Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Music Review: Vanity Theft

One of the things that I love about Portland, OR is the bevy of small venues that allow you access to the many bands touring through town. I'm not talking about photo op / autograph session for the masses, I'm talking about getting up close and life story time. The one element necessary for this to occur, is a willingness of the band members to avail themselves to their fans. I raved about the awesome girls from Hunter Valentine making themselves available for my daughter and I to spend time with them. Today I must praise the wonderful girls of Vanity Theft for doing the same. These girls are as real as they come. They truly understand what rock and roll is all about. It's about playing live for the fans!

Rebekah and I arrived plenty early so we could get a good seat. We entered the venue, and Bekah spotted the girls of Vanity Theft hanging out before the show. We approached the girls and introduced ourselves, and they were so gracious that they summoned their missing band mate for some photos. I was taken aback at the willingness of these ladies to just open up and really talk with us. We talked and had a few laughs, and then the show started.......

Listen to me carefully...These girls can REALLY ROCK!!! I had seen their videos and really liked them, but they ascended to a higher echelon of rock and roll in their live show! I have been to the likes of "Stix", "Motley Crue", "Ozzy Osbourne", "Billy Idol", "Nickleback", "Puddle of Mudd", "Shinedown", "Three Doors Down", "Sick Puppies", etc. live, and these girls rocked with the best of them! Mark my words. These girls will be very successful in the world of rock! Their latest LP is available on itunes now, so be one of the first on the Vanity Theft band wagon. You can see them live Feb. 23, 2011 in Portland at the Ash Street Saloon!

Music Review: Hunter Valentine

Music moves us in inexplicable ways. From the humming of a mother as she rocks her baby, to the soundtrack of a movie, to the the tunes that you bop or rock out to in your car to, music flows through our lives. Sometimes the persons who make the music add to the value and meaning of the music. Such is the case with the music of Hunter Valentine.

This trio of Canadian girl rockers not only make exceptional rock/alternative music, they also make memories and friends along the way.

I recently went to see Hunter Valentine at The Roseland Theater in Portland, OR with my 13 year old daughter Rebekah. It was one of those spur of the moment outings that are possible in a city like Portland. I had just been introduced to the band via Youtube the morning of the concert by my daughter. Later that day, she called me at the park, where I was watching her younger siblings play in the fountain, all excited. She had discovered that her new favorite band was playing in Portland in exactly 2 1/2 hours! I wasn't even sure if we could make the concert in time as I needed a shower, and then we had to catch the train into town, but we decided to give it a go. We made it to the Roseland with time to spare and waited for the show to start. I could see the excitement on Rebekah's face as the girls came out on stage and got ready to play. I wasn't really sure what to expect, but seeing my daughter's excitement was reward enough for me. We were about 12 inches from the stage when Hunter Valentine started playing their brand of rock...and rock they did! The drummer, Laura, started things off with her energetic percussion and wild hair flinging. Bassist Adrienne joined in with her rich, deep, driving rhythm as she thumped away on the bass. Next came the searing chords from lead singer/guitarist, Kiyomi, followed by her deep raspy vocals. The combination turned out to be a match made in heaven for the rock/alternative fans at the Roseland! I think what amazed me the most was the heart and energy of these ladies. They put heart and soul into every single beat of every single song. The show was amazing, and Rebekah was on cloud nine! After their set, the girls came out to meet and greet fans, and sign autographs and such. Thanks to the intimate venue that night, Rebekah and I not only got to meet the girls of Hunter Valentine, we got to hang out with them. I was truly impressed by the amount of time each of the girls spent with Rebekah. Their willingness to "hang out" with a young fan made the music mean much more to Rebekah and I.

If you want to see a great rock show put on by a group of very talented but down to earth girls who really care about their fans, Hunter Valentine is for you! I know they made me a fan for life. You can see them live on Feb. 23, 2011 at the Ash Street Saloon in Portland, OR. Don't miss a chance to see these rising stars!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Bigfoot, UFOs, and Conservatives in the Pacific North West

