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"It seems to me what you lose in mystery, you gain in awe."
Sir Francis Crick

Human beings, by changing the inner attitudes of their minds, can change the outer aspects of their lives."
--William James

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Friday, February 29, 2008

Stella 02-29-1920

Today would be my paternal grandmother's 22nd birthday and 88th year on earth. Stella Ardis Johnson passed away back in 1997 while taking a nap in her bed at home. To me, she was one of the sweetest women who ever lived. She was a hard working farm girl who loved family, God and the farm. Memories of her always come to mind first with smells of cooking or wintermint and the sound of her humming some old baptist hymn. She was constantly humming while she cleaned and cooked. She was an expert gardener who learned by toil and trial. She also had the warmest laugh and smile that so easily made you feel at home. She was proud but not full of pride, strong but crippled with arthritis and diabetes, but rarely complained. She raised 6 children, 3 of which were stricken with polio at an early age, and lived to see many grandchildren born, including me.

I spent many summer weeks and school weekends with my grandparents including the entire summer between my 7th and 8th grade school years. That summer she and I read the Bible almost every night before going to bed. I can remember the old country AM radio playing softly from their bedroom as the night quieted. They always got up before me and had breakfast ready before I even realized the day was beginning. Stella wasn't afraid of work and that summer she carried more than 1 bucket of okra or butter beans up and down the rows in the sweltering heat of a South Carolina summer. It was hard work but it was one of the best summers ever for me. She and Grand Daddy showed me a little about hard work and a lot about life.

Happy Birthday Grand Momma!

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Kind of Blue

I started a new book yesterday all about 1 album, Miles Davis' masterpiece Kind of Blue. This book came out in 2000 right after the 40th anniversary of its release. The album is my all-time favorite of any genre or style. There's a reason my oldest son is named after the artist. I got this from the library but remember reading a review of the book back in 2000 when it was first published. I had been reluctant to read about the history and sessions because I wanted to maintain the mystery that is KOB for me. If you don't own this one, then I'm talking Greek, I'm sure. If you do, you might have some idea of why I wanted to keep it intact as is. But, as I was listening to it the other night and thinking about how many times I have listened and still get chills, my mind wondered back to this book. I reserved a copy at the local library and started yesterday, slowing turning each page.

KOB was recorded in an old renovated church in New York City back in 1959 with Cannonball Adderly, John Coltrane, the greatest bassist of all jazz time: Paul Chambers, Wynton Kelly on 1 track for piano, Bill Evans on the rest of the tracks for piano, Jimmy Cobb on drums, and Miles on trumpet. You can't get any better than that. They did record another album call Milestones but the line-up was a little different (Red Garland on piano and Philly Joe Jones on drums). A classic album but not in the same sphere as KOB to me. KOB is atmospheric and about mood; Milestones is about jams, tight and powerful.

The author, Ashley Kahn, was able to go to Sony studios (they bought all the Columbia Records recordings and rights) and listen to the original master tapes, talk to the 3 remaining people who were still alive at that time who were actually in the studios or on the recordings, and review all the archives for the sessions. I am just getting past the foreword by the drummer Jimmy Cobb who was the drummer on these sessions and into the history of how the sessions came together and what Miles was looking to accomplish with this supergroup of jazz. Here's an Amazon link for the book: Kind of Blue: The Making of Miles Davis' Masterpiece and here's one for the CD with samples so you get some idea if you are new to this masterpiece: Kind of Blue. Notice that there are 669 reviews of this album, mostly positive. I don't fool myself to think it's perfect for everyone, but it is for me.

If you don't have this on CD (I have 2 copies on CD and 1 original LP from my Dad's record collection), then I recommend you check it out in some form. It's woven into the fabric of my life and remains a living breathing work, a desert island disc if there ever was for me. I don't think this book will change that but I finally decided to heed the quote from Sir Francis Crick that I tag on my emails and at the top of this blog. I decided to peel some of the mystery and gain more of the awe that makes this life so enjoyable and wonderful. Here's to awe!

See ya!

