At The Coop

At The Coop

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Looking On The Bright Side

       Some people are always looking for the cloud in the silver lining.
       That would not be me.
       Now, I'll be the first to admit that mine is not always the sunniest of dispositions. I'm sure I go on a tear from time to time about how messed up something or the other is, but I also know that I don't constantly dwell at the dark end of the street. I couldn't handle it. I would be dead in no time.
       I'm not sure if people are "hard-wired" to be negative about everything, or if they're conditioned to see things the way they do. Is it nature, or nurture? Were they born that way, or indoctrinated by parents, teachers, preachers, and/or the media?
       In recent years, there has been a huge increase in commentary both on the airwaves and the internet about how much is wrong with the world in general and The United States Of America in particular. So-called "patriots" run their own country down at every opportunity. Satan, evil, and (even worse) immigrants are everywhere. This acidic bathing of cranial cavities can't be good for anybody, only for the bottom lines of those who profit from making others afraid. Many people tune into the Fox "news" network and other similar outlets, seeking truth and affirmation of their fears. They are unhappy, and these "news" sources offer up easy (albeit often false) targets at which they can aim their ire. The problem is that the more they listen, the more miserable they get. The hate and rage is eating them up from the inside out. They would do so much better to take John Prine's advice to "Blow up your TV. Throw away your paper..."

        I have never been a big fan of radio, even when I used to receive a paycheck for spinning records on country stations in the southeast. My car has a 6-CD changer and an auxiliary input where I can plug in my iPod. A month or so ago, my CD player got jammed. Six of my favorite, and in some cases virtually irreplaceable, CDs are stuck somewhere behind my dashboard. It might be the best thing that has happened to me recently. I have been using my iPod on a worksite, and I don't always feel like unplugging it from the dock and taking it in the car, so sometimes I would just do without music. My wife had to drive my car to retrieve me from a truck rental place late one Saturday night. She was tired, so she dialed up "American Roots" on the local NPR affiliate to help her stay awake. We listened to it on the way home.
       I have since started listening to NPR a lot more. The programming is interesting, and even when they have a story about something bad, they always supply a human interest side, and often propose positive (and realistic) solutions. This morning, I heard a great interview with Alice Cooper. I have heard stories on science, art, history, geography, sociology, and in-depth reporting on national and world news that is quite unlike the sound-bite journalism offered up by the mainstream networks. I got to thinking how much happier some people would be if they had a steady diet of positive and educational input as opposed to one comprised of hatred and vitriol. The sad thing is that the so-called "conservatives" pre-emptively demonized NPR as slanted and untruthful, so the people who could possibly gain the most from listening to it probably never will.
       I recently posted a question on Facebook that could have been answered with a simple "yes" or "no"..."Do you think the outcry would have been the same if Kim Davis had been jailed for refusing to issue gun permits as it has been since she was jailed for refusing to issue marriage licenses?" What a fire (that's the polite word) storm that started! I was immediately inundated with "anchor babies", "Mexican rapists", "that Kenyan Muslim in the White House", "lawless society", "black thugs", and every other Fox Radio buzzword you could think of...most (if not all) of which had absolutely nothing to do with the question at hand. I'd like to say I was surprised. Sadly, I wasn't. The amount of anger in the baggage that those people are carrying around makes me surprised that there aren't more suitcases exploding every day.
      I believe I would shrivel up and die if I thought that the world was a place where only evil could thrive. Fortunately, my worldview is quite different...and that's the bright side.
     Thanks for looking.

Friday, July 10, 2015

Do You Hear What I Hear?

           Because hens of the same breed often look too much alike to tell apart, we don't name all of our chickens. We named our first rooster (the one who got killed by the coyotes) Rudy. He was the only rooster, and a big Black/Lav split Ameraucana, so that was easy enough.


           Rudy's offspring were crossbreeds and very distinctive looking, so they got names. The hens became Penguin and Babs. His son (the rooster we just got rid of) was about nine different colors and patterns, so we had named him Pinto. There were two other roosters in that hatching. I traded them away for three Barred Rock hens.

          We got three chicks out of Pinto (at least he was good for something) that each have their own look. Two were hatched about sixteen weeks ago. There was a little black chick with a white mark on it's head that we named Ninette (after my wife Nina) since it was a small dark-haired girl with a yarmulke on. The other one was mostly grey, and very protective of Ninette when we brought in more chicks from the Davidson Farmers Co-op. Nina had suspicions that it might be a rooster, but we weren't sure, so we named it Izzy...izzy a rooster, or izzy a hen?

