Meeting Peter Fletcher

In my time working at Love’s, I have met all kinds of musical acts. Since it is a truck stop, and since there are a number of venues nearby where such acts play, and since we are the only truck stop on the east side of town, lots of tour buses stop in. I have met the guys from the fairly current acts Authority Zero, the guys (and girls) from Paramore, the guys from Korn, the guys from Lamb of God, and the drunken little twerp Sammy Adams. I have also met some of my childhood favorite bands like Ratt and Bret Michaels. And while I’m not a fan of country music, there have also been a bunch of current country acts in the store that everyone else went all gaga for. I don’t even remember their names to list them here.

I’ve so far been able to maintain my composure throughout these meetings, which, of course, is the goal. They are usually stopping in after a concert in the wee hours of the morning. They want to use the bathroom and get back on the road (except Ratt, who stopped in at about noon on a Sunday. They were so happy to be recognized that they stayed for a good half an hour taking photos, signing autographs, and thanking everyone for supporting them). They don’t want to turn every minor stop into an autograph signing public appearance. The exception to that one being the guys from Authority Zero, who stopped in before they became quite so popular. They were happy to take photos and sign autographs for a bunch of people while they were there. The flip side of that was Bret Michaels, who was an incredible douchebag, not only refusing to sign autographs or take photos, but blatantly ignoring nearly everyone who attempted to speak to him.

I’m not sure if I’ve ever detailed any of those meetings here. I doubt that I have, because you care less than I do, and frankly I care very little myself. It was neat to meet them, and especially so to meet Ratt, who have already passed their prime and thus have learned a bit of humility. Still, hardly worth mentioning. But a few months ago, I happened to meet a musician that I had never heard of, and it was that experience that prompted this post.

It was very late at night, or probably very early morning, when the guy you see pictured to the right came into the He was very friendly, soft-spoken and polite. He was looking for some fingernail glue or crazy glue to fix a broken nail. He felt it necessary to qualify that by mentioning that he was a musician and needed it to reinforce his cracked nail while he played his guitar. Being something of a guitarist myself, I assumed that he must be finger-picking, and probably on an acoustic guitar, for that to matter.

While I walked him to the aisle where we keep the glue, I asked him about his music. Before he responded to the question, he asked me what type of music I enjoy. Since old age is getting to me, my tastes now have switched from growly metal to symphonic metal and classical -although, oddly, I don’t really care for classical symphonies all that much, preferring solo piano and violin pieces- which I told him. His face lit up and he smiled wide. He told me his name is Peter Fletcher (perhaps hoping I would recognize the name, which I didn’t) and he plays classical guitar. He invited me to come and see him perform at a show the following night in Tucson. Unfortunately, I couldn’t make it to the show.

I walked him back to the register and rang up his purchase. He thanked me for my help and my time. I went back to whatever it was I had been doing before he came into the store. A few minutes later, he came back into the store with a CD in hand. He said he would give me a copy if I promised to listen to it. Something in his tone made me think that he doubted that I would. Once I assured him that I would listen to it, he once more thanked me for my time and left the store.

When I got home that night, I immediately ripped the CD into my music library and listened to it. It is pretty amazing. It has been on my playlist since that night, and I even downloaded another of his albums a couple of weeks later. They remain on my playlist (along with hundreds of other albums, but there nonetheless) and every time one of the songs comes on, I remember that I forgot to send him a thank you. So while I was writing him a thank you, I decided to mention him here as well.

I still don’t know a great deal about Mr. Fletcher other than that he is a guitarist. I don’t know what level of fame he may have achieved or if he makes a living solely as a musician. What I do know is that he was the kindest musician I have ever had the pleasure to meet, and I truly wish mainstream musicians would learn a bit of humility from him. It was very refreshing.

Here is a snippet from his track Bach Cello Suite Bouree if you’re not familiar with classical guitar:

For more information about him or for links on where to purchase, visit his website at

Questionable survey choices at Carnival

Since I’m getting older, and thus far estranged from the demographic being targeted by most consumer surveys, I like to take them when offered. My goal is to make sure that those in the 18-39 demographic have to put up with the same bullshit I did when I was part of the cash cow group: Make sure they have to listen to music they don’t like, see entertainers they have never heard of, deluge them with ads for investment firms they are still two decades away from caring about, and that kind of thing. When I was taking a recent survey after returning from a cruise though, I found that Carnival takes it a step further than even I would have. Here are the options presented for what kind of music you enjoy:


I don’t claim to have my finger on the pulse of current popular music or culture, but Jesus Christ.

