Sunday, December 02, 2018

My NASCAR Ritual

I completed a sad ritual the day after the NASCAR Monster Energy Cup Series wrapped up the 2018 season. It’s a ritual that hasn’t been performed since Juan Pablo Montoya’s last full Cup season. It’s a ritual that I perform alone and it only takes a few minutes. The ritual tools only consist of my hands and a razor blade of some type. It has been performed for Dick Trickle, Jimmy Spencer, Robby Gordon, Montoya, and now AJ Allmendinger. It’s the removal of their sticker(s) and in some cases, license plates.

Allmendinger got his walking papers from JTG Daughtry Racing a month or so ago. He isn’t expected to race full time in either Cup or the Xfinity Series for next year. So that means that I have to choose a new driver to throw my unwavering support. I have several candidates, but I am torn.

Ryan Blaney is an interesting young man. He has a very dry sense of humor and he’s rocking a “pornstache” these days. And he has sported a wonderful and sweet mullet hairstyle. So yeah, that speaks volume. I don’t pull for drivers that just win and win and win. I want a driver with a lot character and a sense of humor. And it seems that this cat has just those qualities. It doesn’t hurt that he’s only been in Cup racing for a short period of time.

Clint Bowyer has always been on my short list of drivers that I like. I actually got to take a hot lap around Martinsville Speedway with Bowyer behind the wheel. I was strapped in the backseat with Spencer Turkin riding shotgun. We were in the Toyota pace car and Bowyer had those tires squealing as we rounded those tight turns. It was fun. And in the video, you can hear me say that it was more fun than my rollover. And the former dirt track driver can be competitive on just about every track. From the super speedways like Daytona to the road courses. He’s a wheelman for sure.

Erik Jones is another hair fashion fearless kind of drivers who has sported a mullet. But he does seem a little too quiet for me. He’s in the running for my support. Again, he’s another one of the newer Cup drivers.

I’ve often been asked why I don’t pull for someone that wins. I personally don’t understand those types of fans. I suppose that winning is all that matters to some people. I’ve just always sided with the underdogs. The win that Allmendinger scored at Watkins Glen was so sweet! I was losing my mind for those last few laps. I was close to seeing Montoya win at Richmond one Saturday night. Jamie had celebratory shots lined up for us and a late caution flag flew. Montoya’s first oval win went straight out the window after commanding most of the race.

So, there you have it. My three candidates for my support as a fan. I will make the reveal before the Advance Auto Parts Clash at Daytona in February. I should have a party like those that reveal the gender of their offspring that’s on the way. I don’t get it, but whatever. Just tell us. I don’t need or care for the suspense of popping open some gift box with a balloon popping out of it with confetti.

The time is coming when I will proudly display the new number on Roxy’s (my truck) back glass. I really need to get some kind of license plate holder for the front bumper. I miss having both ends of the truck covered.

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Comedy Is Not Pretty

For those that don’t know me along with those that DO know me personally, but have forgotten… I have a sick sense of humor. I always have and I imagine that I always will. George Carlin and Bill Hicks run deep in my blood of comedic influences. Their comedic stylings just watered the seeds that were already planted within my DNA. I’ve ALWAYS made sick jokes. Sometimes they hit and sometimes they make people question my mental state. I’ve even made sick jokes about my life and about myself. It’s just something I do.

But I have been amazed about how people feel it necessary to use it as a “teaching moment”. For me, they come across as condescending and judgmental because they know what’s best for me. They certainly don’t “act” that way so they must have a blueprint for my life because they’re so enlightened. Or perhaps they feel that I’m in a position of influence. I don’t know. I don’t care. I do what I do.

I made a joke once about not finding a dead junkie in a fast food restaurant on social media. One friend got upset about it because they knew the person that OD’d in that restaurant. And I still maintain this belief… “If you don’t want to be associated with a sick humored punchline, don’t overdose in the bathroom of a fast food restaurant.” I mentioned no name or even the sex of the individual. I merely made a sick joke based on actual fact.

I can understand why the person was offended. They acted accordingly. They made their case and unfriended me. Cool.

Sure, I felt bad about offending them. But I didn’t feel bad about the joke. I deleted it along with the comments at the request of my wife who reminded me about my quest of finding a job.

