Thursday, December 27, 2012

A father's love

I'm the father of sons and the son of a father (of course) and I can attest that while the love between a father and his son may not be talked about much it is nevertheless always there.  The story line in this set of comic strips made me wish that I had done a better job of telling my dad that I loved him, and helped me realize that I need to keep telling my sons that I love them - so they won't have to read it in the margin of my unfinished crossword puzzle.

Pearls Before Swine by Stephan Pastis

  • December 17, 2012Pearls Before Swine
  • December 18, 2012

  • Pearls Before Swine
  • December 20, 2012

  • Pearls Before Swine
  • December 21, 2012

  • Pearls Before Swine
  • December 24, 2012
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  • December 25, 2012

  • Pearls Before Swine

    Or as George Strait put it:

    I love my sons every day, always and forever, and I know they love me, too - it's just that sometimes we all need to be reassured of that love.  Just as Andy did.

    Tuesday, December 25, 2012

    Guns don't kill people...

    ...they just make it really easy for people to do it.

    ...bullets do, but that seems like a distinction without a difference.

    ...unless of course they discharge accidentally and the gun owner dies.

    ...but if you are in front of one when it goes off chances are you're going to be dead anyway.

    ...but if they don't, why are they called "lethal force"?

    ...and neither do IEDs - but don't tell that to anyone who has served in Iraq or Afghanistan.

    ...and the ones that hold a lot of rounds don't kill them even faster.

    ...and the Pope isn't Catholic and bears don't shit in the woods.

    Anyone, specifically including Wayne LaPierre of the NRA, who honestly believes that guns don't kill people should have his second amendment right to bear arms revoked on grounds of sheer stupidity or lack of mental competence.  A gun will kill a person quickly and efficiently as will any weapon of war - killing, in the final analysis, is what they are for and to deny that fact is either dishonest or ignorant, because the evidence is clear and overwhelming: guns DO kill people.

    If we could agree on this one simple fact maybe the conversation as to what to do to reduce gun-related deaths in America could move forward. Maybe we could agree that guns aren't the whole problem but they are certainly part of the problem - would that be a reasonable starting point?

    Because really - we have to do something to reduce the gun-related violence that is inflicted on innocent citizens in this country.  Does anyone have a problem with that?

    OK, one final time: Guns don't kill people...

    ...but rappers do.

    Thursday, December 20, 2012

    "Your proposal is acceptable"

    I admit my nerves are more than a little frayed by the latest incidence of mass murder using firearms, this one targeting school-age children for crissake, which are inevitably followed by pronouncements from the NRA that "guns are not the problem".  Some say that this time is different, that the age of the victims and the atrocity of the act have changed the dialogue concerning gun control and this time we will see meaningful regulations to rein in the gun-related violence that has plagued our nation for so long.  To which I say, "We'll see"; consider this headline from today's news: "Gun lobbyists [that would be the NRA] plan media push after Newtown massacre" - I'm willing to bet they will not be calling for any restrictions on the "absolute right" to own guns, including those that qualify as weapons of mass destruction.

    But maybe the cold-blooded murder of 20 elementary school children and several of their teachers was a cataclysmic event that will awaken the American public of the need to stand up to the gun lobby once and for all and demand an end to the unfettered access to the means of inflicting such violence - because let's face it, the politicians won't do anything until we make them do it.

    Here's an illustration of the kind of cataclysm I'm talking about and how it might affect the dialogue:
    I'm sure you already get the symbolism, but Edgar who is obviously used to having his way with everything, represents the NRA and his proposal is totally acceptable to an American public that is sick and tired of being told, "You can have my gun when you pry it from my cold, dead fingers".  I hope the NRA is in for as bad a day, metaphorically speaking of course, as Edgar experienced in this clip.  I'm not sure what the sugar water represents but it's pretty funny so I left it in.

    Here's the key scene again in case you missed it (and because it's so much fun to watch):

    Can you "Imagine all the people" rising up against gun violence?  That would be a very bad day for the NRA and a very good day for the children of the world. John Lennon, who (unironically) lost his life to a gunman in a senseless act of violence, had this to say (and it gives me hope):

    Please call your elected representatives and tell them we've had enough gun violence and you want them to do something to stop it! And if they don't, vote the cowards out because really, guns are the problem, or at least a big part of it, and we need to do something about them.

    Tuesday, December 18, 2012

    New Mexico Chili Cook-off

    This is the funniest e-mail story I have received in a long time so I'm sharing it here so you can have a good laugh, too.  Enjoy!

    For those of you who have lived in New Mexico, you know how true this is. They actually have a Chili Cook-off about the time Halloween comes around. It takes up a major portion of a parking lot at the Santa Fe Plaza. Judge #3 was an inexperienced Chile taster named Frank, who was visiting from Springfield, IL.

    Frank: "Recently, I was honored to be selected as a judge at a chili cook-off. The original person called in sick at the last moment and I happened to be standing there at the judge's table, asking for directions to the Coors Light truck, when the call came in. I was assured by the other two judges (Native New Mexicans) that the chili wouldn't be all that spicy; and, besides, they told me I could have free beer during the tasting, so I accepted and became Judge #3."

    Here are the scorecard notes from the event:

    Judge # 1 -- A little too heavy on the tomato. Amusing kick.
    Judge # 2 -- Nice, smooth tomato flavor. Very mild.
    Judge # 3 (Frank) -- Holy crap, what the hell is this stuff? You could remove dried paint from your driveway. Took me two beers to put the flames out. I hope that's the worst one. These New Mexicans are crazy.

    Judge # 1 -- Smoky, with a hint of pork. Slight jalapeno tang.
    Judge # 2 -- Exciting BBQ flavor, needs more peppers to be taken seriously.
    Judge # 3 -- Keep this out of the reach of children. I'm not sure what I'm supposed to taste besides pain. I had to wave off two people who wanted to give me the Heimlich maneuver. They had to rush in more beer when they saw the look on my face.

    Judge # 1 -- Excellent firehouse chili. Great kick.
    Judge # 2 -- A bit salty, good use of peppers.
    Judge # 3 -- Call the EPA. I've located a uranium spill. My nose feels like I have been snorting Drano. Everyone knows the routine by now. Get me more beer before I ignite. Barmaid pounded me on the back, now my backbone is in the front part of my chest. I'm getting sh*t-faced from all of the beer.

    CHILI # 4
    Judge # 1 -- Black bean chili with almost no spice. Disappointing.
    Judge # 2 -- Hint of lime in the black beans. Good side dish for fish or other mild foods, not much of a chili.
    Judge # 3 -- I felt something scraping across my tongue, but was unable to taste it. Is it possible to burn out taste buds? Sally, the beer maid, was standing behind me with fresh refills. This 300 lb. Woman is starting to look HOT ... Just like this nuclear waste I'm eating! Is chili an aphrodisiac?

