Monday, May 29, 2006

Some Gave All

On my honor, I will do my best
To do my duty to God and my country

from the Boy Scout Oath

Love your country and live with pride
And don't forget those who died…
All gave some and some gave all
And some stood through for the red, white and blue
And some had to fall…
Think of all your liberties and recall
Some gave all

Billy Ray Cyrus, from the song “Some Gave All.”

It’s Memorial Day. Time for family and barbecues. Time for sales, and cheap political opportunism. Time for a day off of work. Time to get in your car and drive to a get-together. I guess it’s time to be American, in any guise that may take.

I have many thoughts this day, about what it means to be an American. About the freedoms that we profess to love, but in practice give away with no remorse or acknowledgement. About the greatness we’ve achieved on the work of previous generations, and whether we’re willing to continue that. About the tragedy of war, and how truly horrible a thing it is. I am not a pacifist; war is sometimes necessary. But it should always, always, always be a last resort.

I have become a huge fan of the ever-controversial “Vox Day,” but I want to point out his latest column - – which flatly asserts the need for a new political party. I’ve been saying this for years, even as I wonder whether we’ll ever be allowed to see one succeed.

Yeah, I’ve been thinking about America. And I hope that you do, too, in the midst of your busy weekend.

But in the midst of all this, take time to think about what Memorial Day is really about. Remembering.

Remember those who gave their lives for us.
Remember those sons and daughters who never came home.
Remember those fathers and mothers who never got to watch their children grow up.
Remember every sacrifice made in the name of freedom, freedom that we’re throwing away.
Remember those who were never whole again in either body or spirit, because of what they lost.
Remember every dream that never came true, every life cut short – for you and me!
Remember that some gave all.


Wednesday, May 24, 2006

A quick addendum

To those who read my last blog, and thought I was depressed; my apologies. In re-reading it, I can definitely see how you would get that impression.

I'm far from depressed, in fact, life is great. I'm a little bummed out that I'm in the twilight of my 20s, but other than that, things are great.

Also, I've had a lot of positive comments given to me about the previous column ("We're different - still"), mostly from women. However, there were a few people that took a great deal of offense to it, and said I was sexist. When I asked for specifics, I got no reply; they just said the "general tone" was, even if I didn't say anything they could point to. A friend (male) said that it doesn't matter what the truth is, the perception was that it was sexist. All I can do to respond to that is quote Theodore Beale:

"I merely write what I think. Given what people find persuasive, I see no point in spending any effort in trying to persuade anyone. If you can't get past big words or scary analogies, you can't be convinced by anything but repeated emotional manipulation anyhow."

I'm not that cynical about everyone, but those who are entirely concerned with the "overall" tone aren't probably going to get what I'm writing, anyway.

So, am I a sexist? By some definitions, assuredly yes. And I scoff (yes, I just used the word "scoff") at anyone who claims not to be.

As a noun, it can be defined as "a man with a chauvinistic belief in the inferiority of women." Personally, I find that definition rather sexist, as well - I've known just as many women convinced of the superiority of their sex as the reverse. Regardless, that definition does NOT pertain to me. I hold neither sex to be superior.

However, as an adjective, it can be defined as "discriminatory on the basis of sex" - and I do discriminate between the sexes. There are very real differences between men and women. We all know it, even the uber-PC people who wholeheartedly deny it.

Again, I don't know how much of the difference between men and women is based on genetics, and how much is based on culture, but there are differences.

Interestingly enough, most dictionaries combine the definition with "prejudice" - which is to judge prior to knowledge. Actually, it has been knowledge and experience which have caused me to believe there truly are inherent differences between men and women. That is not something I believed at all ten years ago.

So, if I offended you with the tone of my entry, read it again and tell me if there's something wrong, flawed, or specifically sexist about it. If so, I'll be glad to revisit it, or remove it, or apologize for it. If not, then perhaps it's not my communication skills at fault, but a prejudice on the reader's side of things. My blog consists of my thoughts - which are by my human nature fallible. But I have no interest in apologizing for writing a truth in an unpalatable form.

My job is to promote fiction, to manipulate emotion to make people happier. That's what I do for a living. For fun, I tell the truth. There's a reason I make money off of one, and not the other!


P.S. I was also told I come across as cynical. I am.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

I'm 29 now - and yet, I'm still boring...

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.

29. Here. I’d say finally, but it kinda crept up on me, and then pounced. I’m not sure quite how it happened; I’m just getting into the groove of being in my 20s.

I’ve got a lot on my mind right now, and it’s exceedingly boring. So I’m going to share it with you, because I’m old, and that’s what old people do. We call it wisdom, because it just takes too long to say “boring crap that you couldn’t care less about, but it means a lot to me, and I’m going to tell you about it in hopes that you’ll find meaning in it.”

Even using the acronym “BCTYCCLABIMALTMAIGTTYAIIHTYFMIT” takes too long. And it’s harder to pronounce than “anthropomorphism.” So we’ll stick with “wisdom.” Maybe that stands for “We Ignore Stupid Diatribes Of Musicians.” Then again, it could stand for “Wicked Immoral Sex Delights Ordinary Men.” But I digress. As old people do.

What has happened over my life?

30 years ago, I was… Crap, well, not really doing much. Wasn’t playing piano, wasn’t drinking, wasn’t making time with the hot chicks… Damn, non-existence sucks!

20 years ago, I’d just discovered “The Lord of the Rings,” just figured out how to pronounce the letter “r,” and couldn’t say the letter “s” to save my life. Sorry, that should’ve been “to thave my life.” My sister Tammy had just moved out of the house (a big deal when there’s seven people sharing one bathroom), and I had been playing the piano for two years. I couldn’t play piano very well. I’d never had a drink. And I was still of the opinion that I didn’t really like girls. Damn, being nine sucked, too!

10 years ago, I was finishing up my second year of college. I’d just grown my ponytail. I was as insecure about being a musician as you could possibly be. I’d fallen in love with a girl named Sarah. I was pretty much a fundamentalist Christian, who didn’t cuss, drink, or anything fun. I was scared about being in my 20s. And I couldn’t get a date, no matter how hard I tried. So, I felt I couldn’t play piano, wasn’t drinking, and got nowhere with the chicks. You know, I’m not seeing much progress from 9 to 19 here.

