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Thor Got Me Thinking..

August 20, 2022

I watched “Thor: Love and Thunder,” the fourth Thor film, a few weeks ago.

If you have not seen it and are planning to, don’t read this post until you have seen the film. It’s rather good by the way, except for getting a bit too preachy about homosexuality.. wokeism is creeping its way into the Marvel Cinematic Universe.. but that is not at all what I want to write about.

I want to write about gods, Christianity, and God’s will vs. .. just chance.. life being arbitrary.

And what is God or the gods.. really like?


The villain in the film. played by an unrecognizable Christian Bale, starts out as a desperate man, carrying his dying daughter through a desert. When he needs to rest, he lays down his daughter and prays to his god.

His daughter dies. He buries her.

Then, he finds an oasis, where he also finds his god. The god is an arrogant, shallow jerk, who cares not at all about his adherents.

The man finds a black sword, which gives whoever wields it the power to kill gods. And that is what the man does, kill his god.

He then goes on a killing spree, wiping out many gods one by one, using his magic sword.

The many gods still alive, including Thor, have to figure out what to do about the god-killer.

In the Thor movies, the gods, besides being killable, are very powerful extra terrestrials worshipped as gods. So they might as well be gods, and are treated as such.

Later in the film, both Thors.. yes, there are two of them. The second Thor is Jane Foster, Thor’s human former girlfriend. I won’t get into how she became a Thor. Not important for this post.

The two Thors, the Valkyrie, and the rock man Korg travel to a huge hall where a sort of parliament of the gods is held.

In this hall are gods from many myths, including Zeus, from the Greek myths.

All these gods humans worship or did worship.

And I thought to myself..

All these gods..

It seems quite arbitrary that the Old Testament, ancient Jewish deity, and the man Jesus, worshipped as the son of this god, and also a part of this god.. most Christians believe in the Holy Trinity.. Father, Son, and Holy Spirit..

This god came out on top.

By that, I mean, that although there are more non-Christians than Christians in the world.. keep in mind the two most populous countries, China and India, are not Christian countries.. Christianity is practiced by more people than those who practice any single religion.

By that I mean there are more Christians than there are Muslims, Hindus, etc.


Some might say “God’s Will.”

Others point to history.. the conversion and influence of the Roman Emperor Constantine, and those that ruled after him.

Later, successful efforts of missionaries and entrepreneurs in Europe.. converting the pagans.

Much later, the imperialist expansion of France, Portugal, and especially Spain.. all Catholic nations, and the British, who, because of Queen Elizabeth I were more and more becoming a Protestant nation.

Arbitrary: “based on random choice or personal whim, rather than any reason or system.”

Random chance these Christian powers succeeded in conquering so much of the world, or the will of God?

Tough to say.. it depends on your perspective.

Can’t help but seem arbitrary to me..

Same with my birth and upbringing in an American Protestant home.

I didn’t choose my religion any more than I chose my race or gender. Something I was born with.

Seems like random chance.

I have been struggling terribly with my Christian faith.. if faith is what I have, instead of a particularly nasty form of obsessive-compulsive disorder that is mostly a religious fixation. Which is what I definitely have.

For many years, I was on a pill, an anti-depressant called Paxil, which actually got rid of my horrible Christian fixation in 1994.

When the Paxil started working, I found myself to be no longer a Christian. My fixation on musical instruments never went away.. I am guessing maybe because I still loved listening to music, and also because I’m on the autism spectrum, and still stuck on something..

But Paxil worked from 1994 until 2007, and even years after it stopped working, I was not fixated on Christianity..

Probably not until maybe 2012 or later.

And this was the result of living with my mom, dad and aunt. All three of whom converted from Protestantism to Catholicism, though my dad eventually reverted.

My aunt and mom became radical.. going to mass almost every day, sometimes at church again for adoration .. sitting in from of a consecrated wafer, believed by Catholics to be the literal flesh of Christ.. or attending a conference or class.

My mom isn’t especially talkative, but my aunt is a chatterbox. She and mom would talk about almost nothing that wasn’t Catholic.

They talked about the mass, the priests, their Catholic friends, etc.

This irritated my OCD severely, and I became fixated miserably.. fixated again on Christianity, this time on Catholicism.

The conversion of my relatives..

This happened because my mom was flipping channels on TV sometime in the late 1990’s or early 2000’s, and found a channel that amazed her. A Catholic channel called EWTN.. Eternal Word Television Network.. founded by a feisty and brilliant old nun named Mother Angelica.

It was Mother Angelica, who passed away some years ago, who mom was especially influenced by. This nun had her own show. She would deliver a lecture, then take calls from viewers. A very charismatic, no-nonsense, even funny woman.

What mom was amazed by was Mother Angelica’s constantly talking about Jesus.

Like most Protestants, mom had almost no clue about what Catholics believe, and had a negative view of Catholicism.

Growing up in a suburb of Chicago did not help.

Her mom and dad did not like Catholicism because the mafia, very strong in the Chicago area, was Catholic.

And, mom and my aunt were taught that Catholics worship idols. Which is not quite true. But anyway..

Mom found herself watching a lot of EWTN. She got our family friend Jean to watch, and my aunt to tune in as well.

Jean converted first, then mom and dad.. dad more on a whim, then my aunt.

So that’s how I became stuck on Catholicism. Living in the same house with two devout Catholics whose practically every conversation centered around their faith.

My aunt got married for the first time in her life, at age 72. She moved out.

It was better to have her here at home than not, despite her Catholicism and constant talking about it. I’m still fixated on Catholicism, though my aunt moved away last year.

And I no longer have had the positive blessing of having a lively, usually happy and positive person living in the same house.

Very quiet here now with just mom. Hard to stand it sometimes.. but I regress.

Seems to me the conversion of my relatives was arbitrary too.

Mom wanted something good to watch on TV, and found herself facing a nun peering through the screen into mom’s heart and soul.

But this won’t seem like random chance to a Catholic. No, this will definitely seem like God’s will.

But I can’t rid myself of this unnerving feeling that all this is just an accident of history.

Ages before Columbus set out, the Chinese had built fantastic boats capable of crossing the Atlantic.

But Confucian advisors told the emperor.. I have no idea which emperor it was.. that for whatever reason, it was better to keep the boats closer to the shores of wherever they were going.

Because of that decision, the Chinese Empire did not greatly expand, and we hear in the Americas are speaking English or Spanish or Portuguese, not Chinese.

And we are not Buddhists, nor are we followers of Confucius nor Lao Tsu, the mythical father of Taoism, and writer of the Tao Te Ching.

Again.. arbitrary choice.

I don’t know what is true.

I don’t know what God is true.

If there is one.

Maybe the gods are all like they are in the film. This part of the movie is really fantastic. I would like to know what cultures some of these other gods come from, and who worships them.

Would have been really interesting to have Jesus sitting there in the parliament of the gods, but I think the film makers would have caught way too much heat.

And Jesus, unlike the pagan gods, is worshiped by over a billion people.

The Holy Trinity came out on top.

Mom and later dad and my aunt and Jean became Catholic.

I did not have the money to live on my own, and I, by chance, inherited a miserable religious obsession illness from my maternal grandmother, who spent much of her days in her room, writing sermons and reading them into a tape recorder.. maybe over 100 tapes nobody heard, typing out notes, reading the bible, etc.

She was not happy, nor a kind wife.

I am not happy. I am not married.

And I am still stuck with an arbitrary fixation I can do nothing about.

And I wonder what the Christian Godhead is like, if it exists.

Some jerk living on a cloud?

We know how God the Father is in the Old Testament.. kind sometimes, but a crazily jealous and extraordinarily blood thirsty god.. the Flood, genocidal warfare of his people conquering Canaan.

I read a little of the Book of Judges, because I like some of the stories in that short book of the Bible.

These “judges” were not judges in the way that we think, but rather mighty heroes and leaders of the Jewish people, before they were given their first king, Saul.. that did not go well.. but anyway..

I did not get far into my reading, because the body count in the first few chapters was horrible. Some random war leader faithful to God.. his troops kill 30 thousand pagan soldiers. The next Hebrew warlord is not faithful, so he loses 25 thousand of his men as a punishment from god.. something like that.

That god… so often angry, jealous smiting.

Part of the same god as Jesus?

It’s hard to like Jesus. So many difficult teachings most Christians don’t much live up to.

I wonder if most Christians consider it random how they were born into their faith, and not into another.

I don’t know.

And I wonder what, if real, the Holy Trinity is like.

Sure would have been great to have them in the parliament of gods in the film.

Though I am wondering what the Holy Spirit, also called the Holy Ghost would look like.. just sort of a wispy blur? Or maybe a giant dove?

I don’t know.

But following this god sometimes seems just as silly and awful and arbitrary as following any of the others.

Even though I deal with the compulsion during at least part of each day to take the Catholic class for converts, starting up next month.

I really wonder about God… the gods.

And this movie really got me thinking.

Thoughts on God, Religion, Time, Suicide, and Tom.

June 25, 2022


Why that is one of Tom’s topics will not be clear for awhile, dear reader. Let’s say he’s got a host of good reasons, both mental and physical, which you may read about later in this post, should you stay until closer to the end.


Tom did some research. Although possible to overdose on psych meds, including anti-anxiety drugs such as benzodiazepines, some of the most addictive chemical compounds ever prescribed.. this was just not a dependable method. Less messy than cutting one’s wrists in a bathtub, but just as ineffective.. yes, both methods can work, but there is a strong chance both methods will fail. That the suicidal person will be found in time.

No, it is the more messy methods of ending one’s life that are effective. Gunshot to the head works well, as does hanging, and jumping from a great height, although somehow people have supposedly survived jumping off the Golden Gate Bridge. How that is possible, who knows.

The average hop from a five story building should do the trick for most folks.. but life is strange, and that leap might only result in paralysis.

People have even survived self-inflicted gun shots to the head somehow.

Perhaps they should have used a more powerful caliber, or would that have mattered?

Is fate so terribly cruel, or chance so terribly arbitrary, that some of the most desperate people end up in even more desperate straits?

Let’s not dwell too much on suicide for now though, because, for now, despite chronic and constant physical pain, despite realizing fully how much he had failed to live his life, and despite how much he feared the morrow, Tom was, at this moment, the moment of 12:25am on June 25th, 2022.. still typing..

Tom is still alive, though he might not be by the time you are reading these words..

Let us move on to…


Or many gods, or whatever, the soul of the universe, such an empty term, “universe.” Some divine Mind.

Shorthand for God for those who do not accept the word “God.”

Too sectarian, far too sectarian, that word.

When asked if one believes in God, one had better follow up that question with a most suitable response, “To what God art thou referring?”

“Umm.. just. you know..God “.

“Yes well.. tell me about your God..”

