Mother’s Day

Yeah this isn’t the most cheery song, but it’s clearly about mothers. I’m lucky because, although I may not always see eye to eye with my own mother, she has been there with unwavering support my entire existence. Lastly, I spent a lot of time listening to this song with my best friend Jay in his Honda accord while in high school when my mom was probably wondering where I was and what I was doing. So, thanks for never calling the police on me Mom!

Mother’s day is upon us again and I figured I’d write a quick post after just cooking breakfast for my mom, doing some gardening at the family compound in Maine and then going to see her sing with an adult community chorus that she has joined after which I will cook her a steak on the grill while enjoying a few Coronas (which are her favorite). I don’t always get along with my mother as well as I could and there have been a wide swath of conflicts over the years covering everything from when exactly I was coming home with her car to throwing up in her azalea bushes to not picking up after myself almost ever. I don’t always show her how much I do care about her but she knows deep down that all three of her kids got her back and we will do anything to help her as she always has done for us.

My mom laid the foundation for my love of music more than any one person and set me on the musically charged path in life that I am now walking. There was music in our house nearly all the time whether it was from CDs, the radio or my mom playing the piano. All of us kids got all of our music skills and appreciation from our mother. More on that in a minute.  Every year for her birthday and sometimes Mother’s Day, I get her some discs at the local music store and there is always at least one soul/r&b record like Sam Cooke, Otis Redding, Bill Withers, or whatever new one I can find.

It has not been an easy couple of years for my Mom. Beginning with my father’s passing three plus years ago, she had a run of bad luck that included some health issues which put her into the hospital for a few weeks back in 2011, health issues of her parents, various financial issues from  the untimely passing of Dad and the very recent loss of our favorite furry friend Remy. Through it all, she has remained steadfast in dealing with her problems and pushing on, making a joke when she can and still helping others even when she could barely help herself.

This selflessness is another thing all three of us kids got from her, as well as the ability to relate to damn near anyone we meet which makes us one of the most versatile family of conversationalists that I’ve ever come across. It used to embarrass us when my mother would start talking to people she didn’t know on the subway in NYC when the Elder J lived there, but now I see it as a genuine desire to learn more about people and to spread kindness wherever possible.

Another one of the many oldie style tunes that I associate with my Mom and Dad playing at top volume in whatever P.O.S. car we were rocking at the moment. She often tells the story of one of her brothers singing this song at her grandfather’s funeral while everyone was weeping upstairs. This is not a bad funeral song.

I sat in my garage the other night thinking about what else I need to build some Adirondack  chairs out there as I have cleaned out my father’s woodshop for me to use. My Mom came out and was pretty sad about missing our beloved golden retriever and the waterworks started. One of the few grievances I have with my mom is that she has always been a crier. Like, she cried every time I headed back to college after a visit to Maine, which was pretty often.  She cried so much that I barely responded when she did it which made me feel like a bad son.

A lighting bolt of knowledge struck me as I sat in the garage and I started to tell her how she personally is responsible for my love and knowledge of music and no one has done anything for me that means as much as this does. The waterworks really started then, but I think they were more tears of joy than of melancholy.

I took piano lessons as a youth but didn’t stick with them which is one of my biggest regrets. I was trying to transpose the guitar chords of this old folksy song to the piano the other night while singing it and couldn’t figure out why the D chord sounded wrong. My Mom knew the answer but said “Just keep trying, you will figure it out” knowing full well I had to stick a minor note in there to make it work which I eventually figured out through trial and error. It was a lot more helpful to make me figure it out then to tell me and this is just one of the slices of musical genius in my mom.

I’m not sure I could even properly explore all the ways my mom influenced me when it comes to music. This blog is one of the biggest examples that everyone can see as she is clearly the foundation of the Elder J’s, Sister J’s and my love and appreciation for music as well as how it relates to your life. She gave us the opportunity to listen to all types of music, the access to musical instruments/lessons even if we didn’t stick with them and the undying support in whatever musical journeys we chose to take.

