Friday, September 1, 2017

THE ART OF DEBATE

Full disclosure to begin things.  I have never been a member of a debate team.  I have never participated in a formal debate.  I have never read a book on debate techniques.  My whole debate experience has been with friends, friends of friends, and family members.

Okay, so there are my credentials on this subject.  Absolute zero.  So with that in mind, here's my thoughts on what I have learned over the years.

There basically just two rules to be able to debate at least to a point where you can pull a good debate off.

First you have to know what you, yourself, believe.  You have to know what your philosophy is and how to talk about it.  This may sound easy but it isn't.  If you are human, your philosophy continues to change as you progress in life and it is important to revisit your thoughts every once in a great while so you don't get yourself confused.  Most time when I revisit my philosophy, it takes at least a week to feel comfortable with where I am at and make adjustments in my thinking.

Secondly, you have to know what your opponent believes and what the basics of their philosophy is.  This isn't easy either.  If someone were to look at my library, they would think I am nuts.  I have read the "Communist Manifesto".  I bought my own copy of Mao Tse Tung's little red book when I was young.  I have read the Ku Klux Klan writings of Ben Klassey as well as Mein Kampf.  I have read books on different religions and different philosophies.  I have watched debates, mostly debates of William F. Buckley debating whoever wanted to take him on.  I have read or watched the speeches of Adlai Stevenson, Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, Harry Truman, John Kennedy and Barack Obama.  I have listened to Martin Luther King, Jr, Malcolm X, Ayn Rand as well as the classic philosophers. I have read writings and histories from our founding fathers including the Federalist papers.  Every American should be required to read the Federalist papers I think, along with the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States.

I learned this lesson one afternoon from my grandfather.  I know I have written about this particular afternoon before because it was really a light bulb in my head going off.  I grew up with a conservative bent on my think.  I am not sure how that happened, but I did.  The whole extended family was very liberal except for myself and my cousin Jerry.  My grandfather was a Roosevelt liberal, an union organizer and president.  He was liberal from domestic policy on through foreign policy.  He use to enjoy talking politics if there wasn't anything else to talk about, i.e. football or baseball.  Grandpa was sharp.  He knew his own thinking and was able to express it very well.

He also knew what to expect me to say and he was always ready with any argument I might come up with and on this particular day, It dawned on me.  I use to visit grandma and grandpa a few times a week.  On a daily basis, grandpa would study the news paper and watch Walter Cronkite.  He knew what the Republicans were saying and he definitely knew what the Democrats were saying.  While he was reading the paper, if an article or editorial caught his imagination, he would clip it and put it in the pocket of his chair.  He would use these clips to remind him of something that he wanted to talk about.  On THE day, I showed up and sat on the couch next to his chair.  He whipped out a newspaper clipping and, I will never forget this, the sound of his voice, he said "Here, read what your buddy Pat Buchanan wrote." and then he sat there and watched me as aI read it.  When I was done I handed it back to him and he asked "Well?, What do you think?"  And as I thought about how to answer him, I looked at him.  He had a sparkle in his eye.  He had me and he knew it and that was when the light bulb came on.  The old man KNOWS what I am going to say!  Why bother?  I had been beat before I even started.

That was the day I figured out the key to debate.  Know what you think, and know how your opponent is going to respond.  It was shortly after that when I began reading about things I didn't really understand.  Most of my reading in my teens up until today is about history and what other points of views that there are out there and I noticed that even if the old man and my uncles were still whipping up on me, at least I could carry on a debate for more than a second or two.

The third part of making a good debate is the toughest one to accomplish.  To make a debate worthwhile instead of just a yelling match, There has to be some listening going on while the other side is making their case.  In entering a debate you have to keep yourself firm in your own thinking while at the same time be willing to listen with an open mind and be able to accept a different idea from your opponent.  This makes your philosophy more complete, makes your thinking clearer.  You must be prepared to make subtle or even large changes in your philosophy.  It is important to realize that you can always learn something new from somebody else.

I am not very good at this third part.  I think I use to be pretty good at it but as I have aged, I think that my thinking has become kind of set in concrete and not willing to change.  Instead of actually listening to an opposing point of view, my mind seems to jump on parts of sentences, take statements out of context and convince myself as to how little logic is being told me.  It is a problem and one that I try to work on, but really I don't succeed much in it.  Friends on social media will verify that about me.  Then again, there are times when I think they don't listen either and when you have two opposing viewpoints with neither side listening, it turns into an excersize as though you both are spinning your wheels on an icy patch of road with dry land just to either side of that ice.  Both sides get frustrated and to restart from before the debate and move on as if it never happened.  That seldom happens either.  Too often we hold on to what someone said and don't let them forget it and soon, what once was a friendship becomes a mind game that never ends.

Right now this country is a mess.  I don't think you can blame it on the current administration or the previous one.  It seems to be an over all society that has hardened the wills and the thinking of those that hold them.  Right now, I think, this country has forgotten how to listen to each other.  Without listening there can be no end to the debate that is raging.  Without each philosophy taking a little from the other and giving a little, things start to spinning terribly out of control and our society is hurt by it.  Our country is hurt by it and when the United States is in a war of words with ourselves, it effects the rest of the world.  This isn't the first time our country was deeply divided, but it seems like it is the deepest divide we have had since the American Civil War.  The art of debate has been lost and has turned into a huge power struggle.

This country needs to come together even if it is just a tiny bit.  We need to start listening to each other.  We need to strive to understand different ideas and thinking.  We need to bring this great social debate that we find ourselves in toward an understanding that can bring respect from each of us to each of us.  Everyone has their own thoughts, that is a truth as old as mankind has been discussing ideas.  That is a given.  You don't have to agree with a person to have respect for them.  Only with a mutual respect that a vibrant debate can bring out in people can this country continue to grow and to lead the world.

I don't know about you, but that is what I want for this country.  I want it to be strong.  I want our allies to follow our lead.  I want our enemies to respect us enough to be able to come to the table and work things out so everyone is safer in the world.

That is what The United States is supposed to be.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

CRITICAL THINKING ... NOT THESE DAYS

You know, I was going to write out a long dissertation on how I see things that are happening, but I realize it would not do any good or be of any worth.

The Free Speech clause of the First Amendment is slowly fading away.

President Trump is not the reason.... he is an excuse to be and act however you want, to destroy public property.  He was right though... it did take more than just the "White Supremacist" or "White Nationalist" (Depending on how liberal your news source is) to cause what has become one of the worst chapters in the history of this nation.

The "Anti-Protesters" at Charlottesville were agitators.  We have seen them over the last 5 years.  These agitators are the same ones who burned Berkeley, rioted in Baltimore and burned down Ferguson.

At times, it feels like the anti-haters are showing and talking more hate than the hate speechers have.  Like I said .. I just don't know.

My personal philosophy?  I despise the Klan and in no way support any sort of white supremacy group or any racial supremacy group.  I am for equality on an even playing field.  I am for getting along with and enjoying your neighbor.  I put great value on the freedom of speech for everyone.  I put great value in our Constitution and the rights and protections it affords us.  I do not believe we should abuse those rights and protections.  Abusing them will make them disappear.

What is going on in this country irritates me, saddens me, angers me.

Research Evergreen State College.
Research Ferguson again
Research Berkely
Research Charlottesville and watch those clips again, closely, and you will see more than one side armed to the teeth and doing battle.
Revisit the fight for civil rights and the lives given to reach 1964.
Then research Loving v Virginia and try to figure out how after 1964 CRA that in 1967 Many states still had laws on the books outlawing interracial marriage... (Missouri was one of those states, not proud, just giving a full account)
Revisit the teachings of Martin Luther King, JR, Robert Kennedy, John Stuart Mill, and John Locke.
Better yet, revisit the teaching of Jesus Christ.
Research the Furman v Georgia cases from the early 70's that said the death penalty was being used as a racist tool by some of the states and so the death penalty was outlawed until they passed fairer laws (still not totally fair but a lot better than it was).

Haters on both sides.  Speech and thought being shut down.  Art being removed from Universities.  Check out Yale University and how they are handling things.  They are removing paintings that may be too disturbing.

Let me say this.  Disturbing is GOOD sometimes.  Disturbing makes us stop and think. And when we stop and think, we can set things straight.

It is just a huge mob mentality across the spectrum.  Doesn't seem like anyone is thinking for themselves,  just follow whatever crowd your beliefs set you into.

I don't know.  Like I said, I have been thinking this over very seriously over the last couple of days.  I had a lot to say.  Then this morning it occurred to me that it doesn't matter anymore.  I got nothing to say really.  I know what I believe and I can live with that.  I was taught and raised well.  I had many good influences in my life as I have grown old.  Nothing that I see going on in this country today... the clash of the races, the clash of the genders, the clash of right or left .. none of that sits well with me and I don't think it should.

