music

#566: Jerry! Jerry! Jerry!

GETTING MORE TALE #566: Jerry! Jerry! Jerry!

1998. I had just moved in with the legendary T-Rev. Two Record Store managers under one roof. Can you imagine the CD collections? We used to marvel at the wall of discs. Two CD towers, massive ones, side by side. We’d boast that nowhere else in town would you find two copies of Metallica’s Garage Days in the same place. Same went for many of our rare singles and imports. Finding one was difficult enough, but with our combined collections we often had two. You could come over for a drink and end up spending hours just going through our collections.

Collection samples

T-Rev and I had a lot of fun, although as it turned out, I wasn’t the right guy to have a roommate. I’m a real early to bed, early to rise kind of guy and our wake/sleep cycles didn’t really work out. Having said that, I wouldn’t trade those months for the world! I’d never fallen asleep on the floor before, but we had some pretty epic parties. It was also the first time I’d woken up to find girls in the apartment! Yeah, we had good times. When we weren’t partying, we’d be playing video games on the good old N64. Goldeneye was a staple. Duke Nukem and Top Gear Rally were regular go-to’s.

Another thing we had fun with was our answering machine. We couldn’t just have a normal answering machine message. One weekend, Trevor went out to see a Britpop band who I can’t remember. Supergrass? One of those. They met the manager Andy who kept on hitting on the girlfriends. So Trevor came home and did an answering machine message with a British accent. “You’ve reached Trevor, Michael and Andy! Leave a message after the beep!” That confused a few people. “Who is that British guy who is living with you?”

T-Rev was also a big fan of Jerry Springer. I’d never really watched before, but T-Rev was into it. The fights, the yelling, the chanting of “Jerry! Jerry! Jerry!”…we found it all terribly entertaining. In particular, I liked Jerry’s “final thought”. That’s the part of the show where he somehow simultaneously agrees with all parties on the episode.

Our enjoyment of the chaos of the Jerry Springer show led to a couple tributes.

T-Rev came up with a sign idea, and I wish he was able to put it up in the store. It was a “no shirt no shoes no service” sign that said:

Because highschool is free,
And Jerry Springer does not work here,
Shirts and shoes must be worn in store.

Yeah, shirts and shoes were an ongoing summer issue. When I once asked a guy to put on a shirt, his answer was “Why, are you serving food here?”  I just didn’t want to watch that bead of sweat dripping off his nipple ring.

It only made sense that we should honour the mighty Jerry Springer Show with a new answering machine message. I did it up:

“Thank you for calling the offices of the Jerry Springer Show! If you’re a white trash mother who’s pissed off at your little white trash daughter, press one! If you’re a white trash daughter who can’t stand your bitchy mother, press two! For all others leave a message after the beep!”

People were used to bizarre answering machine messages from us by now.

The best response to it came from the boss at the old Record Store. He called one evening we were out, and left a message asking if one of us could cover a shift. And he ended the message by saying, “Oh, and I’ll take option two. Thank you.” He was a good sport.

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#563: ID3 Request Error – Check File

GETTING MORE TALE #563: ID3 Request Error – Check File

Ever seen one of these errors on your media player of choice?

Let’s start by talking about what an ID3 tag is, in case you didn’t know.  If you play music files, then you use ID3 tags.  These tags contain the metadata about your song files.  You know that info that automatically pops up on your player?  Artist, album, cover art…that’s from your ID3 tags.  There is free software out there to edit your songs’ tags, although such features are bafflingly not standard in Windows.  I use a combination of two:  Audio Shell, and Mp3tag.  They have different user interfaces, but more or less have all the features you need.

Sometimes my Sony Walkman mp3 player can’t pick up the cover art, but that is rare.  The tracks will still play.  The error that has caused me problems for years comes from my factory installed GM car stereo.  Otherwise, it’s a great player, but sometimes it hits an ID3 tag it doesn’t like and I get an error message.  It reads:

 

ID3 Tag Request Error
Check File

 

When I get this message, the songs will not play.  I first ran into that issue about four years ago.  When it does happen, it’s usually on something that I recorded with Audacity, like vinyl or cassettes.  Audacity can write the ID tags for you when you export the files to mp3.  The error message here doesn’t give much detail.  It’s not the cover art; that was the first variable I checked.  I’ll get this error message with or without cover art.  It’s frustrating when you can’t play an album in the car, and only the car.

This baffled me for years.  “Check File”, eh?  I did – many times.  Changing this, changing that.  Writing the ID3 tags with different software.  Nothing worked.  Googling solutions wasn’t very helpful.

I recently came across the solution, and it was so obvious I don’t know why I didn’t think of it earlier.  Probably because I was looking for something easier.

Just erase all the ID3 tags – all of them – and start from scratch.  Both Mp3tag and Audio Shell have easy features to do exactly this.   Most ID3 editing programs will allow you to completely clean all tags from the file.  Once that is done, start over, manually.  By hand, enter the song titles, artist, album title, artwork and (very importantly) the track sequence.  You’ll want to make sure you get that right.  Once you’ve done that the mp3 file will play just fine, as seen below.

Enjoy the music!

Before & After

 

 

 

#548: Bad Boys

 

GETTING MORE TALE #548: Bad Boys

I was speaking to a friend’s son the other day.  He’s in his late teens.  We chatted about parents and rules and chores and I realized, “The ‘bad’ stuff I used to do as a kid is nothing compared to what teenagers think is ‘bad’ today.”  When I was teenager, I had never seen a drug.  I didn’t know any kids who drank.  None of my friends had tattoos.  We liked heavy metal music, which had an aura of evil, but that was just the image.  Our lives were pretty mundane…but we did have our fun.

My buddy Bob was the leader when we were growing up.  He was creative and had all the best ideas.  We invented our own games.  A version of street volleyball with no net was one.  A backyard obstacle course made of chairs and sprinklers was another.  I have a book full of drawings we made for video game ideas we planned on selling to Atari.  There is a huge binder (3″)  filled with action figure ideas — we called it “Death Team”  It was a years-long project that included written story lines and an audio sketch.  We imagined the AC/DC instrumental “D.T.” was their theme song.  We even made an elaborate board game using old cardboard, a lot of tape, and a bag of army men.  Making things (or modifying them) was a big part of our creative process.  In 9th grade, we made elaborate cardboard guitars for air guitar purposes.  We used yardsticks as the guitar necks, and the bodies were cut from old boxes.  We then painted them, using my mom’s workshop with dozens of colours to choose from.  We really let it loose for Halloween.  We started preparing for Halloween in late August.  We began by making heads out of papier-mâché. Ours were crude, but when dressed up with sunglasses, hats or wigs, did the trick. Then we would begin working on an audio tape. This was a 60-minute long compilation of scary bits from Black Sabbath and Iron Maiden albums. We hid some speakers outside and would play the tape on a loop for background scary sounds.   Kids loved it.  Really small ones were scared, so we had to stop the tape and turn on the lights for them, but 95% thought it was awesome (including parents).  We’d see kids across the street, and they’d make a beeline for our house as soon as they saw it.  My favourite costume was the one I made in grade 10:  Alice Cooper.