So far, 29 has been pretty good. I’ve done absolutely nothing this year. Then again, I won’t officially turn 29 until later this morning, so we’ll just go back to my 28th year. It’s been like a soap opera this last year, anyway. You hear about the old Chinese Curse “may you live in interesting times” – well, there are apparently a lot of old Chinese people cursing at me.

One year ago I was living on Bourbon St., in New Orleans, living an incredible existence (except for the drunk people who peed on my porch on a regular basis). I performed almost every night (musically! Get your mind out of the gutter!). I was one of the top entertainers at the world-famous “Pat O’Brien’s.” I was taking ballroom dance lessons during the day, meeting beautiful girls from around the world at night. My friend Katie had just moved to New Orleans, and was living with me while I built her an apartment (which I finished in August). Despite my best efforts (and copious amounts of alcohol), she never did fall in lust with me. With my golden tan and bulging muscles, I’m not sure how she ever resisted, but she managed somehow. Still, much fun was had whilst we roommated (is that a verb?).

That all changed when an ill-tempered Katrina came my way. I left New Orleans with Katie, expecting to be gone a day or two. I ended up living with her and her parents for about two weeks while we watched all the news of New Orleans flooding. (Even grief didn’t make her want to get naked for me… man, it’s just hopeless). I thought I lost everything. I was mildly upset at this, but more upset for Katie; she’d just gotten her own apartment, her dad had brought all of her belongings down… She’d been living like a nomad for years (she’s a dancer), and was finally settling down, only to have it all ripped away. But there was nothing I could do; I had no job, no money, no way to help. In fact, I had nothing at all, including plans, ideas, prospects…

So I did what anybody would do. I went to Colorado and auditioned for “American Idol.” What can I say? I was bored. It was a joke, by the way. I was amazed by the talent there; I was completely out of my league, vocally. However, almost nobody with any real talent made it through the auditions, just the tone-deaf freaks who would look funny in the bloopers. I saw several people that blew 90% of the top twelve away. They were passed over immediately. If I were to do it again, I’d sing off-key in a funny costume. Much, much, much more likely to get through.

Anyway, after I got over my heartbreak at not passing the audition… Okay, I’m lying. There was no heartbreak. After seeing what they wanted, I’m grateful I didn’t make it. But after it was over, having no home and no money and no job, I hopped a plane to Las Vegas.

I came to peace with having lost everything. I realized that possessions are merely “stuff.” None of it was really that important (except my tequila collection). My family, my friends, my health, my career – all of these were intact (though not my tequila). People I’d never met opened up their homes to me. Friends from around the world called to make sure I was okay. My mother, my father, friends of my parents – all sent me money, though they really didn’t have any to spare. One of my college professors wanted to buy me a new wardrobe. There was an outpouring of generosity that I still can’t fully wrap my mind around. All I can say is that even thinking about it still humbles me.

And then, having made peace with loss, I found out that I’d lost nothing. Everything I owned was perfectly okay, and more importantly, so was all of Katie’s stuff. And that’s when my dad informed me that he was taking a week off of work, and making a 4,000 mile trip with me to haul my stuff from New Orleans to Las Vegas.

Again with the being humbled.

To make a long story… longer, I moved to Las Vegas, played the strip (that’s different than being a stripper – I think I’d get paid more to put my clothes back on) for several months, started freelancing there, then in California, all up and down the coast… I got tired of all the traveling. Vegas is an incredible city, but the dueling pianos scene is heavily into politics, and I just want to play. I don’t want to backstab or be backstabbed, kiss-ass and be insincerely flattered. I just want to make music and entertain audiences. So I came back to Texas, where I have (with a partner) started a dueling pianos freelance team in the Houston area.

So, now, when it’s all settling down, I realize that I’m 29.

I had a list of goals when I was 28. Some of them came true, but many did not. I did get in shape like I planned - and then I got out of shape again. I did not become debt-free, for obvious reasons. I haven’t become an expert ballroom dancer. I haven’t learned another language, or gotten back into martial arts. I didn’t reconcile with the girl of my dreams. I didn’t get a recording contract, or finish my new CDs. Not once did I have a threesome with twins.

But I did become a better singer, a better entertainer. I worked with some of the best people in the industry, and learned how to hold my own with them. I made some new friends that I think will be with me for life. And I got back in touch with some old friends that I hope will put up with me, too.

I did learn who cared about me, and some of those people surprised me. I learned who didn’t care about me, and some of those surprised me, too. I learned about how inconsequential so much of our stuff is. I learned what true generosity means. I learned the necessity of planning ahead, and the futility of expecting any of those plans to come true.

I’ve become more and more cynical about relationships; most are based entirely on fiction. Men and women lie to each other and manipulate each other constantly, and both sides find it normal for themselves to do so, and horrible and disgusting when the other side does it. Even people who pride themselves on being truthful will lie by omission if the truth makes them uncomfortable.

And yet - I’ve grown more amazed by true love. My cousin and my brother have both found incredible wives, and they have relationships that most people couldn’t even fathom. Not perfect, not without tension… But with incredible love. And when I see it, I think of how rare it is – like a flower that we’ve all seen pictures of, but so few have ever smelled the fragrance.

I’ve become more and more cynical about our country, as our government grows more and more power-hungry, like the decaying Roman Empire, and the people just clamor for bread and circuses. I’ve become disgusted with all the people who are willing to throw away not only their own rights and freedoms, but yours and mine, just as long as they can feel safe. I was disgusted by the people who took advantage of the devastation in New Orleans, those who looted, and stole, and lied to get more from the government. I’ve become repulsed by the incredible greed that says “I have a right to everything I want, because I want it, and you have it.”

And yet – though adversity brings out the worst in many people… Though I’ve seen the ugliest sides of the American populace, I’ve also seen the best. Whether you call them patriots or idealists, those who give until they have nothing left, in the name of America, and even more, in the name of God – those should make us all proud to be American. And though I don’t agree with many of the military conflicts going on, I know people who signed up believing that our country needs them, willing to sacrifice their own lives so that you and I may be safe.

