Crafty Weekend, Coming Up

This weekend is going to rule. Our area of the world is getting slammed with the X-class Coronal Mass Ejection (CME) that our nearest star spat out. Solar flares are generally the cause of the borealis–both auroral and australial. In layman’s terms, the northern and southern lights. You know … those eerily green and red dancing lights that we all lament over when we see the amazing pics on Flickr or wherever? Yah. Tonight, I get to try to see one live for the first time.

 

That’s *after* I make over 100 tie dye bottles. That’s right–114, to be precise. “What?! *WHY*?!?” Cuz. I can. It’s all about choices, baby! 20 different hues of blue. 18 greens. blacks, greys, reds, yellows, oranges, browns … khaki, moss green, cerulean blue, baby pink, #2 pencil yellow (yes–that is an actual color on dharmatrading.com) … I’m going on a dyeing KICK. Halloween is right around the corner. Pumpkin and ghost tie dyes are gonna be a huge hit. 🙂

 

And to what will I be listening while doing all of this? Why U2’s new CD, of course! Songs of Innocence was a *huge* surprise announcement at the end of the Apple event on Tuesday. More than that, U2 ARE GIVING IT AWAY UNTIL OCTOBER 13. 500 million subscribers to iTunes, and all of us get it gratis. We pay nothing. We are the recipients of a gift.

 

Yet some people are squaking up a storm about how it’s “clogging up [their] phone.” Someone actually tweeted “Who the f*** put U2 on my phone?” Honestly? Who complains about free music? I don’t care if U2 isn’t your cup of tea; the fact that they’re literally giving away an entire CD speaks volumes about their character and generosity. And unless your name is Bob Lefsetz, you *should* be able to find something positive to say about that alone. But no … there are plenty of nay-sayers. Bob is one of the most vocal among them, but whatever. He’s bitter about something. Probably had to take a tablespoon of Goldenseal (don’t ask … just trust …). But I digress.

 

One of Bob’s points is that U2 are too old to be relevant anymore. “Yes, older people build the tools, but it’s young people who utilize them.” It’s stupidity like this that makes me want to bash my head against a wall. And … what experience do all these younglings have that gives them the right to tell U2–or any older band–that they’re no longer relevant? OHHHH … wait a sec. That’s just Bob’s opinion, right? Because ACTUAL musicians appreciate the groundwork that was laid for them. They stand in awe of their predecessors … especially when it’s abundantly apparent that it’s merited, as is the case with U2.

 

Whatever. One article by one grumpy gus does not  a career ruin. Well, at least not U2’s career. Bob’s may be dead in the water, with all his ability to assess talent and relevance.

 

And on a more positive note, I’m gonna get started on those dye bottles and make some wearable art. Pictures to come!

To Those Who Suffer from … Well, ANYthing

I read a friend’s blog post today. I won’t divulge the name here; it’s not my place to share. However, it has me doing a lot of introspective soul-searching about who *I* am, and how *I* view life.

 

In short, I consider myself a rather happy person.

 

That is, by no stretch, a bragging point. If anything, I say it with a wipe of my forehead and a whisk of my hand to rid myself of the beading sweat. I say it because I just got lucky in that regard. Now … having said that, I think that I have had my bouts with depression. Nothing long-term or ongoing, but indeed, I’ve felt actual, physical pain from being in a funk. So I have to ask myself: is that what depression is? Was I, at that point, actually depressed?

 

I don’t know. I’m not really in a position to say with any degree of certainty that I was. Or wasn’t. I know what and how I felt, and I hated it. I hated feeling like I hated it. I hated facing the fact that I felt compelled to try to determine what this “funk” was. I hated that I didn’t want to be around anyone, including my wife and kids. I hated the fact that I wanted nothing to do with blogging. Or photography. Or Facebook. Or tie-dyeing. Or … anything.

 

But for as bad as I felt, at no point did I ever consider offing myself … and I think that’s why I feel safe about saying that, even if I was mildly depressed, I wasn’t nearly as badly depressed as I could have been.

 

Which brings me to my point: my friend’s blog post.

 

See, this person has been to the “contemplation” end of depression. This person has put on the brave face in public, and wept furiously when alone. S/he smiled at people, but inwardly frowned the ultimate sad face. Did any of this person’s friends know the depths to which this person had experienced depression? No. Because this person chose to keep it personal. To keep it close. To not expose.

 

To not let on just how bad the hurt had grown.

 

Now … that was this person’s way of dealing with it. Others act and react differently. Ask yourself this : on any given day, how many people do you see who are grumpy, sad, crying, or otherwise engaged in what is so obviously an emotionally/spiritually/psychologically tough time? A few? Dozens? ONE?

 

And here’s the logical follow-up–the one question you must have to ask yourself: what are you doing about it?

 

Do you just … I dunno. Walk by? Obviously turn the other way? Pretend your fiddling with your phone to avoid the awkwardness?

