Monday, December 11, 2017

Go See the Doctor

I'm the worst at seeing doctors. Why? First, like millions of Americans -- especially those like me whom are self-employed -- I'm uninsured. Second, I tend to underplay any physical malady... probably a result of my upbringing, when men were told to "tough it out" when injured or not feeling well. Third, I've had a few experiences where seeing a doc was a bad experience that, while being expensive, also didn't fix whatever was going on with me at the time.

Well, those are all understandable reasons, but they're also stupid. Let me get to the point.

On Friday 12/1, I awoke with a bad sore throat. That was less than shocking; my son had been sick, and I'd spent the previous afternoon with him at a meeting at his school. Also, about half the people I know had been similarly ill in recent times. I figured I'd suffer with this minor virus for a few days, get better, and go on with my life. I certainly wasn't going to run to a doctor for a cold, which is ridiculous. I did have to cancel a live music show that I'd had scheduled for Monday, but these things happen.

Getting Better, Getting Worse
By the following Tuesday, my throat was much better, and the illness had predictably wandered toward into my lungs. Again, no big thing. A little annoying coughing and sneezing, and I'd be better in no time, right? It seemed this plan was going to work out; I was feeling more chipper within a couple of days... until nighttime came around. When I'd lay down to go to sleep, the goop in my lungs would send me into these horrible paroxysms of coughing that just wouldn't stop. I'm talking 45-60 straight minutes of horrible coughing where I was barely able to catch a breath here and there. It was awful.

And still, I had no plans of going to a doc. I got some more over-the-counter meds to try and make my lungs work more effectively, and those seemed to help a bit. But the coughing fits were becoming more and more severe and painful. As some of you may recall, back in 2012 I got a pretty serious case of pneumonia. It was my second pass at the ailment; I'd first had it in 2007. Well, some of the symptoms I was experiencing were frighteningly reminiscent of what I'd been through before. Both of those previous times, I'd waited until it was close to emergency mode, where my doctor said that if it was any worse, I'd be hospitalized.

I guess one gets a little wiser as one gets older. If you don't, you just... don't get older, if you get my drift. On Saturday night, despite having been trying to rest and get liquids and take my OTC meds, I had a coughing fit that was the worst one yet, and I made the decision right there and then -- perhaps with a little persuasion from Christina -- that I was going to nip it in the bud and see a doctor.

Easy Like Sunday Morning
Once again, morning arrived, and I was feeling pretty good... and that meant that once again, I started talking myself out of seeing a doctor. "I feel completely silly going to the doctor with a cold," was what I said. But memories of the night before lingered, with my keeping Christina up into the wee hours while I struggled to breathe, and the pain and misery that accompanied it. Keep in mind, there were no specific signs of something worse going on. I couldn't hear my lungs making any odd noises as I took deep breaths, and as long as I was upright was able to control the coughing. i didn't have a fever. I was able to function mostly normally.

I was actually apologizing to the front desk at the urgent care center, saying, "Look, this is just a cold, but I'm only here in the off-chance it's something worse," and so on. They checked my vitals, which seemed pretty decent. And then they took a chest x-ray, and sure enough, I had a noticeable infection in my lungs (which is likely in my sinuses as well). It's basically "pneumonia light" which, had I let it keep getting worse for a couple days would have absolutely grown into full-blown pneumonia. An important side note: once you've had pneumonia, your likelihood of it coming back goes up exponentially.

I will be fine, and after one day on heavy antibiotics -- a shot of Rocephin in my ass and starting a course of azithromycin -- I'm already much better. Big thanks to the folks at Ocean Medical, as usual. I'll continue on my antibiotics and keep my liquid intake heavy and get rest, as one should. But my hesitance to go see a doc could have had dire repercussions had I not gone in. I don't need to go into the details.

Just Go
Look, I get it. No one wants to feel like a hypochondriac or a wuss. No one wants to pay for expensive medical treatment over what might end up being something minor. But the flip side of taking care of an illness early on before it becomes life-threatening beats those excuses into the ground. I'm very glad I went, I'm glad I'm being treated, and I'm glad I'll be getting well quickly. Next time you have a minor illness that just isn't going away on its own after a reasonable time frame, just bite the bullet and see a doc. Even if just for peace of mind, it's worth it.

