Dec 31

A Look Back

I can’t believe the year is over. Time is flying out of control for me.

For me, 2006 was a year of examining the past and beginning to understand how it has shaped my present. It was a year that saw me reconnecting with some of the best friends I have ever had in my life. Shane, Tracy, my cousin Marge, and of course Toby.

I’ve also committed myself to writing more on my site. I have been telling the story of the record contract and reliving that period which was simultaneously the best and worst time of my life. As a result of the writing and spending time reading other blogs I have once again found myself describing people I don’t even know as my friends. Dutchy, Bianca, Scott, Chad, Killer and Liz, Mist, Miss Britt all seem like old friends to me now. I met Kristy and Sue and love them. I’ve seen my friendships with Jerry and especially Dan grow stronger this year, and I’m very thankful for that.

All because of blogging.

My relationship with UMB remains close and I’ve even gotten him to blog on his own and he has started reading mine.

Total Eclipse
has had its normal cycle of ups and downs, with the turnover of a few members, big successful gigs, stressful practices and auditions. The band remains my one reason for not screaming and running away from the area.

2006 has also seen my career blow up into a million broken pieces. I haven’t really written much about it yet because I’ve been trying to salvage my relationship with my business partner. It’s becoming crystal clear to me that it isn’t going to work out.

I’ve also had to cut several “friends” loose recently because they put me in the position of having to choose between my family and them. I’m sure I’ll have to write about that soon.

I do not know what 2007 has in store for me. I know that the first part of the year is going to be quite tumultuous. There are big changes coming, but I don’t know yet what they are. All I know is that I will just have to hang on and try to enjoy the ride.

In other words, business as usual.

I’d like to make a toast: To friends, old and new, you enrich my life and provide me with an almost unlimited amount of fodder for stories and laughs… To changes and growth and the wonderful excitement of the unknown… and to the bigots and idiots from around the world for making me examine my opinions and inflaming my passions.

It’s been a good year.

Dec 29

Jester’s Music Picks of 2006 part 3

Danielle Evin – Self Titled

Danielle EvinDanielle Evin has put out probably the strongest debut record this year. She’s a fantastic songwriter with a subtle delivery that is at times goose-bump inducing. “You Don’t Live Here Anymore,” “Crush,” “What I’d Give,” and “Love is Criminal” are the standout tracks on this amazing disc. Fans of Sarah McLachlan, or Jewel can graduate to an even better performer, who displays an ability to dabble in multiple styles without sounding insincere.

Snow Patrol – Eyes Open

Eyes OpenIt has taken them a long time, but Snow Patrol has finally put out an album that connects with the American audience. There hasn’t been a Matchbox Twenty album in a long time, Switchfoot’s latest album was mostly a dud, so there’s been a void in what I call “melodic rock.” Snow Patrol has stepped in to fill that void and do a great job of it. Too many people talk bad about radio friendly bands as corporate sell outs. I don’t buy that. Songs like “Hands Open,” “Chasing Cars,” and “Set the Fire to the Third Bar” are prime examples of great modern rock songs that any record company would be foolish to not get behind and promote.

Great Singles of the Year

Songs that I think are great whose album doesn’t belong on this list…

Sexy Back – Justin Timberlake
Can’t Let Go – Landon Pigg
Crazy – Gnarls Barkley
Deja Vu – Beyonce
I Bet You Look Good on the Dancefloor – Arctic Monkeys
Hey Kwanongoma! – The Ark
Boston – Augustana
Before He Cheats – Carrie Underwood
Put Your Records On – Corrine Bailey Rae
Call Me When You’re Sober – Evanescence
Boondocks – Little Big Town
Mornings Eleven – The Magic Numbers
Home – Michael Buble’
Here It Goes Again – OK GO

There’s my list. What did I miss?

Dec 28

Jester’s Music Picks of 2006 part 2

Vince Gill – These Days

These DaysMost artists rely almost exclusively on their past catalog when putting together a box set compilation. Not Vince Gill, he recently released a four disc set of new material that pairs him with some of the other great voices in country, rock, gospel, and bluegrass. Each disc has a theme that highlights the styles that Vince has been running circles around and through for the past twenty five years. He’s got a beautiful tenor voice that is only just beginning to show signs of age. Additionally, I firmly believe that Vince is one of the best living guitar players. There is a short list of guitarists that are instantly recognizable by their style, Joe Walsh, Eric Clapton, Eddie Van Halen, and Vince. Even if you aren’t necessarily a country music fan, I’m sure that you will find something in this set that will prove to you why this set made my list.

