Thursday, August 30, 2007

It's the Time of the Season...
And NOW is absolutely the wrong time for a Losing Streak!

I could never hit a baseball, and I tried. I'd get maybe one hit per SEASON. I just couldn't get with it! And I was not a very good outfielder either. (And, in the little Pee-Wee league I played in, the kids who were too uncoordinated to do anything else were relegated to the outfield.) I left the game when the team captain told me 'not to come back'. And that was 'it' for my baseball career. But I consider myself to be a pretty good fan. And, in the stands as well as in front of TV's and radios all over the northwest, we fans listen to and watch our Seattle Mariners; we live and die with 'em, living in a parallel universe of Baseball Soap Opera. And, during this late part of the season, the teams who are gonna make it are usually separated from those who'll not be playing in October. And the M's...well, yeah, those M's...............

There's a lot of pressure in the Big Leagues; maybe too much, I don't know. And our beloved Seattle Mariners have now lost 6 games in a row. SIX GAMES IN A ROW. And suddenly I'm having flashbacks to last year, because back then, the M's lost 11-straight games. Those 11 games basically brought about a premature conclusion to the M's 2006 season. The M's are now BEHIND in this year's wild-card race, because them damn New York Yankees, who got off to a slow start, have been playin' pretty good as of late. And, as long as the Anaheim (or is it Los Angeles?) Angels are playin' in the same division as the M's, well, it's beginning to look like the M's will never be a division champion. And, they're losing their grip on any Wild-Card prospects as well. It's like trying to hold water in your hands; you can do it for a while, but sooner or later the water finds a way of getting out. And I don't like the way this is feeling all of a sudden.......

No, the season's not over yet; miracles do 1995, the M's came from waaaay behind, as Rick Rizzs, M's sportscaster will usually tell you, at least eleven times per inning. So it can be done. But Anaheim (Los Angeles?) is out there, and they're just too good. And if the Yankees continue to surge, well, the M's will be watching the playoffs and series in their La-Z-Boys instead of actively participating. The M's are better this year...but they ain't that good now...the question is, "can they be?" I'm not sure, but I'm beginning to think developments like what the M's are going thru now make former manager Mike Hargrove glad he's not in the baseball rat race anymore. Does he know something we don't? He left when things were going GOOD.

It's not a gas, but at least it's better: While driving past my regular gas station, I meant to check the prices on the sign, but since Oregon drivers ain't a whole lot better than Idaho drivers, I kept looking straight ahead. A slight break in traffic enabled me to look in the rearview mirror, and, even tho the mirrored numbers came out backwards, the sign plainly said $2.71 for regular unleaded. Progress is being made. Down 60 cents a gallon from this spring. Although, a couple of stations in another town are having a "price war", with people lining up to buy gas. And the price? A mere $2.36 a gallon. A true case of where "more" is "less"; it takes more money to buy less gas, but we think that we're saving. And that, my friends, is called "oil company hypnotization". Next year, gas will probably go up to $4.00 a gallon, and when the price gets rolled back to $3.50 a gallon after Labor Day, we'll all be SOOOO grateful that gas prices went down so much!

If it weren't for bad luck, I'd have no luck at all: It is doggone hard to get a DOCTOR down here. I had to wait 4 months to get in to see a G.P.! (let alone any kind of specialist). But I've got a fine doctor down here; he's a cool guy. Problem was, I'd forgotten when my appointment was. I thot it was this past Monday. So I went into the medical clinic and found out it wasn't until yesterday. Monday evening, my throat began to feel funny; I started breaking sweats at the Tuesday night jam, and was feeling a little feverish Wednesday, the REAL day of my doctor appointment. I really do think I caught my cold at the medical clinic when I went in there on Monday, the wrong day. Hmmm...I wonder if I should send 'em a BILL. (I can just see all the doctors and nurses in the break room, laughing at that one.) Still, my medical insurance kicked pays 80% of doctors' fees and hospitalization, should I ever need that (hopefully I won't!)

Cool, man, cool: My friends up in North Idaho are still enduring temperatures in the 80s and 90s, according to weather maps I've seen. And down here on the Oregon Coast, the temperature 'maybe' gets up to 75 degrees on a warm day. I'm lovin' it. I can keep the front and back door open, and it feels like the air conditioning's on. Other than the humid spell we had several weeks ago, the weather here is made-to-order. And when it's foggy on the coast, I enjoy the beach just as much. There's something about a semi-foggy, cool gray sky that is oddly hypnotizing. I sat on a big rock by the ocean on a day like that, closed my eyes and let the sound of the ocean waves have its way with me. Good for the soul, I do believe.

It must've been great 'weed': I'll admit that over the years, I indulged a few times in what some call "wacky tabakkey"...but, 'no no no, I don't smoke it no more'; not that I ever did that a lot to begin with. (Although there were a couple of times when I woke up on the floor...) What brought that rememberance about was the appearance of an article in a regional newspaper about an Oregon man SHOT HIMSELF IN THE FACE at a party. Oh, and the article said he was STONED. I guess he figured he had an eye he didn't need, 'cos that's where the bullet exited. The article didn't say whether or not the marijuana lessened the pain he must have felt. The article did say the man didn't think the gun was loaded. Far out, man...

I'm really glad she made it back: I'm referring to Barbara Morgan, the Idaho teacher who was originally the backup for the late Christa McAuliffe, who lost her life along with her crew in the Challenger disaster. So, a circle was completed; Ms. Morgan actually got to teach an Idaho classroom during the latest space mission. And, thank God, the heat-shield-tiles on the spacecraft stayed intact during re-entry; some damage had occurred during liftoff. I'm thinking, isn't it about time NASA re-designed its space vehicles? The same potentially lethal shuttle design that was used 20-odd years ago, when the Challenger disaster happened is STILL being used TODAY. Meantime, an ongoing probe is focusing on whether or not astronauts drank something stronger than "Tang" on previous space missions, while yet another astronaut (well, a female, so she'd be an astro-nette?) is all set to plead insanity to charges of kidnapping and assault; she was the one who was all star-struck with a fellow astronaut. It's a long story. I guess the private world of NASA isn't so much different from the rest of society: on one side, high ideals; on the other, insanity, craziness and drunkenness.

And if yer thinkin' the title of this blog, "The Time of the Season" sounds like a song-title, well, you're right, for it was. The Zombies had a big hit with it in 1969. Ironically, the record charted AFTER the group broke up. And the beat goes on...

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

I just don't know what to think...
...yet another public figure on his way to biting the dust...

I used to live in Idaho. Conservative Idaho. Our family was religious, and Mom and Dad ruled with a strict hand. Maybe we are all "who we are", and what we are is the result of some sort of hard-wiring installed at a young age that we can't change. I was raised in a conservative climate. And in that climate, certain things were just WRONG. They just were. I just don't know how to accept the open-ness of today's society. I still get embarrassed easily, when it comes to things of a sexual nature. I'm just not that open of a person. Brian Wilson, chief Beach Boy, once wrote a song titled, "I Just Wasn't Made For These Times", and yeah, I can identify with that. And in a million years, I would never THINK of having an encounter similar to the one Idaho Senator Larry Craig is alleged to have had. To me, that kind of stuff is just seedy, dirty and filthy. Maybe, before I use a public restroom again, I'm gonna make sure that NO ONE ELSE IS IN THERE! I don't wanna even have to THINK about that stuff!

Well, all the talk show hosts and talking heads of the various news programs are all weighing in with another hot, juicy scandal, this time involving Idaho Senator Larry Craig. Allegedly, Mr. Craig was nabbed by a "sting" operation in the mens' restroom at the Minneapolis airport. Gosh. People and their proclivities. Aren't we, as human beings, supposed to have control over ourselves????? You read about these kind of things almost every day; whether it be a glad-handing Politician......or a Catholic Priest...or a Boy Scout Leader, or a Teacher...I just don't get it; why do people in such visible occupations take the chance of forever wrecking their dreams because they wanted a QUICKIE with someone they shouldn't be having that quickie with? Is it a death wish? Do they WANT to be caught? Can't they CONTROL themselves? We're fast becoming a society that trusts no one, and it would appear that our leaders aren't setting a great example here. And, just think of it...a leader in Mr. Craig's position, whether he is guilty or not, is forever tarnished. He just IS. And he should have KNOWN better than to PUT himself in that situation in the FIRST PLACE.