I’ve become more and more frightened by the rampant ignorance around me. How emotion has become more important than fact, feelings more vital than reality. We seem to have thrown away our drive towards reason, science, history, in favor of group discussions and hand-holding. If you try to use logic and action/consequence in a discussion, you’ll get blank stares. Sometimes, I think we’re headed towards another Dark Age.

And yet - if you apply yourself, we have access to more knowledge than at any point in history. I can text a friend in Thailand, IM a friend in Germany, email a friend in Mexico, all while perusing world news on my computer, and listening to a CD on how to speak a foreign language.

Some of my dreams are dying. I’m getting too old to get a record contract, though I’m going to try for a few more years. I’m liking the thought of settling down and raising a family more and more, but I’m finding it even less likely than I did before. And before, I thought there was virtually no chance. Now, I’d remove the word “virtually” from that thought.

Other dreams are just awakening, though. I now own a business of my own. I’m making my own way. I am becoming a success in ways I never thought possible. Will I ever have a platinum CD? Probably not, but I will be playing music for a living as long as I want to. Will I ever have kids? Probably not, but my nieces and nephews are really awesome - and now that I’m back in Texas, I’ll be around as they grow up.

I used to see the world in black and white, with shades of grey here and there on certain select topics. Now, I can’t find the black and white any more, but how pretty all the colors in between have become!

My 20s began rough. But though it doesn’t get any easier, it gets better. Almost every day. I found out what I’m good at, and what I’m not! I found my true friends. I found love, though I had to let it go. Overall, I’ve found happiness. In some ways, I’ve found a lot of maturity. So maybe I am ready for my 30s.

Nah. Who am I kidding? I’ve got 365 days left to party like I’m a young guy! Who’s bringing the tequila? Clothing optional!

Talk to you all next year,
The Old Man formerly known as Jess

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

We're Different. Still.

Okay, men and women are different. You know it. I know it. So why do we assume one is better than the other?

Men tend to be more focused on one thing at a time, while women multi-task. Yes, there are obvious exceptions to this, but as a generality, it holds true. We look at one thing at a time. This is not better, and not worse, just different.

A girl got really upset with me recently in an argument, because there were certain behaviors she said were disgusting, that I didn’t find disgusting at all. She said that you could tell how a guy would treat a girl by how his friends treat girls. This is not my experience at all; men don’t pick their friends on that account. In fact, I can’t think of any two male friends I have that have the same attitude towards women, other than we’re all horny (we are men, and that equals perpetually horny). She then said that a nice guy would walk away from men that were commenting on a girl’s physical attributes as if she were “a piece of meat.” I laughed.

This is something I’ve heard women complain about a lot (not all women, some like it) – they say “we’re not a piece of meat, don’t look at us like an object!” This is somehow assumed to be wrong, disgusting, filthy, etc. They say “We’re more than our bodies – you’ve got to look at the whole picture.”

Why? When we’re checking out a girl’s ass, or nice cleavage, we’re not evaluating what she’d be like as a girlfriend. We’re not wondering if she’s our soulmate. We’re thinking about her body. And I don’t see why that’s wrong – we’re not groping her. We’re not invading her privacy. If she finds it offensive, then she doesn’t have to date us, sleep with us, even talk to us. But looking and commenting – it’s a free country (used to be, at least), and I honestly can’t find any harm in it. Can one girl tell me what’s actually wrong with it? Saying “it’s wrong” doesn’t count – I want a reason. Saying “it’s objectifying” doesn’t help, either – what’s wrong with that? Saying “it’s demeaning” is void, unless you can tell me WHY it’s demeaning.

By now, many women reading this are offended. But what it seems like to me is a classic case of women judging men by women’s rules. Unless you can tell me WHY you think it’s wrong, other than “it’s just wrong,” it doesn’t count. Just because you “feel” it’s wrong doesn’t make it wrong. Just because you “feel” it’s disgusting doesn’t count, either. There has to be an objective reason, or it’s just personal opinion. Opinions are great to have, until you share them.

I was reading a fantasy book by a female author today. There are several female authors that I truly enjoy reading, but when they talk from a male perspective, it’s hilarious. For one thing, the hero always hates being stared at by women, because he wants girls to notice him for who he is, not how stunningly handsome he is.

Bullshit. Guys don’t mind girls checking us out. We love it. And if you think we’ve got a great ass, we don’t mind if you grab it, either. Just don’t pinch it – that shit hurts.

The way we figure it, you’ve got to start somewhere, and looks are a great beginning. If you want to know our personality, we know you’ll get there eventually. If, after knowing us for years, you don’t care about anything but our looks, then we might be offended. But that’s usually not the way it works.

While we’re on this subject, I see these girls in super-tight jeans, so low-cut you can see butt cleavage, showing off the tattoo on the small of their backs, with wonder-bras and a low-cut shirts… I’m sorry, but they have no right to complain about being looked at like pieces of meat. Most women’s fashions are designed to make girls look as sexual as possible – and they complain because we look at them sexually!

Don’t get me wrong – I’m not saying men haven’t always looked at women this way… But it’s sure as hell not a one-sided deal anymore. Women ask to be looked at. If you can’t admit this, you’re in a dream world.

Women – you want to figure out how a man treats women? Watch how he treats women. You want to know how he’ll treat you on a date? Go on a date. Want to know how he’ll be in a long-term relationship? Get in a long-term relationship. Anything else is pure speculation, and almost guaranteed to be 100% wrong. If you judge him by his friends, you’re completely off base. Is a man who looks at women sexually offensive to you? Become a lesbian. We all do it. Some hide it, some are discreet, some are blatant. We all do it. It’s who we are.

Before I leave my soapbox, I’m going to go on about monogamy.

I’ve stated before that it’s not natural for men. And if you can’t accept this, again, you’re in a dream world. Some men can do it, because of love. There are several girls that I’ve dated that I would’ve given up all other women for, because it was worth it. But that doesn’t make it natural.

