the ladies, maybe get laid…”

“That’s compelling, Biff,” Chet said, a wry smile crossing his face. “Almost compelling enough for me to trust your judgment on that solution.”

***