Tuning Up

Got writer’s block? A little bit of Nic Cage and Robert Smith might forestall your Jack Torrance tendencies.

“Writer’s block” is one of those things that’s simultaneously so self-important and cliché and yet so devastatingly real that pretty much everyone can identify with it at least a little bit. Countless movie and novel plots revolve around it, but it’s not confined to the Stephen Kings/Jack Torrances of the world. It burdens all of us at one point or another, whether we’re signing a greeting card, trying to post something motivating for an upcoming gig, working on a new song, or attempting to compose a monthly column that doesn’t suck ass.

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Our senior editor onstage with R.L. Burnside for the first time, at the original House of Blues in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Photo by Margo Cooper

How meeting one of my guitar heroes changed my life.

This month’s Question & Obsession (“Have You Ever Met One of Your Guitar Heroes?”) gave me a Crank-like jolt of gratitude. Such encounters are one of the gifts of this music journalism gig, and it conjured a riptide of joyful memories. A few: traveling with Metallica in the Netherlands and Italy; gift shopping with Billy Gibbons; smoking weed with blues legend Robert Lockwood and counterculture legend John Sinclair along the banks of the Mississippi; interviewing Robert Fripp at his ancestral home in Cranborne, Dorset, and meeting his delightful mother, Edith; being introduced to Leo Fender by Les Paul; nearly getting tossed out of a hotel bar in Akron with Scorpions (we were hammered, disorderly, and on the first Monsters of Rock tour); many conversations with B.B. King; trading jokes with the wonderful Sonny Sharrock; instigating a jam with Danny Gatton and Billy Sheehan (after Billy and I were nearly ejected from Trader Vic’s in Chicago … alcohol again!); and trading bootleg tapes with Carlos Santana.

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Technology has not been our friend this week—and, yes, our Instagram was hacked. But fear not, our IG will soon be back to its former glory.

Apparently, everyone who likes animated family-friendly flicks thought last year’s The Mitchells Vs. the Machines was the shit. Critics such as The New York Times’ Ty Burr raved, “The movie is zippy, inventive, and appreciably silly—it tosses believability aside and asks us to just hop in and hold on … [it has a] breakneck gift for comic timing and a willingness to throw anything at the screen if it’ll get a laugh.” Sure, Mitchells had some cool animation, but I personally loathed it.

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How a chance drive-by rekindled a 35-year-old friendship that began with rock-star dreams and juvenile pranks.

It’s kind of morbid, but for years now I’ve been saving a bookmark to an article recapping Australian nurse/author Bronnie Ware’s main takeaways from the years she spent caring for elderly patients at the end of their lives. Ware chronicled the experience in her book The Top Five Regrets of the Dying, but even the brief recap is worth a read no matter where you’re at in life. One of the regrets she mentions stands out to me right now.

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