I am not going to go to battle with cousins that I love but disagree a little bit with... it isn't worth that to me.  It isn't worth losing friendships either.

This country is what... 241 years old?  You would think that we could get it right by now.

My bottom line is that I don't want to lose family, friends, or any relationships that I may have out there, in real life or on social media ... Just isn't worth it.  If  any of these mentioned want to talk about things, I'll talk... but I won't argue ... I won't let my emotions get carried away to the point of losing some REALLY good people that I have around.  Not worth it.

I got some good readers I think ... and I know that you know what I am talking about, where I am coming from.  I respect each and every one of you and I thank you for reading this silly little blog over the years.  I think it is time to start remembering stories from my past and going back to writing and sharing those with you.

For all of us, a quote from my Uncle Dan... "Take Care and Be Safe"

May God bless y'all.

Bill

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

AS LONG AS WE ARE REWRITING HISTORY

As long as we are rewriting history and destroying monuments and statues that remind us of our past, in particular concerning the slave issue and the Civil War, I think we should take it all the way instead of just those monuments of Civil war participants and Confederate Generals and armed forces.

So my first proposal is to rename any national monuments around the country that honor any president who owned slaves and held slaves which would lead up to the Civil War.  First off lets look at the Presidents of the United States who did own slaves.

01. George Washington owned slaves
02. John Adams did NOT own slaves
03. Thomas Jefferson owned slaves
04. James Madison owned slaves
05. James Monroe owned slaves
06. John Quincy Adams did NOT own slaves
07. Andrew Jackson owned slaves
08. Martin Van Buren owned slaves
09. William Henry Harrison owned slaves
10. John Tyler owned slaves
11. James K. Polk owned slaves
12. Zachary Taylor owned slaves
13. Millard Fillmore did NOT own slaves
14. Franklin Pierce did NOT own slaves
15. James Buchanan did NOT own slaves
16. Abraham Lincoln did NOT own slaves
17. Andrew Johnson owned slaves
18. Ulysses S Grant owned slaves

 Grant was the last President to own a slave.

The obvious first step is to rename the Washington Monument to the Quincy Adams Monument followed by renaming of the Jefferson Memorial to the Adams Memorial.  Give these two early opponents of slavery their due finally.

Next, replace Washington with John Adams on the Dollar bill and the quarter.  Followed of course by Quincy Adams being placed on the nickel and the 20 dollar bill along with Harry Truman or John Kennedy on the 50 dollar bill.

The destruction or removal of all memorials, statues of slave owing Presidents across the entire nation is a must.  Any National Parks or federally owned lands named in "honor" of these Presidents should be renamed to those who did not own slaves with Adams and Quincy Adams getting first chance.  Consideration should also be given to great Americans who did not hold the office of the presidency.  Abolitionists like John Brown, Fredrick Douglas, Harriet Tubman and Rosa Parks in particular.  That is not sarcasm, I feel these Americans have long been over due recognition, particular John Brown, as has President Adams and President Quincy Adams.

The removal from the Register of National Historic Places of the homes, lands, or anything to do with the lives of these Presidents who upheld Slavery should take place.  First stop would be to bulldoze Mount Vernon and turn those lands into a National Park or reserve.  Bulldoze Monticello and all of Jefferson's holdings, again returning these lands to the American people in the way of a National Park or reserve.  Neither of these should be named for their former owners, Washington and Jefferson.  The third in this process would be to destroy the Hermitage in Tennessee and again, reclaim the lands and holdings for the American people.

After these three national ceremonies are completed, a very quick and systematic destruction of all homes and holdings of the remaining slave owning Presidents, including Grant's Tomb, should be destroyed and removed from memory.

History books used in our schools should pull any mention or teaching of these Presidents that were slave owners, replacing that space with Native American history.  John Adams should be taught as being the Father of the Country and the first legitimate President of the United States.

A commission should be established on the feasibility of re-carving Mount Rushmore to replace the likenesses of Washington and Jefferson with a carving of John Adams and  Woodrow Wilson.  If the commission decides that a re-carving could not be done safely, then the faces of Washington and Jefferson should be carved off to a flat surface.  The second part of the duties of this commission would be to oversee the total destruction of Stone Mountain in Georgia.

All Civil War Battlefields in which the Confederacy won should dutifully be removed from the Register of Historic Sights.  Any depictions or statues of a Confederate soldier ought to be destroyed on these sacred grounds where Union soldiers gave their lives.

All museums in the country which have any confederate memorabilia, especially a Confederate Flag of any kind, should destroy these artifacts of insurrection.

And you know, I kind of think that Grant's signature on the terms of surrender should be redacted.  Just a black box where Grant's signature use to be.  Once you destroy history, it cannot come back.

Now of course, all of these suggestions are ludicrous and would never happen or so I hope they don't.  This writing was intended to be sarcastic and satirical.  I am not so sure anymore.  History is important people, even if you don't like it or if it offends you.  It is still history and it is history that we should learn from.  It is OUR history, the citizens of the United States and even though it has lots of blemishes, lots of scars, it is still the best in the world.

We have had good Presidents and bad Presidents, even great Presidents as well as absolutely horrible Presidents.  I take great pride though in the fact that through all of our disagreements, both politically and philosophically, this nation has always stood as one when it came down to the bare bones.  I can, and have, disagree with cousins and neighbors and my grandfather on issues that are very important and come away from it still respecting each other and continue to talk and carry on the relationship we have forged.

There is a lot of hate going on in this country and it pains me to see it.  It isn't just Charlottesville or Evergreen State and it isn't coming from just one group of people.  There are pockets of hate in every part of the populace.  It is these small pockets of hate from all around that give rise to a crack in the American citizenry.

Freedom of Speech is at stake I feel.  I also feel Freedom of the Press is in peril.  The whole First Amendment seems to be collapsing.  The fourth and fourteenth amendments are coming close to being in danger.

Communication is the key.  Respectful communication where there is someone who's turn it is to speak and others listen carefully, closely, respectfully so that if they do not agree with speaker, they can have their turn to talk and be listened to closely and respectfully.   I don't mean only in words but in our actions as well.

We need our great leaders, our great minds of all races, creeds, cultures, philosophies and political leanings, great Americans to emerge from the shadows to lead, to think and to communicate.  Don't let this nation, this United States of America, be ripped apart anymore than it has in the whole of its history.

Our country needs this for now, for the future and for the future generations to come.

Friday, August 4, 2017

WHY I LOVE MISSOURI

Missouri.  It is my home.  I have lived here all of my life and honestly would not want to live anywhere else.

It is a beautiful state from the farmlands up north to the soft rolling hills on down to the wonderful Ozark Mountains, to the flood plain in the boothill.  You can see all manner of livestock as well as corn and wheat fields in the north central part of the state to vast cotton fields down south.

It is home to the last eastern city in St. Louis to the first western city in Kansas City.  Small towns with friendly folk pepper the whole state.  From the Arch to the Shuttlecocks and on down to Springfield.

This state birthed one of our greatest Presidents in Harry S Truman, who was born in Lamar and passed on in Independence.

The University of Missouri at Columbia is host to one of the highest academic programs in the land, known primarily for it School of Journalism.

The University of Missouri at Rolla is known as one of the best Engineering Universities in the nation, ranking right up near the top with MIT.

The state has a rich history.  It was the kick off point for the Lewis and Clark Expedition.  In St. Joseph, the Pony Express found its beginnings.  The Oregon and Santa Fe trails began in the Kansas City area.  The first Governor was William Clark himself after his travels with Merriwether Lewis were completed.  It has legends of political machines in the 20's to the 40's.

The Capitol building in Jefferson City sits high on a bluff over looking the wide Missouri River.

Yes, this great state has a proud heritage and the citizens who inhabit its lands are a proud people.  The people of this great state range from academia to hard workers and farmers, many of the people are all three.  Our state motto says a lot about the state.  "Show Me"  Don't bull me, don't try to pull things on me, don't lie to me, but SHOW ME.  Facts.  Truths.

We have a strong Confederate legacy and a strong Union legacy.  We produced some of the greatest music to come out of this country.  Count Basie, Charlie Parker, Joe Turner and Sheryl Crowe among many many others.  We produced some of the great athletes like Satchel Page, Buck O'Neil Norm Stewart and many many others.

We even gave you Brad Pitt .... you're welcome.

We produced many leaders such as Tom Eagleton, Harry Truman, Dick Bolling and Stuart Symington.

