Friday, December 31, 2004

The Tsunami

I've been following the news about the tsunami in the Indian Ocean. The devastation has been horrific. Whole cities are gone. Islands completely wiped out. Sumatra has lost one-third of it's population. One-freakin'-third of their population is gone. The death toll is approaching 150,000. Now that's something to think about this New Year's Day.

Sunday, December 26, 2004

The Great Pie Experiment Reloaded

I learned my lesson about adding chipotle powder to sweet potato pecan pie. I was going to redeem myself this time!

On Tuesday, I got out the recipe and made the dough. The recipe calls for half a beaten egg. The other half is used in the sweet taters. I didn't want to waste a whole egg, since I would be making the filling a day or so later, so I used Egg Beaters, which is an egg substitute using egg whites dyed yellow.

I tried rolling the dough, and it cracked and split. I folded it over, and managed to get a pretty nice dough. I tasted the trimmings, and thought it tasted a bit bland. No fat from the yolks, I guessed. Oh well.

On Wednesday, I made the pie. Since I had already used Egg Beaters for the dough, I thought I would use the rest in the pie. Mix, mix, mix. Bake, bake bake.

I checked the pie about halfway through the cooking time, and was reminded of that line in Jaws when Roy Scheider first sees the shark and says, "We're gonna need a bigger boat." (That is a catch phrase that we've been using around the house since we saw the movie in the theater in 1975.) The pie topping had risen at least an inch above the edge of the pan. Hmm.

When the pie was removed from the oven, some of the topping had spilled over the side. (I had the foresight to put the pie on a sheet pan covered with foil.) As Dad and I looked at it, I realized the problem. The Egg Beaters are all whites! I had made a sort of meringue!

So take a lesson from me. The sweet potato pecan pie is delicious. Just follow the recipe.

Sunday, December 19, 2004

Miss Victory and Lady Liberty!

I should have raked the leaves. I should have cleaned off the back porch. But, no, I drew. And because you are such faithful readers, you get to share it with me! Think of it as an early Christmas!

This is an homage to a Jack Kirby cover on The Invaders #16. The main characters are mine, but the layout is Kirby's. For those of you who aren't aware of it, Jack Kirby created most of the Marvel heroes popular today: Captain America, Daredevil, Spiderman, Thor, Hulk, and the Silver Surfer.

Miss Victory and Lady Liberty are WWII heroes. Think of them as Batman and Robin with boobies. No need to tell me how much you like it. I know you'd be lying.

Friday, December 17, 2004

We Heard from Sean!

(17) We had news of Sean last night. Rodney called and said that Eunavae had called to tell him Sean was real sick. According to Rodney, he has a fever, sore throat and an enlarged liver. We were wondering if it was his hepatitis coming back. Anyway, Eunavae didn't have any more information and said we would have to wait until he calls us.

If it's not one thing it's another.

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

A Lucy Moment

I was putting the ice cream into the pantry, after serving myself a bowl, when I came to my senses. A pantry isn't the proper place to store frozen goods, I know, and I quickly checked the room to see if anyone was watching.

That was a sitcom moment. You know, like a scene from "I Love Lucy," or "Three's Company." Something so silly, that it would generate a huge laugh from the studio audience.

Everyone has them. The other day Dad baked a pizza for me to have when I got home for lunch. When I cut into the pizza, I noticed he had left the cardboard circle on the pizza. As Homer Simpson would say, "Mmmm, doughy." Fortunately, I didn't cut all the way through the cardboard, or we would have had a true sitcom moment when I tried to chew through the paper.

Some people call these senior moments, but I'm not a senior yet. But I think I have figured out the cause. (Hang on! There's not much transition here!)

When I was 18 (back when the legal drinking age was 18, natch) and up until I hit my 30s, it wasn't uncommon that on my days off I would start drinking at 10 or 11 am. I could drink all day, well into the night, and wouldn't have too much of a hangover. Nothing aspirin and an Bacon, Egg and Cheese biscuit from McDonalds, or a breakfast croissant from Jack in the Box, couldn't handle, anyway. Today, of course, my system has lost its resiliency, and if I start drinking too early (say before 4 or 5 pm), I'll be queasy the entire next day, no matter how much fast food I consume.

This happened Saturday. I raked the front yard in the morning, and by 1 pm, I figured Ideserved a beer. I had purchased a case of beer the day before to last me through the weekend. By 11 pm, I had all but finished the case and went to bed. ("24 hours in a day, 24 beers in a case. Coincidence?" --Stephen Wright) Lord, was I nauseous all day Sunday. I spent the entire day in my recliner, sleeping it off. By 8 pm, I was feeling much better, thank you. On Monday, I put the ice cream in the pantry.

I understand the sitcom moment, now! It's the beer.

