Shadow Stabbing

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Rain streamed down Helene’s face and arms, falling over the white knuckles of her balled fists. Ramona walked out on the stoop of the brownstone and Helene stepped toward her. Her fists still formed, she charged toward Ramona and

My nine-year-old daughter appears in the threshold of my darkened bedroom.

“Daddy, mommy said your show is about to come on and you need to go in the living room with her and let me have this room.”

I sigh then smile and pick up my laptop to go to my summoner.

came to within inches from Ramona’s lips.

*knock on my front door* It’s our teenaged neighbor.

“Hey, can Carly (my nine-year-old daughter) and Taylor (my seventeen-year-old) come over and make smores with us.”

My wife handles the situation then I start thinking of the next sentence when a Twitter “@” pops up on my screen. Then an email. Then a Facebook response to a post.

This is how I write. Distracted, obsessed, irritated, focused in moments, led astray in others is how the “magic” happens with my writing style. There’s a number two pencil and college ruled notebook in my car at all times. I scribbled scenes, ideas, moments later turned into prose while I wait in line to pick up children from school. I’ve written in fast food drive thru lines, red lights, and in my work’s parking lot, waiting for the building to open. The bathroom is not only NOT off-limits, it serves as a de facto office in my home since I don’t have one. I write when I can. I believe that if you want to write then you will and I really want to.

In the past twelve months I’ve written 3 1/2 books, publishing two, and look to finish one in December, the sequel to my first novella, The Ballad of Helene Troy, with the current working title of Woman of Troy. The sentence around the family machinations you read above (in bold type) are from that work in progress. I have a real job, as a project manager for a communications company. I also am a columnist for Sprocket Ink www.sprocketink.com , do writing prompts for Trifecta Writing Challenge www.trifectawritingchallenge.com and now am helping my friends Jen and Linda with a new website about music called Raised on the Radio www.raisedontheradio.com

The most common question I get asked, online and off, is;  “where do you find the time to write?”

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The answer is inside the scenario played out, above. I don’t have the time, I take it, like one of the 300 Spartan soldiers in the Battle of Thermopylae. But my King Leonidas is my embattled, obsessive compulsive, attention defected bi-polar mind and my Greece is my family, who support me no matter what. But, I don’t have time to get the abs of a Spartan soldier. So, this is all very metaphorical and  a lot of wishful thinking.

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The Helene sequel will get done. So will my Tuesday and Friday columns for Sprocket. I’ll squeeze in something for Raised On The Radio. But most of all, my nine-year-old has a softball game Tuesday where she may be making her debut at third base. Then Wednesday is my ten-year-old’s judo class and her drums practice is Thursday. On Friday night we travel an hour an a half to the thriving metropolis of Danielsville, Georgia to see my teenager cheer her high school football team, the Lanier Longhorns, to victory over the Madison County Red Raiders. Maybe, I’ll be able to chicken-scratch a chapter and half or something funny about a song I heard for the music buddies.

I figure it out. Sometimes I’m not patient with my wife and kids but I’ll always here or there or wherever they need me to be. I don’t mind running errands when they ask. The red lights and the grocery store parking lots provide plenty of opportunity and inspiration.

There’s a song by the band Cake off their Comfort Eagle album from a dozen years ago called Shadow Stabbing. It’s a deep cut, meaning you didn’t hear it on the radio or on MTV the way you did Short Skirt/Long Jacket, the hit off that record. But Shadow Stabbing is about writing. It’s about the struggle to find the words when life is going on around you.

Art is hard. I’m lucky to have people around me that ultimately support who I am and what I want to do. Do they interrupt me every five minutes, yes. But they also help me put my books together, email me stories they find on the internet that I might find useful, and tell everyone they know about my writing. I may feel like a Spartan soldier going into dangerous battle, but my shield and helmet are not just whatever talent I possess but also what I have around me.

You can find The Ballad of Helene Troy and Soul To Body for amazon kindle downloads here: http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_sabc?url=search-alias%3Daps&pageMinusResults=1&suo=1379291858959#/ref=nb_sb_noss_2?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=lance%20burson&sprefix=lance%2Caps&rh=i%3Aaps%2Ck%3Alance%20burson

and in paperback from Lulu.com here: http://www.lulu.com/shop/search.ep?type=&keyWords=lance+burson&sitesearch=lulu.com&q=&x=0&y=0

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I Don't Like Mondays Blog Hop

Here’s Cake.

Lyla

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The chair I was trying to not sleep in was brutal and the nurse assigned to the room had the personality of a prison guard, but when she threw the pea soup green scrubs at me and snarled “put these on and meet me outside, your baby’s coming out in the O.R”, I smiled and followed orders.

Less than thirty minutes later my daughter was pulled from her mother’s caesarean opened belly and my reaction was “oh my God, she’s beautiful, where’s the rest of her?”

