MAKE MUSIC MADISON Showcase at High Noon Saloon Produces "Total Wank Fest"

Contact: Joe Leonard, ragbraijoe@yahoo.com

MADISON WI, November 30, 2016 - "It's a total wank fest!" a musical colleague who shall remain unnamed yelled as she stood beside me on the stage at the High Noon Saloon. She was making reference to the 25+ minute musical "breakdown" jam that we were in the thick of at that moment (me on bass), along with several other musicians who were attending the MAKE MUSIC MADISON fundraiser event at the venue.

Upon further analysis, I similarly concluded that the chaotic maelstrom of music emanating from the stage was indeed a metaphor for orgiastic musical masturbation. Various performers were trading shredding solos on the two chord refrain of the albeit ironic song "Don't Be a Dick," composed collectively by several local collaborating musicians. The song encourages listeners to refrain from such dickish and douchebaggy behaviors as being mean to people or driving aggressively.

"It took 18 hours for us to record this song," said Mark Fairchild, drummer and co-writer of the so-called Dick Song seconds before the roughly 8 to 10 musicians on stage busted into the tune. "Which is way longer than it should ever take to record one song. Here we go...a one, two, three, four..."

Prior to the group Dick Song performance, several local musicians had performed short sets on the stage to help raise funds for MAKE MUSIC MADISON, a city wide music event that takes place every year on the summer solstice, June 21 (a Wednesday in 2017, for anyone interested in participating or spectating). The Dick Song was principally sung by one Kelsey Miles, with backing vocals by other musicians on stage. The KELSEY MILES BAND performed the spectacular headlining set of the evening that people can't stop talking about according to unnamed sources.

I have no idea how much money was raised for MMM 2017, but I can tell you the $10 suggested donation at the door was a great value for the music provided in return. The bands were paid in vouchers for free slices of pizza and, supposedly, six packs of good beer (as of this writing unconfirmed).


Case Study Determines 11 AM on Tuesday is the Best Time for Joe and Deborah to Go to the Gym

Contact: Joe Leonard, ragbraijoe@yahoo.com

MADISON WI, November 29, 2016 - A ground breaking new case study conducted today has concluded that 11 AM is the best time for Joe and Deborah to go the the gym on Tuesdays.

"Most people are at work during the middle of the day on Tuesdays, so a major obstacle to a fun and productive workout - other people - is eliminated," Joe said. "More importantly, it's adult swim in the Sport Pool from 11:30 to 12:30. That means no goddam kids clogging up the lanes and leaving their crap all over the floor of the locker room like it's their own bedroom or some sh!t."

"Plus most kids are in school at this time of day," added Deborah. "It really is a much nicer environment when the unsupervised kids are eliminated from the equation."

Although unsupervised kids are technically forbidden anywhere in the Harbor Athletic Club facility where the case study was conducted, this rule is weakly enforced if at all. As a result, kid-phobic fitness buffs have to workout during off peak times, such as during school hours or late at night.

"Weekday early evenings are probably the most hellish time to go to the gym" Joe said. "The little phuckheads are out of control then, leaving messes everywhere. One of these days I am going to move all their friggin' gym clothes from the floor into one of the lockers just to mess with them."

"That'd be hilarious," Deborah said. "But you're too nice to do something like that."

"True," Joe said. "Sometimes I wish I was more of a dick, but I don't have it in me."

While this case study only translates to Tuesday workouts, Joe and Deborah plan to repeat the case study under similar conditions on Thursday in an attempt to generalize these findings to other weekdays.

"If we can replicate these findings during a similar time frame on Thursdays, this will have huge ramifications for our fitness regimen and goals," Joe said. "This will guarantee at least two hassle free workouts each week, with the exception of school holidays like Thanksgiving...but who works out on that day anyway?"

Joe and Deborah noted that weekends are always a gamble at the gym.

"Wisconsin sportsball games are generally a safe bet," Deborah said. "It's Wisconsin so even the most athletic people are usually in a bar somewhere stuffing their faces with beer and cheese."


Rock Tuesday Added to Lexicon of Consumer Related Day of the Week Memethology

Contact: Joe Leonard, ragbraijoe@yahoo.com

MADISON WI, November 28, 2016 - You've heard of Black Friday and Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday. Add Rock Tuesday to the memethology of silly consumerist day of the week monikers.
The High Metal Council today ruled to allow the addition of "Rock Tuesday" to the lexicon of pop culture memes after long and careful consideration of a petition circulated and submitted by rock-n-roll anti-hero Cactus Joe.

