Stalls for All: Let’s Close the Door on the Bathroom Debackle.

“Complaining about a problem without posing a solution is called whining.”

-Teddy Roosevelt

The bathroom is an odd place for a battlefield.  From segregation, handicapped rights, to the trans movement, restrooms somehow make their way to the front and center of every social argument. Hell, the first Roman bathrooms were for men only, so that says something. Outside of politics, they are a dangerous place for the vulnerable, creating an abundant hunting ground for predators.

The public restroom is the perfect setting for a horror scene, just add a villain and stir. Will there be a rapist hiding in one of the stalls? A childmolester snapping pictures? Or a mugger pressing a gun into the back of some guy at a urinal? For every type of person, there is a type of gang who would love to bash their heads in, just for being. I’ve heard of people who would rather wet themselves than use a traditional restroom on a road trip through Trump country. Society asks everyone to come into a room together and all drop-trou. For what reason?

It’s not just humans who feel this way. When dogs defecate, they look to the rest of the pack or their owners to watch their backs during this time of vulnerability. Look what happened to John Travolta when he dropped a deuce in Pulp Fiction. The bathroom shouldn’t involve anxiety.

David Bowie’s response to “what do you regard as the lowest depth of misery?” 

“Living in fear.”

That’s why I propose one simple solution: private stalls for all. We have the technology, people. It’s just drywall, pipes, and elbow grease. Then people can use the restroom without Mace in hand. Comedian Fortune Feimster can walk into a public restroom without bellowing “I AM A WOMAN!” to avoid being mistaken for a man and attacked in the ladie’s room. Children will no longer walk into a room with people shooting up, snoring lines, or any other drug use. The terminally pee-shy will enjoy a stress free experience away from the gregarious few who decide that the bathroom is indeed an appropriate place to make friends. There is enough to worry about in life. Peeing shouldn’t be an issue for anyone. 

And who would lose out on stalls for all? Rapists, muggers, violent religious zealots, perverts, and miscellaneous ne’er-do-wells. And of course, owners of public restrooms. Will these renovations cost money? Like the bumper sticker says, “freedom isn’t free.” Change always comes out of pockets. If our government can spend millions to put a man on the moon and bail out Wall Street, then it can afford to offer tax credits to business owners for renovations for something that will provide peace of mind for all.

If I could just snap and make everyone get along, I wouldn’t have any skin left between my fingers. My heart goes out to any victim of bathroom related violence and anyone living in fear. I can’t wrap my mind around why some people think that they are too good to take a dump next to anyone else. It all smells the same to me. But if we all can’t get along, let’s at least get our own private stalls until we figure it out. I’m not naive to think that this Band Aid will fix all the social issues, but let’s just keep politics away from the toilets and pick any other arena for a battleground. 

Why Quitting Caffeine was Harder than Quitting Smoking.

Human Guinea Pig Chronicles #3

Coffee and cigarettes go together so well that Jim Jarmusch made a movie about it. Throw a chocolate Tastycake on top of that mess and they form the unholy trinity of unwise breakfasts like Voltron.

No gives you a pat on the back for quitting caffeine, instead look at you with pity mixed with judgment. While smoking is limited to certain areas, people can drink coffee anywhere. (Except near my laptop. Get back! Ungawa!)

I thought my coffee habit was under control, until I became a barista who got high on his own supply. Due to boredom and the folly of youth, my colleagues and I held contests to see who could down the most shots of espresso, with hands shaking and eyelids a’ twitter.

My transition from coffee clerk to freelance audio visual technician only made things worse, with fifteen hour days starting at 6 am, sometimes after working until 11 pm the night before on a different job. I became coffee, with a 32 ouncer glued to my hand, so hooked that I’d place a half-empty cuppa on my bed stand before hitting the hay.

The thing they don’t tell you about any kind of upper, from coke to crank, is that you will do everything faster, especially making mistakes. If you want to sprint down the wrong path in life until bloody collapse, speed is the way to go.

The headaches were debilitating. I thought allergies were causing the headaches and nocturnal teeth grinding, but the culprit was caffeine withdrawl. Anytime I went an hour or so without kissing the mighty bean, my head would throb and my focus would turn to static. Because my sleep patterns were anything but, I’d wake up in the middle of the night, ready for action for nothing.

Addictions are annoying, because they are so needy and expensive, demanding attention at the worst times like a spoiled brat. It was time to kick caffeine to curb, like I did cigarettes the year before. Because of my boolean personality, I’m either on or off with everything in life: zero cigarettes or three packs a day, no candy or the whole bag of candy, balls to the wall or nothing at all.

