Stu

What Real "Gun Reform" Would Look Like

With the alarming frequency of mass shootings and so-called "gun violence" we Americans face each day, there is an equal chorus of calls for our politicians (a.k.a. "civil servants") to "do something."  Yet many Americans don't know what, exactly, that "something" might be!  They'll cry out for "common sense legislation," yet again, fall short on the details.  Ditto "gun control."  Ignorant of the tens of thousands of federal and state laws governing guns, "Joe Average" is told by the media how our gun laws are "weak," "lax" and laden with "loopholes."  And they're believed!

Truth be told, most loopholes are fiction, and every shooting incident already broke several laws on the books.  A classic example is "the Charleston loophole."  When a gun purchase is made at a licensed gun dealer, the prospective buyer undergoes a background check.  (Yes, this is ALREADY a thing.)  Usually this process is brief, completed by the time the buyer completes his/her paperwork.  Yet sometimes a buyer is flagged, meaning that the system found a potential problem with the sale that requires an actual, living agent to investigate.  The law provides the F.B.I. a three day window to either clear and allow the sale or deny it.  If they don't meet this window, the sale is allowed to proceed.  In the case of the Charleston shooter, this had deadly consequences.

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Stu

Gender Perspectives: Some Observations and Conclusions.

For most of my life, I’ve had things figured out. While my elementary school classmates wrestled with the most basic concepts of gender and sex, I had the benefit of a mother in nursing school studying pediatrics and keeping none to sharp an eye on her texts, with big 8 X 10 glossy photos of child birth. I would laugh at the confusion of my friends and the endless misinformation that circulated among my peers, and was a bit mystified when nobody wanted to hear the facts. Or maybe they just didn’t want to hear them from me. Regardless, I always had a firm grasp on exactly who I was. Well…. mostly. Early on, I remember having dreams of waking up having undergone a Kafka-esque transformation into a girl. At a time when I had yet to attend school, I was attracted to the aesthetic; girls were pretty, and boys were pretty gross.
 

My parents had divorced before I reached my first year, so all I remember of my dad was his suddenly appearing one Halloween night chasing me and my mother home, mom hollering over her shoulder, “It’s not your day! It’s not your day!” while I heard my father menacingly reply, “Every day’s my day!” I didn’t know why my mom was afraid, but her fear made me afraid. Boys were gross, but men… they were scary.
 

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Stu

The Quarantine Life: Now I Know How Zoo Animals Feel

Well, like all of you, it's mid-April 2020, and here I sit, locked into my apartment for yet another day, bored, stir-crazy and WAY ahead on my "housekeeping."  (As it is.)  There are a million things that I could tend to if Michigan, and most of the rest of the world, wasn't on Viro-pocalypse "lockdown," and no doubt you feel just as bored or you wouldn't have landed here!  Welcome, then, to the biggest club in the world: The COVID-19 Breakfast Club.

WORK?  WHAT'S THAT?

As many of you might know, I have (or had) some seven different jobs, four of which I created myself.  You might think that I would have an advantage, then, given that most of us are idled, but that would be wrong, with only one exception.  See, most of my jobs are antithetical to "social distancing."  For instance, my main job (and longest running) is as a Disc Jockey, spinning tunes and entertaining at parties, a.k.a. social events.  You know... gatherings.  Like we had back during the days when wearing a mask into a retail establishment would've triggered a call to the cops.  In the first quarter of the year, the majority of my calendar consists of Elementary School parties, and with the closing of the schools (now extended through the remainder of the school year), my record-number of engagements turned into none.  Zip.  Zilch.  Nada.  At first, my clients optimistically told me they had been "postponed," but now... gone.

My other weekday job is as a massage therapist.  While at work, the times my schedule has big holes in it is something of a joke — we male therapists get kinda used to such gaps, being in much less demand than the ladies — I had built-up a good cadre of regulars, not to mention a reputation as the "fibromyalgia and MS guy," so I kept getting called in to do extra hours, or weekends when I wasn't normally scheduled.  I went from my biggest paychecks ever, to zero.  There is no way to Zoom a massage.  You cannot "distance."  These two jobs have provided the bulk of my income for the past three years.  But this one, too, is idle.

Having been a fairly successful student when learning the massage trade, I had been asked to join the faculty as an assistant about a week before I actually took the walk down the graduation ceremony aisle.  This soon led to being a paid co-director for clinical events for the school as well.  While not steady, these events added to my revenue stream, giving me something close to an actual adult's level of income from time to time.  And they're fun!  I love my faculty colleagues and the students have been amazing.  Yet, like all of the others, school is now closed.  And those paid clinical events that I preside over are wiped off of my schedule as well.  Poof!

THAT WHICH REMAINS

Without bringing up the ones I purposely (and temporarily) idled, which would also be impossible to do mid-pandemic, the one remaining job I have... the one that I can STILL do... the one best suited to the current situation... is writing.  I write a column in two different DJ publications, as well as offer frequent contributions to various firearms publications.  The only problems here is that my big employer is a bi-monthly magazine, and the pay isn't spectacular.  In fact, it was cut in half when the publication went online only, dropping their print version.  They're also quirky about payments, letting payments back up for months before finally sending payment.  Before all of this, I never really minded.  Now.... it's a pain in the donkey.

