The Purpose of Music

Me, 18 months old, drumming on a trash can after spending time sitting behind the drummer of my uncle’s band, The Sounder [Summer 1966]

For so long back as I can remember, I always wanted to be a musician. My uncle was a musician, as were other members of my family. The distinction was that they were doing it for personal reasons, but I wanted to work my way into the music industry.

Some family members were encouraging. My mother told me that I could “major in drums in college,” which was her way of encouraging me to get a higher education.

My grandparents were the most polarizing. My grandfather told me that music was “nice and all, but how will you earn a living?” Meanwhile, my grandmother talked with me about music, encouraging me to focus on drums and bass, listening to records with me, and giving me advice. She even let me use her bass rig when I joined a punk band in college.

Those who were against me taking on this pursuit didn’t have any solid reasons why striving to get into the music business was a bad idea. From what I could tell, it was a case of their mindset regarding doing things the way your parents did, because that’s the way things are done.

An appeal to tradition did nothing to sway me.

But it was in my blood. For first grade show-and-tell, I went up to the board, picked up the teachers pointer, and pointed to the map above the chalk board. I said, “This is Hollywood, California. When I grow up, I’m going to move there and play drums. I’ll be a musician.”

Everyone laughed at me at the end of my presentation, including the teacher. They all believed it to be the dumbest thing anyone could want to do.

That was in 1971. In 1986, I finally made the move to California, spending six months in Bakersfield with some family who had just moved there, before I ventured into LA.

During my time in LA, I would encounter horrible people, such as a producer who got in my face and yelled at me, after listening to my demo. “I don’t care if your name is Ludwig von Fucking Beethoven! Hollywood doesn’t need you! Now get the fuck out of my mansion!”

I remember that guy more than most others, because that was my very first interaction in the Los Angeles / Hollywood area.

I would press on, pursuing my dream, for 33 years. And while I have been in Oregon for almost two years, I still have the itch to make music. Right now, I’m just waiting for the pandemic to come to an end so that I can get out again and at least meet other musicians for an open jam, if nothing else.

WHO FAILED?
Although I got in some interesting bands and made some decent music, I never made it in the industry. In fact, the most money I ever made in music was during my second year of college with my punk band. Everything after that was breaking even, if I was lucky.

1984: Playing in a rotting basement and actually getting paid for it.

For a long time, I was really rough on myself for being a failure. In America, we are taught the lie of “rugged individualism,” in tandem with another lie known as “success based on merit.” The idea is that you are 100% responsible for your own success and failure, and if you don’t get somewhere, then you are lacking in merit.”

Of course, this is NOT how American Capitalism works at all. Being good at something does not mean that you will find success in a career. Additionally, doing a great job does not mean that you will get a raise or a promotion.

At the same time, lacking in talent does not mean that you can’t get somewhere. There are people in the “music industry” right now who cannot play an instrument or write out sheet music. They have producers doing everything for them, and then they take all of the credit.

So much of “success” in the music industry depends heavily upon who you know, where you are, timing, and other attributes that can all be distilled and filed under the label of “luck.”

When I was just a kid, I had no idea how corrupt the music business was. My ex-guitar teacher, Zoot Horn Rollo, had a handful of big albums, and had done several world tours. He realized that he had achieved these things while he was standing in line to get food stamps, and hoping that his mom’s check was in the mail so that he could make rent.

He’s in the Rolling Stone list of Top 100 Guitarists of All Time, and I probably made more money in the music business than him, not counting his teaching gig.

And then there were bands, like Badfinger, who got ripped off so bad that lives were literally lost.

Badfinger got royally screwed by the music industry. Unfortunately, their horror story is not all that unique.

Musicians had eventually become the lower-run ditch diggers of the industry. They became the least important and lowest paid.

Recently, Alex Van Halen talked about how, in the old days you would get a dollar every time you sold a record. Today, you get 50 cents for 275,000 streams. You can read about that here.

Yes, it is possible to have a viral hit song and earn almost nothing for it.

The music business, once a shameful scam, has officially died. What you are witnessing now is the maggots feasting upon the puss-filled remains of the corpse.

And in every business, the consumers play a big role in how things happen. Most people have NO respect for music or musicians. Yes, they might be fans. But they will also say really dumb things, like, “Music should be free because it doesn’t really cost anything to make. I mean, you just hit RECORD on the deck, play the music, and that’s it.”

My response to that would be to show them the $70,000 worth of bills, for what it cost to record an 8-song CD, with full production, mixing, glass mastering, art production, product production and distribution.

Guess how much money we made on that? Nothing.

People will then declare that, “It must not be very good if you didn’t make any money.” This is a highly false belief. William Hung has a GOLD RECORD. This is not the case for many musicians I know, many of whom I believe to be better than most in the industry.

William Hung is a gold record selling artist. Let that sink in.

This fact alone speaks volumes about not only the industry, but the fans as well.


In summary, the music industry is dead and the commercial music fans are shitty. So why play music? Why do I continue to be a musician.

After the show [4th of July 2005]: A sweet woman named Megan wanted to hang out, have drinks, and have her picture taken with me after the show. She was quite the flirt. Photo taken by her boyfriend. Huzzah.

A big part of it is selfish, in that playing music is something that I find fulfilling. Beyond that, it helps me regulate certain things, such as OCD stimming. It’s my only true social outlet; the only way I meet new people. Everyone I meet or have met is due to my being a musician and performing.

When I’m playing music, I’m having a great time, and so are the people in the venue.

It becomes a situation where some great memories can be built.

Megan’s boyfriend. He bought the first three rounds.

Music is therapeutic.

Music build community.

Music creates opportunity.

Music can wash away a bad day, or make a good day even better.

Music fuels creativity for everyone.

The list goes on.

The last thing anyone needs to talk about with regard to music is money. Sure, people like to get paid for their work. In the music industry, you don’t get paid. Certainly, I’d appreciate it if I could break even.

At some venues in Los Angeles, you have to PAY them to play the show.

After the show, 1999: A photo with a few fans after my band SECRET opened for INSECTO CIRCUS at Goldfingers in Hollywood.

So if you want to play at The Whisky on The Sunset Strip, management will set up a 25-minute set for you, for the “low price” of about $600. Then they give you about $1,000 worth of tickets, which you have to sell. Anything you make beyond the $600 that you are repaying to yourself is all yours.

Good luck selling those tickets to a population of people who are constantly being asked to buy tickets or being given flyers by 20 bands per day, every day, for decades on end. You will encounter a great deal of rejection, generally speaking. Few bands can consistently sell big ticket numbers.

However, a good number of people will show up if they were going to the venue anyway and you happen to be there. Over time, having people there was more important than making a profit. Breaking even became my eventual goal.

Circa 2006: Fans on MySpace who lived too far away to attend a show would send their love and support over the wire. I miss Gwen AND MySpace.

A RUDE AWAKENING
I went fishing one weekend with some people, and we went out on the lake on his boat.

While out, we saw this professional fisherman. He was standing on the deck of his boat, doing his thing. It looked like a ton of work. The big thing I noticed is that he did not appear to be happy at all. It was as if his job required him to be there, which was literally the case.

After witnessing this, my brain and mouth worked on their own and said something that surprised me. “Damn, looks like he ruined something that he loved by making it his job.”

Whoa.

Circa 2007: With singer/band owner Johnny of WARNER DRIVE, after playing a show together at The Gig in Hollywood. Johnny often invited me to go out with him for late-night show promoting on the streets of Hollywood. We did this more than a few times and it helped me greatly. He is a fantastic musician, as well as one of my unsigned inspirations.

I would have loved to make music performance my job, my career, my profession. While I lamented that I never made it that far, my own statement gave me a new perspective. It’s a good thing when I educate myself.

In my educated opinion, based on decades of experience, it didn’t matter that I didn’t make it in the music industry. The music industry has been dying ever since Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” took it temporarily off life support.

The response to this could be the idea that there are people in the music business right now making big money. Well, some are making big money. Typically it’s producers or anyone who holds the publishing rights to songs. And as I write this, big-name musicians are selling of their publishing rights for cash payments because they can’t tour, can’t make money, and are desperate. The K-shaped economy continues to claim its victims, but I digress.

KJ was more than a fan. After I’d get off work at MySpace, she would call me and read to me while I was stuck in traffic for 90 minutes getting home. The book was “Juliette” by Marquis de Sade.

MY EVALUATION
The way I see it, our economy has been rigged for close to 50 years, and it has been getting progressively worse as time passes. We are now in the throes of End-Stage Capitalism, which will not end well for the majority of people on the planet.

The American way of measuring success with money is faulty, flawed, and immoral. This measure is not an accident, and serves to SHAME people into working more so that they can make more money, so they can fit in socially or appear to have some kind of value.

Sarah was not only a fan, but also gave me one of my cats [Rascal] 14 years ago. I still let her know how he’s doing.

Human beings have value, and this is NOT tied to their work, or ability to work. I know too many disabled people who cannot work, and they feel like they are worthless; a burden upon society. This is morally wrong, and needs to stop.

But it won’t stop because it’s too profitable.

I could go deeper into the tangent that is the broken, corrupt, and gamed American Capitalism system, but I’ve already said enough. It’s shit. Done.

After drumming for Noodle Muffin, with Noodle Muffin go-go dancer, LisaD! We had our work cut out for us.

When I can get work, I work my ass off. My life has been a series of jobs that I work. All along the way, I would always have a band to play gigs, or I’d play at an open mic. If I felt really lazy, I’d go out for Karaoke with my chiropractor.

If I didn’t have music in my life, then my story would be nothing more than a series of jobs where I worked, got paid less than I was worth, and was then let go when I was of no further use to those who got wealthy off my efforts.

What a pathetic life THAT would have been!

Instead, I have stories. I’ve met people. I’ve done things. I’ve been in bands with people I admire. The last one was a little band called “The Wrong Dots,” fronted by Robbie Rist, best known as “Cousin Oliver” on The Brady Bunch.

I could rattle on and keep sharing pictures, but maybe I’ll share more another time. I don’t know how to end this one, so I’m going to do so by sharing a video of me performing with Robbie and the band, playing a cover of a fun little song about cannibalism, written by the “Pina Colada” guy himself, Rupert Holmes.

Timothy, by The Buoys, performed by The Wrong Dots [2013].

The Marilyn Manson Mess

Today’s entry is a complex story that includes discussion of a very serious topic, as well as some personal anecdotes. I will do my best to provide as much detail as possible.

In this entry, I will give you my history with the subject and my thoughts on the issue at-hand.

Because this subject is a “hot topic,” if you read anything that causes you any concern or stress, then please write to me in a comment and ask for clarification. Please be civil! I do not tolerate attacks on my blog, and all substantial threats will be reported to authorities. Thank you for reading.


MUSIC IN GENERAL
When I reflect upon my life, with regard to the music that surrounded me, there were changes. Some were abrupt and industry driven, while others were subtle and sometimes surprising.

The hippie rock and 60s psychedelia gave way to 70s pop rock. The 80s exploded with some incredible pop rock, like Journey, as well as some deeper metal from the likes of Iron Maiden and Queensryche. Of course, there were also the staples of the day like Van Halen and Pink Floyd.