I don't care what people do behind closed doors (and I'm NOT talking about the closed door of a restroom stall). What they do, in private, is their business. I suppose that I am pretty-much a "don't ask, don't tell" kind of a person. I guess my perspective on this is pretty narrow...I am who I am, after all. If you're gay, and I know you, please don't tell me. I don't want to have to deal with it. I probably am homophobic to a degree; I can't HELP it. And I'm surprised every time I'm made aware of a situation like the one Senator Craig embarrassing it must be, to have to DEAL with all the speculation he's facing, because his sexuality is now being questioned IN FRONT OF THE WHOLE WIDE WORLD. The entire gay issue is one that just won't go away, because it is more than just an intellectual issue; it is one that goes to the center of one's being in that it deals with core beliefs; to me, 'gayness' is just WRONG. That's just the way I feel, and will probably always feel.

Senator Craig is a bright guy. He is articulate, he speaks well, and he must have done something right to have served in public office all these years. And its' sad when this kind of scandal happens to someone who serves in a representative capacity. Look at Bill Clinton's fling with Monica. His reputation was forever tarnished by that, although I understand it had gotten soiled some time before that in Arkansas, when he was governor. Spokane, Washington's former mayor Jim West was a bright guy who couldn't control his compulsions, and it is very possible that the intense disgrace he must have felt after being taken to task for his liasions with young men only hastened the cancer that was eating up his body. I am not turning cartwheels, thinking, "yep, they got what they deserved"; rather, I'm sad when someone who should know better, trips and stumbles over themselves, for they indeed have become their worst enemy. And it IS sad. I'm not licking my chops here. This is just awful stuff. And life goes on.

Everyone's weighing in on this whole Larry Craig issue, so I wanted to try and articulate how I feel. And, after everything comes to light in this case, things'll get back to normal until it happens all over again to some other high-profile person. These are the times in which we live, aren't they?

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Let's hear it for the U.S. Mail...
It's always there when we need it, ain't it?

I don't know why I haven't signed up yet to pay my bills electronically. I could probably go and do that right now, instead of posting this blog entry. I guess almost everyone pays their bills that way. And, I wouldn't be surprised if utility companies across the board decided one day to stop sending out standard bills-on-paper; after all, in this inflationary age of micromanagement, everyone's looking for a way to defray expenses as much as possible. My bank wants me to sign up and let them pay my bills via some sort of automatic program that pays anyone who turns to me with their hand out, wanting money. I suppose the bank gets a little piece of the action for providing "E-pay", and the utilities and anyone else who sucks up money from ever-beleaguered folks across the nation will benefit from having bills paid on time. A sort of capitalistic type of symbiotic relationship, if you will. (Hey, it's not often I get to mix economic classifications with biological terminology...)

I'm not good at performing detailed actions which take a lot of application and methodology. I really do dislike going to the Post Office to buy money orders. Postal money orders are a huge hassle, 'cos you not only have to put the payee's complete address on it, you've also gotta write down your complete address in the space provided. And, of course, before that, you've got to sift through all of the extra paraphrenalia crammed into every jam-packed billing envelope you receive; you sift thru this, sift thru that, eventually locating the small portion that you tear off to include with your bill. And, those doggone little computer-placed perforations don't even perforate half the time; if yer not careful, you'll rip off half of the portion you were trying to tear off; then you have to tear off the other half of that portion and tape it back together. Then, multiply all of the above actions three-or-fourfold, and a trip to the Post Office, with all of the 'preliminaries' included, can be a time-consuming event.

Of course, I haven't even mentioned 'waiting in line' yet. Once, while I was standing in line, I'd begun to inscribe my return address on the bill envelopes I'd brought with me. And, as soon as I'd begin doing that, everyone in the line would move up. So I'd hafta stop writing and move up, too, and then begin writing again. And then everyone would move up, and I'd have to move up again, and, well, you get the idea. But, if I had just been standing in line, having already pre-addressed my billing envelopes, I'd be waiting forever and a day, and really, the Post Office is not a fun place to wait...I find myself trying to find something to look at to pass the time...I gaze upon the folding mail cartons the Post Office displays...dullsville, man. I peruse some of the stamp-sheets on display in the glass counter; that holds my interest for about 20 seconds...then I see the wall filled with various items such as Postal pens, keychains, stuffed animals, stationery, greeting cards, alarm clocks, depth-finders, and all of the other goofy stuff that's on display there that you'll never need in a zillion years.

Still, I go to the Post Office. I don't know why; I just do. Since I am not a morning person, I have to go to the main Post Office, which is probably 5 or 6 miles away from me. There are a couple of small 'branch Post Offices' that are nearer to where I live, but both of those branches close at NOON. That's life in a small town where everything is super-spread out. Don't get me wrong; I LOVE the slower pace of small-town life; I just wish the Postal branch offices would stay open longer. Of course, if I'm picking up a package, as Ebay sometimes forces me to do, I've gotta skedaddle to the main Post Office anyway, but at least I'm picking up a package that has something cool in it, and the suspense gives me that same anticipatory feeling I used to get on Christmas mornings or birthdays. What's in it? I can't WAIT!!! But, then, I've gotta remember that I'm going to the Post Office. So unless there's an extra clerk working the package-pickup department, yep, you guessed it...when I get there, I'll hafta wait. Oh well, more time to look at all the stuff the Post Office sells that I can't live without.

I can't remember where I read it (I think it was in a "letters to the editor column"), but some hyper-agitated former Postal employee recently took 'society in general' to task for "dissing" our beloved Postal Service. He had his knickers in a twist over the fact that some folks (well, more and more all the time, really) had referred to what the Post Office handles as "snail mail." I am not kidding, this guy was really upset, saying that people disrespected the Post Office by using the term "Snail Mail"! I suppose he would've filed some sort of libel/slander lawsuit if he could've found someone to focus on. Trouble is, we ALL think of letters, envelopes, stamps, etc. as "snail mail". And it's hard for one person, even if he's a dedicated former postal worker, to stop an epidemic. Unless you're going to be picking up a really cool package from Ebay, you can pretty much bet that NOBODY goes to the Post Office to hang out or to have a good time. Like the I.R.S., the Post Office is something that we all have to endure from time to time. Although, the Postal Service isn't evil like the I.R.S. is. Not yet, anyway.

Although it's hard to tell from my above comments, I value the postal service, and the patient folks who work behind the counter at the P.O., who try to answer all kinds of questions: "how much longer will it take my package to get there if I send it via Media Mail instead of First Class?", etc. etc. And I suppose there's many a dedicated postal clerk who has nightmares about endless lines of customers stretching out into oblivion, and no matter how many people he assists, he'll never, EVER, be done. And in a way, I do like one of the Post Office's newest items, the "Forever Stamp"...even if it won't be the same price forever and I've done my part. I've come up with a new design for the 'Forever Stamp' that oughta be a huge hit, making the Post Office a whole lotta money (although rates will continue to increase anyway...), and here's my idea:


I'll just have to hope that no former postal employee, or anyone else, 'goes postal' over this.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Eight Months and Counting...
...and, I'm takin' it one day at a time...

I had to do it. I'm talking about the relocation I underwent last December. I've been down here on the South Coast for over eight months now. I think of my former town from time to time; it is still part of me. It's just that I had to get away. I figured, "well, if I don't leave at this point in my life, I probably never will". I am not well-traveled; I haven't been a whole lot of places in my life; maybe "I tend to lean on old familiar ways", as Paul Simon once sang. And, yep, I guess I am "still crazy after all these years". I think it was a case of being in the same old place day after day, and even tho the lake and surrounding mountains up there are eternally beautiful, I had seen that same lake and mountains for over 40 years of my life. And, for a lot of reasons, my hometown just didn't feel like my hometown any more.

