Christmas Comin’ At Ya!

It’s the holiday season, folks, and for the first time in years, I am missing out entirely on the Armadillo Christmas Bazaar. As we approach our first Colorado Christmas, I’m feeling a little homesick and nostalgic, so here’s a look back at some Christmas songs from my annual Dillo Xmas video show circa the late 80s — enjoy!

“Nosotros 3 Kings” — Beto & Los Fairlanes

“Silver Bells” — Bobby Bridger

“The Christmas Song” — Steve Fromholz

“Rudolph” — Lost Gonzo Band

“All I’ve Got for Christmas is the Blues”” — Ernie ‘Sky’ Gammage

“Just Another Day” — Marcia Ball

“Cajun Night Before Christmas” — Marcia Ball

BONUS: Marcia Ball spreads a little adult-humor “Christmas Cheer.”

Finally, here’s an all-encompassing holiday wish from the Therapy Sisters from their holiday CD, Co-Dependent Christmaswith a smiling Santa to cheer your day (or worry your night).

“Happy Whatever You’re Having” — The Therapy Sisters

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Game Your Way to a Good Day

Hearkening back to Jane McGonigal‘s SuperBetter, I decided to doodle out a map of her formula for a “Good Day” for a personal reminder.

Game Your Way to a Good Day

3 Power-ups + 1 Bad Guy battled + 1 Quest completed =
1 Good Day

My doodle-map adds in another gameful element from SuperBetter — recruiting Allies to help you in your Quest — and reorders them somewhat to lay out the tasks on a pathway.

Choose a Quest.

A Quest refers to a specific task you can complete within the next 24 hours to achieve a positive result. Ideally, each daily quest should align with the Epic Win you have set your long-term sights on. It may take all day to complete your Quest, but it can be done today — not easily, though. Hey, it’s a quest —it’s not supposed to be easy.

Choose or design challenging but satisfying quests by making them SMART: Specific, Meaningful, Adaptive, Realistic, Time-Framed. One example of a quest I set for myself was to write an additional 1,000 words on specific article topics today (yes, this blog post counts!).

Recruit Allies.

Enlist the aid of one or two people who can help you with today’s quest — even if all they do is cheer you on. An ally is someone you can speak to honestly and openly about your challenges: someone you believe you could ask for help with a serious problem. While it may be hard to ask for help, even from a friend, if you phrase it as playing a game, what friend or co-worker wouldn’t help you out?

One possible way for allies to lend help is to suggest quests for you, and celebrate your completing it.

Battle a Bad Guy.

He’s out there. He’s always out there. Every hero on a quest must battle a Bad Guy. Your day’s Bad Guy might be procrastination or it might be self-imposed solitary confinement, but there is something acting to thwart your Quest.

First, you need to identify your personal Bad Guys, those specific thoughts, attitudes or actions that get in your way of completing your Quest. McGonigal suggests you “do battle” with a specific Bad Guy each day and track your encounters. And always activate a Power-Up after battling your Bad Guy.

Activate 3 Power-Ups.

Power-Ups include various simple activities that can take less than a minute, generally no more than 5, that help restore your resiliency as you pursue your Quest. Drinking a glass of water immediately boosts your physical resilience. Stepping outside into the sunlight can restore some emotional resiliency. Anticipating an upcoming joyful event can boost your mental resiliency. Hugging someone can boost your social and emotional resiliency.

Power-Ups are so simple and reinforcing, it’s easy to include 3 Power-Ups on a daily basis, so go ahead and do some more.

In fact, if you can get this formula rolling on a daily basis, pretty soon, you’ll see how you’re actually gaming your way not just to a good day, but a better day every time you play!

 

 

 

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Handful of Helpful Links

Christmas tree with presentsHolidays exhilarate, enrich, energize — and exhaust us, both physically and emotionally. I know you’re busy, so this is just a short list of gifts I bring to share: several hopefully helpful articles about some of the possible stops you may encounter on this season’s emotional roller coaster.