Saturday, December 9, 2017

17 Cool Songs from 2017

As the year begins waning each December, I give you a list of songs that I enjoyed in some way. These may not be the best songs of the year. They may not even be my favorite songs of the year. But they are cool songs, and yes, they came out in 2017. In alphabetical order...

Aimee Mann - "Simple Fix"

Like many people, the first time I heard Aimee Mann was in 1985, when her band 'Til Tuesday had a pop hit with "Voices Carry". Then she inexplicably popped up on backing vocals for Rush's "Time Stands Still" a couple of years later. Then, in 1999, she had the magnificent song "Save Me" from the Magnolia soundtrack. Since then, there's been nothing she's done that I haven't enjoyed, including this tune off her latest album Mental Illness. Buy it on iTunes.

Art School Jocks - "Catdog"

Four girls from Atlanta doing lo-fi basement pop? Sure, sign me up. There's something about "Catdog" that reminds me of bands I had in my early teen years, when none of us knew how to play well enough to be anything but awesome. Buy it on Bandcamp.

Beck - "Colors"

It's Beck. No matter the genre, if you expect anything less than genius, you're listening to the wrong guy. I heard it said quite well that Beck goes through an insane amount of detailed work to make his albums sound effortless. He succeeds; we all win. This is great pop. Buy it on Bandcamp.

Courtney Barnett & Kurt Vile - "Over Everything"

So... I'm a huge fan of Kurt Vile and Courtney Barnett individually, so I sorta freaked out when I heard they were working on a collaboration album. When it came out, it did not disappoint. This song and the album it's on, Lotta Sea Lice, ended up toward the top of every indie rock critic list for the year. I liked it so much, I actually left my comfortable home and saw them perform it live in October. Buy it on Bandcamp.

Dave Catching - "Bought and Sold"

Most of you know that I am a huge aficionado of the Mojave Desert and visit Joshua Tree as often as possible. My friends and I are also fans of the music of the area, and have spent plenty of time seeing shows and eating ribeyes at Pappy & Harriet's. Dave Catching, a member of Eagles of Death Metal and a producer/contributor to much of the music that we call Desert Rock, released a kick-ass solo album called Shared Hallucinations Pt. 1: Sonic Salutations From The Venerable Vaults of Rancho de la Luna 1972-1984. Buy it on Bandcamp.

Grizzly Bear - "Mourning Sound"

Grizzly Bear is more of a Brooklyn hipster band than I'm used to enjoying, but I liked "Mourning Sound" from the moment I heard it. Just because it was a critical fave doesn't mean it doesn't merit being on my annual list. Buy it on iTunes.

Kalbells - "Craving Art Droplets"

I like Kalbells for three reasons. First, this song is awesome. Second, her bio says that Kalbells is the solo work of Kalmia Traver, lead singer of Rubblebucket, but I have no idea who Rubblebucket is. Third, I read somewhere that the project was named after a folder in Dropbox she was using to send stems back and forth to her engineer, which seems like something I would do. Buy it on Bandcamp.

Melkbelly - "Kid Kreative"

This is from Melkbelly's debut album, but the stuff I've heard from this band doesn't sound like most first efforts. I think they'll have more cool stuff in the future. I hope so, anyway. Buy it on Bandcamp.

Ohmme - "Fingerprints"

This might be complete bullshit, but I recall reading that Ohmme was originally called Homme, as in Josh, the frontman of QOTSA. That didn't work out, so they juxtaposed the first letters and carried on. I really don't care; I just like their vibe and their willingness to be experimental. And their voices. And stuff. Buy it on Bandcamp.

Oro Swimming Hour - "Marshmallow"

Seriously, my friend Nicholas Stevenson makes my list every year, because his sound is just great on everything he does. His latest venture has him teaming up with Oliver Wilde, and the result is spectacular in a "we recorded this in a week in a kitchen" kind of way. The songs hold up. Buy it on Bandcamp.

Palm - "Walkie Talkie"

Palm is an experimental/prog/pop band out of Philly. They're arty, noisy, and I like them. How about that? Get their music on Bandcamp.

