Concrete and Gold

•September 22, 2017 • Leave a Comment

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A week ago, Foo Fighters released their newest album Concrete and Gold.

The first time listening to this album was in the car with my wife. The first song, “T-Shirt,” starts a little quiet, so we turned it up to max and bent close to the speakers, trying to hear what was happening. Then the song comes in full volume. My wife screamed, and I swerved all over the highway. After a good laugh, the song “Run” comes on, and I was instantly hooked. This is why I have loved this band for the last twenty two years. They are constantly pushing themselves to make music that is exciting, excellent, and rocks your face off.

Over the past week I have listened to little else besides Concrete and Gold. The stylistic experimentation, combined with the hard rocking sweet spot that we all have come to expect, makes this a great album. Lyrically, this album deals with content that is entertaining and poignant.

“The Sky is A Neighborhood” manages to address thoughts that have been fresh in my mind lately. Grohl points out that all that we can see in the sky above is just a neighborhood in the vastness of the universe. The chorus conjures the image of Grohl banging on the ceiling, asking the universe to “keep it down,” as he tries to set aside the fear of his mortality  long enough to sleep. He seems to understand the appeal of heaven as a means to quiet the fear of hurtling through the universe, while clinging to the existence that is all that we know to be real. This song does a great job of exploring the anxiety of standing on the edge of the universe and trying not to go insane. Meanwhile, We keep ourselves distracted with choosing teams and acting foolish on this rock we call earth. Grohl warns us not to get lost as we wage war with our minds over these realities.

Early last year, the world lost the amazing Glenn Frey of the Eagles. The song “Sunday Rain” on Concrete and Gold seems to be a great homage to Frey and the Eagles. It is in the vein of “King of Hollywood,” and would be at home on The Eagles The Long Run album. The guitars drip with a Joe Walsh feel, yet the song manages to stay firmly in the Foo Fighters wheel house.

This album is an excellent follow up to the concept album Sonic Highways, that was recorded at iconic studios all over the U.S. Concrete and Gold rocks hard while keeping my interest on a lyrical and musical level. If you haven’t partaken of this latest installment of the Foo saga, then you definitely should check it out.

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Chris Stapleton: Music for My Soul

•May 1, 2017 • Leave a Comment

 

The last few years of my life have been an interesting concoction of experiences. The highest mountain tops and some deep-ass valleys.  I don’t mean this purely emotionally either. I mean it financially, spiritually, and professionally too. The last five years of my life have really covered a pretty wide swath of experience.

I am a very musical person. I listen to songs that adequately express my emotion as a coping mechanism, and if they can bring an element of truth in their lyrics, all the better. I recently found an artist that expresses my emotion and experience musically and lyrically. His name is Chris Stapleton. I know that this is not exactly a revelation, and that I am quite late to the party on this discovery. I instantly was attracted to “Tennessee Whiskey” on my local Nashville radio station (Lightning 100) last year, but I had only dabbled in his other music.

I recently had a sad occurrence in my life, and I was in a pretty thoughtful and deeply sad, place. I wanted to find music that understood what I felt. There is a reason that I usually turn to the Blues for this kind of emotional depth. Most genres and artists rarely speak to that part of my soul like Blues artists can. I reached for Chris Stapleton because I wanted to hear his astonishing lyrical skill. What I got was both amazing lyrics and the emotional depth of the Blues. There is something special about an artist that can write a lyric that is poetic and cleverly worded, while being the most truthful lyric I have heard in a long time. We all have heard those lines in songs that speak to our soul, and you know that it is not possible to so adequately express that emotion if they had not lived it themselves. This is a frequent occurrence for me while listening to Chris Stapleton.

Jamey Johnson says in his song “The Last Cowboy” that he has not been able to find anyone “to buy into sad country songs” since Waylon. Stapleton’s Country Blues has met that desire for the lover of sad ole country songs. The depth of sorrow in “Whiskey and You,” “Last Thing I Needed, First Thing This Morning,” and “Fire Away” display a first-hand experience with despair. “Sometimes I Cry” touches that deep despair with a vocal performance that channels Stevie Ray Vaughn, and falls firmly within the sweet spot for a great Blues song.

This music makes me want to feel. This music makes me want to buy records, and remember. It makes me want to take another trip around the country in an old rust-colored van. It makes me want to sit in a dark club, sipping good whiskey, and listening to Chris Stapleton sing and play. In case you can’t tell, I am impressed with this music to a degree that I have not experienced in a while.

