Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Music to my ears, Revenge of the sitar

Welcome to the third and final installment of my "Music to my ears" posts... If you're a geek, you probably get the reference in the title...
Revenge of the sitar. If so, you can skip to paragraph 3. If you're confused, proceed as normal.

A sitar being a musical instrument, and the Revenge of the Sith being episode 3 of the "Star Wars" series... Now, I'm sure that even though you get the reference, you're sitting there with one eyebrow raised and a "...oookaaaay" look on your face. If you're a geek, got the reference to begin with, and read this paragraph anyway, I think you'll agree that it's far less clever and amusing having had to explain it. I'm willing to bet I just lost the attention of at least 2/3s of my readers.

I'm going to attempt to explain my mother's musical impact on me here. It's likely to be a shorter entry, as she didn't really start making any musical impressions until after my father died. Neither one of my parents ever really listened to much music in the house, so it was all in the car. My father always had control of the car radio, so when we went places, I was fast asleep at the hands of Bach or Mozart. When he died, control of the radio fell to my mother by default.

In the car, it was always Oldies 103.3, which in the beginning, I didn't really mind so much. I have to say that the dozen or so songs that they do play constantly did end up getting very ... old.

I started getting tired of hearing the oldies... And then, I started getting irritated by the oldies. Shortly thereafter, I started becoming very critical of the oldies. For example...

He gets a feeling that "OOooOOeey"? And then right after he says that, someone in the background goes "AHhh!" in such a way that it sounds like a bird-call of some kind. My cousin and I got a hell of a kick out of this, and took every opportunity to make that noise. I intended to find a time to say that something made me feel OOooOOeey... but I don't recall ever getting to use that one.

For years, I thought they were singing to Snoopy.

How about "Sing like a man"? I always thought Frankie V. sounded like he slammed his junk in the car door on the way in. All I could think of was a friend of mine who constantly whined when he didn't get his way, even at the age of 12. Imagine Frankie saying "But MAAAaaa! I don't wanna go to bed!"

ugh... makes my eye twitch. Don't even get me started on "Sherry" either. How anyone could have found that guy "Dreamy" I'll never understand.

Every now and then, they'd play something out of the ordinary though.

I thought that song was hysterical. My cousin and I would do the whole song in the car. We had a great time with that one.

"Say man! I saw your wife the other day! She's UUUGGGGLYYY!!!"
"Yeah, but she sure can cook man!"

Ahh... hehe. Gets me every time.

Actually, at my wedding, he (My cousin... Who was also my best man) had the DJ play this song. Fortunately my wife loves this song.

But it wasn't all oldies that my mother listened to. She was the one who introduced me to Queen, Specifically, the album "A Night at the Opera". The song was "Death on Two Legs:

I managed to get myself a copy of that song on tape, and I listened to it over and over. Love the guitar work. To this day, I remember that as the first time I was allowed to say "Damn" in the presence of my mother.

I still love Queen. I think they're probably the most underrated yet over played band in existence. I say this because you can't watch a sports game without hearing "We Will Rock You", and everyone's born knowing the words to "We Are the Champions". But there's so much more to them that people aren't aware of.

Bohemian Rhapsody is pretty well known, but no one really pays attention to the complexity of the song itself. Another such song is the Prophet song. If you have the time, listen to the song, and listen to the singing in the middle, how half of them are singing "Come Here" and the other half are singing "I Hear You"... You'll notice, that that one group is actually singing "Come Here", but the other is only singing "I ... You"... So it's coming together as Come (I) Here (You)... I just thing that's so simple, yet must have been such a pain in the ass to put together!

Another song that shows a completely different side of the band is "'39" also off of "A Night at the Opera"

And yet another side of Queen I think is "Gimmie the Prize". It's still got the "Anthem Rock" feel of energy, yet almost qualifies as 80S hair band metal... Which I don't like... (Hrm, maybe there will be a fourth installment... "MTME - A New Note"... whatever...)

A friend of my mother's once told her that she had an extra ticket to an "Irish Music Concert" at the Boston Garden, and asked if she'd like to come. She went, and the "Irish music" turned out to be U2, on the "Achtung Baby" tour. She loved it. I wish someone would take me to a U2 concert!

That friend of hers also used to go to Grateful Dead concerts a lot too. I would have liked to see them too.