Priests - "Nothing Feels Natural"

I know very little about this band, except they seem to be all female, they seem to sound post-punky, they seem to be out of DC, and I like them quite a lot. Buy it on Bandcamp.

Queens of the Stone Age - "The Evil Has Landed"

So, it had been a number of years since QOTSA's last album. Josh had remained busy doing various cool things, but this album was very highly anticipated. And then a bunch of people freaked the fuck out when they heard it was being produced by Mark Ronson. Look, if you want every song by a band to sound the same throughout their entire career, go listen to AC/DC. I really enjoyed Villains. No, it's not my favorite QOTSA album, but it's really good in places, such as the hooky-as-fuck song here. Buy it on iTunes.

The Sadies (feat. Kurt Vile) - "It's Easy (Like Walking)"

The Sadies are cool, but they're a little more country than I tend to like at first listen. But throw my pal Kurt Vile and a set of repetitive but great lyrics into the mix, and bingo-bango... a song I listened to and performed a ton of times in 2017. Buy it on Bandcamp.

sir Was - "In the Midst"

You ever associate a song with a particular moment? Of course you have. With "In the Midst" by sir Was (a jazzy electronica guy named Joel Wästberg from Sweden), it's Bunny, Christina and I cresting the hill up the 62 from Morongo Valley into Yucca Valley heading toward Joshua Tree and being very happy. Buy it on Bandcamp.

Spoon - "Hot Thoughts"

Spoon is one of those bands that I still think of as a new band despite having been around for like 25 years, meaning I'm just old. But they've been very influential on indie music, and their latest is really excellent. Buy it on iTunes.

Wilco - "All Lives, You Say?"

First, I enjoy so much of Jeff Tweedy's creative output, it's no surprise I'd like this kind of random single that hit over the summer. But the fact that I really appreciated the theme of the song, that Jeff dedicated it to his father who passed away this year (as did mine), and that it's a charitable effort toward causes I support, makes it a winner by all definitions. Buy it on Bandcamp.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

The Islands of New England (11.28.17)

No matter how many people show up for the show, I always enjoy performing at The Islands of New England. Photo by Kat.

Even in the best of times, this period between Thanksgiving and New Year's is pretty hectic. But in this era that exemplifies the supposed Chinese curse of "May you live in interesting times," each time I look at the news is fraught with peril. What insane thing will my country's leaders do or say? Which beloved public figure will turn out to be accused of sexual harassment? What natural disaster will befall some area of the world? Where was the latest mass shooting?

It's enough to drive some people mad. I genuinely think that the people like me who perform live music have a more important role in this era on this crazy planet than we ever did before. The fact is, no matter whether it's a real life or virtual or other environment, music can pull people away from the focus of their stress for a little while. Music, as they say, soothes the savage beast. There's no direct evidence of this specifically, but imagine a person who is at the end of their rope, and could snap any second. Maybe they listen to a little Zak Claxton music and decide to put down the gun, or step away from the ledge. It's not impossible to consider this as a realistic possibility. From my position on the stage, I can't tell what's going through my audience's respective heads; I'm busy trying to play guitar and sing. But people have told me in the past that my music helped them through a rough time in their lives. It's a good feeling, and perhaps now more than ever, the simple act of putting on my guitar and stepping up to a mic might have a greater impact than at any previous time in my life.

Therefore, when I have a really good show like the one I did last night at The Islands of New England in Second Life, there's all the more a feeling of satisfaction when it's done and I'm turning off my audio stream. We can all enjoy music for music's sake alone, but we can also be aware that some people have it worse than others, or are going through a temporary but difficult time, and for those folks, music may be the one thing between themselves and despair.

People like the fact that my sets are eclectic. Why not hear more things than you expected? Photo by Kat.

Dancing and laughing are good ways to spend a Tuesday night. Photo by Kat.

I like when the venues decorate based on the season. Photo by Kat.

Am I the only person in SL playing bands like Wall of Voodoo? I probably am. Photo by Kat.

We had a great crowd of enthusiastic folks who seemed to be enjoying the show, which is good. I managed to put together a pretty cool set list that combined songs from several eras and genres, and fortunately, my voice and guitar were both behaving to an acceptable level.