    Judge # 1 -- Meaty, strong chili. Jalapeno peppers freshly ground, adding considerable kick. Very impressive.
    Judge # 2 -- Chili using shredded beef, could use more tomato. Must admit the jalapeno peppers make a strong statement.
    Judge # 3 -- My ears are ringing, sweat is pouring off my forehead and I can no longer focus my eyes. I farted, and four people behind me needed paramedics. The contestant seemed offended when I told her that her chili had given me brain damage. Sally saved my tongue from bleeding by pouring beer directly on it from the pitcher. I wonder if I'm burning my lips off. It really ticks me off that the other judges asked me to stop screaming. Screw them.

    Judge # 1 -- Thin yet bold vegetarian variety chili. Good balance of spices and peppers.
    Judge # 2 -- The best yet. Aggressive use of peppers, onions, garlic. Superb.
    Judge # 3 -- My intestines are now a straight pipe filled with gaseous, sulfuric flames. I crapped on myself when I farted, and I'm worried it will eat through the chair. No one seems inclined to stand behind me except that Sally. Can't feel my lips anymore. I need to wipe my butt with a snow cone.

    Judge # 1 -- A mediocre chili with too much reliance on canned peppers.
    Judge # 2 -- Ho hum, tastes as if the chef literally threw in a can of chili peppers at the last moment. **I should take note that I am worried about Judge #3. He appears to be in a bit of distress as he is cursing uncontrollably.
    Judge # 3 -- You could put a grenade in my mouth, pull the pin, and I wouldn't feel a thing. I've lost sight in one eye, and the world sounds like it is made of rushing water. My shirt is covered with chili, which slid unnoticed out of my mouth. My pants are full of lava to match my shirt. At least during the autopsy, they'll know what killed me. I've decided to stop breathing. It's too painful. Screw it; I'm not getting any oxygen anyway. If I need air, I'll just suck it in through the 4-inch hole in my stomach.

    Judge # 1 -- The perfect ending, this is a nice blend chili. Not too bold but spicy enough to declare its existence.
    Judge # 2 -- This final entry is a good, balanced chili. Neither mild nor hot. Sorry to see that most of it was lost when Judge #3 farted, passed out, fell over and pulled the chili pot down on top of himself. Not sure if he's going to make it. Poor fella, wonder how he'd have reacted to really hot chili?
    Judge # 3 -- No report.
    By now you probably have a hankering for some Red Hot Chili Peppers, so here you go:

    Sunday, December 16, 2012

    Moral Dilemmas

    Andrea Carla Michaels is a self-admitted name-dropper and because she has met some famous characters she has some interesting names to drop.  I won't try to impress you by reciting all of the names she has mentioned in the anecdotes she has related in posts I have read, but Bonnie Raitt and Neil deGrasse Tyson are just a couple of celebrities with whom she has crossed paths and whose names she has mentioned.

    So I was not surprised to learn  that Andrea had at one time long ago found herself in a social setting with none other that John Lithgow, the acclaimed actor, author and musician. What did surprise me, though , was what Andrea learned about John Lithgow during the encounter and the dilemma that knowledge caused for her many years later.  Andrea can explain it much better than I can:

    So there you have it, some "inside information" on a celebrity that may seem inconsistent with his public persona but really, what do we know about anyone other than what they choose to let us know?  As to Andrea's dilemma about whether to publicly expose the hypocrisy when she had the chance, well it's hard to say what I would have done if I were faced with the same situation.  But I think the take away lesson for Mr. Lithgow and all of us can be found in Andrea's closing line: "Don't cheat - because you never know who is going to tell the story 20 years later."

    Monday, December 3, 2012

    The Geminids are coming, the Geminids are coming!

    Everybody loves shooting stars and we should be in for a bunch of them later this month.  It's December already and that means that the Geminid meteor shower is coming.  The Geminids are caused by the dust and debris of an asteroid called 3200 Phaethon and they will peak on Thursday evening the 13th into Friday morning the 14th.  Conditions are right to produce up to 100 visible meteors per hour this year, so put on your parka, grab a glass of something to keep you warm and find a place with a view of the eastern sky in the constellation of Gemini (just to the left of Orion as an easy reference point) (viewers in the warmer climes can skip the parka - and if you live in the southern hemisphere sorry, you're just plain out of luck).

    December also brings the winter solstice for us in the northern hemisphere and this year it occurs at 6:12 a.m. on Friday the 21st.  Whatever holiday you celebrate to mark the occasion I hope it is a happy one.  The winter solstice marks the longest night and shortest day of the year, and then the days grow longer (and some say the cold grows stronger), so Spring cannot be far behind - now that's something worth celebrating!

    December 21 also marks the end of the Mayan calendar, an event which some say will mark the end of the world but which others regard as just the start of another cycle of the calendar - check back with me on December 22 to see who was right.

    The full moon, my second favorite night sky event after shooting stars, is at 5:21 a.m. on the 28th so the viewing should be excellent (weather permitting) on the night before as well as the night of - enjoy both nights if possible!  The full moon in December is called the Long Night Moon, which I'm guessing is a literal reference to the solstice, because if the full moon occurs before Christmas it's called the Moon Before Yule.

    Here's my musical tribute to the December night sky - "Winter Solstice" by Cold Specks.  I'm willing to bet you've never heard this before, so enjoy the song and enjoy the astronomical wonders of the December night sky - it's all good!

    Monday, November 26, 2012


    I've been an advocate of "disciplined practice" for a long time, and as principles of life go you could do a lot worse than "Everybody have fun tonight".  Here's a video of the song, performed by Wang Chung, with the lyrics so you can follow along and see what Eddie and I are talking about.

    So there you have it, the secret to staying unflappable in these troubled times is "Everybody Wang Chung tonight", and disciplined practice - lots and lots of disciplined practice.  And Eddie is right - children are little germ factories, so stay away from them (unless it's your grandchildren - they're OK).

    Thursday, November 22, 2012

    It's my birthday!

    "King David and King Solomon
        Led merry, merry lives,
    With many, many lady friends
        And many, many wives;
    But when old age crept over them-
        With many, many qualms,
    King Solomon wrote the Proverbs
        And King David wrote the Psalms."
    (James Ball Naylor, Ancient Authors)

    Another birthday is upon me and since this one puts me on the other side of 65 it's starting to get difficult for me to think of myself in terms of "middle aged" but I don't think of myself in terms of being "old" either - maybe "mature middle age" would be a good way to sum it up.  Still, age and aging have been on my mind lately so when I spotted a very small volume entitled "Plea for an Age Movement" among a stack of free books, I snatched it up.

    What I had discovered was a treatise written in 1941 by Ralph Barton Perry, Professor of Philosphy at Harvard University. He opened his essay, which runs to a total of only 23 pages, with the poem which I have reproduced above and goes on to say, "We have heard a good deal recently about the "youth movement" and I suggest that the time has come to start an "age movement".  It seems to me that not much has changed in the 70+ years since those words were written.