Ten years ago, at 3:25 am, Lyla, sometimes known on this blog as Bug, became a thing and changed her father’s life in ways she’ll never understand. But I’m going to explain them to you anyway. Because this is my place, and you clicked.

A decade ago, I was in a marriage that wasn’t meant to be from the start but because I like to make life as hard as possible, I stuck it out for eight years. Toward the end, a child was created, ostensibly to save the marriage, but instead, that child saved a guy, me, and made him, errr me, better for the woman and two other children who followed a few years later.

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I wasn’t a very good person in August, 2003. I was miserable, mentally ill, and half the man, or maybe less, than I am today. There’s no reason to dredge up the past, you know, as Chris Tucker’s Smokey would say in Friday “talk about old s***” but I was so low it took something or someone special to shake me loose from the Hell I’d created to live in. Her name is Lyla and she only weighed five pounds.

Her mom was sick, undiagnosed eclampsia, so Lylabug basically didn’t eat the last few weeks she was inside her mom’s stomach. When the doctor pulled her out, I thought she was half the baby we were supposed to have and it freaked me out. I got to hold her first, it seemed like forever, and when I changed her first diaper and fed her first bottle I vowed to change every one of my selfish, destructive, and loathsome ways.

To see her now, you’d never believe that tiny baby in the wee hours of the morning of August 30, 2003 ever existed. She’s tall, athletic, fierce, funny, a brown belt in judo, a drummer with a seven song repertoire, and the emotional glue to the family we now live with. It’s a cliché to write that children change you for the better. But when you were as low as I was ten years ago, I’ll wrap myself in that cliché and say that five years after, in 2008, three more women, my wife and two other daughters changed me even more.

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Lyla is an unusual name. It was derived from a villainous character played by actress Stephanie Romanov on the television show Angel, named Lilah. But to show you how cool my kid is, she still found her theme song, and it comes from one of her dad’s favorite bands, Oasis. Eighteen months after barely making it into the world, Noel Gallagher and the boys released “Lyla”, off their Don’t Believe the Truth album. The story behind the song mirrors my life. “Lyla” was the sister of “Sally”, the woman mentioned in Oasis’ legendary breakup tune, Don’t Look Back In Anger. I used that one to get me through the subsequent divorce and “pull myself up from the bootstraps” mentality to make me a better father for Lyla and my other daughters who followed.

If all of this doesn’t show you why music means so much to me, then you’re reading the wrong blog. Happy Birthday Lyla. You read daddy’s stuff, so this isn’t a waste of time. Welcome to double digits, kiddo. I love you more than you’ll ever realize.

Turn this up really, really loud. It works better that way. Lyla from Oasis.

There Is A Light That Never Goes Out

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Sorry ol’ Blue Eyes, but regrets, I’ve had many, too many to mention without proper medication and a licensed psychiatrist. And watching my oldest daughter, seventeen-year-old high school senior Taylor, walk down the hallway for the first last time, today, I realized the only way to work through my regrets is to address them head on.

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While my daughter, her mom, sisters and I strolled the halls of her alma mater, Lanier High (Go Longhorns), it became a weird ceremony of thoughts and discussion about the last football game, the last cheerleading event, the last homecoming, the last prom and the last dance with the security of the people she, and we, her parents, have known for so many years.

I didn’t appreciate my senior year of high school, twenty-five years ago. It’s only fifteen miles away from where I live now. Snellville, Georgia’s South Gwinnett High (Go Comets) was where I did a lot of things for the last time and I was miserable. In fact, I was a jerk about most of it. I spent my senior year being two different people. During the day, I was as a happy-go-lucky student with acid washed jeans, baby mullet hair, and notebooks with Def Leppard stickers. But at night, I huddled in the corner of my room, battling severe depression, listening to The Smiths and just wanting to get the hell out of my room, my school, and my life. I maintained this attitude for over twenty years. But being the father to a teenager, a bright, emotionally centered, openly loved one, has made me understand that while The Smiths are better than Def Leppard, self-defeatism and unresolved anger have gotten me nowhere. I left home at 17, for college, with two middle fingers in the air.

The pills weren’t even working that well the day I saw a Facebook message from my friend Katherine about my 25th high school reunion. But I responded “sure and I’d like to help”. I hadn’t been to the other reunions and although I flirted with going to the 20th, I dropped excuses like Snoop Dogg lyrics. For the past three months, I’ve gotten together with four really interesting, positive thinking ex-classmates to plan a night of nostalgia and “look at my kids” picture sharing. Getting others to let go of their regrets and attend has been a challenge. But, these folks got me in the mix, so anything’s possible. My hope (I rarely use that word) is that we’ll have a lot of people dropping their “stuff” like I did and show up.

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Having a teenager is hard work. Mostly because they call you out on everything. My idiosyncrasies and moments of hypocrisy are made into sermons on various mounts inside my home. When Taylor showed insecurities and brief flashes of indifference about her high school career, I lectured and she rolled her eyes and said “but what about you?” Wicked smart kids are wicked.

