Live the Life

Another Weekend Tune

Here is a song that a bunch of old farts might miss if their offspring didn’t share a love of music. The band Coldplay was on my radar because of my boys, but I never really sought them out to listen to.
On a road trip to Pittsburgh a DJ announced that the new Coldplay song was up next. I decided to give it a listen. Little did I know that it happened to be #1 on Billboard. I think it deserves it. Driving beat, great lyrics; it is probably my favorite song from the past few years. I am glad I stumbled across it.
Coldplay’s official YouTube release won’t play in embedded mode. It is worth seeking out, however. The version I am presenting here is Boyce Avenue’s cover version: just two guys with a bass drum, an acoustic guitar and a keyboard loaded with string instrument sounds. Cool.

Viva la Vida – Coldplay (covered by Boyce Avenue)


Blue on Black

Another Weekend Tune.

“Blue on Black” captured my attention the very first time I heard it. I didn’t know who performed it or even the correct title. Eventually I googled the lyrics and discovered who performed it, and was surprised.

Kenny Wayne Sheppard is a fantastic guitar player. Possibly the Clapton of his generation. In the following video he is on the left, black sweatshirt, black bandanna. The lead vocals did not sound like Kenny singing, and it was only when I watched a video of his band performing it did I realize that someone else, not Kenny, was singing. Noah Hunt provides the lead vocals. His voice has a fantastic quality, and I think Hunt is perhaps one of the most talented, yet unrecognized, vocalists around.

The album version of the song is fantastic, but I am presenting an acoustic version here. It shows the talents of both Sheppard and Hunt, and it still rocks. This is also one of the songs that inspired me to want to learn to play the guitar properly.

Here is “Blue on Black” – The Kenny Wayne Sheppard Band.

The Best of Every Day Fiction 2008 (Anthology)

One of the sites I try to visit each day is Every Day Fiction. They publish a single story daily. The story can be from any genre–romance, horror, inspirational–you name it. From the 365 stories published during their first year they have selected 100 of the best and have now made them available in print form.

The Best of Every Day Fiction 2008 is now available for purchase.

The Best of Every Day Fiction 2008

The Best of Every Day Fiction 2008

My story “The Journey” is included, which is such an honor. I didn’t think any of my stories would make the cut for this anthology. The quality of stories that Every Day Fiction publishes is very high, and it is a shame they could not include all 365 stories. I just can’t get over the fact that I have a story selected for “The Best of”. When the editors sent me the proof pages for my story, I actually got choked up. Validation that you can write is a very powerful thing. I guess you can blame EDF for encouraging me to keep writing.

If you are so inclined, click on the link above the image of the book and order a copy. They come in hardback and trade paperback.

I am off to order a few copies myself. I plan to present them as a thank-you to some of the people that have supported and encouraged my creativity and quirky weirdness over the years.

Road trip: Bob’s random crap

Whilst on a road trip yesterday to return the youngest to Pittsburgh, I stumbled across a radio station that had me laughing at its concept. Most radio stations these days belong to, or run programming by, companies that run syndicated radio shows. Just about anywhere you are in the USA, you can find a station called “The Mix”, “The River”, “The Classic Rock Station”, etc. and it is mostly pablum with no originality. After all, there had to be a reason why Tom Petty wrote the song “The Last DJ”, right?

I listen to these syndicated stations because I have very little choice. I do tune in Columbus Ohio’s QM96 when I am in range. At least in the morning it seems to have original programming.

The station I had started to listen to while leaving Pittsburgh started to fade out, so I hit the scan button to find some more suitable music for my lonely drive home. I left it on a station that was playing “1985” by Bowling For Soup, because it has a catchy tune and I like the sentimentality of the lyrics. I listen to “1985” when I get the chance because I have had this idea of writing my own lyrics about being sentimental about 1979. I figured it was a station that catered to popular rock hits from recent years and was prepared to hit the scan button as soon as “1985” was over.

My jaw dropped because the next song was “Take a Chance” by Abba. That’s right! Abba!

Next was “Shock the Monkey” by Peter Gabriel, followed by “Don’t Do Me Like That” by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. And just when I started thinking that it was just another classic rock station, they drop in a song from the mid 90’s. I think the god of coincidence also wanted to get a jab in, you know, because I was still thinking about writing 1979 based lyrics for the song “1985”.