That’s not the point I’m about to make, though. My point is this – guys are going to get sex somewhere. It’s just the truth. And if you’re not giving it to him, don’t be upset when he’s getting it elsewhere. Yeah, you think it’s disgusting, and personally, I hate dishonesty of any variety. It’s one reason I remain single. But if you’re not in the mood for over a month, then either he’s frustrated and unhappy, or he’s looking elsewhere.

Guys do get in relationships for many reasons. Sex is not the only one. Companionship, friendship, support, these are all vital. But as my brother once said “Sex can’t make a relationship, but it sure as hell can break one.”

In an ideal world, when one partner is unsatisfied (and yes, I know several cases where it’s the woman who’s unsatisfied), they would talk it over, and resolve the problem. But more often, one of the couple will use sex either as a weapon, or a reward. Keep in mind, if the price is too high, you can’t blame a guy for going to a lower bidder.

Disgusting? I know many girls that will say so. Some guys, too. I’ve never done that, and never will, because I believe in honesty, and I’d sooner dump a girl than stay with one who’s trying to manipulate me through sex. Many guys don’t think it’s worth the trouble. Especially if they’re married. And let’s face it – how many married couples do you know with an active sex life? If you can name more than five married couples you know (really, really know) who are having sex more than once a month… You’re way ahead of me. I can name three. And that’s out of… Well, I know the details on around thirty. Maybe that’s an insufficient scientific sample.

Girls wonder why men are so scared of commitment, why we don’t want to settle down. Chew on these thoughts for awhile before you wonder. Unless she’s the most incredible girl he’s ever met, and he can’t possibly be happy without her, marriage is a losing proposition for a guy. Most of the things a girl offers a guy, either he doesn’t want, or she’ll quit doing once he’s married. And if it doesn’t work out, he’ll lose most of what he owns.

Do I sound bitter? I’m not, really. I’ve only let one girl screw me over, and I learned my lesson from that. Do I sound cynical? I am, but not from my own experiences, but from watching everybody around me. Do I sound like I hate women? I don’t – I love women, and the majority of my friends are women. But it’s frustrating to watch women judge men by women’s standards, immediately assuming that if a man doesn’t live by a woman’s rules, he’s either a pig, or immature. I’m growing more and more offended as I notice the culture around me saying it’s wrong to be a man, and that a societally acceptable man acts like a woman with a penis.

The few women I’ve truly cared for were not that way. They were different, and saw men as men, and women as women. No excuses necessary, no judgements, just amusement and sometimes exasperation.

Women, accept that men are different, and you’ll be happier. Don’t judge them by what you would do in their place – the Golden Rule is crap when it crosses genders.

Men, quit trying to be women. You won’t be happy, and you won’t make your woman happy. Don’t pay any attention to what the radio, TV, and the movies tell you women want. Act like a man, and you’ll have no problems in that regard, except with bitchy women you’d be better off without, anyway.

Soapbox off. Stepping down. Talk to you all soon,


Sunday, April 16, 2006

Easter - or Why I Am A Christian

These are definitely interesting times we live in. Misguided Christians, steeped in ignorance, advocate the teaching of belief as science. Misguided scientists, jaded to belief, try to tear down the faith that has been one of the hallmarks of Western Civilization. I can’t really figure out what religion has to do with the physical world, or what science has to do with the spiritual world. Sometimes, it has the feeling of one group chanting “There are no trees in the forest!” while another group replies “There are no forests around all these trees!” Millions of people believe the blatant fiction of “The Da Vinci Code” as fact, while disbelieving the Theory of Evolution. Millions of people claiming to follow a religion of peace advocate the slaughter of their enemies. And I’ll let you guess which religion I’m talking about – there’s more than one right answer.

Some would say these are the end times, that all the prophecies that Jesus (and John) gave us are coming true. It’s possible, but I doubt it. My take on prophecy is that we’re not meant to understand it until after the fact. I’ve read the Old Testament many times, and it truly seems to prophesy a military leader coming to free Israel. Jesus fulfilled all the prophecies, but in completely unexpected directions. Only in retrospect could we understand. God is mysterious. Prophecy seems to have two objectives; one is always to direct (usually chastise) God’s followers in an immediate manner… The other is for the future, so that when the prophecy is fulfilled, we’ll know it was part of God’s plan.

I don’t claim to have a deep understanding of all religions. I’ve looked at some others, like Islam, Judaism, and Buddhism (more a philosophy), but only to see if their general principles appealed to me. There were nice touches in each, but Christianity drew me back. There were two reasons for this: Jesus’ death, and Jesus’ Resurrection.

There is a dilemma involved with most religions, a paradox that most try to resolve; either we are flawed, or we are perfect. It’s hard to argue that we are perfect, but if we are flawed, then we do not deserve the reward of a perfect afterlife. Most religions give a set of commands that you follow to deserve this reward. My problem with this was that no matter how many commands you follow, you still cannot achieve perfection. Some believe that you are given many chances in many lives, each time learning a lesson, each time coming closer to spiritually ascending to the next level. My problem with this was that simple mathematics and population statistics make this hard to work with (if you don’t understand, email me, and I’ll give details).

Christianity teaches that God is perfect, and that He (I don’t believe God is male, but there is no gender-neutral pronoun that fits – I’m not going to call God an “It”!) created us with free will. By free will, we choose our paths, and when we make mistakes, we become flawed. (Yes, I know some branches of Christianity teach that we are made already flawed, but they usually use tradition and doctrine to support this, as there is not any direct evidence of this teaching that I’m aware of in actual Scripture.)

This makes sense to me, and seems to follow a logical and true path. I am a firm believer in action resulting in consequences. Sin is when we willfully reject God, who is Love, and instead harm others for selfish reasons. Sometimes the harm is immediate, sometimes it is hidden, but when we cause harm, there is always sin. The consequence of this is separation from God, separation from He who is Love, Peace, Hope, Truth, and all that is good.

Once you’ve made a mistake, you are no longer perfect. No matter how many rules you follow, no matter how many wonderful things you do, you are no longer perfect!