The James/Younger gang came out of the northern hills of Missouri.  The Pendergast machine was famous for it's control of Kansas City.

Artists such as Mark Twain and Thomas Hart Benton came from this wonderful place.

We are the heart of America and we are proud to be known as such.  We have a rich and diverse culture that rivals that of any state in the country.

Lately though, Missouri has come under fire and came close to imploding.  The cause of this were mostly lies brought about by outsiders.  A graduate student in Columbia made up a hoax that started a chain reaction at the University that they are still trying to overcome.  There is great diversity at the university and the falsehood of swatzikas on campus and pick up trucks full of rednecks threatening minority students have all been proven false.  Once that story gets out there though, it is hard to show the rest of the country the truth, especially when the liberal media continue to propagate the lies.

The main thing that has stained our reputation came out of Ferguson, a small town north of St. Louis.  Even though the facts contradict what the media and certain organizations continue to put out there,  The Ferguson incident was not a case of racist cops gone wild.  The facts get ignored though and now, many Citizens are starting to believe the falsehoods, at least thinking that there is partial truth to them.

Missouri will overcome all of this hype and lies eventually.  The true nature of the state will eventually come back out.  The people will be seen as good people who love this country just as much as anyone in the land.

It also, in my opinion, has the nicest looking State Flag in the country.

I love this place.  I was born here.  I will die here.  To this Missouri boy, it is the greatest part of the greatest nation on the face of the earth.  No one can take that away from me.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

WHY THE WISE MAN ONCE SAID... NOTHING

Ever since President Trump became the nominee there have been those who have been determined to destroy his administration before it started.  Since he actually won the election, insiders have been determined to impeach him and are desperately looking for an impeachable offense.  They have used lies and innuendos about the President to distract anything being accomplished.

Social media has been non-stop Trump bashing from the Trump haters.  Unsubstantiated accusations against the administration have been tossed around carelessly.  There have been claims of the President lying without specifying what those lies were.  There has been this ridiculous accusation of the President's staff colluding with Russia to sway the election without any hard proof of such a thing happening.  The attacks continue in an attempt, I believe, to not only bring down the administration but to personally destroy the President.

My grandfather, a very wise man, told me one time after asking me if I was positive about something and getting a reply of "yes" from me, leaned forward, looked me in the eye and said "A positive man is a fool."  His point was that there are always another side.  Everything is a two way street.  You may be positive about something but chances are very good that there are more facts out there that you do not know about, and those facts could make you look like a fool when those facts come out.  Since that day I am extremely careful about being positive about somethings.

Last week the House Committee  on the Judiciary passed a resolution to return to reality and open an investigation into the possible criminal behavior of the former Secretary of State, the former Attorney General, the former Director of the FBI, members of congress, Susan Rice, numerous bureaucrats that have leaked secret or top secret information to the press.  The investigation into the Trump campaign is dying a slow death as facts continue to come out as fantasy.  They are getting ready to look at what could be a long list of felonies involving a long list of people who should know better.

Everything that the President does is called into question.  The most recent item was firing his White House Chief of Communications after appointing him just ten days earlier.  The reason the President fired Anthony Scaramucci?  Because he used uncalled for language to a member of the press, and President Trump does not want that kind of representation of his administration.  If the President had not fired Scaramucci, the distractors would have jumped on him for having such an ugly confrontation with the press.

ABC News had a headline the other day that said "Even though Hillary lost the election, some Republicans are calling for an investigation."  This implies that since Clinton lost the election, we should forget about all of the unanswered questions that were being brought up over the last few years.  Questions of felonies, perjury, conspiracy.  The list has gotten longer since the election.  The investigation that the House is calling for could bring to light who the true criminals are or were.  Of course, if she had won the election, there would not have been an investigation either.  Double standard in the nation's capital. Hopefully this will free up all of this innuendo and allow the President to attempt to put some of his agenda into place.

Why did our wise man once say ... nothing.?  Note he once said nothing, not always said nothing.  The reason our wise man said nothing now was because he was observing and listening.  He was trying to split the ludicrous from the believable, the truth from the lies, the good from the bad.  He was looking for justice where injustice seemed to rule.  He was searching for the return of the rule of law to the greatest nation on the face of the earth.

Our wise man once said nothing while waiting for this nation to come back together by holding people responsible for their actions.


Friday, July 28, 2017

IN MY MIND


"I’ll be all around in the dark – I’ll be everywhere. Wherever you can look – wherever there’s a fight, so hungry people can eat, I’ll be there. Wherever there’s a cop beatin’ up a guy, I’ll be there. I’ll be in the way guys yell when they’re mad. I’ll be in the way kids laugh when they’re hungry and they know supper’s ready, and when the people are eatin’ the stuff they raise and livin’ in the houses they build – I’ll be there, too."
(John Steinbeck)

"I've got nothing on my mind,
Nothing to remember,
Nothing to forget.
And I've got nothing to regret.
But I'm all tied up on the inside,
No one knows quite what I've got,
And I know that on the outside
What I used to be
I'm not anymore."
(Don McLean)

"Always give your best, never get discouraged, never be petty; always remember, others may hate you, but those who hate you don't win unless you hate them, and then you destroy yourself."
(Richard Nixon)

"You can go to church and sing a hymn
You can judge me by the color of my skin
You can live a lie until you die
One thing you can't hide
Is when you're crippled inside"
(John Lennon)

"The planet will be here for a long, long, LONG time after we’re gone, and it will heal itself, it will cleanse itself, ’cause that’s what it does. It’s a self-correcting system. The air and the water will recover, the earth will be renewed. And if it’s true that plastic is not degradable, well, the planet will simply incorporate plastic into a new paradigm: the earth plus plastic. The earth doesn’t share our prejudice toward plastic. Plastic came out of the earth. The earth probably sees plastic as just another one of its children. Could be the only reason the earth allowed us to be spawned from it in the first place. It wanted plastic for itself. Didn’t know how to make it. Needed us. Could be the answer to our age-old egocentric philosophical question, “Why are we here?”
(George Carlin)

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed, by their Creator, with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness."
(Declaration of Independence) 

It is not enough to have a good mind; the main thing is to use it well.
(Rene Descartes)

"I wish that for just one time you could stand inside my shoes. You’d know what a drag it is to see you."
(Bob Dylan)

"When they knock you down, you not only have to get up, but you have to make it clear that you won't be knocked down a second time."
(Carl Yastrzemski)

Marijuana will be legal someday, because the many law students who now smoke pot will one day be Congressmen and they will legalize it to protect themselves.
(Lenny Bruce)

"I'm not crazy, I'm just a little unwell
I know right now you can't tell
But stay awhile and maybe then you'll see
A different side of me
I'm not crazy, I'm just a little impaired
I know right now you don't care
But soon enough you're gonna think of me
And how I used to be"
(Rob Thomas)

"Reading furnishes the mind only with materials of knowledge; it is thinking that makes what we read ours."
(John Locke)

"The world is like a ride in an amusement park, and when you choose to go on it you think it's real because that's how powerful our minds are. The ride goes up and down, around and around, it has thrills and chills, and it's very brightly colored, and it's very loud, and it's fun for a while. Many people have been on the ride a long time, and they begin to wonder, "Hey, is this real, or is this just a ride?" And other people have remembered, and they come back to us and say, "Hey, don't worry; don't be afraid, ever, because this is just a ride." And we … kill those people. "Shut him up! I've got a lot invested in this ride, shut him up! Look at my furrows of worry, look at my big bank account, and my family. This has to be real." It's just a ride. But we always kill the good guys who try and tell us that, you ever notice that? And let the demons run amok … But it doesn't matter, because it's just a ride. And we can change it any time we want. It's only a choice. No effort, no work, no job, no savings of money. Just a simple choice, right now, between fear and love. The eyes of fear want you to put bigger locks on your doors, buy guns, close yourself off. The eyes of love instead see all of us as one. Here's what we can do to change the world, right now, to a better ride. Take all that money we spend on weapons and defenses each year and instead spend it feeding and clothing and educating the poor of the world, which it would pay for many times over, not one human being excluded, and we could explore space, together, both inner and outer, forever, in peace."
(Bill Hicks)

“Facts are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passion, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence.”
(John Adams)

"See the children of the earth
Who wake to find the table bare
See the gentry in the country
Riding off to take the air
See the jailer with his key
Who locks away all trace of sin
See the judge upon the bench
Who tries the case as best he can
See the wise and wicked ones
Who feed upon life's sacred fire
See the soldier with his gun
Who must be dead to be admired
See the man who tips the needle
See the man who buys and sells
See the man who puts the collar
On the ones who dare not tell
See the drunkard in the tavern
Stemming gold to make ends meet
See the youth in ghetto black
Condemned to life upon the street"
(Gordon Lightfoot)

"Books, in all their variety, offer the human intellect the means whereby civilisation may be carried triumphantly forward."
(Winston Churchill)

"There comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe nor politic nor popular, but he must take it because his conscience tells him it is right."
(Martin Luther King, Jr.)