“1979” by The Smashing Pumpkins was next. How weird is that?

During the breaks between songs, I learned that the station was called “Bob”. I also learned that they played whatever they wanted to, and that one listener wanted them to “keep playing that random crap.” Needless to say, I had to start keeping track of the songs that they played. Some of the songs were unfamiliar enough that I didn’t know the artist or the title, so I just wrote down lyric snippits. It has been fun looking them up. It seems I have a void in my brain when it comes to early and mid 1980’s alternative music. I was a tad busy with family and work and college. I couldn’t soak in everything. The songs that followed as I drove from Pennsylvania into West Virginia were (in order):

“I Got You” by The Split Enz; “Ramblin’ Gamblin’ Man” by Bob Seger; “Vida La Vida” by Coldplay; “Bizarre Love Triangle” by New Order; “Living For The City” by Stevie Wonder; “Crazy On You” by Heart; “What I Got” by Sublime; “Somebody’s Baby” by Jackson Browne; “Maybe I’m Amazed” by Paul McCartney; “Lay Your Hands On Me” by The Thompson Twins; (a song that I could not figure out a title nor artist for) and “Bent” by Matchbox 20, at which point the station faded out, just west of Wheeling.

Now I am fairly sure that “Bob FM” is a syndicated station, and if it is, then it is the most original idea for syndication that I have yet encountered. The idea seems simple. Put every top 100 rock song since 1970 into a player and hit shuffle.  All but one song was familiar to me, and even if I didn’t know the artist or the song title, I was able to figure them out.  For the one song I could not figure out I had written down the lyric snippet “this is how we begin”.

I must say that anticipating what kind of song was going to be played next kept the boredom away for that part of the trip.  I plan on listening to more of Bob’s random crap during the next road trip to Pittsburgh.

Review: Cloverfield (2008)

Cloverfiled (2008)

Honestly, I had trepidations about seeing this movie. I had overheard bad reviews, and had also been told good things about it. Surprisingly I was able to avoid any spoilers.

I am glad I did, because as it turns out I really liked the movie. I will do my best not to include any spoilers here.

The style of filming was similar to “The Blair Witch Project”, except better. The theme was big monster in big city. There is one major difference between this film and either “Blair Witch” or every monster movie I have seen–realistic characters. Or at least realistic for your typical movie. I paid attention to minor characters and extras and they seemed to be behaving realistically as well. There were several moments that even made me chuckle because what was happening on the screen was just an extension of how we see people behaving and reacting in news footage. While not every situation rings true, we are shown enough of each character to get a feel for who they are. I could care about these people, where as in “Blair Witch” I had started to wish they would have died sooner.

The conclusion of the movie was well done. It is different from most conclusions we see Hollywood producing these days, thankfully.

The point of view is a hand held camera. There are portions of the movie where the shaking does become annoying, but it seems to be survivable. The production value within the framework of a hand held camera is outstanding. There is also a depth to the film. The attention to details is remarkable. I plan on buying this film when it gets released just to have the pause button available to freeze frame and study all that is happening in some scenes.

I thought I was heading into a movie that Doris accurately described the original Godzilla movie meets “The Blair Witch Project”. It is that, and yet much, much more. I highly recommend it to anyone that enjoys the monster movie genre.

Go see it!

Review: Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (2007)

Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (2007)

I enjoyed this move much more than I thought I would. I have a soft spot for musicals, and when in the mood I like a gruesome horror flick. This movie was both, and it was very well done.

I guess I was afraid that it would be campy like “Little Shop of Horrors” or “The Rocky Horror Picture Show”, but it wasn’t. That’s not to say it didn’t have any humor. It had plenty of humor like any good drama does. Which is my point, I think. It was a drama. The story kept me riveted to my seat even though I was familiar with it.

Perhaps the movie had too much gore for some people’s sensibilities, but I found my self fascinated by how realistic it all looked. I don’t know if they used Computer graphics or if it was entirely makeup, but either way, it rocked!  It was gory, but not over done. For me it was not the blood spurts that made it horrific. It was the situation, the helplessness and the madness, and how a simple, caring man can be taken beyond the point of redemption that really scared me.