We also did a bunch of things that we didn’t tell our parents about.  My mother is about to read about some of these things for the first time.

We loved to make prank calls.  In the days before call display, Bob and I were the kings.  My parents went out every single Wednesday night to take my sister to dance classes.  Bob came over, we watched music videos, ate chips, and made prank calls.  We didn’t dial random numbers like most kids.  We looked up names that we thought were funny in the phone book, and called them.  There was one name in the phone book that Bob found especially amusing: Hans.  So Bob called up Hans and sang him a little song.  “Hans, hans, hans and feet, I have hans and feet.”  Somebody named Price was met with the phone call, “Come on down, the price is right!”  We really thought we were the most hilarious pair in the world.  Then we started pretending we were calling from the Coca Cola company and asking people if they preferred “New” Coke to old Coke.  Only Bob had a deep enough voice to fool anyone.

Then, there was the time I nailed “Phat Curtis” in the back of the neck with a projectile I named “The Killerang”.  When I was really young, I know I hit Mrs. Reddekopp’s car right in the middle of the hood with one of Bob’s lawn darts.  Bob reluctantly retrieved my errant dart, because I was too scared to get it.  “You can never ever tell anyone about this,” he cautioned me.  We knew that if we kept quiet, everybody would assume another neighbor kid, George, did it.  That’s exactly what happened.

Like many other kids of the 80s, we recorded comedy sketches on tape.  I have seven volumes of “Mike and Bob” on cassette here.  Having played them recently, I can assure you that you are missing out on nothing.  We sure did have fun making those tapes, but I can see why Bob found them embarrassing a few years later.  The recordings usually took place at my house, in the basement or garage.  His parents were pretty strict.

On recording nights, we had to stock up on snacks.  The only place within walking distance was the Little Short Stop at Stanley Park Mall, long gone now.  We spent many, many days and nights at the Short Stop over the years, pouring over comic books, Star Wars (or Indiana Jones) cards, and candy bars.  Later on it was rock magazines.  Our snack fix during this period was ketchup flavoured potato chips.  The thicker that ketchup dust, the better.  When we didn’t get ketchup, we got dill pickle.  It was only a 10 minute walk to the mall, but on those recording nights, we probably took half an hour each way.  We were busy ringing doorbells.

“Nicky Nicky Nine Door” was what they called it, but we were just being little shits.  We would choose houses on the way to the store, ring the doorbell and then hide in the bushes.  Once or twice, Bob was almost caught.  Sometimes we’d find a house we really liked and hit him up on the way to the store and on the way back.  And sometimes, a third for good measure.

We bored of “Nicky Nicky Nine Door” and soon found a new night time occupation:  walking around the nearby public school.  Stanley Park Sr. Public School was not locked at night.  At least, it wasn’t until we were caught.  Bob and I would wander the hallways, and buy a pop from the Pepsi machine inside.  We didn’t vandalize, and we didn’t steal.  All we did was go in and buy a can of soda for each of us.  The custodian never seemed to be around, but one night, they were.  They told us to get out, we were trespassing!  Bob asked, “But can I buy my can of pop still?”  The custodian said sure, so Bob walked over to the pop machine, bought his soda, thanked the guy, and left!  Is it still trespassing if you buy merchandise?  We didn’t think so!

That school was the site of many of our escapades.  Most of them were benign:  baseball in the park, basketball on the courts, and later on, tennis.  We had many late night tennis matches.  We ran sprints, we did the long jump, we rode our bikes.  When we didn’t have a ghetto blaster playing, we were probably singing.  George would often provide the boom box, loaded up with Kiss, Black Sabbath, or Iron Maiden.  When boredom set in, our activities became more mischievous.  Bob and George were skilled at climbing up to the school’s roof to retrieve lost tennis balls and basketballs.  One cold Sunday afternoon, Bob decided he wanted to throw his old bike off the roof.  We got a rope, Bob climbed up onto the roof, and then hauled the bike up by the rope.  He backed up, made a running start, and tossed the bike off.  There was barely any damage!  He went for round two, and the front wheel was heavily dented.  As he hauled it up one more time for round three, a man in a car drove up to us and told us to leave.  Bob asked, “So I can’t throw my bike off this roof?”  Wordlessly the man shook his head.  Who knew you couldn’t just throw a bike off a roof?  It was his bike, right?  No harm no foul?

It’s funny to look back at these moments and realize, these were the best times of our childhoods.  I don’t think Bob would want his kids to read this.  For that reason, I’m leaving out other sordid details and I’ll deny everything else.  For example, we may or may not have spelled the word “FUCK” on the lawn of the school in strips of fresh sod.  I can’t confirm or deny that we scratched KISS and IRON MAIDEN in the school doors with paper clips.  Both of us had pellet guns, and I may or may not have fired a round through George’s mom’s laundry.  My dad found pellets in the fence.  He knew what we were up to.  We denied.  We water-ballooned George’s bedroom window.  We would hide behind the fence, laughing, listening to him singing “Love Gun” loudly and out of key in his room.

We knew that not all these activities were particularly “good” behaviour (that’s why we didn’t tell our parents), but we considered it all pretty innocent.  We did well in school.  Both of us got into the schools we wanted to go to.  He has a large family and I’m happily married to a beautiful wife.  That leads us into the last story.

At my wedding, Bob decided he wanted to make a short speech, and tell a story about us.  It was so true, and so funny, that I had tears in my eyes.  I mentioned earlier that Bob’s parents were stricter than mine.  As such, Bob was not allowed to eat any sweet cereals for breakfast.  He complained and complained of shredded wheat.  He also was not really allowed to indulge himself in snacks at home, and he really loved our microwave oven.  This is how Bob invented some of his classic foods and beverages:

  • The Froot Loops dog – A hot dog topped with Froot Loops and any other toppings of your choice.
  • Froot Loops orange juice – A glass of orange juice with a handful of Froot Loops as a garnish.
  • Froot Loops swamp water – combine milk, orange juice and grape juice in one glass.  Top with Froot Loops and serve.  In case of Froot Loop shortage, substitute with Apple Jacks.

