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Sunday, August 20, 2017

Reflecting on the Eagles and Their Music

    (Editor's note: The above picture features the Eagles with touring drummer Joe Vitale, the best drummer the band ever had)

    The last Eagles post I put to this site was more than a touch hotly worded--I was still working out some bad feelings I was having with a popular Eagles online forum, but the basic sentiment still remains. One of the great bands of the 1970's and early 1980's has become a Vegas tribute act. For a month's salary, you can hear country crapper Vince Gill and his backing band churn out a plastic, lifeless version of "Take it to the Limit." But enough of that. I'm hear to talk about the real band, the reason you're here reading this post.
    To say that the year 2016 was something else is understating things considerably. Right on the heels of the death of Pop/Rock mega-star David Bowie, on January 18, 2016, Glenn Frey, front-man and lynchpin song-writer for the Eagles, died as a result of pneumonia contracted during a hospital stay necessitated by the need for further intestinal surgery. I was sad when Alvin Lee of Ten Years After died in March, 2013. I was very sad when Jack Bruce of Cream died in October, 2014, and when Gary Richrath of REO Speedwagon died in September, 2015. Frey's death precipitated a whole new level of sadness for me, as the Eagles have long been one of my favourite bands.

     Admittedly, my introduction to the band initially didn't yield the best results. When I was little, I was put off by the insipid sounds of "The Best of My Love" and "I Can't Tell You Why." My later introductions to "Take it Easy" and the acoustic live version of "Hotel California" from the "Hell Freezes Over" re-union album only added to their dubious reputation. Many others came and went, never impressing me much. The only song I liked was "Already Gone," and listening to that song one early morning in 2008 ignited a musical fire that resulted in my being introduced to the bands and sounds that now foundation my musical tastes.

    This musical transformation also coincided with young me coming to full terms with my attraction to the opposite sex. It was no surprise that, as I was embracing more love-oriented lyrics, I came to take even more of a shine to some of the more delicate songs of the Eagles. Songs like "Peaceful, Easy Feeling" and "New Kid in Town" took on new and better meanings. The latter song served as an inspiration to me, alongside "Free Bird" by Lynyrd Skynyrd and "Day Tripper" by the Beatles, with regards to my ill-fated daydreams of of pursuing music as a career option. Throughout the remainder of my adolescence, the Eagles would continue to make their out-sized mark and help expand the musical horizons.

    There are some albums you'll always remember buying. If you've bought as many as I have, this says a lot. One such album is the Eagles' "On the Border" album, which I bought in February, 2012. The title track drew me in most of all, but it was songs like "You Never Cry Like a Lover," "My Man," and "Ol' 55" that made the album what it is. For a band that had as many good songs as did the Eagles, to discover even more came as a pleasant surprise. Later in the year, with newfangled Christmas money, I was introduced to the "One of These Nights" LP, which blew even more doors off my mind and served as a pacifier in the beginnings of a very turbulent period in life. The songs "The Hollywood Waltz" and "Journey of the Sorcerer" remain big favourites to this day.

    "King of Hollywood" is a song that says more than most others in the band's catalogue. The song chronicles the pratfalls of fame and seeking out the best talents. For one thing, I've conducted my life as something of that type of guy. In the early days of my College education, when I would see a girl I liked and wanted to learn more about, I would stand back and sponge in information like full names and such, look them up on Facebook, and let the dominoes fall where they may. Private investigating. I'm the reason you hate Facebook--I've fallen a step or two short of being a full-bore stalker. I don't do that any more, as it would make for far too many uncomfortable opportunities. Still, the truth remains. I'm always on the hunt for love, always wanting to know more. A perpetually broken heart looking to make his mark.

"What you get is not quite what you choose."
Eagles, "How Long"

    When a particularly potent crush I had went up in smoke in Spring, 2016, all I listened to that day, before and after, was Eagles albums--Five of their six classic-era studio albums(I did not give "The Long Run" a listen that day). I had just gotten the Rolling Stone commemorative edition magazine for the band, so I was in even more of a mood for the band. Moreover, the music for that moment communicated more to me than an album by the Doors or REM would have. "Tequila Sunrise" and "New Kid in Town" were stand-outs from that day, particularly the latter song. With the lyric "Everybody loves him, and he's holding her, and you're still around," I nearly wrecked my car on the highway with all the tears in my eyes. I knew it was over. 3 1/2 turbulent months culminated in my washing back my sorrows with Eagles music and Diet Coke. Of course, I've learned in life that there are far worse things in the world than angling for a nice young something over dinner and getting Glenn and Don over the speakers instead.

