Category: Thought and Opinion

Time In A Bottle – Remembering Jim Croce & Maury Muehleisen

Jim Croce - January 10, 1943 - September 20, 1973
Jim Croce : January 10, 1943 – September 20, 1973

I can’t say that I remember it as if it were yesterday. Heck, I was just on the verge of turning four on September 20th, 1973 and about the only thing going through my mind at the time was probably wondering whether or not Sesame Street was coming on anytime soon. Although I have no personal recognition about that day in particular, I still feel as if I were somehow there.

It’s hard to believe that forty years have passed since the lives of Jim Croce, Maury Muehleisen and four others were tragically cut short when the twin-engine plane in which they were traveling crashed shortly after takeoff. Croce and Muehleisen had just finished performing a show in Natchitoches, Louisiana and were en route to another show in Sherman, Texas when the crash occurred.

As I look back now, I wonder if Jim and Maury were aware of the impact they were going to have. Because I can still remember the very first time I ever heard their music.

Maury Muehleisen: January 14, 1949–September 20, 1973
Maury Muehleisen : January 14, 1949 – September 20, 1973

It was sometime in the mid 1970′s when my father took me and my brother on our first overnight camping trip to a place called Camp Hugh Beaver.

At the time, I recall being extremely excited about going camping; that is until after we had actually arrived at the campsite and the realization of being away from home hit me like a ton of bricks. From that moment on, I immediately wanted to go home and let my father know it every chance I could, through both tantrum and tears.

Dad initially ignored my pleas, but by the next morning just couldn’t take it any longer and finally gave in to my childish demands. Shortly after breakfast, we packed up our things and began making the long drive home.

Why do I remember this you ask? No, it’s wasn’t because it was one of the many times I was being a spoiled brat (although I was). Rather, the real reason I remember this so vividly is because on the drive home the song “Bad Bad Leroy Brown” came on the car radio…and I was mesmerized. I distinctly remember asking my father who it was that was singing the greatest song any seven-year old had ever heard in his life and finding out all about Jim Croce.

Dad told me all about Jim and his other great songs like “Time In A Bottle” and “You Don’t Mess Around With Jim”. How Jim had appeared on television shows and how his songs and stories related to the “common man”.

Then he told me about the plane crash and how Jim and his lead guitarist, Maury had both died. In the naivety of youth, I didn’t really understand what he was saying to me at the time. I thought Dad telling me that Jim and Maury “died” just meant that they went away and would eventually be back. Sadly, it wouldn’t be long until I discovered what death really meant and realized that we (the world) had lost two of the greats.

Less than two months after Jim and Maury’s untimely deaths, Croce’s “I Got A Name” album was released. Songs like the title cut (which still gives me chills listening to it to this day), “Workin’ at the Carwash Blues” and “I’ll Have to Say I Love You in a Song” only remind me of what could have been.

“I Got A Name” is also an apropos title, considering the names Jim Croce & Maury Muehleisen won’t soon be forgotten. Sure, it may have been the last album from two guys whose careers were only beginning to take off, but here I am still thinking about them and their music, forty years later.

Jim Croce * Maury Muehleisen

Bugged

The elusive 17 year periodical cicada.
The (so far) elusive 17 year periodical cicada.

What’s all the hub bub about these periodical cicadas? Legend has it that once every seventeen years, these little buggers come out from their little hole in the ground, make a bunch of racket to attract a mate and then disappear for another seventeen years or so.

Well, we’re well past their arrival time here in the northeast and so far, I haven’t seen a single one. Curious, I decided to do a little research and find out a little more about them. I got this information from Wikipedia:

Magicicada is the genus of the 17-year periodical cicadas of eastern North America. Although they are sometimes called “locusts”, this is a misnomer as cicadas belong to the taxonomic order Homoptera, while locusts belong to Orthoptera.

Magicicada spend most of their 17-year lives underground feeding on xylem fluids from the roots of deciduous forest trees in the eastern United States. After 17 years, mature cicada nymphs emerge at any given locality, synchronously and in tremendous numbers. After such a prolonged developmental phase, the adults are active for about 4 to 6 weeks The males aggregate into chorus centers and attract females for mating. Within two months of the original emergence, the life cycle is complete, the eggs have been laid and the adult cicadas are gone for another 17 years.

