Friday, November 20, 2009

The Best Day Of The Year

fris‧son / Pronunciation [free-sohn; Fr. free-sawn]
a sudden, passing sensation of excitement; a shudder of emotion; thrill.

(Random House Unabridged Dictionary, 2006)

Let me tell you about the holiday I like best of all – Thanksgiving.

(Or, really, tell you again. This is a repeat from last year [and probably the year before that, too] but I like it and I don't have anything better to say concerning the upcoming holidays. Hope you don't mind. - Ever-Thoughtful And Considerate Of Your Feelings Editorial Jim)

I like all holidays. Any day you get off from work, or during which people get together to celebrate, or when you get (or give) gifts? In my book, that’s a good day. Some days are more special than others, though.

Christmas used to be my favorite. When I was a kid, I went straight from one frisson to another during the week leading up to Christmas. The celebration of Christ’s birth was magical and there was no end to the ways that the world delighted me. As I’ve grown older, the magic has ebbed. I haven’t changed, however; it’s the world that has.

When I was a child, nearly every house in the neighborhood sported red, yellow, green, blue and orange pastel lights, either as decoration outside or via a candle or two in the windows. The streets were bathed in an embracing warmth, a welcoming glow. Nowadays, the lights of choice are mostly cold; icicles and clear starbursts. I guess a lot of folks like them – otherwise, why would they have them? - but all they do for me is make the night streets too much like daytime. Those bright white lights don’t do anything but remind me of how cold it is in winter. The colorful lights of my childhood made me feel warm, even during the meanest of snowstorms.

(Photo courtesy Photos From My Life. Isn't it a lovely tree?)

The music is omnipresent now. Don’t get me wrong. I love Christmas music. I always have. I always looked forward to it beginning, sporadically, after Thanksgiving, and then building bit by bit until there was an entire glorious day and night of it from Christmas Eve through to Christmas Night. It played on the radio all day, but only all day on Christmas and most of the day before. In the morning, while opening presents with my Mom and Dad, we played the two or three vinyl Christmas records we had at home. It was special.

Now the trouble is in trying to avoid it. Even as of today, November 20th, there have been radio stations playing Christmas music 24 hours a day for the past three weeks. Seriously - and I mean this - if you like that sort of thing, God bless you. To me, though, Christmas music is like chocolate. A few pieces, rich and creamy, are delightful. Feed it to me non-stop for sixty days? All that is, is a sick stomach.

(My job, as good as it is, doesn’t help matters. I’m a voice-over guy, and I also do production work, but my actual job title is “Music Director”. Therefore, in the course of my duties, I sometimes have to use holiday music for background in pieces I complete for clients during September and October. I try to remain detached while doing so, but...)

The final nail in my Christmas coffin is driven in by the greedy merchants who just plain don't have the common decency to wait for Thanksgiving to be over before they start spewing forth their hideous advertisements. Every year, they start earlier and earlier. I rail against it every year, too. MY WIFE tells me to relax, that I can’t change it, that there really isn’t anything all that bad about it. I love MY WIFE dearly, but on this she’s dead wrong. I’ll go to my grave cursing those bastards for draining the innocent joy out of a lovely day. I try to ignore it and I try to keep the spirit I believe in, but they just beat me down and beat me down and one of these days I won’t be able to get back up.

I can’t even begin to imagine how hideous a time it must be for those who don’t share my faith. No wonder some of the atheists keep trying to run it out of town. The money-grubbing parasites, who see it only as a time to reel in a profit, have turned it into something even I want to partially get rid of.

Ah, I suppose that’s a bit over the top. The day still has charm. The real importance of it, for someone like me, is spiritual, and the sons of bitches can’t rip that out of me unless I let them. The people I share the day with, and with whom I eat good food and exchange lovely and loving gifts, are dear to me. They still make it a wonderful day, but that frisson I spoke of earlier, that I used to have in multiples during the season, hasn’t been felt in quite a while.


The only holiday I can always count upon to deliver a frisson is Thanksgiving.

(I’m trying to set the world record for frisson mentions in one blog. Am I there yet?)

I have never had a bad Thanksgiving. Not one. As a matter of fact, not only have I not had a bad one; I’ve had nothing but good ones for as long as I can remember.

For every other holiday, I can dredge up at least one bummer. There have been New Years Eves with toothaches and New Years Days with hangovers, Washington’s Birthdays with flu, Memorial Days with sunburns, July Fourths with car accidents, Labor Days with the dread of returning to school, Halloweens with stolen candy, and even Christmases with “Dear John” letters thrown into the mix, but never a bad Thanksgiving.

(I’m hoping I’m not the victim of selective memory. Somewhere in the past there may have been one horrible incident I’ve tucked into a corner of my mind under lock and key. If so, and you know about it, don’t tell me. I’d rather be ignorant and happy.)

You know one of the reasons why it’s so easy to have a good Thanksgiving? Nobody’s trying to sell you anything. It’s just good company, some football, great food and maybe a nap with your belt loosened. The biggest thing anyone can put up for sale is a bird. There are no bogus guilt trips laid on you by manufacturers trying to make you feel as though you haven’t done right by your loved ones. All you have to do, to do right by your loved ones on Thanksgiving, is show up.

Oh, the smells of Thanksgiving dinner cooking! There is no perfume in existence that matches the fragrance of turkey, stuffing, gravy, squash, turnip, sweet potatoes, hot rolls, pumpkin pie, and all of the other mouth-watering aromas that emanate from the kitchen on that day. It is the smell of pure love. The one doing the cooking isn’t doing it because he or she is guilt-ridden. It’s being done because the people who will eat the feast are near and dear; as simple and lovely as that.

MY WIFE and I have hosted Thanksgiving at our place for the past fourteen years. It is the most sublime pleasure of my year to plan that meal and then prepare it. I’m the luckiest man in my family. I get to enjoy those smells longer than anyone else. And I get the lion’s share of the leftovers, too.

I remember lovely, huge tables full of food at my grandparent’s apartment in Roslindale, the vegetables served in great green ceramic bowls and topped with pats of yummy, unhealthy real butter. I remember waking in my upstairs bedroom to the smell of a turkey roasting in my childhood home in Dorchester. After my parent’s divorce, I ate TWO huge dinners every Thanksgiving – the first cooked by my father and the second served at my Grandma’s in Weymouth, where I would eat with my mother. It wasn’t easy, but I loved both of them too much to disappoint either one of them, so I did my duty. I even ate a couple of pieces of pie at both places, just so they’d have no doubt about how much I cared.

I try to remember what the name of the holiday calls for – the giving of thanks. I look upon my preparation and sharing of food as a sacred rite of sorts. There’s no skimping on this meal. If money’s tight, it’s a way of showing my faith in the idea that God will bring better times. Always, it’s a time to be thankful for the good people who are sharing the table with me (even if some of them don't like their picture taken.)

There are lovely constants at Thanksgiving. For instance, every year the Detroit Lions play football. Well, at least they try, and they ought to get credit for that. And the same stories get told at the table. There's one that never fails to get mentioned, concerning turnip and a Danish friend of the family .

Seems that one year, when this Dane was a holiday guest, my grandmother was preparing the food and one of the vegetables was turnip. The fellow laughed and said, in his Danish accent, “Turnip! Ha-ha! Very funny!” and when he was asked why he was laughing, he said, “Ho-ho! Yes, the joke’s on me! That’s a very funny joke. OK, you can take it away, now.” Seems that they only served turnip to pigs in his region of Denmark. He thought it was a joke for his benefit. When he found out that it was something we actually ate, and enjoyed, he became somewhat indignant, if not sick to his stomach. Every year, when I bring out the turnip, that story returns for it’s annual telling. And I love it. There is also usually a mention of turducken as though it were just invented the previous week.