A major reason I left was because I wanted to try and start over, and it's hard to do that if you've been in the same place all your life. Yes, I have some bad memories that I am trying to outrun, and that's part of the reason, too. Have I outrun them? Not totally. Am I where I want to be, mentally, at this point in my life? Again, not totally. And I'll admit there are times when I end up missing the town in which I used to live. But that place had changed and grown so much, I hadn't really felt at home for a few years prior to my move; I would've been depressed out of my mind by now had I stayed there. And tho I made some friends on the internet up there, it seemed that, as the years went by, I actually knew less and less people there, as people in my life had either moved away or passed on, and in a town in which I'd spent over 40 years of my life, I was feeling more and more disconnected as time went on. And maybe I was just a little bit afraid of dying there without having lived somewhere else first.

Still another reason I left was because of the mushrooming growth in that area; it's on the Interstate, which we all know is a conduit for rapid growth as those from the big cities try to escape their own personal hells by staking out their claims in an area formerly known for peace and tranquility; sadly, there's not a lot of that up there anymore. The crowds got bigger, people got noisier, the roads became more congested, drivers got ruder, as wide open spaces were becoming overtaken by malls and houses and business buildings and condos and offices and cul-de-sacs and real-estate development and growth, growth, and more growth. I recall that once while driving around in the town I had lived in all my life, I felt a kind of despair creeping in, a little bit of panic, that everything was just going (and growing) faster, faster, faster all the time and here I was, the same old person, having increasing difficulty trying to keep up with it all.

So I'm down here now. And, I still have my good days and bad days. Moving here hasn't been the immediate 'answer' that I'd hoped. But, now that I'm in a new place, there are less things that trigger bad memories for me down here, again, because this place is new to me. I will be the first one to admit that I have royally screwed up several times in my life, and I'm trying to change that. Because, sometimes I have not been a very good person. And so, I am starting over. Trying to, anyway. And I am convinced that any beneficial changes within me will be hard-fought; this 'project' called 'me' is going to take some time. How much time? Maybe 6 months, maybe the rest of my life. One of my favorite people, a lady named Cis (one of my 3 faithful readers) told me that 'it usually takes a couple of years to totally feel at home in a new place'. I think she's right. Sometimes I don't feel at home here. And, sometimes I do. Sometimes I think it wasn't right for me to leave; other times, I am totally and honestly glad I came down here.

This pseudo-explanation of my relocation will just have to do for the forseeable future, and has been written especially for my huckleberry-picking friends. Take care up there, you guys.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

In spite of the late-summer posting doldrums...
I found something to post about...

Can I really be the same person, who less than a year ago, was rabidly posting like the proverbial bat out of hell, sometimes 3 or 4 times a day? Well, I admit it...I'm in something of a dry spell right now. I'm tired of hearing about the War that everyone knows we shouldn't be fighting; I'm sick of the President, and of the guy who probably really runs this country, the Vice President, who is on record as saying back in the '90s, that any U.S. involvement in Iraq would be the wrong thing to be doing.

I'm beginning to weary of my Seattle Mariners' inconsistent pitching woes; just when things are looking good, and they're starting to go somewhere, one of their pitchers, who's been winning convincingly suddenly loses big-time, in a season which Seattle will most-likely be runnerup to the wild-card team who loses the big playoff game, resulting in still another team going to the division championships. So, I am trying to think of a subject to post about that is fresh, vital and exciting. I've been reading the papers as I always do, but not a whole lot sticks right now...

Well, I have been paying attention to the incident in Utah in which several miners are still trapped deep underground, in which several other people who died trying to rescue them. And there are those in that local mining community who question the decision of the mine's owner to suspend search efforts. It's gotta be hard for both sides; the families who need closure and the mine owner who is trying to keep further lives from being lost in futile rescue attempts. The miners who were first trapped in that mine have been down there a long time now. Things don't look good.

Evidently the geology in that area isn't very stable. And, the logical side of me says, "stop the search now". Even though I know there are miners trapped down there, deep underground. My Dad was in the mining business, and he knew many of the miners who died in the 1972 Sunshine Mine disaster. Tragedies such as these are far-reaching. And my prayers are with the miners' families. I certainly don't want to make judgments; I don't know much of anything about mining and I have never worked in a mine, although I've been in one; I was only 70 feet underground, as opposed to those Utah miners who were some 1500 feet down. And if those miners are never found, I hope that their families can find a way to carry on; what else can one do?


And so, there ya go. Even in a largely nonsensical blog like this one, the real world manages to creep in once in a while. And sometimes the real world's not such a nice place.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Creation in the Back Yard...
...or on a park bench, at a beach, wherever...

You see them everywhere; some of them sound really great; others sound okay, and some of them, well.....(and I hope I'm not in that last category). And they seem to transcend time itself. Oftentimes, 20-somethings will group with their buddies; other times, old hippies can be seen as they flash back to their younger days. Some love to have a crowd standing 'round so they can show off a little bit; others are content to sit off by themselves and let things take their course. What do all of these people have in common? They're playing guitar in an outdoor setting...

There is a degree of intimacy that can be reached with an acoustic guitar, that is difficult to achieve with a lot of other instruments. The acoustic guitar can be taken anywhere, it can be played (almost) anywhere, it can be gently strummed, it can be played urgently, it can bring forth lush chords or single notes; it can be used to replicate current hit songs or oldies, or as a way to convey the state of mind its player is in at the time. And, I never cease to marvel at the fact that although the average guitar neck is only a couple of feet long on average, between the ends of that guitar neck is an entire miniature little world that probably no one knows everything about...although some guitarists are so great, it's scary...

Sometimes, especially in an outdoor setting, my mind just wanders almost everywhere if I've brought my guitar with me. The roar of the ocean, for some reason, seems to bring out melancholy-sounding minor chords strummed very slowly...and a song I learned many years ago, Neil Young's "On The Beach" is something that just naturally arrives when I am playing within sight and sound of the ocean, and then I just kinda go from there. Sometimes there's careful attention to musical structure; other times, chords and pieces of melody wander in and out and up and down and through...I wish I could play everything I hear or imagine, all the while, knowing I can't...and how long have I been doing this now, some 30 years?

The next time you see an aspiring young guitarist either sitting alone with his instrument, or in a grouping with others, before you dismiss them categorically as you make your way through your day, consider this: That guitarist might just have the power to change the entire musical universe, if not society in general. You never know. That guitarist most likely won't be me, but still, it's amazing the effect that a backyard strummer can have. You might just be hearing the next important talent out there. And that person might just change the world, as this young guitarist did, once upon a long time ago...

The year was 1962. The place, Liverpool, a port city in Northern England. What, you say, the young man seems to playing his guitar the wrong-way-'round? And, looking at him back then, you would've never guessed that this young man became one of the most influential musicians the world has ever known. For, this is the 18-year-old, left-handed Paul McCartney, playing in the back yard, way back in the days before "Meet The Beatles". Not everything he's written over the years has been great, but the impact this one person has had is amazing. The above photo is the front cover of Paul McCartney's 2005 album, "Chaos and Creation in the Back Yard", taken by his younger brother, Mike.

A few pieces of wood glued together. A few thin metal bars inserted into the wood. Some mechanical hardware at the top. Metal strings stretched over its body. And someone to put all of these things into motion. Sometimes I look at my old guitar, and I can't believe I've had it over 20 years now. I bought it at a pawn shop long ago. And it's never been back in pawn, and I'm proud of that. I look at all the scratches and dents on its body, and I think of all the times I played with other musicians, or alone, in happy times and in dark moments, on that guitar that's been with me such a long time. Chaos and creation indeed. Or, maybe it's "creation in spite of chaos." I'll have to think about that...


From what I've read, a young John Lennon was forced to practice his guitar out on the porch, out of earshot of the Aunt who raised him. Paul's dad, a musician himself, was more tolerant of the budding Lennon-McCartney partnership. And from such humble beginnings, legends are born.

Thursday, August 16, 2007


I wasn't going to post today (I'm trying not to be a slave to typing blogs, after all), but I thought it might be apropos' to muster up a few words about the King. I guess he is the King of Rock and Roll, although he really didn't play guitar all that well, and didn't write any songs of note. Maybe Elvis is the King because he awoke something in music fans of the era, and you've gotta admit, when he was good, he was DAMN good. A lot of words have been written, about how, when he got out of the Army in 1961, he was induced (seduced?) into doing movie after stupid movie after stupid movie, of which he recorded soundtrack albums with stupid song after stupid song after stupid song. John Lennon once said, "Elvis began to die the minute he went into the Army". Just as I feel that John Lennon began to creatively die the minute he met Yoko. Oh, no. (sorry, couldn't resist that...)

