A blog whereby I motivate myself, and my readers, to punch me in the mouth.

  "Punchworthy feeds our deepest Freudian wishes!" --Entertainment

  "The consumate rocker's rocker. Charming, personable... a sucking void of inescapable inner turmoil."

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

"?!" -- The Universal Language

Surprise and total confusion is the universal language.

Love, contrary to popular opinion, is a distant second.

This probably has a lot to do with the way that different cultures, historically speaking, have first encountered each other.

The Vikings tried to combine the two--a valiant effort--but all they got out of it was a bad reputation.

For more information on surprise and total confusion, please see: Interrobang
...or visit a state or federal government-produced website of your choosing, to experience the language firsthand.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

where do we go now?

In the words of The Poet..

Where do we go? ..where do we go now?
Where do we go-o? ..where do we go now?
Where do we go now?

I-yi-yi-yi-yi-yi-yi-yi-wheredo we go now!?

N-I-yi-I-yi-I-yi-ow I-yi-I-yi-I-iyow!!...

Ok. So those aren't the words of The Poet. It's just Axl Rose. What can I say? I was not raised on the classics.

But the question, regardless of its source, is still valid. Where do we go now?

Now, in these uncertain times. Times when Greg packs it up and heads to the big El P.. times when our children are seperated, 3 hours, from grandparents who--in a word--rock (HARDER THAN OZZY!!!). (it doesn't count as words if it's parenthetical)

Times when Brant has gone off the spool and started living a lifestyle that is even more consistent with his convictions than it was before.. with the home churching and the home schooling and the other home-things of that nature...

Times when fair-trade coffee and free-range chicken and a host of other nouns with hypenated adjective qualifiers begin to surround our heads like a swarm of buzzing bees.. when social conciousness and personal faith and the general conviction that life, as we know it, as we live it, is not being lived right.. where do we go now!?


(man, would that be a good band name!)

Well.. I'm not exactly sure. I think that I would like to buy some land, get a few chickens, a big vegetable garden... perhaps some minnow ponds.. set up a little goat and sheep farming operation. Maybe have some calves. I would like to engage in a little lifestyle that I call "Subsistence + 1 (or possibly + 2)." ... where we raise quite a bit of our own food, and then add in just enough to sell a little, off the farm. Which, in combination with my copywriting, and music playing, and painting jobs, and maybe still a "regular" part-time job, and Deb doing some CPA-ing out of the house or whatever.. yields enough income, from diverse enough sources, that we're just like.. you know.. hangin' out and chillin' and livin' the life and whatnot.

I would also like to be able to set up a duck decoy making operation with my dad. And possibly run a weekend freshwater fish restaurant.

These are just some things that could be the answer to "where do we go now?"

Or, alternatively, we could jump the CU ship and head down to WPB with the Brantster. Since we can't comment on his blog anymore, maybe we could just pop over to his house occassionally for BLT's or sumthin'.

We could go with Greg, and bust out the New Church thingy with his family .. Out in the West Texas town of El Paso... Marty Robbins, eat your heart out.

Or maybe, as my dad said this weekend, his home congregation will get too big to expand anymore, and instead of dumping a bunch of precious resources into some stupid building (my words, not his), they'll just take a bunch of people, drive over to Nauvoo, and set up a new shop--as close as possible to the foot of the behemouth Mormon temple. And maybe we'll go help. That'd be kind of cool, wouldn't it?

You know what else? Dad & the elders (at that church.. this is not another band name) are reading through "They Smell Like Sheep", and dad is really digging it. He tells me that this shepherd model really seems like the way to go. Sure, it's great to have a building, an organization, a "program".. but, you know, their benevolence ministry just put tires on some family's van so that they could take their kid to Iowa City for an operation. They're helping people they don't even know! And it's awesome. He's on a one-man subversive mission to slowly turn their entire congregation into contributing members of society. It's so cool.
: ] It's so cool, it almost makes me want to go join him! Be subversive alongside my dad. That would be so cool.

So.. anyway.. sorry to string you along (that is, if you thought there was going to be an answer to that question). I don't have an answer. But I can't help but feel that we are going to "go" somewhere--even if we don't really go anywhere.

But hey.. isn't that what we were asked to do in the first place?

Friday, March 17, 2006

short skirt. long jacket.

