Friday, May 30, 2008

Hello It's Me

I promise I'll get back to real blog posts soon enough. I'm mulling posts on dogs and hatred (separately, thank you) at the moment.

I'm hung up on this Todd Rundgren song at the moment. It's just the melancholy melody and mood that get me.

And how often do you get to see a song performed by a transgendered winged reptilian butterfly with green and pink hair and zero percent body fat?

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Dream Weaver

You asked for it, you got it. I'm told this was recorded in late 2006.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Love is Alive

By Gary Wright.

Back from the days when synths sounded like synths... the way God intended.

I like the drumming in this live version.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Putting Together the Tighty Whitey Project

More than you probably wanted to know about how my little 2:54 song came to be.


As many of you know, I've had this general disdain for electronica for about as long as I can remember. I play guitar. I have calloused fingertips, and I've spent years just eeking along, trying to get better. I always felt that making new songs out of parts of other songs isn't musicianship.

I've got software called Garage Band, and it allows me to make that sort of music. I thought I'd give it a stab, just to see if I'd learn anything, maybe change my opinion.


Tighty Whitey is a name that MOBB suggested at the start of this. Works for me. I called it the Silk Stocking Row project because it started one night just before graduation when I stayed in a B&B by that name.

There I fiddled with the software, trying to find interesting bits to put in a song. Most of that work was wasted, though learning the software a bit was valuable. I did end up making some cool drum samples, one of which, a piece from Black Sabbath's "The Wizard," did end up in the song.


And the song is based around an a cappella Library of Congress recording. It's called "Another Man Done Gone," and it was recorded in 1940 (if I recall correctly) by a woman named Vera Hall.

She had a lovely voice, but her tempo and pitch changed, which proved to be a challenge.


I wanted a funky thing, and I was pleased when I found a drum loop in Garage Band that was almost exactly what I had in mind. It's sort of a funky, modified march. I had to adjust it to about 95bpm, which is a bit slow for an actual dance song, but it's a good groove nevertheless.


But Friday night when I found the bass loop, THAT'S when it started to sound like a song. It happened to be the right progression in the right key--I got lucky.

After that I started cutting it up, making a little bridge, trying to stretch this short vocal piece into something interesting. I dropped in some samples of James Brown saying "Funky" (from the intro to the song "Make It Funky"). In the bridge I put this wow-wow sounding techno bass loop that I now wish I'd mixed a little louder. The two screams (in left channel and right) are dUg Pinnick from King's X, singing the intro to "Over My Head" at Woodstock '94.


The synth pastiche was another sample from the software, and I had some fun with that. At the end I did a lot of manual cutting to get some hard pans from left to right. I think it sounds really good, and it's quite seamless. I also dropped in an organ sample from the software.


The guitar stuff was the most difficult part. I originally imagined a loud, aggressive, really processed Les Paul thing. It was all coming out way too bluesy though. Didn't Miles Davis once instruct one of his guitarists to play like he didn't know how to play? I kept trying to break out of my rut and do that, but to no avail. It wasn't happening.

I dragged the Stratocaster out and tuned it down a whole step. The song is in D minor, a key I've never liked playing in position-wise. By tuning down a whole step I could do my thing much more comfortably.

I set my little Fender Cyber Deluxe amp on a sweeping wah wah/tube amp sound I made, put the Strat in neck position and started messing with some tones. Oh, and I coaxed my old Ibanez Tube Screamer to work for a little while. Voila, I had some good sounds at my fingertips! I recorded a few takes. On the one I kept, I discovered that with the wah pedal in full "treble" position I got some sweet, dissonant microphonic feedback. I left that in. I bashed a rather ugly D minor at the 7th fret, then started milking sounds out of 2 or 3 notes, spanking one twangy low D in the middle of it. It's not perfect, but it's the best take, and I decided not to murder myself over it.


I'm a bit disappointed that I couldn't find any decent brass stuff to put in. There's some solo horn stuff in Garage Band, but I was hoping to get a chance to really punch it up with that sound. I might poke around some more and see if there are options I overlooked.