Anyway, my mother's musical influence was more a reinforcing of the influences of my brother's who were more musically charged. I also never would have gotten to understand how goofy you had to be to make music in the 50s. :)

It's pretty uncommon for me to end up listing to the oldies station, but from what I understand, there's a fair amount of S music played there now! Perhaps by 2020, I'll be able to listen to my '90s grunge rock on there.

Having wrapped this one up, I realize I've mentioned the 90s a few times over the course of these postings, so maybe I'll expand on exactly what it is about Grunge that I enjoyed... Next time on, Music to my Ears.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Strength Finder

I recently took a test from "Strength Finder". The idea behind the excersize was that, the tendency is for people to focus on areas of study in which they are weaker. For instance, if you could draw well as a child, but your handle on English was loose, your parents would push you to focus on English.

This book helps you determine what you're better at, or what you enjoy the most, and suggests that you try to focus on those things instead. Perhaps you'd be no good with English, but think of the things you could have been drawing all these years, had you been pushed in that direction? Now, you draw fairly well, and can tell the difference between a pronoun and an adjective... Sometimes.

Anyway, I highly recommend you check this book out!

This test gives you your top 5 strengths. My results were as follows:

You live in the moment. You don’t see the future as a fixed destination. Instead, you see it as a place that you create out of the choices that you make right now. And so you discover your future one choice at a time. This doesn’t mean that you don’t have plans. You probably do. But this theme of Adaptability does enable you to respond willingly to the demands of the moment even if they pull you away from your plans. Unlike some, you don’t resent sudden requests or unforeseen detours. You expect them. They are inevitable. Indeed, on some level you actually look forward to them. You are, at heart, a very flexible person who can stay productive when the demands of work are pulling you in many different directions at once.

Balance is important to you. You are keenly aware of the need to treat people the same, no matter what their station in life, so you do not want to see the scales tipped too far in any one person’s favor. In your view this leads to selfishness and individualism. It leads to a world where some people gain an unfair advantage because of their connections or their background or their greasing of the wheels. This is truly offensive to you. You see yourself as a guardian against it. In direct contrast to this world of special favors, you believe that people function best in a consistent environment where the rules are clear and are applied to everyone equally. This is an environment where people know what is expected. It is predictable and evenhanded. It is fair. Here each person has an even chance to show his or her worth.

You are inquisitive. You collect things. You might collect information — words, facts, books, and quotations — or you might collect tangible objects such as butterflies, baseball cards, porcelain dolls, or sepia photographs. Whatever you collect, you collect it because it interests you. And yours is the kind of mind that finds so many things interesting. The world is exciting precisely because of its infinite variety and complexity. If you read a great deal, it is not necessarily to refine your theories but, rather, to add more information to your archives. If you like to travel, it is because each new location offers novel artifacts and facts. These can be acquired and then stored away. Why are they worth storing? At the time of storing it is often hard to say exactly when or why you might need them, but who knows when they might become useful? With all those possible uses in mind, you really don’t feel comfortable throwing anything away. So you keep acquiring and compiling and filing stuff away. It’s interesting. It keeps your mind fresh. And perhaps one day some of it will prove valuable.

You love to learn. The subject matter that interests you most will be determined by your other themes and experiences, but whatever the subject, you will always be drawn to the process of learning. The process, more than the content or the result, is especially exciting for you. You are energized by the steady and deliberate journey from ignorance to competence. The thrill of the first few facts, the early efforts to recite or practice what you have learned, the growing confidence of a skill mastered — this is the process that entices you. Your excitement leads you to engage in adult learning experiences — yoga or piano lessons or graduate classes. It enables you to thrive in dynamic work environments where you are asked to take on short project assignments and are expected to learn a lot about the new subject matter in a short period of time and then move on to the next one. This Learner theme does not necessarily mean that you seek to become the subject matter expert, or that you are striving for the respect that accompanies a professional or academic credential. The outcome of the learning is less significant than the “getting there.”

The Strategic theme enables you to sort through the clutter and find the best route. It is not a skill that can be taught. It is a distinct way of thinking, a special perspective on the world at large. This perspective allows you to see patterns where others simply see complexity. Mindful of these patterns, you play out alternative scenarios, always asking, “What if this happened? Okay, well what if this happened?” This recurring question helps you see around the next corner. There you can evaluate accurately the potential obstacles. Guided by where you see each path leading, you start to make selections. You discard the paths that lead nowhere. You discard the paths that lead straight into resistance. You discard the paths that lead into a fog of confusion. You cull and make selections until you arrive at the chosen path — your strategy. Armed with your strategy, you strike forward. This is your Strategic theme at work: “What if?” Select. Strike.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Music to my ears Part Deux

I'd made a point of explaining my major musical influences in my last post, but forgot to get back to that of my father's love for Jazz and Classical.