I quit smoking by totaling all the loot that I’d spent in a year on cancer sticks and budgeted tickets to Jamaica as my carrot to dangle. If I started up again, then I knew I couldn’t afford the trip. Quitting smoking was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done, and I figured caffeine would be just a little hurdle. It turned out to be the high jump.

With personal days to burn, I took off a week just to quit caffeine and binge Storage Wars: Texas. On day one, I thought that taking the whole week was overkill and admonished myself for being a decadent baby. I thought it was going to be easy. I was wrong.

On day two I was bedridden with a Texas sized railroad spike buried between my lobes, like a doughy Phinus Gage. I felt like a photocopy of my former self, and was as pleasant to beanbe around as a runway queen freshly voted off of Drag Race. That day, I knew that I’d never touch caffeine again and risk going through that pain. I was scared straight. There was a lot of fetal position going on.

It wasn’t until day four that I could walk around and go outside for a little bit. I felt like I took a handful of stupid-pills that wouldn’t wear off. This haze created a full month of idicacy. I’d put the jelly in the cupboard and the peanut butter in the fridge. Screwing up left and right at work, I became the subject of many a nasty-gram regarding my performance.

With smoking, it only took me two weeks to conquer the physical addiction. After day fourteen, the only desire for a nicotine fix is mental. Quitting caffeine left a mind fog that lingered for a full month before I was back to normal. (Well, normal enough for this guy.)

Five years later and I survived, still caffine and ciggarette free without the need to convert to Mormonism. My insomnia is all but gone, my digestion has improved, and I no longer ground my chompers in my sleep. Sure, I still drink decaf in the morning for the bitter taste of reality, but if I run out of coffee, I no longer need to run out to the store like an addict. Given the hypothetical, I’d choose quitting nicotine over caffeine, as they say on Storage Wars: Texas, “all day long.”

Help Find the Cure for Affluenza.

Why I Care. 

The term “Affluenza” is “the inability to understand the consequences of one’s actions because of financial privilege.” Affluenza affects 1% of the US population, so about 3.2 million United States citizens. 

Licensed psychologist, G. Dick Miller (“Call me Dick”) defended maligned teen Ethan Couch, after the poor boy, accidentally killed a couple people in a drunk driving incident while innocently sowing his wild oats. He was mercifully given 10 years probation and no jail time, but his untreated Affluenza continued to plague him until he skipped out on parole, ending up the subject of a manhunt that ended Mexico where he was found higher than Willie Nelson on his birthday. Sadly, Couch’s luck ran out. He was arrested, convicted, jailed, and released last year. This didn’t happen in Communist China. This happened in the U.S. of A.

To my knowledge, there is no other research being conducted to find a cure. (I didn’t look too hard, though.) I’m willing to sacrifice my health and help fight Affluenza from the inside, by accepting enough donations for me to join the 1%. In the great State of Pennsylvania, that’s just $388,593 a year. A pittance compared to the cost of research of other diseases. I don’t even need a laboratory, though I might buy one on a whim to make small batch gin.

What I’m Willing to Endure.

I’m willing to infiltrate the 1% and report back on the side effects, including but not limited to:

Wearing boat shoes with no socks.

Clapping off-rhythm at concerts. 

Suffering from hemophilia developed from recursive inbreeding.

Developing a reluctance to tipping waitstaff, especially automatic gratuities for tables of four or more.

Naming my kids Mercedes, London, or Baron.

Suggesting that the impoverished pull themselves up by their boot straps without providing boots.

Referencing the tribulations of deceased immigrant relatives that I never met.

Taking up two parking spots in my future Beamer. Three if I get a Tesla. 

Severe allergic reactions to paying taxes to where I’ll need to isolate myself from my money using offshore accounts. 

Why I’m Qualified.

As a cis gendered, white male Gen X’er, I’ll fit right in, after I get a Peaky Blinders haircut and a Rolex. Did I mention that I’m really into bath bombs? I think, given proper funding, I could take to frivolous spending like ants to syrup.

How YOU can Make a Difference.

For just the price of a cup of coffee a day, you can buy me a cup of coffee a day. Is there a chance that I will ghost everyone after receiving my first thousand and flake out on my research? Of course. I don’t own a crystal ball. Who knows what journey this disease will take me on? But if my fresh Yeeseys 450’s can bring us one step closer to a cure, then it’s all worth it. Be a hero. Do your part.

Free Software for Starving Artists that Actually Works.