The Islands of New England set list...
This Afternoon (Zak Claxton)
Northern Sky (Nick Drake)
Wildflowers (Tom Petty)
Bang and Blame (R.E.M.)
Learning to Fly (Pink Floyd)
Same Sun (Real Estate)
I’ve Been Waiting for You (Neil Young)
Is She Really Going Out with Him? (Joe Jackson)
Blew the Dust Away (They Stole My Crayon)
Words (Missing Persons)
Half Moon Bay (Sun Kil Moon)
Mexican Radio (Wall of Voodoo)

Massive thanks to everyone who came out to the show, and special extra thanks to the following who helped support it!
RansomTalmidge Resident, Stratus Mactavish, dstauffsl2 Resident, Sommer Shepherd, Radslns Hutchence, RoxxyyRoller Resident, Kiss Moonites, Caruso Hunniton, Aurelie Chenaux, Jeanne Schimmer, KB Byk, Tippy Wingtips, Old Bailey, Kat Claxton, TheaDee Resident, my lovely manager Maali beck, and the fantastic events manager of The Islands of New England, Christine Haiku!

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Serenity Gardens (11.20.17)

Small crowd, good tunes, no worries. Photo by Kat.

In as much as I'm not a huge fan of holidays in general, Thanksgiving may be my favorite one. Think about it: I like cooking, and I like eating, and I like happiness. Thanksgiving is a good excuse for all of the above. This year will be a little bittersweet, as my dad, who passed away on September 8, had been coming to my place for the event every year for over a decade. Obviously, this year will seem a little quieter without his boisterous personality involved, but I'm still doing my usual stuff to make it a fun day for myself, Christina, and my son. Everything on my traditional menu -- turkey, mashed potatoes, gravy, yams, cranberry sauce, green bean casserole, bread rolls, and pie -- will remain.

I figured with it being the week of Thanksgiving, I'd do my bi-weekly live music show at Serenity Gardens with an autumn music theme... not necessarily songs about autumn itself, of which there are surprisingly few, but just songs with the vibe of the season. However, as happens occasionally, Second Life wasn't fully cooperating with my plans. I already knew SL was acting up based on posts I was seeing on Facebook, with a big percentage of my SL friends talking about getting unexpectedly booted from being in-world and not being able to log back in. Hey, these things happen. When I went into SL to do my show, things were rather glitchy; I had to re-log three times and once I positioned myself onstage, tried not to move.

Just think how many people missed the chance to hear me cover Mariah Carey, something that may never happen again. Still, it was fun. Photo by Kat.

But the secondary result of SL being wacky was that we simply didn't get a lot of people at the show. As a live performer, regardless of the legitimate circumstances of not pulling a big crowd, it's natural to feel a little disheartened when your audience is maybe 20% of the size you expect. However, I've been doing this for way too long to get genuinely concern about a poorly-attended show or two. There are far too many circumstances that aren't in the control of the artist to take that stuff to heart. Keep in mind, this stuff happens in real life as well. Few musicians I know haven't had a gig scheduled and then some unplanned event... a road closure, a flooded street, an electrical outage, and so on... derails the possibility of getting people there. You can't allow yourself to assume that no one likes you any time you don't have your ideal audience. It's simply not logical.

I will say that in some ways, it's too bad that we didn't get a lot of people there, because I think it was a particularly good show. My voice and guitar were both performing very well (with one hilariously notable exception, when I simply couldn't make my hands do what I wanted on Elton John's "Daniel"), and the set list came together even better than I'd hoped.

Serenity Gardens set list...
Things Behind the Sun (Nick Drake)
Falling Down (Zak Claxton)
Allentown (Billy Joel)
Day After Day (Badfinger)
Carry Me Ohio (Sun Kil Moon)
After the Goldrush (Neil Young)
Sleeper in the Valley (Laura Veirs)
Thanks Anyway (Zak Claxton)
*Someday (Mariah Carey)
Here I Land (Nicholas Stevenson)
Daniel (Elton John)
In My Time of Dying (Traditional)

*Indicates the first time I've performed this song in SL.