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Slip Slidin' Away

Out a walk today with Keller in the woods I laughed as he was running down the trial ahead of me and slipped in a patch of mud (the ubiquitous red clay of the Upstate). He got up and looked back with whatever embarrassment a 4 month old puppy can muster (read "none") and ran on down the trail waggin and sniffin'. On the return trip we usually hit the rocks in the stream and run the logs over the stream; he tries to get me to go there on the walk into the woods but hasn't quite figured out we do it on the return trip but always wants to make sure in case I forget.

On the way back today, I jumped on the stream rock bed thinking I was so cool and enjoying the tunes (an Allman Brothers Live set from 1994) and the crisp air and Carolina can guess what happened since I had that red clay on my shoes as well! I have a nice little bruise on the left hip and some wet shoes on the front porch drying out. Keller just wagged his tail and laughed at me. Trust me, it was cold and wet and hurt more than my cool score of the day.

So, I thought I would confess my pride sin for laughing at him slippin' when I was due for the "bust it big" a little later. It reminded me to keep focused on my path and to be an encourager for others who slip and fall. Hey, we all need to get a little wet and cold every now and then; it's part of living in this world and God does find a way to show us. He also gives us warm and furry friends to lick our face when we find ourselves in the cold stream of life. We still made our trip over the logs and back without falling again and it was a great walk, wet shoes and all.
Ain't Life Grand!

See ya!

Tuesday, February 26, 2008


I finished Fiasco last night. I highly recommend this read to anyone interested in how we got to where we are today in Iraq and the Middle East. Poor planning, very bad intelligence summaries and a lack of understanding of what we were there to do once we got there. This is incredibly well- written with interviews, facts(can you believe it?) and references. The author, Thomas Ricks, has a Pulitzer Prize in his resume and it shows. Most of the finger-pointing is at Rumsfield and Wolfowitz in the Defense Department for basically ignoring the Phase IV ops, what you do once the combat is over and then for allowing us to forget everything we ever learned about counter-insurgency strategy in Vietnam. I have hope that we can make amends for the wrongs and I pray for a positive outcome in the Middle East but it's going to be an uphill battle and could turn around and bite us anyday...
Here's an Amazon link with a summary and reviews.

Enjoying the thunderstorms, hail and rain today from my window. Shadow is somewhere sleeping in Dylan's room, Keller is in his crate in the garage and I need to get back to work...

See ya!

Saturday, February 23, 2008

The 1980's

Well, I got my first Amazon download free with Pepsi Stuff (did I mention that I am now fully addicted to Diet Pepsi Max?- that stuff has ginseng and it taste nothing like regular Diet Pepsi, which I find difficult to tolerate, ok, boring, I know...)

Having come of age in the 1980's, Led Zeppelin was always in front of my eyes and in my ears in one form or another thanks to MTV and older cousins and family members. I also found myself enjoying Robert Plant's solo work after Zep crash landed. I remember a funny interview on MTV where Plant recounts a youngster he met while on vacation when "Big Log" was dominating MTV playlists. The youngster asked Plant if he had any other albums or work before "Big Log". His reply with the sly "Percy" smile was along the lines of "oh, I have a few things your parents might recognize". "Big Log" has such a classic summertime feel and the lyrics are classic Plant.

The video was a big hit, for obvious cinematic reasons. I promise it had nothing to do with his jeans which were nothing like the ones he wore on The Song Remains The Same. See for yourself.

This is also a fine example of why I love Amazon's DRM-free mp3 downloads as well. I had this in my iTunes library but when my hard drive died and I didn't backup the library, it died with the drive. Now, I can put this mp3 anywhere and play on anything without having to follow software rules for back-up and playback. Most of the major studios have finally figured this is the way to get people to buy more music and all the major studios are now online with Amazon. Even iTunes is selling DRM-free tracks but not everything I have will play AAC tracks, but mp3 is ubiquitous.

So, my first free tune: Robert Plant's 1983 classic "Big Log" (the extended album version at 5:06. It's even on my cellphone now...Is it summer yet?

See ya!

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Livin' in America

Like James Brown said "Watch yo'self!"

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

I'm Back

Glad to be back after 2 days of some nasty stomach virus that left me feeling very low and too tired to make it past the mailbox. I went out for a walk with Keller this morning and made it through the day with energy again. I even made it to Life Group with Tricia and got to tell my Boodalicious stories. It was a crack-up, especially if you know what I'm talking about...