Music is an integral part of all of our lives as each one of us plays instruments and sings to our students/children every day. Music is the number one best thing in my life, the one thing that is always there for me and never lets you down. My bass playing isn’t anything to write home about, but it makes me happy and it allows me to make other people happy and even to teach what I know to both my students and any friend who wants to sit down long enough to pick something up. Life would not be fun for me without music so besides the decades of money, time and patience you have given me Mom, I thank you most for the gift of music. All three of us would be completely different people without it and I hope I can continue to try to repay you.

Spoiler Alert: My Mom’s name is Mary. My Dad was  “Hey Jude” guy but I will forever associate “Let it Be” with my mom. Thanks Mom, I couldn’t ask for a better parent.

The Musical Treasure Trove

So, I have been thinking a bit about re-reruns (prompted, I must admit by a This American Life episode about re-runs). This thinking has dove-tailed with some of my thoughts about the repeatability of the cover song and the tension between one ‘performance’ and another. Part of this thinking is a tortured attempt to try to justify what I am about to do today: repeat one of our posts. What happens when you repeat a repetition?

Like my brother, I have found that the busyness of normal life (whatever that means) has gotten to be a bit overwhelming. The end of the semester has brought me a pile of grading, a CV-length of promised articles, and two children who are growing faster than I can imagine. This has kept me (guiltily) from having the time to write a quality post while also making me wonder whether or not this blog is doing what it should.

See, it has been suggested that the posts are too long and too discursive–and, as readership has ebbed and flowed, I have wondered what the worth is. This contemplation lasts a few minutes because, when it comes down to it, I enjoy writing this blog even if the act is entirely masturbatory.

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Pets Playlist

I had to put down my golden retriever Remy on Wednesday because lung cancer had sprung up out of nowhere and taken over his body. I’m incredibly broken up about it and it’s taken all of me to just keep going to school and practicing music. It was our Dad’s dog that I inherited when he passed. Like this post says, he had a rough time following his death and I should consider myself lucky to have had the three plus years that I did. I’ll write a smaller post about this soon, but now the wounds are too fresh.  One thing I am sure of is that Remy has found my Dad and I’m sure the reunion was a happy one.

(Note: This post was composed after my brother told me about his cat)

My brother had to put down his cat today and I feel terrible for him. He never gets real emotional about things which is why I feel so bad because I know this kills him. Personally, no one liked or was liked by the cat except him which is why I feel so bad for him. It would routinely scratch me when I tried to pet it back when I was a freshmen in high school and would visit my brother at his undergraduate college. The fucking cat survived more than a lot of people I know can, including two big moves, a house fire, and multiple trips to the vet in.  She was tough, just like my big brother, and we should all mourn her.

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Saturday is probably the best day of the week.

Obviously this has to be first because of the fact that I listen to the psychedelic breakfast more frequently/rigidly than I go to church. It is the best way I’ve found to spend a Saturday morning and even better when you have someone who is even remotely interested in hearing it. “Sheep” was on this morning, however, I’ve been hearing this track a lot in my head lately. It’s one of the most simple Floyd tunes and this makes it one of my favorites. It’s nice to hear a band known for densely layered arrangements doing something completely different.  Lastly, the sound quality is way up on this video and so are the graphics so props to whoever made it.

We have had a few posts on days of the week, including both Sunday and Monday, so it occurred to me that we have not talked much on Saturday. I think Saturday is the best day of the week if you work the typical Monday through Friday day shift type of schedule. You can recover if you stayed up too late Friday and relish the idea of possibly staying up late again because you can sleep in Sunday. It’s a good day not to be stressed out about anything and not have an agenda if you are the type of person who can just wile away the hours not accomplishing anything at all.

I need structure to relax or at least have to get a bunch of stuff done before I can justify relaxation. Graceland is a favorite record for me to spin on a Saturday morning/afternoon because it’s wide variety of sound and its bouncy rhythms ensure a good time regardless of what you’re doing. It has to be at top volume to hear over my vacuum.

