Category Archives: Life

A Words Look: The Tallest Man On Earth

I am a native of the North Pole
And that can mess up any kid.

You may or may not have heard of Swedish musician Kristian Mattson, a.k.a. The Tallest Man on Earth, but his work is pretty spectacular.  Most of the time, it’s just him. A 5′-6″ man in T-shirt and jeans with his guitar on stage backed by the power of his folk-roots leaning music, unique vocal style, and out-of-this-world lyrics. He writes great lyrics about relationships, the ups and downs, and all the feels of being human.

I first heard him on NPR around 2010. Then on KEXP. I listened to The Wild Hunt album on Spotify. I was hooked. NPR music used to broadcast and archive live shows from the 9:30 Club in Washington, D. C. I used to catch some of these on their live music web page and listen while working. They had some awesome sets from Ben Gibbard, The Decemberists, and one particularly great set from The Tallest Man on Earth. I highly recommend giving this set a listen and, as a bonus, it’s downloadable.

One of my many favorite Tallest Man on Earth songs is “King of Spain”. I like just about everything about this song and the album it comes from, The Wild Hunt. It’s one of those songs which the lyrics stick inside my head for weeks at a time.

King of Spain

I never knew I was a lover,
Just cause I steal the things you hide,
Just cause I focus while we’re dancing,
Just cause I offered you a ride.

Still I am not from Barcelona,
I am not even from Madrid.
I am a native of the North Pole
And that can mess up any kid.

Well if you could reinvent my name,
Well if you could redirect my day,
I wanna be the King of Spain.

And I will settle in Pamplona
And I’ll provoke the bulls with words
And then I’ll send a man to meet them all
But he’s fake, so I have heard.

And all the senoritas sighing,
Will be the fountain of my lies.
But while we’re floating in siestas
You search for bottles and for knives.

Well if you could reinvent my name,
Well if you could redirect my day,
I wanna be the King of Spain.

And I wear my boots of Spanish leather
Oh while I’m tightening my crown.
I’ll disappear in some flamenco
Perhaps I’ll reach the other side.

Why are you stabbing my illusion?
Just cause I stole some eagle’s wings
Because you named me as your lover
Well, I thought I could be anything.

Well if you could reinvent my name,
Well if you could redirect my day,
I wanna be the King of Spain.

Songwriters: Kristian Matsson
King of Spain lyrics © Kobalt Music Publishing Ltd.

A Words Look: “Feelin’ Good Again” by Robert Earl Keen

Robert Earl Keen is one of those Texan singer/songwriters with that uncanny ability to write songs which are not only relatable but run like a movie in your head when you hear them.

“Feeling’ Good Again” is one of my favorites. It captures that feeling of home a person can have away from their actual home, in this case, the Mr. Blues bar/tavern down on Main Street. You want a short master course in writing, take a look at the lyrics of this song and study how Keen draws you into the scene and places you right next to the main character before recharging his soul with the familiarity and comfort of Mr. Blues.

My favorite parts are when he finds “three twenties and a ten” in his pocket and when he wished his friend was there and he “looked across the room and saw you standin’ on the stair”. But the best part may be the next line, “And when I caught your eye I saw you break into a grin”. So much potential backstory, enough to touch about any listeners soul.

“Feelin’ Good Again” by Robert Earl Keen

Standin’ down on Main Street
Across from Mr, Blues
In my faded leather jacket
And my weathered Brogan shoes
A chill north wind was blowin’
But the spring was comin’ on
As I wondered to myself
Just how long I had been gone

So I strolled across old Main Street
Walked down a flight of stairs
Stepped into the hall
And saw all my friends were there
A neon sign was flashin’ “Welcome come on in”
It feels so good feelin’ good again

My favorite band was playin’
An Otis Redding song
When they sang the chorus
Everybody sang along
Dan and Margarita
were swayin’ side by side
I heard they were divorcin’
But I guess they let it slide
And I wished I had some money with
which to buy a round

I wished I’d cashed my paycheck
Before I came to town
But I reached into my pocket
Found three twenties and a ten
It feels so good feelin’ good again

There was old man Perkins
Sittin’ on his stool
Watchin’ Butch and Jimmy John
Talkin’ loud and playin’ pool
The boys from Silver City
Were standin’ by the fire
Singin’ like they thought
they were the Tabernacle choir

And I wanted you to see them all
I wished that you were there
I looked across the room
and saw you standin’ on the stair
And when I caught your eye
I saw you break into a grin
It feels so good feelin’ good again

There are several good videos on YouTube of Robert Earl Keen singing “Feelin’ Good Again”, here are a couple I really liked.

And this one, because…biscuits!