When the meal is over – well, at least the part of the meal that doesn’t involve pie – my stepfather and I turn our attention to the end of the Lion’s game. Meanwhile, the other folks have good conversation, coffee, tea, and, yes, pie. If the Lions win, Bill and I have a piece of pie to celebrate their good fortune. Since this rarely happens, we console ourselves with a piece of pie if they lose. It’s all good.

Soon, it gets to be late afternoon and folks start leaving. First, my Cousin Scott and his wife, Andrea, because they go visit some other relatives. Then my Uncle Rick and Grandma. Finally, Bill and my Mom hit the road, and then it’s just me and MY WIFE, all alone in the house. At that point, I do what any red-blooded American man would do. I take a couple of the leftover rolls, slice ‘em open, stuff them with turkey and dressing and a spoon or two of gravy, and eat them. And then watch the end of the Dallas game.

I love this holiday so much, I take the entire week off each year. That way, I can very leisurely clean the house and buy the food and decorate and do prep work for the feast, taking those chores completely off of the hands of MY WIFE, who deserves at least as much of a restful, enjoyable feast as I’m giving everyone else. I love every moment of that busy, yet still somehow slothful, week. And, since I only post from work, that’s why this is the last post until December 1st (at which time you'll get more re-runs, because I take the week off from writing, too, but they'll be really good ones, so please come back!)

I wish you a Tremendously Happy Thanksgiving. Eat much, show love. See you in 11 days, with more better (albeit still re-ran) stuff.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

15 Goofy Photos

I have a few shoeboxes at home full of old photographs. I often go through them, looking for something that will spur a memory for a story, and while I was searching for some Christmas photographs, I...

Well, I think I have to face the truth (and, with a face like mine, the truth had better look out.) I am some kind of goofy bastard. At least, if these 15 photographs were the only evidence presented to a jury, I certainly wouldn't be acquitted of the charge. Taken as a whole (and they should probably be buried in one) these pictures belie any claims I might previously have made concerning studliness, athleticism, intelligence, good looks, the ability to dress myself, and just general good taste. They are the 15 photographs that will not be showing up in the glossy centerfold when my biography gets published.

Since a picture is supposed to be worth a thousand words, I suppose I should just shut up now and let you see them. If I had any brains, of course, I'd burn them. But, as the photos themselves will show, I don't. Here goes!

As you can see, in the photo that graces the very top of this post, I had some misgivings right from the start about allowing myself to be photographed. That showed promise, insofar as my future IQ scores were concerned. This photo shows that I still had a bit of well-founded reticence. However, it also shows... heck, I don't have any idea what else it shows. You can't see the back of the photo, of course, but My Mom wrote on it "Mickey Mouse (Jimmy) Halloween". I guess she included the parenthetical just in case anyone might have thought it was the real Mickey Mouse.

Continuing with the Halloween theme, we see me dressed up as a... uh... traffic cone from a bad Walt Disney acid trip? Actually, if this were a beer bottle costume, I think I could pass for one of the Seven Little Duffs, possibly Sleazy. In any case, I am now allowing my face to be seen in public. This is not good news for the public.

Here we see me desperately trying to force a smile while I hold two of my baby cousins. "Hold" is just the closest relative term, of course, as you can see me stretching out my hands to actually avoid such a thing. I am not a baby person; never have been. I prefer not to know children until they are at least somewhat ambulatory, and I really prefer waiting until they can talk. And I always fear that something horrific will happen if I have to hold a baby. As evidenced by this photo, I have no idea how to hold one. Why somebody thought this would be a good thing to take a photo of, I have no idea. I especially like the precariously positioned iron over the head of my cousin to the left.

Here I am pretending to be diving into a swimming pool. Except, not yet knowing how to swim, I am about seven feet from the end of the diving board because I was afraid of falling off of it into the deep end of the pool. I expect the illusion would have been helped if I had taken off the snazzy sunglasses. Nice bathing suit, though. When MY WIFE first saw this photo, she wasn't sure if I was naked. I prefer to believe that her vision is really bad rather than contemplate what that means concerning my genitals.

If this were just a photo of My Dad, no problem. If this were just a photo of me, no problem (other than my continuing obsession with really fey sunglasses.) But, both of us, in matching father/son shirts? Yikes!

Politically incorrect photo of the day (or possibly the century.) Yes, it used to be considered funny to poke your head through a cut-out in a billboard and laugh at the fact that you were white while the other person, your "twin", was black. After this was taken, I went to a Chinese restaurant and ordered Sum Yung Guy.

Donkey. Oh, no - wait. Dorky.



Oops! Spoke too soon!

Get your eyes off of my legs and check out that basketball. Is it possible for a basketball to be more warped than that? No wonder I never made the NBA. I must have been shooting curveballs.

Age? 15.

Place? Ireland.

Condition? Plastered.

My Mom, Dad, and I went to this castle where they re-enacted medieval traditions. You got served big platters of greasy beef, with nothing but a knife and your hands to eat with, while various local actors pretended to be the king, queen, jester, guards, prisoners, and other assorted riff-raff. I remember little of it. The reason for that is because they gave each table huge leather casks of cheap red wine to drink from, all you wanted. And I wanted as much as they were willing to bring.

I was absolutely legless; about twenty six sheets to the wind. By the time my folks realized that I was pouring mug after mug of the stuff down my throat, I had already had about a quart. I have never been more shitfaced in my life (and, believe me, I've tried.) In addition, I woke up the next morning with the absolute mother of all hangovers. I've never had a worse one since (and, again, believe me, I've tried.)

Some folks would have been put off of booze forever by such an experience. Me? I figured I had had the worst of it already, so I might as well enjoy it from then on.

And here, in what may well be the absolutely worst photograph ever taken of me, we see some of the results of that enjoyment. There may be a bottle in a paper sack in my hand; I'm not sure. Notice the groovy facial hair, though. What in HELL was I thinking?

I think it was Buck who once commented that I do "deer in the headlights" better than anybody. Hard to argue with that.


Finally, we have the most recent shot of the bunch. Truth of the matter is that I was just about to post this piece under the title "14 Goofy Photos", and my buddy here in the office, Dan, was plastering this one onto his bulletin board. I saw it and knew that it had to be included. I'm sure you'll agree.

Soon, with more better stuff.

Monday, November 16, 2009

In Which I Am Honored To Be Allowed To Let The Cat Out Of The Bag

[Got the cat HERE.]

If you’ve been coming here for any considerable length of time, then you know how I feel concerning the talent of Magazine Man. Even if you’re new here, all you have to do is take a look at my sidebar. I have a link to his blog, and it’s the first link to something other than my own backlog. And the link is listed under the header "The BEST Writer On The Internet." I’m prone to hyperbole, but I’ve never been given reason to back down from that particular use of a superlative. His writing is amazingly consistent.

No, I take that back. To say that his writing is consistent does it a disservice. That conveys a sense of steadiness that might be misleading. I should rather say that he has a bottom line of consistently good writing, but he often rises to spectacular. As proof, I offer the following examples of superbly crafted, hilarious storytelling:

In Which My Secret Origin As A Super-Villain Is Revealed

In Which It All Depends On Your Point Of View

In Which I Have Promises To Keep

(You’ll notice, I hope, that the title of my piece today is homage to his own titling convention.)

