My First Guitar

My First Guitar
Takamine EG-33OC

I bought this guitar around my freshmen year of high school with money I had saved up from working a paper route. Last month I got it back from my father who had been keeping it in hopes of learning himself. He returned it after maybe 10 years suggesting that he’ll likely never do anything with it.

When I opened up the case and examined the contents I stepped back in time. Some of the items have been in my possession since I first began playing and I’m fortunate that my dad decided to keep all of it together. Let me show you.


Item 1: The Beginning Guitar Book by Rondel Ramsey

This book didn’t exist when I first started playing guitar, because Rondel hadn’t written it yet. Though it wasn’t added to my collection until much later, and probably by my dad when he was trying to learn, its Copyright date is 1997. That would’ve been a few years after I had started learning guitar. The book belongs in this collection because Rondel was the person who “taught” me guitar. The quotes are on “taught” because in reality I taught myself through every day practicing hours on end. But Rondel inspired me to play. He was my youth pastor and at some point in time (probably when I was in middle school) he starts showing up to youth group playing guitar (God’s not dead, he is alive!)  and getting me and my brothers scheming to start our own band. After things started to click for me musically, he showed me all the basics I needed to play on my own. I remember he was doing some group guitar classes early on and I attended. I was already ahead of the class before the first session and I passed Rondel in playing ability before long, but I credit him with being the one who got me started and encouraged me to keep going. That’s a good teacher! His book, full of old-school clipart and songs that you probably only hear around church camp fires, reminds me of the early days of trying to get that smooth transition between a C and G chord.

Item 2: Capo

Screen Shot 2016-07-26 at 12.20.30 PM

Here is what a capo does. This was my first capo. I can’t remember where I got it other than someone gave it to me. I didn’t purchase it myself. Just so you know, they don’t make capos like this anymore. Nowadays they are spring-loaded clamps. The one in the picture uses an elastic band. And like the elastic on your old, favorite pair of whitey tighties, it wears out and no longer holds things snug. But I’ll never get rid of this capo because it’s a relic of my first days learning guitar.

Item 3: Pick Holder

IMG_4596Picks have two purposes in life. One is to help you strum or pick a guitar or other stringed instrument. The second is to mysteriously get lost. Losing picks is a part of playing guitar. It happens. So an old friend, Tom Hallam, made some plastic pick holders to stick on the side of a guitar. They were most helpful when you’d lose a pick at the inopportune time – in the middle of performing. When the pick goes tumbling down, the homemade pick holder has one in the chamber ready for that Am7 you are about to rock out. Tom was a kind and generous man in my church who played in the church band and taught middle school Sunday school. He was a plastics/molding teacher in my high school and because he had infinite access and problem solving skills, he custom made a bunch of us these pick holders – free of charge – long before we knew we could overpay some company for the same thing. I think Tom was also the one who gave me my very first guitar tuner.

Item 4: Guitar Tuner

Screen Shot 2016-07-26 at 12.42.57 PMAs with the capo, they don’t make them this way any more. This old tuner was pretty important for a beginner. Today’s tuners are all digital. You play the string and the tuner tells you if you are sharp or flat based on the closest relative note. That’s a problem for beginners because often they have no idea if their current string/note are even in the relative ballpark of where it needs to be. With this old tuner, you selected the note you were trying to get to. You forced the device, “no matter what note I’m actually playing, I need this string to be a D.” It’s easier to get lost with digital tuners but this old-timer was perfect, and it was free. AND it still works!

I wonder if he wants it back.

UPDATE: I was trying to determine the production date of my tuner and after opening the battery compartment and removing the battery, I found a sticker identifying Tom Hallam as the original owner. So yes, he was the one to gift me the tuner.

(Missing) Item 5: Darth Maul Sticker

I’ve always admired players who littered their guitar cases with stickers, wondering how they knew which ones to pick? Where did they get those obscure band stickers? How did they begin their eclectic collection? So the first sticker I slapped on my case was a promotional sticker for Star Wars Episode 1 that was given out at participating Pizza Hut locations back in 1999. The sticker was a headshot of Darth Maul. It was dumb. I was embarrassed about it almost immediately, so I scribbled over the whole sticker with a Sharpie marker. It probably would’ve been fine, but I wasn’t fully committed to the cost or process of collecting a myriad of stickers. Eventually the Sharpie rubbed off and there was Darth Maul’s unending, brooding stare ready to humiliate me for eternity. Fast forward 17 years and I’m delighted that it’s still on there reminding me of my early days as an aspiring musician. EXCEPT IT FELL OFF SOMETIME LAST WEEK AND I CANT FIND IT!

I can’t believe it. It’s gone. And just after I got it back. Just a few days before I got to at least snap a photo. Here’s what the original sticker would’ve looked like. I’m devastated.

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TPAC Lives Again?