I think the moments of true relaxation that I experience each week are between two and ten pm on a Saturday. Before two, I’m still doing some routine cleaning, occupying myself with stuff I couldn’t get done during the school week, or drinking massive amounts of coffee to offset my possible lack of sleep the night before. After ten, I’m either asleep if I’m staying in or well into whatever I have planned for the evening. We are trying to keep it to two or three gigs a month now with the band, so it’s possible I could be out doing that as well. It’s that sweet Zen time of the week when all is well or at least as well as it will get.

I sing the first line of this song at least a few times a month on or near Saturday and more frequently towards the Fourth of July. One thing I’ve been doing to chill out more than usual as of late is reading books and I just finished one about Little Feat‘s lead singer Lowell George.  The Doobie Brothers recorded some Feat songs and were considered a big band back in the day and although I thought them cheesy for much of my life, I’m totally warming up to the pot loving mainstays of the 70’s pop rock. That black water song kicks ass.

I’m giving up alcohol for Lent so my Saturdays are going to change a bit in the next six weeks and honestly, I’m looking forward to it. I will probably always like having a beer, but I have had the distinct notion that I’m going to be thirty soon and the consumption of alcohol on my part needs to chill. Living in a rural area and perhaps due to the demographics and climate, there is generally a  high percentage of people who consider heavy drinking a part of life. I can slip in and out of these situations, but I know myself enough to say that I should not get into a pattern I see is catching so many people around me.  Right before the big 3-0 is a good time to stop and assess things. Ok, that’s the end of the therapy session

I heard this song on a 90’s show on MVV2 which actually still plays music videos sometimes.  This song always made think of the weekend and although the chemicals rushing in his bloodstream are probably alcohol, it would be darkly amusing if easy listening David Gray was some kind of monster  junkie on the side a la Mike Doughty.

Ultimately, my philosophy is that every day above ground is a good one regardless of what you are going through in life. I get a lot of strange looks when I say that and I think it’s because people think I’m some kind of weirdo. I mean, it is a little intense for a stop and chat conversation, but I see it as a very positive perspective. I do feel for those who work non-traditional schedules like bartenders and nurses who have to take these joys of a Saturday wherever they can get them. Even more do I empathize with those who work overnight shifts because regardless of what day they work, their sleep patterns are fucked up. However, I am sure they are happy they have a job in a bad economy and would agree with my semi-morbid philosophy.

This is a very intense version of this song. Rock and roll rumor indicates that it was probably due to the cocaine and alcohol, but it’s good anyway, if not a little excitedly sloppy. I love the line “On Saturday night, I like to raise a little hell”, totally defining the logic of the rednecks I live with out here in the sticks. I do see some merit in losing control once in a while to maintain a sense of what control is, however, many people out here take it too far and it can be sad to see.

I guess every day then is a good day, but I think Saturday is the best day of the week, or whatever time for you constitutes what I’ve described in this post. Having a job you like, fun things to do, and lots of people who you care about and who care about you do make every day worth living so in this I am lucky. Spring is finally rolling around after one of the most brutal winters of my memory and I’m feeling very positive for the future. So after this Saturday, I hope it’s easy like Sunday morning, another great time of the week.

I heard this song from a girl I work with and I fell in love. The Commodores version with old Lionel Ritchie is pretty awesome too, but something about this Faith No More cover really tickles my fancy. I’ve jammed to it two to three times during the week and an equal amount of time Sunday morning. What a sick tune.

Addicted to Flapper Birds and the breakdown of human communication

 I discovered I could play the iPhone  game Flappy Bird on my laptop at the precise time I heard this song on the Palladia channel from that awesome show Live from Daryl’s House. I have always loved this song and honestly had no idea who Todd Rundgren was, but now I do and this version kills it. I would also like to not work and bang on my drum all day, just switch the drums with picking on the bass. The steel guitar flourishes and multiple forms of percussion turn an 80’s pop song into a Hawaiian camp fire tune and it’s even cooler because the steel guitar actually originated on those same islands. Thank you Daryl Hall, the culture of Hawaii and the polar vortex for giving me a day off from school today. 