My appreciation for these genres didn't really develop until later in life. As a kid, music didn't speak (or sing!) to me the way it does now. For one, I needed something with words. To me, a piece of music without words was a like a book without pictures: also something I didn't come to appreciate until later in life. The Monkees were the only band I listened to in childhood, as I'd mentioned back in part one, and think it's largely because their lyrics were easy to remember, (although I did realize somewhere down the line that most of the lyrics I thought I knew, were wrong...) and they had a show! And it was funny!

Now, as I said before, my father was intolerant of anything but Jazz or Classical. He'd endure Reggae but only for bout two minutes.I remember one trip to pick up my cousin who used to visit on the weekends, and after picking him up, he asked my father why he always listened to the Loony Toons sound track. A brother of mine recently told me that he'd come home one day to find our father playing some Aerosmith records, and sitting at the table with a grimace. When asked what he was doing, he replied that he was trying to build up a tolerance.

I can't remember the year, but at some point my father's mother who was a terrific piano player, moved from her apartment into my aunt's house, and needed to do something with her upright piano. It ended up coming to my house, and I'd poke around a bit. I managed to teach myself bits and pieces of this or that, including:




(Try to ignore the fact that I was trying to play these on a piano, when the first is violins, and the second is a guitar... At least their all stringed instruments!)

The very idea that I was producing even a watered-down, poorly-tempo-ed version of a masterpiece like these, having no formal training whatsoever gave me a feeling of pride that I had never felt before. Classical music thus began to speak to me and tug at the chords of my being. My father was happy to see I had some talent, and we talked from time to time about lessons to develop the skill. Unfortunately, reality being what it is, it has yet to happen.

My introduction to Jazz was of course Snoopy and the Peanuts Gang. Still love that sound track. I even have A Charlie Brown Christmas. I didn't notice the appreciation I had for it at the time, but that's where the seeds were sewn.

One morning, he and I had a discussion about who his favorite composer was. He said that if he had to choose one composer to listen to for the rest of his days, it'd probably be J.S. Back.

My father died at the age of 62 in February of '94 of cancer of the throat. (Forty years of smoking'll do that to ya.) As per my discussion with him, He was buried to Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring by J. S. Bach.

It was a very long time before I could hear that piece again. Eventually, it began to represent something a little more than simply the pain of his death, although that's a prominent pang. Now, looking back and having followed his footsteps into fatherhood, the piece also conjures feelings of tranquility. I feel like it's a piece through which he and I connected, and even though he didn't write it, and I do not own it, it feels like something that he left behind for me.

My brothers, who got to know him not only as a father, but also a friend (a privilege I was denied, as I was 14 when he passed) tell me that I do things very much the way he did. Truth be told, he died half my life ago, and really, I didn't even start to get to know him until I was at least six or seven. I don't remember much about the way he operated, but I take comfort in the fact that if I didn't learn it from observation, there's gotta be a pretty large part of me that I share with who he was. It's almost like I can feel that because I approve of myself, he would (or does) too. It makes me wonder if the feelings I get when listening to pieces like those above, are the same feelings he got.

Anyway, I work in IT, and a lot of my job is Help desk. Troubleshooting problems can be a really frustrating thing, especially if the user is frustrated and unreasonable. I find that a good dose of classical music calming.

That pretty sufficiently explains my affinity for Classical music.

Unfortunately for you, I'm not done writing yet. I thought I'd stray a bit from the overall theme of why I like Classical music, and go into a quick story about how music has since touched my life. Be sure, it has touched my life many times over the years, so I've just chosen the most prominent.

Fast forward nine years, you arrive at my wedding. Rather, OUR wedding, as it was at least half my wife's as well...Perhaps more than half. It was almost "Traditional" in style, although we had some fairly non-standard aspects. For one, we got married at an Italian Restaurant, Vinny T's in Dedham MA. They have a function hall, and it was already decorated for Christmas (Wedding was December 13th, 2003). At the start of the wedding, as is standard, I stood in front of the JP looking goofy, as I'm so apt to do. I figured it was OK, no one was looking at me anyway. As my wife entered, we played Canon in D Major.