Enjoy!

How to be Happy

Who doesn’t want to be happy?

“But happiness isn’t something that just happens to you. Everyone has the power to make small changes in our behavior, our surroundings and our relationships that can help set us on course for a happier life.”

Gratitude

Replace any holiday greed with holiday gratitude — your brain will thank you!

“Gratitude is celebrated throughout philosophy and religion; recent scientific studies suggest it carries significant benefits for our mental and physical health. But very little is known about what actually happens in our brain and body when we experience it.”

Changing Negative Thoughts into Positive Ones

It’s impossible to avoid negative thoughts, even  in the midst  of joyous holidays. Still, we can learn how to convert those into positive thoughts.

“What if you can redefine or change the negative memories associated with a particular event in your life? Cognitive reframing is a psychological technique that helps identify and confront negative or irrational thoughts and view it from a different and positive perspective.”

Resilience

We all face inevitable setbacks. Resilience helps us bounce back.

“…science shows that adults also can take steps to boost resilience in middle age, which is often the time we need it most. Midlife can bring all kinds of stressors, including divorce, the death of a parent, career setbacks and retirement worries, yet many of us don’t build the coping skills we need to meet these challenges.”

Creativity

Lastly, a summary of some key themes from Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi,  professor of Psychology and Management and author of Creativity: The Work and Lives of 91 Eminent People, describing traits frequently seen in creative people.

“If I had to express in one word what makes their personalities different from others, it’s complexity. They show tendencies of thought and action that in most people are segregated. They contain contradictory extremes; instead of being an individual, each of them is a multitude.”

Happy Holidays, folks!

 

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Dead & Company: Texas Two-Step, Dec 2017

We got lucky in Texas. Right after our double-date with Dead & Company last weekend, John Mayer needed an emergency appendectomy, forcing postponement of the final 3 dates of the tour.

He is now recovering in good spirits and the shows will be rescheduled.

Meanwhile, a quick look in the rear view…

DALLAS: Friday, December 1

Our Texas Two-Step Trio — me, Albert, & our buddy, Shawn — started the shuffle mid-day  Friday to get us up to the Dallas show that night, coordinating several schedules amid shifting plans at the last minute. We decided against riding on the “party bus” chartered by a group of Austin Deadheads, since there was no bathroom aboard and just one planned potty break. That concerned both me and Shawn enough, we decided we’d ride up in our own “potty bus” — which meant selling off our party bus tickets and shuffling folks between Austin & Bastrop before taking off to Dallas. Albert took care of driving, we took a couple of potty breaks, arrived early, parked within walking distance and caught up with a couple of Albert’s acquaintances for a bite of dinner and drinks before heading into the arena.

view from the raftersAlbert had traded up on 1 of the 3 tickets he’d bought originally, giving him a better ticket — deservedly so, for making all the arrangements. And a quick hat tip to Albert for once again getting our tickets & driving to the shows both nights — turning him on to the Dead back in 1980 certainly has paid off in the shows we’ve seen together since then!

While he headed down to a seat just off the floor, Shawn & I climbed up & up & up to the top of the place — okay, 4 rows short of the top. A guy sitting just behind us greeted us, “I see you’re close friends of the band, too, to get these great seats.”

Hey — in the house is in the house! We were still “on the axis” — the midline — so the sound would be well-balanced, something I learned from my sound man buddy, Gordon. At the top of the back of the hall there, our sound proved surprisingly strong and clear right from the first chord of  the set opener, “Shakedown Street.”

Bobby turned out to be more talkative than usual that first set, adding commentary a few times between songs. As they started into the third song, “Deep Elem Blues” (for the old Deep Ellum district of downtown Dallas nearby), he said, “You knew it was coming…”

Indeed we did — and the band delivered.