Yes, there is help.  For the first time this millennia, I qualified and applied for unemployment.  While I have yet to receive a payment, it looks like all is proceeding well.  Also, like many of you, I'm waiting around for what my malfeasant federal government laughably calls a "stimulus check," which is more of a life line for most of us idled by the Black Death of 2020; a premature tax return begrudgingly given back to us because even the dim bulbs in Washington know that you need consumers to consume.  They know they'll get it all back, with interest.  They may be assholes, but when it comes to money, they're far from stupid.  And, of course, our Orange Fearless Leader had to make DAMNED sure that his name appears on it.  As if he's our national Sugar Daddy.

Overall, criticism aside (and I've gone easy), those are the positives.  The most irksome forms of "support" come from the well-intentioned colleagues in both the DJ and massage industries in the form of "support meetings," a la Zoom.  I initially thought, 'great, I might learn some things that might help me tap more revenue sources, or find special discounts to ease my monthly bill burden, or find some great ideas to keep my skills from getting rusty while waiting this whole mess out.  But what I end up with are "rah-rah" sessions, with trite feel-good pablum, bumper sticker "we're all in this together" High School the Musical type cliches and someone's idea of guided meditations and other woo-woo that actually ramps-UP my anxiety.  I feel worse at the end than I did when it started!  ALL of them.  Without exception.  Hell, paperwork for unemployment made me feel more empowered.

I'm not trying to knock these noble, giving people for trying to help, and I'm sure that there are many in my career fields who NEED this kind of support.  It's probably a great alternative to despair and falling into a bottle.  I get that.  But as I've always known and said, I'm wired differently.  I felt like my time had been wasted.  Has this happened to you?

ABANDON YE ALL HOPE(?)

Ironically, I'm probably NOT going to drop any golden nugget of advice right here that will ignite that "light bulb moment" and bring you inner peace either, aside from letting you know that no matter how good someone else's situation might look from the outside, you aren't in this by yourself.  (Yes, you're ALONE, by government edict, but you're not by yourself!  You're in good company with the Teeming Millions.)  I highly suggest that you, my reader(s?) be PATIENT and engage your brain; there are a good many dead people who heard pablum like "we will get through this," or "it's a hoax," or the one even I said at first, "the virus isn't that bad."  Apparently it IS extremely bad!  But it is still a virus.  It doesn't have feet; it can't chase you.  It doesn't have wings.  It isn't even really alive.  It is simply passed TO you from someone who already has it, OR it just sits there passively, waiting for you to pick it up.  

GOOD HABITS DIE HARD

My massage colleagues and other medical professionals already knew about hand washing, and it's kind of pathetic that it had to be taught to grown-ass adults IN THE PRESS, but it remains the best way to avoid infection.  More important than washing for 20 seconds is washing THOROUGHLY, getting the backs of your hands and the entire finger, nail beds and up under nails, all the way down to just below the wrists.  (We massage folks wash up past the elbows!)  Learn how to properly put on gloves and, more importantly, remove them, throwing the disposable ones in the TRASH, not tossing them on the ground!  For the more savvy, the rubberized work gloves can be worn and then sanitized, using a good spray sanitizer, for re-use.

Areas that are touched by other people, especially the public, should be thoroughly wiped with sanitary wipes and/or spray disinfectant.  Find some.  Use them liberally.  Remember that a surface isn't disinfected unless it is VISIBLY WET.  Don't cheap out and try to use one wipe when two or three are called for.

Lastly, masks are still stupid.  (Yes, they really are.)  BUT... they make others around you feel safer, some areas have actually mandated them, and there is an extremely OFF chance that they could stop and airborne particle containing virus should your effort to socially distance fall short.  So wear the stupid mask.  Just 'cause.  Or go all Jesse James and wear a bandanna outlaw style.

Engaging your brain, not panicking, and using the simple anti-viral tools we have at our disposal are the way to get through this.  Whether there will be an economy worth returning to is the real question.  So I'll raise my virtual glass and say, here's a day-drinking toast to hope!  As in I HOPE that all of this confinement pays off, and that we'll come out on the other side of this better, stronger and more united, even if our wallets are thinner and our bellies aren't.  And, with my own bumper-sticker flourish, I'll add that hope without action is futility.  Let's work... and work TOGETHER.  We're all we've got.

Stay safe!

Stu

The Dumbest '80s Song

It's no secret that, to me, the '80s were a lot like the '60s were to our parents or grand=parents.  I just loved the musical innovation!  And in a decade of "Girls Just Want To Have Fun" and other silly songs with an intentional juvenile perspective ("Shiny Shiny" by Haysi Fantayzee?), I was attracted more towards the alternative, known then as "new wave" (and later as "retro"), where a more dance oriented, yet more adult mindset prevailed.  Bands like R.E.M., INXS, New Order, Depeche Mode, The Cure, The Pet Shop Boys and even the old Punk bands like the Ramones and Sex Pistols ruled the roost.  One stand-out was the group, Echo & The Bunnymen, best known for their track from the "Pretty In Pink" soundtrack, "Bring On The Dancing Horses," and my personal favorite of theirs, "Lips Like Sugar."  Iconic songs from an iconic band.