Those were the times of our lives.

 

 

Interview: 1537 Questions

We don’t need no preamble! If you have ever wanted to know how to write the most unique music reviews that this planet has ever seen, then you need to read on as we pick the mind of the one, the only, Mr. 1537 himself. He is one talented music writer that deserves all the praise you can heap.

1537


M: It is a pleasure to speak with you, Mr. 1537.  I understand that anonymity is important to you.  It would matter to me too, if I had any sense.  How would you like us to address you in this interview?

1537:  A simple ‘sir’ would normally suffice, but in order to seem a bit more user-friendly ( I gather the masses tend to like that) you can call me 15 strictly for the duration of this interview.

Actually I sort of ballsed up the whole anonymous thang by using my name as the blog domain; oops, back to spy school for me!   I don’t do any social media at all beyond WordPress and I am basically a needlessly secretive dude.  I admire folk who can bare their souls in their blogs but that’s not me at all, I let bits and pieces of my life seep through the cracks sometimes but not very much.

M: As opposed to me, who built a cottage industry on the minutia of working in a record store.  Now…Lego.  You’ve managed to incorporate Lego in your articles’ artwork, in a simple yet innovative and endlessly entertaining way.  How long have you been a fan of Lego, and is that longer than you’ve been into music?

15: Well, the Lego came first, my daughter got the Lego DJ figure and on a whim I thought it would look good on the circle of the Flying Lotus LP Cosmogramma, then Sleep Dopesmoker and then I started to look at the possibilities of making relevant figures for relevant LPs.  I had a Blogspot thang where I’d managed three reviews years before, but I gradually realised that if you gave people something to look at they might stop by and read my Mighty Rock Words of Power (MRWoP) too.

It took me a while to hit my stride and then when people actually started reading it … wow, it really is the best feeling.

Oh, Lego.  Yup, I’ve always loved it, way before I was conscious of music – although I grew up in a very music-oriented household.  I used to make elaborate Star Wars games and fantasies up through Lego, way before they had brought out space Lego. You used to have to improvise weapons in those days too, because Lego didn’t believe in promoting weapons as toys for kids.

M: That’s right, you used to have to use the “bullhorns” as guns, until Lego started introducing actual guns in 2005.  You seem to have a Minifigure appropriate for every single album review you do, no matter how bizarre or obscure.  Presently how many figures do you think you own?

15: I have a couple hundred Minifigures, which is not all of them by a long way, I’m not obsessive about collecting them and there are plenty of gaps in my collection.  I love it when they produce a new line and one strikes me as perfect for an LP I haven’t done yet.

A lot of the fun is improvising and putting combos of different figures together.  I’ve also drawn on a couple duplicates I have to make an Alice Cooper, a Scott Ian and a Ziggy Stardust; oh and I have also added cleavage to a figure or two along the way; that’s normal behaviour for a 44 year-old isn’t it?

M: I’m not one to judge.  What drives your review?  Do you start with the text or the visuals? 

15: Always the text.  I think wordaciously, not visually.  I’m a slow writer because I edit it all as I go along, most reviews take me at least 3 hours, with another 40 minutes or so on top for the pictures.  If you add in the demands of family life, a really demanding job, a little socialising and even, hey, listening to music sometimes, it all adds up to why I don’t produce as many as I’d like to.  There are never any ‘in the can’, I tend to write them, hit publish and go straight to bed, as it’s usually 1am by then.  I like waking up to everyone’s comments.

Q: Do you use any fancy-pancy camera or lighting equipment?  The images are always very crisp and vibrant, much better than I’ve been getting with my BlackBerry in my home office.

15: Absolutely not.  Everything I do is done on my iPhone (the model before the last one – 6 is it?), I’m not particularly good at it, I just take a lot of photos.  Shiny, shiny covers are the bane of my life.

What I am pretty good at now, by trial and error, is editing the pictures, I use a Windows App called Fhotoroom and another called KVADPhoto.  I have never ever published a picture I haven’t edited for contrast, colour, or cropped and altered etc.  Some of my favourites have been very boring photos before I have messed them around.

M:  I crop everything, but I wouldn’t know what to do as far as contrast or colour, so kudos to you sir.  A two-part question next:  What are your favourite reviews that you’ve done, both in terms of writing and in terms of photos?

15: In terms of the writing I rather like this comparison between Andrew Marvell, English metaphysical poet and a Rhino Bucket song about oral sex – it’s even got my voice on it:

https://jatstorey.com/2014/12/05/to-his-coy-bitch/

I’m also rather fond of doing interviews, that’s been a whole lot of fun when the right person has been on the other side who is willing to engage properly with the silliness of it all.  It’s also a nice way to get to chat to bands when you go see them live too.  Spencer from MFC Chicken was my first and favourite:

https://jatstorey.com/2014/11/18/spencer-speaks/

I have too many favourite pictures to pick a post, but these two have to come darned close – ‘Hatting’ Isaac Hayes and my take on The Shining:

https://jatstorey.files.wordpress.com/2013/07/hot-buttered-soul-02.jpg

https://jatstorey.files.wordpress.com/2016/02/the-shining.jpg

 

M: Ahh yes, The Shining was a personal favourite of mine too.   I find I often have to listen to an album while I write, and it can’t be the first listen either.  I need a fresh listen in order to capture all my thoughts and pass them on to the weary readers.  Your reviews are very different from mine, and frankly far beyond what I’m capable of writing.  Do you use the “listen as you write” technique or something else?

15: I try to give it a good listen the night before, or on my way to/from work (an hour-long commute doesn’t have to be all bad) and I listen to bits of it as I write, or if I’m happy I know it enough – I might be writing about something I’ve been listening to in heavy rotation for 28 years (Christ, I’m old!), I have an ambient playlist I listen to when I write sometimes.

M: What else do you need to be able to write?  I need to be in my underwear with a cold beverage.  No bevvies and no skivvies means no review.  I suspect you prefer warm slippers and oatmeal.

15: I need quiet, which is ironic given that most of my favourite music involves bellowing and shrieking.  I write at a desktop (hate lap-tops) in the room that also has our biggest TV in and so there can be a certain amount of negotiation involved – it’s often why I write so late into the morning, it’s the only time I can.

Other than that my needs are simple, I prefer non-restrictive trouser ware and that’s it.  You really write in your undies?