By the time I made it to Los Angeles to pursue my music career in the mid-80s, things had changed drastically. Hair metal was all the rage. This new trend hurt my chances to make it in the industry in ways that I could not have foreseen. Imagine not getting the gig because your hair isn’t long or lush enough, or you otherwise don’t have the look.

Welcome to my world.

The hair metal crap wore thin, and got replaced aggressively in the 90s with Grunge.


ENTER MARILYN MANSON
Between these two genres, another artist emerged in 1989 by the name of Marilyn Manson.

At the time, he had everything that spoke to me as a frustrated musician. His music had a very heavy sound, and his image was what I considered to be “theatrical,” much in the way of Alice Cooper. I saw Alice Cooper suffer the fate of a guillotine on stage.

To me, all of this was theatrics.


My son, listening to Marilyn Manson for the first time.

My son was born in 1995. His first word was “Daddy.” His second word was “Mommy.” And his third [and first compound name] was Marilyn Manson. He couldn’t say “Marilyn” very well, so it sounded like “Merrily.”

My son grew up with the music I liked.

In 1999, we were at the Del Taco in Hollywood [which no longer exists], sitting at a booth eating lunch. My son is 4 years old.

He stands up and says that he’ll be back. We watch him as he walked toward a booth in the corner. It was a guy in a rattan-style cowboy hat with sunglasses and no shirt on.

My son walks back and says, “That’s Marilyn Manson over there.”

Sure enough, it was. We said hello, and he seemed cool with the interaction. I never press it when I encounter people who have fame. I acknowledge them, sometimes thank them, and move on. I’m not one for parasocial relationships.


On Christmas of 1999, Marilyn Manson posted a video to his website. In this video, he spoke about how stupid his fans were for liking his work. This could be taken as an insult to his fans, or maybe it was a moment where he lacked confidence and expressed it in a narcissistic way. Who knows.

The video was up for only two hours. After that, it was replaced by a type of “coming soon” page that linked fans to other websites, such as Rotten dot com or Betty Bowers. I’m still a BB fan to this day.


This high-quality banner will out-live me.

In 2004, Marilyn Manson released a CD titled, “Lest We Forget: The Best Of. The CD release party for this album was held at a venue called The Gig in Hollywood. My band, WHIPLADS, was asked to open up for the event, since the booking agent for the venue knew that I was a fan.

They had a radio station contest, where they asked fans trivia questions. Each question you got right landed you one of Manson’s CDs. There were a TON of goth kids there, and I trounced them all. This was because all of the questions were based on his book, “The Long Hard Road Out of Hell,” co-written with Neil Strauss. I had read the book about 10 times.

At this point in my life, I owned TWO copies of everything Marilyn Manson had created.

The venue had these REALLY NICE banners hanging as well. My drum tech/girlfriend asked the promo manager for one, and he snuck one to her, asking her to “keep it quiet.”


My girlfriend and I had gone to a handful of concerts, and the ones from the earlier days were rather incredible. What surprised us the most was the fans, who were quiet and most diverse.

At most metal concerts, everyone dresses in all-black. This was not the case.

There was this one kid, he was probably 15, and he was wearing a Dolly Parton concert t-shirt. My girlfriend complimented him on his shirt and asked him about that concert. They talked about Dolly Parton for a few minutes before going their separate ways.

This experience would never have happened when I was young. But that’s the thing about Manson, was that his music and personality were sometimes contrarian for the sake of being such.

In other words, anything goes.


A SHARP DECLINE
Things start to go downhill rather quickly, with regard to my appreciation for Marilyn Manson’s work. Specifically, it was his ability to perform at concerts.

One of two tickets, plus $20 for premium parking.

This concert was on August 28, 2007, and was dubbed The Rape of the World Tour. In this tour, Slayer opened for Manson. Tickets were expensive for the time, and I spent an extra $20 for premium parking, which ended up being the most valuable thing of the night.

I bought the t-shirt before all hell broke loose.

The Slayer fans were rowdy, to the point that it was unruly. As soon as Slayer’s set was over, they kept chanting, “Slayer! Slayer! Slayer!”

This carried on, and continued after Manson took the stage. They wouldn’t stop yelling over the music. They were also lighting toilet paper rolls on fire and throwing them in the air, creating fire arcs that appeared to be dangerous.

About five songs in, Manson says, “Fuck it!” He throws down the mic and leaves the stage. That’s it.

We ran for it to the premium parking area, which also afforded us fast and easy access to the main road out of there.

I attributed this mess to Slayer fans, and vowed to never see Slayer again.


THE END FOR ME
The last time we saw Marilyn Manson in concert was June 6, 2013 at the Gibson Amphitheater at Universal Studios, Hollywood. This was a convenient 0.9 mile walk, which was super cool.

At this show, Manson was opening for none other than Alice Cooper, so we were really looking forward to this show.

Marilyn Manson performing at Gibson Amphitheater, Universal Studios Hollywood [June 6, 2013].

Manson was the opening act. He appeared to be sluggish, which was not typical. He was forgetting a TON of lyrics and slurring the few that he could muster up.

It was basically the kind of train wreck that inspires sympathetic embarrassment. This is not a sensation that I would ever pay to have, and yet there we were.

The evening was saved by Alice Cooper, who handed Manson’s ass to him on a silver platter. Every note, every spot, every lyric. BAM!!! This is what I strive for as a musician, and it’s what I expect as a paying fan.

After the concert, my girlfriend and I had a difficult discussion about it and made a decision.

We would never pay to see Marilyn Manson in concert again.


Of course, this lead to me not wanting to listen to his music so much. All of this was right before I got taken by the cancer scammer, which started in late 2013. After this, my music listening changed completely anyway, so it was going to happen no matter what.

I would buy a few more albums after that, but they whole experience was lackluster to me. I filed them away and moved on.

I would go back and start listening to his music again last year, which brought me some fond memories of my son, my old band, my times in Hollywood, and more. Listening to his old tracks was like riding a time machine for me. It’s why I’ve had posters, CDs, books, and other memorabilia around.

Got my lunch box and I’m armed real well…

CONTROVERY OF THE 2020s
Manson was no stranger to controversy. I found it highly unfair that the media blamed him for the Columbine shootings, when he wasn’t there and didn’t encourage it in any way.

He defended himself in a way where he sounded rather intelligent. I do believe that he is intelligent, which holds no bearing on whether or not someone is a decent person. But in the end, so far as the Columbine accusations were concerned, he was correct.

This time, it’s a completely different thing. It’s not a case of emotionally scarred parents who are looking for a scapegoat to blame for their own failings as parents.

Now, it’s a case of various types of abuse committed against the women who were in his life.

I absolutely abhor the Feminist slogan, “Listen and Believe,” because many humans lie, and it is a fool’s errand to automatically believe what anyone says based on their gender, color, or other immutable attributes. Being white doesn’t make me honest, and being male doesn’t make me a monster.

A slogan I would support whole-heartedly would be, “Listen and Take Seriously,” because I’ve known too many women who have had their claims dismissed by police or other actors of authority.

The pendulum swings far and cuts deep.

To be really clear about it, abuse allegations have been levied against Manson by Evan Rachel Wood. His former friend, Trent Reznor, has spoken out against him, as has former guitarist Wes Borland. This is a HIGHLY serious situation that must not be taken lightly.


February 5, 2021: Me, in my office. There are three other MM posters that are not visible in this picture. I took this photo to show how serious of a fan I am, so that my words can have the proper context.

ARE ACCUSATIONS ENOUGH?
Typically, I like the idea of “innocent until proven guilty,” because people can lie. The media can hype or sensationalize. There are a variety of reasons why this is a proper mode of functionality in modern society.

Usually, socially “cancelling” someone does feel like The Salem Witch Trials, which ended up being caused by two women who hated each other and were competitive with one another. So many innocent people died!

However, the problem I’m running into, as a person who has been a fan since 1989, is that I have read his book way too many times. I can recall some of the horrible stories, most of which have taken on a different, more dark tone since the allegations have surfaced, with former associates speaking out.


A SYNOPSIS
“The Long Hard Road Out of Hell” is a story told in an autobiographical fashion, which tells the story of Brian Hugh Warner. The book starts with him at a very young age.

His grandfather, Jack Warner, was an old pervert who did some rather horrific sexual things in the basement of the house. A young Brian sneaks down into the basement and catches his grandfather with some sex toys and questionable photographs.

The way it is written, you are standing on the wooden basement steps with him, hoping that you don’t shift your weight and make the wood creek, which gets you caught.

A show flyer that was hand-made by Marilyn Manson himself, from his early days.

He talks of his fascination with journalism, as well as music. In a printed article, he talks about his band and how great they are. The problems at the time were that he didn’t have a band and wasn’t really a musician. This prompted him to form the band and get things going.

He forms “Marilyn Manson & The Spooky Kids” in Florida, where they find a great deal of initial success. He eventually drops the last 66% of the name, effectively making it all about himself. I cannot help but wonder if there is not some type of narcissism at work. But I am not a therapist and cannot diagnose people.

The book takes some dark turns. Some of these turns give him the appearance of someone who cares, like when his bass player overdoses on drugs. He goes to this man’s hospital bed on Christmas Eve and fires him from the band, because the rock star lifestyle is clearly something that will kill him.

Huggy Bear [Starsky and Hutch] Action Figure, 1976

Manson is all about the rock star lifestyle, but with his own bizarre modifications. He even had some malformed “Huggy Bear” action figure [he calls it a “doll”], wherein he would hide drugs. He claimed that you can lick the doll in parts, like where a leg was ripped off and get drugs. So when he was going to get high, he would call it, “Dancing with the one-legged pimp.”

Personally, I find this to be highly unsanitary, as well as a very inefficient way to store, maintain, and access said drugs. I’m sure other social problems can be found with this entire situation.

But other stories, like the one that has come to light that includes Trent Reznor, seemed way too sensational for me to believe it. Reznor has denounced Manson and regrets ever knowing him.

So far as I was concerned, the book was a combination of interesting facts that were sometimes boring, such as his dad being a manager of a Levitz furniture store. There were other stories, like trying to get thrown out of his religious high school, only to find out that he could never get kicked out because his parents paid too much money to the school to keep him there.

Other times, it was outrageous stories, some of which were almost too insane to be true. I would think that, certainly, if they were true, then someone would have had him arrested, or he would have been killed by someone who didn’t like it.

I wrote it all off as theatrical image building.

Now I’m starting to question that call.


SEPARATING THE ART FROM THE ARTIST
This is something that can be difficult to do.

For example, I am able to do this with Captain Beefheart, even though he had done some rather horrible things. According to Bill Harkleroad’s [Zoot Horn Rollo] book, “Lunar Notes,” it seems that the Captain himself, Don Van Vliet, actually GROOMED the band members who performed on his classic 1969 album, “Trout Mask Replica.”

Circa 2006: My office at MySpace.

This grooming started when the kids were about 15 years old. They had a school rock band called “Blues in a Bottle.” He would allow these kids to come up to the house and party with him. Bill would take a bunch of joints that he hid in his socks, and others would ply them with drugs.

When they turned 18-19 years old, he contacted them to be his new band members. Long story short, he moved them into a house, where they were kept on a very strict and dangerous low-calorie diet. It was so bad that they shoplifted food and got caught. Frank Zappa bailed them out of jail.

They didn’t have anywhere to sleep, and would just lay on the hardwood floors near their amplifiers and instruments.

