Sunday, December 30, 2012

Mobile Brothels Then and Now

I was looking at a copy of the latest free issue of Entertainment News just now while sitting at the Community Food Co-op, and I was reading an article about a local professor at Western Washington University who had written a book about the history of jazz music here in Bellingham, WA.  There was mention in that article of a book called The Brothels of Bellingham, by author Curtis H. Smith. That reminded me that the Old West in general was known for its brothels and its saloons with prostitutes aplenty. (Miss Kitty in the TV show Gunsmoke may have seemed wholesome in the days when I was a kid, but basically she was a cowtown ho, even if Matt Dillon seemed like a fine upstanding officer of the law.)

When I went online, I did a Google search on the phrase Old West Brothels, and I found the phrase "cat wagon", which gave new meaning to an old movie I had seen (with Jane Fonda and Lee Marvin) named Cat Balou. Of course, the "Cat" in the movie's title was the shortened version of the name of the Jane Fonda character, whose first name was Catherine, so it might be stretching things to suggest that it had anything to do with the "cats" (prostitutes) who lent cat wagons their nickname. I do recall that a wagon seems to have played a role in that movie, and the Wikipedia summary of the movie says that Cat, who has become an outlaw, "poses as a lady of loose morals" as part of the movie's plot, so it isn't a huge stretch to suggest that if she did indeed ride in some kind of wagon, it was in one sense a "cat wagon".

Anyway, I got to thinking that if cat wagons were traveling brothels or bordellos in earlier centuries, that might still be a valid business idea today, especially in places (e.g., certain counties in Nevada) where prostitution is legal. I checked, and the domain name (as in "whore to go") is currently available. Register that domain name, forward it to your discrete free blog, get a QR code for the Domain name, get yourself a mobile house (such as the ones from Tumbleweed Tiny House Co. or Portland Alternative Dwellings or Zyl Vardos), find some ladies willing to compromise their moral standards, and take your bordello on the road, taking care to visit only those Nevada counties where you are unlikely to go to the hoosegow as punishment for your actions, as long as you obey their regulatory laws.

The way things are going here in the state of Washington, what with the legalization of marijuana and gay marriage, and what with Bellingham's well-documented history in relation to whore houses, it's surely only a matter of time before bordellos are once again legal in Bellingham. Meanwhile, you will have to content yourself with the photo here of a couple of young ladies who go under the name of The Good Time Girls, and who give guided tours of places of historic notoriety in the City of Subdued Excitement. Maybe if prostitution ever becomes legal here again, the excitement will not be so subdued!

A Regular Gal

I was just looking at a screen capture I had created while I was visiting the Urban Dictionary web site in order to look up their definition of "glamping" (defined as a combination of the words camping and glamour). In the sidebar area, there was an ad with a woman wearing a t-shirt
was imprinted with the words "I pooped today." It showed a stick drawing.

Wow! Can you say TMI (too much information). I mean, first of all, if it was a normal day for the woman, chances are pretty good that she either defecated or urinated at some point in the day. But why in the world would she want people to know that?

Why not come out with a whole line of fashionable t-shirts, conveying similar informative messages regarding a wide range of bodily functions? I can only imagine visiting a store specializing in shirts with the following messages:
  • I Picked My Nose Today
  • I Cleaned The Wax Out Of My Ears Today
  • I Vomited Today
  • I Farted Today
  • I Belched Today
  • I Clipped My Toenails Today
  • I Changed My Bloody Feminine Napkins Today
And why stop there? If ever there was a web site (other than Facebook) designed for people with TMIS (Too Much Information Syndrome), it's Twitter. Messages need not be long, because messages like the above messages only use a few letters. Gosh, let's tell the entire world every time we have done some mundane thing virtually everyone does unless he or she is a robot.

Maybe TMIS is synonomous with "too much time on my hands" syndrome. But that acronym would require 2 more letters.

I know that we now live in a society where nothing is really private anymore, but really, people, some things should be kept to one's self. No one really cares whether or not you did such things, and if your life is so dull that the only way to connect with the people around you is to talk about such aspects of your life, that would seem to be a wake up call, or an invitation to stick your head in the oven when the gas is on.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

A Brave New World Indeed

In a previous blog post, I published an article about a movie entitled Lars and the Real Girl. The plot of that movie involved a young man and his anatomically correct sex doll, which he treated as if it was a real woman.

I looked up the phrase Sex Doll at Wikipedia, and I found the following quote when I read the article to be found at that page.
In June 2006, Henrik Christensen of the European Robotics Research Network told the UK's Sunday Times that "people are going to be having sex with robots within five years."
Hmmm, something tells me that the robots will not look much like R2D2 or C3PO from the movie Star Wars. By the way, if Christensen's projections are on schedule, then we should soon start to see these sex robots at the local mall, or more likely, on a website where such robots will be sold.
To those who think that sexual intercourse should be something involving two real human beings, not something involving one human being and a robot, the prospect of a sex robot (or a sex machine, to quote an old James Brown song title) may seem positively frightening and repugnant.

But look at it this way: A robot will never, ever, ever get pregnant. So a sex robot will never "need" an abortion (not that there aren't plenty of viable alternatives to abortion for women who find themselves pregnant with babies they do not want).

Maybe sex robots will save a lot of human lives which might otherwise be snuffed out at local abortion clinics. And frankly, the kind of men most likely to have sex with women to whom they have made no lifelong commitments are, in a sense, treating their real biological women as if they are machines which exist for the sake of giving physical pleasure to men.
The problem is not men who treat sex dolls as if they are real women (as did Lars in the aforementioned movie). The problem is men who treat real women as if they are sex dolls. Or sex robots, as the case may be.

Ideas For Low Budget Movie Makers

We live in an era in which extravagant CGI effects have become commonplace, whether one is talking about the depiction of real world events like the sinking of the Titanic or the depiction of fantasy worlds like the worlds described by JRR Tolkien in the Lord of the Rings books and their predecessor The Hobbit. Such effects are undoubtedly expensive, though, and not all filmmakers have access to budgets that big. What's an aspiring movie maker to do if he can't raise the capital?

One idea is to make a movie like The Blair Wolf Project. It looked like an amateurish video, but that was part of its realism, or so I've been told. (Other than seeing brief clips from the movie, I never actually saw it, but I hear that it sold well enough to justify the money the movie makers spent making it. $248 million dollars worldwide isn't chump change. Not bad, considering that it cost $35,000 to make.)

Another movie which had a feel of realism was the 1972 movie The Chant of Jimmie Blacksmith. Or Jimmy Blacksmith, depending on whether you prefer the spelling on the cover of the book on which the movie was based. The movie depicted the horrid murder committed by an Australian aborigine and his friends, and the thing which impressed me the most about the scened in which the murder was portrayed was the fact that it was shot from a middle distance, almost as if it was a documentary, rather the normal way of filming such scenes in most American movies. Of course, the perception that it was similar to a documentary may actually have been enhanced with some fairly sophisticated movie special effects. It felt very real when one of the murderers chopped of the head of a person attempting to flee the scene. (Well, actually, "chopped off" might be overstatement. As I recall, he more or less scalped the guy.)

Another idea is to make a movie which is totally driven by dialogue (in other words, by ideas), as was My Dinner With Andre. That was a movie which would have worked just as well as a stage play, although the movie makers chose to make a movie instead. I remember being impressed with the fact that there were no chase scenes, no special effects, and pretty much no action scenes. Even if one had been comparing it to old-style movies such as the ones made by stars like John Wayne or Audrey Hepburn, that was a pretty impressive feat. I couldn't help but think that such a movie might have worked well as a means of presenting a scene or story in which a Christian believer would attempt to share the gospel of Christ with an unbeliever like Penn Jillette, the atheist who stupidly wants to be allowed to keep his Christmas even though he denies that there was anything special about Jesus Christ (or at the very least, that there is or was any real God).

Lars and the Real Girl

Sitting here just now at The Woods (a Bellingham coffeehouse), I overheard several women talking about a movie I had never heard of. I thought it sounded like a very funny premise for a movie, so I looked it up on Wikipedia, and I found a summary of the movie. It was called Lars and the Real Girl. The movie apparently was about a young man who was so cut off from the real world that he had developed a "relationship" with an anatomically correct blow-up sex doll. (And people think I am bad off because at age 56, I am still a virgin.)

Apparently, the guy in the movie wasn't the only one to find a use for such blow-up dolls. Here's a link to an article about Miley Cyrus, who apparently took such a doll for a ride in her car. She asked, "Does this count for the carpool lane?"

Funny, but that was what one of the women at The Woods suggested.