M: Hey, who’s conducting the interview here? I ask the questions! Is there any one band you really really hope reads your stuff?

15: Nah, although there is a fair chance of some artists tuning in because a lot of the LPs I bought in the late 80’s seem to have only sold one copy, to me – I always try to be pleasant because, you just should be.  If I can’t write anything too complimentary I always add in my caveat along the lines of ‘These guys made a far better record than I ever have I’m just a loser boy sat behind a keyboard’.

Larry Miller from Uncle Sam stopping by was wonderful (I own an LP he signed and bit for me back in ’91) and we’re still in touch – I even helped get their debut LP re-released, that was a real buzz.

https://jatstorey.com/2013/07/20/i-lost-more-friends-than-youll-ever-have/

Oh and (coughs) Mark Wilkinson may have stopped by once too …

https://jatstorey.com/2014/01/19/smiling-vinyl-whores/

M: Do you have any particular influences in terms of writing?  I’ve made no secret that in my early years, I was definitely trying to be Martin Popoff, Jr.  Your style is unlike anyone I’ve read, but surely that didn’t happen in a vacuum?

stan-lee15: I had to really think about this one.  In terms of the character I write in, the tone of it, a lot of it comes from Stan Lee in those 1960’s Marvel comics – they knocked me for 6 when I first read my parent’s copies as a kid, the jokey references to himself and his fellow writers and artists in ‘the bullpen’; it was very playful and irreverent, that stuck with me.

You could maybe chuck in a bit of Harry Harrison and Douglas Adams, they were and are still, the only humorous writers I truly like and I do try to amuse.

Other than that there were all those fabulous late 80’s Kerrang! journalists, who were informative and, again, playful in the way they wrote – lots of irreverence and in-jokes, they painted their own little world and made it seem like the coolest place in the world to work.  I met Phil Wilding at a gig once and was more excited about that than the band (Dangerous Toys).

Oh and I hope there’s enough self-deprecation in there to show I do write in character and I’m not really a megalomaniac with an omnipotence delusion.

M: Sure, sure.  I knew that.  Anyway, do you ever worry you will run out of things to say about music?  Or do you see “1537” as a long-term project?

15: No, mostly because of the format I’ve set up for myself, my blog runs on rails to an extent – jokey title (usually), review of record(s), review count at the end, Lego images.  I have enough of the little vinyl buggers that I don’t have to write about the same artist too often, which would fox me – the closest I ever came to a series, like you, Geoff and Aaron do so well, was spending a month writing about artists beginning with a ‘B’ – I found that really tough.

Anyway I’ve got 809 more records to review.  Not sure where I’ll take it after that, because the whole point of the blog, apart from being an extended diary for myself, was to make sure I took time out to listen to everything I own properly – I have a horror of having stuff I haven’t heard, it makes me feel gluttonous and despicable.

M: Thanks for taking the time to do this interview.  The agent who set this up didn’t want me to ask this last question.  But the interview is going well enough so I think I’m going to ask it.  You’re a Lego man — this is clear.  Meanwhile I’m into things that turn into little robots.  With all due respect, I think we both know that robots > bricks, but that is neither here nor there.  If you could transform into something, what would it be, and why?

I know the only reason you feel safe enough to ask me that is that I am currently orbiting earth at a crucial velocity on my space station, so I shall overlook your mortal impertinence this once.  I always wanted to be a farmer when I was little and was totally obsessed with tractors, it was all I ever drew apart from digital watches (they were new then).  So the obvious answer is a digital watch which transforms into a big kick-ass Ford County 1164 tractor (I always loved their colour scheme).

tractor

TRACTOR-TRON 1537 Lego/Transformers crossover set coming soon


Thanks again to 1537 for the chat.  We’ll leave you with a suitable music video…”Rockin’ is Ma Business”…and business is good!

 

#541: When the Packaging Gets Wrecked

GETTING MORE TALE #541: When the Packaging Gets Wrecked

It’s so easy for a store to wreck the very product that you want to buy.  It happens every day.  A CD jewel case helps protect your precious music…if it comes in a CD jewel case.  How did stores wreck the packaging?  Here are some of the most common!

  1. Box cutters

When you open up a fresh shipment of music, it’s very easy to damage the product inside with a box cutter and it happens all the time.  If it’s LPs inside the box, or digipack CDs, it’s very easy to cut open the top-most item inside the box.  Not only do you see this happen with music but toys and games too.  I’ve seen a few toys on shelves with the bubbles accidentally scored by overzealous box cutters.  I’ve accidentally done it to a few CDs because I wasn’t being careful enough.

  1. Price (and other) tags

I have some great examples here.  The first revolves around a rare Led Zeppelin Complete Studio Recordings box set.  This deluxe box set was released in 1993, but by 1996 it was deleted and hard to find.  The boss man apparently knew somebody from Warner who supposedly had a cache of them stashed away.  If so that would have been a potential goldmine.

If there was a cache of them or not, I don’t know, but we did get one to sell.  We sold it as new, but because of the format of stores (all CD cases on display were empty), the boss opened it up.  I believed this to be a mistake and I still do.  I think we could have sold it just as easily had we kept the sealed box on display behind the counter somehow.  But we didn’t, and we had to put stickers all over the now opened box set to proclaim that it was BRAND NEW and OUT OF PRINT.

IMG_00000655

One customer came up to the counter to complain.

“Why is this thing so expensive?” he asked, for good reason.

“It’s brand new,” I answered.  “The owner brought this one in sealed, and he opened it himself, so I can vouch for the fact that it’s brand new.”

“Yeah but he put stickers all over it!” complained the customer.  “Can you give me a deal?”

We were only selling the box for a few dollars over cost, so no deals were to be had.

We eventually sold that box set after it had sat there for a few weeks.  The stickers came off no problem, but had they stayed on there a while longer, they might have been an issue.  Sticker residue on paper can leave nasty stains, sticky spots, or even tears.

Our price tags were usually pretty good.  At one point we ordered a cheaper batch, and they were just awful.  You couldn’t peel them off in one piece, and you’d always leave paper on whatever you were peeling them off from.  Whenever we re-priced something, we were supposed to completely remove the old tag, leaving nothing behind.  These tags made that a chore.  It was a relief when that batch was used up.