They were basically tortured for nine months, and the result of it all was an amazing album.

Maybe you’re not a Captain Beefheart fan. I do know lots of people who are Michael Jackson fans. The hard truth about Michael Jackson is that all of his talent was caused, and is a direct result, by abuse that was enacted upon him by his own father, Joe Jackson.

It seems that many people have the ability to enjoy Michael Jackson’s music and performances, in spite of the fact that he was dancing and singing because he was FORCED to do it by his father. And his father profited heavily from it all.

You don’t hear many people talking about that.

I suppose it’s slightly different, but one would have to think about whether or not they want to support and encourage a situation where a parent abuses a child and uses them for profit.

My apologies, and best of luck listening to Michael Jackson with that image stuck in your head.

In the big picture, if I wanted to listen EXCLUSIVELY to artists who were perfect, then I would not be listening to anyone. Human beings are flawed. Sometimes they fuck up. Other times they are down-right dirty.

For me, the difference between Captian Beefheart and Marilyn Manson comes down to time. The Captain Beefheart abuse was in the late 60s, through the 70s, ending in the 80s. Meanwhile, Manson’s abuse is in the news right now. There are fresh wounds, for his alleged victims, his former friends, and those who listened to his work, like me.


TOO META: My desk right now, as I am writing this.

WHERE I AM WITH THIS TODAY
As noted earlier, I stopped supporting Manson on June 6, 2013, after his abysmal performance in LA, because it seemed that he didn’t care one bit about any of it, so I had to wonder why I would care.

Since then, I think that I’ve purchased a few more of his new releases. But I do not own any of his latest releases, and will not be purchasing the 20th anniversary Tarot cards. His newer music did not give me the same sensation as before, and I was left with a lackluster feeling about all of it.

As you can see with the photos, and in my stories, I had been a fan for a very long time. Not a rabid fan who would blindly defend someone. It might be more accurate to say that I had a high level of appreciation for his creations.

Up until now, the Marilyn Manson memorabilia that I have was linked to special memories.

These memories include the times that I spent with my son, my girlfriend, my time as a musician in Los Angeles / Hollywood, and more.

There were also difficult times in my life where I would turn to music to help generate a desired mood. When I needed to get pumped up, Manson was my go-to.

The fortunate thing for me is that I do not idolize him, or anyone else. I do not place people upon a pedestal, for it only leads to disappointment. I view all people as flawed humans who should be given the benefit of the doubt.

The trouble arises when the benefit of the doubt can no longer be given.


Digital albums and tracks on my phone.

IN THE END
I do not know if Marilyn Manson is guilty of the horrific abuse allegations that have been leveled against him. I have seen similar situations where it turned out that the allegations were false. However, I am not so confident that this will be the case for him.

In fact, I suspect it to be likely that he is indeed guilty. I would like to leave that determination up to a judge, and I think we all should take the allegations seriously.

There was a time when his music and art accurately captured how I felt inside, as an Autistic person. Often times, I felt like a nobody; someone who was cast away by society. I viewed Manson as an outcast and related heavily with holding that position in society.

But now I’m having some very familiar negative feelings about this. It reminds me of when Bill Cosby was facing allegations. As the numbers and likelihood of guilt grew, I found that I could no longer listen to my favorite album of his, “Wonderfulness.” I bought it at a yard sale for a nickel when I was a child.

That got taken away from me, not by the accusers, but by Bill Cosby himself. He was the one who did what he did, thereby fucking things up. Somehow, I can still listen to Deep Purple, a band he discovered and signed to his record label Tetragrammaton in the late 1960s. The idea of punishing them for what he did makes no sense.

But all of these paths lead to one big, muddy cesspool that is Marilyn Manson and the decisions that he may have made, which could very well spell the end of his career.

Maybe he will end up being convicted, or maybe he will be exonerated. Only time and a court of law will tell the story.

I would be remiss to not acknowledge his alleged victims in all of this. It sounds to me like they have very serious stories to tell. Should it come to light that these stories are true, then Manson should face the consequences in a court of law.

For me, his alleged victims do not appear dubious, or have underlying motives for saying any of this. I can only help but think of Amber Heard and how she waited until the day after Johnny Depp’s mother died to go after him. I do not believe her story, and I think she’s a horrible and desperate person. They both have problems.

But Manson’s accusers are a completely different story to me. As someone who has suffered domestic violence, I understand certain things when I see them. Her initial attempt to be vague about it is one key point that has stuck with me.

I could go on and on with analysis, but I have already written more than enough to read here.

Today, I will be boxing up ALL of my Marilyn Manson CDs, posters, shirts, and other memorabilia. Destroying it is pointless and destructive, so it will go into the garage, where it will sit.

Maybe one day, long after all of this has been dealt with, I might be able to open the box. Should that be the case, at that point I know that I will be living with the personal memories that I have attached to his music.

Right now, I can’t even listen to one note.

I don’t expect any musician whose work I like to be perfect. Additionally, I’m not one to jump on a bandwagon to go after someone. I do feel some anger toward Marilyn Manson for it all.

I mean, he got that big break in the music business that I had always wanted. And what did he do? He squandered it away, slowly but surely. It started with contempt for his fans in 1999, went to his lack of care for his performances in 2013, and ultimately to where we are now.

He created some great music, but that does not excuse his behavior. In fact, I think it is irrelevant. But, at least for me, it is too soon to attempt to separate the art from the artist, and I don’t know when I will be able to do this.

I still cannot laugh at Bill Cosby routines, which is foreboding. My nickel investment in Bill Cosby, as well as the time I spent listening to him as a child [Fat Albert] is nothing compared to the time and money I had spent on listening to Manson and supporting his efforts.

If he were acquitted, then I would be able to wade back into it all. With regard to the music, it would feel like home over time. However, that home is currently on fire, and I cannot bring myself to get close to it.

Abuse harms those who are abused. At the same time, it causes harm to others. Ultimately, it harms society. It makes me sick to my stomach.

Today, I will be packing up all of my Marilyn Manson things and putting them away, maybe for another day. This feels like the right thing to do. Throwing it all in the trash right now seems like an emotional decision, and I don’t like making those, at least not in a destructive sense.

The whole situation is truly heart-breaking, and I am certain that there are lots of other MM fans out there who have similar feelings. Sure, there will be those who get aggressive in defense of him. But really, they can step off, because that’s just crazy.

I can neither defend nor condemn him at this point. But if I had to choose a side, then I really don’t have enough within me to provide a defense. The best I can do is to say that I want for it all to bear out in a court of law.

And there have been way too many weirdos out there who had condemned Manson in the past for superficial things, or for silly religious reasons. The weird thing is that I don’t hear any of those people speaking up about him now, when it has been alleged that he has done something horrible. These are horrible people who are very self-righteous and holier-than-thou, and they are still the same.

Maybe someday I will be able to listen again. For now, I have lots of other things that I can listen to that are not attached to any harm or suffering of others.

Damn it all.

Maybe we will meet again one day, or maybe this is the end.

Mohair: My Hollywood Songwriting Challenge

As a photograph it was fine, but I never liked this as an album cover. But she paid for it.

PROLOGUE
In late 1996, I met a singer / dancer named Ruby Cassidy. The day after we met, we started working on writing songs for our 8-song album, The Mystic Dancer. [SoundCloud]

The album was produced by Jimmy Hunter, and we recorded at his studio [CAZADOR] in Hollywood, California. Jimmy is known for his drumming, music production, writing, keyboards, vocals, and more. He’s a truly talented person.

Ruby and Jimmy, in a press release in Music Connection. [March 31, 1997]

The recording and production process was a great experience. This project was the first to be recorded on his new ProTools set-up, as Jimmy worked to convert his studio to this format from 2″ 24-track tape in late 1996 and early 1997.

We even had some great studio musicians come in, including Steve Caton of Tori Amos on lead guitar, and the late Bobby Birch of Elton John on bass.

Every situation has its moments, especially for Autistic adults. Overall, it was good. But there was one problem with the entire situation, and that problem was that Ruby was a shady player. I stayed in denial about this for a long time, and even tried to befriend her again, which was a big mistake.

Ruby got the master tape from Jimmy and then told him off. She would later do the same to me. Basically, we were both used and dumped. At least Jimmy got paid and I had a professional reel of my work.


THE SONGWRITING CHALLENGE
After we were unceremoniously dumped by Ruby, I continued to help Jimmy around the studio for a while.

One day, things were just kinda blah. It was a bummer of a day, and I cannot remember why.

We were sitting in his Control Room, where most of the work happens. While I could mention anything else in the room, there was one thing that became the focal point of this challenge.

Jimmy had a calendar on the wall. This calendar featured very tasteful photographs of female models. The model for that particular month was wearing almost nothing, and was covered up with a mohair sweater, while holding a cigar.

Remember that image.

I can’t remember what it was that Jimmy said, but I felt the need to bring some positivity to the room. It wasn’t like him to NOT be positive, so this may very well have prompted me.

Below is our discussion:

ME: It’s getting better.

JIMMY [points at calendar]: She’s getting better.

ME: I like her sweater.

JIMMY: Mohair! Mohair!

As Jimmy is pointing his finger at the woman in the calendar, he turns his hand to point his finger at me, as he declares, “Songwriting challenge! Make that a song! Do it! I bet you can’t.”

The way I took it, the challenge would mean that I’d have to write the song, record the song, and release the song. Challenge accepted!


SONGWRITING BEGINS
We ended our day on a positive note.

As I drove home, the conversation stuck in my mind. I didn’t even have to write it down. I was humming and singing in the car without even thinking about it.

When I got home, I went upstairs to my humble home studio and sang a few things into the 4-track before going to bed.

The next day, I went up and started working on the song.

Two hours later, I had something.


DRAFTS AND FIRST USAGE
The song would go through a few drafts over the first six weeks. Eventually, I showed the third draft to a playwright named Angus “Mac” MacDonald.

Cover of a playbill for the 2005 performance of “In The Chips.”

Mac and I had a history of about 10 years at that point. I had helped him in 1987 with a live production of his musical, “The Golden Fleece.” After that, he and I sat down one night and wrote a musical called “In The Chips,” which tells the story of a woman finding her professional way in a man’s world, within a man’s world, as a computer programmer in the Military Industrial Complex.

Mac heard the song and asked me if he could use it in the musical. At this point, all I had was demo-grade recordings that I had made at home. All the same, he said that he could work with them.

As I type this in 2021, my understanding is that “In The Chips” is still being re-worked in various live productions in small theaters in Los Angeles


ENTER NOODLE MUFFIN
In the early 2000s, I joined a band by the name of Noodle Muffin. I originally signed on as the drummer, but have since played both drums and bass live [and guitar for an encore performance]. In recording, I have played drums, bass, guitar, keyboard, banjo, and other instruments.

Noodle Muffin promo photo.
Operation Regime Change

I had joined the band just in time for the start of their promotion campaign for their album, “Magnum Dopus.” After that, we recorded TWO political albums, one for each term held by George W. Bush.

The music was fun, and the lyrics were overall very cool. However, I knew in the back of my mind that using politics as a scaffold for music would mean that it would end up being dated.

Long Live the Spin

Don’t get me wrong! I am proud of my work on these albums, and I still listen to a few of the songs, but I would guess that most people are not interested in listening to songs about George W. Bush today.

