“Mayday” — new single from The Suckers

May 1st, 2012

I’ve just released a new single about what happened in downtown Seattle this morning. It’s my attempt to “Born in the USA” the smashers with a chorus that sounds jingoistic but verses that underscore the stupidity of it all. Here it is:


There are a couple of B-Sides, too. Really the whole single has a Seattle feel. The first B-Side is a quick ditty called “Give Me a Break” that’s about the upcoming vote on gay marriage in the state. The final track is a cover of “Message in a Beer Bottle” by Screeching Weasel and its link to Seattle is a little more tenuous… the narrator of the song describes walking in the rain. It’s weak, but I’ve got to have some sort of theme!

The whole single is available for download on the Music section of the site. I guess this means it will be a part of some new Suckers album at some point in the future. Stay tuned.

Libation: Orange You Evil?

October 30th, 2011

I’ve recently gotten into mixing drinks. Carrie and I are hosting a Halloween party on Monday night, and I figured I’d try my hand at coming up with a new drink to suit the occasion. I decided to go with something color-based, and so I went with orange. I call it Orange You Evil, because I love puns. The drink didn’t turn out as colorful as I had hoped (it’s more a light yellow than orange), but I think it has a good flavor. You’ll need:

  • Tequila (silver) — I used Lunazul Blanco.
  • Triple Sec
  • Galliano
  • Orange Soda — I used Dry Soda’s Blood Orange flavor. Dry Soda is a local Seattle soda that’s made with less sugar than normal. You could probably substitute Fanta or Sunkist, but the finished drink would wind up being more sweet than you might like.
  • Orange Juice — I used bottled juice because I didn’t have any fresh ones to squeeze. If you wind up using sugary orange soda, you can swap the orange juice for fresh-squeezed and make it an equal trade, sugar-wise. If you prefer fresh-squeezed orange and Dry Soda, you could add half an ounce of simple syrup to even things out.

I used a 1.5-ounce shot glasss for making this drink.

First, fill a highball glass with ice. Add a shot of tequila and triple sec, then add about a quarter-ounce (1/6 of the shot glass) of the Galliano. Fill the remaining space with a 50/50 mixture of the orange soda and the orange juice. Garnish with a lemon wedge.

I had originally tried this drink with rum, but found it just too sweet. The tequila was a natural substition. I’d like to say there’s some sort of associate between Mexican culture’s Day of the Dead and blah blah blah, but the truth is I just thought tequila was the next natural spirit after rum. I really like the flavor balance of the tequila with the orange, and the Galliano helps to add some texture while still complimenting the other ingredients. Vodka might also work, but the other drink I’ll be serving at the party (Black Magics) already contains vodka, and I wanted some variety in my potent potables.

Don’t Panic!

September 28th, 2011
Don't Panic!

From Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Towelday-Innsbruck.jpg

Imagine yourself doing something you do pretty much every day. You could be on a trip to the grocery store, or seeing a movie, or eating in a cafeteria. Maybe you’re just walking down the street. Now imagine that you start to feel pressure in your chest, so subtly at first that you don’t notice any onset; after a while it’s just there, and it’s growing. For me, it always starts in the chest. It feels like my lungs are a little bit too small but heavier than normal. “Maybe,” you start to think, “this feeling will go away by itself.” Maybe if you stop thinking about it. But it doesn’t. You can’t stop thinking about it. Quite the opposite in fact — the crushing feeling intensifies and it’s the only thing you can think about. Every breath you take feels shorter than the last, like an invisible boa constrictor is slowly squeezing the normalcy out of you. Breathe out the sanity and mundanity of what you’re doing; breathe in panic, breath by terrifying breath.