It's sad that "The King's" legacy has become so maligned over the years. Elvis must be spinnin' quadruple circles in his grave, when he looks down from above and sees how we all now seem to poke fun at him and use him as a big "bozo"-type cariacature of what he was when he first hit the music scene. Yeah, it is sad. He was so talented. He had that great voice, right up to the end, but he kinda got weird. Drugs, depression, synchophantic yes-men, and tons of fried banana sandwiches combined with multiple cheeseburger binges kinda did him in. Maybe he brought a lot of fun-poking upon himself, but then again, there are those who have said it was really rough to be Elvis Presley; one man against everyone, surviving in spite of the "Memphis Mafia", who were (allegedly) his best friends. After all, during Beatlemania, which was a wacky time for John, Paul, George and Ringo, there were four Beatles to share the pressures and overall potentially fatal ridiculousness of Beatlemania. But, there was only one Elvis. One could say he was 'adored to death', and maybe that's true.

Last year, I tried to compile a 60-minute cassette tape of the best of Elvis' 70's-era rock and roll songs, and I could hardly find enough upbeat material to fill up the tape. Elvis had grown so depressed since his divorce from Priscilla in the early '70s (even though he had quite a few gorgeous ladyfriends during that time), that his producer, Felton Jarvis, said that Elvis just wanted to record maudlin heartbroken tearjerker ballads (my adjectives, not Felton's), and as such, his '70s albums are largely dirges; bouts of melancholia recorded for all the world to hear. When he sang, "I'm so HURRRRRRT!!!!" on a 1976 single, I am sure he poured every ounce of feeling he could muster up, onto that single. It's his last really powerful studio-recorded performance. During the last couple of years of his life, he was too depressed to leave his mansion to go to the recording studio. So, RCA Victor brought the studio to him. A makeshift studio was set up at Graceland, and that was where he made his last few recordings. Ironically, at least according to research I've done, the last vocal he ever laid down was "He'll Have To Go", the old Jim Reeves tune. And a couple months later...Elvis was GONE.

Shortly after his 1977 death, "Elvis In Concert" was shown on ABC-TV. Elvis, in 1977, was barely able to function, but he kept going onstage anyway. I kinda feel that 'the stage' was the only place where Elvis really felt like he was in control. Anyway, ABC network officials were horrified by the deterioriation of Elvis' condition, and had considered not showing the concert special, but then Elvis died, which changed ABC's plans. Oh yeah, and RCA cranked out a 2-record set of those concert performances, all of which put more beaucoups-bucks into Col. Tom Parker's deep pockets. Parker, you see, was Elvis' greedy, cigar-chompin', big fat manager. (Again, the adjectives are mine.) Parker had baaad gambling problems, which is perhaps an explanation why Parker had Elvis play in Vegas so much. And later on, Col. Parker SOLD all of the rights of Elvis' material BACK to the record company, for some more fast cash. And how much Col. Parker's exploits had to do with Elvis getting so depressed, well, the jury's out on that one. But the more I read about Col. Parker's relationship with Elvis, the more sick to my stomach I get. And it's kinda sad, the way Elvis' legacy has been boiled down to this...

This must be one of those "Elvis sightings" that I've heard so much about over the years.


I have utilized such books as "Elvis: The Final Years", "Elvis, the Illustrated Record" and "Elvis' Complete Recording Sessions" in tandem with my own conclusions synthesized from listening to his 'not very good' 70s albums, as the basis for much of this post, in addition to remembering all of the great stuff he did early on, when he almost ruled the world.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Cultural Cross-Pollination...
...or, you never know who you'll run into at a Jam Session...

It's a weekly ritual where those who play music come crawling out of the woodwork, and outside of a few fairly structured songs, no one knows what they'll run into at a jam session. Old hippies who wanna play Grateful Dead songs. Blues musicians who wanna play John Lee Hooker or Elmore James stuff. Out-and-out young rock and rollers who wanna get up and "shred" (play frantically speedy rock and roll & heavy-metal licks...Ted Nugent, for example, could be called a "shredder"), and in any given evening, everyone from college-age kids to bar "regulars", to gray longhaired back-to-nature types to just "everyday people" that you meet, show up and play and sing and share in the process of musical creation.

It never ceases to amaze me, the generally high quality (higher than mine!) musicianship from such widely diverse groups of people. Jam sessions are a perfect learning environment, and I am learning. I think my own playing level has improved during the half-year I've been down here on the Oregon Coast, and it's a ball, it's fun, it's one of the most pleasurable things I can guitar licks with other musicians. Nothing like it. Now all I need is a bigger amplifier, because my poor old little "Crate" amplifier gets drowned out by the stacks of big amps that a lot of the musicians bring in. So I guess I gotta save my nickels and dimes.

One person who came to the Jams tonight was not a musician. He was dressed in dirty old white (well, almost-white) overalls, an old longsleeve work shirt, and he looked curiously out-of-place. I guess we all observe each other, and we come to our conclusions about the people we see, however wrong-headed those conclusions may be. And in this case, I was WAAAAY wrong. I thought he was some mentally-ill eccentric-type person who I would probably be uncomfortable around, and I turned my attention back to the musical things that were going on. Ah, but everyone has a tale to tell...and sometimes those tales are far different than what one would expect. Doesn't the Bible say something along the lines of, "judge not and ye shalt not be judged"? Easier said than done, that.

I learned later that the guy is a working fisherman, and he makes a living fishing for cod and pollock up and down the coast, in a little commercial fishing boat , heaving up and down constantly upon the waves for days at a time. The boat heaves; he doesn't. He told me he doesn't get seasick, and hasn't been for ages. And, how does he pass the time until the catches are loaded? He is an artist, who paints with watercolor, on a little boat out in the ocean. Gosh; painting with watercolor is difficult enough without your artist's studio rocking around all over the place on top of the merciless ocean waves. Tonight, he came into the jam session and painted everyone on stage; that's a first, someone painting my likeness. And, he had a lot of his work with him, and he was selling paintings to people in the bar, and he sold me an 11" x 8 1/2" painting for five bucks, and it's hanging on the wall of my TV room right now. It's a picture of a fishing boat, and it's not unlike the painting I've included below...

I am trying, down here on the South Coast, to just live life; sometimes, yes, I still get anxious or depressed, but at other times, I find myself doing amazingly well. I came here to "slow down" and "work" on myself; a de-programming of sorts. Do I have all the answers? Am I where I want to be, in terms of personal progress? No, but then again, I suppose I could label myself as a "human being under construction; subject to change at any time". And, it's times such as I described above, in which I am really glad I came down here. One thing I've always thought about life in general is that we, as the human race, are not 'accepting' enough. We always judge, and our biases tarnish just about everything we do. So tonight, in addition to being a fun musical experience, was a learning experience as well.

Credit where credit is due: The painting I included above is by Nancy Poucher, and it is her rendition of a "Cape Cod fishing boat". I might have to try painting sometime. My Mom used to paint, and she got good enough to exhibit her paintings. But, in order to paint, I must learn one thing: PATIENCE. Hopefully that'll come with "re-programming" after my "de-programming".

Monday, August 13, 2007

The enduring saga of Paul McCartney...
He sounds pretty good at 65...

Remember back "in the day", sometime around 1968 or thereabouts, when all of the hippies were saying, "don't trust anyone over 30"? I remember when I turned 30; there I was, sitting under a tree in total shock. I couldn't believe it. Me, 30. Say it ain't so! And that was 23 years ago. Back in 1969, the Beatles broke up. They'd known each other forever, and I suppose they all got tired of it all. They all recorded after the group broke up, but the output of Paul McCartney is more than his three former bandmates combined. Of course, Paul has the edge now, mainly because he is still alive (and he's waaay more productive than Ringo...but even before 1980, when John Lennon was taken away, Paul had been recording albums and singles by the dozen, something which he still does today. Here's the evidence...