Dixie Chicks – Taking the Long Way

Taking The Long WayPerhaps I spoke too soon when I said I couldn’t pick a favorite from this year. I think it may be this incredible album from the Dixie Chicks. It’s smart, sensitive, and blistering. Everyone knows the situation with the boycott, so I don’t want to dwell on that, but it is clear from the scathing “Not Ready to Make Nice” that the Chicks aren’t going to let us forget the shafting that they received. If you can listen to this song and not be emotionally engaged by the soaring bridge and climactic string crescendo, then you are a robotic sociopath. Yes, I said it. “Easy Silence,” “Baby Hold On,” and the super sweet “Lullaby” are my other favorite tracks on an album full of solid pop songs. Let country stations continue to boycott them, us pop lovers will welcome them with open arms.

Panic! At the Disco – A Fever You Can’t Sweat Out

A Fever You Can't Sweat OutHot emo boys in eyeliner + long rambling song titles that have nothing to do with the lyrical content + soaring anthems of angst = a puddle of Jester. While Panic! At the Disco may not have invented the genre, they have certainly put a face and personality on emo rock. I’ve bought several albums this year that one could classify in the same general vein as this album, however when my iPod is shuffling, songs on this album stand out from the crowd and don’t require me to reach down and look to confirm the artist. I have my doubts that PATD will be able to follow up their success on their next album, but I have no doubts that they were among the best of this year.

Under the Influence of Giants – Self Titled

Under the Influence of GiantsYou’ll probably notice that my list does not include the Scissor Sisters’ newest album Tah Dah. That’s because UTIOG did a much better job of writing the follow up to the Sister’s amazing self titled album of 2004. Under the Influence of Giants took a hold of the 1977-meets-2010 sound and completely owned it this year. “Mama’s Room” is a brilliant Abba-esque song with dark Oedipal undertones that is entirely hum-able. “In the Clouds,” “Got Nothing,” and “I Love You” are equally well written, dance-able, and leave you with that happy feeling that only a coked up night at Studio 54 could provide in the past.

James Blunt – Back to Bedlam

Back to Bedlam With his crystal clear falsetto and his heart on his sleeve, James Blunt hit the US with a virtually unstoppable single, “You’re Beautiful.” While I enjoy the song, and have been known to sing along, it suffers from one of my personal pet peeves. He changes his lyrical voice several times in the song… one moment he’s singing to the listener, the next to the girl he’s so forlorn over. Just my personal issue with songs that do that… but I digress. There are some really solid tracks on this album. My favorite being “Wisemen” with it’s hooky chorus and tale of friendship. While there’s no Summer Anthem Rocker on here, if you are a fan of thought-provoking singer songwriters, you’ll want to spend some time with this album.

Stay tuned for part 3!

Dec 27

Jester’s Music Picks of 2006 part 1

So many magazines, television networks, and other bloggers have been busy touting their lists of the best music from this past year and I’ve been mostly disappointed by the choices. I buy somewhere around 15 albums a month and definitely form my own opinions.

Seems like all these reviewers want to show off their knowledge of some obscure group that no one has ever heard of, and they bestow high honors upon them. While I do listen to some music that most people don’t know anything about, I prefer to stick to popular artists, or at least, artists that you have at least a chance of hearing on the radio or catching on tour.

That being said, I’d like to offer up my opinions on some of the best work of the year. I’m offering these in no particular order, mostly because I have a hard time choosing between genres and styles. You can click on the following items to purchase them from Amazon.

Christina Aguilera – Back to Basics

Back to BasicsI, Jester, am officially declaring here and now that any and all comparisons between Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera need to cease immediately. I can certainly understand why they started, with the similarity in ages, background, Disney start, and basically interchangeable first albums… however, where some people have gotten married and crowned queen of the trailer park, others have gotten married and put out an incredibly sexy mixture of modern pop and 1930’s extravagance. It’s smart, classy, and her voice has never been better.

The Fray – How to Save a Life

How to Save a LifeIf you have been living in a cave without a television or radio, you’ve probably missed the title track on Grey’s Anatomy or commercials. Like most songs that get used in this way, you may be burned out by it. Do yourself a favor and listen to the rest of the album. “Over My Head (Cable Car),” “She Is,” and “All at Once” are three minute pop masterpieces. The Fray took a formula from Keane and added their own special ingredient to make something especially tasty.

Blue October – Foiled

FoiledReminiscent of one of my personal favorites, Peter Gabriel, this sophomore major label release is at times dark, romantic, sweet, and acidic. “Hate Me” was the big hit over the summer. “X Amount of Words” and “Congratulations” are stand out tracks, and “Into the Ocean” is the current ring tone on my cell phone. This is one of the disks that got a lot of playtime on the iPod that is almost always attached to my hip.