Generally I'm pleased with it. There's an artistry in doing this, sure. I probably spent a total of about 40 hours working on this one song. Of course, that included giving myself the crash course in running the software. I still say that it's not nearly as difficult as playing a real, honest-to-God instrument. In one evening of pushing buttons I could make something musical sounding with Garage Band, with no real application of theory or time signatures. You can't fake it that quickly with an instrument.

Still, it wasn't easy, and it did give me some new respect for that method of creating music. And I'm glad it's being done, even if it doesn't speak to me. It's like hip hop; it doesn't do much for me, but I'm glad someone's out there pushing that particular boundary.


So it's available to download on my Myspace page. If you don't have access or capability and want it, uh, I guess I could email you the sound file or something.

Maybe I'll do more. Who knows?

Monday, May 26, 2008

It Is

Friday night, and I'm online, ordering an "Obama 2008" yard sign, wondering whether our house will get egged first or toilet papered.


Saturday morning, and I'm being lazy in new and startling ways. I blow up at the kids and feel like a jerk.


Saturday night, and I'm leaving Humperdinks, having stood in the bar for an hour awaiting a seat. At least I get to see Tito fight before I bail.


Later Saturday night, and I am restless and hungry, having not eaten since about 2pm. I zip by a noodle joint, a sushi place, and another sports bar. Not a one can provide me both a meal AND a seat.

I go to Subway.


Early Sunday morning, and I write a blog post that's a bit obtuse, though it captures the mood.


Sunday afternoon, and the Java Junkies meet to solve the problems of the world.


Later Sunday afternoon, and I drop Wolfboy off at a friend's in Dallas for a sleepover. On the way back the freeway is stopped behind a bad wreck where I've just driven 15 minutes prior.


Early Sunday evening, and I watch a man at Jason's Deli get huffy over ordering his salad.

On the way home, some neighbors have taken roadblocks and partitioned off a section of street so their kids can ride bikes. I find it amusing; MOBB finds it annoying.


Sunday evening, and I'm trying to record a guitar part for the Tighty Whitey project. The Les Paul is loud, though I'm wearing ear protection. Still, I'm not playing well or creatively. THEGIRL bursts in at the end of one take to tell me it's loud. Yes hon, I know.


Later Sunday evening, and I'm sitting on a stool, milking some great wah wah tones out of my Strat. The signal level's too low, but after hours of wondering I've finally got a solid idea of what to do.


Sunday night, and THEGIRL asks to sleep in her absent brother's bed. Fine. I tuck her in, put on a random AM radio station, and head back to the project.


Early Monday morning, and I've gone a bit crazy, like I often do in the wee hours. After jiggering with the song over and over, I finally find some semblance of satisfaction with what I've got. It's short though.


Farther into Monday morning, and as I go into Wolfboy's room to sleep with THEGIRL, an Albert King song is playing on the radio. God is good.


Monday morning, after I've slept all of six hours. I have a lot on my mind. A long weekend is good, but I'm ready to get back into my routine. Ready.


Just after breakfast, which today is a protein shake. I have to mow the yard. Ya'll have a great Monday.

Sunday, May 25, 2008


A third of the holiday weekend has passed by.

Too fast, too slow.


I blew up at my kids today. Long about the third time I had to get up from a very halfhearted attempt at taking a nap, I'd had enough.

I have to do better than this.


I'm not happy.


I've been working on the Tighty Whitey project, and it's coming together nicely. I can't decide whether it proves my original point (that there's no artistry in constructing songs out of loops, samples, and synth parts). This has taken me hours and hours, and what I've come up with is fairly catchy. A lot of the work seems to be done for me, sure. But there's still a ton to do, and I can get lost in it just like the days when I'd four-track at home for 12 hours at a pop.


Tito Ortiz lost to Machida tonight. Tito, this former UFC light heavyweight champ, was now fighting second on the broadcast. When you cheese off Dana White, that's what happens.