            Ninette has grown into a beautiful bird, with Rudy's coloring on most of her body and very striking black and white patterning on her head and neck. Izzy looks more and more like a Barred Rock everyday.
           The third chick that we got from Pinto was hatched seven weeks ago as a pure platinum blond, but has started taking on very cool brown markings that resemble those of Ameraucana chicks. We had named her Sabrina, although now we wonder about her gender since intricate patterning and coloring is often the sign of a rooster.

         That's her on the far right in the picture.
         With the law of averages on our side, we figured that one of the three would be a rooster, thus replacing their jerk of a father. (Heck, with our luck, they would all three be roosters.) If not, there are always folks trying to get rid of roosters.
         We're expecting the young hens (not the youngest ones) to start laying in a couple more weeks.
         This morning, I unlocked the coop and let them out into the yard. Izzy looked at me, flapped HIS wings, and said "urt-da-urt-da-urrrr". Then he repeated himself to make sure I got the message that there's a new rooster in the barnyard now. Here's to hoping he's friendlier than his father...and that Ninette and Sabrina are girls.

Monday, July 6, 2015

The (We've Got Your) Information Age

        Sometimes I get a little (okay, more than a little) creeped out by how much information of mine other people (usually large corporations) have or want. Can it be that valuable? If it is, how come I'm not making any money off of it? If it's not, them how come they seem to want it so badly?
        My wife and I will be visiting the Ozark Mountains later in the year. We will almost certainly be doing some hiking. Not wanting to buy new shoes right before the trip and not have them properly broken in, I headed out to the mall today in search of appropriate footwear. I don't really like shopping, and I really don't like malls, but I sucked it up and went to a discount outlet that is the first store inside the entrance to the mall. I looked around for a few minutes until I found a pair of shoes that looked like my style. The first pair I tried on fit comfortably. So far so good. Then I went to the checkout lane...
        "Have you shopped with us before?"
        "What's your email address?" I like how they assume everyone has an email address.
        "I'm not going to give you my email address."
        Look of consternation from the clerk.
        "Okay. What's your zipcode?"
        "I'm not going to give you my zipcode."
        Dead silence from the clerk while she finished ringing up my transaction. I tried to engage her in conversation. No go. She was done with me.

        It reminded me of a time years ago when I was denied the opportunity to purchase a candy bar at Rose's Discount Store in Fuquay-Varina, North Carolina because I would not give the cashier my address. I asked the girl "Do you mean to tell me that I can't buy a piece of candy in this store without telling you where I live?"
        She said "That's right. I have to have it."
        I told her "Then you don't have to have my money."
        It was the stupidest thing I ever heard of...a capitalist refusing to take money unless they could also obtain personal information about the customer.

        It seems like everybody's got their hand out, trying to latch onto your personal information. I recently tried to sign up on a music website that would not process my information unless I also gave them my telephone number. Facebook is bad about that, too. "We need your telephone number in case you get locked out of your account." No. They "need" my telephone number so that they can sell it to someone else. "Where do you live? Where did you go to high school? Where do you work? What's your favorite movie? What books do you read?" nauseum.
        Want to see a doctor? "What's your social security number?"
        Want to set up an email account? "What's your mother's maiden name?
        Shades of Big Brother. Of course if they were really my big brother, they would already know all of those things, and they wouldn't have to ask.
       That's all I'm going to share with you.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Flock This!

     I decided to retire the homemade incubator yesterday morning. It was a fun project, but the return is just not worth the energy I've been investing in it. The first batch of eggs was great...eight eggs in and six chicks out. Other attempts have not been so fruitful...twelve eggs in and two chicks out, and on the last time around, eight eggs in and only two chicks out. (One of those was born seemingly healthy, but started having seizures and died about 22 hours after hatching. It's parents were siblings, which I was told is okay, but there was obviously something wrong with it.) The remaining chick is a beautiful little platinum blonde. Chickens are flock animals, and we didn't want her (we're hoping it's a "her") to be lonesome.
     The last time we hatched and only got two, I went to the Davidson County Farmers' Co-op and bought three baby chicks. They usually have a limited selection...Buff Orpingtons and either Barred Rocks or Rhode Island Reds. We already had two adult RIRs and one adult Buff, so I picked up one Red and two Buffs. They have formed a nice little flock of their own.