A few quick things that have been on my mind:

>Keller getting chased around the yard by Shadow "Ninja Paw" Johnson (our cat) was one of the funniest things and it made me smile even when I was feeling really sick. That's why we feed them and love them.

> I watched the worst Clemson basketball game of the season last night. They were as cold as frozen waffles and looked lifeless in the 1st half. They gave it a good try in the 2nd half but had dug too deep of a hole in the 1st to win. Hopefully, a few days off will get them ready for the final stretch for the Big Dance in March. (Fingers crossed).

> I have been listening to Neil's Chrome Dreams II a lot on my walks and still feel amazed at how good this album really is for me. It's very spiritual and has strong elements of my other favorite Neil like Freedom, Ragged Glory and Sleeps With Angels. His guitar is dialed in and to the core and again the lyrics speak to me very clearly. Neil tends to lay it out there and let it be what it will be to everyone who listens. Highlights are "No Hidden Path", "Spirit Road" and "Boxcar". Thanks Neil!

Gotta run see more of the lunar eclipse with Miles on the back deck.

See ya!

Saturday, February 16, 2008

New Links for Music and Pictures

I posted some action shots from the basketball games today. Miles and Dylan both won their last games and both had plenty of play time and thourghly enjoyed their games.

Basketball 2008

Also, here's some mp3 samples from the Victor "Victa" Wooten show on Wednesday:
Victa mp3z

And to top off a great day, I got my bass back with the new pick-ups and I'm ready to plug in to the Deep End. And it got even better when the Tigers pulled out a road win in Raleigh today! Those aren't easy and we are looking like a team ready for March.

See ya!

Basketball: The Last Game

Today is the end of the basketball season for Miles and Dylan. They both have enjoyed the season on the Wade Hampton church league teams. They both have learned and grown as basketball players and competitors. Tricia and I have also enjoyed getting to know the other parents from Freedom Fellowship and the other teams. I should have some pictures posted soon from the final few games and I did shot a little video as well a few weeks ago that I can post on Picassaweb.
Our Tuesdays will be a little less chaotic as I won't have to take Miles to piano at 5pm, Dylan to basketball practice at 530pm and Miles to basketball at 7pm. You get the idea and throw in the fact that Tricia has mandatory new teacher inservices every Tuesday! It will offer a little breather.
Dylan should be starting baseball soon and Miles is especially enjoying the karate at Team Hurricane. He has 2 stripes on his white belt and is paying close attention during class. The Team Hurricane approach focuses on respect for teachers, parents and elders and yourself. The instructors show a sincere concern for the students. This was a great choice for us and Miles. We see he gaining core strength, balance, increased focus, confidence and having fun! Highly recommended if you live in the Upstate.
We took the boys out to dinner at Stax Grill near the mall last night in Greenville. Very busy night, it was probably not the best choice for the boys on a Friday when they were tired. The service was slow and my steak wasn't the best. But, Tricia has a 2 for 1 deal from all of the Stax for giving to the United Way. We will probably try the Stax Omega dinner next time and get some pancakes :-) We did get to see an old friend Mary Alice from Sumter. She came over to the table and we had a chance to catch up. She is almost like a cousin or other sister, she has been my sister's best friend since I can remember. She lives in Simpsonville. She is now in nursing school and we gave her encouragement on her studies. We also invited her to come over for dinner again and bring her lab to play with Keller. Should be fun!
Well, time for basketball. Clemson rebounded nice against Ga Tech and seemed to be able to shake off the loss to UNC. We play NC State in Raleigh today at 3pm. Should be a good one!

See ya!

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Bass Attack from the Sifu of Bass

Cliff and I got a lesson from the bass master (not the fishing kind) Victor ("Victa") Wooten at the Handlebar last night. That guy has some skills on the instrument and brings some super talented brothers (literally) with him. Two of his older brothers were in the band last night, with Futureman noticeably absent since the last time I saw Victa. Lots of flurries on the bass, keyboards, guitar (courtesy of brother Reggie who is a little more off center than the rest of us) and drums. The only downer was the vocal spotlight from the singer. A little too much slow soul for me and the rest of the crowd which thinned and headed for the bathrooms and the bar during her vocal number. Not bad but not what I came to hear. We got there just as the band was coming out on stage. So, I had to try and setup in the dark. As I started working on the mic setup, I decided to just go with the internal mics on the Sony PCM-D50. I made sure to activate the limiter and bass roll-off. I sat the recorder in front of the soundboard and let it go. I am very impressed with how it turned out. So much easier on the setup too. The Handlebar doesn't have the best sound in the land but the recording is very enjoyable and has decent levels and punch. I will have to put my gorillapod in the backpack in case I need it, like last night. It was my first real run with the internal mics, not bad at all. In fact, it's pretty darn good to my ears considering the room and the crowd. Kudos Sony!