 

What if that person is literally praying for someone to just say hi? Or what if that person has just decided that their life has no meaning, and that their only relief is at the bottom of a ravine after a jump off of a very tall bridge, or at the end of a gun barrel? WHAT IF YOU ARE THE ANSWER TO SOMEONE’S PLEADING?

 

Why would you not try to help? Why would you walk by and not offer someone a shoulder to cry on? Or a listening ear? Or whatever it is they need? Why would you walk away

 

One word: don’t.

 

Don’t just walk away. Don’t turn a “blind” eye.

 

Another word: help.

 

Be that listening ear. Offer that small glimmer of hope. Give that hug.

 

Yes, it may take leaving your comfort zone, but the end result … wouldn’t it be worth knowing that you helped someone? Maybe saved a life?

 

People, all I’m asking is for some common decency. ALL of us have hurt at one point. Some of us have hurt exponentially worse and longer than others. You know how that one small painful experience was for you; imagine living every day like that.

 

Challenge of the week: find someone you don’t know at all and wish them a good day. Or buy his/her coffee/hot chocolate/morning drink. Or smile at everyone for an entire day.

 

Help. Help everyone.

On Your Mark … Get Set …….. GO!

And we’re off on the 2014 blogathon! In an ideal world, I will update this every day with something amazingly cool–not just with music, but with stuff that I simply enjoy doing. This will involve game reviews, iPhone/iPad app/game reviews, tie-dye techniques that I use, shirts and other things I’ve made, music reviews, concert reviews, hockey-talk, my own personal missives on any of these subjects or others … I’m going all-out.

I don’t know if I’ll have a set agenda like some bloggers (read: CRYSTAL! She’s SO organized! I could only dream of reaching her level of awesomeness), but I do have a goal: EVERY DAY write something new.

Today marks the beginning. This is it. Get ready, world.

I’m sure I’ll post more later today. This is more of an announcement than anything else, and I needed to start somewhere.

New Music Friday: The Return

Yes, ladies and gentlemen, it’s back. Why? Hey … why not, right? 🙂

 

So this is what I’ve acquired in the last week or so. Don’t judge. I don’t judge your musical tastes. Not much, anyway …

  • Dido – Girl Who Got Away
  • Audio Fatigue – Starting Backwards
  • Camera Obscura – Biggest Bluest Hi-Fi
  • Goldroom – Angeles EP
  • Daughter The Wild Youth EP*
  • Daughter – If You Leave*
  • Soulsavers – The Light the Dead See
  • Amy Macdonald – This Is the Life

 

* Special thanks to my buddy Tim for the hook-up with Daughter. Great new band. Really liking the atmospheric, moody music and  her breathy vocals. Loving the whole vibe. He also added me to a music group on Facebook that shares new bands and stuff. Video and/or name only–nothing illegal here, of course. No, seriously–nothing shady.

 

So I find that I have a lot more time on my hands lately. Not so much a lot more money. In fact, literally no more money. Do the math; I’m sure you’ll come up with the answer. Anyway, I’ve decided to dedicate at least a portion of my day to writing more, since a) I really miss it; b) I *really* miss it! I like sharing my thoughts about what I’m listening to, or what I’m finding in the app world, or whatever. So … yah.

Reminiscing on 2012

I know, I know … it’s a bit early, right? There are still 28 days left in December. However, nothing will cause an early post as such as fearing that your blog of the last 3+ years has just been flushed down the drain.

 

Thankfully, my hosting provider had a backup that I managed to use as a springboard to restore almost the whole thing. That was a very, very happy night.

 

That was Friday. Today is Monday. I’ve had the weekend to ponder what would have been lost, had I not been able to recover any data. And it hit me.

 

It’s just data.

 

Yah, it would have been disappointing, but really, in the end, does it matter? No. This blog is my escape. My thoughts about stuff. Sure, it’s mostly about music, but there’s more here than just that.

 

In the end, does this blog matter? To me, sure. Does it matter to my kids? Nah. They’re young. Their interests are in dolls, bugs and Shaun the Sheep. Also, pizza. Does this blog matter to my wife? Only in that she knows that I like writing, so she likes that I like it.

 

Which begs the question: what *does* matter? I’ve compiled a list. This is not a fluff-fest.

  • Realize your worth as a person.
  • Be the best husband/father or wife/mother that you can be.
  • Help other people.
  • Find something to believe in. Not necessarily religion, but a cause, at least.
  • Be a productive citizen. Contribute to society. At least, to the best of your ability.
  • Speak nicely of those around you. “If you can’t say anything nice …”
  • Don’t be an idiot. (“Best advice you ever gave me.”)
  • Exercise. Take care of yourself.
  • Educate yourself in everything you can. You don’t have to be an expert, but knowledge never hurt anyone.

 

There it is. The list of really important things.

 

What mattered to me in 2012?