What a boring description. I’ve always been more into relating something with sociology rather than science. So I suppose that’s why this funny thought occurred to me. Even though I’ve yet to see one of these little creatures, I began to contemplate the possibility of their behavior pattern existing in humans.

Think about it. What if a man lived in his man cave and only ventured out once every seventeen years for a little nook-nook? As long as the bills were paid and the lawn was mowed, I wonder how many married women would mind?

The pattern would probably go something like this:

Dude comes up from downstairs after watching nearly two decades worth of Fast and Furious movies and sports. He starts singing a Justin Bieber tune (an annoying sound similar to the one the bugs produce). Then the woman says, “It’s been seventeen years already? Oh, alright! You’ve got ten minutes. But then you better get your ass back downstairs and not come back until your kid graduates high school.”

It could happen.

Copy Cats

The original - and still the best!
The original – and still the best!

They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, but I beg to differ. Quite often (and more often than not), it’s annoying. When I was growing up, it wasn’t good enough to just go to school wearing Members Only jackets and Jordache jeans. In the 80’s, a lot of the kids at my school routinely liked to show up at our educational establishment mimicking their favorite entertainers.

I kid you not, some girls would actually come to school with the exact same haircut and wardrobe ensemble as Pat Benatar or Madonna. Then there was a section of the student body who felt obliged to pay homage to Boy George from Culture Club on a daily basis. And don’t get me started on the dudes who came to school wearing a replica of the jacket Michael Jackson made famous in the “Beat It” video.

Which leads me to yet another atrocity of copy cats I’d like to discuss –  the doppelganger world I see whenever I stroll down the cereal aisle at my local grocery store.

As if it weren’t already bad enough that I can only get Count Chocula at Halloween time, half of the shelves that once housed such morning goodness as Quisp, Frute Brute and Waffle O’s are now home to the wannabes; generic cereal that’s been cleverly disguised as some of my all time favorites.

Fruit Swirls?.. Really??
Fruit Swirls?.. Really??

You don’t fool me.

Sure, grocery chains tout that by purchasing generic brands, consumers can still enjoy their favorite breakfast cereal and also save money at the same time. Although there is some truth to that statement, these same people who claim to know what’s best for Americans seem to have forgotten about one very important thing – the fun factor.

Time is a precious commodity in this day and age, and there’s only a certain amount of it we get to spend using it on breakfast. Personally, I’d much rather spend mine with Lucky the Leprechaun, Toucan Sam or Fred Flintstone than with some stranger trying to imitate my homies.

I've known Dino.. and you sir, are no Dino!
I know Dino. Dino is a friend of mine. And you sir, are no Dino!

I find it funny how these generic brands of cereal attempt to make themselves out to be alternatives to the name brand by using slightly different names (and characters) in their promotion. For instance, compare the use of the word “swirl” in Fruit Swirls with the “loop” in Froot Loops; an obvious Jedi mind trick. Oh, and look! How convenient…a monkey pitching the product. Could it be that both a monkey AND a toucan might be found in the same deep jungle? I’m sure it was just a coincidence. NOT!

Sometimes, the characters used to pitch generic versions are more blatant than others. As is the case with “Fruity Bits”; a knock off of my beloved Fruity Pebbles. You’ve got to give them credit for using a dinosaur to appeal to the Jurassic customers who’ve regularly indulged in the name brand for years. Sorry, but eating a bowl or these bits doesn’t even come close to the euphoria I’ve experienced by having breakfast with Fred and Barney over the years.

And what’s with the word “bits” anyway? Bits sounds like something you’d give to your dog. It’s not as manly as “pebbles”. Sure, it might sound like you’re eating rocks (and who knows, maybe you are), but this is the stone age we’re talking about, right?

Rainbow Treasures....Nice Try!
Rainbow Treasures? You’re not magically delicious!

If it were me and the decision had to be made, I’d go with the name brand cereal every time. If for no other reason than I would much rather be sitting at the table in the wee hours of the morning reading about the games Fred and Barney have in store for me than contemplating if it was really worth it to save thirty cents just to buy some knock off. You can’t put a price on happiness.