See, alcohol destroys brain cells. ("Alright brain, I don't like you and you don't like me, so just get me through this so I can go back to killing you slowly with beer." --Homer Simpson) Memories are stored in the brain cells. Therefore, it was all the beer I've ever had that caused me to forget that ice cream belongs in the freezer, and leaves me scratching my head as I stand in front of a closet wondering what the heck I was looking for.

Sunday, December 12, 2004

A tribute to "Dimebag" Darrell Abbot

(12) In Columbus, Ohio, Nathan Gale went to a club shot and killed "Dimebag" Darrell Abbott while he and his band, Damageplan, was performing. As horrible as the crime was, I am not a fan of Abbot and his music. That's not to say I wouldn't like it--just that I am not familiar with it.

My cousin Steve, on the other hand, was very familiar with his music and was profoundly affected by his death. He sent me an email to express his feelings about it, and, with his permission, am reprinting it here. I thought it was very moving and wanted to share it.

Just so you guys now, I have been very upset over
what happened in Ohio and I think it is important that something positive
come from Dimebag, I loved his playing as much as Randy Rhoads! So in case
you didn't know.......


It is a Friday night and I am home alone drinking beer
(Coors lite, Dimebag's favorite) and I had to tell someone that could appreciate

this: the next generation of guitar players!

I loved Dimebag Darrell (Damageplan, Pantera), he was
one of the best guitar players I ever saw or heard! Cheers to him and I
want to introduce you to him, as the way I knew him. Don't believe the crap
you here, Dimebag was special and unfortunately for us as guitar players,
he is gone.

I saw Pantera about 4 times, I also bought and read
articles he posted in Guitar World since 1994, and Alex was 4 years old
at the time. He was an excellent guitar teacher and I am going to photocopy
those articles and send them to you. He knew how to explain things in a
cool way, how? By showing you fun stuff and explaining it in a simple way.

In 1994, an album came out by the name of Far Beyond
Driven. I had already heard their second album Vulgar Display of Power,
which was not doubt a classic like Back in Black, Paranoid and Van Halen,
the music punched you in the face as it portrayed on the album's cover (a
guy getting punched in the face!) DRIVEN was their third album and I, like
everyone else wanted to hear it...BAD! When I did, they literally made it
sound like someone was driven far beyond vulgar power! Sounds kooky but
that album ripped asshole! They were intense and super, super talented.

These guys were special like Metallica in the late
80's. Metallica was the best metal band around until they seemed to fade,
my friend and fellow guitar player Will Merkle handed me a copy of Vulgar
and said "I think these guys are better than Metallica!" Pantera
first released an album called Cowboys From Hell in 1991, Pantera fans refer
to this album, as CFH and Dimebag would sign autographs with those initials
even up until he died. When I first heard CFH I liked it, but the singer
was trying some Judas Priest screams and honestly NO ONE could really do
that except Judas Priest. But the guitar! The guy was a shredder! Jammed
his ass off, played loud and fast and the music began to form a METAL GROOVE
that became obvious on Vulgar Display of Power. He was playing solos when
no one else was in the time of Nirvana and grunge.

Dimebag was the one who not only was playing the best
rock, heavy metal guitar but he was like family, he said cool things in
interviews and I could really relate to his music, it was very aggressive
and I loved it! In a time where Seattle Grunge was popular, the only metal
albums I really bought in those days were Pantera.

As far as guitar players go he was very vocal about
whom he liked, he loved Ace Frehley/Kiss, Judas Priest (Glenn Tipton and
KK Downing), Black Sabbath and a guy by the name of Randy Rhoads. As you
can tell, we liked the same stuff; I felt a connection with the guy. Yeah,
yeah he played like Eddie Van Halen too, but who didn't? But that is the
point of this letter; EVERYONE copied Eddie in those days, now everyone
will copy Dimebag. This guy told the world his music was metal that is my
favorite style therefore I loved his open arms approach to heavy metal music!
I feel. ...very empty and sad when I heard about his death. He was kick
ass, and the guitar world is the only group that can really understand.

Here are the facts:

Dimebag Darrell Abott grew up in Pantego, Texas with his brother Vince,
aka Vinnie Paul, the drummer and certified bad ass that played drums for
him during Pantera and Damageplan years. "Riggs" was the nickname
Dime gave Vince. Incidentally, the name 'Dimebag' was Darrell's second stage
name. He originally listed himself as 'Diamond' Darell on CFH and Vulgar
Display of Power he officially became Dimebag after that.

When asked about it in a magazine I read, he said "Dime,
Dirtbag, Diamond, Dimebag whatever you want." He was very easy going
and his guitar world articles were called Riffer Madness. Ok obviously he
made several references to Pot, but he was a serious drinker, the rumor
in those days that there were two bands you wanted to avoid on the road,
Slayer and Pantera because they will make you drink and drink you under
the table!

