Diode Moon

There’s a soft yellow moon just kissing the top of the tree silhouettes in the western sky, but it’s descending quickly. It’s almost parallel now to the street light just south of it, a harsher spectacle made of light emitting diodes that mimics the sun and mocks the moon. It’s nightly cycle also causes it to appear at dusk and disappear at dawn, but it has no phases, no waning or waxing, no gibbous or crescents, no fractional displays whatsoever. Nor does it crawl across the vault of the heavens seeking its rest. Barring a blackout, it never sleeps at night and never makes way for the wonder of starlight descending from the firmament.

Image by midjourney bot


Practice Journal 2.28.23 “Miss Samantha Parks”

I’m spending some time tonight to go over my original songs because I haven’t played many of them since I wrote them. “Fire & Forget” is my motto.

But I’ve been forced to perform them in front of my bi-weekly creative group, which is a good thing since they’d probably never get played for anyone otherwise.

I’m working on one I flubbed at our last meeting because I couldn’t quite remember the partial chords I wrote for it. They’re basically A Major, F#m, and back to A and then Bmaj on the turnaround – but because most of them are partial chords on the seventh fret I let the open strings ring out where harmonically appropriate (technically changing the chord names, but who’s counting?).

There’s a fun little detail to this particular song, which is called “Miss Samantha Parks”. She’s a real person in my locality, but she has NO IDEA that I wrote a song about her. I don’t know why, but I find that kind of profound – that there’s a piece of art and then there’s the subject of that piece of art, and only the universe will decide if the two should ever meet.

I’m sure it happens all the time, but rarely, if ever, does someone literally title the song after the person, perhaps because they’re afraid of offending them, or afraid of getting sued for defamation, etc…

Anyway, “Sam” (if I may be so familiar with somone I don’t even know) was a young woman who won a songwriting contest at a local music store back in 2010 or so. She was young, pretty, talented and totally deserving of the prize, which was a gorgeous guitar if I remember correctly.

Later, at some point in 2011, I saw her performing in front of barful of patrons at local watering hole that was literally called “The Bar”(catchy, huh?). Turns out she’d already released her debut CD, several copies of which sat in a little box next to the stage.

When I first saw her she was just some random girl who wrote songs, but now she was the local chanteuse playing to bar patrons, most of whom ignored her presence while they talked amongst themselves. as bar patrons typically do.

She looked so young to me (too young to be in a bar without supervision, I’d guess, which is probably why here mother and sister were there); all sweet and innocent with her little book light and what looked like a giant guitar in front of her relatively tiny body.

I couldn’t help but be struck by the contrast of who she was and where she was. I played the bars for over a decade and they weren’t places for the sweet or the innocent- but that’s where you traditionally “paid your dues” and she was doing it like a champ.

Most of the cover songs she played were written forty years before she was born and at least one had a pretty dark theme, whether she knew it or not. But there she was, smiling sweetly while she sang, ‘ “House Of The Rising Sun” – a song about a seedy brothel in New Orleans. The contrast was stark.

I have no idea what she might think of my little song, and that was never the point. I don’t care. It’s not even a particularly good song by her standards I’d bet, but I just wanted to try capture a feeling I had while observing a particular situation, in a particular place, at a particular time.

The song could have been about anybody, but it was about “Miss Samantha Parks”.

(featured image by Masaki Yoshimoto for Scopio)

Miss Samantha Parks – by Sudrakarma ©2011

With a voice as pure as the arctic snow
A smile as bright as any television show
She sings "The House Of The Rising Sun"
Likes she's never been ashamed of anything she's done

Miss Samantha Parks, Miss Samantha Parks

Wide-eyed optimist with a future as bright as a nuclear sun
Payin' dues to the lost and lonely ones
who only want some fun
on Saturday night

Your mother and sister are drunk and promoting you
While publicly proud I think they privately envy you
Sing clear and calm to the din of a party crowd
who ignore your songs, but all wish they knew by close

Miss Samantha Parks, Miss Samantha Parks

Sad-eyed singin' girl who rocks the barstool with her strumming hand
Payin' dues in a darkened corner with a book-lite clipped onto your
music stand

Tab's coming due, I've had many cervezas
I've got regrets, Samantha, can we trade places?
Crowd's thinning-out at the corner bar
Your CD box is empty now but not the tip jar

Miss Samantha Parks, Miss Samantha Parks

Sweet and accommodating
to an old desperado with a broken heart
payin' dues to the drunk and desperate
and old degenerates with broken parts.