To see a funny YouTube video about a guy who falls in love with his lifesize "love doll", click here. Notice that Davecat's loved one has purple hair.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Reading Between The Lines

I recently visited, a website which uses crowdfunding and videos to raise funds for people in need. They like to call it Kickstarter For Real People (which begs the question of why they don't think artists deserve to be described as "real people", but never mind).

I like the basic concept of, and I hope to use that site in order to present my own needs to potential funders. But I downloaded Megan Kashner's bio from the website. (She is the founder of that website.) The bio says, "A New York to Chicago transplant, Megan and her partner live in Evanston, IL where they raise their two children, attend more than their fill of soccer games and play frequent games of Mario Kart before bedtime."

Sounds like utter domestic bliss, right? Well, not to conservative Christians, who believe that people who live in "common law" relationships with one another are still "living in sin". People who are married describe one another with phrases like "her husband" (or "his wife"), not phrases like "her partner". Yes, I believe that marriage ought to be a partnership, but first and foremost, a marriage is a covenant.

Well, at least Megan seems to have a heterosexual partner capable of helping her to give birth to children without the help of sperm donors from some anonymous sperm bank. That's something to be grateful for, I suppose. But I'm one of those dinosaurs who still think that men and women should marry one another as a prelude to having children. I would prefer that they stay with one another, even in an unmarried state, rather than aborting their progeny, but that is not the ultimate state of existence.

Make Your Own Music Video with Sims

If you visit YouTube, you can see music videos made with the music of stars like Nicki Minaj and Katy Perry. It won't really look like the real musicians, but that isn't the point. Still, it seems to me that it would make sense to use animated characters somewhat like the music stars. I could be wrong, but last time I checked, Katy Perry was known for her large mammaries, more than Nicki Minaj. Then again, I am not hip to the music scene, so maybe it's appropriate that the Nicki Minaj animation shows a character with larger "endowments" in that area.


Zentangle is the term now being applied to an art form created by the folks who run the web site No one would ever claim that this stuff is great art or particularly profound, but it could be fun for people with time on their hands. And it might be useful as a means of generating patterns and textures for use in other art projects.

If you want to create Zentangle, I would suggest the use of a Wacom Inkling; that way, you can more easily create digital art, and the images can even be output as scalable vector art.

To get an idea of what is involved in making Zentangle art, watch this video. As you can see, it's basically doodling, but with particular aspects which lend it to the creation of line art patterns.

I think that the term Zen is used by the inventors of this form of art because they wanted to emphasis the meditative aspects. It's possible that doing this might have some serious art applications, in the sense that it would enable practitioners to get into the "right brain" thinking mode so crucial to the teaching methods of Betty Edwards, author of Drawing On The Right Side Of The Brain. For those who want to learn to draw more realistically, I highly recommend that book, which is very helpful to those willing to wade through a bit of text which explains the scientific basis for Edwards' teaching method. The text itself might be a bit of a turnoff for people who eschew theoretical knowledge in favor of hands-on knowledge, except that it is accompanied with before and after drawings which show that her teaching method works.

If you have ever fallen prey to the false idea that artistic talent is something you either have or don't have, and if you've ever felt frustrated by you inability to draw things realistically, you should pick up a copy of that book. Even better, if you have a chance to take a drawing class based on the theories and exercises in the book, you should do so, just as I did in the 80s at the Boston Center for Adult Education when I still lived in Boston. If you cannot take such a class, then at least get the related workbook. Or watch Betty in the video at

An Insightful and Somewhat Sad Stamp

I used to enjoy visiting the Paper Source store just west of the Lawson House YMCA where I lived for 19 years in Chicago. They had a wide selection of rubber art stamps, as did the Pearl art supply store right across the street on Chicago Avenue. I would periodically stop in that store and browse through the latest issue of RubberStampMadness magazine. I was interested, as a person who enjoyed creating line art drawings with ultrafine pens on Claybord, in seeing how people were making money by making and selling rubber art stamps. Some were quite nice, and used stippling, crosshatching and other line art techniques to simulate gray tones. Of course, they were fairly small, and the resolution which was possible with rubber stamps was fairly limited, but within those limitations, some nice pieces of art could be created for use by scrapbookers and so forth.

Just now, I visited the website for Rubber Stamp Plantation, a Hawaiian store carrying rubber art stamps. On this page, they had a rubber stamp saying, "Art is Anything You Can Get Away With". That is so true! And I can't help but think that it's very unfortunate.

There are no standards anymore in the world of art. Now, I'm all for freedom of expression, and I do not by any means advocate a repressive, Nazi-like society which tells artists how to use their talents. But a little bit of self-policing would not be such a bad thing, it seems to me. I could not believe the trash I saw during one art show they held out on Navy Pier in Chicago. (In all fairness, it was not ALL worthless, but some of it was downright childish, and not in a good way.) Just because there are no laws or legal penalties which would circumscribe what artists can and cannot do does not mean that art does not suffer, or that the society does not suffer, when artists impose no limits on themselves.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Pat Boone on Facebook

One of my Facebook friends is musician and actor Pat Boone. I just sent him the following message:

Years ago (when I was a freshman in high school in 1970), you visited the Howard Johnson in Springfield, Missouri, at an event billed as The Jesus Experience.

I had just returned from Teen Challenge St. Louis, where I'd been a volunteer. There were a lot of long-haired "Jesus people" (some called them "Jesus freaks") playing folk music on guitars.

They announced that you would be visiting, and that you'd be baptizing people in the swimming pool.

I'd been sprinkled as a baby who grew up in the Methodist church, but I'd come to feel that that was not a true biblical baptism, because I wasn't even saved yet when I was sprinkled as an infant. So I really wanted you to baptize me that night. But I was too young, and I'd told my dad that I'd be ready for him to pick me up at precisely midnight.

Your baptism was scheduled for midnight, so it didn't happen for me. But I did get my immersion baptism eventually, and it was as memorable as it would have been if you'd baptized me in that swimming pool, because it was another midnight baptism, and it took place in Springfield Lake.

I recall I was thrilled to meet you, because you'd just starred as David Wilkerson in The Cross and The Switchblade, which had been extremely influential in my life. Later, I got to meet the real David Wilkerson and the real Nicky Cruz, and I prayed with both of them. That was a very pivotal time in my life.

Thanks for doing such a great job portraying David Wilkerson on the silver screen. We lost a real man of God when David died recently.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

The Legasight Project

When I was still staying at the Lighthouse Mission, I conceived of a new project named the Legasight Project. The name was a combination of the words "legacy" and "sight" (as in "legasee"). It was based on the idea that our legacies are largely the result of whether or not we have the vision to do new and great things which will give meaning to the time we have spent on earth.

I thought about that project just now when I stumbled on The site is largely one related to obituaries. But obituaries are only meaningful when we have given people good reason to remember us, and only for the right things. Of course, most of us, if we are lucky enough to have been loved by someone on earth, will be remembered by at least a few people. But there are people, such as David Wilkerson, who will be remembered by hundreds, thousands or tens of thousands who were touched in some way by the things we did while we were still here on this earth. Another such person would be Mother Theresa. One could go on and on. Some Protestants might object that Mother Theresa was a Catholic, and that she therefore was guilty of thinking that her good works would get her to heaven. But I do not think that God sees it that way. Mother Theresa may have been imperfect, as we all are imperfect, but the world would be a much better place if everyone gave to the world as selflessly as she did.

The Legasight Project would be conceived as a means of highlighting the work of various visionaries who deserved more thanks and appreciation. The best way to encourage people to make a positive difference in the world is to highlight those who are already making such a difference, as an incentive.

If you think that the Legasight Project is something in which you would like to be involved, contact me. My current e-mail address is

The Catacoffin

On Facebook, I just saw a hilarious video for a product called the Catacombo Sound System, a/k/a the Catacoffin. See the following link for more information.

Hmm, something tells me that we will have better things to do in the afterlife than to listen to music using the audio systems people have thoughtfully built into our coffins. But I suppose that vampires (or is that glampires) might enjoy such sound systems.

To buy something like this for one's departed loved ones is to emulate the Egyptians to some extent. They would bury (or rather, enbalm) their loved ones with all the acoutrements they believed would make for a better life in the life to come.

The great thing about the Catacoffin: Since the dead person within the coffin is highly unlikely to ever listen to the thing, blown speakers are equally unlikely. The thing will sound as good thousands of years later as it sounded on the day the coffin was buried, unless people play music through it too loudly during the funeral service.

Postscript: A guy calling himself John A comments, "If I was going to blow 30 grand on a coffin, my first priority would be an escape hatch, not a sound system." I'm with him!