And then, after a bit of an awkward pause, you will likely get some spiel about Jesus and etc.

Hindus and those Buddhists, including those who believe in gods, bodhisatvas, etc. do not feel the need to proselytize, nor do Jews. In fact, some rabbis tend to discourage people from converting to Judaism. 613 commandments are hard to keep. And you thought there were only 10, and, like me, fail at keeping those, and forget what they even are.

Muslims convert in their own fashion, but are not likely to bother you while you are reading a newspaper on the bus.

Most Christians are not likely to bother you either, mind, just a few here and there. Because most Christians are not doing their jobs, and do not care about the Great Commission of Christ.. to go unto all nations, preaching, baptizing., and all that.

Don’t worry about most Christians hassling you, whether they be Protestant, Orthodox, or Catholic.

But look out for those earnest, well-scrubbed Mormon boys on foot or pedaling their bicycles.. MOPs, as my brother calls them.. Mormons On Patrol.. and occasionally and intentionally blocking sidewalks as one walks down one’s path.. these boys really are in earnest, and ready to spread the gospel according to their modern-day prophet, Joseph Smith.

Modern by today’s standards, anyway.. Smith having founded the Mormon religion in the 1800’s, and I don’t mean the 1800’s B.C. either.

What is the point of using “B.C.E.?” Politically correct and all that but still judging time roughly by the birth of Christ.

What we are needing is a time overhaul. Not “Before Christ” or “Anno Domini,” “in the year of our Lord,” nor the secular counterparts, “Before the Common Era,” and “Common Era,” but a genuine and linear path of time from the prehistoric to now.. one continuum, for that is what it is.. not flowing forward only after a certain time, and before that, the numbers going backwards. Not how time works. From the Big Bang until now.

But it is too late for a calendar of time overhaul, I suppose.

And anyway, when would one start the measurement of the beginning of time?

No one in academia could suitably answer that question, I think. Some even question if the Big Bang happened. And there is some debate, if it did, when?

So here we are, at whatever time I am writing this, and simultaneously at the time you are reading these words.. at whatever time it is, and C.E. or AD, still measured by the birth of a certain itinerant preacher who may or may not have been God in the flesh.

No, not fair we judge time this way, even though there are more Christians in the world than practitioners of any other single religion.

And, lest we forget, there are more people on this planet who are not Christians than those who are.

Easy for me to forget? No.

Drowning in my religious fixation, mom’s Catholic television, my father’s voice on the phone from his $6,000 a month small small but comfortable room in an assisted living facility.. partially furnished, organized, and decorated by me, his suicidal son.

My mother, a convert to Catholicism, dedicated though she be without much in the way of any spiritual feeling of connection, and my father, who has recently become much more zealous in his faith (did someone make a change to his psych meds, or did he finally find his calling.. or is there a difference?), wanting to convert those who are fellow residents in his facility.

A breath of fresh air for Tom, though not nearly enough on which to subsist.. to just barely get a thought or tiniest bit of feeling caused by seeing storefront of Crone’s Cupboard, a gift shop specializing in products those on the margins, the 25% or so of Americans called the “nones,” and the “spiritual but not religious.”

All “spiritual but not religious” are “nones” as in “no specified religion,” but not all “nones” are “spiritual but not religious.” Atheists and agnostics, who just can’t be bothered with, or are too tired of, all that “God” stuff, are “nones” as well.

There is one truth, maybe, but no way of knowing what it is. The subjective feelings and experiences of a fellow human being cannot help me.. at all.

Pascal’s Wager.. if one lives one’s life as though there were a God, and, if I remember correctly, if one’s God is the Christian god, one’s life lived in such a way as one would believing in that God, would win the wager, even if there were no such God, because one would be living a virtuous life, and therefore, be benefitting both others and one’s self.

Whereas, living as though there were no Christian God, one might live a life that is damaging to self and others, and end up in hell. For all eternity.

Homer Simpson, an animated wise fool, though mostly a fool, but not in this instance, said, “But what if you believe in the wrong God, and follow the wrong God, and in doing so, make the real God angry?”

There is no answer to Homer’s question.

There is none to Pascal’s question either, perhaps, except that posed by the fictional character, Homer Simpson.

No one really knows.

Not the well-scrubbed, earnest young Mormon lads, nor me, nor you.

At this point in time, Tom paused to take a walk.

He was a bit surprised that, for the first time in his life, his very rare bout of drinking too much was a partaking of port and some cabernet savignon and not malt liquor or other beer, and some of the hard stuff.. he reacted better to the wine, and because he drank wine, did not throw up the increasingly expensive groceries he had earlier consumed. No mess to clean up, at least.

He walked into the night, a greater distance than he had planned, being far gone enough to miss a turn, and found himself thinking the grassy space to his left that he stumbled into was a backyard missing a fence, and not a front yard.. which he realized after about a minute, and then kept on walking.

He made it home and is now typing again.. the feeling of an almost panic attack still present.. he did partake of some dark chocolate, including some mixed with coffee, along with all the food he ate previously, despite his chronic constipation and worry over his constipation.. he heard Elvis died of constipation.. which is actually possible.. one gets sepsis.. but anyway..

No.. just typing, and perhaps going to bed by his usual 1:30 am or so. He has taken his psych meds already. Why not take the prescribed four different meds to get to sleep when one had worked?

He is scared to face tomorrow.

All those empty hours filled with pain.

He was planning on going to see the new Elvis movie, and perhaps going to a seafood restaurant, after, and going much further into credit card debt to be out for lunch with people who are strangers to him, and whose company in which he is very uncomfortable.. successful people.. some who are world travelers.. too many mostly happily married couples, and those who mention spouses and children, than he can bear. He is not even comfortable in his own company..

He has not lived his life. Not at all.

He has no anger toward those who have, just deep sadness and madness, having recently realized what he has missed, and only recently realized all this because he is less obsessed with religion, specifically Catholicism and Jesus, like he has been for many years, nor as much obsessed with musical instruments than he had been.

Terrible realization at the age of almost 50. Yes, you might say.. plenty of time to go.. but this is NOT good news to someone with chronic, severe physical and mental pain.

Another recent realization being that of knowing exactly when he most deeply went wrong. In 1998, he received a phone call that, after having applied and been interviewed, he was offered a job at the new location of a bookstore chain. A full-time position, and that being the only kind available.

He had already stopped attending some classes, but still declined the job offer, because he had not yet completely dropped out, and did not think anything of his declining the offer for decades.

But the phone call on a weekday afternoon in 1998, that he received in the employees’ booth of the recreation room of a not-at-all famous California State University, would have changed his life immeasurably.

Had he taken the job, he would likely have lived a “normal” life. Worked a full-time job, eventually moved out on his own, had several relationships, including one that resulted in marriage, never went on disability, stayed much more mentally healthy as a result, never developing constant pain in his body that cannot be medicated because it is created, like the ringing in his ears, by his mind.

It is a terrible thing to know just where and when one has truly gone wrong. Perhaps worse than just wondering.

He is obsessed with, among a few other things, this afternoon in the spring of 1998.

His life gone, and yet, he lives.

While on his walk in the dark..

Spotted one of those maibox-sized “free libraries”- take a book or leave a book.. inside it, he could see, by the light of the street lamp, a book entitled “Resisting Happiness.”

Hmm.. hope?

Ha ha ha..

Yes, he usually resists writing, and writing doesn’t make him happy, and he rarely writes, though it passes the time more quickly, because he is afraid of writing, as he is afraid of most everything..

But he is writing, happy or not, and waiting until he is not scared to to go sleep, or rather, until his pills take a bit more effect, or until the too much food he ate has digested some.. or.. well.. he will eventually sleep..

This book, “Resisting Happiness..”

No mention of God in the description on the back of the book.

However, he flipped through the book, even though he knows, as best anyone can, that he is hopeless, but not willful enough (or enough as of yet?) to commit suicide.

And the book turns out to be a religious text..

The author, Michael Kelly, writes that old chestnut.. “everyone has a god-shaped hole” and cannot be happy without finding happiness in God.

Tom wonders .. a zen koan perhaps.. “what does a hole-shaped god look like?”


Ok.. enough brain baking for now..



Different teachings.

So far as this author knows, the Roman Catholic Church, had, a little while back, changed the teaching from suicide equals damnation to.. well.. not sure exactly..

Still a grave sin.. but God being more merciful than previously thought.. not necessarily sending a suicide soul into hell.. God who made mental illnesses, just as he made minds, unless you believe that all that God creates is good, and since the Devil cannot create, anything that is bad is just a perversion of the Good, and that perversion is caused by the Devil, but anyway..

Other faiths… reincarnation .. Hinduism and Buddhism.

Tom paused for awhile from writing, but is still awake at 1:51am, due partially to alcohol causing a rapid heart rate, him having consumed some dark chocolate, including a bit of coffee-laced dark chocolate, after the other foods of his rare eating binge and consuming more alcohol than usual, which isn’t very much, but still..

This answer about suicide and reincarnation sums it up just fine, and he doesn’t want to go digging too much at this time, so..

From the wesite Quora, where he once contributed many answers, accidentally in two different accounts, and is quoting an answer by someone else now..

“Your lives do not repeat.

The next life is a completely new life. However, if you commit suicide, you lose the privilege of a human life. Which means you will lose the privilege of conscious awareness for many many many cycles (you will enter into “great darkness”). Your next life will then take the form of a tree or a plant or some low sentience life form.

Suicide is forbidden. The suffering that one undergoes in subsequent births is quite significant.

It is better that one exhaust one’s negative karma vasanas here and now, so that they are done with those forever. If you are sad, let it drain out of you, as you chant a mantra such as Om Namah Shivaya – adoration to Lord Shiva (etc.). If you are happy, you are using up your positive bank balance. So, the key is to keep doing positive karmas so that the future is positive.

If the present is negative, keep going until that negativity is fully exhausted.”

  • from contributor Satya Vaan.

The old question..

A reason I am not Buddhist.. if my life is not reborn.. if I am not reincarnated, what is?

How can my being be impermanent, as Buddhists claim, if something gets reincarnated?

Well anyway.. point being, down the ladder you go and you come back as some “lower” form of life and cannot reach Nirvana until you reincarnate as a human again.

I would rather come back as a tree, one of the neighborhood squirrels, or a well-treated pet any day.

This doesn’t seem like punishment.

Human life does, most human life, anyway.

Either Tom is alive, or he is dead. He is alive at this moment, which means any and all human suffering is possible.

But much of human pleasure and goodness is no longer possible for Tom.

He is almost 50 years old.

He doesn’t have 25 or more years of an at least somewhat happy marriage, nor has he helped raise any children.

He’s not really enjoyed much of anything almost all people on this planet have enjoyed.