Dear Diary 2.25.23 “Anniversary Edition”

In 1991 I got out of a particularly volatile relationship. I think it lasted ten months but it felt much longer. She was a very beautiful and passionate woman, which made for an exciting romantic life, but made practical daily living a constant struggle that took way too much effort. I’d had enough and moved back home.

While I licked my wounds at a local watering hole, one i’d occasionally performed at as a local musician, I saw a woman I’d admired from afar ever since I laid eyes on her years before at a local pizza joint, projecting all sorts of unfounded fantasies about who she was.

To me at the time, Cheryl seemed completely out of my league. A pipe dream. In fact, I happened to know she was dating the owner of the pizza joint she worked at. He was an ambitious, business-minded, go-getter in the process of building a successful franchise. I was none of those things so I dismissed any thoughts of approaching her. What would she want with me?

She was tall, thin, easy-going, and very attractive in a simple, unassuming way (i.e. my “type” if I ever had one) She was playing pool (billiards) with a mutual friend of ours who invited me to join in. We really had fun, despite my behavior later that night.

Apparently I was annoyed I wasn’t called to the stage to sit-in with the band but her now ex-boyfriend/pizza-business-owner was called to perform. I must have considered this a slight, and resented him and that particular band even more than I did before. They were actually good friends and I was no more than an outside acquaintance – by choice. These were the kind of people who seemed to expect automatic deference and I wasn’t a willing sycophant.

I don’t know why I was so angry. Maybe it was professional jealousy. Maybe it was the fact that he so easily dismissed a woman I really liked. Maybe I was just drunk. I’m not sure, but it only took one look from him, a look that said, “You ain’t shit!” for me to go directly for his throat. I recall us being pulled apart somewhere near the entrance by the crowd. I got kicked-out of the bar.

A few days later, after I cooled-down, I called our mutual friend to ask if Cheryl would consider going out on a date with me. As it turned out, she was right next to her while she was on the phone so she played mediator. A moment passed while she conferred with Cheryl.

“Yes, she would very much like to go out with you,” our mutual said.

That was probably one of the happiest days of my life. I was elated. For some reason, probably low self-esteem, I really didn’t expect to get what I wanted and I was still under the influence of my unrealistic romantic projections.

Memorial Day was fast approaching so our mutual friend suggested our first date take place at their co-worker’s annual canoe trip down the Huron River. Perfect. Safe for her, casual for me. It took the pressure off both of us.

About a dozen of us rented canoes and, in our mid-twenties, became “those people” on the river; the young, drunk and disorderly crowd. But we had a f’n blast. Our first kiss took place standing on a submerged rock in the river while we nearly lost our balance. Good times.

I moved in with Cheryl just weeks later when one of her roommates moved out. They needed the rent money and I needed to get out of my parent’s basement. We discovered living together was easy and drama-free. We could do this.

The annual Memorial Day canoe trip took place every year for a while, until people started to drift away with their own lives, commitments, kids, etc….

Finally, five years after our own child was born, a wedding, among many others that day, took place on February 25th, 2000 at the Candlelight Chapel in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Yes, it was quite the extended engagement; nine years. But we knew we weren’t going anywhere. I didn’t need a piece of paper to signify my commitment, but she did, so I acquiesced and we’ve been together ever since.

Looking back now after 32yrs of being together and 23yrs of marriage, it hasn’t always easy – it still isn’t – but it works, even after any shred of romance has long since faded. We fight but we forgive quickly. We’re reliable partners, practical companions, and there’s very little drama – at least from her.

In fact, unlike other girls I knew previously, she was never very susceptible to drama, which was a breath of fresh air to me when we met. What I didn’t realize at the time was that also meant there’d be very little passion, at least not from her. Now I wonder how I missed that important clue. It seems projections can last well into a relationship, decades in fact.

But it’s ok, all things considered. We’re still a good team and our relationship has deepened in ways I never could have predicted. We’re lucky in so many ways and we know it, and today is the day we’re supposed to appreciate that – and we do, though we’ve never made it a big deal. We just roll like we always have, effortlessly.

Dear Diary 2.24.23 “What the hell February?” Edition

What the hell, February? It’s been one thing after another this month.

Last night, we lost power due to the thaw of our recent ice-storm. We rarely lose power for very long, but that ice-storm took out the power to 680,000 Michiganians (or is it Michiganders? 🤔 ) before ours even went out. Roads were blocked with downed power lines and tree limbs are all over the place.