KT Tunstall – Eye to the Telescope

Eye To The TelescopeWho’s cute, Scottish, a talented songwriter, and a tremendous live performer?* It’s this year’s best debut artist, KT Tunstall. You couldn’t escape “Black Horse and the Cherry Tree” this year, and frankly, why would you want to? It’s the perfect pop song, complete with borderline-nonsensical lyrics open to interpretation, a great dance beat, and a sing along chorus that will get caught in your head for days. The rest of the album is solid and shows a wide range of influences. My favorite track? Definitely “Suddenly I See.”

Red Hot Chili Peppers – Stadium Arcadium

Stadium ArcadiumWhat’s better than a new album by rock-funk veterans, Red Hot Chili Peppers? That’s right, a DOUBLE album. There’s nothing especially new on this 28-song opus, but why fix something that isn’t broken? “Dani California,” “Snow (Hey Oh),” “Readymade,” and “Animal Bar” are standout tracks.

Elton John – The Captain and the Kid

The Captain and the KidWhile I am of the firm opinion that just about anything that Sir Elton does is great, (even the admittedly schmaltzy FM-Lite music of the past several years) this album proves why he will go down in history as one of the most important artists of modern times. This album was billed as the follow up to 1975’s Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy, a concept album about the oft-tumultuous relationship between Elton and lyricist Bernie Taupin. This newest release definitely sounds like it could have been released in 1977, picking up where they left off 30 years ago. If you’ve abandoned EJ since the “Circle of Life,” maybe it’s time to give him another chance.

I’ve only just scratched this list, I have more coming in the next post or two. What are some of your favorites?

Dec 27

December 26, 2006

What does whiskey, hair dye, and World of Warcraft bring to mind?

How we spent our Christmas.

Thank god that is over is all I’m saying.

I hope everyone had a great break. You may notice I was quick to ditch the holiday theme and clean up the decorations. I never really got into the mood, and was anxious to try out this Parisian poster-inspired design.

Did anyone do anything interesting? Get any cool gifts? Do share!

Dec 23

I Swear I Didn’t Forget

TobyI tried to call. I swear I did. His phone is doing some weird clicking thing and refuses to do anything resembling a connection.

So I’ll wish the happiest of birthdays to Toby here. I believe he is 27 28 today tomorrow.

As he doesn’t really have his own site for you to leave messages on, feel free to leave your wishes here!

Happy birthday, I’m sorry that I missed the last 10. I hope I don’t miss any more!

[Edited to reflect my brain failure: His birthday is Christmas Eve and he’s 28. Sheesh. I’m a dork. And his phone worked just fine when I called him on the 24th.]

Dec 21

Movie Moment Holiday Edition

OrnamentI wrote a couple of weeks ago about what I call “Movie Moments” and was reminded today about another one that is a totally appropriate story for this time of year.

It was 1996, and I was in Nashville enjoying all the elbow rubbing with celebrities that my job at the radio station made possible. I had recently met and befriended Amy Grant. She invited me and a guest to the inaugural event for the brand new Nashville Arena, her Christmas special.

The construction and grand opening of the Arena, now called the Gaylord Entertainment Center, was a big deal for the city of Nashville. Surprisingly, with all the music venues in the area, there was no indoor large hall suitable for big events. If a big named artist were touring, they were stuck with hitting Nashville in the summer months and using Starwood Amphitheater, or scaling their show down and using the Ryman Auditorium or the Grand Old Opry stage at Opryland. Neither venue holds more than a couple of thousand people.

Nashville’s elite was in attendance for an all-star performance that included Vince Gill, Stephen Curtis Chapman, Michael W Smith, Martina McBride, and many others performing with the Nashville Symphony. If there was a country star in town that week who was not performing at the show, they were there in the audience. Wynonna sat in the row behind me. Trisha Yearwood and her then husband, Robert Reynolds, one of the members of that year’s Vocal Group of the Year, The Mavericks, were seated next to us.

The show was amazing, the venue was state of the art, and my roommate Michele and I walked out of the show quite happy about how the evening had turned out. As we stepped outside we were greeted with a rare Nashville occurrence, snowfall.

People in Nashville don’t know how to handle snow. It is my theory that there is only one snow removal/salt truck in the entire state of Tennessee. On the occasion that any snow accumulates, the city completely shuts down. Employers don’t expect you to show up to work, in fact, your boss doesn’t show up either. If the news mentions even the possibility that there will be snowfall, Nashvillians go on high alert and rush to their local Kroger grocery store to stock up as though they may be stuck at home for the next… say… three years.