He can pretty much guarantee he will wake up with the same caused by the mind and therefore probably impossible to medicate pain caused by the mind that is torturing him (a part of himself is torturing himself), because that is how he feels when he wakes up.

He deeply regrets how, on Monday, by the simple act of eating just a bit more than planned of food, including food he has in the past caused himself harm with, in his psycho-somatic battle with food and with his mind, caused immeasurable pain, since he ruined his rare blessing of feeling better than usual and then ate the wrong foods, though not even a large amount.. and thereby caused the pain to come back.

In other words, he violated a law his mind came up with. Thou shall not have cookies topped with peanut butter after thou has eaten a meal of reasonable size. And so the psychosomatic pain came back, not in his abdomen, or not just, but pretty much all over. This was supposed to be day one of no pain, but Tom blew it, ate a few extra mouthfuls of veggie stir fry after his meal, then had the audacity to eat two cookies and a couple spoonfuls of peanut butter.

His atypical ocd can take on different forms.. and fixations .. and food is one of them..

He triggered severe phantom pain that causes real muscle constriction and pain, on Monday, and obsesses on regret.. many regrets..

And tomorrow likely another day of madness of free time.

Or, unlikely but possible.. if he feels well enough to volunteer at a thrift store.. and drive there.. he will feel insane and in pain while putting away knick knacks.. decorative candle holders, figurines, various misc. that he calls, in his mind, “random crap,” although he bought a decorative candle holder himself last year from a thrift store, and at least one figurine he put on display a few days ago already sold, and all purchases go to helping people.. so his painful life has the tiniest bit of significance.

Not exactly off-setting the potential of negative karma of eating meat almost all his life, polluting by driving a car, and simply not living his life.. but rather being a lifelong “poor timid soul” as Theodore Roosevelt would have called him etc… but a bit of good done.

Though not nearly significant enough to equal the pain he has been experiencing.

He is not Beethoven. Grimacing his way through severe stomach ailments and losing the ability to hear, but still a genius at work composing something magnificent.

Tom is not much of anything really, and matters a lot only to his immediate family.. and a little to very few others. One who stays most of his life in his room watching the same shows and movies over and over again, reading the same novels over and over again, does not make many friends, nor have a great impact, or any, upon the world.

Oh well.. maybe this is not so serious a thing.. the farther one backs away from Earth, the smaller we all look, until it seems all life, or rather, all individual lives, have no significance..

Unless Depeche Mode is right, in one of their earlier songs, “Everything Counts in Large Amounts,” or.. we are all interconnected and all that.

Whatever, Tom thinks.

After 2am.

Time for bed, yet more dread, and even sleep, if possible.

He was planning on seeing a movie with random strangers, including a few he could have been friends with, but made the wrong choice to be a stranger.. from a meetup group, but won’t get out of bed early enough, likely.

And maybe this is just as well.. although seeing the movie passes time. Two hours that he won’t have to spend at home.

But regardless..

As he keeps living.. time will pass.

He keeps thinking he will die within a few months without having to commit suicide, but this is not rational, as, physically, he is in rather good health.

He is a careful driver in a first world city with some of the safest drivers in the United States.

So not likely, sadly not likely, he will die by some gentle natural cause, many many years from now.

And he probably won’t commit suicide, as one of his sub-personalities.. what Carl Jung would have called a “complex,” wants himself not dead, but alive and suffering..

Yes, one part of his psyche does indeed want him alive and suffering.. he has self-harming behavior.. eating the wrong foods, or drinking alcohol despite being forbidden by two of his health care professionals.. and suffering the psychosomatic consequences of pain and regret.

The alive and suffering part of his mind wants him around. Keeps him from killing himself. But there are good parts of his mind too, realizing that he is of value to his mom and dad, and does not want to grieve them.

He carries his miserable daily burdens for them.

Were he to commit suicide, his mom, who has had a bit of heart trouble in the past, might have a worse heart attack and die. Or she will otherwise be in a horrible state were her son to end himself. She would also likely sell the house which she so dearly loves.. no more greenery outside all the windows, nor yard to work in if Tom takes his life.

And his father would be terribly grieved too.. and a few others, such as his brother and aunt would mind, and so would his manager at his job, and the few people on facebook who like his frequent photo postings and rare essays like this one.

He ends this posting now.. and will eventually try to get some sleep, though he fears tomorrow, with good reason.

The end of his post, but not his life.


Tobias Forge, Ghost, and Satan.

June 2, 2022

I feel somewhat hesitant in writing this post. I’m genuinely concerned about this band. I’m not worried about what I write being mocked. I expect that. Expressing concerns of a spiritual nature when writing about music or a band, rock star etc. opens oneself to ridicule. That’s alright, and not something I am concerned about.

My concern is that you will listen to the songs I present later in the post, the lyrics will get into your head, and your life will somehow become worse. Regardless of whether or not there is a literal Satan, I think songs associated with or about or written to Satan can have a negative spirit or energy associated with them that can do us harm.

And maybe there is a literal Satan.

Tobias Forge, the singer, songwriter, and leader of the Swedish hard rock and metal band Ghost, believes in a literal Satan. He’s said this in interview clips, which you can find below.

What do you think of Satan?

If you are a Christian, you believe Satan is the ultimate enemy, created by God, fallen, the prince of this world, the ultimate evil, who wants to cause misery, kill, and bring all souls to hell.

If you are not a Christian, you might think of Satan as a symbol, but not real. Or you might believe that Satan is real, and worth following.

If you don’t believe in Satan, then you probably are not at all alarmed by any Satanic songs, including the ones I will present later in this post, nor will you be troubled by the words of Tobias Forge.

Why am I writing about Forge and his band?

Am I a Christian?

Do I believe in Satan?

I’m a Christian who struggles a great deal with his faith, and sometimes doesn’t even have any, except for some deep within me.

Do I believe in the literal Satan?


Why am I writing about Ghost?

Because of the leader of the band, Tobias Forge, who is a unique kind of Satanist, presents a very accessible, catchy form of Satanism. Songs of praise to the devil that are easy to sing along to. A song about inviting Satan into your life to be your companion.

Why do I think this is a problem?

Even when I have difficulty believing in Jesus and a literal Satan, I do believe in beings that could be called demons, I suppose. Negative entities that really are out there and can and do harm us.

I suppose if I were not a believer in such beings, I think I would still believe in forms of negative energy. I believe that there is positive energy that can be tapped into, and negative energy.

If I just believed in energy this way, I would not think of Satan as a real being, but still would not be into anything Satanic, because I would associate Satan with negative energy that could make my life worse.

I would not think this way if I were an atheist. Must be nice not to believe in any sort of spiritual evil. Then the music and Satanic philosophy of Tobias Forge and his band would be something I would not find troubling.

And then I could enjoy the music. Perhaps that is what you are able to do.

But I think evil is out there.. spiritual evil.. and sometimes do believe in a literal Satan, and his demonic legions.

I also think that it is possible to invite evil influence into our lives, in a variety of ways.

How to invite evil?

By exposing ourselves to evil in the form of entertainment, and thereby darkening our hearts.. making ourselves just a little worse.. bit by bit, over time. Should we just stick with positive entertainment? No, but I think there’s a line that can be crossed. It can be difficult to know where the line is, perhaps, but it is there.

In my opinion, especially violent movies and shows can be destructive, and also films and programs that are pornographic. Those that blend pornography and violence together are especially bad, because the brain gets wired up to associate sexuality with violence. And I think watching pornography invites evil, too.

I think listening to certain music can invite evil. I’ve listened to a LOT of metal over the years, including some negative, evil music, and I suppose I’ve absorbed a lot of darkness, a lot of negative energy. But I’ve mostly steered clear of blatantly Satanic bands.. mostly.

I’ve occasionally had a weakness for Satanic music that sounds really really good, so I’ve listened a bit to Dimmu Borgir, from Norway, and to Ghost. That band has some amazing songs, I have to admit.

But I’m especially troubled about this band. Forge has found a way to make Satanic music and lyrics appealing in a way that no band has done since the 1990’s, when Marylin Manson was hugely successful.

There is a big difference between Forge and Manson though. Manson did not talk about Satan like Forge talks and writes about Satan – as being his spiritual guide and master. Forge has penned many songs of praise to the devil. Manson did not do this, but rather created a concept album, called “Antichrist Superstar,” which was a story about the Antichrist as rock star who gains his power through musical fame and influence.

Manson was not an evangelist for Satan, but Forge is.

And his music is getting more mainstream attention. This band is huge, and becoming more popular. They even won a Grammy in 2016 for best metal performance, and in 2019 for best rock album.

So yeah.. this band has influence.

What about Forge? Is he someone to be concerned about?

What sort of a Satanist is he? Is he a Satanist at all?

Depends on your definition.

He’s not a follower of Anton LaVey, the author of the Satanic Bible, and founder of the Church of Satan. Laveyan Satanists for the most part claim not to believe in a literal devil, but rather claim to be athiests, and see Satan as the ultimate symbol of freedom, debauchery, etc.

Forge is also not the nutcase Satanist who not only believes in Satan as one’s personal deity but who robs graves, carves up cats, people, etc.

But Forge really does believe Satan is real. Satan is his god.

In some of these interview, the leader of the band, Forge, talks about Satan being a “faithful companion,” and entering his life and so forth .

He believes in a different sort of Satan.. one that represents freedom and style, as he says, but if you listen to some of his lyrics, Satan, for Forge, is a lot more than that.

Let’s check out some interview clips.

A bit troubling seeing a young boy interviewing this guy in some of the clips.

No, I don’t think Forge is a danger to the kid.. what I mean is he is obviously not a danger to anyone.. except perhaps in a spiritual way.

Seek out evil and you will find it..

But is Satan really evil?

I think he sees the Devil as many modern Satanists do.. as I wrote before.. symbol of freedom and etc.

But Satan is represented by Forge is sometimes quite evil.

Here are the lyrics to a song called “Majesty,” a song with excellent music, that is written in praise and homage to the devil:

A higher power underground
From seraph skies and now to chaos bound
He is sitting sacred and profound
In midst of sinners licking up to kiss his crown

Pathetic humans in despair
Defaced, deflowered, now to death devout
A fallen angel in his glare
In midst of sinners kneeling down before His clout

Old One, Master
All beauty lies within
Old One, Master
All beauty lies within you

This oasis is a poisoned well
Of rotting carcasses that clog the deep
A prince in exile here in Hell
In midst of sinners flocking up like soulless sheep

Old One, Master
All beauty lies within
Old One, Master
All beauty lies within you

Old One, Master
All beauty lies within
Old One, Master
All beauty lies within you

Old One, Master
All beauty lies within
Old One, Master
All beauty lies within you

Your infernal Majesty.

Here is a live video..