I am touring the facility, and picking up slack.


Snakes in the Playground

Mark sent me a sampler disk of old Christian metal bands.

All the regulars from back in the day are there... Shout, Ken Tamplin, Ken Tamplin in other bands, other bands that Ken Tamplin produced so they sound exactly like Ken Tamplin/Shout..

Bloodgood, Whitecross, Deliverance, Sacred Warrior, X-Sinner, Stryper.. (hey! what are they doing in there!?)..

But the hands down winner of this past-life musical romp? Bride.

Oh yeah, Baby.. Bride's still got it going on!

Their contribution is "Psychadelic Super Jesus" from the Snakes in the Playground album. And it flat-out SMOKES. If I were riding along today, listening to the radio, and this song came on--as a new release--I would crank it up, jam it out, and then call the radio station to ask them to play it again.. tell me who it was.. and tell me where they lived so that I could have a pizza delivered to them.


Speaking of Bride... Troy Thompson, the guitar player, used to play an orange Gretch through a Mesa stack.

I have an orange guitar... : ]]

Scott has a Mesa.


The guitar, blessedly, is back from the shop. And it, like Bride, SMOKES. mmm.. smo-ky...

The tube situation got worse. Turned out I had TWO baddies.. but the continuingly awesome Bob at Eurotubes is sending me two replacement tubes.

We are going to rock this town. We are going to rock it inside out.

Oh yeah.

Monday, March 13, 2006

New Tube Report: Day.. uh..

Alright, so I've lost track of the days.

The good news is, I reported my experience to Bob at Eurotubes, and this is what he had to say:

Hi John:

Tubes are archaic little beasts by nature and although it is rare, once in a while a preamp tube will fail or become microphonic even after all the testing I do. I will ship you a replacement immediately and you will not have to return the bad one. This is my warranty policy. Sorry for the inconvenience


So you've got to like that, right? I think so.

In other good news, this afternoon I'm going to run over to Corson's and pick up my guitar! Woot!



Re: Conditions in men's bathroom, 5th floor

We would like to make all users of the men's bathroom on the 5th floor aware of our new operating policy. In accordance with the terms of our contract with HELL, Inc., LLC, the ambient temperature and relative humidity in the men's room will be kept at no less than 80 degrees farenheit and 97%, respectively.

Says Mr. B. Elzebub, CEO of HELL, Inc, "We here at HELL are very pleased with the terms of our new partnership with Building Services. Particularly the environmental conditions specified for the restrooms, which, in addition to being a lovely place for our field agents to spend moments of quiet relaxation, will also prove useful in our attempts to create a serum-resistant super-virus, capable of spreading like wildfire, producing tremendous physical suffering, and, hopefully, eventually resulting in the destruction of the entire human race. Our previous attempts to produce this viral strain, wherein we poured a combination of hog droppings and spent uranium into the heart of a live volcano, did not provide the optimal conditions so graciously provided by our new associates."

For more information regarding the cooperative relationship between Building Services and HELL, please contact us using the information provided below, or go directly to htpp:\\www.hell.com.


Building Services
Tel Ext: 666
email: bs @ hell . com

Saturday, March 11, 2006

New Tube Report: Day 2

Turn it up, Dude!

After a few more hours of tube burning, I put the Delta with the JJ's through the paces again. Everything was about the same.. possibly a bit better.. until I turned it up. At which point it got MUCH better!

Push a little juice through this thing now--post-gain anywhere past 10 o'clock--and you've got yourself some beautiful, crisp tone. If you push the mids up, you get a nice "box" Vox sound. The frequencies are so much more well-defined than they were. I am very pleased.

I also played with my possibly-microphonic pre-amp section for a while. If you turn the amp all the way up, even with no guitar connected, it quickly starts to make a feedback-like "singing" noise.

With the tubes well-heated, I gently tapped eached tube with my fingernail. The pre-amp tube in position 1 (the farthest from the power tubes) sounds almost like a bell when you do this, and immediately starts in with the "singing". Once this has been done, you can also make the tube in position 2 "tong!" slightly. And you can also bring back the singing by tapping the leftmost two power tubes. With the amp turned almost all the way up, you can get this same noise (after you've badgered it for a while) just by putting your hands close to the tubes! Like feedback on a microphone.