And as for the grocers who think it’s cool to not stock Count Chocula and some of my other favorites in order to make room for products like these, there’s a special place in Guantanamo for you.

Show Me The Money

atmI should have known better. No, really I should have. I was the one who spent the last few dollars I had at the store last week with no concern of replenishing my supply. I have only myself to blame.

Last night, with empty pockets and time to spare I could have easily made the quick trip to tap the MAC machine. But I was too lazy sitting in my nice, comfy sweatpants and t-shirt. “It can wait until morning.” I said to myself.

I really should have seen it coming. The fact is that even though I work with them all day long, machines don’t like me for some reason.

Every so often my procrastination leads me to have to go to the bank early in the morning on my way in to work to get funds. And in order for me to avoid getting dinged with outrageous service fees by using a foreign machine, I am forced to visit one of  my bank’s local branches. But ever since my bank consolidated offices, the “local” isn’t so local anymore, and the trip ends up taking me well out-of-the-way of my normal route.

There are two ATM machines I can go to on my way in to the office; neither of which is very convenient. But in the end, I decided to choose the one that had drive-up service (you know, so I wouldn’t have to leave my nice warm car). As I pull up alongside of the machine, I am warmly greeted by the familiar neon “Welcome” that’s glowing off of the terminal in the early morning light. I eagerly insert my debit card to begin the transaction.

What follows is a dramatization of the conversation between me and the machine:

*************************************************
Machine:
“Hello James, you handsome devil. Would you like Fast Cash? If so, how much?”

Me:  Why, yes. Yes I would. How about $80?

Machine: “You’ve got it James. Would you also like a receipt?”

Me: No thanks.

Machine: “Ok… I’m sorry, temporarily unable to complete this transaction. Want to try again?”
*************************************************

Ok. no need to panic here. The machine probably just doesn’t have enough funds for $80….

*************************************************
Machine:
“Hello James, you chisled abbed male model. Would you like Fast Cash? If so, how much?”

Me:  Yep. Uh how’s about $40?

Machine: “Sure. Would you like a receipt?”

Me: Nope.

Machine: “Ok… I’m sorry, temporarily unable to complete this transaction. Want to try again?”
*************************************************

The realization that I may be screwed is starting to set in….

*************************************************
Machine:
“Hello James you….”

Me:  Look, shut the hell up you piece of sh$t! Just give me $20 NOW!

Machine: “Sure. Sure. Would you like a recei..”

Me: NO!!

Machine: “Ok… I’m sorry, temporarily unable to complete this transaction. Want to try again?”
*************************************************

At this point it is all I can do to not scream. This particular machine has screwed me over many times in the past, but it’s usually when I drive up and see the “Out of Service” sign in my time of need. This is the first time I have ever been duped after first being welcomed.

Moral of the story? I don’t know, I’m too pissed to think of one right now. But while I do, can someone do a brother a solid and lend me a buck for the vending machine?

It doesn’t take debit cards.

How Do You See Me?

oldmanDid something happen while I slept? Since when did I wake up and everyone else got old? Last night while trolling around Facebook, I came across someone I haven’t seen in years and it started to make me worry a bit.

The person I saw is a year older than me and a good friend of my brother; who lived next door to us growing up. I recall standing on the corner with him at the bus stop every morning during school years, waiting for the big yellow taxi to carry us off to education. I also remember all of the Sunday afternoons where he and my brother would get a gaggle of kids together from the neighborhood for a game of tackle football. Good times.

But, as what typically happens in life, once school is over people tend to go their own separate ways, and ours was no exception. I went to West Chester to study music and he wound up moving to Florida to take on a construction job. It was the late 1980′s and we were young; ready to take on the world. It was a time when life’s possibilities seemed endless.

The thing is, once I saw the profile picture he used on Facebook, I began to reconsider that last sentence. For although I’d often see him over the years when he’d make his pilgrimages back north to visit my brother, the person I now saw in the photograph sure didn’t resemble the same dude I remember.

He was sitting on a couch, wearing a t-shirt and worn out blue jeans. A Ford Racing baseball cap adorned his noggin, much the same way as I remember him. He didn’t look sickly or unhealthy at all. For all I knew, he was the healthiest man alive. The only difference was for the first time, to me he just looked…well:

Old.