In two weeks, I’ll be attending a reunion of people I haven’t seen in over two decades. If not for social media, I probably would’ve hidden in the corners of my adult bedroom, rocking back and forth, listening to The Smiths and Radiohead (they’re good for this emo stuff, too) and wondering if I’d become good enough for myself and to a lesser degree, the people I left behind in Cometville, a silver age ago. But because my own daughter has shown me that you can embrace who and what you are, find your own happiness with it, however small, then regret can just be another word in the dictionary and not a part of you that you hate.

In four days, my second book, Soul To Body, the story of a widower and his own teen daughter, will be released, digitally, on amazon/kindle, smashwords, and Good Reads, and in paperback on Lulu.com on August 9th.

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Those nights, in my room, with The Smiths? I doubted I would ever become a writer, a real one, anyway. So, as the great Carl Spackler in Caddyshack would say, “So I got that goin’ for me, which is nice.”

I hope (that damn word again) that my daughter’s experience over the next 9 months is much better than mine was, but if it isn’t, she finds her Smiths. Because Taylor Swift isn’t going to cut it. She needs songs like this one. And fellow Comets? Let’s hope the cash bar doesn’t disappoint.

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All Of My Best Friends Are Dead

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It’s a forty-five minute drive through uninspiring locales with the final destination being the loss of one of my daughters for several days, so music gets me through. Being divorced, remarried, with three daughters who have multiple parents means you become an expert in sacrifice and compromise. If there’s one thing divorced parents have better than “traditional” ones its expert ability to handle the flux of change and negotiated ideals. So, when it’s the end of a vacation week with my middle daughter, who’s a month shy of her tenth birthday, and we have to make the long drive to drop her off, I let her have control of the car radio. And like her dad, she’s learned to hang at the intersection of endurance and diplomacy.

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“What are those two stations that play all the music you like, daddy?”

I smile and know that for this trip, there will not be any Demi Lovato or Taylor Swift.

“105 and 103, baby. Flip between both of them. Maybe we’ll hear the songs I played for you when you were little.”

It’s been a while since we’d performed this ritual, well over a year, in fact, but we a hit a mother lode of trusted tunes. The Beatles’ Ticket To Ride, The Ramones I Wanna Be Sedated, The Clash’s Rock the Casbah and Nirvana’s Smells Like Teen Spirit high-lighted the ride. I sprinkled in commentary and answered my daughter’s questions in between. Then she said something that was meant to be funny but turned poignant on a dime.

“Daddy, I like how you talk about these music people like they’re your best friends.”

She waited for me to respond before hitting the seek button. I manufactured a laugh and smile.

“Just listen to them, honey.”

Janis Joplin’s Me and Bobbie McGee, played.

One of my writing heroes, the late music critic Lester Bangs, once asked;

“If the main reason we listen to music in the first place is to hear passion expressed- as I’ve believed all my life-then what good is this music going to prove to be? what does that say about us?”

I don’t know about you, but music means I’m never alone. It means that as long as there are three-minute or fewer pieces of brilliance that show talent and heart, then my life can forever be affected.

My daughter opened up the car door as Janis stopped singing. She always notices the tears in my eyes when she leaves. She leaned back inside the car for a hug then left me with a nugget of truth.

“Listen to your friends, daddy. They’ll make you feel better.”

I didn’t have the heart or nerve to tell her John Lennon, Joey Ramone, Joe Strummer, Kurt Cobain, Janis Joplin and Lester Bangs were all dead. I just turned up the radio and waved goodbye.

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Freedom

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I’m a radicalized, pill-popping, writing freak living in a conservative part of a country behind its times. I make a crude patriot, but I’ve figured out that freedom isn’t just another word for nothing left to lose. Freedom’s sharing my soul whenever I want and grilling these burger patties I just marinated, at high noon. U. S. A.

*****blogger’s note*****

Like a true patriot and scoundrel (google that quote), I broke a few posting rules for the two prompts I combined here for Trifecta Writing’s http://www.trifectawritingchallenge.com/ 333 word “crude” and Melissa and Michele’s http://accordingtomags.blogspot.com/2013/06/ketchup-with-us-21.html http://olddognewtits.com/ 57 word Ketchup With Us “freedom”.

One of my favorite bands, whom I share a lot of political thoughts about patriotism, Rage Against The Machine, closes their shows with the song, Freedom. I challenge each of you to blare it later on today when your neighbor’s are red, white, and blued to the gills, shooting off fireworks. Remember, the dudes who signed the Declaration of Independence put their lives and their families’ lives to do so. That’s radical. This is Button Gwinnett, the second signer. My county’ here in Georgia is named after him. He was a bad ass, for his day.

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God, or whatever you believe in, bless America. Happy Fourth Of July to all of you.

Now break it down!

