That Old Kentucky Blackgrass

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the-minni-thins

When I was a young dude with long hair, a propensity for late nights, and a higher threshold for loud music, I was in a rock band called The Minni-Thins. It was pretty awesome, and I loved loved loved it. I fucking loved it, man. And I miss it sometimes. There’s nothing quite like playing your heart out in front of a live audience and making a real and true connection with said audience. Getting to share a stage with my little brother and some of my best friends was an added bonus. So, forgive me if I’m a bit nostalgic, but this time of year in particular always brings the memories flooding back. Ten years ago this fall, we recorded our last album and then broke up. The album never got a proper release.

Until now.

On the tenth anniversary of “That Old Kentucky Blackgrass,” The Minni-Thins are putting it out into the digital world of music via Bandcamp. You can pre-order now, but I warn you: It’s weird, it’s eclectic, and it’s dark. “Blackgrass” loosely tells the story of an infection which becomes sentient and develops government and religion. There are zombies, a perpetual couch surfer, and the Devil shows up too.

If you’re brave, you may find it here.

If you’re curious, here’s a video to feast your eyes and ears on. Do it. Before it feasts on you…

Our Onscreen Family

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I was in my work van, eating lunch in the parking lot of a Taco Bell when the news of Leonard Nimoy’s death came through the pipeline to me via NPR. Spock, the unemotional, logical Vulcan from Star Trek, was dead. My emotional reaction was immediate and surprised me. Some weeks later, Harrison Ford was in a plane crash, a spectacular one, that he walked away from in a fashion befitting Han Solo or Indiana Jones. Again, I had a surprising emotional response. He didn’t die, but it was a close call. Could this man truly be mortal?

Being born in 1979 meant that I was raised with (and perhaps by) a stream of familiar faces belonging to people I would never meet. The television was always on in my house. Going to the movies was (and still remains) one of the most magical of transcendent experiences for me. So naturally, I watched Siskel and Ebert At the Movies on PBS. It’s difficult to look back and ask myself what I got out of the show as a kid. Perhaps I wanted to watch the two hosts argue their opposing viewpoints on films. Maybe I believed that their patented two-thumbs up system was fool proof. More than likely, I watched it because I wanted to see what was coming to a theater near me. I remember watching it religiously around the time Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade debuted because I was so excited, and I wanted Gene and Roger to tell me how good it was. I wanted to share the excitement with them.

Sharing his excitement and passion for movies is what Roger Ebert did with his life. Year after year, through his columns and books as well as his TV show, he spilled out his heart on the subject. He was an artist whose medium was art itself, elevating critique to a way of life, a method for connecting to his fellow human beings. Famously, he called movies “a machine that generates empathy.” Through his life’s work, he became an important cog in that machine.

Watching “Life Itself,” the documentary about Ebert, makes it quite clear why I listened to this guy go on about movies for all those years. He was a fellow big guy, joyous, full of passion. A heavy drinker with a love for bars and women. A compassionate free thinker, an unbound intellect, a prolific writer with a no-frills style. Roger Ebert was a role model and a kindred spirit, someone who set the bar high but in an attainable fashion. When he died, I was saddened by the news, but when I watched his movie, I grasped what a huge loss it was.

When you see a familiar face on the screen in front of you, over and over,  for years upon years, that person becomes your friend or even a part of your family in a weird way. Despite the fact that they have no idea that you exist, they become an important part of your life. Spock and Indiana Jones are more than just characters in the movies. These are guys we’ve spent countless hours with, sharing their adventures, their trials, their tribulations, their loves, their failures, their lives. They are real to us. This is something that Roger Ebert understood. By sharing that understanding with us, he too became a family member, like an entertaining and informed uncle who dominates the conversation with wit and humor. I am grateful to have spent time with him and to have shared his passion.

If you have ever dug the work of Roger Ebert or if you love film, do yourself a a favor and watch “Life Itself” on Netflix. Keep a box of tissues nearby. You’ll need it.

Monseiur Moncrieff Speaks: An Interview With Jason Wells

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This is the interview that accompanies the article that convinces you to buy the Monsieur Moncrieff album for yourself.

Shiny Red Nothing

You’ve been releasing albums as For Algernon (starting with Orange Watches and Lost loves, if I remember correctly) since… What? 2002? 2003?How many have there been?

2003. There are 7 for algernon albums out there.

Why isn’t this a For Algernon album? What does M. Moncrieff mean? Is this a character you wanted to play, a new personal direction, or something else?

