Saturday, August 23, 2008

"Previously....on......"


By the way, whatever other strategies were considered when the decision was made on the Democratic VP nominee selection, it’s clear that the shot callers in the Obama campaign are fans of “The West Wing.”

Matthew Santos…inexperienced, but charismatic, ethnic who came out of nowhere to create a rock star-like buzz and see it carry him all the way to the Democratic nomination for President…

Leo McGarry…veteran, take no guff from anybody, politician who knows his way around the Beltway and has stood, or sat, toe to toe with leaders from all over the world, bringing clout and experience to the ticket as nominee for Vice President.

Santos.
McGarry.

Obama.
Biden.

It’s been often said that television played a gigantic part in the election of 1960.
The more things change…

"Rook to Queen's Knight Three...."


You’ll be hearing enough about Joe Biden in the next few weeks to more than last you a lifetime.

So, I’ll take a pass on contributing to that.

Except to offer this:

The major obstacle that Obama has to overcome to level the playing field is the perception that a McCain administration would have the “experience” to deal with world affairs that an Obama administration would lack.

Bringing Biden on board takes care of that.

And to the Hillary zealots who are sticking pins in voodoo dolls this morning….

In an ideal world, we get what we want.
In the real world, we do what we must to get what we want.

Obama needed a big bat to play at this level.

Biden shows up swinging.

And if you’re a Hillary supporter who needs somebody to tell you that this was the smart move…

Just ask Hillary.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

"It's Nice to Meet You...Whoever and Wherever You Are...

Clarence, the angel in “It’s A Wonderful Life”, said it very nicely.


“We never fully know how our lives touch the lives of others.”


That thought pops into my head from time to time, but never more clearly than each quarter when I get my BMI statement.


Broadcast Music Inc is one of the three “performing rights” organizations that serve as clearing houses for royalties paid to songwriters, performers, etc for the songs they wrote, perform, etc, and are played on radio, TV, videos, elevators, et al.


A song makes a few cents every time it’s played. And in a “do the math” scenario, can add up to some pretty big bucks, especially if the song is a pretty big hit.


Imagine making four or five cents.
A couple of million times.


My dear friend Billy Strange still gets a big smile on his face each quarter as the check shows up accounting for the many songs he has written, not the least of which is “Monotonous Melody”, the hit song that still gets played thousands of times each year since its debut back in the early sixties.


Don’t know it?
Oh…right…it was tweaked slightly before it was recorded.
You would know it as “Limbo Rock”.


I never wrote a “Limbo Rock”.
Or had what you could honestly be called a “big hit”.


Still, my name is in the Library of Congress a couple hundred times and I did co-write a song that was on a Grammy nominated bluegrass album and I do still get a quarterly statement from BMI with a couple hundred bucks here, a couple hundred bucks there from the combined few cents here and few cents there that pile up over the weeks.


And a few hundred bucks is more than I have before I open the envelope each time, so it’s all good.


At this point, I get my primary enjoyment out of the whole songwriting experience from two things.


Geographic location.
Google.


More on Google in a minute.


Re’ geography, what a remarkable feeling it is to open up the statement, unfold the itemized listing of what song is being played where and see that something that I made up in my head on some casual afternoon in the not too distant past is now being experienced by people who live in India…England…Belgium…Pakistan…Japan….
Racine, Wisconsin.


Each quarter the list is varied. Each list an adventure all by itself.
Cool, I don’t mind telling ya.


Then, there’s Google.


Every now and then, in an effort to see if anything else I’ve written has found its way to the light of day recently, I type in my name or a song title or a publishing company or an artist that I have been associated with at one time or another.


Internet treasure hunting, after a fashion.


Friday, I found me on You Tube.
Well, not me, but you get the idea.


The Grammy bluegrass thing I mentioned earlier has found a new home.
Claire Lynch did the original version of the song, "My Heart Is A Diamond" on her “Moonlighter” album (available on Rounder Records at fine music retailers and/or Amazon dot com…)


I found a video on YouTube of a bluegrass group I’m unfamiliar with, Susie Glaze and the Hilonesome Band performing the song.


Okay, so it’s not Emmylou Harris.


But, hey, Suzie seems nice enough.


And she obviously has impeccable taste in song selection.


So, now, a whole bunch of people I have never met and will probably never meet are surfing through YouTube and will come across a bluegrass group performing something that came out of my head on some casual afternoon in the not too distant past.


And somebody, somewhere, who I will never know exists, could very likely be quietly going about their daily routine, singing softly to themselves that melody and those words that came out that afternoon.


Clarence, you were right, buddy.


We just never know.






Saturday, August 16, 2008

"Happiness Is A Warm Gun...Now, Class Come To Order..."


