Friday, November 28, 2008

Songs For Better or Worse (Part II)

I was slightly surprised, after reviewing my late 70s list, to see a change in the tone of the songs I chose. My question is: is that a function of a change in music, or a change in me (at seven--I doubt it)? Any ideas?


The Boys Are Back In Town--Thin Lizzy
Man, I still think them cats are crazy.

Sir Duke--Stevie Wonder
Music is a world within itself, with a language we all understand....

Kid Charlemagne--Steely Dan
Is there gas in the car?

Step Right Up--Tom Waits
It turns a sandwich into a banquet.


Police and Thieves--The Clash
Oh yeah....

(The Angels Wanna Wear My) Red Shoes
And I won't get any older....

Psycho Killer--Talking Heads
Say something once, why say it again?

You Took the Words Right Out of My Mouth--Meat Loaf
It must have been while you were kissing me.


One Nation Under a Groove--Funkadelic
Dance your way out of your constrictions....

Can't Stand Losing You--The Police
You don't care, so I won't cry.

One Way or Another--Blondie
I will drive past your house....

Blue Skies--Willie Nelson
Never saw the sun shining so bright.


Refugee--Tom Petty
Right now, this ain't real to you....

Broken English--Marianne Faithfull
It's just an old war....

Flirtin' With Disaster--Molly Hatchet
Feels about the same most everyday.

I Don't Like Mondays--The Boomtown Rats
Sweet Sixteen ain't that peachy keen....

And there you have it. All in all, the only thing I have proven here is what comoprozac has already stated: I'm old.

Thanksgiving Review

We will post a two-fer today, finishing up our decade of song after a brief description of yesterday's festivities (and an updated look at "The Beard").

Monkey and I spent yesterday preparing a meal for just the two of us. However, as we have experienced Thanksgivings for multitudes, we cooked enough food for about ten of us. Our pumpkin pie was finished on Wednesday night, prior to a Mexican extravaganza with the North-side Ambassadors (where I was dubbed "El Lechero"--there's no need to explain why).

On Thursday morning, we had a short cup of coffee and then launched into the preparation of an apple pie and cranberry sauce. After the pie was finished, we walked the puppy dog, and then settled in to watch a few snaps of the first of three really uninteresting professional football games. Around two o'clock, we were in full cooking-up-a-storm-swing.

At five, when it was all over, we had mashed potatoes, sweet potato casserole, corn-bread stuffing (from scratch, baby!), cranberry sauce, gravy, pork chops (no turkey), and roasted brussel sprouts. And it was all awesome.

We took a pause, watched the Maryland Terrapins men's b-ball team put a whoopin' on the #6 Michigan State Spartans, and then dove into a double slice of pumpkin and apple pie. I must say, the pumpkin was wonderful. The apple was a bit too tart and too mushy--I won't use Rome apples again. Bad choice.

Once the pie was consumed, Monkey and I began to fade. It had been a busy day, considering it was only a meal for two, and we needed our rest, in order to tackle the mountain of leftovers we would have to face in the coming days.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Songs For Better or Worse

Recent posts and various comments have led me to this poorly thought-through idea. The 1970s often get slagged as a miserable, empty decade. In many respects, that may be true. I was there, I have some memories. However, there's plenty to keep dear about that odd period that gave us roller disco, President Ford, and the Chevy Vega.

With that in mind, I have assembled a list of relatively popular songs of the time that strike me as not only time pieces, but as timeless. I could listen to them endlessly. I have divided them by year, and provide as my only comment, a snippet of lyrics (sometimes from memory, so accuracy: be damned). We'll do through 1975 tonight. We'll finish the decade later.


Spirit in the Sky--Norman Greenbaum
When I die and they lay me to rest, I want to go to the place that's the best....

American Woman--The Guess Who
I don't need your war machines, I don't need your ghetto scenes....

War--Edwin Starr
What is it good for?

Big Yellow Taxi--Joni Mitchell
Don't it always seem to go, that you don't know what you got til it's gone....


Behind Blue Eyes--The Who
And if I smile, tell me some bad news, before I laugh and act like a fool.

Immigrant Song--Led Zeppelin
Hammer of the gods....

Maggie May--Rod Stewart
I laughed at all of your jokes. My love you didn't need to coax.

Black Magic Woman--Santana
Don't turn your back on me, baby....


Papa Was a Rollin' Stone--The Temptations
Wherever he laid his hat was his home....

Brandy (You're a Fine Girl)--Looking Glass
Brandy used to watch his eyes when he told his sailor's stories....