Pictured above is "Memory Almost Full", Macca's 2007 album. And, it's, in my opinion, the best thing he's put out since 1995's "Flaming Pie" album (which was so good it was scary)...the leadoff track, an infectuous little song, "Dance Tonight" is deceptively simple, yet it has that old McCartney melodic charm. My favorite on the album right now is "That Was Me", a spiffy little rocker on which he sings about his past off-handedly. In still another track, "The End Of The End", Paul says he doesn't want anyone to cry when he dies; rather, his friends & family should gather 'round and tell well-worn tales in rememberance. He'd rather have a wake than a funeral, I guess. Another song, "Gratitude", ties the memory of his late wife Linda, who passed away in the late '90s, in with the complications of his relationship with Heatheryoko (whom he'll divorce soon, if not already); and the overall impression I get is, "Paul sure sounds good for a SENIOR CITIZEN". And even though Paul, nor Starbuck's, who now issues his records, doesn't need my money, I'm glad I got the album. I even bought a vinyl copy. Had to special-order it. It took almost two months for me to get it. And that's what puts the "snail" in MAIL. So now I'm helping to finance an ultra-rich artist, as well as a giant coffee conglomerate. Modern times, huh?

Say it isn't so, NASA: We all remember the Challenger disaster of the mid-80's; Christa McAuliffe, a teacher, and the rest of the crew lost their lives just after liftoff. Now, Barbara Morgan, an Idaho lady, a teacher, and McAuliffe's original 'backup' is herself now in space. So she and the crew have made it that far. But will they make it back? Evidently there are some protective tiles missing from the side of the spacecraft, potentially posing a dangerous space-walk in order to either slap some high-tech 'Bondo' on the spacecraft, or perhaps screw in some new tiles so it doesn't burn up upon re-entry. I'm keeping my fingers crossed here. I don't like how this feels, but I'm praying they all make it back safely.

He's gone to that great stage in the sky: Who among us, at least those of us who grew up in the '60s and '70's, DIDN'T know who Merv Griffin was? I always enjoyed his breezy demeanor and watched his daytime talk show a whole bunch of times way back when. And he thought up concepts for a whole lot of game shows such as "Wheel of Fortune" and "Jeopardy"...whether you enjoyed those game shows or were annoyed by them, the shows, and the man who created them were an undeniable cultural influence. Just think; without him, Vanna White would probably be serving time in a secretarial pool somewhere. Merv Griffin passed away over the weekend; he was 82. Yeah, another icon from my past has departed this planet. I try not to think about things like that. Makes me think about my own mortality.

I hope they don't flush all the toilets at once: One of the pranks dormitory residents were ALLEGED to have done was to flush all the toilets at once; evidently that gesture caused a whole lotta plumbing problems in the dormitory complex I lived in at the University of Idaho. Well, I was watching a report on Northwest Cable Nooze, and one of the stories was about expensive real-estate, about how many houses in the 5-million dollar (and above) range were located near the Seattle area. One hyooooge house on Mercer Island is so hyooooge that it has 15 BATHROOMS. The water bill alone has to be more than the yearly income of Joe Bluecollar. All I can say is, if yer gonna buy a house like that, make sure the PLUMBING is good.

News Flash...ding ding ding ding ding...I remember the old teletypes and how they would ring maddeningly whenever a hot news story would announce itself; the doggone machine would almost vibrate itself apart in the process...anyway, I've heard a bit of news, just now, that is shocking, but in the end, I'm not all that surprised...White House aide KARL ROVE is gonna be resigning at the end of this month. Is he a good guy who needs a break from all the pressure, or is he just another rat jumping off the sinking ship of this Prezzidential administration? Or, was he about to be chewed up and spit out by the Washington scandal machine? I don't know the answers to those questions, but I know who first reported the Rove story: A "Roving" reporter, ha ha......

It takes no talent whatsoever to breed Finch: My finch are now the proud parents of four little finch. Amazing how fast they grow; some days, it's as if they double in size. The oldest little baby-finch hops around the cage a little bit; he can fly, but he's not quite strong enough yet to hit the high perch with accuracy; he either bumps into something or has to settle for a lower perch. A finch learning to fly is like me learning to ride a bicycle. I was too afraid to steer and I smashed headfirst into a telephone pole. Ouch. Back to the finch: The baby finch are now sleeping in a corner of the cage; I didn't want any finch falling out of the nest and hurting themselves. And soon I'll have a cage full of finch flying helter-skelter in all different directions. Soon I'll be spending more money on bird food than I spend on people food. Why doesn't it take any talent to breed finch? They take after "Polaroid"; mating takes maybe half a minute, and in a month, presto, all kinds of little finch birds are running amok. It's probably a good thing that humans have a somewhat longer gestation period. Of course, humans have a way of running around helter-skelter too.

Back to college pranks for a minute: I remember when someone ripped apart a cat-tail (you know, those things you see in rivers/swamps, etc)...and shoved it into the air blower at the end of the hallway. Then they hit the switch, and before you know it, cotton-like particles were floating everywhere, obscuring vision and making people sneeze. College education: Thousands and thousands of dollars. Learning new pranks: Priceless!

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Oh boy, THIS oughta be exciting...ZZZZZzzzzzz....

I have just found out that I am 50% addicted to blogging...(you can see for yourself in the left might have to scroll down just a wee-bit)...and I wasn't even gonna post tonight! But I ran across a site which featured 14 questions which supposedly determine how blog-addicted you are, based upon how you answer the questions. And the last question in that survey really set me up: "Do you plan to publish a post about what your blog-level is?" So, basically, I got tricked into posting tonight. It's not my fault, officer! I was set up! Honest! "SLAM" goes the door to the blackout cell...

There was one blogger who contributes regularly to a site I visit, who'd said he was eliminating one of his blogs, since the premise of that blog no longer fit him, the person. Well, okay, I can see that; after all, things run their course. At the same time, I've kept this particular blogging soap-opera going for over 600 posts now, and I don't really see an end to it, at least not in this millenium. So what keeps it going? I mean, soon, I'll close in on 700 blogs, and someday, I may even pass Barry Bonds, if each home run equals a blog-post. (although I do hit a lot of 'fouls' here!) What's the secret to the longevity of this blog? Well, it sure can't be any semblance of talent. Hard-headedness, perhaps. And a (perhaps foolish) belief that people actually choose this blogsite as a destination and take seriously the various topix that I expound upon.

I have never really wanted to be fenced into one category or another; in fact, this blogsite could be 'any' kind of blog on any given day. And maybe that's the key. No format! That allows me the luxury of popping anything into this blogsite without having to worry about any sort of sense of continuity. My blogging philosophy could be boiled down to this: "No a format". I think that us human "beans" are all multi-faceted creatures, with our own particular sets of complications; how can any of us really be roped into one corral, when life turns, twists and mercilessly undulates all of the time? So I suppose this blog could be a reflection of the different sides of ME that reveal themselves, and need to be dealt with. And of course, being bi-polar (which I am), probably only adds to the relative nerviness and sometimes zany sentiments which spout forth within my little corner o'cyberspace.

Sometimes I'm critical. Sometimes I'm humorous, although some would debate that. Sometimes I put nothing but sheer IDIOCY in here. And yeah, this blog reflects my various biases, that of being pro-Beatle, anti-conventional, anti-politically-correct, unabashedly anti-politician, and overwhelmingly disgusted with everything that concerns this current Prezzedential administration. Face's a JOKE. Except, that it's not funny...but I digress here...sometimes I write about music, or news, or sports, or feelings, or whatever else comes to could I ever have one blog, where I only wrote about one category of thing? And yet, I am much too disorganized to have several blogs, each of them about a separate "thing", and I'd be too lazy to keep them all straight. So I might just as well do things this way. Works for me! I've been influenced by comic strips, books I've read, political "spin" that I hear, various journalism instructors I've had, and it all just kinda synthesizes in a pseudo-osmosis-sort of way here. And sometimes when I read my entries over, I think, "wow, I did that?" And other times, I think, "gawd, I was in a bad head space there."