But then they gave us this:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AjlpTyqRuzM</a

I was reminded of this track recently when it popped-up on "1st Wave" on Serius XM in my car.  A fluffy, nothing song with no real message, the music tries hard to give a sense of high-seas adventure, a little like "Six Months In A Leaky Boat" by Split Enz, but a few things ruin even that.  The main thing is the lyric, "My face among them, kissing the tortoise shell."  First, I'm not sure if this is a British "aluminum" vs. "aluminium" thing or not, but they pronounce the word as "tor-toys," like it's spelled, rather than the American (and as far as I know, everywhere else) "tor-tiss."  It's so grating that I laugh out loud every time I hear it.  It's just never not funny.

But the other one slaps me upside my nerdy part of my brain: didn't anyone ever tell these guys that a tortoise is a LAND turtle?  You won't be kissing any "tor-toys" on the "seven seas" - you'll have to wait for landfall for that!  Some years later I had a similar slap to that part of my brain when Pat Benatar sang, "movin' like a meteorite" in her hit, "All Fired Up."  Seems that nobody told Ms. Benatar that meteorites don't move.  Meteors do.  Meteorites are what you find after one has impacted.  But I could give that more of a pass because it was simply a bad-ass rock song.  This isn't.  It's just a mess, tossing-in things about burning witches for no apparent reason, too.

So even with all of the great candidates, such as "Sweepstakes" by Nursery School, the dancey and clever-yet-juvenile "I Wanna Be A Cowboy" by Boys Don't Cry and the musically excellent but lyrically vapid "De Do Do Do, De Da Da Da" by the Police, "Seven Seas" has to be the poster boy for dumbest '80s song ever.

As the meme goes, prove me wrong.
Stu

Made In Detroit: EDM, Techno and a Rich History Few People Know

This Memorial Day weekend brings the annual Electronic Music Festival to Detroit. Spread throughout the downtown area on several stages, the leading lights of EDM, Trance, Techno, Dubstep and other offshoots bring their beats to tens of thousands.  In fact, this year’s attendance is on-point to surpass last year’s estimated 25,000 revelers! Tonight, the festival’s co-founder and acting artistic director, Carl Craig will be spinning. To many outside of Detroit, the name won’t ring a bell. Yet he may well be the reason why they know about techno and EDM at all! Born in Detroit, Craig was a protégé of Derrick May, who along with Juan Atkins and Kevin Saunderson, pioneered the Detroit Techno sound. The sense of the DJ universe coming full-circle isn’t lost on those of us who know the history.


The lineup for this year’s festival is an impressive array of EDM artists from all over the world. Some are new(ish), some are well-established and others are damned near legend. DJ Godfather spins tomorrow, as does Gucci Mane. Ritchie Hawtin, a.k.a. Plastikman is on the bill, as is his protégé, John Acquaviva. (More on Hawtin in a moment.) Most impressively of all, Detroit Techno legend, Kevin Saunderson will share a stage with his two eldest sons. This alone would be well worth the price of admission.


Living in the Detroit area has its perks. The annual EDM festival is one of them. Having a sister-in-law working in the film industry turned out to be another. That last one allowed me to attend a rough-cut preview of the new documentary, “God Said Give ‘Em Drum Machines,” a history of Detroit techno and the birth of the billion-dollar electronic dance music industry last month. It also hit close to home, as a lot of my own memories are all tied up in that history. It’s a history that every EDM fan and current or aspiring DJ should know.


Chicago has always been known as the epicenter of house music, a term derived from unique house salad dressings at restaurants. Walking down a downtown street at night, one could hear the same hits pouring out of every bar and nightclub. DJs wanted something distinctive. Long before remix services became pervasive, DJs would take popular tunes, edit them into unique remixes and sometimes press a single vinyl disc, giving them (and their club) a unique “house mix.” Detroit, of course, is known for its Motown and many contributions to classic, punk and alternative rock, but few people know of the black DJs and artists that spawned progressive/techno/EDM. If you’re a fan, or a DJ who is spinning it, then this documentary is a must see!


Scheduled for release sometime this summer, God Said Give ‘Em Drum Machines is the brainchild of director Kristian Hill, who bemoans the fact that "…the stars of this film are considered gods overseas, but fail to get the same recognition here at home. They're the 'hidden figures' of the $7.1 billion-dollar industry of Electronic Dance Music... most people nowadays have no idea that Techno has Detroit origins or that black people have anything to do with [it].” Hill has set sights to change that.