Blank Generation

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Last week http://lancemyblogcanbeatupyourblog.wordpress.com/2013/06/18/viscious/ , I went over the important cross genre dynamic of glam rock and proto punk. While the seventies saw the bloat and excess of rock music, some acts decided to take the riffs, attitude, and youth culture of the decade, pile of 1950s and 1960s garage band influences and then do their own thing.

Time for part two of 1970s, Twisted Mixtape Tuesday.

The later part of the decade saw three seminal moments that essentially “changed everything”. In 1973, CBGBs and Max’s Kansas City opened in New York City. Both clubs demanded that all acts play their own music. On February 23rd, 1976, The Ramones first record, Ramones, was released and influenced dozens of musicians who would later form bands. Then, on June 4, 1976, British bad boys, The Sex Pistols, played London’s Free Trade Hall, and in the audience were several artists who would later form bands that would matter in American and British music for decades.

Punk music isn’t pretty, it’s only sexy in it’s uncompromising belief system, and sometimes it’s frightening, sonically. But once it gets inside of you, it’s unforgettable and the effects then and now are undeniable.

These are five of the greatest songs, punk and otherwise, ever recorded. I chose 2 American, and 3 British. Make sure to play them all very loud, then tell a friend or fifty about his post. It may change lives like it did mine, 25 years ago, when I first heard this music.

The Ramones – Blitzkrieg Bop. The greatest thing I’ve ever read about The Ramones back to basics rock music, featuring count offs, two minute songs, and pure energy is that “listening to The Ramones first record must have been what watching the atom spilt for the first time was like, because nothing was the same after”. Hailing from Queens, NY and destined for nothing special, Jeffrey Hyman, John Cummings, Douglas Colvin and Thomas Erdelyi put on leather jackets, stood against walls a lot, played faster than fast and adopted the stage names Joey Ramone, Johnny Ramone, Dee Dee Ramone, and Tommy Ramone, using an old Paul McCartney pseudonym. They changed music, forever.
The opening cut from their debut album, Blitzkrieg Bop, sets a tone that alsy created a fire in many musicians that came after them.

Punk was about as much as what you looked like and how you conveyed that as it was about he music. It was about an alternative lifestyle among people who came from little and cared about the same. Richard Hell and the Voidoids weren’t the most famous CBGBs bands or American punk acts, but for one album, in 1977, they put it all together and so many acts that came after, especially in England. Richard Hell was years ahead of the game and Blank Generation is a microcosm of what worked. I love this song.

The Sex Pistols may have only made one album, been more about chaos than music as guitarist Steve Jones famously told journalist Nick Kent, but their record Never Mind The Bollocks in a perfect moment in time. Every song is a classic of the genre and 1970s defining tunes but the most memorable because it’s opening line “I am an Anti-Christ, I am an Anarchist” froma sneering devil child, John Lydon aka Johnny Rotten to Steve Jones brilliant cross-bred guitar work, Anarchy is simply amazing. It never gets old. And screaming “get pissed, destroy” while you’re picking your kids up from school in the carpool line is a life moment that’s indescribable.

It was difficult to choose between the two punk “love songs”, but both The Damned’s New Rose and The Buzzcocks “Ever Fallen In Love With Someone You Should’nt’ve” are punk’s high water marks in irony and musicianship. I went with the Buzzcocks because the message is universal and the song has been cited by so many other artists as influential. Just listen to the lyrics while you pogo. This is the song for you for so many situations. It’s one of the best heartbreak songs, ever.

The Clash is my favorite band. They’ve been called The Only Band That Mattered. Hell and yes on that. While their masterpiece is the double live album London Calling and the title track are the best things they ever did, artistically, that song and album were released is very late 1979 and more like 1980 in America so it falls outside the boundaries of the post/prompt. Their lead single from their first album, Complete Control from The Clash, 1977, says everything that needs to about how they changed the game. You should love The Clash as much as I do. Go listen and get in it.

Go see my sister from another musical mother, Jen at http://www.jenkehl.com and listen and read the great posts about the 1970s. Jen does a terrific job hosting.

Also head to amazon/kindle, smashwords.com or Good Reads and get a copy of my book, heavily influenced by punk music, The Ballad of Helene Troy. It’s also available on Lulu.com or Pound Publishing headquarters (signed) in paperback.

http://www.amazon.com/The-Ballad-Of-Helene-Troy/dp/1300800216/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1372208703&sr=8-1&keywords=the+ballad+of+helene+troy

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Georgia Rhythm & Southern Accents

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It was midnight, my wife’s car is kind of a train, but when I saw the Georgia state sign my smile was missing.

“Whatcha readin’ baby?”

I didn’t want to respond but the kids were asleep in the back and there wasn’t anything to distract her question.

“Paula Deen is off the Food Network because she’s a big racist.”

I know Bobina aka my wife’s sighs. She has hundreds of them. Like her same number of smiles, the sighs mean things like “I’m tired, rub my shoulders” to “Quick, idiot, do something to make me happy or you’re going to have a long night, idiot”. This sigh was somewhere in between.