I am nowhere NEAR the person that I appear to be on this blog. I keep to myself, I am actually quite shy, and increasingly neurotic as the years pass and age takes its toll. But, my mind is always racing ahead of me at thousands of miles per hour, and when I put words in here, they seem to fall together much easier, than if I have to go and actually say them to someone. My mind has a way of running rampant, and that, combined with an almost 80-words-per-minute typing speed, lets my brain just speed along, zipping out words faster than I can think sometimes (a tendency with, sadly, is evidenced in the stuff I write at times). I observe, I read, I feel, and sometimes I even think, and it all gets pent-up until I "let loose" in here. Maybe the person I 'appear to be' on this blog is the person I would actually like to BE. Except, some of the time, I get kinda 'smart-assed' in here...I'm not sure I like that side of myself. But it's there just the same.

And, I think part of the reason I post here comes from some sort of twisted competition between one side of my personality and the other. I am always competing with myself, looking mostly in vain, for that refreshingly original way to say an original 'something'; always looking for that 'concept' or that 'emotion' or that 'viewpoint' which will really set what I do apart from everyone else. And maybe I'm a hypocrite, too. For, while I type this blog so that people will stop by and read, it is only very occasionally that I read the posts of others. So, add "self-centeredness" to that "smart-assed" side of my personality. And I'm not sure I like that side of myself either. But I really like to blog-post, and if someone comes away from this lil' place thinking "hmmm...that's different", then maybe I've achieved whatever affect I've tried to accomplish. I guess as long as my posts don't get as ugly as the little fellow pictured below, I'm doin' okay....

...the facial expression you see here represents that of readers who have endured my more moronic entries...

I do get a kick out of authoring this blog, even if no one reads it. And I find it amazing that I'm only "50% addicted" to blogging. Unless, of course, that's another way of saying that blogging takes up HALF OF MY LIFE! All I can say to that is, on Friday nights, I used to party. Now I blog.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Are we living in the age of...

We seem to live in a culture where the painfully obvious is oftentimes presented as a huge, startling innovation. The slogan that immediately comes to mind is BURGER KING'S "we won't make it until you order it" tag-line. (Or is that Jack-In-The-Box? All of these fast-food joints just kinda run together after a while...) So am I supposed to be grateful that my "McWhopper" hasn't sat under the heat lamp for several hours before some pimply underpaid counter clerk tosses it on my plastic food tray?

Continuing with this theme (you can see I'm attempting to develop my topic here), I think there was a winemaker who once advertised, "we will sell no wine before its' time"...which is probably good, because if you don't give the wine enough time, it's just GRAPE JUICE. See what I mean; 'painfully obvious'? Unconsciously or otherwise, it's as if we've been conditioned over the years, to expect LESS and LESS.

Another case in point...REPRISE RECORDS, the label once owned by Frank Sinatra, gloriously advertised on its' album sleeves, "Reprise play and play again". Well, I certainly hope so...I'd feel short-sheeted if I'd bought a new Jimi Hendrix or Kinks' album (both artists were on Reprise), and it disintegrated after I'd played it only a couple of times. Reprise used that slogan back in the '60s, so it becomes obvious that our sense of 'diminished expectations' has been with us for a while.

This next item was previously referred to, somewhere in this blog, long ago, but could apply here: Still another really dumb ad slogan was the one adopted by Snyders' Bread, a northwest bread chain that was recently bought out by someone else. Snyders' used to advertise itself as "The Good Bread". Huh? What? I kinda think, 'if it ain't good, why bother to make it?' And if someone's selling bread that's not 'good', they oughta be reported to the FDA.

So where am I going with all of this? Well, in the light of the idiocy behind this current Prezzidential administration, the next election looms. Come this time next year, we'll just begin to be bombarded by finger-pointing political advertising. This brings me to the subject of Howard Dean...remember back when he won a primary in the last election, and he was whooping and hollering over the microphone at a rally? He came off to a lot of people (or, at least to a lot of talking heads who transmitted the story) as a wacko. And it probably cost him any chance of winning his party's nomination, let alone the Prezzidency.

So, imagine, if you will, that Howard Dean works up the nerve to run again. What's gonna be his platform? Low taxes? Nah, we've been promised that before. Health care for all? Nah, prob'ly not gonna happen. A chicken in every pot? Nah...what with the rising cost of poultry, that probably won't be possible. But Howard Dean, the loony of yesteryear, can promise one thing...should he ever get brave enough to run again...

It's kinda sad, actually, that whenever I hear ol' Howard's name, I immediately remember him, holding that microphone, whooping and hollering; indeed, almost foaming at the mouth. And his Prezzidential aspirations may be forever tarnished by 10 or 15 seconds of vocal abandon on his part. Oh well, things could be terms of Prezzidential politics, Howard Dean (nor anyone else, for that matter) could NEVER be NEARLY as tarnished as Senator Edward Kennedy. Sad, really.

I am in the process of building up endurance in my left index finger; that's the one that controls the MUTE button; by this time next year, I'll be able to ZAP, ZAP, ZAP them political ads. And, that little Prezzidential countdown-clock (look to your left!) continues to tick, tick, tick away.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

It was a Long and Winding Road...
And they went thru a LOT of musical changes...

"Oh no", you must be thinking, "not another post about The BEATLES"...well, yeah, it is. And, what can be said about the Beatles that hasn't already been said? Probably not a whole heck of a lot. But, if you can, go back to the 60s...when "I Want To Hold Your Hand" literally, singlehandedly, touched off Beatlemania. Then flash-forward 3 years to 1967, when one of their big hits was "All You Need Is Love"...if you'd just touched down on Earth from a far-distant galaxy, you'd never know both songs were done by the same band; they sound absolutely and totally UNLIKE each other. Are the Beatles the classical musicians of the future, as some have suggested? Will people speak of the Beatles 200 years from now in the same tones we speak of Beethoven or Schubert?

Just recently, I listened to over 120 Beatles songs, chronologically arranged from the start of their careers to the final, tired year when they recorded "Abbey Road" and then went their separate ways. I have never ceased to marvel at the sheer variety of Beatles' music. For one session, Paul McCartney sang "Yesterday", and then at the same session, turned around and sang the raucous rocker, "I'm Down". "YOU TELL LIES THINKING I CAN'T SEE; YOU CAN'T CRY 'COS YOU'RE LAUGHING AT ME...I'M DOWN...I'M REALLY DOWN..." Musical turnarounds like that are just fascinating. When you can find the world's most gorgeous ballad on one side of a record ("Hey Jude"), then flip the record over for the screaming rock and roll of "Revolution", you just know both songs are by an amazingly diverse group. And one heckuva band, too.

Pictured above is an 8-record set which came out in the '80s, and these aren't just old repackaged albums; someone went to the trouble of actually cutting new records, and each disc showcases most of the high-spots of the Beatles' career. Usually when I listen to a box set, I am bored to tears because a lot of the music sounds "samey" after a while. (The sensation I experienced when I listened to a Bruce Springsteen 4-disc set of live performances.) In fact, I could have listened to all 8 albums in a row quite easily. Maybe I am biased, but time just flies by when I'm listening to Beatles' music. (This boxed set was issued abroad; it originally came out in England; I bought my copy from a guy in Australia, so it was issued there as well.)

And in the 8 records, 16 SIDES of material, first came their ebullient, fresh, exciting sound of the early '60s. As I worked my way thru this boxed set, in crept some of the weariness that they began to feel in the mid-'60s due to constant recording and filming pressures, as well as the worldwide touring they had to do, let alone the mind-numbing crush of Beatlemania, in which the Beatles became prisoners of their own fame. Then came the post-touring years when they became so creative; most of the "Sgt. Pepper" album is featured in this box set. Then came the years where they became "stuck" for inspiration, intermingled with business squabbles and personal differences. No longer did the music sound ebullient; it was still great, but with a certain world-weariness pervading the music. This final stage began with the "White Album" and pretty-much lasted through the end of the group's life...and beyond...