Highway To Hell Indeed

Back in the 80s, AC/DC sang a song entitled Highway To Hell. They made it sound like going to hell was one big fun party.

Funny, Jesus did not seem to see things that way.

Impediments to Marriage

I am now 56 years old, and I still remain single (never married or divorced) even after all these years.

How does one explain that fact? Well, I tend to be pretty demanding in terms of what I am looking for in a woman; the mere possession of the requisite sexual organs is hardly sufficient.  Worse, I am a person who would like for the woman to be somewhat pretty. (I can hear all the women calling me a shallow cad. But I can't help it. I am a normal guy, and the idea of lying next to a woman so ugly that they make jokes about her. (Example: "You're so ugly, you make blind kids cry.")
Moreover, I am one of those people who believe that marriage ought to be based on commonalities in terms of values. That means that I always looked for a woman who was committed to Jesus Christ, to a degree which somewhat matched my own commitment. Even those two factors alone significantly diminished my chances of finding a good love match.

Even worse, I was serious about making every effort to obey Jesus in all matters. As I read my Bible, I could not help but conclude that Jesus was less than thrilled with the idea of divorce. He was willing to make allowances in cases where one's partner had committed the sin of adultery, but that seemed to be more of a legal concession to reality than an expression of God's ideal.

Of course, as many people will point out, we live in a world which is far from ideal. But even if this life is not ideal, it seems to me that Jesus meant it when he said, "Be ye therefore perfect, as your father in heaven is perfect." (Matthew 5:48)

Am I perfect? No, of course not. But I came from a broken family, caused by the fact that my father reneged on his marital promises to my mother. (Not that she was totally blameless in the matter.) I had spoken my mind on the matter at the time; I had very plainly told my father that I believed he had sinned against my mother, and also against me and my brother Matt, when he had had the affair which led to his second marriage. (Statistically speaking, second marriages are less likely to succeed than first marriages, and my dad's second marriage was true to form in that respect; while his marriage to my mother lasted 15 years, he divorced his second wife after a much shorter period of time.)

Therefore, I'd have felt a bit like a hypocrite if I had openly sought a love relationship with a divorced woman. The older I got, the more that became a problem for me. There just weren't many single women or widows from whom to choose. I became aware of that fact when I started looking at personals ads in publications designed for men and women looking for relationships with compatible people of the opposite sex. Even in my thirties, I had begun to despair of ever finding a loving woman with whom to create a lasting marital bond.

Now it's even worse. I am now 56 years old. Even if I did not now have a physical disability, the mere fact that I am 56 is a significant impediment. I suppose that I ought to be realistic enough that I am opened to the idea of a relationship with a woman who is divorced. But I would be very demanding in that respect. I would want to know, number one, that the divorce was not caused by marital unfaithfulness on the part of that woman, or that she had repented of any sin of hers which had led to the divorce, if that had been the case. I have never committed fornication or adultery, so I do not think that it would be too much for me to ask these things of any woman who hoped to become my husband.

Like I said earlier, I am not a perfect man. On occasions when my loneliness became too much to bear, I have occasionally yielded to the temptation to look at materials I ought not to have looked at, if one is to believe what is often taught by my fellow Christian believers. Even if chances seemed incredibly slim that I would ever find a loving wife, I wanted to at least think that it might be possible.

Some would say that I should feel depraved on account of these occasional lapses. But truthfully, it would be more accurate to say that I have felt as if I was unfairly deprived. I am not a eunuch (a castrated man), and I have the same sexual desires as any other normal man.

Actually, I'm not sure that castration would normally result in a man with abnormal sexual desires. Lack of ability does not necessarily translate into lack of desire. Do you think that people who are paralyzed from the neck down would not be thrilled if they woke up tomorrow and learned that they could run like gazelles?

Steve Carell once starred in a movie entitled The 40 Year Old Virgin. I have thought, "Steve, buddy, if you think 40 is bad, try 56. The desires do not get any less intense as the years go by."

Carell's celibacy was described as "involuntary". Mine has been, too, in the sense that I would have much preferred marriage. On the other hand, one could argue that my condition was voluntary in the sense that my standards were so high that I significantly cut my own chances of finding the woman I had been looking for.

St. Paul, when writing about the single life, tried to console those who had failed in the game of love by pointing out the spiritual benefits of a life unencumbered by obligations to spouse and children. I'm sure that that's true, but it still doesn't compensate for the feeling of unfair deprivation, especially when one is living in a sex-saturated culture where practically everyone else seems to be "doing it".

Pretentious Or Strange Modern Art

When I lived in Chicago for 19 years, staying at the Lawson House YMCA at 30 W. Chicago Avenue, I was right down the street from the building occupied by the Museum of Contemporary Art. I went there once or twice just to see what kind of art such a museum might display.

One of the most memorable pieces I saw there was a piece of installation art involving a continuously looping video showing a woman very erotically sucking on her own big toe! That was all there was to the art. I hope she had washed her feet before making the video. Athlete's foot is bad enough, but transferring it to one's own mouth would be gross.

Another similar looping video I saw there showed a topless woman with a bucket on top of her head, preventing her from being able to see where she was going. The entire video just showed the woman walking back and forth with that bucket on her head.

I remember thinking, "So this is what people do with their time when they want to think of themselves as artists but they have no actual artistic talent which would enable them to draw or paint!"

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Lady Porn: It's Not Exactly High Class Fiction

In a blog article I posted yesterday, I mentioned a novel I had recently found in the laundry room of my apartment building. It was called Ask For It (, and its author was Sylvia Day.

Last night, I still had the book in my room. I'd already browsed through it enough to land on a few of the steamy sex scenes, but I was curious as to whether or not it actually held together as a story. (I know, I know, curiousity killed the cat.) So I started to read it from the very beginning.

Wow! I couldn't even get past the first page, the writing was so wretchedly bad. The first character made a statement, and then just to make sure we had heard him, he said almost exactly the same thing again. Talk about a good example of why some professional writers need editors! FYI, I returned the book to the laundry room where I had found it.

Maybe "Sylvia" didn't think her readers had read it the first time. Or maybe she was in such a hurry to get to the steamy scenes in the book that she didn't bother proofreading her own writing in the non-sexual sections of the book.

I put the name Sylvia in quote marks, because it doesn't necessarily follow from the fact that that's the name on the book cover was Sylvia Day that a woman named Sylvia Day actually wrote the book.

When I was living in Chicago, I met a black man named Robert. (He never did tell me his last name.) He was a nice enough guy, and we would sometimes spend hours talking with one another. One night, he told me that he made his money partly by writing steamy popular romances aimed at women. He said that he wrote those books under a female pseudonym.

I can't say that I blamed him. I wouldn't want my real name to be publicly associated with such literary crap. (I never actually read one of his books, so maybe it was better than Ask For It. But he honestly told me that he could churn that stuff out with ease, because it was written according to a formula he had mastered. Generally speaking, fiction which is written according to a formula is rarely worthy of an award.)

Robert was an intelligent guy, but he always wore a pair of horn-rimmed glasses he held together with tape, because he couldn't even afford to buy a new pair of glasses after he broke the pair he owned. When you come across a piece of literary garbage like Ask For It, remember that the person writing that book may have been a poor-as-dirt black man just trying to bring in enough money to pay the rent, and cut the poor guy some slack.

A Strange Visitation At HoJos

One of the first jobs I had, when I was still a senior in high school, was as a dishwasher at the local Howard Johnson restaurant. (My dad's co-worker in the optometric office where he first worked was an older optometrist named Dr. Hawver. Every Christmas, until my dad got a separate office with two other optometrists, we would visit Dr. Hawver and his wife, and gifts would be exchanged. The Hawvers' home was always a warm and welcoming place, there in Springfield, Missouri. I recall a number of meals with the Hawvers at the local Ho Jo.)

My job as a dishwasher at Howard Johnson was procured via a work study class I took at Parkview High School during my senior year. I would take the city bus from the high school to my job there.

The job was not without its hazards. We ran a lot of glasses and plates through that dishwashing machine, and there were several times when a drinking glass would break in my hands, cutting them and forcing me to run to the management office to get Band-Aids with which to staunch the bleeding.

A young, shorter fellow dishwasher there was a big fan of country music. One day he came into the kitchen, telling me in an excited voice, "Waylon Jennings is out in the dining room". I wasn't as much of a country music fan as he, so my own excitement did not match his.