“Honey, I know you like her but let me read you the sexual harassment lawsuit deposition and the stuff she’s admitted to actually saying and doing.”

I read the news article and halfway through Bobina, a trained chef of Le Cordon Bleu, Food Network fanatic and owner of more than one Paula Deen cookbook, took one hand off the steering wheel and framed the conversation.

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“If she did and said those things, she’s so very wrong. But I also know she’s helped African-Americans get into the restaurant business, promoted chefs and cooks from all walks of life, and she’s a wonderful success story. This whole thing is bad but mostly, it’s another black eye for the south.”

Bobina’s expression went serious, then there was mention of potty and gasoline. The “bury Paula Deen under a post of snark and scorn” idea that I sheltered, left. This was like when we found out one of my musical heroes, Thurston Moore, had cheated on another hero, Kim Gordon, broken up their marriage and one of my favorite bands, Sonic Youth, forever. My wife didn’t pile on with hard, vicious truth about Moore being a scumbag and Sonic Youth being hypocritical in their songs and Indie approach to music and life.

For those out of the know, Paula Deen has long held a reputation for unhealthy recipes of butter, sugar, fat, more butter, and saying “y’all” every other word while flirting with anything in shoes on her Food Network shows. Her brother, Bubba Hiers (yes, really) and Paula, herself, are being sued by a former employee, Lisa Jackson, for sexual harassment. You can easily find the ugly details of the suit and Bubba’s bad acts but the lowlights are that in their Savannah, Ga area restaurant, Hiers made sexual remarks, had a separate restroom for black employees, and he and sister Paula dropped rhymes with trigger epithets as well as sexist and racist remarks about women and blacks being inferior. Paula testified that she’d used the rhymes with trigger word many times as well as possibly committed acts of sexual harassment and sexist attitudes. Her response has been unbutter. She’s posted two youtube. Both are hostage-like and very weird. Ostensibly her “defense” for being a bigot and a sexist and propping up her creep brother is “hey, y’all, I’m Paula Deen and I’m southern and I’m old”. This makes me dislike her more because I’ve heard these excuses from my own family members, friends, co-workers, politicians, and Chick-Fil-A apologist acquaintances.

I was born on September 10, 1970 in Piedmont Hospital in Atlanta. My high school sweetheart parents grew up on the same street and were just 19 and 21 (mom and dad respectively) when I arrived weighing 8bs and 8oz. I grew up in metropolitan Atlanta suburbs Lawrenceville, Grayson, and Snellville. I went to college at the University of Alabama, in Tuscaloosa, where former racist Governor, the one Lynyrd Skynyrd sang about Birmingham, loving, in Sweet Home Alabama, once stood in the doors to disallow black students from entering only 50 years ago. Eventually I made my way back home and after hanging in the downtown Atlanta’s rock scene. I’m now in Sugar Hill aka “The Hill of Sugar” next to the famous Mall of Georgia where I’m married to the love of my life, the pretty Paula Deen fan driving the Expedition. We raise three girls, 17, 9, and 8 under an unplanted flag of liberal politics, no hate, and a lot of southern fried cooking and style.

I love being from the south. The weather here is terrific. If you don’t hold a door open for a child, female, or old person, you’re looked at with disgust. Sweet tea is sold everywhere, all the time, with extra sugar if you want. I’ve traveled all over the country and run around Mexico and Central America a couple of times. The nicest, kindest, most well-meaning folks live where I do. We also make really good music. Drivin N Cryin, Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers, B-52s, R.E.M., Allman Brothers, 38 Special, Cowboy Mouth, The Black Crowes, OutKAST, Ludacris, Goodie Mob, Ceelo Green, Atlanta Rhythm Section, James Brown, Little Richard, Otis Redding, Elvis Presley, Ray Charles, Usher, TLC, T.I., Cat Power, Drive By Truckers, Of Montreal, Neutral Milk Hotel, and The Black Lips are all from the south, a lot of them from Georgia and I didn’t even mention country artists. But the south has problems, mostly with misguided identity and a lack of self-awareness when it comes to race and sex. Paula Deen’s case represents a lot of it.

Deen has a lot of supporters down here, including, at least for her cooking skills and “good-looking sons”, my wife. But at age 66, the woman who has built a multi-million dollar empire from 200 bucks at her lowest point in 1989, needs to get over her hot-buttered self and admit she’s behind the times and her apologies are hollow. Maybe Paula Deen was too loyal to her pig of a brother. Maybe Paula Deen was just so self-absorbed and insulated due to her empire that she got arrogant and lost her way. But this lady hangs out with Oprah, a lot. It makes you wonder if the phrase “well, Oprah’s one of the good ones” left Paula’s mouth?