I don't mind telling you that my heart caught in my throat as she approached, and I got a bit misty eyed. Once again, I took solace in the fact that she was the only person in the room looking at me. To this day, if I'm in a wistful frame of mind, that piece catches me the same way. I hear it and a gentle peace descends on me, as if I'd made the right decision.

The ceremony itself lasted all of ten minutes, and that was even with the lighting of the unity candle. The wedding party retreated to the downstairs for pictures, and we returned an hour or so later. We set the mood lighter for the re-entry. The wedding party entered one at a time introduced by the DJ to a funky bluesy sort of guitar background music.

Once they were in, the DJ Queued "Welcome to the Jungle". If you don't know the song, pause now and watch the video, or at least the first 20 seconds of it... I'll wait...

You Back? OK, so the DJ started that, and after the first few notes, he began the monster-truck-rally-style introduction. Ladies and gentlemen *pause* Please give a warm welcome *pause* to MR *pause* and MRS *pause* MATTHEW *pause* J. *pause* CONLON!" and we entered just as the introduction build of the song finished, we walked faster part.

It was awesome.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Roll Initiative

Just started a new Blog. If you play Dungeons and Dragons now, or have in the past, hop on over! If you don't, please don't stop following me! :D

Wanted: One Happy Hour

I think I need a happy hour, a thought courtesy of Buck over in Exile.

For the last four to six weeks or so I've been dieting. I've cut meal portions own to about a quarter what they were, and I'm not snacking constantly anymore, save for a 3pm somethingorother. In that short 6 week stretch, I've managed to lose about fourteen pounds, and I feel pretty darn good. After the fourth week the hunger pains really went away. That's the good news. The bad news is that if you're of a similar mind, it's going to suck for about four weeks.

Anyway, part of the whole thing is staying mostly away from carbs. Those are my downfall, I'm a carb junkie. I still have a couple things, perhaps half a bagel for breakfast and maybe a glass of milk or something with dinner...

Unfortunately avoiding carbs means avoiding beer. One of these days, very soon, I'll lift the sanction and partake.

They Might Be Giants said it best: Beer is liquid bread, it's good for you!

Forcing a kill on a Service hung at "stopping"

  1. Go to the command-prompt and query the service (e.g. the SMTP service) by using sc:

    sc queryex SMTPSvc
  2. This will give you the following information:
            TYPE               : 20  WIN32_SHARE_PROCESS
            STATE              : 4  RUNNING
                                    (STOPPABLE, PAUSABLE, ACCEPTS_SHUTDOWN)
            WIN32_EXIT_CODE    : 0  (0x0)
            SERVICE_EXIT_CODE  : 0  (0x0)
            CHECKPOINT         : 0x0
            WAIT_HINT          : 0x0
            PID                : 388
            FLAGS              :

    or something like this (the "state" will mention stopping).
  3. Over here you can find the process identifier (PID), so it's pretty easy to kill the associated process either by using the task manager or by using taskkill:

    taskkill /PID 388 /F

    where the /F flag is needed to force the process kill (first try without the flag).

Saturday, April 17, 2010

A Picture of Disappointment

I believe I was six years old. There was a party one day, somewhere. A fair of sorts. It's been a very long time since I was six years old, so you'll have to forgive me, but I don't remember the reason for said celebration. You may be shocked to hear this, but I'm thinking a six year old probably doesn't require a reason to celebrate, so I guess it just never had a chance to sink in for me.

Anyway, I saw there, standing next to a chain link fence was a big horse! I didn't know why the horse was there, nor did I really care. It's probable that someone told me I could get up onto this horse, but I don't recall. I do however, remember the incredible feeling of anticipation at the thought of saddling up!

Together, Horsey and I would ride around the neighborhood, and we'd be pals! I would pet him! I'd ride him to school, and leave him out by the bike rack! I'd run out to the store when my mom needed milk or bread or cigarettes or scratch tickets or to play the daily number*! I'd feed him carrots and apples and donuts! ...well, maybe not. The idea of sharing my donuts just seemed wrong. Not because he was a horse, but because they were my donuts, you understand. I'd wear my cowboy hat I got for easter! (My Mot.. er... uh, the Easter Bunny used to leave all my loot in a cowboy hat instead of a basket. That furry rascal had my number for sure! What good was a damn basket to a kid? Sure, it held the candy, but if you simply ate the candy, you had no use for the basket! But a cowboy hat? Pssshh... there is nowhere a little boy wont sport one of those! Hell, I'd wear one today if I could find one big enough.)