Lots of people write funny stuff. What makes Magazine Man such a special talent is his ability to generate huge belly laughs within well-constructed full stories. Some folks… well, let’s take me as an example. I string together bunches of weird little jokes. If the end result is coherent, that’s nice. However, I rarely sit down at the keyboard with the aim of just telling a good tale and then letting the laughs take care of themselves. That’s the difference between a truly good writer, such as Magazine Man, and myself. His laughs are organic, whereas mine are often produced via a conscious effort to appear clever. I sometimes wedge them into spaces they may or may not belong.

(I’m not trying to put on false humility in an effort to have you comment along the lines of "Gee, Jim, you’re a swell writer, otherwise I wouldn’t be here." I know you like me, and I appreciate that, believe me. It’s just that, honestly, I know I’m often a good writer, but sometimes I stink the joint up. He’s always excellent, and therein lies the difference.)

Comparisons with me aside, he also has the ability to construct serious prose that is moving and heartfelt without entering into the realm of melodramatic bathos. I’ll give one fine example, but there are certainly others. You would do yourself a favor by going through his archives and finding them.

In Which I Tell A Slightly Less Heartwarming Father-Son Story

So, once again I’ve glorified the man. I’ve done that before. Aside from the fact that his talent deserves such appreciation, why am I doing it again? And what is the point of my title?

Magazine Man’s real name is...

No, hold on a minute. I’m not going to give away the goods so early. That should be enough to whet your appetite, though, right?

Here’s the thing, in case you just fell off the turnip truck and have no idea: Magazine Man has kept his true identity secret since the inception of his blog. He has granted anyone with brains enough to figure out his identity the boon of confirming their correct guesses, but he has never just openly given it on the blog. Some circumstances have, on occasion, conspired to make his real name more readily obvious to those with a desire to find it out, but it is still not wholly public. Until now, that is.

Magazine Man’s real name is...

See, I know his real name. He told it to me a while back. All of the folks who know his real name have kept it a secret, allowing him to retain some anonymity (as well as allowing those who wish to work out what it is, via logical deduction, the opportunity to keep enjoying the puzzle.) Now, however, he has granted me the opportunity to spill the beans. He has given me written permission to reveal his real name.

Why has he decided to keep his real name secret no longer? Better question: Why has he given a slug like me the opportunity to let the cat out of the bag?

The answer to the first question is that he feels his personal life and his blog life will inevitably collide soon enough, so why bother trying to keep a secret that will not last much longer anyway? Also, he feels that one of the more dire occurrences in his past – the death of his parents in a well-publicized auto accident, and his subsequent writing about that hideous incident – pretty much gave anyone with even a smidgen of curiosity a clear path to discovering his name. All anyone had to do was take the time to do some research and the clues would all come together rapidly.

The answer to the second question is even easier. I asked him if I could.

He recently acquired a new job as editor of a famous magazine. I wrote him and asked if he was going to announce his good fortune on his blog. I suggested that I was anxious to write something about it. It would give me the opportunity to ask my own readers – that would be you - to help him toward success via either subscribing to the magazine for themselves or perhaps purchasing gift subscriptions (which, of course, given the time of year, would make wonderful Christmas presents.)

His reply to me, in part, was as follows:

I appreciate your offer to plug me and my new job. I’ve been planning some big changes at the Masthead, including at last dropping my anonymity (which is pretty well shot to pieces anyway), but I just haven’t had time. Or conclusively wrestled with whether or not I should be going back and cleaning up my language, deleting certain posts altogether, etc. Because if I’m blogging under my own name, sooner or later... readers will find me, and I have to remember I’m now in a position where I represent the magazine, more or less 24/7. Not sure I need our readers (or my fellow staffers, come to that) reading about my hemorrhoids or [my] counting the number of Tootsie Roll wrappers in a pool of dog vomit. Maybe it’s just a matter of reposting the racier/grosser stuff to a separate blog — Masthead Classic — and papering it with all kinds of warnings.

...So yeah, feel free to mention me as you will on your blog, including using my name. If nothing else, it will spur me to get on my horse and make the changes I need to make. And sincerely, thanks for asking.

So, Magazine Man’s real name is...

I think it might be better if I give you the name of the magazine he is now editor of, first, and then give you his name. That way, you’ll probably be more impressed. It’s a really, really famous magazine. When he originally told me that he was the new editor of this magazine, I was floored. This magazine is one of the most famous magazines in the history of American publishing, with some of its content a permanent part of the American cultural landscape. Being named editor of this magazine is a seriously impressive accomplishment. I think you’ll agree.

The magazine he is now editor of is...

Nope. I’m not going to give it to you. And I’m not going to tell you his real name, either. What I’m going to do is leave it up to him to tell you. Forgive the crass religious comparison, but I sort of consider myself John The Baptist to Magazine Man’s Jesus. John proclaimed the coming of the kingdom, but he never did tell anyone that The King’s name was Jesus, nor did he specify where Jesus' ministry would take place. He waited for The King to show himself in public, and then he pointed him out to everybody, but give his name prior to that time, or give specific details concerning his ministry? Nope.

So, MM, it’s up to you. I hope I’ve given you the spur you requested. I’ve created some bit of curiosity and buzz. Now it’s time for you to give out the good word.

(If this ridiculous comparison I’ve invented starts running true to course, and it appears you’ll end up crucified, just remember that John The Baptist was beheaded. It’s not all skittles and beer for the prophets, either.)

MM, I hope this leaves us even-Stephen, by George, and if you don't Post by Saturday Evening, I guess I'll have to, but...

Oops! Freudian slip! What I meant to say was...

Soon, with more better stuff.

(Oh, for goodness' sakes, go HERE and read the official press release. And buy many subscriptions for your family and friends HERE.)

Friday, November 13, 2009

Poindexter & The Scary Clown

Once upon a time, there was a boy named Poindexter.

(I know some of you find this hard to believe, in a day and age when every boy is named Jason, but it's true.)

Poindexter lived in Utah, in a big house made out of green jello.

One day, a scary clown knocked on Poindexter's door.

(It wasn't so much a knock as it was a shplooge, which is the sound you make when you bang your fist against green jello - if you don't believe me, try it yourself - but I said "knock" because if I said "One day, a scary clown shplooged on Poindexter's door", God only knows what you'd imagine with your filthy mind.)

When Poindexter went to see who had shplooged on his door, he saw the scary clown standing on the front porch!

(Oh! Did I mention that the scary clown was made out of ice cream? Well, he was.)

The scary clown (made out of ice cream) ate Poindexter. And everybody else in Utah was happy because nobody liked Poindexter.

(They weren't especially fond of the scary clown [made out of ice cream] either, but he could eat them, so they said nice things about him even though they didn't mean them.)

Poindexter, even though he was eaten, wasn't worried. Being a Poindexter, he knew that a scary clown made out of ice cream was ridiculously vulnerable. Poindexter had watched The Weather Channel that morning, so he knew it would be 86 degrees later on (that's 30 degrees Celcius) so he just waited for the scary clown made out of ice cream to melt. And so he did. And Poindexter returned home to his house made out of green jello and lived happily ever after plotting various revenges against the people who were happy he was eaten.

The End

This is what happens when you give me awards. If I'm not insulting the person who gave me the award, I'm making up extremely silly shit (which is pretty much what I do most of the time here, anyway, but not with such a handy excuse for my behavior.)

Green Jello (See how I worked her blog handle into the story? How clever am I! Not very. Shut up.) gave me The Poindexter Award. Why? Apparently because I admitted to liking Sudoku. See, out in Utah (where the median IQ falls somewhere between 67 and thinking that it's pronounced "ick") doing Sudoku puzzles is a sign that you're some kind of Einstein. At least, that's the impression I got from her previous post, to which I admitted that 3 of the 10 things applied to me.