"And, in the end...the love you equal to the love you make..." That's a line from the next-to-last song on their final album, "Abbey Road"...and, listening to much of their repertoire in such a concentrated fashion, it was as if I was taking a 6-year time voyage in just a few hours. The changes they and their music went through, in retrospect, are absolutely staggering. One conclusion I've arrived at, is that when their manager, Brian Epstein, died in 1967, something within the group died as well. Paul kept them together, kept finding projects for them to do, and created resentment among his fellow bandmates in the process. Things could never be the same. They'd known each other for many years, and perhaps they all just grew tired of each other. And tired of the whole group thing. Still...what a thing it must have been, to be a Beatle. Nothing lasts forever...but when it was good, it was very, VERY good.

Its' hard to encapsulate the Beatles' saga in a relatively-few words, as I've tried to do here. And over the years I've run into people who don't like the Beatles AT ALL. Personally...I'm glad The Beatles came along. For me, their music still speaks.

Monday, August 06, 2007

They're STILL an American Band!
GRAND FUNK plays in the SAND on the OREGON COAST!

I don't care who knows it, and record critics everywhere be damned, but I always loved the sound of GRAND FUNK RAILROAD. And I was a fan waaay before "We're An American Band", their #1 hit from 1973. Talk around my high school was, that their albums were great. And indeed, they were. I know, 'cos I've GOT 'em all, and they've been in ye olde record collection for YEARS. Grand Funk was a power trio (guitar, bass & keyboards) that came from Flint, Michigan, and were hugely popular in the late-60s to mid-70s. What really set their sound apart was a sort-of-bluesy-soul-type SWAGGER that one could immediately sense in their music. And, after the Beatles broke up, I found Grand Funk, and gosh, I loved their sound. Their 12-minute version of the old Animals' tune, "Inside Looking Out" on their first "Live Album" was a masterpiece, and for that 12-minute time period, Mark Farner, their original guitarist, was the best guitarist in the UNIVERSE. And I still find their music tremendously exciting. It was hard-rock with a loose, deep groove. And I still love that stuff today.

There is a little town on the Oregon coast not too far from where I live, and every year, this little burg holds a celebration called "Dune Fest". Some of the sand dunes around the area are a hundred feet high or more, and all the ATV vehicle racers from everywhere come to compete. And, I heard over the local media here that GRAND FUNK was gonna be playing at DUNEFEST! Oh, my gosh. I don't care about most concerts, but this was GRAND FUNK, people! Now, I'd heard that their original lineup had some problems with each other, and I've explored both sides of those problems on the internet. But, I'd also heard that their original drummer, Don Brewer (who also sings very well) and original bassist Mel Schacher were still with the group. So, I thot, "well, the rhythm section's still intact". Gone from the original lineup, though, was original guitarist/vocalist Mark Farner, who will ALWAYS be one of my favorite players. The question's always been, "how can Grand Funk exist without Mark Farner, who also wrote a lot of their material?" And I've wondered that, too...

Well, things happen. Band members come and go. Being in a band is almost like being married to 4 or 5 other people. There are constant relationship struggles, problems, ego's, and what have you between band members. Been there, done that. So Mark Farner isn't in Grand Funk anymore. And that's sad. But, what was GREAT was that flanking the original drummer and bassist, are some VERY GOOD musicians who have got the Grand Funk Songbook down to the very last note. Yes, folks, I finally got off my posterior and actually attended an event where there were lots of OTHER people, something I don't do much anymore. But, as I said before, this was GRAND FUNK...and MOST of the original group was still in the band. And, what a show. And hearing musicians of this caliber immediately made me see the difference between pros and every-weekend-bar-bands who play forever in their home towns. For, the pro's are good. VERY good. Very, VERY good...

(The above pointy-finger was utilized to maximum effect on their "We're An American Band" album. I have the clear-yellow virgin-vinyl copy of which only about 100,000 were pressed, the rest of the copies being on old, frazzled black recycled vinyl.)

Grand Funk took the stage, and rocked like NO ONE CAN anymore. They began with "Rock and Roll Soul", breezed thru "Walk Like A Man", rocked out with "Footstompin' Music", and then, in a rock and roll moment I thot I'd never see or hear, they cranked out "Inside Lookin' Out" in which the guitarist did the little scale-climbs up the fretboard, culminating in that ONE HIGH NOTE that just has to be there...and I was in TEARS; those high whining guitar notes just set something off inside of me, and I felt "I'm not worthy; this is waaaaay too good." And, then they proceeded to kill me softly with their next song, "I'm Your Captain", which contains a yearning message and gorgeous music to match. I'd always felt that way about the song, but hearing it performed "Live" gave it a beauty and a resonance I never knew it had. And what song did they "Encore" with? "We're An American Band". They came to my town, and helped me party down. This music is immediate in its impact, easy to listen to, and most of all, FUN, which is just MISSING in a lot of today's rock and roll. For a brief moment, I was transported. It was the best time I've had in AGES. "We've played in a lot of places", the lead singer said at one point in the concert, "but this is a FIRST"! The stage was set up ON THE SAND, in between the ocean beach and the sky-high dunes that the Oregon Coast is famous for. And the concert was absolutely WONDERFUL. Of course, I might be biased...but I know good rock and roll when I hear it. And I heard it Saturday night!

Its' sad that original singer/guitarist Mark Farner isn't with Grand Funk anymore, but the guy they've got singing and playing rhythm guitar is a virtual dead-ringer for Farner, both in sight and sound. And their lead guitarist is very, very good. Their keyboard player provided excellent counterpoint to the otherwise raw rock and roll that comprises Grand Funk's sound. You can't have "Shinin' On" (another song they performed) without them keyboards, after all. Original member Mel Schacher plays the bass ultra-loud and ultra-melodic like he always did, and Don Brewer lashes into the drum kit with the abandon of an 18-year old, yet with the precision of someone who is rhythmically GIFTED. His hair might be gray, and Mel's hair might be GONE, but the spirit of rock and roll is alive and well in Grand Funk, and if you ever hear that they're playin' near you, I tell ya, it's worth it; YA CAN'T MISS IT.

Oh, and guess what? Don Brewer took the time to AUTOGRAPH my copy of the second Grand Funk album, the one with the red cover that I've had in my collection for 37 YEARS now. Again, 'I'm not worthy..." Thank you, guys, for all the great music. And, I came away from that concert with my "Rock and Roll Soul" replenished.

Saturday, August 04, 2007

Another weekend "whatever" post...
...totally without direction, but then again, aren't they all?

It's a wonder my computer survived: I think there is some sort of cosmic conspiracy out there to do away with this here little laptop computer, the machine with which I make fun of almost everything here in this blog. Last week, my laptop fell off a small table, onto the floor, a distance of about 2 and a half feet. The floor is carpeted...well, anyway, my computer got knocked koo-koo, but it survived. Then, last night, I had my laptop in my lap. I opened a 12-ounce bottle of cherry 7UP, and the bottle exploded...fizzed all over my keyboard. Ack! I immediately flipped the computer upside down, raised it and shook it, the idea being to keep the sugary carbonated liquid from shorting out my computer's fractured brain. And other than there being some sticky residue on the bottom of the "@" key (when I hit it, it pops back up, but makes a little "pop" sound in the process), my computer has indeed survived. Tonight, I'm drinking Gatorade. No fizz-danger there.

Water under troubled bridges: Oh my, the all-news networks are having a field day with this week's tragic bridge collapse in Minnesota. Some survived, some perished; not all of the cars have been removed from the river bottom, and already there are questions: Why did it collapse; why was the bridge "okayed" when it was previously determined it had flaws; why was money spent on a stadium in Minneapolis instead of being spent on bridges, yadda, yadda, yadda. Look, these ARE questions that need answering, but the way MSNBC (and probably other networks) are just pummeling this to death is almost distasteful. Dan Abrams points accusatory fingers at everyone, then at the close of the program, he looks into the camera widely doe-eyed, trying to convince the American public that he actually gives a damn about what's happened. Milking the story to death. This Minnesota Bridge-Collapse IS tragic. But let's pursue this with some taste and decorum. Please.