On another occasion, he came into the kitchen and told me that there were some "really strange" guys checking into the Howard Johnson motel. So after I clocked out, I went to the lobby for the motel and I checked it out for myself. Sure enough, Springfield was the site for a concert in a tour by a band called the New York Dolls. I remember that the band had an album, selling in the record store at the mall at the time. The cover of the album depicted the four guys in the band, sitting on a couch and doing their best to look like women, complete with lipstick and the tall platform shoes which were so popular in certain circles at that time.

Sure enough, the guys checking into the motel were dressed just as they were dressed on that album cover. There was David Johanssen and Johnny Thunders.

Personally, I thought the guys looked like freaks. But I strongly believed, as I still believe, that Christian believers like myself were called to show the love of God to all human beings, not just to those with whom we shared a lot in common. So I approached Johnny, and told him I would like to talk to him. "I can't talk now," he told me. "Me and the boys are going to be visiting the flea markets. Meet me here later, at the pool, around 'fiveish'." He said all of this in his gayest possible tone of voice, with the requisite whiny nasality. (Maybe a proclivity for gay sex causes some weird transmogrification of men's vocal chords, but more likely, the origin of the vocal affectation common to many gay people is repressive laws which caused them to resort to "subtle" but not-so-subtle ways of communicating with other gay people that they were ready and willing to have sex, back in the days when gay bathhouses were often the places where such encounters took place.)

I took that as an opening to go home and get one of my books, which had clearly been written in hippie vernacular, with evangelism as the obvious intent. It was basically a "hippiefied" version of the gospels. I figured it might make a nice gift for Mr. Thunders.

I went back to the motel, and I waited at the pool. Thunders never showed up.

Maybe he forgot about his conversation, or maybe it had something to do with the drugs which eventually killed him at the age of 38 (although Wikipedia states that some people speculated that he had been murdered by drug dealers, which to my way of thinking is pretty much the same thing, since a person is unlikely to be murdered by drug dealers if he or she stays away from drugs he or she should not be taking in the first place).

Anyway, I didn't want my trip back home to be wasted. As I sat at the swimming pool, I heard a rock guitar being played in one of the motel rooms. I thought it might be Johnny, or at least someone else from the band. I was right. It was the band's roadie. I knocked on his door, and he invited me in. I noticed a bottle of Jack Daniels or some other kind of strong liquor. He offered me some, but I declined, since I was an abstemious tea-totaller (a total abstainer).

The roadie and I talked for a while. He told me that the cross-dressing aspect of the band's appearance was "just an act". I didn't buy it then, and I don't buy it now. You know the old phrase, "if it walks like a duck and it talks like a duck, it's probably a duck"?

When I tried to talk with the roadie about Jesus, he did his best to avoid offending me. But it was clear from his comments that he just thought of Jesus as a "nice guy", as he said, and not as the Lord of Lords. I tried to remember to pray for him later.

Maybe if I'd prayed more for him and for Johnny, Johnny would not have ended up the way he ended up. But one never knows. Some people are on a path of self-destruction, and there is really nothing you can do about it. Rock and roll is full of such stories.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Porn: It's Not Just For Men

There is a place here in Bellingham, known as the Light of the World Prayer Center. The primary person in charge is a man named Jason Hubbard. I first became aware of Jason when I was still attending the Band of Brothers fellowship on Tuesday nights, at Christ The King, a church near the Cordata bus stop in Bellingham.

There were a number of things I liked about the Band of Brothers fellowship. There was tasty free food (although after while, since I couldn't help wondering why they couldn't occasionally vary the menu by offering pizza or fried chicken or something else). There was also a philosophy which seemed designed to encourage people to open up and honestly share their problems and issues. Raul, the guy in charge of Band of Brothers, always made an effort to say, "What happens in Band of Brothers stays in Band of Brothers." There was an opportunity, every Tuesday night, to share one's problems with other men so that they would pray for you.

To see a YouTube video of Band of Brothers Radio, visit this link.

At their Tuesday night meetings, they would often show little videos downloaded from the web, and the videos often underscored the primary beliefs the group wanted to promote. Some of the videos were quite amusing and entertaining, and most of them made good points that needed to be made, particularly in terms of personal responsibility and treating one's family members right.

When I started attending the group, they seemed to be on a bit of a tangent, however. Specifically, they would talk on and on about the evils and dangers of pornography (which shouldn't surprise you if you watch the video to which I linked earlier in this blog post). They brought in Jason Hubbard, who distributed a little study guide he had written on that subject. We were all expected to do the study. Needless to say, Jason also spoke about the subject. He confessed to having had personal problems with porn, and he talked about how he believed that pornography exploited women. He said, in a whiny, weepy voice, "I love women", implying that any person who truly loved women would abstain from looking at porn. (Some guys might reply, "I love women, too, Jason. I really love the way they look when they are naked. Why do you think I like to look at porn so much?")

I understood that Jason meant well, and I understood that the issue was personal for him, so I was willing to cut him some slack. But I was very uncomfortable with his implication: Porn was principally a men's problem.

The trouble is that the facts do not support that idea. Google search the phrase "Christian women addicted to visual pornography" and you will very likely get the same results I got just a minute ago when I ran that web search, which returned 6.130,000 results. Friends, that is an awful lot of search results, for something which is ostensibly a problem which only Christian men have.

Like I say, I am not in opposition to Jason Hubbard, which has a good ministry of prayer, here in Bellingham. But in my opinion, he needs to try to be fairer to men, who have enough problems without being villified because they have sexual urges, and because they occasionally yield to the temptation to sneak a peak when they are presented with opportunities to look at porn.

By the way, I might point out that there are all kinds of pornography, which literally means "printed or visual material containing the explicit description or display of sexual organs or activity". Notice that phrase printed or visual. Porn can be visual, but that is not an intrinsic aspect of pornography.

You might also want to give some thought to the fact that Albrecht Durer (the Renaissance artist known for his famous image of the praying hands) also depicted bare-breasted women in some of his prints and works of art. I guess that means that the Christians with lovely recreations of the Praying Hands image in their living rooms are guilty of unknowingly patronizing a pornographer (since the mere depiction of sexual organs is enough to qualify something as "pornography").

So-called "erotic fiction" which many women prefer to the kinds of porn containing photos or drawings, nevertheless fits the aforementioned definition. In fact, the suffix "-graphy" means writing. It doesn't have to be a picture book, in other words, to be considered pornography.

My guess is that Crystal Renaud, the Christian author of the book "Dirty Girls Come Clean", was not just talking about an addiction to erotic fiction when she wrote that book. But even if she was, I am not sure that in the eyes of God, there is any important moral distinction between picture book porn and porn which comes in the form of easy-to-disguise erotic fiction novels with titles like "Ask For It" (a novel I found lying there in the laundry room at my apartment complex while recently doing the laundry). Try reading a passage from that book aloud, next time you're at your prayer group or Bible study, and see if it does not provoke a lot of embarrassed laughter, if you're lucky. (If you are not so lucky, you will very likely be asked or adamantly commanded not to read such materials anymore.)

How is it that women get by with promoting the rather sexist idea that porn is just a man's problem? My suspicion is that their preferred form of pornography is a lot less obvious than the kind of pornography preferred by most men. I once spent time in a grocery store, browsing through some of the "innocent" novels which were very clearly aimed at a female audience. I never saw so many references to "throbbing manhood" and "heaving breasts" in my life.

Let's stop lying, folks. People like sex. They like having it, and they like thinking about it. Even if they are lifelong virgins, as I am and have been for the entire 56 years I've lived on this earth, most of them would like to think that they might, in the right circumstances, marry a man or woman (hopefully a person of the opposite gender, although that is by no means guaranteed here in Washington State these days), and experience the kind of sexual ecstasy which motivated the rather descriptive prose to be found in the biblical book known as the Song of Solomon.

Maybe in some science fiction fantasy, there exists a world where sex is not necessary for procreation, but here in this world, in lieu of the development of human parthenogenesis, sex is still necessary for the population of the planet. Look around you, at church, and you will see a lot of people due to have babies, especially if there are a lot of young couples. And if you need further proof of the ubiquity of sex, just look into a mirror. Unless your parents used artificial insemination, the chances are very high that you exist because YOUR PARENTS HAD SEX. I know, I know, people don't like to think of their parents grinding away on a sweaty bed, but the fact is, they did.

I notice that Jason Hubbard has kids. I have to assume that he has kids because he and his wife "did the nasty" at some point. It strikes me as a bit hypocritical for him to actually enjoy doing the deed and then to turn around and condemn those Christian men who have to content themselves with an occasional peek at a pornographic photo because they have never been blessed with wives of their own.