Now you start to become acutely aware of how others perceive you. Your breathing becomes shallower and shallower, which must be more and more noticeable to the people around you, which only intensifies your fear and worsens your breathing. It’s a vicious circle that robs you of all clarity. You keep looking from side to side, almost as if you’re expecting to be attacked, as if this horror inside your brain could be made manifest. Your thoughts start bouncing around in your head, all the while orbiting a central nexus of fear and doubt and, well… panic. Each moment brings your thoughts closer and closer to the central black hole about which all your thoughts are swirling. Anything. You’d give anything to escape, to get out, to leave now. By now you’re breathing faster and harder and heavier than you ever do when you’re exercising and exhausted. You feel like shouting, you feel like exploding, you feel like you’re going to die, and being aware of it all makes it so much worse. There is nothing you can do. You feel so stupid and small; you can’t believe you actually thought you had a chance to stop this. So you get out, any way you can. You lie, you run, you flee. And next time you’re facing a similar situation, you might find an excuse to avoid it entirely, because who would want to ever experience that more than once?

This is the best I can do to describe a panic attack. If you’ve never experienced it, you will never be able to understand fully. And you are very, very fortunate.

I remember my first panic attack well. It was in seventh grade, on a field trip, on a bus. It was triggered by my fear of heights. We were coming down from some precipice in Montana (there are a lot of them there), on a trip to Helena or Butte or one of the other major cities. I remember looking out the window and feeling certain that we were going to plunge off the edge. I remember telling myself how stupid that was, and simultaneously not believing a word of it. And I remember my breath starting to get faster and faster, and thinking about how my classmates must be aware of it, and how that made it even worse. And then we were down, and the danger was gone, but the fear wasn’t. I cried into my jacket, and after fifteen minutes or so I could look up. It was horrible, but I had a good friend with me (Josh) who comforted me. That was nice. It’s one of the best things to get you through it. These days, it’s Carrie who gets me through it.

The worst part about panic attacks is that you can never tell they’re going to come until they start. You can’t predict them. You can identify circumstances that increase the chances that one will strike, but there are no guarantees. You could go to the same place at the same time of day with the same circumstances, and one day you’ll be fine and the other day everything will just implode. My attacks hit the hardest during my freshman year of college. I wasn’t really close friends with anybody in my grade who was also attending the University of Montana (most of my friends were in the grade below), and I’m pretty awkward about making friends, so I was very, very alone my first year. Thus, I didn’t have anybody to help me through the attacks, which made them a million times worse.

I also had the cheapest meal plan. So I could only eat once a day, in the cafeteria (called appropriately enough, the Food Zoo), by myself. I always ate dinner there, usually a huge meal because I was so hungry by that time of day. Some days, I was fine. I could go there, eat my fill, and return to my room, to watch Jeopardy and the news. Other days, I could barely make it to my table and eat a few bites before I had to escape. Sometimes, I wouldn’t even finish getting my food because I knew I wouldn’t even be able to start eating. During the mildest of attacks, I could eat enough food to meet my biological needs and could even feel relaxed enough (this is a relative term) to leave my tray in the food disposal area. During the worst attacks, I just left everything where it was. I think this happened at least twice. Sorry, fellow Food Zoo patrons and Food Zoo workers. There really wasn’t anybody sitting there.

That’s probably why I got so thin my first year of school. I wasn’t eating that much to begin with, and every once in a while (probably once a week during the worst stretch) I would just skip a meal. One week, there was a three-day stretch when I didn’t eat anything because I couldn’t force myself to because I was so afraid of another attack. This is a key component of Panic Attacks — avoiding the circumstances that trigger them. The second day of that fun stretch, I just left my tray on the buffet line, and ran out the door, and hid behind the bushes trying to catch my breath and stop crying. Probably looked pretty interesting, this big guy breathing hard and crouching in the bushes planted outside the first floor of a dorm. This was about the time I started taking advantage of the free counseling that they offered at the Curry Health Center. It wasn’t just about the panic attacks, I was also working through my awkwardness and shyness. It helped a lot. I cannot stress that enough. Professionals know how to help. Later, I was helped more by having friends nearby. The attacks diminished my second year, and by my last year of school (year six, for those keeping track), I was free of them as a recurring ordeal.