"The basis for the petition was sound," thundered Thor of Norse God fame, just prior to hurling lightning bolts at the Earth in a totally unnecessary display of raw power. "Material and electronic consumerism are well represented in pop culture, but rock-n-roll consumption has always been historically downplayed and undervalued and it's time we changed that."

"The basic premise of Rock Tuesday is to consume as much rock-n-roll music as possible in 24 hours," Cactus Joe said. "Performers of rock music now have a great opportunity to market their wares to rock loving consumers."

By High Metal Council decree, the High Noon Saloon in Madison is hosting a massive rock-n-roll event on Rock Tuesday, the MAKE MUSIC MADISON SHOWCASE, which will feature performances by the very best local rock-n-roll provisioners from 6 PM to midnight. The line to get into this event is expected to be miles long, so rock consumers are advised to get there early.

The High Noon showcase will include performances by face melting specialists YOUR MOM, the KELSEY MILES BAND, and SUNSPOT at no extra cost.


A Music Laden Thanksgiving Long Weekend

I performed with the KELSEY MILES BAND on Thanksgiving Eve, Wednesday 11/23/16, for some Dudeists at a bowling alley. It pretty much rocked. Thursday I took it easy and enjoyed time with Deborah and some friends over Thanksgiving dinner. We fairly successfully cooked a turkey using a proven failsafe method we found online. On Friday 11/25/16, another of my bands, SKOOLNITE BENDER, opened for hard rock cover band PILOT at the Club Tavern, very close to home. That too was well received. Today, Sunday 11/27/16, I hosted an open mic at the Bos Meadery in the afternoon and now I'm about to hit the stage with KMB again at Funks Pub (open jam), concluding a heavily rock-n-roll laden long weekend.

How was yours? Leave a comment.


CACTUS JOE at the Hop Garden Loft Last Friday Night - 5 Star Performance

Friday night I braved the deteriorating fall weather and drove down to Paoli WI to perform a solo acoustic show as CACTUS JOE at the Hop Garden Tap Room, a small microbrewery with a cozy little indoor tasting room. I arrived about 5:30 PM to set up for my 6 PM performance. That was probably premature, because it was a fully acoustic show (no electronic gear needed), and I am conditioned to always allow time for load in and setup.

"Hi," I said to the bartender behind the beer tappers after I stepped into the venue from the cold wind outside, an acoustic guitar and my merch bag in each hand, respectively, and another guitar clutched under my arm. "I'm performing here tonight, I think?"

"Yeah, you can set up upstairs," the bartender replied. "Things should start to pick up at six or a little after."

The room was pretty empty except for a group of people at a table on the upper level who were deep in conversation. I nodded a greeting and smiled at them as I reached the top of the stairs to the "loft" that overlooked the lower floor of the tap room. They didn't seem to care for my intrusion, but I proceeded to arrange my guitars on the opposite side of the room from them. As I softly tuned the instruments, I eavesdropped a little and determined that the people were in some sort of book club.

After I had set up, I still had a good 25 minutes before I had to start playing. I felt a little awkward about the book group because it was pretty clear any live music would be disruptive to their serious sounding discourse. Luckily, the group dispersed a little before 6 PM and even though there were a handful of them lingering about downstairs while they finished residual cups of craft beer, my first few refrains of rock-n-roll music sent them fleeing into the night. My gut feeling was accurate...they were not my kind of people.

And my kind of people were rare that night because my kind of people were at a birthday party for one of my kind of people in another part of town. Poor planning on my part. None the less, I rocked one of the best shows ever. That's easy to do when there's no one there to hear. About half way through my set though, GUPPY EFFECT guitarist Stefan stopped by and joined me for a few duo numbers. A couple local folks arrived and stayed until I got done playing, way past the time I was supposed to stop, and they said they thoroughly enjoyed it.

Stefan and I then proceeded to the aforementioned birthday party and had some cake before retiring.

I Ubered most of the day on Saturday before meeting Deborah downtown for Thai food and an art fair, at which we purchased some holiday and birthday gifts for people. I went to the gym and swam for 45 minutes later Saturday evening. Today is Sunday and we are going to Milwaukee for a day trip to visit Deborah's son Devon and see his new apartment.