I’m not familiar enough with country to know about the choices there. I think Carrie Underwood might be fairly current? Toby Keith and Brookes & Dunn are probably still shitting out albums that fall just below mediocre, as country acts tend to do that for decades after they had their hit. I guess they may all be current in that way.

But a couple of the other choices are full-on WTF.

I don’t think anyone listed on girls vs. boys bands (and why vs.?) has had a record since like the late 90’s -barring some reunion, quick-cash bullshit. I think Boys 2 Men might still be touring in support of the CooleyHighHarmony album (or the more popular reissue of it, at any rate). Hell, if I had an album that sold 9 million copies in the U.S., I’d milk that shit until the day I died. But is anyone really going to check that box on a survey? Even without listening to this kind of music (as far as you know), I would think that they could have put something more current in the list. Hanson was a thing for a while, and I think they are still touring. The Jonas Brothers were hugely popular for a decade or so before they got a little too old and ugly to make anyone’s heart (or anything else) throb. One Direction is currently bringing me within inches of suicide every time I’m within a hundred yards of a shopping mall… I will give them a pass on the girl bands portion though, because I can’t name any more current.

Of course the biggest issue with the selections is obviously the Rap/Hip Hop. Kris Kross, Doug E. Fresh, and Vanilla Ice all came and went while I was still in high school –twenty-five fucking years ago. I don’t think any of them had even a minor hit after about 1992. Chris “Kriss Kross Daddy Mac Mac Daddy” Kelley died in 2013 and hasn’t yet succeeded in pulling off the release-a-bunch-of-new-albums-posthumously thing that Tupac was so good at (and Tupac would have been a more current act to put on their list of rappers, despite being dead for the last decade). Kriss Kross also loses points for never releasing an album called the Kriss Kross Kollection, which would have been cool as hell.

Doug E. Fresh had his hit in 1985. It was the very definition of a flash in the pan. Since this song was recorded with the much more popular Slick Rick, you can’t even really call Doug E. Fresh a one-hit-wonder. More like a half-a-hit-wonder. But half a hit, thirty years ago, is enough to make it onto Carnival’s list of Rap/Hip Hop acts!

caiFinally, Vanilla Ice. Seriously? He stole his high-top fade from Kid ‘n Play and the hook from his only hit from Queen and David Bowie. Sure, he put a lot of seventh-grade asses on the gymnasium dance floor in 1990, but he was hardly a rap or hip-hop act. Yeah, sure, he put out other albums and has managed to stay in the public eye (as recently as February 2015 when he was arrested for burglary and grand theft). He was also fucking Madonna, back when that was a good thing (prior to Dennis Rodman destroying her for all men in 1994. I’m not talking about size either. Maybe he’s hung like a donkey and totally destroyed her. Who knows? Answer: No one. Would you stick your junk into something Dennis Rodman did?) He also put out one of the shittiest movies of all time. Cool As Ice sat at 0% fresh on for several years before this douchebag gave it a 5/5 with a 20 word review, ending in “Ice Rules!”. I’m not saying Vanilla Ice sucked his dick to get that review, but I’m also not saying that he didn’t (maybe Robert Matthew Van Winkle did). As shitty as the movie was though, I’m glad he made it. It has some of the most memorable one-liners I’ve seen in a movie review. A few examples:

“So bad that it’s borderline fascinating.” -Mike McGranaghan (Aisle Seat)

“Having established that he can’t rap or dance, Vanilla Ice now adds acting to his resume — call it the tri-imperfecta of pop.” -Richard Harrington (Washington Post)

“This one is absolutely pricless in its awfulness.” Scott Weinberg (efilmcritic)

I know some would say, “well, then, where’s your movie, smartass?” The answer to that is that I had the good sense not to make one (I also didn’t have the opportunity, budget, or desire). Something I bet Vanilla Ice wishes he had back in 1991, when Carnival put together the survey question that I had to answer in 2015.

The wedding pic experiment – a trek into uncanny valley

If there is one piece of advice I would pass along to young couples* it would be this: Pay the money to get your wedding professionally photographed. It will save you much regret later.

When my wife and I got married, fourteen years ago, we were both poor as hell. We rented the local American Legion hall for the service, which cost around $150. She did all the decorating herself, with supplies mostly purchased at Michael’s. I burned cd’s for all of the music using Napster (when that was still a thing), set up a stereo under one of the tables, and controlled it using a remote (which was in my pocket throughout the service). The entire ceremony cost us only a few hundred dollars. At the time, that was all we wanted or needed.