On to the acting. Johnny Depp seems to gravitate towards the bizarre. I pray that he is not being type cast because even back when he portrayed Pvt. Lerner in “Platoon”, you could see that he has a talent for drama. That said, I am very glad that Depp chose to portray Sweeny Todd. He was outstanding.

Helena Bonham Carter fit the movie well, but I am afraid that I kept being reminded of her role in “Big Fish”. Perhaps it was the costuming…

The surprise for me were Alan Rickman and newcomer Laura Michelle Kelly. They both were fantastic and seemed to really understand the characters they portrayed.

I completely recommend this movie to anyone that is a horror fan. I also recommend that care be taken when exposing young adults and children to it. View it first, then decide if it is appropriate for the youngster in your life.

Review: I Am Legend (2007)

I Am Legend

First, I want to be clear that I enjoyed this movie.

Second, I want it understood that I am disappointed in the adaptation of the SF Classic novel I Am Legend by Richard Matheson.

I can understand when a movie changes events from a book because of cinematographic or time constraint reasons, but to change the theme to the point where the title no longer fits, well, I think at that point there should be some obligation for the movie folks to make it clear that it has become a totally different story.

I liked this movie very much.  It had some plot elements in common with the Matheson novel, but not enough. During the first half of the movie, I had high hopes that the movie would be true to the novel.  In fact the first part of the movie was riveting.  Then during the second half the movie inexplicably takes the ending from “The Omega Man”, a 1970’s movie based on I Am Legend, and creates a typical Hollywood ending.  Ugh.  They should have given it a different title and only claimed it was inspired by I Am Legend.

As I have said, I did like the movie.  It is a very good action SF film.  The cinematography is marvelous, and for the most part the CGI is seamless.  I didn’t care for the zombiesque bad guys, but that is likely a personal preference showing through.

What I really liked was the acting.  Will Smith continues to impress me.  He has to carry this movie because for the most part he is the only person on screen.  He does it well.  His portrayal of Robert Neville is wonderful.  He gives us subtle emotions when it would have been easy to go over the top.  He convincingly walks the razor edge of madness and takes us there with him.

It Was Twenty Years (and a fortnight) Ago Today…

John Mellencamp played two free concerts at Ohio University-Chillicothe. (December 16, 1987, 7 & 10pm)

(Forgive me if this post is a little long and a little disjointed. I was up half the night killing a trojan-virus in the family computer.)

Back in the mid to late 1980’s I worked as a college administrator at Ohio University-Chillicothe, as a computer technician at the Chillicothe VA Medical Center, and as the weekend maintenance janitor at the Waverly McDonald’s; all while striving to earn my BS Computer Science degree. Needless to say, this period of my life has a lot of blurred memories. I missed so much. I can’t see how I could have done much differently, but I regret that I was not able to spend more time with my boys when they were babies and toddlers.

Back in those days music kept me rolling. The car radio was always on whenever I was on the road and I piped music through the stereo system at McDonald’s during the hours I worked alone mopping floors and fixing things. During the evening hours at the VA, I’d listen to 94.3FM and even participated in the programming as “Mr. Haney” who would announce upcoming songs for Chip Arledge’s evening radio show. (Mr. Arledge, Have I got a Song fer You!!) I ran on just a few hours of sleep a day and would do anything to stay awake.

John Mellencamp was one of my favorite artists, and cassettes of his albums were one of the extravagances that Doris and I allowed ourselves. One evening after playing “Small Town”, Chip announced that Mellencamp was going to do a benefit concert in Chillicothe–Chillicothe, Missouri. He went on to muse that perhaps Mellencamp could be convinced to play a concert in Chillicothe, Ohio. I thought it was a silly idea until a few day’s later the son of one of the Computer Science professors at OU-C asked me to sign his “Get Mellencamp to Chillicothe” petition. I signed it. After all I had been a Mellencamp fan since I first heard “I Need A Lover” (I am posting this today because late last night, Doris and I heard its wonderful two minute opening.)