The film brought back great memories for me.  At the time, my DJ career focused on the wedding reception market, but I regularly ran into the DJs highlighted in the film: Juan Atkins, Eddie Fowlkes, Derrick May, Kevin Saunderson and Mike Huckaby, who inadvertently gave the film its title. Now an instructor at YouthVille, a program he designed to teach music production to aspiring inner-city DJs between the ages of 11 to 19, he appears in the film recounting a dream in which he’s talking to God.  Complaining of the crushing unemployment and lack of opportunity, he asks God what he’s supposed to do about it. God’s answer: “Give ‘em drum machines.” He took that advice to heart.


I would often see Mike spinning tunes at my main source for music, Record Time in Eastpointe, and later, Roseville, Michigan. They had a special vinyl room in the back where all the best underground dance tracks could be found. He would recommend tracks that I could drop into my wedding sets to blow my audience’s collective mind. He was never off the mark. At the time, I was also working with a company called Burst, Inc., which supplied the massive speakers and amplifiers for rave parties that were the main showcase for techno during the ‘80s and early ‘90s. I got to see these guys first-hand and knew that they were onto something special. One performance I remember well was by this skinny white kid from Canada who went by the name “Ritchie Rich.” He even played the theme from the cartoon show of the same name during his set. Of course, you might know him better as Ritchie Hawtin. Unlike Ritchie, unfortunately, the accolades (and the money) have evaded the others, for the most part. This film may at least rectify the former.


Another place I filled my record crates was at a store in Detroit called Buy-Rite music. This is where I would run into Blake Baxter and Kevin Saunderson, who were surprised to see the fat, pimply white kid asking for hot techno tracks. Saunderson is the man behind perhaps the best-known Detroit techno group, Inner City, and sold me my vinyl copies of “Big Fun” and “Good Life.” To Kevin and Hill, these tracks were the high water mark of the genre. According to Wikipedia, Inner City topped the US Billboard dance chart five times with nine top 40 hits to their credit on the UK singles chart. Other hits include "Do You Love What You Feel" and "Whatcha Gonna Do with My Lovin'". (Yes, I own those, too.)


Getting back to the screening, I must admit that I went in expecting to pick it apart, given my deep connection with the music, people and history. I was prepared to do battle! Yet to my utter astonishment, they absolutely NAILED it. Moreover, I learned a lot of subtext that got by me, since I wasn’t as hardcore into Techno and preoccupied with weddings. To me, what I saw of the film was utter perfection, leaving me hungry for more. Happily, there WILL be more! During a panel discussion at the end, director Hill explained that what we saw was the first of a three-part documentary, and his solicitation for funds during the event was mostly to secure the massive music royalty rights his project entails. After a lot of reminiscing, the audience got a special bonus in the form of an amazing set by Kevin, who let everyone know that he still had chops and they’re as sharp as ever! He will do so again tonight. Full circle.


So whether you’re a DJ, music fan or nightclub aficionado, then you owe it to yourself to see this movie and understand how it all happened… and IS happening. Visit http://godsaidgiveemdrummachines.com/ and keep an eye open for a screening in your area.

Stu

A Word Re: Joe Biden

The current uproar over the "inappropriate" actions by presumed Presidential candidate, Joe Biden, reveals a lot of shortcomings, but not on Biden's part.  While I'm not always a fan of his politics, and, to be honest, he's not my favorite pick among the field of candidates on the Democrat side of the political spectrum, I do share one common trait: I'm an older white male.  And lately, us older white males have been taking a lot of shit for being who we are... as if we had a choice.

Most remarkably, this ageist, racist criticism has been coming from those who have historically been discriminated against disproportionally: women and people of color.  This mind-bending hypocrisy has further metastasized into a rigidity of thinking that paralyzes open discussion and critical thinking, allowing the ignorant to be dismissive of anyone they disagree with under the umbrella of shame.  Calls for Biden to "step down" and/or withdraw from politics without having been indicted or convicted of any crime based solely on accusations and opinion are a prime example, and, in my opinion, worse than any freeze on free speech since Nazi Germany; rather than being state-sponsored, however, the current freeze is part and parcel of our old nemesis, "political correctness."  So let's unpack the specifics...

I was born in the late 1950s.  When I was growing up, people touched.  Even before the "sexual revolution" of the 1960s, it was common for two people, regardless of sex, to put an arm over the shoulder of the person they were talking to.  It was not a sexual thing, but a sign of camaraderie.  When I was little, I was "uncomfortable" with this.  It took a while to understand, and once I did, I tended to mistrust those who didn't "let you in" to their space when sharing a confidence, joke or story.  Before the word "gay" meant anything but happy, this simple human contact was commonplace.  And, yes, the whole emergence of gay culture doomed it.  Yes, it's a completely homophobic reaction, and I'm a staunch supporter of gay rights; do not misunderstand.  What I'm saying is that, to my generation and those previous, casual physical contact is simply not a thing.

Let's flash-forward a bit to the 1960s and '70s.  There's an infamous episode of "Star Trek" where an alien visitor witnesses a male crew member give a playful swat on the behind of a female crew member.  Not understanding that this gesture is generally between people who know each other on a deeper level than mere acquaintance, things go awry when the visitor does it as well; people ask the equivalent of "what the hell were you thinking"?  Of course, the viewers understood.

