Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Staying Stronger

How do you stay strong?

When you mind is full of memories and you want a do over.
When your body gives way to time.
When someone you love is sick and growing sicker?

How do you believe?

When your faith is tested and is graded an F?
When your hero is revealed to be a sham.
When you've been lied to.

How do you keep moving forward?

When you don't want to know what's around the corner.

You might medicate.
But you won't feel better when the medicine wears off.
You'll be the same, feel the same, struggle the same---except with more lines around your eyes.

You might follow a guru.
And if she's magical, give her my number.
But she's probably not.

You might turn it over to God.
But what does that really mean in pragmatic terms?
That you believe that something you can't see, feel or touch
in a context provided by gurus, chieftains and ancient texts?

If it works for you, this might be a good solution.
For me it's just an infinite series of unanswerable questions.

Death.  There I said it.

Can you face it?

I want to turn and see it, but not embrace it.
I want to be strong.
I want to be able to cope when my parents are dying.
Or God forbid---my children are dying.
I want to feel good as my body is aging.
I want fewer regrets.

So I'm going to write about it.
I'm going to work out even though I don't want to.
I'm going to try to only eat what really nourishes me.
I'm going to keep my mind as sharp as it can be sharpened.

I'm going to muster faith---as much as my heart will tolerate.
I'm going to simplify.
I'm not going to be a Democrat or a Republican or a Liberal or a Conservative or any other stupid label.
Life is too short for that crap.

Damnit, I'm going to be strong.
And I'm not going to be selfish.
And---by God--- I'm never going to eat shellfish.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Living like great-grandpa

Tarynn and I are trending towards a life that resembles the actual life of my great-grandparents.  Instead of a maximum square foot home in the suburbs, we prefer an older, smaller house in the city.   The style of our house might be described as urban-farmhouse.  We try to eat natural foods, we garden.  We dream of getting a chicken coup.  (My mother-in-law, who lives next door, has one!)  We try to consume less and create more.

We're by no means trend setters in this area; if anything we're on the same bandwagon as so many others, as evidenced by so many Pinterest boards.

So what's up with this back-to-Grandpa's style of living?  Here are a few of my guesses.

1.  We're burnt out on consumerism

We're tired of buying stuff.  Why are we buying anyway?  Why are we following the instructions of our corporate overlords?  We are we so easily influenced by commercials?  After much reflection on issues such as these, many of us are deciding to step outside of consumption culture.  An alternative reason for some: we're broke and looking for ways to buy meaningful supplies with what money we have.

2.  Technology makes us feel less human

We're so plugged into our devices that we no longer know how to live and interact with each other in meaningful ways.  Getting back to nature, back to history, back to the way Grandpa lived reminds us of a time where phones were not our Gods.  We've tried modernity.  So far it has not provided a life full of purpose.

3.  We want off the grid

There are many reasons we want off.  Some people are conspiracy nuts, preparing for the end of times.  Others want to avoid government and taxation.  Yet others simply want to be more self sufficient.  Some simply want to reduce their dependency on external systems like the gas and electric company.

4.  Ecological concerns

Some of us are in it to reduce our footprint, to produce less waste, or to buy less junk that will become future waste.

5.  We're searching for meaning

This is really a variation on item two.  What does it take to feel good about our daily lives?  For some of us, growing a plant from seed to harvest is the ultimate reminder of our humanity, that we live in an interconnected system of life and death, of food and need.  It reminds us that indeed we are alive and have the natural instincts to keep ourselves that way.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

A SPY story - part 2

Without the new gear I'd just purchased, I don't even know if Todd and David would have let me join the band.  But they were broke and equipment poor and I was ready and willing to contribute my gear if it would help me achieve my dream.

They'd been working together for some time and had written at least two original songs, one of which was Ministry 6.  Todd had been reading a novel about British spies and the CIA's English counterpart, the MI 6.  The concept thus inspired their first original song and gave them inspiration for a band name: SPY.

Eventually David Lee moved out from Todd's apartment got his own.  I showed up at his place with Todd one early afternoon, keyboards in tow.  I knocked on the door.  No answer.

We knocked again.  Then again.

Finally lanky Lee opens up, one eye squinted shut to to avoid the "morning" sun, his face twisted up like he was sucking on a lemon slice.  No words came from his mouth.  He just left the door ajar and stumbled back inside.

Todd and I came in and put our stuff on the couch.  From where we stood we could see Lee, over the counter top ledge that separated the living room from the kitchen, rummaging.  As was his habit he was wearing the same outfit he had on the night before, typically his work suit, crumpled from being slept in.

David loaded his pipe, lit it up, took a deep inhale and held it.  He slowly exhaled a few seconds later .  Then he repeated the process.