A Words Look: Intro to Baba O’Riley

I was just fiddle-farting around at work on a Friday morning a few months ago, listening to John in the Morning on the KEXP stream and organizing the experiments for the day. John Richards played Baba O’Riley from The Who mixed in with the usual eclectic music KEXP is famous for. At KEXP, they run a real-time playlist on the web feed that has a section for DJ notes about the song playing. Most of the time, these notes are information about shows the currently played band is playing in the Pacific Northwest or links to their archived KEXP In-Studio performances. There’s often also an odd song fact or two the DJ gleans from the internet about the song or artists.

KEXP DJ Notes on Baba O’Riley by The Who, John Richards Friday, October 13, 2017:

“Good morning and a very happy Friday. When The Who perform this live, the processed organ is played from a recording, since it would be nearly impossible to replicate on an instrument. The guitar doesn’t come in until 1:40, giving Pete Townshend some time to reflect on his work. “There is this moment of standing there just listening to this music and looking out to the audience and just thinking, ‘I f–king did that. I wrote that,” he told Rolling Stone. “I just hope that on my deathbed I don’t embarrass myself by asking someone, ‘Can you pass me my guitar? And will you run the backing tape of ‘Baba O’Riley’? I just want to do it one more time.”

As a writer, this particular quote from Pete Townshend hits home.

“I f–ing did that. I wrote that.”

By Impm at en.wikipedia [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

There are many times when artists of all ways, shapes, and forms need “I f–ing did that.” as much as they need food or water. It is something creative people need to carry around with them as their weapon of defense when hit by self-doubt and creative panic. We need to step back, take a few deep breaths, and observe what we have created. Look or listen to what we’ve created and take a few moments to appreciate our own work. As creators, we occasionally need to be inspired by the fact we’ve created something wonderful before and use that to gather the artistic confidence to produce a new and wonderful work.

Here is a relatively recent live video of The Who performing Baba O’Riley. I chose this particular video over the dozens of other live performances of this classic song not because it’s any better than the other versions but because it shows the band’s age. It shows that old guys can still rock and roll.

Never stop creating. Step back every once in a while and appreciate what you’ve done. Take this moment to tell yourself, “I f–ing did that.” And then go out and create some more. Believe me, the world needs your work.

 

 

A Tale of Two Cats

I am not a cat person. Never really have been. Never really will be.

But, there have been two cats in my life that wiggled their way into my dog-loving heart. Is there is a common factor between these two felines that has raised them above a “leave me alone and go catch mice” relationship?

Why yes there is. They’re badasses.

BAD ASSES.

Big Bad Bud was one of a kind. He didn’t really like people and he was a killing machine. Birds. Mice. Rats. Squirrels. If it moved and/or pissed him off, it was dead. I can’t find the video or the photographic evidence, but Triple B once killed an adult squirrel and laid its lifeless body in front of the back door. I know, many cats do this. But do they also eat the squirrel starting at the head and leaving only a fluffy tail on the doormat? I don’t think so.

And the really incredible thing about Big Bad Bud was he only had one working eye. The other one was blind when we adopted him. Much to my dismay, we had to give him away when he got old, got cranky, and started to become nasty toward our other cat and some of the kids who hung out around the house.

We gave Bud away to some friends who live in the country and needed a mouser for their outbuildings. It was a match made in heaven. Bud fulfilled his duties wonderfully for a period of time until, one day, he disappeared.

Common sense states the elderly cat was caught by a coyote or wandered off to die in the woods. But for me, I believe in the Legend of Big Bad Bud. I believe he is still out there wandering Washington Co. hunting and surviving on his own.

The other cat is our current senior feline, Willie. The family we adopted Willie from years ago was moving and could no longer keep him at their new residence. They asked if we were interested, we said yes. They thought Willie was around eight-years-old when we took him in. That was twelve years ago, making his age now around 20. He adjusted to Hays House life pretty quickly. Until his first Christmas at the house and he peed on the Christmas tree skirt and was permanently banned to the life of an outdoor cat. He went out. He rarely complained. He, like Bud, was also not a fan of people.

The past 12 months, Willie has been slowing down. He is truly showing his age. He’s fought off several bouts of unknown illnesses, worked through the introduction of a new cat, Nala, and worked through the death of his respected friend and housemate, our chocolate lab, Sophie. I’ve known for the past few years that his days were numbered and getting close.

A few weeks ago, he got backed over by our Yukon. He hadn’t been feeling well for a few days. He’d been down and sleeping most of the time for about 3-4 days. I thought he was a goner, but he rebounded. He was still kicking but kicking it slowly. Willie never sleeps under the vehicles. Never. When we turned on the SUV to back out of the driveway on a Friday evening, for some reason he was under the Yukon. He must have not woke up and the rear tire ran over him.

