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WARNING: THIS SITE FEATURES ORIGINAL THINKING...Jim Croce once sang Don't tug on Superman's cape..., which seems like reasonable advice should we not wish to anger the supreme powers. We do have this duality in our culture: the Superman that is the state collective, the leftist call to a politics of meaning managed by the state, the deification of "we're from the government and we'll take care of you" - versus the Superman that celebrates individual freedom, private property, freedom of conscience, free enterprise, and limited government. We humbly take on the latter's mantle and, eschewing the feeble tug, we dare to PULL, in hope of seeing freedom's rescue from the encroaching nanny state. We invite you, dear reader, to come and pull as well... Additionally, if you assume that means that we are unflinching, unquestioning GOP zombies, that would be incorrect. We reject statism in any form and call on individuals in our country to return to the original, classical liberalism of our founders. (We're also passionate about art, photography, cooking, technology, Judeo/Christian values, and satire as unique, individual pursuits of happiness to celebrate.)

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November 13, 2005
It was a fabulous weekend...
Filed in: Current Affairs, Music

I just spent the weekend at the CMS - Christian Musician Summit conference held in Redmond Washington at our nearest mega-church, Overlake Christian Church - you know, the one that seats 6,000 people in the sanctuary.

Concerts: Phil Keaggy (has to be one of the premier guitarists on the planet - talk about a one man band!), Paul Baloche (top praise song writer - he's the guy that wrote 'Open the eyes of my heart Lord' among an array of many others), Abe Laboriel and Friends (Abe is one of the premier jazz bassists in the world and was doing 'Christian' jazz in the late 1970s before anyone knew anything about crossover anything) - this was just on Friday. Saturday, we hosted the last tour date of Chris Tomlin's Indescribable tour - with Matt Redman. These guys rocked - uplifting and wonderful - and rocked.

I had a bass teacher for two days this weekend: Norm Stockton. He is a master musician. He's studied all the greats - I could close my eyes and hear Marcus Miller, Victor Wooten, Nathan East, Jaco Pastorius... and many others, but he has also taken what he wants from each of the artists he has studied and created his own style. I could go on and on - it was really interesting to meet Norm - he was born and raised in Tokyo - and had just gotten back from there - and I was just leaving from Seattle to go to Tokyo - so we hit it off really well. For me it was just terrific meeting someone so gifted that I share spiritual values with. I'm hoping we'll get to know each other better.

Off to Tokyo for me again on Sunday.

Pulled by Emcee on November 13, 2005 at 03:37 AM
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September 23, 2005
Pete Best: Best of the Beatles...
Filed in: Current Affairs, Music

Petebest It was one of those - "Am I on the right planet?" moments for me...

Early this morning in Japan, I caught most of a documentary about Pete Best - the original drummer for the Beatles. I didn't know there was a Pete Best, didn't know that it was he that paid the gruelling price with rest of the Fab Four in the very early Hamburg, Germany days when they honed their skills.

I didn't know that Best was drummed out of the group in favor of Ringo Starr in 1962, nor that he has had no contact ever since with the original members of the group. Somehow, I missed a very significant part of my pop education. Perhaps public attention will finally bring the truth to a very mysterious part of music history.

Now that only half of the Fab Four survive and Pete has a successful DVD and continues to tour with increasing popularity - perhaps he will get some belated recognition.

PBS will air this documentary in the states on September 28th. It's a fascinating look back. I'd say it's a don't miss if you are a music fan.

Pulled by Emcee on September 23, 2005 at 03:10 AM
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July 18, 2005
Their Sacrificed Sons
Filed in: Current Affairs, Music, Politics, War on Terror

It's no secret that I'm a huge fan of the progressive rock group Dream Theater. They have emerged from almost twenty years of hard work to what looks like is going to be the metal mainstream - and not so much because they have changed - significant interest has developed in thematic music that is coupled with incredible technical ability.

Dream Theater certainly meets the ticket and even though I'm getting long in the tooth, I have really enjoyed their work and have observed their maturation for the last decade that I've been listening to them. I've often said that these guys are what would have happened had Beethoven been given modern instrumentation. They've certainly proven that modern music can be written that isn't exclusively about girls and cars, that isn't always written in 4/4 time and isn't always based on the I,IV,V chords, and they've also proven that they can hold your attention - with story - for far longer than any radio airplay will ever grant them.

What may not be well known about them is their penchant for hard hitting conservative political commentary (well, conservative from my view and interpretation). One of their best was The Great Debate from the Six Degrees of Inner Turbulence double album release in 2002. This 13 minute, 43 second piece - opening with a 'newscast' set of 'interviews' from all sides - presented a very fair debate about the stem cell issue but directly confronted the moral implications with:

Are you justified?
Are you justified?
Are you justified?
Justified in taking
Life to save life?
Life to save life?
Taking life to save life?

