My first full length album: Metal for Morgan

The album has been submitted for approval and will be pushed to streaming sites and other sites in a few days. Once it’s availble I’ll post links to it and add more notes.

I’ve recorded with friends on their songs, and I’ve recorded a few singles of my own, but I never found the time to record my own full length album until being laid off earlier in the year. I was looking for a place where I could go hang out, work on my songs, and then record them when a friend’s wife saw a post I made pertaining to that idea and he contacted me.

At first, I had planned a mostly acoustic album with the majority of the same songs that are on MfM, but not with electric guitars, or drums, or anything like what I ended up producing. I went to the studio on the very first day with the intention of just doing acoustic and maybe a few instrumentals. Now, mind you, the intent was to make an album so that I could one, record my first full length, and two, have some music online for my son, Morgan, to be able to listen to. I didn’t even think about doing an album like this until I started jamming with Ryan Clark, and then realized that he was an absolutely fantastic drummer and loved metal. I knew he was an engineer and producer, but always just thought of him as this super nice and happy guy who played cajon, and wrote acoustic songs. Ryan even played with me a few times over the years but I never knew more than that impression and was quite happy and surprised after he contacted me.

To explain how I got to the final prduct from wanting to do an acoustic album, I guess the part I wasn’t really thinking about was the Bogner Uberschall that I’ve had for eighteen years and barely used over the last eight. I took it to the studio just in case we might find some inspiration and a few places to use it on the album, not that it would become a hugely inspirational and foundational piece of this entire thing.

The Bogner Uberschall is, in my opinion, one of the finest sounding amplifiers ever made. I originally bought it while living in North Carolina and didn’t understand that it in combination with my old, green ESP Vintage Plus and the Seymour Duncan Vintate Rails, made a matched set of awesomeness and a fairly uncommon tone when combined. I took the same ESP when I tried out the amp before buying it and was immediately hooked on the lush and flavorful tube tones that it produced, but still didn’t get the combination and didn’t truly understand that until Ryan’s eyes lit up and he grinned from ear to ear when he first heard it.

The pairing of the ESP, Bogner, and Vintage Rails gives a metallic and not overly saturated tone. It’s biting and visceral, but still refined enough to cater to rock and roll, yet powerful enough to make a metal song have the bite and growl it needs to fit the bill. I have to say that altough I haven’t tried a lot of new amps for quite a while, this is and will probably always be my favorite amp. Tubes just yield the best tones to me and this baby, loaded with EL34s, makes me smile every time I play with it. It’s the type of amp that you don’t have to turn up to seven to get a rich saturation, and you can quietly play this 120w, 4×12 driven amp in your bedroom at a low volume and it still sounds amazing.

To cover a little more of the gear used on the album, we also used a Bogner Barcelona with various pedals (Keeley modified Rat, Red Bogner) for doubling the guitars, and I bought a new, purple ESP loaded with Seymour Duncan Saturday Night Specials, to help differentiate the tones. The purple ESP, as we refered to it, would end up being used for all the solos on the album and 95% of the doubled rythym. We also used an Orange amp loaded with two ten inch speakers and an SG on one song for a little difference. And to give credit where it’s due: I was against using the Orange at first, but it really does have a great sound and I’m not one to deny facts, and I will always admit when I’m wrong. I was wrong.

The concept of the album came to me quite suddenly, and many thanks to my son for his input, ideas, and inspiration. I made this album for him and the title came after realizing we were making a harder, heavier, and more metal based album because he would ask me from time to time to play metal while jamming on the guitar for him. He loved the more “angry” riffs and would dance around, playing air guitar, and banging his head to them. I would play different riffs for him and ask him to tell me what mood he felt from them and all the metal(ish) stuff was “angry” to him. After establishing the new direction and sound for the album, it easily came to me early on in the process that this album would be ‘Metal for Morgan’. Morgan loves Ozzy and Crazy Train so I had Stella add the T shirt and she came up with a few other east eggs.

To describe the whole album, it’s mostly rock songs, with three heavy instrumentals, and two acoustic songs. I was going to add a few acoustic instrumentals but decided to hold them for the next release. I may even debut them as singles now that I have the momentum and desire to share and document my music. To say the whole album is metal is not true, but rock mostly, and maybe a little bit harder due to the Bogner and how tough it was to turn down the gain on such an amazing sounding amp!

Tracks and Notes:

Diatomaceous Earth — This is an instrumental idea that I’ve had for many years and nearly forgot. Fortunately I had a video of it on Youtube and quickly relearned it. The name came from the substance of the same and was part of the recording experience, which I’ll just leave you to wonder about. No, I wasn’t eating it…

Mother Nature — Most people who know my music or have heard me play out somewhere, know this song and it’s always been one of my more popular tunes. I started writing this when I was about sixteen but put it down for a long time until I came up with more music for it in the early 2000’s, then after moving to California a few years later, penned the rest of the lyrics and finished it. MN is the first song I completed and is about a place I used to walk to clear my head. It was my cathartic process to get all the negative stuff I was experiencing when I was young, out.

Garbage Trucks — I wrote this song specifically for Morgan and worked on it over a few years untli I found the rest of it due to his input. I had all the music down but writing about a specific subject has always been hard for me and I just couldn’t figure out where to go with it until I asked Morgan and he told me to say something about where the trucks take the trash and go at the end of the day. That was enough for me to complete it and after Ryan pushed me to add more verses, I wrote out a few based on Morgan’s input and we completed it. The guitar solo parts I had in my head for a few months and managed to translate them exactly. All I needed then was a good, solid backing with the drums, a tasty bass line, and the smoke to help me sing it with the right tone! Yes, the fires in California at the time played a big role in recording this whole album, but also the vocals for this song.