    The local rock radio station has been advertising ticket sales for the new Eagles concert sometime this fall. This stabs me in the heart. Back in 2013, I was really keen on seeing the Eagles in concert. Coming on the heels of the documentary "History of the Eagles," which made a most compelling case for the band, it was something I felt particularly pressed to do. They had tour dates in Louisville, KY, and in Birmingham, AL, and a road trip looked very appealing. When an Atlanta, GA, concert was announced, I was amped. However, a lot of things fell through in the lead-up to the concert, and I missed out. My last opportunity was a 2015 Greenville, SC, concert I wasn't even aware of due to numerous distractions in my life at that time. I shouldn't fret the fleeting, earthly things, but it still grinds me that I missed out on seeing them. This, it should be said, will not compel me to go see the new band.

    The Eagles under-pinned the most formative and memorable experiences of my life, and that's a contribution money just can't buy.

Friday, August 11, 2017

Erin Burnett, CNN, and Future Prospects

    With the spectre of a Nuclear War with North Korea and the Kim Dynasty looming large, CNN has found time to criticize Trump's words. In keeping with Presidential traditions, he has vowed a response of “fire and fury” if the North Korean government follows through with their threats. By “Presidential traditions,” I am thinking of how Democratic Presidents Franklin D. Roosevelt and Harry Truman responded to threats from the Pacific-Asian empire wannabes. Roosevelt proclaimed a “Day which will live in infamy.” Truman dropped not one, but two atomic bombs in an attempt to end the 'big war.' Would CNN have had a problem with their 'words'(to say nothing of, GASP, their 'actions')? Talk about a pointless tangent.

    Erin Burnett, one of the leveller heads on that network, has found herself dragged into the muck and mire of CNN's latest ratings ploy--Coming down hard on the 'Resistance' and becoming their network of choice, essentially the Liberal version of Fox News. This metamorphosis on her part is puzzling, as I don't actually suspect she's that Liberal. As a long-time fan and watcher of her show, I have seen what she's capable of as a news presenter and reporter(long story short, a LOT). I've also seen shades of her true character in the earlier years of the show, and I was impressed. Recent shifts in the nature of her program, particularly over the course of the past year, have perplexed me. Clearly, CNN is not utilizing her for her talents. They're going after the bigger agenda, and using her as just another brick in the wall.

    I'm now of the opinion that Erin Burnett should parachute out of her CNN contract. They're not serving her well having her cover Trump 24/7. Having seen her show from the beginning, I know this isn't the real Erin. That I still see shades of the real her time and again, usually towards the end of the show(her voice cracked a little the other night when she reported on Glen Campbell's death), says it's not her fault. Burnett's beginning style was personable and incisive, and she really did try to get to the bottom of a story. The original purpose of the show was to "Go to the front lines, focus on our reporting, and find the 'OutFront Five'(Five top stories, and I'd be keen to use that as a band name)." CNN now has her echo company brass and pander to the 'Resistance' crowd to win views.

    She might be going along with CNN to help take care of her kids, but I do think there are far better options at hand whereby she can both ensure the livelihood of her family and also make a more positive contribution to reporting. Some place like Bloomberg or an NBC national affiliate would be more accommodating to the middle-of-the-road reporting at which she has historically excelled. MSNBC may veer more towards the left, but they are at least honest about their team colours and they do allow for hard reporting(Holt, Lester and Tur, Katy) and opposing viewpoints(see Scarborough, Joe and Wallace, Nicolle) to hold down time-slots. CNN calls themselves news, but, apart from Jake Tapper's show, are really positioning themselves as the network of Trump's resistance, in much the way Fox is the vehicle for Trump's agenda. Erin Burnett could give Katy Tur a run for her money as the journalistic star of the network(remember the old CNBC battles between 'Money Honey' Maria Bartiromo and 'Street Sweetie' Burnett?), or become the big star at her old stomping grounds over at Bloomberg.