The strangest thing is that I don’t mind being in a crowd if they’re watching me perform. I was in Speech and Debate in high school, and never had a performance-related attack — even at the state meet. I never felt that way in any of the plays I was in, or before or during any of my bands’ shows. The most terrifying attacks are triggered by crowds, but not by audiences. If they’re watching something, even me, then I have no reason to be afraid. That doesn’t make sense, but neither do panic attacks, really.

Large crowds are the only significant trigger I have now. I still get an attack every now and then. Like I said, I can’t predict it. I’ve been fortunate enough not to have one happen in the cafeteria at work, or on the bus, or at a Mariners game or Rat City Roller Girls game. The last one was at the Pacific Science Center, when Carrie and I and some other friends were seeing the Star Wars exhibit. I hadn’t even gotten through the first floor when I knew it was coming. It came on fast, and I had to leave. I was so upset, I didn’t even look at the gift shop. I spent the next 20 minutes sitting on the cement walkway outside the gift shop, slowing my breathing and wondering what the rest of the exhibit was like. By then I’d calmed down enough that I didn’t even look distraught.

It’s gotten really good. The Star Wars episode was the last significant attack I’ve had (I had a minor one while walking to work a couple Fridays ago, but it wasn’t nearly as major as it might have been). I did worry that something might happen when Carrie and I went up the Space Needle, but that was fine, too. All in all, I’m getting better. This has a redoubling effect, because it means I think about the attacks less, which means I worry less, which means I have them less. I wish I could logic myself into this kind of scenario, but it only happens with time and a little luck.

I don’t really tell many people about my panic attacks, because I guess I’m ashamed of them. I’ve written a song or two about it, but in vague enough terms that it probably wasn’t clear unless you were really paying attention. The only people who know for sure are probably Carrie and my parents. I’m trying to change this because I’m trying to fight off the last lingering traces. It’s absolutely terrifying having a panic attack, but having people who care about you enough to help you through it is as close to a cure as there is for me.

Here’s one of those songs I told you about: The Suckers — “A Normal Life”

Upcoming Projects — Solo Album, Markovs, and Dr. Horrible Covers

September 26th, 2011

First, I’ve finally resumed work on my new album. It’s tentatively titled From the Big Sky to the Rainy One, and I will probably finish it by the spring of 2011. I’ve narrowed down the song list to about ten, and I know a few more will pop up as I work on the others. It looks like it’s going to be more folk-influenced than inside, and I think this time the political songs will be kept to a minimum. That’s the same thing I said about the last album, though.

I’m also working on a new album from the Markovs, which is going to be straight-ahead punk rock (as opposed to the pop-punk of the Suckers). This record is a bit further along in development than the solo album… I have about five tracks laid town and nearly all of the songs are written, though not yet finalized. I’m looking to finish this one before the end of the year, if at all possible.

Finally, as kind of a fun thing, I’m working on a full-album cover of Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog. I’m going to employ my friends for the different parts, and if I can find enough singers I won’t even be providing vocals at all. It’s harder than it sounds to cast the three main parts (Dr. Horrible, Penny, and Captain Hammer) because apparently I don’t know any altos or tenors. I might need to ‘go public’ with it and find some singers on Reddit, for example. Despite the complications, one nice thing about this will be that I can create karaoke tracks by removing.the vocals. I’m working on this in parallel to the albums mentioned above.

It’s a lot on my plate, so I’m sure things will slip. As I get closer to finishing each project I’ll start nailing down official release dates.

Videos – Jonathan Coulton – “I’m Your Moon”, Descendents – “When I Get Old”, R.E.M. – “Falls to Climb”

September 23rd, 2011

I was busy last night, playing a lot of acoustic songs for videos. I settled on three.

