Thoughts from the AMEN Pew #64

It’s been a minute. It’s been busy. I cannot fucking believe its almost march. This year is going at warp speed, which makes me scared for 2024. Usually when one year flies by, the next one is a drag. 2022 felt like a drag. 2023, so far, ludicrous speed.

Let’s get it in.

On the homestead front, it has been a cloudy year. With my wife having to go on the job hunt after many years. The light is starting to come through, but it’s proving to be an emotionally fraught experience. I can only hope for stability through the rest of 23.

But to be honest, so far, better year than the last one. My son is doing good at school. A ton of extracurriculars (karate, swimming, coding, golf, basketball).

I’ve honestly been too busy to look my head up. Hoping I get some of that later this year.

As discussed at length, I am STILL going through discographies. Now I got one of the party people in the know on the trip with me. Current topic is Genesis, which I am not thinking will get its own blog post save for a retrospective on one album (stay tuned for next week).

But, man I can’t express how much I am enjoying this shit. Diving cold into shit I never heard again. It really is giving me energy. Like even if the album is mediocre. Its a big surprise for me to just jump into a record.

And hey, some of it, I have a real person connection to, dig the vibes there of, and/or just flat out think is a masterpiece (again, see next week). So far, we got to Genesis’ big record. So not the REAL shame yet. But for now, I am just happy to be innudated by the new.

Music has taken over from movies for now, and I am totally fine with that.

You know what MTG, fine. You get your separation… But this time, I get to be Sherman. And we not stopping at Charleston. I’m turning the army around and we doing the rest of it. Hell, Ill turn it around past Texas and we will go north from there. War is hell.

Ok, I am going to do the damnable thing now. Cause I’ve been drinking.

You see all these places passing bans on laws that actually effect Trans youth. I don’t see big protests there. Or at the legislators who wrote the laws houses. Or at the respective governors mansions. Nope, those energies have been reserved to video games.

Grow the fuck up. Either do things that are actually difficult, like being in the streets or fucking don’t. I tell you what is stupid, bulling randoms on the internet who have no legislative power.

I don’t have skin in this game. I want to see everyone get all their rights. I just don’t think any cause is furthered on the internet. At all. The internet is a worthless fucking thing. I know it is, cause I get to write on it.

One last thing before I go. Another friend of mine is watching Silicon Valley for the first time. And oh man, I loved that show. In another life, I lived there, and I used to teach newcomers about how the area works. And when I did, I used to point to that show. Like sure, its satire, but it is on the fucking nose.

Nothing else I have seen captured a time and a place in my life in the same way. There are so many stories that are unfortunately still not fit to put here (maybe someday). But man, I connect to everything in that show in a big way.

I leave you with a character who I have seen several of in my life. And man….it’s scary.

And on that note. A taste from next week, cause I can’t help myself. Hope you are making it just fine through this winter. We are almost done. Just hunker down. Get some flava when you can.


Observations from the obscure parts of Bob Dylan’s Discography

I have discussed this before, but the way I got my pop music education was through services like Lala. I mostly used it to go through piles of lists. Best albums of all time, best of the 70s, 80s, etc. Going through every album on those lists that every music publication issues.

Towards the end of that time, I had artists I really loved, and I used this tech to go through their discographies. I had a ton of energy for it. Powered through a ton of music, just to get a full picture of artists I loved.

But, I never did it with Dylan. Cause Dylan got close to 40 studio albums. And that is just fucking daunting. So, I never did it, and eventually I just lost energy for it. Years passed.

And for whatever reason, I got the energy back at the start of this year. Did Nick Cave and after that, I wanted to tackle the big dog.

Instead of reviewing like 40 fucking albums, I just want to give a few observations.

1. No Surprises AKA The Classics Are Classics for a Reason

Going into this journey, I had previously heard 14 of the almost 40 records. Of those, like 10 of them are considered masterpieces. Of that list, there is probably 7-8 that have been in regular rotation in my listening habits, and like 4-5 that I think are perfect in every way.

And guess what, there isn’t hidden shit hanging out on those other records. Sure, there are some good songs on there. And there are some decent albums too.


Not really.

More than anything there is just a giant pile of meh.

I mean, my main takeaway from this project is, I wasn’t really missing anything (except for a few notes I mention below). I’m glad I did it. I learned a lot about an artist whose music has been all over my life. But, I don’t think I walked away with a ton of new music to put into the rotation.