"It is well known that when you do anything, unless you understand its actual circumstances, its nature and its relations to other things, you will not know the laws governing it, or know how to do it, or be able to do it well."
(Mao Tse Tung)

"I've built walls
A fortress, steep and mighty
That none may penetrate
I have no need of friendship
Friendship causes pain.
It's laughter and it's loving I disdain.
I have my books
And my poetry to protect me
I am shielded in my armor
Hiding in my room
Safe within my womb
I touch no one and no one touches me
I am a rock
I am an island
And a rock feels no pain
And an island never cries"
(Paul Simon)

"Shadows are falling and I'm running out of breath
If I leave you it doesn't mean I love you any less
When you get up in the morning and you see that crazy sun
There's a train leaving nightly called when all is said and done
Keep me in your heart for awhile
Sometimes when you're doing simple things around the house
Maybe you'll think of me and smile
You know I'm tied to you like the buttons on your blouse
Hold me in your thoughts, take me to your dreams
Touch me as I fall into view
When the winter comes keep the fires lit
And I will be right next to you
Engine driver's headed north to Pleasant Stream
These wheels keep turning but they're running out of steam
Keep me in your heart for awhile"
(Warren Zevon)

Plus lots more ... maybe a "Part II" in the future.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

GRANDSON OF OLD RED

Many many years ago, I recorded in words the legacy and the legend of Old Red.  I have since lost that writing before I began this blog, but the memory of this fantastic animal has never left my mind.  Old Red was a racer, a runner who went from the old tree in our front yard, leap to the rooftop of the house, run over the crest of the house down to the telephone wire and then race to the telephone pole and retrace the route back to the old tree in the front yard.  He was a well known for more than his speed though.  He was the caregiver of the squirrel community on Marsh Avenue.  He helped out the whole of the squirrel community and was a leader of the group. Old Red, and the tree he use to race from in my front yard have both been gone for quite a while now.

Last summer, as I was watching the various families of squirrels go about their business, I noticed a new squirrel sprinting around from tree to tree.  He was small compared to the other squirrels that went about their daily chores on the street but one thing caught my eye.  He was mostly gray like most squirrels in western Missouri, but his tail was what caught my eye.  It was red.  The whole of the tail was red and not just any shade of red but a red that I recalled from many years ago.  It was the same hue of red as Old Red's whole body had been.

I thought of that color of red and remembered Old Red as I watched this little guy scamper about all over the place.  He was a little reckless in crossing the street, seldom checking for cars that might be heading in his direction.  After a few days of watching him I decided to go and ask the question that was burning in my mind.

It was a nice quiet Saturday morning when he recklessly crossed the street to land in my front yard.  I stood up and started to walk towards him.  It didn't take him long to notice me and he stood proudly up erect on his hind legs, and while putting his front paws together gave me the deadliest stare he could muster.  He shook his tail a bit hoping to warn me off.

"Hey" I said cheerfully with a wave of my hand

"What?!?"  His voice was loud, stern, high pitched and squeaky.  "What do you want?  I am not bothering you, you know.  I got a right to be here or didn't you read the VERY VERY small print in the contract when you bought this so called house?"

"What small print?" I asked with a smile trying not to laugh at him directly.

"The small print that says that ANY wild life NOT being kept as a pet, such as dogs and so forth, have the right to roam anywhere on this land that they want to.  THAT small print!"

With this he dropped his front paws down and placed them on his hips, tilted his head and resumed his menacing stare at me with his tail still shaking.

"Nah, I don't bother with small print.  Can't see small print well enough to read it", I smiled at him at he let out a deep irritated sigh. "So, what's your name?", I asked.

He looked at me with a questioning expression trying to figure out if he wanted to waste time with me.  Finally he decided that being friends with the land owner could come in handy in the future. His voice dropped in pitched and became less of a squeak as he realized I meant no harm.

"Well, my name is Redtail" he said as he raised his arm and pointed with his thumb over his shoulder toward his backside. "That's my name anyway but they don't call me Redtail.  They call me Red runt"

His head drop a bit and his shoulders slumped a bit with this revelation.  He lifted his head slowly and looked past me into space as he thought about the nick name he had been laden with.

He sighed a bit and looking at me revealed something else.

"Of course I suppose it could be a little worse.  They called my dad 'Reddy Mix' because he had small splotches of red all over his body.  Almost looked like a rash.  Dad taught me how to deal with having a not so good nick name.  I deal with it."

"Your dad was Reddy Mix?" I asked with recognition.  "Wow, you had a great dad.  I use to watch him scamper around here all the time."  I watched for a reaction for Redtail and only got a shrug of the shoulders.

"Yeah, dad was okay.  He didn't do much, not like grandpa anyway.  Grandpa was a great squirrel, he was one of the great squirrel racers in history!" he exclaimed as his chest puffed up just a little.  "I never knew grandpa though.  He died in some sort of accident.  They never told me what happened."

"Your grandpa.  I knew him.  He was indeed a great one and a great racer.  I saw him race lots of times."  I said respectfully thinking back to that last day that his grandpa had raced.

"You knew my grandpa?"  Redtail's eyes widened and his posture straightened up in excitement.  "You knew Old Red?  You saw him race?  Please, oh please tell me a little about Old Red.  Please?"

I looked at young Redtail, looked at his eyes and the excitement in them and decided it was time he learned a little about Old Red.

I began slowly and thoughtfully.

"Your grandpa.  Well, they told you right, He spent most of his time racing other squirrels.  He was fast.  Very fast.  Probably the fastest squirrel on the block at the time."

I took a seat on my porch and lit a cigarette taking my time before continuing.  Redtail's eyes never left my face as I began to continue.

"Old Red, I like to think, was a friend of mine.  As close of a friend as a squirrel and human can be anyway.  I use to sit right here on a lot of Saturdays watching the races which your grandfather never missed as far as I can remember.  You see the old track use to be right here in my front yard.  There use to be a big tree out there in the yard and they would race towards the roof of the house, leap onto the house, run over to the back of the house and run on the line that goes out to that pole in the back.  Once they touched the pole they raced back across the line, over the house then leap back to the tree grabbing at limb to pull them selves up and race back to the main trunk.  Your grand dad was one of the best at that.  My tree was where Old Red ran his last race.  I was out here that day.  I saw that last race of his and he was faster than he had ever been.  You see, earlier in the day a younger squirrel, a newcomer to the races had broke your grandpa's record for running the course.  Your grandpa's last race was an attempt to get that record back and he almost did just that."

I stopped and paused, thinking back in my mind to that day.  Eventually I woke out of my daydream to find Redtail still staring at me, waiting for more information.

"Yes sir, he almost got that record back, but he...." and I found myself grow quiet as I the vision of what had occurred that day filled my head.

"But?" asked Redtail wanting to know why his grandfather had not broken the record.

I started out slowly and quietly, almost reverently,  "Well, Old Red made a mistake.  He took a risk to try to shave off a little more time for the record.  He was on the last leg of the course, coming down the roof heading for the tree.  He left the roof just a little bit early in his leap for the limbs on the tree.  I knew as soon as he left the roof that it was too soon to jump.  I think he knew it as well.  He stretched out as far as he could and grabbed and caught one of the smallest limbs out there.  He grabbed it with both hands and held on with everything he could.  The, uh... well the limb bent down with his weight.  Once it bent as far as it could, it snapped upwards, taking your grandpa with it.  He held on tight and I honestly felt that he had done it.  I knew the limb would snap back down again but I figured once that had happened, he would be off to the trunk of the tree.  But..." and here I choked up a bit but pushed on with the story, "the limb snapped back down hard.  Your grandpa couldn't hold on and he lost his grip.  He was thrown to the ground.  I sat here and looked at him.  He wasn't moving.  Soon the squirrel community came down to him to check him over.  The fall took your grandpa's life Redtail.   It... umm... it... well it broke his neck kid.  He didn't feel a thing.

I stopped and looked at Redtail.  He was slouched down a little and was wiping his eyes of the tears that had begun to flow.  He slowly looked back up at me and I read in his eyes that he wanted me to go on.