    There are others, I'm sure, who are in similar positions at CNN, but Burnett is the one who most positively factors into my consciousness, so I talk about her. Here's a personal story regarding my awareness of her true character: On a Friday night in January, 2013, my father suffered a seizure, his third so far. While he survived, it was still a fraught experience. As I sat in the hospital waiting room, I saw a clip of her show playing on the TV. I tweeted out to all the world that, much as I disliked hospital television, it was nice to see her again. In the surreal moment of my now-late Grandmother and I watching(and laughing at) an episode of "Family Guy," my phone vibrated. Guess who had tweeted back? Erin had thanked me for watching her show and said she hoped I was doing all right. Thinking the last part may have been inspired by my allusion to hospital television, I responded by thanking her and mentioning my father had a health relapse earlier in the evening. She tweeted again to wish him well. That made my night a whole lot better, and cemented my perception of her as a person. Don't talk about this much because it's a very special memory for me and I don't want to beat it to death. I know she's been going through a difficult time of late with the passing of her mother, and I wish her nothing but the best in the present and going forward.

    Erin Burnett has long been a favourite of mine for myriad reasons. Saw her on CNBC in September, 2008, when the stock markets were starting their free fall--She was an instant eye-catcher. When I first saw her on CNN three years later, I was reeling from the death of a best friend. Seeing her again brought back the best memories from a seemingly distant age, and by itself made me feel better. A lot of those original sentiments still carry over to the present day. She provided the best way in which to view a lady: Not as a sexual object(which isn't to say I don't find her attractive), but as a real person with real life circumstances. At some point, one should give more weight to a person's well being than to whether or not one sees that person on TV every night. Everyone in the media deserves our best considerations in this age of high confusion, even if they're only out to serve corporate brass.

Top Qualities in a Prospective Employee

This came from an assignment I had recently. After some considered thought, I drew these up, which I think are ample foundations for fleshing out a person for an open position within a company.

1. Resume—Must have experience tailorable to the position being applied for. I don't want a "CEO of MYSELF" in charge of managing store accounts and getting product into the store in a timely, efficient manner.
2. Ability to answer questions—Answering questions reveals a person's preparedness for the job being considered, as well as a willingness to learn what is needed for the job at hand.
3. Honesty—If you can't tell the truth in the interview, how can I trust you to manage the trash disposal, let alone managing the sales floor? Honesty may be such a lonely word, but consider it a qualification: A lot of work is lonely.
4. Punctuality—Being on time expresses a respect for both the job and the co-workers and managers who would have to pick up slack if needed. If I'm tired of waiting for you, then you're fired.
5. Flexibility—A willingness to work different shifts if needed shows a commitment to the job that few other qualities can show. Climbing to the top of the company ladder is contingent upon this quality.
Hope they're good. It's weird sometimes sharing in a public forum the things I come up with in educational environments, but I always remind myself of one of life's great philosophies: "Good gas must freely be shared!"

Friday, July 21, 2017

Established Institutions and Values in the Trump Era

    Six months into President Trump's tenure in office, many sectors of political discourse are debating the impact that's been had upon our established institutions and values. Of course, some of the people debating this are unintentionally engaging in high comedy. Comical it is because some of these types didn't care about these 'institutions' and 'values' when their guys were in charge. Matter of fact, they were more than happy to tear these notions down in defence of their own leaders and tribalistic instincts. Having said all that, this does merit discussion, as we are in the midst of an all-out attempt to diminish and discredit some of the very foundations of the American dream as we have known it. I'd like to touch on the big ones as I see them, not ranked in any order of importance.

    Recent polling shows Republican voters, by a margin of 58%-36%, holding an unfavourable opinion of College education, which mirrors the attitude I pick up from my more Republican-minded 'friends' on Facebook--That I'm just some College educated(I go to a Tech School) prick who doesn't love Trump. Put another way, 'Aww, look at the smart person! He thinks he knows something.' Truth be told, at least in the bigger name/higher price colleges, there is some need to take the piss out of these over-vaunted institutions. Take UC Berkeley, for instance, and the high volume of 'special snowflakes' screaming and crying for their 'safe spaces' every time Ben Shapiro and Bill Maher are invited to speak. On College campuses, the over-sensitizing that tenured professors are engaging in could present the Constitution's biggest threat in the long run. I also balk at the notion of places like Georgetown and Harvard, where you might have to shell out the entire nest egg and take out advances on Social Security to get accepted. Back home, the only thing the University of Georgia seems to churn out a lot of is people who shout "GO DAWGS" every day of certain seasons of the year, though I do hear they are a top Horticultural school. Unlike big name, big dollar schools, affordable Tech Schools train for specific career avenues and at least have a high rate of job placement. In more generalised Colleges, one can get a degree in vague, abstract course-work that has nothing to do with what a person really needs to succeed.