By the way, a note to Raul: If you want to reduce the likelihood that the men in your fellowship would yield to the temptation to have sexual intercourse with women they are not married to, then you might try holding occasional fellowship meetings where Christian men would have the chance to actually mingle with Christian women, including single Christian women they might conceivably marry. I know, you have a women's fellowship similar to the Band of Brothers (I forget the name of that group, offhand), but while that's a great opportunity for men's wives to get together for some "girl time", it's absolutely useless to single Christian men and women who would like to be able to meet people of the opposite sex.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Mike Deasy Connects The Dots

One of the names I connect with the earliest days was the name of Mike Deasy, who now works as a guitarist for 20th Century Fox. On his Facebook page, he recently posted the following comment in response to the recent shooting in Connecticut:
We cannot understand the mind that would murder children, but we can recognize the author. The powers of darkness take hundreds of years to breakdown the moral intrepitude of a great nation.
We were told that abortion was going to help children , what an infectious lie. Killing babies does not help children. And our government making it law does not make it any less wrong or murder, and it cheapens...
human life and in particular the lives of children... connect the dots.
Physical moral decay is destroying our nation from within much like the great nations of the past, adultery men and women and women living together outside of marriage homosexuality same sex marriage ( 1 cor 6:9&10) are all examples of the deception, they think its ok, Christians go along till the next generation of Christian think its ok, Its not ok its another dot to connect, it becomes progressively easier to justify wrong as right as we slide down the slippery slope toward the moral cliff, we make drugs legal that experience has shown to be hugely destructive to the human life and mind, and the children are killed we feel the sorrow and the great grief much as the Father must have felt as His son died, can we connect the dots to understand how such terrible things can happen in such a great nation as ours. No longer can we tolerate sin as law, the only morality we will have in an ungodly nation such as this is to legislate it as did our forefathers. Our action is clearly spelled out by our savior As Gods people we must get down on our knees and pray no longer tolerant of ungodliness cry out to God and go do the work of the Godly, comfort, heal, save and destroy the work of darkness. Amen

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Bellingham WA Versus The Queen City

This is a message I just sent to City Utilities of Springfield, Missouri:
For the past couple of years, I've lived in Bellingham, WA after moving here from Chicago, but I grew up in Springfield, MO, where my mother still lives. Today I satisfied my curiosity about how Springfield compared with Bellingham, in terms of a paratransit service for disabled people. (I had two mini-strokes in 2011 and 2012, and I walk with a cane, when I am not taking the paratransit van provided by the WTA a/k/a Whatcom Transit Authority.)

I'm glad to see that Springfield has a comparable service, in case I decide to visit my mother. But WOW! You charge a lot more for those rides. Right now, I'm using a monthly pass which costs $13 for people who qualify for medical reasons. In fact, if I make two medical appointments a month, the Northwest Regional Council mails me such a pass for FREE! You can't get much better than that. Makes me glad I am living in Bellingham, WA instead of the town in which I grew up.
The less expensive transit costs there in Springfield isn't the only way in which Springfield is inferior to Bellingham, by the way.

Mortality and Realism

The following comment was posted in response to the article posted at

People who obsess over issues pertaining to aging are not morbid; they are simply realists who, for one reason or another, have been forced to confront mortality. In my case, the 2 strokes I had in 2011 and 2012 (I’m currently 56 years old) have forced me to consider that I may not live much longer. (My grandfather died at the age of 65, killed by a stroke, and my father died at that same age.) Learning of the death of people who once seemed young and vibrant (e.g., guitarist Dana Key of the band DeGarmo and Key) has got me thinking a lot about eternity. As a Christian, I am looking forward to the day when my body will once again work the way God meant it to work. (I currently walk with a cane, with great difficulty, although there are others, such as Joni Eareckson, who are considerably worse off than I.)

I really feel sorry for atheists, such as Penn Jillette, who have nothing to look forward to after their bodies have ceased to function altogether

Sunday, December 09, 2012

No Better Than A Prostitute on the Streets

Years ago, when my mother was attending the Cornerstone World Outreach Center in Springfield, Missouri (due to the fact that I'd moved back to my hometown, and due to the fact that that was my mother's church of choice), I dared to express my opinion that the church ought to help me to do what I was having great difficulty doing myself. I had long believed that I was called (and indeed, morally obliged) to use my musical talents in some form of Christian ministry.

I learned from a sound man named Neal Robirds that the pastor, Jess Gibson, had gotten up in the pulpit one Wednesday night, and spoken in a very disparaging and insulting manner with regard to my request for help. Neil knew that Jess Gibson had been talking about me, when Jess said, "Any musician who will not pay without pay is no better than a prostitute on the street." Ouch! It struck me as more than a bit ironic that Gibson would imply that I was the moral equivalent of a whore, given the fact that I had NEVER had sexual intercourse at that time. (FYI, that remains true even until this day, and I am now 56 years old.)

I haven't seen Neal for years, but a recent web search suggests that he now lives in Spokane, MO, which seems pretty strange to me, since I didn't even know that Missouri had a town of that name. But according to Wikipedia, such a town does exist, and it's close enough to Springfield that the idea that Neil lives there is plausible.

I was thinking about Jess Gibson's insult to my integrity recently (and not for the first time) when I stumbled on a YouTube video, featuring a guy who does not like to think of himself as homeless but in fact is (living in a wood stump in the city park in Vancouver, BC). Presumably, he doesn't like to think of himself as a prostitute, either, even though he admits that he gives blow jobs for money. He also admits to being addicted to crystal meth.

It would seem to me that in light of the fact that the world has plenty of people like the guy shown in the video, jerks like Jess Gibson could find better things to do with their time than to insult fellow Christian believers. But then again, Jess Gibson's personal history of so-called spiritual leadership does not exactly suggest that he has been blessed with great spiritual discernment. Among other things, I learned via an online search back when I was still living in Chicago that a female youth worker had been caught (by the Springfield, MO police) in a nearby cemetery, getting oral sex from one of the underaged boys in her charge in relation to that church's youth ministry. The mother of the boy, needless to say, was appalled. She sued the church, and the church evaded responsibility only by settling out of court.

By the way, Jess Gibson made lame excuses for Jim Bakker when Bakker was caught in one of the biggest scandals to hit the world of television evangelism during the late 80s. Jess Gibson was buddies with Jim, and seemed loathe to criticize him because Jim had invited Jess Gibson to appear on the TV show The PTL Club. So I guess that if you do not want to be accused of being the moral equivalent of a WHORE and if you happen to be attending Cornerstone World Outreach Center, you'd best mind your ps and qs.

Illicit sex with underage Sunday school students? That's OK in Jess Gibson's book, and so is sex scandal similar to the ones with which Jim Bakker was connected. (Remember Jessica Hahn?)  But heaven help you if you dare to suggest, as I did, that it might be nice if the church would lend a hand to struggling Christian musicians who are doing well just to pay their living expenses!

By the way, it was always a misrepresentation for Jess Gibson to say that I wouldn't play without being paid for it. I'd been furnishing the church with pro quality music for years when the aforementioned incident came between me and Jess Gibson. But I had gotten mighty tired of the indifference of the church to the financial hardships I was experiencing, and I'd finally reached the conclusion that if I kept waiting for the church to act on its own, it was never going to happen.

Thursday, December 06, 2012

Oprah Winfrey and Maya Angelou

I just found 8 videos on YouTube, featuring Oprah and Maya in a TV movie of the book "There Are No Children Here". Here's the comment I left at YouTube, beneath the first of those 8 videos:
"I grew up in Springfield, Missouri, but for 19 years, I lived in Chicago. I worked for the Y for 5 years within spitting distance of the ABLA housing projects.The scenes portrayed in There Are No Children Here are familiar to me. I felt for these kids, and I worked as a database specialist for YMCA Child Welfare (near ABLA) trying my best to place foster kids, most of them black, in loving homes. I pray they can find a way out of the environments in which they feel trapped."
The ABLA housing projects to which I referred in the YouTube comment were south of Roosevelt Road. I would go daily to the nearby YMCA and attempt to do work on an out-of-date computer, using Microsoft Access. After work, I would take the bus back to my little room at the Lawson House YMCA.

One hot summer day, as I walked down a sidewalk (littered with broken glass bottles) on the way to the Roosevelt Road bus stop (so that I could get to my 2nd job at a laundromat on Clark Street, not far from the location of the Valentine's Day Massacre associated with Al Capone), I was surrounded by little black kids who had turned on the fire hydrant to escape the summer heat. They saw me coming, and apparently thought, "White guy = a good target." On one other occasion, a couple of little ABLA kids had thought the same thing, and they had thrown rocks at me. (Fortunately, they were poor shots, or my story might be similar to the story of St. Stephen, who was stoned to death in Bible times.)