By the end of the second album, I was more than eager to move into recording something that was apolitical in nature. So imagine my excitement when we started working on a new album.

Rehearsal of “Christian Taliban” for a live performance [with backing tracks], possibly my favorite song from those two albums.

A nice daily reminder of achievement.

KARMIC BITCHSLAP
Karmic Bitchslap was a huge relief for me, because it was my third album with the band, and my first where the songwriting was not constrained to one topic.

We had a major recording session in a house in Port Hueneme, California. While we were there, recording tracks, it suddenly hit me.

I can submit “Mohair” to be a track on this album!

So I brought it up with the primary owners of the project, DJ G2S and Major Noize. After playing the song for them, Major Noize said, “Damn, that’s awesome. Are you sure you want this on the album? It’s your ace in the hole. Are you sure?”

Calling my song “my ace in the hole” was a high compliment. The three of us agreed, and we began working on the song that night.

I tracked the drums, then the bass, then a few guitar passes before adding vocals. DJ G2S added some keyboards, backing vocals, and a new section with a lead vocal, which he performed himself.

We considered a guitar solo, but quickly ditched that in favor of a keyboard break.

The DJ G2S vocal performances are powerful on the SuperVerse, with a falsetto on the build-up to that. The part that DJ G2S wrote and sang over is something I call a SuperVerse. It’s like a verse, but pumped up. It’s also a term that I made up, as it is difficult to describe this song using standard music terminology.

My vocals are about as goofy as possible, so that nobody mistakes this song for anything serious. The way I pronounce the words almost makes the words unimportant. I sound like I had dental surgery, with my tongue stuck to the bottom of my mouth with peanut butter.


“Don’t bore us… get to the chorus!” –Dave Grohl

A HIGHLY UNIQUE SONG STRUCTURE
Most songs follow a very clear and almost-required format that looks something like this: Intro / Verse / Chorus / Verse / Chorus / Solo / Bridge / Chorus / End Fade.

In most cases, it is the CHORUS that holds the most power. It has the hook, and the repetitive lyrics that draw people in. The Chorus is what sells the song, and in most cases it determines whether or not the song will be a hit.

Mohair has a different structure: Intro / Verse / Intro Riff Repeat / Verse / Bridge / Guitar Riff Break / Keyboard Break / Build to SuperVerse / SuperVerse / Bridge / Main Riff / Fade Ending

The thing that is missing is the CHORUS! The most important part of a song is nowhere to be found.

Some could argue that my verse is actually a chorus, but then there would be no verse!

THE RELEASE OF “KARMIC BITCHSLAP”
The band had used Google Wave to collaborate on the album art, the production of which was headed up by DJ Brontosaurus.

Every single detail of the album was handled in a meticulous and professional manner.

When I got my copies, I tore the shrink wrap off one of them and opened it up to take a look. It was absolutely beautiful.

I put the CD in my player and continued looking at the jewel case artwork.

Then I flipped the jewel case over to look at the back. There was my song, Mohair, at the track 10 slot on the album.

TIME SPENT ON THE SONG
I wrote the first draft in 1997 and worked up to a third draft by that point.

The song was released on the album in 2011.

Overall, it took me 14 years to give the song a proper release.

JIMMY, IF YOU ARE READING THIS
I suspect that Jimmy challenged me to do the song because he wanted me to record the song in his studio. The song was probably ready to go by the third draft, and I’m sure that Jimmy would have worked with me on the first draft to create something special.

The biggest problem for me, when it came down to this unspoken idea, was that I was flat broke. My son was born in April of 1995 and I was financially struggling to take care of him. My son never did without, but I had to do without, and that included not spending my own money in a recording studio. Not that I had enough in the first place.

Had I been able to record the song with Jimmy, I am certain that it would have turned out to be a significantly different song. It definitely would have been a great song, all the same.

And when I started working with Noodle Muffin, they called the shots on how and where to record. They had [and still have] their own recording facility and equipment, and they get incredible results. Hats off to Ira Ingber, who mixed and mastered the album.

So although I could not afford to record this song in Jimmy’s studio, I enthusiastically accepted his songwriting challenge and made it happen!


IN THE END
I don’t know if you thought that I’d write about the song without sharing the song so that you could hear it. That would be cruel and almost pointless.

With all that, I present to you… a song that represents my passion for music and my appreciation for a solid song challenge. I give to you: Mohair

Mohair
Written by DrumWild and DJ G2S
Recorded and released by Noodle Muffin

LYRICS:
WOOOOOOOO!
She’s getting better
She’s getting better
I like her sweater
Mohair! Mohair!
[repeat]

[break]

WOOOOOOO!
She’s getting better
She’s getting better
I like her sweater
Mohair! Mohair!
[repeat]

And I want it
When I see you there
And you flaunt it
And I wanna stare
And I want it
Want it right down there

[Break]

I really dig you [I really dig you]
I really dig you [I really dig you]
I really dig you in the mohair sweater [in the mohair sweater]
I really dig you in the mohair sweater [I really dig you.. WOOOOO!]

I really dig the way you look in leather
With a mohair sweater [Mohair! Mohair!]
[repeat]

And I want it
When I see you there
And you flaunt it
And I wanna stare
And I want it
Want it right down there

She’s getting better
I like her sweater [Mohair! Mohair!]
She’s getting better
I like her… sweater

I really dig the way you look in leather
With a mohair sweater [Mohair! Mohair!]
[repeat/fade]

JackiO: LA’s Best Supergroup [Music]

In May of 2019, I was in the process of moving from Los Angeles, California to a tiny podunk town in Nowhere, Oregon. It was a time for me that was both exciting and sad. I was very excited about moving to a new state, but sad to leave Los Angeles behind, for a huge number of reasons.

The reasons why I had to go were bigger in areas that could not be denied, so changing my mind and staying was not an option. Still, I could not just up and leave without doing something really cool and memorable.

No, I didn’t go to the beach, or to tourist traps like Disneyland. For me, it had to be bigger, better, and music-related.

So I went to Ireland’s 32, a small bar in the San Fernando Valley, to catch yet another performance by a “Supergroup” known as JackiO.

With JackiO [L-R]: Me, Steve Bartek, John Avila, and Ira Ingber. Not pictured: David Raven [drummer].

WHAT IS A “SUPERGROUP?”
A supergroup is a band comprised of top-notch musicians who have carved out a huge name for themselves via the reputation they’ve gained with their music in recording and performance. These players typically come from other bands and get together to form a new band that takes music to a new level.

David Raven has been a studio drummer since the early 80s and has played on thousands of recordings. Steve Bartek and John Avila have both been involved with Oingo Boingo for decades, among other things.

Ira Ingber has been a performing and recording artist, as well as a producer. He has been producing and mastering a band that I have been involved with named Noodle Muffin for a really long time, and has been a solid friend of the band. Ira has also worked with artists like Bob Dylan in a capacity of great significance.

JackiO on the stage at Ireland’s 32

You can learn more about the band and the individual band members on their official website [link opens in new tab].

WHAT MAKES JACKIO GREAT?
I have seen a lot of bands in Los Angeles, from 1986 to 2019. In experiencing LA bands, both as an audience member and a band member, I have acquired a taste for what is good and what is bad, regardless of genre.

In this band you have four A-List, top shelf musicians who understand concepts like playing for the song, or making the rest of the band sound better. While other bands might deliver the appearance of individual musicians struggling for the spotlight on the stage, JackiO presents as a cohesive entity where each band member works to lift the entire thing off the ground.

JackiO, from the Steve Bartek angle.

They go sky high.

Their musicianship and presence is welcoming, open, and inspires participation. Experiencing them perform at a place like Ireland’s 32 is rewarding for anyone who makes the effort to show up. The venue has a specific atmosphere that can work well enough on its own, and JackiO takes that and expands it about five miles in every direction.

The band members are also very approachable and personable, as people go. I had known Ira for years, so any chance I could get to say hello and have a brief conversation was something I would cherish.

David and John, holding it down and then some.

But during my final visit, I got there early enough that the band had not yet set up. Steve Bartek showed up, and actually sat at my table. I talked with him a bit about guitar, and the conversation was friendly. I refrained from geeking out and talking about gear, so I still want to know more about his Matchless amplifier.

This was a big deal for me, as I had been listening to Mr. Bartek’s music since 1981, when Only A Lad was released. Any time I get the chance to talk with a musician whom I’ve admired, I am grateful when they take the time and are cool about it.

WHY JACKIO IS THE BEST
To put it simply, it’s a band with solid musicians, fantastic musicianship, cohesive sound, impeccable performances, outstanding arrangements, and more. With all of that, they bring an environment or aura to the venue that is second-to-none.

John and Ira, tearing it up!

IN THE END
Anyone who has been reading my blog knows that I can rattle on forever about a topic. Today, I want the music to speak for itself.

Below, at the end of this blog entry, is a video that I shot of JackiO back in August 2017. This was during their first set, when they dedicated Me and My Monkey to Noodle Muffin. I was so excited by this, that I didn’t even pull my phone out to record it until the first verse had already passed. And it takes a lot to affect me like that.

However, this clips is VERY worth watching, because each of the performers gets to take their own solo within the context of the song. It’s a beautiful thing to watch and hear a band of this caliber perform live.

If you use Facebook, then I recommend looking them up. And if you’re in LA, I’d recommend checking them out live. Tell Ira that “DrumWild from Noodle Muffin sent me,” and he will know.

ONE FINAL THING
Before I left, Ira told me, “You better come back to LA and visit!” I swear to Odin, should we all survive this mess, I will be returning to LA. I will be seeing JackiO perform again. Hell, I might even ask to sit in for a song on the drums.

I will return, Ira, and you’ll know it when it happens. Thank you for the open invitation!

“Me and My Monkey” by The Beatles, performed by JackiO, and dedicated to Noodle Muffin.

The Social Buddhist

I have never been a religious person.

When I moved to Los Angeles in late 1986, it didn’t take long for me to figure out that my success was highly dependent upon the cooperation of others. The group project was still fresh in my mind, so I took this to be a fact.

I spent my early weeks and months on the streets, struggling to get somewhere with it all.

Imagine trying to sell yourself as a musician, when you own no instruments.

But somehow, I did it. I ended up meeting a singer named Robin, who was forming a band. She asked me what I could play, and I gave her the list. Initially, she decided that I would play keyboards.

Circa 1987: The earliest known photo of me performing in Los Angeles. I’m on the KORG keyboard with Robin Baxter at Club 88 in Santa Monica, California

Robin did a great deal for me, including taking me into her home, which was a condo in the San Fernando Valley. But it wasn’t all fun and games.

The first night, when her husband came home, he saw me on the couch. He went into the bedroom to confront her, where he gave her the ultimatum, “It’s him or me. Choose now!”

She chose me, and sent him packing. He was more of a control freak and was also an impediment to her goal of becoming a musician, or at least being musically active.

1987: My first new drum set and first studio apartment./

One night before a show, the drummer did not show up. We borrowed the drum set from the band before us and I played the entire set on drums for the first time, no rehearsal. Robin was so impressed that she got me a drum set to play, and even set me up with my first apartment.

In exchange for this, I was willing to tackle whatever project she had. For a while, she wanted to do a one-person show, where she would sing, and I would program most of the music via MIDI, while drumming with it. This was one of many configurations that were being discussed.