It’s not a for algernon record because for algernon has evolved into a band with multiple personalities. We were nearly 50-60% complete on a new record at the time of the wreck and then we all sort of went through some life changing events. Deaths, births, wrecks… The album was left in limbo. As I began writing, I kept fleshing out these new songs on my own, without the bands input, and that’s not what I wanted the next algernon record to be. We all had worked…

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The Not So Sad Bastard

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If you’re looking to spend some of your Christmas cash on some new music, may I suggest this:

Shiny Red Nothing

If you’re an avid music fan, you may know that the Cincinnati area has had a firm finger in the piano lid of rock and roll history for a long time. If you’re kind of obsessed with indie music in particular, you’ll probably name-drop the phenomenal Heartless Bastards or the fucking awful Afghan Whigs. Maybe you’re obsessed. Perhaps you own a Wussy t-shirt or know where Coltrane Motion used to eat chili. In that case, Jason Wells is probably your hero.

Believe it or not, this is the least douchey photo I could find on Jason's Facebook page. Believe it or not, this is the least douchey photo I could find on Jason’s Facebook page.

I met Wells ages ago. We were at an open mic, and he was pacing back and forth in a hall perpendicular to the bar, an electric guitar hanging on his back. He was a tortured soul, looking (oh-wee-oh) just like Buddy Holly. I don’t recall what broke the ice, but I…

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The Not-So-Virgin Birth of the Christmas Story

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ValerieTarico.com

nativity sceneCelestial messengers, natural wonders and a virgin birth establish the baby Jesus as someone special. Why does the rest of the New Testament ignore these auspicious beginnings?

Sometime toward the end of the first century, the writer of Luke told a story that would become one of the most treasured in all of Western Civilization, the birth of the baby Jesus. It opens with an announcement known as the Annunciation. A messenger angel named Gabriel appears to a young Jewish virgin, Mary, telling her that the spirit of God will enter her and she will give birth to a child who is both human and divine:

The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the…

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Happiness and Cheer

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It is altogether possible that I spend too much time contemplating my belief system without any real catalyst for naval gazing. It’s Tuesday. Do I posess free will? Congress is in recess. What happens after I’m dead? Those flowers are pretty. Do we have souls? Christmas, as you might imagine, exasperates this preexisting condition.

Today, I’m driving home from that hillbilly pit of Chinese manufactured Hell known as Wal-Mart, explaining to an eight year old why religiosity is bad for business, when I am confronted by a deep philosophical conundrum:

Did I buy enough?

I mean, what if I bought more for the boy than I did for his sister? I would have to go home and count. So, I counted. Same number of gifts for both kids, but his presents have more presence. Her gifts are dwarfed by his. I need more! I mean, she needs more! THEY need more!

Inevitably, I think of Charlie Brown in moments like this, the poor boy curmudgeoned by rampant commercialism, but the commercial aspect is only a piece of the problem I’m having. I want my family to be happy on Christmas day, and I don’t want it to be material, but the material is intrinsic, isn’t it? Without a belief in the birth of Jesus Christ, am I left with anything but the equally fictitious annual arrival of Santa Claus?

Let’s do the math. First, let’s boil Christmas down to the essential and recognize it for the simple winter solstice celebration that it is. That’s Christmas without Christ, just like Hanukkah or Saturnalia. Second, let us remove the materialism, the herd mentality, that quest to trample the weak when they stand between us and what’s on our list or on sale. What are we left with? The way I see it, if I’ve done my math correctly, is a celebration with our family and our friends.

We celebrate the solstice because the days will now be longer. We celebrate because the snow and the frost have numbered days. We celebrate because the spring will wake up and bloom in the months to come and breed new life amongst the skeletal trees of grey winter. We will plant seeds and provide for our families, the same as years previous. This is reason to celebrate.

This is reason enough to contemplate beliefs.

Christmas may be just another day with the weight of cultural expectation heavily added, but I say, “Use it.” Use it to explore what the holiday may have wrapped up for you, be it uncanny or be it practical. The examined life is a gift in itself.

Chaos in the Yard

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the copper pipes went missing with the chaos in the yard
the cops they are a’ chasing someone from the back I saw
flashing lights and footsteps that I hear as fingers point
baggies found on wet grass prompt, “Put your hands up on the car”

here’s to the crack-cocaine the cops found in your yard
here’s to the crack-cocaine the cops found in your yard
here’s to the crack-cocaine the cops found in your yard
here’s to the crack-cocaine the cops found in your yard
put your hands up on the car

snowflakes are a’ falling on the SUV outside
I see they are all melting in familiar pop time
locked my doors an windows, and I thought that I was safe
blocked that spice of life: variety, the human race

cheers to the dreamcatcher your neighbor left behind
and cheers to the LSD that showed that painting’s smile
cheers to the chaos in my mind and in the yard
cheers to the ones downstairs more susceptible than I

here’s to the crack-cocaine the cops found in your yard
here’s to the crack-cocaine the cops found in your yard
here’s to the crack-cocaine the cops found in your yard
here’s to the crack-cocaine the cops found in your yard
put your hands up on the car

Chaos in the Yard EP