Karaoke Uber Alles: It Begins

Meditations on life and Karaoke
 
Grabbing the microphone starts the process, you hold it to your lips and wait a few seconds for the song the music to start, you feel it come over you, otherness.  You aren't just you in that moment, you are you plus Stevie Wonder. You might not intentionally snake your head side to side while staring at the ceiling, but inside you your muscles are tensing to do it.  Stevie Wonder’s words are coming out of your mouth.  Your throat is tightening and loosening, your lungs are breathing in air, your diaphragm is pacing out your breath, your tongue curling, your jaw slung open all in the same way, in the same order Stevie’s would to sings those same words. You don’t even know the words to “Sir Duke” but your eyes scan them on the screen, staying half a second ahead and instructing your brain to accept this ghost, to let him inhabit you for 3:54. To speak these words to these people at the bar.
 
No one thinks you are Stevie Wonder. But for a moment of time, you are the best analog to the blind man anyone has the pleasure of seeing until Mr. Talks-loudy-through-the-song kills “Superstition” 45 minutes later. Sure, it’s a more pedestrian song selection, but he KILLS it.  Each brings to the alter what they can. They trade the wait and the cost of a few bees for the opportunity to be the skin that ghost inhabits for a few minutes at a time.  
 
We offer up our corporeal bodies to become the skin of ghosts every day.  You hear your mother come out of your mouth, that nerd-baiting TV sitcom catch phrase, repeat the clever tweet to a friend who hasn't seen it yet, read aloud from a history book the words, and each time your flesh forms the words of others, but also their facial expressions, and hand gestures, and that clever high five you saw in a movie one time, to repeat your older brother, to make the sign of prayer and bow back to your yoga instructor who just saw someone else do that too in her first class and thought it seemed like the right thing to do. Thus do you offer your body and flesh to bring the presence of another into the room as karaoke for everyday life.
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s2smodern

Music Review: The Velveteen Band-What's on the Other Side?

20992835 1688523194491561 7141282902924413548 nThis review was first published in theNovember 2017 Ventura issue of No Cover Magazine.
 
The new Velveteen Band album, “What’s On The Other Side?” is exactly the album I hoped it would be: fun, well-written, slickly produced, and, most importantly, manages to capture the feeling and spirit of the band’s imaginative live show. The Velveteen Band is called and willingly courts the title of a “steampunk” band, whatever that means. Steampunk as a subculture seems to be more of a crafty art and fashion motif inhabiting the fantasy world of an alternative Victorian age mixed with science fiction and it tends to be less of a defined musical genre. This begs the question, “What does a steampunk band sound like?” Most of the bands working in this idiom gravitate toward an old-timey, Tin Pan Alley/faux-retro sound, looking to capitalize on this fascination with nostalgia turned inside out. While entertaining and fun as a one-off, these bands rarely develop past the narrow corners they’ve painted themselves into. The Velveteen Band's self-titled first album treads these familiar waters but “What’s On The Other Side?” breaks out into more creative territory and defines itself in ten tracks with songs that are rock, metal, reggae, latin, pop, party, rap, along with the pirate shanties and shout-a-longs one might expect from a band wearing top hats and airship pilot goggles. Such genre-bending and the inevitable tip toward the harder genres are practically habits for the band’s vocalists, local metal and punk veteran Jason Amelio of Fangboy and the Ghouls, and Dan Flores who brings a fresh perspective and sense of chaos and fun to any project he’s in. My favorite track on the album is the last song, “I’m Not Broken,” a straight-ahead inspirational rock anthem that could be lifted off this album and placed on almost any other rocker’s set and they’d be proud to have it there; but knowing it’s meant to be performed live onstage with two puppets and a 7-foot tall rabbit makes it epic.
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Welshly Arms: Going To Be Legendary

22279547 1555381667834350 1763049354719892859 nOriginally published in the October 2017 issue of No Cover-Ventura.
 
