Wednesday, December 31, 2008

New Year's Memories

I thought it might be appropriate to spend a moment or two reminiscing about the ghosts of new year's past. I could, I suppose, instead reflect on 2008 specifically, but what's one year among many? Here are some details of some memorable New Year's Eves.

Musical New Years
As a musician, there have been a number of years that I end up performing on the last day of the year. A few stand out in my memories. There was the time that my high school-era band played at the huge party of our now dearly departed friend Tim Kerrigan, which was in 1988. That was perhaps the biggest backyard party I ever played... there had to be close to 300 kids there, and it was one of the first times I actually had a small taste of the rock star life. Back then, I was much less hesitant to play while intoxicated than I am now, and one indication of that was waking up on January 1, 1989 and having no idea where my guitar and amp were (they were fortunately safe, as I found out the next day when I went back to the house to retrieve them).

Years later, on 12/31/02, I played a private party with my band at the time, Liquid. We were set up in a garage (classy!), and our audience milled around in the driveway. It started off pretty dull, but as the evening progressed, the female friends of the hostess began getting progressively more and more drunk. Ultimately, while we played our cover tunes, the gals began doing amateur strip teases in front of us. By the time midnight rolled around, I'd seen more intimate body parts of strangers than I had in the last porno I saw.

Last year, I spent New Year's Eve 2007 performing live in SL. Since the evening fell on the night when I had my regular weekly show, I was asked to play. Having nothing else to do that night (I'd long since stopped going out on that evening), I accepted the gig, and ended up having one of my biggest audiences ever in SL (I've had larger ones since, but it was pretty cool at the time). I got to countdown the new year for the East Coast folks (being three hours behind them was advantageous for this), and it turned out to be a really fun night.

Rocking Crystal Sands, 12/31/07.

Non-Musical New Years
Some of my earliest New Years memories are pretty great. When you're ten and you have a legitimate excuse to stay up until midnight, you cherish it. My mom used to make something she called "Children's Champagne". It was rainbow sorbet with 7-Up poured over it. I've made it for my own kid in more recent times. I might make it tonight, actually. Sounds kinda yummy.

As I got older, I started doing adult-style New Years, well before I was legally (or mentally) an adult. Honestly, I really used to enjoy going out on New Year's Eve. I did. I don't now, but I did once. I definitely recall having a great time on 12/31/85. I was a senior in high school, and my friend Joe Arseneault had a huge party every year, since it was both his birthday and New Years rolled into one. Joe had a keg of beer, or perhaps several of them, and we knew in some aspects things would be changing quickly as we got toward the end high school and moved out into the world. So, with all of our good friends around, we drank and smoked and laughed and danced and sang. Good times, for sure.

Two years later, in 1987, was the beginning of my current trend toward disliking the New Year's "go out and party" experience. My band did go and play at a party in Redondo Beach, but we were ridiculously loud and the cops shut as down relatively quickly. We ended up hanging out in a depressing environment comprised of a few guys who were passing around a cocaine-lined mirror in their dingy apartment, talking about "the good old days" even though we weren't yet 20 years old. Bleh. That entire point in my life was an immense bummer; my folks had divorced, I had no permanent place I called home, and I was neither fully committed to work or school. Not a good time, really.

Two years ago, I was convinced to go hang out with some old friends for New Year's, but the problem of being spread around the greater Los Angeles area can be a bummer. We started out at a friend's party in Orange County, and then relocated to another pal's house closer to home, in Lomita. But all in all, I found myself yawning throughout the evening, and since I also don't really enjoy drinking anymore, I found myself at several points wishing I was back in my own home. Often, you assume it's the people or the situations that have changed, but ultimately it's a better bet that you're the one who has changed. I think that was the case with me.

So, for the most part, I've abandoned the idea of New Year's being an excuse to go out and drink, and all the rest of it. However, ending on a bright note, for the past three New Year's Eves, I've greatly enjoyed being on the phone with my darling Kat at midnight, to start the new year by wishing her a happy one. And this year, for the first time, I get to have her next to me when the ball drops at midnight. For that, I am thankful.

Happy New Year, everyone.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

My debut at Molaskey's Pub (12.28.08)

Well, the year is winding down, and I'm happy to have just played my last show of 2008, making this one of the last blog posts of the year as well. What a terrific year it's been, by the way, in my musical life. I've spent more time playing and recording this year than perhaps every before in my life, and I managed to do almost exactly 100 shows in SL over the course of the year. In my opinion, that's a Goldilocks number of gigs in SL (not too much, not too little, just right), meaning I averaged right around two per week all year.