Strange song.. A mix of horrifying images, and the line “all beauty lies within you.”

Unlike members of some other bands that sing about Satan, use Satanic imagery, etc., I think Forge is serious.

In the interview clip at 15:15, he talks about the devil entering his life. In another video, one I cannot find now, he went on to describe in greater detail, and spoke in such a way that Christians do when talking about “finding Jesus,” and having a relationship with Jesus.

Here’s another song of praise by Ghost:

Am I worried about Forge and Ghost?

To be honest, yes.

Playing with fire.. not necessarily literal hellfire, but spreading negative energy, and who knows.. maybe the devil is real.

If so, then would you want to call on the Devil, called “Little Sunshine” in this song?

Even if you don’t believe in a literal devil, would you take a chance that there are no evil entities out there?

This is a seductive song. Millions of people sing along with it.

And I don’t think this is good.

I don’t know about a literal devil, but I do believe in negative energy, and the possibility that negative entities exist as well.

And that is why I think it’s good to avoid calling on “little sunshine,” and why it just might be a good idea to avoid the music of Ghost.

Jaco Pastorius and Mt. Everest.

April 8, 2021

I’ve been thinking about Jaco Pastorius lately.

You might not know who he is.

To give you some idea…

Ok, that didn’t help all that much. Maybe this will..

Still not impressed?

Ok.. well..

Then let’s just say that, when I started getting into bass playing, and talking to bass players, this name kept coming up. A name I had never heard before.

Why? Well..

The only famous bass players are those who can also sing, are primarily known as singers, such as Paul McCartney, Gene Simmons, and Sting. If you were into strange music in the ’90’s, then you might have heard of Les Claypool, the singer and bassist of a very very strange band called Primus.

Yeah, you know who they are. Except for maybe Les Claypool.

The most famous pop culture bass player who doesn’t sing, or rather, is not famous as a singer and leader of a band or whatever, at least if you are over 40, like I am, is Flea, from the Red Hot Chili Peppers.

So who is Jaco Pastorius then?

Well.. talk to enough bass players and Jaco is considered the greatest bass player who ever lived.

He was beaten to death in 1987.

No, not some victim of a random crime, not entirely.

He had been suffering from mental illnesses, got stuck on the usual substances, and bashed his way into a night club.

A bouncer with a particular proclivity for violence beat the bassist, and the bassist died of his wounds.

At age 35.

Before some of you were even born.

Why am I writing about this person?

I’m trying to get at that myself.

And I sometimes get ideas.

But now my brain is floundering.

And to be honest, no one reads this blog.

And on facebook, what, I get a few likes, three at most, no matter the quality of content.

But whatever.

So, Jaco then.. and the purpose for writing.

It’s the incredibly strongly held belief that reaching the pinnacle of success, of one’s profession brings happiness and will cure all one’s ills.

Whe Jaco was fairly young, he declared to his parents that he was going to become the greatest bass player in the world.

Why bass?

That I don’t know..

Maybe because bass is considered to be SO much easier and less desirable to play than guitar.

You want to become the greatest guitarists the world has ever known?

Get in line.


Behind Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton, Pete Townsend, Eddie Van Halen, Jimi Page, Carlos Santana, and the list goes on..

The best bass guitar player?


Well.. during Jaco’s time there were a few, such as Bootsy Collins, who was in James Brown’s band for awhile, Stanley Clarke (I forget what band he was in), and the bass players I don’t know the names of, but who were in such bands as Parliament/Funkadelic, Sly and the Family Stone, and one of the greatest early bass players, the ultimate dude in the Motown House band, called The Funk Brothers, James Jamerson.

Yeah, there were some greats.

But they didn’t play at the level this guy got to.

I don’t know if Jaco and Miles Davis crossed paths. Reason I bring up Miles Davis is, first of all, Miles, long past his death, is still one of the all-time greats of Jazz.

And the guy happened to invent or co-invent several Jazz genres, including Jazz fusion, which, as the name suggests, is a blend of Jazz and other genres.

Jazz had reached an evolutionary culdecac, to borrow a phrase from the great science fiction writer, Arthur C. Clarke.

In order for Jazz to continue to exist and progress, Jazz musicians adopted other styles, like rock and funk.

Miles was at the forefront of this movement, with his album, Bitches Brew (a pun, a bad one.. from “Witch’s Brew”.. that phrase might have gone back as far as Shakespeare.. I am thinking of the witches in the play “Macbeth,” or more likely, much before Shakespeare’s time..

But anyway..

Jaco played Jazz fusion, with a band called Weather Report, with Joni Mitchell’s band, as she continued to change her style. And change and change..

I am just starting to get into Joni Mitchell’s music, and may not get much further in than I am, as I have so many interests, be they musically related or otherwise.

And Jaco had a solo album as well.


I have been half-heartedly getting into bass playing yet again..

I am, to be honest, more a writer and several other things than I am, and probably will ever be, a musician.

But I wanted to explain to you why I have had Jaco on my mind tonight, this late night, as all my nights are, and why I wanted to write about him.

I wanted to call this blog lonely at the top..

But that doesn’t really cover it. I just can’t think of titles sometimes, that are not a cliche. Plus cliches get your attention. You can’t help it. Neither can I.

As much as we may not like cliches, and be sick of them, they are wired into us..

But my point is this..

Reaching the top of one’s field is not always a recipe for happiness.

It can just as easily, and perhaps, even more often, be a recipe for the collapse of one’s relationships, substance abuse, and, if one is already suffering from mental illness or illnesses, as so many of us are.. a far more precipitous decent than what may have been experienced when a person was still climbing the ladder of accomplishment and recognition.

The question is simply this.

Where do you go up..


You are already..


If you’ve been striving really really hard, so that your only goal is, day and night, misery upon misery, minor to major success after success, amidst all the avoidable and unavoidable failures along the way..

To reach the top.

And you reach it.. what then?

Some people have climbed Mt. Everest more than once.

There is such a thing as the law of diminishing returns.

Meaning, do the same rewarding thing over and over again, that thing. that activity.

Becomes less rewarding.

I wonder if some people only keep climbing Mt. Everest until they die.


Metaphorically and literally, they have reached the top.

Some people, the better adjusted ones, or the particularly obsessive, and at the same time particularly lucky, find new goals.

But many do not.

And some, and perhaps some of the least fortunate among them, suffer mentally.

Jaco was one of these.

He had “mental health issues,” as we call them these days.

And he likely realized that, once he reached a certain age, and a certain level of prowess, a level only he and he alone was qualified to measure..

He had reached the top.

When you reach the top, “there’s nowhere to go but up” no longer applies.. not necessarily.

Granted, one can continue to improve, and innovate, and reach new heights..

But one starts to wonder, what is the point?

I don’t know if you’ve ever seen what the very tippy top of Mt. Everest looks like.

It’s a tiny little spot. Only one person can stand on it at the same time. Or at least, that is how I have seen it depicted, in film, and in photographs.

This is appropriate.. a literal and metaphorical truth.

Stand at the top, and you are truly alone.

And being alone is lonely.

But that is not even the worst problem.

If there truly is nowhere to go, because one has already reached “up,” has gone farther than anyone else, and one has gone as far as one can..

Then what?

I wonder how many people who, once they have reached the very top of their field, have become addicts, withdrawn into seclusion, or who have committed suicide.

In my thinking, Jaco became the best, knew he was the best, lost purpose, succumbed to substance abuse, mental illness, became homeless, and lost himself in his own madness.

On the night he died, so I have read, he, in an intoxicated or manic state, burst into a night club, and tried to force his way onstage.

And a bouncer hauled him out of the club..

And proceeded to beat the greatest bass player of all time.. to death.

Maybe, in the dark pockets of his mind, Jaco was relieved.


The end.

The end of all suffering.

So why am I writing about this guy, this both great and terribly tragic figure?

Because of a lesson that is counter-intuitive, and certainly not what we have been taught by our culture.

That, instead of what we might think, and what our culture tells us, it can be FAR better to be climbing the ladder of success than to finally reach the top.

Because some, perhaps many people who have truly reached the top, have then encountered the truly horrifying question of..

What Now?

This is a question they had never faced before, had not anticipated. Why not? They were focused on their goal.

Some people stay at least somewhat sane, and like Bob Dylan and Michael Jordan, intentionally fade into a quiet, and hopefully contended retirement. I don’t know what they do with their time, but maybe they are at least somewhat happy.

They are the more well-adjusted.

For those who are not so well-adjusted, who have been overcome by mental illness, or the abuse of alcohol or drugs, or, as often as not, a combination of mental illness and substance dependence..


Some have gone mad..

And some have died.

All this is to say..

Be careful what you aspire to.

That old adage, “Be careful what you wish for,” is correct.

The vast majority of people striving for ultimate success won’t reach it.

This is its own kind of heartache and hell.

But perhaps an even worse damnation awaits those who do reach the top of the mountain.

Perhaps, better to be satisfied with being the best guitarist on your block, and having a happy and healthy family, or running a beloved coffee house in your hometown, and calling it good.

Do you really want to strive and strive for success, sacrificing anything and everything to get there.

Once you have reached the top of Mount Everest..

Then what?

Jaco found out.

A very very short post on hell, sex, and two songs.

April 6, 2021

On the radio, I just heard “Highway to Hell,” and then, “Sexual Healing.” I was taught these things went in the opposite order (unless of course, the sexual healing takes place within a marriage). Perhaps I shall avoid both hell and sexual healing. Sexual healing can lead to hell, but isn’t life without sexual healing also a kind of hell? I continue to struggle with life’s dualities. Even when these dualities occur only in my head. And I still don’t even know if these dualities only occurring in my head is a good thing or bad.


March 31, 2021


I am not writing about good as related to morality.

No, I am writing about good as in different from amazing.

Good as in a day to day something that we appreciate as good, and not needing amazing.

Some people chase amazing all the time.. and they ruin their lives.

Amazing once in a rare while is fine.. is good.

But good is better for the day to day.

Why am I thinking about “good” in this way?

I just came home from a taproom that I’m surprised I had not been to until this evening.

No, I’m not just writing about beer. I’m going deeper than that, although for me, beer is close to being a sacrament, as close to a sacrament as I get..

I am being both literal and metaphorical tonight..

So this taproom and brewery. One of the two largest local brewers in Boise. The two biggest are Sockeye and Payette. Their beers are sold in local and national grocery store chains, not just at their own locations.

I’ve been to the Sockeye brewpub several times, but this was my first trip to the taproom of Payette. I’ve been driving past it in the evenings for years, on the way home from the downtown library, where I tutored ESL students.

But I never stopped in.

Tonight, I met a friend out there. He is much more dialed into this town, even though I’ve lived here longer. He follows the food trucks on instagram, knows the taprooms, the restaurants, and he suggested the place.