Someone (probably mom or dad) lifted me up into the horse. I was thrilled! I'd finally get to pet him!

"Whoa careful young man, hold right here, on the saddle," the man with the reigns pointed to the knob. What the hell did I want to hold the knob for?? That wasn't fun! It wasn't furry, and I wasn't sure if Horsey even knew of the affection I was projecting at him by holding said knob. If I could pet him, he'd know for sure! How could we be pals if I was just going to sit on this saddle and hold a knob? **

"Okay, look this way,"

"Oh, what now!? Criminey, first they put me on Horsey, and I can't pet him, and now they're telling me where to look?! Jeez, can't they just let me do this myself? I'm plenty big enough to pet this thing without supervision, they never think I... Oh, a picture, I get it." In my frustration, I tried to manage a smile... *flash*

And thus, they captured the moment that I realized this horse was not for me, and that I wouldn't be petting, or feeding, or hanging out with him at all.  (Click for larger size). Right after the picture, I was hauled out of the saddle. We didn't even walk a step. The damn thing might as well have just been a high bar stool. My mother said "Wasn't that fun?" I remember not wanting to make a big deal of my disappointment, and saying "Yeah."

That moment stuck out in my mind, and just last year, my mother dug up the picture of disappointment, framed it and gave it to me.

I thought, son of a bitch, that giant horse I was going to leap buildings on was a Pony!

And in fairness, I wouldn't want my kid riding around on a horse, pony, or even a big wheels, knowing how alike she is with the little boy I was in that picture. I tell you what, had that mystery hand on the left moved any further away, and I knew how to make that beast move, there'd have been trouble. Thank god I wasn't left to my own devices more often...

Now if you'll excuse me, the house is too quiet... I'm going to check on my daughter.

* - These were things I did in fact run down to the corner store to do for my folks as a kid, even as young as four years old. I remember going down for the sunday papers, and being too little to carry them home without stopping at least three times for a rest, and it was only about two hundred yards away. These were indeed different times.
** - Yes, there were things that were going through my head, I remember that much clearly. What can I say, I was an unusual kid. 

Thursday, April 15, 2010

A moment in time: Failure

I'm angry. My chest is a clenched fist of ire, squeezing the imagined embodiment of my own self-inflected debacle. My brow is heavy, and my eye brows crowd the bridge of my nose. My eyes peer out from beneath like furious green flames, boring holes into my monitor. My teeth, hidden behind a foul sneer, grind together, as if in futility tearing the stupidity with which I've behaved away from the situation.

I've been careless. I've neglected a variable. Several variables, actually, and in my calm, cool, collective idiocy, I put all balls aloft, expecting to juggle them away. Evidentially, one sat unseen and untouched, and it's become an issue.

It could have been avoided. I'd been given several opportunities to cast the remaining ball into motion, but some how I skillfully managed to avoid my responsibility, masterfully, even subconsciously procrastinating it into malignancy. I'd like to stand, raging and growling, eye to eye with myself, and punch myself in the face. I'd like to knock myself clean out for a week, and perhaps pound a little sense into my dense, gigantic head.

As the sulfuric self-aggression subsides, I slide into a weary, depressed melancholia. Having righteously beaten my ethereal self satisfactorily into state of oblivion, I begin to think. Thoughts of retribution turn restorative. I've managed to fail in my duties, to a point where I'm unable to rectify my situation by myself. I shall hence forth be of no use, at least as far as a resolution, and it rankles. I must ask for help, and the very idea turns my stomach. Be it pride, be it unreasoning self-expectation, I cringe at the thought of someone else sweating my debts from their pores. I don't know anyone on life who has a spot on their plate for my just desserts, yet still, I need to ask them to make room.

I'm ashamed. I'm embarrassed. I'm undeserving. I'm almost hoping they tell me they're unable to help, so I thus avoid causing them the grief of picking up my pieces, all the while wondering if I'm likely to repeat the mistake, and further inconvenience them, possibly to the point where they'd like a shot at me too.

Perhaps tomorrow the negative energy and the acrid storm cloud over my head will have ebbed enough that I may see a path that had been obscured. For now, I've little room in my mind for hope. I deserve the mental blaze of self-depreciative fury that I've lit within. Perhaps in enduring it I will have taught myself a lesson.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Music to my ears

My paternal extended family has a significant amount of musical ability. My father had a concertina when I was a kid that he "puttered around" with, but never really played with any zeal. His mother, my grandmother, played piano, and according to my brother (I have 3 brothers who were 13, 14, and 15, when I was born, so they were around for a lot more than I was) she used to love to play Janis Joplin tunes.