I experimented first with swapping the position 1 & 2 pre-amp tubes. This seems to calm the "problem" tube down quite a bit. But doesn't make the issue go away. In fact, it seems to make the power tubes more succeptible to ringing. : [

Secondly, I tried swapping out JJ pre-amp tubes, one at a time, with the Chinese 12ax7s that I am replacing. They may not be much on tone, but those CN tubes are dead quiet. Still, when you put the problem JJ in line w/ the Chinese tubes, the JJ still rings.

Today I am burning the JJ's in for several more hours, but I'm not expecting a change. The good news is, I love the way the tubes sound, and I can't wait (I keep saying that, don't I?) to get the new speakers in it, and try the whole deal with the 1500. The bad news is, I think, that I'm going to need a replacement for this one tube. Guess it's time to email Bob at Eurotubes and see what he has to say!

Anybody have experience with microphonic tubes? Bill..? Kirk..? Am I right in my thinking here?

Friday, March 10, 2006

New Tube Report: Day 1

I got the JJ's!

(for those non-tube people out there, I'm referring to the vacuum tubes for my guitar amp, which are made by a company called "JJ".. not some kind of affliction. Like, "I got the jimmy-legs!!")

So last night I installed them. For the record, I took out a quad of Sovteks EL84s and three Chinese-made 12ax7s.

I replaced them with a matched quad of JJ EL84s, two of the JJ equivalent of a standard 12ax7, and, for the "distortion" position pre-amp tube, a higher-current JJ 12ax7 variant.

The idea was to smooth out the distortion channel, add a little jangle, and warm up the clean channel.

Of course, they haven't been properly burned in yet, but here's my initial impression:

Clean channel -- Wowee wow wow! Sounds like a totally different amp. The clean channel, which I have avoided on pretty much every amp I've ever owned, now sounds so nice that I actually want to play it. Very warm. Nice round bottom-end and chimey highs. Very balanced.

Lead channel -- Better than it was. The lead tone is definitely a LOT smoother.. the question remains as to whether or not that's a "good" thing.. what with my tendencies to rip it up and all, but I'm working it out. : ]

The mids are definitely a lot tighter and very well-defined.

My main concerns at this point (again, they aren't burned in yet, which is why this is "Day 1") are the extreme bottom and top ends. The bottom, while it is a lot tighter, is a little less defined than it was. Not quite as much of an edge or "pop" down there in the lower register. Very round. Would sound excellent in a bass amp, but I don't know about in a guitar amp. And the treble can actually achieve almost painful levels. There's "chimey" and then there's "Ow! Ow! Make it quit that!" Of course, I can just roll the treble down a bit and rectify that, but I want to make sure that the tubes are performing as they ought to, not just mask any issue.

Overall: You can tell, even taking them out of the box, that the JJs are lovingly manufactured. A really nice tube. As far as overall sound, they are quieter than the sovtek/china mix, and produce a much more solid, stereophonic sound.

I will keep burning them in, tweaking the amp, and trying different guitars (can't wait to get the 1500 back!). I didn't get a chance to really crank the amp up, which I'm sure will also effect overall performance. I will probably also buy and install my replacement speakers, which will open a whole new sonic realm. If I determine that the JJs have something wrong with them, I'll get a replacement set from Bob at Eurotubes, who appears to be a good guy. If not, and I still haven't quite nailed that "right sound", I'll probably try a little mix-n-match. Like maybe putting the Sovtek power tubes back in with the JJ pre's.

I'll let you know how it's going!

I should have seen this coming

It's finally happened. Someone has exploded in the bathroom.

I never did find a body, but there's certainly enough raw material avialable to make my explanation perfectly plausible.

I don't mind so much, in this case, them not cleaning up after themselves. Having recently exploded, that would be a lot to expect of them.

It's all very sad, really. And the fact that building management has seen fit to keep the ambient temperature and relative humidity in the bathroom at a level one can usually only experience in the equatorial jungle.. also very unpleasant.

It reminds me of when, back in high school, I worked a couple summers for a guy who raised sheep. One time, about mid-august, a sheep managed to crawl into a small, tin shed in the middle of the barn lot. And then die there. And then--probably about mid-day--to explode.