Finally he spoke.

"So," he said.  "I guess it's time to work on some music."

I took note of the CD cases strewn across the table, some open and laying on the floor.  I spotted a few  of my favorites, like Cabaret Voltaire's C.O.D.E. and Ministry's Twitch, which might have belonged to Todd.

David had several disks from the Waxtrax and Netwerk labels, including a few Skinny Puppy CDs.

We got down to the business of setting up our gear, connecting power sources and MIDI cables between the keyboards and sequencer.  David played a sound and said "sick, isn't it?"  He had an uncanny skill of squeezing ugly sounds out of pretty synthesizers.  He pushed a few buttons to change sounds, and found something that sounded a bit like the opening keyboard part from Van Halen's Jump.  He kept clicking on buttons, moving through the sound menus, assigning LFOs, changing waveforms, twisting knobs and altering settings until the patch sounded like the devil's vagina.

The habit and trend in industrial music at the time was to source audio snippets from old movies, radio programs or from conversations recorded on the street.  These would overlay the music.

A radio preacher from an AM radio broadcast made it onto the SPY track Ressurection.

We were searching the dial for sounds during one session at David's when we took a break to listen to community radio station way down on the left end of the dial, KNON.

KNON was not new to us.  A guy named George had a pretty good show called Chicken Gristle that we would listen to on occasion.

I don't remember the name of the show that was on that afternoon, but the DJ said something that caught our attention.

He was talking about the ongoing fund drive, an event that anyone who has ever listened to public radio knows all about.  The DJ was looking for pledges, and talking about the great lengths he would go to get the listeners to call in.  This is what we heard.

" fact, maybe you are a musician or are in a band and you are looking for a bigger audience.  If you will pledge at least $10 right now, I will put you on the air.  That's right.  I don't care what your music sounds like, if you will pledge, you can come down to the studio before the end of my show today and I'll play your music."

Todd raised an eyebrow and said, "Let's do it."  He picked up the phone and promised to pay the ten bucks.   (Honestly and regrettably I don't think we ever paid that pledge.)  Todd jotted down the directions to the studio.


A half hour later we were pulling up in front of little run down house in what I considered to be a bad neighborhood.  Paint was peeling off the outside.  We walked up to concrete porch and knocked on the door.

A girl opened.  "What?" she said.

We explained what we'd been promised when pledging and she disappeared inside.  A few minutes later she reappeared.  "Yeah, you can come up."

We shuffled up a creaky staircase and through a door that dumped into a tiny room.  We shook hands with the DJ and his pal and he said he'd put us on next.  He invited us to stand next to the microphone.

"...and keeping with our promise of putting on the air anyone who will pledge, we have with us here a new band.  What are you guys called?"

Todd stood forward to speak on our behalf.  "We're called SPY."

"Tell us a little bit about the song we're going to hear."

I can't remember what Todd said next, but before we knew what was happening the DJ took the cassette, put it into the deck and hit play.  And just like that Ministry 6 was playing on the airwaves.

"Holy shit," Todd said smiling.  The DJ nodded and said it was pretty good.

The phone rang and the DJ answered.  He put his hand over the phone and told us, "It's George from the Chicken Gristle show.  He says he likes your song and wants for you guys to come see him during his show on Saturday."

To be continued

Prescription for de-stress and recovery

Feel like crap?  Body hurt?  Work related stress?

You should try this for five days.  This is what I do when I'm in your shoes.  It's ONLY 5 can do this!

1.  Don't touch alcohol 

Drinking weakens your immune system and messes with your brain's communication pathways, affecting mood and behavior.  And hangovers just feel terrible---duh!  Try going cold turkey for one week.  I know that some of you drink socially all the time; just tell your friends and loved ones that you are on a five day fast and that you'll get back to your wild drunkenness soon.  You want to feel better, right?

2.  Don't smoke anything

Inhaling smoke irritates the respiratory tract.  Didn't you know?  And even though we all know someone who swears by the medicinal benefits of marijuana, it's still smoke and still irritates the respiratory tract.  Just give it up for 5 days.

3.  Go to sleep when the sun goes down

Tonight in Tulsa the sun will go down at 8:38 P.M.  Now this may seem like a ridiculously early time to hit the sack, but in fact, the natural world around you is going to sleep at this hour.  Join the plants and insects and begin your recovery sleep when it goes dark.

Be patient and stay in bed until you get to sleep.

4.  Determine when the sun will come up tomorrow, and set your alarm for 15 minutes later than that time

Some people require alarm clocks.  But if you go to bed when the sun goes down, you should also awaken naturally when the sun comes up.  Make sure there is a crack in your curtain so that the natural light will come into your room to awaken you.  The alarm clock will still be there to ensure that you are up in time if nature doesn't get the job done for you on day one.