Machida frustrated Ortiz, staying out of range the whole fight, though not exactly running from him. Machida would burst in for some effective strikes (kicks mostly), then dart out of range again, leaving Ortiz desperately trying to connect. Some of the ground work in the third round was exciting, as Tito came mighty close to securing a triangle, then an arm bar. Machida squirmed away.


I'm so restless, so lost inside my own head tonight.


Yeah, I watched that fight from the bar at Humperdink's. I stood there waiting for a table the whole fight. I gave up and came home after that.


I've put on weight. I'm not thrilled.


I was supposed to be a writer.


Dragged out some Bukowski today (Sifting Through the Madness for the Word, the Line, the Way). You never know what's autobiographical and what's fiction with him. I'll bet at times it was even hard for him to recall.


History works against us.

We're not standing on the shoulders of giants. We're standing on the shoulders of who we were.

We're propped up ever-higher, though we topple. We do. One set of shoulders down the human ladder buckles and down we go.

Sometimes we want to hide this, and sometimes we want to show everyone.

Look! Look at my damage.


No one can hold my pain, so I won't offer. Even though I can't hold it either sometimes.

But we take our eyes off of ourselves once in a while and see someone across from us who aches like we do, who speaks our language, shares our culture. Kindred spirits. And we can move from this point forward together. We can. We can.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008


I carried a red backpack in the seventh grade. I can't recall where I got it, though I had older stepbrothers at the time, and I think it may have been one of their hand-me-downs.

I had everything in that bag. It became stuffed, just a mess of papers and whatnot.

Early that year they'd put us through some academic tests. I guess I did well; they put me in advanced classes almost immediately. I'd never encountered snobby kids before that. I was in those classes with little tennis-playing kids who lived on the north side, kids who played new instruments in band, unlike mine.

They criticized everything about me, from the bad sniffles I had for a while to my clothes and hair. Some of these kids went on to do something awful to a friend of mine.

A few of "us" advanced students had been placed in a gym class that was mostly kids who probably grew up to reside in state penitentiaries. Richard Hunt anyone? Craig Chizer? Casper? Kevin Lewis? How about that kid who'd seen his father commit suicide? What was his name? He sucker-punched this nice boy named Greg once, right in the nose. I didn't know so much blood could come out of a boy's nose.

So it was a strange alliance between us as we tried to stick together to survive. The snobs didn't much care for me, but at least I wasn't one of them. We really only survived because eventually, those thugs mostly ended up getting booted out of school. We simply out-lasted them.

But things were falling apart at home too. Dramatic stuff, domestic scenes, nights when we'd head out for a hotel, leaving those other people in our house. Did you see Sling Blade? There is a scene in which a woman's kids learn that, despite what they'd been promised, their mother is actually not going to finally leave abusive Doyle Hargraves (Dwight Yoakam). They're told, in fact, that they mean to mend things and spend much more time together.

Well, we had one or two scenes just like that during this time in my life.

My grades began to plummet; I didn't care about my homework. My grades were bad enough that I was kicked out of advanced band. With hardly any notice, I was sent to the moldy older band hall to play with a band that didn't compete. I was instantly first chair trumpet, and I stayed that way. Mostly we played "The Beer Barrel Polka" over and over.

In advanced science, each day when we were to review our homework, I'd just lay my head on that red backpack and wish to be... gone.

Our science teacher ended up being the superintendent some years later. Though I appreciated the fact that I was socially promoted despite failing everything that year, I didn't understand how she never found it in her heart to ask me what was going on. She died not long ago.


In 1986, my life was better, in a way. I was out of high school. I took a stab at junior college, but I had an attitude when the journalism teacher told me I'd get an A as long as I turned in something, anything. There wasn't even a classroom. I was supposedly there on a journalism scholarship.

I quit school. I also broke up with a girlfriend and cut my hair short.

By December of that year I made a stab at living in Surfside with my mother and her boyfriend. I was drinking Southern Comfort every night, listening to UB40, and getting into other trouble that I won't go into here.