The worst price tags I have seen in any store in my life came from Dr. Disc.   They are still around, though only in Hamilton now, and I don’t know if they still use the Yellow Tags of Death.  These tags had a magnetic security chip embedded in them, and left a horrible red residue on everything.  It was like taking a red crayon and melting it on your CD cover.  You could never get the red residue off, unless you used a product like Goo Gone, but it left its own oily residue behind that was equally impossible to remove.  I had to replace the case on every used CD I ever bought from Dr. Disc.  Every single case!

  1. Regular wear and tear

This is all but unavoidable.  Stuff gets damaged in shipping.  Customers drop stuff.  In our store, just about every front cover of Metallica’s Load CD was dog-eared.  Its thickness made it hard to put back in the CD case.  When the CD came out new, our display copies took severe beatings.  The front covers were so damaged that we had to sell them as used.

If you see something in a store that’s a little dinged up, but not too badly, ask if you can get a discount.  If you ask nicely, they will usually agree.  Whether it is worth it or not, is up to you!  Remember, most things tend to show up again.  You can usually wait until you find a better condition copy.

Are you picky?  Some of my customers were so picky that I actually told them “I don’t think buying anything used is really for you.”  Do you want everything as mint as possible?  Let us know in the comments.

 

#540: I Can Drive 55

GETTING MORE TALE #540:  I Can Drive 55

In 25 years of driving, I believe I have only had three speeding tickets.  Apparently, I can drive 55. Most of the time.

I took driver training at Canada Driving School, and there is one thing I’ll never forget from one of the in-class sessions.

“Music can have an influence on your driving,” said the instructor.  “Fast and upbeat music can trick your brain into driving faster without realizing it.  Keep an eye on your speedometer and don’t listen to AC/DC if this is a problem!”

A couple months later I had my license and was driving myself to and from school in my dad’s Plymouth Sundance.  There was no graduated licensing in Ontario back then.  I was driving alone on the expressway.  Of course, I loved having a car stereo to myself.  In short order it was proven that listening to AC/DC was not a problem for me.  Instead of weighing down the accelerator pedal, AC/DC kept me calm in traffic.  Silence made me nervous but music soothed.  If I was speeding it had nothing to do with the song on the tape deck.  If anything, I tended to slow myself down a bit so my trip could take a little longer, and I could finish a song.

In fact, recent studies have shown that, generally speaking, if music is an influence on driving it tends to be a positive influence.  I can’t say I’m surprised.

Sure, I’ve admitted to air drumming and so on in the car.  This is usually at red lights though, so I’m letting myself off.

I like to listen to live albums in the car.  They work very well in that noisy environment.  Instead of silence between songs that lets in all that road noise, you hear only the screaming of a crowd.  In addition, the length of a live album works well for highway driving.  If I’m heading to the Toronto area, a typical double live album will easily get a full play on the road.  At home, I don’t always have time to listen to a double live album in one sitting.

IMG_20140914_094438

Facing the roads on a daily basis in this town can be like taking your life in your hands.  I’ve whined and moaned about the drivers here and it has been getting worse.  The 401 is undergoing heavy construction and drivers have a loose grasp on what lanes are lanes and what are not.  It’s treacherous, and more and more drivers are thinking only about their commute time rather than driving like a sane person.  Instead of weaving in and out desperately trying to get a little further ahead in the pack, I tend to stay in one lane as much as possible.  Perhaps this is the calming effect of good music.  I don’t need to race home if there is a good song I want to finish.  Maybe the racing guys should put on a good song, too.

I’ll admit it, driving is far from my favourite activity.  My favourite kind of day off involves no driving anywhere.  There are estimates that we spend about five years of our lives locked in our cars on the road.  I prefer to think of that as five years of road testing some amazing albums.  I would also argue that roughly 50% of the music reviews here are mikeladano.com were brainstormed while listening to the albums in the car.

Quite frankly, I don’t understand the speed demons.  Where are you going in such a hurry?  Maybe you should have left a little earlier.  Some music in the car makes the time fly easier.

han-solo-cameo-in-the-i-cant-drive-55-music-video

Did you catch Han Solo’s cameo in the “I Can’t Drive 55” music video? Left – John David Kalodner. Right – Han Solo.

 

 

 

#539: Been a long time since I been to Frankenmuth

GETTING MORE TALE #539: Been a long time since I been to Frankenmuth

Frankenmuth Michigan is a small Bavarian hamlet/tourist trap not too far from the Canada border.  Some people love going; I seem to be one of the only dissenting voices.  My best friend Peter introduced us to the Frankenmuth tradition.  His family would typically go once a year, staying at the Bavarian Inn.  The big draws to the town are two.  One is the big “family style” chicken dinner at Zehnder’s, where the food just keeps coming.  The other attraction is Bronner’s, an all-year-round Christmas store.  Some in my family seemed absolutely thrilled to be buying our Christmas ornaments in April.

Frankenmuth seemed a long way to go for some chicken and Christmas ornaments.  However, it’s not too far for a shopping excursion focused on music, so that’s what I turned it into for me.  In the three years I went to Frankenmuth, I found plenty of goodies, and accumulated some entertaining memories.

frankenmuth

My first year was 1992.  I had just finished writing all my final exams for my first year classes at Laurier.  The Freddie Mercury Tribute concert had just aired.  I taped the whole thing, and then recorded it to cassette (three 100 minute tapes).  I tossed that into the Walkman, and joined the family for our first US road trip together.

The Mercury concert was special.  Queen shared the stage with some luminaries as David Bowie (RIP), George Michael (RIP), Mick Ronson (RIP), and many more.  Vivian Campbell played live with Def Leppard for the first time.  Tony Iommi and James Hetfield shared the stage with Queen on “Stone Cold Crazy”.  Guns N’ Roses were there, and Axl got to sing with new friend Elton John.  The excitement in the air was genuine.  There was talk afterwards of someone charismatic, like George Michael or Gary Cherone joining Queen permanently so they could continue.

Our first road stop was a McDonalds in a small town just outside of Flint.  The washroom stunk of piss so badly that my dad couldn’t even use it. Great first impression, Michigan!

When we got to the Bavarian Inn, I had the chance to watch MTV for the first time at length.  After all I’d heard about it, I was disappointed to see it was not nearly as good as Canada’s MuchMusic.  The American coverage of the Mercury concert (which was re-running all weekend) was truncated compared to what we saw in Canada.  MuchMusic had Erica Ehm and others on site at Wembley interviewing the stars and covering behind-the-scenes, while the US coverage cut away to other things.  The food at the Bavarian Inn was incredible, including what I remember to be the best omelette I’ve ever tasted.