I Met a Girl — I wrote this song as a concept a few years back, about how I always met the same type of lady. Now, to preface this song description, I’m not saying anything negative about women at all — this is about me and what I attract, not about women in general. I just always seem to attract the wrong type of women to me and I guess I do have an idea why and this song helped me understand it. But there’s a lot more to it, and in chorus I touch upon an empty feeling I’ve always had inside and a lady that I’ve dreamed about my whole life but I don’t know if I’ve ever met her. The song Said and Done is related to that and may give a more clear definition. I took this song to a songwriter’s group I used to attend and co-host, and they always struggled with me reusing the name Mary Ann, but it makes sense to me!

Rule the World — Rule is my favorite track on the album and was one that I had started to write and shelved about ten years ago. I just couldn’t find what I wanted to do with it and kept thinking that the verse was going to be the chorus. I was looking for a harder edged song for the album after our first session and new direction for the album, and off the cuff, I wrote the chorus, very loosely and didn’t fully realize it until we jammed on it in the studio and I’m pretty sure the rythym in the song was the first take with some improvised parts. I quickly finished the lyrics and the song was done. Now, I know it might be easy to assign the meaning to specific people, but it’s not about anyone, but more about everyone who craves power and money. Maybe more to the ultra rich and how every single one of them loses touch with the humble parts and the sickness of greed takes over.

Moving Slowly — You could definitely say that this track is related to Mother Nature, and more of an adendum to it than anything. It’s about being stuck somewhere you aren’t happy and watching others get out while you’re still there. It’s about several attempts I made to get out of WV when I was young and how I had to come back a few times. I was apprehensive about playing this song with distortion on an electric guitar at first but found inspiration from Ryan due to him identifying the Rush in my influences.

Hammification — The name of this instrumental came from a process I use for making Sous Vide steaks. I add a lot of salt and slow cook them at 126F, which is enough to keep them pink and juicy, but it gives them a rainbow, metallic sheen from being basically cured like a ham. The music was some that I came up with a long time ago and we even improvised a few new parts for it and cut down some of the original. I love the raw, rock and roll feel to it and draw a little on a lot of my roots in it.

Gopher Hunting — I was going to originally call this ‘Potty Training’ and still consider both hunting gophers and training a child to use a toilet at about the same level of difficulty. Which is the same as recording this piece after not playing it for years. I have barely used a guitar pick over the last ten years due to a motorcycle wreck that left me with titanium in both arms and pain when using a pick. It was only after our first jam session together that I picked the pick back up. We improvised a few new parts for this and I wrote a few and even cut out an original part. You can hear the original on my Youtube channel as one of the three heavy samples. This is a throw back to my 80’s metal inspirations and was all the purple ESP. We cranked up the gain on the amps and I practiced the riffs over and over until we recorded it. We spent one day and recorded four solid hours of jamming just this piece. I thought it just about killed us! Ryan looked like he had just completed a marathon and my arm hurt for three days! I think this is by far the most energetic piece on the album it’s definitely not something you should drive and listen to!

You Know Me — I wrote this song kind of for my ex-wife and kind of just a general piece about loving someone a lot but feeling a bit beat up from it. The chorus is just me saying that I liked the old us and never wanted it to get some complicated. You could probably say this is one of my punk songs and I intentionally didn’t put lead guitar on it to emphasize that. I really like how it came out and was surprised when Ryan added the harmonies to it that he said he didn’t think it needed! I think they worked quite well and am quite proud of the final version.

Seasons — This is a song that I’ve recorded before but didn’t think I was really nailing what I wanted to say. I’m still not sure that it’s 100% where I wanted it to be but I’m very happy with this version and adding distortion and electric guitars gave it a very different feel and power. The song is about life and merely just an observation of me looking at it through the lens of seasons. It was a concept song that I wrote during my time in the songwriter group when I first realized I could sing and wanted to write more. It doesn’t really have a chorus as tradionally defined, but more of a statement.

Standard Issue Guy — This was originally just a short acoustic song that I wrote to fit a riff I came up with that I liked. I had played it at a few open mics and wasn’t even going to record it until we jammed on it and Ryan mentioned that he remembered it from me playing it out somewhere and that it had a punk feel to it. We worked on it a good bit and some people might prefer the acoutic at the end over the first part but I liked it and the final version is something I’m proud of and thankful to Ryan for helping me understand how it could be.

Said and Done — Here’s a song that’s a continuation of I Met a Girl, but more in touch with my emotions about it. The song basically just says that I’m still alone and probably never will find this lady who I keep seeing in my dreams. Maybe she’s not real and all fantasy, but I’ll probably never know. It’s also about how there’s nothing new that we can say or do and you just need to take people as they are with all their faults and find the parts you love and appreciate them. We all have flaws and the best of us will always try to overcome those and grow.

Birthday Song — Back when Warner Bros made a stink about their Birthday Song, I had this little piece of music and wrote the lyrics to it as an alternative. Nothing more but to say Happy Birthday!

Liner Notes

All songs written and composed by Brent Shinn
Recorded by Ryan Clark

Brent Shinn
Guitars, Bass, Vocals

Ryan Clark
Drums, Sheep Sounds

Special thanks to Melissa Lyn for making this happen and being an awesome person and friend.

Dedicated to my son Morgan: May you always love music and be humble with your ability and talents. And if you never become a musician, I’ll still love you but I’ll sell my guitars! My baby boy; I’m so sorry life has worked out the way it has, but some stones are impossible to move and all you can do is walk around them.

To my brother Mark Shinn for being an influence in art and music, and to my twin brother Brian Shinn for being supportive when I needed it.

Mom and Dad, I wish you could hear this.

Glad You’re Gone

I wrote this as an exercise so I’m not going to claim all the psychological baggage that gets automatically added. I wanted to go back and forth from D minor and D major and use the major to add a bit of a happier feeling to a song about being glad that someone is out of my life. I have to say that it wasn’t really about anyone, specifically, but there’s always some underlying, subliminal stuff that we can’t help but add.