The night of the fire hydrant, I was surrounded by little kids who tossed buckets of water at me, drenching me and my book bag, and forcing me to call my boss (Lisa Weinstein, an attorney for whom I later did office work at her office on Belmont Street) and tell her that I would not be able to make it into work after all.

You might say that it's no big deal to be doused with water (unless one has important papers which could be ruined), but keep in mind that I knew that gangs infested the ABLA projects, and if I whipped any of these little kids (which they deserved), I knew that they might have big brothers with gang memberships and guns. I could not leave on the plane for my safe suburban life in a white town. I had to work there day in and day out, and the last thing I needed was a war with local gang members. So dried myself off and learned to live with it. I did call the police and tell them about the incident, but I knew that my incident would be seen as trivial in a city where gang vioence was commonplace.

Moving to Bellingham, WA was quite a change for me. I've had my share of difficulties since I arrived here (including two "mini-strokes" and a bout of homelessness), but they have been trivial in comparison to what I went through while living in Chicago for 19 years. For people who have money, it can be a beautiful city, but for people who lack money, it can be a dangerous place to live and die.

Wednesday, December 05, 2012


I recently saw a Facebook page (in association with my friendship with Sam Smith, who once created some pretty cool Christian multimedia presentations in association with Heavy Light Productions, with titles such as Black Dog) at this address (!/pages/Fellowship-of-Contemporary-Christian-Ministries/223177977770436).

It's the Facebook page for the Fellowship of Contemporary Christian Ministries. That ministry held a national conference in Kansas City MO, and I hitchhiked about 185 miles, all the way from the College of the Ozarks, when I was a student there in the late 70s when it was still known as the School of the Ozarks.

That was the first time I ever learned about the Sweet Comfort Band, which I later booked to perform at my college. I remember that there was also a Christian southern rock band at that conference, and I spent one very fun night jamming on the piano with the sax player for the band.

Eventually, the FCCM was no more, but they played an important role in the growth of the genre known as Christian rock music.

By the way, Sam Smith was the first person who told me about the salvation of Kerry Livgren, member of Kansas and composer of "Dust In The Wind" and "Carry On, Wayward Son".

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Just Call Me Milo

I just found a couple of web sites which made me chuckle (silently, of course). One claims to tell you your "elvish" name, and the other claims to tell you your "hobbit" name (should be quite popular during the next couple of months). Apparently my hobbit name is Milo Boggy-Hillocks! Who knew?

I think I prefer my hobbit name to my elvish name. Of course, it's all nonsense, but "good fun" nonsense nevertheless. Then again, if I start to grow hair on the backs of my feet (to match the hair on my chest), I may start to take it more seriously.

Coarseness and Discourse

I just came across Christian musician Steve Camp's blog. It's very well designed (putting my Blogspot blog to shame).

In this blog, in this post, he expresses his opinion that "society in general has become very coarse. Foul language is part of every day speech. Subjects that were once too private and personal to mention, are now a matter of public discourse, talked about and joked about openly. Words and terms that no decent person would have once used in public are part of our common speech and are voiced in our schools to our children."

He's right about that, and as much as I wish that my record was spotless, I have to admit that I've occasionally let an "f bomb" fly. In my defense, I do not usually do this casually, the way that some people do. It's usually an expression of anger or frustration.

This morning, I experienced an episode of incontinence related to my health problems (specifically, a hernia which has not been properly treated for the past decade, due to financial difficulties and due to the fact that I only recently went on Medicaid). I was waiting for the paratransit van on which I have come to depend, thanks to the two strokes I had in 2011 and 2012. I started to realize that I should have relieved myself before leaving the apartment. I'd just barely made it inside when I began to defecate on myself. What a mess! I spent the next half hour or more cleaning up after myself. During this frustrating experience, I yelled that "f word" a few times.

I know that Jesus understands our infirmities. He knows that this is not a perfect world, and he knows that there are limits to our abilities in terms of always behaving like perfect little Christians. Still, I am making an effort to control my language. Profanity and obscenity do indeed coarsen our culture, just as Steve says in his blog.

Regarding my health, please pray for me, for endurance and more.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Addiction Is Harmful

Lately, I've been made aware of a new fad, known as the electronic cigarette. Here in Bellingham, there's a business ( which sells such products across the street from the place where I do my banking. The claim is that electronic cigarettes are not carcinogenic (which is saying something, if true, since cancer can even be caused by sunlight, which is normally considered to be health and desirable, and also by charred steak or burnt toast).

The electronic cigarettes can be flavored with all kinds of flavors (banana split, for instance) which were never associated with tobacco cigarettes. See this page for more information.

Long ago, when stores sold candy cigarettes, people objected to them on the grounds that they were clearly aimed at kids, and they made smoking seem harmless, and they therefore seemed to increase the chances that kids would pick up real cigarettes when they were old enough to do so. But they were not available in anything close to the flavor range now being offered with electronic cigarettes, and as candy, they pretty much failed, although in fairness, they tasted as good as the was lips which were also sold to kids.

Let's say that e-cigs are not carcinogenic. Does that mean they're harmless? Virtually all of the companies which sell them feel obliged to put a disclaimer or warning on the package, stating that they are addictive. Of course, some people get addicted to coffee or cafeinated drinks, and that doesn't stop people like me from drinking such things (partially because I have never noticed any particular addiction to such things to the point that I felt a craving or an unpleasant sensation related to not getting my coffee or cola fix).

If you can use electronic cigarettes without any noticeable detrimental effects, and if you can afford them, I say go for it. But never allow anything (even the natural act of sexual intercourse or the normal act of shopping) to become such an addiction that it hinders your ability to control your life and your budget.

Fortunately, when I was a kid, my parents' opposition to smoking kept me from ever doing anything other than to try them a few times. (FYI, the experience mystified me, since I wondered why anyone would want to do something which caused him or her to cough heavily, the way I'd seen my smoking paternal grandparents do when they visited us). But some people were not that fortunate. Even my own brother became a smoker to the point that he was addicted, although some would argue that that was the least of his problems vis-a-vis addictions, since he also became an alcoholic.

If e-cigs can help people like my brother to withdraw from the aptly named cancer sticks, in a manner similar to nicotine patches, then that would seem to me to be a good thing. The anti-smoking ads run before some videos on rented DVDs may be a bit over the top (and possibly ineffective, since anyone who's ever seen The Bucket List is very likely to think that the characters played by Morgan Freeman and Jack Nicholson looked mighty good for people who were ostensibly dying of cancer), but I grew up hearing horror stories from my mother, about people who'd had to have holes surgically cut in their throats (i.e., a tracheotomy) because they had gotten lung cancer. So an avoidance of tobacco cigarettes is definitely a good thing.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Kerry Livgren and the Gospel

During the late seventies, the style known as "progressive rock" was very popular. There were bands like Yes, Genesis, Emerson Lake and Palmer, and others. There were also keyboard-oriented bands which still rocked pretty hard since they still featured heavy doses of guitars, in addition to keyboard synthesizers. Styx, Kansas and others were examples of that style.

Kansas was one of my favorite bands of that type, so I was thrilled when I learned from a friend that Kerry Livgren had recently committed his life to Christ. When I was living in Boston, I learned that Kansas would soon be playing at the Boston Garden, so I tracked down a guy Kerry had recently mentioned as an influence on his new Christian faith walk, and I found the guy's phone number.  (His name was Kenneth Boa, and he'd cowritten the book "Seeds of Change: The Spiritual Quest of Kerry Livgren".)

I called him, and told him I really would like a backstage pass to that concert, since I was working as a merchandise transfer clerk at the Harvard Coop (one of the most successful record stores in the Boston area at that time).

I got the pass I had requested, and I met Kerry that night. I remember that it was a bit strange. It seemed pretty clear to me that there were band members who did not share Kerry's faith. (Dave Hope also became a Christian around that time.) There was a guy who walked around backstage with a big boa constrictor around his neck. I went to the concert with my friend Andy Pratt, who had also become a Christian, and who remains one of my friends to this day.

Later, Kerry formed a Christian rock  band called AD. They were great, and they continued the musical excellence which could be heard on the first Kerry Livgren album with an overt Christian message, Seeds of Change.

As a keyboard guy, I thought it was great that Kerry had become a Christian, and I was later thrilled to learn that Rick Wakeman, another keyboard hero specializing in progressive rock, had also become a Christian, after a long and well publicized history of drunken, dissolute living.

To hear Kerry Livgren's testimony, check out this YouTube video.

