Archive for March, 2016

Never Came the Song

March 29, 2016

Last night we heard Graeme Edge, drummer for the Moody Blues, celebrating his latest birthday. It was heartwarming to see a 75-year-old dude romping around onstage with his tambourine while his bandmates knocked out a 2016 version of one of their mystic-rock classics.

Before his little rockaround the stage jig, the septuegenarian percussionist had been performing his customary 50-year gig up on the platform behind his trap-set.

From my perspective, it looked something like this:

MoodyBlues

There’s the dancing drummer, glowing beneath a lightning bolt.

Below his illuminated perch, down there on center-right stage, Justin Hayward and John Lodge do their uniquely musical Moody thing for the full house of baby-geezers who had gathered here in Charlotte at the Blumenthal performing arts center.

A good time was had by all.

It was a little strange though, and not just because of the eerily beautiful quality in which their songs always vibrated. It was strange for me because I spent the whole night waiting to hear a song that never came.

Back in 1970, there was a particular song that captured my young imagination for a long time–a time that has stretched from then all the way into  this present time, 2016.

Even though I have always greatly appreciated the Moodys’ unprecedented, unduplicated, unsurpassable music, I spent almost the entire first half of the concert in disappointment, because all I was hearing was loud rock music–newer stuff with which I was not familiar. And not only newer and unfamiliar, but also Loud.  Maybe I’m just getting too old to appreciate this stuff I thought. Then, thankfully, one of the great classics crept into their presentation when they performed The Story in Your Eyes just before intermission.

Here’s a YouTube that shows you what that song is:

     https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t-iJ47in9YQ

After the break, a 20-minute period in which many of us frumpy, graying boomers populated the outer regions of the venue while noticing how many older people were wandering around and wondering where they all came from, even though we knew of course that they had breezed in from the cities and suburbs and hills and vales and cobwebs and freeways of my g-generation. . .the second part of the concert got steadily better when the band did much of their classic stuff.

I say the band. Ray Thomas and Mike Pinder were not there. No explanation about that. None necessary. Old folks like us understand these things. We know that people–even famous rock musicians– change, and move on to other groups or other gigs or other things they want to do with their life. So our concert was conducted by the three originals who remain: Justin Hayward, John Lodge and Graeme Edge, accompanied by their younger, very talented new recruits to handle the other instruments. Of course Mike Pindar’s powerful presence on the mellotron was missed, as was Ray Thomas with his flute, vocals and other woodwinds. Those absences were admirably filled by the 2016 members: Alan Hewitt on keyboards, Norda Mullen on flute, Denny Laine on keyboards.

But I never got to hear the song performed that I most wanted to hear. Never Comes the Day is a tender, romantic tune that originated in the plaintive heart of a young man (Justin Hayward) who has not time enough to spend with the girl he loves. Hearing that song back in my college days– included as it was on the Moody Blues’ Threshold of a Dream album there was a deep place of longing in my heart that was occupied for many years only by that song and a few other special love songs like it.

So while I did enjoy the trip down memory lane with this new iteration of the Moody Blues, there was nevertheless a certain old feeling of emptiness–maybe it was just nostaglia– at the end of the concert, because I had not heard that special song. I waited for it, but it never came.

But hey! It was nevertheless a great ending. The beautiful woman sitting next to me last night at the Moody Blues 2016 concert–I took  her home with me.

She’s the woman who answered that hearthrob call of Never Comes the Day deep in my heart. She’s the one who, thank God, filled that plaintive void, beginning with our courtship and marriage over 36 years ago. And last night we had a wonderful date listening, with a few a thousand or so other old couples, to the Moody Blues do their musical wonders.

 If you like this, here’s another selection from the most unique, most musical rock group of my g-generation. It’s the song–Question— with which they ended last night’s concert that we attended in Charlotte.

Glass half-Full

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WashPost came through on report

March 28, 2016

Today I made my first intentional effort to understand what the Hillary Clinton email controversy was all about. This initial reading session, which must have lasted about an hour, came about when I decided to read this morning’s digital Washington Post article entitled “How Clinton’s Email Scandal Took Root.”

As many years as this political controversy has been gathering steam, I have never paid more than cursory attention to it. It just seemed to me like a bunch of political malarky, although I did have a vague understanding that somehow the the security of our nation was involved.