    The concept of a "Loyal Opposition" used to mean something positive. Author Pete Hamill, in an interview with Don Imus just before the election, commented that, as a Bobby Kennedy-supportive Liberal, he had respect for the Conservatives who would get up and shout out "Hold on! Hold on! How much is this all going to cost?" The now-grievously ill Arizona Republican Senator John McCain, in his ill-fated 2008 bid for the White House, emphasized his own disagreements with Barack Obama while not only dismissing claims that he was an 'Arab,' but also vouching for him as both a person and a family man. Now, the political poles are represented by Donald Trump, who litigated Obama's birth certificate to no end, and Elizabeth Warren, who compares people who disagree with her to ISIS terrorists. Their bases have fallen in line with the extreme rhetoric. Conservatives have by and large always been asses(I say that as a Conservative-minded person), but what disappoints me the most is that even Mr. Peace & Love Hippie, when you get him started, would be reduced to shouting things like 'I wanna f**king kill ALL of those right wingers for destroying the country,' resorting to the same "the American dream is dead"-like rhetoric that was a hallmark of Trump's campaign.

    I do want to take a brief moment to mention one good thing that's come of Trump's win, and that is the de-construction of the notion that one needs political experience(a most pervasive 'institution') to hold office. The real knowledge that's in the job, whichever elected job one has in politics, is with those who surround any given leader. The information taken in is more important than those taking in the information, and, as such, good advisers are the most important element involved in the execution of one's duties in office. Unlike most, I am not revulsed by the notion of a Senator Kid Rock. The job of being either Senator or Congressman is practically a nothing job, where one reads and votes on a lot of bills, sometimes even standing up and taking the lead in opposing said bills. On occasion, declarations of war will come down the pike. He's no more or less qualified that the woman he'd be seeking to replace, Michigan Democrat Debbie Stabenow.

    The media presents a quandary for me sometimes. Within my span of political consciousness, they have shown definite favour to all things Obama and an especially negative attitude towards the Tea Party. At the same time, even Obama has received his fair share of hard knocks those times he has richly earned them, and the best investigative reports have been done about both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton(not to mention her family's eponymous foundation). Even with their biases, though, I will still defend the media against the crazy coming from the White House and their defenders on state-run television(Fox News). However, even the alt-Left/Resistance has gotten in on the action, with Islamic activist Linda Sarsour engaging in hysterics with CNN's Jake Tapper, eventually writing him off as being of the "alt-Right." While she might be a more fringe example, I still don't make it a point to trust Liberals when they say they support the media. Now, that said, if I had to choose between media with a slight-to-moderate Liberal bias(status quo, in other words) and no media, I'd opt for the former. If the choice was between Conservative Cheerleading alter-news and no media, I would give a serious thought to the latter. Knowing their biases and adjusting the news reports accordingly is a good mental exercise, but coming to your own conclusions is much better than absorbing cheerleading.

    Music faces its own multi-faceted trials. Modern Country music has proven the unofficial respite for Trump supporters, what with its poignant lyrics about, among other things, beds, beer, flags, sexy girls, and trucks. Go into any Arbys or Bojangles(nothing against either of them), and you will hear evidence of this. The sounds of today are a far cry from the old traditions of the folk songs that rang out in protest of injustices and overreaches. However, the art form is also being diminished by the soulless browbeating about "a leader with no f**king brains" from former Pink Floyd front-man Roger Waters' most recent album. Real protest songs are supposed to fire the imagination, as opposed to scorching its green earth. At least Stephen Stills' recent song "Look Each Other in the Eye" tries to make a person think. No wonder huge sections tune out everything else in favour of Rap sounds--At least they actually say something, even if those words and sounds infuriate a person.

    Christianity, our only true hope, has long been in no need of enemies, both within and without. Rich LGBT activists are now taking to targeting deep red states in an effort not to merely advance their agenda, but as a way of "punishing the wicked." However, the Church is also being corroded from within. As one of faith, it deeply distresses me when I see people like Franklin Graham(of whom I used to regard highly) comparing President Trump to the likes of Biblical figures Moses and King David. One man of faith making ill-considered remarks like this can turn off a multitude. He's not the only one, by far(see Falwell Jr), but still the most disappointing example. When I was young, I would take part in my Church group's Samaritan's Purse-related activities(SP is Graham's charitable foundation, reaching kids around the world). Religious leaders should be about the spreading of the faith, and not about advancement of secular, worldly priorities and gaining clout with political figures. More Christ and less cash.