“I’m Your Moon” (Jonathan Coulton)

First up, an acoustic cover of “I’m Your Moon”, which is a beautiful love song between Pluto and Charon. Carrie and I wish that we’d known about this song for our wedding, as it would have been our first dance (it was “The Luckiest” by Ben Folds, which doesn’t rally have much of a beat).

“When I Get Old” (Descendents)

Next up is some punk rock introspection from the Descendents.

“Falls to Climb” by R.E.M.

Finally, in honor of their breakup announcement, here’s one of my favorite tracks from R.E.M. This is my go-to cheer-up song. I guess the original recording was mostly acoustic and mandolin-based, then Michael Stipe replaced all that with some synthesizers. Crazy Michael!

The Death Penalty Is Wrong

September 21st, 2011

Warning: I am very, very upset and thus this post uses very Not Safe For Work language.

I don’t give a flying fuck about whether Troy Davis was guilty. You fucking look me in the eyes and tell me it’s okay to murder another human being. You tell me that taking someone’s life without their consent is ever justified. You fucking tell me why. You tell me it’s okay to do that in my name, in all our names. I don’t have numbers, I don’t have facts and figures, I really don’t even pretend to have logic on this issue. I just have a feeling deep down in my gut, telling me that it’s never okay for the state to take somebody’s life. The death penalty is wrong.

Every human life has value. You can’t prove that it doesn’t — because you can’t prove a negative. Take the most foul, wretched excuse for a human being you can imagine, and try to tell me that his life has zero value, that in fact his mere existence is a detriment to society, so much so that he must be murdered, and I’ll tell you that you’re not looking hard enough. Every human being on this planet has something to offer, some whole greater than its parts that is irrevocably lost when he is snuffed out. The wonders of existence are so vast that every sapient being in history is to me as close to a miracle as I’ll profess to acknowledge. I’d like to point out the potential each living human (even the murderers and worse) has, but that’s going down a road that smells a little too anti-choice to me… I’m angry and being irrational right now, but I don’t want to put my foot in my mouth. I’ll put it this way: you can do absolutely horrid things, but then you can turn around and do amazingly beautiful things. This doesn’t justify the horrible things, but it should give us all pause. The death penalty is wrong.

Don’t talk to me about justice. Murder is not justice. Get it wrong once, in the name of everybody, and we’re all culpable. How many people have been wrongly killed in the name of justice? How many of those shameful deaths are acceptable, fucking broken eggs to make an omelette, to get whatever payoffs might or might not arise from the death penalty? Can you name a number or percentage of the population? That would be an abhorrent calculus of life and death. Yet such a number does exist, although we may never know it. The answer to me is clear: zero. The death penalty is wrong.

We have been making good progress at eliminating barbarisms and injustices for thousands of years. We are not moving fast enough to eliminate this one. In the developed world, slavery is gone, women can vote, LGBT persons are (generally) accepted (yes, we could use more work in this area), and we are free to seek our own destinies and believe and say what we want. Yet our country is one of a backwards few that still murders criminals in the names of all the people. This makes me angrier and sadder than I can possibly express. The death penalty is wrong.

[Penn and Teller have done a much better job of explaining my position than I ever could, in an episode of Bullshit.]

Counting My Blessings

September 20th, 2011

I’m feeling a bit blue for some complicated, personal reasons. It’s nothing I won’t be able to get over in time with my usual grace and aplomb. It really is a First World Problem. Nevertheless, I find it helpful to count my blessings. Well, blessings is the wrong word, since I don’t believed that anything is blessed. Count my perks? Enumerate the things about my life that I enjoy. We’ll go with that.

I have a loving wife. Somebody who’s there for me, even when I’m being bone-headed or pig-headed or just screwing up. The best part is that she’s my best friend, and I still get many years to find more reasons to love her. And maybe even create a few new lives with, to mold in my own image (stop reading this over my shoulder while I’m writing, darling&hellip)

I have an awesome family. And most of them are nearby. Almost every parent out their believes that their kid is the bee’s knees. I know my parents are. I feel very blessed to have (not-so) randomly wound up with Mom and Dad to raise. Throw in an awesome kid sister and baby brother, and it just sweetens the deal. Plus I have so many other fun, supportive, kind, caring relatives around. Then, I get to count my in-laws, too!