     Chicks are a seasonal thing at the co-op, and they don't always have them on hand for a lonesome baby chick emergency such as ours, so I took to Craigslist in search of companionship (for the chicken. I already have all the companionship I could desire.) Saturday morning on a holiday weekend is apparently not the ideal time to attempt communications with chicken breeders, but I located some fellows outside of Murfreesboro (about an hour away) who said they had fresh hatchlings and would be happy to assist in my endeavors. I took a ride, which led me to this house...

   ...which looks quite a bit different with every kind of chicken you could imagine (and some you never dreamed of) running all over the yard. It turns out that the house used to belong to Grand Ol' Opry star Uncle Dave Macon "The Dixie Dewdrop", and is still the destination of many a wayfaring banjo player on a pilgrimage to the roots of country music.

           The guys at the house had several varieties of chicks that had been born within the week, and they said that I could have whatever I wanted for $5 apiece. I had stopped at the ATM, and had a $20 bill on me, so I figured I'd pick up four chicks and head home. Tom (I think that was his name) went in the house and came out with a box full of assorted chicks...Ameraucanas, Speckled Sussex, Cochin, Polish, and Orpingtons. We have some Ameraucana blood in our flock (our new hatchling is one quarter), but no purebreds, so I was thinking about maybe getting four of those, but Tom and Cody were excited about the different breeds and their enthusiasm must have been contagious. I told them that I would take one of each except for the Orpingtons (which are already well-represented in our flock). That's when they told me the Sussex chicks were $10. I told them I had $20, and would just take four of whatever. They decided that I needed the Sussex chick so bad that they gave it to me for half-price.
     Before I got in the car, I started telling them about my music (I'm bad about that) and gave them a copy of my "One More Night In Nashville" which point they said "Here. Have another chicken." It was another Ameraucana, which when spoken out loud sounds almost exactly like the genre into which my music so often gets categorized.
     Coincidence? I don't think so.
     The baby we hatched (on the far right in the picture at the bottom of the page) is no longer lonesome, and the new flock is melding well. That's a good thing, because lonesome works way better in a country song than it does in a chicken coop.

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Where There's Smoke...

Where There's Smoke         

          We have a new "neighbor" (adjoining property owner) who like to burn stuff...everyday.
          We can't walk outside without smelling smoke.
          We can't open our windows on nice days without getting the smell in the house.
           I went over once several weeks ago because there was a thick haze all around and in our house. I told him he was about to set off my smoke alarms, and he said he would put it out. The next day (and almost every day since) there has been a fire over there...brush, wooden pallets, and whatever. We got tired of it weeks ago.
           Today, there were flames 20 or so feet high and probably 10 feet across, located at the edge of the tree line. I kept a wary eye on it, as the last thing I want is for my 25 acres of woods to go up.
            I called the Metro Fire Marshall to inquire about my rights as a property owner to not have to breathe somebody else's smoke. They told me to call the non-emergency fire department number and someone would come put it out and tell him not to do it again or he would receive a citation. I told them that I didn't want to waste the fire department's time (and taxpayers' money) if the guy had a permit to burn stuff. They informed me that they don't issue permits to anyone to burn brush in open fires in Davidson County.
             I called the fire department.
             The fire got put out.
             I was cutting grass when my "neighbor" caught up with me.
             He was pretty huffy. He wanted to know if the smoke was blowing over on our property. I told him "Every day." He said that none of the other neighbors were bothered by it, and that several of them burn stuff as well. I told him that I didn't have a problem with an occasional fire. If someone wants to have a "campfire" or bonfire and have some friends over, I can understand that. I like to do that, too. But never being able to go outside without smelling it, and never being able to open our windows? I'm not okay with that.
             Then he wanted to know what I propose that he do with the 22 acres of privet (I'm not at all sure that that's what it is...and 22 acres is his whole property, including the wooded part) that he feels obligated to kill. He said the landfill won't take it. I suggested that he stack it in the woods to rot. Mother Nature would be much happier with that than with a bunch of smoke. I told him I was a big proponent of composting. He told me he couldn't do that, because he couldn't haul the stuff up the hill into the woods, and he doesn't have a chipper. Mind you, that's not my problem, but I didn't cop an attitude with him. I told him that I didn't have an answer for his dilemma, but that we were tired of smelling smoke all the time.
              He told me to never call the fire department again. Besides making him mad, I was wasting about $1000 of taxpayers' money every time a fire truck rolls. He said to come over and talk to him and he would put it out...for that day. That's not really a solution, unless I want to develop a well-worn path between our place and his. Then he told me that the guys on the fire truck told him that the next time somebody calls the fire department on him, he should put a 55 gallon drum on the property line, fill it with plastic bags and bottles, and set it on fire. He said that they said nobody would do anything about it. Needless to say, I called the fire department to ask if that was their policy. They assured me that it was not.
               I wasn't trying to give him any trouble, or cause hard feelings. I was just trying to be able to enjoy my home, unencumbered by his waste products.
               I don't think he gets it. I was trying to clear the air, but he was smoking hot when he left.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