    For as bad as things may look these next 3 1/2 years as one nation under Trump, I can see how it can be much worse than it is right now. New Jersey Governor Chris Christie could have been the GOP nominee and winner of the 2016 race. Unlike Trump, Christie is very focused and bent on dictatorial tendencies. Imagine the secrecy that would shroud his Presidency. With experience as a US Attorney under his (extra wide) belt, he'd certainly conduct himself much better with a Russia-like investigation than Trump is right now. Another fearsome prospect would be Elizabeth Warren running and beating Trump in the biggest landslide since the Reagan era. Now here is someone who, based upon numerous public proclamations, would have no issue with inciting violence in the name of advancing her agenda, much the way Trump has done. Unlike with Trump, though, Warren would have vast sectors of the elite literati behind her and justifying every little thing coming from the first female President, dismissing all from opposition to tepid support as 'extreme sexism.' So, as bad as Trump is, it can and probably will get worse.

Gotta admit that I'm a little bit confused
Sometimes, it seems to me as if I'm just being used.
Gotta stay awake, gotta try and shake off this creeping malaise.
If I don't stand my own ground, how can I find my way out of this maze? 

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Post-Script: Emerson, Lake, & Palmer, a Band for the Ages

    "Memoirs of an Officer and a Gentleman" is one of those hidden treasure songs that grabs you and never lets go. When I first listened to it, trying to figure if anything good had been put on the notoriously underwhelming "Love Beach" LP, it took me aback that something this good could have been done at the band's nadir--Says something excellent about the quality of a band. The instrumental "Canario" wasn't a bad one, either, but by now you should sense that wasn't the ultimate stand-out. I remember hearing 'Memoirs...' once again when it came up on one of my burned CD's in late February of last year, and I marvelled at how they weaved that whole song together, just the three of them. Both the words and music struck incredibly powerful chords, in ways that not many songs can manage. Nobody gives this 20 minute piece the attention that's given to, say, "Tarkus." Curiously, another thought occurred to me, based on the news that had already come out at that early point of the year: It's going to be a really sad occasion when the members of this band start to die. Was almost as if I was keyed into something.

    Just less than two weeks after hearing that song in the car, the most awful news came: Keith Emerson, 71, was dead in an apparent suicide. It stoned me, a man of his copious talents being emotionally reduced to that. 2016 was a notoriously rough year in regards to deaths in entertainment, to say nothing of...other regards. Another thing that didn't help matters was the seeming contemptuous snickering from media and literati figures towards the fans of people like Emerson and Glenn Frey of the Eagles. They didn't want to know we existed, it seemed. Things were much the same when, at the tail end of the year, literally as I was reading an interview he'd done fairly recently, Greg Lake also died. He had cancer, and was 69. Wasn't as surprised over him as I was Emerson, but the duo-blow of Emerson & Lake was simply unfathomable. It dazed me that eternal fate could have worked out in this manner--After some of the events of this year, ELP and Allman Brothers fans can both relate. In the latter band, Butch Trucks committed suicide, brought on by financial difficulties, in January, and Gregg Allman died from liver cancer this past May. Both were 69, same age as Lake.

    Lake's death magnified, in a glaring way, what a horror Emerson's suicide was and is. Knowing he, the most talented and personable of that group, could easily still be living if he perhaps had a better support system and maybe some, erm, differently considered values(music is not, never has been, and never will be the end all, be all to life) is almost an overwhelming thing to consider. Beyond music, he could have still been here and serving as a continued joy to those around him and his fans--I have read about him only the most wonderful stories and recollections from friends and fans. That is truly more important than anything else. A dizzyingly sad reality all around.

    It merits a mention the most awful aspect of the suicide of Emerson, one that is especially common amongst school-age kids: He was reported to have read criticisms of his recent playing in the months leading up to his suicide, and he took these online bullies seriously, internalizing it all. He had issues stemming from various surgical operations over the course of almost a quarter-century on his arm and hand, which impaired his legendary ability to play. There were plans to tour Japan later that Spring, and anxiety over his performing ability was apparently mounting in those final weeks. The self-doubt and internalized hurt ended up making the fatal difference. It is difficult to fathom the darkness that anyone, let alone someone of incredible fame and fortunes would be in to take such desperate measures. This is something I, as a mere fan, still struggle to process over a year later.