Out on the Weekend--Neil Young
The woman I'm thinking of, she loved me all up....

Doctor My Eyes--Jackson Browne
Just say if it's too late for me.


Goodbye, Yellow Brick Road--Elton John
I should have listened to my old man.

No More Mr. Nice Guy--Alice Cooper
My dog bit me on the leg today....

Rambling Man--Allman Brothers
I was born in the back of a Greyhound bus rolling down Highway Forty-one...

Stir It Up--Bob Marley and the Wailers
Little darlin'....

1974 (Okay, 1974 was pretty lame...I could only come up with two good ones)

Rebel Rebel--David Bowie
You've torn your dress, your face is a mess, you can't get enough, but enough ain't the test....

Radar Love--Golden Earring
Radio plays some forgotten song. Brenda Lee's coming on strong....


Mexico--James Taylor
I've never really been, but I'd sure like to go....

Wish You Were Here--Pink Floyd
We're just two lost souls swimming in a fish bowl....

Sister Golden Hair--America
I been one poor correspondent....

Born To Run--Bruce Springsteen
I wanna die with you Wendy on the streets tonight in an everlasting kiss.

Monday, November 24, 2008

The Speed of Life

It was a blisteringly fast week, last week. Friday came so quickly (as it sometimes can), that I was literally surprised by its arrival (which came on Thursday morning, I think). I was absolutely certain that I had lost a day somewhere.

This work week has the potential to seem as fast, due to its three day structure. Then again, those short weeks before a long weekend can sometimes feel like slow motion time. We shall see.

Beside a four day weekend, a holiday of conspicuous consumption, and a visit by the North Side Ambassadors (formerly known as, simply, The Ambassadors), I am looking forward this week to the return of my iPod. The old one's hard drive gave out on me, if you'll recall, and we're just now getting around to replacing it (with the new gazillion GB Classic). I am looking forward to having so much more capacity that I'll actually wonder if I should download some Barry Manilow. You know, just because I can.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Getting It Right (On The Second Try)

Recently, Nebraska has become a laughing stock across the nation, due to its less-than-perfect "Safe Haven" law. In many (almost all, I think) states of the Union, it is legal to leave a child at a hospital to be taken into the care of the state. There are usually no questions asked. In all other states, the age limit on this "safe haven" is from three days to maybe a few months. In the land of corn, they left the age limit basically undetermined. So, for the past few months, thirty or so children (all well above the age of a few months, and some near to 18) have been left on the door steps of state hospitals. One from as far away as Michigan. How's that for a well-written piece of legislation?

But, even with all the problems that the law was making for everyone involved in child welfare, the governor did not want to call a special session to get the law fixed. He said it would cost too much money. Apparently, it will cost about as much as taking care of thirty kids of various ages, since that is about the number it took for him to change his mind.

And, just the other day, they capped the age at thirty days. Which is as good as any arbitrarily settled upon age for leaving a baby behind. Well, except that it's a helluva lot better than 18 years.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

The Bearded Truth

As you may know, I occasionally use the approach of winter as a good excuse to stop shaving. I have grown a beard several times over the last few years (once, precariously close to my wedding day, according to Monkey, but that was for a show, not the weather; and, I shaved it (and got a haircut) before the nuptials). I usually try to keep it trimmed neatly, rarely letting it grow beyond 1/2 inch in length (except for that time before the wedding, but, again, it all worked out).

This year, I got a jump on things, choosing the Labor Day holiday as the weekend to begin my shaving moratorium (much to Monkey's dismay, really; I think she has stressful memories of that beard I had before the wedding (it was something to behold)). I also resolved to allow my beard to grow to whatever length it might reach before a) the weather warmed in Spring, b) I tired of the beard, or c) Monkey cut it off as I slept. Thus far, our plan is in full effect.

I would like, before the next several months are out, to be sporting the 19th century shovel beard look, but only time will tell if I am able to pull that off. Monkey, not being much of a history buff, is hoping for other things, like a return to those days just prior to our wedding, when I emerged from the bathroom as smooth-faced as I ever have been.

Stay tuned.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Veteran's Day Dedication

Veteran's Day is always an important day. Recognizing the service of those in the military is a worthy endeavor, regardless of one's political ideals, regardless of one's support for any particular armed conflict, or the very concept of armed conflict, itself.