  • Taking my wife and kids to southern Utah to see the annular eclipse in May.
  • Watching the Venus transit with my girls in June.
  • All of us getting to go to Oregon in July.
  • The girls’ first beach experience (TOO COLD!!!)
  • Watching my mom and step-dad remarry and knowing that this time it’s permanent. Like … *really* permanent. As in, forever.
  • Knowing that I’ll be with them forever.
  • Celebrating my daughters’ 8th and 7th birthdays. Yah … they’re kinda close together.
  • Watching my wife enjoy her business as it starts to grow and thrive.
  • Multiple date nights with my wife … most of which were just a simple Chinese take-out and in-home movie night, but we love those, and that’s what matters to us.
  • Watching my daughters learn and grow into even more incredibly smart, wonderful little girls whose hearts are so full of love that they barely know how to contain it all.

 

I’m sure I’m forgetting stuff. In fact, I know I am. An odd paradox–knowing that you’re forgetting something, but you don’t know what. For now though, these are the things that matter to me.

Pensive Retrospective: Thoughts on Bones Ep “The Patriot in Purgatory”

There are very few things that get me to actually shed rolling tears. Discussing 9/11 is at the very top of that short list. Being that yesterday was the recognized government day off for Veteran’s day (the actual day is always November 11, but since that fell on a Sunday this year, we in the US honored our vets the following day), some shows decided to show their respect with a patriotic show.

 

Last night’s episode of Bones had the 5 interns working together to determine the cause of death of one of the “cold cases” at the Jeffersonian. The results were epically moving.

 

That’s all I’m going to say about the episode itself, other than one last tiny thing in just a little bit. This ep was one for the ages, and it’s probably one I won’t be able to watch again. I love Bones, but that episode was *extremely* difficult for me to watch. I have a very difficult time discussing those events, yet those very same events shape my every single day. Paradox? Indeed. But it is what it is.

 

One of the scenes had all 5 interns discussing where they were on that fateful day. It brought to mind my morning of September 11, 2001.

 

I had to work at 8 am at a call center. I worked collections for Sprint PCS, and my shift started early that particular Tuesday. I got up, showered, and sat down at the computer to check email. A few minutes later, a little before 7, my wife called. She had an overnight job tending two wonderful autistic girls, and her shift was just about over. She asked if I was watching the TV. Well, at 7 in the morning, I generally don’t turn on anything but the computer, so no–I wasn’t watching anything.

 

“Then you need to turn on the TV.”

 

“Why …?”

 

“A plane just flew into the World Trade Center.” American Airlines flight 11 had just smashed into the north tower.

 

“Okay. Thanks for the heads-up.”

 

I turned on the TV and flipped over to CNN. Smoke was pouring out from the north tower. Everyone was scrambling to make sense of what had happened. As I sat there watching, the other plane, United Airlines flight 175, slammed into the south tower. Controlled fear and panic could be heard in everyone’s voices. I sat there with my jaw agape. Alone. Stunned. Nowhere near a state of mind to actually go to work.

 

But to work I went. Early September in northern Utah still holds some pretty warm weather. I hopped on my bike and rode to work. What would normally be bustling, busy streets were eerily silent and bereft of traffic. And by “bereft,” I mean there was not a single car to be seen. 3 mile bike ride took about 15 minutes. As I walked in the front door, I passed several people walking out, shaking their heads, sobbing. I walked through our security doors, dropped my bag of at my desk, and went to the break room. It seemed like everyone was in there. I sat with a friend of mine and his mom as we watched the horror unfold. On my ride in, the south tower collapsed. I learned of this from my friend, and I sat there, even more stunned and … numb. Yah. Numb. I can’t think of another word for it. I didn’t know what to think, or how to feel. I had no reference frame for this level of terrorist activity, so I really didn’t process anything–I just sat there and watched. The “processing” would come the next night … and it would shake me from the inside out.
We sat there listening to the pundits discuss everything from logistics of saving those above the impact zone, to who was responsible, to the ramifications of the collapse of the south tower.

 

At some point, I decided that I would not abandon Lori to sit around the apartment and watch this on her own. I called the front desk and informed them that I would not be in that day. The front desk girl said that she watched me walk in, and I told her that I would be leaving to take care of my wife. She was silent for a moment, then she quietly sniffled and eked out a “I understand,” and just hung up.

 

I stayed for a bit to keep tabs on the news. Reports of other planes being hijacked were rolling in. American Airlines flight 77 was bound for the Pentagon. United Airlines flight 93 was supposed to target the White House, but it never made it. The passengers took on the terrorists, and the plane crashed in Somerset County, Pennsylvania.

 

I knew Lori wouldn’t be home until about 9, so I sat and watched the news for a while longer. As we’re watching, my buddy said, “I can’t believe the other tower hasn’t fallen yet. It got hit first.” In a fit of unbridled hubris, I blurted, “Well, if it hasn’t fallen yet, it’s not going …” and as I said this, the top of the north tower gave out and started crushing the floors immediately beneath it. Once they started collapsing, the rest of the building were quick to follow. Eyes bugged out, jaw unhinged, I sat in humility and embarrassment as I watched the dust cloud envelop all of lower Manhattan. I had had all I could handle. I *needed* to be home. I *needed* to be with my wife.