There is a trick people do when they are struggling to describe a band. They go searching through their recent memory for a "box" to put them in that most reminds them of the sound. This "box" is formed by a mental sticky point, the singer's tone of voice, or the particular crash of a cymbal, two chords out of a three-chord hook, along with a general alignment of genre which immediately calls to mind some other band's hit song. Thus pathways in the brain are carved along like associations and the convenient linking of bands by stuffing them into pigeonholes continues for those looking to easily describe new music. For the blues and soul-heavy rock band Welshly Arms this process has linked them to the recent success of The Black Keys over and over.
 
Not bad company, to be sure, but to say The Welshly Arms sounds "like" the hugely popular bluesy electro-pop duo The Black Keys (who sound like The White Stripes; there, I said it) is to ignore their entire catalog of deeply capable American soul and blues tunes which demonstrates a tacit acknowledgment of the band's roots I haven't seen since Lady Gaga sang a duet with Tony Bennett. This is certainly rare in an industry built on convincing music consumers that the current album being sold is the next new thing; everyone forgets they stand on the shoulders of giants. The Welshly Arms' music reaches back to the genesis of their art form plainly demonstrating they appreciate and acknowledge, dare I say worship at the altar of, their musical heroes: Jimi Hendrix, The Temptations, Otis Redding, Howlin' Wolf. Principal songwriter Sam Getz, on lead guitar and vocals, collaborating with the entire band, builds tunes with the solid lumber of blues, country, gospel, and soul translating those influences into contemporary pop music instead of treating the foundational American genres as mere decoration to fill out glossy hits like Kanye dragging around Paul McCartney as a prop.

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9/11-This Is What I Will Never Forget

312b9c15754a9b218a86bd1783be15bfWhen I am asked to never forget 9/11, this is what I will never forget:
 
I will never forget those attacks uncovered a long smoldering fear of foreigners and dark skinned people that broke down the fabric of American society.  
 
I will never forget how transient and fragile our sense of racial harmony really was once America’s majority imagined themselves facing the same threats America's minorities face every day.
 
I’ll never forget that the thousands of people who died on 9/11 were unwitting victims of a backlash against a decades-old American imperial foreign policy in the Middle East, the effect of using tribal divisions to fight proxy wars against Russia since WWII.
 
I will never forget that the solidarity we felt in the days after 9/11 and the trust we placed in our president to do right by us was used to pass the Patriot Act which led to the violation of the rights and privacy of nearly every American. 
 
I will never forget the slippery slope argument of claiming that a 1% chance of attack justifies a 100% response being used to justify everything from the suspension of due process, domestic spying, rampant defense spending, racial profiling, and torture.

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Dave Mason: Alone Together Again

21272394 10155474527686469 91728193239991880 nI wrote this profile on Rock n' Roll Hall of Famer Dave Mason for the September 2017 issue of No Cover Magazine.  Dave Mason is featured to commemorate his induction into the Ventura County Music Hall of Fame, which will take place at the Ventura County Music Awards, September 10, 2017, at Levity Live in Oxnard.  You can pick up a free copy of No Cover at entertainment and retail locations all over Ventura County.
 
One assumes to be a rock star is to get famous by being the biggest outsized personality you can be while playing ostentatious music and hogging the spotlight as often as possible. It's what we expect. The biggest names in rock from Jimi Hendrix, to Paul McCartney, to Michael Jackson to Mamma Cass all seem to have that special something about them that drives them to excellence; but, also, to excess, that special something is the secret ingredient of what transforms a musician into a star. What if, however, the thing that makes someone a star is just being there every day, showing up and doing the very hard work of practice, rehearsal, writing, and performing as much as one can, for as long as one can, and never stopping? If that is what it takes, what rock star could I point to who is the embodiment of this ethic? Well, Mr. Dave Mason.