I’m thinking, great, because Fly Line Viennese Style Lager is my favorite lager, and Payette makes it. I’ve been buying it at Trader Joe’s for over a year.

It is flat compared to Bud or Coors or whatever.. not nearly as bubbly. Not perfect, but it was a certain flavor.. a very mellow brew.

It is good.

It is a high quality, very subtly unique, day to day beer.

Tonight at the taproom, before I had a pint of Fly Line, I had what is called a “flight.” I don’t know why. It is a beer sampler.. 5 oz. glasses.. usually 4, 4 different brews.

Were any of these amazing? No.

But they were good to very good. Payette beer is good.

Fly Line is good.

The other kinds I sampled were also good.

None of them were amazing. I have found amazing at other small breweries in the area, but I hardly ever go to these places, and I almost never buy their beers in the stores when available. Not only do these beers cost more, but they are amazing, and I almost never want that. Too amazing for me.

Amazing can overload the senses. That is not something I often want. Alright, maybe overloading the senses.. a little.. in a good way..

Most of the time I need good, which, to meet my standards, is very good, but not the so amazing that I only want this amazing whatever it is maybe once a year or so.

Day to day good. That is what matters. This is what sustains us. This is what blesses us.

Do I need incredibly fancy and expensive restaurants? No. I need Good.

Do I need the latest trends and cultural obsessions?

No, I need Good.

I’m the same way with musical instruments. I don’t feel the need to pay thousands of dollars for an electric guitar or bass, when I can go to a pawn shop or music store, and buy a used, foreign-made instrument for $200 or less.. If I choose the right one, it is good.

Clothes.. same thing. I get them from thrift stores if I can, or else buy clothes new from wherever there is a sale. But I am selective. A used or deeply discounted pair of Dockers or Cabella’s khakis. Or some random brand of jeans I’ve never heard of, but it is a durable pair of jeans and fits well enough? Yes. Thank you, good.

Do I need incredibly fancy clothes from some shop in Beverly Hills, or, much more locally, the mall or some pricey store near here? Do I need to pay $300 for a pair of jeans?. I do not. T

The car I am driving. A Toyota Corolla. The one I am driving is 18 years old. As long as I am not dealing with heavy snow and ice, this is the only vehicle I want to drive. Why? It is good.

My philosophy of Good not only applies to food and drink and things we can buy, but people, as well.

What about women?

Do I want a woman who looks amazing and has the perfect body and who is glamorous and always exciting and needing to be out on the town and..

No. I want a woman who is Good. Good in many ways. Day to day good. Or rather, Good.

I hope that I, also, am good.

In its own way, Good can be Amazing.

That’s the real good.

Ok. I’m going to keep this post short. I have consumed some good beer, had good conversation with a friend of mine, not a woman, but still.. it is good to talk to a guy once in awhile too.

I had food from a truck called Bistro Babes. The food was simple..a Cuban sandwich and spiced fries.. and very good.

And I am now back home, in a good home.

Is the home where I and my relatives live fancy? No. Is it perfectly spotless? No. Do we have an amazing yard? Are we in an exclusive area? No.

But is our home good and do good people and a good little dog live in it? Yes.

And Boise.

Is it Paris? No. I’m not interested in Paris.

Actually, for me, Boise and surrounding area is amazing in many ways.. and I am certainly going to call it Good. How long it will remain this way, with three story apartment complexes popping up like mushrooms after a rain in almost every vacant lot, I don’t know.

I will choose to be optimistic, instead of worried, if I can.

And believe Boise will continue to be Good.

The Good is there.. where you are.. if you look for it.

Am I am in a perfect state of well-being now? No. I still have some pain, some confusion and frustration and.. I can focus more on all that or just realize that, despite all that..

I am feeling good, and am grateful for Good.

I hope you are too.

My Saturday: Boise, Restaurants, Musical Instruments, Music Stores, Thrift Stores, and a Rather Good Day.

March 14, 2021

Note: I do not get paid to endorse any products or restaurants or whatever in this post. I write about what I like, and am not an affiliate. You will find no links to buy these items.

If you want to learn more about bass guitars, I have a written a very lengthy bass guitar buyers guide for beginners that covers not only the instruments, but amps, straps, etc. You can find it by clicking “bass guitar” or “music” in the tag cloud.

My Saturday.. One worth writing about..

Most days off I just take care of stuff around the house, run errands, etc. But this past day, Saturday, I finally decided that even though my room is a bit messy, and there’s pruning to be done on some bushes in the backyard, and my car could do with a wash and..

It was time to leave, drive for awhile, and have some fun.. my kind of fun, anyway.. Perhaps not something some people would consider to be worth writing about.. But this is my post and..

Alright.. this post is going to mostly be about happily wandering through town, musical instruments, as well as music shops, a thrift store, and my favorite restaurant in the city. I don’t have pictures of the interiors of these places. I wasn’t planning on writing this post, so I did not take photos of where I was. Apologies to those of you outside Boise who like seeing various places in town, and photos of the town in general.

Right then.. Boise.. I think this city is amazing. For lots of reasons. One big reason is that.. well, I suppose this is, to some extent true of any city.. travel a mile or two in any direction and you will feel like you are in an entirely different city than where you were when you left home.

Just a few things that make Boise unique though.. Slight changes in elevation can make a big difference in what you are seeing. Drive over an overpass, and you can see hills in several directions.. including some hills you forgot were there. You might be driving on a level road, and then, off to your left another road dips down, and opens up to you a view of lowlands and more hills in the distance, just before dark with the lights of the houses shining, and it’s just lovely. This happens a lot, on many roads and residential streets.. and I am still surprised when I drive..

I live on the Northwest end of town, almost in the neighboring city of Meridian.. actually I’m also close to several border streets with the tiny town called Garden City, which is entirely surrounded by Boise.

This Saturday, I headed into Southeast Boise. I find pretty much everything about my surroundings anywhere to be interesting, not just here in town. So it is no wonder I enjoy seeing the different neighborhoods and restaurants and shops along the way to wherever it is I’m going.

Today I went first to a music shop and then to a thrift store. These are in a small plaza with some great shops and interesting restaurants.

The music store is called 12th Fret Music, formerly Broadway Music, and the thrift store is one of many St. Vincent DePaul locations. My two favorite types of stores.. those that sell musical instruments, and thrift stores.. and these two were right next to each other, in a plaza that also includes a Pho (Vietnamese) restaurant, and a Himalayan Cafe. I have not been to either of these yet, but I will go to both.

Before I reached my destination, I took notice of some of the restaurants I have been wanting to visit for years, and then, once in the parking lot, wrote them down in a notebook.. These places are.. On Orchard St. .. A Korean place called Gangnam, a carnerceria I forgot the name of, an Italian restaurant called Lucianos.

On Boise Ave., one of my all time favorite roads to drive on, because it meanders through many parts of town.. a taco wagon in the small parking lot of a gas station and convenience store, Cricket’s Bar and Grill, a cute breakfast and lunch place called Addisons’s.And on Broadway, where the shops I went to are, the Vietnamese and Himalayan cafes, and the Pho restaurant across the street from them.

Yes.. I plan on enjoying myself. I have goals! Goals that involve food! Yay!

And now.. 12th Fret Music. Oh yes, just a moment.. I need to mention one other place first. I have often been a customer of a pawn shop called Pawn 1.

There are a chain of pawn shops with that name, but the one on Overland and Maple Grove, in Southwest Boise, has half the shop converted into a music store. If you are in the market for used electric and acoustic guitars, amps, etc., this is the place to go! I’ve been a customer there for over 5 years. Talk to a guy named Chris. He knows his stuff. I had bought a guitar online that I wanted worked on, and Chris told me to head over to a music shop across town called 12th Fret Music. Chris said there is a skilled guitar tech there named Steven.

12th Fret Music used to be called Doyle’s Broadway Music, because it in on Broadway Ave., and because it was owned by an eccentric man named Doyle. Are there any dudes named Doyle who are not eccentric? I sometimes wonder how the names we are given shape our lives.

Doyle’s shop used to be in a location down the road from where it ended up. A rather dusty, cramped shop that was fun to browse in. But Doyle never bothered to dust the place, so some of his gear had electrical problems.. something you don’t want.. layers of thick road dust to get into the instruments if they are the kind you plug in! Doyle, some years back, moved his strange store to a better and slightly larger location, then retired and sold the place to a guy named Rob. Hence the name change. Rob does not seem eccentric, and I seriously doubt he engages in any thievery. Sorry, bad pun.

This music store is amazing, and I am sorry I did not take a picture for you. It is small, but has a massive assortment of electric guitars, some basses, and plenty of acoustic guitars, as well as a few mandolins and ukuleles, and amps.. watch your step in the electric instrument section.. very difficult not to trip over the amps.

We have a Guitar Center in town. I’ve been going there off and on for close to 10 years. You might be wondering how independent stores can compete with Guitar Center. GC, at least the one here in Boise, stocks many guitars of the same kind. For example, you can buy a Fender Stratocaster in about 5 price ranges.. from less than $200 (Fender’s cheap line, called Squier) to over $1000. But there’s not much variety there, and many brands they do not carry.

This is not the fault of the local staff. I know one of the managers at GC, and I asked him if the corporation told him what to stock, and he said yes. They put up for sale what they are shipped.And apparently they have been shipped far less inventory than usual lately. Last couple times I’ve been in, the place looked like it had been gutted. Don’t blame COVID. A lot of people have been buying instruments during this weird time. I don’t know why the GC inventory has shrunk so much. I feel bad for the local staff.

How have Mom and pop stores been competing when GC was more in its prime? These smaller stores can be more selective about what brands they sell. 12th Fret (What is significant about the 12th fret on guitars? That’s where the notes are the same as when the strings are played without being fretted, just an octave higher), sells brands that I like, including Yamaha (electric guitars, basses, and acoustic guitars, I especially like Yamaha acoustics) Danelectro (funky electric guitars) and Spector (pricey basses), Reverend (pricey electric guitars), and some brands I’ve not heard of.

One is called Tegami. Seems like a Japanese name, but I talked with the owner of the shop, and he says this brand comes from Brazil. Why not. Ibanez and Fernandes are brands of instruments based in Japan. Tegami makes Fender copies, mostly. Of good quality, as far as I can tell. The cheaper ones are made in China. Instruments even in the $500 range or higher might be made in China, or, more likely, in Indonesia.

Even Eddie Van Halen’s foreign-made (much cheaper than the American made) signature line of guitars are made in Indonesia. This is appropriate I suppose, since Eddie’s mom was either Indonesian or half-Indonesian, depending on what you read or what youtube video you watch.