 

My manager was sitting at her desk, which was two chairs down from mine. I grabbed my backpack, looked at her, and she looked at me. I said nothing, and she wanly smiled, and I walked out.

 

The bike ride home was just as lonely. Traffic lights held no meaning; no one was actually driving. It took me less time to get home than it did to get to work because it’s slightly more down hill. That, and I *really* wanted to get home.We called some friends who we knew didn’t have TV. At first, he thought I was kidding. “Craig, this is no joke. The towers are gone, and we’re under attack.” He and his wife and son came over and watched for a good long while.Wednesday night, my wife had to go in for another overnight shift. She left, and I was alone in our apartment. I sat in our computer room and read as many new news articles as I could find. I wanted to make sense of this. I neededto make sense of it.

 

And I couldn’t. There was simply nothing i could draw on to allow for comprehending this level of hatred towards Americans. As I thought about everything, I started to wonder: “How can I take care of my wife?” “How can I protect her from this?”

 

I had no answers. In fact, not only did I not have answers, but I didn’t even know how to formulate the questions that were churning in my head.

 

Finally, a bubble burst somewhere in my chest and head. My body crumpled under the sobbing, shivering convulsions of heaving sobs that I could not control. For the first time in my life, I had only one word that could sum up every question I had been too nervous to ask, every feeling of confusion and shock, every single thought came back to this one word.

 

Fear.

 

I feared for my wife. I feared for our families. I feared for our future children. I feared for our friends.I feared life.

 

2 years later, I found a cathartic center–a counter-balance to that fear. I was blessed with an opportunity to provide, in some small way, a lending hand to our families, to our friends … to the future well-being of this country. I still have that center and balance. In the 11 years since 9/11, I have maintained a steely exterior. I’ve had plenty of opportunities to put these demons behind me and help me and my family move forward …But every now and then, I get caught off guard, and I remember the fear I felt that one night, and I think of the horror of losing my loved ones in such a horrific manner. Not that I lost anyone that day, but it opened my mind. What if I had lost someone that day? How much different would my world be now? Would I have the strength to go on? I can’t answer these questions because, mercifully, I don’t have to, but there are those who live with this hell every single day. And it’s their loss that overwhelms me.

 

I cannot watch something like last night’s Bones ep without remembering EVERYTHING about those first two days. I remember the shock. I remember the quiet riding down the street. I remember my college professor carrying on with class and not missing a single beat the following morning–not mentioning it, yet we could totally see it in her eyes, lurking tragically in her tone, her facial expressions. No smile, no jocularity, no … anything. Straight forward professionalism with none of the friendly familiarity in her typical laughter. Gone–all of it. Yet she pushed through and provided us with a day of education, and provided us a sense of normalcy that had just been obliterated.

 

I also remember the resolve I made to not give in to their fear. I resolved to live my life to the fullest, and help my family live our lives together in peace and love, just like we want–not how they want. I give my wife and girls an extra hug when I think of that day. I watch my girls grow and learn, and I think that maybe, someday, they’ll read about this time in history and wonder how we as a society ever conceived of such horror.

 

We win, terrorists. Period.11 years later, we are still winning, and we’ll continue to win because love will always conquer fear.

State of the Music Industry (Part II)

Wait … when was Part I?!

 

Okay, okay … fine. So Part I was written a little less than 2 years ago. And no, it really had not a lot to do with the whole music industry–just demolishing the RIAA (which, let’s face it, is a *great* org to demolish and rebuild from the ground up).

 

Since then, crowd-sourcing funding sites like Kickstarter and IndieGoGo have hit stratospheric levels of awareness–not just for music, but for film, tech projects, photography, books, art … you name it. Think of a creative projects, and there’s probably already been a project along those lines. Not to diminish YOUR creativity or say that your project won’t fund well (see: TriggerTrap, Timelapse+, and TriggerHappy. All Kickstarter projects designed to interface with your camera for more creative photos, and started in order, all of which funded successfully).

 

So it’s no great surprise that some in the music industry are using this as a means of raising capital sufficient to fund their projects. It’s becoming a more and more proven model, and it’s so much more engaging for the fans.

 

However, the term that isn’t getting lost in ANY of this is “industry.” The insanely sweet part to this revolution that I still contest is in its infancy is that your Marissa Nadleres, your Unwomans, your Family Crests … and yes–even your Amanda (BLEEPing) Palmers are all finding new and awesome ways to use their funds more creatively.

 

Which brings me to my case in point for this go-round: one Marian Call–a self-proclaimed geek who is unashamed of flying her nerd-banner, replete with its federation, rebel alliance, and imperial logos and icons. She does indeed have her phaser set to “stun,” for that is precisely what she does.