John Lennon was, I suspect, a guy who appreciated irony.

Possessing, as he did, an offbeat sense of humor, it only seems logical that he would have had an appreciation of the ironic side of life.

And, certainly, that would have to include the fact that the guy who wrote and sang “All You Need Is Love” and “Give Peace A Chance” was shot to death on a public street in front of his own home for no more reason than he was famous.

John popped into my thoughts this morning as I read this little news item…

HARROLD, Texas (AP) -- A tiny Texas school district will allow teachers and staff members to carry concealed firearms to protect against school shootings, provided the gun-toting employees follow certain requirements.

The small community of Harrold in north Texas is a 30-minute drive from the Wilbarger County Sheriff's Office, leaving students and teachers without protection, said David Thweatt, superintendent of the Harrold Independent School District. The lone campus of the 110-student district sits near a heavily traveled highway, which could make it a target, he argued.

"When the federal government started making schools gun-free zones, that's when all of these shootings started. Why would you put it out there that a group of people can't defend themselves? That's like saying 'sic 'em' to a dog," Thweatt said in a story published Friday on the Fort Worth Star-Telegram's Web site.

Trustees approved the policy change last year, and it takes effect when classes begin this month. For employees to carry a pistol, they must have a Texas license to carry a concealed handgun, must be authorized to carry by the district, must receive training in crisis management and hostile situations and must use ammunition designed to minimize the risk of ricocheting bullets.

"The naysayers think [a shooting] won't happen here. If something were to happen here, I'd much rather be calling a parent to tell them that their child is OK because we were able to protect them," Thweatt said.

It isn't clear how many of the 50 or so teachers and staff members will be armed this fall, because Thweatt did not disclose that information, to keep it from students or potential attackers.

After reading that story, something else, in addition to John Lennon, popped into my head, an old one liner.

A Republican is a former Democrat who got mugged.

Translation: while we all would love to indulge our “inner bleeding hearts”, most of us, at a point in our lives that seems to come sooner and sooner with each passing generation, realize that life simply doesn’t work that way. And that the battle between good and evil is as alive and well as it has been since that apple chomping day in the garden.

I like to think that John Lennon and I share an appreciation for the ironic.

And I think that the guy who sang of love and peace and died violently would join me in lamenting the need for teachers to start packing.

But I also think that he would join me in understanding exactly why it was necessary and, ultimately, a good idea.

Because John Lennon died in a hail of gunfire that came totally out of the blue.

Just like the shootings that kill our kids in school.

And if Yoko had been packing that night, what the hell, the guy who sang of peace and love might still be around singing about peace and love.

Ironic, huh?

Sunday, August 10, 2008

"Not John and Elizabeth Edwards...But an Incredible Simulation..."

Many of you who read my work here with any regularity are, from time to time, kind enough to offer that you think that the work is pretty well done.

Thank you.

And I won’t insult either of our respective intelligences by offering you any of that “aw, shucks” stuff.

I know what I’m good at.
And I know what I’m not good at.

Put tools in front of me and tell me to tune my car’s engine or you’ll shoot me, you might as well just save us both the time and pull the trigger now.

Damn it, Jim, I’m a writer/composer/broacaster, not a mechanic.

Having said all that, I’ve reached a point in my creative life where I don’t have to “embellish” the resume, as it were, when it comes to my writing.

In other words, if I use a line somewhere, either in print or on the air, and didn’t write it in the first place, I have no problem in fessing up, even overtly giving credit where its due.

For example, often, when folks greet me with “hey, how are you?”, I reply with what has become a stock, and admittedly flip, reply.

“It ain’t easy bein me.”

I do put in a lot of effort with tone, though, so that, hopefully, that answer comes off as fun and self depracating, as opposed to self pitying.

I use the line.
I didn’t write the line.

If memory serves, it was the reply that Andrew McCarthy gave Ally Sheedy in the movie, “St. Elmo’s Fire” when she asked the same question.

In case you’re wondering, by the way, the answer to your next question is, simply, that it happens to be another of those things that I’m good at.

Remembering obscure pieces of dialogue, et al, from movies that most people never saw, let alone remember.

I’m still working on a way to turn that “skill” into big bucks.
Trivia doesn’t pay nearly as well as tune ups.

Meanwhile, back at the line.

I found it popping into my head, without any outside stimulation, this morning as I perused the coverage of John Edwards and his admitance of his extamarital affair.

And it crossed my mind that Edwards, not to mention his wife, et al, could probably make pretty good use of my stock answer these days.

Wonder if any of them have ever seen “St. Elmo’s Fire”?