I saw an old man sitting on the couch. A forty-five year “old” man. A man who is only twenty months older than me.

Now, this is not to be meant as a knock on him. After all, it’s life. But it did make me begin to wonder how people really see me. As much as I’d like to forget about it, every morning I see the grays in my beard; have to deal with the trick knee acting up and the fact that my daughter is growing up way too fast. I’m constantly being reminded about my own mortality. Where did those endless possibilities and Sunday football games go? Sure, I can still pass by the places where we used to play and picture everything in my mind. But in my vision, we’re always kids.

I’m sure that if I were to see my brother’s friend today it would probably be just like old times. We’d probably joke around and laugh about the great games we used to have on the grid iron, or the days standing on the corner in the freezing cold waiting for the school bus. Although this time we’d probably be laughing about them over an adult beverage rather than the Kool-Aid Fruit Punch we had to drink back then. But I like to think the effects of the beer would help soften the blow that we were now the same age our parents were when we enjoyed such reverie.

I was always able to see people as they were in the past, and not as they are in the present. Oh sure, visually I still see the age mass and the gray hairs on the head that indicate years of life lived, but I was always able to look beyond that. I was always the forty-four year old, still being that fifteen year old teenager waiting for the bus. But now, in a strange way and for the very first time, I’m beginning to see the future.

When Music Is Just ‘Business’

slayerI was never a big fan of Slayer, but when I saw this letter by their (presumably now former) drummer Dave Lombardo, I had to post. Not because he had some concerns that there may be some shenanigans going on with the band’s finances, but rather to pose this question:

When did the music take a back seat to this nonsense?

Whether you’re into this kind of music or not yourself, take a minute to read Dave’s note and let me know what you think. For those not aware, Dave is a founding member of Slayer, a Grammy award-winning band with sales estimates in excess of twenty million records and also credited as being one of the “Big Four” thrash metal acts, along with Metallica, Megadeth and Anthrax.

Statement From Dave Lombardo Regarding Slayer Australian Tour 2013

I want to personally apologize to all of our fans in Australia who have bought tickets for the tour expecting to see me in my usual place on the drums.

So that you all know the truth, as of the end of the business day on February 14th, I was notified that I would not be drumming for the tour in Australia. I’m saddened, and to be honest I am shocked by the situation.

Last year, I discovered 90% of Slayer’s tour income was being deducted as expenses including the professional fees paid to management, costing the band millions of dollars and leaving 10% or less to split amongst the four of us. In my opinion, this is not the way a band’s business should operate. I tried rectifying it by letting my band mates know, and Tom and I hired auditors to figure out what happened, but I was denied access to detailed information and the necessary back up documents.

I spent the Christmas and New Year holidays realizing I had toured all over the world in 2012, but yet, had not been paid (except a small advance) or provided a proper accounting for a full year’s sweat and blood. On top of this, I was told that I would not be paid until I signed a long form contract which gave me no written assurance of how much or on what basis management would deduct commissions, nor did it provide me access to the financial budgets or records for review. It also forbade me to do interviews or make statements having to do with the band, in effect a gagging order.

Last Monday, I sat down with Kerry and Tom to rehearse for Australia and to propose a new business model that I felt was the best way forward for Slayer to confidently protect itself so we could do what we do best . . . play for the fans. Kerry made it clear he wasn’t interested in making changes and said if I wanted to argue the point, he would find another drummer. On Thursday, I arrived at rehearsals at 1 pm as scheduled, but Kerry did not show. Rather, at 6:24 pm I received an email from the lawyers saying I was being replaced for the Australian dates.

I remain hopeful that we can resolve our issues. But once again, I sincerely apologize to all of our fans in Australia who spent their money expecting to see the 3 of us original Slayer members.

I look forward to seeing you in the future.

Sincerely,
Dave Lombardo

What’s In A Number?

Photo Credit: iStockphoto/Dan Talson
Photo Credit: iStockphoto / Dan Talson

What’s in a number? I mean, really. I’d sure like to know. All our lives, we base everything on these imaginary counting things.