I recorded a few songs on a park bench in Buenos Aires and this was one good take save for the dog barking but that’s good stuff; I brought it back from the archive to help me get a good sense of my music again and get back in the groove and write and perform more. I don’t know that I’ll be performing anywhere in public, but I do plan to record some songs and sets of songs and post them.

Hope you enjoy!

Brent

The things we never know…

No matter how smart you are, or think you are, you will never know everything and you just can’t. It doesn’t work like that and there will always been things that you just couldn’t think of.

We wade through life like water at times, and if you’re a good person, you try to understand the people around you and try to grasp their take on things. I always think of others and look out for people and just feel a lot for everyone. I’ve wanted to learn about them so I can gain knowledge and wisdom that will help me. But the one thing I always find is that there’s always a surprise waiting, somewhere, and it will find you when you least expect it. There’s also probably some cool theory to explain that, but you know what I mean. If you aren’t finding surprises anymore then maybe you just aren’t doing anything new? I don’t know and I still don’t understand. Maybe that’s my problem and I shouldn’t be surprised!

When I was young we moved to a new house in a new area, again, and this was to be my last home with my parents; one where I would embark upon life, all on my own for the first time. There’s a signifigance to that if you moved around a lot like my family did and you don’t really have one place that you call home. So that house represented a period of my life and that’s basically how I look at each home: a period in my life in a different area for a few years, in a different house. But they all had a different perspective and my memories are all categorized in my head by which house we lived in when a particular event occured.

This last house was in a cluster of five houses right together and everyone knew everyone and in fact, two of them still live in the same place and never moved. One family had two young kids, 10 and 11 at the time, and I would babysit them periodically and just hang out with them and their mom because they were cool and just felt like family to me. On the days that I watched them, we would watch Aliens and usually all three back-to-back! They had the lines of the movies memorized and I want to remind the younger readers that ‘back then’ there wasn’t an Internet and in many places you didn’t even have TV cable and some folks shared phone lines. They had VHS tape recordings and that’s what we watched, every day. They weren’t even good copies but they were cool movies and I never really did mind and wonder now if those movies affected them? Or me for that matter. I just had to message one of them to ask if they still remember all the lines to them.

But therein lies a world of wonder and surprise. I haven’t thought about that period of my life for a long time, but I do still randomly think about little things here and there and the house and my dad and all the events over the four years I lived there. Even through all those thoughts and memories and even lessons and wisdom gained, I never thought about the impact I might have had on the kids and how they really ever thought of me. The older kid, the girl called me her brother since day one and I’ve always thought of her as a sister. She even has a nickname for me that’s she’s always called me. But I haven’t talked with the younger kid since living in that house so I just didn’t have his perspective in mind at all until just now. He had messaged me online about something on a post I had made and wanted to mention it to me. We started talking a bit and then he tells me today that I was somewhat of a hero to him way back when, and it brought me to tears.

You know what it’s like if you’ve lived long enough. It’s just hard to keep up relations once we all start moving around and some people who you may never expect to, have strong ties to you that have had an impact, or touched them in some way that left a lasting impression on the person they grew to be. Now, I’m not saying that’s what this is, but all my heroes left one with me and I wanted to be like them in some capacity. I feel that there’s something I took from each person I knew that I still have somewhere in me, even if I’ve forgot what it is or whence it came. But the revelation and the surprise is that I was actually even “somewhat” of a hero to anyone. It touched me and I’m a bit teary eyed writing this now. I feel bad for a few reasons and I know it’s not something I could really have thought of, but I never went back to visit him. I did see his sister a few times but I never managed to see him although I always asked of him and how he was doing, I never did see him and it’s now been over thrity years. My last memory is of a ten year old boy but I’ve talked with him online over the years and know him.

People who live their whole upbringing in the same house just won’t be able to understand this but when you have grown up in a dozen different places and houses, you make a lot of friends and it becomes very difficult to keep in touch with everyone. It’s very difficult for me, anyway, but I had a lot of best friends and I still love them all and talk to most of them. One killed himself years ago after I had introduced him to another best friend of mine and not that it’s related but I’ve lost them as well. I’ve lost many friends to suicide and the one that was really close to me had lifelong impact on how I think and feel about certain things. We grew up in a time without the safety features built-in, and labels slapped on everything. There were no guard rails on life and when you grew up in the deep hills, often the only road out you find is one you have to make. I moved away and then came back and then away and back and then away for good. It’s like a heavy gravity your home state. You’ll love it no matter how much you hate it, and it will always be in name, be home.

Life has been weird to me and although I have a big family, and getting bigger, I’ve discovered that we find other family members out there, even though we may not be genetically related. And to those people, when you discover you had more of an impact on them than you realized, and you feel strong emotions that overwhelm you, then that person really was ‘family’ in any and all sense of the word. And the impact was bidirectional and I’m now glad I know this and plan to visit my family soon and more often in the future.

The scale of economics

Or a guide to getting the fuck out of West Virginia, or another similarly impoverished area with ultra-low paying jobs, and overbearing politics.

If you live somewhere like West Virginia (which there really isn’t anywhere else like), and you want to move away, you have to deal with what I call the ‘scale of economics’. That might be a real thing and I didn’t research it because I’m just simply refering to the differnce in costs between two places like California and the aforementioned impoverished place, and what it takes to move to CA. Yes, that’s probably just about the most extreme example I can give save for maybe Puerto Rico where they are poorer and you’d also have to add in a longer flight or boat ride to get you and your stuff out.

I’ve always used this concept to explain to people why it’s so hard to go from WV to CA even just to visit for a vacation. Visiting California is just not something you hear about much when you grow up there. The few people you know who have even visited California are either in the Navy, or just the coolest and most interesting people otherwise. California is a fantasy place in a land, far, far away and one you just don’t image yourself being able to afford to visit or even move to.