I thought he was a goner. He crawled to his spot behind the garage and wouldn’t budge except for his labored breathing. I sat with him and tried to make him comfortable. I almost called the vet to get him put down. I convinced myself to give Willie until the morning and see if nature took its course during the night.

When I woke early Saturday morning and went to check on him, he was gone! I couldn’t find him anywhere around the garage. I wondered if a dog or coyote or something took him off during the night. But when I trudged through the house and out the front door to get the newspaper, there he was lying in his third favorite spot by the front porch. Alive but not kicking very well. Again, I thought about a trip to the vet. Again, I thought if Willie got his three-quarters dead-self moved all the way across the yard, he deserved the gift of time. I gave him until Monday.

I raked and mowed leaves that afternoon. In the middle of the process, I catch movement out of the corner of my eye. Wille! He was standing on all four legs. Moving 10 feet or so, and lying down for a rest. Incredible.

Every day I gave him another day before getting him put down. Every day he survived and improved. Limping and moving slow, but eating and drinking again. This past week, less than two weeks after the accident, he showed up to greet me one evening when I came home from work as he’d always done. Walking normally with a slight limp. I hate to get sentimental, but I just about cried. Willie is one incredibly tough cat. He doesn’t know any better than to survive. He has to be on Life #8.99999.

BADASS.

So, we will see what the future brings for Willie. Today I even shared with him a piece of my t-bone steak. He deserves. In the meantime, the next badass cat at the Hays House will have big shoes to fill to follow Big Bad Bud and Willie.

My kind of cats. Badass SOBs.

Early North American Culture Clash

One of the great powers of the 16th Century northeastern woodlands were the nations of the Wendat Confederacy. They were a highly successful, highly organized confederation populating the Lake Huron region.

The Wendat were a maternal society, meaning that women played a meaningful role in the politics and economics of the tribe. All property was held down the maternal lineage and marriages had to be outside the maternal clan. Women were even in charge of selecting the tribal chiefs.

This strong maternal influence on the tribe caused more than a few riffs with the French Jesuit missionaries who were the first whites to establish contact with the Wendats in the 1600’s. There is a story told of complaints by the Jesuits to the men of a village about several outspoken women. The Jesuits convinced the men they were being led away from the path of salvation by these outspoken women. To force them to change their ways, the Jesuits threatened to bind the ankles of the women and tether them to a stake in the ground.

Needless to say, this philosophy did not go well and soon the Jesuits found a way to look past the maternal leadership and influence.

Culture clash…early North American style.

A Words Look: Hamlet, 4.5

I received a daily quote from my Shakespeare app which is usually the first thing I see on my phone in the morning and often the last things I see in the evening on my iPad. There are worse ways to start and finish a day than with The Bard.

“Lord, we know what we are, but know not what we may be. ”                                      -Ophelia, Hamlet, 4.5

Reading and contemplating on this quote by Ophelia from Hamlet, I wonder if this is the perfect description of who we are as a nation. The United States of America is struggling with itself right now in 2017. We are a nation that has entered into its adolescent years. We’ve survived infancy, Independence and setting up a tremendous framework, called the Constitution, and struggled through our terrible two’s during the American Civil War.

Now that we are firmly in the adolescent period, we are struggling internally as a middle school or early high school kid might do. We may think we know  100% more than 99% of everyone else, especially the adults/parents and we often fly off the handle emotionally and physically. With a lack of disregard for the opinions and viewpoints of others, we continue to sludge through the muck, making mistakes, and moving further to opposite ends of the spectrum.

Things may seem crazy now, but we will work through this. We will grow as a nation into the fine young adult stage and maybe figure out a thing or two about ourselves as a nation along the way. The opposing forces in the U.S. currently driving at breakneck speeds away from each other will eventually realize it’s time to turn around and address each other because nobody likes running full speed into a wall.

Have hope America! As we mature as a nation, we may actually find out “what we may be”.

Thanks, Bill Shakespeare! You would have been a great American.

A Words Look: “These Days” by Jackson Browne

These Days is one of my favorite Jackson Browne songs. As I have aged, it has also slowly crept up the ladder for a permanent top-tier spot in my heart and soul.

Middle-agedness seeps from every word and note of this song. Life at a crossroads; the point in life where one contemplates the past and begins to fear the future. It is just a beautiful song.

Surprisingly, one of the first songs a teenage Jackson Browne wrote. Remarkable.

Absolutely, positively, mother-loving remarkable.