I, as you probably know, never served, nor did my brother, my father, or any of my direct family members after my two grandfathers. My paternal grandfather served as a Motor Machinist's Mate on an LST (tank landing ship--that's NOT his ship) in the Pacific during World War II. He played the harmonica, and I remember, as a boy, looking with awe upon his wooden harmonica case, into which he had carved the names of all the places he and his harpoon had traveled. I imagined him, during more peaceful moments, lying upon the deck of his ship, playing popular tunes as the South Pacific sun set on the horizon of the breeze-kissed ocean. I also remember jars of cowrie shells that he kept in mayonnaise jars in the attic. There was a certain romance to his service, in my mind, most likely birthed and developed by far too many John Wayne films. Sure, there were enemy planes intent on sinking my grandfather's ship, and cannons poised to cause destruction and death to him and his shipmates, but, to me, it was always in black and white (or, better yet, technicolor), and it was always a great adventure.

I don't think he ever thought of it that way. I know he was drafted, and that he was less than gung-ho about it. He served in the Navy, because, according to him, when the sergeant asked him which branch he wanted to serve in, my grandfather told him, "I don't care, you're the one who called me."

He never talked about it much, and he may still refuse to discuss it (I haven't tried to talk with him about it, lately), except for one time on an Atlantic Ocean beach, when my brother and I were building, instead of sand castles, our own version of Iwo Jima, including Mount Suribachi, the Japanese stronghold on which the US flag was eventually (and famously) raised. Our grandfather made a few comments about our placement of geographic features, and told us that he never saw anybody raise any flag (he's kind of cantankerous, like that--I come by it honestly, you see).

My maternal grandfather served as a Technician Fifth Grade (Corporal) in the Army during the same war. He served as a medic in Europe, but I don't know where. I never saw him much after he and my grandmother moved to Richmond, and we never talked about his service, although he seemed interested enough in that period of his life to keep a small library of books on the war that I was honored enough to inherit upon his death several years ago.

I still, after years of reading and study, after coming to an adult understanding of the awesome and awful effects that war has on the soldier (and the countryside in which it is waged), can't completely extinguish that ember of Romanticism that I had in childhood for the Second World War. But, of course, that Romanticism is the core of a greater understanding that recognizes that it was something that not only ended lives, but changed them forever. I know that both of those men, taciturn as they may be and have been, harbored images and feelings that they cared not, and perhaps dared not share.

I also recognize that I, and all of us, owe them greatly. Perhaps most of all those of us who have never served, never had to serve. I recognize, too, that the young men and women sacrificing today are owed a gratitude. I don't for a second see the struggle they are engaged in as the same sort of struggle as World War II, but, misdirected or otherwise, they are giving of themselves in a way that I never did, never have, and perhaps never will.

I am afraid we will always have war. We will always have the need to sacrifice our brothers and sisters for causes just and questionable. And, struggle though we may against the leaders who make this fact a truth, desire though we might to see an end to conflict, hatred, violence of all kinds, the fact still remains that those who serve deserve our thanks.

A hundred and forty three years ago, perhaps our greatest president, at the consecration of a military cemetery in a small town in Pennsylvania, said it best:

We are met on a great battle-field of [...] war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that [our] nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate -- we can not consecrate -- we can not hallow -- this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us -- that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion -- that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain -- that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom -- and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

And though the Union was saved, and though, four more score years later totalitarianism and genocide were defeated (albeit temporarily), and though our nation still stands, we should dedicate ourselves to its preservation as best we can, for this nation is still a work in progress. We are making strides, some large and some small, but we still have a long way to go.

Thank you, Cpl. Horace Seavey Batey, Mo. MM Emil Thomas Reda, and all veterans.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Weekend News from the Plains

We had our first snow of the season on Friday. Mere flurries, but the accompanying temperatures were cold, cold, cold. The wind didn't help much, either. Monkey and I stayed in and watched some DVRed TV. House, I think. And something else I can't remember. I must say, I'm getting a bit tired of this show. (House, I mean.) It's awfully predictable, and the main character has evolved from an intriguing curmudgeon to a full-fledged dick. So much for dynamic characters!

Saturday was nasty cold, too. So cold that a couple hundred students neglected to attend the Husker game versus Kansas at 1:30. Game time temps were in the low 30s, but, the last time I checked, this was Nebraska, where everybody is so proud of their rabid attachment to the scarlet and cream. And their staying home because it's too cold? Please. I find this to be an indication that maybe the vaunted Husker mystique is becoming a myth...after only four years of mediocrity. I have to think that people in Columbia are more dedicated. Even when that team stunk outright, when a win against the then-hapless Jayhawks was cause for tearing down the goal posts and carting them through the streets of town to Harpo's, the students packed their sections. At least until halftime. I hope this isn't a trend here in Huskerland, because once they lose their football rep, well, they ain't got much else.