Good questions. The full lyrics are worth the read. But, that's not what this post is about.

Dream Theater just released their latest album Octavarium last month. It's been my listening companion on and off since early June.

Their seventh cut on this album is called Sacrificed Sons and the recent bombings in London have brought home the prescient nature of its message. Sacrificed Sons is a September 11th, 2001 rock anthem that communicates with music all the terror, confusion, horror, and heroism of that fateful day.

But its lyrics directly confront what has become apparent as the details about the recent events in London unfold. First the lyrics:

Walls are closing
Channel surfing

Burning City
Smoke and fire
Planes we're certain
Faith inspired

No clues
A complete surprise
Who'll be
Coming home tonight

Heads all turning
Towards the sky
Towers crumble
Heroes die

(chorus) Who would wish this
On our people
And proclaim
That His will be done
Scriptures they heed have misled them
All praise their Sacrificed sons

Teach them
What to think and feel
Your ways
So enlightening

Words they preach
I can't relate
If God's true Love
Are acts of Hate

God on High
Our mistake
Will mankind be extinct?
There's no time to waste
Who serves the truth
For Heaven's sake

It's impossible to present the emotional impact of this song without hearing it. But the lyrics provide the message.

Last week Jeff Goldstein provided a brilliant denouement of the media call to understand the "root causes" of terrorism in the wake of the London bombings. What he said being plain spoken about it is that we need not address any more than what the terrorists do to understand the "root causes" of terrorism: TERRORISTS WHO BLOW S**T UP. They - the terrorists - are the "root cause" of terror because of what they do. This is true and simple enough. There really is no further requirement to understand their motivation to grasp the cause. But as the comment section developed on Jeff's post, it was evident that identifying terrorists before they commit their acts is a more difficult proposition. It is apparent as well that the area of fruitful pursuit is rooted in the spiritual position - the faith, the belief, the fealty - that the terrorist holds.

Today, Jeff cogently examines further the threat of multiculturism (we might as well add utopian pacifism and moral equivalence), which we can see, in the case of the London events, has provided succor to the terrorists:

I’ve been arguing for years now that a pervasive cultural fear of plain spokenness (as witnessed by the growing appeal, among those whose greatest fear is giving offense, of “tolerance” statutes and “free speech zones”—both feeble attempts to control speech, either by diluting it to the point of semiotic uselessness or by making it contingent on arbitrary logistics) is one of the greatest dangers facing liberal democracies, something now being thrown into sharp relief as British community leaders and politicians schooled on the kind of innate cultural relativism that multiculturalist dogma inevitably encourages struggle to frame the recent London terror bombings in a way that manages to negotiate both the semantic demands of their cultural philosophy and the facts on the ground. 

He continues and smashes identity politics all together. Still, we are left with, how do we link an actualized individual to acts of terror before they occur? Again, the comments to the post unfold into exploration of the death cult that we confront. What is the demarcation line between the co-religionist Muslim and the death cult to which they give implicit or facile succor?

I'm not one that often appeals to lyricists for political truth, but the plain spokenness of Dream Theater's song, after more than a few listens, provides a wake-up call. Many times lyrics written by brilliant people (like posts that are written by brilliant people) must be listened to (or read) multiple times by mere mortals for them to be really understood.

All praise their Sacrificed sons seems somewhat enigmatic on its face. It's intentional. It caused me initially to ask "Does he mean everyone, universally, did we all praise those that we lost that day?" Well, no. More than sons were lost that day. And we were suffused with our grief that day. There was no place for any praise. Not from any American heart. We would praise our heroes in days afterward.

The full meaning really hit me like the proverbial ton of bricks: In the midst of this greatest loss of American life, in the midst of this cowardly usurpation of our tools of travel that the people of our country freely used to feed their families, in the midst of outright attack on civilians going about the free execution of their pursuits, in the midst of this horror - there were many who considered that the sacrifice of one of their own was worthy of praise. We may all have retained a glimmer of the expressions of joy, the celebrations that occurred in the streets around the world of Islam. But our multicultural bent and the lie of moral equivalence (There could be some homicidal Christian bombers somewhere coudn't there? How about those Orthodox Jewish suicide terrorists that are furtherring their Zionist aims?) has dampened our memories.

In plain speaking, there is a way to divide the wheat from the chaff. It is a simple test of solidarity. Was Mohamed Atta a sacrificed son? Or was he a perpetrator of evil? Would you repudiate what he did as wholly unredeeming? Was Hasib Hussain a sacrificed son? Or did he blow up the bus in London out of his committment to an evil religious ideology? Would you say that he has a special place in hell reserved for him?

