Things for Which 3 Minute Hero Is (and/or are) Thankful.

I hope you know us better than that. Just because your facebook feed is full of posts about this same topic, you don’t actually think that we would bow to peer pressure and share the things that we’re thankful for. Right? Plus, it would be the same things everybody is thankful for: family (yawn), friends (slow blink), and that the United States of America has the sweetest looking flag of all the countries — with the possible exception of Nepal (stay funky with your non-rectangular self!). Then you have to throw in health (if you’ve been healthy) and some other things which are so boring I’m just going to type gobbledygook instead: nvlk;fkj;lasckmvvmlkfl;kdkmv as;lfkjgl aslfkgj saflkj;lasfgjkl; riuoiepeiu.

Maybe we should just talk about the little things I’m thankful for. That couldn’t go south.

  1. We live in a time in which Jeff Lynne is still creating high-quality music.
  2. I have enough unread books stockpiled to last my entire life, yet I am still going to purchase many, many more books.
  3. We are never far from obtaining and consuming a Baker’s Square French silk pie.
  4. The instant gratification that accompanies newly-sharpened cutlery.
  5. It has been said many times before, but we live in the Golden Age of Television.
  6. I have a game on my phone called Smashy Car and I have unlocked seven “Legendary” cars, three of which earn me five times the normal amount of credits.
  7. My children all enjoy playing instruments and making music with other people, which, you know, is arguably one of the greatest joys of life. Nothing funny there. Pure earnestness. Sorry. It’s never too late to learn how to play an instrument. I started playing accordion a few years ago. I’m very bad at it, but it’s also important to realize that part of the joy of playing an instrument is that you look badass while playing it. Yes — even an accordion. Plus, if you quit your book club in order to play in a band, your alcohol consumption is likely to decrease [needs documentation]. With Christmas coming up you should ask your loved ones for an electric bass.
  8. No matter how broke you are, you can always afford a Mitsubishi Hi-Uni 3B drawing pencil, which is the Rolls Royce of pencils. If you get one, be sure to smell it right after you sharpen it. That is the smell of quality.
  9. High quality coffee prepared expertly with the perfect amount of half-&-half added to it. It also helps if it is in my favorite Salt Lake City Winter Olympics mug, which has a wide enough berth in the handle for me to get all four fingers through it. This is no small matter, as my fingers have the same circumference as the leading brand of Italian sausage.
  10. Always having plenty of warm hats around.
  11. A trusted doctor &/or mechanic.
  12. Knowing that ibuprofen takes care of just about anything.
  13. Target.
  14. If you’re a man, you will look good in a tuxedo no matter what.
  15. Having a wife who’s smarter than you.
  16. Nutella.
  17. Nutella and Old Dutch pretzel rods.
  18. Nutella and anything. Even a spoon.
  19. Fleece.
  20. Every month is Movember when you’re self-employed.
  21. The ability to forget things.
  22. Listening to Nina Simone sing “He’s Got The Whole World In His Hands” and, even if for only a minute or two, believing it. She’s that damn good. Stop reading this right now and go listen to it. It’s just her and a piano and if you’re not holding back a tear at the end of it, I will buy you can of WD-40 for your dead cyborg heart.
  23. “X-Files” in January.
  24. I own scaffolding.
  25. We should all be thankful that water is a universal solvent. Think about how confusing life would be if it wasn’t. See? Terrifying.
  26. We, as humans, see just as much color as we need to.
  27. The future of space exploration.
  28. Anesthesia.
  29. Greek yogurt everywhere!
  30. Aussie fries with ranch, cheese, and ketchup at the Minnesota State Fair.
  31. Baby animals (not birds with their unsettling blue skin-covered eyes though).
  32. Baby humans, but only because they all look like tiny little Winston Churchills.
  33. Cream cheese wontons.
  34. Quality beer that hasn’t been hopped to the point of being undrinkable.
  35. We’re almost done recording this epic triple album for you. We’re closing in on it. Twenty or twenty-one new songs all locally grown and hand-crafted by dedicated music artisans (us). Just two days ago, we were so far along that Jonathon was recording Al’s Champagne flutes to get the right clink for one of the last tracks (“Champagne Migraine”). When you’re recording glassware, you know that you’re almost done with tracking.

That should do it. Happy Thanksgiving from all of us here at 3 Minute Hero Industries. And if anybody in your family starts bringing up stupid political shit at your otherwise delightful family gathering, just do what I do: start the table on fire and make deafening car noises.

Jumbo-Jet Whispers & Thunder-Lizard Serenades: 0.) The Invocation

Invocations are heavy shit.