Thankfully, our outage didn’t extend to our nearby tax accountant or my mother’s house across town yesterday so I was able to get both of our taxes done and it wasn’t that cold out….yet.

It’s pretty cold here now, in the 20°F range. We were warm enough in the blankets last night with the pets all crowding in, but getting up this morning to make coffee with my camping percolator (thank you “wireless” technology) was a bit too chilly for my taste.

DTE’s outage map say we may be out until Sunday and possibly longer. Not cool. So I drove to work early and absconded with the gas generator we have there and brought it home. I hard-wired my furnace with a pigtail so I could just plug in like any other appliance and ran extension cords to our two refrigerators. Then I ran one final extension cord inside and just left it for anyone who needs to plug in a phone charger.

Thankfully, I have a neighbor hanging out there to keep the pets company and keep an eye on the gas generator. His job, which is just around the corner from us, is also out of power.

So for the time being, this is our power situation:

Dear Diary 2.23.23 Pet Health Care edition

I took yesterday off to get our rescue cat spayed. That turned out to be a colossal waste of time.

The wife had made the appointment with Humane Society almost a month before because we cringed at the price the local vet quoted us – almost 3x as much.

The appointment would first require a physical for Wednesday, our rescue cat, because heretofore she’s developed some kind of lumps on her abdomen. The local vet didn’t know what they were and wanted to biopsy and possibly remove them and quoted us anywhere between $1600 and $2400, spaying included. No way THAT was going to happen, so we made an appointment with The Humane Society that would be much cheaper – but another three weeks away.

Meanwhile, Wednesday’s mewling-in-heat every night was getting really tiresome. Couldn’t wait for her lady parts to be removed.

During that first week of waiting, however, Wednesday’s abdominal bumps disappeared without a trace! Her body seemed to have absorbed whatever the issue was – so we called The Humane Society back to tell them about it, and hopefully schedule an immediate spaying.

Nobody answered the phone so we left a detailed message. I was on my wife for weeks telling her to call them back, talk to an actual person and confirm the spaying could happen immediately since we’d already dumped close to $300 on exams and shots at our local vet. They never called back and the wife never talked to them, unbeknownst to me.

So I’d took the entire day off with the intention of focusing all my attention to getting this cat fixed. And, of course, on that day we had the worst ice-storm of the year – but I was determined to finish this once and for all.

I called the Humane Society to make sure they weren’t canceling due to weather and got an automated message that said, “all team members are attending training from 12-1:30pm – the exact time period I would have to drive to make it to our 2:00pm appt. Damn it. No way to confirm.

Hell with it, we’re going.

Unlike our local vet which is only a mile away, The Humane Society was a good 40 minutes away. It had already been raining ice for a couple hours before we hit the road. People were driving 30mph and even less due to the dangerous road conditions. I was concerned we wouldn’t arrive on time, but we pressed on. Wednesday, who was snug with a blanket in the carrier, hardly complained at all. Good kitty.

By the time we got checked-in from the parking lot (covid protocol) and made it inside, it was only a couple minutes until the “cat was out of the bag” so to speak. She would NOT be getting spayed today.

I felt the blood and heat rush into my face.

“You have got to be f’n kidding me?!” I was livid. “After taking the day off and driving an hour through an ice storm to get here? Then what the hell are we even doing here?!” The vet assistant stood silent and looked away.

I don’t remember exactly what I said after that but I do remember cussing freely and the wife trying to calm me down. I was f’n pissed! After all the money, all the waiting, all the mewling, the goddamn ice storm…arrgh!!!

The wife reminded me it wasn’t the vet’s assistant’s fault, but I wasn’t having it. I marched off to calm down in the car. I didn’t know who to blame; the wife, for not confirming with the vet? The vet for not returning our calls or confirming our appt? Myself for losing my shit on some poor unsuspecting girl who didn’t see it coming?

Besides weighing Wednesday and being satisfied she was healthy enough for surgery, nothing was done and there was no charge for completely wasting our time (oh thank you). I don’t know of my tantrum had anything to do with that.

Of course, there will be an additional shot required before surgery (well, of course there will be! Now, will that require yet another appt? I’m leaving that up to the wife to figure out – i’m done with this sh*t).

I didn’t say a word the entire trip home, so it took me 40 minutes to cool down. At least the roads got salted in the interim.