    "There was a time when old men held a good position in the world...The theory was that although we had slowed down physically...we had more than made up for it. We were supposed to have laid by stores of wisdom, so that we could offer good counsel...We were supposed to dwell in the realm of ideas and to survey all of history, so that we could speak profoundly...

    "Recently we have fallen to an all-time low.  We are retired at an early age from business and the professions. We are hustled by our juniors in politics.  And as to the armed services, it is universally held that what they need is young officers." This lament, written in the days preceding America's entry into World War II, describes the problem as envisioned by Prof. Perry and he goes on to expound, "The young, having ceased to respect their elders, have banded together and become a social class or political party, under their own leaders - a higher proletariat, unwaged and unlabored as well as unskilled.  Their opinions and sentiments are treated as touchstones of policy. Those who are old enough to remember several wars are supposed on that account to be disqualified from judgment about this one.  Those whose judgment is respected, those who are supposed to know what war is, are those who have never experienced war and who have even forgotten their history." Sound familiar?

    The solution to the problem seems self-evident:  "...(W)e have got to change our ideas of the value of age".  Perry suggests that to begin to  regain the ascendancy of aging we need to start an "age movement", and he suggests some steps we can take to reclaim the value of our collective experience and wisdom.

    The first step, Perry suggests,  is to engage youth on terms that utilize our strengths and do not expose our weakness, and to "never concede that the arts in which the young excel are in themselves more excellent than those which become our greater years."  We should act our age, not try to reclaim our youth, and take pride in the things we do well.

    Perry's second prescription is to make virtues of our necessities. "Age should not have its face lifted, but rather teach the world to admire wrinkles, and the etchings of experience and the firm lines of character."  What we need is new perspective to replace the "youth culture" that exclusively celebrates the virtues of being young and beautiful with one that values the attributes of every age because let's face it, none us stays young forever but all of us have have a contribution to make.  The Gray Panthers  (remember them? - they're still out there ) incorporate the concept in their core values, two of which are "Honoring Maturity" and "Unifying the Generations".

    Most important, attitude matters:  "It behooves us, then, as elders to take the view that the course of years is a passage from less to greater vitality, from inertness to activity...Whether a man shall live toward the past of torward the future, is for him to decide...Time extends in both directions, and neither is ever closed. Let us, therefore, consider every anniversary as the opening of a new chapter, rather than as a closing of an old, and our many years gone by as an accumulated capital to invest in the years to come."  So I have 66 years of accumulated experience, knowledge and (I hope) wisdom, and I hope I can use it wisely to make my next chapter useful, productive, and even more fun than  the earlier ones.

    It seems to me that the state of affairs concerning youth vis a vis their elders has not changed much since Prof. Perry opined so eloquently on the topic, yet I feel hopeful that I and my generation are ready to claim our rightful place in society as respected elders, if only because we have always had a sense of entitlement which makes us feel that we can have or be anything we want.  "We're not getting older, we're getting better" to paraphrase some commercial campaign from years ago - and I believe it!

    So if an "age movement" is called for, I'm in!  Sixty-six may not be the new 40 but it's not necessarily a sentence to irrelevant old-age, either.  In fact, I can't remember a time when I've felt better about life and what I have to contribute - so bring it on, baby, this old fart is ready!

    Hey, you know who else turns 66 pretty soon?  Jimmy Buffett!  Let's see what he has to say on the topic:

    Like I said, it's all about attitude.

    Sunday, November 18, 2012

    Black and white

    It's a complicated world and we live in complicated times.  Sometimes it can all feel a little overwhelming and leave me yearning for a simpler life,  a black and white world where the choices are very clear and offer no chance for confusion.  In the real world there are nuances and subtleties to every question but in my imaginary black and white world the choices would be stark - it's right or it's wrong, good or bad, yes or no, without any room for doubt or confusion.  Maybe not every one would agree but at least the choices would be clear, black and white with no pesky shades of gray to complicate things.  Such a world would certainly be simpler but not better, I think - it's the shades of gray and all of the imaginable colors in life that let us be the individuals that we are, each special in our own unique way.  So as much as I like simplicity, I'm not really wishing for a black and white world, but I know somebody whose world is black and white but still manages to experience life with all of its infinite possibilities to the fullest.

    I've written about Andrea Carla Michaels before and I've told you about her passion for words, but today I learned something about her that surprised me:  Andrea's dream-world is literally black and white.  In her own words, "...If they made me say you can only do one thing, it would be to make crosswords".  Crossword puzzles, it should be noted, are constructed in grids of squares that are black and white, so Andrea's fantasy is bi-chromatic in that sense but I hasten to point out that a well constructed puzzle, such as Andrea herself routinely delivers, is a study in nuance and subtlety of language so her "black and white" world is in reality much more complex than it would appear.  But don't just take my word for it, here's Andrea to explain it in her own words:

    How can you not love someone with that much passion for what she does?  If I had one wish to be granted, it would be that my sons would find something in life that makes them feel like Andrea does about her black and white constructions.  When you have that kind of passion for what you do all of life's myriad complexities become tolerable, because loving who you are and what you do is all that really matters, isn't it?  It seems pretty black and white to me.

    If you read this far you deserve a reward, so here's Three Dog Night to tell you why "black and white" really matters:

    This is the 200th post on this blog and in my opinion it may be the best one so I have to say, "Thank you, Andrea - you are an inspiration".

    Thursday, November 15, 2012

    Another meteor shower, another full moon

    Well here it is the middle of a new month, the presidential election is over, there's yet another scandal involving high government officials with trouble keeping their ego and their libido (and the associated body parts) in check, and still I have not provided the astronomical highlights for November.  But not to worry, you haven't missed a thing unless you wanted to send a birthday card to Fred Whipple, the American astronomer who worked and taught at Harvard for more than 70 years - he was born on November 5, 1906 and, among his other accomplishments, invented the Whipple shield to protect spacecraft from small particles by vaporizing them. Other November birthdays of note are the eponymous Edmund Halley (of comet fame), born November 8, 1656, and my favorite astronomer Carl Sagan who was born on November 8, 1934.  And if you were in northern Australia on the 13th you might have witnessed the total solar eclipse that occurred there.  But other than that, you haven't missed a thing, so on to the second half of the month which is much more exciting (and not just because that's when my birthday falls).

    First and foremost, the Leonid meteor shower peaks during the early morning hours of Saturday the 17th.  The moon will have set before the meteor shower gets going so we should be able to see about 20 meteors per hour as the Earth passes right through the debris field of the Comet Tempel.  So stay up late or get up early, either way it should be an experience that will make you glad you did.