Editor’s note: That last sentence might just be the cheesiest line I’ve ever written, outside of the sap my poor wife has to endure. Sorry, Marian … you are the recipient of the fromage du jour.   🙂

 

At this point, it’s too much to say that Marian Call is the hardest working musician in the industry. However, I don’t think it’s a stretch to list her “selling points,” for wont of a better term:

  • Witty
  • Well-varied depth of knowledge about a range of geeky subjects
  • Hard working
  • Uniquely beautiful voice
  • Incredibly hard working
  • Engaging fan interaction
  • Twitter
  • Facebook
  • Personal responses
  • PSYCHOTICALLY HARD WORKING

So, have I mentioned that she works *really* hard at promoting her music and getting it out there? Her campaigns are nothing less than arresting in their scope. I mean, for crying out loud … the girl played CERN, people. CERN!! You know … particle acceleration at its finest? Making small universes for nano-seconds at a time? CREATING ANTI-MATTER?! Yah …. she played there. To fellow geeks. FOR fellow geeks. I, for one, am jealous–both of her and the scientists. Why? Well sweet merciful hell, why wouldn’t she, if she has the chance? Why else?

 

In two days, she kicks of a 13-day marketing blitz to draw attention to her “new” release, Something Fierce. “New” in the sense that it’s being re-released; it originally came out in 2011, but this new release is big. Big, I tell you. BIG!!! SO big, in fact, that Maid Marian (fairly certain I’m not the first person who’s thought of that witty moniker) has decided to get all of her followers on board with this campaign.

 

Starting November 1 and running through the 13th, she will ask that some small task be completed each day. With an army of 14000+ followers just on Twitter, that group alone will be a force with which to be reckoned. For those who complete all 13 days, the possibility of musical wealth untold awaits. “If you complete every Adventure Quest task by November 13th and send me screencaps by email, you will be entered to win some sincerely excellent and very real prizes, digital and physical, with shipping anywhere in the world.”

 

Really, what this boils down to is genius marketing. Creative marketing. The way of the marketing future. Or rather, I guess the future is already here, isn’t it? What Marian Call is doing is setting a pretty high-bar standard for all DIY-ers in the music industry.This is what persistence and dedication look like, people. Hers is the face of blue-collar music. And well-deserved it is. Are there musicians as hard-working as she is? Sure. Where Marian Call sets herself apart is the sheer creativity of her grass-roots marketing. “…Your task might be to post a comment on an article in haiku, or to draw a doodle of a lyric and post it hashtagged on Twitter, or to write a comment where each word starts with the letters of the last word in the before you … They will be small internet tasks, little 2-minute treasure chests and dungeon crawls, and will involve lots of Us Guys rewarding media outlets that feature the record.”

 

I’ve already decided that I’m all in. This is too fun to pass up, and she deserves to have a spotlight shine down upon her brilliance.

 

November 13th. Something Fierce. Make it happen, people. Make it happen …

New CD Review: Rush – Clockwork Angels

The moment has arrived.

 

I have heard the new music.

 

The verdict is in.

 

Rush no longer needs–nor have they *ever* needed–the “Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.” With this release, they have inducted themselves into their own hall of fame. Once again, their newest offering triumphs over pretty much everything else that’s available today. The songs are epic (not in the trendy sense of “Whoa … that’s so epic, man!!”), cinematic, and … simply VAST. There are 12 tracks on Clockwork Angels, and every single one of them is a home run. Or a hat trick. Or a Gordie Howe hat trick. In fact, that’s it right there–they are the Gordie Howe hat trick to end all. There’s scoring. There are assists all over the place. And there are brutal, drop-the-gloves, bare-knuckle fights that will rend your soul in two.

“Wait … what? how can there be an actual fight?”

 

Sit back, relax. If you’re reading this on your phone and have Instapaper installed, you might want to open it. This review’s gonna be commute-worthy.

 

This is Rush’s first “concept album” since their heady days of 2112, Hemispheres, Caress of Steel, etc. However, this CD differs from them in that the concept spans THE WHOLE CD. None of their previous concept albums lasted longer than 1 side of an LP. 2112 clocks in at 20:33. Between “The Fountain of Lamneth” and “The Necromancer,” Caress of Steel‘s concept tracks span 31:27. Cygnus X-1: Book 2″ from Hemispheres lasts a “paltry” 18:08.

 

Clockwork Angels is over 65 minutes long, recounting the story of a young man longing to leave his lands. He yearns for the enormity and grandiosity of Crown City. After successfully landing work as a carnival worker in Chronos Square, he falls in love, and is rejected. He seeks comfort by seeking out Cibola–the City of Gold, meanwhile working in the port city of Poseidon.

 

Themes of order, chaos, anger, forgiveness, wonder, love found and lost, heroism, failed journeys … this CD has it all.

 

You know what? Read the book. It comes out in September. The collaborative book between Kevin Anderson (for all you Star Wars novelists, that name should be *extremely* familiar) and Neil Peart expands on the story told by the CD.

 

In truth, I’ve had this CD now for about 5 days. I won’t lie: I downloaded it as soon as it hit the torrent sites. Call me what you will. I have every intention of buying it outright on Tuesday; probably two or three times. So no–I’m not a pirate. I am, however, a die-hard Rush fan, and I make no bones about it.