Actually, I’m not sure if there are any American-made electric instruments at 12th Fret. I did not look at all of the most expensive ones. I saw a couple American-made acoustics. They were probably over $1000. Some guitars and basses and etc. are still made in Korea. The reason I use the word “still” is because up until maybe 20 years ago, South Korea was putting out more instruments than any other country. Then more factories were moved to Indonesia, and many were relocated to China. But still, some are crafted in Korea. Even the Spector basses costing over $1000 are made there.

Most of the instruments at 12th Fret are not cheap, and are new, so keep this in mind if you plan a visit. Very few used instruments there. I first made the trip out to the store about a month ago. I’d bought a “parts caster” on ebay awhile back. – That is an electric guitar that is a Strat (Stratocaster) copy, put together of used or new parts from various guitars, which may or may not include parts from Fender or Squier guitars. These are custom builds that don’t take a massive amount of skill to make. Some builders get creative with their rewiring of the instruments, or make interesting guitar body and neck combinations, etc.

There’s a problem with buying an instrument online.. I can’t play it before buying. I used to have a rule never to buy any instruments I had not played. Something I of course learned the hard way. I have been buying, selling, and donating instruments for many many years, and I thought I had learned my lesson.


Learn from me. Even if you have to pay a little more, don’t buy an instrument unless you have played it first in a store and really like it. Even if you buy the same model online, it won’t be the same instrument. But even I don’t learn from me sometimes…

I bought a partscaster from one vendor, didn’t like it, donated it, later bought one from a different builder.. this one was better, but I didn’t like that one either, so I donated that one. The folks at St. Vincent put it on sale in a display case right away, at a price much cheaper than what I paid. I included a deluxe gig bag with it, and an very good 2″ strap.

Notice there is no logo on the headstock. Some builders leave the headstocks blank, some put on their own logos, and some put on Fender decals, and enough lacquer so that the Fender logos look real.

Why not try and sell these instruments I’ve bought? I got tired of selling instruments on eBay and craigslist. I’ve almost never bought expensive ($500 or more) instruments, so if I don’t like one, I’m not out a lot of money.

But I don’t buy junk. Just because I don’t like a guitar or bass doesn’t mean it is not good. I do not donate stuff to thrift stores unless I think it is of sufficient quality that a shopper will feel blessed when finding what I have donated. Donating instruments is great because besides helping people (I donate stuff to St. Vincent DePaul, which is not an official Catholic charity, but was started by Catholics. It is very reputable and helps lots of people), I also share the joy of music with whoever buys what I brought in.

I do wish I’d realized I wanted to donate the second parts caster before I had it worked on though. I could have saved $50, because the modification to the wiring I had requested wasn’t necessary. I just wanted more tonal options.

As with genuine Fender and Squier Strats, there is no tone control for the bridge pickup. I got the idea from an ebay vendor to have the tone control for the neck pickup be wired up to the bridge pickup as well. Good idea!

Steven at 12th Fret did a great job. The labor was not cheap though. $75.

If I’d planned on donating the guitar, I would have just paid $35 to have the fret wires on the edges of the neck filed down so they were smooth and not sharp.

While I was in 12th Fret the first time, after talking with Rob about the changes to the partscaster I wanted made, I bought an electric guitar that sold new for $179 plus tax. The brand is called Cort, based in Korea, but this guitar was made in Indonesia.

I like buying straps on Etsy. Thousands of great designs. Takes me ages to pick one, but that’s part of the fun, until I drive myself nuts. But then I’m nuts already, as you can probably tell.

You might be doubting your own sanity right now, as you ask yourself.. “why am I reading all this?”

The Cort guitar.. it sounds great, and has several features I really like, but, although I prefer light guitars to heavy ones, this is one of only a few guitars I’ve ever played that really feels too light. I also don’t like the feel of the neck of the instrument. Too narrow and too curved. Bad combination for me, but this guitar might be very good for a middle-schooler or other small human being.

Not sure what I will do this one. I feel like I’ve donated more than enough instruments, so I might try to sell it at Pawn 1 if I find something I like better. My second visit to 12th Fret, I picked up the partscaster that had been worked on, and brought it to St. Vincet a couple days later.

Something odd happened right after I donated the guitar. Often I make a donation, in the back of the store, and just go home, but sometimes, since I am given a 25% off coupon, I go into the store and browse. When I donated a guitar and accessories last year, I found three small items of furniture for my room that I really like. This time, I wandered through the furniture section first, though not needing anymore furniture, just curious what was available. I had an intuitive moment.. look to the left. The room widens, and there is almost a little alcove.. surprisingly, it was in this small space that I found a battered classical guitar.

Made in Taiwan, (I’ve never seen a guitar made in Taiwan), with the unusual and somewhat unnerving brand name of Gremlin. No logo on the headstock, but I know to look into the sound hole of acoustic guitars and read the label.. make, model, and sometimes a serial number and country of origin are listed there. I already have access to a good classical guitar at home.

My aunt owns a Gibson guitar made in Michigan, which she purchased in Michigan in 1967. Surprisingly, it is not worth very much. Were it a steel string acoustic or electric guitar that old, it would be worth a lot. But it is a nice guitar to play.

So why was I happy to find a beat up classical guitar at a thrift store? I remember when I was young, friends of mine would find great bargains at garage sales, including at classical guitar that was in good shape and very cheap. I wanted a super-cheap guitar too.

This one was not in nearly as good of shape as the purchase my friends had made decades ago, but that’s alright. I kind of wanted a “beater.”

A beater is an instrument that has dents, scratches, etc, that can be taken to a beach, to parks, to the homes of particularly clumsy or drunk friends, and who cares if the guitar gets a few more scratches or dents as long as it still works. I bought my beater classical guitar at St. Vincet DePaul for $22.50. It was priced at $29.99, but I had a coupon.

I have yet to determine if the tuners on it are good enough so that the instrument doesn’t go out of tune every few seconds. I still need to restring it.

Back to the music store.. My 3rd vist to 12th Fret was brief. My nephew and I were on our way to my favorite restaurant, Westside Drive-Inn on Parkcenter. The music store was mostly on the way. I wanted to check to see if they had a particular guitar cable, and strap, one called Lock-It.. cool art on these straps, with a strap lock feature built in, so you don’t have to have strap locks installed. Nice. I didn’t find any of this kind that I liked at the store, and the cable I was thinking of was over $50 for one of 10′ length.. to expensive for me at this time. I also went to in to show my nephew the store.

This past day was my 4th visit. I had only planned to spend $10 to have a strap button put on the bottom of the beater guitar. Most classical guitar players do not play standing up, using the usual guitar strap, but I am unconventional (also, I can barely play as of yet, so I guess I am an aspiring classical guitar player).

I browsed for awhile, and tried some instruments. I was not planning on buying any, because I have a bass, which I bought used on ebay.. not entirely a mistake.. a good bass for the price.. a Fernandes Gravity 4X (probably made in China, no label on the instrument though),

..But it is a bit too heavy to be within my comfort level, even though I use a 3″ wide strap with a backing made of glove leather. I have tried MANY kinds and brands of guitar strap, and for instruments such as basses and heavier guitars like the Les Paul, I recommend Franklin straps, unless you are a vegan. If so, try a brand called Couch. They have a few 3″wide straps, which might be good. I’ve only used their 2″ straps. And no I don’t get a kickback by mentioning any brands or whatever. I’m not a sellout.

The neck on the Fernandes is surprisingly long. It even looks a bit freakish. The neck is also too narrow until it becomes too wide. You can see the blue Fernandes in one of the photos. Most basses have 20-22 frets. This one has 24.. Even a dude like me, who is 6’3″ and has long arms.. the guitar neck is still a bit of a stretch.

Also, although it does not look like a Fender Jazz bass, it is based on one, and has the same neck, which is very narrow at the top, the headstock, and gets wider toward where the neck attaches to the body. I don’t like this. Were I aware of how this bass would feel, I would not have bought it online. But oh well, I had made up my mind to practice anyway.

I wasn’t planning on buying an electric guitar either. If I buy a different one, I will likely purchase a used instrument from Pawn 1 and try to get an ok price for the one I have. I don’t want to donate any more instruments. I’ve donated so many. I did not walk out of the store with an electric guitar… but.. 6 or 7 years ago, I owned a base-model (lowest price and quality of the Ibanez Soundgear line) 5 string Ibanez bass, a GSR-205 with a spalted maple top (doesn’t improve the sound, but sure looks nice.. a very very thin layer of decorative wood) that I liked.

The 5 is because of the bass having 5 strings. The GSR-200 is the 4 string model. GSR stands for Gio Soundgear. Ibanez makes Gio model guitars too. (The Gio line is like the Squier version of Fenders.

But for some reason I do not know, even though I quite liked this bass, I lost interest in playing it shortly after I bought it, even though it was quite good for the money. I’d paid $300 for it new at GC. I sold it to one of these high school music genius kids.

As time has passed though, I have sometimes regretted selling it. I never did buy another one, because I wanted to try other basses. But I’ve really been struggling with the bass I have, wanted something more comfortable to play.. a bit lighter, wider neck.. and one with more strings.

What is the percentage of bass players who use an instrument with 5 or more strings? 0.000099%, or less than that. Just a guess. The main genres for basses with more strings are smooth jazz, which I am not fond of, new age music (which I mostly like), and various forms of progressive metal.. some of which I also like.

6 string basses are too much to handle and I have never owned one. But I have had several 5 strings, all made by Ibanez.

Have I ever become proficient at.. actually playing bass? No.. why not.? Sometimes I’ve gotten so obsessed with the idea of practicing bass or guitar that by the time.I had time to practice, I didn’t want to anymore. And also I’ve spent a staggering amount of time window shopping online, looking through instrument catalogs, reading about instruments, buying and selling them.. easier to do than practice? I don’t know.

But anyway…

Tucked into the far corner of the music store was.. an Ibanez 5 string bass with spalted maple top, almost identical to the one I sold many years ago. And it turned out to be used, and sold at a surprisingly cheap price. $179. Yeah, I bought that one.

Business at 12th Fret happily concluded (and the store was busy!), I went next door to one of the larger St. Vincent shops I’ve been to.

I was hoping to find some art for my bathroom (which I did not find), and also browse the books and DVD’s. Amazing selection of books. One buck each. I bought at least 10. Some for myself, several for my dad, who has been devouring religious books and novels for many months, and two Catholic books that I think my mom and aunt, both being very very devoted Catholic converts, would like. I also bought a bunch of DVD’s.. also a buck each, and one sampler CD.

I already have over 100 sampler CD’s I want to go through before I sell them on ebay (CD’s are a lot easier to sell on ebay than instruments. Less of a burden to take to the post office), but I spotted a double CD sampler, called “Afternoon Chillout,” that I figured I might like, and harvest some songs from for my computer and iPods, before selling the CD.