So back to Joe; he's been accused of making various women "uncomfortable" because he touched them.  Not sexually.  Not in a body area normally considered "private."  Even some of the so-called "victims" say that they didn't think he meant anything sexual or harmful by it.  They just say they felt "uncomfortable."  Yet the media and PC crowed, and every other group with a high horse to sit upon, have whipped-up the call for Joe to fall on his proverbial sword like his former colleague, Al Franken, a COMEDIAN (let that sink in) who stepped down from Congress for making a bad joke... without touching anyone.  These days, a tasteless joke is a career ender, I guess.  Even for a comedian.  Lenny Bruce is rolling in his grave like a table leg in a lathe.

While I can certainly empathize with women, I have a tough time doing so with women so weak and introverted that they couldn't have told Biden to his face, "Please don't do that.  It makes me uncomfortable."  Then and there, NOT years later.  Seriously, ladies, to we really WANT a world that is so sterile and "PC" that a person of the same or opposite sex can't put a hand on a shoulder, or on your back, or any of the hundreds of other casual motions people combine with speech to express themselves, make those they communicate with feel included, safe or cared for?  Or will they go the way of the casual terms of endearment or inclusiveness that we once verbally used?  When was the last time a stranger or new acquaintance call you "honey" or "dear"?  A couple decades ago, a female friend used the latter term on a car salesmen who became visibly flustered.  I laughed.  Back then.  Today, he might accuse her of trying to get a better deal through flattery.  Sheesh.

So if this is the cold, sterile world you seek, then keep bagging on Joe.  (And for the hypocrites on the right, making excuses for the pussy-grabber-in-chief.)  I, for one, see human contact as vital.  There's science to support this.  It's one of the reasons why I got into massage therapy; the #1 mechanism that brings on relaxation, lowers blood pressure and brings a sense of well-being is simple touch.  I've had clients tell me outright that, beyond their massage sessions, nobody ever touches them.  At all.  And that's SAD.

Just one more thing: YES, some touch can feel (and may actually BE) creepy.  Most of us can sense intent.  By all means, if anyone touches you in a way that makes you uncomfortable, SAY so.  I would be mortified if someone thought that something I did was "creepy."  I would want to know, and RIGHT AWAY.  A polite, but firm, "please don't do that" with or without, "that makes me uncomfortable" would be acceptable by anyone with your best interests at heart.  (And a harsh reaction will instantly tell you that they do NOT care about your best interests!)  It is also a constructive, as opposed to destructive, approach.  As Dr. Phil likes to say, "you teach others how to treat you."  So teach.  Don't blow up a career when there was no ill will or malicious intent because you misread a situation years later.

Just my thoughts.  As always, your tasteful comments are welcome and encouraged.

Stu

The Hardest Life

How often do we gripe, whine, moan and complain about our lives?  Something happens – anything from a bad dream to a relative dying – and we fall into despair.  How often on my Facebook feed or in my email do I read about the problems my friends are facing and their depression?  And, more alarmingly, how often to I read things like, “I wish I was dead,” or “I don’t want to live like this”?  When things go bad for us, it’s like the worst thing in the world.  It’s tough to remain positive, it seems, when our world falls apart.

For instance, I have a very good friend who I care about greatly.  Through a series of bad choices on her part, some health issues she never asked for, and some horrible people in her life, she is now living with a friend because she’s homeless.  She has no car, no job, few possessions and no husband or boyfriend in her life to help her.  Her parents have practically disowned her.  She barely eats, having no money.  Making matters worse, she has some medical issues that keep her in pain and very shaky medical insurance.

Yet hers isn’t the hardest life I personally know of.  Not even close.

The hardest life is being lived in the home another good friend bought from the sale of her previous home.  She has nice clothes, her lights are on, she has cable TV and plenty to eat.

She also has severe MS.

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Stu

Life On The Freeway: The Drivers We All Love To Hate

Today is the day I graduate from Irene's Myomassology Institute.  It's been one heck of a year!  But one thing that changed drastically for me was a daily commute at a time when other traffic is on the road, also known as the dreaded "rush hour," where it's actually impossible to rush anywhere.  Because it's my nature, I began to observe the other drivers around me and came up with some basic types I encounter regularly.  Hey, what else did I have to do?  So here goes...

1. The Pace Car.  At the Indianapolis 500 and many other auto race events, one car is designated to set the pace of competitors as they warm up at the beginning of a race, and later on to limit the speed of competing cars if a caution flag is thrown, or if there's an accident, obstruction on the track, or bad weather.  Pace cars don't go at racing speed, but tend to bottleneck all the other cars until the race starts or hazards are cleared.

On the freeway, the unelected Pace Car is the one who lodges his/herself firmly into the far left passing lane and maintains speed limit or lower.  Oblivious to anyone behind him/her, they doddle along causing traffic to pass them on the right, if at all.  They have no clue as to why people behind them keep flashing their lights or get upset.  Or maybe they do, and simply take perverse pleasure at the anger they cause.  Denis Leary wrote a song about these people.