Right from the beginning, numbers are engrained into our way of thinking. We know as soon as our brains start remembering things that “5” is the magic number and the age at which we start school. From there, the next number we tend to get excited about is “10” (the year we start the double-digit age; which is kind of ironic because it’s also most likely the same number of digits of age we have when we die).

Next on the list: “13” (a teenager), “18” (the year we can vote, drive a car, graduate high school and become an adult), “21” (the year we can officially drink), “40” (when the cruel, ‘over the hill’ jokes begin). We also celebrate big anniversaries with numbers like a 25th High School Reunion or a 50th Wedding Anniversary.

But all that doesn’t even begin to scratch the surface of how we use numbers. They’re in the code that run our computers (“1” and “0”). in the identification we need to remember in order to unlock our smart phones and get money out of an ATM machine. Numbers are so important, that we actually have to study them in school for years.

Now that I’m “43” (not a bad number if you ask me), you’d probably expect me to have a pretty good understanding of them. But even after all of my experiences of going through most of the aforementioned cases of numbers, (I’m still working on that 50th anniversary thing), I’m still finding myself dumbfounded at how some people seem to care more about certain numbers while ignoring others.

We’re all familiar with “cooking the books”; a process where financial numbers are manipulated in order to produce a favorable (and often times illegal) result. But I’m talking about how numbers are used to favor a certain way of thinking.

Here’s where my confusion lies.

1. The most recent jobs report just came out, and the unemployment rate is at 7.9%.  Payrolls rose “157,000” in January. Not good news.

2. Gasoline prices once averaged “$1.93″a gallon four years ago and are now “$3.42” for that same gallon. Yep, bad bad.

And yet, here’s a number that everyone seems to overlook when they think the world is ending and the Soviets are about to take over: “14,000”.

I’m sure for some people, this may seem like a miniscule number in the grand scheme of things (heck, you can’t even buy a decent new car now-a-days for that price). But, look a little deeper. Yesterday, the Dow Jones Industrial Average closed at 14,000, and is nearing it’s ‘all-time’ high. This average is used to measure (among other things), how stocks and big businesses are performing and doing financially.

At the end of January 2009, the Dow was at “8,000″ and has since increased more than 40%.

Now, I don’t care which side of the aisle you’re on, but if we’re focusing on how bad gas prices and jobs are, then why are we overlooking the fact that the other end of the business spectrum is performing better than ever?

Hmmm, something sure smells like number “2” to me.

Culture Shock

Of Mice and MenThis may come as a shock to you, but the truth is I’m not quite as hip as you think. At least, I never used to be. Oh sure, I write and play music and all of that fun stuff. But there are some things about me that you probably wouldn’t believe.

Here are just a few of them:

1. I’ve never EVER listened to (or owned for that matter) a single Jimi Hendrix or Led Zeppelin album from start to finish. Nope, not one. I know, you’d think that a guy my age who plays guitar would have at least spent his early years immersing himself in every nuance of a Hendrix or Page solo. But in reality, I’ve not so much as spent a minute learning a single note. And although I’ve heard their songs played over and over on the radio, I’ve never actually purchased an album or listened beyond what filled the airwaves when there was nothing else on.

2. I’ve never watched a single episode of any of today’s hit television shows. People “ramble on” (did you like that Zeppelin reference?) about how funny shows like Two And A Half Men (both with Charlie Sheen and Ashton Kutcher), How I Met Your Mother, The Big Bang Theory and Modern Family are. But when prime time rolls around on television; well, let’s just say that I always have something better to do.

I was about to mention that the same goes for my choice of literature. From the very beginning, my reading material had only consisted of comic books, guitar magazines and Stephen King novels. About the only time any literature of “culture” came my way was when it was forced upon me in high school english classes.

Novels like George Orwell’s “1984” and “Animal Farm” found their way into my possession during those years, and I certainly do remember having to do book reports on them. But honestly, I couldn’t tell you a single thing about them. In fact, I don’t even remember “reading” them at all. My way of thinking was always: if it didn’t have a superhero, a guitar god or some kind of monster in it, it wasn’t on my reading list.

But in the past 24 hours, that officially changed.