Months went by, and Chip Arledge kept providing updates about the attempt to get Mellencamp to perform at Chillicothe. It took over a year, but it happened. And because I signed one of the first petitions, I was eligible for two free tickets. It ended up that I didn’t need it. Since the event was to take place in the wintertime, and because Arledge wanted to get as many people to the show as possible, and because Shoemaker Center at OU-C was the biggest indoor open space in Chillicothe, and because I was a college administrator who was willing to work at the concert for free; I was inside the venue from before Mellencamp arrived and only left after he boarded his bus. Doris used my ticket to take a friend. There were two shows. 7pm and 10pm.

During the set up, Mellencamp’s roadies did a power check and tripped the main circuit breaker for the building. Unfazed, Mr. Lipscomb, OU-C’s facilities maintenance supervisor, called the power company and had a hot line dropped directly from the power pole into the backstage area. As soon as the power issue was resolved, Mellencamp started on his sound check. The bounce-back from the far wall was horrendous. They tried and tried to control the problem with electronics. It didn’t work.

Mr. Lipscomb was consulted again. Since I had witnessed this entire attempt, I wandered over to center court and listened in on what Mellencamp, his sound guys and Mr. Lipscomb were discussing. Mellencamp described how the sound was bouncing. The back wall consisted of an upper “floor” catwalk, the wall under the catwalk, and a wall of retracted bleacher seats from there down to the floor. The problem was the three different distances with the wall under the catwalk being the most problematic. When the discussion fell into silence, I asked if the bleachers could be pulled out and bounce the sound to the ceiling. Mellencamp’s sound man looked at me, and back at the bleachers… at me… at the sound and lights mixing station… at Mr. Lipscomb… at me… at Mellencamp… and said “we should have pulled the bleachers out to begin with and we don’t have time to tear down and set up the mixer again, but, yeah, we can pull them out a few yards and we could drape something off the catwalk to get rid of that dead space.” It wasn’t my suggestion, but I did get them to think of other alternatives. Mr. John Mellencamp looked at me, smiled, and wandered off to shoot some basketball with Steve Wanchic and other band members. The bleachers were pulled out about six feet and gym mats were drapped from the catwalk down to the top of the bleachers. It took about ten minutes for John to be as happy as he could expect to be with the sound. He was playing inside a big box after all.

My job at the show was to take tickets at the door. No one had been told that the tickets all had been overprinted with florescent invisible ink. It wasn’t needed. There were zero attempts at counterfeiting tickets. I know. I used a black light to look at every single one of them that came through my door.

I was able to step inside the auditorium for the first part of the first show. I was behind and off to stage left where Lisa Germano was wailing on her violin. I couldn’t stay for the entire show because I had to coordinate with the hired security staff on how to get the current audience out of the building while trying to get the next audience in as fast as possible. It was freezing cold outside, and people were standing in line already.

After we got everybody in for the second show, and finished up putting away our equipment and everything, I was able to take in the last half of the second show. This time I wandered around the back edge of the crowd to see if I could get a view of the entire stage. This is where I found a small boy and his mother straining to see the stage. It was literally standing room only, no seating of any kind. She tried to pick him up so that he could at least say he actually saw Mellencamp but he was too big for her to lift very high. I asked her if it would be okay if I picked him up to see, and she agreed. I sat this kid on my shoulders and he stayed there for the rest of the concert. After the show the mother was crying and squeezed my arm and thanked me over and over and over. I only did what I would have wanted someone to do for me. As a kid I was very small for my age.

It seems odd that twenty years have gone by since then. I haven’t thought about that night for many, many years. It has been fun romping down memory lane, especially since John Mellencamp is still one of my favorite musicians. I hope he has fond memories of his visit to Chillicothe, Ohio. I wonder if we could get him to do a 25th anniversary concert?

Guess Who’s NOT On Time For Dinner?

The recent dearth of posts here at Blogtide Rising is partially due to my participation in a comedic dinner theater production–Guess Who’s NOT On Time For Dinner?
Performing in community theater has been wonderful for me. Not only is it fun, but it has been a great outlet for dealing with work related stress. I was looking forward to this particular production because the author/director wrote my part specifically with me in mind. I think it worked out well. There were times during rehearsals when he and the other actors were laughing at my portrayal of my character.