    But the music, oh what a sound they made together. From 1970 to 1978, this band was one of the premier album-makers and live performers in the game. Just prior to the band's formation, and after his prior band the Nice had dissolved, Emerson, a keyboard virtuoso in his own right, had been in talks with guitar virtuoso Jimi Hendrix about being in a band together. The latter died before real progress could be made on furtherance of the idea(could the band have been called HELP?), but the groundwork for an adventurous musical template template had already been laid. While their best album may have been their debut, other albums such as "Trilogy," "Brain Salad Surgery," and the "Works" volumes offered listeners a varied hodgepodge of material representative of the band members' different musical sensibilities.

    It wasn't even just the music that Emerson, Lake, & Palmer made together that was great. There were also the solo albums, mainly from Emerson(Lake's efforts were only slightly better than the 80's average, and Palmer apparently picked up where the band left off on the generally forgettable "Love Beach" album). 1981 had him releasing his "Honky" album(done with reggae musicians during a stay in Jamaica), which proved to be his highest charting solo release and saw him doing promos on the foreign TV circuit. Later on in the decade, he fabulously one-upped Greg "I Believe in Father Christmas" Lake by putting out a full-length, distinctly ELP-flavoured Chirstmas album. The 1990's saw him, when he wasn't flailing away with the reconstituted ELP, releasing the ethereal "Changing States" album, featuring some stripped-down kernels of future ELP arrangements. He was also very active in the making of foreign film soundtracks, recently issuing a 3 CD box set of his film scores.

    One of the very best music purchases I ever made was Keith Emerson's 2003 "Emerson Plays Emerson" CD. If you get the chance, have around $60 to spare(it's quite the rare CD), and are a huge Emersonian, I definitely recommend this. Calming musical soundscapes mixed in with rollicking tunes--A real joy if you're an appreciator of all things Emerson. Might expend around half of a minimum wage pay-check, but well worth the while.

    The boys in the band were all 'meant to be near from the beginning,' and I'll wind down this posting with some words on my favourite ELP song. That song and Ten Years After's "I'd Love to Change the World" came to my attention in early 2009, when I was 14 and very musically impressionable. Both were acquired tastes, the latter being acquired some time before the former. However, there was something that stuck with me about "From the Beginning." Something in it deeply resonated with me at a time when I was madly in love with women on the news--The sentiment that they were meant to be there from the beginning. Love in spite of one's own flaws. No coincidence that when I saw one of my absolute favourites for the first time on CNN some years back, this song was among the first to come to mind. The "Trilogy" album became one of the first additions to my now-almost onerously large LP collection on the singular strength of that song. One of the truly great songs ever? In my opinion, yes.

"Who knows, who cares for me? C'est la vie"
Greg Lake, 1977

Abundances of Caution, Calls for Decency, and Other Comments on News

    Earlier in the year, I had thought myself fit and worthy enough to be an article-writing 'voice' for the blossoming "Resistance" movement. The thought occurred to me that, if they were serious about going places as a movement of some perceivable good, they could put aside their differences with me and accept myself and any comer with open arms. I thought I had a good perspective to add, for some reason. Never got around to making my request, but was still forcefully denied. They're apparently not interested in people who aren't of like mind and also those who would offer constructive criticisms. Indeed, the Pissed Resistance is no better than the Trump Crumpets--In fact, with their special mix of self-aggrandisement and severed fake heads, it may well be worse.

    And it was out of this camp that it happened again--America's second favourite pastime after gambling. Several weeks back, on June 14, a gunman opened fire on Congressional Republicans practising for a baseball tournament in Alexandria, VA. House Majority Whip Steve Scalise of Louisiana and 4 others were injured in the shoot-out. The suspect was identified as a supporter of Vermont Democratic Senator Bernie Sanders' 2016 Presidential run. Summertime always seems to bring out the inner criminal in all of us--Within the same week as the Scalise shooting, the first anniversary of the murder of performer Christina Grimmie, the Pulse Night Club shooting, and the Brexit-inspired shooting of British Labour Party MP Jo Cox elapsed. This month, 5 years will have gone by since the theatre shooting in Aurora, CO, the deadliest in American history. Some Liberals could make absurd, tangential associations between Global Warming and Mental Health, much the way they did after an attack in Paris a couple of years back(in fairness, Conservatives never waste an opportunity to dream about 'good guys with guns'). Relax, relax. Take things one at a time, boys...