But there was one other thing that she wanted me to do in all of this. She asked me to join her Buddhist chanting group.

I had nothing else going on, and was really at the mercy of her whims, so I was agreeable and went with her.

MY FIRST BUDDHIST MEETING
Back in 1987, this group was called NSA, which meant something like Nichiren Shoshu of America. Today, it is called SGI-USA, or Soka-Gakkai Inernational-USA.

We got into Robin’s car and headed south on the 405 toward Venice. This was my first time in Venice, and the first thing I noticed was how difficult parking spaces are to find.

John Astin was a gracious host who made all of his guests feel very welcome.

We walked up to a house, where many people were gathered. I would quickly learn that this was the home of none other than the John Astin.

Yes, that John Astin.

I learned about things like Gongyo and Daimoku. I must admit that I was more than a little uncomfortable with the whole thing at first, with almost everyone being a stranger, and the chanting everyone did.

If you’ve never heard it before, you can hear it in this video.

To be really, truly clear about it, I am NOT trying to sell you on this practice. What I am doing is sharing my true-life experience with all of this.

John Astin’s home was warm, inviting, and much nicer than other places where I had stayed. While on the streets, I would sometimes rely on the kindness of strangers, mostly drug addicts, alcoholics, and prostitutes. I would take them up and thank them, without judgment.

He always had a nice spread of snacks, and always put out way more than what was necessary. This allowed me to eat, as well as put some extra snacks in a bag to take home. I would ask politely before doing so.

It was a far cry from my usual, which included eating out of trash cans.

A close-up of my Gohonzon, which I’ve had since 1987.

MEETING PEOPLE
I met some really interesting people. A few of them had more influence on me and my experience than others.

You already know about Robin.

I also met a music producer, who was A&R, R&B at Warner Bros., named Greg. He had played drums for Stevie Wonder, and had produced bands like Tangerine Dream. Greg kept me involved, but actually wanted me to be more involved than I could handle.

Greg had the capacity to stand at the side of a giant Butsudan for up to FIVE DAYS without sleep or movement. I’ll explain the Butsudan soon.

“Food” was a band, and it may have been Ted Ashford’s final project.

Another person I met was a man named Ted Ashford. He had played keyboards with Big Brother and the Holding Company, and supposedly dated Janis Joplin for a spell. He was also in a band that had what I consider to be the absolute worst band name in the history of bands.

Still, he was a very talented keyboard player and musician, and I grew to respect him very much.

Finally, I met a fine musician named Alois Navratil. He went by the stage name “Christopher Hyde,” and was rumored to be related to Martina Navratilova.

We wrote a handful of songs together. In my search for him online, I could not find much, except for a copyright application for the songs we wrote together. He listed my name on the copyright. I can say with all honesty that he’s the only musician who didn’t try to screw me over, and also included me in legal paperwork without my needing to asking.

A FEW TERMS TO KNOW
Earlier, I referenced a Butsudan. A Butsudan is basically a tall, rectangular box that houses the Gohonzon. The Gohonzon is a scroll of paper. I won’t get too deep into what any of it is supposed to mean.

Pictured: My ORIGINAL Gohonzon scroll and paper protector that I received in 1987. The chanting beads, book, and Butsudan were a gift from my dear friend and former music student, Becca. She gave it to me as a parting gift before I left California for Oregon. I keep this on my wall as a reminder of where I have been.

There are a few other terms, but I’ll save them for as they come up.

AN IMPORTANT ASIDE
I should say at this time that I am NOT a practicing member of SGI-USA. I have trouble with groups and organizations that wish to control. And, as noted earlier, I have never been religious. Anything that feels even remotely like a religion is something I tend to avoid.

But during this time of my life, I was highly reliant on Robin, as well as the other friends I had made during this time. It was a matter of survival, so I played along.

ANECDOTE FROM JOHN ASTIN
After the chanting at Mr. Astin’s home, they typically have people stand up and give chanting testimonials about how it made their lives better.

His story was compelling.

He talked about how he was on a movie set. The scene they were filming involved him being shackled to two motorcycles by his wrists and feet. The comedy was that they would try to split him in half, but the motorcycles would fall apart instead.

He said that he was laying on the ground, shackled to two motorcycles that had been conditioned to break apart. He was really afraid that this would go badly. They left him on the floor in the position, and he chanted his ass off while waiting for the shooting to continue.

They had a change, where they would use a different camera angle for the actual action, and just chain the motorcycles to each other.

The two motorcycles drove in their separate directions. Instead of the motorcycles falling apart, the metal shackles were destroyed!

So clearly, chanting saved his life. Or so he believed.

AN EARLY MORNING CEREMONY
One sign of cult-like behavior is when a person’s sleep is not respected. One morning, at about 4:00am, I had a loud knock on the door. It was Robin, Ted, and Greg. They were there to do a Butsudan hanging ceremony.

They hung it on the wall, so that I would be facing east. There was a huge ceremony. It ended with them telling me that I should set up my chanting area with a metal bowl / bell, candles, and some fruit offerings. My response to that was that they would have to help me acquire these things, since I was flat-ass broke.

TED ASHFORD, MY LION HAHN
A Lion Hahn is like a mentor who is in a position above you in the organization. I despise org charts and heirarchies, but I made an exception for Ted. After all, he was really kind, he was a fellow musician, and he had become a real friend.

Ted was roughly 42 years old, but didn’t look a day under 60. Being a musician on the road in the 60s and 70s had taken a toll on him.

AN ANECDOTE FROM TED
I confided in Ted and let him know that I wasn’t too certain about this chanting business. He told me that we could chant for anything. Chanting is very close to prayer, so I was skeptical. I still am, but more about that later.

Ted responded to my concerns by telling me his story.

When Ted learned that he could chant for anything, he decided to chant for weed. Every day, he would chant for about an hour, and every day he would get some weed. It was like a miracle.

One day, he chanted for weed and got nothing. So he chanted for two hours, and still nothing. He then dedicated a half day to chanting, and nothing.

He took this concern to his Lion Hahn at the time, who told him that, “You are not receiving that of which you ask, because the Universe has decided that this is not a good thing for your life right now.”

Really. This is classic Confirmation Bias. But I kept mouth shut as Ted confidently told me how the Universe works.

THINGS START TO FALL APART: SHAKABUKU
I paid something like $20 for my Gohonzon and another $20 for my Butsudan. The one I got was made of cardboard, and those were discontinued shortly after I got mine.

What I liked about the organization was that they would not be asking me for more money. However, one can upgrade their Butsudan as they gain more clout in the organization. A person can spend tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars on a huge Butsudan.

This is WAY more pricey than what the average person can afford.

But I digress.

I would later learn the down-side of this, which was that they would want me to engage in Shakabuku. This is where you go out in public, find a random stranger, and invite them to come back with you to chant.

The three of them took me to a random street corner and encourage me to walk up to strangers to invite them. Hell, I barely wanted to be there, and was only there to enjoy the company of my friends and to make music industry contacts.

I was what I call a “social Buddhist.”

I walk up to this random guy and tell him about it. “Hey, you don’t know me, but I’m with this group of people who do this Buddhist thing. They are forcing me to talk to strangers and invite them to chant, in an effort to get new members. You don’t have to show up. I just need for them to see me talking to you so that I can say I tried. Please feel free to say no.”

What a sales pitch.

He very eagerly accepted my request. He was almost too eager.

AN ATHEIST’S WRATH
The stranger went with us to Mr. Astin’s home. He sat patiently and observed the Gongyo and Daimoku.

Then they invited the new stranger to stand up and tell them what he thought about it.

He let them know.

“You people are horrible. Pathetic. This is because you’re messing with Karma so that you can try to get more out of life than your lot. Karma is like mud in the bottom of a pond, and by chanting, you’re putting a stick in the mud and stirring it up. You’re muddying the waters, which can cause harm to others. You want more money? You’re taking it from someone else who might need it. You people are so very selfish and misguided. The whole thing makes me sick.”

He was rather brave to stand up and say this.

It shocked everyone in the room. News of the event made its way up to management. Word made it back to us that ALL Shakabuku practice was to be halted, effective immediately, while they reviewed their processes and customs.

THINGS FALL APART: THE BAND
After a live performance with Robin, I noted that she was standing still on stage a lot, with her eyes closed, and she had a death grip on the microphone. She said that she needed to close her eyes while singing, but that she would get dizzy.

This prompted her to go see her doctor. She was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis.

This changed everything and prompted her to bring her music career efforts to an abrupt close.

THINGS FALL APART: ROBIN
Robin had decided to host a meeting at her condo. Things were going fine until some of the organization’s leadership showed up to observe.

The leader attempted to chastise her for using red candles instead of white candles.

This was when she blew up and told everyone to get the fuck out.

This would be my final meeting.

THINGS FALL APART: TED ASHFORD
I was sitting at a bus stop, when Ted pulled up. He said he was going to McDonald’s, and invited me to go. He said he’d buy me lunch.

So we drove over to Reseda, where they had this McDonald’s that required the passenger to participate in the transaction. Ted jokingly said that it was “very romantic.”

We sat in the parking lot in his car and ate, before he dropped me off at home and said goodbye.

Robin would call me the next day to let me know that our beloved Ted had died from a heart attack in his sleep.

To this day, I do miss Ted and think about how fortunate I was to see him one last time. In fact, based on what I was told, I was the last person to see him alive.

GREG’S VALIANT EFFORT
Greg wasn’t so quick to give up on things, including me. He tried to get me involved in the marching band. I told him that I did not have the gear needed, I could not afford the gear, and quite frankly, I was feeling anemic from a lack of proper diet.

Greg had a solution, and a goal. He wanted to take me to a year end celebration and introduce me to President Diasaku Ikeda.

We went to the year end event, and at the end he pulled me through a side door that wasn’t labeled or lit. We made our way into a crowded room full of people clamoring to meet President Ikeda. He pushed forward, pulling me behind him.

We make our way up, and there we are, standing face-to-face with President Daisaku Ikeda. Greg tells him about how I’ve had a difficult life, that I cannot find my way, and that I am seeking serious life advice.

President Ikeda grabbed my hand, looked me in the eye, and said, “Turn left.”

As quick as he gave me this “advice,” he disappeared into the sea of people.

Greg was blown away. “Dang! You got to talk to President Ikeda, and he gave you advice!”

I was not so blown away, as this advice was simply not specific enough. I didn’t understand it, and still do not. If I had to guess, what he said meant that it doesn’t matter. I suppose.

THINGS FALL APART: LEADERSHIP
Robin was done. Ted was gone. Greg was getting busy with other things, so a little distance was all it took.

I was attempting to move on with my life. I was in a porn store called Le Sex Shoppe near the corner of Victory and Van Nuys. I went there because they were looking for help.

The guy behind the counter told me about how they had three locations, and that a car was necessary for the job, because I could work a full shift in one location, and then have to turn right around and work a second shift in another location.

I was about to give up, when a customer came up to the counter to purchase some books and other items.

I looked at the guy. My Autistic mouth uttered, “Hey, you look familiar. Don’t I know you?” He got nervous, before I said, “Oh yea! I saw you at John Astin’s house! You’re a higher up in the NSA thingy.”

I learned a valuable lesson right there, that NOBODY likes to be recognized or interacted with in a porn shop.