2. How Do These Artists Pick Dylan Covers?

Lets talk about the track that was the match that started this fire. Nick Cave’s cover of Death is Not The End. I think more than any other record, I really wanted to get to Down in the Groove, so I could hear what he was hearing. Cause that is a great fucking song.

I don’t know what he was hear. That album is meh by design. I guess it shows why I am just a consumer and not a producer. CLEARLY, Nick Cave heard something in that album that I didn’t. Like I listened to Dylan’s original, and I am like… How did anyone pick this song on that record? Everything on that album blends together like butterscotch pudding at a nursing home.

Its just mush. Maybe I am just not tuned to that wavelength and it takes an artist to bring it to life. But either way, good on all those artists who have covered this. Cause I don’t hear what makes it great out of the original recording.

3. The Christian Period is the Worst

There is always big discussion about the “worst” Dylan period. Self Portrait/New Morning period gets tossed around a lot. Empire Burlesque/80s shame era gets tossed around too. But, to me, those era’s biggest crime is being boring. Just snooze fests.

The worst Dylan period by far is the Christian-era. And I don’t mean just cause we got songs about Jesus. Cause the first record in the bunch is great. And it gets the laurels it deserves.

No, I am talking about the other two records. The real shame. When Dylan decided he is Mahalia Jackson. Dylan doing straight up gospel style tunes. How embarrassing.

Like look, the song writing sucks. Fresh gospel tunes can be carried sometimes by excellent performances, and we don’t have that. Instead we are left with Dylan leading a gospel choir through his tunes.

Saved and Shot of Love are easily the worst thing Dylan has ever done. Like yeah, Tempest and Triplicate are boring slogs. But Saved and Shot of Love have genuinely bad songs.

If you want to hear the worst Dylan. Go for that (in my opinion). You will get your shame.

4. Some of Those Latter-Day Albums Are Really Good AKA I Am STILL Thinking About Alicia Keys

Dylan had a run in the late 90s/early 2000s that is fantastic. This should be a surprise to no one. A lot of positive critical press at the time. But if you are like me, you tend to ignore some of that stuff. Many later day albums get praise but only some of them are really great.

Dylan has three. I will highlight Modern Times, cause that is the one that caught me by surprise. Great songwriting, composition, execution. Everything you want from an end of career artists.

Once we got to the 2010s, Dylan decided to like make albums that were like….about the fact that he was old and dying, and it just….doesn’t work as well.

I would stick to that middle-2000s period. There is good stuff there.

My thoughts on Dylan remain the same before this experience as they are now. The man is a genius. I dont know how many people can have this much material and have 1/4 be untouchable masterpieces. That is a strong fucking batting average.

And I may go back to revisit some of the obscure ones. I feel like I should give Infidels another spin. And I know I will be back to try to decipher Down in the Groove.

But, I leave you dear reader with one thought. Enjoy some Dylan today. The man has so much great shit. Luxuriate in it. Enjoy it. Be glad it made it into this plane of existence.

The Life and (gradual) Death of a Car (Storytime)

I feel like everyone’s first car is a car they remembered. My first car carried me through high school to college graduation. Ended up being a total of seven years. Not bad for a car that was almost 10 years old and had over 100k miles when I got it.

But I digress. For the first few years I spent driving, I was borrowing various cars across the family. The car I borrowed the most often was at first my aunt’s car, then eventually my grandmother’s car, a 1991 Buick Regal Limited.

A facsimile. But it looked exactly like this. Real pictures of this car will remain with me.

It got to the end of high school, and I needed a car to get through college in New Orleans. My grandparents made an easy decision. The Buick was getting old, and it was a perfect car to get beat up on the mean streets of Uptown.

So, my first ever visit to a notary public was to pay my grandparents $100 for the title to the Buick.

I rechristened the car immediately. Inspired by (or directly stealing from) Sam Raimi’s infamous automobile

The Classic

And that was its name for the rest of its life.

For a long while, it was THE chosen mode of transportation for my friends. Punk rock show? Lets take the classic. Going to see a movie in New Orleans? Pull the classic around. Etc. Wal-Mart run at 1am? Most definitely need the classic.