    For once, the Conservative argument regarding guns(good guys with guns stopping bad guys with guns) holds some value. Based upon all reliable sources reporting on the ballpark attack, it was Scalise's security detail(that which he receives for his stature as House Majority Whip) that prevented the occurrence of even greater casualties. For a minute, can you imagine the fallout from an attack of even greater scope than what took place? Elected officials, in a modern era of great unrest and unstable leaders, being gunned down by radical ideologues. President Trump and the 33 Republican Governors possibly activating a police state until the "bad hombres" are found and rooted out, and the President basing his entire re-election campaign on a proposal to "ban all Liberals until we find out what the f**k is going on." That's a dangerous road, not without precedents. All speculative, of course, but eminently possible given the present time and circumstances at play.

    Ever since the seeming lows of last election, discourse in America, political and not, has plunged. The above-cited examples are symptoms of the bigger issue. Ideological extremes have become our biggest problem in politics and society today. Bipartisan Congressional retreats haven't been a done thing in approaching two decades. We have entered into a time where acting like an over-grown infant is not only considered 'normal,' but is often seen as the only acceptable way to act. After all, to be decent means the terrorists(read: the opposite side of the aisle) win. Honestly, it doesn't and shouldn't matter whether you're a Keith, a Laurie, a Mike, or a Sean, a left winger or a right winger, one should at least know how to act in a public setting. One would hope decency and morality could cut across partisan stripes.

    It was asked by one of America's top pastors last year: "Why isn't decency faring better in the 2016 race?" I'll rise and say it's been an issue for much longer than this, though the last couple of years have provided a low-water mark. The notion of good Samaritans in a land full of Judaizers seems lost to the ages at times. In fact, if someone were lying and bleeding to death in the street, one side would walk right by while the other would babble about Trump's Twitter account, all the while the aforementioned person is bleeding to death. Actually, that's the perfect metaphor for the country right now. Both sides are beyond full boil, viewing one another as mortal enemies. It's probably amazing that more of these Scalise-like shootings haven't taken place so far. Personally wishing, and I know that's all it will amount to, that we could just view each other as fellow Americans who simply disagree as opposed to agents of evil who must be destroyed.

    All the talk of forged birth certificates, false flag attacks, and such of the like perfumed the air of discourse like a poison, sowing the seeds of deep seated rage and distrust. In one of his books, former CNN opinion-giver Jack Cafferty wrote that "If these two parties, however 2008 breaks, can't fix what's broken, this way of life as we've known it may vanish into some deep, dark crevasse." On cue as always, President Trump(who was incredibly calling for healing and an end to the violent rhetoric a few weeks ago) in the past week made his own special contributions to the "American crevasse," launching into his usual early morning tweet-storms. Thursday, June 29, saw him tweeting at the hosts of MSNBC's "Morning Joe," bringing up bloody face-lifts and, the next day, bragging about his engaging in the extortion of the show's hosts. Sunday, July 2, saw him re-tweeting a fan video of Trump's WWE body-slamming of Vince McMahon, with the CNN logo super-imposed over the latter's head. Both prompted much outcry, but why? Everyone knows Trump's historic inability to see past his own hurt feelings and petty grudges. Why the surprise?

    As a matter of principle, I'll usually take the side of both Erin Burnett's present and former network(CNN and NBC, respectively) over the rageaholic at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. The notion of "fake news" charges coming from the man who once pretended to be his own publicist is amusing when it's not jarring. Jarring it is when you consider the threats of violence that have been threatened against members of the "fake media" for simply doing their jobs(granted, news division Presidents don't help themselves when they choose stories like the Russia investigation based upon ratings). If I have to consider something happening to some of my favourite people, I might lose whatever composure and clear-mindedness I've long sought to achieve. I'm probably not alone in regards to a loss of marbles. Looking with dismay at the weak-willed Republican leadership and their caving in the face of Trump, it feels like Richard Nixon has come back from the dead and, at age 104, is bent on finishing the job.

    As a closing note, my own Bible reading has led me through the often infamous book of Revelation. The most polarizing Bible book by far, known exclusively for its sometimes hard to decipher descriptions of how the end times will transpire. In spite of a lot of people's interpretations, I ascribe to the simple explanation of this being a multi-generational re-assurance that this social order will pass away in time. "This, too, shall pass." Americans, and Earthians in general, need this re-assurance badly.

    Not the article I'd hoped for or wanted, but this is how it ultimately turns out. Hope it's...readable.

Saturday, April 1, 2017

The Eagles No More

    This day of the year aside, this story is no joke. The Eagles, one year after the death of founder/frontman Glenn Frey, are performing for the Classic East and Classic West music festivals this Summer. Ostensibly, this could pave the way for future tour dates with a replacement on hand, which could mean that this band soon goes the way of the Drifters and the Temptations in having NO original members performing the classic songs(one or both of those groups just announced new tour dates). For those in shock, I will give a reminder that this is the same avenue which is being undertaken by such Classic Rock luminaries as Boston, Foreigner, Lynyrd Skynyrd, and REO Speedwagon. Almost no original members comprise those bands' ranks, to the extent that many even survive to this day.