I can’t say that I cared for the family style chicken dinner.  “Family style” isn’t my thing (where everybody has the same dinner, all served together on big platters).  If I’m eating out, I will rarely order chicken.  Seemed like a big waste of a night out, to go and eat somewhere that serves chicken dinner just like you get at home.  But I didn’t make these decisions, I just complained about them!

On the way home, we stopped at a Target store in Port Huron.  My first Target store; I had never even heard of them before.  This is where I made my first US music purchases.  In stock was the cassette single for “Let’s Get Rocked” by Def Leppard.  This featured the bonus track “Only After Dark”, a Mick Ronson track, who had just played at the Mercury concert!  The other item I picked up was Slaughter’s new The Wild Life CD, which had a different cover than the ones I’d seen in Canada.  It still appears to be the rarest version today.

The 1993 trip was even better, because this time Peter came with us.  In 1993, Peter was the man with the plan.  He was looking for something.  Something very specific, that as of yet was not released in Canada.  He had read about this new comedy tape called The Jerky Boys, and he was determined to find a copy.  And find a copy he did.

We found The Jerky Boys at a record store just on the outskirts of Frankenmuth.  At the same store, I picked five tapes that I couldn’t get back home:  Savatage’s first albums Sirens (1983), The Dungeons are Calling (1985), Power of the Night (1986) and the brand new Edge of Thorns (1993).  There was also Richie Kotzen’s third album, Electric Joy.  These fine records meant that the summer of 1993 was filled with sounds both heavy and complex.  The Kotzen album was a whole level beyond was I was used to listening to.  As for Savatage, they heavied up my tastes at a time when I was craving faster/heavier/louder.

I spent a lot of time absorbing each of these albums, but it was The Jerky Boys that dominated the car tape deck on that Frankenmuth trip.  Peter and I listened to the entire thing through.  Tarbash the Egyptian Magician, Sol Rosenberg and his glasses (he can’t see goddammit), and the whole gang had us laughing so hard, my sides actually hurt.  When the tape was done, we put it on repeat and played it again.  I’m not sure if my mom and dad enjoyed the Jerky Boys as much as I did.  I started calling people “sizzlechest” and responding to questions with “listen jerky, I don’t need to talk to you.”

What a summer.

This Frankenmuth trip was also my Karaoke debut.  I chose “The Immigrant Song”.  And I fucking killed it, in my opinion!  Like Axl Rose gyrating on meth, I owned that stage.  The heels of my cowboy boots stomped the boards, keeping their own beat.  I asked my entire family to leave the room, but I lost my place in the song when I caught them spying around a corner.

On we sweep, with threshing oar, our only goal will be the western shore.

That was a fantastic trip.  Mission accomplished, with both the music shopping and the Jerky Boys acquisition.  On my third and final year going to Frankenmuth, Peter really upped his game.  Once again, the goal was to acquire something that we could not get in Canada.

Instead of travelling in one car, we did a convoy with two.  Peter and I needed transportation of our own to run the missions we were planning.

As much as MTV did not impress me on my first US trip, our goal this time was dependant on MTV.

“Let’s rent a VCR and tape some episodes of Beavis and Butthead!”  We didn’t get the show in Canada.

That is exactly what we did.  We drove over to the local video store, and rented a VCR.  You might think renting a VCR in a foreign country might be difficult, but it wasn’t.  We hooked it up to the hotel TV (much easier than doing something like this today — more on that in a future instalment of Getting More Tale also involving Peter).  Tuning up MTV, we watched some music before Beavis and Butthead was scheduled.

This time, MTV really pissed me off.  They gleefully ran the embarrassing 1994 Motley Crue interview that the band infamously walked out of.  But the band didn’t do themselves any favours in that interview. MTV baited them a bit with the questions, but they didn’t have to attack Vince Neil in their answers. “No one cares anyway,” said Nikki Sixx when asked about his former frontman. Pushed further, they were asked to comment on Vince’s recent jet-ski accident that put him in hospital with broken ribs. Laughing, Mick Mars asked “What happened to the coral reef?” Sixx answered, “Hey, when 300 pounds of blubber lands on a coral reef, there’s gonna be some dust flying around.”

The question that killed the interview was about “women, hairspray and fire.” MTV ran the segment complete with Nikki mocking the question, while showing images of women, hairspray and fire from their music videos. Stick in a fork in that lineup; it was done.  No matter how good that 1994 Motley Crue album was (and is), that interview polished off the attempted comeback in one stroke.

We recorded a couple episodes of Beavis and Butthead and called it a night.  The next day we did some music and comic book shopping.  US exclusive once more:  Quiet Riot’s reunion album Terrified found and liberated.  I didn’t even know they had come out with anything new.  A cassette single for “Heaven Help” by Lenny Kravitz also found its way home with me. I scored an oversized Black Sabbath comic (Rock-It Comics) and Transformers: Generation 2 #1 with the silver foil fold out cover.

With another successful trip in the books, we packed our bags and checked out.  The last mission to run was returning the VCR to the video store.  There was only one snag.  We were primed and ready to head home early…and the video store opened at noon.  We had to kill some hours driving around, but when that store opened we got the hell out of dodge.  Not the greatest return trip ever, but at least we had Lenny Kravitz.

I stopped going to Frankenmuth after that trip, although Peter and his family returned yearly for some chicken and Christmas ornaments.  My family too.  My mom tells me of a memorable trip that ended in the hospital!   Four years ago my mother, father and sister made a trip where they did the usual; Frankenmuth chicken and the Christmas store. They also ate a lot of junk food; pizza, hot dogs, French fries and candy. On the way home they stopped along the 401 for more French fries. That night my mother ended up in the hospital with a gall bladder attack. It was serious enough that she had it removed two weeks later.  Thank goodness they were home when it happened as they never bothered with extra insurance for a short trip to the US.

As years went on, I ran into people all the time who had gone to Frankenmuth for a vacation.  Inevitably, they will always talk about three things:  the Bavarian Inn, the chicken dinners, and the Christmas store.  None of them seem to have any stories about cool comic books, or finding rare tapes and CDs in Frankenmuth.  Very few of them have done Karaoke, and none have performed “The Immigrant Song” at the Bavarian Inn.  Nobody rented a VCR to record Beavis and Butthead, and then have to wait hours for the store to open to return said VCR.   Nobody even discovered the Jerky Boys on their Michigan trips.

I guess that means that Peter and I are the only ones who did Frankenmuth right.

#349: Christmas Eve [Reblog]

One more reblog for this season.  Here’s an instalment of Getting More Tale (the sequel series to Record Store Tales) about Christmas Eve in the glorious, wonderful period we knew as the 1980s.  Feliz Navidad!