My first semester of college, freshman weren’t allowed then to have a car on campus. So, the classic moved from spot to spot all over uptown. Hiding out in strategic locations for relatively easy access.

I took the classic up to Chicago for an internship semester in the winter. It got buried in 5 feet of snow, and I had to dig it out. And it still started like a champ.

Many many trips on the east coast, out west to Texas were made in the classic. Never failed on any of those journeys.

It was a common sight to look for this buick in a parking lot, and then you would know thats where the stupid was at. And if people were being assholes… when my aunt had it, she actually had the entire audio system replaced, so the classic could fucking bump if it had to. … it was not uncommon to see me do a shitty peel out while blasting Pussy Crook at full volume.

However its biggest claim to fame is its survivability. This car died the slowest death of any car I will ever own. It flat out did not want to die, and was going to make it to my graduation come hell or high water.

It all started with the alternator. That car ATE alternators. I don’t know if it was a flaw in the model, but it was one of those things where I had one car place I would go to. Cause they gave me lifetime guarantee on the alternator. Big mistake. I went through 5 different alternators in the last five years of the car, and only paid $40 each time to replace it.

Then it was the struts. The city of New Orleans was not kind at all to the classic. Again, I went to a lifetime warranty place for the struts. That was more like $150 to change all 4 struts after I bought them new. That I just couldn’t afford to change. So, eventually, I would just bottom out every single time the car got too full or I hit a bump. If I was going down the overpass on Earhart Blvd, I was bottoming out the whole way down.

But, the car survived multiple assassination attempts. The first was on a wet Mardi Gras day. I had parked next to a friend of mine’s house. Can’t even remember where we were going. We were hanging out for a bit then we heard a big BOOM. Didn’t know what the fuck it was. Turns out a drunk driver ran a red light and did a full 360 into the classic.

Ok, maybe just one picture of the actual Classic.

Fucked up the car real good. I drove it home and the suspension was all fucked up. The car kept jerking to the right.

We figured it was a total. Oh no, they could repair it. This one repair shop had piles of old buick parts for some reason. Quoted a price to the insurance to fix it, and that was it. The classic came back to life. And you would think that would be it.

Oh no. Not for this car.

Like a year and change later. I am driving through Alabama, on my way back to New Orleans. I just tanked up. I go in the Wendy’s drive thru. Giant jacked up truck in front of me. Decides he doesn’t want to weight in line. And I saw it all happen in real time… “He’s gunna drive over me.” I slam my horn. He lands his full tire on the top of the hood. The car is still running.

I get the insurance information. Cause I didn’t want to waste time in Alabama. Ill deal with it when I get back home…if I could get home. I pull in a local repair shop, with the car still running. I just ask them, “Can it make it back to New Orleans.”

Their response was simple, “Well its not overheating. Its running. Keep it that way. Drive it home and don’t stop. I am not sure what will happen when you turn the car off.”

So I do that. It made it all the way back to New Orleans. Parked in front of my apartment. Boom, car died.

I thought for SURE that would total it. Oh no, it only damaged the hood at the compressor. I never got another A/C to work 100% right in that car. Always too hot in the summer, too cold in the winter. Just whatever replacement part they found, wasn’t right.

Then the radiator died. We still aren’t sure why that one happened. Bad hose? Something. I did get that fixed for cheap.

Then a friend of mine broke the passenger side seat belt. My grandfather bolted a replacement he found into the steel frame with a rivet gun.

Then the brakes crapped out. I ended up tapping someone. That was more annoyance than cost.

The car sat outside for Katrina. Went through that Chicago winter I talked about AFTER all that happened to it. Managed to drag across the finish line. I am about to graduate, and one day I go to the car….and it wont start. Alternator…yet again….

I was about to move up to Chicago permanently. Was hoping The Classic would make one last trip up to the Land of Lincoln. But, alas. That’s when I decided to get my first grown up car.

I ended up having that car for 10 years. I am now 5 years in on my 3rd car. And both of those have been reliable and I have no complaints. But, those cars don’t mean to me what The Classic did. It was the car that got me through that right time of my life. Got me through hard times and good times.

If you are curious about the final end, I actually donated it to a halfway house that had a used car lot. My grandmother was taping the local TV and happened upon an ad for their car lot…and what’s at the front but The Classic.

I can only hope someone else got some life out of that car. Cause, I know I did.

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