 

After two years of playing together on a few tours, the band has really come together. Bob, now sporting spectacles as befits an old man, sounds stronger and more spirited in his vocals than in some time. On the back line there, Billy and Mickey lay down a percussive bedrock to build on and those 3 original members of the band bring the heart and soul of the old band there. But it’s the new guys — John Mayer out front on lead, Oteil Burbridge dancing on bass, and Jeff Chimenti tearing up the keyboards — that really bring the jams to this band. The first set surprise was Bobby pulling “Easy Answers” out of the middle of “The Music Never Stopped,” bringing that lesser gem up for a shine in the spotlight before easing out of the first set with the close to “Music”.

The 2nd set is always jammier and they did not disappoint in Dallas. John and Jeff especially kept egging each other on, especially in the middle of the long instrumental interlude of “Eyes of the World,” leading into the ever-shifting/always familiar “Drums & Space” segment. Coming back into a song after the ride through time & space from throbbing beats to electrohums is always a fascinating return to tunes, with everyone wondering where this spaceship will land…

Friday, they surprised us by landing in the Beatles’ “Dear Prudence,” giving us a beautiful version before rolling out “The Wheel” (with its new tease of “Stay” at the end!) and then unleashing “Casey Jones.” On that one, they just kept going faster & faster, revving that engine up with John Mayer, who often stomps his feet & hops as he plays, joined by Bob hopping, too, so they’re both bouncing up and down as they rode that speeding freight train safely into the station. A sweet encore of “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door” later and we’re headed out the doors, half-delirious with joy.

We hung in the parking lot for a while with friends, still buzzing from the show’s energy before a short drive over to my friends’ Mike & Janie’s house who were “ghost-hosting” us. That is, Mike told me it would be fine to stay, but then he got called out of town, and Janie wasn’t there either, so we three slipped in after midnight and hit the road back by morning’s light…well, okay, not quite that early.We were just a bit lethargic after show #1.

AUSTIN: Saturday, December 2

After  our drive back to Bastrop for afternoon naps and relaxing, Albert cooked up some fajita makings, we munched down on those, and headed into Austin for show #2. Along the way, we stopped by Paul’s place to pick up Kate, parking near the venue (a breeze, thanks to Albert’s awareness of near-campus parking) and strolling over a bit early.

Tonight, we had General Admission floor tickets — down in “the pit.” I won’t tell you exactly how we got the four of us down there with just 3 GA tickets, just that is was a good thing, since Kate had bought her ticket late and would have been sitting alone. She’d been on multiple Dead runs with me & Albert, and, still recovering from Harvey flood damage, she needed this show. Besides, we weren’t trying to move up to the front, so we stood in the back part of the pit to stay a little less crowded — but way closer than Friday night.

They kicked off with “Jack Straw,” the first (but not the last) tip of the hat to Texas for a night of songs strictly from the early days, almost all in the Dead repertoire by 1971.

 

Watching from the pit meant we were close enough not just to see individual band member’s faces, but also the interaction between players. We stood where you could best see both each played and the whole band as well. Watching John walk over to face off with Bobby for a few licks and seeing Jeff and Otiel and John exchanging glances, nods and laughs as they weave their sounds together felt like watching the energy flow through an invisible basketball of goo pulled and stretched between them.

They teased Texas again with the “New Minglewood Blues” lyrics,

“Well, it’s T for Texas —
and it’s T for Timbuktu!”

…and we ate it up. “Ramble on, Rose” took me right back to hearing first in Austin in November 1972.  Oteil stepped up to sing the rarity “If I Had the World to Give,” which the Dead only played 5 times, retiring it in 1978. That sweet revival was the most recent of all the songs played Saturday night, and we all reveled in the familiar feel of them all.

The second set kicked off with the “China Cat Sunflower/I Know You, Rider” pairing, followed by a powerful back-to-back “Dark Star” > “The Other One.” With Oteil helping Billy and Mickey, the drums segment had the place throbbing all the way through Mickey’s cerebral beam out into space and back into a sweet semi-sing-along of “Uncle John’s Band” before “St. Stephen” came out and the boys really opened it up full throttle boogey. Then, “Morning Dew” (recorded on their first album in 1967) started slow and low before building in intensity and soaring into a roar before a final climax to close the set.