And for anyone reading my words at the moment and bracing themselves for what they expect will be some kind of veiled condoning of Edwards’ behavior, take a breath.

Not going there.

Where I am going with it is here:

John Edwards is a human being who was tempted, succumbed to temptation and now has to deal with the consequences of his actions.

He has to answer to his God, his wife, his children, his family and those whose respect HE feels he wants to try to continue to enjoy.

Everybody else just needs to shut the hell up.

Because it is, at the bottom of the bottom line, none of our damn business.

That goes for EVERYBODY else. Most especially the motor mouthed commentators and “experts” who are, bet the farm, dissecting every little tile of this mosaic on the Sunday morning news and talk shows as we speak.

Or as I write this piece, to be more precise.

And let me be very clear on one thing.

It is not for me to say that what John Edwards did is okay.
Nor is it for me to say that what John Edwards did is wrong.

Because it is, simply, not for me to say.

Nor is it for you.

Or anyone else.

Unless you are his God, his wife, his child, his family or any one whose respect HE feels he wants to try to continue to enjoy.

And please don’t waste my time or your own by offering up any “higher standard”, “role model”, “leaders lead by example” crap.

Because we elect human beings to lead us.

And human beings are beautifully complex, and flawed, beings.

If you think that one single person, now or ever, who has been given a position of authority doesn’t have at least one thing in their life resume that requires forgiveness, you’re just being na├»ve.

I should read the Bible more.

I don’t, but I should.

If only because there are some pretty well written lines in there.

That thing about glass houses comes to mind.

And there’s a witty little “judge not, lest ye be….”thing that I recall.

Oh…and check this out.

“There was only one perfect human being in the history of mankind…and look what happened to Him..”

I did write that one.

As far as the earlier one….I can still honestly answer on many days that it aint easy bein me.

But John and Elizabeth Edwards and their circle are welcome to it as needed.

And so are you.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

"Four D's and A Dream...."


The problem with a dream becoming a reality is that, once it does, it’s no longer a dream.

I think I read that somewhere once.

Or maybe I wrote it somewhere once.

Six of one.

The point is that I’ve never heard anybody use the expression “the harsh light of dreams”.

Reality, of course, is Vulcan.
It deals only in cold hard facts.
Shows no emotion.

Live long and prosper.

While you live with it.

I’m not talking, by the way, about dreams coming true, necessarily, (like becoming the doctor we’ve dreamed about being all our lives, or better yet that our parents have dreamed about us becoming all their lives) although I think the principle applies, no matter the semantics.

And the more I think about it, the more I realize that I’m probably not talking about dreams at all.

I’m talking about illusions.

Easily confused.
Very, very thin line.

I was inspired to wander down this particular rabbit hole of reflection when I came across this story on SI.com this morning.

CHICAGO (AP) -- A 1909 Honus Wagner baseball card was sold for $1.62 million at a memorabilia auction in Chicago, a sports auction company said Saturday.

The record price for a baseball card is $2.8 million -- paid in 2007 for a near-mint condition Wagner card released in 1909 by the American Tobacco Company.

John Rogers, 35, of North Little Rock, Ark., said his winning bid for the T206 Wagner card is the realization of a decades-long dream.

"I call this the holy grail of baseball cards," Rogers said in a phone interview. "I've looked at a number of other specimens, sat in a few other Wagner auctions. But this is the one that makes collecting worth while."

Rogers has collected baseball cards since he was 6. When he was in the second grade, he said he cut out a copy of a Wagner card and carried it around in his pocket.

"Since I was 8 years old, I've hoped and dreamed that one day I'd be able to get one," Rogers said.

Bidders at the Friday night auction also spent $42,000 on Ken Griffey, Jr.'s 600th home run ball and $240,000 for a 1938 Lou Gehrig Yankees road jersey, said Doug Allen, Mastro Auctions chief operating officer.

The T206 cards are from a series issued between 1909 and 1911. Allen said the card was in excellent condition, and said the next highest bid, $1.3 million, was placed on behalf of a client who wished to remain anonymous.

Wagner's card was among the first of hundreds of cards of major league players produced by the American Tobacco Co. and included in packages of cigarettes.

Unlike other players, however, Wagner quickly demanded that his card be withdrawn. Theories vary as to why, with one being that he didn't believe American Tobacco paid him enough.

A nonsmoker, the Pittsburgh shortstop was arguably the second-greatest baseball player of his era, behind Ty Cobb. Wagner hit .344 during his rookie year of 1897, and batted over .300 for 17 consecutive seasons, winning eight National League batting titles.

One of the first five players inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame, Wagner retired in 1917 with more hits, runs, RBIs, doubles, triples and steals than any NL player.