Thinking about it now, I was triggered for sure, probably by the reminder of what dealing with human “health care” feels ike these days – a perpetual loop of appts that gets nothing done and charges you at every opportunity. I’m so f’n done getting fleeced by these a-holes.

That’s not what happened here, only my time was wasted and my patience tested, but they were on the receiving end of my “barking” loudly about it, for sure. Watch out for those grouchy old dogs. You never know what will set them off.

Blogger Archives: In Defense Of Prog

Way back before I found WordPress, I found Blogger, Google’s much neglected blogging space. Before that I wrote local music reviews and opinion pieces on for a website that doesn’t exist anymore.

When that experiment in trying to make people care about their local music culture failed (some time in the early aughts) I pulled some of the pieces I wrote out and transferred them to Blogger – then completely forgot about it until Renard’s World reminded me. “Oh yeah, I have a Blogger account!”

Anyway, I thought I’d pull one from the archives and post it here.

By Mitch Phillps (editor: oh yeah, I had a pseudonym btw) for Michiganbands.com

Back in September of 2003, Maxim Blender came out with it’s list of The 50 Worst Artists in History. Usually I ignore such obvious ploys to sell magazines, but I decided to take a peek to justify what I thought I might find. As usual, I wasn’t surprised. No less than four bands I’ve enjoyed in the past made the list: Emerson Lake & Palmer (#2), Tin Machine (#12) and, to a lesser extent, Kansas (#6) and Asia (#7).

What’s more, the virtual frat-house of quip-scribblers at that NYC glossy (it took no less than nine Blender-boys to produce the piece) managed to insult other top acts that fit the “progressive rock” label (even those not on their hit-list!) with the same lazy insults that have been regurgitated in the rock press for the last thirty years; Yes and Jethro Tull are described as ‘inexcuseably pompous’ and ‘appealing only to male sci-fi bores’, Kansas as ‘bereft of sex and emotion’, and ELP of ‘(shunning) blues-based rock in favor of bombastically reinterpreting classical works.’

What they didn’t mention is that no band had ever accomplished what these acts had with such brave originality or remarkable technique – two traits conspicuously missing from contemporary rock (in my opinion, rock innovation stalled with the last incarnation of King Crimson ). Instead, MOR rock fans have been fed a revolving mix of blues-based revivalism which, out of pure boredom, has come full circle and returned to its most primitive roots in The White Stripes and the garage movement (for the moment, we’ll set aside the hip-hop/rock amalgamations and concentrate on the pentatonic v.s. diatonic, blues-based v.s. classical-based flavors of rock music – How convenient, eh?).

That’s not to say progressive rock hasn’t produced some of the worst music – it probably has. Truly adventurous music is bound to produce more than it’s share of boners due to it’s unpredictable nature. But It’s free dalliance with synthesizers, theramins, operatic themes, classical movements, Jazz progressions, rhythmic syncopations, odd time signatures, no time signatures, and rock songs of epic proportion and length have produced some truly exceptional works of musical art. To revile it’s worst moments while ignoring or rudely shaming it’s most successful ones is disingenuous and insulting to the millions of fans who sought-out this music and made it successful – in some cases, despite the efforts of the music business (I seem to recall reading that Canadian prog-rockers Rush were ignored by major labels until it’s grass-roots success proved its worth as an an attractive investment ).

Progressive rock most noteably fails when it tries to appease pop audiences in an attempt to achieve record sales commensurate with whatever music fashion currently holds sway (I’d have to agree with Blender’s panning of ELP’s “Love Beach” – an awful fate for rock’s classical re-composeurs [sic]). It best succeeds when it’s allowed to incubate apart from consumer-culture and it’s fashion accessories, which is why, I would guess, the best progressive music seems to have been created by sheltered art students in 1960’s England who were twice-removed from American market forces.

But I suspect the biggest reason progressive rock has been so ignored, abused and altogether abandoned by today’s music industry, press and critics (who are, by the way, collecting their paychecks from the very same mega-media companies) is because advertising firms can’t figure out a way to market beer & tennis shoes (or drugs or cars or nasal spray or tampons). with it. Its potential as a niche market, even when such business practices are prevalent, seems to have been overlooked. I’ll cite as evidence of neglect the fact that every other music form that hit stride in the seventies (i.e. Disco, Punk, Funk, and now New Wave) has already been and/or is currently being re-exploited for 21st Century products.