While it is certainly correct to point out that it doesn't make sense to declare outright war on Islam - we can declare war on the choices people make about who they will serve on this earth. Ask the questions. "What do you think of these men?" If it would make our dedicated multiculturalist brethren more comfortable, I would submit to the affront to my red-blooded American patriotism to answer the questions. Ask everyone. Influence our allies to ask the questions. Anyone who vacillates on whether these men were sacrificed sons or perpetrators of despicable evil must be treated as potentially dangerous to the rest of us - and isolated if necessary.

If we do not have the stomach to do this, our stomachs themselves may be spilled out with the rest of our entrails by the sacrificed sons among us. What will it take for us to throw off our cultural shame and act to preserve our families, ourselves, and our way of life?

Pulled by Emcee on July 18, 2005 at 11:10 PM
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July 16, 2005
My Bass Rig
Filed in: Current Affairs, Music

If there was a single thing I could focus most of my occupational time and attention on right now, it would be playing the bass. I've been at it for a few years - I guess it's like my second childhood thing. I actually have a regular gig too - well it's at church - but at least no one is asking me to STOP!

After a few years of tweaking, I'm pretty happy with my set up so I'm going to share.

Dsc_00870001 Bass: I have more basses than I have sense - but my every day, gigging machine is my 5 string custom Moses Graphite KP-5 (the image will enlarge if you click on it). The front and fretboard is rosewood. The neck is a single piece of machined graphite. It's very solid because of that and stays in tune. Good thing because that's a 42 inch string length - same as a full size stand up bass. This bass is called 'headless' because the tuners are at the bottom of the instrument. This is supposed to deliver better sustain. I'm not sure that's the case, but I love the long strings because it really solidifies the growl.

Dsc_00900001 Effects: I have to give the BMax bass preamp by BBE the nod currently. I do have the Line 6 Bass Pod (original) which I use for some of its sounds (I like its tron for country two-step kinds of things and its tron/phaser when I want it to sound like John Paul Jones). The BBE just has that great brightening circuitry and incredible range - I run it mostly flat but add a little bass increase and compression for thumping when necessary.

Amp: I'm running the CREST Audio CPX 2600. It's not a big daddy CREST like Bill "The Buddha" Dickens plays - but running it bridged delivers over 2,000 watts into my cab and can easily break glass if I turn it up. This is technically a DJ amp - but that means that they've put tons of bottom end into it - the coils make this thing weigh like 60 pounds. I decided to do this route rather than a 'technically bass amp' because I want to do all my effect work in the pre-amp stage - it just works better for me. I don't want my amp messing with the signal - just amplify what I give it and play my low B string without any attenuation from the A. I'm very happy with it.

Dsc_00920003 Cab: Probably like most enthusiasts that are interested in really good sound out of their instruments, I've played an enormous number of brands. I like (and own) Peavey cabs. I like the Mesa Boogie bass cabs. But, for my money, there is nothing to compare with AccuGroove - period. These guys are a small manufacturer that build full range cabs targeted to bass players. This, of course, has really grabbed the attention of the 6 to 8 string jazz players, but really has application to any kind of music or instrument. The "El Whappo' cab that I have is rated for 800 watts at 8 ohms but I don't think you could break it with any amount of wattage. I've never turned up my amp more than half-way so far. When I played this the first Sunday I took it to church the sound guy came up afterwards and inspected it. I asked him what he thought and he said "I just felt the walls behind me shaking while you were playing it, but it didn't sound harsh or too loud." I asked him if that was OK and he said it was - so I've been doing it ever since. There is enormous headroom with the amp/cab set up which is terrific.

Well, there you go. For you folks who have asked about the gear - that's pretty much it. I'm happy to answer any questions.


Pulled by Emcee on July 16, 2005 at 05:58 PM
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February 15, 2005
Doobie Brothers drummer Keith Knudsen
Filed in: Current Affairs, Music

Keithknudson If you grew up during the seventies or eighties and you were a music fan you loved the Doobie Brothers. I think that they have been discovered by a new generation as well. One of the hallmarks of the band has been one of their pair of drummers: Keith Knudsen.

I just learned that Keith died of pneumonia last week. Rest in peace friend. And to the Doobie family: we grieve with you and know that there's a bit more rhythm in heaven.

I'm so thankful that I got to see Keith late last year at the Northwest Washington Fair in Lynden, Washington. Who would have known?

I don't remember seeing anything about this on the Grammy Awards on Sunday. Perhaps the program was already too scripted to do a tribute. Was there a mention?

The Doobie Brothers site has this:

Memorial contributions in Keith's name can be made to the National Veterans Foundation, 9841 Airport Blvd., Suite 512, Los Angeles, CA 90045. As many of you may already know, Keith has worked tirelessly for the NVF since the late 80's and has been a major factor in helping them all these years. I'm sure he would appreciate you remembering him in this way. He will be missed by all of us, but will be with us always.

Pulled by Emcee on February 15, 2005 at 02:45 PM
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Emcee - "Don't encourage him!" Jeff Goldstein

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