In addition to being an ending of 2008, today was also a nice beginning to playing at Molaskey's Pub. I did my first show there today, performing at their cute ice skating rink. We didn't get a giant crowd going -- I don't like to make excuses, but there were a ton of shows happening simultaneously -- but we did have fun, and I can see pulling larger crowds if I was to play there more often. Speaking of which, if I'm able to work it out with vene owner Katydid Something, I do hope to be playing at Molaskey's again in the near future.

But I digress. It was a fun show, and like I usually try and do, I pulled out a new song to commemorate playing at a new place.

Here's my set list...
This Afternoon (Zak Claxton)
*Starman (David Bowie)
Thanks Anyway (Zak Claxton)
Tempted (Squeeze)
Falling Down (Zak Claxton)
Crazy Little Thing Called Love (Queen)
Alabama (Neil Young)
Sour Girl (Stone Temple Pilots)
Help Me (Joni Mitchell)
Little Wing (Jimi Hendrix)
Always Tomorrow (Zak Claxton)
You’re Like a Cloud (Zak Claxton)
Tribute (Tenacious D)

Many thanks to the people who helped support my show!
Wildstar Beaumont, Spence Wilder, Horizon Darkstone, Rey Tardis, Triana Caldera, Kat Claxton, Leyah Renegade, Mia Kitchensink, Sona Destiny, and especially Katydid Something!

Monday, December 22, 2008

Good times, good friends at San Diego in SL (12.21.08)

Dancing and having fun at the Zak Show.

My crowd was small but happy, like a dwarf on weed.

I think that this weekend was so packed with shows, celebrations, and various benefits that it was amazing I got anyone to come out to San Diego in SL at all. But we slowly pulled together a nice little group of folks who really seemed to enjoy the show. After all, I'd just played at the "Christmas All Year Through" celebration earlier in the day, so a number of people who might have come out to see me probably had already done so that day. In any case, we did manage to scare up some folks and had a great time, as I always tend to do at SD in SL.

By the way: once again, other than my main five original tunes, I created a list of covers that I hadn't performed in the last several weeks. It's really one of the nice things about having a big repertoire... it keeps me fresh, not performing the same covers over and over again, and I think my audience enjoys the aspect of not knowing what to expect at each show. It had been more than a year since I performed a couple of the tunes I played at SD this day. Good times.

Here was my set list...

This Afternoon (Zak Claxton)
Wish You Were Here (Pink Floyd)
Thanks Anyway (Zak Claxton)
You've Got To Hide Your Love Away (Beatles)
Fire & Rain (James Taylor)
You’re Like a Cloud (Zak Claxton)
Heart of Gold (Neil Young)
Always Tomorrow (Zak Claxton)
Accidents Will Happen (Elvis Costello)
Falling Down (Zak Claxton)
Wild Horses (Rolling Stones)
Under Pressure (Queen/David Bowie)
I Am The Walrus (Beatles)

Big thanks to the folks who helped support my show!
Triana Caldera, dakota7z7 Pluto, Nate Easterwood, Quinton Diavolo, Fraccy Rebus, Padula Bing, Kat Claxton, and my terrific hostess, Cher Harrington!

Christmas All Year Through at Nitida Ridge (12.21.08)

In March 2008, a number of people from the community of Second Life musicians got together and created a song to help raise awareness of the live music scene in SL. That song was called "Get It Together", and was a project spearheaded by a couple of good guys: Djai Skjellerup and Toby Lancaster.

Well, they decided that if one song was good, two songs would be even better. Besides, they needed a good reason to freshen people's interest in the topic of live music in SL, so Djai wrote a holiday song called "Christmas All Year Through", and once again, the SL music community came together to create the tune. Yesterday, in a similar manner to what we did last March, there was a celebration at Bree Birke's beautiful venue Nitida Ridge to help promote its debut. Several of the people who contributed to the song performed live, self included.

Click here for a free MP3 download of "Christmas All Year Through"!

A great crowd for Zak's short show at the "Christmas All Year Through" party.

Zak performing onstage to a packed house at Nitida Ridge.

Here was the lineup of the festive day...