Well, I gotta listen to some more Victa and get back to work.

See ya!

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Dirt Farmer and Oh Mercy

Just downloaded the new Levon Helm Dirt Farmer from Wow! Why did I wait so long? It's that good. If you don't know by now, Amazon has a mp3 download store that is the best. They do not come with any DRM which means I can play them on any of my mp3 players or CD players. They are 256kps too and sound fantastic. Most albums are 8.99 and you can buy by the track. I also picked up Tyler Ramsey's A Long Dream About Swimming Across The Sea. I've been enjoying what I have heard on WNCW and he reminds me so much of solo Neil Young. He also lives up in Western NC. I'll let you know as I get into it. Another cool thing about Amazon is you can get free music with Pepsi points. I love Pepsi One, so you can only guess what I picked up at Bloom last night on the way home from Miles' basketball practice. If you know me, free is me!
I recently put Dylan's Oh Mercy on my mp3 player that I take on walks on the trails and through the neighborhood with Keller. This remains my all time favorite Dylan album. Daniel Lanois adds considerable magic (some say too much, but not me) to the mix. Dylan's phrasings are perfect and the lyrics make me cry, laugh and ponder the yonder. If you don't have this one, you owe yourself a favor to check it out. My favorites are "Most of the Time", "The Man in the Long Black Coat" , "Shooting Star" and "Everything is Broken" (that one cracks me up every time and Dylan's smoking harmonica is tops). This is one of those that I have to put down every now and then because it otherwise is always in rotation. I hadn't put it on any of my "walking" music players and I had forgotten just how good this one sounds and how it moves me. Walking in the woods with Keller gives me the space to listen and feel. Speaking of Keller, here's a new photo from today. He grows everyday and is doing super for a puppy.
Tonight is Victor Wooten at the Handlebar! Looking forward to the baddest bass in the land.
See ya!

Monday, February 11, 2008

So Close, So Far Away

What is it with ACC officials when Clemson plays UNC or Duke? I saw several walks and blatant fouls in Clemson's oh-so-close-again double overtime loss to UNC in Chapel Hill. They have never won at Chapel Hill, never, never, never. This has been going on since 1926. We had our chances last night, again with the ball with the clock winding down, again the shot failed to sink, again another loss in Chapel Hill. Had the officials not given the Tar Heels free rent on the foul line last night, we might have won this game. I know we will be back and will have another chance, but this was as close as we have been in a long time. It's a damn good UNC team but so is Clemson. It was a lame ACC officiating team. Period.

Enjoy Derek Trucks Band "So Close, So Far Away" from 2005 with the Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra. Just like last night, beautiful and heart-breaking too.