You have a few options and I mentioned the Navy already and there’s also the Air Force and Coast Guard which are great ways to get the fuck out. You can even get paid to go to school and unlearn some of the crap you thought you knew. The second options is couch surfing and that one is the most random, fly by the seat of your pants way of getting there and that’s how I did it. But, you can’t have a plan like I did because it just randomly unfolded in front of me and that is all about the luck you create. You just have to be able to spot the opportunities as they present and jump. I had a lady I met and we were interested in each other and that gravity made it so much easier. The random reasons I even met her were a crazy series of events that ended up with me in a chat room and an offer to visit California.

I’ll explain my journey later, but for now I want to talk about the other options and the saving money one is probably the only realistic route you have. It costs a lot out here. I pay $4.20/gal for diesel. I pay $40 for a steak from the grocery store that I still have to cook. I can take you down the street and get you a $9 beer and a $20 hamburger and they’ll be damn good, but nothing is cheaper out here than it is in West Virginia expect opinions. And before I continue, let me rant a bit: Californians who have never even visited KY, WV, TN, VA, AL, etc… know so much more about it than you do. Now, stop laughing and listen up, because when you come from somewhere like that, this shit is already obvious, but the jerk from San Francisco who has a never been there, knows how to solve all our problems, and won’t even listen to you explain whlie they anxious wait to blurt out their next ignorant and misguided idea. Out here, we have people who are more than activists, their what I refer to as ‘assumists’, and they assume they already know everything because they’re from California.

I won’t pick on California because I love it here and I’ve been able to reap the rewards and live a good life for a long time. I got out because I didn’t fit in and I never did. I think my greatest failure in life was not getting out earlier, but I don’t think I was ready and that’s attached to another failure I have, that I didn’t go to college, or should I say that I didn’t stick with it. I’ll have to explain that all at another point but I definitely think that young people need to travel a lot and see as many different places as possible. It wasn’t until I started traveling that I really started to understand a lot of the information I had accumulated from years of reading about all sorts of different topics. I think if I had front loaded the experiences that the information would have made immediate sense, even though at the time I read it, it made sense to me, I didn’t understand as much about perspective then as I do now. The flow of learning things naturally is often a lot about luck as well!

So, to suffice to say that the perspective is hard to explain to someone who lives here in California, but who has never visited one of these places and has never really seen a fifty year old house trailer on cinder blocks, with junk cars in the yard and kids playing about the broken down machines and what might appear as junk to you. That junk often provides parts and money to the people who collect it. It’s all about the perspective!

The price of rent really hasn’t increased much in the thrity years since I rented my first apartment. I paid $350/month back then and I can find places to rent that are equivalent quality and factors for $4-500 and then a range that’s just all over the place and I’m sure the quality and location as well. A trailer on a hillside, up some hollar with a dirt road is going to a lot cheaper than an apartment in the city but if it’s a new trailer and they have city water, then it costs more. You don’t hear that out here ‘city water’ and it’s been some time since I’ve heard it said, but I kind of miss it. So the rent has barely moved there in a long time but out here it’s ten times what I paid thirty years ago, and 8-9 times more than what I would pay right now if I were in West Virginia. I do see with the pandemic that there are some deals to be had and it looks like prices on apartments have dropped some out here but that will change and go back to normal in no time. Corporations are buying up all the houses out here and eventually will own it all and just rent it back to us.

What has gone up are utilities and the price of food, and guess what, they pay basically the same damn prices for electronics, cell phones, the service for them, etc… and they make a lot less money. Your new TV is the same price, the Internet sucks and is barely available and costs a lot. I have gig fiber at home and I’m super spoiled with it and don’t even have a phone line or cable. Internet is all I need but if you live in West Virginia, you have to get cable and pay too much for it because the Internet isn’t going to good enough to stream everything. You’ll still have to have a land line because you might live somewhere that doesn’t have cell service or Internet at all. Yes, in America that’s entirely true in many regions just like West Virginia. You’d think the east cost of the US would be all fiber and advanced like that but it’s not and more like a third world country in many ways.

So you’re going to move to California and get a job and live the good life for a while. You now understand that you’ll have to save first and last and the deposit, right? So your rent might be $3,000/mo so that will be $9,000 up front and you need money for utilities and the deposits. It really starts to go up and saving northward of 10k for anyone from those areas is a huge thing. Especially in an area where the minimum wage isn’t $15/hr. You need to start saving when you’re five if your dad can keep his job the whole time and your parents don’t need your money. It’s going to take a long, long time to save the money that you have no guarantee will be enough. You really need to find a job that will relocate you but that’s pretty rare unless you’re a highly educated, professional type or a programmer with lots of experience. You do not want to have a plan that involves you sleeping in your car because that will end up bad, every time. You’ll be robbed. If not while sleeping in it or when you’re not with it, someone will break into it or outright steal it. Cars with crap in them get broken into here. It’s a career out here so that’s the worst option. After the car is gone you’ll only have the street and it’s really, really bad out here right now if you live on the street.

It’s all about the money and when you’re from a place like I am, that money seems like it’s on another planet with California. You just daydream of getting out of there and seeing all the amazing things you’ve read about and seen in movies.

At this point you have few other options and I just want to stress again, that sleeping in your vehicle isn’t an option you want to try. There are so many that try and some that are successful at it, but they’re also usually the ones that are permanently living in their vehicles and they’ve got experience and wisdom from the road. They’re figured out a lot of the stuff that you have no idea about and they also figured that stuff out in a different time. California is way different than it was twenty years ago, and another twenty, etc… There’s always been a dangerous element and you know all the movies about serial killers, mad bikers, whatever, it’s just a lot worse these days and there are other, potentially more dangerous elements from the side effects of hateful politics, waiting to explode.