The pioneers who struck out on the Oregon trail were a hardy, fearless bunch of dreamers. Over the years these traits have been passed on to their descendants. To this day you will find many strong willed, gritty, hard working folks in the great state of Oregon. Politically speaking, Oregon is a bit of an anomaly. The political map is about 90% red with a small circle of blue. Conservatives will tell you that the blue circle is Oregon's rectum, while Liberals insist it's the brain. The problem for conservatives is that half of the state's population live in the rectum, I mean the blue circle. The problem for the Liberals is that the brain is surrounded by rednecks, I mean red voters. The political landscape is further complicated by the absurd drive up and pour a sack of ballots into an unguarded box method of voting that is wildly popular here. I plan to go to the grave yard tomorrow and start my voter registration drive. I might just end up liking this voting method after all! So, let's assume that there are still those out there who find none of this particularly troubling. Wait till you hear this! The governor's race this year featured a two time governor from the past (Kitzhaber) running against a former Portland Trailblazer basketball player (Dudley). A scientific poll, conducted by me, of some of my friends who claimed to have voted, revealed that the deciding factor in their voting for Kitzhaber was Dudley's piddly 2.2 ppg performance while playing for the Blazers. One friend stated, "a man who only produces 2.2 points per game has no business running our state!" I was unable to produce a reasonable objection to that statement on such short notice, so I simply nodded in agreement. Now that I have had time to think about it, I should have suggested a game of one on one for the Governor's mansion, but alas, that ship has sailed. Reporting from the land where Bigfoot, UFOs, and Conservatives are seen in equal measure, this is J.R. McLain

Friday, June 25, 2010


There is an old saying that goes like this, "beauty is in the eye of the beholder." I suppose that's true. I look at some of the "abstract" art out there and just shake my head, but...what if....I took the time to look for the beauty in those pieces instead of shaking my head and dismissing them? Maybe, I would discover a beauty that I never knew existed. I decided to try just that as I explored the city of Portland, OR. The natural beauty of Oregon is easy to love. I believe God gave every human an innate appreciation of nature; consequently, most everyone finds the mountains, rivers, and lakes here breath taking. Things created by man however, tend to appeal to some, but not all. One of the first things that caught my eye in Portland was the collection of murals that dot the cityscape. Most of them are brightly colored and reflect the culture and experiences of the painter. Most of these were very appealing to me. The next thing I noticed was the architecture of the city. The mixture of gleaming modern buildings and 18th century landmarks make an eclectic mix that is quiet delightful! So far, I've had little difficulty finding beauty in my surroundings. Next I walked along the street looking in the shops and restaurants. There I found many beautiful things to appreciate. I stopped by one art gallery, and gazed at the examples of modern art. I stood there and stared at a piece that looked like a solid black canvas at first,but a closer inspection revealed very subtle color and texture changes that were most beautiful. Fine details that I would have missed had I not taken the time to look closely. Satisfied by my days exploration, I boarded the train back out to the "burbs." While the train was stopped at Goose Hollow, I looked out the window, and noticed a man standing on the sidewalk in filthy clothes. He was chewing on a plastic bag, and had a crazy look on his face. I chuckled and told myself that Portland was indeed a strange place. I looked back at him as the train departed, but this time instead of a crazy look on his face....I saw a sad look. I wondered to myself if he had any family or friends, but I knew the answer in my heart. As the train glided into the tunnel ahead, it hit me like a ton of bricks. My eyes began to tear up as I thought"who thinks he is beautiful? Who loves him?" I also knew the answer to that question in my heart. I began having another revelation. All of the buildings, art, and food I had seen today reflected the taste and heart of their creators. Those who created these things loved them and were proud of them. Then I remembered who created me, and you, and the crazy looking guy eating plastic. My heart was broken and I fought back tears as I realized how callously I treated one of God's creations, even if only in my own mind. I had been looking for hidden beauty in the wrong places. You see, the building, paintings, even the lakes and mountains will all pass away, but a soul is eternal. The One who made me, and you, and him reflected His taste and His heart in His creation. He loves ALL of His creations, and we should love ALL of them too. I will still look for beauty in things that I find unappealing at first, but my first priority will be to look for beauty in things He created in His own image. Even if all I can do is love them because He does, that's what I will do.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Keep Your Chicken, I'll fill My Own Pot Thank You