Yet, you may never see (thankfully), or perhaps can’t imagine, a commercial using “Five-Percent For Nothing” by Yes or “Larks Tongue In Aspic” by King Crimson to hawk blue-jeans (though I do seem to recall one of the networks using part of an ELP ‘s version of “Fanfare for the Common Man” for The Wide World of Sports ).

Music for music’s sake will always lose out to music that makes you want to fuck, fight or shop. Pop culture rarely rises above it’s base instincts. The deplorable state of the classical music market and it’s conspicuous disappearance from commercial radio should be cited as further evidence that some forms of art best left to incubate away from market forces.

For too long progressive music fans have taken shit from the glossy fashion/music press. We’re quite aware of our status as a fringe group and we prefer it that way. We actively seek out the extremes in sonic and ryhthmic complexity and deliberately avoid specious trends meant for club-hopping followers of fashion.

So let me take advantage of my independent poverty and relative anonymity and be very clear in my reaction to the Blenders, The Rolling Stones, The Spins, et al of the fashion/music press who repeadtedly insult Prog fans with borrowed quips and hipper-than-thou drolleries: fuck-off you self-important, overbearing, air-sucking, coporate-music prostitutes. I like my music to reflect my life: long, hard & complicated.

  • Mitch Phillips

Dear Diary 2.20.23 The Laundry ‘n’ Laos edition.

Wanna know what’s weird? I have President’s Day off from work. First time in my life. Seems my new company has a banker’s calendar. 🤷‍♂️

But I’ve been given my President’s Day marching order from my wife who left me plenty of laundry to do while she ‘s slingin’ sandwiches to hungry workers who also weren’t so lucky.

And the only reason I can do laundry today is because I managed to repair our dryer yesterday with Youtube’s and Repair Clinic’s help – oh, and a little kick-in-the-butt from the wife. Wives are good for that. You can see the video below.

What did we do before Youtube’s self-help videos? Dodged wrenches from angry dads, that’s what.

Other than laundry it will likely just be a lot of dog-walking and maybe some fiddlin’ around in the studio. I need to practice my own songs for future creative group meetings.

Baby’s Birthday Adventure

Last Thursday we went to dinner with my daughter and her friends to celebrate my daughter’s 28th birthday. I wish I could say it was a smashing success but it was more of a boiled mess.

We went to a Laotian restaurant called Lao Pot. My daughter is always turning us on to new experiences and for that I love her even more. However, my wife and I found this particular fare to be confusing, frustrating, and sorta bland.

First (and this is really just a pet peeve of mine) I loathe choose-your-own-adventure restaurants like Mongolian Barbecue where it’s up to you to choose the ingredients, the sauces, etc..

And in Lao Pot, you not only have to choose your ingredients, but you get to boil it all in a soup-pot at your very own hot-plate! Yay. I get to cook it too. It’s like the restaurant version of scanning and bagging your own groceries. If I wanted to cook I wouldn’t go to a restaurant.

A view of my personal hot-plate.
“You cook! Ok mister?”

Ok, so I cook. That’s not even the worst of it for me, but choosing what to cook? Paper menus with seemingly a zillon choices were handed-out amongst us. See below:

Only one side of the menu. How am I supposed to know what the heck I want? The paralyzing paradox of too many choices just makes me feel anxious, not relaxed and happy.

After winging-it with the menu, and avoiding the questionable “Meat” section altogether (seriously, take a look at some of those, um, southeast-asian delicacies), I checked some boxes and handed the menu over to the waitress who was collecting them. My wife said it felt like a Scantron test.

My daughter was visibly annoyed with our discomfort. She even made a crack that she should have taken us to the “Golden Corral” like the old people we were. Not gonna lie, even that gastric dice-throw seemed preferable to this; at least I could see what I was getting into first.

When the waitress brought our plethora of food choices (there were seven of us who all ordered multiple plates) she immediately started handing dishes off to the closest patrons, expecting all of us to know what we ordered and what it looked like – without the aid of our menu cheat-sheets! That’s a bit presumptuous. Everybody was confused and started handing dishes to one another and back again, unsure of who ordered what.

I will say that EVERYTHING at Lao Pot was fresh. Like, so fresh some of the food still had a face (the fish tanks in the lobby should have been a tip-off). Everything without a face was right-from-the-garden raw. And, with seven of us ordering several plates (and me over-ordering due to my inexperience), the food was quite abundant. The spread was quite impressive. See below.

You could hardly wish for a fresher selection or wider variety of foods. It’s quite beautiful.