"You know, Redtail, Your grandpa was a very strong squirrel.  That limb had a hell of a snap to it to be able to throw your grandpa loose and to the ground.  The community took your grandpa away to his nest where they laid him down so other squirrels could come and pay respects.  Three days.  Three days he laid in that nest and the line of squirrels continued to come to see him and tell him goodbye.  Then after the three days they took him over to the brush by the lake and laid him down with all of the squirrels that had gone before him.  He was a very respected squirrel Redtail.  You should be proud that he was your grandpa."

Redtail and myself sat there quietly thinking about the story I had just told.  Eventually Redtail climb up on my knee and stared out into the yard where the tree had once stood.

I started talking quietly again to the small squirrel.  "That tree came down during a winter storm several years ago.  It was a sad day not only for me but for the squirrel community as well.  Thousands of races had been run on that tree.  Your grandpa ran well over a hundred races and held the record most of the time that he was racing.  When the tree came down, the record did not have his name attached to it though.  That is why they race at the new track over there," I said pointing next door to the big tree in that front yard.  "It is kind of a more dangerous track to run than the old track use to be."

Redtail looked at the new track and nodded his head.  Eventually his head returned to where the old tree had once stood.

"Can you read? I asked Redtail seriously.

"Of course not, not human writing anyway.  I'm just a little squirrel, remember?"

"Come walk with me.  I got something to show you." I said as I stood up and began walking into the yard where the tree use to be.  I looked down to be sure Redtail was following me into the grass.  We walked down to the water meter that lay in the yard next to where the old tree use to be.  When we got there Redtail looked at the big metal disk with human letters on it.

"What does it say? Is it about grandpa?" he asked inquisitively.

"Well let's see,"  I said and I squatted down to clear some grass off of the top of the old water meter.

I began to "read" the water meter for Redtail making up the words as I went along.

"Here once stood a great tree that was used as the main race path for generations of squirrels.  Many great squirrels ran this tree but there was one that stood above the rest.  It was on this site where the famous racer Old Red ran his first and last race.  He was the greatest of all the racers who ever ran here.  He will forever be remembered for his kindness, thoughtfulness, strength and courage.  May the name of Old Red never be forgotten."

I felt a small tug on the leg of my jeans and looked down to see Redtail hold onto me as he stared at the meter.  He then got down on all fours and walked onto the metal plate and ran his claws over the letters embossed upon it.

I decided to leave Redtail alone with his thoughts and walked back to the porch and sat, watching him contemplate what he had just learned.  After awhile I watched Redtail turn around and look at me before starting to slowly head back to me and the porch.

He arrived at the porch and climbed back up on my knee, laying his head down with his eyes staring out into the yard.

"Thank you" Redtail said.  "Thank you so very much"

We sat on the porch together until the sun set and it began to get dark around us.  He climbed off of my knee and looked at me with a new awareness of where he had come from.

"I'll see you around." he said as he turned and headed off into the night air to his nest.

I have seen him a lot since that day and when I do see him, he shakes his tail at me, smiles and gives me a little wave.  No doubt he will pass the tale of Old Red to his offspring and grandchildren and the name of Old Red will never be forgotten, at least not in the squirrel community.

Monday, May 29, 2017

GREGG ALLMAN AND HIS LEGACY

I have written several entries when artists have passed away over the years.  Every one of them have been important to me in different ways.  Shaping my philosophy, making me think, while at the same time providing my life with beautiful music that sticks in my mind.  There have been a lot of them but some stand a head over the majority of them.  John Lennon, David Bowie, Leonard Cohen,  Warren Zevon and Ray Charles along with John Coltrane and Johnny Cash.

Gregg Allman with his brother Duane took the old rock/blues sound to a whole different level and different direction.  You can tell if it is an Allman Brothers song or a Gregg Allman song with in the first few notes, the sound was that distinctive.  Duane died after the release of the classic album "Live At The Fillmore East" and Gregg had a huge decision to make.  He decided to keep the band, and its music going.  As more of the country discovered Gregg Allman and the boys there came from the country the definition of a new music genre which they called southern rock.  Southern rock took the basics of rock, blues, jazz and country and melded them into a brand new sound.  More southern rock bands would crop up to follow the Allman Brothers but none ever matched them.

Gregg Allman was an innovator.  He was one of the few acts around that were better live than they were in the studio.  They seemed to step it up a notch when playing for a crowd that were totally drawn into their music.  Gregg Allman played the organ for the most part but it was his arrangement of songs and the voice he put to those arrangements that made him so great. As an example of this was a song written by Jackson Browne called "These Days".  It was a good song by Browne, a rock ballad that seemed to be Browne's best work.  Gregg Allman arranged the song into a heavy sad blues number that with his distinct voice made it a favorite on the play lists at concerts.

There are many good blues singers but the number of great blues singers and blues voices are few and far between.  Gregg Allman was a great blues singer.  He put his very soul into every song he sang and the songs he sang of were of life.  His life.  All of our lives.  He had a way of connecting to those who came to hear him.  I saw Gregg Allman perform but once, and let me tell you, his performance would grab your heart, your soul and you would be mesmerized until the number was finished.  Sometimes you would swear you forgot how to breathe while he was singing his songs.

Gregg Allman passed away this week at the age of 69.  A lot of the greats seem to be dying rather young.  It has been suggested to me that, well, they had lived a life, a hard life filled with drugs and alcohol, abusing their bodies at a young age and sometimes those things catch u to you.  This was certainly the case for Gregg Allman.

Gregg Allman is gone and so the Allman Brothers Band is gone and without the Allman Brothers, there can be no more southern rock.  Gregg Allman so defined the genre that it died with him.  There are plenty of southern rock bands that followed Gregg and Duane, but they are living in the past, not creating anything new.  Gregg Allman was still putting out new music.  Some of it was his and some were long forgotten blues numbers that he touched with his special magic of soul and blues.

Gregg Allman is gone.  His last album he released was last year.  It was a live recording of a performance in Macon, Georgia which was the base for the band for all these years.  With the history of the Allman Brothers Band and Gregg Allman as a solo artist, it seems somehow fitting that his last album would be a live album.

That is the way it should be and the way he should be remembered.  A singer of the people, for the people live, not shacked up in a studio.  It was at those times when he was at his best.

Gregg Allman will always be included at the top of my list as one of the pure greats.

Monday, May 1, 2017

THIRTY SIX MINUTES OF COHEN

Not often do I ask readers to take time to take a post seriously.  This is an exception.  It will take but thirty six minutes of your time and I implore you to listen to this album and read the lyrics as you do.  I don't bring up Leonard Cohen up very often and this will probably the last time I do. The video is the complete album and the words are so real.  The songs on this album talk to me.  I hear the words and can place them in where I find myself in my life most of the time.  All I ask is a short thirty six minutes and focus on the songs and what they are saying.  It is one of the best albums released in the last half century and will give you a window into my mind as well as Cohen's right before he passed away.
Thirty six minutes.  That is all I ask


  


You Want It Darker

If you are the dealer
I’m out of the game
If you are the healer
I’m broken and lame
If thine is the glory
Then mine must be the shame
You want it darker
We kill the flame

Magnified and sanctified
Be Thy Holy Name
Vilified and crucified
In the human frame
A million candles burning
For the help that never came
You want it darker
We kill the flame

Hineni Hineni
I’m ready, my Lord

There’s a lover in the story
But the story is still the same
There’s an lullaby for suffering
And a paradox to blame
But it’s written in the scriptures
And it’s not some idle claim
You want it darker
We kill the flame

They’re lining up the prisoners now
The guards are taking aim
I struggled with some demons
They were middle-class and tame
Didn’t know I had permission
To murder and to maim
You want it darker
We kill the flame

Hineni Hineni
I’m ready, my Lord

Magnified and sanctified
Be Thy Holy Name
Vilified and crucified
In the human frame
A million candles burning
For the love that never came
You want it darker
We kill the flame

If you are the dealer
I’m out of the game
If you are the healer
I’m broken and lame
If thine is the glory
Then mine must be the shame
You want it darker
We kill the flame

Hineni Hineni
I’m ready, my Lord

Treaty

I seen you change the water into wine
I seen you change it back to water too
I sit at your table every night
I try but I just don’t get high with you

I wish there was a treaty we could sign
I do not care who takes the bloody hill
I’m angry and I’m tired all the time
I wish there was a treaty
I wish there was a treaty
Between your love and mine

They’re dancing in the street – it’s Jubilee
We sold ourselves for love but now we’re free
I’m sorry for the ghost I made you be
Only one of us was real – and that was me.

I haven’t said a word since you’ve been gone
That any liar couldn’t say as well
I can’t believe the static coming on
You were my ground – my safe and sound
You were my aerial

The fields are crying out – it’s Jubilee
We sold ourselves for love but now we’re free
I’m sorry for the ghost I made you be
Only one of us was real – and that was me.