What could be wrong with a nation filled with happy, well fed, hand holding, Kumbaya singing citizens? Well, nothing. It would be wonderful! Those in our country who espouse socialism paint a picture of peace, harmony, and equality. The basic ideals of socialism are actually similar to the instructions given to the Corinthian church by the apostle Paul. So why are so many Americans opposed to socialism? The devil is in the details.
The form of socialism being proposed today would take from the rich and distribute to the poor. If you are poor, that might sound like a great idea, until you consider the long term effects of this proposal. For starters, the rich are for the most part rich because they worked hard and invested wisely. To take from them to give to those who are lazy or foolish is both morally and socially wrong. Now I realize that not everyone who is poor is not foolish or lazy. Many are unskilled, uneducated, or unfortunate. I was once unskilled and uneducated. I was on the road to poverty, but I didn't like that destination. So, I got off that road and pursued first a skill set so I could make a decent living and have a chance to pursue an education. I worked for many years before I was in a position to go to college. I went to college when I was 36 years old with 2 children. I had to drop out in the middle of my nursing education and work for a year due to complications with my wife's pregnancy, but I went back and finished my education with 3 children and a wife who worked 12 hour night shifts. I am now an educated professional and proud to call myself a Registered Nurse. My point is that many of the poor are that way due to a lack of self motivation. Education is available to anyone; in fact, the poorer you are the less it will cost you. Don't envy the rich, get out there and make your own fortune.
The next thing to consider is that the rich provide jobs. I work for a hospital owned by a company that owns many hospitals. It is a for profit company with numerous shareholders. The company is owned by rich people. These rich people's desire for success is what provided a job for me. These folks worked hard to earn money and invested wisely in my company. Taking away their income and giving it to others removes their motivation to succeed. If they don't succeed, I don't have a job. So many Americans today forget that the wealth and success of America is dependent on our free enterprise system. This system rewards those who work hard. Some argue that the wealth of the rich is built upon the backs of the poor workers. DUH! That's how it works people. Most Americans help earn money for the rich and earn an honest living along the way. What's wrong with that??
The rich pay taxes. Fact: 80% of all tax revenue is payed by the top 5% of wage earners. Fact: The top 50% of wage earners pay 100% of taxes. Fact: The bottom 50% of wage earners pay no taxes. So, if you take from the rich and put everyone on even ground, who pays taxes........figure it out yet??..........YOU! I promise you that the government will never give up it's cash cow known to us as the Federal Income Tax. That means that everyone will either have to pay a painfully high tax rate to support the government, or the government will have to "nationalize" all major industry to generate income. That means we will all work for the government. No big deal right? At least we have jobs; however, if we all work for the government then there is no hope of becoming wealthy (Just ask anyone who has ever worked for the government). So what is the motivation to succeed? There is none. How fast and efficient was the drivers licence office the last time you were there? How about the Social Security Administration? IRS? They all suck! Do you know why? It's because they know that they will get paid the same no matter how much work they do, and they there will always be an endless supply humanity suffering in long lines to get their cheerful (tongue firmly in cheek) services. We all become just another brick in the wall.
The long and short of this all is that the America that is envied around the world can not exist as a socialist state. The nation that has taken in so many of the worlds huddled masses can not continue to do so as a socialist state. The "American Dream" will cease to exist in a socialist state. There are those who are helpless who need help. I believe with all my heart that we can and should help them. The widow, the orphan, the infirm (a 23 year old with Degenerative Disk Disease is not infirm!), and those affected by some disaster. Those who choose not to work can starve, those who work the system can have their Lexus repossessed, and those that abuse the system can rot in jail! I am sick of paying for them to exist as parasites on the public teat. Oh, and if you are standing there with your hand out, don't bitch about what's put in it! So I say no thank you Washington. Keep your chicken. I will go out and work for my own thank you!

Chicken Breast stuffed with Portabello, Artichoke, Avocado, Provolone, and Swiss

I had a request for some recipes on my blog. This is for you Tory :- )
First marinade chicken breast in a mixture of olive oil, white wine (Bella Sera Pinot Grigio works nicely), rosemary, thyme, garlic powder, and onion powder. About 2 hours should do. While the chicken marinates, prepare your stuffing as follows: saute portabello mushrooms in olive oil and butter about 3-4 min. each side. Set portabellos aside and remove avacado meat from skin and place in pan. Cut into small pieces and sautee over medium heat until both sides are browned. Add potrabellos and artichoke hearts to avacado and add 1 cup of marinade to mixture. Simmer until liquid is evaporated. Set stuffing aside until chicken is done marinading. To prepare chicken, make 2 inch incision in side of chicken breast, then insert knife into incision and form a large pocket inside of breast. Dice swiss cheese and toss in stuffing mixture then spoon mixture into pocket in chicken breast. Close pocket with toothpicks if necessary. Bake in oven preheated to 425 degrees for 20 min. Cover each breast with slice of provolone and bake for 5 more min. The next step is easy: Serve and enjoy!