I’d later heard that he left the organization, quite possibly because of that interaction. I had single-handedly disrupted their Shakabuku practice, and everyone knew it.

I didn’t do it on purpose, but that’s how things go for me. If you need someone to disrupt your cult, then I suppose that I’m your guy.

MY POSITION ON CHANTING AND PRAYER
I view chanting as a form of prayer, to a degree, although it doesn’t appear to be pointed at any gods in particular.

What these two practices have in common is that they rely heavily on the concept of Confirmation Bias.

This works in much the same way as a Magic 8 ball. You ask it a question and turn it over. You may get a “yes” or a “no,” or even a “maybe.” My personal favorite is “ask later.”

For example, let’s talk about chanting for weed, in memory of my dear friend, Ted Ashford. The premise is that you desperately need some weed, so you chant or pray for it. Doesn’t matter which one. You still get the same three outcomes, and they are handled in the exact same way.

Scenario 1: You get your weed. Ah, chanting does work! Or so it seems. With regard to chanting, you are told that the Universe has answered your request. With prayer, it’s a god doing the answering. All is good.

Scenario 2: You do NOT get your weed. This is where the Universe or a god is removed from the equation, and the blame is placed squarely on the shoulders of the person chanting or praying. The excuse is that you did not chant for long enough, you didn’t pray deeply enough, or you did so without much faith.

To recap so far, successes are attributed to the Universe or a god. Failures, on the other hand, are your fault.

Scenario 3: You still did NOT get your weed. We know that one potential answer is that the Universe believes that the weed is not in your best interest at this time. Why a Universe would care about one person is beyond me.

This scenario is a little different from the previous one, in that it offers up a “maybe later” element. This is followed by encouragement to keep chanting or praying, with the promise that it will work again, either once the Universe believes that you’re read, or once it is determined that your prayers were executed with enough faith that they were actually delivered.

If all of these answers seem highly convenient to you, the congratulations! You now understand Confirmation Bias. My hope is that you already knew about this, so please do not take this as an assumption that my readers are not knowledgeable. I try to cover all bases, just in case.

WHY HANG MY BUTSUDAN AND GOHONZON IN 2021?
I am not a member of the SGI-USA organization, and I never will be. I have too much of a problem with things that feel like a cult, organizations that control with rules and expectations, and anything that feels like going to church every week. It’s just not for me.

While I’m at it, I will not be getting into any of the controversies that have come up with this organization over the decades since I left.

The big question revolves around why I would keep this around if I am not a practicing member.

The answer is complicated, but I will do my best.

When I first moved to California in 1986, I had all of my hopes and dreams ready to go. I was at the precipice of what could have been something truly magnificent in my life.

My dedication and hard times were a monument to the drive that I had to achieve a dream that would never turn out the way that I had wanted. For all of my being homeless on the streets and starving back then, I could have gone to a payphone at any given time and had my mother pick me up within a timeframe of two hours.

That never happened, and I’m proud of myself for sticking it out.

My Gohonzon reminds me of Robin, Ted, Greg, Alois, John Astin, and other people who cared about me, beyond gaining another member. Outside of the organization, we had some really good times that set the tone for the rest of my pursuits.

Every time I see the Gohonzon, my first thought is a state of wonder in how this fragile piece of paper could survive, unblemished and untorn, throughout the decades. I went through a nasty divorce in 1998 and lost just about EVERYTHING at that time. How I had this with me through it all, I may never know.

September 21, 2004: With Becca after one of my shows with WHIPLADS in Hollywood.

Beyond that, the Butsudan is a gift from my dear friend Becca, as noted earlier. Becca is someone I met on MySpace. Anyone who knows me understands how dear to me the MySpace years were.

Becca was not only a friend, but was also one of my music students. Her instrument was bass.

Although MySpace was a social networking website, it actually got me PHYSICALLY out the door, spending time with people. As an Autistic adult, I value that very much. It’s a hard thing to do, and getting invited out was a nice change of pace.

September 21, 2004: Becca with her future husband, Chris, at one of my shows in Hollywood. They both became wonderful friends.

In putting the Gohonzon and Butsudan together, it effectively joins my early years in California with my final years in California.

While I am not a member of SGI-USA, and I don’t believe that any of it connects me with a Universe that cares, I will on occasion chant.

Nam Myoho Renge Kyo

Sure, these words have some rough English translations, including “Devotion to the Mystic Law of the Lotus Sutra” or “Glory to the Dharma of the Lotus Sutra.”

Since I have no devotion, do not speak Japanese, and have nothing in the way of “devotion” to any of it, these words effectively have no meaning to me at all. In meditation, the goal is to escape the thinking mind and sink into the subconscious. A highly-repetitive mantra, of ANY kind, can do the trick.

The repetitious nature of the chanting, along with the ritual of bell ringing to start and end, serves to take a person out of their conscious mind, and into the moment. In other words, it brings you to a state of mindfulness, or presence.

This can be an effective way to avoid things like rumination or worry about the future.

I don’t do it to get a job, or weed, or food, or anything else. I do not seek special prizes in exchange for the effort. What I can gain from it is a special type of focus that gives my day a better start.

Besides, I put a great deal of effort into learning it, back when I was a social Buddhist. I could learn other methods, such as Transcendental Meditation, but I have no interest in joining another group or engaging a new practice. Maybe later, but not now.

I already know this practice, I have a history with it, and I have some good memories and life lessons attached to it, so I will keep it for the time being.

IN THE END
While true that my pursuit of my music-related dreams ended up not working out in the way that I wanted, there was still an intense and fascinating journey that included some rather interesting people.

Many will say that this is the most important part of it all. As I get older, I tend to agree with this.

I would talk to Robin and Greg one last time in 1994. I ran into Greg at Rae’s Restaurant in Santa Monica, and I talked to Robin that same year, when I was looking for an apartment after my future ex-wife threw me out. There seemed to be no hard feelings.

All the same, my urge to contact them is somewhat calmed. Greg is nearly impossible to find. Robin is exactly where she was in 1987, but I don’t feel like disrupting her life by contacting her again. I’m finding that as time passes, it is sometimes better to leave those in the past where they were. It keeps memories from being destroyed.

But I think about Robin, Ted, Greg, Alois, and Becca every day when I walk into my office.

If nothing else, sometimes it is good to remember that there are people on your side.

The Abolition of Labels

Labels are typically a very useful way of conveying a more complicated idea with a simple word or two. However, this practice opens the door for those who are full of hate and fear, allowing them to invent a response.

The label of “Atheist” is one that borders upon pointless and almost shouldn’t exist. It represents a falsifiable position of not believing in any gods. That’s it. It’s the opposite of “Theist,” which is a label representing those who do believe in a god or gods.

This should be simple enough.

However, people who are full of hate and fear have an odd, yet effective strategy.

BAGGAGE LOADING
Baggage Loading is what I call it when someone adds things to your self-prescribed label that are not a part of that label.

I’ll stick with the label of “Atheist” for the sake of keeping this simple. I have given the clear definition above. I don’t believe in any gods. It’s very simple.

However, those full of fear and hate — typically Christians and Republicans — will engage in baggage loading, in an effort to sully the label so that they can attack the label based on the fact that it is sullied by their own baggage.

In other words, they make up their own definition of what it means.

I have been told that it means a great number of other things:

  • I have no morality.
  • I’m okay with killing, stealing, and general crimes against Humanity.
  • I worship Satan.
  • I practice witchcraft.
  • I’m less-than-human.

When they do this to a label, it allows them to point a finger, pass judgment, and even engage in cruelty. Some of the baggage they attach to it also serves to dehumanize others. When other people are dehumanized, it makes it easier for them to enslave, kill, or otherwise engage in amoral behaviors against their “enemy.”

This has been my experience throughout my life. Oddly enough, it never encouraged me to go to church or to try to believe.

THE YOUTUBE DAYS
I made Atheist videos on YouTube from 2009-2011. I ended up stopping for a few reasons, one being that I had taken a job with a Tech firm. Part of their hiring process is to scan the internet to look for any videos I might have uploaded.

The other reason was that I got tired of a few things associated with the people who would challenge me. There were the death threats, which I took in stride, from self-declared “good Christians.” There was the fact that they could not discuss the bible because they didn’t read it. As one person told me, “I don’t need to READ it, when I BELIEVE it.”

But I think the most frustrating thing of all was their focus on the definition of the label.

For a while, I worked to drop the label. I would say, “If my label is causing you some confusion, then I can clear that up. I can drop MY label, and simply say that I’m not the person who is buying what you’re selling. Can you drop YOUR label?”

ABUSING ONE’S OWN LABEL
Of course they can’t drop their label, for it is everything to them. It’s where they hide, in the darkness. Try calling them out if they rip you off, lie to you, or do anything horrible. They’ll clutch their pearls and declare, “But I’m a good Christian! How dare you!”

This is usually followed by their declaration that I am some kind of evil person, before I am dismissed. I had a mechanic do this to me 28 years ago, and it prompted me to never again do business with anyone or any company that is based in Christianity.

The label is a shield for their own dishonesty and darkness.

MY PERSONAL ABOLITION OF LABELS
I have decided that I am going to try my best to avoid using labels to describe myself, since it gives the other person to redefine what I’ve said, my positions, or even how I live. They just strap on some baggage, and you know the rest.

I cannot control others, but I can control how I approach others.

What this means is that I will use their self-applied label as the baseline for my expectations.

So if someone has to tell me that they’re a “good Christian,” I don’t buy it at face value. Instead, I look for the things that might constitute a “good Christian.”

Okay, calling yourself a “good Christian” is the move of an ego maniac. But I’ll look for how they talk, how they carry themselves, and how they treat others. My expectation is utter hypocrisy, and I have yet to be disappointed.

IN THE END
My expectation of others, with regard to labels, is simple.

Don’t TELL me what you are.

SHOW me who you are.

Someone had asked me if I believed that I am a good person. Most people would probably just answer with “yes,” which is the same as applying a label to one’s own self.

I couldn’t answer that question in this way. I didn’t want a label, and I didn’t want to be a hypocrite. So I gave them the best answer that I could.

“It is not up to be to determine whether or not I’m a ‘good person.’ This assessment is up to those with whom I interact. It is not up to me to make the determination of whether or not I am a good person. You will have to interact with me, observe me, and then let me know what you think. Just understand that your opinion of me is none of my business, so I’d prefer that you keep this opinion to yourself.

fin

My COVID-19 Anger

In the wee hours of the new year, I was awake and washing dishes, when a ceramic bowl hit the edge of the counter and EXPLODED in my hands. Both hands were shredded and bleeding profusely.

For a moment, I thought, “Well, I COULD go get a bandage and do something about it. But the bowl was made in China. So maybe if I just declare this a “China Bowl” incident and blame it on China, and then do nothing else, that maybe the whole situation will “just go away.”

Then I did the right thing and took care of it with bandages and Neosporin.

Of course, the above is a metaphor for how our “president,” our “leader,” has treated this deadly virus from the beginning.

But a Narcissist do-nothing calling it “China virus,” as if that will absolve him of responsibility is just the tip of the iceberg. There’s also the many people who have said it’s a hoax and those who STILL believe that.

The list goes on, and I suspect there are too many people who are all too familiar with these issues.