12:00 - Jean Munro
12:20 - Franciskus Paine
12:40 - Babblegrabble Swindlehurst
1:00 - Zak Claxton
1:20 - Carah Nitely
1:40 - OhMy Kidd
2:00 - Kiaranne Flanagan
2:20 - Tpenta Vanalten
2:40 - Lonnie Nightfire
3:00 - Djai Skjellerup

After Djai did his short set, we had the premiere of the song, which went very nicely despite a griefer unsuccessfully trying to ruin the moment. Since I had just 20 minutes to do my thing, I stuck to originals only. By keeping the banter to a minimum, I actually squeezed in all five of the original tunes I play regularly in world. Kat and I had a fun day, and ended up staying for about three hours of very good music.

Here's what I played...

You’re Like a Cloud (Zak Claxton)
Always Tomorrow (Zak Claxton)
Falling Down (Zak Claxton)
Thanks Anyway (Zak Claxton)
This Afternoon (Zak Claxton)

Many thanks to the people who supported my set of original tunes!
Reginald Beck, Cher Harrington, Koks Homewood, BabbleGrabble Swindlehurst, OhMy Kidd, Crap Mariner, seissab Zarf, JanKRO Kubrick, Djai Skjellerup, Kat Claxton, Sally Silvera, Ursula Cinquetti, HomeLess Martian, Bree Birke, and Nils Apfelbaum!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Another fun one: Bay Vista Dragon's Pearl (12.16.08)

Upon arrival, I watch the Born Again Pagans from the side of the stage.

There are more people there, but you can't see them behind my silly hat.

As we're getting into the home stretch of the year, I'm enjoying the slight pick up in frequency of shows that I tend to do in the holiday season. It's strange, because at least for one reason, performing when it's cold gives you a couple of challenges you don't get in warmer times of year. Well, it's unseasonably chilly in Southern California at the moment; I believe when I started my show today at Bay Vista's Dragon's Pearl stage, the temps outside hadn't quite scratched 50, and I generally don't use any heat in the house at all. That'll probably change tonight.

Anyway, it's harder to do things like sing and use your hands when you're cold, but I still managed to work up a sweat playing what I thought was a good show. We started with a pretty small crowd, but as the show went on we had quite a few people filtering in. I think when I got offstage, there were about 22 people there -- and I'm not going to acknowledge that a number of them were there for Blindboy Gumbo's upcoming show. :)

As has been my pattern lately, I am mostly alternating between my original tunes and covers. However, since I am doing so many less covers than before, I am making a point to circulate them each week so that people who come see me won't get the same set show to show. I think it's working well.

Here was today's set list...

This Afternoon (Zak Claxton)
Nobody Home/Vera (Pink Floyd)
Thanks Anyway (Zak Claxton)
The Man Who Sold the World (David Bowie)
You’re Like a Cloud (Zak Claxton)
*Little Wing (Jimi Hendrix)
Ashes to Ashes (David Bowie)
Falling Down (Zak Claxton)
Lola (The Kinks)
Always Tomorrow (Zak Claxton)
A Day in the Life (Beatles)

*Indicates song I've never before performed in SL

Thanks to everyone who helped support my show!
Jayson Luminos, luna32 Allen, Gretchen Capalini, Roni Navarathna, Paisley Dawes, HomeLess Martian, and hexx Triskaidekaphobia!

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Tearing it up at San Diego in SL (12.14.08)

Zak onstage at SD in SL, with new hair and everything. Photo courtesy of Triana Caldera.

Sometime before my show today at the California Building at San Diego in SL I said to Kat, "Ya know, I think it'll be a pretty good show, but I'm not feeling like my voice is gonna be too spectacular today."

And of course, just to spite me, my voice was really in great shape, and I think it was one of my best shows of 2008 in terms of the performance. As you know, I'm far too humble to tout my own abilities (insert rolling eyes and huge smirk here), but for whatever reason, I was rocking San Diego today like it was the last gig on Earth. Really, really fun, with a nice sized crowd that stayed about 25 strong throughout most of the show, by my estimate.

I did play a new cover, as I've done lately at San Diego, and though I performed the entire group of original Zak Claxton tunes, I did not play a single cover this week that I'd done last week... I'm trying to keep it fresh for my repeat fans at this fun show.