I should have seen this coming.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

"In your ear" (a performance strategy)*


Go on and take a minute
and get yourself a beer.
You're probably gonna need it
now that I'm sittin' up here.

There's nothin' wrong with liquor
& you just might need some cheer.
If nothing else, to drown my singin'
you can pour it in your ear!

(drawl to taste. repeat until appropriately soused.)

(perform song or songs, preferably well done.)


Go on and take a minute;
get yourself another beer.
Maybe you still think you need it
even though I'm done up here.

And if you still don't like my singin'
when you've finished off that glass,
I'd like to recommend you kindly
stick.. it.. in.. your..

* This strategy not recommended in venues with chicken wire.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

missing everything

you gotta be humble
for the things you can't do.
you're probably not good enough
probably not even good.
& some things are terrible
you'll be terrified.
& some things are better, some things are worse
held inside.

i drove by your old house today
& it looked fine.
it looked a lot better
back when you were inside
& some things are terrible
& you're terrified.
somethings are better, some things are worse
if you keep them inside--i can't keep them inside.

I miss everything so bad.
I miss everything, even things I never had.
I miss the nothing that I couldn't do.
I miss the way it was. I wish it were more
like you.

you know we're all like magnets
we stick then repel
& scatter like compass points
halfway to hell.
& some things are terrible
& we're terrified.
some things are better, but some things are worse
if you hold them inside

I miss everything so bad.
I miss everything, even things I never had.
Do you remember when nothing, was what I couldn't do?
I miss the way it was. I wish it were more
more like you.

I miss everything so bad.
I miss everything, even things I never had.
Do you remember when nothing, was what we couldn't do?
I miss the way it was. I wish it were more
I wish it were more

but you gotta be humble
for the things you can't do.
I miss the way it was. I wish it were more.
I miss the way it was
I miss you.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

On Massachusetts, and the founding of the country.

<-- actual size

This is a rough transcript of a conversation that I had with my friend, Dave, wherein I educated him about the geographical history of both his home state and some of the other states, as well.

As a fairly new resident of the Northeast, hailing from the deep south, I know that Dave appreciated this greatly. It's important to understand the area in which you live, and how it relates to your own historic geographical roots.

I apologize for some of the language, but apparently our founding fathers (or me and Dave; I refuse to admit to anything specific) were a little loose with the dialogue. I assume it's because ladies weren't allowed in the early exploration parties, and the boys got all rough around the edges without someone there to keep them in line.

Except that Sacajawea chick, and everybody knows she could cuss a blue streak.

And now, about Massachusetts...

It's one of those tiny original states. Back when they were making them small, because they didn't understand that the country would extend beyond the horizon. Where they came from, the horizon was the boundry for France.

The U.S. map always reminds me of how, when you were a little kid, you'd draw a picture of a house or something. And you'd start in one corner of the roof drawing these tiny, precise shingles. And then by about halfway through, each shingle suddenly became 4x6', because, damn!, it was going to take ALL DAY to shingle that thing!

I think the same thing happened with the states. By the time they got across the continent to Texas, they were just like, "What the hell ever! It's smaller than Mexico--let it ride!"

Early settler: "What shape do we want this state to be?"

1795: "...from the Pawkowpy river to the foothills of the Fragaleny Mtns, and then along the 37th parallel to..."

1895: "BIG SQUARE. go."

The great plains helped with this process. Over in the East, they were like, "Okay, just go until you hit a natural boundry.. river, mountains.. tree..." Then, when they got out into the plains, they tried that same crap and found out it didn't fly.

Little known fact: The western border of Montana was decided by an antelope sighting... "I saw something sticking up out of the grass! Mark it down! Mark it down!"

In Massachusetts, they could be all, "Go til you hit a tree and then turn left." Not so much in say.. Kansas.

In the Southeast, you went until you hit an ocean, a blood-thirsty Spaniard, or a mosquito bigger than the smallest person in your party.

If the average hight of a man in 1750 hadn't been 4' 8", the northern border of Mississippi would've been 150 miles further south.

I hope you all enjoyed this educational hike through our country's development. Next time: The founding fathers try to figure out what's up with that dude that uses the bathroom before me. They do not get it, either.

Monday, March 06, 2006

can't wait!

I took the new guitar in to Corson's on Saturday. I can't hardly wait to go pick it up.