I don’t have an iPhone and I’m addicted to an iPhone app. I don’t even own an iPod because the one I had cracked and was on it’s last legs anyway. My brother has referred to my lack of new technology as evidence of me being a “Luddite”,  but I seriously think the obsession society has with phones/instant access to unlimited information is destroying person to person to communication as well as the art of conversation. I defend my non-conforming ways by saying I don’t want to be one of these people in public places with their nose persistently two inches from a phone with nary a look around to real people. That and the fact that the NSA uses all of these devices to build individual profiles and companies buy our stolen data so they can target specific ads to our perceived tastes, but I digress.

If I didn’t go to dive bars more often than not, I’d lose it with all the people standing around staring at their phones and not each other. It can’t be good for you and I don’t only mean the lack of human contact.  Watch, in twenty years, all of these heavy iPhone users will have cross eyes or something. 

I played the game on a bus ride to a field trip of outdoor winter team-building activities with my class. It’s been a rough week for everyone and this trip was meant to bring us together, as well as to build our community and team ethic. Although our group has suffered a few losses, we are definitely coming together. One of them was talking about this new game everyone was playing and I asked to take a try. I have a pretty easy relationship with my students so they handed it over and I kept it for a solid twenty five minutes, the whole length of the bus ride! I was hooked, this game is incredibly amusing and everyone, including my co-teacher who is my opposite in every way, thought it was a riot that I was so transfixed by such a mindless game.

I’m not a huge Punk rock fan.  But when I was trying to break it down for myself why I like this stupid game so much,  it occurred to me that it was mostly that I’m pretty stressed right now and like hip hop music, it takes my mind of what I’m stressing about. Hip Hop has substance and a beat though. This game is just straight dumb dumb and clearly some type of digital sedative to me.

I was hooked on this game bad for a short time. I competed against the kids at the beginning and end of the day, briefly holding the highest score in the classroom.  The background animation reminds me of Super Mario Brothers on the NES and SNES which is basically the core of video games I’ve ever played. I don’t play any video games play often and barring the occasional Call of Duty zombie mode foray with an old friend from high school, it is only Sega Genesis or one of the aforementioned consoles. Video games can be a welcome distraction and this is why I’m so enamored with this game. Life is not always easy and you can’t be on point all the time so why not take five to ten minutes to keep a bird afloat betwixt two green sewer pipes at various heights?

Grouplove is kind of like this game for me  but with quite a bit more going on here. The music is very simple and unrefined yet cool and very catchy, kind of like a less morose version of the Pixies. Their drummer Ryan Rabin is the son of one of the drummers from Yes which gives him major points with me. Lastly, I find the flannel plus leather pants look on the female singer pretty hot.

I guess it’s not a real addiction because I just now found out I can do it on my laptop and I run about five minute intervals in between doing school work, shoveling in this storm and other household tasks. I do think our modern population is too dependent on SmartPhones and you can see the effects in the teenagers now.  They don’t express themselves verbally or in writing well most of the time, they’d rather text than call someone and are completely lost if their state issued laptops are un-available for whatever reason. Even teachers prefer to email even when your classroom is twenty steps away.  I think that if things continue as they are, the next generation will be on the road to completely losing the art of person to person conversation. I like teaching because my only real skill is communication so I’m not even sure I’d want to teach in that context. This isn’t Flappy Birds fault, but it isn’t helping either.

I think the breakdown of real human communication is far more dangerous than a stepping razor. Reggae has never been the same without Peter Tosh, my personal favorite reggae artist, but more on that in the very near future.

I get the most joy in life from communication in the real world. My only real skills are of the people variety, barring any minor knowledge of landscaping or bar tending.  Whether it’s teaching youngsters, playing out with my band, or even just shooting the shit with my friends, this is what makes life fun for me. If that ends, I don’t think I want to be around to see it. I do love Flappy birds but my enthusiasm is waning with it as these things do. There is hope I think, but it’s going to take an electromagnetic pulse to temporarily end all telecommunications for us to realize it.