God knows I am not perfect. I have hurt people. I have put my needs and wants above others. I have done this in the distant past. I have done this in recent weeks. I try not to, I work very hard at it, I agonize over it. And I fail.

This is where Jesus comes in, and separates Christianity from all other religions. He, being perfect, agreed to take on the spiritual consequence of our sins. All the hurt, the pain, the loss, the sorrow… the sin. And it killed Him.

This alone would make Christianity noble. It’s a good part of the story. But it is not the best part. The best part is that He rose, and conquered Death. And that victory was not for Himself, for God is not selfish as we are. That victory applies to everyone who accepts it.

As a Christian, I do not have to be perfect. I will never be perfect. God knows this. I don’t deserve an eternal reward – it’s being given to me. I don’t deserve forgiveness – it’s being given to me. Free of charge.

So why do I still strive for perfection? For one, out of gratitude towards He who saved me. For another, because I have learned the closer to God’s path I walk, the greater my time here on earth is. The more Christian a life I lead, the more fulfilled and joyous a life I lead. And as I realize the magnitude of His caring for me, the greater I care for those around me.

Easter is a rather amusing symbol in some ways. It undeniably has been altered from a Pagan fertility rite, and not even altered all that much! (look up the Easter Bunny and the colored eggs sometime, if you don’t believe me). But when you get away from all the pastel colors, and the chocolate, it’s still a reminder of the most important event that has ever happened in human history.

There is no time that I’m more likely to be moved to tears than when I contemplate the suffering of Christ, most often during Communion, or on Good Friday. And there is no time when I feel the joy and triumph of being a Christian than on Easter Sunday. In the words of Wesley:

Christ the Lord is risen today, Alleluia!
Earth and heaven in chorus say, Alleluia!
Raise your joys and triumphs high, Alleluia!
Sing, ye heavens, and earth reply, Alleluia!

Love's redeeming work is done, Alleluia!
Fought the fight, the battle won, Alleluia!
Death in vain forbids him rise, Alleluia!
Christ has opened paradise, Alleluia!

Lives again our glorious King, Alleluia!
Where, O death, is now thy sting? Alleluia!
Once he died our souls to save, Alleluia!
Where's thy victory, boasting grave? Alleluia!

Soar we now where Christ has led, Alleluia!
Following our exalted Head, Alleluia!
Made like him, like him we rise, Alleluia!
Ours the cross, the grave, the skies, Alleluia!

Hail the Lord of earth and heaven, Alleluia!
Praise to Thee by both be given, Alleluia!
Thee we greet triumphant now, Alleluia!
Hail the Resurrection, thou, Alleluia!

King of glory, soul of bliss, Alleluia!
Everlasting life is this, Alleluia!
Thee to know, thy power to prove, Alleluia!
Thus to sing, and thus to love, Alleluia!

Monday, April 03, 2006

Men and Women

Occasionally I have been accused of being sexist. This is probably because I am. I didn't used to be, but life is rapidly making me that way. However, I am not a believer in one sex being superior to the other; actually, it's more a struggle to decide who is more evil. The jury is still out on that one.

That brings us to today's topic for conversation; Men and Women. Let's start with Women.

Women are like

...the stock market
They're irrational and can bankrupt you if you're not careful.

They take too long to warm up and a better model always comes along once you've already got one.

...Saran Wrap
Useful but clingy.

Fun to pet and ride but a pain to feed and clean up after.

...parking meters
If you don't feed them with enough money you face serious consequences.

...fax machines
Useful for one very specific purpose but otherwise just high-maintenance paperweights.

...political campaign contributors
If you let them talk about themselves long enough you wind up in bed with them.

They're always cold and never seem to have a beer when you need one. jeans
They look good for a while but eventually they fade and have to be replaced. western songs
They're annoying, they all sound alike, but if you really listen to them you'll get depressed and drink a lot.

So, there you have it. What, there's another side? Let's hear it.

Men Are Like

... Bank Accounts.
Without a lot of money, they don't generate much interest.

... Blenders.
You need one, but you're not quite sure why.

... Chocolate Bars.
Sweet, smooth, and they usually head right for your hips.

... Coffee.
The best ones are rich, warm, and can keep you up all night long.

... Commercials.
You can't believe a word they say.

... Computers.
Hard to figure out and never have enough memory.

... Coolers.
Load them with beer and you can take them anywhere.

... Copiers.
You need them for reproduction, but that's about it.

... Curling Irons.
They're always hot, and they're always in your hair.

... Government Bonds.
They take so long to mature.

... Horoscopes.
They always tell you what to do and are usually wrong.

... Lava Lamps.
Fun to look at, but not all that bright.

... Mascara.
They usually run at the first sign of emotion.

... Parking Spots.
The good ones are already taken and the ones that are left are either handicapped or extremely small.

... Popcorn.
They satisfy you, but only for a little while

Any questions, ladies and gentlemen?

Monday, March 20, 2006

Your Papers, Please...

Well, if I had any doubts about the merits of private industry versus the guv, well, they're gone.

I lost my wallet in Oroville California last week. I was there for a week-long gig, complete with alcohol, free meals, and a jacuzzi in my room. Aah... good times. Where was I? Oh yeah, lost my wallet. Hard to imagine, with my laser-like focus and all. Speaking of which... Oohh, pretty lights.

Never mind.

Well, I searched high, I searched low, I searched some ladies underwear... But didn't find my wallet. First time I've ever lost my wallet. It sucked.

So, I got back to Vegas. Called up my credit cards, and explained the situation. All was good, nobody had tried to access my accounts. We closed the accounts and opened new ones. All it took was some personal info, which was rather easy to provide. They were extremely polite, and even a little sympathetic. Then I went to the bank, closed that checking account, and opened a new one. Again, very polite, very nice, just asked me a whole bunch of questions.