I heard the snake was baffled by his sin
He shed his scales to find the snake within
But born again is born without a skin
The poison enters into everything

I wish there was a treaty we could sign
I do not care who takes the bloody hill
I’m angry and I’m tired all the time
I wish there was a treaty
I wish there was a treaty
Between your love and mine

On The Level

I knew that it was wrong
I didn’t have a doubt
I was dying to get back home
And you were starting out

I said I better hurry on
You said, we have all day
You smiled at me like I was young
It took my breath away

Your crazy fragrance all around
Your secrets all in view
My lost, my lost was saying found
My don’t was saying do

Let’s keep it on the level
When I walked away from you
I turned my back on the devil
Turned my back on the angel too

They ought to give my heart a medal
For letting go of you
When I turned my back on the devil
Turned my back on the angel too

Now I’m living in this temple
Where they tell you what to do
I’m old and I’ve had to settle
On a different point of view

I was fighting with temptation
But I didn’t want to win
A man like me don’t like to see
Temptation caving in

Your crazy fragrance all around
You secrets all in view
My lost, my lost was saying found
My don’t was saying do

Let’s keep it on the level
When I walked away from you
I turned my back on the devil
Turned my back on the angel too

They ought to give my heart a medal
For letting go of you
When I turned my back on the devil
Turned my back on the angel too

Leaving The Table

I’m leaving the table
I’m out of the game
I don’t know the people
In your picture frame

If I ever loved you
It’s a crying shame
If I ever loved you
If I knew your name

You don’t need a lawyer
I’m not making a claim
You can put down your weapon
I’m not taking aim

I don’t need a lover
The wretched beast is tame
I don’t need a lover
So blow out the flame

There’s nobody missing
There is no reward
Little by little
We’re cutting the cord

We’re spending the treasure
That love cannot afford
I know you can feel it
The sweetness restored
I don’t need a reason

For what I became
I’ve got these excuses
They’re old and they’re lame
I don’t need a pardon
There’s no one left to blame

I’m leaving the table
I’m out of the game

If I Didn’t Have Your Love

If the sun would lose its light
And we lived an endless night
And there was nothing left
That you could feel
Well that’s how it would be
What the world would seem to me
If I didn’t have your love
To make it real

If the stars were all unpinned
And a cold and bitter wind
Swallowed up the world
Without a trace
Well that’s where I would be
What my life would seem to me
If I couldn’t lift the veil
And see your face

If no leaves were on the tree
And no water in the sea
And the break of day
Had nothing to reveal
That’s how broken I would be
What my life would seem to me
If I didn’t have your love
To make it real

If the sun would lose its light
And we lived an endless night
And there was nothing left
That you could feel
If the sea were sand alone
And the flowers made of stone
And no one that you hurt
Could ever heal

That’s how broken I would be
What my life would mean to me
If I didn’t have your love
To make it real

Traveling Light

I’m traveling light
It’s au revoir
My once so bright
My fallen star
I’m running late
They’ll close the bar
I used to play
One mean guitar
I guess I’m just
Somebody who
Has given up
On the me and you

I’m not alone
I’ve met a few
Traveling light like
We used to do
Goodnight goodnight
My fallen star

I guess you’re right
You always are
I know you’re right
About the blues
You live some life
You’d never choose
I’m just a fool
A dreamer who
Forgot to dream
Of the me and you

I am not alone
I’ve met a few
Traveling light like
We used to do
 
Traveling light
It’s au revoir
My once so bright
My fallen star
I’m running late
They’ll close the bar
I used to play
One mean guitar
I guess I’m just
Somebody who
Has given up
On the me and you

I’m not alone
I’ve met a few
Traveling light like
We used to do

But if the road
Leads back to you
Must I forget
The things I knew
When I was friends
With one or two
Traveling light like
We used to do

Seemed The Better Way

It seemed the better way
When first I heard him speak
But now it’s much too late
To turn the other cheek

It sounded like the truth
It seemed the better way
It sounded like the truth
But it’s not the truth today

I wonder what it was
I wonder what it meant
At first he touched on love
But then he touched on death

I better hold my tongue
I better take my place
Lift this glass of blood
Try to say the grace

Steer Your Way

Steer your way through the ruins
of the Altar and the Mall
Steer your way through the fables
of Creation and The Fall
Steer your way past the Palaces
that rise above the rot
Year by year
Month by month
Day by day
Thought by thought

Steer your heart past the Truth
you believed in yesterday
Such as Fundamental Goodness
and the Wisdom of the Way
Steer your heart, precious heart,
past the women whom you bought
Year by year
Month by month
Day by day
Thought by thought

Steer your path through the pain
that is far more real than you
That has smashed the Cosmic Model,
that has blinded every View
And please don’t make me go there,
tho’ there be a God or not
Year by year
Month by month
Day by day
Thought by thought

They whisper still, the injured stones,
the blunted mountains weep
As he died to make men holy,
let us die to make things cheap
And say the Mea Culpa which
you’ve probably forgot
Year by year
Month by month
Day by day
Thought by thought

Steer your way, O my heart,
tho’ I have no right to ask
To the one who was never
never equal to the task
Who knows he’s been convicted,
who knows he will be shot
Year by year
Month by month
Day by day
Thought by thought

String Reprise/Treaty

[Instrumental except final portion]
I wish there was a treaty we could sign
It’s over now, the water and the wine
We were broken then, but now we’re borderline
And I wish there was a treaty
I wish there was a treaty
Between your love and mine

All Songs Copyright 2016 by Old Ideas, LLC. All rights reserved. Used by permission.

Friday, April 28, 2017

THE ESSENTIAL "LIVE" ALBUMS

Live albums.  Albums that record a band performing live in concert.  Let's face it, most artists are much better in the studio rather than performing on stage.  In the studio, you can correct mistakes, rerecord until it sounds the way you want it to.  You can put multiple tracks over each other called over dubbing and make the sound fuller and more rounded.  It takes a special artist to be able to give a live performance that sounds as good as the sound from the studio, if not better, in front of a live audience.  These are a few live albums that define an artist as being able to do on stage what they accomplish in the studio.

THE ALLMAN BROTHERS BAND - Live At The Fillmore East

The Allman Brothers were more a less a regional group with a huge following in the southern states, particularly in Georgia, Alabama and Florida.  Their studio albums had not been well received outside the south and even in the south fans preferred to see them live than listen to the studio takes.  When they went north and decided to cash in on their fans love of their live shows they decided to record it.  The result was an album that was an immediate hit and climbed the charts extremely quickly.  Suddenly the Allman Brothers Band were nationally known and going on tours would find all of their shows sold out.  Eventually they became part of the first wave of artist that were selling out stadiums.  When playing this album sided with their studio albums, it is clear that this was a band made to play live.  The southern blues that would produce songs on the stage that had a lot of improvisation put into the songs that would last well over the usual four to five minutes.  Shortly after the release of this album the groups leader, Duane Allman, died in a motorcycle accident but as the years have gone by, this band is still known as a concert group and they have released more live albums than most any other group in the modern era of rock.
.

PETER FRAMPTOM - Frampton Comes Alive

Peter Framptom is a guitar player who is considered one of the better guitarists out there. In his early days in the late sixties he was a member of a band called Humble Pie.  Humble Pie had several great musicians but were only able to garner a small, albeit faithful fan base.  Frampton came to a point where he wanted to do his own sound, his own songs and so Humble Pie disbanded and Peter Frampton set out on a solo career that did not fair much better than Humble Pie had.  The same fans that had followed Humble Pie followed Frampton and so his four solo albums were never really high on the charts, that is until the summer of 1976.  As Framptom was setting out on an US tour, A&M executives noticed how responsive his fans were to his live show.  They decided to try to capture this magic and set up a recording of his shows in San Fransisco that spring.  The result was a live album that broke all sales records for not only a live album but also shattered records for a muti-disc album sales.   The album threw Frampton into the elite of rock and several singles were released from the album, marking an extremely rare practice of live singles, something that had not really been seen before.  The singles showed the same success as the album had shown.  Frampton went back to studio recording after the live album and sales sunk back down clearly defining Peter Frampton as a live act, not a studio act.