My father had a strong distaste for anything that was Jazz or Classical. He spent a fair amount of effort exposing me to things like the Boston Pops when I was very young, perhaps 6 or 7. I remember he and I having to leave some concert hall because I wouldn't stop talking. I remember crabby old people (who were most likely only a year or two older than I am now) turning around in their chairs to glare angrily at me, and then belligerent at him. Interestingly, I don't remember any of the music, or even what I was saying, and I have no recollection of what the place looked like. I remember being there, and the fact that it was a classical music concert, being the focus of adult frustration, and I remember my father being surly while dragging me outta there. As young as I was, I remember being sorry to have made him miss his concert, but I don't remember losing any sleep over it. Chances are, I forgot about the whole thing by the time I got back to the car.

My brother's and I seem to have a fair amount of the family talent, but I regretfully never really put to good use. (Yet!) I had a handful of harmonicas throughout my youth, and uncounted kazoos. I think my brother's were a more immediate influence on my tastes in music. I have a great appreciation for Classic Rock. Aerosmith, Tom Petty, Led Zeppelin, Lynyrd Skynyrd, The Eagles, etc. I however, grew up in the 90s, and Grunge left a rather large mark on me. Alice in Chains was no doubt one of the best of their time. I was a big fan of Smashing Pumpkins as well.

Anyway, these days, I can pick out a tune on the guitar, and for a while was in a band, if you could call it that. A couple friends of mine and I got together every Wednesday for about three months and goofed around. It was a lot of fun.

While there are those songs or musical pieces (can't call it a song if it has no lyrics!) that you either like or not, some just seem to strike a chord in just about everyone. I don't think anyone could hear "Unchained Melody" and think "Ugh, God, I hate this song." unless of course it brings up some unfortunately unpleasant mental images or something.  

Suffice to say, I'm opinionated when it comes to music. I'm going to attempt to explain my musical prejudices here, which is something I've never really done, even to myself, so please bear with me...

So much goes into a piece of music. It's much more than a simply playing of instruments and a stringing together of lyrics. For most people it holds a certain power. Music can be used to set the mood. It can relax, excite, energize, focus, inspire or move one to tears. For me, music has always been a personal thing. It's a part of who I am.

What you like musically depends a lot of who you are, and what you're looking for at a certain time. The human psyche needs a great many things at different times, and these things are not always readily available. Sometimes we need to know that we're not alone and that someone identifies with what we're going through. Sometimes we need a pep talk. Sometimes we need advice. There are times when there are people who are close to us who can understand and be there when we need, but sooner or later they'll be unavailable. Music is always there, be it in our speakers, or in our hearts.

There's a pretty well known joke among musicians that goes: "How many musicians does it take to write a song? Two, one to write the song, and one to sit there indignantly and say 'I could have done that.'" This joke is funny because it's true. Every musician who hears a piece of music that they respect, will imagine him / herself performing it at some point. Again, music is a personal thing, and we relate to music just as we do another person.

Now... I'd mentioned in the post prior, that I can't stand the Doors. It's perhaps an unfair statement, because I really only know the songs that WZLX (a Boston based classic rock station) plays. They play the popular ones, and by god, they play them all the time. WZLX, as much as I love that station... You can't go more than five minutes without hearing something by The Doors, The Rolling Stones, or Van Halen. Even true fans will get sick of hearing them at some point!

What is it that I don't like about the Doors? It's a difficult question for a couple of reasons. One: because I've never really tried to think it through before, and I'm really just kind of feeling around for possible answers or at least acceptable analogies, and two: I think if I can explain my theory well enough, it's going to make me sound crazy. But here goes:

The points I've already made: 1. Music can invoke emotion, 2. musicians tend to look at music from a very personal point of view, and like to picture themselves either performing the piece, or something better. When I hear "Light my Fire" by The Doors... First, the organ. That organ is so gosh darned "in your face" that it actually makes me reflexively recoil.

Deee Deedledeet DEE DeedleDeedleDeetdee,

It's bloo...  uh... It's bloody obnoxious! I would go out of my way to not make noise like that in any situation. Christ, I sigh with relief when that's over. But that's just one song, and a bad choice really, cause I made up my own lyrics, about "c'mon baby change my tire. You can do it with a wrench or a... PLIIIERR!" Usually gets a chuckle outta the folks I'm with. 