First Days of School fo Real

People think I’m crazy for teaching Middle School. They don’t know any better and I feel pretty fearless about it. Give me three weeks.

After almost half a year of planning and gradually working more and more with identified students, my co-teacher and I have moved into our own space away from the mainstream middle school. It’s as exciting as it is scary with all of our curriculum and research now needing to be turned into action. As you can imagine, I’m running at a high-speed wobble. I’m actually writing this while my students do their daily journal writing because I intend to keep my promise of writing more while my brother’s life gets a little crazier.

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Yes. And why you should say the same to Prog rock.

I don’t believe this song has anything to do with that crappy science fiction movie which is a good thing. I think the outro riff, those three chords, is one of the coolest yet simple licks in rock and roll. Its been used countless amount of times in as many songs, but perhaps it is most useful here. Steve Howe’s guitar licks continually amaze me and I’ve been a hardcore Yes fan for years at this point.

I’ve talked of my love for progressive rock numerous times and have kept making the threat of writing a whole post on it. Here it is. I got into hard rock as a young man when Led Zeppelin was my first real love in the genre. The Mighty Zep was a blues rock cover band at its onset and always had that tinge to their music. Many bands did, from Cream to Ten Years After to The Jimi Hendrix Experience. Therein is the big difference between what I’d call standard English Rock of the late 60’s and early 70’s and Progressive rock. Prog rock comes from Europe and owes more to the classical music tradition of that continent than that of the blues from the Mississippi delta.

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Target(ing) Profitability: Corporate (T-Shirt) Rock Whores

A few months back I was shopping for clothing for my toddler son at Target and I was immediately taken by a pint-sized Pink Floyd t-shirt. I know: I recognized immediately that this was a simple but effective ploy to play upon a combination of adult nostalgia and a parental desire to make children look ‘cool‘ (especially for those Gen Xers and younger who were always too cool to want to appear to try to be cool.)

Welcome to the corporate jungle, Axl. Is this what you were afraid of when you spent a decade working on Chinese Democracy?

My wife mocked me a little. I felt both less and more self-critical when I saw not one but two little boys at day care wearing the same t-shirt. I over-compensated by getting a science officer Star Trek (original series) shirt for my son and trying to squeeze him into a one-year old’s shirt emblazoned with Carthago Delenda Est.

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They Fly Solo with Wiz

My students played this song a lot, especially while we played basketball. It was one of the few I really liked that they played and I can’t stop thinking about how they will turn out next year. Lastly, when the one student refused to jump out of a tree while we were at a ropes course the second to last week of school, I totally yelled up “Fly solo Dude!” Ultimately, I also had to jump out of the tree to set an example and the video displayed me looking like a fish on a hook, but I got my point across.

School is out and I am back in the city landscaping. I keep cruising the channels of my FM radio to find this song but it is never on. I finally Googled the lyrics and really saw how much the kids actually identified with this song because of them. It seems to be mostly about a failed relationships but, like any good song, it could mean whatever you want. Wiz is one of the few rappers who has a truly unique voice in today’s hip hop and seems to be a generally good guy beyond the whole constant references to his rampant marijuana use. He was an Army Rat kid who moved a lot so didn’t have a lot of friends, like my students, and then really made his way in the city of Pittsburgh. I digress. The song above hits me.

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Covers in Fantasy Time #1

After writing about the Notorious B.I.G. and guitar solos last week, as well as getting some of our highest views for our blog ever, my brother and I spent some time on the phone discussing what was working and what wasn’t. I need to post more because I’m a slacker (and he needs to learn to love Primus.)

As spring approaches, I need to step up my posting because, after this terrible winter, I’ll need to be outside a lot and I have no more excuses to slack off and can even have a beer or two to celebrate now that lent is over. My goal is to write a short piece and a longer piece each week so our collective brothers’ output is more equalized and I can stop feeling like I let down my big brother/best friend. A suggestion he had was for us both to write quick posts on covers, something he’s done in long form before.

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