 

That being the case and knowing that Clockwork Angels was literally days away, I figured it might have leaked. I downloaded it and literally ushered my daughters to the backyard for a couple hours of sprinkler summer fun. Or … late spring, since, you know … it was June 5th. Technically, still spring.

 

The musicianship on the whole CD is ridiculously superb. There have been so many times over the last few days that I’ve just sat here in stunned silence, thinking “I don’t think I’ve ever heard them at this level … and they’ve been doing this for almost 40 years.” And the lyrics … seriously. This is beyond classic Neil; he elevated his game to a whole new level for this go-round. His drumming is equally stratospheric. There are parts that he sounds like he had 10 arms. Geddy pulls out some bass lines that are simply inhuman. “Headlong Flight” has this bass line that just leaves you staring into the distance, wondering how anyone can play all the notes he hits with just one hand. Alex pulls out all the stops on every single song. His solos range from haunting to twisted and everything in between. There are chords that he plays that I’m fairly confident have never been played by ANYone. “Clockwork Angels” has a couple, as does “Headlong Flight.” There are intense, spine-shattering moments, and moments where he plucks what sounds like a 12-string (“The Garden”) that give me the shivers.

 

I queued up “Caravan,” though I’ve had that and “BU2B” memorized since early 2010. I figured if I was going to enjoy the new CD,  I was going to enjoy the whole CD.

 

Even being familiar with the first two tracks through the singles released a couple of years ago, there were subtle differences that were obvious. The echoed chorus at the end of “Caravan,” the lamenting melancholy of the acoustic intro to “BU2B” … even on Neil’s fill before after the second “verse” in “BU2B”, it seems like there’s an extra length to the cymbals. The singles were excellent. The CD versions are even more polished.

 

Eventually, my playlist navigated to track 3, “Clockwork Angels.” This is where the “Gordie Howe hat trick” reference should make a whole lot of sense. There have been a few times in life where music has literally left my jaw hanging on by the sinewy tendrils of my mandibular tendons. This was one of those instances–where the opening leaves you feeling like you just got punched in the gut and had the wind literally knocked out of you. You *want* to breathe, but you can’t. And even if you could, you’re afraid to because you might miss a single, solitary note, and that pain is inexplicably more unbearable than a complete and utter lack of oxygen.

 

“Clockwork Angels” is a lengthy one, clocking it at over 7 and a half minutes. It opens with this sad, echoing, almost gregorian chant performed by Geddy Lee, which follows with an “archer’s lob” of cymbals before the full-on frontal assault hits–a barrage of guitar that sounds like it’s straight out of a “Meddle”-era Pink Floyd song. Specifically, “One of These Days.” And it’s sooooo much more dark and ominous than is the PF track. The opening is at once frantic and frenetic, pummeling you with lefts and rights of guitar and bass upper-cuts that leave you wondering when the beating will ever end. Here’s the thing: you do not WANT it to end. You WANT it. You CRAVE IT. But you are denied as the dynamic completely shifts to this whimsical, light and airy melody that recalls moments of driving through a big city for the first time, with the top down, eyes wide, and drinking in all the grandeur and splendor that you’ve always imagined. For example, imagine you’ve always dreamed of visiting someplace like NYC, Paris, Shanghai … and checking out places like the Empire State Building, Ground Zero, or the Oriental Pearl Tower, Eiffel tower, Louvre … imagine visiting any of these places for the first time. That’s the wonder I felt when the transition hit … except that feeling of wonder and comfort lasts precsiely 21 seconds. That’s all the more time you’re allotted to catch your breath and return your trays and chairs to their original upright positions. The next thing you know, Alex comes roaring back and reminds you just why he’s one of the premiere guitarists of all time, pulling out one of the most ace riffs in the Rush arsenal. Following his assault, Geddy and Neil join in and permanently seal upon you the memory of why you started listening to Rush in the first place. If ever there was a moment where you forgot who these guys used to be, or where their roots are, this song will smack you back to remembrance with all the love and force that you deserve.

 

The lyrics to this are as tight and as Neil-esque as it gets. Here is an excerpt from “Clockwork Angels”:

 

“High above the city square
Globes of light float in mid-air
Higher still, against the night
Clockwork angels bathed in light

 

You promise every treasure, to the foolish and the wise
Goddesses of mystery, spirits in disguise
Every pleasure, we bow and close our eyes
Clockwork angels, promise every prize”

 

When I saw “Carnies” on the track list a few weeks ago, I will admit that I had my reservations. I’m glad I kept those in check. “How I prayed just to get away. To carry me anywhere. Sometimes the angels punish us by answering our prayers.” I love the punch to the song. It has this very “Working Man” vibe to it in the beginning. You’ll read this in the liner notes, but the story behind the song really caught me off guard. I won’t spoil it for you, cuz that’s the fun of reading the liner notes, right?