One does not invoke a higher power to assist with the clipping of one’s toenails or the preparation of an egg bake. One does invoke a higher power when the possibility of failure is fairly high and the stakes (even if only personal) are commensurate. Well, “aim high,” as the Air Force once said. Of course they have flying machines that rain death and we only have musical gear (but so very much musical gear!)

Stefan Zweig is one of my favorite writers, despite the fact that his entire body of work is one long, protracted howl for help. He said, and I’m paraphrasing here (imagine it with more angst), that the story we keep in us can be perfect. As long as we keep it in the confines of our head, it is without flaw. The moment we let it out and begin to work on it is the moment where our lack of craftsmanship (or, infinitely worse, our lack of imagination to deal with said lack of craftsmanship) can torpedo our spirit and doom a project. That’s why one of the best things you can do in life is to surround yourself with relentlessly creative people who a.) have the ability to not just take a joke, but a relentless barrage of bullshit, b.) pride themselves on making everything they touch better, and c.) aren’t afraid to tell you that something you’ve worked on for a decade doesn’t work, but then do it in such a way that it doesn’t really even bother you, because they have already come up with something far superior. Luckily, that is exactly what we have here at 3 Minute Hero Industries. If we didn’t have that to begin with, there’s no way we would have tried to make this ridiculous behemoth of an album.

I started writing these songs towards the end of our first incarnation, which was way back when some of us were hoarding canned peaches for the imminent collapse of civilization triggered by the Y2K bug. Remember that? I still can’t look at a can of peaches without feeling sheepish. I had enrolled at Minnesota State University Moorhead Normal Teaching College to finish off my English degree because without it, I was a laughingstock of all of the other English lit graduates at the coffeeshop I worked at. I had dropped out to tour with the band and only needed a semester or two to finish things off. I was returning with valuable knowledge. My first stint at college had me picking up a humanities course with a Dr. Robert McGahey. It was an elective and the book list looked interesting so, why not. I gladly accepted every opportunity to increase the breadth of my black-spined Penguin Classics on my bookshelf. Professor McGahey was, what I would soon discover, an archetype; he was a professor right out of central casting. Tweed coat? Check. Elbow patches? Check. Mark Ruffalo degree of unkemptness? Check. Story about road-tripping to meet American Zen luminary Alan Watts on his houseboat unannounced? Check. This guy was the real deal.

One of the first books we dug into was Wolfram Von Eschenbach’s “Parzifal.” It’s the medieval German take on the Arthurian hero’s [spoiler] unsuccessful quest for the Holy Grail. About a third of the way through the book was when the good doctor drew the diagram that kind of ruined my life. It was a circle bisected by a horizontal line. “Why would a childlike drawing of Saturn ruin your life?” you may be asking. Because since that drawing was explained to me, I have seen the same pattern in nearly every single book and every single movie. “Star Wars,” “Ulysses,” “Finding Nemo,” “Hot Tub Time Machine,” “Light in August,” “Henry IV,” “The Lego Movie,” “The Matrix,” “Anchorman,” “Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure,” “Lord of the Rings,” ad infinitum. THEY ARE ALL THE SAME STORY. And that’s OK.

Most people, of a certain age, came to this through a series of recorded interviews that Bill Moyers had with Joseph Campbell in the late 80’s collectively called “The Power of Myth.” (Yeth?) Building on the observations of Sir James Frazer’s fascinating doorstop “The Golden Bough,” the relevant work of Swiss psychoanalyst and subconscious man-about-town Carl Jung, and his own extensive research into thousands of myths from around the world, Campbell published “The Hero With A Thousand Faces” early on in his career and continued to see everything through that lens for the rest of his life. By the time he taped “The Power of Myth” conversations he could deftly connect the heroic journey in ancient Sumerian myths to the Promethean flight of Burt Reynolds’ Bandit across the American South with his forbidden cargo of Coors banquet beer. Actually, I made that connection. Not him. But that is precisely what it did to my entire frame of reference: “Smoky & the Bandit” resonates with us because it’s essentially the same story we’ve been listening to since we descended from the baobob trees and whittled our first smartphones. I still haven’t really explained the diagram.