2. The Drone.  Drones have no brain; they just act, like insects.  Most drones sit in the extreme right lane, seemingly blind or oblivious to oncoming traffic, offgoing traffic or the speed of all the other drivers around them.  These are the people who, out west, would be getting tickets for driving UNDER the posted minimum speed.  Well-meaning drivers move behind these people and slow way down in order to get off at an exit, and then boggle as the drone sails right on by, never having intended to get off; they were just doddering along in their own bubble of obliviousness.  Occasionally the drone moves into other lanes where they're greeted by honks of horns and other, um... 'unfriendly gestures'... but don't seem to see or acknowledge them.

3. AOFs (Ass On Fire).  AOFs are people who seem to think that their speed is only limited by the traffic in front of them, and that speed limit signs are just "safety suggestions."  If they roar up behind you, absolutely no speed you can go is fast enough for them, and they will dart to one side or the other (they seem ignorant of, or hostile to, to the quaint old convention of passing on the left), perhaps even flashing you a not-so-friendly hand gesture and/or hollering a "colorful metaphor."  Drivers who use cruise control or otherwise maintain a constant speed may encounter the same AOF repeatedly, as they shoot way up ahead, are forced to slow and drop back by traffic, find another opening and shoot ahead, and repeat.  For all of their effort, they generally don't arrive at their destination even one minute earlier.  They do, however, maintain a very high blood adrenaline level, and provoke the same in everyone around them.

4. NNDs (No-Neck Drivers).  The NND seems, at first, adept enough, not driving too fast or slow, and using lanes properly, for the most part.  That is, until you are changing lanes with your blinker properly engaged.  That is when they, too, decide that it's time to move into that exact same space.  And as you rebound back into the lane you were trying to leave, it is then that you notice that they never once looked at you.  His/her head remained forward, metaphorically lodged firmly up his/her ass, never once employing the neck that nature bestowed upon them.  If they ever knew you were there at all, it is usually after you honk your horn and offer them a few 'friendly gestures' of your own.  But sometimes not even then.

5. The Multi-Tasker.  Study after study has proven that humans suck at multi-tasking.  While computers do this with extreme efficiency, we humans only simulate it by focusing on one thing at a time, but being able to switch between them very quickly.  But 'very quickly' isn't usually quick enough while driving.  These are the people who, at first glance seem to be doing very well, yet may wander for a pulse-quickening moment into your lane before jerking back, or be going a bit slower than everyone else seemingly oblivious to those around them (see "The Drone" above).  Unlike The Drone, they aren't oblivious; they're just overwhelmed and don't know it.  They're applying make-up, or eating the lunch they just grabbed at the local McFood outlet, they're chatting away with the office, spouse or BFF, and might even be attempting to text.  While some drivers can manage to drive and chat at the same time, the Multi-Tasker feels like they're wasting time if they're not also checking the latest feeds online, organizing the contents of their bag/purse or changing clothes.  In short, they're doing six different things, and doing none of them very well.  The Multi-Tasker is the most dangerous person you will ever meet.  This includes drug dealers.

6. The Family Circus.  This is the mini-van or SUV packed with passengers, kids and the family dog, who are visibly bounding around and frolicking while the driver tries to pay attention to the road.  While some actually do a fantastic job, most do not; they're more distracted than a pedophile at a Katy Perry concert.  If you're jammed up in stop-and-go, rush hour traffic, you do NOT want this person coming up behind you.  Keep a wary eye on them until they are well back in your rear-view mirror.

7. Mr. Hat.  Unlike Mr. Garrison's puppet from "South Park," Mr. Hat tends to be an older gentleman, but you might not be able to see him if it wasn't for the hat that peeks up above the seat.  Said older gentleman drives... well... like an old person.  Stunningly slow, this driver would've gotten where they're going just as easily taking surface streets, and everyone else would've been much happier about their decision to just stay the hell off of the freeway.  But gramps doesn't seem to notice that he's slowed down, and thinks that every other driver is "a maniac!"  Get behind this driver only if your exit is imminent or you need a break.

8. Q-Tip Head.  Related to Mr. Hat, the Q-Tip Head is a white-haired person who drives like one.  Now, as an older person myself now (how did THAT happen?!), I'm not being ageist when I say that, in general, if the driver in front of you looks at all like a Q-Tip, you're in for a Foghat song: Sloooooow Riiiiiide!  If the time you arrive is of no importance for you, like when you're on the clock making a delivery for work, then turn up the radio and relax!  For the rest of us, you want to avoid this black hole of stasis as much as possible.  And if it's rush hour, these people effectively set the pace for everyone.  Take a tranq and relax.  It's gonna be a while.

Got any to add?  Post your favorite driver profile in the comments below.  In the meantime, thanks for your eyeball time.

Stu

Why Massage?