Then I went to get a copy of my driver's license. First, I had to wait two hours in line before I could even talk to anybody. Then, the person listened to my situation, and called up on her computer my driver's license. I could see the copy of it there, with my pic. She asked me for my birth certificate and Social Security Card. I explained to her that I didn't have my birth certificate, as it was being used to get me my Passport (you have to mail off your birth certificate, and it comes back to you with the Passport when you're done). She looked at me and said "Well, show me your passport." I tried to explain that I didn't have it. I said "Look, I can tell you my driver's license number, my SS number, my birthdate, my height, weight, eye color, and mother's maiden name. You can see my picture right there."

She said "Sorry, without proper authorized documentation, I can't help you." I said I could show her a rental agreement, car deeds, utility bills. Nope. No interest in helping me.

If there were competing industries, then she'd have to be nicer, or lose my business. Had my credit cards given me that kind of hassle, I would've cancelled my account. But since it's the government, they don't care. They don't have to.

Lucky for me, my passport ended up coming in, so I was able to get my Driver's License replaced. After waiting another few hours in line at the DMV.

Anyway, I'm off to Houston soon. The Great City of... Crap, you know, I wish that Austin were the one offering me all the jobs. Nothing against Houston, but it's rather low on my list of places I want to be in Texas. Austin? Hell, yeah! DFW? Perhaps. Corpus Christi? Cool. Houston? Well, it's better than Abilene.

Have I already told you all how I'm in love? Yup. I found my soulmate. It's Grace Park, from Battlestar Galactica. Or any of the myriad robot character she plays. I don't care. I'm proposing, man. I'll even get down on one knee. The view is good there, too. Damn, but she's a hottie!

What do you mean, I'm shallow?

Well, I'm off to get errands run. Talk to you all soon, probably after my first cruise is done!


Sunday, March 05, 2006

Man Rules...

01: Under no circumstances may two men share an umbrella.

02: It is ok for a man to cry under the following circumstances:
a. When a heroic dog dies to save its master.
b. The moment Angelina Jolie starts unbuttoning her blouse.
c. After wrecking your boss' car.
d. One hour, 12 minutes, 37 seconds into "The Crying Game".
e. When she is using her teeth.

03: Any Man who brings a camera to a bachelor party may be legally
killed and eaten by his buddies.

04: Unless he murdered someone in your family, you must bail a friend out of jail within 12 hours.

05: If you've known a guy for more than 24 hours, his sister is off
limits forever, unless you actually marry her.

06: Moaning about the brand of free beer in a buddy's fridge is
forbidden. However complain at will if the temperature is unsuitable.

07: No man shall ever be required to buy a birthday present for another man. In fact, even remembering your buddy's birthday is strictly optional.

08: On a road trip, the strongest bladder determines pit stops, not the weakest.

09: When stumbling upon other guys watching a sporting event, you may ask the score of the game in progress, but you may never ask who's playing.

10: You may flatulate in front of a woman only after you have brought her to climax. If you trap her head under the covers for the purpose of flatulent entertainment, she's officially your girlfriend.!

11: It is permissible to drink a fruity alcohol drink only when you're
sunning on a tropical beach... and it's delivered by a topless
supermodel...and it's free.

12: Only in situations of moral and/or physical peril are you allowed
to kick another guy in the nuts.

12b: On second thought, that's really never okay.

13: Unless you're in prison, never fight naked.

14: Friends don't let friends wear Speedos. Ever. Issue closed.

15: If a man's fly is down, that's his problem, you didn't see

16: Women who claim they "love to watch sports" must be treated as spies until they demonstrate knowledge of the game and the ability to drink as much as the other sports watchers.

17: A man in the company of a hot, suggestively dressed woman must remain sober enough to fight.

18: Never hesitate to reach for the last beer or the last slice of
pizza, but not both, that's just greedy.

19: If you compliment a guy on his six-pack, you'd better be talking
about his choice of beer.

20: Never join your girlfriend or wife in discussing a friend of yours,
except if she's withholding sex pending your response.

21: Phrases that may NOT be uttered to another man (even while lifting weights):
a. Yeah, Baby, Push it!
b. C'mon, give me one more! Harder!
c. Another set and we can hit the showers!

22: Never talk to another man in a almost imperceptible nod is all the convsersation you need. It is proper to stare silently at a spot on the wall in front of you until you are through. All conversations that are under way while entering the bathroom can be picked up again once you BOTH exit the bathroom.

23: Never allow a telephone conversation with a woman to go on longer than you are able to have sex with her. Keep a stopwatch by the phone. Hang up if necessary.

24: The morning after you and a girl who was formerly "just a friend" have carnal drunken monkey sex, the fact that you're feeling weird and guilty is no reason for you not to nail each other again before the discussion about what a big mistake it was occurs.

25: It is acceptable for you to drive her car. It is not acceptable for
her to drive yours.

26: Thou shall not buy a car in the colors of brown, pink, lime green,
orange or sky blue.

27: The girl who replies to the question "What do you want for
Christmas?" with "If you loved me, you'd know what I want!" gets an Xbox. End of story.

28: There is no reason for guys to watch Ice Skating or Men's

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

The funniest Blonde joke EVER

Okay, I'm not usually into Blonde jokes, but this one's the best ever!

Just click here

Father Dan: The Funniest Blonde Joke Ever - Bet Me!


Wouldn't you know it!

I make the mistake of mentioning Vox Day in my last post, and he puts a link to it... And of course, rather than being one of my deep insightful posts, or one of humorous ones, it's just a collection of random events happening in my life.

Good thing I don't ache for respect among the online viewing public.

In an amusing note, he blamed my social programming on public schooling. Now THAT'S damn funny!


Sunday, February 19, 2006

The State of the... Well, not Union... The State of Jess!

Well, times are interesting…

I met a gorgeous girl at work last night. But alas, she came in right after I was done for the night, so she didn’t see me onstage. I have as yet to get a date in my life who hadn’t seen me onstage, first. It’s 99% of my mojo. She asked for my number, and said she’ll call. Hmm… I’m not holding my breath on that one!

On the other hand, I did get a valentine this year – two actually. One was an online valentine, which was nice. And the other was sent by a female friend who’d read on one of my MySpace quizzes that I’d never gotten a valentine.