Wow. So far, this is convoluted and stinky! And if you think it's going to get any better, you don't know me very well, do you? Anyway, I should have saved a whole bunch of time by saying she's a Mormon and that Mormons really suck. I don't know for sure if she's a Mormon, though.

[*waits a beat for comic effect*]

(See, I didn't take back the part about Mormons in general? I only expressed doubts about her being one? That's kinda funny, in a pre-1960's KKK-ish sort of way.)

Hey, I bet right about now you'd like to know more about The Scary Clown Award! I got that one from Pouty Baby. She gave it to me about five months ago.

(If you go to the link, it appears she didn't give it to me, but to someone else. She did give it to me, though. I have the e-mail from her to prove it. She probably changed it on her website when I ignored it, which was rude of me but explained more fully in the following.)

I was so thrilled to get it, I forgot all about it until just now when I was going through some old e-mails looking for one I had meant to answer from an Ethiopian lawyer who assures me I had a long lost uncle who was Minister Of Finance and who died and I stand to inherit 10,000,000 East African Shillings (which as I understand it are worth 24 Lire apiece, so when I find it, it's goodbye to you goons!) and there it was. She gave it to me for my other blog, The Talkback Button, which hasn't had a new posting since before Windows 6 came out, let alone Windows 7! Snort!

(Hmmmmmmmmmmm. Maybe I deserve The Poindexter Award.)

According to Pouty Baby, here's why I got The Scary Clown award:

The Scary Clown Award is given to blogs which display a great sense of humor, and just the right leaven of attitude!

Leaven? That's like yeast, right? My blog is all yeasty? Yuck! Let me smear it with some Monistat and then we can continue.

Actually, this was all well and good until we got to the part about scary clowns.

(Well, not all well and good. It was convoluted and stinky - still is - but play along, okay?)

MY WIFE is afraid of clowns. The medical term for this condition, by the way, is Frolicphobia (which she made up and I'm getting it into print before someone steals it and makes millions from it, like Vince McMahon did with Spinerooni.) And I don't appreciate getting awards that play on MY WIFE's neuroses. If you want to scare me, that's one thing. Go ahead. My biggest fear is that all of my female readers will send me naked photos of themselves to 93 Winsor Avenue, Watertown, MA, 02472, so please, if you must frighten someone, I'll take it like a man. But leave MY WIFE out of your sick gruesome fantasies, Pouty Lips.

(Hmmmmmmmmmmmmmm. Pouty Lips. I wonder if that has anything to do with the yeast infection? Oh, it's not those lips that are pouty? Well, you just became about 45% less interesting, but you're probably more comfortable when you sit down. And your name is Pouty BABY, anyway, but then the joke don't work.)

Speaking of Green Jello, I wasn't, but now I will. She thought she got off easy before. Hah! You never know when my drugs will kick in and I'll remember you. Just remember that! Remember what? No, what's on second. Who's on first? I don't know. Third base!

Did I have a point here? I hope not. If I did, I'm sure doing a lousy job of making it.

I just realized that I have no idea where Yeasty Lips lives. Her husband, if she has one (and, if so, God bless him) might be outside my door right now with a shotgun, just waiting for me to stick my head out so he can blow my face off. Let me check!


(Man, that's gonna smart when I'm sober...)

Look, folks, it should be painfully obvious by now that I'm all out of things to say about awards. Give me a break, will you?

(Yeah, like that's gonna work. I've asked them to not give me awards before, and I've even been nastier than this before, but nothing seems to stop the bastards from giving me the damn things. Maybe some reverse psychology? Might as well try it; I've tried everything else.)

Yay! Awards! Give me as many as you have! I love them! I crave them! I can't live without them! The more rules I have to follow to accept them, the better I like it! I especially like the ones in foreign languages and those which feature anthropomorphic animals!

[*looks over shoulder to see if anybody is buying this crap*]

Um... look, just lay off, OK? If you don't, I'll send Green Yeasty Jello Lips over to your place to sit on your couch naked and read to you from the Book Of Moroni.

(Unless I can get her to come to my place first, or at least send photos.)

Soon, with more bitter stuff.

DISCLAIMERS: From the limited personal interactions I've had with them, attendees of The Church Of Jesus Christ Of Latter-day Saints appear to be a swell bunch of folks. All insults were an attempt at failed comedy. Anyway, I'm in favor of polygamy, if that helps. And, so far as I know, Pouty Baby has an entirely yeast-free genital region. I'm sure it's lovely. If I find out differently, I'll be sure to update you.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Scene Of The Crime

Old factory buildings, their cracked and dirty windows the ancient eyes of progress dormant; rail spurs grown over with weeds where steel wheels once carried precious cargo; a sun-beaten loading dock, hangout now for indolent juvenile delinquent pigeons, but formerly where fathers and grandfathers dripped sweat while dreaming of something better for their children.

Across the potholed street, a shopping center, the latest thing - two generations past - in 1960's space-age architecture (triangularly-shaped logos with sharp, motion-suggestive typeface.) Now an ancient ironic relic, it borders a self-serve gas station/convenience store doing a brisk business in instant lottery tickets (which litter the ground in mute testimony to the futility of the advertised hope.) No one under the age of 50 enters the forlorn supermarket (and, it seems, even fewer exit.)

Two nail salons vie for business with three bars and a Chinese take-away. Where once a bakery filled the neighborhood with delicious aromas of fresh-baked breads, Mickey D serves tasty grease and heart attacks.

An old man with four-day gray stubble shuffles down the street carrying a shopping bag full of broken dreams, destination unknown even to him, his too-long corduroy trousers, with baggy and worn seat, sweeping the sidewalk. He moves past a gang of boys whose parents have deluded themselves into thinking they are attending school. They laugh at the old man (who doesn't hear their insults in his world) unaware that it is their future walking by them trailing a faint odor of piss.

A block away, plywood fills the spaces where there used to be windows in the first floor of an apartment building. Inside, on the third floor, a woman watches Days Of Our Lives and drinks instant coffee laced with Old Granddad. She desperately tries to avoid calculating if the bottle will run dry before her next government check arrives. The second floor is empty except for a few cockroaches too stupid to move someplace better. Behind the first floor plywood, two emaciated junkies doze on linoleum littered with cigarette butts and small empty packets of powdered temporary happiness.

A bus rumbles by on the main street, delivering diesel exhaust to complement the overwhelming smells of defeat, despair, desperation, and denial. The riders pass through poverty on their way from lower-middle-class dwellings to jobs with upper-middle-class dreams. They hope the bus makes no stops in this neighborhood. No one they wish to associate with ever gets on here. The driver, who once lived in the second floor apartment (but escaped via virtue of hard work, long hours, and luck) keeps his eyes on the road and his foot on the accelerator. He also hopes to make no stops here. He has no desire to strike up old acquaintances.

A police cruiser makes a desultory tour of side streets. The two officers inside know, from years of duty in the area, that randomly stopping at any three or four residences will likely result in their uncovering some small crime or another, but they save their energies for the inevitable something bigger which will cry out for their full attentions later. Drug usage and petty theft pale in comparison to rape and murder. They willfully ignore minor details in favor of keeping an eye on the bigger picture.

The local politicians - none of them quite this local - make a grand show of hand wringing about the neighborhood, but do nothing more than make sure it doesn't entirely burn to the ground before the next election. When someone with brains enough to challenge them shows up on these streets, they gladhand him and put him on-staff before he becomes too dangerous.