5.  Exercise in the morning

Once awake, do the following routine three times at least: 10 push ups, 10 sit ups, 10 jump squats

6.  Say something positive to yourself

I know this is cheesy, but I believe that positive affirmations work.  These will get you started:

7.  Eat high nutrition raw foods

Eat some green peppers!  They're nutritionally dense.  Here are some other ideas:

8.  Don't overeat

Stay away from big meals that leave you feeling heavy.

That's it!  It's simple: just get your sleep cycle in sync with nature, eat what is good for you, move your body, and avoid putting things into your body that wear it out.  It works for me when I need to recharge.  Let me know if you try it and if it works for you!

Thursday, July 17, 2014

My Juice Recipes

In late 2013, early 2014 Tarynn and I explored the idea of opening a juice bar.  In the end, we decided against the plan.  But before we threw in the towel, we spent a considerable amount of time working on our juice recipes.  We wanted to serve (and drink) juices that were not only healthy but that tasted great.

Below are some of our creations, as well as some standards.

The obligatory Green Juice.  Good for you, made tolerable by the two apples.

Basic Green Juice

Recipe items
2Apples, Cameo, U.S. Extra Fancy
2stalks celery
6leaves Kale
1inch Ginger

Sweet and spicy.  Jalapeno adds a little zing.

Spicy Garden (Devin's favorite)

Recipe items
2stalks celery
2leaves Kale
1/8th inchthin slice jalapeno 
1 green or red bell pepper
1/2 cupspinach
(optional) 0.5chard

Love this one.  Kind of like a spicy V8 or a bloody mary.

Fiesta Mouth (Devin's favorite)
vegetable countRecipe items
4roma tomatoes
1 tiny bitonion
1bell pepper green
1 inchjalapeno pepper
1/2 cupspinach 
salt, pepper, Tabasco
try adding red peppers and vinegar instead of Tabasco
also good with 1/2 garlic

Got a sweet tooth?  Sure it's a lot of sugar, but some nutrition too.


Tarynn prefers juice that is primarily carrot juice with strong ginger overtones.

Tarynn 3

Recipe items
1Apples, Cameo, U.S. Extra Fancy
2leaves Kale
1inch Ginger
1oz parsley

The pear gives it a distinctive sweetness.

TV Juice 1
vegetable countRecipe items
1spinach 2 oz
1inch Ginger

Not for everyone, but check it out.

Fennel Juice
vegetable countRecipe items
2Apples, Cameo, U.S. Extra Fancy
2stalks celery
2bulbs fennel

Monday, July 14, 2014

A SPY story Pt. 1

I thought Todd Dixon looked like Billy Idol crossed with a pear---if Billy had a spiky mullet. He was a smiler, a drinker, and while he stood there skinny and shirtless in the dirty Texas lake talking about music, beer in hand, I thought we would hit it off. We were both huge Depeche Mode fans both had tickets to the upcoming Music for the Masses tour date at Reunion Arena."You're not going to believe this," he told me, and proceeded to explain that his high school sweetheart had left Texas, become a model, and was currently dating Martin Gore. All the more incredible was the fact that she had invited him and a small group of friends to a meet and greet the band the night before the big concert.

I told Todd how I'd just bought my first keyboard, a Roland sampling S-10, and how I was looking to join a band. He smiled excitedly and told me, "I play keyboards too."

"No shit?" I asked.

"NO shit. And I'm looking to do the same exact thing. In fact, I'm already working with a guy."

Todd had another musician with him that day at the lake, a thin guy with Rockabilly sideburns and a scraggly tuft of hair on his chest and chin, a guy a bit older than us who I would later learn had a penchant for paisley shirts, black skinny jeans and pointy boots.  Like me, David Burdick was a transplant from Tulsa, Oklahoma.

Todd and I were talking and I learned we were looking to do the same kind of music, synth-based like Depeche Mode, but maybe more aggressive than European synth pop. Before long Todd had invited me to join his yet unnamed band---and invited me to be his guest at the private Depeche Mode party a few nights after.

Meet Depeche?  To say I was excited is an understatement, but a little voice inside my head also warned that I'd just met this guy at the lake, drinking with a group of high school kids from a private school, and that he might not be on the up and up.

But the phone rang the following day and it was Todd, confirming everything that had been said at the lake.

And true to his word, a few evenings later I met him at the fairgrounds where the party was to be held. I had no idea what to expect. I couldn't believe that I'd actually get to meet my musical heroes. In my imagination I played through the coming night: an elegant event, groups of record industry types standing around sipping wine, having polite conversations. For a moment a spotlight would come on, directing our attention to a balcony on which Depeche Mode would be standing, waving to the regular people below.