He was newly sober, having done an inpatient spell in rehab. Every morning he'd arise, marveling at the sun rising over the Gulf of Mexico. We'd drink coffee and talk philosophy. If I am anything resembling a thinker today, I owe much of it to him. I hope he's doing okay.

That Christmas he gave me this bag.
"It's not a hint," he said with a laugh.

I stayed there about six weeks. I don't believe I've seen him since.

These days I carry my training gear in it: gloves, shin guards, that sort of thing. It's holding together nicely.


My mother always gave me terrific gifts, though it always felt like "undoing." Do you know this concept? It's a gesture meant to undo pain caused elsewhere. She loaded us down with an embarrassment of riches every Christmas or birthday.

She gave me this little rolling suitcase about 10 years ago.

It's been terrific. I learned long ago that picking out generic black bags from the carousel at the airport is pretty difficult. This bag is functional and highly visible. I don't speak to my mother anymore, though I have many of her gifts in my life still.


When I worked at Yahoo they gave me this backpack.

It's a great one, with a slot for a laptop, zippered compartments all over, and that awesome Yahoo! logo embroidered in. I'd carried a backpack to my jobs since going to UT anyway; it seemed more "me" than a briefcase.

After 18 months at Yahoo! the layoffs came. I unloaded my backpack, convinced it was some sort of loaner that I needed to leave there. It had just appeared on my desk 18 months earlier. "If you don't take that home I'll take it," said Candace.

I took it.

And it's served me well ever since. I've carried all sorts of things in it, from textbooks to files and CDs, snacks, moisturizer, and even the occasional stapler. It's my "man purse."

In the Fall of 2007, though, it began to fall apart. One zipper stopped working, and the liner began to disintegrate, leaving little black flecks on whatever I happened to put in the bag.

I just wanted it to hold on, to carry me through grad school. God, it's become such a part of me. If my keys aren't in the cabinet at home, they're on the latch in the backpack. The backpack is a significant part of my life system. I don't know what I'll do without it.

It carried me all right. We carried each other I suppose.

I'm at a new place in life now, with my degree and my new direction. Do I go ahead and make that change, maybe go with the briefcase?

I don't know.

Nothing in my life lacks meaning.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Some Lyrics

You look lovely
Lying wasted on the grass
Staring at a photograph
Of you and your best friend

They say make a cross over your heart
And swear we'll never drift apart

from "We're Leaving" by DeVotchKa


I'll return soon. Next post: "Baggage"

Sunday, May 18, 2008

To Katy and Back

An experiment. This is a blog entry written via text message while on the road to and from Katy, Texas. I went down for Steve Meier's 40th birthday party.


I am on the road to Katy, Texas. BB's current therapy: Badmotorfinger by Soundgarden. I stayed up too late. I am not chipper. It is 1Oam.


Gassing up in Centerville. $3.689 per gallon. Black-eyed Susans on the median. My grandmother loved those. $67.O4 to fill up. Dang.


I don't like speed traps. I'm just sayin'. BB's current therapy: Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan- The Final Recordings.


Just had lunch with Whit at Pho Mai... Mmm. And while there I bumped into the brilliant and beautiful Brandice Mueller!



2:2O Sunday morning and I am up, crazy from sleep deprivation. Been up 2O hours. The party was great. Sleep well. Gimme a kiss.


8:5Oam. 2 things alternate in my brain: 'You should still be asleep' & 'LIKE WALKIN' IN THE RAIN & THE SNOW WHEN THERE'S NOWHERE TO GO...'




Houston was good. Rolled with Whit today. Near Huntsville, watching out for a Starbucks. Life is good.


Dang. I think i missed the Starbucks. Nice day. Astros up 5-O over Rangers in 7th.


There is no Starbucks in Buffalo, Texas. But Corsicana isn't awfully far, and I'm looking forward to seeing my kids.




Somewhere in Texas.