I'm having them tweak the one rattle-y bridge saddle, raise the action, switch the string guage from 11 to 10.5, install some strap locks, and, if possible, put a little more throw in the Bigsby.

Also, I ordered a full set of JJ's for the Delta, which should be here in a day or two!

And I've got a line on a used replacement speaker for the Delta, as well. They run about $90 new, and I should be able to get this gently-used one for a little more than half of that. Then I'm just one speaker away from being completely done with my amp mods, and a half-sheet of plywood away from having a 2x10" extension cabinet for it.

After that, I think I'm looking at a pedal or two to complete the set up, and then I will be completely and totally outfitted! I mean.. I'm totally outfitted now, but this will be a much better version of the same thing.

I like doing something good. Good is good. I'll let you know how it turns out.

a "new" way of doing church

I've talked some, on this blog, and more extensively to some of you individually, about a new way of doing church. A new way of doing life, in general.

Today on the Shawn Groves blog, there is a link to an article that just appeared in TIME magazine about this new way of doing church. (which is, of course, not new at all--but you know what I mean)


I strongly recommend clicking through to the TIME article, itself, as well as to the blogged response to the article.

We're going to figure out how to have true participatory community before this is through. I honestly believe the Spirit is working directly through believers all over the world, urging us toward this life of fellowship.

Pretty dang cool.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

a bit of a dilemma

I have a dilemma. (shortly after beginning this post, I realized I had a second dilemma--I did not know how to spell "dilemma." But that's cleared up now.)

In 1999, I moved from Nashville, TN --"Music City"... to Champaign, IL--"The Middle of Nowhere."

This in itself, surprisingly, is not the dilemma.

The dilemma (yes, I'm going to stop using it here in a second) is that part of my reason for moving to Champaign.. a large part, actually.. was that there is at least some kind of music scene here. (The rest of the state of Illinois, excepting Chicago, can make no such claim.) But.. I am not involved in it. At all.

In the last ..oh, dear Lord.. the last six years.. I have seen two bands play. Unless you count the band I was briefly in and the bands we opened for at our total of two "concerts"--in that case, it's five bands.

For the non-math majors in the crowd, that comes out to less than one band PER YEAR.

I should've known.. really. I was only kidding myself. I lived in Nashville for seven years. I went there.. "Music City".. to pursue music, specifically. I went to a prestigious university with a famous music business program. I met and rubbed elbows with the industry elite.

I turned down development deals and showcases. I saw maybe a dozen bands play--including ones that I was playing with--in seven years. That's all it took for me to get hurt, disillusioned, give up, and come home.

So really, seriously, who was I kidding?

But anyway.. enough of that.

Here I am. I'm sitting on what is really, really a decent little music scene. It has really taken off in the last couple years. And I want in.

I don't necessarily want to go charging in (oh yeah, I know we were all worried about that. I'm a charger! I charge!).. but I'm thinking that I need to start at least.. oh.. I don't know... SHOWING UP. Like.. at shows. In venues. Possibly.. with at least an open mind to the idea that I might get a wild hair and actually meet and participate with other musician-type people in some kind of music-making activities.

So the dilemma is this: How?

All the shows are late. Crazy-late. Like.. college dorm style late. With start times sometimes post-8pm. (!) And I'm not just going to go hanging out on my own late at night in campus town.

! Not because I'm a scaredy-cat!! .. I will flat kick the pants off the first jerk who gives me lip, and don't you doubt it! I didn't learn how to bend arms behind heads for no reason, Junior!

..but the part where I drive to places I've never been to and try to find parking makes me feel kind of funny in my tummy... : -p

And.. in addition to being too big a wuss to drive around campus... it costs money. Which, of course, I'm not scared to spend. I just don't have any.

Then there's the issue of my kids. I have 3 kids. They cannot stay home alone. Yes, they have a mother, but a.) because I like her, and b.) because she's better at driving in town than me.. I'd kinda like to take her along. (She's my hangin' out buddy. We hang out. We like it. We understand it's abnormal, this "liking to hang out with your spouse" thing. But we do. So get over it.)

So the best thing I can figure out is this: We're going to have to set aside a little money. And I'm going to have to find someone who is willing to come and either sleep overnight or at least hang out really late at my house about once a week.. or maybe once every two weeks. Let's not get all crazy just yet..