Thanks to the people who did make it to the show, with special thanks to those who helped support it!
ErikKottzen Resident, Tricia Funizza, Tyche Szondi, TheaDee Resident, RoxxyyRoller Resident, Kat Claxton, my manager Maali Beck, and the great management team of Serenity Gardens, Tilly Rose and Ilsa Wilde!

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Get Ready to Surf the Blue Wave

I don't spend a bunch of time on political talk, but I do recognize when important things are happening, and I'm smart enough to know that yesterday's election results sent a clear message to everyone. I thought it might be nice to document a few things that happened on November 7, 2017.

Trump Supported a Loser and Then Immediately Stabbed Him in the Back
Perhaps the biggest news from the election was the defeat of Ed Gillespie (R) by Ralph Northam (D) as governor of Virginia. Gillespie had been being supported by Trump before the election.

As it became apparent a few hours later that Trump's choice was going to lose by a substantial margin, his tune changed.

One thing that the folks in America's heartland can all understand: no one can respect a person who is two-faced or disloyal. Trump's endorsement almost certainly helped cost Gillespie the election, and then Trump's treatment of the man he'd supported after the loss shows that he cannot be trusted under any circumstances. He has no qualms about throwing his supposed friends under the bus, and that's something anyone can see (and will continue to be more and more apparent as the Russian election interference investigation continues).

Shockingly Great Democratic Victories
A few of the many Democratic and Progressive winners from yesterday's election. Top row: Ralph Northam, Justin Fairfax, Wilmot Collins. Middle row: Danica Roem, Andrea Jenkins, Melvin Carter. Bottom row: Jenny Durkan, Vi Lyles, Ravinder Bhalla. Photos via Twitter.

As I've mentioned occasionally, the legacy of the Trump presidency is going to go in directions that no one could have anticipated. Previous to Trump's election, if you'd told me any of the following, I'd never have believed you. I think the very backlash to Trump and his regressive policies is what spurred America to make some of the following choices. It's heartening to see a wider group of voters putting aside their prejudices and giving these worthwhile candidates a chance.

• Joining Ralph Northam in Virginia's leadership is new lieutenant governor Justin Fairfax, who defeated Republican Jill Vogel.

• The new mayor of Helena, MT is an African refugee from Liberia and progressive politician named Wilmot Collins. The incumbent he beat had been mayor for 16 years.

Danica Roem was elected to the Virginia House of Delegates. In addition to being that state's first transgender delegate, her opponent was Bob Marshall, the self-proclaimed "chief homophobe" who created the infamously discriminatory "bathroom bill" legislation. Talk about sweet justice!

• She wasn't the only transgender person elected. Newly-elected Minneapolis city councilperson Andrea Jenkins is both black and transgendered. Also in Minnesota, the city of St. Paul elected its first black mayor, Melvin Carter.

• Manchester is the largest city in New Hampshire, and their incumbent Republican mayor Ted Gatsas was just defeated by Democrat Joyce Craig, the first woman to hold the position in the city's 266-year history.

• It's notable that Charlotte, NC chose Vi Lyles, the city's first black female mayor in its history. In less surprising but still great news, Seattle's new mayor is an openly lesbian woman, Jenny Durkan.

• I am very happy for Ravinder Bhalla‏, Hoboken, NJ's new mayor. There were flyers being distributed during the election that implied this Sikh man was a terrorist because he wore a turban. I think this kind of tactic will continue to have the opposite effect of its intention as more non-white, non-Christian, and non-male candidates seek election.

Just the Start
While this wave of Democratic victories is highly encouraging, it's only a small step on the road to getting our country back to where it should be. Next year, in 2018, is when the most crucial part of the process happens. Due to the anti-Trump backlash, the midterm elections have a strong chance of flipping congress to a Democratic majority. As my congressional representative Ted Lieu wrote last night...

I'm with Ted. Let's kick some ass and keep getting people out to vote at every opportunity.

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Serenity Gardens (11.06.17)

Monday nights at Serenity Gardens are always good. Photo by Kat.