As for my recent Oprah Winfrey joke… She’s a public figure that publishes a list of her favorite things every holiday season so she can make money off her mindless acolytes. I made a joke about a casket being on this year’s list since her mother died. It got the ire of 2 people. One made an understandable case because I’m sure that it’s difficult dealing with the loss of a parent. It was something that she experienced. With Oprah’s documented past relationship with her mother, I’m betting there hasn’t been a whole lot of shed tears.

And of course, one of my enlightened friends felt it necessary to show me the way to proper behavior and attitude.

Look… it’s just a joke. If you don’t like it, keep moving. Give me that little red angry face. Type in “Booooo” as a comment. That’s totally cool with me. I understand that some jokes will fall flat. I get it. But when you come on with your enlightened insight, you sound like a condescending prick.

They poked, quickly tired of the debate, and ran off with their “good day” wishes. Why don’t you go hassle the tRump acolytes since they voted the guy into office and he’s ruining your life? Spread your enlightenment to folks that voted differently than you. He must have ruined your life because you can’t shut up about him on social media.

In the immortal words of Steve Martin… “Comedy is not pretty.” At times, it can be quite absurd. And since a casket wouldn’t actually be on the list of favorite things for Oprah, that’s where absurdity comes in. The phrase “Too soon?” has followed jokes for a few years because of the presence of easily offended folks that aren’t quite capable of realizing absurdity. Although, they’re just exhibiting good taste. And that’s the deal with sick humor. It’s not tasteful.

My humor isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. It’s subjective. Norm MacDonald made some great comedy about the passing of The Crocodile Hunter Steve Irwin just a week or so after Irwin’s death. Some felt that it was sick. I thought it was genius. Enjoy THIS. Ya know... If you're not easily offended. Just skip ahead to the 2:53 mark.

Thursday, November 08, 2018

Swimming With The Current

I noticed a friend posted on social media about releasing new music. He alerted his friends about a new single being available soon where folks purchase or steal music. He meant stream, but he decided to leave it.

I get that. Artists aren’t being paid properly for the music they produce and supply to the masses for streaming consumption. As someone that thought the original Napster was the equivalent of robbing a bank, I totally get that. It costs money to produce music if you want studio quality.

The streaming music industry is woefully behind when it comes to paying the artists. I have sympathy for those artists… No one hires a painter only to pay them a small fraction for their work.

But I feel there is a catch-22 as big as the Hoover Dam with streaming… Live original music is dying a slow death. And I admit that I just don’t really care about going to live shows anymore. I will list my reasons.

1. The start times are too late for my old mandom ass. I simply don’t abide by the same schedule as I did 10 years ago.
2. It can be a hassle. Parking for most venues are limited and rare to find on the cheap (free). If I were to go to the Ramkat in Winston, that would be a major pain in my ass. That’s exactly why I only went to 3 shows at the Ziggy’s in downtown WS.
3. I have gotten older and fatter. Standing on concrete for 4 hours just isn’t for me anymore. And I certainly do not want to pay more for the VIP treatment to just place my ass on a chair from time to time.
4. Ticket prices have gotten a little out of hand in my opinion. Local artists are a little different, but 1, 2, and 3.
5. Most of the shows that I want to attend are at least 30 to 45 minutes or more away. That also pertains to the number 1 reason. I no longer want to drive home in the wee hours of the morning.

Do I miss going to live shows?

Yes. That’s the short of it.

The big ol’ Hoover Dam… Streaming.

Streaming is a simple way for others to find out about an artist’s music. We pay $15 a month to Spotify for their family plan. Instead of paying from $10 to $15 or more per new CD or digital download, I gladly throw my money at Spotify. I’m not risking my money for a purchase of one CD/DL when I can stream it for the same price or just a little more. PLUS, I’ll have access to hundreds of thousands of other releases by the same number of artists at NO RISK. For me, that’s the perfect situation. Sure, I have a handful of artists that I will gladly spend my money on for a hard CD copy of their latest release. But over the decades of acquiring music, I’m running out of room to house them. So, streaming really cuts down on that. And my wife definitely appreciates that even though she wants to get my vinyl collection back out and running for listening pleasure. Personally, I don’t get the whole vinyl thing being hip again. Sure, I miss the crackles and pops of the vinyl but I have fully embraced the ease of the MP3 player and now streaming. And the ability to switch to just about ANY artist is amazing to me.