SKOOLNITE BENDER Rocked a Tight Set Tonight

One of my bands, SKOOLNITE BENDER, had a "live practice" tonight, performing at an open jam stage at a bar called Christy's Landing. We raged a pretty tight set of new and existing 90s hard rock cover songs and sufficiently charmed the jam host, Shelley Faith, that we were invited to open a show for her band, PILOT, a week from now at the Club Tavern in Middleton WI (Black Friday 11/25 @ 8 PM). All the bands I am playing in right now are killer. Hopefully you can catch a show soon.

In addition to the newly acquired gig above, the KELSEY MILES BAND is playing a show on Thanksgiving Eve 11/23 @ the Village Lanes in Monona WI. I'm also playing a solo acoustic CACTUS JOE show tonight 11/18 @ the Hop Garden Tap Room in Paoli WI.

I'm rocking a lot and thus achieving my goal of rocking shows 3 of every 10 days, as part of the 100 Day Challenge that my Mastermind accountability group is doing.


Week Off to a Good Start

Consistency is key to having and maintaining a good and healthy lifestyle. I have a fitness goal to work out five days out of every week. In order to hit that goal, I have to get five workouts done in a week. This might seem like circular logic or common sense, but achieving that goal is more challenging than it sounds. My week starts on Monday and ends on Sunday. I can give myself two free days off from working out in that week and still hit the goal, but if I wait too long into the week to get my first workout in, it becomes much more difficult to hit this metric. So the sooner in the week that I get the workouts done, the better. Optimally I'd go to the gym every weekday and have free days on the weekend, when I am usually busy doing other fun things, eating less healthy food, socializing, and playing music (though I have to tell you, an intense aerobic workout before a gig definitely energizes my rock-n-roll performance). But life sometimes gets in the way, particularly if I work out later in the day when I am more fatigued and there are alternative activities vying for my attention. That's why I allow two days of cushion in this fitness goal.

Optimally, I'd get up at 5 AM and head to the gym at the butt crack of dawn to just get my workout done and checked off my daily TO DO list. There are almost no disadvantages to this other than that I enjoy sleep and I am not a morning person. A solid morning workout fills me with mood boosting endorphins ("runner's high") and energizes me for the better part of the rest of the day. Also there are no annoying kids at the gym at that hour and the facilities are much cleaner than they are in the evenings after being soiled by hundreds of sweaty humans all day long (the gym staff clean everything overnight between 11 PM and 2 AM). Conversely, a lot of people seem to have this same idea, because the gym can be quite busy in the wee hours of the morning. The spinning class, for example, is usually close to capacity at 5:30 AM, whereas the evening ones only have a handful of people. That all being said, I much more commonly go to the gym in the evening, after 6 PM and spend more time there doing various activities like spinning, weight lifting, and/or lap swimming. It can sometimes be a challenge mustering up my will power to go the gym after a long day and if the gym were not as close to home as it is, I would probably fail to make it there a lot more than I care to admit. I also enjoy going to the gym with Deborah and we encourage each other to go, and sometimes take the free classes together. That's motivating.

Last night Deborah wasn't feeling up for the gym and I wasn't feeling particularly motivated to go either. But it was Monday, so I wanted to knock one of the five weekly gym outings out, because then I would only have to achieve four workouts in the remaining six days of the week. 4/6 (0.666) is less than 5/7 (0.714). So I went. I did 40 minutes of exercise biking and about 15 minutes of swimming in the lap pool (six round trip laps) before chillaxing in the hot tub for a few minutes. I was rewarded for my efforts by the bathroom scale this morning, which reported that I was 219 pounds, down two pounds from the prior day's weigh in. The down side of getting my five workouts done during the week and having my usually hedonistic weekends free from exercise is that I tend to gain back a little bit of weight on the weekends. But the net change in my weight over time is trending downward and that's really the ultimate objective of the five daily workouts goal. I have an overall objective to reduce my weight to 210 pounds by December 31 as part of the 100 Day Challenge I am undertaking with my Mastermind accountability group that meets weekly on Wednesdays. I've gotten down as low as 217 pounds during the past couple weeks and I am still on track to lose nine net pounds in the next 45 days or so to hit my objective. That's a pound every five days on average, though I am aware that this will not be a linear function and the last four or five pounds will be the hardest to shed. But weight loss is psychologically self promoting. The success of losing a couple of pounds is compelling and makes me want to lose more through good nutrition and exercise. It's not rocket science. All things held constant, diet (calories in) and exercise (calories out) are the only variables you have to work with when it comes to weight control. I find that writing blog posts like this helps me stay focused on my goals and objectives and keeps me honest and accountable.