They were boozers big time! They also like all dudes
shared a fondness for hot chicks and to this day they own a couple of strip
bars in Dallas Texas. Yes, unfortunately their favorite football team was
the Cowboys!

Back to the band, in the very beginning Pantera was
originally a glam band. Yup, Bon Jovi all the way, however, they released
an EP (mini album) called Power Metal. Don't let the spandex and big hair
fool you; these boys from Texas could play! Most bands were from Los Angeles
or New York and then Seattle, but not Texas! So they got signed by a major
record label and recorded a phenomenal record called COWBOYS FROM HELL!
Some people argue that it was Dimebag's best guitar playing to date.

The only brother guitar/drummer siblings before them
to have a #1(Far Beyond Driven) record were Edward and Alex Van Halen. Therefore
by family genes, with musician blood, the Abbotts (Darrell and Vince) were
destined for glory. Their father Jerry Abbott was a country music songwriter
who owned a rehearsal/recording studio his sons grew up in and learned everything
about music. That was the deal; if they learned music theory and the rules
that applied they could use the studio. Dimebag was the first to tell you
in his articles for Guitar World you need to know music theory and how do
you do that? YOU TAKE LESSONS!

Darrell, just like Hendrix made a guitar famous. He
won a guitar in a contest made by Dean a bad ass US made guitar that I had
seen Sammy Hagar use before. It was unique it had three points on the body
and a great pitchfork headstock. Dimebag was the one who made it special,
I don't know the name of the model, but I'll send a pic with the lessons.
He won it in a guitar contest growing up in Dallas or pigs knuckle Texas,
but he used that same instrument on most of the albums for Pantera until
he got a guitar endorsement from Washburn.

The guitar is significant, The Dean he played in question
was dark blue and had lighting bolts extended through the three points on
the body and had a picture of the band kiss in makeup on the end. Just like
Stevie Ray Vaughan another guitar player from Texas relied on a 1959 Fender
Statocaster, just like Angus Young used the Gibson SG exclusively Dimebag
used this one until they started making them for him at Washburn.

Let's put it this way: If a guitar company makes a guitar for you, then
you're really good!

In 1994 Far Beyond Driven debuted #1 in that year,
on billboard pop charts, an album Dimebag wrote probably 90% of! Vinnie
and Darrell were hands on musicians and unlike most musicians in this time
period they knew everything about recording music. They eventually built
their own studio at Dimebag's house and started recording Pantera albums

there after Driven. They recorded an album called The Great Southern Trendkill
and that one was by far my favorite Pantera album to this day! I mean, right
when you think they couldn't play anymore heavier or faster they fooled
you and jammed even harder! Dimebag was always trying to get better and
play as hard as they partied.

I had to see them, they headlined like in 1995 at a
place called Merriweather Post Pavilion in Maryland. Sepultura blew them
off the stage back then, but in 1998? HOLY SHIT! I saw Pantera deliver the
craziest live show I had ever seen!!!!!!!!!! The CROWD! LITERALLY TORE THE
PLACE UP! At Nissan Pavilion, in Bristow, VA. I will never forget that,
besides the fact they jammed 10 times better than the first time I saw them!
They had the crowd tearing grass out of the ground! I mean it looked like
birds in the sky, because people were literally ripping sod out of the grown
and throwing it. The cops broke out the riot gear to stop it and to this
day I have never seen a show like that! They had the craziest mosh pit going
and I have been in hundreds of them, that one was the scariest by far!

Did I see them again? Yes and let's put it this way,
they were destroying something great after 1998, they lived hard, but it
was catching up with some members of the band and with all the metal egos,
the band by this time had side bands and projects and the singer took a
part time project and made it full time, he left. Pantera was no more! Just
like that, don't blink a music ass kicking' machine split up! They were
special, NO ONE delivered the goods like they did, and Pantera was without
a doubt one of the best Heavy Metal bands of all time! One of the best bands
ever that I paid money to see! I loved their live show so much I would work
out or lift weights in the late 90s to the same cd over and over, their
only live one called 101 Proof Live! I had the tape, wore it out! I have
the cd then I wore it out and it is all scratched up! I have never done
that with ANY other album, I have never wore out the tape AND cd of the
same album.

The break up happened because Phil Anselmo, the singer
a guy who is a HUGE Asshole, but he had just as much to do with Pantera
as Dimebag did, but if you ask me? IF someone wanted to blame for the breakup
of Pantera, BLAME PHIL! He plays in a band called Super Joint Ritual and
I know, I was at the Ozzfest in 2004, they sucked! But he left Pantera and
refused a reunion or talk of because he wanted to have Superjoint a very
angry, grungy, loud, but no where near the level of Pantera and here is
the truth: Superjoint has 2 guitar players and the two of them together
cannot play like DIMEBAG! Dime and Vinnie formed DAMAGEPLAN and played the
same super heavy, dynamic timing, angry, loud music they knew how to play.
The problem is DAMAGEPLAN would always be compared to Pantera and they were
just trying to do what they knew, but people had already heard it in Pantera.
However, Dimebag was still coming up with crazier guitar leads and when
I first asked a friend about what he thought of DAMAGEPLAN he said, "
I think they kick ass!" You could tell Dimebag was not ready to let
go and he wrote an article in guitar world about how he didn't know what
would happen to Pantera either but he and Vinnie Paul had to move on.