The simple version of the diagram has an “S” just above where the horizontal line slices through the circle on the left side. That stands for “Separation.” Every hero has to leave the comfort of his or her natural surroundings. Frodo leaves the shire, Luke leaves Tatooine, Siddartha leaves the compound. Over on the other side of the circle is “I” for “Initiation.” The hero leaves all that is known and is initiated into the unknown, dipping below the circle. Frodo and friends learn of the dangers beyond their little patch of hairy-footed heaven, Luke learns of the Force, Siddartha sees the sick, old and dead. “R” is on the underbelly of the circle and it is for “Return.” After the hero performs some deed or obtains some treasure that will benefit all of those people who she is returning to, she attempts to go home. Then the hero is met with gratitude, ticker-tape parades, and hastily- fashioned paper mache statues…or not. That’s the abbreviated version. The lengthy, bloated version — and I don’t know about you, but I’ll take lengthy and bloated every time — runs to seventeen steps. Would you care to take a gentle stab at how many songs are on this new album of ours?

You probably guessed seventeen. And you’re right. More on those later, all of this typing is taxing my delicate artist hands. So, before we unpack any of those songs and piles of mythological gobbledygook, we have the invocation:

We waited so long —

Almost too long–

For something true and beautiful to say.

(We waited everyday.)

We never quite found it,

But please help us play it anyway.

Well. Away we go. Goodbye Shire. Goodbye Kansas. Those power converters at Toshi Station are going to have to wait — this Self isn’t going to realize itself.

Let’s not think about that too hard.

 

 

All of this particular material is copyrighted ©2015 Jeff Nelson.

 

 

 

Works in Progress #13: Release The Bats!

Many moons ago, when you were still at your mother’s teat, we played an outdoor show somewhere in Iowa. It was at a college and like all outdoor shows at colleges in Iowa this outdoor show also featured a pig roast.  Normally, this would slide under the radar as an inconsequential detail, but at this time in 3 Minute Hero history, we had a member of a non-Christian monotheistic religion in our retinue. He was (and probably still is) of the Jewish persuasion. This was fascinating to us, for some reason. We would lurk about wagering whether or not he would take part in the ursine feast before him. This particular instance came after a handful of other pig roasts. Had he not taken part, he would have been reduced to the non-existent 3 Minute Hero per diem or, even worse, an emergency sandwich from my cooler consisting of a bread-like substance and off-brand apple butter. He ate the pig. One of our number yelled out, “Release the bats!” and it was hilarious, because, as everybody knows, the releasing of the bats is one of the best parts of the whole entire Pentateuch.

An interesting part of this story that has no relation to what I’m trying to get at is that earlier in the day, Eric Johnson made a heroic frisbee catch, but when he landed, he crushed a baby bunny. Explain THAT to God, Eric.

So, bats. That’s where I was. “Release the bats,” became, over time, a battle cry in the face of the absurd. That’s what this song is to me. We head out on these fool’s errands, we get side-tracked, the side-tracks become the main spurs, we go to Iowa, we eat pigs, we defy our Maker, we crush bunnies.

“With his cape made of wind

And a crown fashioned from junk

He joins the cattle,

Their romance for battle

He is an antique marching band steam punk.

He’s drowning in sweat

From a nightmare more crushing than debt:

He wants a future

All stitched and sutured,

The past on his feet

And the future on his

Head, shoulders, knees, and toes,

Shoulders, knees, and toes,

You know how it goes

So we say it again.

I can.

Amen.

 

Release the bats! Flip the switch!

Release the bats! Ring the bell!

Release the bats! Upon my signal…

Unleash hell!

Release the bats, the kind that live beneath our hats,

Won’t somebody please think of the children?

 

And when he comes home

He is broke, but not broken or alone:

He has stories,

A chest pinned with glories,

And a shell shock fear of the telephone

Ring Ring Ring Ring

Don’t touch that thing!

It’s a relay station

For echolocation

Evasive maneuvers: one and a two and a

Sing. Sing a song. Make it last. Your whole life long.

Sing. Sing a song. ”

What’s that? You think this song should have clarinets and accordions in it? Consider it done, but only because you asked and you read all the way to the bottom.

All of this particular material is copyrighted ©2015 Jeff Nelson.

 

Works in Progress #12: Kill a Unicorn

Do you know what’s hard? Go ahead, smart-ass — I’ll throw in a caesura here for you to formulate an ultra-perverse answer.

[Excellent work.]

Some people think coal-mining is hard. Some people think landing on and subsequently destroying an earthbound comet is difficult. Child’s play. Writing lyrics to songs? Now we’re getting somewhere. Some of the songs on our forthcoming album have been lodged in my head — like an iron spike — for well over a decade. I thought I knew the words to them. Guess what? I don’t! That’s because the lyrics in my head, which have fit so nicely in these songs for so long, don’t actually fit in the space allotted. I have apparently been given the remarkably frustrating gift of being able to conjure up a 5-gallon music pail and then fill it with 22 gallons of lyrics (most of which are about monkeys, pies, or rage). Do you know how badly those lyrics stain my priceless Oriental rugs?