It’s the first Tuesday in November today, which means that it’s been exactly a year since a good chunk of the USA went to the polls, confident that they’d elected the first female president of our country. I was really feeling pretty upbeat that day; while I wasn’t a huge fan of Hillary Clinton (I’d been a supporter of Bernie Sanders), I thought she’d do a relatively good job as America’s leader. It was later that night that I, along with a whole lot of others, watched in disbelief and then dejection when Donald Trump -- while losing the popular vote -- won the presidency based on electoral votes.

To say it’s been an interesting year since then is a hideous understatement. By nearly all definitions, it’s been awful. In addition to the horror of Trump’s complete lack of understanding of the job of POTUS and the growing evidence that he and his campaign colluded with Russia to get elected, we’ve faced a series of natural disasters and several of the worst instances of gun-related mass killings in modern history (not to mention our first nuclear saber rattling in many years). On a personal level, both my father and Christina’s father passed away in consecutive months, in September and October. It's been rough.

Good Times Coming Soon
I’m not here to dwell on those negative aspects of the past year. In fact, there are some tremendous positives that have come from all this. People who had previously been mild and complacent are now active and involved. So many important issues that had been pushed under the rug are being brought to the forefront... racism, wealth disparity, sexism, sexual assault, foreign influence on our elections, the needless buildup of our nuclear arsenal and much more. These topics are more out in the open than they'd ever been before. As part of the investigation into the Russian issue, we're also finding out more about the wealthy using offshore tax havens, and that's an issue that crosses all political outlooks. It's also quite possible that the outing of powerful sexual predators like Harvey Weinstein wouldn't have happened if people hadn't adopted a new willingness to fight injustice as has happened over the past year.

While it’s terrible to see our country going through these difficult times, my honest opinion is that without this opportunity for bringing our problems out into the light — many of which were problems long before Trump arrived — we’d have kept going on with these issues as business as usual. How ironic would it be for Trump’s presidential legacy to end up being almost the exact opposite of his intents? He’ll claim that was his plan all along, of course, and that’s fine with me. In the meantime, I do the things that I can do to help make life a little better for those around me, and one of those things is playing live music.

Crazy times got you down? Live music can't fix the world's problems, but it can help some things feel better for a little while. Photo by Kat.

Rocking Serenity
Last night was a great show at Serenity Gardens. I don't measure the greatness of shows based on the size of the crowd, ever. I base it on two simple factors: a) did I play good songs and play them well? and b) were the people who were there truly enjoying the show? The answer to both questions was definitely "yes" at my show last night. I did a couple of tunes I hadn't done before and enjoyed playing both (which truly were "new" songs, both having been released in the past few months). I pulled some other tunes from the deepest recesses of my repertoire, and those were fun too.

The people who own and help operate Serenity Gardens are super nice, and extremely supportive. I can tell you, having performed at about 100 different Second Life venues over the last 11+ years, these are people who know how to do it right. They're well organized, well staffed, and treat both the artists and the visitors with respect. I hear these crazy stories of things happening at other places, and think to myself how glad I am that there are places like Serenity that truly live up to their name. I do feel a sense of serene calm while I'm playing there, and it's truly a pleasure.

Serenity Gardens is truly a nice and relaxing place for live music in SL. Photo by Kat.

My view from the stage. Photo by Kat.

Serenity Gardens set list...
Love Ain’t for Keeping (The Who)
Mexico (James Taylor)
Linger (The Cranberries)
*Same Sun (Real Estate)
Rhiannon (Fleetwood Mac)
Into the Mystic (Van Morrison)
Nearly Lost You (Screaming Trees)
Perfect Day (Lou Reed)
Six Underground (Sneaker Pimps)
Plush (Stone Temple Pilots)
Say Goodbye (Beck)
*Intercontinental Breakfast (Courtney Barnett & Kurt Vile)
Saved by Zero (The Fixx)

*Indicates the first time I've ever performed this song in SL.

Big thanks to everyone who came to the show, with special super thanks to those who helped support it!
ErikKottzen Resident, XdazedserenityX Resident, go2smoky Resident, Mikes String, not4gods Resident, Tyche Szondi, TheaDee Resident, Kat Claxton, my most awesome manager Maali Beck, and the great management team of Serenity Gardens, Tilly Rose and Ilsa Wilde!

