Some Scenes From the First Six Videos

I thought you might like to get an early look at some stills from the upcoming video series detailing the making of The Lesson of I.

As I previously mentioned, this 12-part weekly series will culminate in the release of the new album. As of right now, that is still looking like late summer – which means the video series should begin early summer. In other words, REALLY SOON!

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I feel like I get a lot better at these things after the first video or so, so hang in there with me once we get rolling. It is, as my wife and kids put it, weirdly hypnotically interesting. Aww yiss, I will draw you in…

Weirdly hypnotically interesting – Important people

I also have some cool stuff cooking for the next 6 videos to really kick it up a notch or two. I’m excited about that, as well. Oh yeah, and did I mention I am somehow actually recording an album in the middle of all of this?

Good times. It feels like you are all there with me this go around, even if you aren’t quite aware of it yet. Your presence has added an excitement to the process which has been new and inspiring for me. I believe that shared synergy will be more than evident in the final recordings.

So, thank you in advance. I don’t want to do this without you – so, don’t miss it!

You Are Not Forgotten – My family’s non-profit organization

A congratulations is in order for my wife, Lora Bratton, who has successfully navigated the legal hurdles standing in the way of forming her non-profit organization.

She’s a Packer fan. I’m not as much. 😉

She lives out Galations 6:9, the scripture where it says, “be not weary in well doing.” As long as I have known her, she has always had her hand toward making the world better for someone less fortunate. Now, she has her own organization to grow and lead for that purpose.

Our children and I are happy to have the opportunity to serve alongside Lora as we fulfill the mission to bring resources, empowerment, and purpose to the neglected by demonstrating the love of Jesus Christ through hope, education, and the arts.


I hope you find a moment to visit the website, take a look at what we are doing, and consider partnering with us as we minister to some of the communities and neighborhoods that need it the most!

A Sneak Peek at Project #4, “The Lesson of I”

My previous feeble efforts at album releases have been to:

  1. Put in a tremendous amount of focus and energy into making a great album
  2. Once complete, blindly brainstorm poor ways to draw attention to said album

The field is incredibly crowded. Even children with no musical training can produce a professional-sounding track with a laptop and not much else. Furthermore, the pool of people who can actually discern and prefer the organic, human touch of mature musicianship dwindles each day.

Promotion and production needed equal roles.

With that fact in mind, I decided I was thinking of advertising all wrong. It could no longer be an afterthought. The promotion of my project needed to be just as important as the production of my project.

So, in response, I’ve decided to invite you in to watch the sausage be made.

I am very excited to announce I am producing a 12-part weekly series chronicling the making of The Lesson of I.

Each segment will be around 8-minutes long and focus on a different stage of production. Every topic will be discussed: songwriting, getting good tones, DAW processing, arranging, mixing, etc. The series will culminate in Part 12 – The Worldwide Release.

I have a permit for that selfie stick. It’s called the 2nd Amendment.

It’s been a little weird getting used to baring your soul to the camera, especially when talking about something as personal as your art. But, I feel I start to get a little more comfortable as the series progresses, so I hope you’ll bear with me through the beginning while I get my selfie sea legs.

I am not really creating this to be a “how-to” for music production, although I do believe there will be a wealth of knowledge to be gleaned. I think of it more as like a “Misfit Music Producer Bob Ross.” Even if you have no intention of ever painting, it’s still chill to just watch the guy ‘do what he do.’

Landscape G.O.A.T. Bob Ross

Also adding intrigue to this project is the fact it is unlike anything I have attempted before. The cameras will be rolling through the triumphs and the setbacks. I will be feeling my way through on faith and intuition. That could be fun to watch! I mean, I’m not exactly Nik Wallenda out here without a safety net, but things could go horribly wrong! I could get to the end and realize it is all garbage. Similar things have happened before…

Nik taking steps of FAITH!

When might we start seeing this project?

Even before I conceived of the video production component of the project, I felt as if I scheduled an ambitious completion date for this summer.

Recently, I’ve tried to tie album release dates with easily-remembered dates. Just What the World Is Looking For was released on the numerically-friendly 11/12/13Almost Alive was released New Year’s Day 2017.