    The other highlight for me will be the full moon on the 28th (at 9:46 am so the viewing should be really good on the 27th, too), which is called the Frosty or Beaver moon (I'm going to let circumstances determine which one I settle on).  A penumbral lunar eclipse happens on the night of the 28th (OK, I didn't know what that means either, so here's what Google has to say about lunar
    Lunar Eclipse Geometry
    Geometry of the Sun, Earth and Moon During an Eclipse of the MoonEarth's two shadows are the penumbra and the umbra.
    (Sizes and distances not to scale)

    Types of Lunar Eclipses

    An eclipse of the Moon (or lunar eclipse) can only occur at Full Moon, and only if the Moon passes through some portion of Earth's shadow. That shadow is actually composed of two cone-shaped components, one nested inside the other. The outer or penumbral shadow is a zone where the Earth blocks part but not all of the Sun's rays from reaching the Moon. In contrast, the inner or umbral shadow is a region where the Earth blocks all direct sunlight from reaching the Moon.
    Astronomers recognize three basic types of lunar eclipses:

        1. Penumbral Lunar Eclipse

        • The Moon passes through Earth's penumbral shadow.
        • These events are of only academic interest because they are subtle and hard to observe.

        2. Partial Lunar Eclipse

        • A portion of the Moon passes through Earth's umbral shadow.
        • These events are easy to see, even with the unaided eye.

        3. Total Lunar Eclipse

        • The entire Moon passes through Earth's umbral shadow.
        • These events are quite striking due to the Moon's vibrant red color during the total phase (totality).
    Now you might be wondering "If the Moon orbits Earth every 29.5 days and lunar eclipses only occur at Full Moon, then why don't we have an eclipse once a month during Full Moon?". I'm glad you asked! You see, the Moon's orbit around Earth is actually tipped about 5 degrees to Earth's orbit around the Sun. This means that the Moon spends most of the time either above or below the plane of Earth's orbit. And the plane of Earth's orbit around the Sun is important because Earth's shadows lie exactly in the same plane. During Full Moon, our natural satellite usually passes above or below Earth's shadows and misses them entirely. No eclipse takes place. But two to four times each year, the Moon passes through some portion of the Earth's penumbral or umbral shadows and one of the above three types of eclipses occurs.
    When an eclipse of the Moon takes place, everyone on the night side of Earth can see it. About 35% of all eclipses are of the penumbral type which are very difficult to detect, even with a telescope. Another 30% are partial eclipses which are easy to see with the unaided eye. The final 35% or so are total eclipses, and these are quite extrordinary events to behold.) Aren't you glad you asked?
    So there you go, night-sky watchers, set your alarm clocks and get out there to enjoy the splendor of nature in all it's glory - dress warm!
    Here's a nice little piano piece titled "Lunar Eclipse" to listen to while you try to understand that whole "umbra/penumbra" thing - in fact I recommend that you just close your eyes, enjoy the music and try to forget I ever brought it up (that's what I'm going to do):

    Monday, November 12, 2012

    It's Veterans Day (Observed)

    It's Monday so under normal circumstances I would spend the day driving a DAV van to take veterans to their appointments at the VA medical center and return them home but, somewhat ironically I think, I have the day off because today we observe the holiday which really falls on 11/11 which was yesterday, but it was Sunday so we get today off instead.  I've ranted here before about these "half holidays" and why I think they are an insufficient way to honor our veterans, so I won't repeat myself on that point.

    I read a couple of troubling (but not surprising) statistics in today's paper:  only 8% of Americans can claim veteran status yet an estimated 20% of the nation's homeless population have served their country in the military.  "This is a sickening statistic" is how the paper put it and I agree.

    This so fundamentally wrong on so many levels that I hardly know where to begin, but let's look at the first figure by itself and ask, "why has the burden of fighting our wars and keeping our nation safe fallen on so few veterans?" Only 8% - not even one out of every ten - of Americans have put on a uniform and stood ready to defend the country?  Really?!  No wonder we are so quick to send our armed forces into harm's way when all the other 92% of us have to do is claim that we "support our troops" while we go blithely about our day to day business with little knowledge of and no real appreciation for the sacrifices being made by those few men and women.  How can we claim to be a nation of patriots if we ask so much of so few and absolutely nothing of so many?

    Soldiers and sailors and air forces and marines eventually return home, the lucky ones anyway, to become veterans and we honor them by allowing them to become a disproportionate segment of the homeless population - what the hell is the matter with us?!

    OK, I don't have any easy answers, but this is a huge national issue (disgrace, really) that will require a political solution so I'm going to make a suggestion: as the new Congress and state legislatures convene and go about conducting the public's business, watch to see which ones support programs that benefit not only veterans specifically (but that's important) but also programs that benefit our neediest citizens by providing shelter, medical services, nutrition and other necessary support in their time of need.  These services will be expensive of course so watch to see which of your representatives are brave enough to stand up and say we must find a way to pay for them, because it's time for us as a nation to step forward and make some sacrifice on behalf of those who served us.   If your representative says we can't afford to assist those in need, including our veterans, then ask him how we can afford not to.  It's only fair.

    That's a lot to ask I know, but if you don't do anything else at all to honor veterans today at least take 5 minutes to watch this video and reflect on the sacrifice that these men and women have made on our behalf and ask, "what do we owe them in return?"  

    Sunday, November 11, 2012

    Meet Bill Audette

    I've written about Bill Audette here before - he's the old-time rock 'n roll rebel who hosts the Night Train Show on WMPG radio every Saturday afternoon from 1:30 to 3:00.  My previous posts have featured the music Bill plays on his show, the "history of rock and roll" as he calls it.  But of course there is much more to Bill than just the music he loves and shares with his audience every week.

    Recently Bill appeared on another show that airs on WMPG, "Desert Island Discs", that features extended interviews during which the guests are asked about the music they would want to have with them if they were stranded on a desert island. They get to pick 8 songs and explain why those are the ones they would want - the responses reveal their musical preferences  certainly, but also much more about them as a person.  The interview with Bill, skillfully and entertainingly conducted by Deb who was filling in for the show's regular host, Jeff Wax, revealed a remarkable man who has a passion for music certainly, but who is so much more than that.

    I was going to try to summarize what I learned about Bill by listening to his 90 minute conversation with Deb, but I don't think that's a fair way to introduce you to him.  It's better if you just go to the show and listen for yourself.  I think you'll conclude as I did that there is much more to Bill than the persona he shares with us every week on his show. 

    I think the measure of a man (or woman, but I'm talking about Bill here) can be taken by what he values;  Bill values family, friends, a career in which he takes great pride, and rock 'n roll,  and he's passionate about all of them - it seems to me that's not a bad set of priorities by which to live one's life.  Here's a dedication to Bill, because he envisions a world that can be better than it is and this is the song that expresses that for him:

    Now go listen to the show to understand why there is so much more to the man than his music (but you'll hear some pretty good music, too!).

    And if you are still not tuning in to The Night Train Show on the radio at 90.9 FM or on-line at, or listening at your leisure as I do by going to the TNT audio button at, what the hell are you waiting for?!  Bill's a remarkable man and he plays awesome music every week, and he deserves your support - so get over there and get listening!

    Tell him Dirigonzo sent you.

    Thursday, November 8, 2012

    The election is over...

    ...and Barack Obama has been re-elected;  rejoice with me or get over it.  Whether you like it or not, President Obama has four more years to try to set the country on a course that will ensure peace and prosperity for our nation. 