On that budget, we obviously couldn’t afford to have it professionally photographed. At the time, we couldn’t even afford to have it amateurly photographed. So we went with the old -disposable-cameras-on-the-tables trick as the primary photography solution. Let’s just say that didn’t work out. We ended up with hundred of grainy pictures of floors, walls, ceilings, people’s thumbs, etc. The few photos that were taken of the correct people, at the correct time, were in such shitty light, and in such poor resolution, that nearly none of the wedding photos are of any use. An example photo here:


Note that this is the best picture we have of us with her family. It is very dark and grainy as hell, even on the 4×6 or 5×7. That would also be on the negative since it was taken with those shitty, disposable cameras, so even if we still had those (and I’m not sure that we do) it wouldn’t improve if we got larger prints made from it.

The same was true for photos of the bride and groom. There are exactly two pictures of us that are even remotely passable. One of them was taken by my boss at the time. That one is a profile shot of us exchanging vows, and we have an 11×17 of it hanging in the house, it was framed and given to us as a wedding gift. The other passable picture is of us dancing. It is also grainy as hell, but we are both smiling so big and obviously so happy that it is the perfect photo -disregarding the graininess of it.

So for our anniversary this year, I decided to see if I could get a better image of us from our wedding day. Obviously, lacking the availability of a time machine, I was limited to images that already existed. I took the best image I could find that showed us from the front and sent it to someone to have some photoshop work done on it. The person I sent it to was able to do quite a good job, actually. They were able to remove most of the shadows and get the tones set to more reasonable shades. They were able to remove a bit of the graininess, but it still just didn’t look very good. Definitely not good enough to try to have it embiggened.

Without a lot of options remaining, I decided to see if I could find someone to paint a portrait from the image. I found out that it was ridiculously expensive to commission a painting of that type, and I couldn’t be guaranteed of the results. So, on a whim, I contacted someone to see if they would draw the portrait digitally. Working from the photoshopped image, he drew our likenesses on an arbitrary background. He followed the original portrait as nearly as he could.

I wasn’t really sure what to expect as I’ve never really seen a portrait drawn digitally. The resulting image was amazing … But wrong:


(the image size is greatly reduced in the embedded image above) Viewing it on a computer screen or handheld device, one could almost believe that it was an actual photo. Probably airbrushed quite a bit to soften it and remove blemishes, but you can almost believe it is a photo. Again, the guy really did an amazing job, but it just looks … off.

Uncanny Valley is a term that was coined for exactly this reason. The features are too realistic to be purely computer generated, but too perfect to be a photo. At least that’s what I think. Here’s a shot of just the faces from the photoshopped photo above the digital portrait (you can click through this one to enlarge it):


As I said, I wasn’t sure what to expect when I had this portrait created. The result is certainly amazing, but I can’t figure out if I like it or not. I keep bouncing back and forth between thinking it looks amazing and thinking it looks downright creepy. If I had it done with paint instead of digital, I don’t think that would be the case. If it was with paint, it would be obvious that it was a painted portrait, which would likely strip away the eerie feeling that keeps creeping into my mind when I look at it.

However, an image on the computer won’t look the same in real life. A 2700×3300 image on the computer will only print out at 9″x11″ with 300dpi, which could make a huge impact on how the image looks. Of course the images he produced for me were in a ridiculously large format (capable of producing 24″x30″ prints). I decided to take a shot at having them printed to see if I liked them any better on paper. I chose to print them on canvas instead of paper though, because I thought that if the image was too smooth, the creepiness would set in again. I further had only the black and white version printed at full size (24″x30″), thinking that it would look less creepy if it wasn’t in color (so it wouldn’t look so much like it was trying to be an actual photo). I had a much smaller (10″x12″) printed of the full color portrait. Having them now in my possession, I am still undecided. From a distance of even a few feet, they look like they are photos … Or supposed to be photos, but they are just a bit off. But if you take a step towards them, it gets downright creepy again. Here are both of them leaning on my couch (and I assure you that the graininess here is from my shitty camera and not the actual prints):


So I remain torn on whether these images represent an amazing anniversary gift that will last a lifetime, or just some creepy experiment. I guess only time will tell.

*If I were passing along two pieces of advice, the other piece of advice would be this: take nude photos of yourself often -videos too, if you have the ability. You won’t want to look at them right away, and certainly won’t show anyone, but twenty years from now, you will be showing anyone who will look. You’re never going to look any better than you do in your late teens or early twenties. Preserve that shit and show it off when everything starts sagging.