And there is always a baby crying, a dog barking, and the faint sound of tires squealing in the background.


Question worth asking: Is this my old neighborhood? Did I live there?

Yes and no. My old neighborhood came close, sometimes, in the year or two before I left, but I only encountered the totality of it while I was on drugs and associating with folks who lived in these sorts of surroundings full-time. A couple of bad breaks and I would have taken up residence.

The neighborhood exists in every big city in America. The routinely lucky never live there. The truly blessed live there once and get out. If they understand what they escaped, they remain eternally aware of their good fortune.

Point? None other than what you take from it. Or give to it, as the case may be.

Soon, with more better stuff.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

For Your Kind Consideration

Aghhh! It's a bug!

Oh, wait a minute! I know this bug! Let me introduce you!

Many of you have enjoyed my swell pal Donatello's musings on a variety of subjects. For instance...

How To Acquire A Free Grill

His 15 Favorite Recordings

His 15 Favorite Books

The Economy

Making Cheap Tuna Sandwiches

Farting (which may occur in conjunction with the cheap tuna sandwiches - just a little truth in advertising - but, in this instance, had to do with the use of a C-PAP machine.)

I regret having to say this, since it means I'm losing someone who writes a couple of pieces for me every few months and saves me the trouble of coming up with an original idea of my own (as if I ever), but Donatello has decided to do the entirely rational thing and start his own blog. You will not, however, find it by doing a search under the name of Donatello, so read on.

Donatello (or, more correctly now, The Artist Formerly Known As Donatello) has decided to use the handle of "Cricket" when authoring his own blog. Why? I suppose the most logical reason would be that it divorces all future writings of his from any connection to his sordid past (that is, me and this blog) but the actual answer is that he envisions himself as a small chirping insect that likes to hang out on hearths in Dickensian Christmas tales. While I hardly advocate encouraging such delusional thinking, it is his blog, so he can call himself whatever he wants.

Oh, I suppose it would be helpful if I gave you the actual address of the blog itself, so you can visit? Yes, it would, so here it is!

Cricket And Porcupine

Whoa! Porcupine? Nobody said anything about a porcupine! Not THIS ONE, I hope! Nah, couldn't be that. It must be some sort of alter-ego (or, if it has something to do with a Catholic superiority complex, altar ego.) Or maybe it's another writer all together? And, if so, what credentials have I been shown to prove that this other scribe is worthy of a plug in such an august (actually, November) journal as this? Or, perhaps more important, how do I know he/she/it won't sue me for besmirching his/her/its name by putting it within this compendium of complete crapitude?

Ah, to hell with it. I'm hungry. I'm gonna go have five or six Pop Tarts and drown my sorrows in carb overload. I'm losing a convenient excuse for me to loaf every few weeks. This sucks. Maybe the porcupine will sue me. At least it would be something I could write about next week. I need all the help I can get now.

Soon, with less Donatello and Cricket and Porcupine and probably Armadillos, too, for all I know.

P.S. No armadillos were harmed during the making of this blog, though God knows I tried.

P.P.S. Hey, I just had a great idea! Why don't all of you people who are intent on giving out awards give them to Cricket instead of me? He probably won't be half as nasty in accepting them as I am!

P.P.P.S. If he is nasty, you can just step on him. I'm a dog. I bite.

P.P.P.P.S. I could go on ad infinitum with these silly postscripts, but your time would be better spent going to visit Cricket (which was the point of this whole thing, so I'll just shut up now.)

Monday, November 09, 2009

Thanksgiving Comes First - Addendum

(If you don't like methamphetamine, go to the place from which I stole this cartoon. They could use your help, I'm sure. If you like methamphetamine, I stole this cartoon from a place that's trying to wipe out your buzz.)

Pleasurable housekeeping time. I need to acknowledge some folks who did their bit in connection with THANKSGIVING COMES FIRST.

Here are the folks who posted TCF pieces since the time of my original 'thank you' posting. Again, many thanks to all who have helped!

Pat, at An Arkansas Stamper, came through for me. Thanks, Pat!

A double helping! Uncle Skip (not really my uncle, but he is somebody's) put the logo up for all to see at Rants And Musings, and also at LionSkip.

My lovely friend, Lime, posted a beautiful piece. It expresses my own sentiments exactly, as well as giving some very interesting and kind reasons of her own for wanting Thanksgiving not to be shunted aside.

Ali P, at My Pod 2, turned me on to this song... The Way Too Early Christmas Song!

The superbly-talented Janine, at Sniffles & Smiles, added the logo to her sidebar.

Kathryn, at Tender Graces, has posted a swell idea to promote other bloggers and such. Very much in the spirit of things, and you should take a look.

Chris Stone kinda sorta added a voice to the fray.

We have a Facebook page! Go HERE.

Once again, if I've missed anyone's contribution, please let me know ASAP. I'll add you on.

And, since all good deeds (that benefit me) should be rewarded without limit, here's a re-run of the folks who helped out earlier:

Desmond Jones directed me to a past post of his that is in the spirit.

Dr. Grumpy had an open letter to President Obama asking that something be done.

My Dedham News, a friend from past campaigns, came through again.

Ananda Girl, at Oodles Of Funch, gave us the good write up!

The entirely lovely Thimbelle, from Creeping Towards Normal, re-ran her piece from last year, one of my absolute favorites. I really love it, and urge everybody to read it.

My good buddy, Buck, from Exile In Portales, posted this. And remember, if you really want to show some thanks, in a concrete way, to some folks who could really use your help, go to the Valour-IT site and make a contribution. There are only three days left!

My Darker Gray Friend, Michelle, at The Surly Writer wrote a somewhat bittersweet piece. Go there and cheer her up, damn it!

My buddy from The Great White North, Jazz, at Haphazard Life, posted this wonderful piece. I especially liked the cartoon.

Diana, from Garden On The Edge somehow managed to work in the subject on her gardening blog. God bless her!

3GirlKnight at By God's Good Grace! certainly graced me.

Brinkbeest, who is wonderfully Dutch, and thus, while in sympathy, has more of a desire to see Sinterklaas come first, which you'll understand when you read it... Hmmmmmmmmm. I seem to have gotten lost in my own sentence construction. Imagine how you feel! Anyway, just go there. You'll understand.

Uncle Skip (once again, not really my uncle) at Rants And Musings had this post. He wanted Halloween to come first. I've been told that it did, but there was little evidence to support the proposition in our neighborhood. ONE kid came to our door! Maybe we should have given out candy rather than turnip?

Sarah, at the whimsically-named Que Sarah Sarah, has the logo posted on her sidebar.

So many fine people willing to help! Thank you, sincerely, from the bottom of my heart.

Soon, with more better stuffing, giblets, and gravy.

More reading material for you: Since I originally posted, Jeni, at Down River Drivel, posted THIS.

And Linda, at Are we There Yet, posted THIS.

Both nice women, who have written nice pieces. Thank you, ladies!

Thursday, November 05, 2009

15 Recordings: My Choices

Here are my 15 recordings.

Unlike my swell pal, Donatello - whose 15 Recordings were published in this space yesterday - I have little formal musical training. Everything I know about the instruments I play, I pretty much taught myself. I learned from watching others, by picking up an occasional book - that's how I learned to read music, haltingly, like a first-grader trying to read Middle English - and by listening to, and trying to imitate, records.