    I know that some Americans, particularly fans of Fox News, will take the outcome of the election particularly hard and I feel obligated to offer some relief to them.  So here's the thing:  the nation that Fox portrays is not real, it's a fiction constructed by them to make you think that a predominantly white, Christian nation is God's vision for the United States.  But the reality, as evidenced by the election results, clearly and undeniably establish that we are not the nation that Fox News so desperately wants us to be.  But don't just take my word for it, listen to what John Stewart has to say on "The Daily Show", which even though it airs on Comedy Central, still has more credibility than the talking heads on Fox News.  Click here to see why.

    Be honest, do you really take those people seriously or do you just watch them because they say things that make you feel good about your own wish for an America when white, Anglo-Saxon Christian values were all that mattered.  Because if that's the case somebody has a message for you:

    Seriously, this election produced a good result.  If you can't see that, maybe you need to rethink your priorities.

    Friday, November 2, 2012

    Some things never change

    The 2012 presidential election is a mere 4 days away as I write, and I think the candidates offer a stark choice for voters to determine the direction of the country for the foreseeable future.  I'll leave it to you to decide which one offers a path to a  brighter, more hopeful future, but just to put things in proper perspective, listen to what the Temptations had to say about the issues facing our country in 1970:

    Wikipedia's reference page about the song tells us, ""Ball of Confusion" delves head-on into psychedelia, this time with a strong political message. The lyrics list a multitude of problems that were tearing apart the United States in 1970: the Vietnam War, segregation, white flight, drug abuse, crooked politicians, and more. "Round and around and around we go", the Temptations sing, "where the world's headed/nobody knows." The end of each section of the Temptations' lists of woes is punctuated by bass singer Melvin Franklin's line, "And the band played on."

    Richard Nixon was the President of the United States in 1970 -  has any thing changed since then?  And will anything change depending on the outcome of the 2012 election?  I'd like to think that this is the election when we can decide once and for all if we are a nation that looks to the future or one stuck inexorably in the past.  Some things never change - or do they?  It's up to us when we go to the polls on Tuesday.

    Thursday, October 25, 2012

    Everyone supports our veterans...

    ...well, almost everyone, anyway.  Recent national polls show that 85% of Americans think it is more important to prevent cuts in veterans' benefits than it is to reduce the budget deficit - finally, something that a vast majority of Americans can agree on.  So why did 40 Senate Republicans block a bill that would have provided a billion dollars over five years to help veterans find jobs?

    I won't try speculate on their motive (but I think I know what it is, and it has to do with the upcoming presidential election) but really, given the untold trillions that this nation has devoted to waging wars that required immense courage and sacrifice on the part of our brave members of the all volunteer armed forces, why would we balk at spending a billion bucks to help them transition into the civilian workforce when they return from war?  That's a rhetorical question because there in no rational answer that doesn't involve crass political cynicism and hypocrisy, traits that are unfortunately all too common among those politicians who put the interests of their financial benefactors ahead of the interest of the country in general and our veterans in particular.

    I'm too angry about this to explain in any rational way just how wrong this whole situation is or why you should be as appalled as I am by the sheer duplicity of those who blocked the bill for their own political gain.  Happily for you, John Stewart has already made the case very effectively in his usual informative and entertaining way - so watch  this episode of "The Daily Show" and if you, after listening to the testimony of those two American heroes, are not as outraged as I am, well I guess you must be part of the 14% that John speaks of.

    Please find out how your Senator voted on this bill, and if he/she was one of the 40 who blocked its passage, then I hope you will take this into account when casting your vote because if they oppose a cause that is supported by 85% of Americans whose interests are they serving?

    And if you vote for any of those clowns you really need to get that "I support our troops" bumper sticker off your car.

    Sunday, October 21, 2012

    Garage Rock

    Up until recently what I knew about  "garage rock" as a music genre was pretty much limited to one song : "Louie, Louie" by the Kingsmen.  That has all changed for one simple reason - I listen to Bill Audette's "The Night Train Show" which airs on WMPG, Southern Maine Community Radio (90.9 FM/ every Saturday from 1:30 to 3:00pm (Eastern).

    Bill describes his show as presenting the history of rock and roll and it does just that.  When you listen to TNTS every Saturday you not only hear some great music, you also get the story behind the songs and learn interesting trivia about the artists who perform them.  Bill's knowledge about rock history is literally encyclopedic and he shares it with his listeners in a way that is totally entertaining, interesting and educational to boot!

    I frequently make requests for particular songs by going to  and clicking on the "request line" button - but here's the thing, I usually don't just request any old song that I want to hear, although if I did I'm sure he would play it. Instead, I check the TNTS website to see what theme Bill is featuring each week and try to request a song consistent with his theme, because if Bill is featuring "Doo-Wop" I think it would be rude to request an "acid rock" song.  Sometimes I try to learn a little about the genre before choosing a song by doing a little googling - this had produced requests for some long forgotten or even unknown (to me) songs that I really liked. 

    WMPG recently held its Fall Begathon, the semi-annual fund-raising effort the station conducts to solicit donations from its listeners to raise funds to cover operating costs.  I donated as generously as I could and I dedicated enough of my pledge to the TNTS to earn me the privilege of choosing a theme for a whole show.  I'm not sure why "Louie, Louie" was in my head but it started me thinking about "garage rock" as a theme for "my" show, so I typed the phrase into the search box and hit enter - it turns out there's more than enough really good music in the category to fill a 90 minute show so I decided that would be my theme.

    I emailed Bill with just the two words: "Garage Rock" and asked him to turn it into a theme and he promised it would be an awesome show - and was it ever!  Bill played musical selections from a variety of garage bands, including some local ones, that covered the whole gamut of the genre - but you know what - he never played "Louie, Louie"!  Now I could have requested it and I'm certain he would have included it in the show, but I didn't want to disturb his creative juices in any way because when it comes to producing an awesome show it's impossible to improve on what he does on his own.  I'm not complaining about the omission because if he had played that song he would have had to omit something else, and I would not have wanted to miss anything he played!

    But just to satisfy my own selfish need to hear the Kingsmen, here they are:

    After you've listened to the song, go to Garage Rock for Steve and get a 90 minute lesson on Garage Rock from the Professor of the history of rock 'n roll - I promise it will be the most enjoyable class you ever took!

    Tuesday, October 16, 2012

    The second 2012 Presidential Debate is on...

    ...but I'm not watching.  I didn't watch the first one, either, because honestly, nothing either one of the candidates says is going to change my mind about who to vote for - in fact, I have already voted! - so the only thing I could get out of watching the debate is aggravation, and I already have enough of that.

    So here's my alternate plan to watching the 90 minutes of  the all-network coverage of Barack and Mitt exchanging barbs and lies:  I'm going to pour a glass of bourbon, dial up Jimmy Buffet's Margaritaville Radio on the internet machine and go to "One Particular Harbor".  Why don't you join me?  You already know who you will vote for and Jon Stewart will tell you all you need to know about the debate on "The Daily Show" tomorrow night. 