Today, I’m going to write about my latest issue, which may be unique to me and my area. At least, I hope this to be the case, because you don’t want to be where I am right now.

THE THURSDAY TURN-AWAY
I was talking with a friend who lives in the next county over, who said that he went and got a COVID-19 vaccination. He set it up through a health care app that is used in our state.

He detailed how the app will tell you it’s less than a half hour, but it actually takes two hours. In his county, the National Guard is there providing assistance, as they work to reach a goal of vaccinating 250 people per hour. Cars are lined up all around.

I got excited and optimistic about it, which is an issue I’ll detail at the end, and registered myself to get a vaccine in MY county. It had no notes on restrictions, as the app gladly accepted my registration to get the vaccine. It said that I would be waiting 27 minutes. Off I went to the county fair grounds.

WHEN I GOT THERE
There were five or six people at the entrance. One comes over. “You here for the vaccine? Just go through this maze in the parking lot and talk to the people at that shack over there, and they’ll set you up.”

The maze in the gravel, pot-holed parking lot was a zig-zag back-and-forth, driving around cones. The weirdest part of it all was that I was the ONLY car there.

I get to the shack, and there are seven people at this location. One person comes over, and she has a bit of an attitude.

“Hello, and what qualifies you for the vaccine today?”

I wasn’t ready for this question.

“Uhhhh… I live in X county? I’m a human?”

She explained, “We are only vaccinating front-line workers.” Now, I had heard this before. Why would the app allow just anyone to do this, then? Why would it not say anything? For all I knew, the policy had changed and they were going to inoculate all 16,000 of us here in this tiny location.

I could feel Autistic rage boiling under my skin as I struggled to contain myself. “But, nobody’s here.”

To be really clear, I have made the unfortunate mistake of moving into a small town. Small towns are full of stupid people, so there is no shortage of people who believe it to be a hoax, or who simply don’t want it. Every block has a big truck with six Trump flags mounted in the back.

We went back and forth a few times, until I’d had enough. “Best of luck with sitting on your ass and doing nothing.” I angrily drove away.

MY ISSUE
People are dying. A station is supposedly set up. They’re doing NOTHING but turning people away all day long. Meanwhile, in the county just 10 minutes away, the National Guard is helping them to vaccinate as many people as possible.

In a town that has fewer than 20,000 inhabitants, they should not be very picky about who gets what. I can understand the frontline workers being first in a major city. But here? Especially when the county next door, which is significantly larger in population, is using the National Guard to help inoculate everyone.

I’m going to die of incompetence.

EXCITEMENT AND OPTIMISM
As promised, I’m back to this topic to close out this entry. Whenever I feel excited or optimistic about something, it always backfires and brings more upset and disappointment.

Yes, I know. Life is full of disappointments, be an adult, blah blah blah. I am an adult. The problem is that this still affects me.

I have read the Stoic [with a capital “S”] writings of the likes of Epictetus and Seneca. The Stoic method is to start the day off with very, very low expectations of the world.

Epictetus and other Stoics teach that the only things truly within our control are our thoughts and actions.

Maybe I need to have low expectations of Mankind in general, so that I can avoid frustration and disappointment. Doing this makes it difficult to be optimistic.

I’m such a depressing person that the few around me will tell me, “Be more optimistic. Things will work out.” Now, I’m finding that I need to abandon optimism if I’m going to avoid disappiontment.

Anyone who gives me a lecture about any of this will be showing me that they either didn’t read this, or they did and failed to understand it.

I logically know things.

Practicing them is another. And making them fit with other issues adds a new complexity.

So, my challenge is to avoid optimism while remaining optimistic.

Facebook Manipulation

PREFACE
Social networking was truly fun in the 90s. I made my own NEW connections, joined my own groups, and was never in anything resembling an echo chamber.

One great example was mIRC. I had joined a group called “Married But Flirting.” Of course, very few people were married, and nobody was flirting. It was named that to scare away the younger people. The thought of an old person flirting with you is unsavory to them.

We had a GeoCities page, where everyone posted one photo and their name. We had monthly meet-ups in Long Beach, California, as well as an annual meet-up in Las Vegas.

But now, it’s all about addiction, anger, “engagement” [advertising], and making bigger and bigger money.

EXPERIENCE IN SOCIAL NETWORKING
Everyone has opinions about social networking. My opinions are based on two things. The first, yet maybe less important, is my experience in social networking activity online. I’ve been using the publicly-available internet since it was first made available in April 1993.

Before that, back to 1987, I ran a BBS for a year, which was a bulletin board service.

The more important basis for my current opinions on social networking are based on professional experience. From mid-2005 to mid-2008, I worked at MySpace. These are often times referred to as “the years that mattered,” as my time there represented the bookends, where the site started to get massively popular, up to when people began abandoning the site.

With everyone’s first “friend,” Tom Anderson of MySpace.

Yes, Tom was real. Yes, I worked closely with him at time, at least in the early days when there were only 40 of us. By the time I got downsized with 5%, there were tens of thousands of employees in multiple locations.

Since this entry is about social networking and manipulation, there is one other aspect of my experience that qualifies me to talk about this.

DELETING ALL SOCIAL NETWORKING
Another aspect of my experience that is relevant is the fact that I deleted ALL of my social networking accounts. From mid-2014 to mid-2019, I had NO social networking accounts at all.

I had deleted Facebook, my primary access point, along with Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn.

I would end up starting another LinkedIn profile in 2015 for a few years, but that was only because I accidentally ended up working for LinkedIn for one year, after they purchased lynda.com.

A FACEBOOK PRIMER
For the purposes of simplicity, I will be keeping my focus squarely on Facebook. It is the most accessible and possibly the most addictive website. This is due to their use of algorithms that generate anger, frustration, and a phenomenon known as “fear of missing out,” or FOMO.

The anger generates more time on this site. This is known as “engagement” by advertising people.

While people experience anger while interacting with “out groups,” or people with whom you disagree, they also create echo chambers that encourage you that you’re on the right side of everything. They give you “friends” and you can see each other, so long as there is agreement.

It is a very tricky tight rope act, and Facebook does it very well.

WHEN YOU DELETE YOUR FACEBOOK
Since 1993, I had used social networking. It started with AOL, then CompuServe, then ICQ, mIRC, and so on. With Web 2.0, it was Friendster, MySpace, and Facebook.

It is safe to say that I’ve deleted lots and lots of personal social networking accounts over the decades.

But when you delete Facebook, something very interesting happens. When I deleted mine, I was effectively run off by an angry mob of people who believed that I was “in on it” when I got manipulated and destroyed by a “friend” who claimed that she had cancer.

Nine months and $40,000 later, the truth came out. I got the “I told you so” messages, along with death threats from “friends.”

In other words, I had a major motive to go away and stay away.

During the first month, it was a nightmare. FOMO ran through my Autistic, ruminating mind. What are they saying? What’s happening? What are they going to do to me next?

Lost sleep and the added stress gave me perpetual sweats, slight tremors, stomach pains, and panic attacks. Psychologically speaking, it was almost as bad as the manipulation I suffered from the cancer scammer. This must be what it feels like for drug addicts to quit.

By the end of the second month, and this is the good news, all of those symptoms and stressors faded away. It left me wondering why I had ever posted anything online at all, at any time. Why should anyone care?

THEIR BIG MANIPULATION
When you are in the process of actually deleting your Facebook account, the website immediately engages in manipulation. They start with how they’re “sorry to see you go.”

The two main points of manipulation are key. The first is a fear of loss, when they warn you that all of your data and everything will be “permanently deleted after thirty days.”

This is a complete lie. My account was deleted and NOT re-activated for FIVE years. In my attempt to create a new account in mid-2019, I found that the system noticed me and funneled me into a process that resulted in my OLD account being revived.

There is one other big lie.

YOUR FRIENDS WILL MISS YOU
They will show a handful of random “friend” from your list, and they will tell you that these people will “miss you” if you go.

There are a few reasons why that turned out to be a big lie. I have been searchable online since search engines have existed. Google came into being in 1998, and I’ve owned my website since 1999. Before that, I was on other services, so there was no excuse.

A friend looking for me online in 1993, or even 1987, could have found me.

During those five years, NOT ONE friend on Facebook looked for me. They didn’t email me or call. None of them asked if I was okay. For that, I relied on my two regular friends who have the ability to call, text, or email. They don’t need a bloated hunk of garbage like Facebook to remind them that I exist.

Additionally, when I was forced to re-activate my old account that had been “deleted” for five years, I noted that I still had the same friends. Only ONE of them had wondered where I had been.

The rest didn’t even know that I was gone for five years. I could have DIED and nobody would have missed. me. This is a hard truth to realize.

IN SUMMARY
If you are planning on deleting your Facebook profile:

  • It will not be permanently deleted after 30 days.
  • Your “friends” won’t miss you.
  • You will have physical and psychological withdrawals.
  • The harshest withdrawals last 4-6 weeks.
  • By 8 weeks, you’ll be so over it that you’ll never want to go back.

So if you’re considering deleting your Facebook account, but have some concerns or feel that you’re facing uncertainties, then I hope that my entry here today will guide you through your journey of freedom.

And if you think that you’d like some consultation on doing this, please feel free to comment on this OR email me through my website. I can answer a few questions for free and reply to a few emails.

For more in-depth support, I would recommend consulting with a therapist.

Best of luck!

Selfie taken at the MySpace front desk in Santa Monica, CA [2005].

The Group Project and Destructive Behavior

My second year of college was in 1984/85. After becoming disillusioned with a Percussion Arts degree, I changed my focus to T-Comm. That is, Telecommunications, or radio and television.

I lost confidence in my Percussion Arts degree because my main professor, Richard Paul, who was my drum teacher since 8th grade, was not showing up to my marimba lessons. They were scheduled for Monday at 8:00am, and I couldn’t see him getting up that early to drive 80 miles to the campus.

There were others who let me down, so I decided to move on and acquire some skills and knowledge to apply elsewhere.

THE GROUP PROJECT
During the Radio portion of the class, I worked alone. Long story short, my grades were very high. My final exam was to produce my own radio show, including commercials, announcements, and sound effects on carts.

Then I moved into the Television portion of the class. The final exam for this involved having a three-camera shoot with a producer and camera work.

Everyone was put into groups. As fate would have it, I was put into a group with some people who had decided that this major wasn’t for them, so they were not going to do the final.

Keep in mind that we had no cell phones, no internet, no email, and no answering machines. I had to try to physically find these people, since they were so uninterested that they didn’t even stick around after class to share information.

So I tried to tackle the entire project myself. I set up the three cameras, and was ON camera while operating a production switcher. Basically, I was doing an advanced YouTube video decades before YouTube existed.

THE HAMMER COMES DOWN
I hand in my final to the professor. She looks at it and asks me, “Where is everyone else in the group?”

I told her that I tried to find them, and ended up having to do it myself because they didn’t care and were not interested.

She said it was a valiant effort, but it was a GROUP project for a reason.

She told me:

“I have some bad news, and some worse news. The bad news is that I have no choice but to fail you in the Television segment, since this is a group project. The worse news is that this poor grade invalidates your Radio grade. You’ll have to try again next year.”

There were a few other reasons why I left college, but this was most definitely top of the list.

I was angry that my fate relied on complete strangers.

This was a foreshadowing of what my life would become as a musician who either joins or forms bands, and served as a peek into the window of what it is like when your efforts and success rely on the behaviors, character, and talent of others.