But of course, then, they encored with “One More Saturday Night”!

That’s right: it’s Saturday night.

And then there were gone — see y’all down the road.

 

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Pre-Mortem, 12-1-17

This is a brief post in anticipation of this evening’s show from Dead & Company, featuring 3 of the original members of the Grateful Dead joined by 3 younger musicians to revive the Dead vibe. And this modern-day revival of the Dead kicks ass!

Yep, we’ve got 2 shows in a row from Dead & Company right here in Texas: tonight in Dallas and tomorrow in Austin. Okay, I no longer live here in Texas, but I had to return for these. The Dead last played Texas in 1988 — and last played Austin in 1985! It’s a long time coming and now here we go again.

I wrote previously about the many “Dead runs” I’ve made in the past, up to and including the Dead & Company shows in Boulder in 2016 as well as earlier this summer. This run consists (so far) of driving to Denver from Cañon City, a flight to Austin, rental car out to Bastrop to hook up with Albert. We had been thinking about going to the Dallas show and back via a “party bus” some Austin Deadheads put together, but that did not pan out, so Albert and Shawn and I are driving northward to Dallas now. While this last minute change threw some plans off, it does mean we get to stay overnight in Dallas, visiting my old friend, Mike MacNaughton.

Other old friends we’ll see include the 3 Grateful Dead original members — Bob Weir, Billy Kreutzmann, and Mickey Hart—holding down the beat and the vision, while the new guys — John Mayer, Oteil Burbridge, and Jeff Chimenti — bring new jams and excitement.

So, we’re on the road again, following today’s carnival show rolling through Texas, seeking joy & merriment. In the words of one old Grateful Dead tune, we’re “listening for the secret, searching for the sound.”

Join us tonight at 7 Central for a free stream of the set openers on Nugs TV. Here’s a taste from earlier this tour —enjoy!

See y’all after the shows!

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Late Night Thoughts

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Progress Report circa 1960

G.M.C. Massey walking on sidewalkGranddad’s life spanned parts of both the 19th and 20th Century, so he saw quite a lot of progress in his time. Here he summarizes some of the changes, especially about distance and travel.

There had been wonderful progress in the way of machinery, Farming, And harvesting as well: And we can’t really believe that, that has been the best for the human race for now the 50 acres that each farmer took care of; Now a man can farm from two hundred acres to Four hundred Acres. And that has put out several small farmers, and they have been forced to go into towns, and That has caused a lot of People to be without work, And has caused several farmers to go on relief. But I didn’t start out to discuss that Phase of the Progress of the Nation; but that has been the cause of this situation, any way.

Science & Invention has done something to the world, that we never thought could Happen, For now distance has disappeared. For we noticed just a day or so ago that the President of the U.S. ate Supper over here in his Home country, and went to bed here and woke up the next morning in Rome, ITALY. And he expects to visit 11 nations, and talk to the men in authority, and travel 22,000 miles and be back A few days before the Christmas Holidays, And it is now the 5th day of December.

It makes no difference where you go, and what country you visit; You are apt to meet your neighbor, or a friend that you went to school with a few years since. In every walk of life there has been such improvement that you would not recognize it If you were to wake from A 20 year nap like Rip Van Winkle.

If you write a letter here today to a friend of a business letter it will delivered in the morning of the next day in N.Y. or California, And if you send it to London or Moscow or to India it will be delivered the next day after you mail it.

Yes it seems that Distance has entirely disappeared.

When I moved out here to San Angelo 41 years ago from Sulphur Springs it was only about 400 miles, and the roads were not paved only a few miles near Dallas, And Ft. Worth, and Weatherford, And a few miles between San Angelo. And Abilene, I believe, just a few miles near Winters.

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