 

RECORD STORE TALES Mk II: Getting More Tale
#349: Christmas Eve

So here we are once again, Christmas Eve.  When I was a kid, you were my favourite day of the entire year.   It’s hard not to get excited about you, today in 2014.  Christmas Eve, you were the center of everything, 30 years ago!   Such a short but exciting day.  Inevitably, relatives would start handing us colourfully wrapped boxes, the best ones saved for last.  Then the ritual of steps:  Shake the box.  Give the card a cursory read and give it a toss.  Rip the paper.  Peer inside.  30 years ago, there would have been Star Wars figures inside.  Perhaps my Jabba the Hutt gift set.  An Atari game, possibly.  I wasn’t into music that much until about 1985, when Kiss really opened my eyes.

Around that time, Christmas Eve changed a little bit, but only in a subtle way.  Instead of racing downstairs to play our new Atari games, we would race upstairs to play our new cassette tapes!  Some Helix, Kiss, or Twisted Sister would have been among the music received back then.  We also would have received our fair share of GI Joe and Transformers toys.  I remember the year I got the GI Joe Hovercraft from “Santa”!  Oh boy.  My dad won’t let me forget that one.  I woke up at 1 in the morning to play with it.  Yeah, the parents weren’t overly thrilled to be woken up by the noise at that hour.  I just couldn’t stay asleep!  Having a younger sister meant the whole Santa thing went on longer than its normal sell-by date, but I wasn’t complaining.  It was a lot of fun.

I’m sure tonight won’t be that different.  If I’m lucky, I will receive a CD or two from somebody who loves me.  I won’t race anywhere to go and listen to it right away, but it will be just as appreciated.  After I got older, got a job, and started buying people gifts with my own money, I’ve realized that it’s the giving that is so much more fun.  I cannot wait to see the look on people’s faces, especially when forced to open my elaborately disguised surprises.  That’s what I get a kick out of the most now.

This year, I wish each one of you all the best, and indeed a Merry, Merry Christmas.  Whether you celebrate it or not, have a good day, eh?  Be safe.  Please drink responsibly, and please call a cab if you have been drinking.  But that’s enough serious talk.  I’ll leave you with one of my favourite Christmas videos (still unreleased on CD to this day), and some links to past Christmas posts.  Enjoy!  Ho ho ho!


Winger’s cool traditional / funky version of “Silent Night”!

RECORD STORE TALES:

WHALE

#535: Drop the Microphone

GETTING MORE TALE #535: Drop the Microphone

Need to do some recording, but don’t own a microphone?  No problem.  In a pinch, any speaker can be used as a microphone.

As kids, my best friend Bob and I recorded stuff all the time.  Skits, songs, commercials, and school projects were all recorded on cassettes on a regular basis. Some of the most fun weekends we had were spent recording.  And laughing, a lot.

The problem was never lack of ideas, only lack of decent equipment.  As kids we had to make due with what we had, which wasn’t much compared to what can be bought cheaply and easily today.  We only had one microphone.  It was a Lloyds from the early 70’s, and I still have it.  But there were two of us and we both needed microphones.

I don’t know how we discovered it, but it turns out, any speaker can be used as a microphone, and that’s how we did most of our childhood recordings.

35-audioI had a ghetto blaster (dual cassette) with detachable speakers.  The speakers connected via a normal 3.5mm audio jacks.  The deck had a microphone jack of the same size.  Converting a speaker to a microphone was as simple as unplugging it, and plugging it into the microphone jack.

Every speaker has a magnet and a coil to create sound.  The signal travels through the wire to the speaker coil and magnet, causing the speaker’s membrane to vibrate and create sound.  It also works in reverse!  By plugging it into a microphone jack, the speaker membrane vibrates by picking up sound, and then converts it into a signal.

The sound quality was more than enough for two kids with a $0 budget.  It was a tad bass-heavy, but good enough for us.  Any serious recording should have proper microphones, but if you’re sitting down to record for shits n’ giggles, give it a try.

“Oral Roberts and Pals” sketch recorded January 12 1988 using the “speakers as microphone” technique.  From “Mike and Bob Vol II”.

#533: Spirituality as a Heavy Metal Fan

STOPARRETThe below is a personal non-preachy discussion on living life as a Christian heavy metal fan.  I’m not interested in changing anyone’s personal convictions, just telling a story.  If this bothers you, press “back” now.

 

papa

GETTING MORE TALE #533: Spirituality as a Heavy Metal Fan

Any fan of heavy metal music who is also a believer in the Lord above has had to come to grips with this apparently hypocrisy.  How can one follow the word of God and yet listen to Ghost?

Believe In One God Do We,
Satan Almighty,
The Uncreator Of Heaven And Evil,
And The Unvisable And The Visable,
And In His Son,
Begotten Of Father,
By Whom All Things Shall Be Unmade,
Who For Man And His Damnation,
Incarnated,
Rise Up From Hell,
From Sitteth On The Left Hand Of His Father,
From Thense He Shall Come To Judge,
Out Of One Substance,
With Satan,
Whose Kingdom Shall Haveth No End.

I wrestled with this contradiction very early in life. As a young Catholic-raised kid discovering rock music, I wanted to make up my own mind. One of my earliest sources of music via the magic of Sunday afternoon taping sessions was my next door neighbor George.  In addition to the Kiss discography, George had most of the Maiden, Priest and Ozzy catalogue either on LP or cassette.  George wasn’t particularly religious, but one afternoon he did tell me, “I won’t listen to anything Satanic.”  I took that to mean that Maiden, Priest and Ozzy lyrics checked out A-OK.

Many people of faith have found that their religious convictions shake and waver over the years.  That period for me began in the 1990s, although I never considered myself an agnostic or an atheist.  I was in the early years of my University career; that period when you think you know it all.  I remember some fierce discussions around the dinner table with me loudly proclaiming that I was the only sitting authority on whatever subject had come up.  My parents remember them too, as the naive younger me spouted off about whatever I read on an overhead projector.  Meanwhile, I was frustrated that they didn’t seem to be giving my lecture serious enough consideration.  Some dinners ended up with me storming up to my room in anger with my food unfinished.