I think you can still manage to couch surf in this crazy, pandemic ridden world, but it will have elements that I never had to deal with. Maybe you can find someone that will let you pitch a tent on their deck or in their enclosed back yard. If there’s a will, there’s always a way to find something safe, or at least safer than the street. You have to remember, if you don’t live our here and have never been out here that there are elements you may have seen on TV but cannot begin to fathom until you experience them in person. Most homeless people do not want to be on the street but have no choice because of numerous factors, and mental health is often a big part. We do have a lot of pandemic displacement but oft times, a lot of that was a from a population of folks, already in tight situations with life that are easily disrupted. Then once they get out there, they’re just one of thousands in a line for soup, or another need. Once you’re on the street, a lot of normally available opportunities go away because or more than perception and bias, but prejudice. Don’t be quick to judge something you have no immediate knowledge or experience with and that’s a common misconception from West Virginians I hear about homeless people. There are a few in WV, and not many. My mother used to make blankets for them. It just gets too cold in the winter and you won’t see them as much, so you just don’t have perspective.

I met a lady online and she made an offer to visit. I took her up and immediately fell in love with it. I’m not saying that you should aim for the same place or ideals; there are many other states and locations where you could upgrade your lifestyle and not spend as much getting there like Florida. The only thing California has in common with Florida is palm trees and sunshine. Absolutely nothing else at all.

My advice is to get an education in the first place and pick a career that has jobs in the place you want to be. I was given my first job in California because they told me they were impressed with me because I just up and moved to California without more than a couch to sleep on. You see, out here, someone will look at that as evidence of ambition and desire. It also shows a ‘can do’ attitude and that you’re not afraid to take a risk. Out here, failure is seen as experience and hopefully wisdom gained. They look at people who don’t move around jobs a lot as though they aren’t ambitious. You have to show a career that looks like you’re eager to climb the ladder. Someone who just sits at the same job doesn’t appear to have ambition here and that’s so backwards from the notion I got growing up in West Virginia where you want to get a job and cling to it by all means. You don’t want to see too ambitious because they’ll fire you. You want to be plain and boring and just hard working.

Breaking into certain industries isn’t easy and many don’t want what they consider outsiders. Take the video game industry. Hard to get in if you’re never had experience! That’s a catch but you just have to get an opportunity and then be able to show them what you’re capable of and that’s not easy. That’s another luck thing and you don’t want to be one of those annoying people who have no real skills and persistently hang out around the game developer hangouts. They show up at all the hiring events and GDC, WWDC, you name it, if it has to do with video games, you can expect some of the same folks, over and over again, trying to get jobs that they just don’t fit. But once you have experience and if you’re a likable person, then there are a lot of opportunities and recruiters and HR managers are more willing to talk to you. Shit, they might even read your resume then. I know film and the music industry are the exact same way and you need a marketable skill and some experience to get in.

If you’re from West Virginia, you probably got pushed to go to some vocational program and learn welding or autobody or something like that. Those are useful skills that once mastererd can earn you a lot of money out here, but you need to be good because they get applications from all 50 states, all the time, from young, eager and ambitious people like you with mad skills.

I don’t know if many Californians know that West Virginias are some of the hardest working people on the planet, but if they’ve ever worked with one they would know. That could be a benefit to you anywhere that has that same experience. As a West Virginian, we are an esoteric anamoly. I think there needs to be a campaign to educate people about just how hard we work but then they might try to lure us all away! But isn’t that what we want? Not really as I would love to see my home state prosper, but until it does, the jobs and money are elsewhere.

It ain’t always about what you think it is

In my travels, I’ve learned a lot of things about people and their nature. I’ve learned that what I’ve learned is just based on my interactions with them and observations of them with me adding my bias and wisdom to sum them up in a way that probably only makes sense to me. From that I try to add some optimism and doubt so that I’m not so sure that I’m not entirely incorrect. What I’m saying is that we only see things from our perspective and we all wear self-tinted glasses, so-to-say. We have impressions we learn from our experiences which won’t match what most other people have. Sure, we will have a lot of common experiences, but there are always unique qualities. Think about two people observing an even take place from different sides of event. One person will see it happen from left to right and the other from right to left and there you already have the premise to make the observations different. Now take a car crash and the driver is killed on the side of the car you are observing. You see the driver die but the other person observing does not and walks away thinking ‘people need to learn to drive’, while you experienced death and a tragedy that you will never forget seeing. Now, let’s take a look at a place and try to think about it like the guy who saw the driver die and not the guy who saw the crash then walked away because he didn’t see the driver die and he was in a hurry anyway.

I’m going to talk to you about West Virginia and I’m going to talk about a few things that I don’t think are well known or understood and that I think need more talking about.

Every time I’ve met a Mexican who has worked with a West Virginian, they’ve offered to buy me a drink. You see, and I haven’t met everyone on the damn planet so I’m not really qualified to say who is the most or best of anything. I only offer up my opinion, from my experience, that Mexicans and West Virginians are the hardest working mother fuckers I know of, on the planet. It’s like a competition to us and if the guy beside us is busting his ass, then we’re going to work harder than they are. So when these two different gentlemen I encountered met someone just like them, they understood it. They had met someone else who has been shit on, used, lied to, abused, murdered and killed and tortured and exploited, since before the places we all name to identify our origins ever existed. We’re both hard workers with integrity that show up every damn day and don’t complain. We do our jobs and that’s just the way it is.

When I moved to North Carolina I got fired from a few jobs because I worked too hard. They even told me that and said that if they didn’t get rid of me then they worried that they would be expected to work as hard or that I’d just get promoted while they didn’t. I would imagine some places automatically rejected us West Virginians on that basis because we are some of the hardest working people on the planet. They had developed a working culture in North Carolina that was just plain lazy. I had never seen so many temporary job companies. It was amazing to me that I could just find a job and go work and get paid without driving two hours. I thought I had struck gold at first and got myself a temp job at a mill making carboard tubes. What a braindead thing to do and I quickly thought that there was no way I could do such a repetitive task for more than a few weeks. Fortunately, I worked too hard and they canned me in a few days. Then, I went to another place and it was the same thing. They didn’t like me because I worked hard and didn’t need ten breaks and then didn’t bitch about everything.