I Love Brains...

          I love brains...not the way that zombies love brains, although I can't really say because as far as I know I have never eaten them. (I keep telling myself that one day I'm going to have to try brains and eggs, but that day hasn't arrived yet. It's not even in the foreseeable future.) No, I love brains. Human brains that function at a high level.
          I enjoy intelligent discussion with my friends, both in real life and online, as long as it doesn't get too dry. I don't want to feel like I'm conversing with (or being lectured to by) a textbook. I also enjoy lowbrow humor. It's allowed, and probably even expected, since I have that Y chromosome calling the shots.
          My wife is smart. My kids are brilliant (of course). I always tell people that my kids got their brains from their mom, who was smart enough to say "yes" when I asked her to marry me. Smartass...that's smart, right?
          My favorite songwriters are all people who I feel like function at a fairly high intellectual level. Songs that are gloriously stupid, like "Honky Tonk Badonkadonk" can still be entertaining, although I usually prefer to listen to something like "Brains" (keeping with my theme) by David Olney. Plain old stupid songs like most of those currently found on the "country" charts aren't worth the time it takes to listen to them.
          Television (especially network television) is beneath my comprehension level, even though I do watch it for entertainment from time to time. I don't plan my life around it, and I don't think I could carry on a conversation with anyone who does. That being said, I'd rather watch a Netflix series like "Marvel's Daredevil" than Carl Sagan's "Cosmos" series. Usually when I watch television, it's for (mostly) brain-dead entertainment and not for edification.
           I'd rather read John Steinbeck than Stephenie Meyer. Draw your own conclusions.
          I love it when I meet someone and I can tell by the look in their eyes that the wheels are turning. The wheels are turning, and not only is the hamster not dead, there's a bit of extra hamster in there. Not too many extra hamsters. Those people are scary. Just enough extra hamster to make the light shine a little brighter. Maybe a hamster on steroids...without the rage. I can definitely do without rage. Fire is fine. Inferno is not.
         There is a lot to be said for intelligence, especially when it is paired with rationality. College "educated" people who prefer to wallow in ignorance are the worst. If someone has limited mental capacities, it can be sad (though not always), but willful ignorance really annoys me. An intelligent mind involved in intellectual pursuits is downright sexy.
         All this writing (and thinking) has made me hungry...
...but not that hungry.
         What do you think?

Thursday, March 19, 2015

What Other Artists Would You Like To Hear On "Kurt Fortmeyer Radio"?

         I had been ragging on iHeart Radio because I felt like they were using my name to get folks to tune in and pad their bottom line. They were only playing one of my songs...and then playing a bunch of unrelated music...on what was purportedly "Kurt Fortmeyer Radio". I felt like it was an underhanded way of doing business...a classic bait & switch...and yet another example of a corporate giant (Clear Channel) abusing independent artists in order to make a buck.
         I must have rattled somebody's cage, because yesterday I got an email from one of their content managers. He had seen my post on the Just Plain Folks songwriting community's message board, and decided to look into my complaints. He told me that they were only playing one of my songs..."Hard Times (Call For Hard Liquor)"...because that was the only song they had in their database. I don't know where they got it, but he contacted me through my Bandcamp page, which has that song and three other albums on it, which tells me that they have to know that I have more than one song.
        He told me that they'd be happy to include more of my music on the station (since it is supposedly based on my work) and offered to let me send them other albums to be included in their database. Also, to further make my station more representative of my sound, he said he'd love to update and replace the similar artists that currently fill the station. He has asked me to send him a list of 35-40 artists who are better choices as similar artists for "Kurt Fortmeyer Radio", so he can make the necessary changes to better reflect what my fans would want to hear.  I have started working on the list. So far, it looks like this...