This is a quick note to say that I sort of miss writing as it was both a creative outlet and discipline for me in past years. I have just one post in mind with no plans to write beyond that, but we’ll see. I also think that I’d like to take on a slightly different tone with my writing. I think being a little more light-hearted would do the world a world of good – my world, anyway.

3 Questions You Should Ask Yourself Before Posting Something On Social Media

This will help you become a better poster. Before you fire away with the latest comment, update, tweet, pic or whatever, here’s the 3 questions you should ask yourself:

1. Does anyone care? Answer: no.

2. Have I posted this before? (I’m looking at you, people who post about your workouts)

3. Did I spell everything correctly?

The answer to question 1 (no) is really the answer to the other two questions as well. It’s precisely because people don’t care – and I mean in general (yes, my mother cares) – that they’ll roll their eyes and consider hiding/unfollowing/unsubscribing to you when you post, again, that photo of your latest salad creation, or that today is legs day. It’s also because they don’t care that when you try to share something but spell it wrong they’ll troll you ad hominem instead of contribute to the conversation.

Hope this was helpful.

And yes, I know you don’t care either which is why we’re all going to look at cat videos now.


Maybe I need new glasses.

I was riding my bike headed toward the forest preserve where there is a crushed limestone path. When I was approximately a block from the entrance, I noticed a person coming out of the forest preserve. I had one of those internal discussions and it went like this.

“Hey look at that guy! He’s carrying his dog out of the park.”

“Wow, that guy carrying his dog has some unfortunate hips.”

“Wow (oops), that girl has an unfortunate hair cut.”

“Oh, that girl is carrying her jacket.”

“Maybe I need new glasses.”

Websites That Are Dead To Me

Websites That Are Dead To Me

1. Websites that only have one item per page need to be punched in the solar plexus.

I know how it all works. Websites get money through ad revenue and the more clicks the website gets the more revenue they generate. So I can understand spreading your article to two pages but the real loser pages do something like this: “Top 10 Knock-Out Punches Thrown in UFC History” – and then when you go the website they have one page per knock-out punch. They blow that sucker up to 10 pages. It makes me so angry. I love lists, but I hate having to navigate to each separate item. Sometimes they try to trick you by making the article appear as a slide show, but in reality they’ve just dressed up a scheme to make you navigate through a new page per click.



2. Websites featuring full-page ads (that you are afraid to close) should all be voted off the island.

Some of my favorite websites have full page ads that just take your whole screen hostage. The good sites usually offer a quick close feature that is easy to spot and use. Some websites, however, you just kind of aren’t sure about the site in general and so that full page ad seems particularly menacing. You want to close it, but also would like to avoid being redirected to all the viruses that ever existed ever.


3. Websites that have auto play ads (that you can’t find) have no concern for the human spirit and should therefore be incinerated.

I used to use a reader. It would post me a list of links each day whenever one of my favorite websites had been updated. So I’d sit down and just open each website in a new window until all the pages I wanted to read were open and I could just go one page at a time. Then something terrible happened. Websites would put a video ad on the site, drop it in some obscure location on the sidebar, and have it play automatically upon loading the page. I would go into scramble mode trying to figure out which page had done this. If I had multiple pages open from the same site featuring the auto-play ad…well we’re no longer on speaking terms.


4. Websites with big splash pages should get a big splash karate chop to the neck.

You go to a website, only it’s not really the website, it’s an annoying splash page that introduces the website. There’s usually nothing to do on the splash page except wait for the real website to load and get your info. Band websites are usually the culprits here. Stop that, you criminals of good navigation!


5. Websites that optimized for Internet Explorer should go die in a fire(fox).

Yeah market share blah blah blah. Nobody cool (read: knows how to use the internets) uses IE.


6. Websites make you watch ads that can’t be advanced within 5 seconds should hang their heads in shame.

I remember the golden days of YouTube when there wasn’t an ad at the start of each video and then not a subsequent ad popping up after 5 seconds covering the bottom fourth of the image. There is still some hope when these ads offer a “close ad” feature that becomes available after 5 seconds. But when I have to watch a 30 second ad so I can watch a 25 second video of someone falling down I want to write an angry letter to whoever is in charge of this stuff. Or how about this one: watch an ad before watching a movie trailer (an ad). Am I taking crazy pills?

(My) Best and Worst Movies (2012)

(My) Best and Worst Movies (2012)

Not all of these were released in 2012, just I saw them for the first time last year.

Best Movies

1. 50/50 (4) – The movie is funny in all the right places and serious in the other right places. If you are a fan of JGL and haven’t seen this one yet, shame on you. I especially like the scenes b/w the lead and his mother.

2. The Artist (4) – I think the cliche goes like this: “The movie says a whole lot without uttering a word.” I was skeptical about watching a silent film, but this was good.

3. The Avengers (4) – This movie was the most fun movie of the year for me. One of the movie’s greatest strengths: there’s lots of screen-time devoted to showing the heroes being heroes.