I spent a long time at St. Vincent, and enjoyed myself. Also, I had an old 25% off coupon in my car, which helped.

After that.. a pleasant drive, mostly though town on Boise Ave., to Westside Drive-in on Parkcenter.

Boise Ave. does not go right onto park center though. I took a short, intriguing road through a small but fancy area called Bown Crossing, which looks nice and lit up at dusk and after dark. Bown took me to Parkcenter, where I made a left.

There are two Westside Drivein locations. The other is downtown on State Street. That one does not have a dine-in option, except sort of.. during the winter, there is a heated tend on the blacktop where the tables are. I almost never go to that location, even though it has its own charm. I like heading more southeast.

It’s quite pretty in Southeast Boise where the Parkcenter location is, and that one has more of a diner feel to it. Plenty of places to sit, but inside and out. These two drive-ins were created by a trained chef, and the food.. so much variety.. even prime rib dinners.. wow.

For me it is the culinary equivalent of heaven. No, I don’t need prime rib. My favorite is a large meatloaf sandwich with onions and tomatoes and cheddar cheese and, admittedly, too much lettuce for my taste, but I can take some off. Mac and cheese, yes please, and some spiced sweet potato fries. Normally I just have the fries on the side, but this time I wanted more dairy besides the small vanilla malt, and so brought home the sweet potato fries, along with the honey-whipped butter dip, for my dad, along with his favorite, the Maui burger, complete with some form of sliced pork, and pineapple.

The drive home.. after dark, pleasant, but I was feeling pretty tired. Once home though, energy level back up to the usual too intense feeling. Something I suffer from. Every day.

I plugged in the bass I’d just bought. Crackle crackle.. severe static, then nothing. Hmm.. oh yes. This is the type of bass that requires a 9V battery to function. After having some difficulty unscrewing and prying off the battery cover, and putting in another 9V, and only making one tiny scratch on the guitar, which has a beautiful finish both front and back, better. No problems when I plugged it in.

I blasted through a bunch of random notes on each bass.. back and forth between the two for over an hour.. time goes really really fast when I’ve done this at music stores.. and at home too. I finally decided to put the Fernandes bass away, and spend more time instead on the Indonesian-made Ibanez.It is more comfortable, and has that extra low 5th string.

And that’s mostly been my night, except for over an hour of feverish writing. Time to read through the post, and fix a few things. Here is the box of most of the goodies from St. Vincent, including a little essential oil candle burner.

I have an electric diffuser, but think it might be nice to use a votive candle diffuser. Why not. This one has a nice falling leaves motif that I like. Price for all the books, DVD’s, and diffuser, with 25% coupon.. under $17. Awesome.

Gosh.. time changing.. in the next hour we will spring forward an hour.. so it will soon be 2:34 am, not 1:34. I usually go to bed between 3 and 4 am. It will be 5am when I fall asleep tonight, I’m guessing, considering the time change. I worry about getting enough sleep, but have difficulty getting to bed any earlier. I almost always get enough sleep anyway. Unless Tucker, the family dog,

finds something or someone to bark at. I can’t always sleep through all that. Schnauzers are incredibly loud for being little dogs! Time to finish this post I guess.. and try to relax. Hope you enjoyed reading all this! I sure needed a good day.

I enjoyed my Saturday.

Eastern Thought, Western Thought, Determinism, Free Will, The Self.. And Water.

February 17, 2021

Water has no mind. Water has no choice. Water does not determine its course. Water is subject to greater natural laws. A creek evaporates. A river flows into the ocean.

Water does not choose.

Is being like water really.. good?

Being formless, “you pour water into a cup, it becomes the cup,” and so forth. That is a quote from Bruce Lee, but he was just parroting the writers of the Tao Te Ching.. ancient Chinese thought.. at least 3,000 years old.

Is being like water good?

Water has no identity.

From an Eastern perspective, this is good.

From a Western perspective, this is inconceivable, and can lead to madness.

But for Easterners, deep within them..

“The nail that stands up is pounded down.”

This is an old Asian proverb.



Part of the whole, the individual diminished, destroyed.

That is the goal of Eastern thought and religion.


Die, finally without rebirth, and merge into all that is. That is the ultimate. Not only ultimate in the literal sense, “ultimatus” Latin.. “to come to an end,” but also, in our more Western and Modern definition: The Best.

To lose our individuality is the opposite of trying to be, and being, The Best, according to Western Thought.

The best is Ego.

Individual Glory.

The Super Bowl game-winning touchdown pass caught by the wide receiver, having outwitted multiple defenders, just over the line of the end zone.

One who achieves true rock star legendary status.

The individual who has made his or her first billion dollars. Who has reached the perceived pinnacle of financial success.

Or just the first middle class person on the block to purchase a luxury German-made automobile, whether he or she can afford the monthly payments or not.

We cannot relate to the Eastern.

Is the Eastern any better?

To be an individual, is that truly worse than to work and work at being the best completely nondescript, unnoticeable worker bee in the hive?

For we in the West, this is Anathema.

So it is also for those in the East who have adopted our Western ways, and who have become even more extreme than we are. Or rather, they have tried to adopt our Western ways, and have failed. They have unwittingly fallen back into conformity. Consider the Japanese “salaryman” (both men and women). The person who dresses the same as everyone else, fills one of endless middle management positions, and who cannot cope with his or her existence except by, after finishing the working day, getting off the subway and heading straight to the bar. Getting drunk until the small hours.

Stumbling home, and upon arrival, without a kiss for the spouse or acknowledgement of the child, falls into fitful sleep, for too few hours, only to repeat the experience again. And again. And Again. And.

That is the Eastern version of Western individuality, only to be turned into another form of Eastern conformity and Loss of Self.

The Eastern mind was not suited for this form of modernity. Some adopted this Western mindset, and have gone even more mad than we in the West.

Is free will an illusion?

What does religion tell us?

Even the Islamists have a saying, “It is Written!”

The Hindus, and the Buddhists who piggybacked onto the Hindus.. The promoters and self-appointed expositors of the messages of Christ, or rather, their myriad interpretations of it, who piggybacked onto Judaism, as Christ did (for how could he not.. as Buddha was a Hindu, so was Christ a Jew.. reformers never forget their hometowns, even though there, a prophet is without honor) do they have a denunciation of free will?

The Christians..

They are divided. Some, those holding with iron-fisted grip onto Calvinist tradition, say that there is no freewill, there is only Predestination. That God, in His “infinite mercy,” before the beginning of time, predestined some of we pathetic humans, we dust dwellers, to be lifted up, glorified, transformed into heavily creatures, so privileged as to enjoy God’s company forever, while the rest, the hapless and damned masses.. burn.

No wonder some Christians have a problem with ego.

But getting back to the Easterners..

To Taoism, where Bruce Lee found his inspiration for his “be like water”..

For the Hindus and Buddhists, who believe in karma..

For those whose ultimate goal is to shed all individual identity, and merge with the One, or the Nothing, depending on one’s interpretation of what nirvana even means.. (Maybe the One and the Nothing are the same? The One is Nothing?)

Is this lack of self any better than glorification of the self?

Or is it just…


I do not know.

I was raised Christian, but could not help (determinism, not free will, seems to me) but abandon that path.. no matter how obsessed with it..the way of Christ, the apostles, the saints, the Church, the thousands of denominations, breaking down to even more infinitesimal expressions of ego: the tiny, non-denominational “churches” polluting our strip malls and office parks.. this path that, no matter how strongly and miserably compelled…

I Cannot Walk.

And so I have, in the past, this path, or rather, this wandering of faded or too heavily-trodden paths of Christianity, tried to abandon. And in so doing, have become even more confused, perhaps even more severely agitated and insane.

There is a saying, “Putting one’s right foot in a canoe, and one’s left foot in another canoe, does not give one the ability to walk on water.”

For me… having studied Buddhism for years, and having dipped my toes into Taoism and Hinduism..

I am trapped between East and West.

Better to be one or the other?

I do not know. I have not the experience of being only Western or only Eastern. It is too late for me now, for that.

But maybe, this.. both this and that and yet neither.. gives me a little insight..

Perhaps at least the first of the Four Noble Truths of Buddhism is correct:

Life. Is. Suffering.

And maybe that is the only Noble (perhaps.. not so noble, but.. blatantly obvious).. Truth that is accurate.

Whether we have free will or not, whether we reach a glorified state of egoism, that of the Western Mind, or attempt to lose ourselves entirely into the Eastern Mind.. mired in the attachment of striving to attain non-attachment..

Do we not suffer?

That is all we are guaranteed.

I do not know if free will is illusion or not.

I partook of well-crafted wine and dark beer tonight, ate much tasty food, and finally, after much thought, somehow came up with an idea for something I thought was actually worth writing down..and editing, and revising, as the hours passed. For writing is like sculpting stone. It is a pain-staking task of creating and refining. As none of us are perfect beings, if indeed any such beings exist at all, mistakes always remain. Some visible only to the sculptor or author, and some, tragically, visible to all.

I came downstairs, to my small room, in a hurry, in a semi-inebriated state.. (Was this truly an act of free will?)

And typed these words. And slaved over this post, which I am still uncertain of, and which, for better, worse, or neither, you now read (and do you not find yourself in doubt, wondering if your time was well spent just now?)

For what you have found..

Is.. at best..

Yet more scribble about infinite and unanswerable questions we all deal with.

For most people their religion (whichever it may be, I care not) provides at least a semi-satisfactory answer.

For some of these people, politics is the new Faith, the new Creed, in which they all too happily drown themselves.

But regardless..

For all of us, we who are Eastern or Western, it is the self we cannot bear.

And if we truly have free will, we cannot bear that either.

Succumbing to addiction.. social media, the next episode of the show we are binge-watching, religion, politics, sex, substance abuse, mindless entertainment…

It seems to me this perverse aberration of nature called the Self is something we cannot bear.

So it may be that Bruce Lee, and the Taoists from thousands of years ago, were truly wise.

Be like water.

Water does not think.

Water does not choose.

Water has no self.

© Tom Meninga. Yes, putting my name on here is a sign of egoism, but I don’t care, or if I do, does it really matter?

The Curse of Ugliness, The Curse of Beauty: Two Songs.

October 11, 2020

Two songs by two women..

Most people would agree that ugliness is a curse. Men who are ugly can still get lots of women if the men become rich, famous, or both.

But women, not so much.

Beauty is not so commonly seen as a curse. But it can be.

After reading the lyrics to the first song, I think it actually covers both curses, a little.

This song is called “At Seventeen,” and was released by Janis Ian in 1975. It was the second single off her seventh album, called “Between the Lines.” The single became a massive hit, won Ian a Grammy, was covered by many artists, and eventually sold over a million copies.