    You can find Margaritaville Radio with Google and here's Jimmy to tell you what to expect when you get there. 

    Now doesn't that sound  like a better place to spend your evening than in front of the TV watching two men talking in sound bites while they try to convince you that the opponent's policies are the path to ruination and destruction?  You won't need a passport and I promise when you get to Margaritaville no one will ask to "see your papers".

    But seriously, please do not vote for Romney because the only "one particular harbor" he cares about is the one that will provide a safe haven for the $Billions that his cronies want to hide from the tax collector. If he says anything different during the debate, he is lying.

    I'm Dirigonzo, and I approved this message.

    Tuesday, October 9, 2012

    The Birth of Rock 'n Roll

    Rock 'n Roll is a music form that is uniquely American - it originated in the U.S. in the post-World War II era during the late 1940s and 1950s as an eclectic mix of Blues, Swing, Jazz, Country, Gospel, R&B and whatever else was being played that had an upbeat tempo and a persuasive back beat.  The music that we now call rock 'n roll was in fact around for a long time before the name was even coined to describe the genre that was the product of mixing and blending of all of those diverse musical forms, it just went by a variety of names.

    I'm telling you this because my old friend Bill Audette, the original old-time rock 'n roll rebel who rocks the airwaves every Saturday afternoon from 1:30 to 3:00  on WMPG, southern Maine Community Radio (90.9FM/ with the Night Train Show went above and beyond the call of duty this past Saturday with a two hour special, following his regular show, in which he showcased the music  from the very early years of rock 'n roll - the Birth of R&R, as he titled the show.

    As he does with all of his shows, Bill uploaded the show to his website,, so his fans (like me) can listen at their convenience. I'm still listening to it for the first time but I plan on listening many more times because it's that good! In fact it's too good to keep to myself and that's why I want to share it with you so you can listen, too, and enjoy some of the raucous, raunchy,  rollicking, sometimes racy but always entertaining sounds that became what we call "rock 'n roll", and that artists today are still covering, emulating, copying and trying to make their own.

    So go here billsnighttrain presents the history of R&R to download the two one-hour segments, kick back and relax, and prepare to enjoy two hours of the best early rock 'n roll you ever heard.  If you love real rock 'n roll I promise this will make you love it even more.

    If you like what you hear - and I guarantee you will - drop Bill an email to tell him so and thank him for all he does to keep the spirit of old-time rock alive and well on the airwaves.  Better yet, send a few bucks to WMPG ( - click on the "Donate" button) to help them stay on the air and provide a microphone for Bill to continue to tell the story of the history of rock 'n roll.

    Tell them Dirigonzo sent you.

    Monday, October 1, 2012

    Night Sky in October

    It's a brand new month (although I'm still not sure why the last month seemed to go so fast) so all you star-gazers out there need to know what to look for in the night sky in October.  It could prove to be a pretty exciting time if you are a fan of "shooting stars" (and who isn't?)

    There are two - count 'em, two! - meteor showers to enjoy this month.  The Draconid meteor shower peaks on October 7, although it's only expected to produce about 5 shooting stars per hour.  The Orionid meteor shower, which peaks on the morning of October 22, is caused by Halley's Comet and promises about 20 visible meteors per hour. 

    The full moon in October is called the Hunter's Moon (you can imagine why) and it occurs on the 29th, just in time to put an exclamation point on the end of an exciting month for night sky watchers like me. 

    Why don't you join me out on the deck to enjoy nature's wonders - we can drink a toast to Whoever/whatever created such a wondrous universe.  Dress warm.

    Maybe some Bad Company singing "Shooting Star" will help you get in the mood:

    Thursday, September 27, 2012

    "Split the votes" tactic as a way to electoral victory

    Over a year ago I fretted in this space about a means by which our great nation could wind up with a president backed by the Tea Party, which at the time still seemed like a "fringe element" with positions so far out of the mainstream that there was no way they could win majority support in a general election.  It turns out I may have been wrong on that point since the current Republican presidential candidate, a previously "moderate" Republican, had to move far, far to the right, into "Tea Party" territory in fact, in order to secure the his party's nomination.  So the election will tell us if  the Tea Party's positions are acceptable to a majority of Americans.  I'm not going to try to predict the result because I told you, I stink at political punditry.

    The scenario that I suggested could produce such a result appears not to be so far-fetched though, at least not as it applies to the Senatorial race here in the great state of Maine.  In fact, it appears that Republicans have settled upon my conjectured scenario as the road to victory for their candidate!

    There are three candidates to replace Senator Olympia Snowe, who is retiring due to her frustration with the state of politics and the resulting inability of Congress to pass any meaningful legislation.  The Democrats have nominated a woman who is campaigning as a "progressive" and is widely viewed as not a strong candidate among moderate Democrats and Independents.  The Republicans have offered up Charlie Summers, the current Secretary of State (favored by our Tea Party darling governor) who has taken positions in line with the Republican "base", which is to say the Tea Party.  I honestly do not know which of the two would win a head to head general election.  But of course, that's not the entire field running for the office.

    Independent former governor Angus King announced very early on that he would run for the vacant Senate seat, and he immediately became the presumed front-runner for the office.  Early polls showed him leading both of the other candidates by a substantial margin and it appeared he could actually receive a majority of the total votes cast.  And in an honestly run campaign, like we used to have in Maine, that would have been the probable result.  But this seat is too important - it could determine control of the Senate - for the moneyed interests behind the supposed "grass roots" Tea Party to let it be decided honestly.  Angus King, it must be noted, is an Independent candidate whose views on most social issues align more closely with Democratic ideals than Republican.

    Here's where the "split the vote" tactic comes in.  Conservative super-pacs and interest groups with huge sums of money at their disposal have started flooding the airwaves with two types of ads simultaneously, one forcefully attacking King and his record as governor with the intent of diminishing his support among moderate voters, and one to promote the Democratic candidate to increase the support she receives among Democratic voters.  The obvious goal is to split the majority of voters who will not vote for Summers so that he will wind up with a plurality large enough to win the seat.  Our governor was elected with 38% of the vote and Summers' supporters are hoping to achieve a similar result through their blatant and despicable efforts to engineer an election result by influencing the way in which the majority of votes are split. 

    Of course I am not the only one to have noticed this and many in the main-stream media have sounded the alarm, while some have started to call on Cynthia Dill, the Democrat, to step down in light of the fact that she has not road to victory and clear the way for voters to have a clear choice between King and Summers, a scenario whereby it would in all likelihood be impossible to "buy" the election for Summers.  I hope she heeds the call, preferably sooner rather that later because as long as the special interest groups think they can win by a "divide and conquers" strategy they will continue to buy time to air deceptive, misleading and dishonest ads without saying a single word about their candidate.  That's not how Maine runs its elections - but it will be from now on if they manage to pull this one off for Charlie Summers.