Listen here: So Close, So Far Away

Friday, February 8, 2008

Wanee with Levon

For the last 4 Aprils, I have gone down to the Wanee Music Festival at the Spirit of the Suwannee Music Park in Live Oak, Florida. It's a music festival organized and headlined by the Allman Brothers Band with all of the band members' "other" bands on board (other than Greg Allman and Friends, he saves his voice for the main act). So, in addition to Oteil's Peacemakers, Gov't Mule and Derek Trucks Band, you get great acts like the North Mississippi Allstars, The Radiators, Medeski Martin Wood, Keller Williams. You get 3 days of camping with the ticket but me and my buds always get the camping upgrade to be a little closer to the stage and have access to power and a shower. I'm getting too old for camping in the woods without power during concert festivals. It's not the normal camping scene and the wookies are scary in the woods :-)
I have been talking about moe being at the festival as a perfect fit since the beginning, nice to see they took my word for it ;-) My friend, Kevin from Portland, Oregon, is flying into Atlanta and we are going to stop off in Macon and eat at Mama Louise's diner (feed the Allmans back in the day and tons of ABB memorabila on the walls) plus I'm gonna show him Duane and Berry's graves in the Rose Hill cemetary on the river there in Macon. Should be a treat and it's always good in Macon.
But, the biggest thrill of all for me is going to be Levon Helm at the Wanee this year! I have been a fan of The Band since my freshman year at Clemson. Levon has been the voice of Robbie Robertson's words that have taken me to other worlds and other times with a smile on my face or a lump in my throat. Speaking of throat, Levon has amazed us all and survived a major battle with throat cancer and is still in great shape vocally. I have looked forward to hearing him LIVE for a long time. If you don't have Rock of Ages, The Band's live album from New Year's Eve 1971 in NYC, then do yourself a favor and pick up one of the best American albums of all time. Here's a review on All Music Guide: Rock of Ages.
I'm thrilled about Levon and hope we get the chance to hear him do "The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down" with the Allman Brothers (they covered that tune on the exceptional Endless Highway tribute to The Band in 2006.) It's giving me chills just thinking about it.

This year is going to be one of the best line-ups yet at the Wanee, take a look...

Wanee Festival 2008 line-up to date:
The Allman Brothers Band
Gov’t Mule
Bob Weir & RatDog
Oteil & the Peacemakers
Levon Helm
JJ Grey & Mofro
Larry McCray Band
Bonobos Convergence
Little Brown Peach
The Frequency
Inca Maya
and many more to be announced!
Special Saturday Midnight Set With Derek Trucks & Susan Tedeschi Soul Stew Revival

On a personal note, our pastor Donny is back at home and doing well. No surgery will be needed and we are looking forward to having him back 100% real soon. Prayer works!

WNCW also read my email about Missed Concerts on their "What It Is" segment this morning. It's a M-F segment when they talk about music and its various threads and topics. Here's my email on that "Missed Concerts"...enjoy the laugh on me!

My wife and I made plans to catch the Cowboy Junkies on my birthday in November 2000 in Jacksonville, Fl for a 1 off benefit concert that was just Margo, Mike and Jeff Bird. It was part of a festival to raise money for the St. John's river conservation. It was windy, misty and cold, not the usual Florida night.

So, we decided to wait for the opening acts while getting a bite to eat in a local cafe with our friends from Jacksonville. We just knew we had plenty of time. There was no printed schedule so we thought there was a few bands to go until the Junkies. Well, once we got back about 1 hour later, we hear the Junkies on the stage as we get out the car. We sprint to the stage by the river to hear the last part of the last tune. They wave goodbye and get in the cab and head back to the airport and Canada. They even played the request I had asked for my birthday and announced from the stage the request "Powderfinger" by Neil Young. Little did they know but I was off eating egg rolls and drinking beer in a warm cafe down the road. We later laughed about that missed opportunity when I caught up with the band the next year at the House of Blues in Myrtle Beach. It's a running joke with my friends in Jacksonville any time we talk about music and concerts. I learned a lesson and will sit in the cold and rain and wait, especially if I drive 4 hours to the show. I stay parked and enjoy the opener :-)

See ya!

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Prayer Request, Super Bowl, Random Gorge memory

One of the pastors at Freedom Fellowship, Donnie Kauffman, is in the hospital and undergoing treatment and examinations for right side numbness that started when he was working out yesterday. Donnie is also Miles' basketball coach and the father of 3 boys and devoted husband to Shelly. I ask that you lift Donnie and his family in your prayers for comfort, healing and strength. They have found some bleeding in his brain and are doing all the necessary tests. He remains in good spirits and talking to everyone. Thank you for remembering our church and its leaders.

On a family note, Dylan has had a mean cold and stayed at home with me yesterday and today. He's doing okay and actually asked if he could go outside today. It's nice and sunny in the lower 70's, yes the 70's today. Maybe I will go out with him and Keller later. Miles was going to start piano today but we couldn't get his music books this weekend and are postponing until next week. Plus, starting karate and piano in the same week with basketball season winding up probably isn't the smartest thing for us. So, one step at a time...