I have a fantastic set of friends. So awesome that they broke into my house on my wedding anniversary to leave Carrie and me a cake. So awesome that they’ll drop what they’re doing to play a few board games or go to the pub. So awesome that they’re willing to lend their singing voices to my latest hare-brained recording projects. So awesome that they let me help them move… well, I’m sure they’ll reciprocate someday when Carrie and I find some other place to live. And I’ve got plenty of opportunities to make new ones, too.

I have a job I love. I like what I do for a living, and am compensated fairly for it. I like the people I work with, and look forward to seeing them each morning. I get to write software for a living; that’s pretty cool. And it’s used by lots of people every day. I don’t work unreasonable hours and I don’t have an inhumane boss and I don’t have a dehumanizing commute. I have a say in what happens day-to-day.

I have a hobby that keeps me interested. I love listening to music and making it. If I get tired of playing or if I get blisters on my fingers, I can listen to records for a while. There is a nearly endless supply of the stuff to keep my ears occupied, and there’s a nearly limitless wellspring of creative energy inside me to keep me occupied for the rest of my life. This is also something I’ll be able to pass on to my kids someday, and that’s something to be excited about, too.

I live in an awesome city. Aside from marrying Carrie, moving to Seattle was probably the best idea I’ve ever had. I love living here. There’s so much to do, so many people to meet, and so many sees to see everything. Want to touch the ocean? The sound’s right here. Want to get away from the buildings and commune with nature? Half an hour to the east. Want to see a show? Pick from hundreds. Want to go to a bar? Close your eyes and turn in a random direction. The only thing I’d change is the luck of our baseball team, and even then I’d have to think about it. It’s kind of nice having underdogs to root for. Plus there isn’t anywhere else to go but up, really.

I live in a free country. Sure, I’m not satisfied with everything that happens. I really hate that civilians in other countries are killed in the name of my safety and security. I really hate that we won’t grow up as a country and allow loving, consenting adults to marry whoever they want. I really hate the bickering and infighting that I have to be exposed to in order to participate in politics. But aside from those complaints, it’s a nice place to live. And these things give me something to work toward to make my country even better.

I have my health. And it’s getting better every day. I’m eating right, and exercising, and I have no major complications or history of medical problems.

I’m satisfied with my place in this universe. It’s just staggering, really, the odds against me being here. And I don’t need a personal deity to make sense of it all. I’ve got a nearly boundless sense of wonder about the universe, and adding some supernatural factor just cheapens the experience for me. Instead, I believe in love and curiosity and peace, and that’s enough for me. I don’t have much time here, cosmically speaking. But that’s okay, because I can still do so much over this little chunk of life that my parents have given me.

I have a strong desire to make things better. Not just for myself. For everyone I know and love. I’m paid enough that I can spare some of what I earn for helping others, and believe I can really make a difference this way. I’ve got the urge to improve myself too, which means I am improving myself, bit by bit. I’m becoming a better husband, brother/sister/son, friend, coder, musician, Seattle resident, and passenger on Spaceship Earth one day at a time, slowly but significantly.

Not everybody has as much to be thankful for as I do. When I think about things this way, my silly little sadnesses feel a lot less significant. That’s the whole point.

Video – “Quiet” (Bad Astronaut cover)

September 18th, 2011

This is what I would call Hangover Music:

Video – “Miles Davis & The Cool”

September 11th, 2011

I did two at once:

Video – Code Monkey

September 11th, 2011

An electric cover of “Code Monkey” by Jonathan Coulton. I’m not nearly as cool a sneering musician as that poster frame would indicate.