 

Which is one of the greatest things about this CD. Each track’s lyrics are prefaced by a little back story. It really helps to tie the whole saga together, and it really whets your appetite for the book (again … September, but seriously … this CD will keep you plenty entertained until then).

 

The last track, “The Garden,” is one of the most introspective and philosophically deep songs that the band has ever written. I’m ripping this right out of the liner notes, so please don’t confuse this with anything I’ve written. I could never deign to write as such. Anyway,

 

“LONG AGO I READ A STORY FROM ANOTHER TIMELINE about a character named Candide. He also survived a harrowing series of misadventures and tragedies, then settled on a farm near Constantinople. Listening to a philosophical rant, Candide replied, “That is all very well, but now we must tend our garden.”

 

I have now arrived at that point in my own story. There is a metaphorical garden in the acts and attitudes of a person’s life, and the treasures of that garden are love and respect. I have come to realize that the gathering of love and respect – from others and for myself – has been the real quest of my life.

 

“Now we must tend our garden.”

 

Chills, right? How can you not read that and just weep with hope and aspirations of filling everyone’s lives with joy and love? “The treasure of a life is a measure of love and respect. The way you live, the gifts that you give. In the fullness of time, it’s the only return that you expect.” If this is the last song on the last CD that Rush ever releases, they go out on the highest note possible. There are so many things about this song that is good–from the lyrics, to Alex’s solo that is rife with emotion, to the sheer beauty of the song … if you don’t well up and shed at least a single tear, you don’t have soul. Period. I said it, so you know it’s true.

 

Answer me this: how is it that a band that’s been around almost 40 years, and has gone through as many metamorphoses as these guys have, can come back to their roots and completely dominate? Clockwork Angels is their masterpiece, in my opinion. Their classics will always be their classics and their building blocks that got them to this precise stage, where they *can* write this kind of music. This is them at their pinnacle best–the culmination of EVERYTHING they’ve ever been.  This was the CD they were destined to write.

 

In the end, this CD is for every Rush fan that’s ever existed. It’s for every *music* fan that’s ever existed. Clockwork Angels is their definitive work, and if your music collection is without, then your collection isn’t complete.

 

March of the Solar Moon

Yes, I’m aware that the post title doesn’t make a whole lot of sense … unless I give you some context.

This Sunday, I’m going to southern Utah to watch the annular solar eclipse in its entirety. Well as “entirety” as it gets in our neck of the woods, since the sun sets just before the eclipse ends (but really, we’re only going to miss about 20 minutes).

For the last week or so, I have woken up and headed out to the car to drive to work. I get up pretty early–between 5 and 6. I’m out the door well before sunrise, generally speaking.  One day early last week, when I was driving in to work a little later than normal, I could see an almost full moon just getting ready to set on the western horizon, while on the eastern horizon, the sun was already threatening to crest the tops of the still-snow-capped mountains.

This morning, I saw the moon directly over head as i left around 5:30. It’s in its waning crescent phase, and it is marching towards its inevitable encounter with the sun this coming Sunday afternoon/early evening.

It struck me that this cyclical phase the moon goes through–the rotation around the earth once every 28 days (for the sake of discussion, anyway) … and this collision course with lunar and solar alignment in just such a locale that I only need to drive 4 or 5 hours … this is why I love science–specifically, astronomy. Today, anyway. I love watching documentaries as a general rule. Anything to further learning. 🙂

But I digress.

This morning, it struck me that I am going to witness an incredible spectacle on Sunday. This is going to be an awesome event! I even rented a high quality lens to make sure i get good pictures. How often does one get to say, “Yah, I saw an annular eclipse today.”?! I’ve read of people whose lives were changed after seeing events like this. The sheer grandeur of the confluence of celestial bodies in just such a perfect alignment; the awe-inspiring vision that presents itself as the moon blots out 95% of the sun; the day that turns to night, then back to day … all in a matter of minutes. How could one NOT be struck by something like that?

Then there’s the Venus transit on June 5th. Another incredibly rare event. So rare, in fact, that it happens twice every 110-125 years. Unfortunately, this transit is the last one until December 2117, at which point most anyone alive right now will be dead.

August 21, 2017 will see a full total solar eclipse pass through North America, the center of which passes right through Jackson Hole, Wyoming, southern Idaho … well here–see for yourself. The path cuts through THE ENTIRE CONTINENTAL USA. I can’t wait for that one. It’s going to be awesome.

April 8, 2024 will see another total solar eclipse, this time passing over Niagara Falls. Seriously? Can we say “photo op”?

But for now, my heart is already in southern Utah. Sunday morning cannot get here soon enough. Gonna have to start making a playlist for the trip. Obviously Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon, Ozzy’s Bark at the Moon, CCR’s “Bad Moon Rising,” Soundgarden’s “Black Hole Sun,” and whatever else I can think of. Spotify to the rescue!

The Jimmy Chunga Fallacy

Ahh, the grandness of being an on-air celebrity. They can say a lot of things! And apparently, they feel they can say it without impunity.

Not today, Chunga. Not today.