Now, I’m totally open to new experiences (Really! i am!) but this kind of restaurant requires an experienced guide. My daughter and her friends did their best, but really we were just winging-it – and everything ended up tasting the same; boiled and bland. But it looked amazing.

My split-pot of boiled mysteries.

Though we found our concoctions were less than delicious, I’m still glad we had the experience (if not the outrageous tab! Thankfully, I didn’t have to foot the whole bill this time.) because I know better now than to order anything in bulk i’m not too familiar with.

I did enjoy the dumplings and sauces my daughter mixed herself at the “sauce bar”. The dumplings seemed to be the only thing to successfully survive the boiling water intact. And Cheryl loved her bubble-tea, which isn’t something you can get everywhere but it’s gaining popularity here in the states.

Next time, Golden Corral, my treat. 😏

Dear Diary 2.16.23 “Appreciation is context-specific”

Wednesday night’s Creative Group meeting was a blast, even if three of the members couldn’t make it; one had a last minute family matter and the other two were no-call/no-shows. Still, there were five of us and the laughs were abundant.

We started off viewing the Jennifer’s (the host) fine photography skills displayed on an HD television in her living room. She specializes in scenic photography although she photographs other subjects from time to time.

She’s very popular on a local FB group where she shows just how prolific she is. There is hardly a day that goes by where she isn’t posting amazing photographs from all over the country. Being retired has its benefits.

After the viewing, I learned her editing program of choice is Adobe Lightroom and also that she also has no interest in making physical copies or selling her photographs at the local arts commune. Too much work, too little return. She’ll only sell digital files of the photographs when asked, usually by friends or friends of friends.

That detail surprised most of us, but I kinda felt the same way about marketing my music; it’s just white noise, a loss-leader in a flooded market. I’m happy being an amateur (derived from the latin, Amare – which means “to love”). I wouldn’t love it if I only did it to make money.

When it was Sue’s turn, the other girls immediately accosted her, begging her to perform her song a’ cappella again like she did two weeks prior. They really loved it. She kinda smiled and half-groaned. Then I teased her and told her “Uh…don’t worry ‘cause that’s not going to be necessary” I teased. She smiled back as if to ask, “what-did-you-do?”

She had no idea that i’d produced an entire performance from the simple vocal (in the wrong key) and piano track she’s recorded two weeks prior; I transposed the piano part to the correct key, fine-tuned her vocal performance and adjusted the timing, programmed a full drum part, added a live bass track, finished the last of the piano part, and added background vocals to the refrains, the break-down, and the ending. Finally I did a simple volume balance and exported the track.

When it was my turn to share my work, I set up a bluetooth speaker i’d brought along, paired it with my phone, then explained the details of Sue’s visit two weeks prior, what we did and didn’t accomplish. She basically walked away with only a piano part playing over a drum-loop that she would use as a practice track at home.

When the girls finally heard what i’d done with it they were astonished. They hooped, hollered, and sang along to the track, smiles all around. Sue was ecstatic to hear out loud what previously existed only in her imagination. The reaction couldn’t have been better.

I’m very wary of pride, but I admit it felt really good to see their response. It made me smile and even giggle a bit. Totally worth the hours of meticulous editing it required.

Afterwards, our host made the apt connection between the Digital Audio Workstation (DAW) program I used and the photo-editing program she uses to bring her pictures to life. It’s all art & artifice; creative choices using fancy tools.

Now, in certain circles, what I did was really no big deal. People who are familiar with digital audio production might say, “Well, that’s a decent start.” But in this particular context it was nothing short of miraculous.

After the audio presentation I was asked to play some of my songs live, so I brought out the guitar, the iPad, and my foot-pedal for turning “pages” on my OnSong program. This is great practice for me because I rarely ever actually play in front of real people, and I had a captive and friendly audience.

Again, their reaction to my music, and especially my lyrics, was overwhelmingly positive. I’m really not used to praise and find it terribly uncomfortable because I just don’t believe it – that’s to say, I don’t believe in myself. I’ve never had very good self-esteem.

But this time I decided to accept it and bask in it. I’ve worked really hard over the years to “say something” in my music and for maybe the first time I felt as if someone really “heard” me, heard what I was trying to communicate, and it surprised and delighted them. I was very grateful for that. Having a roomful of creatives who actually pay attention to what you do is a revelation.