This last month my wife and I were excited to find out that we were having our first child together. We had experienced a miscarriage last fall, but that pregnancy had only made it to six weeks. This pregnancy had lasted 11 weeks, so we are in the clear right? The symptoms and milestones all pointed to the fact that this would be a healthy pregnancy. Imagine our surprise when we went to our first doctor’s appointment and discovered that there was no heartbeat. The emotional swing was like the first drop on a roller coaster that takes you from a high to a deep dark place in a hurry. The physical realities of this process are even more traumatic. It was at this time, while I was searching for an adequate musical outlet, that I discovered Chris Stapleton’s entire catalogue. The same day that I was searching, was the exact day that Chris Stapleton released the single “Broken Halos” about people who come into our lives to teach us, and then they leave us early. I have experienced this several times in my life, but the timing of my discovering this song was uncanny. Standing in my kitchen over a sink full of half-washed dishes, listening to the song over and over, and balling my eyes out, I found words for how I felt. In the rest of his catalogue I have found a warm blanket of desolate Country Blues. I have listened to Chris Stapleton almost exclusively since, and I simply cannot get enough. There is something healing about knowing that someone else has navigated the waters of despair that I am currently trying to pass through. There is a joy in finding words and a melody that sufficiently convey my sorrow. The songs that he writes speak to several experiences that I have lived in the last few years. It is not often that I find an artist that can voice how I feel, and have felt, better than I am able to myself. Chris Stapleton certainly can, and he certainly has. If you love Country, Blues, Southern Rock, or Country Blues and you have not listened to Chris Stapleton’s album Traveler and his new singles yet, do yourself a favor and give it a listen. You will not be sorry.

Thanks for reading,

JPeg

Summa Cum Laude

•April 5, 2017 • Leave a Comment

HEADSHOTI recently graduated Summa Cum Laude with a degree in History and a minor in Anthropology, and I did so with a perfect 4.0 GPA. I do not write about this to brag, but because since graduation, I have been struggling to find employment for the last five months. I wanted to break down in greater detail what a Summa Cum Laude graduate with a History and Anthropology degree is capable of because it might not be apparent at first glance.

Firstly, I am a History major. History majors are really good at research and writing. Their discipline is based on the ability to read information, find the most relevant parts of it, and communicate it to others in a written form, hopefully a form that others want to read. The deeper nuance that differentiates history from other research is the exploration of trends, dates, facts, and motivations that fueled the events, but the main task is the processing of information from it’s raw form into something easily accessible to others. This is a valuable skill for several companies in the business world. To graduate Summa Cum Laude with a degree in history means that you are very good at doing this.

Second, My minor was in Anthropology, and I am only a year short of another Bachelors in this discipline. The anthropologist studies culture, and understands the stimulus that creates culture. They approach this study with what is called cultural relativism, which is the attempt to understand a culture on its own merit and not in a comparative way or a judgemental way. Anthropology teaches people to approach another culture with an open mind and to check baggage and preconceived notions at the door. Most companies have Human Resources departments, and what human resources department couldn’t use a person who is trained to think in this way? Anthropology trains people to be a sort of cultural liaison. What HR department would not want to take advantage of that skill set?

Lastly, Summa Cum Laude, with highest honors. This means that in every case, in every class, this person exceeded expectations. Let me unpack that for a minute. A history major does not just have classes in history, though that is the word printed on the paper. A college graduate is required to take classes in several fields of study. In my case, I received an A in math classes, science classes, speech classes, english classes, computer classes, art classes, spanish classes, and on and on. What’s more, I did it between three institutions (four if you count a culinary degree that I also achieved a 4.0 in getting). This is a person who was able to impress several teachers (bosses), across several disciplines, who make living assessing the work of others. To achieve this requires adaptability, critical thinking, good work ethic, attention to detail, excellent communication skills, calmness under pressure, the ability to meet deadlines, the ability to prioritize, flexibility, the desire to do things correctly, and determination to achieve goals. To what company are these not marketable skills? Not to mention the specific software skills (MS Office), teaching skills, writing skills, and other various skills that I have personally gained in the process. A Summa Cum Laude graduate is a sure bet for any company. They have proven themselves as having the skills necessary to be successful in life and business. These are people who are not limited in what they can do or achieve. These are the people who can figure out the best way to approach a situation, problem, or deadline and maintain exacting standards while doing it. It is strange to me (for obvious reasons) that a person with these honors could struggle to find a job in this day and age, so I just wanted to take some time to shed light on the underlying realities that accompany this distinction.