Thursday, May 15, 2008


I don't want to fight, but life has on many occasions given me no choice. Oh, I haven't been in an actual, physical fight since I was a teenager.

And I don't want to stoop to believing in bad luck, per se, or taking a "born loser" attitude. I'm generally an optimist anyway.

But my life has, for probably no reason at all, put me in potentially violent situations over and over.


In 2006, it happened three times. Long time readers of this blog will remember:

One was when a teenager at a Blockbuster began cursing at me for a disagreement over parking spots. Another was when a homeless man began hovering around my family in a city park. And finally there was the man who snuck into the daycare one morning, scamming for money. Looking back, the first one occurred before I began training, and I flipped out on him. The second one was about six weeks into my training, and I was calm as I dialed the cops. The third one found me calm as well, telling the man face to face that he wasn't welcome, and that he needed to leave NOW. He chose to do so.


These kinds of things never happen to some of my friends. I think about Danny, a man of integrity whom I respect a lot. He told me the story about a schoolyard bully who wanted to fight and simply would not take no for an answer.

He finally attacked Danny, who wrestled him to the ground, sat on him and punched the dirt beside his head to make his point. He got up and left.

I don't recall that Toland's been in a fight of any sort in his life. I envy that.


A man started a fight with Whit a couple weeks back. It's not my business to share that story, though Whit kicks himself for the fact that, when provoked, he didn't managed to behave EXACTLY like Gandhi.


I don't want to resign myself to the fact that I get in situations, but it has certainly happened to me many times.

A week ago I went to get my backpack out of the car at about 10pm.

From the street, a black man in black clothes rushed me, walking so fast it was nearly a sprint. I was between the car and the lamp post in our yard.

Without thinking, I went into fight stance.

He stopped. "Whoa whoa whoa... I'm not a gangster. Look, I don't have any weapons," he said, pulling up his shirt.

He proceeded to try to scam me for money. He smelled like beer and talked too fast for me to take it all in.

I had two dollars, and chose to give them to him instead of doing anything risky there in the driveway.

Did I do the right thing? It felt like a volatile situation, and we'd already squared off (though it clearly startled each of us).

He left. I stared out the window at him, and three of his buddies pulled up in front of the house. This was getting too weird. We called the cops, but those guys were gone quickly. And if I had regrets about handing over two singles, I've gotta say I'm glad I'm not the bozo across the street who gave him $20.


It was the first and only time. I'm done with this. I rarely give them money anyway, but no, coming to me in my yard, in a nice neighborhood like this, well, that's unacceptable. I just wish I'd drawn that line in the sand before having to deal with the situation.


I don't feel like a tough guy. I feel confident. There's a difference.

I don't feel like I'm bad news on two feet, that I can take out anyone who provokes me. I don't feel like I'm some MMA stud, or that all of my training guarantees me anything. Any person in any fight has a puncher's chance to land a lucky shot no matter who he or she is facing.

But I do feel confident. Immediately after this scammer left my yard I was calm and collected. I know what it's like to be hit; taking a shot isn't going to give me an adrenaline spike that'll work against me. I know how to reasonably defend myself against many types of strikes and weapons. And I've trained and sparred enough to have some idea of timing and distance, and how to look for openings. I only need one. I do have fight-ending tools at my disposal. My aim isn't to stand there and trade blows; it's to do something that will end the fight as quickly as possible.

I dread ever facing someone with a knife. I've trained for that 1000 times, and I still think I'd be wiser to run.

If someone has a gun within reaching distance though, I like my chances just fine.


I don't feel boastful. I feel modest. I'm glad to have these skills, but I simply don't have the imposing attitude or physical presence to convincingly do "tough."

That said, I've come to understand that there are times to put modesty aside. If we're together in a dark parking lot or on a deserted city street after dark, I've learned that it's best to be clear: I'm alert, and if some creep emerges I will put myself between whoever I'm with and said creep.

I will do everything I can to keep you safe.