I think the lazy work culture was so bad there that the temporary companies came to be more of a need to fill jobs in a very lazy and unreliable workforce. Where I came from people kept jobs for life and clinged to them no matter how bad or toxic they were. But not in North Carolina. They even had all these colloquial sayings like “laying out of work” which took a while for me to understand. It just meant they skipped work that day and didn’t feel like going so they either called in sick or just didn’t go. I would also wager that this systemic laziness caused a lot of the mills and factories to just up and leave. When you don’t have a very reliable workforce that just bitches about everything and then collectively works to oust the hardest working people, you’re creating a scenario that will fail. Big companies are smart and get big by being smart. Places like North Carolina at that time in the mid ninties was difficult to staff and when they did, they had people who would willing cut their own fingers off just to make a phat paycheck and get disability. That’s actually a thing there. My brother used to joke that you could tell how long someone had worked at a mill by the number of missing fingers. And he had examples of people who bragged about doing it.

Had they put those mills and factories in West Virginia… But that state was hard to commerce due to the lack of highways and had huge hills that caused trucks to use a lot more fuel. Building I77 through West Virginia helped the state a lot and at the time was the most expensive road ever built per mile. That interstate was just a little too late and probably still just not enough to compete with areas like North Carolina for factories and mills. I think it was a stupid mistake on the factories and mills because what they ended up with was a lazyass workforce that they would eventually have to bail on. I still don’t think a lot of people get it, but let me say it again, West Virginians are some of the hardest working people on the planet. If you put factories and mills there, you’ll have lifers whose children will want to work the same damn job that their parents did. It’s like all those sad movies but it’s what we do. It’s an ethic that’s inside us and we see it all around us growing up of people who have to work way harder than average for way less than average.

Maybe if CEOs put factories in places where the people work hard, not just that are easy for management to visit… And that’s always been another problem. No one wants to move there and it is kind of depressing in some areas. I’ll even admit that West Viringia in the winter can be kind of ugly with the snow on the grey trees and all the dirty snow on the highways. I remember it more from days long gone where the pollution was a lot worse and the soot showed in winter from the coal. But far worse than that are the areas with all the runnoff from Mountain Top Removal and waste products from mining coal where people can’t drink their own water and can’t sell their house because of it. But, that’s still not as bad as areas like Lake Washington near Parkersburg or many others and potentially some really nasty ones we just don’t know of.

When you think West Virginia, I bet you think about coal. Well, maybe some dumb jokes as well but none I haven’t heard told to me thousands of times like it was going to be the first time ever. But when I think of home, I think of chemical companies. I didn’t have any miners in my family and we didn’t really live near any mines but for just a short time. But the chemical we had all over Parkersburg and in fact they made a movie about it. In the Kanawha River valley we had, and I’m just refering to my memory of 30 years ago but a lot of them are still there, all the big chemical companies. DuPont, FMC, Monsanto, Carbide, Corning, etc… I met a lady from Bhopal India and we had a lot in common considering what they went through. We supposedly had more MIC in Belle than they had in Bhopal and probably in very similar conditions. In fact, a number of years after the Bhopal disaster, a tank of something else exploded at Belle and a piece of it laded right beside the MIC tanks. I worked for a carpet cleaning company when I was 16 and we cleaned the carpet in the offices at that plant. It looked nice and clean but what the hell did I know at that age? Nothing.

If that tank had ruptured, it would have went straight into the river and then downstream to the Ohio, then to the Mississippi. As far as I know, that same scenario still exists today and there a shitload of highly toxic chemicals sitting on a flat beside the river. But they’re not the only ones in a similar situation that if disaster struck, it would be in the river, then down to the Gulf of Mexico. We’re just now learning about all the DDT that’s dumped off the coast of California and if they did that in fucking California, what do you think they did in West Virginia where a lot of toxic chemicals are produced? That’s a serious question I would love to have answered, but what hidden places do we have in West Virginia that are just the same or worse? I would be you any amount of money there are plenty, hidden away up some hollar or in an old coal mine or just plan buried somewhere. In the movie Dark Waters that’s about how DuPont poisened people in a hundred mile radius, including me — I have never been tested but we had a cabin at Lake Washington which was right beside that guy in the movie where they found levels of the chemical C8 was around ten thousand times higher than what even DuPont regarded as safe and you know that had to be ultra conservative. So there’s no way I was less than a mile from that and not exposed. My mother had a health monitor and enough said.

The chemical companies have been there for a long time and have left a less visible impression than the coal industry, and will be there long after the coal industry is gone.

Now I hear West Virginia has suffered the biggest loss of population of any state in the last ten years. It was over two million people when I left in the ninties and now it’s 1.79 million. People cite the same reasons I left which were jobs and pay and just wanting to see bigger and better things. West Virginia is at the bottom of a lot of bad lists and at the top of many others. None are good. It’s not an easy life and getting out of there isn’t very easy when you make so little money and the cost of moving to another state means you need to save up the rent and deposit for where you’re going, which is going to be a lot higher than where you ware. I’ve always said that from WV to CA was basically just adding a zero to the end of everything. I’ve paid more in rent in one month in California than I did for a whole year in West Virginia, granted that was 30 years ago, if you look now, the rent price hasn’t changed much in that time. I actually know one person who pays less in one year than I pay in a month. You just have to embrace the scale of economics to understand how hard it is to leave there and why then, everyone wants to get the fuck out.