Oh yeah, how about them Giants? I really enjoyed the Super Bowl party and the game. Tom Petty was pretty good at the half too. What's up with Mike Campbell's hair? He's still got the skills on the guitar, so it doesn't really matter, does it? I enjoyed the setlist and the energy. Good to see old Tom kickin' still. I saw Tom back on the Full Moon Fever tour in Charlotte and that remains a great concert memory. This summer tour with Steve Winwood is looking to be a major draw and should be a lot of fun. Steve has remained true to the muse. I saw Traffic back in 1994 at the Gorge in George, Washington. My first show at the Gorge. I can still remember standing at the stage looking down the Columbia River Gorge with Steve right in front of me singing "The Low Spark of High Heeled Boys" It's a moment frozen in time. Makes me miss the Gorge. Great summer fun there.

Well, work break is over.

See ya!

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Hardly Strictly: Brand New Favorite

Last night I saw a special on ETV about the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass festival. I am in LOVE. Every top notch bluegrass act was there and all of the associated spinoffs of bluegrass and folk/americana were there from Bruce Hornsby/Ricky Skaggs to Bela to Del McCoury to Gillian Welch to Robert Earl Keen with the one and only Emmylou Harris wrapping up the festival with some good old Nash Ramblers on "Get Up John". It was almost everything and everyone I like about organic music. It's now on the top of my list for next year and it's free (tickets are not sold to this festival)! That will help when I start asking Tricia if we can go :-) Here's a link: HSB Festival .
Man, that got me pumped! Yeeeehaw! Even though I was exhausted after the full day, it was great to unwind on the couch watching such incredibly fine music and spirit. It's definitely Left Coast environs but the music and the scenery made it the place to be for me!

Speaking of music, I'm heading out the door for a walk with Keller. He's doing so good on the trail near our house, even tackling the logs over the stream with ease and skill. I've been listening a whole lot to the Alison Kraus and Robert Plant CD Raising Sand. If for some reason, you DON'T have that album (I still like that term, especially since I no longer buy many CDs, just download), get it asap. Check out this video from Amazon: Gone, Gone, Gone
RS is my favorite of 2007 and it still has a heavy rotation along with Neil's Chrome Dreams II. Out the door for the walk so I can enjoy some snacks at the Super Bowl party this afternoon.

See ya!

Saturday, February 2, 2008

High Wire Under The Sink

Today was the circus day. It was also a double loss for the boys in basketball, which means Dylan's team lost for the first time this season. Luckily, we had an immediate post-game distraction- snacks and he was in charge of handing them out to the team. He took it well considering Miles' team is under .500 this season. Miles and Dylan both had good games on defense with a couple of shots on offense. It was snacks for both teams, so we got that out of the way today.

I also had to put on my plumber's hat today and crawl under the kitchen sink. The faucet we got back in July was leaking and it was a sealed body, so no way to get in there to change the O rings or seals. $100 down the drain, pun intended. I got a new faucet (one I can change the seals if needed) and set to work. It was also time to change the filters, so I got another set. The faucet was easy but the filter system turned into a big challenge and it got more than wet under there. I ended up going back to Lowe's and replacing it. The filter stream is full blast now. Good riddance to both of the old sets. Nothing like spending a few hours on your day off fixing something that shouldn't need to be replaced or fixed. Glad we had some fun planned for the evening.

This was the 1st circus for Miles and Dylan. I can honestly say I was impressed and they were amazed. The Ringling Bros have got it down. Other than the sickening prices on the cheap toys and props in the lobby, well...I guess they got that down too, since I pulled out my wallet for the cotton candy and snow cone with tiger souvenir cup and circus clown hat (the cotton candy).

It's once-a-year, I know... and it was worth it! My favorite parts were the 7 motorcycles in the metal ball and the tigers (of course).

Speaking of the Tigers, they pulled out a major blow-out over Boston College tonight at Littlejohn. Call me surprised, just don't call me late for supper.

Tomorrow, we are heading over to our friends' place (Cliff and Sherry) for a Super Bowl party with friends from Freedom Fellowship. Should be fun and I would like to see the Giants win but seriously doubt it. I also hope Tom Petty has a little more life in his show at half time than the Rolling Stones did a few years ago.

Well, I'm done for the day.

See ya!!!