LOGGINS AND MESSINA - On Stage

Unlike the previous two artists listed here, Kenny Loggins and Jim Messina had a rather large and enthusiastic following.  Kenny Loggins was know for his exemplary songwriting and a large number of his songs had been covered throughout the industry.  When the two teamed up writing songs, hit after hit came from their studio albums.  On the road in concert, they sold out venue after venue although they never entered the stadium rock roster of acts.  When this album was released, it showed how strong they were not only on stage, but as individual musicians.  The album opens up with Kenny Loggins on stage with an acoustic guitar alone, singing some of his wider known songs that he had written and had been covered.  Then in the middle of the last song of Loggins solo part, the band suddenly shows up and joins in to finish off the song.  The real Loggins and Messina act then begins and Jim Messina joins Loggins on the stage to rip through their catalogue of hits that they had accrued over the years.  The result is a clean sounding, very tight band singing songs that were legitimate hits,  The harmonies are fantastic as the two run through the set.  It is an example of how a great studio group can also be a great group on stage.  When it was released it was a surprise to the industry doing much better than expected and still one of my go to live albums.

PAUL McCARTNEY AND WINGS - Wings Over America

Paul McCartney needs no introduction to my readers.  Nor do the two other members of Wings, Linda McCartney and Denny Laine.  This was recorded in several cities, including Kansas City, during McCartney's first United States tour since the Beatles had split up.  McCartney, of course, had an astonishing number of hits going into this tour and they perform them all.  A couple of Beatles tunes are thrown into the mix, but for the most part this is McCartney and his work.  There was no cutting out some of the songs from the set list making it a huge three album set that once the listener started listening to the opening number "Venus and Mars" made it very difficult to stop listening to until you had reached the end of side six and even then McCartney left the listener wanting more.  McCartney is awesome in a live atmosphere, this is no surprise, and so it is no surprise that this album is as good as a live album can get.  Picking and choosing the best performances of each song from the recordings of individual concerts makes sure that everything hits on target in this album.  The album itself, becomes McCartney's best concert ever.



ERIC CLAPTON - Eric Clapton's Rainbow Concert

This is not the best live album ever recorded but it is one of the most important ones.  Eric Clapton had spent years addicted to hard drugs and alcohol.  After a short career that would be the envy of any guitar player in the sixties (John Mayall and the Blues Breakers, The Yardbirds, Blind Faith, Cream, Derek and the Dominos) Clapton had found himself alone and in too bad of shape to even grant himself a job as a studio musician.  With the help of a lot of his friends from the industry, Clapton went in to rehab and cleaned himself up and began to play the guitar again.  After a year or so of being clean, these friends formed a back up band for Clapton and set up a concert at The Rainbow Room in London.  It was to be Clapton's coming back performance taking his place back where he belonged, at the top.  The band was an impressive list of names that the reader may or may not know.  Ronnie Wood, Pete Townsend, Jim Capaldi, Rick Grech, and Stevie Winwood among others.  The concert proved to be a success in getting Clapton back on the road to his music making and made for a pretty good concert album.  The sound quality is not the best, the band is not as tight as one would expect, but still, to hear those three guitars of Clapton, Townsend and Wood all playing together along with the keys of Stevie Winwood, the album brings itself together.  It is the documentation of the comeback of a musical icon, and if this concert had not happened, the music world may have lost out on many many great blues songs that Clapton brought to us.

HERBIE HANCOCK AND CHICK COREA - An Evening With ....

Okay, do I really need to describe this album?  The title alone says all there is to say.  Two of the jazz world's greatest pianists EVER playing in duet together on the same stage at the same time.  They team up together to play some of each others best known works for an hour and a half.  The sound is crystal clear.  The pianos play off of each other in a way that even during the improvisations that jazz demands, the pianos stay tight and together.  This is jazz at it's finest moment in my mind.  Sure there are a lot of live jazz albums out there, most of them are very good but this album..... THIS album is staggering.  I honestly don't know what else to say about it.  It is an album that I stumbled across many many years ago and I have never let it go.  I have shared it with cousins and Uncles and friends.  Any lover of jazz, especially jazz piano, will find this work relaxing and encompassing.  If you ever get a chance to hear this thing .... do it.
JACKSON BROWNE - Running On Empty

This is a different kind of live album.  It opens with a live performance on stage and closes with a live performance on stage, but a lot of the album are live cuts that were recorded on the tour bus and in hotel rooms.  This album gives us Jackson Browne in his purest form.  While the recordings taken from concerts are great, it is the acoustic improvisational Browne riding on a bus or sitting in a hotel room with his band and friends.  It is a relaxed Jackson Browne.  It shows us how much this singer/songwriter loves his music and how much he enjoys it.  It is a simple album.  It is easy to listen to and fun to listen.  Add in the fact that every song on this album is a gem and you got a live album like none other.  I like thinking outside of the box and in putting this album together, Jackson Browne certainly shows us that he is capable of that.  These recordings make up an album that rival Browne's better known studio albums in the must have Jackson Browne category.  A real find and a real pleasure to listen to and enjoy.

FRANK SINATRA - Sinatra At The Sands

This is more than a Frank Sinatra album.  Sinatra is accompanied by Count Basie and his orchestra and the songs are arranged and conducted by Quincy Jones.  It was recorded in 1966 so if you are looking for live versions of "My Way" or "New York, New York" you won't find them here. Instead what you get is Sinatra doing some of his classics like "Fly Me To The Moon" and "My Kind Of Town".  The newest song in this set is probably "It Was a Very Good Year".  The album gives the Count his dues when it includes the Basie classic "One O'clock Jump".  The concert has that feel of being in a small intimate venue where Sinatra feels comfortable talking to the people who had come to see him on this special night.  It sounds as though Sinatra is singing to individual members of the audience at times.  This was also at a time when Sinatra's voice was at its peak.  Strong baritone voice, holding notes out and using his usual ending each word sung completely, as your hear the "t's" at the end of words for example.  Tough to beat Sinatra in studio, but this comes very close to doing so.


JOHNNY CASH - At Folsom Prison

Johnny Cash was never sentenced to prison, but between this album and his San Quentin album, a lot of people thought he did.  In one interview that I heard he said "People are always coming up to me and saying, 'My daddy was in prison with you'" and he laughed.  There is a lot of debate over which of the two albums is better, Folsom or San Quentin.  As far as I am concerned, At Folsom Prison is near, if not at, the top of country live albums.  The album opens up with Cash saying those famous words of his.... "Hello ... I'm Johnny Cash" and as the inmates start to go wild the band starts to playing and never stops.  He does a set that does not fail to prove that he was one great performer.  His wife, June, gets up on stage with him and does a fantastic version of "Jackson".   This doesn't need to be said because i am sure that every Johnny Cash fan has this album in their collection, but if you DON'T have it in your collection..... get it.

AL KOOPER/MIKE BLOOMFIELD - Lost Concert Tapes '68

Ever since I first heard this album I couldn't believe that these tapes were actually lost, but apparently they were recorded and stuck in the vaults at Columbia Records.  Someone should have been fired for that although they were probably retired by the time the tapes were released.  This is not only great live blues with guitar genius Mike Bloomfield with his pal Blood Sweat and Tears founder Al Kooper on the organ, it has a little extra special part to it.  During this concert at the Fillmore East, Bloomfield and Kooper introduce Johnny Winter to the world.  I can not imagine how the people who were lucky enough to be there felt listening to Winter for the first time, but as I listened to Johnny Winter on this album, I was blown away... and at that time I knew most of Johnny Winter's work that would follow this introduction of him to the world of blues.  This record is astounding.  We find both Bloomfield and Kooper at the top of their game.  The songs are great, the band is tight and as I listen to this set I can almost see this concert taking place.  Nothing is better live than a good blues performance and these two definitely deliver.  The couple of songs by Johnny Winter, however, puts it over the top and into the place of one of the best blues albums to come out of the sixties.  The set ends with a great rendition of Donovan's "Season Of The Witch" which would become a staple for Al Kooper as his career progressed.

Well, I listed more than I intended to do, but there are some good live albums out there.  I'll make a secondary list at some point I suppose.  For the most part, live albums have been seen as a lower form of recording than studio albums.  Only real fanatics of a group buy a live album of theirs.  But all of these albums, as well as numerous others, stand on their own merits.  If anything, a live recording when done well, is a lot more impressive than a studio recording.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

THE IMPORTANCE OF GOODBYE

I have been haunted as of late by Leonard Cohen's last album before he passed away.  Cohen had a special following of fans, some of them didn't even know they were fans.  Cohen's songs were covered by many other artists who got a lot of airplay for their interpretation of his songs.  The most recent group to hit it big thanks to Leonard Cohen was a group called Pentatonix, who recorded Cohen's "Hallelujah" on their Christmas album last year even though the song has absolutely nothing to do with Christmas.  It is kind of like a group of Christian teens who decided to sing George Harrison's "My Sweet Lord" in a Youth for Christ meeting when I was young teenager.  They decided not to do it once they realized that Harrison's "Sweet Lord" was the Hare Krishna, a far cry from their Lord that they thought they were going to praise that night.   See, this is why I always say "LISTEN TO THE LYRICS PEOPLE!".  There are a lot of songs out there that actually have some philosophical meaning if you stop to actually listen to what the writer is trying to say.