The play itself was marvelously funny. The author, Delmar Burkitt is a local playwright with two plays published by Elderidge Publishing Company. He enjoys audience participation, and this play had a lot of that. The play takes place within a restaurant that is set up on the stage which is where the audience is seated.  Most of the cast are restaurant staff–with a few customers tossed into the mix. The waiters are actors and we actually took (limited) orders and served the audience their meals. The major acting segments took place prior to drink orders being taken, in between each major meal service, and of course after dessert. The in between times were filled with live entertainment and with the wait-staff actors doing a large amount of improvisation with the customers as we took their orders and served them food and drinks.

I was an overly nervous waiter on his first night working solo. I taught myself how to make my leg shake as if I were terrified; and how to shake a pitcher of iced tea so the ice would rattle while I was pouring yet still keeping the spout steady so that I really didn’t spill anything (the trick is to shake up and down, not side to side). I had a brown paper bag that I hyperventilated into when a (fake) tray of drinks was dropped by one of the other actors.  Other cast members playing the waiters were a young lady with a *fake* cold, a forgetful gentleman, a bookworm, a chatterbox, a college student studying forensics, a klutz, a music lover with headsets constantly blaring music, and finally a multiple personality disorder sufferer who decides to experiment by not taking his medicine before starting work.

The ad libs were wonderful, especially those of Woody Roll who played multiple personalities hilariously. The live entertainment was real, and was necessary to give the audience a chance to eat because as long as the actors were on stage interacting with them, very little food was eaten. Boone Brabson and Nancy Cupp performed several popular country songs including “Margaritaville“, “Luckenbach, Texas” and “Crazy”.

It was tremendous fun, and Delmar was even asked to take the show on the road to Circleville, but he declined. It will be some time before I can be in another of Delmar’s productions. He is writing a play for the Waverly High School Drama Club, and won’t start on his next community theater project until after he recovers from that.

As always, Delmar’s productions are for charity and this time the beneficiary was the Waverly Enrichment Group.

RIP: Hughie Thomasson

Hughie Thomasson, 55, founding member, lead guitarist, vocalist and song writer for the country-rock band “The Outlaws”, died of a heart attack on September 9th, 2007.

It took two and a half months for this news to show up on my radar. There was not a peep from any of the news or entertainment outlets that I peruse. The Times UK has a nice piece on him. Even this obit did not show up for nearly a month after his passing. The lack of news is nearly as sad as the untimely death of such a great musician. Hollywood effluvia and sporting world narcissists have so thoroughly commandeered the entertainment reporting, and even serious news reporting, in this nation that I am appalled. I was so angry in fact that it took until a road trip to Pittsburgh yesterday to get my heart back on track.

In a rare occurrence, a classic rock radio station played the full length version of “Green Grass and High Tides”. Just hearing the music again made my heart soar.

I was lucky enough to see The Outlaws in Columbus back in the 1980’s. It wasn’t their best performance. The venue was small. At least one band member was stumbling drunk. It was during their lean years after “southern rock” lost its initial popularity. My friends and I were able to talk some of the band members after the show. It was so cool. Thomasson, Henry Paul and Billy Jones are my guitar heroes. They way they could weave notes and swap the lead guitar riffs was absolutely amazing to me.

I was hoping to see them this past summer when they played at St. Clairsville, OH in July, but was unable to spare the time. Another one of my life’s regrets…

I am not ashamed to admit that I am crying as I write this. This music helped me find who I am. It helped me see joy in the lonelyness and sadness I had surrounded myself with. It sparked the resurgence of my desire to sing, and to participate in this world instead of just floating along for the ride. And singing lead to my meeting and eventually to marrying the love of my life. It lead to my wonderful sons, and my amazing grandson. If you have never listened to The Outlaws, find a copy of “Green Grass and High Tides” (here, then click on launch jukebox), close your eyes and let it sweep you away. If my words have not convinced you, then perhaps Hughie’s will. These are his lyrics from the final verse of “Green Grass and High Tides”:

Those who don’t believe me
Find your souls and set them free.
Those who do, believe and love
As time will be your key.
Time and time again I’ve thanked them
For a peace of mind;
They helped me find myself
Amongst the music and the rhyme
That enchants you there.