This seems to be the #1 most often asked question I've been getting lately when friends find out I'm in massage school.  After all, at first glance it does seem like a departure for me, a 30+ year career disc jockey!  But in the end, it turns out it's not.  I'll tell you how in a moment.  For anyone interested, though, here's the answer to that question, which starts out with some amazing women I'm lucky to have in my life.

Sherry is part of my sci-fi group and one of my best friends.  She's an amazing cook, has a wicked sense of humor and us a real fighter; she gave us all a scare not long ago, undergoing treatment for cancer.  And, being Sherry, she kicked its ass.  She even got her hair back!  Sherry also has had on again/off again pain in her lower back and shoulders.  Even before becoming a massage therapist occurred to me, I was known among my group as the go-to guy for back rubs.  I could usually get pretty good results, but Sherry was beyond the reach of my meager, if well-meaning, powers.  So now you have "the set-up".

Then, around the beginning of August of 2015, another amazing woman I know unknowingly changed my world.  I met Samantha through another social group, DAM (Detroit Atheist Meetup).  She's a licensed, practicing LMT (Licensed Massage Therapist).  She's also had more than her fair share of dramatic upsets in her life, and at that point had posted a message on Facebook explaining her need for some help.  To paraphrase, she explained that rather than bothering friends and family for loans or doing some GoFundMe type campaign, she was just going to offer a great deal on an hour massage to her friends.  Being just days away from Sherry's birthday, I instantly thought, "What a great gift idea!"  So, after checking with Sherry that such a gift wouldn't be weird with her, I called Samantha and set up the appointment.  "Hey, isn't it YOUR birthday, too", Samantha asked?  Yes, busted (Sherry and I were born 4 days apart).  Wanting to help her out, I said, "Okay, make it two."  So, for the first time in my then 58 years on the planet, I received my first massage.

I'd always considered massage sort of "fru-fru" -- something rich people did on cruise ships -- and nothing I'd ever see myself doing.  Needless to say, this was far outside of my usual comfort zone.  But I wanted to help out Sherry, and I also wanted to help Samantha, so this is how I found myself on a massage table in my BFF's livingroom.  At the end of the session, she asked me, "So, what do you think?"  I replied, "I think I'm an idiot for not doing this a LONG time ago.  I feel fantastic!"  Knowing that I do back rubs, she said, "If you want to do this again, I can show you some cool things you can do for your back rubs."  Figuring she's just being a great self-promoter, I said I'd think about it.

The next morning, my back felt normal.  This was a surprise; for about the past three decades, I've had this back condition.  Sometimes I would do something -- move the wrong way or pick up something incorrectly -- or I'd simply feel it coming on for a few days, and then I'd have a REALLY bad day of near immobilizing pain.  Once started, it has always run its course.  Prior to my massage, I felt the familiar signs that a bad day was coming.  For the first time, it didn't run its course; Samantha had stopped it.  I quickly made another appointment.

During the next massage, she narrated, explaining everything she was doing and why she was doing it, and I was completely fascinated.  I had no idea that massage could be so therapeutic!  I wasn't grasping some of the things she said, as I was on my face at the time.  "It would be easier to show you if we had a third person," she suggested... which led to my bringing a friend (another one of my back rub victims) and a three-hour session where Samantha filled my head to bursting with techniques and methods.  Again, I geeked out, totally fascinated.  I decided that I MUST learn everything about this!  I began to investigate all of the various massage schools in the area.  Some $12,000.00 later, I enrolled at Irene's Myomassology Institute in June of 2016.

Over the months before school started, Samantha continued to mentor me from time to time.  I've also had some truly crazy runs of luck!  For instance, aside from meeting Samantha and this new lightbulb moment literally changing the course of my life, I also have a long-time friend who once tried massage school, but ended up dropping out for health reasons.  When he found out I had enrolled, he offered me his table and all of his massage gear.  I bought them wanting to help out another buddy, paying more than I thought it shoudl cost.  Looking online, however, I quickly saw that I had gotten the deal of a lifetime!  A top-notch table with all the gear for a relative pittance!  I'd also found a decent massage chair for a relative song on the internet.  The day I arrived for my first class at Irene's, I had all of the equipment I needed.  (I also later bought a back-up table dirt cheap from a Craigslist ad, which turned out to be the mother of a classmate!)  AND I had almost 70 hours of massage under my belt, unofficially, of course.

Needless to say, this has given me a tremendous "leg up"!

As if all of that weren't lucky enough, I also was in need of some cheaper transportation.  Driving to Southfield every day in my DJ truck was extremely expensive, to say the least!  But a new, or even decent used car was out of the question.  That is, until a mutual friend blasted on social media that he was donating his car to charity.  I had seen it before - a nice SUV - and asked him why.  He said that due to the high mileage, his dealership wouldn't give him anything for it, so he thought a $500.00 tax credit would be fine.  I asked him if I could take a look at it.  Mystified that I would be interested, he agreed.  I grabbed a buddy of mine who is mechanically inclined and we drove out to inspect the vehicle.  After about 15 minutes, his words to me were: "Stu, you would be stupid not to buy this."  So I did.