So, sounded good, with a good crowd, and I never ask for more than that... except I got more! I had a bunch of friends show up, including Grace McDunnough (whose birthday is today), Doubledown Tandino, Djai Skjellerup, Tommy Cult, and others (in additional to my hostess Cher and my Greatest Fan, Triana). So it was just really fun and great to see folks, and I wish every one of my shows could be like today's!

Song Sample: "Falling Down" (Zak Claxton)

Here's what I played...

This Afternoon (Zak Claxton)
Summer Breeze (Seals & Crofts)
Thanks Anyway (Zak Claxton)
Court & Spark (Joni Mitchell)
Falling Down (Zak Claxton)
*Breaking Us in Two (Joe Jackson)
Always Tomorrow (Zak Claxton)
Any Major Dude (Steely Dan)
You’re Like a Cloud (Zak Claxton)
What I Got (Sublime)
Ziggy Stardust (David Bowie)
Save It For Later (English Beat)

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

Thanks to all who supported my show today at San Diego in SL!
Grace McDunnough, Smitty Boyau, Haruka Harris, Anutte Frankfurter, Triana Caldera, Tommy Cult, Djai Skjellerup, Doubledown Tandino, Esser Source, Roni Navarathna, HomeLess Martian, Senjata Witt, and of course the ever-gracious and fun Cher Harrington!

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Zak's 2009 Promo Video

Every year, I update my little promo video for my SL shows, and I got a jump on it this year (usually it's like February... okay, April, when I do it). So, without further hype (other than to say this is the greatest piece of filmmaking in the history of cinema), here it is!

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Demo preview: Lines on Your Eyes

When I'm working on a new song and feel I have it pretty much ready to go and in the structure that I'll end up recording it when I get into the studio, I like doing a quick live demo to capture the vibe.

So, that's what I did tonight with my song "Lines on Your Eyes", which is a case of a tune that was pretty close to done but needed some sprucing up. Well, I spruced, I liked, and here's the result.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Bringing the rock to San Diego (12.07.08)

Today was the first of my weekly scheduled events at San Diego in SL, where I'll be for three consecutive Sundays. We had a fun and enthusiastic crowd, and as usual, Cher Harrington did a terrific job as the hostess. If I had to give my vote for "Best at running great shows in SL", Cher would get it hands down (though her pal Ursula Cinquetti would be a strong second place).

Anyway, the show... first of all, I did an encore, and I never do encores at SL shows. Seriously, look through my blogs back to the beginning. Tell me if you see any encores in there. But I'd literally taken off my guitar and had ended my stream broadcast, and got cheered back onstage for another tune at the end. It was great. I ended up doing the most songs I've ever done in a "one hour" show -- 14. Wow.

At the beginning of the day, we started with a pretty small crowd, but by the halfway point of the show we had over 20 people and all seemed to be having a great time. I debuted a song, and did something kind of cool where I ran the end of it straight into the next song in my set. Worked very nicely.

Song Sample: "Sour Girl/Old Man" (Stone Temple Pilots/Neil Young)

And here is the set list...

This Afternoon (Zak Claxton)
Nowhere Man (Beatles)
Thanks Anyway (Zak Claxton)
*Sour Girl (Stone Temple Pilots)
Old Man (Neil Young)
You’re Like a Cloud (Zak Claxton)
California (Joni Mitchell)
Falling Down (Zak Claxton)
If You Could Only See (Tonic)
Always Tomorrow (Zak Claxton)
Tribute (Tenacious D)
Just Like Starting Over (John Lennon)
Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere (Neil Young)
Rikki Don't Lose That Number (Steely Dan)

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

Thanks so much to all who helped support my show!
Jonty Smit, Paisley Dawes, Susanna Jansma, Jeyff Shippe, Iriskaye Siamendes, Ursula Cinquetti, and espcially Cher Harrington!

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Introducing Frothy Music

With my album plodding along its long journey toward completion, I realized somewhat belatedly that although I plan on releasing the album independently, it would be nice to have a company to act as my record label as well as handle any future publishing possibilities of my songs.

So, together with Kat, I made one! We're happy to introduce Frothy Music, our small indie label and music publishing company! For the time being, we aren't accepting artists other than myself; we'd like to make sure we know how to do this before doing it to anyone else. But who knows? It could be fun.