The kids today don’t seem to be interested in seeing live music unless it’s a huge artist they’re listening to on streaming services. I’ve seen and heard about the dismal turnouts for club shows. There are just too many distractions for our attention these days. TV is showing signs of a death rattle. Radio is on life support. And streaming is now king. We want what we want when we want it. I will make no apologies for embracing that same philosophy. And besides, with Spotify I’m listening to what I WANT. I choose. Radio is the LAST thing that I want to listen to simply because they refuse to offer anything new or different. They just keep pushing the same ol’ same ol’.

But let’s get back to the “stealing” aspect that pertains to the Hoover Dam catch-22…

An artist wants to be heard. Artists want people at their shows. But people won’t attend shows unless they’re familiar with the music… And don’t get me started on that. I despise hearing “When is it going to play something that I know?” question when friends are sitting around visiting with us. I mean, how do they find out about new music?? Seriously, did you just know “Wagon Wheel” the first time that you heard it??

But that seems to be the herd mentality when it comes to original artists out there making music. Personally, I want to hear what the artist is bringing to the table with their own experiences and the pictures they paint with words and music. I will ALWAYS want to know and learn about new music.

Everyone isn’t like that. So, for the local artists that feel that they’re not getting paid for their work when it comes to streaming… I get it. I totally do. I do think the trade-off comes with the ability of discovering their music through streaming. And maybe, just maybe, those new listeners will show up to the gigs of the local artists. Buy some merch, purchase a couple of adult beverages, and maybe even talk to the local artist.

I urge everyone that streams music to give your local artists some room on your playlists. And if possible, promote their music on social media to spread the word. Spotify has an easy way of doing just that with Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook. I know that Spotify creates a little sample of the music to try right there in the Facebook news feed.

I have a playlist with artists that make music from North Carolina that I call “Homegrown NC Goodness”. From bluegrass to hard rock to country. There’s something for everyone. Try it if you’re so inclined. You can lift the songs that you like and put them into your own playlists.

The landscape of the music industry has changed over the last 20 years. I used to work for Capitol Records and that joint shut down before the 1990s were in the record books. The labels saw the writing on the wall, but stuck with the same ol’ same ol’ until it was too late. The flood gates are open and the current has become too strong to shut them. Streaming has created a “wild blue yonder” of possibilities for discovery. So, there’s the catch-22. Artists are driven to create. Creating music takes money. But if there’s no Horton to hear the Whos then what is it all worth?

Hopefully, the streaming music industry will find a suitable solution for everyone. The artists, the labels, and the listeners.

Friday, October 26, 2018

The Bad Somethings

Riffs that were steeped in the hard rock of the 1970s, lyrics that don’t require much brainwave activity, and there’s even some cowbell. And you’re gonna want that cowbell.

“Yeah, Yeah, Yeah” opens up the festivities with straight ahead hard rock sensibilities and even manage to work in a rhyme with “cat’s meow”. It’s the opening track on the debut album from The Bad Somethings. They're from the North Carolina Triad area. Business picks up the pace with an obscure cover of the Albatross tune “Let It Roll”. Now what would a 70s style hard rock tune be without an obligatory Ace Frehley style lick in the guitar solo?

“Along For The Ride” definitely caught my ears because I’m a sucker for the flange effect and “headphone music”. I’m hearing a little bit of The Knack in this particular cut from the album.

“Oh Honey” sounds like it could have been a track that wasn’t on Ace Frehley’s 1978 solo album. So yeah, Kenny Richie and Leo Davidson certainly wear their hearts on their sleeves. And judging from influences, they’re wearing sleeveless shirts because we’re hearing that they’re actually sporting those influences as tattoos. That’s not a bad thing because the songs aren’t regurgitative crap. The Bad Somethings are merely celebrating a great time in hard rock history.

“Body Language Psychology” sounds a bit like a Bob Seger tune with a Marshall stack steroid shot. The opening riffs of “My Bike” sounds like a tribute to Deep Purple, but then it becomes a KISS-like tune. But I’m not sure if the lyrics are actually referring to masturbation or not. “High Speed King” is a tapestry of influences both musically and lyrically. The guitar solo isn’t flashy, but it certainly brings attention to the melodic messages underneath the lyrics. “End Of The Night” has practically the same lyric melody of KISS’ “Tomorrow And Tonight”. It’s a toe-tapper without being a total rip-off. The last track finds the band tucking the “rooster” back in the pants for this rocker… Which is the only song that I could do without. It’s one of those self-help type of cheerleader type of songs… “Rah! Rah! You can do it!”