Monday, October 30, 2017

Veterans Isle for Homes For Our Troops (10.29.17)

Raising money for a great cause at Veterans Isle in Second Life. Photo by Kat.

About once a year for the last four or five years, I've received a request from fellow Second Life musician Frets Nirvana to perform at a benefit that he hosts on the last Sunday of each month at Veterans Isle. Each time, I've said yes right away. The shows benefit a nonprofit organization called Homes For Our Troops, a 501(c)(3) charity that builds and donates specially-adapted custom homes nationwide for severely injured post-9/11 veterans to enable them to rebuild their lives.

Zak Says, "War... It's Not Good"
I've spoken about this before, but it bears repeating: I'm as opposed to war as anyone you've ever met. I find it to be one of the last holdouts of humanity's most barbaric behavior. I believe that most wars, especially modern ones, are not held for the supposedly noble reasons that are offered to the public, and are rather attempts to steal resources from other nations, and/or for the profit of individuals and companies who care more about the greedy expansion of their own assets than the horror of death and severe injury to the young people who fight in them (and who usually are doing so under misleading circumstances).

Why, then support a cause dedicated to veterans? It's for that exact reason, actually. The members of the military who fight in wars and are severely injured do not even get the courtesy of being treated with the courtesy and respect they merit after their return home. Like it or not, it's up to causes like Homes For Our Troops to help provide for people whose bodies were mangled in their attempts to do what they feel is the right thing. Should it be that way? No, no, a resounding no. But it is that way, and until it changes, I will always be happy to spend a little time playing guitar and singing to help those people in a small way.

My "Halloween Boycott" Show
I love Halloween. It's a fun holiday. That having been said, as a musician, it's extraordinarily limiting in terms of performing songs I really enjoy. I've done tons of Halloween shows, both in real life and the virtual world, where I select entire sets of spooky songs (including the song "Spooky"). When I started getting my list together for my show at Veterans Isle, the thought crossed my mind that since it was so close to Halloween, I should choose some of my scarier material. Then I threw that plan right out the window for the very legitimate reason that I didn't feel like it. Instead, I did more of a typical Zak Show. Especially considering that many of the folks at the event weren't part of my regular crowd, I wanted to give them a chance to enjoy what most people hear when they attend my shows.

My view from the stage. Photo by Kat.

We had a good crowd of generous people who all helped the cause. Photo by Kat.

Right after the show... happy, sweaty me. Photo by Kat.

We ended up doing very well for the goal of the event, which was raising funds. I'm proud to say that at the end of my set, we surpassed L$30,000, which is over $120 USD. That's pretty damn good money raised for an hour of one guy strumming a guitar, and I'm sure that the rest of the event (which featured other fine SL performers including Chapman Zane, The Vinnie Show, and Blues Heron) raised much more for the cause.

Veterans Isle/Homes For Our Troops set list...
Dusty Rhodes (Lotus Plaza)
It’s Easy like Walking (The Sadies/Kurt Vile)
Comes a Time (Neil Young)
How Soon Is Now? (The Smiths)
Man of Constant Sorrow (Traditional)
Pink Moon (Nick Drake)
Rocket Man (Elton John)
Always Tomorrow (Zak Claxton)
Half Moon Bay (Sun Kil Moon)
Tea in the Sahara (The Police)
Airport Bar (Martin Courtney)
Pigs on the Wing - Parts 1/2 (Pink Floyd)

Huge thanks to all who came out and contributed so generously! Here's a list of some of the people who were there (and happen to be in my chat log). Thanks to you all!
Sabryne Hotaling, Waya Snowpaw, Russ Bentley, Jeff Mirabeau, RoxHardcore Cyberstar, Gjackie Winkler, Lady Elicea, daallee rhapsody, Aurelie Chenaux, Kat Claxton, kayravi, flynavy beerbaum, Triana Caldera, marythemagdalen, Archer Clary, thundercloud lecker, Ceithlan Zane, Chapman Zane, klondikes Fredriksson, aryna markova, Romie Vella, Kal Habana, Alicia Underby, and most of all, Frets Nirvana who drives the entire event (and does so month after month, year after year).