We'll be putting together a little plan for Frothy as we get closer to the completion of the Zak Claxton album, but I'm confident that along with my smart and sexy COO, we can do just fine as our own label. More news to come as it develops.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Everywhere and Nowhere: Places I've Played in SL

After a recent flurry of performing at venues I've never played before, I started wondering how many different live music venues in Second Life there were where I'd performed scheduled events. Luckily, since I'm so anal retentive about documenting all this silly crap, I was able to not only put together a list of the venues, but the date of my debut there. Some places I've only played once, and others I've played 50+ times since then. Many venues are still active, while others have gone to the great pixel graveyard. But here's the big list, in order of when I made my debut there! Feel free to recommend other places where I should have played by now, if you want.

Coyote (4/12/07)
The Shelter (5/3/07)
Hanging Gardens of Babylon (8/31/07)
Artisan Gallarias (9/14/07)
Neil Young Archives (09/29/07)
Crystal Sands (10/12/07)
Bubblegum Music Factory (10/24/07)
Merry Prankster (10/22/07)
Cuddlers Cove (10/30/07)
Space Odessy (11/5/07)
Encore Design Group (11/17/07)
La Scala Opera House (11/26/07)
The Warehouse, Ir Shalom (12/5/07)
Rocky Shores (12/8/07)
Tabitha’s Hard Rock Cafe (12/13/07)
Woodstock (12/14/07)
Stonehenge (1/12/08)
Pink Ice Club (2/7/08)
The Zone! (2/12/08)
Relay for Life I (2/17/08)
New Berlin (2/19/08)
Triana’s Music Trivia (2/24/08)
Artisan Square (3/2/08)
Summertime Blues Club (3/8/08)
DD Party (3/9/08)
Nitida Ridge (3/22/08)
DarkStar (4/2/08)
Sunshine Daydream (4/6/08)
TCH Yacht Club (4/10/08)
NYA Stage (4/18/08)
Relay for Life II (5/14/08)
SL5B Hippie Bus (6/27/08)
SL5B Main Stage (6/27/08)
Inspiration Cove (7/6/08)
Triumph Cove (7/12/08)
Fibber McGee’s (7/24/08)
The Notes Shack (8/6/08)
The Galleria (8/11/08)
The Falls (8/28/08)
Rastafairy Beach (8/30/08)
San Diego in SL (8/30/08)
Belford Beach Bums (10/19/08)
Blarney Stone (11/11/08)
Bay Vista Dragon’s Pearl (12/2/08)

... and many more to come! I have two places that are new for me (Ashlea's Music Loft and Molaskey's Pub) on my schedule before the end of 2008 alone.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Debut at Bay Vista Dragon's Pearl (12.02.08)

What a fun and cool-looking venue the Dragon's Pearl stage at Bay Vista is! It was a great mid-day break for me, and my audience seemed pretty happy as well. Cutting to the chase...

People having fun and stuff.

Nice shot from the Dragon's Pearl stage.

Here's what I played...

This Afternoon (Zak Claxton)
Ramble On (Led Zeppelin)
Thanks Anyway (Zak Claxton)
If You Could Only See (Tonic)
Falling Down (Zak Claxton)
Rikki Don't Lose That Number (Steely Dan)
Always Tomorrow (Zak Claxton)
Court & Spark (Joni Mitchell)
You’re Like a Cloud (Zak Claxton)
Old Man (Neil Young)
Tribute (Tenacious D)
Redemption Song (Bob Marley)

Thanks to everyone at Bay Vista, especially the ones who helped support my show!
creola Deledda, Gretchen Capalini, Kanja Sands, hexx Triskaidekaphobia, jsmn Yao, Winston Ackland, TyeDyeFlyGuy Jonson, Katzy Rigaud, and Silas Scarborough!

Monday, December 1, 2008

5 Reasons This Time of Year can Suck

A lot of people find themselves in a less-than-optimal mood during this time of year. Some of the reasons are pretty obvious and affect a pretty wide percentage of people in general, and others are custom-tailored for lucky individuals.

I'm lucky... despite all the reasons not to, I still love the concept of Christmas. Look past the crass commercialism, the issue of not being able to afford all the things you'd like to get for your loved ones and so on, and I still feel Christmas (and the other winter holidays) give humans a once-a-year reminder to give a shit about their fellow man. A more pessimistic person would probably find it depressing that people can't be that way for more than one out of twelve months, but screw it; I'm a "glass half full" person.

Still, I'd be a fool to completely refuse to acknowledge that December's arrival can bring in an off-putting element to many lives. Here are a few aspects of December that I, personally, could probably live without.