Dimebag always played loud, flawlessly, and wailed
guitar solos when no other punk ass band would! He had HUGE BALLS as a guitar
player and lived life the same. He drank Coors lite and a little secret
Pantera official drink called: BLACK TOOTH GRIN. Seagram's 7 whiskey with
a splash of coke, they drink it like shots. Funny thing, I would ask bartenders
if they knew what it was in other cities I went to and they actually did!

He was phenomenal. Great songwriter, exceptional lead
guitar player and a real energetic guy that I have no clue why someone would
want to hurt or kill. I idolized him, being married now, job, house payment
like the rest of America; I want to be like HIM! You ask me what I want
to do with my life? I want to play guitar like DIMEBAG!

He had a huge respect for other guitar players playing
the same type of music the same my current Metal hero Zakk Wylde of the

Black Label Society, Ozzy's right hand man. Ironically, they became really
good friends and I was happy because I felt like I knew both of these guys
and they actually hung out with each other. Zakk posted at 1am the night
HOW WE ALL FEEL TONIGHT" That was all I had to see and at 34 years
old, I started to cry like a 4 year old. He meant that much to me.

DIMEBAG was killed on stage Wednesday 12/8/2004 in
a club North or close to Columbus Ohio shortly after the band hit the stage,
the killer walked up and shot Dimebag 5 times in the head. For god sakes
how can anyone do that to someone else but especially DIMEBAG a living guitar
legend that loved everyone! He was killed on stage in front of his own brother
and there was nothing anyone could do.

The following websites listed memorial messages and
pictures they had of him: Black Label Society, Motorhead, Slipknot, Anthrax,
Kittie, Killswitch Engage, Drowning Pool,Washburn guitars, Randall Amplification,
Guitar World Magazine Online, Ozzy Osbourne, Zakk Wylde, Soulfly, Sepultura,
Kiss, VH-1 and Rolling Stone Magazine.

He was obviously real cool and I have been drinking
to him all night, VH-1 played their first video Cemetery Gates and I chugged
a beer when the guitar solo came up, swear to god I haven't done that in
years. I want you to know I was dying to tell someone about him, but no
one gives a crap because violence is the norm. People will make up shit
and say "just another metal burn out" they have no idea how wrong
they are and what a wonderful guitar player we lost. Dime represented aggressive,
loud, violent music. My mother used to always warn me about the consequences
of violent music, I never once listened to her about that until now. Pantera's
music was violent and I guess a crazed fan ended up killing the guy that
wrote most of it. Read this line twice if you have to: NEVER TAKE THE MUSIC
SERIOUSLY! It is supposed to be fun! Sure you can take your guitar playing
seriously, but don't believe the shit they spew out! Phil's new band Super
Joint Ritual has Pentagrams (signs of devil worship) and pot leafs all over
their cd cover and that is the wrong message to you guys. Don't believe
the hype those guys do that shit to sell cds and it all started when Kiss
dressed up like clowns! Don't believe the hype, but listen to the music
and learn from it.

It really bothers me; I feel the rest of the world
doesn't care. They did the same when Layne from Alice In Chains died (friend
of Dime's) they gave more attention to the dumb chick in TLC and now? Layne's
music, Alice In Chains is in full rotation 24/7 in every major city in the
country, go do it, right now. I bet you $20 you can turn on a radio station
somewhere and find an Alice In Chains song. Dimebag will be the same, but
if you are a guitar player? I have more, I have some cool shit to show you,
the way he played his ass off and tried to teach it to us, as a guitar player....
I feel an obligation to share this with the next generation. By the way,
Pantera has recorded two Black Sabbath covers: Planet Caravan and Hole in
the Sky. When everyone else did Paranoid and War Pigs, these guys tried
to do the tough stuff, they could do it because they had Dimebag Darrell



"Stronger than All"

Far Beyond Driven

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

A Gray Hair?!

(8) I was trimming the beard the other day and noticed a few gray hairs! Bad enough that Sean turned 21 the other day, but now this?

Actually, I'm not too upset about the beard. I'm more upset about Sean turning 21.

Seriously, though, I have always thought salt and pepper beards looked good, so I'm looking forward to the progression. Here's a close up of all three gray hairs in my beard!

There are two on the right, and one on the left. Okay, so it's mostly pepper, and hint of salt. (I don't know why it looks like I have a skin rash in this photo.)