    Thursday, September 20, 2012


    Much has been said about "entitlements" recently, mostly by Republications seeking election by opposing any form of "entitlement program" offered by the government.  Most recently, the Republican presidential nominee was caught telling a rich group of potential donors that 47% of Americans "pay no taxes" and "think they are “entitled to food, housing, health care".  So there is that kind of "entitlement" being debated in the political arena.

    There is another kind of "entitlement" that you don't hear much about but that I think is just as important to the national debate as wanting food, housing and health care, and that's the feeling among the super-rich that they are entitled to squander the earth's resources and otherwise do whatever it takes to amass as much wealth as they can for themselves without regard to the consequences on the rest of humanity, and without regard for the well-being of anyone other than themselves.

    I was taught, "the world doesn't owe you a living" and I still believe that.  But I also believe that every human is entitled to food, housing and health care, and to the extent they can't, for some legitimate reason, provide those basic things for themselves we as a society, through our government, should provide them for as long as the need exists. 

    I was also taught that greed and the need for ostentatious consumption are not characteristics to be proud of.  I believe that the more successful (and let's define "successful" as "rich" for purposes of this discussion) one is, the more they should look for ways to give back to those, including the government I dare say, who made their success possible.

    So which "entitlement" is more harmful to our society I wonder?  Or to put the question in more basic terms, who deserves our charity more - those who cannot provide the necessities of life for themselves, or those who would amass unlimited wealth to themselves?  It's not a difficult question.

    Maybe it will help if I illustrate the question musically - who is more "entitled" to public assistance, this guy:

    or this guy?:

    (No insult to Arabs intended - my point is Ahab's wealth, not his ethnicity.  But you have to admit, that is a pretty funny video.)

    OK, maybe you still don't understand how the issue is being framed in this election so here's Jon Stewart to try to explain it to you - just click on the link and watch the first segment:

    And if you still think ending "entitlement programs" only applies to eliminating or curtailing programs like Social Security, Medicare and food stamps well, you probably have too much money already or maybe you've been watching too much Fox News - either way, I'll never change your mind.

    Hey, I'm entitled to my opinion, aren't I?!

    Wednesday, September 19, 2012

    I am the grasshopper

    I'm sure you know the Aesop fable about the ant and the grasshopper, wherein the grasshopper spends the whole summer playing while the ant works diligently to put stores away for the impending season.  I was reminded of this recently when a friend was telling me all of the work she was doing to get her house ready for winter, while I spent every available hour lounging by the pool without a care in the world.

    I thought it would be kind of cool to write about that conversation and use a video of the fable to illustrate the contrast between our attitudes about what summer is all about.  Well, I have to say most of the youtube videos on the topic are pretty lame; the only hopeful one seemed to be a Walt  Disney Silly Symphony from 1934 but that was just a little too dated and involved way too much spitting.

    Then, as luck would have it, I stumbled upon a short piece that not only made the point about the grasshopper's laziness compared to the ant's industriousness, but it also puts the whole fable into a context that's relevant to the current times - it's perfect!  Here it is for you to enjoy and to learn the moral (I'll leave it to you to determine just what that is):

    It's a comforting thought to me that although I frittered the summer away sitting by the pool drinking beer and getting an all over tan, I really don't have to worry about freezing to death this winter because I, unlike the ant, have a pretty decent government pension to fall back on.  I may be lazy, but I ain't broke and I never will be unless Congress manages to bring the whole federal government to its knees through political mismanagement of its financing.  The scary thing is, that seems like a real possibility right now.

    But hey, we grasshoppers will deal with that when the time comes - until then, it's time to make music and play because, you know, that's what we do, dude!

    Monday, September 17, 2012

    "Southern Maine Community Radio"

    I've written here before about WMPG, the radio station of the University of Southern Maine, which bills itself as "Southern Maine community radio",  and now I'd like to elaborate a little on just what "community radio" is all about from the perspective of  one member of the community - me.

    I listen to WMPG a lot and one thing I have noticed is that every volunteer DJ (with the notable exception of "the Humble Farmer") gives the phone number (780-4909)  to the station and invites listeners to call in with requests, comments, feedback or whatever is on their minds.  I'm a literal-minded person, so I take them at their word and I often call in to make a comment or request a song.  And the surprising thing is, they (almost) always answer and seem genuinely glad to talk to a listener and they're eager to do whatever they can to please their audience.

    So when I called Suzanne while she was hosting The Evenin' Blues show last week and requested a song by Saffire-The Uppity Blues Women, she was sincerely sorry that she didn't have anything with her to play but she promised to play something for me on her next show, which was today.  And she delivered on her promise in "community radio" style!

    This afternoon when I tuned in to Suzanne's "Red, hot and blues" edition of the Evenin' Sun I was treated to not one song, but almost an hour's worth of music from Saffire and it's members who have gone off to do their own thing - she played my request alright, but on steroids!  And of course I called her to thank her, because when you're part of a community, that's what you do.

    The Fall Begathon, WMPG's semiannual fundraiser, starts soon and you can be sure that I will call Suzanne again with a pledge of support - I hope that you will, too.  Here's some Saffire-the Uppity Blues Women to tell you why you should:

    Monday, September 10, 2012

    Ray and Ola's

    Just a short walk from the high school I attended there was a lunch counter/soda fountain/general teen hang-out called Ray and Ola's named, not surprisingly, after its owners, Ray and Ola. It had a counter with stools, a few booths, a jukebox and a pin ball machine, but mostly what it had was location as it was within easy walking distance from the school so it was a natural place for kids to go to at lunch and after school.  To say that the place was constantly mobbed at those times would be an understatement - it was THE place to go to meet friends, catch up on the latest news about who was going out with whom, and maybe engage in discreet public displays of affection with your sweetie, and you could stay for hours for the price of a cherry-coke.

    Ray and Ola's was, I think, the east coast small town version of places like Arnold's, which was the fictional Milwaukee drive-in the gang from Happy Days used to frequent, or Mel's Drive-In, the real life teen gathering place featured in the movie "American Graffiti".  In the '60s teens everywhere, it seems, needed a place to gather, to socialize and be seen, and occasionally, truth be told, to cause a little mischief.

    I don't know if such places exist today; it seems teens lives now are more structured with lots of organized activities to occupy them after school and not a lot of time to just "hang out" the way we used to.  I know there is a teen facility operated by the school department in the small town where I now live that is intended to give teens a safe place to go meet with friends, play games and otherwise occupy themselves in their spare time, but somehow it just doesn't seem to provide the same kind of atmosphere that a place like Ray and Ola's did.

    I have no idea why I am telling you all this, but at least it gives me an opportunity to post a couple of song's from the era that were likely to be on the juke box at Ray and Ola's. The British invasion was just getting under way in the early '60s and the charts were dominated by the likes of the Beatles and the Dave Clark Five, but at Ray and Ola's you were more likely to be listening to a song about teen love, like this -

    or teen angst, like this -

    (I seem to remember that the girls picked most of the songs we listened to.)