1. December 8.
I am not... repeat, NOT... a superstitious person. I don't believe in nearly anything that's not explainable by science. But over the course of my life, I've had a number of years where something odd seems to happen on December 8. Self-fulfilling prophesy? Perhaps, but if so, I promise it's within the depths of my subconscious. And it's not always a BAD thing, per se. On December 8, 1980, I performed at my very first public recital as a musician, and did very well. Then, on my way home in my parents' car, I found out that John Lennon had been killed while I was performing onstage. It's not always something that dramatic or memorable, but it seems that I've had an inordinate amount of relationship breakups, injuries/illnesses, career changes, car accidents, and other strange things happen on this date. I should also mention that there have been a good number of years that this date comes and goes and despite my awareness of it, nothing out of the ordinary happens. So, we're a week out from my Odd Day, and I'll let you know how it goes.

2. The NAMM Show.
The NAMM Show is my industry's Super Bowl, or perhaps its World Series, or some other analogy that explains the most important single event of a year in a particular business. in real life, I work in the music and audio products industry, and Winter NAMM is a giant trade show where all the manufacturers introduce their new wares. A good NAMM show can significantly impact the entire year of business for a company in my industry, and a bad NAMM show can really have an adverse effect. A few things about it: first, I really, really, REALLY dislike trade shows. I just do. Second, although NAMM is in January, it's the culmination of weeks and weeks of heavy work for people like me, who help create all the signs, brochures, video presentations, sponsorships, web updates, and other marketing elements that go into a show like this. So every December for the past 16 years, much of my time is eaten by getting ready for NAMM. I recall during one pre-internet year having to go into the office on Christmas Day to get some stuff done. It's not fun, and it doesn't get any easier with passing time. The one saving grace over the past five+ years that I've owned my own business is that I do prefer being able to set my own schedule, as opposed to being at the beck and call of some other person. But in any case, it's a lot of freakin' work, and at this very moment, in fact, I am procrastinating some essential NAMM-related work while writing this blog entry. Bleh.

3. Weather.
Don't laugh at me. Just don't. I live in Southern California, and it can be absolutely beautiful in December. But this morning, I awoke to an incredibly dense blanket of fog and a very surreal feeling of foreboding that came along with it. So, while we get no snow here, and the temperature rarely drops even into the 40s, and it almost never even rains, I still find the winter weather a little bit of a downer. I'll shut up now. Hey, I never claimed these reasons to be bitchy were legitimate to anyone but me.

4. People.
So, here I am, trying to find some goodness within the gloom of December. But let me tell you; the news is no place to turn for happiness and good times. Over the last week, we had a massive terror assault in Mumbai, a crowd of shoppers at a Wal-Mart in Long Island that stampled a poor worker to death, two guys that shot each other to death in a Toys R Us here in California, and more. What the fuck is wrong with people? Every time I start to think that we're making even the slightest amount of progress as a species, all I need to do is hit and I'm reminded that we're as bad, or perhaps worse, than ever. And those are just the people whose shitty behavior makes the news. There's a reason why I do all my holiday shopping online, and it's not for the great prices. It's that I don't have any love for circling parking lots for hours, being elbowed while getting on escalators, or dealing with surly seasonal employees at the mall. Anyway, people tend to be at their worst this time of year. Ironic, eh?

5. Money.
Not my money. I don't mind spending my money. In fact, I'd much rather spend my money giving gifts to people I love than limiting its use for mundane crap like paying my utility bills... where's the fun in that? But the problem I'm seeing is that more and more folks I know are out of work, or just not making ends meet, or are finding themselves so far in debt that there looks to be no path to climb out of their hole they've dug. But I'm not in a position to help everyone I know that needs help, and in the bigger picture, I don't know that handing money to everyone I know who needs it really DOES help them. It's just a bummer, even if it's not my personal bummer of the moment.

So, there are five things that seem to suck right now. And I'm really not going out of my way to dwell on those things. in fact, I'm happy and thankful for a lot of absolutely GREAT things that are going on in my life right now, and I never want to appear ungrateful for those things. I'm really not. Perhaps sometime later this month, when I find myself completely infused with the Spirit of Christmas, I'll make an equally nauseating blog post about happiness, love, the kindness of strangers, and goodwill toward men. But for now? Meh. And bah.