I mention the self-serving crap above as explanation for some of the choices I've made here. I find that many of the records I've chosen to include in my 15 are those that I had on the stereo while I was learning to play. They are the records I tried to copy. Being self-taught, and wanting to sound as slick as possible immediately, some of the songs I practiced weren't what you'd call complicated. As a matter of fact, many are examples of pure bonehead rock, which Donatello gave a marvelous definition of in some correspondence we shared, to wit:

"The themes of bonehead rock are simple: sex, drugs and rock and roll. Bonehead rock artists are, in general, in favor of these things. Occasional sub-themes:

a) too many drugs can interfere with your ability to enjoy sex and rock and roll.

b) it can also be fun to go out and break shit.

Couldn't possibly have said it better myself.

Donatello hit on something else yesterday that resonated with me when he said that listening to music is similar to the sense of smell, in that it is a strong memory enhancer. True. I can listen to any of the following albums and immediately tell you where I bought the album (or who gave it to me), where I was when I first heard it, who I was with, what drugs I was taking, and all sorts of other ridiculous associated ephemera. So, these all have good memories attached and some can make me feel 30 - 35 years younger when I listen to them. Generally, when you put that up against a record that has a main attribute of masterful playing, mastery ain't gonna win. So, if you wrinkle your nose and say, "Man, Sully, you sure do have some hideous tastes in music!", I'll offer this paragraph as an apologetic. Anyway, bad musicians can sometimes be more fun to listen to than good ones. Watching a bunch of really good pilots flying in gracefully rigid formation is swell enough, but some pinhead flying too close to the sun with wings made of wax is often way more entertaining.

I found this to be a much tougher task than the 15 books. With those, I knew I wouldn't terribly regret leaving the borderline choices off. Even my favorite book of all-time (which would be Tom Sawyer, by the way) I've only read about 30 times. There are records in my collection that didn't make the top 200 here that I've listened to at least twice as many times.

These are, for lack of a better qualifier, the 15 albums I would most want to have with me if I could have access to no other albums ever again; the desert island choices, as Donatello put it. However, I'll give one more explanation concerning why I chose these 15 and not some of those given at the end as "honorable mentions". When it came time to winnow the field, I found the easiest way to do it was to ask myself if the album in question was one that I could listen to straight through and never consider skipping any cuts. I figure if I'm going to be stranded on a desert island, I don't want any vinyl wasted on cuts I'd just as soon not listen to. So, most of these - not all, but most - are records that contain no dead spots for me. That's about as good a criterion for inclusion as any.

I could go on giving more rationales for having chosen these, but I'm pretty sure I'll give more than enough within each choice, so let's get to it.


In Rock and Made In Japan, Deep Purple

Exhibit A when trying to prove to someone that there are actually good musicians plying their trade in the realm of heavy metal, these guys are easily my favorite group. I wouldn't cry if I was stranded on a desert island with 15 albums only from them. Well, okay, maybe after 20 years I'd cry a little. However, I'll get to choose some diversity after this, so I narrowed my Purple collection down to these two. They contain the best of the group: Two superb soloists (Ritchie Blackmore on guitar, Jon Lord on Keyboards); the best all-around drummer in rock (Ian Paice); a solid bass player who is willing to hold everything together on the ground while the other guys go flying off to explore the sky (Roger Glover); and a vocalist (Ian Gillan) who was able to hit brilliant high screams, ON KEY, and also play a passable mouth organ when called upon.

(Purple has had other incarnations, but I feel this is the best overall congregation. More recently, Steve Morse has handled the guitar chores. I once said, in another forum - and was skragged unmercifully for it, but it's true - that if Morse and Blackmore were gunfighters, Morse would leave Blackmore lying in the street dead 9 times out of 10. However, Gillan's voice has been so shot, since the time Morse joined the group, that the Blackmore era band comes out overall winner.)

I thought long and hard about including Machinehead as one of the two, rather than In Rock, but finally chose the latter because most of the former's material can be had on Made In Japan (although I lose the absolutely stunning Blackmore studio solo from Highway Star.) The problem, such as it is, is that Purple did not replicate studio albums in concert. They were as close to a jazz band as heavy metal got, which is one of the reasons why I love them. There are no two live recordings alike. In their early days, they'd sometimes stretch numbers out to 25 or 30 minutes with improvisations and solo spots. An example of that sort of experimentation comes during Space Truckin' on Made In Japan, where Glover rocks steady while the others take turns seeing how far they can travel without a map and still find their way home.

And, with these two albums, I get two versions of Child In Time, so I get to hear THE most stunning vocal gymnastics ever, by any metal singer, both in the studio and live. Those performances, by themselves, are reason enough to take these albums to the island.

Desolation Boulevard, Sweet

If you listen to classic rock on the radio, you probably know one cut from the album - Ballroom Blitz - and maybe also the less-worthy hit, Fox On The Run, but the rest of the album is amazingly solid. It is actually a compilation of sorts, culled from a few of their British albums, but released in the U.S. as though it were just the latest from them at the time. The U.K. release is vastly different, so be sure of which one you're buying.

Side One contains Blitz and other tunes penned by Chinn & Chapman, who were their managers/songwriters during their pre-teen-aimed bubblegum phase. Some great riff rockers on this side. Side Two contains their own original compositions from after their break with C & C, and is filled with molten slabs of white hot grind (excluding the bubblegummish Fox.)

This is my favorite drumming album. Other drummers rank higher in my overall estimation as well-rounded musicians - Ian Paice, as mentioned above, for instance - but Mick Tucker, on this album, is just about as perfect as a rock drummer gets. I would unhesitatingly hand this album to anyone aspiring to be a rock/metal drummer and tell him "This is what you should be aiming for."

As well, guitarist Andy Scott sounds as though he swallowed the 1972 version of Ritchie Blackmore whole, spit out the subtlety, and then ate a side order of crystal meth before hitting the studio. It doesn't get any crunchier and out-of-control (but actually fully in-control) than his stuff on Side Two's Sweet F.A.

If you like this album, get the follow-up, Give Us A Wink. They decided to make a true studio masterpiece. By that, I mean it is layered, dubbed, textured, scrubbed and polished unlike few metal albums of the day. Truly astounding production for the 1970's.

LIVE ALBUM, Grand Funk

Every time I mention this as being my favorite bass guitar album of all-time, I know I'm not doing my reputation as a connoisseur of fine music any favors. But, it is. And it's coming to the desert island with me.

Mel Schacher's bass is just an all-encompassing, smothering, dark brown slab of vibrating goodness. There's nothing complicated here (and if you can't take a whole lot of repetition, nothing much at all) but this is the sound that made me want to become a bass player. He just crushes the audience here; annihilates them with a wall of bass. Being in the audience, at this concert, must have been a cathartic experience. This bass would have rattled your chest bones and probably loosened the plaque in your arteries.

Lots of battle-of-the-bands style tunes, designed to get a stoner audience out of their chairs and pumping their fists, and there are some high points (and low points) for Mark Farner on guitar and vocals, and Don Brewer on drums, but that bass... no other record like it exists.

The Hits, Tommy Dorsey

I tried to stay away from "greatest hits" or compilation albums, but there's little choice when you're talking about late 30's - early 40's big band stuff. They just plain didn't make long-playing albums. They released singles. The only way to get this stuff, today, is via compilations of one sort or another. And, since I wanted one big band album, that's the route I had to take.

I considered a collection of Charlie Barnet. His band was hotter overall, Redskin Rhumba is about as close to heavy metal as swing ever got, and Barnet himself, on sax, is probably my favorite soloist within the genre. Dorsey won out, however, for a few very good reasons.