“These Days”

Well I’ve been out walking
I don’t do that much talking these days
These days-
These days I seem to think a lot
About the things that I forgot to do
For you
And all the times I had the chance to

And I had a lover
It’s so hard to risk another these days
These days-
Now if I seem to be afraid
To live the life I have made in song
Well it’s just that I’ve been losing so long

I’ll keep on moving
Things are bound to be improving these days
These days-
These days I sit on corner stones
And count the time in quarter tones to ten, my friend
Don’t confront me with my failures
I had not forgotten them

A Words Look: Wordless Rhythm

Drum speak without words. The performance by a skilled drummer creates a mood and feeling out of raw rhythm. It paints a picture in the same way we, as authors, create a world using words. Imagination, talent, and fundamental skill combined to produce something beautiful.

I am a percussion fan despite the fact I have zero rhythm and zero musical talent. Planet Drum, Neil Peart, Buddy Rich, John Bonham…the list of my percussion inspirations goes on and on.

Sometimes I do play a pretty mean drum solo on the Wii Music drum kit. Well, I play a mean drum solo when nobody else is home and the TV is muted. But it is fun to dream, isn’t it?

Here is a very cool video from a early season K-State Wildcats women’s basketball game. The atmosphere Peter Rabbit, along with KSU mascot Willie the Wildcat, creates is magic. I can’t imagine how pumped the crowd would have been in a later season contest with a packed arena.  Enjoy!

#NerdyBookClub: From Nerdy Sea to Shining Nerdy Sea

A clean, well-lighted place.

A refuge in our chaotic and busy modern lives for all things reading and writing and kid lit and teaching and, most importantly, friendship.

That’s what the Nerdy Book Club is.

The NBC is the clean, well-lighted place in cyberspace where a scientist/writer/coach from the beautiful Flint Hills of Kansas can be accepted into the fold of writers, teachers, readers, researchers, illustrators from all over God’s creation.

Educations has always touted the 3-R’s. Nerdy Book Club are those and so much more.

  • Reading
  • Writing
  • Relationships
  • Research
  • Recommendations
  • Reveals
  • Raves
  • Reviews
  • Respect
  • Revelation
  • Revolution

(Challenge: Can you think of more Nerdy Book Club “R’s”? Add them in the comments if you can.)

And, how about this? They let me publish three NBC posts.  Me! An idiotic, stupid-funny, slightly smart-assed, 100% sport-ish, rather large human being can even post essays on the blog. And here’s the supporting evidence:

(Hopefully, there will be at least several more M. Hays blog post in the future as they continue to allow me to slip through the cracks.)

In my opinion, they invented the internet with things like the Nerdy Book Club in mind. Communities of like-minded individuals from every facet and walk of life pulled together by the force of the written word. The Nerdy Book Club is a community; it is a tour de force in the educational and literary world.

Soon, there will be nErDcampMI 2014. Unfortunately, I cannot be there. When you’re a husband/father/scientist/writer/coach, sometimes (often) life replaces the “want to” with the “need to”. Maybe someday.

nErDcampLOGO2014But, I will be there is spirit. I will follow on social media as much as possible and live/learn vicariously through the posts and tweets of the NBC brethren in attendance.

Fellow Nerdy Book Clubbers, have a great two days of celebration and learning. Swap knowledge, swap stories, and, if you have a chance, share freely with us friendlies across the World Wide Web.

And above all else, folks…

Be Nerdy!

ME READ BOOK

We’re not supposed to like reading.
We’re not supposed to like writing.
We appear to be big, dumb jocks.
We look somewhat scary.
We act somewhat scary.
We get tagged as Neanderthals.
From our look,we are
supposed to like certain things,
do certain things,
and act a particular way.
Because of the way we look,
we are judged at first glance,
judged to a stereotype.

I would like to offer an invitation to everyone who has ever swam upstream against the current of stereotype. An invitation to celebrate a love of books and literature despite how we look or act, especially those of us “Neanderthals” who like to read children’s literature .

Me? I fall into the category of dumb-jock stereotype. I guess a big, football lineman-type, multiple sport-crazy athlete and coach, with a somewhat scary visage which often makes little kids cry, cannot also be an intellectually driven, reader and writer of literature. People seem to look at people like me and naturally think, “He’s a Neanderthal.”

  • Maybe its the truck driver looks? (Which, by the way, was the Hollywood descriptor of my extras casting photo when I was given a part as an extra in a movie back in my college days.)
  • Maybe it’s the occasional ranting and raving?
  • Maybe its the Kansas twang of my dialect or the silent “g” in “-ing”?
  • Maybe it’s the smile or the scowl which split time on my face?

Whatever the reason, I have been often stereotyped as the dumb-jock Neanderthal. In honor of fighting against the stereotype, I invite you to join me in a little Twitter fun.

Inspired by The Incredible Hulk, I am going to celebrate reading and literature every Wednesday by tweeting the book(s) I am currently reading under the hashtag, #MeReadBook.

If there is also an audio-book in the mix, that title will be tweeted under the hashtag, #MeHearBook.

Remember: Never judge a book by its cover.

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