Aw, shucks. It made me blush. But then, I’m Irish. I turn red for any reason, and sometimes no reason at all.

I’ve been struggling to find work for a couple of months now, and suddenly I’ve been inundated with job offers. Now I have to decide whether it’s time to move again… I hate decisions. In college, I was given the choice of three majors. I chose them all (hence my four-year degree taking six years!). That’s how my mind works. I don’t think that’s going to be feasible, this time. Why can’t we have cloning yet?

I’ve been trying a new workout strategy. On the one hand, it’s working magnificently; I’ve added about 15 lbs. in the last month, and mostly I like how I’m looking. On the other hand, I’ve got a bit of a belly. Not much, and nobody else would see it as such, but I like having a six pack. Maybe I should just settle for a keg.

So I was at the gym, and this Avril Lavigne video was on the TV while I was running. It’s a song all about how she’s not going to put out, so she’s pissed at her boyfriend for trying to get some. Okay, I can deal with that. But the whole video was her following this guy around telling him how much she doesn’t want him or need him, and he’s ignoring her the whole time. He walks from her apartment downstairs, walks out into the street, and the whole time she’s following him… Seemed kinda against the point of the song, to me.

On other topics, I’ve been reading a lot of the online columnist Vox Day. Although I think he confuses correlation with causation much of the time, I really can’t argue with a lot of his observations. One of his favorite topics is feminism. The gut reaction I have is totally opposite his views; however, every life experience I’ve had says that he is right. I’m still digesting this one. He’s a completely sexist guy, but every time I think that he’s saying something completely unfair, I can’t provide any memories or experiences to the contrary.

If you’re interested in some thought provoking (and probably quite offensive) thoughts on this topic, here’s some reading by him and another online columnist named Mike Adams.

On the topic of academia, and where it’s headed in America (short answer, Hell in a politically motivated handbasket), here’s a couple of more articles.

And speaking of politically motivated handbaskets, a couple people have emailed me asking for substantiation of my claims that our government’s long-prophesied descent into Big Brotherness is in full throttle, well…,0,2557329.story?coll=la-news-comment-editorials

There are some areas of life that are getting better, and I don’t want to sound like a complete pessimist. Technology, medicine, longevity, quality of life are all at a peak in America, more than any other place I know of at any other time in history. Opportunities still abound in virtually infinite areas of life to pursue what you want to do, who you want to be. Racism, though still alive, is definitely getting weaker with every passing decade.

On the downside, I also see signs of societal decay;

1) Our schools are an utter failure, and getting worse, not better. I see no possible way of saving them without scrapping the entire system.
2) Our society is becoming more socialist, despite the failure of every socialist scheme that’s ever been attempted. Our medical system, the most advanced in the world due to free-market innovation, is rapidly becoming more and more socialized, and I anticipate complete socialization of it within 15 years.
3) People are no longer truly cognizant of the price and privilege of real freedom, and despite our history, we are quite possibly within one or two generations of losing the vast majority of our freedoms, willingly handed over in the name of security.
4) We stand on the brink of financial ruin, both as a government, and individually. Fiscal responsibility is sneered at.
5) We’re destroying our environment, and making no real effort to change direction. From global warming to water pollution to depletion of oil, coal and forest, we’re living at unsustainable levels.

So, are we headed up, or down? My answer is yes. The optimist in me believes that we can overcome any obstacle thrown at us. The only question is; at what cost? The longer we wait, the higher the bill is going to be.

That’s why I plan on taking over the world as Supreme and Benevolent Dictator. Won’t you join my party? I guarantee kickbacks, lavish lifestyles, and much corruption at the highest levels!


Monday, January 30, 2006

No, really, I'm a Christian...

I’m a Christian. I believe the Bible teaches truth. I believe that Jesus is the Son of God, and came to redeem us from the spiritual penalty of our sin.

I thought I’d start with that, because most Christians would believe the rest of this blog is atheistic and immoral.

What our current administration (and indeed, the “Religious Right” all across America) doesn’t seem to realize is that “Freedom of Religion” also requires freedom from religion. Separation of Church and State must be absolute, or it is meaningless.

Our Congress and Judicial system is giving Bush unbelievable powers and authority – and the American Public seems to feel this is okay, because they trust him. Whether that trust is deserved is irrelevant; what happens when that power goes to someone that you don’t trust? This is why Washington refused to be a King. The power and authority must go with the office, not the man.

By the same token, we are currently a majority Protestant Christian. What happens if that ceases to be the case? If the majority of Americans 40 years from now are Muslim, does that mean we should all have to follow Islamic law?

I was raised to believe (not by my parents, necessarily; more by the churches I attended in my youth) that Christianity is under attack everywhere in America. That freedom of religion was being threatened, and that soon we’d all be forced to worship in secret, and persecuted if we professed a belief in God.

Then I actually looked at the real world. People who call themselves Christian are really the only ones doing the persecuting - not exactly something you find a lot of in Christ’s example. Take “Prayer in School” – there’s nothing against students, or even teachers praying. But what the churches want is to have everybody joining in a group prayer together. Why? Where does group prayer fit in with academia? For that matter, what kind of prayer do you want? What level of interaction do you believe the Holy Spirit has with our world? I know Catholic prayers all seem to rhyme. Pentecostals believe that God (and Satan) takes a very physical role in our world – I remember the time I saw a group of pastors trying to cast Satan out of the carburetor of the Youth Group Minivan (it broke down on the way to a youth group outing). Apparently, their faith wasn’t as strong as the mechanic who ended up having to fix it.

So should we have a Baptist prayer, and a Catholic prayer, and a LDS prayer, and a…? No, it’s quite ridiculous when you stop the rhetoric and actually think about it. If several students choose to get together and pray, I know of no teacher or principal who’d stop them, as long as it wasn’t interfering with the regular school events.

People ask me why I get so incensed with the ID situation. After all, I don’t believe in out current Public School system anyway, and furthermore, I’m a musician, not a biologist. Well, here’s the problem; I don’t think people should be lied to. Especially not in our schools. And the whole “controversy” about evolution is a lie. Plain and simple. I hear a lot of “teach the controversy” and “have a balanced view” and “show the other side.” But in science, there often isn’t another side.