Yesterday, I finished “Of Mice And Men” by John Steinbeck. A book written in 1937 by a guy who won the Nobel Prize for Literature. That last sentence alone would usually be enough to have me running for the hills, but considering that the story was only 105 pages and I’ve always wanted to see what all the hub bub was about, I decided to give it a go. And I was glad I did.

I won’t bore you with the details of the story (aside from encouraging you to read it, if you haven’t), but I will tell you that I’ve discovered a whole new realm of wonder. Things that I had previously thought were dull, boring and dated have suddenly become new, interesting and exciting. It’s opened up a whole new way of thinking for me and has gotten me out of the “box” I was in.

In a way, I think I’ve hit the lottery. I’ll be able to read “1984” and “Animal Farm” with new found perspective. I can also buy a Jimi Hendrix or Led Zeppelin album and listen to them freshly for the first time. All of the classic things I should have allowed myself to be exposed to long ago will be new to me.

I must say that I’m a bit embarrassed that it’s taken me this long to come to my senses. But I can’t wait to explore everything that’s always been right under my nose.

Go Jimmy Go 2012 Year In Review

gojimmygoIt’s the end of a very productive year. One that included electing a president and dodging the end of the world. It was also one filled with writing many blog articles  as well.

In addition to my own regular rants about everything from Spiderman to politics, I had the chance to speak with a variety of artists about their latest projects; be it in film, television, books or music.

As I wait out a nuisance December snow storm, I thought I’d take a look back on just some of the highlights I’ve had this year. For me to mention all 213 posts I’ve written in 2012 would be impossible, but rest assured I do love every single one of them!

Ladies to Watch:

I have been extremely fortunate to have met so many wonderful and talented women this year. Here are just a few of the ladies you need to watch in 2013.

ashleywatkinsAshley Watkins: Ashley and I originally connected to discuss her role in the horror movie “Pelt”, one that pays homage to the classic slasher films of the 1980’s. She is amazingly good in the lead role of Jenny, where she runs the gambit from being deathly afraid to hilariously funny. (Hint: The film is available to stream on NetFlix: watch her in the campfire scene).

But it’s Ashley’s performance in the short film “Beside Her” that really had the biggest impact on me. This film runs far, far deeper than just two women involved in a relationship. Ashley is breathtaking in the role of Rachel Moretti. If you get a chance to see this film on the festival circuit, I highly recommend it. I can not wait to see what 2013 brings for her.

Carrie Carnevale: The writer and director of “Beside Her”. I have to admit that I never was a big fan of the so-called “short” movies. I mean, how can you possibly get your point across in that short of amount of time? But Carrie’s vision about the lives of Dr. Rachel Moretti and Sofia Rios changed my mind. As the tag line says: “In one brief moment in time, their love for each other is measured beyond the norms of their everyday lives.” I have to agree. Watch out for Carrie in 2013!.. Now if only I can get her to become a Seahawks fan….:)

Elina Madison: I spoke with Elina a few times over the course of the year. She is one of the coolest, most down to Earth people you’ll ever meet with a huge new year in store! Be sure to watch for her in HUFF! coming out in April.

Gabrielle Stone:  You will be hearing a lot from this lady in 2013. She’s the daughter of Dee Wallace (ET/Cujo) and Christopher Stone (The Howling) and has no less than four movies already slated for release in the new year.

Jenna Stone: Not only is Jenna a great actress, but she and I share a metal connection. You see, she played the role of someone in the crowd at a RATT concert for one of their recent music videos and I was actually in the crowd at a RATT concert back in “the day”. Watch for her in “HUFF” and “Edge of Salvation” coming in 2013.

Inspirational People

lisajeyI started this topic on my blog after I met Lisa Jey Davis. Her story moved me so much, not only because of what she’s been through during the course of her life, but her positive outlook is something I think every one of us needs to have.

Today, Lisa owns her own company, writes blogs and articles for various websites and even records videos with inspirational thoughts for the day.

Lisa is also writing a book on her adventures to be released in the new year and I can’t wait to interview her about it.

Humor

There’s something mysteriously cool about Kimmy Kim and Frutron and their Hollywood is Hard Channel. These talented ladies had me in stitches with their antics (perhaps it’s because I’m a sucker for wedgie videos). I posted just a few of my favorite episodes from their channel to go along with my interview with Frutron. Be sure to check them out!