The fascinating weather on the Oregon Coast: I never cease to marvel at how fast the weather changes down here. It was gray & cloudy yesterday. It rained last night. It was partly-cloudy this morning. It was a bit less cloudy this afternoon. And late this afternoon, the clouds cleared out, leaving nothing but blue sky. I dropped everything I was doing and went to the beach. After all, you never know when the sun's gonna be out down here. I remember, a little over a month ago, the sun disappeared under the horizon at 9pm...tonite, the sun sunk under the ocean at 8:30pm. So the days are getting shorter. For that matter, "LIFE" is getting shorter. I remember an old record I used to have, written and sung by Hoyt Axton; the lyrics said, "Ten-thousand mornings and Ten-thousand sunsets, Ten-thousand chances to live the right way"...and so I'm trying to do that. You know what I like about the ocean beaches? The AIR. Clean, crisp air. Nothing like it. And there's nothing like an evening's walk at low tide.

I hope that this wasn't a tax-funded study: There was a study done recently, a big important study, involving human behavior patterns. And, I am sure scientists everywhere lived at least a portion of their lives vicariously through the subjects of this study. And, this study was monumental. And the results were monumental. Monumentally STUPID, that is. For it seems, the scientists who were undertaking this study, after much research, decided that the biggest reason people have sex is because THEY'RE ATTRACTED TO EACH OTHER. Who would have thought, huh? At the risk of sounding highly chauvinistic here, I know of an amateur country singer, Rojay North (a real egotistical jerk, by the way), who, back in the late 1970s, wrote a song called "Ugly Woman", not a song of any great reflection, tact or diplomacy. The basic premise of the song was "I never went to bed with an ugly woman, but I sure woke up with a bunch of 'em." Well, as another country yee-haw tune says, "the girls all get prettier at closing time". A case of "fractured attraction" at best. With a lot of beer. Let's just say that I don't play country music or hang out in redneck bars these days. It was fun for a while, but it ran its course long, LONG ago.

They still haven't done it, and we're tired of waiting: Alex Rodriguez, the 262-million dollar man who is currently a member of the New York Yankees (who knows where he'll end up next), is stuck at 499 home runs. He's something like 1-for-his-last 300 at-bats; he did manage to hit a single in tonite's game however. Alex has never performed well in the playoffs, when truly, the eyes of the world are upon him. Now that everyone is once again watching his every swing with baited breath, he's again having a tough time performing. (You can blame the omnipresent 24-hour sportsradio stations for pointing this out to me.) And, the same with Barry Bonds, the really giant San Francisco Giant. He's stuck at 754 home runs; he needs one more to tie and two more to break Hank Aaron's home run record. To try and be positive about this, Bonds is still getting base hits. But everyone wants the home run! I do, too, but only because the hype will die down. Hopefully, that is. Meantime, Richie Sexson of my beloved Seattle Mariners, can't buy a hit these days. He's so big and strong. And hitless in his last several hundred at bats. Several hundred, or so it seems, anyway.

Putting the pedal to the medal: Something that has always really bothered me: Whenever there's an Olympiad somewhere on the planet, the winner of an event gets a gold medal. However, when someone places 2nd, the sports media always says, "he/she SETTLED for a silver medal." Settled, my (foot)!!! What, being the second-best-athlete in the WORLD is some kind of a disappointment? I used to run marathons long ago before my body (which is a genetic dumping-ground) began going bad on me...I was a slow runner, but when I finished the marathon, a race volunteer would put a medal around my neck. And my medal was as hard-earned (if not more) than those of the two-legged human gazelles who breezed the 26.2-mile course in half the time that it took me to finish. I applaud ANYONE who tries to compete.

And finally, a headline for the times: There it is, on page A3 of today's "Register-Guard" newspaper...and I didn't really note the sheer irony of it until now. And it reads, "Congress sends ethics legislation to President Bush". Think about that. We've basically gone into Iraq at the behest of Prezzident Bush on false pretenses, A former CIA officer has been "outed" by someone close to the Prezzident's cabinet, the Vice President has all kinds of dubious connections to the Machinery of War, administration aides are advised to stonewall Congressional hearings due to recklessly invoked "Executive Privilege", the approval ratings of this administration are hovering at or near all-time lows, and everyone's basically waiting for the Bush administration to fade away on January 20th, 2009. (See countdown clock in the left margin) So, of course, Congress is going to send an ethics bill to Prezzident Bush. After all, this administration appears to have NO ETHICS OF ITS OWN. I have never been as disappointed in an administration as I am with this current one. Don't look at me. I didn't vote for him.

Back to the bridge thing for a moment: It was reported that 3,000 feet of cracks had been repaired on that Minnesota bridge before it collapsed. Today's paper said there's 70,000 'deficient' bridges around the country that need repair. That would work out to a potential 210 MILLION feet of bridge cracks here in the U.S.of A. Scary thought! That's just a projected total. It's probably worse.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Another One Bites The Dust...
...another newspaper meets its end in these tough times...

Yes, I am speaking of the "Weekly World News"...the little supermarket tabloid newspaper that has given me pause now and then as I passed the time waiting to buy my daily dose of ready-to-eat marked-down stuff from the deli counter. In spite of the fact I have a college 'minor' in journalism, I never got around to actually buying a copy. But I would always read the headlines. And I had plenty of time to read those headlines, since I usually had the unfortunate luck to be standing in line behind a time-consuming Lottery Ticket player who took all day and most of the night deciding which damn lottery games he wanted to play. Anyway, I came to realize that, in some weird cosmic-sort of twisted way, the Weekly World News made sense; it published the really TRUE FACTS...for instance, peruse, if you will, the following "WWN" front page from the past:

Well, if a space alien actually supported Governor Schwarzenegger, I'm sure it understood ol' "Ah-nold's" accent better than the rest of us. And the bit about Danny DeVito being "Ah-nold's" Lieutenant Governor makes alarming's widely known that DeVito always "looked up" to Gov. Schwarzenegger. As far as Princess Di appearing at the "Weekly World News" office, I'll bet all the journalists who didn't work there kinda feel a little bit cheated, y'know? I'll bet newshounds at the Portland Oregonian, The Spokesman-Review, The Coeur d'Alene dePress, The Seattle Post-Intelligencer, The New York Daily News, The London Times and many other papers worldwide had cause to break out their Ouija boards, hoping for the next big ghost-busting scoop.

Even if you never actually bought a copy of the "Weekly World News", and all you saw were the screaming headlines on the front page, you had to admit there were items in the "WWN" that made sense; after all, it COULD be true, right? I'm sure there are quite a few folks out there who think that the demise of the "WWN" is going to leave a great big gaping hole in the collective psyche of blue-collar America. And yet, there are still uninformed readers out there who always thought that the Weekly World News was as off-base as, say, your average enlisted man going AWOL. But they're wrong...they've just gotta be...I mean, the following COULD be true...

After all, didn't Prezzident Bush actually LOSE the popular vote when he first became Chief Executive? If the majority of the people voted for his OPPONENT, but yet Bush WON, it MUST have been due to some para-normal phenomenon, perhaps generated by far-distant civilizations from other worlds who are much more advanced than all of us hapless beings on this Third Rock from the Sun. And, it's another otherworldly miracle that the country hasn't FALLEN APART since Prezzident Bush took over. Which leads me to speculate about something else: Maybe Vice Prezzident DICK CHENEY is a space-alien, working behind the scenes. It could be true!

Finally, this last "Weekly World News" photo refers to something that is actually happening amongst Republicans and Democrats alike. There have been some Republican congressional candidates who've kinda balked at the idea of Prezzident Bush campaigning for them; even tho they might be losing by, say, a 90%-to-10% margin, they tell Dubya, "oh, this race is a lock; I'm a shoo-in, just go ahead and stay at home, George"...and in the recent dog-and-pony-show-styled Prezzidential-candidate debates, Democrats have come out blatantly against Bush, while Republicans try to 'distance' themselves from this adminstration in as tactful of a manner as I won't say that the rats are jumping off the ship just yet, but they're all wearing lifejackets in case it sinks...this last "Weekly World News" EXCLUSIVE PHOTO is, sadly true; friends and foes alike distancing are themselves from Dubya:

The demise of the "Weekly World News" is a huge loss for me. Whose headlines am I going to look at in the supermarket next time I need to forage for my quota of preservative-laden consumables? All I can say is, "lottery players, stay outta my way..."