Enough of my completely valid first-world problems, here are some lyrics that do fit.

“It’s way to late to do us any good —

I should have started earlier: I know.

Now an opportunity has been missed

And everybody’s pissed

Off, and rightfully so.

When you’re young life can go by so slow:

At a glacial pace, at the speed of tree

And waiting on the sideline is me

Waiting for a silver bullet — waiting for a god to fall from the sky

Saying, “Me oh my, get to the front of the line.”

But it’s too late today, it’s too late tonight, it’s too late for me to put up a fight.

It’s too late today, it’s to late tonight I know.

I should have planned ahead

Or even even just planned,

Nothing I do is even in demand.

I could’ve worked harder,

I could’ve done more,

Now all that’s left is to go fight the war.

“The war is over, son.”

I don’t even care who won.

 

It’s time to grab life by the horn

It’s time for you to get on board:

It’s time to kill a unicorn.

 

It’s way too late and the sun has come up.

I need something inside this cup.

Do they have coffee at the God-I’m Awesome-Cafe?

OK

This moment shall pass,

It’s just that life goes by so fast

When it’s too damn hot

And you’re down to your last shot.

 

Run my unicorn, run free,

Over the mountains majestically.

Run my unicorn run —

Over the rainbow and under the sun.”

 

All of this particular material is copyrighted 2014 by Jeff Nelson. So no writing your own songs about unicorn slaying — at least with these lyrics.

 

Works in Progress #11: Okoboji Volcano [Parts 2 & 3]

What is the price of living in paradise? I’m not talking about dollars or rubles. I’m talking about the trade-offs. Some live in the shadow of volcanoes. Others live on active fault lines. Some of us even live in St. Paul. Regardless, Fate’s drunk ass invariably shows up at our door demanding that which we thought was ours and when she does, you best have your New Balances laced up, a full tank of gas, and a week’s worth of canned goods and bottled water because she is as relentless as she is capricious. This song, “Okoboji Volcano [Parts 2 & 3]” are about living in the shadow of the volcano and about how everything somehow comes together when you need it to. It is to be the first song of the second section of our forthcoming double-album titled “Jumbo Jet Whispers & Thunder Lizard Serenades: The Journey of 3 Minute Hero.”

You always knew / What was best.

I took care of today / You took care of the rest.

All our worries: so petty and small —

It’s so clear now after the fall,

But how can you know when she’s going to blow?

You always knew / What was best about me.

That’s why we’re here / under the coconut trees.

All our worries: so petty and small —

So clear now after the fall,

But how can you know when she’s going to blow?

Breeze blowing in off the ocean — all right.

Breeze blowing in from the sea — oh yeah.

Breeze blowing in through the valley and over the darkness of the water.

Breeze blowing in from the mountain — all right.

Breeze blowing in off the the mountain — oh yeah.

Hey man, that’s not a mountain.

I know that’s not a mountain.

We all know that’s not a mountain.

All right.

———

Little baby puff of smoke / Everything is okie-doke.

Grab a bag of avocados then we go home.

Chop an onion, squeeze a lime / Guacamole just in time

for beer, chips, and Apocalypse Now.

Good thing we kept the Vespa and not the goats.

Good thing you took that course on how to fly helicopters.

Bingo-bango: sugar in the gas tank.

Bingo-bango: failure can be so sweet.

Bingo-bango: Okoboji volcano.

Driving here, driving there / Driving with no underwear

Lava lava everywhere / That’s a bad poem.

Through the jungle / Through the trees,

Through the ancient idol’s knees.

Pretty, pretty, pretty please: let me go home.

Don’t stop the carnival but do not look back.

Good thing T.C. showed you how to fly his Island Hopper.

Good thing we built our shack up on high land

Upon the packed down sand

You think we’d understand, but you’d be wrong.

[Chorus]

You always knew / What was best.

You took car of today. / I took care of the rest.

Our daily worries so petty and small —

It’s so clear now after the fall,

But how can you know when she’s going to blow?

 

All of this particular material is copyrighted ©2014 Jeff Nelson.