Musical Highlights

I’ve been a musician for 25 years but never in my wildest dreams did I ever think I’d be writing about, (much less speaking to) artists like John Taylor (Duran Duran), Steve Howe (Yes, Asia), Steve Hackett (Genesis), Lita Ford or Jim Peterik and Frankie Sullivan (Survivor).

DougMarksI also spoke with Nathan East, who for years played bass for Eric Clapton; Steven Adler from Guns N’ Roses (who now has a new band and is the healthiest he’s ever been); Greg Howe (who grew up on the same streets as me in Easton, PA and has a new band for 2013: Maragold) and Doug Marks (the man who first taught me how to shred with his Metal Method guitar lessons).

These, and many other interviews were the ones where my hands were literally shaking as I was dialing the phone numbers. These are the artists whose music had a major impact on me.

Speaking of music, it just wouldn’t be proper if I didn’t give a shout out to two of the coolest guys I met this year. David Banks (an actor, musician and true metal-head who you will be hearing about in the movie CUT!) and Dee J Nelson (a phenomenal south paw guitarist who also has big things planned for 2013).

As a non-professional, uncompensated writer, I hope that you found my articles and rants to be beneficial and had as much fun reading them as I did writing them. Feel free to comment on some of your favorite articles below.

I hope you’re along for the ride in 2013 and wish you all the best the New Year has to offer!

My Thoughts On The Gun Control Debate

listenI’ve waited more than a week to respond to the horrific events that occurred at Sandy Hook Elementary School. I’ve always tried to be one of those people who don’t immediately jump to conclusions and come running with pitch forks and torches.

Having said that, I must say that I am a bit disgusted by the rhetoric being used by those folks who DO like to use tragedies like this to advance their own personal (and political) agendas.

It seems like whenever there is a tragedy like this there are certain individuals from both sides of the political spectrum who go rushing to the first FOX, CNN or NBC camera they see to bloviate what the answer to the problem is.

In keeping with my motto of letting cooler heads prevail, I’ve decided to list a few things I believe are important to bring to the discussion. What follows is not my own solution but simply a point/counterpoint scenario where I also play a little “Devil’s Advocate” to some of the solutions already being recommended by others.

Tighten Gun Laws / Take Away The Guns

Pro:

  • Would make it much harder for people (especially ones who’d like to use them on innocent citizens) to obtain them.
  • No one needs a weapon that shoots that many rounds. How many times does a person have to die?

Con:

  • Second Amendment to the US Constitution: A well-regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.

Devils’ Advocate:

  • But when the second amendment was written, the weapon of choice was a musket. We didn’t have AK-47’s, tanks and nuclear weapons that could destroy the world a hundred times over.

Upgrade security systems and/or put an armed teacher (or select group) at every school

Pro:

  • Would make any would be attacker think twice before entering a school.

Con:

  • Where is the money for this going to come from?
  • If a malcontent student can break into a locker or hack into a computer, what’s to say he can’t just break into a gun-room or teachers desk where a firearm is?

Devil’s Advocate:

  • A lot of the people who recommend this solution are ones who don’t care for public school teachers as is ( a whole other story).

More funding for mental health

Pros:

  • Would raise red flag on those troubled people who are predisposed to hurting others in such a manner.

Cons:

  • Again, how is this going to be paid for people who are unable to afford it?

What about taking a look at harsher penalties (and dare I open a new can of worms and say bring back the death penalty) for those convicted of such heinous acts? Would this discourage an attacker who might get cold feet at the thought of what awaited him? I don’t know. But deeper discussion on these and other issues is desperately needed.

This is a problem that goes much deeper than merely taking away everyone’s guns or adjusting college curriculum’s to include a semester of “How To Use A Firearm” for perspective teachers (neither of which would or should ever happen). Rather, this is going to take a collective group of rational adults, congressmen and a President to resolve responsibly. We owe as much to every law-abiding citizen, battered wife and defenseless child.

The real intent of this article isn’t to point fingers or say that only one side is correct. It merely emphasizes that the best thing for us all to do as human beings is to stop bitching and start listening.