It did need some repairs.  We ordered the parts online and my buddy did them all.  It came to less than $300.00.  Crazy luck, right?  Now I've got a more economical way to drive to/from school, which also holds a massage table as if it were made for it.

As I mentioned at the outset, my pursuit of a career in massage therapy isn't all that much of a departure when you really think about it.  My DJ career, after all, is about making people feel better and forget about their troubles for a while.  My writing pursuits often do the same, and/or help to provide lasting benefits to the lives of my readers.  Aren't these things what massage therapy does?  The only difference is that I'm doing it one-on-one, rather than a lot of people at once.  And that's just fine with me.  That is my answer to "why massage?"  I can't think of a good reason why not!

To you, my reader, a safe, happy, prosperous and healthy 2017!

Stu

HEAD SNAP! My Life Is A Roller-coaster Ride.

It’s called “head snap”.  And it has been my life since I entered massage school.

I had this self-revelation recently when a friend of mine, a fellow roller coaster aficionado, came back to Michigan for a visit and to whisk me away to Cedar Point for one last ride on the Mean Streak, slated to be torn down and replaced next year.  They call it “Mean Streak” for a reason; it kicks your ass.  It’s intentionally rickety, shaking your teeth even on the straightaways, slamming you back-and-forth in the curves, and introducing your body parts to the safety restraints as you plunge down steep drops.  It’s not the “Cuddle Streak” or “Happy Streak”.  But it IS 100% awesomeness!  And I’m sad to see it go.  It’s a true classic.

Yet the affect that coaster had on my body is very similar to the affect my massage therapy classes have on my mind!  As you, my long-time reader may know, I’m a very left-brained, scientific, rational thinker, and there’s a virtual FEAST for the mind at my school; anatomy, physiology, business practices, ethics, effective treatments for various maladies and on and on.  Being a science nerd, I’m having a total BLAST in these classes.  Trouble is, they are often punctuated by voodoo.  Or, more precisely, pseudoscience and superstition, presented uncritically in a collegiate-style setting.

My first inkling of this was when I took an elective class on Table Shiatsu.  The instructor, trained in the East, incorporated ancient Eastern philosophy into the training, peppering the training with terms like “meridians” and “chakras”.  Where had I heard these before, I asked myself?  Ah – on a show called “Penn & Teller’s Bulls*it!”  But, always being the first person to advise others to keep an open mind, I went through all of the activities, learned everything I was asked to absorb, and came away with some great techniques… and more than a few questions, which drove me straight to Google.  This would become a pattern.

So next came the class on effective sciatica treatment, which was a feast of learning the mechanics of the human body, both the client’s AND the therapist’s!  After all, one doesn’t want to trash one’s own body while trying to heal another’s.  Classes like this one are what I signed-up for!  But that class was quickly followed by the next elective: Reiki I, a virtual bouillabaisse of “cosmic debris”, as Frank Zappa would’ve said.  HEAD SNAP!!!

Now I will accept the valid criticism that, yes, I DID choose to take the class, being an “elective” and all, but in my own defense, I’m required to take a certain number of hours as electives, and being a working DJ limits the classes that are available to me, since they’re always on a weekend.  Add to that the buzz among students how “awesome” said class is and how wonderful the treatment is!  And, silly me, I listened.  So here, once again, comes Mr. Open Mind to be spoon-fed utter bullshit for 16 hours over the course of two days.  And to add to my facepalm misery, the class didn’t even give me any good techniques or manipulations like the Shiatsu class did.  All I wanted was to make it stop.  And it did, eventually.  Painfully.

Back in the comfort of my physiology, anatomy and pathology classes, I scanned my upcoming elective schedule to see what other things I’d gotten myself into when I’d hastily chosen my electives last June.  And, lo and behold, there it was: Reflexology I and II.  Oh, for the luvva the Flying Spaghetti Monster, get me OUTTA this thing!  And I did; dropped the class, freed-up a weekend, and signed-up for much more sane, science-based electives in the upcoming weeks.  I’m still shy of all the hours I’ll need, but am on-pace.  Sometimes new classes are added, so I also want to leave some “wiggle room” because once I get all of the required hours in my back pocket, additional classes start costing additional money.

So, gang, if you saw me walking around in the middle of last September with a dazed look on my face, it was NOT from the roller coasters at Cedar Point!  (Those tend to result in goofy, week long smiles!)  No… it was the head-snap provided by my wonderful institution of higher learning; a place I love and am proud of, yet have learned to step through cautiously in order to avoid the potholes of wastes of time and the minefields of intruding on the faith, thoughts and aspirations of my less critical fellow students who see these approaches as having merit.  I’ve learned to love my classmates, so I’m determined to give them that respect.

As for me, I’m thinking that my stance will be the one thing that sets me apart from all the other massage therapists: keeping my practice firmly on scientific, rational ground!  I’ve been toying around with possible names, since the current one, SAHC Massage Therapy, lacks that “grab ya by the memory neurons” kind of appeal.  I’d be interested to hear good suggestions from any and all of my readers… all three of you!  As always, thanks for reading.