When working out becomes a part of your life rather than something external that is viewed as an obstacle to be overcome, then working out becomes an integral part of your LIFESTYLE. It's just something you do naturally, like eating or sleeping, and you don't really see it as an unnatural chore. I was never much of a gym person before, so in the winter, my exercise levels dropped and my caloric intake went up because of the holidays. Thus I slowly gained weight over the years, notwithstanding that my spring and summer months were full of energetic outdoor activities (mainly bike riding and power walking to places). The gym we joined is really fun though and I like going there. The staff are very pleasant and engaging. The pools make it feel like a holiday vacation spot rather than a chore. They also have hot tubs for soothing tired muscles after a good workout. There's a sauna too, though I haven't used it much. I should. The membership isn't cheap in absolute terms, but using the holiday vacation analogy again, the monthly cost of the gym membership is still less than the daily cost of a decent hotel in a holiday resort getaway sort of place. The kids are still a nuisance, but like I said, they can usually be avoided by going to the gym earlier in the day, which has other goal-hitting advantages as well.


Weekend Update 111316


Have you looked at it?

I haven't. But I will soon.

Translated into Japanese, that was a haiku.

As I write this, I'm chillaxin' to some free form jams at Funks Pub and reflecting on my action packed weekend.

On Friday night, Deborah and I had a decent gym workout, consisting of exercise biking for about a half hour and a few laps in the pool. I completed an hour of piano practice when we got home.

I spent most of Saturday morning sequestered in my music workshop honing the songs that the Kelsey Miles Band would more or less successfully perform on Saturday night at the Bos Meadery, before Deborah and I attended a massage therapy seminar with our good friends Sherry and Tyler, after which we had dinner at my favorite Madison Thai restaurant, Ha Long Bay.

The Bos Meadery show was well attended, and our rocking garnered at least one confirmed 2017 wedding gig.

I drove a few Ubers of Shame on Sunday morning. When transportation demand dwindled after the start of the Green Bay Packer game, I returned home and spent an hour and a half blowing leaves and depositing them on the curb for pickup by the city at some future time. This substituted for my workout, though I have to say, "the leaf blower made the work pretty easy."

This was followed by a board game called Revolution in which Deborah and I were crushingly defeated by her son Devon, as we always are. I practiced piano for an hour after that, learning the A section of the jazz song "Song for My Father," which has some tricky syncopations. It still needs work but I made great progress in the 40 minutes that I worked on it. I also refreshed the two Bach tunes I have been polishing for a while, emphasis on speed. The daily piano practice is paying off.

I headed to Funks about 8 PM, and here I am. In a few minutes I'll jam a couple tunes with the band formerly known as MOBIUS STRIPTEASE.

How was your weekend? Leave a comment. There is no word limit and I read and respond to every one of them.



Weekend Review 11-07-2016

The highlight of my weekend was rocking a fantastic show with the Kelsey Miles Band on Saturday night, my debut full performance with the group. I spent most of Saturday afternoon honing the songs we would play at the Hody Bar in Middleton WI that evening and the cramming paid off. The show went about as well as I could have hoped, with minimal biffage on my part. The audience was substantial and their response was very positive. We had people dancing to the music from the start of the very first song until the end of the show. Our magnum opus was the song "I Want You Back" by the Jackson 5, which we played to kick off our second set. The Hody is just minutes from my house, so that meant I could practice right up to the last minute, notwithstanding a music store errand that band leader Kelsey had me run.

Other fun weekend accomplishments included playing a Cactus Joe solo acoustic show at the Bos Meadery on Friday evening, and a social bike ride on Sunday with Deborah, Sherry, and Tyler to go see SUNSPOT play an acoustic duo show at the Hop Garden Tap Room in Paoli WI (Note: We met at the Verona Park & Ride and biked from there...only 11 miles round trip, but quite a bit hillier than anticipated).