By the way, I share a couple of things with Kerry: I'm a keyboard player and songwriter/composer, and I just had two strokes (in June 2011 and February 2012 respectively). His YouTube video about his own stroke is a good antidote to anyone who thinks it could never happen to them. Strokes kill a lot of people every year, and they affect well-known people like actor Kirk Douglas.

ASFB and Mind Garage

Back when I was worked at the record department for the Harvard Coop in the 80s, the most popular contemporary Christian  musician was Amy Grant. So that's who people tended to mention when I told them that I was into Christian rock music.

Well, I liked Amy, and I had in fact been a buyer of her very first album when I lived in Sioux City, Iowa. But I always thought that it was unfortunate that people unfamiliar with Christian rock music thought only about relatively unadventurous musicians like Amy Grant when I would mention the phrase "Christian rock".

If one bought everything one could get one's hands on in terms of that genre (as I did), one would be made familiar with truly adventurous artists like Mind Garage (seen in this YouTube video and this one), the All Saved Freak Band, and others who were about as likely to show up in a standard secular record store as a professional kazoo act. Even Resurrection Band (a/k/a Rez) rocked with a ferocity unknown to fans of Amy Grant.

While typing this blog entry, I've been enjoying a recording by a band called the Sons of Thunder, from this web page. The band is from West Virginia, according to the band's web site. This is NOT the band of the same name which was based in Bethesda, Maryland. I think that they could have avoided confusion by calling themselves The NEW Sons of Thunder (the way Barry McGuire's group was named The New Christy Minstrels), since people interested in learning more about that older Christian rock band could get information without being diverted to sites for the Virginia band. But my main interest in the Maryland band comes from nostalgic memories, since they invited me down to their Maryland house after Randy Matthews had told me that they were looking for a keyboard player, after I had moved to Brocton, MA after graduating from high school in 1974. The Maryland band put on a cool concert featuring multimedia elements similar to those being used by a lot of psychedelic bands at the time. But I must admit, based on the audio and video recordings on the web site for the Virginia band, that they rock a lot harder than the Maryland band did. Check out the videos at this page.

Friday, November 23, 2012

RIP Helpinstill and Barcus Berry

Back in the seventies, when I was first looking into the possibility of focusing on a music career involving pro-quality performances on the piano, there were very few options available to piano players who wanted to be able to rock out and be heard by the kind of audiences common at that time. Regular microphones tended to cause significant problems with feedback, which could be painful to hear if one was an audience member. But people were working on the problem. There was the Barcus-Berry piano pickup, and there was the Helpinstill, which was used back in the day by musical artists like Leon Russell.

Amazingly, there is still an active web site for Helpinstill.  I was interested enough in the Helpinstill that I took a trip from College of the Ozarks to the Six Flags amusement park near St. Louis, just to see what benefits it might have to offer. They kindly let me try out their piano there, and I was amazed to hear the sound of a grand piano coming at rock music volume levels from the P.A. system.

These days, that's not so amazing, and there are digital pianos which manage to capture the sound of grand pianos, with significant advantages in terms of speed of setting up, and of course, in terms of such issues as tuning. (The Roland V-Piano Grand is my current favorite.)

Still, the Helpinstill pickup was quite a boon for people who were tired of being limited to the Rhodes, the Wurlitzer and other electric pianos which sound very little like real pianos.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

We Are All Expatriates

I was just reading the Wikipedia bio of the writer known as Paul Bowles (who shared his surname with my maternal grandparents). He was described as an "expatriate". Reading the definition of that term reminds me of a Larry Norman song, "Only Visiting This Planet", in which Larry sang, "This world is not my home. I'm just visiting this planet."

Larry died in 2008, at the age of 60 (four years older than my current age).

Life is short. I always knew, when I heard evangelists talking about this fact, that they were right. But somehow, the reality of the situation seemed remote to me when I was still a teenager. Now, after two strokes in as many years, not so much.

Nothing is guaranteed in terms of longevity; and indeed, it's true that no one gets out of this world alive. So don't base your hope on the incredibly, incredibly unlikely idea that modern science might one day find a cure for death. Put your faith in the only one to ever conquer death: Jesus Christ.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Weeping and Its Virtues

There are some people, including my current roommate, who seem to think that I have a taste for the macabre. I seem to gravitate towards stories of human tragedy, even tragedies I've never personally experienced.

Take Chicago. If one takes any time at all to dig into the city's history, one can't help but learn about tragic events, such as the Iroquois Theatre Fire (which took the lives of many young children) and the sinking of the Eastland (one of the most tragic maritime disasters, perhaps even worse than the sinking of Titanic, in the sense that it was the result of bad engineering and poor planning, and it happened such a short distance from the city of Chicago itself). And then there was the 2003 porch collapse in Chicago, which was a sad and tragic ending to what should have been an enjoyable get-together.

Reading about the 1958 school fire at Our Lady of the Angels was like being there and hearing the screams of the children trapped inside that inferno.

I think that I am drawn to such stories partly because I believe that they enable me to cultivate empathy and compassion, and partly because they remind me of just how fragile and transient life on this earth can be and is. I am so looking forward to heaven, when I believe that all our tears will be dried and replaced with unspeakable joy.

Think I'm deluded? You're free to believe what you want to believe. But here's how I look at it: If I am wrong, I have little or nothing to lose. On the other hand, if others have foolishly chosen to live only for the moment and for themselves, they will forever regret having chosen to do so.

The Excellence of Michael Omartian

I just came across a YouTube video with a tune from Michael Omartian's album Adam Again. Check it out (via this link) if you've never heard of Michael (which is likely only if you're a lot younger than I am or if you never checked out the credits on the numerous CCM albums recorded and released back in the 70s).

Here's a link to the Wikipedia article about Michael. As you can see from the article, Michael had some pretty impressive credits to his name, not just in the CCM world but in the world of big-time secular hits. Steely Dan, Billy Joel and numerous other big-time music stars relied on the keyboard and production skills of Michael Omartian. For a while there, Michael had a regular column in Keyboard magazine, a publication which was notorious for ignoring the world of CCM. I'm proud to say that I did my best to hold them accountable for that omission, but guys like Michael made it a lot easier for me to make my point, which was that there were some excellent musicians in the field of contemporary Christian music.

Back in the days when I still thought it might be feasible for me to have a successful career as a Christian musician, Michael Omartian was one of the people who kept that desire burning in my heart and mind.

In the Christian world, Michael's star was later eclipsed by his wife Stormie, who I must admit was one gorgeous woman, but she did not seem to have the musical talent that Michael had.

This link will take you to another YouTube video featuring Michael's music.

If there's any doubt about Michael's talent, check out this YouTube link to a clip featuring him on a version of the Stevie Wonder tune My Cherie Amour.

Monday, November 12, 2012

That's Spotted Richard to You and Me

When I was in Chicago (before moving to the Pacific Northwest), while shopping for groceries at the Potash store at 875 N. State Street, I looked down and saw Heinz Spotted Dick pudding. I did a double take, for obvious reasons, since I am normally not in the habit of seeing male genitalia on the shelves of the grocery store! LOL!

Maybe I now know what inspired the producers of Fear Factor to feature an episide (which I personally found to be a bit on the revolting side) in which people sat around the campside, eating various types of animal genitalia.

Cut In Two

If you've ever read Steve Hodel's book about the murder case involving the woman (ironically) named Elizabeth Short, and nicknamed the Black Dahlia, you've undoubtedly seen the haunting photos of the victim, who was discovered by the side of the road, cut in half at the waist. It's a sobering image of what men and women are capable of doing to one another. But it's also a sobering image in relation to the scriptural passage (Romans 12:35-48, particularly verse 46) with which I have illustrated this particular blog post.
To see an enlarged version of the above image so that it can be more easily read, just click on it.

How could a loving god do such a thing to a human being? That's the kind of question one might expect from someone who's bought into what I like to call the "false gospel of wishful thinking". A more appropriate question, it seems to me, is, "How could a loving God be indifferent to the suffering of people abused by pseudo-authorities in his name?"

If you read the scriptural passage I have quoted here, it should be clear that the person Jesus was describing was an abusive man (or woman) who used his or her authority to treat people like garbage. Unfortunately, I have been acquainted with some sorry excuses for pastors, who seemed to think that their job titles were blank checks which entitled them to abuse members of the flock (forgetting the fact that Jesus told Peter to "feed my sheep", not to lord it over his sheep).

Abusive pastors don't much like being reminded of passages like this one. Some of them may even respond with excommunication, instead of showing the humility followers have a right to expect from them.