Thank you for reading,

James Pegler  

Water: Antidote to Ego

•March 20, 2017 • Leave a Comment

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I look upon the ego as nothing more than an idea that each of us has about ourselves. The ego is only an illusion, but a very influential one. Letting the ego-illusion become your identity can prevent you from knowing your true self. Ego, the false idea of believing that you are what you have or what you do, is a backwards way of assessing and living life.” -Dr Wayne W. Dyer

Several events have brought the issue of the ego to my attention lately. I had spent a lot of time last year attempting to deal with the monster ego that I had been feeding, and for some reason I stopped. Picking up the quest has led me to Dr. Wayne Dyer (as usual). Google searches for Dr. Dyer and Ego brought me back to his book Change Your Thoughts, Change Your Life: Living the Wisdom of the Tao, that I read last year. Every Video that I watched in which Dr. Dyer spoke of ego and the Tao, he always used the example of water. For an exercise in overcoming ego, I have decided to look deeper into what we know about water and how it is useful for thinking about the ego.

Water is the reason that there is life on this planet. It makes the plants grow, and gives us an atmosphere that allows life. We are mostly water. Water is the element of life. Verse eight of the Tao Té Ching says, “The supreme good is like water, which nourishes all things without trying to, it flows unmurmuring to places men despise.” Despite the necessity of water for all life on earth, it nourishes all things without trying to. The desire to be intentionally nourishing to others has not even been on my radar lately, not to mention nourishing others without even trying. Is our goal in life to be so in tune with God, Source, Tao, Divine, the Infinite Consciousness (whatever you choose to call it) that you are nourishing to the world without even trying? I know that it has not been my goal lately. In fact, there are times when I actively attempt to spit poison at those around me for the purpose of boosting my own ego. In a time when opposing views are freely espoused, discussed, debated, and argued about (be they political or religious) it is very easy to shoot venom backed by conviction. It is easy to insist that we are in the right because we hold the truth. Dr. Dyer says, “when faced with the choice to be right or be kind, always choose to be kind.” To insist on being right is to feed the beast of Ego that we should be trying to subdue. Being like water is being kind and nourishing, and not needing to be right.

Verse 78 of the Tao says, “Nothing in the world is softer or weaker than water, but for attacking the hard and unyielding nothing can surpass it and there is nothing like it. The weak overcomes the strong, the soft surpasses the hard.” and verse 76 of the Tao says, “All things … are soft and pliable in life, dry and brittle in death. Stiffness is thus a companion of death, Flexibility a companion of life… the hard and rigid will be broken. The soft and supple will prevail.” In the book Change Your Thoughts, Change Your Life, Dr. Dyer talks about how if you try to grasp water with a closed fist you will lose it, but if you are gentle and scoop the water with an open hand you will attain it. All of this is a clear lesson to my life. The Ego wants us to be rigid like stone and to grasp at our identity (things, money, job, intellect, talent). It wants to cause others to break upon our hard corners of unyielding smugness. The last two sentences are a good description of my interactions with the outside world lately. The Tao associates this kind of mindset with death. While I am physically alive, my rigidity is robbing me of an abundant life of joy. I am more likely to snap than I am to adapt. Being right can often feel like the most important thing, and that admitting defeat will crumble who we believe we are. However, the stone cliff does not stand a chance against the pounding waves. It will take time, and the water must be patient, but it will ultimately win that battle.  The water has the most power because it can channel energy and be willing to move with it. Water does not have to be destroyed by a rock in it’s path. Water simply has to be patient and be willing to adjust to the presence of that rigid mindset that has been put in its path. It does not have to change it immediately so that the water can feel like it has achieved its purpose. If the water cannot move the stone, then it simply goes around it or dances and plays in front of it. Water is powerful because it is flexible and adaptable, and it does not waste energy focussing on what is in its path.

Water has the unique quality of always settling to the lowest point. The 66th verse of the Tao says, “Why is the sea the king of 100 streams? Because it lies below them. Humility gives it it’s power.” this idea is absolutely the opposite of what the ego wants to achieve. The ego tells us that we must be better than; have more than; be smarter, stronger, better looking, faster, than everyone else. In the bible, Philippians 2:5-7 says that in our relationships with each other we have to have the mindset of Jesus. Though he was divine in his nature (as we all are) he did not consider equality with God as something that was possible to be attained. Instead, he humbled himself and took on the very nature of a servant. Philippians 2:3 says that we must esteem others as better than ourselves. These are the properties of water. Though it is, arguably, the most important substance on this planet, water makes itself low and seeks out the lowest places to dwell. It does not try to move itself above anything, but is constantly trying to get lower. My existence in the last few months has consisted of trying to find ways to make myself appear better than others to employers. This led me to doing the same in my relationships and in discussions. This is a sure way to damage relationships. Dr. Dyer says that when we believe that we are what we have or what we do, then when we don’t have or do anything we feel worthless. This can be avoided by what I call “living at sea level”. The water does not look up at the mountains and wish for their demise for it’s benefit. Water keeps its eyes down and seeks the low places.