Southern culture has positives. But I suspect my wife is in the minority of people who liked Deen’s personality and cooking skills. The majority of Paula Deen’s fans dig her symbolism of the “lost cause”; the attitudes and ways of life that lost the Civil War, created Jim Crow laws, and make two thirds of the country cringe when they hear “y’all” at an airport or on television

My midnight train to Georgia Sunday taught me something. Now, it’s time for fellow Georgian Paula Deen to learn, make amends, and make people appreciate Georgia Rhythm and Southern Accents.

Here’s back to back videos and songs of the day. Georgia Rhythm was written and produced a half an hour from my house in Doraville, in 1976, by Atlanta Rhythm Section. Southern Accents is from the great Tom Petty and his Heartbreakers. Enjoy, and have some butter biscuits and sweet tea and think of your writer friend in Georgia. I’m one of the good ones…southerners, that is.

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Scarred But Smarter

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It just took me longer to play two Drivin N Cryin songs than it did to get out of the floor from playing Scrabble with my two youngest daughters. My wife played from the couch. She’s smarter than I am, because not only is she moving around with normal agility, but she also wrote two literary pieces while I’m struggling to describe my weekend. She’s here: http://mythoughtsonthesubjectareasfollows.wordpress.com/

I’m more exhausted than usual because two weeks after doing a vacation with my wife and three daughters, four of us went down to Ft. Walton Beach, Florida for a day and a half. The teenager stayed behind teaching a cheerleading camp and she didn’t want to hang out with old people from the internet.

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One of the first people, over three years ago, that I met online, when I started My Blog Can Beat Up Your Blog, was Tara aka @Tara_R aka TL Roberts. That evolved into co-writing our female killers stories, Dead Money and The Brazlian Sequel of Millicent and Pauley; probably my favorite thing I’ve ever been involved with, writing. The notion that you can’t be friends with someone you have never met in person is just flat wrong. Tara and I hugged and talked like we’d known each other for decades. Getting to also meet Lisa, the co-founder of my prompt factory, Trifecta Writing Challenge, and Jessie aka @jesterqueen was equally terrific. Everyone got along, picked up a few inside jokes, and it was a great time.

The trip ended, for my wife and 2 daughters on a lame note as four early twenty-something Miller Lite swilling, Saving Abel and Imagine Dragons listening jerks caused such a disturbance next door to our room, we decided to leave, reimbursed for our second day stay, and head home. With too much sun, not enough sleep, and around 36 oysters on the half-shell, my body is trashed. But meeting the blogging crew was great.  I just met three close writing friends for lunch at the beach and it qualifies as one of my favorite times doing anything, ever.

Today was mostly a relaxation day since we didn’t get back home till after 2:30am. But I watched/read a few things and liked them all.

My pal Tony Kelly, a writer, actor, and comedian from Ireland recently produced a web series called The Hurler. I rewatched the first 3 episodes then caught the new 4th one. It’s hilarious. It’s set in his native Ireland, so the humor is really subtle and very Irish. He plays a Hurling champion named Gar Campion who’s a complete mess as a person. There are very good turns by the supporting cast especially his beloved hurling coach, potential love interest who’s dating his regular job boss, and Tony’s character that are all well done. The humor’s R-Rated because the Irish love their curse words but the four episodes are all very funny. It’s mockumentary style as Gar’s life is falling apart, thanks to his own failings. Here are the four episodes

1- http://youtu.be/eY2apdidT94

2- http://youtu.be/VL_cgiz7FEs

3- http://youtu.be/2kHEnYj_hK0

4- http://youtu.be/kqSd3h1rvTc

I sat down tonight to edit my next book, Italian Radio, and write some of the sequel to The Ballad of Helene Troy, my first book, available on amazon/kindle, smashwords.com, Good Reads, and in paperback from Lulu.com, and was pleasantly distracted by a new movie Bobina bought for the girls, Oz The Great And Powerful. Once again, James Franco is part of something good as everything else around him is better. He’s turning into the Keanu Reeves of the 21st century. The three witches: Michelle Williams as Glinda, Rachel Weiss, and Mila Kunis as the green faced wicked witch (yes, really) all steal the show. It’s set 20 years before the Wizard of Oz with Judy Garland that everyone knows. The story, most of the acting, and the effects are excellent. I don’t know if anyone gets nominated for anything but Michelle, Mila and Rachel deserve something.

Also, I squeezed in about 35 minutes of available online clips of Scarred But Smarter, the Drivin N Cryin documentary produced by local radio guy, Eric Von Haessler aka @ericvon. DNC is a band that I used to see on the cheap and for free several times live between the years 1988 and 1994 during my more rockin’ days. I always thought they deserved to be hugely famous and they never broke that barrier. You find out why in the clips I watched. Being successful as a musician has many defintions and the Atlanta area legends, Kevn Kinney, Tim Neilson, etc show you why and how. I recommend catching the clips online. The full documentary is being shown in festivals this summer.