1) The arrangements are better. Dorsey was a perfectionist, while Barnet didn't seem to give a damn about how songs ended just as long as they jumped and had room for a good solo.

2) Dorsey is the best trombone player ever. Okay, that's something you might want to debate, what with fellas like J. J. Johnson, Jack Teagarden, and Jimmy Cheatham having roamed the earth at one time or another, but I'll stand behind that statement. I'll pit I'm Getting Sentimental Over You, Trombonology and Song Of India against any other sackbut practitioner. Dorsey wasn't the best improv guy - he himself felt he wasn't better than mediocre at improvising a solo - but working from a chart, there was nobody to top him.

3) With Dorsey, you get Frank Sinatra on vocals for a handful of songs. That obviates the need for choosing a solo Frank Sinatra recording. You also get Buddy Rich on drums, although he's mighty subdued compared to some of his other stuff.

4) Opus One. Maybe the most perfect big band recording ever, if I'm Getting Sentimental... isn't.

Anyway, I had to have one big band recording and this one is about as good as it gets.

(It's one of four CDs included in the pictured set, by the way, but I only took the one to be fair. My apologies to Jimmy Dorsey fans.)

Prokofiev's Second Symphony, Berliner Philharmoniker - Seiji Ozawa conducting.

I decided I wanted one classical recording, and Prokofiev (or, Procoffeecup, as MY WIFE likes to call him) is my favorite classical composer. I could live with the much lighter Lieutenant Kije Suite (which, by the way, was one of the first things other than rock I tried to teach myself on bass, and I still amuse myself by throwing bits of the Troika movement into solos) or perhaps the Fifth Symphony, which is quite bright, but my absolute fave is the Second. I've never seen it performed anywhere, so I assume it's not the favorite of anyone with verifiable taste. I love it, though, and that's all that matters here.

The Second is strident, somewhat harsh, a bit dissonant, has parts that evoke - for me, at least - 1950's horror flicks, and is, as Prokofiev himself put it, a symphony of "iron and steel." I like the first movement more than the second movement (the "variations") but they both work.

As a bonus, the CD that contains the Second, from the collection above, also has his Seventh, which is quite enjoyable if more mellow.

2 - Bloodrock

OK, back to the tripe that it seems only I like.

Bloodrock were a band from Fort Worth, Texas, and they had a very short shelf life. Their first album had some wonderful moments, and their third album had some, too, but their second (a very good reason for it's being called "2") is the only time they ever got it completely right for an entire album. And they got it magnificently right.

Between the first record and this one, they picked up a new drummer.

(Aside: I find that I have much more of an obsession with drummers than I would have previously thought. I think I've mentioned them in every review here except for the Prokofiev.)

Anyway, they had previously had Jim Rutledge both singing and playing drums. Since a singing drummer is not the most accessible of frontmen - and because Rutledge was just passable as a drummer - producer Terry Knight decided to relegate Rutledge to vocals alone and hired Rick Cobb to be the drummer. This was a great move, giving both spots a boost. Cobb's drums on this album are solid and inventive, while Rutledge's vocals are much superior to those on the debut.

The song that you may know from this, D.O.A., was probably the weirdest and most morbid charting single in the history of music. It reached #36 on the Billboard charts despite the subject matter being a plane crash and subsequent dead on arrival status of the guy singing the song. Hell of a well-constructed tune, though. And the whole album is tight, tight, tight. I love it, may the group as a whole rest in peace.

Raw Power, The Stooges

I wrote a huge overblown appreciation for this album already, and you can find it HERE if you want to have an hour's worth of reading material. Here's the synopsis:

Best rock album ever.

I'll just add one caveat for anyone who might end up being emptor: the original mix, by David Bowie, is far superior to the re-mix, by Iggy Pop, even though the original mix has a horribly weak bottom. Trust me on this. I'm a bass player, and if I'm telling you the mix with weaker bass is better, that should tell you something concerning the relative quality of both.

It's Alive, The Ramones

Sort of cheating. I couldn't decide between their first album and Leave Home, so I'm opting for the live album that contains most of both plus a serious helping of Rocket To Russia. 28 songs in less than 54 minutes, and that includes Dee Dee's "1-2-3-4" between each.

These guys were great. I saw them four or five times, back in their heyday, and left every show sweaty, grinning, and satisfied like I just had great sex.

Best Ramones tidbit: They got it completely backwards. Whereas most bands with a dead member are missing a drummer, the only original Ramone still living is the drummer. Yup. That was them all the way.

Moving Waves, Focus

The best Dutch band ever. And it's got yodeling, too.

[*blank stare from everybody*]

Huh. I would have thought that was enough. Okay, then, this is one of the great mostly-forgotten bands. Jan Akkerman is a seriously fine guitarist, and Thisj Van Leer was a good enough flute player to have ended up as a sideman for a few hardcore jazz guys after Focus folded (he also plays some tasty keyboards and has a vocal range that's astounding.) Pierre Van Der Linden and Cyril Havermans are a sweet rhythm section, playing nothing but tasteful accompaniment. The songs range from metal-tinged rockers to Rockford Files Theme Song-like instrumentals to 20-minute prog-rock blowouts to solo piano mood pieces. And yodeling. It's got yodeling. GOOD yodeling.

Geez, just buy it, will you? I guarantee you won't be sorry. I'll buy it back from you if you truly don't like it.

Paranoid, Black Sabbath
When you’re a guitarist and you chop off the tips of your fingers in an industrial accident, you have to adapt if you want to keep playing. That’s what Tony Iommi of Black Sabbath did. In the process, he pretty much invented a new musical genre.

There isn’t another musician in the world that I admire more than Tony Iommi. I mean that. If persistence alone were what counted, he’d be unanimously acclaimed as the greatest guitar player in the world. It ISN’T the only thing counted, of course, so he isn’t, but he’ll always have a spot in MY hall of fame.

Iommi was working in a factory – his last day on the job, as a matter of fact, as he was quitting to go on a tour of Germany with his current band – when he had the ends of three fingers on his chording hand sliced off by a machine. He was, as you might imagine, despondent. He thought his musical career was finished. He sank into a deep depression.

A friend of his from the factory visited him, bringing along a Django Reinhardt record. He explained to Tony that this guitarist had been in a fire and came out of it with two of his fingers fused together. Rather than forget about a musical career, however, he figured out a way around his injury, using the fused fingers to make barre chords and otherwise adapting what he had rather than bemoaning what he didn’t. Reinhardt became a world-famous guitarist. The story made a tremendous impression on Iommi and he decided to somehow figure out how to play with his truncated fingers.

At first, he just tried using them as they were, but it proved too painful. Then he got an idea: What if he fashioned prosthetic fingertips for himself? So, Tony melted down a dishwashing detergent bottle and molded the melted plastic onto his fingers in the approximate shape of his missing tips. It worked fairly well; better when he cut up some small pieces of leather, glued them onto the ends in an imitation of skin, and used some oil to soften the leather and make it more like human skin.

Now he could play a bit, but in order to make it easier on his fingers, which still hurt like hell, he de-tuned his guitar to D, loosening the tension of the strings. This was much better, and an added result was that the sound from the de-tuned guitar was darker and more menacing. He added a few toys - most notably, fuzz tone - made more extensive use of flatted fifths than anyone before him, and heavy metal had been born.

(Well, it’s probably overstating things to say that heavy metal was born then. It became more well-defined then, but there had certainly been much of the same music being played before, by the likes of Led Zeppelin, Cream, Jimi Hendrix, even The Kinks, who might truly have recorded the first heavy metal song when they blew out a speaker and decided they liked the sound and recorded You Really Got Me with that blown speaker. But the Iommi story is more heroic, so let’s buy into it completely, whatta ya say?)