Gimp Photo Editor.  I’m a tightwad, so Gimp is the only editor I use for Next in Line Magazine’s images, including the toolbox above. You might as well grab the G’mic expansion pack while you are at it.

Download Gimp Here.

DaVinci Resolve. The free version has everything you need for basic editing and color correction. Perfect for creating band videos or youtube tutorials, it’s so handy that I feel dirty using it for free. Here is a Scraddle Vision bumper I made using Resolve featuring a dear friend of the show that we totally didn’t hire on Cameo.

Download Davinchi Resolve Here.

Pity you!

Shotcut. Shotcut was my go-to until I found out about Da Vinci Resolve. With less of a learning curve than Resolve, this one could be more appropriate for the technically unsavvy.

Download Shocut here.

Audacity. This one ain’t too shabby, especially for the price. While it’s nowhere near as robust as  Pro Tools, it’s still everything the Beatles had in a box, so no excuses! Here is a little jam with my friend Jay on guitar. You can hear me soloing the individual tracks.

Download Audacity here.

ASIOFREEFORALL Driver. This is for anyone running DAW software like Pro Tools, Cubase, or Studio One. I’m no Chris Lord-Alge, but I do know that it’s much easier to mix music when the sound actually comes out of your speakers.

Download Asio4all here.

OBS. This is perfect for screen capturing or getting really fancy with Live Streaming. It’s not an intuitive program —so get ready to watch tutorials —but it can do a lot of cool shit if you want to get fancy with live streaming with multiple cameras. 

My buddy Jay set up green screens in three different rooms during quarantine, and then pasted us together on the same screen with crazy effects ala Black Sabbath. Here is an impromptu jam with Sir Richard Brown.

Download OBS Here.

HandBreak. Need to transcode a video from one format to another or rip a DVD? (Whatever those things are.) Don’t worry, I got you.

Download HandBreak Here.

Vanido. This app is like Guitar hero, but for singing on pitch. I practice alone in a parked car for better acoustics and privacy. (My neighbors already think that I’m nuts for many justified reasons.) Available for Iphone or Android at their respective app stores.

Beat the Heat! These Isolated Tracks will give you Goosebumps.

John Bonham: Fool in the Rain.

I could get kicked out of the drummer’s union if I didn’t make Bonham number one. A variation on the Purdie shuffle, this drum beat combines two time signatures: triplets on the hi hats with a 2/4 backbeat on the kick and snare. 

Being able to play it is one thing. Grooving it is another.

I’ll let James Brown’s Bernard “Pretty” Purdie himself ‘splain how to play a half time shuffle as only he can.

Clyde Stubblefield: The Funky Drummer.

Here is another of James Brown’s drum assassins, rocking the most sampled breakbeat in history. 

Ain’t it funky? Why yes, James. It is. It sure is.

Freddy Mercury: Don’t Stop Me Now.

100 degrees. He is the intersection of technique and passion, with a voice as bashful as a berserker. Damn, when he glides from chest voice to head voice, it’s like he was born without a zona di passaggio. Not sure if this was before or after he wupped Sid Vicious’ ass.

Marc Bolan: 20th Century Boy.

I love everything about this track: the playing, the sound, the production, the attitude, the style. While not the most technical guitar player, Marc Bolan has feel for days, so much so that Ike Turner tapped him to play rhythm for Tina.

Billy Preston: I Want You. (She’s so Heavy)

The fifth Beatle, Billy Preston, sprinkles a quarter-pound of fairy dust all over this track. I can see why the Fab Four kept this dude on retainer. The rooftop concert is the only live footage I could find of Preston playing with the boys.

I love the stabs during the bass feature parts. Speaking of…

Paul McCartney: Paperback Writer.

While I wouldn’t call it a shame that the Cute One’s singing and songwriting overshadows his talents as a bass player, the proof is in the pudding. Recording engineer Geoff Emerick said that McCartney was generally easy going in the studio, but was a stickler for his bass tone, spending hours redoing his parts when the other guys retreated back to the giant row home that shared from Help!

Wilton Felder: I Want You Back.

Randy Roads: Crazy Train.

On my first day at Scouts, I tried to make conversation with a long-haired, older kid while he sneaked a smoke.“Hey Jay, what is up with that patch on your jean jacket? Who is Randy Roads?”
He looked at me like a slandered Mr. T. ”Are you kidding me? You don’t know who fucking Randy Roads is? What the fuck is wrong with you, Steve? And if you tell anyone about this cigarette I’ll kick your ass.”
I still owe him.
Randy’s amp was so loud that they needed to put him in an isolated room for his own safety.