One final shoutout to my friend and huge supporter of this place and my book, Abby Heugel aka @abbyhasissues. Her new book Abby Still Has Issues, a humor scribe perfect for kindle, is now available. It’s very funny. She lives in Michigan so I don’t know if we’ll meet like I did with Tara, Lisa and Jessie this past weekend. But if we ever do, I expect huge laughs as he book has them. It’s available on amazon.kindle – Abby Still Has Issues.

The first song I ever heard from Drivin N Cryin was Scarred But Smarter. I was my oldest daughter’s age, 17, and it was at the now defunct 688 club in Atlanta. I start a new chapter in my life tomorrow that may be life altering but the lyrics of this song and a new perspective provided by this weekend may make me a better person.

Civil War

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With the exception of the state of rock music, I neither think the world is going to hell in a hand basket nor the younger generation is ill-equipped to handle the future. This puts me in a minority among folks my age, 42, and I’m okay with it. My viewpoint was bolstered earlier today when I sat with my wife and three daughter, aged 17, 9, and 8 with steaks from the grill, baked potatoes, glasses of sweet tea and the movie Lincoln. I liked to be at least six months behind the rest of the planet when it comes to pop culture. Lincoln came out last November, was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Picture in January so I didn’t mind giving up two and a half hours of my Father’s Day to catch up to the rest of society.

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My 8-year-old daughter, known here as The Goose, is on an Abraham Lincoln kick. Her second grade class learned about him during the last two months of school, then we went on a family trip to Washington D.C. a week ago. I’ve been inundated with Honest Abe talk, tidbits and trivia for weeks. Despite it’s PG-13 rating, when Goose wanted to buy Lincoln with her money earned from chores, my wife and I said sure. The fact she and her 9-year-old sister sat still for almost 3 hours, and were engrossed and entertained was a borderline miracle. They also washed a car, this weekend. I’m not Catholic, but I’m petitioning the Vatican for a ruling.

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My review echoes all the others you’ve read or heard since late 2012. Lincoln is awesome. Daniel Day-Lewis’ nuanced performance was well worth the acting Oscar. Sally Field and Tommy Lee Jones tour de force turns as Mary Todd Lincoln and Thaddeus Stevens, respectively, deserved trophies, too. Director Steven Spielberg’s simplified story and lambada dance with facts, politics, and point of view are worthy of academic debate. But like the 16th President’s life, and term as Commander in Chief, the end product justifies the complicated means. As a middle-aged man who grew up in the southern conservative environment of Atlanta, Georgia, I knew what I was watching was not 100 percent accurate, but the acting was so good and allegories of 1865 politics compared to 2013′s was fascinating. What was even more involved was my 3 daughters’ reactions.

When my 8 and 9-year-old daughters are the age of their older sister, 17, they can break down pre-Thirteenth Amendment Lincoln from post. They can learn about how complicated the era’s politics were and why their great-great-great-great whatevers may or may not have owned other human beings and been against making everyone equal under the law. But their wide-eyed wonder at a two and a half hour epic about someone that doesn’t have anything to do with Taylor Swift or Pretty Little Liars made me proud.

The southern United States is going through some serious growing pains, especially among residents my age and older. But those of us who have kids need to be aware of their attitudes. My kids cringed at the racial epithets and political ugliness expressed in Lincoln. Then, they asked questions. Once the questions were answered, to the best of mine and my wife’s abilities, their admiration for Lincoln the man, the myth and the movie was astonishing. And this wasn’t the one where he was a vampire hunter.

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This post in so antecdotal it’s super-antecdotal. Maybe down the street a more conservative or possibly bigoted family was watching Lincoln with disgust, turning it off, and watching Duck Dynasty or something on Fox News. But inside my home, the amount of learning, interest in race relations, old school and new school politics, and quality movie-making was impressive. At one point I heard my 8-year-old whisper to her mom, “well, Lincoln’s trying end the Civil War, that’s awesome.” It reminded me what Axl Rose said at the end of a 1991 Use Your Illusion song, “what’s so civil about war, anyway.”

See Lincoln. Try to do so with your kids, The language is a little rough, but the subject matter is terrific. And Danny Day-Lewis is boss. It all made for a good Father’s Day.

As country, America is so much like it was in 1965, it’s scary. If you don’t believe me, I’ll give you my social media passwords and the negative reviews of Lincoln. They’re scary. The beginning of the Guns n Roses songs begins with the Cool Hand Luke movie quote, “what we have heeeyahhhh, is a failyah to communnikate”.

Here’s Guns n Roses.