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When Contemplating Your Doom Becomes Part of Your Daily Routine

TLDR: Today sat in my kid's school parking lot, mentally preparing to get my kids home just in case we were under a nuclear attack because Mr. Orange Julius is an awful leader and I never had to deal with this shit before. So take care of yourselves.
 
I hesitate sharing this because I consider this moment extremely personal and private, but realize so many of us are having anxieties like this and I think we need to acknowledge how much the political climate as of late is running down our batteries, sapping our strength, and triggering really dark moments.
 
Today, I happened to glance at Twitter, at the exact moment when tweets popped up through all the #JoeArpaio and #HurricaneHarvey tweets that claimed North Korea had just launched a missile. The tweets were seconds old. I navigated to the "Latest" tab on Twitter's search feature and typed in "North Korea" and started hitting refresh to see what popped up. At first, it was individual's accounts, then the Defense Ministry of Japan, then a few news smaller news agencies all confirming North Korea had launched "something."

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I've Seen This All Before: Trump is Playing Out the Plot to Nightmare Before Christmas

PhotoGrid 1489694881491Let me make one thing clear; I HATE Nightmare Before Christmas. I stand apart from others in my generation and those that came after in adoring this movie. I've seen it multiple times, as is obligatory for people my age; I know the songs and tried so hard to get into it. I just can't. While this movie enjoys a hallowed spot in the pantheon of animated children's fables, to me, this isn't the story of a well-intentioned knave who accidentally steps too far out of bounds. I see a more ominous tale of what happens when one person, dissatisfied with their situation, strong arms themselves into someone else's lane, appropriates their culture with no deep understanding of the meaning behind it and unleashes all sorts of unintended consequences because of their ill-conceived desire to have more than they already have. It smacks of the moral lesson that America is about to learn, bigly.

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David Frum Knocks Down a Strawman

 
A response to Mike Pesca, who hosted conservative thinker and leader of the conservative anti-Trump movment, David Frum, on his podcast, The Gist on Monday, February 13, 2017
 
While I appreciated David Frum's clear-headed critique of Trump's shortcomings and the appropriate steps everyone needs to take to remove him from office, I feel he missed the mark on recognizing the goals of the Women's March and the anti-Trump resistance at large. I can assure him, women and minorities don't need another white man to tell how them how to protest and where to spend their energies. I'm sure Frum represents a broad swath of conservatives who are principled enough to be embarrassed by Trump and recognize the threat he poses to American institutions but would love to keep the opposition laser-focused on the 45th President and redirect the opposition's cross-hairs off conservatives like himself.

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The One Detail About Trump's Scandals That Is Staring Us In The Face

Whatever the source and however credible, Trump's many scandals always seem to be plausible, episodic, and consistent, and that suggests they might all be true.

trumpshrug

Donald Trump's many scandals seem to spring up like weeds in a garden. The media has been ambling to catalog each new flowering as fast as Trump's team attempts to mow them down. The American public watches this dance with intermittent horror and glee. I like "cutting down weeds" as a metaphor for this tactic because the thing that I observe about the "weeds" of our President-Elect's endless scandals is that no one has gone so far investigating them as to pull them up by the root. Regarding the continued revelations, substantiated or not, about Trump's malfeasance and connections to Russia, at some point, all of the circumstantial, unverified, or quickly dismissed evidence needs to be considered en masse.

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Please join me in supporting Camp Quest West

CampI am making a pledge to raise $3000 for Camp Quest West this year. CQW is a summer camp for the children of Humanist, free-thought, and secular families. It's open to all and inclusive of all children, regardless of religion, gender, identity, and ability. It provides a week-long sleep away camp with an incredible curriculum, created by educators and child development professionals based on critical thinking, reason, tolerance, social justice, and Humanism. And, it has all the swimming, archery, singing, hiking, games, and crafts you'd imagine at a summer camp like this. If you are in position to give, please consider supporting CQW in any amount. Your donation will go to fund financial aid requests for families who are seeking it. Please share.
 