Whitney Houston: “I Will Always Love You.”

Dolly Parton first heard Whitney’s version on her car radio.” I was shot so full of adrenaline and energy, I had to pull off, because I was afraid that I would wreck, so I pulled over quick as I could to listen to that whole song,”

The only person happier than Dolly was her agent after the royalty checks rolled in.

Human Guinea Pig Chronicles 1: I Tried Four Breathing Exercises from Noob to Fire Breathing. Here’s My Results:

1. Box Breathing.
Difficulty: Easy

Good for: cycling, jogging,yoga, stressful (even life threatening) situations, or just killing time standing in line. Take your blood pressure before and after and watch it drop like crypto.

The Navy Seals use this breathing technique on the battlefield, not only make sure they have enough oxygen for peak performance, but also to keep their minds locked and loaded.

I know beginning with a Navy Seals exercise sounds crazy, but box breathing is so easy that anyone with a standard set of lungs can do it: breath in for five seconds, hold for five, breath out for five, hold for an additional five, then repeat. Come on, be game! It’s free.

2. Om Chanting.

Difficulty: Easy to Moderate.

Good for: Mental serenity and focus. A fantastic morning warm-up for singers, djs, and auctioneers, it really gets the pipes working.

The Om meditation is sneaky. It doesn’t seem like a breathing exercise on the surface, but hey —the air goes in, the air comes out, the air plays pinochle with your snout. Speaking of, if your nose is stuffed up, adjust your pitch on the “mmm” part until you find the one that rattles your sinuses. This will, in technical terms, “vibrate the boogers loose.”

3. Fire Breathing/Tummo.

Difficulty: Advanced. 

Good for: Some masters of the ancient art of tummo can control their heat rates and raise their body temperatures enough to melt snow. This is no joke. All you scaredy cats can stick with the first two methods and live long happy lives. Thanks for coming. Namaste.

Are they gone? Cool. Wanna get nuts? Check out the science between of Tummo and Wim Hoff here. The gist of it is that you alternate between hyperventilating and breath holding. This sends the body into shock, increasing neuroplasticity, while training the sympathetic nervous system to be calm under fire. Then your brain releases a slight amount of natural DMT, which makes your brain feel as mellow as Bob Ross getting a back massage for a good two hours afterward. 

4. Extra Credit: Wim Hoff .

Difficulty: Beast Mode.

Good for: Swimming underneath glaciers, running on the snow barefoot, and boosting the immune system to ridiculous levels.

Wim Hoff is a lovable nut job. Common sense didn’t stop him from swimming under glaciers, jogging in the snow in just his underpants, and successfully fighting off infection from injection with meditation.

Wim combined Tummo, mediation, and a cold shower “because you don’t think about your bills when the cold water hits you. You think about the cold water hitting your face.” Spiritually, it’s like jumping from the warm baby pool of ignorance to the cold reality of the adult pool. The cold shower is unpleasant for only twenty seconds, but after your body adjust to it, the shower becomes blissfully invigorating, so suck it up buttercup. To be fair, I started the cold showers in 90 degree weather, so let’s see how tough I talk in November.

It took me about a week to reach a minute long breath hold.  I’m trying for a minute an a half. 

Three Philly Bands that Better Still be Together after Quarantine.

All photo rights belong to Louie Louie.
  1. Louie Louie

Saw them support The Coathangers and LA Witch at the Underground Arts (still open!) The whole Friend of a Stranger album is great, like the Go-Go’s playing a Leslie Gore tribute show. I like their sassy lyrics. This song gets stuck in my head all the time.

2. Sixteen Jackies

Sixteen Jackies opened for Orville Peck back in 2019 at the Boot and Saddle (RIP). They got the party started so hard that they kept the headliner sweating under his signature mask. Sixteen Jackie’s singer sounds like Frank Black’s pretty younger brother, but with the unpredictability of Dave Thomas (Not the Wendy’s dude) from Pere Ubu and just a dusting of Britpop in his phrasing. I’m a sucker for ‘verbed out guitars. This song is catchy as hell.

3. Empath

I caught them open for Priests at Philamocca. (Still open!) Empath’s drummer is a beast. He reminds me of a young Carmine Appice in both hard-hitting style and mustache.

Growing up on the Mummies and Sebadoh, I have a soft spot for lo-fi recordings, but these guys are ridiculous. When I first spun their Environments seven inch, I thought the vinyl was defective, but the artfully dodgy production grew on me with every listen. Love the hook in this song.