I won’t bother trying to debunk ID here – I’ve said a few objections to it, and you can find far more reasoned and exacting arguments from others online, such as PZ Myers. But the truth is not what we’ve been taught. To scientists, evolution is not a controversy. It’s not a “what if” or even a “maybe.” Contrary to what I was told by the churches growing up, there are no “missing links” in our fossil records. We have virtually a complete fossil record showing development from single celled organisms through millions of years of change, leading up to humans. There’s not even a missing link from early primates to humans. All the things I was told were “unexplainable by science” are one by one being explained by science – from how bumblebees fly to the development of the eye.

There are controversies within evolution. But the theory itself? The bedrock of all modern biology. And students have a right to know this! We don’t “teach the controversy” of Flat Earth versus Round Earth. We’d be aghast if medical schools taught both sides “the four humors” versus our current understanding of organ and tissue function.

Another argument I often hear is that the majority of Americans believe in ID, so it should be taught in school. How many ignorant people does it take before believing falsehood becomes reality? If every American believed that babies come from storks, should it be taught in school?

For that matter, how about sex education? The current rationale seems to be that if you keep kids ignorant, they won’t want to have sex. News flash; kids don’t want to have sex because they hear about it from their teachers (if anything, that’s a turn-off!). They want to have sex because of their hormones. And they need to be taught what’s effective, what’s not, and why.

We are just a few years (perhaps less than one year) from having a vaccine that protects from HPV. The problem? It’s most effective when administered around age 10. I will be amazed if parents will allow their kids to be inoculated against an STD – despite the fact that it’s one of the fastest spreading ones, often has no outward symptoms, and is killing women by the thousands. That will have nothing to do with it; people will say that if they vaccinate their kids against an STD, they’re encouraging their kids to have pre and extramarital sex.

For that matter, while I’m spouting heresy, let me spout another one. In general, Monogamy doesn’t work. Neither does Celibacy. The churches are quick to expound on this subject over and over again, but what they’re not willing to say is the statistics. By the most optimistic studies, marriages are monogamous 20% of the time. And before you ladies say it’s always the man that cheats, consider this; a recent DNA study in Britain found that at least 4% of kids have a different dad than who the mother claimed was the father. That’s one in 25. Oh, I should mention – that’s of married women.

Can marriage work? Yes. Can it be monogamous? Yes. But the truth is that most people are not mature enough, self-sacrificing enough, and careful enough to enter into a marriage only when it’s the absolute right thing to do. It’s like a music career – it can be done, and it can be successful. But it’s a rare thing.

I remember being told by a Youth Pastor that if our hormones were uncontrollable, we needed to get married so we wouldn’t be sinning. Even at age 14 I thought that sounded like bullshit.

What does the Bible really teach? When you get down to it, what it really talks about is sin being physical and emotional harm. How there are emotional, spiritual and physical consequences to our actions. All the rest? If you look at it carefully, every single thing the Bible defines as a sin would have caused harm in the time in which it was written. And we see change even from the Old Testament to the New. I don’t think God changed, I don’t think the nature of Sin did; I think that society and technology changed, and thus, what caused harm did.

And it’s still changing. I see no point in trying to live 2,000 years ago. The Bible is not about Fact; it’s about Truth. There’s a difference. Do I believe that the Earth is 6,000 years old? No. My faith is not so weak that I have to take that literally. Nor do I have to pull a plank out of my eye before getting a speck out of a friend’s. I have never tried to change the geology of a mountainous region with my faith.

What I can do is try to take responsibility for my actions. I can try to do no harm to others, and do as much good as possible. I can try to live a life that is about showing love to others in every way that I can, every chance that I can. And for that, I need no organized prayer in school. I need no religious tone to my learning process. In fact, I need no organized religion of any sort for that.

If churches took all the money spent denying evolution… And all the money spent trying to get religion “back” into the schools… And all the money spent trying to get “God back into our Government”… And just spent it helping those in need…. If the Christians transferred all the time and effort preaching about sin, and condemnation… And all the time telling people which denomination actually holds the truth… And all the time telling people what they should be doing in their private lives… And spent all that time making the world a cleaner, healthier place…

Then Christianity would transform the world, make a real and lasting change… and become a force so powerful that none could deny it. To me, that seems much more like something God cares about, rather than whether or not there’s a statue of the Ten Commandments in front of the Courthouse.

More on this topic later. But not today.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Back in the Saddle again...

Well, hi, everybody!

For those who didn't know, I was out of town for a few weeks. I was supposed to be gone for a couple of days, but then I got another gig, then another one...

I ended up playing in California for a week straight, at the Gold Country Casino. They loved me there, and I get to play there one week of each month. That should take care of my immediate bills.

After that gig, I flew back to Vegas, and then a few hours later flew out to Texas.

The Texas trip was a blast - I got to play for my old church, and then I got to jam with my Grandad - "Paw-Paw" (one of the world's best banjo players), my grandma - "Nana" and my step-dad Robbie, and my nephew Zachary. Family jam sessions are the most fun, I think.

The trip was a complete flop when it came to seeing exes... I was supposed to see Anna, and she ended up bailing on me. I was going on a date with Tina (not really an ex, but we did date), but I lost her number. I got ahold of Andrea, and she really didn't want to see me. Maggie (also not an ex, we did date once) had her kids to work around, and scheduling didn't work out there.

As it was, there were just too many people to see anyway... I didn't end up having the time to see Bob and June, or Jonathan and Michelle. I know too many damn Texans!

But it was great to see Katie, and Caleb, and my family, and my old church members (all the choir!)... I need to visit again soon.

I got back a week or two ago - haven't been working any, so I've become obsessed with recording. For some reason, I'm in a Country mood, and I've gotten about 4 songs ready to send to Jonathan, whose job it is to turn mediocrity into genius, for which I can then take credit.

Great to have talented friends.

Anyway, I'll quit neglecting my blog now. I'll keep it updated.

Whatdya mean, you've read that on here before?