By the way, as an interesting "coincidence", I did something I very rarely do when I am using Blogger, after writing the bulk of this blog post: I hit the "next blog" link at the top of this page. The very next blog featured the following images, which referred to sexually abusive Catholic priests, but the first image seemed equally applicable to abusive Protestant pastors, whether the abuse had anything to do with sex or not.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Pimp Is Not A Verb

Lately, I've noticed a disconcerting tendency to use the word "pimp" as a term which refers to fixing up things to make them look really spiffy. An example of this type of social aberration was the show known as "Pimp My Ride".

Here's my question: Since "pimping" apparently refers to taking something which is in poor condition and fixing it to improve it, what in the world does that have to do with the original meaning of the word "pimp"? A pimp, for goodness' sake, is a person who exploits (and sometimes abuses) men or women who sell (or more accurately rent) their bodies for sex.

Also, if taking something which is in poor condition and fixing it is now to be known as "pimping", should we now describe Jesus Christ as a pimp? After all, Jesus is the ultimate fixer of souls in need of repair.

I think that it says something rather sad about certain individuals that they use the word "pimp" as if it's a good thing to be one. Pimps are criminals in societies where prostitution is still illegal. They are not good people worthy of emulation or adulation.

Of course, for those inclined to reinvent and redefine words, perhaps we should accommodate that tendency by creating a new show about the political process. We could call it "Whore Myself Out".  Considering what some people do to win elections, that seems as if it would be fitting.

Self-pity is No Party

I recently saw a painting (at by an artist named Katie O'Hagan. The title of the painting was Pity Party.

The image reminded me of times when I have met people (such as Pastor Al Toledo of Chicago Tabernacle, or as I called him,"Pastor Al, the Masochist's Pal") who have seemed to be deficient in the compassion department. Such people have used phrases such as "pity party" to denigrate those who dared to be honest about their struggles, particularly in relation to the subject of depression.

Depression is no joke, and a pastor who claims to want to serve Jesus by loving people as Jesus loved people needs to learn to listen to people who are psychologically hurting, instead of dismissing their needs as unimportant.

Such a person needs to read Romans 12:15, which enjoins believers as follows: "Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn."

No one likes being around depressed people, but that ought to be regarded as just a part of the job if one is a pastor, just as being around sick and physically hurting people ought to be regarded as part of the job if one is a doctor or a nurse. It's been said that "if you can't stand the heat, you should get out of the kitchen". The "heat", in this case, is the unpleasantness one feels when in the presence of people who are sad or depressed or even a little bit angry because they have been mistreated. There's more to being a real pastor than just preaching an impressive sermon. It's what a person does in his office when only one other person can witness his manner of handling crises that makes the difference between real pastors and pastor wannabes.

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

Darn That Plarn

I recently learned something while checking out one of the people associated with one of my Facebook friends from Chicago. The woman was associated with a social network regarding environmentalism. One of the bloggers on that site had written an article about how she had knitted a purse making what was known as "plarn". Plarn is yarn made from recycled plastic shopping bags.

I thought that was interesting, since Bellingham had recently outlawed plastic shopping bags at grocery stores and other such places. I already thought the Bellingham bag ban was STUPID, and inimical to the interests of poor people, since folks who can't afford to buy plastic trash bags all of the time have often used those shopping bags for that purpose in the past, and since those bags usually came free of charge as a byproduct of the sales process.

Maybe instead of making plastic trash bags illegal, we need to teach people how to make better use of them, such as using them as trash bags, and knitting useful new products made of plarn. I'm just sayin'.

Those who are curious about the stupid Bellingham bag ban can read about it at the page marked by this link. If you feel, as I do, that that ban was stupid, then let Seth Fleet know about it, via an e-mail to

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Really Assinine

Back in the 80s, living in Boston, I remember ads for a local rock radio station which supposedly featured "kick ass rock and roll". Yeah, that's what I want to feel like when I listen to music: Like someone has kicked me in the behind, preferably while wearing cowboy boots with pointy toes. As Madonna might have said, "NOT!"

What is it that makes some people act as if the addition of the word "ass" makes any communications superior to saying the same thing without that word? Why say "he has a big house" when you can say "he has a big ass house"? Never mind that it takes more verbiage and adds absolutely nothing in terms of actual information, in comparison with simply saying "he has a big house".

Here in Bellingham, we have a coffee bar called The Black Drop. Naturally, their slogan is "Kick Ass coffee".

You know, whenever I hear someone using the word "ass" gratuitously, I get a mental image of Beavis and Butthood, giggling like imbeciles. "Hey, Beavis, I just said ass!" (Yuk, yuk, yuk.)

Now, if you're using the word ass because you're talking about the animal known as an ass (as in the phrases "Indian wild ass" or "African wild ass"), I'm willing to cut you some slack. But do a Google search on the word ass, and you will find a surprising (or maybe unsurprising) number of porn sites. I find, for instance, a site under the heading "The 50 Hottest White Girls With Ass". Hmm, something tells me that that site is not going to have information about Caucasion females who own pet donkeys.

So I say (to anyone who cares what I think, which is not very many people), "Enough with the stupid ass references already. Your constant use of that word makes you sound juvenile."

Friday, October 05, 2012

Psychic Danger Zones

Back in the 70s, when I was in high school, one of the people I knew when I regularly attended the New Wine Coffeehouse in Springfield, Missouri was Jennifer Lytle. She probably could have been quite cute, even sexy, but she almost invariably showed up at New Wine wearing an old green army jacket and blue jeans, and it was clear to me that her aesthetic choices had been shaped a lot by the hippie movement which was then popular. (Her hair always looked a bit as if she had just gotten out of bed.) But Jennifer was a committed Christian, so it might have been more appropriate to describe her (and a lot of my other friends, for that matter) as a "Jesus freak".

Jennifer told us that before she became a Christian, she'd been heavily involved in a thing she called "astral projection". She was convinced that she had opened up her spirit to demonic forces when she did these things. I had no idea whether or not that was true, but it always caused me to be wary of anything involving that practice, just as I was (and still am) wary of other occult practices, such as reading Tarot cards, reading palms, etc. My knowledge of the scriptures is far from exhaustive, but I am inclined to believe that all such things fall into the category of "soothsaying", which the Bible forbids.

Jesus came into the world to save the world, not to condemn it, so I am not here to condemn anyone if he or she participates in such things, but for what it's worth, I would like to offer the following advice: If you are currently messing around with things which involve the manipulation of the human psyche, be very careful. The spirit world is nothing to toy with. Your soul is more important than any other thing you possess, and your eternal future is not something to throw away just because you thought something sounded like it might be fun.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Is That How Jesus Did It?

When I was a kid, my father used to tell a joke, in which the punch line involved Jesus revealing that the secret to his walking on water was that he knew just where to step in order to find the hidden stones underneath. Never mind that those rocks would have been mighty slippery.

I was reminded of my father's old joke when I recently visited The company sells large inflatable balls, and when one is inside one's "waterwalker" one can "walk on water".

I've also seen "solutions" which basically involved making devices which looked like hybrids between shoes and pontoons.

Either way, I doubt that that's how Jesus did it!

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Not Infallible

It should not surprise us to learn that over the centuries since Jesus Christ died on the cross in order to pay the price so that sinful people could be forgiven, there have been numerous scandals involving people in church leadership positions. Pastors, popes and so forth are hardly exempt from the weaknesses common to all human beings, notwithstanding the inability of some Christians to concede that their leaders are just flesh and blood. Satan feels especially threatened by people who have publicly taken a stand for Christ, and he tends to target such people precisely because they pose a threat to his dominion.

In recent years, there have been some rather notorious scandals, particularly involving Christian televangelists, as detailed in this recent article in Wikipedia. But I rhink it would be a mistake to pick on people involved in television ministries, although it might be legitimately argued that such prominent media ministries tend to pose unusual temptations for  people with bloated egos. There were scandals in the church long before radio and TV were ever invented; the only difference I can see is that we are now able to more easily hold leaders under a microscope which amplifies the perception of their failures.

There is a sense in which we collectively get the leaders we deserve, although those of us who make every effort to keep our responsibilities might understandably feel unjustly insulted when we are blamed for the failures of others. Whenever we believers choose pastors or spiritual leaders, we take on certain responsibilities: To pray for them, for sure, but also to hold them accountable. When people suggest that "submission" to pastors and submission to Christ ought to be regarded as synonymous, we need to remind them that even Saint Paul said that people should reject anything he said if it failed to exhibit consistency with the truth of God.

We ought not to be paranoid, but neither should we be oblivious to the red flags which serve as God's early warning system. If people had paid attention to those red flags long before they did, the tragedy at Jonestown in Guyana might have been avoided.

Future tragedies may still be avoided, but not until we decisively refute and reject the false doctrines which insulate and shield leaders from legitimate criticism.