One of my earliest courses in University was my first year introduction to Anthropology.  The prof, whose name long escapes me now, was an animated character.  His long hair was always tied up in a ponytail on the back of his head.  He wore suits and ties to class, which most profs did not.  Many (especially in the psych department) preferred socks and sandals.  He told anecdotes and moved around a lot.  He always kept one hand on the podium.  The class noticed his storytelling sessions always proceeded with one hand firmly anchored, keeping him in a tight orbit at the front of the classroom.  He was a fantastic teacher and I briefly considered a career in Anthropology before I realized it involved a great deal of travel and going out of doors.

He was most certainly an atheist, which is unsurprising considering that the first semester of the class was about primate evolution.  He was fascinating, and though I never doubted the science of genetics and natural selection, he certainly proved to me that the simple 7-days 7-nights story of the Bible did not happen as simply as it was written.  That could only be allegory for a sequence of events that humanity did not have words for or basic knowledge of at the time.  Knowledge is cumulative.  We know now that we can follow the development of life through fossils, getting older and older as we dig deeper.  Things line up, make sense.  He explained to us why the concept of a “missing link” is a logical fallacy.

None of this bothered me.  Even though I wouldn’t consider myself a spiritual person at that age, I just assumed any God who is truly all knowing and all powerful could easily create the universe as it was, with the laws of nature, physics and all the matter inside it, via the Big Bang.  It would still turn out exactly as He envisioned it to, because that’s the definition of an all powerful God.  There didn’t seem to be any contradiction to me.  I tried to argue this as part of an intro Philosophy course paper that I wrote the same year.  I attempted to go to the quantum scale to explain things and blew it fabulously.  That paper was a C-, if I recall correctly.  The T.A. that marked it suggested that the quantum section should have been axed completely.  (He was absolutely right!)

At the same time, I was very deeply invested in a love of heavy music, having collected at least 400 tapes at that stage.  Stryper aside, none of them were Christian rock.  There were plenty of masters of the dark arts, however:  Alice Cooper, the Ozzman, the Sabs, Priest, Maiden and the lot.  As least, that’s the way many religious folks seemed to think it was over the years.  I couldn’t hear any Satanism in their lyrics.  Look at the words to Sabbath’s “After Forever”:

I think it was true it was people like you that crucified Christ,
I think it is sad the opinion you had was the only one voiced,
Will you be so sure when your day is near, say you don’t believe?
You had the chance but you turned it down, now you can’t retrieve.

Perhaps you’ll think before you say that God is dead and gone,
Open your eyes, just realize that He’s the one,
The only one who can save you now from all this sin and hate,
Or will you still jeer at all you hear? Yes! I think it’s too late.

Because the song also has a line that goes “Would you like to see the Pope on the end of a rope – do you think he’s a fool?,” some folks are likely to get their panties in a bunch. Context in any art form is important, often true with lyrics.  It’s hard to imagine Ozzy sitting there seriously worshipping Satan when he’d rather be drinking, don’t you think?

At the same time, I was collecting the albums of Savatage, and their lyrics sometimes had a clearly Christian bent.  Their Streets album features a character called “D.T. Jesus” and a full-on Holy character redemption.  This didn’t bother me either.  It stirred warm memories of Bible stories that I learned in school.  Most importantly at that time, I was learning that music lyrics are not always meant to be taken at face value.  Take Poison for example.  You might think that the “Unskinny Bop” might be an exercise regime.  They cleverly disguised their true intention with made-up words.  Ozzy isn’t singing about his belief in the undead in “Bark at the Moon”.  Maybe he’s inspired by some movie he saw as a kid.  Does it really even matter?  It’s just a song.  It’s just entertainment.

OZZYThere is one instance when paying attention to the words does really matter, such as when a vulnerable youth might think “Flying High Again” sounds really fun and cool because Ozzy said so.  But that is where the parents must step up.  It’s not Ozzy’s responsibility, nor the state’s, to monitor what your kids are doing.  Pay attention to what they are listening to and make sure you give them the straight talk on any issues that concern you.  That’s what my parents did (unbeknownst to me).  My mom read over the lyrics when I wasn’t home.  She never had made any musical demands of her son other than “turn it down” when it was too loud.

I felt a stronger return to my faith around the time I met my wife.  Our connection seemed beyond just two random people falling for each other.  It seemed like two puzzle pieces coming together.  Like I’d finally found the one who understands and puts up with my bizarre self, and vice versa.  It’s not about thinking “I was made for loving you, and you were made me loving me,” so much as feeling it.  One thing I learned from Philosophy class is that faith is not something you can prove or disprove.  The definition of an omniscient and omnipotent God means He or She could create the universe we live in without leaving any trace of His/Her existence, nor any purpose we can comprehend.  Maybe we’re all just chess pieces on a big chess board.  You don’t know and you can never prove it one way or another, because how do you know your “proof” isn’t just another move in the chess game?

Faith means you believe something or not.  I think science is pretty bang-on with how it describes how the universe behaves, and will continue to modify and reshape its theories based on what comes flying out of the next particle accelerators.  It’s an exciting time to be following science, as we unlock some of the most elusive particles predicted by theory.  At the same time, events in my life (far more than just meeting my wife) have made my heart lean further in the direction of faith than disbelief.  I think whoever it is that created the universe did so with the laws of nature that we study today.  I think that science is peering into the mind of God, as Einstein suggested.  I came to these conclusions on my own; only later did I realize many got there before me.

As for lyrics about Satan even though I’m on the other guy’s side?  I think it’s all about being a good person in the time you’re given on this Earth.  I don’t care what you call it; that doesn’t mean we can’t be friends.  As long as you try to go about your life without being an asshole, sure we can be friends.  For example I’d be foolish to exclude you from friendship just because we don’t share the same opinions on (delicious) olives.  I’d be equally foolish to exclude you just because you have different ideas about how we all got here.  I think, if anything, we’re all here to help each other.  We should do that anyway, even if it’s just holding a door open for your neighbor.  There are some things that some Christians consider hellfire-worthy sins that I could care less about.  It was always important for me to find a balance between my spiritual beliefs and what I know to be right or wrong.  I’ve encountered a few Christians who say that homosexuality in a sin.  A really bad one, too.  I don’t want anything to do with that statement.  I know in my mind and my heart that it doesn’t matter what gender you’re attracted to.  What matters is using your time on this Earth to be the best person you can be.

I like Ghost; I don’t have to sing along to their music if I’m not feeling the words.  That’s free will, and I don’t think I’ll go to hell for exercising it, even though some folks have warned me that’s where I’m headed.  I hope that when it comes to the important choices in life, I’ve made more of the good kind than bad.  At the end of it all, that seems to be more important.

Reverend X.  Much different than Catholic school.  Is that a phone book?