You see, Jimmy Chunga’s take on this whole Trayvon Martin case is that “There isn’t any evidence” pointing either way, so he feels that Mr. Zimmerman should be left alone–have the media spotlight taken off of him. After all, this is AMERICA! LAND OF THE FREE! Innocent until proven guilty, right?! Leave him be in peace! You have no evidence against him, so leave him alone.

Please. Are you serious? No one buys that schlock anymore.

Come on …

Thus was Chunga’s stand: there’s no evidence against Zimmerman, so he’s innocent. Ignore the fact that the girl with whom Trayvon was chatting over the phone said the he told her that he was being followed. Ignore the fact that the surveillance cameras show NO blood on Zimmerman ANYwhere after shooting Trayvon (Zimmerman claimed that he was punched in the noes and hit on the back of the head).

Chunga made it perfectly clear how uninformed he actually is about the case to his audience before he opened up the phone lines for the wildly popular, “What’s happening hot stuff?” segment. I had an opinion and wanted to weigh in. After a few attempts to get through that were met with busy signals, indeed–I got through.

I presented my argument. This country does *not* assume innocent until proven guilty: quite the opposite. If such were the case, there would be no need for bail, or bail bondsmen, or the like. The point of bail is to pay into a system that has already fingered you as a guilty party, but if you pay us X amount of dollars, we’ll assume you’re innocent. Really? THAT’S considered “innocent until proven guilty? What a facade. And what about those who don’t make bail, or aren’t offered bail? Where’s the innocent until proven guilty there? Again, I reference Josh Powell. No one assumes he’s innocent, despite the fact that there’s literally no hard evidence–only circumstantial.

I presented my argument. He cut me off and said that “No–it’s better that 10 guilty men go free than one innocent man sit in jail,” and so on and so forth. “This country was founded on the principle of innocence until proven guilty! We need to get back to that!” I countered with there is no such thing as innocent until proven guilty and I used a very first-hand experience to get to my point. Obviously, I didn’t give minute details, but in a broad sense, I explained that my wife and I were no longer allowed to do certain things for the state because of a case that was brought against me. That civil case never even got to go to trial because we were strong-armed into dropping our civil suit against the state … BY THE STATE. In other words, the state threatened to press criminal charges and drag us through a criminal trial, even though they knew good and well that they didn’t have enough evidence to every actually win … but they also knew that strong-arming me into dropping the civil suit by using the threat of criminal charges should be enough to get us to drop our case. And ya know what? It worked. Know why? Because I do not trust the justice system. I have family that works in law. I was strongly advised to take the deal and let this whole issue go because trials by jury can and do go wrong–very, very wrong. That is coming from within the legal system, people–not some radio DJ with a semi-popular morning show. “Drop the case. You do not want this to go to trial. Juries get it wrong. A lot. If they’re offering to drop any possible criminal charges by you dropping the civil suit, take it.”

So now we go back to the call-in show. Mr. Chunga went on to call my argument “dumb,” and then hung up on me. It gets better. He told his audience after he hung up on me that I was just “grand standing because [I’m] pissed off about my case,” leaving me no chance to refute or explain anything.

Here’s what I think:

1. Jimmy Chunga does not believe, nor does he practice, what he spouts. If he did, he would not have said that I was just “grandstanding.” Presenting an opposing idea based upon personal experience is not “grandstanding”–it’s stating fact. Cold, hard, undisputable fact. Not facts that *Chunga* had, but facts nonetheless. Yet this man, on air, decided within our 30-second call that my idea is “dumb” and that I was grandstanding because I was pissed off. Sounds an awful lot like judging without facts, to me. Jumping to conclusions that aren’t accurate, based on the fact that he has no facts … which is exactly what he’s preaching against.

2. EVERYone wants to point to Josh Powell as having murdered his wife, Susan, despite any hard, cold evidence to support the claim, yet EVERYONE assumes that he did it. The man even killed his own kids and himself to keep his in-laws from having custody of the two boys. But he wasn’t tried in an actual court of law, so he must be innocent, right?! Right …?

3. Chunga couldn’t be bothered to discuss or debate without using name-calling as part of his argument. “Your idea is dumb.” Wow. It doesn’t get any more childish or immature than that. Not to mention he presented no facts for showing how great this American court and justice system is. All he could do is sling mud. Here’s an idea, Chunga: run for office. That’s what the best politicians do, right? Call names and make personal attacks? Go for it! New Mayor of Salt Lake City!! JIMMY CHUNGA!!

What’s really sad is that I really like his show. I like the fact that he has a more conservative slant than do other stations, say, in the 96-97 wavelength. On principle, he and I see more eye to eye than we don’t. But this … calling someone’s idea’s dumb and assuming that someone is just grandstanding for the sake of piss-offed-ness without knowing a single thing about the person … while claiming that everyone is innocent until proven guilty and that we must not judge?! They hypocricy is just too great to ignore. Sorry, Chunga, but you lost a listener today. Not that you care.

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