But instead, I was met in the parking lot by a group of excited kids, probably seven or eight of us in total, decked out in black and chains and giddy about what might happen next. Susanne (somehow I remember her name), Todd's high school sweetheart, approached us and told us to follow her.

We entered what appeared to be a biker bar, nearly empty. I don't think any of us were old enough to drink, but someone wheeled out a cart full of beer and ice and we were told to help ourselves. The room was rustic, furnished by wooden picnic tables. Todd and I sat down and chatted about our plans for the band while nervously waiting to see what would happen next.

In walked all four members of Depeche Mode and a manager. We were introduced and shook hands around the table before they popped open beers of their own and sat down.

Starstruck, the other kids (we were all in our late teens) and I acted like complete fan morons, giddy with the opportunity to be up close and personal with our teen idols.

So what happened next?

The next morning I woke up thinking "where am I" and "how did I get here?"

Apparently I'd had too much to drink and blacked out. Somehow I was back home at my parents house. My car was missing.

While nursing a Godzillian hangover, I racked my brain for memories from the previous night.  I had spotty memory blotches, a vague recollection of David Gahan brushing me off when I tried to start up a conversation, peeing next to Andrew Fletcher at the bathroom urinals, dancing to Blue Monday with Martin Gore and Todd in the corner of the little bar.

Todd was apparently cogent enough to document the evening, as someone snapped this photo of him  standing next to Dave Gahan.  That's Todd on the left.

I was able to remember leaving the biker bar and going to Club Clearview in Deep Ellum as guests of Depeche Mode.  They gave us the VIP treatment and for a moment in time we felt, and probably were, absolutely cool.  The last thing I remember is asking Martin how old he was. He claimed to be 27. I asked him to sign my shirt.

Later, I washed that shirt and the signature came out.  So much for keepsakes.

I got together with Todd to make music the following week at his apartment off upper Greenville Ave, an area overbuilt with complexes to house minimum wage workers, young couples, and oversexed tanned twenty somethings trying to get lucky while hanging out by swimming pools. Todd's apartment was sparsely furnished and dark, lit only from light coming through cracks in the curtain. The place smelled of cigarettes.

I'd been saving money from my pizza delivery job, I told Todd, to buy a Roland MC-500, a stand-alone sequencer.  He showed me what he was currently using to sequence, a software-based solution called Voyetra running on a Commodore 64. He'd been working that day on a cover of Black Celebration.

I'd been working with my own keyboard for about six months already and had made a little music with a guy name David Jones. We'd called ourselves Blessings In Disguise and our act consisted of David, who knew nothing about music theory, playing feedback through a Marshall stack while I simultaneously banged out drum samples on on my keys. We'd played one gig, a high school party, a show that climaxed when David bit down on the blood tablets he'd bought at a costume store, producing spittle quite epic when spewed under our strobe lights.

Before that day, I didn't have the know-how to sequence sounds or music. Todd's arrangement of Black Celebration sounded great.  I would come to learn that Todd liked working on cover tunes.

This is what filled the only apartment bedroom: a mattress which was lying on the floor, a desk covered by a keyboard, a computer, a four-track recorder and several wires. We plugged in my keyboard and, using a microphone, took a few short digital recordings, known as samples, of ourselves breathing.  We assigned them to the lower half of my Roland S-10 keyboard.  It had only the capacity to store four samples and with a total sampling time of 4.4 seconds. Once we were happy with our new sounds they were added the to the mix. Todd and I took turns laying down vocal tracks on the four track recorder, with Todd taking lead and me taking backup.

"So tell me about this other guy you are making music with." I said.

"Didn't you see him?" he asked?


"On the couch, on the way in?"

I peeked around the corner and into the living room. There was a lump under a blanket on the couch.

"He's your roommate?" I asked. "He's asleep. It's two O'Clock in the afternoon."

"He doesn't get up until the sun goes down. Unless it's time to go to work at the country club."

I came over a few more times without ever meeting David Lee.  He was always out-cold or absent.  The first time I remember seeing him awake he was just about to leave for work, trying to scrape up enough weed fragments for one more hit before he went out the door. 

Todd was a social guy, liked being out at night, drinking in night clubs and just hanging out, the same as me.  We'd been out one night drinking too much, and I dropped Todd back by his apartment. David Lee had been working on a sequence while Todd was away, a song later titled BulletProof.  I thought it was good and for the first time realized that the roommate had real talent.

Here some of the early SPY recordings from 1988 here:

David Lee with Ensoniq EPS

Todd Dixon (Right) with David May (Left)

To be continued...