    More will be written on this matter by people more eloquent than myself, but I'll give my own thoughts: What a small, pitiful move by small, pitiful men. All we ever heard for months after Glenn Frey's death was how the Eagles were finished, and now this. Sounds as though Azoff & Henley just want a big, final payoff before they ride away into the sunset. The thought of the band's legacy seems to have not occurred to these men. By this logic, my long-held(prior to last year) desire for an Emerson, Lake, & Palmer re-union can now take place without either Keith Emerson or Greg Lake. Mind blowing, and not in a good way

    To divulge the ridiculousness, let me frame it thusly: Stephen Stills dies, Crosby & Nash get back together and replace him with Bruno Mars, and continue touring as 'Crosby, Stills, & Nash.' Can you just imagine a concert where Crosby plays, say, "Hero" from the 1992 "Thousand Roads" album, only to be interrupted by Mars and his DJ buddy Mark Ronson jumping up onstage and launching into the song "Uptown Funk"? Crosby & Nash mindlessly shake their bums and point awkwardly at the crowd('Croz Daddy's comin' to ya!') as Neil Young lays down some funky, mechanized guitar tones. Or how about this: The Charlie Daniels Band tries getting away with doing "Devil Went Down to Georgia" at the Georgia State Fair down in Hampton without Daniels--Put Marky Mark in his stead. Disturbing enough? That's the basic scope of Eagles, sans Frey.

    Frankly, I cannot respect the surviving Eagles any longer. The music they did as a band and solo from 1971—2016 will always be timeless and a sound that holds a special place in my heart, but they're all pretty much musically dead to me now. Any future music from them as a band or solo will be encased in that corporatistic, greedy sheen that turns me off to so much of modern pop music. Opportunistic money-grabbers, or pretty much the way Don Felder presented them in his book. They're no better than Elvis Impersonators at this point. Then again, at least the impostors do their routine with heart and soul. This is just a charade designed to keep those money-printing presses oiled and operating.
    Furthermore, I don't have any patience for Eagles band partisans who think this is in any way all right, as opposed to those who have simply accepted the reality of this taking place. How do you justify white-outing the founding member from the picture in the name of money? Are you really this hard-up for good music from this band? As good as the Eagles were(and I do mean WERE), you do hopefully know there are other bands out there. Maybe not as good as the Eagles, but they do exist--I listen to the Doors and Neil Young these days. The Drifters/Temptations route will not do wonders for this band's legacy, something which I'd once thought was important to Azoff/Henley.

    I'd hope one of the other members has the fortitude and presence of mind to sue the other members and Irving Azoff for the wrongful usage of the name, in much the same way Doors drummer John Densmore(curious what he'd make of all this) did when Ray Manzarek and Robby Krieger tried to re-form that band in the early 2000's under the name “THE DOORS(of the 21st Century).” This was done an attempt to preserve the legacy of Jim Morrison, who had in 1968 gone as far as to veto the usage of the Krieger-penned song "Light My Fire" in a commercial for Buick('Come on, Buick, Light my fire'). I know Schmit and Walsh generally will do as they're told without much fuss, Meisner's probably too ill and taken up in legal matters these days, and Felder might want in on the whole thing, so perhaps Bernie Leadon could emerge as a hero in all this. Don't know, but perhaps hope springs eternal.

    Finishing this article, since I am sure Azoff and Henley will never give the fans consideration over their money and release archival live concerts, as opposed to putting on aniseptic future concerts as 'Eagles,' I do encourage people to buy the stray live CD's you find on Amazon. Suspicious origins, yes, but at least the money you spend is going to average guy eking out a living as opposed to buying the next Lear Jet for some quarter-billionaire financial iconoclast. And the quality of both sound and performance has been surprisingly good on those I've given a listen, or at least as good as one would expect of something billed as a 'radio performance.' Like with most things, though, the product does warrant some close examination before determining whether or not it is worthwhile. As these re-union concerts will no doubt show, not everything with the 'Eagles' name is worthy.

    “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.”—1 Timothy 6:10 NIV

     (PS, this print take was brought to you by Golden Flakes, Mello Yello, and "Real Time with Bill Maher.")