But the singer... Yes, I'm not fond of Jim. When I think about how I'd look singing those lyrics and my voice sounding like that... Let me see if I can describe what I'd have to look like to mimic his voice and style. First, my eyes go to about half-mast in a sleepy yet wide awake sort of manner. One eyebrow inevitably arches sugestively. I don't think I could picture myself even expecting to be taken seriously, like I'm on Saturday Night Life or something. I also seem to feel like the words I'm saying have so much more meaning that they actually do, like I'm telling serious conspiratorial secrets, as if the person I'm talking to is going to be forever changed. 

I dunno, perhaps that's all just silly, but I guess my point is that I get the impression that the music is more about the singer than it is about the music, as if the music itself sounds arrogant. I feel like he's getting in my face and saying "I'm so awesome. You want to be me. You want to know what I know" in a disturbingly seductive way.

But again, I could be wrong. Maybe I'd just look ridiculous as a front-man regardless of the music. I will be the first to admit, I only know the "popular" songs, and I've never really gone out of my way to give them a chance. Hell, I've never even seen the movie, so maybe I'm misguided. It's just the impression that I get.

Van Halen... I think once again, my problem is the lead singer. I just can't stand David Lee Roth. It may be because he screams too much, or just the fact that he's oozing with sleazy arrogance. Truth be told, I really don't mind Van Hagar (after Roth left) although it's a tad glam-rockish for me. What, I was 10 when the 80s were over, I have no historical events associated with any of the music, so mostly it's just power chords and hair for me.

Fleetwood Mac. I know I'm going to strike a few nerves with this one, so let me just establish that I don't loathe them or anything, before I put on my best Simon Cowell. I just don't particularly like them. Some of the music I'll admit is niceish, and I love watching the drummer make faces, but I find that Stevie Nick's voice cuts through the "Stop that noise it's going to make my eyes pop" spectrum of my hearing on a regular basis. The rest of it is pretty basic and predictable to me. I just don't find many hooks in it. 

Ok, so we have some idea of what I don't like. I told you I'd sound either crazy or like an opinionated snob. Now, what I do like, and why.

Tom Petty was perhaps the first "real" music I developed a taste for. (I say "real" because prior to that I was listening to the Monkees pretty exclusively.) I found his singing and guitar style to be unpretentious and understated, yet powerful. His singing didn't make think of what I'd look like singing his songs, so much as what I'd be saying. Some of his lyrics are universally true and speak to so many situations and so many people. "The waiting is the hardest part" is true for just about anything. "Into the great wide open" is a metaphore for any new step in any life. "Stop dragging my heart around" (which was also with Stevie Nicks) Well, who hasn't felt like that from time to time? "Here comes my girl" is a song that goes through my head every time I pick up my daughter from school, or when I see my wife, or countless other times I come from one room or another and some family member is there to greet me.

Alice in Chains has something for everyone, although if you're not open to the occasional dissonant whiny vocal, it may be a little much. They successfully, in my opinion, managed to fuse teenage angst, heavy garage metal, Seattle grunge, Jazz and they do it while harmonizing the vocals. With AiC it's less about the message for me, which is most of the time drug related, and more about the way the music weaves together and how the sound makes me feel. Plus I think I'd look totally bad-ass playing that it! If only I took lessons... 

Queen is a band who I have always really liked. Once you get passed the We will Rock You, We are the Champions, and Another one Bites the Dust, they really run the gamut. Harmony, kick-ass guitar, tear jerking melodies, a front man who was as much about the music as the performance, and songs that relate to just about everyone. Except the Prophet Song. I have no idea what the hell that song's about, but it's awesome. Plus they did the soundtrack to "Highlander" which is sort of on the Geeks "Must Watch at least twice" list. 

Recently, Irish Gumbo made an excellent post regarding Lady Gaga, and how her unveiled sexually charged innuendo and persona was an affront to music, as well as general decency as a whole, and I couldn't agree more. It shakes me to the core that these are the people who my kids will one day be seeing in the media. He went on to post some "real music", a video of Etta James "At Last". This post definitely hit home with me. Music to me should be more about the music than about the singer, in all cases, and the message it sends is definitely important.