I know I'm lame. I'm a 33 year-old guy who just wants to do a little something with himself, though. And this is my thing. In the past, I have been so fortunate to be able to work and play with some brilliant, brilliant, talented, driven musicians. They have held me up, drug me along, and generally allowed me to ride their coat-tails and look good. (Apparently, I am really good at riding and lookin' pretty.) Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying I don't have any skills. I can rock it out quite a bit given the opportunity. But to this point I've kind of been the Jim McMahon of my own musical career.. cavorting around behind the line in my dark shades, letting the big guys crush the competition and picking my shots. I'm not that lucky anymore. I'm playing 3rd string for Green Bay and complaining that, gee Coach, I'd really love to get in there and bust out a dazzling display of my former glory.. but this new jock strap is really chafing me something fierce..

So I'm embracing my lameness. I'm making a plan. I've stopped expecting something to just magically happen that will do for me all the things that I've had done in the past. I'm going to try and grow up a little, and just go do something.

But I've still got a bit of a dilemma. Consider this a cry for help. Or at least an open call for suggestions or assistance. Know anybody who wants to come hang out at my house occassionally? It shouldn't be that hard to run them down once they realize that I'm not going to be here while they are, and I'm probably getting broadband internet service. Also, the kids will probably be in bed by the time they get here. And I'll.. cut their hair.. or something. I can paint.. I'm good with my hands..

worship retreat

Back in January, we had our annual Windsor Road Christian Church Worship Ministry retreat.

Deb and I dropped out kids off at my wonderful inlaws, and took off across the state for a day and a half of semi-religious contemplation, mingling, and two honest-to-goodness dates.

Now, I know that sounds like a pretty good time, but somehow.. this year just didn't quite do it for me.

Maybe it was because it was right after the holidays. Usually, that would be a good thing, but for Christmas this year, I wrecked my car and had to buy a new one. So the holidays weren't very restful, and I was just kinda edgy and stressed out.

But I don't think that's why it was, really.

Really, I think it was that this is the first year since Simmons got here that I haven't really been "involved" in the worship ministry.

Starting several months ago, while I was in college, I started lightening up on my worship band duties. I was already down to 1 Sunday per month (in accordance with my "say 'no' to everything" policy), and when classes started to pressure me, I just sorta bowed out entirely.
Mike, thankfully, was cool with that.

Then after I got done with classes, I just never started back up again with the worship band. I really wanted to spend some time focusing on my "big three" of Family, Friends, and Writing. And again, thankfully, Mike was cool with that.

And so I kind of got into this relationship with the music ministry where it doesn't bother me and I don't bother it. If they need someone to walk in of a Sunday morn' and blast out some tunes, or throw in a harmony vocal, I'm all about it. All Mike has to do is get on the horn and I'll throw my gear in the car. Whoosh!

But I think it didn't do me much good when it came to having an impactful weekend with the worship ministry team.

I'm not sure if that means I need to get in, or if I need to get out. Or maybe if I just need to get over... : ]

But it was something that I meant to share a couple months back. And now I have.

As a general disclaimer/report/critique: The retreat itself was great. The people are all wonderful, the food was good, the music lovely. There were some really good times of prayer and sharing, and we got to spend some quality time with some people that we usually just don't hang out with very much.

So.. it wasn't the retreat's fault. It was definitely mine. Maybe next year..?

Friday, March 03, 2006

friday update

I am feeling a lot better, though still pretty stuffed up. However, things like playing the guitar are beginning to sound appealing again. Which means that I need to get the new guitar down to Corson's for a tune-up, so that it will be more pleasing to play with.

I have to remember to go to bed and rest this weekend, even though I'm feeling better. Otherwise I won't be.

Deb is still working on getting all signed up for classes. Because of her online stuff, there's an outside chance we'll be getting a high-speed internet connection. I don't *want* to pay for that.. on the other hand, I would *love* to have it. ..and really, I can pay for it with one big painting job. So feel free to hire me for one, so I can become an online menace.

We've been helping Matthew construct a pinewood derby car, and it's actually kind of enjoyable.

I think that's enough of an update. Now you know I'm not dead. Maybe this weekend I'll write something more substantive, if it doesn't cut into my sleeping time.