The point of that digression is to illustrate that the streets of downtown Nashville were utterly deserted, save for those of us leaving the arena. Michele and I began walking the couple of blocks back to the parking garage, rehashing the show and our favorite moments. I commented on how pretty the downtown area looked with the neon lights reflecting off the falling snow, and how pretty the dusting of white made the sidewalks.

We stopped on the corner, actually right in front of Legend’s Corner (site of my recent Nashville Debut), and looked out over the street towards the Cumberland River. I lit a clove cigarette and leaned against the building.

A guy stumbled out of the bar, and left the door open, spilling smoke and the murmer of the lively holiday crowd inside out onto the street. Gene Autry’s voice filled the street from the jukebox which cued the Movie Moment effect in my head. “Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer had a very shiny nose…” Michele and I were singing along and began walking further down the street. As we reached the next corner, the city, in honor of the Arena’s opening set off a lovely fireworks display over the river.

Michele and I stood slack jawed, eyes dancing in the peaceful snowfall. We were still the only people on the street.


I know most of you read from work, and since you most likely have the next several days off, I want to wish you the happiest of holidays. I look forward to your return. Much love and thanks for the past several months. -Paul

Dec 20

New Featured Site

This week’s featured site is All Night.org.

A personal blog of a 20-something, country music lovin’, NASCAR watchin’, animal savin’ girl from the lovely state of Maryland. Enjoy your stay here at the beach and try not to stare at my coconuts. If you find that a certain post tickles your fancy, feel free to leave a comment! Now sit back, relax and picture yourself on the coast of somewhere beautiful!

Give her some click love and don’t forgot to congratulate her on her new job!

Dec 20

Holiday Cheer?

Bah HumbugI don’t know why, but I just can’t seem to get into the holiday mood this year.

I haven’t done any shopping, and since circumstances have been such that my entire family is running short on funds this month, we’ve decided to put off our gift exchange until February when we can get together for a collective birthday thing. (Mom’s is February 1, Dad’s is the 13th, and mine is the 17th. My brother is the odd man out with an April 12 born on date.)

I’ve played two holiday parties with my bands where gifts were given out, and people were drinking and Christmas lights blinked at us and people yelled “Merry Christmas” as people arrived and left.

The Christmas Sale spam email has been soul-crushingly oppressive this year. I can’t open an email without being assaulted with bad red and green elf graphics and false promises that any purchases made by the 22nd will arrive by Christmas day. The worst offenders have embedded Jingle Bells or some equally annoying carol inside so that they can interrupt the great Toad the Wet Sprocket song I’ve got running through my head.

And it still hasn’t sunk in that Christmas is now five days away.

My parents don’t think they are going to make it out here this year. I’m actually ok with that. We see them fairly often and really, it’s just a day, right? We’ll probably get together with Celeste for dinner. Catch a movie, perhaps.

I have a couple of holiday traditions that I try to observe every year:

  • A few batches of Amish friendship bread. – I love the stuff, but have to limit my involvement to just three batches, and I refuse to pass the starters along. Not because I am an asshole or against the spirit of the bread, but I once spent an awful month in hell where I got carried away with the starters and at one point had 96 ziplock bags laying all over my kitchen counters and table in different states of completion. So really, by not passing the starters along, I’m actually doing a good deed. Trust me.
  • Buying myself a gift. – I’m told that I am quite hard to shop for. Mostly because if there’s something that I want, I buy it for myself throughout the year. Consequently, I get “practical” Christmas gifts from friends and family. Last year I received a garage door opener. It was appreciated, however it is a year later and it has is still at approximately 70% installed. So usually a few days before Christmas, I buy myself something that I want. Last year, it was a new iPod.
  • Watch my favorite holiday-themed movies. – My picks are probably not the same as yours. You would think I would go with the old standards, It’s a Wonderful Life, White Christmas, Miracle on 34th Street, or the fantastic old animated films like Rudolph (the claymation version, not the inferior cartoon), Frosty the Snowman, or the Charlie Brown Christmas. No… my holiday picks are Mixed Nuts, Home for the Holidays, and Scrooged.