And in the midst of the sense of calm all of this training instills, we who train do allow ourselves maybe one exception to that. We shouldn't try to be thugs, shouldn't show off, shouldn't act like idiots, shouldn't pick fights.

But I think you could talk to even the noblest martial artist out there, and he or she'd admit that regarding someone who has physically and/or sexually harmed someone dear to us, all bets are off. That person has earned serious punishment from the likes of anyone capable of delivering it. Period.

Go ahead and cuff me, officer, and when do we go to the ER to pull that guy's teeth out of my knuckles?


I'm still decompressing after graduation. I'm way out of sorts. There's a big hole in my life where school used to be, and I'm learning how to fill it with other things. It's early yet, I know.

I'll be in Katy, Texas this weekend to see some old friends. I'll write again when I can.

Be safe.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Hulkey Pokey


is just WRONG.


This song should have been huge.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

May 9, 2008

I have a Master of Science degree in Mental Health Counseling.

Thank you all.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

When It All Stops Making Sense

I'm exhausted. I've done a lot of driving, eaten a lot of good/bad food, sat in an elementary school for 10 hours, made a bajillion phone calls related to graduation, and now am so tired that honestly, the exit signs near my own house were confusing.

("Oakland? There's an Oakland exit? Am I in Arlington? Wait... what's my exit?")


So here's a random photo of me with Eric Clapton.

Good night.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

BB is

in Mineral Wells.

in a neat old B&B.

Apparently a gunslinger:

Feeling better after a nap.

Enjoying doing nothing, for the first time in recent memory.

Still full from lunch.

Looking forward to watching the Rangers at 9:10pm CST.

About to poke around with Garage Band and see what to do about the Tighty Whitey Project (hey, "Moby" was taken)

Allowing that if he gets hungry, he'll go out later for some french frieds and/or a dessert. Tonight it's all about ME, babes.

Not quite alone in this house. There's also some muttering old-timer with a different accent who tells me he "lives" here, yet he's not an owner. His room is a mess of papers and a typewriter. Maybe he's writing a book. He kinda gives me the creeps, but I think I can take him.

Not thrilled that he opened the "courtesy" fridge and found two ice cold Shiner beers.

Having a nice Diet A&W root beer. The Shiners are now downstairs in the kitchen.

Laughing (thanks, Geoff)...

For more: (Sorry so clunky... hey, I'm feeling lazy)


Sorry to go, but he has important sitting around to do.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Reveling in the Puggy Goodness

Couple random Pugwash videos. Just because. Sing along.

Here's the new one:

That is all.

From Edita

After submitting my final, late paper, I received this nice email from the professor, Dr. Edita Ruzgyte.


Thank you for the paper. It would not be a student life if we did not keep scrambling for the last papers, projects and deadlines.

There is a saying: "I like deadlines, especially the whoozing sound that they make as they pass through."

The good thing, as important as education is, it still falls far behind of the essencial things in life. You did great and made an A in the class.

I have to say that I will miss you in class. You are very insightful and interested in the process and not content. The questions that you are raising in your process papers and in the class are full of wisdom and insight. Thank you for sharing it with your peers in class.

I have no doubt that your passion, knowledge, skills and eagerness to learn will help you to continue on the journey of becoming a great counselor.

Enjoy it and never forget to have fun in life,


Monday, May 05, 2008

Los Cuatitos Cantu

Can't find much in the way of images or video on Los Cuatitos Cantu, who are twin, six (well, twelve)-fingered dwarves who play accordion. Here's some passable footage from the Johnny Canales show. My only question is this: Where's the other twin?


Thanks for the "crazy" song corrections and updates. Maybe we'll just have a whole crazy theme this week.

Friday, May 02, 2008

Thursday, May 01, 2008

With the Quickness...

(Comment if you get the reference in the title... but not you, Toland).


Speaking of the Mighty Michael, he's posted about the Alejandro Escovedo episode of Austin City Limits on the ACL blog.


My last grad class, possibly ever, is tonight.

Yes, I'm sad.


Ya'll take care. More to come. Really.