 

 

Works in Progress #10: 800 LB Gorilla (Parts 1 & 2)

After singing through the bridge of this song a couple of times last night in practice, Jay asked just exactly what the hell this was about and I launched into an overly descriptive account of a dream I had when I was all of 15. I won’t get into details, but I had stayed up late watching “Planet of the Apes” and the movie’s parting imagery inspired my subconscious to dream lascivious dreams of an alarmingly come-hither, human-sized Statue of Liberty. This was a vivid memory from a turbulent age — an age when I came to realize that most of the things I loathed in other people I could conveniently find located squarely in my own thoughts and deeds. That’s what this song is about for me: trying to deal with other people’s shortcomings while becoming painfully aware of my own — hating somebody else’s behaviors while realizing that I was beginning to adopt those same behaviors because, well, they were effective. Stomping around like an 800 pound gorilla, for instance.

But yes, it’s also about how the Statue of Liberty is a woman. With needs.

I’ve said too much.

 

“Responsible. Just the sound of the word is old hat —

Crazy as a camper full of cats

Crackling with sound and furry

Pounding home that I should scurry.

I know the smell of fear

and smells just like gin and spaghetti.

Good God I’m more than ready

To say as he says and do as he does.

And I’d dearly love to be anywhere but here —

Just drive and drive, but never have to steer.

Run away. Far away.

You don’t know where I would fly:

Off the handle?

Out to the zoo?

Mr. Movies is showing me what I can do.

 

I stomp around, I stomp around, I stomp around.

Like an 800 pound gorilla.

I stomp around, I stomp around, I stomp around.

Like I own the town.

Like I’ll split the ground.

Like an 800 pound gorilla.

 

Sing song — King Kong — damn dirty apes.

Show me the shoreline; I’ll show you the shapes:

The copper crown of liberty’s shade,

The languid eyes, the serious gaze

Above the fabric dripping down like honey from above,

More than money do I love

That she is French, lives in New York,

Always wears sandals, and carries a torch.

 

I stomp around, I stomp around, I stomp around.

Like an 800 pound gorilla.

I stomp around, I stomp around, I stomp around.

Like I own the town.

Like I’ll split the ground.

Like an 800 pound gorilla.”

 

All of this particular material is copyrighted ©2013 Jeff Nelson.

 

Works in Progress #8: Crazy Uncle

I AM WRITING IN ALL CAPS AND IN BOLD. CAN YOU IMAGINE ME SPEAKING LOUDLY WITH NO INFLECTION? I CAN. BELOW, PLEASE FIND THE LYRICS TO THE SONG “CRAZY UNCLE” — SONG THREE OF OUR FORTHCOMING CONCEPT DOUBLE-ALBUM TENTATIVELY TITLED “JOURNEY OF THE HERO: JUMBO-JET WHISPERS & THUNDER-LIZARD SERENADES.” INITIATE LYRIC TEXT IN 3…2…1…

He’s mixing margaritas (it’s not even noon)

It’s not even eleven (but it will be soon)

He’s not your dad — he’s your crazy uncle.

He asks, “Hey, what’s the matter?” (“The pool’s closed, man.”)

He waves you and your friends (to his Econoline van)

With the moon-shaped windows — he’s your crazy uncle.

Shake and bake, yeah.

To the lake, yeah.

They’re calling him “Presidente” (and fetching him beer)

The girls in bikinis (are whispering in his ear)

He’s a golden god — he’s your crazy uncle.

He’s holding court like a pagan priest behind a wall of flame.

His sunburnt congregation sings when he starts to play…

The you-ka-lay-lay.

Oooo La-di-da (Oh hi-di-hey) Carry forth (Lay-lady-lay) My wayward son (My crazy uncle)

Oooo La-di-da (Oh hi-di-hey) Carry forth (Lay-lady-lay) My wayward son (My crazy uncle)

When you’re out there feeling so all alone,

You probably are, so remember the things that you were shown.

Crazy is the one thing that you can own.

Travel light and don’t carry dead weight:

Bring only what you need.

Sharpen your wits, don’t you dare be late,

Because nothing is guaranteed.

___

Hold my calls…

I’m much too busy polishing the balls on an equestrian statue of Andrew Jackson’s horse.

If you know what I mean.

Things aren’t always quite as they seem,

and so we say, “Thank God.”

___

Oooo La-di-da (Oh hi-di-hey) Carry forth (Lay-lady-lay) My wayward son (My crazy uncle)

Oooo La-di-da (Oh hi-di-hey) Carry forth (Lay-lady-lay) My wayward son (My crazy uncle)

Oooo La-di-da (Oh hi-di-hey) Carry forth (Lay-lady-lay) My wayward son (My crazy uncle)

All of this particular material is copyrighted ©2013 Jeff Nelson.