    Whatever the reason it was on my mind, I can never think of Ray and Ola's without being reminded of this song from Jimmy Buffett - I think you'll see why:

    I hope Ray and Ola got to enjoy a second honeymoon in Pensacola - after putting up with us for all of those years I'll bet they really needed one - and they certainly deserved it!

    Wednesday, September 5, 2012

    Singin' the Blues...

    "The blues" covers a lot of territory as a musical genre - there's Chicago Blues, New Orleans Blues, Zydeco, St. Louis blues and lots more, but it seems it's all uniquely American - it tells the story of our sorrow and our hope.

    My first recollection of the blues is about a song that's not even real blues, it's a song about "Singing the Blues" - here's Guy Mitchell to tell you all about it:

    I was about 10 years old when the song was released and for a long time it was about all I knew about the blues.  I know a lot more now then I knew then but I'm still no expert.  But one thing I have learned is that while "singing the blues" can mean feeling down and out it can also be about hope and joy and the triumph of the human spirit.  And here's Saffire - The Uppity Blues Women to tell you all about that kind of blues:

    "Dance with death or dance with life, which one do I choose...?"

    And sometimes the blues is just pure entertainment, as the Huxtable family demonstrates in my favorite version of Ray Charles' "The Night Time is the Right Time":

    Like I said, "the blues" covers a lot of territory, and it's all good.

    Monday, September 3, 2012

    Labor Day with WMPG

    The fog finally cleared and the sun burst through just before noon so I grabbed my portable radio and a bottle of beer and headed for the pool deck.  Really, I can't imagine a more perfect way to spend a lazy afternoon on the traditional last day of the Summer season.

    Amy Goodman came on at noon with an hour long interview with Congressman John Lewis, a pioneer in the Civil Rights movement.  The discussion contrasted current attempts to limit voting rights with the sacrifice made by civil rights activists to increase voter eligibility in the '60s.  It was a moving and insightful program that  put the current discussion of proposed legislation to prevent perceived "voter fraud" in a proper historical perspective.  I hope you will find it and listen to it.

    Jeff Wax did an admirable job of filling in for the regular show that follows Amy Goodman by playing and discussing a selection of early rock and roll from the '50s.  What I loved about the show was his narrative about the history of the selections he played, and I called him to tell him so.  Late in the show he played a song from 1954 that was one of my earliest recollections of music from the era ( I was 8 years old) - it's still a great song today, so here it is for you to enjoy, too:

    Jeff's show was followed by Ben, who has a regular Monday afternoon show  featuring hip-hop, of which I am not generally a fan.  But maybe because of the spectacular weather, or possibly the beer, I really got into his music this afternoon.  One song in particular caught my attention: HWA, I Aint' no Lady - listen carefully to the lyrics and you'll see why:

    Ben's Hip-Hop was followed by Suzanne's regular Monday edition of Evenin' Sun, which she calls Red Hot and Blues.  She did a smoking hot set of blues featuring a Labor Day theme involving work, jobs and money, including this timely entry:

    Can you think of a better way to spend a sunny Labor Day afternoon?

    Sunday, September 2, 2012

    "The Old Man and the Seat"

    I've said before that I get my TV news from Comedy Central, principally from "The Daily Show" with Jon Stewart, and the episode from August 31 is a prime example of why this is true.

    Because I don't generally watch the "lame-stream media" news coverage I was totally unaware of the buzz that Clint Eastwood had caused by his appearance at the Republican National Convention, where he preceded Mitt Romney's moment in the national spotlight with a 12 minute monologue with an empty chair! 

    Clint's performance, followed by Mitt's acceptance speech occurred on a Thursday night and when I read about them Friday morning my first thought was, wow - I wonder what Jon Stewart's take on all of that is going to be?  But because "The Daily Show" doesn't normally air on Friday I thought I would have to wait until after the weekend to hear his take on the events.  Happily, I was wrong.

    The Daily Show's coverage of the convention was extended to include a Friday show and Jon outdid himself in commenting on the Eastwood performance and Romney's remarks to expose the whole Republican platform for the fraud that it is.  They have no agenda other than to defeat an invisible Barack Obama that only they can see, in order to return America to a past that never existed.

    Please, watch for yourself and then tell me, is that not the funniest yet most truthful coverage of the Republican Convention that you have seen anywhere?

    I can hardly wait to see what they have to say about the Democratic Convention next week!

    Tuesday, August 28, 2012

    A tribute to clam diggers

    The "Maine lobster" is an iconic symbol of our state and an important contributor to our economy, but there is another shellfish that is also important, and to my taste no less delectable: soft shell clams, more commonly referred to by locals as "steamers".  No self-respecting "Down East" shore dinner would be complete without steamers, and I enjoy them as a meal all by themselves - a plate of clams, a bowl of melted butter and a cold bottle of beer is about all it takes to make me a happy diner.

    The men (and women, I guess, but I have never known any) who harvest soft shell clams are generally a hard working lot who do  a (literally) back-breaking job, bent over at the waist and turning the mud over with a clam hoe to expose their quarry.  Their work schedule is dictated by the tides  ("as happy as a clam at high tide" is a common expression around here) and they seldom let inclement weather deter them; the real pros work year-round, going out on the mud flats even in the dead of winter when the conditions can be pretty extreme.

    Clam diggers not only make an important contribution to the Maine economy but a few years ago they organized themselves as The Maine Clammers Association and became an effective force in advocating for sound environmental policies and industry management practices to protect the resource and the habitat that sustains it.  They have worked effectively with the state legislature to pass reasonable regulations and with local wardens to optimize local controls.  It turns out that what's good for the clammers is generally good for the environment so it's a win-win situation when they advocate for change to improve their own circumstances.

    Unfortunately clammers, unlike lobstermen,  have never received much recognition for their contributions to the economy and the environment.  When lobster prices are down, as they are this summer, due to a glut in supply it's all over the headlines, with everybody from the Governor on down calling for action to protect the industry (a political aside:  Linda Bean, a prominent Tea Party supporter and business woman with a big stake in the lobster industry, was recently quoted as saying, "I'm no protectionist, but we need protection [from Canadian processors who are buying Maine lobster at bargain basement prices]" - you just have to love the irony).  But when Red Tide or other conditions cause the clam flats to close it barely gets a mention in the media. 

    So this weekend when there was mention of clam diggers in the only section of the newspaper that is important to me (that would be the comics), I took notice.  And I was so happy to see it and enjoyed it so much that I wanted to share it here.  So without further ado, here is a tribute to clam diggers everywhere as published in Chad Carpenter's Tundra (copyright Tundra 2012).  I don't know who the bearded guy on the left is, but I'm pretty sure the other two are Chad Coffin (president of the MCA) and Earl Rowe, two clammers I know from the hardware store.

    OK, maybe that's not the image I should leave you with so here's a pretty good video to give you and idea of how hard - an rewarding - a clammer's life can be:

    But you have to admit, that comic strip is pretty cool.