Summer Heat – The Whigs at Masquerade in Atlanta

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I don’t know what’s gotten into me, but for the second time in less than three months I left the house on a weeknight and saw a rock show. Last night I ventured back to Masquerade in Atlanta with the only person I know, locally, with the same musicical tastes, my cousin by marriage, Sutcliffe. I call him Sutcliffe, here, because I don’t really have his permission to blog about him, and when I picked him up at his job around 6pm eastern, he was sporting a big red beard. We went to see Gaslight Anthem in March and he was clean cut. I think he may be a tad envious of my beard so he grew a killer one with attitude. He’s from California, originally, and a major Los Angeles Dodgers fan, so I realized he looked like former Dodgers rookie of the year and current baseball broadcaster, Rick Sutcliffe. So an internet identity is born.

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Gaslight Anthem had been a birthday present from my wife, the Bobina, but last night’s concert was a spur of the moment idea from Sutcliffe. Last week he called and asked, “hey, wanna go see The Whigs, that great Athens, Georgia garage rock band. It’s on a Monday night.” I knew that meant hitting up our wives, making sure our six kids (he has three, I have three) had adult supervision, and we took plenty of five-hour energy to stay up past our bedtimes.

Masquerade’s “charm” is that it’s split into 3 levels, Heaven, Purgatory, and Hell. The top floor is Heaven, and so forth. Twenty or more years ago the club functioned as a goth and metal club for the suburbanite wannabe creatures of the night. Now, it’s just a neat place to never pay more than 25 dollars for a ticket and see mostly rock bands, sweat and scream. In march, Gaslight Anthem played the top floor, Heaven. But last night, The Whigs, veterans of five albums, with one currently out called Enjoy The Company, played the basement aka Hell. Maybe they requested it, but I was surprised. They’re local legends. They’ve played all the major late night talk shows, opened for every major act of the last ten years, and they’re really freaking good.

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The two opening bands were solid. Death On Two Wheelshttp://deathontwowheels.com/ is a four-piece bunch of twenty-somethings. If Grand Funk Railroad had a baby with The Black Crowes and let Foo Fighters raise it, then you’d have Death on Two Wheels. They were good with the potential for really good. I enjoyed their rhythm section. Their covers were better than their originals. They brought energy and I was needing a beer, I mean diet coke, after their set but Sutcliffe and I stayed still to see what Deap Vally was all about.

Lindsey and Julie aka Deap Vally from Los Angeles http://deapvally.umg-uk-wp.com/wp-content/themes/arcadia/usa/default.html aka @deapvally are what the next link in the chain since The White Stripes broke up. Heart, Joan Jett, Janis Joplin, The White Stripes, the influences were evident as redhead, shiny gold-outfitted Julie beat the skins, and jorts wearing audacious growling Lindsey pounded her electric guitar. The duo from L.A. gave a refreshing 45 minute set filled with some technical problems that they howled, strummed, and cursed over like rock and roll champs. I’d only heard two songs of theirs before last night. Now, I can’t wait to hear their new album, out soon.

Finally, the hometown heroes showed up to a taped Atlanta Braves tomahawk chop chant that was stolen from the Florida State Seminoles twenty-two years ago via Deion Sanders. This whipped the packed crowd of 200 or so into a proper frenzy. The Whigs http://www.thewhigs.com/ aka @thewhigs plays straight-up Beatles and R.E.M. influenced rock music. They’re not a lot of hey, how ya doing or let me tell you about the road and this new album chit and or chat. Julian beat the drums like the award winning percussionist he is, Tim did triple duty on bass guitar, lead guitar, and organ. lead singer, songwriter and guitarist Parker, unleashed his soul through a dozen of the bands best songs, including 4 off their latest CD.

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It was basic, sweaty, loud, feedback overloaded, slap you in the face rock and roll. The crowd was venely mixed and I wasn’t the oldest person there and I suspect I may have been in March at Gaslight Anthem. The Whigs put on a music show, and that was good enough for me and Sutcliffe as well as the adoring hometown crowd. Deap Vally was a good opening act for them. The Whigs are one of the best Indie rock bands on the scene and it was easy to see why they’re so respected and well-liked. Parker’s easy-going demeanor juxaposes with his heated guitar playing that features dramatics drops to the floor and lengthy dances with feedback and distortion. For my money, Julian and Tim may be the best rhythm section in the Indie business, right now. They’re relentless, energetic musicians.

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The Whigs with Deap Vally and Death on Two Wheels supporting was a A-grade rock show. Sutcliffe loved them even more than he did Gaslight Anthem, while I just really liked it and would love to see The Whigs and Deap Vally after they get seasoned through their current tour.

Mostly, Sutcliffe and I got out of the house and listened to live music. Today, it’s cheerleading camp and a trip to the drugstore after work. Don’t tell out wives, but Sutcliffe and I are planning our next rock show. We’re thinking Halestorm in July. Shhhhhh.

don’t forget, buy the book. The Ballad of Helene Troy, I bet Deap Vally would love Helene, is on sale digitally at amazon/kindle, smashwords.com, and Good Reads. It’s also available in paperback from Lulu.com or a signed copy from Pound Publishing Headquarters. Contact the author…me.

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Here’s one of The Whigs best performances last night, Summer Heat.