The ego cause us to seek our own nourishment and edification above all else. Ego would have us believe that being rigid and unyielding is the only way to be safe and secure in who we are. The ego is good at convincing us that we must be more that those around us, and that we must proclaim that fact to the world. In all cases, the Tao uses the example of water to show us the flaws in the ego’s way. Our goal should be to nourish others at all times, even when we don’t know that we are. We should be flexible and patient with those that are put into our path. We should seek to be low and at rest instead of at the top. In short, we should be like water.

Water vs. Milk. science of scrambles

•November 10, 2010 • Leave a Comment

I have studied up on this today, and I think this is right. feel free to leave comments to the contrary if you are a food scientist, chemist, or some one who REALLY KNOWS the truth. This is what I found, plus what I know to be true about food. It seems obvious that all of this comes down to preference…

Eggs contain lecithin, which is an emulsifier. Basically, it can grab onto water with one end and fat with the other. This is what makes hollandaise and other egg based emulsions possible. That being said, if you whip either milk or water into eggs it will attach itself to the lecithin, and therefore to the egg. If you use water, it will attach itself to the lecithin. Then, as you cook the eggs, it will evaporate, and create steam. this process creates a bubble matrix similar to that of bread. your eggs will be light and fluffy. This is also what makes souffle possible. However, if you add too much water you will have a watery mess. The general consensus is not to use more that a teaspoon per egg. I personally like less.

If you use milk it will also attach itself, and the water in it will evaporate also. However, when it evaporates it leaves something behind, milk solids, and depending on the fat content of the milk you use, fat too. these solids and fats can leave good flavors, but they can also weigh down the matrix making more dense eggs with creamier flavor.  the more fat the more weight. Milk solids are what lend baked good their golden brown color. This is also the same for scrambled eggs. The milk solids left behind will make your eggs easier to burn or brown. If you use milk, especially high fat milk or cream, be careful. Watch your heat and don’t over-cook them. The fat in milk can also lend flavors that can be undesirable in the finished product, so a good rule is to use 2% or lower milk fat in your eggs for creaminess. Of course, you don’t have to add anything, and, as I said before, it all comes down to preference. Creamy or Fluffy?

Thanks for reading,

JPEG

Two Weeks…

•August 18, 2010 • 1 Comment

Two weeks from today I go under the knife for the first time in my life for hernia surgery. you might say that I have had a charmed life to be 30 before I had surgery for the first time, and you might be right. Some have surgeries as soon as they are born, some never have surgery. Either way I am pretty nervous.

I am the kind of guy that freaks out at the dentist. I hate being in a bed, or chair being the center of attention, with tubes hanging out of me, or work being done to me of any kind. add to that the idea of being unconscious, naked, and having someone digging around in my guts. No Thanks!!!

Then there is the recovery part. Think about how many things that you do with your stomach muscles. Fart, cough, sneeze, poop, walk, stand up, roll over in bed. All of these require ab muscles. So, for a few weeks I am going to be hurting every time I move. yay again!!!

I know in the greater scheme of things hernia surgery is pretty tame. I also know that the doctors do so many of these that they know what they are doing and could probably do it blind folded… still doesn’t help too much.

Today I went to the preop doctor’s appointment for my surgery where they gave me books about the possible complications with infection, recovery, re-occurrence of injury, and anesthesia. Thanks doc but not helping.

Then if you add that I am on a really strict diet, and the fact that nine days afterward I am supposed to attempt to drive aprox. 1200 miles to my older brother’s wedding in Mass., and financial woes that arise because of all this fun!

A bit stressed out.

However I do get some time off of work. That is nice.

Hopefully the time off of work, the road trip, and the Atlantic ocean will be enough to relive my stress and relax my weary mind.

What was your first surgery?

What was it  like before and after?

Does anyone have any tips about how to relieve stress?

Thanks for reading

JPEG

long pause…

•July 27, 2010 • Leave a Comment

i am waiting to say something until i have something worth saying.