But again, put me in a different context, say up against what the popular music market is offering these days or even what you might see on any given day on Tik Tok and I can’t compete; i’m not pretty, i’m not young, I don’t have a good voice (which my lovely, tiny, supportive, and captive audience disagrees with), I can’t “wow” you with my technical mastery, and I don’t cater to trends. To most people I think I’m just another annoying old white guy with a guitar – which is an instant “IGNORE” on social media.

And I get it. It’s fine. I’m not someone who can deliver instant gratification and I’m not interested in competing with those who can. I can only offer my unique idiosyncratic take on whatever happens to capture my imagination and try the best I can to communicate that. Most of the reward comes from the process of songwriting itself, the challenge of making all the puzzle pieces fit together.

But to a very select few who happen to meet in a living room just two miles from my own house, i’m an unsung hero – and i’ll take that and cherish it for as long as it lasts. Context is everything.

Dear Diary 2-15-23: The “Roses ‘n Guns” edition

First, I should admit that when it came to Valentine’s Day gifts yesterday, I caved and bought my wife some roses and a couple of steaks for me to grill so she didn’t have to cook. She was pretty happy with that and I received a hug and a kiss for my troubles. Better than a poke in the eye, I guess.

I caved and bought some peach-colored roses for the wife on Valentine’s Day. Made her happy.

After a satisfying dinner, I spent the evening adding some passable background vocals to the song i’ve been working on for Sue from our creative group, which meets again tonight. Can’t wait to play it for them. I think they’ll be pretty “chuffed” as the Brits like to say.

My Logic session for Sue’s song “I Believed”. The greyed-out tracks have been muted because they’re no longer needed right now or they’re in another key.

So that’s the end of normal business for this post. I’m giving you a warning because i’m about to delve into a long diatribe about gun politics so you may choose to vacate here.

No? Ok, you’ve been warned.

Suffering the “End Of Our Free-Dumbs!”…yet again.

This morning, when I walked into work, the first thing my coworker launched into was how the recent shooting at Michigan State University (4 dead, 5 injured) was all the excuse Governor Jennifer Whitmer and the Democrats will need to “…take away our gun rights!”

Here we go again. Every time there’s a new gun law proposal, however lame or ineffectual, my co-worker threatens to move out of state.

“I can’t live here anymore!” he moaned.

Buh-bye, I think, borrowing something he likes to say when liberals complain about the actual loss of their rights, like with Roe, or same-sex marriage, or The Voting Rights Act, or…

Under proposed legislation, the magazines for my semi-automatic Glock, which all have a capacity greater than ten rounds, would require registration. Um, ok. What’s that supposed to do exactly? I mean besides collecting yet another fee from users as opposed to manufacturers?

Apparently there’s a proposal before the Michigan House (which actually was in the works before the MSU shooting acc. to WaPo) which would limit the size of semi-automatic magazines to 10 rounds and require registration for any magazines over that, which means the magazines that were included with my gun purchase last year would be covered by the new law.

Whatever. I’m fine with that. It’s hardly an inconvenience, like maybe wearing a f’n mask so you don’t get other people sick. But I digress…

Two Michigan State University students who are clearly upset about the proposal to register semi-automatic gun magazines. “But it’s…it’s inconvenient!”
(that’s satire, in case it needs to be pointed out. My condolences on the loss of their classmates and their sense of safety, and their confidence in their future and their leaders)

If you’ve spent any time with right-wing ammosexuals, you know that ANY gun-related legislation designed to stem the tide of bloodshed across the country is anathema and the beginning of the end of our “FREE-DUMB!” {{{groan}}}

Apparently there’s no limit to the carnage they can stomach as long as they can be fantasy-prepared to do battle with a tyrannical U.S. government at some undetermined point in the indefinite future – DARPA robotic-attack-dogs, predator-drones, and smart-bombs notwithstanding. 🙄

Anyway, did I bother to argue with my co-workers? No, of course not. I value my peace of mind far too much to bother trying to change right-wing minds anymore. If bloody piles of dead children scattered across the country won’t change their mind, I certainly won’t.

And, of course, there are ZERO proposals from the Republicans clown-show to do anything about the carnage at all. They’re too busy controlling your body-choices and protecting your children by threatening school-boards and banning books that might have the audacity to mention actual history or the fact that other kinds of people beside WASPs exist in this country and are even {{{{gasp}}}} quite happy with themselves. That’s the part that really seems to gitt’em riled up.

You can’t outlaw despair

And I don’t really believe we’re going to legislate our way out of the bloodshed anyway. What we have isn’t a just a gun-access problem, but a despair problem.