My dream-come-true goal would be to release The Lesson of I on August 21, 2017, the date of the total eclipse across the United States. That date has been on my radar for over 4 years. I made my family promise years ago they would drop everything to see it when the day arrived. 🙂

August 21, 2017 – Make plans now!

Weather and circumstances permitting, I plan on loading the family up in a vehicle and spending the day in South Carolina with friends and strangers celebrating this rare celestial event – and hopefully a hugely-successful simultaneous album release!

In the meantime, add me to your Pandora station!

A Conspiracy Theory’s Day of Reckoning

Some are ridiculous, some seem plausible, most are harmless, but there are few of us who don’t love hearing a good conspiracy theory every now and then.

Even those myths which are easily-debunked have strong cult-like believers. Flat Earthers, Fake Moonlanders, and Loch Ness Monster Believers, come to mind.

Flat Earth rendering

Like most urban legends, the vast majority of these stories seem fated to live eternally in a sort of unlikely limbo of believablity. I mean, how do you prove vampires do not exist? And how do you convince someone of that fact who really hope they do?

Brad Pitt as a biter
Brad Pitt as a biter

These next few weeks, however, offer us an amazing opportunity. A popular conspiracy theory is about to get a real world test. What theory, you may ask? Well, only the preposterous idea that our world governments are largely-populated with a cabal of cannibalistic pedophile Satanists. Hilariously, I’m not even kidding. A large part of this belief now falls under the term, Pizzagate, although this conspiracy has long existed before the “cheesy” title.

Pizzagate is about to be conclusively proven or disproven.


Podesta Emails

I first became aware of this conspiracy theory during the run up to the 2016 U.S. Presidential election when Wikileaks began publishing the infamous Podesta Emails. John Podesta was chairman of Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign, and the data breach revealed many of the machinations of her inner circle.


Yeah, there's some weird stuff...
Yeah, there’s some weird stuff…

After the low hanging fruit was harvested, (Clinton’s successful manipulation of the mainstream media, her private contradictions to her public policy positions, her criticism of Catholics and evangelicals) citizen researchers began to notice several strangely-worded emails regarding food. Specifically, pizza.

Reminds me of that joke; buying "2 grams of hockey tickets."
Reminds me of that joke; buying “2 grams of hockey tickets.”

Once on the scent, the internet researchers went ’30 speed’ connecting Podesta dots.

The tiny human blur.
The tiny human blur.

Comet Ping Pong

Connections Podesta had to Washington D.C. restaurateur James Alefantis were investigated.

The front door of Comet Ping Pong pizza shop, also John Podesta
The front door of Comet Ping Pong pizza shop, also John Podesta

Comet Ping Pong doesn’t seem like a family-friendly place

Alefantis was named one of D.C.’s 50 most influential people. He has been romantically linked to David Brock who is the Chief of Media Matters, an organization tasked with representing DNC talking points on social media. Alefantis’ restaurant, Comet Ping Pong, has a very… skewed… vision of what a family restaurant looks like. Don’t click on any of these links with children present, please.


It was at this point that I became aware of the shadowy figure known best as FBIAnon.

I'm sure he looks like this.
I’m sure he looks like this.

In interest of moving the story along, in July 2016, a series of posts to an anonymous message board were made by an individual claiming to have inside information pertaining to the FBI case against Hillary Clinton. This was not taken very seriously until months later when news events began to seem to corroborate his/her story.

There were many bombshell claims, including charges of association with the occult, although FBIAnon admitted some disinformation was sprinkled in to preserve his/her identity. Make of that what you will.

Spirit Cooking

Speaking of the occult, John Podesta and his brother, Tony, shared an email from “performance artist” Marina Abramovic famous for the practice known as “Spirit Cooking.”

Not weird at all...
Not weird at all…

Abramovic seems to have quite a few celebrity friends. Obviously, this is a free country and if you want to worship the devil, it’s your.. ummm, God-given American right to do so, but the link between high-ranking government officials and this manner of dark spiritualism added fuel to the investigative fire.

Weiner’s Laptop

Anthony Weiner was married to Huma Abedin, Hillary’s close, personal assistant.

Weiner and Abedin
Weiner and Abedin

A report went out that during a NYPD investigation into Weiner’s underage sexting case, it stumbled on a folder labeled “Life Insurance” full of damaging information on Clinton and other government officials. Credibility was given to this report when FBI Director James Comey reopened the investigation into Clinton’s emails shortly thereafter.