     Comments and/or suggestions? Is there anybody you would add? Would any of these artists make you tune out the station? Your input is appreciated.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

The Hell You Say!

            "Perhaps the only precept taught me by my Grandfather Wills that I have honored all my adult life is that profanity and obscenity entitle people who don't want unpleasant information to close their ears and eyes to you." --- Kurt Vonnegut "Hocus Pocus"   

         I've gotten up on my soapbox in the past about the use of "colorful" language in songs.
I had been listening to an online radio show called Hellbilly And Outlaw Radio that had recently added a few of my honkytonk tunes, when I noticed that an awful lot of the songs contained seemingly gratuitous cussing. That sent me off on a rant about how if the only thing your song had going for it was foul language, then you really didn't have much of a song to begin with. A well-placed "hell" or "damn" is one thing, but F-bombing the $h!t out of the listener can be tasteless and often counter-productive.
          I'm no prude, and I have been known to use an expletive or three in conversation with people who understand where I'm coming from, but I don't just spew profanity everywhere I go with no regard for who might be within earshot. My mama raised me better than that. My most recent album "One More Night In Nashville" contains the word "hell" twice...once describing Music Row, and once telling someone to go there (hell, not Music Row)...but that's as off-color as the language gets. I have some late-night bar room and party songs of questionable taste, but I wasn't going to waste my meager budget putting them on an album that I hoped would get some radio play.
          We all giggled (I know I did) the first time we heard Jimmy Buffett sing "Why Don't We Get Drunk" , but some of the so-called "Outlaw Country" makes that song sound like a kindergarten-friendly nursery rhyme. I understand that it's a free (or so they tell us) country, and that we have free speech, and I wouldn't dream of trying tell somebody what they can and can't say in a song...but that doesn't mean I have to listen to it. I'm fairly certain that more people think like me on this point than not. It makes me wonder if the songwriters feel like they are being rebellious by acting like a bunch of pre-teens trying out their potty mouths, and if they realize that they are shooting themselves in the foot by limiting their audience...or if they even care. And if they don't care, why do they bother writing songs in the first place?
           I know I write songs to try to reach people, and I hope I'm preaching to a bigger choir than the one that wants to wallow in the mud...damn it!

Friday, January 30, 2015

Cliches Don't Start Out That Way


          I saw The Rolling Stones perform a rather lackluster concert (set pieces included a giant inflatable penis that apparently suffered from erectile dysfunction) in Greensboro, North Carolina back in either 1974 or 1975. Part of the way through the show, they were playing some song that made me think "What a tired, overused lick. I've heard a thousand guitarists play that exact same thing." Then all of a sudden, it hit me. The guy playing that lick was the guy who created it. All of those other guitar players were copying him. (I know. I know. You blues heads are going to tell me that Keith lifted that lick from So-And-So...and you're probably right, but at the time, that little lightbulb was going off over my head.) It was both cool and a "Duh" moment all at once.

          I was reminded of that insight recently when I picked up a copy of "The Maltese Falcon" from the local library. I can't say for certain if I had ever read anything by Dashiell Hammett before, but I know that he is considered a master craftsman, not just of detective novels, but of writing in general. I had barely gotten through the first few paragraphs, when I started thinking "Oh no! All of the worst clichés in detective fiction, all on the first page." Again, I had an "Oh, yeah" moment. The reason the writing seemed to be so full of  well-worn prose is that all of the other writers copied his style to the point that it became cliché.

           I shared this bit of foolishness with my wife, who confessed to a face-palm moment of her own. We had been in San Antonio, Texas a couple of years ago, and visited the Alamo. I had been there several times about 50 years ago, but she had never seen it. She was walking around, looking at the outside of the building, when her art school training kicked in. "Hmmm. They used Spanish Mission architecture when they built this place." Then it dawned on her why it was called Spanish Mission architecture...because when they built Spanish missions (like the Alamo) that's what they looked like.
           We got a good laugh with and at each other over this.
            Everything that you come across that seems done-to-death started out as somebody's true inspiration. The source is often way more interesting than its derivatives. Dig for those roots.