Leonard Cohen's songs were like that.  His writing was usually dark and foreboding.  He seemed to always slip in some religious themes in his songs and most of the time his songs wrapped around broken or lost love, lost loved ones and the poor future of our civilization that was to come.  At the same time he was penning these dark lyrics, he was putting them to beautiful melodies.

As Cohen aged into his eighties, he set out to write a set of songs that expressed what he was feeling as he became closer to facing his own death.  The album was titled "You Want It Darker" which was also the title of the first track on the album.  His health was failing as he finished writing the songs and he recorded it a few months before he died leave this earth.  He had to sit in a chair in his apartment, which was transformed into a small sound studio, to record his final verses.  In an interview about the yet to be released album Cohen said "I am ready to die.  I am not afraid".  Cohen held a strong faith in his Jewish heritage and leaned on that faith as death neared.

I have been a Leonard Cohen fan for many years.  His dark sense of humor seemed to match mine and his pessimistic outlook in the human race seemed to mirror mine as well.  His music made an impact on me that for the most part I kept to myself.  Me and Leonard.  His was the one music I really didn't share with others.  If I could write music, I would want it to be like his.  I kept his music so much to myself, that I am not sure even my wife knew who Leonard Cohen was when I informed her in my sadness that he had died.  I spent a couple of evenings with her playing some of Cohen's tunes on YOUTUBE for her.  A few of the songs she recognized from the covers that had been recorded.  It didn't take long for her to come to appreciate the talent that this man had.

"You Want It Darker" is by far his masterpiece.  The songs are honest, spiritual and looks into the dark of night with more clarity than any songwriter I have heard.  This album has a hold on me and I listen to it often.  The words speak to me and I feel like I understand them and therefore understand Cohen.  This album was Leonard Cohen telling the world "goodbye".  I am so glad he took the time to tell us that.

As I listen to these songs my mind wanders back to those who I have loved and have gone before me.  As I age I find this album bring to mind thoughts of not only my own demise, but how many more loved ones am I going to lose before I am gone myself and don't have to face that prospect anymore.

I go back to when my great grandmother Hill died.  I loved her, I really did.  She was a tough lady that had a rough life but she fought her way through all of the setbacks and lived a long good life.  However, and looking back I am not really proud of this, but the main thing I remember about my great grandmother's death is that her funeral was to be in Springfield, Missouri on a day when I had a date with Patty Mason to go to my first school dance, and I had to cancel out.  I look back and I miss her now.  I have a few of her things that I remember from my childhood and find good memories floating through my brain of spending time with her.  I never got to tell her goodbye though and at the time it didn't bother me that I didn't have that chance.  Actually it still does not bother me much to this day.

The last time I saw my grandfather Hill, I knew inside of myself that it would be the last time I saw him.  He was heading down to Alabama to spend time with my Aunt Sue and I knew that he would not be coming back.  That night as I left, I did tell him goodbye.  I gave him a small hug which is not normal for me and maybe he was thinking what that was all about.  He did pass away on that visit to Alabama and even though I was extremely broken by his death, I was able to hold on to the fact that I was able to tell him goodbye.

I love all my Aunts and Uncles from both the fraternal and the maternal side of my family.  I am greatly blessed to have them as part of my life.  My Uncle Melvin was attacked with cancer.  He spent a lot of time in the hospital and I kept up on his condition through reports from my mother.  Uncle Melvin was special, as all my Uncles were.  As I sensed his health worsening I decided to make a visit to him.  After some of the things he did for me, covertly I might add, I felt like I wanted to see him at least one more time.  As I entered the hospital room he was in, my cousins all greeted me very warmly and led me to where my Uncle lay.  He patted his bedside indicating for me to sit and so I did.  He took my hand and told me things were going to be okay.  We talked a bit about things and then I told him I was going to miss him.  He looked me square in the eye, as Hills are taught to do, and told me he would miss me too.  I told him I loved him and as I leaned over to give him a hug he quietly said that he loved me as well.  It was not long after that when he left this world that he loved so much.  I am so glad I decided to make that visit.  Those words from my Uncle helped me to help my grandpa the day of the funeral.

My Uncle Duane was another very special uncle.  Although he had moved away to Nebraska then Colorado and I didn't get to see him much, I have many fond memories of him.  He was one of the most gentle men I ever knew and he had a knack for talking to me and showing me things.  This is one that really hurts that I didn't get to say goodbye to.  I knew he was sick, very sick.  Life kept me from making a trip to Colorado to see him though.  That was the excuse I used anyway.  I was and still am not sure if I could have handled it seeing him before he passed.  I loved him so very much.  When he did die, I beat myself up for not taking time to drive out to Colorado to see him and my aunt and two cousins.  I am still beating myself up for that slip.  Then when I think about it, it would have been extremely rough on me and chances are he wouldn't know who I was anyway, which would make it hurt even more.  Maybe it is best for both of us that I didn't make that trip.  I just am not sure.

My Uncle Dan and Aunt June were also very special.  June was married to Dan's brother, my Uncle Jack.  When Dan got cancer, we made a bond that we would fight this thing together and we did.  I saw him everyday and my wife would spend the night at his house to take care of him.  During this time, my Aunt June was also very ill and it was obvious that she was getting worse.  In spite of that, she traveled with my Uncle Jack from St Louis to Kansas City every other weekend to help take care of Dan.  Every weekend when they headed back to St. Louis, I would give her a hug and tell her goodbye as I did with my Uncle Jack.  But my goodbyes to my Aunt June held a lot more meaning.  I wanted to be sure that she knew I appreciated and loved her and considered myself lucky to have her for an Aunt.  Dan's cancer eventually took him to the point of where I had to take him to the hospice house.  The pain he was in was at a point of being more than I could help him with.  I stayed in hospice with him for a week, never leaving him as I had promised.  Each time I left the room though, I would tell him goodbye and let him know I would be right back.  I was able to whisper an almost silent goodbye the night he died.  At his funeral, as I was leaving his house I made a special effort to be sure and tell my Aunt June goodbye.  There would be no more bi-weekly weekend visits from her now.  I am so glad I did tell her that.

Then there was my sister Carol.  Carol had come up to help me take care of mom and dad during the summer when she was diagnosed with cancer.  She was determined to fight it as hard as she could, if anything just so she could get back to Georgia where her home was and her grandkids.  The two of us, along with my faux sister Karen, decided that we would get her well enough to get back home.  We succeeded.  As she and my sister Elaine left to head back south, I was able to give Carol a huge hug a big I love you and a kiss on her forehead.  We each said we would see each other the next summer when she came back.  She never came back to Kansas City though.  The next spring the cancer returned and raced through Carol's body.  The goodbye I had with Carol was one I would not trade for the world.

Then there is the loved one passing that comes out of the blue, totally out of nowhere.  This happened to me last February when one of my friends died.  Dennis was healthy.  He took care of himself.  He ate right.  He was active.  He also had a damaged heart from a heart attack several years ago.  That heart quit working that day in February.  I had not told him good bye.  I didn't have the chance to.  We had planned on meeting up in Mississippi later on this spring when I was planning to visit Alabama.  I had talked to him the day after his birthday in January.  No goodbye.  We never said goodbye to each other.  It was always "Take it easy, see ya later".  With Den though, there wasn't a later.  He was here one day and the next day, just gone.

I didn't go through all of the goodbyes I said or didn't say.  I use these few as examples of how my mind works when dealing with these situations.

So now for today.  I am 60 now and in what I have come to realize is the "window of death".  It seems like once a person gets pass 60 years old, all bets are off.  My parents moved to Alabama last fall so that my sister could take care of them while I try to take care of my wife.  My brother is in South Dakota, my sister, as mentioned, is in Alabama as well as my Aunt Sue.  My aunt Eva is the closest on the Hill side living in Clinton, Missouri while my Uncle Jack still can't pull himself from St.Louis.  He likes it there for some odd reason.  Aunt Velma is in Colorado while my Aunt Fay is in western Kansas.  My Uncle Jim, well I think he is in Warrensburg, Missouri, not too far away.  I do still have my Aunt Norva and Uncle Dale living here in Kansas City but I do not get out to see them much.

The question that hits me as I listen to Leonard Cohen's last album goes like this.  "Is it better to say be able to say good bye to loved ones or easier not to."  I don't know.  I sincerely just don't know.

It kind of feels like my good byes may be finished no matter what the answer may be.

It is starting to get a little lonely around Kansas City.