It is true that the investigation was again closed, however, conspiracy theorists chalk this up to strategy. The reason given for the lack of sweeping indictments at that time was the fear the Obama administration would hand out pardons like a drunk Oprah Winfrey making dreams come true.

Media Coverups

“Fake News” starts trending as Pizzagate scandal grows

The proliferation of the term “fake news” began shortly after details about pizzagate became known. At this point, even true blue believers into the validity of the claims are merely calling for an investigation into the matter. Why would concerns based on tangible evidence about child endangerment be so widely labeled a hoax without any official investigation? Some examples of coverup include:

There is a mirror:
There is a mirror:


So, why didn’t these indictments go out January 21st after the hangovers wore off from the Inaugural Balls? Again, it is argued that the required framework was not in place. Trump first needed to cleanse the CIA and FBI before moving forward. Visiting the CIA was, in fact, one of his first acts as President.

But the most important brick in the wall is being placed as I type this. The Senate is nearing the confirmation of Jeff Sessions as Attorney General. Here, Trump seems to allude as to what he foresees Session’s role to be.


Here is the great part. You don’t have to believe any of this, or even spend a moment wondering if it all may be true. All you have to do is pay attention these next few weeks. If news of dozens of high-profile arrests don’t start happening, look for unexplained resignations, people leaving the country, even suicides. (Please don’t assume anyone who commits suicide is a child molester, however.) Delaying prosecution is not a great option, because time favors the accused. It isn’t great as a bargaining chip, because the obvious question would be, why did you not prosecute as soon as you were able once you knew?

Of course, nothing may happen. We may just stare at the swamp and never see anything.

The allusive Loch Ness Monster
The allusive Loch Ness Monster

It reminds me of the lead up to the presidential vote last November. It seemed as if there were two competing realities. The mainstream media who assured us a Hillary presidency was inevitable, and the fringe conservative loonys swearing that the polls were rigged.

Either way, this conspiracy theory’s days are numbered. It will either be permanently seen as truth or fiction very soon. If it is true, the world is about to experience a seismic shift.

Check out my newest CD before you go!

Dissecting a “Choose Your Own Adventure” Book

I think the very best times of elementary school were the days when the Scholastic Books orders came in. Ah, nothing like that wood pulp smell. I’m getting a little teary just thinking about it. 😉

The Order Sheet
The Order Sheet

I was blessed enough to have been born to a reasonably well-off family with an appreciation for the importance of reading. I typically had carte blanche to choose as many books as I thought I could actually read.

Something like this would have worked. :D
Something like this would have worked. 😀

Rarely did I get a book I did not enjoy. They were all very, very good. But for me, the creme de la creme of the Scholastic library was the Choose Your Own Adventure series. I am not at all surprised to see they are still quite active and going strong.

Yeah, I read a few of those.
Yeah, I read a few of those.

So, just the other day I was in my attic and saw my forgotten collection of classic Choose Your Own Adventure books. I grabbed the closest one.

The Case of the Silk King, #53
The Case of the Silk King, by Shannon Gilligan

It’s a little beat up and well-loved, but more or less intact. I scanned the title page to see when it was produced.


News from the day
News from the day

My naturally curious mind demanded a little digging. I found an author named Sean Munger who wrote an incredibly in-depth review which filled in a lot of blanks concerning the real-life story the book was based upon. This was great reading, but not really where my interest was centered.

I wondered, was this something I could do?

You see, every November is national novel writing month.

I’ve attempted this in the past, but fell short of my goals. Taking on a 700 page novel proved to be too great a task for me. The Case of the Silk King however, only weighed in at a slim and trim 115.

This didn’t seem so daunting. I wondered, was this something I could do with my existing time and talent stack?


I needed to figure out what makes a Choose Your Own Adventure book tick. Just reading a few dozen of them isn’t the same as forensically analyzing one under a microscope. This time-tested process is a oft-overlooked key to obtaining real knowledge and understanding. So, let’s get started!

The Story

“You” are the star of the story. You are a young girl who operates a well-known detective agency. You receive a mysterious package in the mail directing you to investigate the disappearance of an American businessman in Thailand. You are immediately tasked with deciding to trust the anonymous sender and boarding an international flight, or staying home and trying to find out more about the case from there.