16 oz sliced portabello mushrooms
2 medium avacados
20 oz canned artichoke hearts
6 medium boneless skinless chicken breast
1 cup white wine
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp rosemary
1 tsp thyme
1 tsp onion powder
1/2 tsp garlic powder
4 slices swiss cheese
6 slices provolone
1 tbsp butter 2 tbsp olive oil for sautee

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Funkballs, Creepers, and Goobers OH MY!

"CREEPER!" Zoe yelled as we passed an 18 wheeler with an admittedly creepy looking gentleman driving. Zoe put a tick mark in the "creeper" column, and got ready to peer into the vehicle we were about to pass. Zoe and I were on our way to Atlanta for a concert. Somewhere just north of Montgomery, AL we decided to make a game of classifying the people we saw. We had creepers, funkballs, goobers, freaks, average, princess, and finally Ahhhhhhh! We occasionally had to create a new classification for some unusual person like the guy with the epic sideburns we passed around Auburn, but most people fit nicely into our categories. We laughed as we jammed out to some good road trip music and played our game. Our trip was starting out with a ton of fun and would only get better. We crossed over into Georgia, and stopped for a french fry snack. We were meeting friends for lunch, so we didn't want to fill up. We zipped on into the city and met our friends at the Big Easy Grille. It was a New Orleans style cafe owned by a high school friend. The food was phenomenal, and the atmosphere was such that I felt like I was in the Quarter. After lunch, we headed downtown to our hotel. The hotel was only a couple of blocks from Phillips Arena which thrilled Zoe to no end. We got checked in and headed down to the CNN center to have a look around. I am no fan of CNN, but the center was impressive. After looking around a bit, we filtered into Phillips Arena which adjoins CNN Center. The atmosphere inside was electric, and Zoe was very quiet but visibly excited. I asked Zoe if she wanted a concert tee shirt and she said no. I looked at her quizzically then told her I would buy her one. "Oh", she replied, "sure I'll get one." I guess she thought she was going to have to buy it. The shirts were $35. A bit over priced for sure, but daddy loves to make his girl happy, so it was my pleasure to buy the shirt for her. Of course she had no problem asking for a few extra dollars to get her Sick Puppies poster and CDs to be autographed, but who could blame her! LOL
The concert began with the Sick Puppies. I was truly impressed with this band. Not only was their music awesome, the band members were very real and kind people. Zoe got to meet the band and get pictures and autographs. They were all very sweet to her and even waved at her as we left. Not many bands do that anymore. Zoe floated back to the hotel with her autographed treasures and found it difficult to get to sleep. The next morning, we packed up and headed back home. We had a fun trip home taking pictures of funny things along the way. The trip was absolutely amazing. Zoe and I made memories to last a lifetime. She will not remember what I bought her for Christmas last year at my funeral, but she will remember that concert. I guess my point is that I would much rather spend my money and time making memories than getting stuff. Stuff breaks, rust, and gets lost. Memories last forever!

Monday, March 29, 2010


What inspires you? Is it a quotation by some wise statesman? Maybe a song? Perhaps the encouragement of a friend or the words of a pastor? The literal meaning of inspiration is to take in, as in the act of breathing in. To me this definition infers action. Prior to today, I don't think I've ever consciously considered the meaning of inspiration. I never stopped to wonder why some of my friends almost constantly post inspirational quotes as their status on Facebook; in fact, I sometimes viewed it as a lack of creativity. Today, I am taking the time to think about inspiration. What or who inspires me? Hmm......... This morning, I find myself inspired by a friend. A friend who, despite enormous responsibilities at home, finds the time to press on toward her dream. I am also inspired by the bright flower blossoms standing strong in the cold breeze this morning. They know the warmth of spring is just around the corner, and they stretch their petals toward the sun, as if reaching for it. I am inspired by the empty tomb in Jerusalem, and the promise of life beyond this one. I am inspired by the youthful joy of my children, and the unfailing love of my wife. I am inspired by the selfless service of my little sister, and her love for a people so different from her own. I also realize, that these things were all there yesterday, but it was only after I stopped and "took them in" that they became meaningful to me. Yes, I think inspiration is a verb in every sense. Whether you seek it, or provide it, or ignore it, is up to you, but inspiration is all around you. All you have to do is just breathe it in.