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12 Reasons Why Losing the Electoral College is Good for Trump

Donals-Trump-SpeechDear Donald Trump,
 
You got yourself elected President, fair and square. I'm not a fan of yours, but I have to give you the props you deserve; you surprised the hell out of me. I know it bothers you that you lost the popular vote, but there are reasons as old as our democracy why the popular vote isn't used to elect the president. No one who matters questions the legitimacy of your win. In the end, you did what you set out to do: win the election for the Presidency of the United States of America. 
 
On December 19th, the Electoral College convenes to weigh in, and there are whispers of faithless Republican electors, organizing under the name The Hamilton Electors, who hope to cooperate with Hillary's electors to deny you the presidency. I'm sure this angers you greatly, but before you tap up a tweet storm about it, hear me out. I think being denied the presidency by the Electoral College might actually be in your self-interest:

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It's Time to Require Birth Certificates and Tax Disclosures to Run for President

donald-trump-vs-barack-obama-1000x600Dear Lawmakers in Congress and the State Legislatures,
 
It's time to pass a bill called "The Presidential Eligibility and Transparency Act." It would require the submission of a valid US Birth Certificate and the disclosure of Federal Tax Returns upon submitting Federal Election Commission Form 2- Statement of Candidacy for all persons who wish to have their name listed on each state's ballot to be elected President of the United States, effective for the 2020 election. It's important that we verify that the people running for President are qualified and free from conflicts of interest that would prevent them from serving in good faith. This measure will not change the eligibility requirements as outlined in Article 2, Section 1 of the U.S. Constitution.

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The Christmas Challenge-Donate to Non-Profits in Lieu of Gifts

Brian Parra is a Dork
Dear Friends and Family,
 
I'd like to encourage you to consider making a donation to your favorite non-profit organization this season in lieu of buying me a Christmas or birthday present. I am very fortunate already, and I've obviously been very caught up in the new political reality as of late. I've been thinking about what power an individual has to make a difference between votes and I recall my uncle Robert Sanchez, whom I admire very much, making this request of his family a few years ago. Collectively, you guys will probably drop a couple hundred bucks on me this year, and if I could direct that energy to do good in the world, we'd accomplish more together than if I had a few more sweater vests.

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How I'm gonna vote (Which I don't imagine is interesting to anyone.)

reese-witherspoon-as-tracy-flickListen, I'm just some dude you don't even know. I'm not renown for anything besides writing an article about Big & Tall fashion that was once cited as source material for the much more popular Wikihow entry on the same topic. I follow more people on Twitter than follow me back. But I have been known to offer up my unsolicited opinions on this blog and produce a podcast that's mostly about what people think and why (that I haven't updated in three months because I've been weary as shit while trying to manage my horde of children and getting more sleep). I figure if I'm going to go through all the effort of maintaining the semblance of a public profile for ZERO benefit, the least I can do is share my opinions on the upcoming election:

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7 Straightforward and Completely Unsatisfying Reasons Why No One is Talking About the Shooting of Dylan Noble


You can hear and audio version of this article on There's No Time To Explain Podcast #23 at timecode 04:48

 
dylannoble
Last week was the sort of week that will be mentioned in history books when, years from now, we discuss the confluence of cell phone video, police brutality, and the ascendancy of the Black Lives Matter movement. Starting with the shooting of Alton Sterling on Tuesday, July 5 by two police officers in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, followed very quickly by the shooting of Philando Castille in Falcon Heights, Minnesota by an officer during a traffic stop the next day, each in their own way is a perfect, headline-grabbing example of the systematic over-policing of Black people. Before anyone could catch their breath and process these shootings, the next day, July 7, a group of police officers were ambushed in Dallas during a Black Lives Matter march by a military reservist who killed five officers and wounded another nine officers and two civilians. The man, later assassinated by a bomb delivered by a robot, claimed these shootings were in retaliation for the July 5th and 6th killings of Black men

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