So I guess in the end I've put a lot of words together in an effort to more accurately explain that which should have probably been left as "because of the reaction is stirs inside me for whatever reason". Ideally, maybe you can relate. Hopefully, you can just accept it all as just weird, and humor me. One thing I will never do is deny someone their opinion. No one can ever be told that they're wrong about an opinion, and I'm certainly open and hoping to hear yours! 

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Say What?

Credence Clearwater Revival: Have you ever seen the rain
The Lyric: "Have you Ever Seen The Rain?"
My Version: "Have you Ever Seen Lorraine?"

Monday, April 5, 2010


I'm sure you've heard, but just in case you spent the last couple weeks under a rock and hadn't heard (unless that rock was in New England, in which case you and your rock were probably washed away) it rained a whole lot around here. Roads were closed, houses were evacuated, basements were and still are being pumped out. It's been rather soggy.

Fortunately for us, we only had perhaps an inch or two of water in our basement. We've never had water before though, so there was never a reason for a sump pump, and now that we're in need, they're all sold out. At any rate, here's a picture of the back yard.

You'll notice out in the water a bit what looks to be a used-to-be-white wrought iron bench. That's exactly what that is. A couple of weeks ago, you could sit there, and look at the lake, although it was actually meant to block the space between the bushes in order to keep the kids away from the water.

The water that made it's way into the basement came up through a crack in the foundation. I'll be repairing that very soon. As I said, we had no pump, but I did have at my disposal a 20 gallon shop vac, and I put it to good use. The downside is that I had to lug it up a few stairs to empty it, at which point it was over 200lbs.

Friday, April 2, 2010

The Youth of the Nation

Ah, to be blogging again. It's been a busy week.

My daughter who will be 5 in July, if she lives that long, had a series of discussions lately, the first of which was with her Grandma. It went like this:

Daughter: "Gram-ma? When you started dating Gram-pa, did you tell your mommy and daddy?" 
Gram-ma: "Yes, of course! Why?"
Daughter: "Cause I want a boyfriend! I want a hot boyfriend who is cool!"

She then had a similar discussion with her mother.

The discussion with me went a little bit different...

Daughter: "Daddy, maybe someday like, when I'm 16, I will have a boyfriend!"
Me: "Not if it's as important to you then as it is now!"
Daughter, (Trying to get me to believe she was kidding): "Nope! I'm not dating anyone, and I'm never getting married!"

Now... Obviously, I hope someday she gets married if that's what she wants, but only because it's the right thing to do for her at that time...

But where is she getting these ideas from? She goes to pre-school, for Pete's sake!

Gram-ma works in a school with a Kindergarten, and she said that the kids are all talking about "this person is dating that person, this person broke up with that person, etc..." She said they talk more about that sort of thing than anything else, school work included! I find this disturbing.

So what are they watching on TV?
We had an incident where my daughter called someone an idiot. Actually, she told a family member "Mommy said you're an idiot" which never happened, by the way... and then said she learned it from Spongebob. I believe it. She got Spongebob taken away from her for about a month after that. We explained how it's hurtful and could cause problems etc... She seemed to get it, and has not done it again. She often talks about how bad Squidward is, and how she doesn't ever want to be like him, cause he's mean.

Mission accomplished. (for now anyway).

But the dating... That's not coming from spongebob, but it may be from shows she watches... Perhaps They're a show for a slightly older audience, but I don't think it's something you can really regulate... I mean, I could ban her from watching it, put parental controls on cable, etc... But there are kids in her class with the characters on backpacks, clothing, etc... She's GOING to be exposed to it somewhere, and there's little to nothing that I can do about it, short of leading an angry mob or something...

I think parents are shirking their duties by demanding stricter media and censorship to shelter their kids. You don't put a nationwide ban on donuts cause you've gained a few pounds. You don't ban cars cause someone had an accident.

Personally, I'd rather my children be exposed to these sorts of things, like the idea of dating, and "bad words", and be educated on how to feel about these things and how to respond to them, rather than not know they exist until it shows up and bites them on the backside. THIS is our job, parents! One day, you'll have to let go, and when you do, would you rather say to yourself "I think they're ready for whatever the world might throw at them" or "There's so much they are not even aware of!"?

An important point, I think all our little "Princesses" need to be made aware that, contrary to the Disney movies they cherish and emulate, 16 is NOT by a long shot an acceptable age to get married.

Now... Those of you who have boys, you make sure they're well educated. Be sure to throw in some facts on the subject of dating like "You make Ashley cry, and her dad will make you cry". Only then will you have done a good job.