It is a heartbreaking and somewhat bitter song.

As with my other song posts, I’ll present the lyrics first:

I learned the truth at seventeen
That love was meant for beauty queens
And high school girls with clear skinned smiles
Who married young and then retired

The valentines I never knew
The Friday night charades of youth
Were spent on one more beautiful
At seventeen I learned the truth

And those of us with ravaged faces
Lacking in the social graces
Desperately remained at home
Inventing lovers on the phoneWho called to say “Come dance with me”
And murmured vague obscenities
It isn’t all it seems
At seventeen

A brown eyed girl in hand-me-downs
Whose name I never could pronounce
Said, “Pity, please, the ones who serve
They only get what they deserve”

And the rich relationed hometown queen
Marries into what she needs
With a guarantee of company
And haven for the elderly

Remember those who win the game
Lose the love they sought to gain
In debentures of quality
And dubious integrity

Their small-town eyes will gape at you
In dull surprise when payment due
Exceeds accounts received
At seventeen

To those of us who knew the pain
Of valentines that never came
And those whose names were never called
When choosing sides for basketball

It was long ago and far away
The world was younger than today
When dreams were all they gave for free
To ugly duckling girls like me

We all play the game, and when we dare
To cheat ourselves at solitaire
Inventing lovers on the phone
Repenting other lives unknownThey call and say, “Come dance with me”
And murmur vague obscenities
At ugly girls like me
At seventeen

.. Most of the lyrics are pretty clear – about the heartbreak of not being beautiful, and the advantages the beautiful have..


Remember those who win the game
Lose the love they sought to gain
In debentures of quality
And dubious integrity

… Wouldn’t the first line refer to beautiful girls? Those who win the game?How do they lose the love they sought to gain?

“Debentures” – I had to look up that word. It means an unsecured loan. A loan not backed up by anything.

Debentures and dubious integrity.. I think I understand these lines, but I’m going to go down a few more before I get to what I think is the meaning..

Their small-town eyes will gape at you
In dull surprise when payment due
Exceeds accounts received
At seventeen

So.. I’m thinking this is quite a contrast with previous lyrics, which are about beautiful girls having all sorts of advantages, even when they are elderly.

These later lyrics seem like a bitter sort of view of what will happen to beautiful girls who were banking on their looks to get them through life, but their looks faded, and bad things happened, such as the women losing their love.. being abandoned by their men.

Since their looks were all the women had, they ended up with nothing, and people were unpleasantly surprised to see them after they had aged.

That’s the meaning of the second song I want to get to, but first I will post Ian’s song for you to hear.

I usually don’t like to post live versions, because those can be visually distracting. Better to post the audio-only video.

This second song is less well-known. It is called “Drive-In Movies and Dashboard Lights,” and was released as one of the songs from an album called “Storms,” in 1989, by Nanci Griffith. “Storms” was Griffith’s eighth album.

Here are the lyrics:

Sister had a crystal voice
She played a Silverstone from Montgomery Ward
Baez songs and Monroe hair
She sure could turn the boys heads to stare
Swimwear saunter, tan and haunt them
Was all she learned in school
Books were for the other girls
And the other girls were fools
Texas back in ’69 was drive in movies and dashboard lights

Father waltzed her down the aisle
‘Cause college didn’t suit her style
The sad truth was she could barely read
But if you told dear father, well he wouldn’t believe you
The telephone rang and drove mother insane
From all the hearts left on the shelf
Sisters gone and she won’t be home
Cause she didn’t take care of herself
Texas back in ’69 was drive in movies and dashboard light

Where is she now
The backseat queen of fraternity
Where is she now
She’s heavy on thigh
And light on integrity
Someone should have told her
When beauty’s all you offer
How soon the world discovers
That your beauty’s gone
Its gone

Mother can’t you hear your daughter crying
Father wake up her youth is dying
The kids are gone
Husbands gone away
And its a shame cause she had such a lovely face
Can’t you see she needed more than
“Oh what a pretty child”
You never taught her truth from lie
All you told her was to smile
Texas back in ’69 was drive in movies and dashboard lights

Where is she now
The backseat queen of fraternity
Where is she now
She’s heavy on thigh
And light on integrity
Someone should have told her
When beauty’s all you offer
How soon the world discovers
That your beauty’s gone
Its goneTexas back in ’69 was drive in movies and dashboard lights.

Beauty is a curse, if the person is objectified and not cared for and raised well.

Interesting how both songs mention the word “integrity,” and how beautiful women in both songs do not have it.

“The quality of being honest and having strong moral principles; moral uprightness.”

“The state of being whole and undivided.”

“Internal consistency or lack of corruption.”

If all a woman has is beauty, and her personhood is not nurtured, then her growth as a human being is severely stunted. It is possible she will become someone lacking in morals, who has a divided self, and who has become corrupt.. corrupted or corrupting or both.

Here is the song:

One last thought before I go..

I first encountered the lyrics to “At Seventeen” long before I heard the song. Even though the song was released in 1975, I did not hear it until I was an adult… probably sometime in the ’90’s, when I was in my twenties.

I was maybe 12 years old, and listening to a lecture series on adolescence by Dr. James Dobson, a well-respected Christian psychologist, that I heard the lyrics.

Dobson talked about the difficulty of not being attractive, and quoted some of Ian’s lyrics.

I think it was in the same lecture series that Dobson mentioned a study of who stayed married and who was happy… how looks affected women.

According to the study, women who were of “average” appearance tended to have happier and longer-lasting marriages.

These women were neither especially ugly, nor especially beautiful.

Make of that what you will.

That’s all for now. More posts on music.. someday..

The Covers: XV: “Woodstock.”

September 15, 2020

Time to get your hippie groove on!

This song is about going to and arriving at the Woodstock music festival, which took place in 8/15-8/18, 1969, in Bethel, NY. The festival did not actually take place in the town of Woodstock. The people who ran the town turned the concert promoters down.

A dairy farm in Bethel was their fourth choice. They liked the name “Woodstock,” so they kept it.

And that is why the song I am writing about today is not called “Bethel.”

As with so many of these songs, what I thought was an original turned out to be a cover. Many years ago, I heard the classic, “Woodstock,” as performed by Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young. Pretty much anyone who is either old enough to remember the ’60’s. (and yes, I am familiar with the quote, “If you remember the ’60’s, you weren’t there!), or who went through a ’60’s music phase decades after will be familiar with the music festival and this song.

Ok, so, this song was released in 1970, news to me.

Something stranger: Three versions of this song were released in the same year.

The version that I heard, which is a cover, was released first. if Wikipedia is to be believed.

But Joni Mitchell wrote the song, and was the first to perform it live, in 1969, shortly after the festival ended. She did not perform at Woodstock, because her manager thought it would be better for her to be on the Dick Cavett show. Dick Cavett interviewed many many celebrities – even John Lennon and Yoko Ono, if I remember correctly.

So Joni Mitchell did not go. Crosby, Stills, and Nash performed, with Neil Young, according to what I’m reading online. However, Young was not in the film.

Mitchell’s boyfriend at the time was Graham Nash. Nash told her all about the festival, and Joni felt inspired to write the song. Then she performed the song at the Big Sur Music Festival in 1969.

She recorded it, CSNY recorded it as well, and so did a band I’ve never heard of until now, Matthews Southern Comfort. If you are from the UK, you are nodding your head, and if you, like me, are an American, you are thinking.. who?

Alright then..

I quite like the lyrics to this song. Woodstock being a sort of Garden of Eden, and a “child of God” walking along the road.. a child of God not necessarily being a religious person though.. someone spiritually tuned in to all the good going on in 1969. Yes, many horrible things went on that year, and the Vietnam War was still raging, and would not end until 1975.. but there were some good things going on too, like the Woodstock music festival.

The lyric “Yasgur’s farm,” that is where the festival was set up. If you haven’t seen the film.. it’s amazing. Some nudity.. It rained hard during part of the festival, and .. yeah, lots of naked hippies in the mud, tripping on acid..

“Do not take the brown acid..” went on repeatedly over the loudspeakers. Someone had cooked up a bad batch. Most people had better acid than that though.

Alright then..

First the lyrics, written by Joni Mitchell.

I admit, I don’t get all the references..

I came upon a child of God
He was walking along the road
And I asked him, where are you going
And this he told me
I’m going on down to Yasgur’s farm
I’m going to join in a rock ‘n’ roll band
I’m going to camp out on the land
I’m going to try an’ get my soul free

We are stardust
We are golden
And we’ve got to get ourselves
Back to the garden

Then can I walk beside you
I have come here to lose the smog
And I feel to be a cog in something turning
Well maybe it is just the time of year
Or maybe it’s the time of man
I don’t know who l am
But you know life is for learning

We are stardust
We are golden
And we’ve got to get ourselves
Back to the garden

By the time we got to Woodstock
We were half a million strong
And everywhere there was song and celebration
And I dreamed I saw the bombers
Riding shotgun in the sky
And they were turning into butterflies
Above our nation

We are stardust
Billion year old carbon
We are golden
Caught in the devil’s bargain
And we’ve got to get ourselves
Back to the garden


… We are stardust, billion year old carbon. Scientific fact. We are made up of the elements of the stars.

Half a million strong at Woodstock? Possibly. Hordes of people who did not pay for tickets crashed the party. It’s pretty much impossible to find an accurate total online of how many people were there.

Bombers in the sky.. obviously on Joni Mitchell’s mind.. bombers that were used in the war. I like the image of the bombers turning into butterflies.

Caught in the devil’s bargain? I don’t know about this one. I looked up the phrase, and I found the term defined as being a really bad deal.

But I also think about the old crossroads stories.. musicians meeting the devil in a rural area, at night, at the crossing point of two roads. And selling their souls to the devil for great musical skill.

These stories go back awhile. The most famous is about Blues pioneer Robert Johnson, He died in 1938. A charter member of the 27 club… so many musicians died at age 27..

But I digress..

Back to the song..

I’m going to post the version I’m familiar with first, then Joni Mitchell’s version. I didn’t hear her version until a few months ago. I’m not very familiar with Mitchell’s music.

That’s a good rocker, that is.

Mitchell’s version is more mellow, which should not be surprsing.

Totally different vibe, but that really works too. I like it. When I first heard her version, I quickly googled the song, to figure out who wrote it.. and was surprised it was Mitchell.

Here’s a bit of bonus content, for those of you who have not seen the Woodstock film..

Before I post it though, I feel the need to point out there were two Woodstock festivals held in the 1990’s. The festival went well in 1994, but there were riots and lots of destruction at Woodstock 1999.

So let’s just focus on the original festival.

I can’t post the original trailer, apparently. It is age-restricted, and requires signing in.. so here is the trailer for the PBS American Experience film.

That’s it for now, star children!