So far, I’ve only managed one of the above. It’s 5am. I can’t sleep, and I’ve got a pounding headache again. So I’m watching Mixed Nuts and laughing my head off all by myself, as Michael has been in bed since 11. If you haven’t seen it, I highly recommend that you run down to Blockbuster and rent it. Or buy it, because you’ll want to see it again. Steve Martin, Rita Wilson, Madeline Khan, Richard Klein, Adam Sandler, Garry Shandling, Juliette Lewis, Anthony LaPaglia, and Liev Schrieber (in drag!) star in a hysterical Christmas Eve romp. Some of my favorite lines:

“Just remember that in every pothole there is hope. Well, you see, pothole is spelled P-O-T-H-O-L-E. So if you take the P, and add it to the H, the O, and the E, and rearrange the letters… or contrariwise, you remove the O, T, and the L, you get “hope”. So, just remember, in every pothole there is hope!” – Steve Martin

“My god, if you don’t have tits like Dolly Parton, no one wants you.” – Liev Schrieber

I don’t know that the movie will be enough to turn around the “Bah Humbugs” but it’s a start.

Dec 19

“The Gay Disease” by Wayne Cooper

From email today:

Dear Paul:

I wanted to bring one last thing to your attention concerning your comment that “Aids is not a Gay Disease.” I would be the first to say that today, HIV/Aids can be contracted by male or female. This is very true! However, in terms of its “Origin”, HIV/AIDS came from the Homosexual lifestyle! If you were to go back to the late 70’s and the entire decade of the 80’s, medical doctors referred to what we now call “Aids” as “The Gay Disease.”

The entire Medical industry was baffled by this disease and didn’t know what to call it; all they knew was that this disease was happening to the men who were practicing homosexuals. Any medical research on HIV/AIDS will show that what I’m saying is true. I do believe however, that Aids is God’s way of allowing mankind to suffer as a consequence for this perverted and deviant lifestyle that He detest and will someday judge. I know that you will probably disagree, but I think that the Handwriting is already on the Wall!

Wayne

Ok, Wayne, that tears it. I have tried to remain as calm and respectful of your opinions as possible, but the gloves are coming off.

For your information, the disease now known as AIDS was present in several different populations in the late 1970’s, not just the homosexual community. However, officials with the Centers for Disease Control were having a difficult time finding a common link or explanation for the rise in Kaposi’s Sarcoma cases among the different groups. The disease was showing a statistical slant in the homosexual community, so they worked on the assumption that the common link was homosexual sex. They called the syndrome “GRID” or “Gay-Related Immunodeficiency Disease” and sent out infection control procedures to doctors across the country.

The earliest alerts sent out clearly stated that the etiology of the disease was unknown, and that the “highest number of cases have been reported in the homosexual community.” I’ll explain that for you, since you obviously need help with connecting dots: if the HIGHEST number was reported in homosexuals, that would mean that there were OTHER communities reporting the disease. The word HIGHEST is comparative, not singular.

The name GRID was quickly changed to AIDS because the CDC acknowledged that the disease was present in multiple populations.

People like YOU Mr Cooper have perpetuated the stigma behind the disease. People who claim to be loving and compassionate, but in reality are hypocritical bigots who are so blinded by their fervor for belonging to an elitist group that they lack the capacity to see reality.

I have written more about AIDS recently and I encourage you to read those articles and follow the links. Not that I expect you to actually gain any information from it, since you seem hell bent on being stupid.

You hide behind this supposed “shield of faith” in a little black book that you apparently need to do your thinking for you. You wear the clothing of a modern person, but your ideas are firmly rooted in the ancient past. If you this were 1960, you would be stomping around in a white sheet and burning crosses. The thought process is the same.

It is people just like you, Mr. Cooper, who have turned Christianity into a joke for a growing number of people. I can think of no other population who has proven themselves to be as hypocritical, bigoted, hateful, and fucking stupid as those drinking the kool-aid from your stand.

You think these are the end times, Mr. Cooper? I think you’re absolutely right. These are the end times, but not as you picture them from the book of Revelations. The four horsemen are real, their names are TRUTH, BEAUTY, KNOWLEDGE, and RESPONSIBILITY. And they are coming to announce the end times for those people like you who insist on judging and labeling and condemning people who have brains and the ability to decipher parable from history.

If Jesus were a real person living today, you would be at the head of the line of people denouncing his actions. YOU would be Judas and the Romans rolled up in one nice little package. You’d be the guy standing next to him salivating to use your hammer.

I don’t hate Christians, in fact, I know many that I respect and love. I don’t automatically assume that new people that I meet who identify as Christians are fucking idiots. Unfortunately, the idiots have been out in full force lately.

Flaming Fuck YouI think you deserve the second “Flaming Fuck You” award I’ve ever handed out. I suggest that you check out the first recipient’s website. The two of you can talk together about how awful all the faggots are while painting each other’s toenails, pointing fingers, and secretly lusting after each other.