Let’s recap my thoughts here:

West Virginians and Mexicans are some of the hardest working people on the planet.
West Virginia has as much chemical as coal and we’re ignoring that.
If you think the DDT off the coast of California is a problem, I’d ask you to kindly look at WV.
What hidden gems have the chemical companies produced in WV?
People are leaving WV because a failure of leadership that has been systemic for a long time.
If you put factories and mills in WV, you will get lifelong, hard workers whose kids will come work for you.

I love West VIrginia. I know people will claim I hate the state because of this, but I’d question anyone who uses that bullshit line that I just hate whatever it is I’m supporting because it’s wornout and braindead. You hear it all the time in policitcs that this or that person hates the country or whatever, but if you fall for it, you just didn’t think about it very much did you? I want to see my home state prosper but it won’t as long as it’s still held in the same train of thought and level of thinking that was created all its problems, and kept it there.

Listening to the news about a DDT dump being discovered off the coast of California and I have to ask what else is hidden in the hills of West Virginia? There were a dozen Superfund sites but you know there are more, undiscovered ones waiting to be found. I’m just glad the coal and chemical industries weren’t tighter!

Oh the times we live in…

EDIT: And the typos we miss…

I don’t know where to begin with anything these days. I don’t know where it ends or where it goes or where I’ll even be in a year from now. One year ago, I was still dealing with the loss of my mother and the brunt of consternation as an event that hadn’t happened in 100 years was unfolding all over the world. Now, we have light shining upon us that shows an eventual end to the pandemic and a return to whatever amounts to normal when all is said and done.

I was finally able to get my first dose of the vaccine and although I can’t shake the powerful impression that the sum of loss has given me, I do feel the beginning of hope and the idea of what I once remember to be relaxation. I can’t get comfortable or relax while I know I have some very big events in my immediate future but I feel tension easing and my expectations are slowly becoming …umm, rosy.

I did get laid off but that’s just a small hurdle to me and I always turn it into something positive. I now have time to tackle big, personal tasks that normally require long weekends or vacations. I can record some music which for me, takes extra focus and time and it has to be the only thing I have going on.

For now, I’m trying to sort out all the pieces and put something new together. I hear people my age in this industry are having a hard time finding work so I’m going to be open to more opportunities than before and maybe some that mean some really tough changes. I made it through most of the pandemic employed and fortunately have a cushion but I see that being used and me maybe leaving California. If it takes more than a few months to find a new job then I’ll have to have plans laid out in advance, meaning right now. Then the next big catch is that I won’t be able to find a new home to lease if I don’t have a job… Oh the catches are endless these days and I almost feel like a giant domino was just flipped over and a whole bunch more are about to fall.

Is it too late to become a musician? And be able to support myself? I missed that boat and sadly now it’s probably too late. But you know what? I’m going to try. I’m going to try to write some, record some music, and explore, all while still trying to find a new job. I don’t even know that I want to do the same type of work at this point. I spent the last three years learning as much about Kubernetes and related ecosystems, that I’m a big exhausted and feel like I need a little break. My skills won’t suffer as I am still learning, just not at a break-neck pace. Just yesterday I was learning how to do things in the latest version of Python versus what I learned ten years ago in 2.6/7. I even thought about founding my own startup since I’ve worked for a few and have a lot of experience with the inner parts. Then I can be like those obnoxious people I used to suffer in San Francisco, constantly reminding you that they, are a founder.

I’m going to hook all my social media up again and stop ignoring the only ecosystem of friends I have right now: online — that I’ve also had for many years before the pandemic, but over the last 2-3 I just stopped interacting and let depression take over. I really didn’t feel like talking to anyone but my son and then rarely got to see him. I think he has a deep affect on my depression and when I don’t see him, I’m affected. The sum of a few years of that has made me feel almost permanently depressed. I don’t know how else to get out of that because it’s not something I planned or expected. If I never had a child, I never would have had that little part of me; the part of me that loves and pulls me like a magnet. The pain you feel when you miss you child is one you know you will never get over. It’s not like some crush you had in high school, the love for a child is the deepest I think you can have. They are of our own.

What I fear is that my depression has become an unstoppable thing. Too many years of isolation and solitude to a person that never likes to be alone has long lasting effects and I know I have a really strong mind and I’ve always been able to beat my own demons. I just don’t know if I have the ability to even climb out of where I am emotionally and psychologically.

But I am still me and still not broken, yet. I’m going to try to pull a phoenix and see where it gets me. I might throw away everything I can’t fit in my van and just start driving with no real destination in mind — just go North until something interesting makes me go another way. Where that guy failed in ‘Into the Wild’, I know I could survive and mainly because I have better guns and a 4×4. I should probably get the snorkel installed and quit making fun of them but that wouldn’t be any fun. It just makes the Sprinter look like an elephant. Especially a 144″ wheelbase with a high roof and painted grey which a lot are. Okay, just typing this update cheered me up a bit and I have even formulated more plan while doing so.

I might even torture the world, or at least those who might ever actually read my blog, more frequently! I might even post music.

Some Tips…

My Grocery Store Shopping Tips

I’m trying to develop and evolve my routing so writing it down will help and I can share my ideas and get some tips and ideas from others.

–Bring my own bags that have been disinfected or isolated
–Bag all non-perishable items together
–Bag all perishable items together
–Place bags in a designated location upon returning home
–Clean up process
—-Wash hands
—-Remove clothes
—-Sanitized wipes to keys, phone, wallet
—-Clean door handles and entry items I might have touched returning
—-Clean perishable items and place in refridgerator
—-Put perishable items grocery bag in closet isolation

At that point I can either clean the items in the non-perishable bags or just let them wait it out right where they sit.

The Rest of My Routine

For my clothing I’ve been rotating jackets, pants and my hat. When I return home I place the jacket and pants in a specific spot, hanging on the corner of a shelf on the other side of the room. I have 3-4 of these separated by 4-5 feet while handing so I can go a week or so between wearing one set giving it enough time to hopefully, naturally disinfect. So I wear one set out, then hang it for a week in isolation before wearing it again.