4. Moonrise Kingdom (4) – If you like Wes Anderson, this movie is a real gem. I always appreciate movies with child actors that aren’t annoying or some king of major liability.

5. Dredd 3D (2.5) – I’m serious, this movie is one awesome action flick. And you have to give props to Karl Urban for pulling off the role, not taking off his helmet, never seeing his eyes, for the entire film.

6. Looper (4) – Original sci-fi. Also, Bruce Willis.

7. Lincoln (4) – This was my favorite movie of 2012. Daniel Day-Lewis is Abraham Lincoln.

8. Waiting For Superman (4) – I don’t see many documentaries. This one is especially well done. It’s both entertaining and informative. And it will make you ask some big questions about our systems of public education in America.

9. Jack Reacher (3) – This one snuck up on me. I’m not always on board with Tom Cruise, but this was really good.

10. Django Unchained (3.5) – This may be my favorite QT movie yet. It bounces between feel-good and hard-to-watch in such major swings that I felt like I was on a roller coaster. I’m not exactly sure what to do with how the movie deals with racism/slavery, but it’s certainly unique. Not for kids.

Worst Movies

1. Soul Surfer (2) – Every now and then I’ll watch one of these “christian movies.” I’m not sure why. Maybe I just want to prove to myself how bad they are. Craig T. Nelson was pretty good, but he’s only in the movie for 3 min. Cringe-worthy.

2. Act of Valor (2) – A movie featuring real special forces teams instead of actors seems like a good idea until you realize that the art of acting is largely what makes a movie good in the first place.

3. Wrath of the Titans (2) – This movie was boring. And the titan? Did they run out of money when they got around to building the CGI for that?

4. Contaigion (1) – Just like the movie skips over the whole grieving of the wife who died suddenly, you can skip over watching any of it.

5. Iron Man 2 (2) – I’ve seen this movie twice now which means it shouldn’t be on this list. I wanted to include it anyway, just because I like pointing out how bad it is (especially compared to the first).

6. Dark Shadows (2) – I think it’s time to separate Burton and Depp for a bit. They’ve gotten stale. Oh and “I’m a werewolf  at the end. That was a joke.

7. Nowhere Boy (1) – Sometimes you watch a movie simply because you like a girl and she wants to see it. Sometimes you fall asleep five times during that movie.

8. Ironclad (2) – It has some of the right ingredients but something bad happened when they mixed them all up.

9. Swingers (1) – The dialog is so annoying I had my thumb over the remote’s ‘stop’ button several times. Finished the movie out of principle, but it was difficult.

10. Rampart (1) – Despite the terrible reviews, I thought “no I’ll like this because I really like Woody Harrelson.” I didn’t like it. It’s what my buddy Eric would call a “godless movie.”

11. I’m Still Here (1) – This is a documentary. It’s Casey Affleck following Jaoquin Pheonix around with a camera. Unless you are doing research on how to be a loser, make terrible decisions, and alienate friends, you can safely skip. It’s painful to watch such a talented actor be so stupid.

Check out my 2012 movie lists for biggest surprises and biggest disappointments.

Biggest Movie Disappointments (2012)

Biggest Movie Disappointments (2012)

Not all of these (or any?) are bad, just kind of felt a little disappointing and so soiled my experience.

1. The Dark Knight Rises (3) – There’s a lot of things I could pick on here, but the main this was this: the movie was seriously lacking scenes of Batman being Batman. You could have titled this movie Bruce Wayne Rises.

2. 2001: A Space Odessy (2) – I know it’s supposed to be great. Even after watching some of the bonus material about Stanely Kubrick attempting to make a legend it still seemed to be the longest movie of my life. I really like sci-fi but this was too weird and obscure.

3. Brave (2.5) – Even Pixar is capable of churning out mediocre – though it happens so frequently that when I see the little lamp hopping just before the opening credits I still always expecting something great. This one was only good.

4. The Hobbit (3) – Let’s sit down over coffee and I’ll tell you a list of reasons I was disappointed with this. But here, I’ll be quick about it. The overall look and feel of the movie seemed a bit childish and cheap. Against the backdrop of the existing LotR movies this movie just seemed a bit of a let down. (to be fair, this is how it goes in terms of the books as well, but I was disappointed that Jackson’s interpretations aren’t the same caliber)

5. Total Recall (2) – They don’t go to Mars. It’s like remaking Star Wars and leaving out the Death Star.

6. Men In Black 3 (2) – Aside from Josh Brolin’s outstanding impersonation of Tommy Lee Jones, I didn’t think much of the humor or the action. The story (TWIST!) finished nicely, but it took too long for the pay-off to be worth it.

7. Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter (2) – How can you make a movie about Honest Abe slaying vampires boring? I’m not sure but it happens right about 1/2 way through the film (when he stops slaying vampires). All of a sudden the whole fun of the thing lands with a thud and never recovers.