WHIPLADS, FIRST ITERATION
My band WHIPLADS was probably my most successful venture. We never gained any commercial success, but we had some solid music and played out quite often.

The first iteration was a four-piece, which I formed after I quit SECRET and took bassist Kevin Sherwood with me. Kevin would end up playing rhythm and lead guitar, and would ultimately become a full-time lead vocalist in the band’s second iteration.

But in the first iteration, we had other players. Alex Austin was a guitarist, vocalist, and songwriter who had some amazing talents. The bassist was Alan Tait, who was a bit of a troll.

WHIPLADS, first iteration (2001). L-R: DrumWild, Kevin, Alex, Alan.

The band was starting to have some problems. Alex became comfortable with making fun of me for being overweight. He would draw stick figure cartoons that depicted me as a round character. The context of these offerings were all about mockery and disrespect.

WHIPLADS first gig [first song, too!] at the Blue Saloon in North Hollywood, September 13, 2001. Yes, just two days after the 9/11 attacks.

Meanwhile, Alan was developing a really bad attitude. To be more accurate, he was just letting his bad attitude leak out.

In hindsight, I probably should have saved some time by either letting them go or disbanding completely. Instead, I let it all go and it lingered. As it turns out, I used to be VERY good at ignoring red flags and moving on as if things weren’t happening.

This kept on, until one night, things snapped.

FATE STEPS IN
I’m not feeling too good about the band and the current state of affairs. We have a gig in North Hollywood at some dive bar. I got there early, as I always did, to get set up and staged for quick set-up. I had my drum tech, Junior, in tow.

I also had a flask full of Martin Sebor Absinthe, which I had planned on dipping into later, after the show. My personal philosophy was [and is] that chemical modification is for after-hours. I typically treated music like my job.

Tonight would be different.

Alan comes in, and the first thing he says is, “Fuck it. Let’s get drunk.” For some reason, I was on board with this. So I got a Heineken, drank half of it, and then re-filled the rest of the bottle with Absinthe, effectively making a type of boiler maker drink, I think.

I had two of these.

We were expecting no people to show up. By the time the booze started to kick in, I started witnessing a crowd. The sound man asked us to get on and do a sound check before our set started.

I sat down at the drums. I remember playing the drum beat for Sweet Emotion to give the sound man a sample, and then I put my head down on my snare and closed my eyes for a second.

WHEN I WOKE UP
As fast as I put my head down, I raised my head. I was no longer sitting at my drums. Instead, I was sitting at a table. The club was completely empty, and chairs were on the table. My drums were gone! The band was gone!

I was alone in half-darkness.

I stood up carefully and made my way out of the club. My drum tech was sitting in the car with my drums.

“What happened?” I asked her. “We were supposed to play this gig.”

She replied, “You did play the gig, and I video taped the entire thing.”

I felt even more sick to my stomach. In my mind, I just knew that things went poorly and that I ruined my reputation. And there’s evidence of how bad it went, to boot! I was sure of it. We get home, unload, and go to bed.

I would have dreams about the gig, as if I were in the audience, but isolated behind a dark wall, peering through glass. Whenever I had to sing, a microphone melted through the glass and I would join in.

Then I woke up.

THE VIDEO TAPE
The next morning, my attempt to wake up peacefully was shaken by the memory that there’s a video tape that I need to watch.

To make matters worse, Alex called me and said that he quit the band. Damn, this tape must be really bad!!!!

My stomach pulsed. I would have to face my fears and watch this train wreck. After hemming and hawing about it all, I decided that I deserved this special kind of punishment. I put the tape into the player and sat down.

There I was, on video. The sound man announces the band, and I enthusiastically count in the first song. The performance was actually good.

The rest of the tape was the same, with the band sounding better than ever before.

Why did Alex quit? What was the problem.

ALEX’S DEAL BREAKER
The problem came near the end of the performance. We had played our regular set. Alan comes over to me and says, “Symptom of the Universe! Fuck it! Let’s do it!” I appear rather hyped about it and we start to play the song.

“Symptom of the Universe” is a song by Black Sabbath. At Alan’s request, we had started playing this cover as an encore. However, Alex had a big problem with this, for some reason. He just didn’t like the song.

We’re rocking it out, and Alex does not look very happy, at all. Before the guitar solo, typically taken by Alex, I see him lean over and whisper into Kevin’s ear. Kevin responds, shrugs, and we play on.

Kevin said that Alex told him, “take it,” as in play the solo. Kevin had replied, “I got nothing” and shrugged.

During a previous rehearsal, Alex had said that if we ever played that song again, that he would quit the band.

It’s not actually that impressive that I played the entire gig perfectly while passed out. It had become a routine for me that I could execute in my sleep. The problem was that I had to have been aware enough to make a conscious decision to VETO Alan and not play that song. But I was having a great time, it seemed, and so I rolled with it.

I was lost in the moment and allowed the cover to be played, instead of being firm and ending the show. Being wasted allowed this to happen, and I had no conscious memory of any of it.

After Alex quit, Alan tried to get fired from the band, because he couldn’t bring himself to quit like Alex did. He’d bring a bad attitude to rehearsal, and even a bass with technical issues. I wouldn’t fire him, for some reason. Eventually, he just stopped showing up and taking calls one day.

That was that.

MY ANALYSIS
Both Alex and Alan had a great deal of contempt for me. They didn’t like me. As for my side of it, I didn’t think that us liking each other even mattered. What mattered was whether or not we could create together.

That was a wrong take.

Alex and Alan were both engaging in destructive behaviors. My attempts to ignore it all was unhealthy, and lead me to my own destructive behavior of getting wasted before a show.

Yes, I was destructive to this group project that was my own project.

Upon having this realization, I destroyed the tape, considered all of it to be a bullet dodged, and moved forward.

Old Noodle Muffin promo image. L-R: Major Noize, Master G, DrumWild [me], Cathy, and Kevin.

I had been drumming with Noodle Muffin for a spell, and asked the band’s bass player, Kevin Richardson, if he would join us. He did, and we ended up making some great music together for the second iteration of WHIPADS.

Levitation was an important skill to have for wielding an axe in WHIPLADS.

Ironically, I replaced Kevin on bass with Noodle Muffin, after he quit due to the band’s political music. I had also joined Kevin’s band, Falling Moon, in which we did some shows and recorded an album.

Last live performance with Noodle Muffin in January 2009. I’m playing fretless bass, singing, and running the backing track.

THE END OF WHIPLADS
Sadly, the band came to a rather abrupt and ceremonious end in 2006. Kevin, the guitarist and singer, belonged to a cult. The cult leader warned him that Los Angeles would be devastated by the bird flu and that he should abandon the area and everything about it, immediately.

WHIPLADS and Falling Moon, at The Gig in Hollywood on Melrose. I was double and triple-gigging during this time. It was always a chill night when I had two bands playing at the same venue on the same night.

He had just finished a fantastic movie called GAMERS, where he was deeply involved with the writing, the music, and acting. I went to the premier and met some of the stars, including Kelly LeBrock, William Katt, and Beverly DeAngelo.

The original artwork for GAMERS. Kevin is in the white hood. The joke in the movie is that this is his new D&D robe, and he’s lacking the self-awareness of the racist optics. He has since been removed from the cover, since the image without context will now generate great concern.

Everything seemed to be picking up, and then he left.

The other Kevin was upset, as was I.

He called us a few weeks later, apologizing for having to leave. He said that someone from HBO was interested in licensing some of our songs. Kevin Richardson’s response to this was, “Fuck you. I don’t want to hear any of my performances on HBO, or I’ll sue.” CLICK!

That was the end of the band. Or should I call it a group project?

ULTIMATE ANALYSIS
Even though I was in charge of the project, it still failed, just like the group project in college.

Was I inept?

I did make some mistakes. Those include not dissolving the first iteration of the band sooner. I tolerated a great deal of emotional abuse from Alex and Alan.

Kevin, in a behind-the-scenes photo, in character. His character wasn’t racist; rather, he lacked the self-awareness to understand how his new D&D outfit looked. This is a genuinely good film that never got a proper chance.

Another mistake was keeping the band together after I learned that Kevin S. belonged to a cult. When someone belongs to a cult, the cult makes decisions and has authority that takes precedence above all other. The cult also takes priority over all others.

I thought that maybe I could work around that. The end result was a good band that died too soon for an absolutely stupid reason.

THE SOCIAL ELEMENT OF A BAND
Music performance has always been a social catalyst for me. These social connections were tenuous, at best, and fell apart as easily as they formed.

I play drums, guitar, bass, keyboard, and a variety of other instruments. I can do it all myself, and my home studio is set up for that.

But it can get boring. Creating music without a band, to me, seems to miss the point completely. It’s the case with modern “music,” and it’s the case with what I’m doing now.

It’s one thing to write and record a song. But playing in a band is a completely different kind of beast.

Yes, COVID-19 forces me to stay home and not join another band. If I survive this, I might want to form another. Should I be able to do this, it will be the FIRST band that I’ve had AFTER my High-Functioning Autism diagnosis.

Alex and me, mid-2005.

Will this be a good thing? Time may tell, or we may never find out.

REUNIONS?
Would I be up for a reunion? Not really. I did run into Alex a few years later at a liquor store in Hollywood, quite by accident, while attending a CD release party for The Prix.

Everything seemed like water under the bridge. But I suspect that the contempt he had for me would resurface in almost no time flat.

Kevin Sherwood recorded and released a solo album. I bought a copy, since he’d probably not send me one, and wrote to him saying how nice it was to hear some of the old tunes of his that he had submitted for WHIPLADS.

Kevin didn’t respond. However, I have been friends with his older brother, Ken. Ken was one of the few people I got to see in mid-2019 before I left California for Oregon. Ken put in the effort to be a friend whenever we talked. He was an honorary member of the band, and we dubbed him “The WHIP-DAD,” only because he’s a few years older than us.

I had contacted Alan sometime around 2012, because he had left a bass behind and I wanted to try to return it to him. He was playing with the band Vegas Preacher. He was vague and didn’t really want to talk. He said that he didn’t want the bass. It was a homemade kit thing. That was that.

As for Kevin R, on bass, he has been in his own world for quite some time. In his own world, he is the dictator. It’s a night-and-day, Jekyl and Hyde type of thing. Reuniting with him doesn’t sound like it would end well.

IF I COULD DO IT ALL OVER AGAIN
If I had that kind of a chance, then it may not have happened at all. I would have ousted Alex the first time he drew his insulting stick figure cartoon in the parking lot. Alan would have left right behind him. That would leave me and Kevin to try to figure it out. Maybe we’d find other people. But then I’d find out about his cult membership and depart myself.

And the black-out drunk gig situation never would have happened, which inspired me to drink only water before a show.

IN THE END
Doing this any other way seems almost impossible. At the very least, I cannot see it happening any other way.

2003: Drumming in LA with WHIPLADS. Notice the front-and-center water bottle.

Then again, it is nearly impossible to envision an alternative life or alternative reality. I often wonder what kind of life I would have had, if only I had known earlier that I was Autistic. It feels like a life wasted sometimes, but that’s another topic for another time.

To the main point, the concept, implementation, and practice involved in the “group project” is something that may evade my understanding for the rest of my life.

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