Anyway, I raked some leaves (I compost them, by the way), we ran some errands, and we spent the afternoon reading by the fire. How pleasant is that. We went out for dinner and a movie Saturday night. Some BBQ and Appaloosa. I had a beer for the first time in two weeks--it was lovely, if only a Boulevard (limited selections). And, while the movie was not bad, the most intriguing thing about it, to me, was Viggo Mortenson's tonsorial choices--very period.

Today, I am hacking up a lung after playing basketball for the first time since the recent unpleasantness. I am taking it as a sign of recovery. What shall the rest of the evening hold...? Well, the possibilities are nearly endless, aren't they?

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

The Prologue to the New America?

Just to let you know, I am feeling markedly better today. Still a little bit of the crud hanging on, but today was much more manageable. Could it have been a lightness of spirit brought on by the return of a Democrat to the White House? Probably not. If it were John Kerry, I wouldn't have had that hop in my step this morning. Could it have been the pleasure of knowing the outcome of a presidential election on the same day as the election itself? Probably not. I would have gone to bed at the same time regardless of the status of the Electoral College. Could it have been the truly historic result of yesterday's highly participated-in election? Well, now there is a possibility.

I have watched a few elections covered in my time. Even as a young lad, I enjoyed the coverage of the Reagan-Carter square off of 1980, the Reagan-Mondale debacle of 1984, the Bush-Dukakis ugliness of 1988. I became even more involved and invested in the Clinton miracle of 1992 (although I was a Tsongas guy in my first official election). And on it goes. I've felt the highs and the lows. I have watched awesome debates and seen mud thrown. I have seen the political process at its best and its worst. I've been overwhelmed at my candidates' losses. I have been overjoyed at my candidates' victories. But I have never felt the way I felt last night.

I am sure that hundreds of people have confessed similar things in columns and blogs around the nation and the Internets, and most of them have probably done a greater job than I ever could. That does not stop me from saying that when that result was announced last night, I felt like people must have felt when victory was declared in Europe in World War II, when people watched Neil Armstrong walk on the moon (I was only five months old), when any great triumph of human struggle and perseverance has been reached.

No matter where you may lie on the political spectrum, one would have to be as unenlightened as a bag of rocks not to feel and appreciate the historic importance of last night's result. Will it be a true point of departure for our nation? Will our historic shame become somehow an openly dealt with issue that can be solved? Is this mere event enough to allow us to really get past it? I don't know. It, in itself, is significant. I wonder how it will change the face of America's racial dialogue. I am eager to find out.

But, after the euphoria of seeing the true promise of our nation manifest before my very eyes, reality began to sink in. Barack Obama has a tough job ahead of him, and, because of his historically significant achievement, he will be held to the highest standard from Day One. It is only with a small amount of hyperbole that I use the term savior to refer to many people's attitude toward President-elect Obama. People's attitudes at home and abroad.

We at home will expect him to save us. From the economy. From our health care system. From our own mistakes at home and abroad. From our own history. And the world will expect him to save America, in the hope that it restore its luster as a beacon of freedom, opportunity, and liberty:

"Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me.
I lift my lamp beside the golden door."

But, can a man (or woman) perform such a feat? Well, in all honesty, he (or she) can. But, this particular man must be a man of some integrity, a man of boundless energy and heart, a man of wisdom and good counsel. A man like...well...Abraham Lincoln (in my opinion).

Is Barack Obama that man? I am grateful that we will have the opportunity to find out.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Sick Days and Fall Breaks: Westward Ho!

Well, let's just say that my comment to Boring Election on last Monday, that I was at 85% was a gross overestimation on my part. Tuesday morning, which was a cold, cold 25 degrees in Lincoln, saw me hacking and snuffling and feeling pretty heinous. I even flirted with the idea of staying home, but, I pushed on.

Over all, it was wonderful to see old friends. I just wish I were well enough to really enjoy myself. I was exhausted and congested and just no fun for the entire week. I drank no beer, I took a couple of weak walks (no real hikes), I barely drank a cup of decent coffee. Mostly, the week was a wash.

And, now, here it is Tuesday, and I still feel the remnants of whatever I had/have. Weak, sore, coughing, congested in the morning. Well enough to get my ass to work and teach the churlen, but dragging by the time I get home. While I never confirmed that I had a fever of any sort, I gotta think it was the flu. And, while I can remember at least one year when I had it worse than this (remember that year, Monkey?), I don't know if I have ever felt it hanging around for this long.

Thinking well thoughts...

Election Day!

I know it is 5pm CST, but, to all those last minute perusers of the Internets: Go VOTE!