There are fewer than 100 Wagner baseball cards in existence, said Julie Stoklosa, a spokeswoman for Mastro Auctions, and less than ten are in excellent condition.

Allen said even the lowest graded Wagner baseball cards can fetch more than $150,000.


If you read my pieces here on any regular basis, I imagine that you might be bracing yourself for my little rant about a world where somebody has a million and a half bucks to drop on a baseball card when kids are starving in West Virginia.

It’s a fair point.

But not the point.
Not today anyway.

What I’m thinking is how much kids are missing out on today because they’re not getting the full “dream about someday being your favorite sports star” experience.

At least not the experience I got.

When I was nine years old, I dreamed about being Mickey Mantle.

I used to go to sleep at night in my number 7 jersey, my MM autographed Louisville Slugger by my side, scrunched down under the covers until well past curfew, a flashlight powered by four Eveready D batteries and a stack of well thumbed baseball cards to catalog again and again.

And again.

The bat thing got old pretty quick, actually.

Even a nine year old can make adjustments to a dream to avoid splinters in unpleasant numbers.

But the jersey stayed until it was in shreds.

The cards were shuffled and re shuffled and then re-filed.

And the dream was alive each and every night.

Even though Mickey Mantle was a drunk.

I didn’t care.
Because I didn’t know.

Just like I didn’t know that Babe Ruth was a womanizing, beer guzzling overeater.

Or Ty Cobb was a hateful, spiteful, cruel son of a bitch.

It didn’t matter to me. Because I didn’t know these things.

There was no Fox News Channel.
There was no ESPN.
There was no TMZ.com
There was no Entertainment Tonight.

There was nobody waiting to tease me to tune in tomorrow for details on the latest human failing of my hero.

Or heroes.

And the baseball cards that I collected and cherished were little snapshots of the hope that I didn’t even realize I had.

The hope that I would realize my own potential and someday be on some card held in the hand of another little kid who was dreaming of what could be.

Kids still dream.

They just deserve to do it under the covers, illuminated by four Eveready D’s.

Not by the harsh light.








Saturday, August 2, 2008

Just Like Fertilizer, There's A Reason They Call It "Spreading" Rumors...


When we were kids, the game was called “Telegraph”

Everybody sat in a circle; one person whispered a phrase into the ear of the person next to them, who, in turn, whispered it to the next person and so on until the phrase had gone all the way around the circle.

The fun of the game was in seeing how the phrase got mangled by the time it had gone from the first ear to the last.

It never ended the trip intact.

And the results could be pretty funny.

I was reminded of that childhood game this morning when I was perusing web news and came across a video of Nancy Grace on CNN.com interviewing some guy about pictures that have surfaced of the mother of this two-year-old girl who has been missing for a while.

The pictures show the mom drinking and partying and the gist of the interview was Grace’s implication that the pictures were taken AFTER the child had gone missing, the inference being that if a young mother could drink, laugh and party while her two year old was missing, then something was rotten in Denmark.

At the very least, Grace conjectured, perhaps the mother was able to party stress free because she knew where the child was.

What I found telling about the interview was that the guy Grace was questioning said, a couple of times, that no one was able to verify that the pictures were, in fact, taken after the alleged disappearance. Grace didn’t seem to let that little detail bother her as she continued to plow ahead, apparently determined to milk the maximum drama out of the situation and continue to imply that the mother was, at best, a poor excuse of a mother and, at worst, some kind of evil bitch who had harmed a child.

You’ve probably heard it said, or might have said it yourself, that the problem with “newscasters” these days is that they don’t just report the news anymore, they seemed determined to create it.

Nancy Grace seems to have a pretty good handle on that concept.

She’s not unique, though. Not by a long shot.

And the really insidious thing here, I’d offer you, is rumors are like herpes.

Once it starts, it never goes away, no matter what efforts are made to stop it.

And, despite our best intentions to give the benefit of the doubt about things we hear, the bottom line is that perception is reality.

And rumors give birth to perception.

People like Nancy Grace bother me. Because too often the only difference between a “nationally known journalist” and a garden-variety shit stirrer is the platform they stand on.

I’d find it a lot easier to buy that Nancy Grace and her ilk are, as they would have us believe, simply trying to help those in distress if she worked, quietly, in the office of some government agency, out of the public eye, going through the evidence and seeking, with passion and conviction, the truth, whatever it may be.

She doesn’t though, does she?

Instead, she and the others like her insinuate, intimate and sensationalize, walking an excruciatingly fine line between journalist and shit stirrer.

Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe all these “crusaders” really are more concerned with rescue than ratings.

But it sure doesn’t look that way.

And perception is reality.