Overall, the self-titled new album from The Bad Somethings is pretty darn good. It certainly speaks volumes when it comes to the music that influenced Richie and Davidson. The Bad Somethings self-admittedly aren’t out to break new ground. It’s a fun album. And if you’re a fan of hard rock from the 1970s, then you should definitely check it out.

I grade it a B-.

You can find the videos here on YouTube. The album is available for streaming on just about any platform.

Thursday, October 18, 2018

Dating In Bloom

My youngest stepson has been driving for 2 months. And he hit another milestone in his life just last week… His first date.

I’m being very courteous by not saying a word unless it’s totally positive. I don’t want to say anything that could make him self-conscious about hitting the dating scene. He’s a rather shy guy and I don’t want to come off like I’m ribbing him. I know that I got some ribbing when I came of girl-digging age and it seemed counterproductive to me. I want to support his dating endeavors, not hinder them.

Of course, his mother is beside herself with excitement. She’s snapping pictures and asking WAAYY too many questions. She didn’t know about the girl and I told her… “This is WHY he doesn’t tell you anything.”

He brought her over by the house this past Sunday. They had gone out with her family to celebrate her birthday. She’s a shy, sweet, and pretty girl. But we didn’t really spend a whole lot of time with her… The Redskins were in the middle of defeating the Carolina Canthers. So, we were just kinda smiley, breaking eye contact with the TV, and saying things like “Good to meet you” before turning towards the TV again. I think he planned it that way so everyone wouldn’t sit her down at a table, shine a hot light in her face, and interrogate her. I think Jamie got a set of fingerprints before she got away from us. Perhaps even a urine sample, I don’t know. I could be wrong, but I think I heard Jamie from the other room ask her to spread her toes. It could be a mother thing.

And apparently, they went to a church function last night. Oh, what wonderous powers this young lady must possess.

I can’t speak for his earlier years, but going to church isn’t even on the radar of priorities around the Big House. Sure, the MIL is a believer, but I cannot get her to attend anymore. I sure would like my Sunday’s back where I play music through the house to gently ease us into the day as I prepare brunch for everyone.

I’ll start playing some music through the house and she’ll drag herself out of bed. It’s like she has a desire to join us only to sit down in the living room and turn on the television while she clearly hears the music. She MUST have her first dose of televised news. I don’t know if it’s some kind of passive aggressive crap or what, but I just give it up and turn it off.

Sometimes Jamie and I will bet on how many songs it’ll take her before turning on the TV. It’s usually under 5. She must lessen the bladder, prepare a cup of coffee, and take a stack of medication that would choke a giraffe. And here’s the funny thing… Some of the meds must be taken with food. So, what’s her idea of taking with food? Two peanut butter crackers. Oh, it’s hilarious!

Anyways… Let’s get back to the stepson and his dating.

It’s an exciting time. The oldest stepson’s dating just kind of happened. No fanfare. No fuss. No muss. The youngest seems to be taking it all in stride while I field questions from his mother… “He’s leaving so early in the morning. Do you think he’s taking his girlfriend to school?”

“I don’t know, dear. He could be going to Taco Bell for those wonderful and delicious A.M. Crunchwraps.”

“Do you think that you need to talk to him about… about… you know?”

I kind of glazed over that the other night after he took her home. Jamie was grilling him with questions and I asked, “Do you know why they call most teenage pregnancies unwanted?”

Oh yeah, I’m suave and sophisticated. Someone should give me a talk show to host!

I have no desire to be a step-grand-dad anytime soon. Hell, I’ve got eternally housecoated MIL to deal with every day. And she isn’t as easy to deal with.

I’m happy for the youngest. I didn’t have a good dating life in high school. Parents of the girls saw me as some kind of weirdo because I certainly walked to the beat of a different drum. And one parent didn’t like me because my father was a deputy sheriff… I found why out later. He had some substance issues and there were rumors about the guy “dealing”. One girl was pulled out of school and her own mother actually insinuated a rumor that she was pregnant. She was mortified when a teacher expressed her feelings of shock. The other girl was forbidden to go out with me, but hey… Forbidden fruit definitely worked in my favor.

But I hope that the youngest doesn’t have to deal with any of that. I want his dating life to be smoother than mine. He certainly doesn’t need any of my stupid comments to fester and spin around in his cranium. I will maintain a respectful distance from his personal life.