100 Day Goals as Inverse New Year's Resolutions

This morning when I weighed myself, I had dropped below 220 pounds. Granted, I was very little below it, at 219.8 pounds, still within the margin of error, but that being said, Deborah's scale does tend to run a little high and I can't remember the last time I weighed less than this (probably in 2008). In any case, this means I am 50% of the way to my 100 day fitness goal of losing 20 pounds by the end of the year, and a little ahead of schedule (today is day 43/100).

I attribute my success to three main things.

1. Having an achievable weight loss goal (to lose one pound every five days on average). Having a goal to strive for gives me direction and a metric for achieving success. It should be noted that weight loss is not a linear function of time and I am aware that it will be harder to lose pounds as my weight asymptotically approaches my goal of 210 lbs. So being ahead of the game at the moment, while positive, is really par for the course (note the effective use of that metaphor...).

2. Consuming fewer calories (I have been skipping breakfast, eating slightly healthier and smaller portions, and limiting myself to two drinks or less when I have beer or wine). I have heard it said that breakfast is the most important meal of the day and maybe it is for some people, but I suspect this notion was probably promulgated by the cereal manufacturers' lobby. Using simple common sense, skipping breakfast means I go for about a third of my day before consuming any calories. Since weight is a function of calories in/out, I am decreasing the numerator of that fraction, decreasing the weight gain result. When I do eat, at lunchtime, I don't exceed my normal portion sizes, that way I don't overcompensate for the calories avoided in the morning. Sometimes my stomach grumbles at me for denying it gratification before noon, but I ignore it. I've been giving away excess Halloween candy to my Uber passengers.

3. Going to the gym (another of my 100 day goals is to hit the gym 5/7 days per week, and 80% (4/7 days) adherence is considered a passing grade for this weekly metric). I have never been a gym person, but now I have embraced it. Our gym has three indoor pools, two of which are minimally infested with annoying children. There is a fourth outdoor pool, though it is now closed for winter. In the summer, I can sit by said pool and mentally go to my happy place, a tropical island resort. I'll probably bring an inflatable palm tree to enhance the illusion, but I digress. The point is that I am now swimming more. A lot more, and getting quite strong as a swimmer. I do a few laps in the pool after any aerobic or weight lifting workout to cool off a bit, and then I relax in the hot tub there for a few minutes to let my muscles relax. Our gym also has pantloads of free classes, including spinning, that I've been taking great advantage of. I probably spin about three times per week and I occasionally do a free weight lifting class with Deborah as well. Deborah is not a big fan of the spinning classes, but she's feeling more compelled to do them after seeing my success in achieving my fitness goals. We recently discussed trying to go to the gym first thing early in the morning most days to increase our chances of weekly success and compliance. We managed to do this once this week. It's not easy getting up at the butt crack of dawn, and in fact it is literally impossible when I have late music gigs or band practices the night before. But there are some huge perks to the pre-dawn workouts. The obvious one is that the daily fitness goal gets completed and checked off before any of the day's clutter and nonsense gets in the way. Second, there are no effing kids at the gym at 5:30 AM. I have nothing against kids, I just don't like them anywhere near my space. Third, the staff at the gym clean everything between 11 PM and 2 AM, so the locker rooms and showers are still pretty clean in the early morning hours before there has been time for the day's human detritus to accumulate. No piss and pubes on the floor of the men's bathroom. No pools of disgusting standing water near the showers. The only downside of morning workouts seems to be that a lot of the adult members of the gym appear to share in the above sentiments with me, because the classes are close to capacity.

It was the idea of my Mastermind accountability group teammate Wendy to do this 100 Day Goals challenge in the remaining 100 days of the year. It's almost like inverse New Year's resolutions. We fully plan to do another 100 day challenge starting in the new year.

The 100 days are broken up into ten 10-day blocks, which can be further broken up into two 5-day blocks, depending on the tasks. Only my weight loss goal of a pound every five days adheres to this timeline. Many of my goals are open ended, such as practicing piano for an hour five times per week and meditating daily. I suppose I could conform the piano practice goal to the block size by committing to practice 4/5 or 8/10 days per block. Maybe I will. I've also been learning Spanish and Welsh as part of my goals. I do exercises in Duolingo on my tablet in between passengers whilst I am Uber driving.

Things are pretty awesome right now.