Despair is what drives people to commit acts of violence, imop. It’s an acquired emotional disability that produces an inability to see a way out. It causes are myriad and compounded; they can be economic, religious, media-related (a big problem imop), relationship-driven, family-driven, biologically-mental-health issues, or all of the above.

And trying to outlaw despair is about as useful as outlawing terrorism or homelessness, because they’re just symptoms of the system that created them. Our problems are much bigger than guns, but we can’t even begin to muster the political will to do anything about limiting access to them so we can frickin’ go to WalMart or school without thinking about getting shot (you think about it now, don’t you? I do.).

And chaos caused by bad actors exacerbate all of those symptoms (and I specifically mean people in positions of power, many of whom have law degrees from Ivy League schools, who pretend to be as dumb as the people who listen to their crazy bullshit). Their goal is to make the system as unreliable and unpredictable as possible so they can get away with whatever they’re trying to get away with (usually just access to your tax dollars or your vote) and so regular people won’t or can’t rely on the system to help them through tough times. Despair and violence is just an unfortunate side-effect that in turn sows more chaos which in turn further serves their intere$t$. These people put the vicious in “vicious cycle”.

So I expect that, in the same way we deal with climate-change, we’ll just muddle along with the gun debate like we hasve, pretending we can do what we’ve always done and the problems will magically disappear with the next news cycle. And if the next cycle is unrelenting and more blood is spilled in the commons (as expected by literally everybody), well “that’s just proof they’re trying to take away our guns so they can control us!”

Puhleeze, fool!

“They” can cause you to stampede your neighbors with something as simple as a fucking sale on wide-screen TVs at the Big Box store! And as proven by that example, the threat of liability may be the only thing that prevents it.

Dear Diary 2-14-23 Valentine’s Day Edition

Happy Valentine’s Day, if yer into that.

The wife and I are way past that now. We declared it a Hallmark Holiday years ago and choose to ignore it and go about our lives. Besides, I tell myself, Valentine’s Day is for lovers -and that ship sailed almost three years ago.

That’s not to say I don’t love my wife. I do. But it’s a deeper, more familiar appreciation than a conventional, romantic notion. We’ve long-since settled into our routine and have drawn the last lines of our hard boundaries.

I have no idea if she secretly harbors some wish for a romantic gesture today, despite our agreement to just ignore it, but there isn’t’ one coming. She should know that. Pretty sure she knows that. I do, however, make gestures of appreciation regularly. I always thank her for cooking and offer my help. Sometimes I’ll buy her gifts just because, no particular reason. And of course I do my share of the chores; laundry, dishes, home maintenance, etc…

Regarding other business, I’ve spent a good deal of my time in the studio editing, adding, and slightly polishing the track I did with Sue two weeks ago. In addition to fixing the key and tuning her vocals I added a bass track to it, a bit of piano at the end, and I think I’ll add a vocal harmony to the refrains when I get home. I want to surprise her and everybody else with it when our creative group meets tomorrow (we typically do it on Tuesdays, but we delayed it for Valentine’s Day).

My daughter’s twenty-eighth birthday is coming up. She calls it her “one-third-of-life-crisis” (ha!) which has certainly brought lots of changes, especially in her “polyglut” (my nickname for her polyamorous “throuple”). She told me she deep-sixed the whole thing and will be moving in with a girlfriend who also recently ended her long-term relationship. I try not to pry and let her volunteer what she wants to share.

Anyway, we’re meeting her for dinner on Thursday at some fancy joint called Lao Pot, which is a “hot-pot” restaurant where they cook meats and veggies in a boiling broth as you eat. She’s always turning me onto new experiences. But it turns out the experience requires a reservation of seven or more, at which point I had my own crisis – especially after last year’s unexpected $500 tab at The Whitney.

A photo from Lao Pot’s website, I presume (my daughter sent it to me)

“I hope you don’t expect me to pay for dinner for seven people, do you?” Nah, she assured me. Still, I feel a twitch in my wallet. 😳

I’ll be giving her some cash for her birthday, but I also bought a beautiful bracelet kit from Boldly Chic Boutique and had it sent to her home with a nice card (thanks, Claudette!) and she really loved it.

Maybe I should have bought one for the wife, too?

Nah! 😁

My daughter’s bday gift from me, courtesy of the Boldly Chic Boutique on Etsy

Featured image by Peter Jantsch.