Be that as it may – and why wouldn’t it be? – Black Sabbath had a unique sound. Nobody was as heavy – or as moronic, for that matter, which was a plus because they became the go-to band for downer freaks the world over. And Paranoid is just chock full of sublimely dumb moments of glory, from the rhyming of the word "masses" with the word "masses", in War Pigs, to the wonderfully dopey bridge of Electric Funeral ("'lectric funeral! 'lectric funeral! 'lectric funeral!") and that’s just Ozzy Osbourne’s singing. Throw in the other three refugees from a tar pit and you’re wallowing in something so thick and gritty you feel like checking your underwear for brontosauruses.

Anyway, they’re unique and I’m hoping my desert island has an ample supply of pot, in which case I’ll be glad to have this along.

Killer, The Alice Cooper Group

I specify the Alice Cooper GROUP since Michael Bruce, Glen Buxton, Dennis Dunaway, and Neal Smith had as much to do with the oeuvre of this congregation as Alice himself did. One listen to any of his solo efforts will tell you that. Not that he hasn’t made some decent records on his own, but he’s never come close to what he accomplished with the other four guys along for the ride.

If I were forced to take the preceding album, Love It To Death, or the follow-up, School’s Out, I’d be all right with that. Any of the three is worthwhile. This is the hardest rocking of the trio, though, so it wins. School’s Out had more intricate arrangements and Love It To Death had more endearing quirkiness, but Killer is just that - a killer. From the opening guitar salvo of Under My Wheels to the spookhouse by way of Catholic Church organ at the end of the title song, it is just bursting with rock-n-roll yumminess. Snarling vocals, ripsaw guitars, jackboot drums, throbbing bass, extremely clever lyrics (Dylan once expressed his admiration for Cooper as a lyricist), and some deceptively progressive weirdness (Halo Of Flies) – this has it all.

For a short time, nobody said it better than these guys. Nobody.

Christmas Eve And Other Stories, The Trans-Siberian Orchestra

I figure I won’t be giving up Christmas on my island, so I want a Christmas album along. This will do. Nicely coherent theme album, with fine musicianship. The power of the instrumental medley of O Come All Ye Faithful/O Holy Night is, by itself, reason enough for me to pack this for the trip.

Duty Now For The Future, DEVO

Tough call here. I knew I had to have something by DEVO, but the choice between this and their first album (Q: Are We Not Men? A: We Are DEVO!) was not easy. The first album is darker and...

Yes, that’s what I said. Those of you who know only Whip It from when these guys started wearing flowerpots on their heads are thinking, "Darker? Those goofballs?" Well, yeah. There was an undercurrent of perversion and general unseemliness to that first album - which is what made it great, of course.

The album I chose, their second, is not quite so bizarre, but it is bizarre enough and has better songs besides. The jagged and jarring guitar solo on Blockhead; their catchy Secret Agent Man cover (with some changes in the lyric from the Johnny Rivers version); the hellish Swelling Itching Brain (which no doubt would give you one if you listened to it too many times in a row); and the funny, and driving, Smart Patrol/Mr. D.N.A., with it’s, well, goofy lyrics...

I’ll be honest with you (but aren’t I always?) and tell you that I enjoyed this album the first time while I was on an acid trip. That may have colored my perception of it. However, it’s MY desert island and I’m taking this one with me, no matter what YOU think of it.

Raunch N Roll Live – Black Oak Arkansas

Sometimes, you just love something even when most other folks think it’s ugly. There’s little you can do to explain love to someone who doesn’t feel it. Maybe you love this album the same as I do. If not, I’ll try to explain why I do love it. I doubt I’ll be successful, but I’ll try.

First off, Jim Dandy Mangrum has a voice like no other in rock; maybe like no other in the world. The sole exception might be some of the practitioners of Tuvan throat singing. If you’ve heard that, imagine that voice coming out of a sort-of hick prototype of David Lee Roth. That’s Jim Dandy Mangrum, the sexiest man ever to strut a stage.

Sexy? Did I just say that? Yeah, I guess I did. Mangrum’s stage presence was beyond anything previously seen in 1970. He strutted and pranced and danced and twirled and thrusted across the stage in sprayed-on white spandex pants, shirtless, with his long blond hair falling down to his extremely good-looking ass in back.

Yes, I’m straight. But I’d have to have been blind to not notice this guy and the effect he had on the women in the audience. See, here’s the thing: When I started out in bands, as a singer, I wanted to be Jim Dandy Mangrum. I wasn’t near as good looking; I had red hair, not blond; and I was heavier in places where he was lighter and lighter in places where he was heavier; but I wanted to be him. From his stage mannerisms to his unique voice to his rapport with the audience – which was substantial, both male and female – I wanted to be that guy.

Well, I wasn’t him and my attempts to be him were probably ill advised. But, damn, was that man a fantastic performer with absolutely no fright in him. And the voice? Unlike any other, as I said. That was both good and bad, of course. You either love Jim Dandy’s voice or you hate it. I love it. I think it’s about as perfect a voice for rock as has ever been. Your mileage – and the mileage of many others – may vary.

The rest of the group was interesting in their own way. There were three guitars, bass, and drums, playing southern rock of a not overly complicated or ambitious a nature, but endearing in a clumsy sort of way. And – one more drummer for me to tout – Tommy Aldrich was one of the earliest to use a double bass kit and he was really, really good. His solo on this album, which you wouldn’t know unless you saw the group live like I did, three times, was played with only his hands – no sticks – for the last two minutes or so, and the cymbal crash at the end comes when he PUNCHES it. Two of the guitarists would often swing their instruments like baseball bats, smashing them against each other, during the final number. Combine that with Mangrum’s theatrics and it was one fun show.

I miss these guys, a lot. I truly do. There was no other group like them then and there still isn’t today. They were clowns, in many ways, but they also had a great deal of heart and they weren’t afraid to wear that heart on their sleeves.

Here’s how much I like this album: If I had to limit myself to ONE recording to take to the desert island, it would be... Made In Japan. Or Raw Power. I almost said this one, though. Almost.

(There’s a version of this called The Complete Raunch N Roll Live which is a double CD with the full two shows from which the original single record was culled. You don’t need anything more than the single record, if you’ve never heard it before, but if you already own the original, it might be worth your time to find it.)


And that’s that – finally. I know I went on and on, but this was great fun for me to do, if heartbreaking when having to leave off some of those that didn’t make the cut. As Donatello did, I’ll take the liberty of naming some honorable mentions here (15, as a matter of fact) that I didn’t mention during any of the above.

Trilogy – Emerson, Lake & Palmer
Aqualung – Jethro Tull
Alive! – KISS
Impeckable – Budgie
II – Chicago
The Magician’s Birthday – Uriah Heep
Ted Nugent – Ted Nugent
Tuff Darts – Tuff Darts
Trooper - Trooper
Purpendicular – Deep Purple
Come Blow Your Horn – Maynard Ferguson
Greatest Hits – Sly & The Family Stone
Cosmo’s Factory – Creedence Clearwater Revival
Jesus Christ Superstar (original recording, Ian Gillan as Jesus)
Vincebus Eruptum – Blue Cheer

Please, please, please do this list yourself. I would absolutely love to read your picks and what you have to say about them. Even more, I would love to be directed toward a lost treasure or two that you might turn me on to.

Thanks for taking the time to slog through it all.

Soon, with more better stuff.