This drops you right into a world of mystery with two reasonable choices. A bold choice, and a cautious choice. This ‘bold or cautious’ motif occurs often throughout the book.

Little time is spent establishing extensive character backstories. This seems appropriate, sense the story is about “you.” No need to agonize over the protagonist’s motives and aspirations. “You” already know them! The author quickly gets into the action while allowing your imagination to fill in any missing detail.

By the way, if you want a copy of your own, there is a modern remake of the same story available here.

The Endings

The cover boasts of “19 Possible Endings.” I decided to read and grade each one based on quality of “your” life and the fulfillment of the stated objective. My results were very interesting.

Possible Outcomes
Overachievers Need Not Apply

No ending scored an “A,” in my opinion.

The most shocking finding is that there is no “home run” ending. I suppose this keeps the fictional story in line with its real-life unsolvable counterpart, but that did not mitigate my surprise. I wondered if withholding an A+ result could keep eager readers longer engaged in the story? Perhaps they hoped you would go down each and every rabbit hole searching for a better result?

In the back of my mind, I assumed as a game maker, you were obligated to provide an opportunity to “win.” Dissecting this story turned this idea on its head. Interesting.

Also interesting from a cultural perspective was the writer’s willingness to graphically kill the main character. (You.) It even boasts on the back cover, “You might find yourself dumped into a snakepit or fed to the sharks.” This seems to harken back to a less-snowflakey time. I wonder if the modern remake tempers the violent endings a bit?

But, what is the path to arrive at these endings?

The Decision Tree

Choose Wisely!
Spoilers! (sort of)

First, let me explain the chart. You start at the top on page 1. You go down the next two pages, 2 and 3, and then you leap over to page 8 where you are faced with your first decision. This comes at the 4th page you read, as indicated by the leftmost column. You must then decide to turn to page 4 or 12 to continue your story.

Now, some facts the tree illuminates:

The “Best” Endings

There is a “best” ending down each of the major trunks of the decision tree. They are highlighted in green. This means you do not doom yourself with your first choice of the game.

The number of “correct” choices you must make to arrive at one of the best conclusions are 6, and 5, respectively.

Choices Made Per Game

Choices Made Per Game
Choices Made Per Game

There is one possible ending that can be reached by making only 2 choices. There are 2 endings that occur after 3 choices. The most popular choice length is 5. The range is 2-6 choices, with 4.68 being the average.

Pages Read Per Ending

Page Length Chart
Page Length Chart

There is a broad range of story lengths. You could read as few as 11 pages, or as many as 25. There is a fairly even distribution, averaging out to 18.68 written pages per adventure. But the story isn’t only told in words.


There are 25 high quality, full-page black and white drawings by Frank Bolle sprinkled throughout the book. That means almost 22% of the book is illustrated. In addition, there are 3 pages where artwork and text coexist.

I think it would be difficult to overstate how important these drawings were in providing the immersion necessary to become emotionally invested within the story. Perhaps, if I want to pull one of these things off, I’m going to need to brush up on my drawing skillz.


I counted a little over 20 characters. Only a dozen or so are given names. Many of the characters fill obvious roles, simplifying the verbiage needed to describe their significance. For example, a Librarian, a Police Chief, etc. Remember, the author is attempting to convey a complete story within 11-25 pages. Brevity is essential! With that in mind…


  • Average story is 4.68 choices, 18.68 pages, and has a 61% chance of reaching a “bad” ending
  • The “best” endings require many “right” choices
  • Don’t take too long establishing the story
  • Start with the hook (mysterious envelope, immediate choice)
  • Often offer the option to be bold or cautious
  • Keep characters mostly one-dimensional
  • You don’t have to offer a “100% win” conclusion
  • Good artwork is as important as a good story

I have no idea what copyright claims the Choose Your Own Adventure series may hold precluding any commercial use. My interest in one day formulating a story experience is not motivated by money, however. Maybe I can resurrect “Ricky Rockstar” to, I don’t know, …Rock Your Own Way On The Road

Ricky Rockstar
Ricky Rockstar

Don’t worry, I doubt I’ll attempt to make you pay to play out Ricky’s adventures. I’ll probably just add some links at the bottom to my music…umm, like I’m doing now.