I’ve always kept a container of sanitizing wipes and a large pump bottle of hand-sanitizer in the cup holder of the door in my vehicle. After living in SF and getting three MRSA infections from just living there, I became a bit paranoid about it and started disinfecting. So naturally for me to clean things upon returning to my vehicle after pumping gas or going to a store. I even clean the pump handle and buttons at the pump out of generosity.

As of this morning, I shaved my beard off so I can wear some form of respiratory protection. I have some N95 masks but I do not have a surgical style mask. I also don’t sew or having things to make them from so I’ll try to order a few and wait that out and use the N95 for now. I have maybe 25 N95 in a box that I purchased two years ago; I want to donate them but until our guidance on wearing them is clearer, I’ll keep them. If it gets real bad around here I have a few good places bookmarked to donate them. If the surgical masks arrive soon, I’ll donate the lot unless guidance becomes wear N95 only.

I’ve been getting a little takeout and mainly to help support local businesses but I am a little sick of my own cooking! With the takeout the routine is fairly similar but overall I’ve broken myself of touching my face and if I need to, I have either a single-use tissue or wipe to do it with. If I don’t have something with me, I grab my shirt collar or use the inside of my jacket but grabbing it from the outside, then wiping my face.

Equifax Should Go Away

As most everyone who absorbs a daily dose of news knows, Equifax got hacked and now the personal information for 44% of the US population has been stolen. Most likely, if you’re an avid consumer participating in the credit industry machine, your information got pwned. It’s likely that most of the people you know who work, pay bills, use the Internet, and buy things with credit cards or with loans got pwned.

This has got to stop. Equifax was hacked due to Apache Struts CVE-2017-5638, and a patch was available, but not applied to their web-servers!

I do IT stuff. So to say. I also know that no matter what operating system I use that there are automated ways of updating my OS and software. If there aren’t, then I’ll script something that will do it for me. I install security and functional updates as soon as they’re available. I watch the blogs, security advisories, email lists, news feeds, etc… And it’s probably still not enough. If I had the budget, I’d dedicate someone to security as I don’t think even a small company can afford the type of breach that Equifax will most likely weather and carry on, using our personal information as their product.

And we have to face it: we are their product. Our information is what they use to make money. How the hell is that even legal? Oh, probably because money. Money. That tends to drive most everything doesn’t it? Or at least the love of it and the greed for as much as possible. It’s worse than Heroin, as it seems.

The vulnerability that allowed Equifax to get hacked was specific to Apache Struts, a framework for running Java under Apache. It’s not super common because most people running Apache are using PHP — most new servers deployed on the Internet last year (2016) were supposedly using PHP. Anyway, my point is that you shouldn’t worry that it is a common exploit — it’s been patched and Struts is popular, but not used by everyone.

Still, you have to wonder about their architecture that allowed the balance of all their sensitive information to be plucked away so easily. Did they not perform Risk Management? I would think that such a company with such incredibly sensitive information would have. And if they did and it still happened then maybe they hadn’t implemented their plan to fix any weak parts? I just can’t believe that Equifax took information security serious enough. Equifax is a company with the EXACT information that hackers are always looking for — you’re a prime target! When I worked in the video game industry I found out that as developers, you’re targeted constantly and you have to always be proactive. You can never let your guard down. And in the case of Equifax, they’re probably one of the biggest treasure troves a hacker could ever hope for besides the keys to the bank itself.

When I hear about massive IT failures on this level, I first experience a bit of sympathy for the staff and people who have to work 24×7 until it’s fixed and they’re confident the intrusion has been contained. But, with this, their IT staff blundered in such a way that it will most likely affect me and cause me to have to spend my own time dealing with it. It’s a huge inconvenience to me, their unwilling product.

Deep in my heart, I’d like to see Equifax go away. I’d like to see it sued out of existence. I’d like to see the government step up and slap some hardcore regulations on the industry but there’s no chance of that happening right now. In fact, sad to say, all we can do right now is be mad and buy some credit protection. We don’t have a choice but to be part of this credit industry machine — there’s no way off this ride if you want to be an active part of society and buy things. Even greater is the affect the credit industry has had on renting property, leasing, and even employment — what happens now?

I want to see regulations that say they can’t keep my personal information at all. But you know that’s not going to happen — we have an established industry that has money to lobby and influence. I’d like to see regulations in place that prevent them from at least storing my SSN but that’s the key identifier in credit reporting. A number that was never intended to be used for it — but try to get credit or a loan without giving it up.

So the way I see it now is that they have us and there’s little to nothing we can do aside of hoping for laws and regulations to protect our information. When industry giants screw up it can hurt everyone and in this case, it probably will. We’re their product, unwillingly. And in America, corporations have more power than me or you.

Double Fine MEGA-FAN PACK!

I used to work for Double Fine Productions. I no longer want these items and I figured that someone, somewhere, a fan or not, might be interested in them so here you are. I want to sell these items as one lump lot. I will ship them, but only after I receive the payment and the buyer will have to pay for the shipping. I don’t want to take international bids for these items, unless they’re really good ones! If you’re interested in this Double Fine MEGA-FAN PACK, then reply to this post and I’ll get back to you — no replies will be made public.

I will include one surprise item in the pack that was not made available to the public.

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Moving Slowly – Hotel Utah Open Mic

I don’t think I’ve ever shared this song short of a few open mics. This was recorded recently at the Hotel Utah’s awesome open mic on January 7th 2013. (It really did take me 3 months to finish this post!)

Michael Beese was kind enough to improvise over it for me on his vio-fiddle thing.

Moving Slowly – Brent Shinn, Hotel Utah Saloon January 7th 2013 (Michael Beese – Fiddle) You can also hear more of my music on the site as well as an amazing archive of music from the performers as well as upcoming Utah related shows, tweets, and more!

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