If my sketchy Everyman Citizen memory serves me well at all, this hot issue came to the forefront of media exposure when Congressional Republicans raised the issues about Benghazi in 2012. Now let me say here that I am a Republican.

And about all I may know, or not know, about that tragic turn of Benghazi events is: my understanding of it is very small, based precariously on my limited retention of any details or vague narratives about the events that happened on that fateful day in 2012. But let me say this: I did see the movie!

So, as you can see I am, like most Americans, rather clueless about what is really going on in the inner recesses of our .gov  because I really don’t have a clue about it all until I, you know, see a movie about it.

So the movie, Thirteen Hours, gave me some notions about what happened the tragic assault on our consulate in Libya on a certain day in 2012. But who knows  why such a terribly fatal assault on our supposedly secure embassy might have happened? These issues in foreign lands are much more complicated that we simple-minded Americans make them out to be.

This morning, March 28, 2016, along comes this routine (daily) email from the Washington Post, a journalistic institution with which I have a minimally subscriptive connection. And when I open the email, this reported headline grabs my attention: “How Clinton’s Email Scandal Took Root.”

“Aha!”  I thought, here’s my chance  at last to glean some understanding about what this big brouhaha is all about.

Now our conservative and Republican friends may question my seemingly naive submission to that journalistic institution’s supposedly left-leaning reporting on such a hot issue. But hey, I saw Redford and Hoffman portraying Woodward and Bernstein back in the day, when I was myself a manipulated clueless college kid with a leftward bent. And I certainly understand and respect their Ben Bradlee legacy of Beltway investigative journalism; so yes, I am going to read this article and see what this reporter has to say about that whole dam Clinton email thing.

I mean, this is bound to be more reliable than the New York Times, n’est-que-c’est? and more journalistically thorough  than, say, Fox News.

Robert O’Harrow Jr., is the reporter (with journalistic contribution also from Alice Crites) and I must say: What an exhaustively long reporting job has been therein provided– quite informative about a vast chain of complicated, intertwining events that began mostly in January of 2009, yet still rolls on through 2015 and even spills out into this year–quite informative and yet, somehow, impressively concise.

Took me over an hour to read it.

My usual confusion in reading long journalistic reports aside–that confusion being frothed up in my uninformed brain about a multiplicity of persons whose first names are laid to rest after that first article-mention– and if that were not enough, all these names nested within the reporter’s dutiful covering of myriads of events and scenarios that happened in the dark recesses of securitized (or not securitized) .gov offices long ago or even quite recently, and what you have here is a confused citizen who is trying to become well-informed.

Me.

Now I am no Congressional committee, but I do have an opinion because I am an American. Furthermore, as both Jefferson and Adams advised, citizens of a free democratic republic should inform themselves about the issues of our times.

What’s really sad about all this is the disappearance of privacy; it seems so KGB and 1984ish to me.

If you care to join me in an assessment of same article by reading it yourself, then I commend you for doing so. And rather than render my half-baked opinion about the controverted content of Hillary Clinton’s thousands of emails, I will simply say this:

It seems to me that poor Hillary, finding herself at the crossroads of an electronic digital technological revolution that had not–and probably still has not–caught up with itself, made some attempts to find a middle path between two frustratingly extreme strategies of secure communication protocols; one extreme being absolute, classified security, which is systemically impossible; and the other extreme being her personal freedom and expediency in communicating persuasively with very important people all over the whole dam world.

And yes, she made a few bad choices, maybe even dangerous mistakes.

But hey, who wouldn’t make some screw-ups? with all that’s going on in this rapidly declassifying cyberspace world. I myself would probably be overwhelmed with it all, trying to negotiate with Wen Jiabao while making sure not to confuse the email accounts with recipes from Aunt Martha or whomever.

Nevertheless, although I may be willing to pardon the former Secretary of State for her (perhaps, perhaps not) innocent security breaches,  I will not be voting for Hillary Clinton for President; I will be voting for Ted Cruz.

Because: I think Ted would do better with the choices that a new President must face, better than Hillary, and most certainly better than Donald.

Smoke

Reflecting on the Cranky Model-T

March 27, 2016

I never saw an old crank car,

and such a thing I thought I’d never see.

Then yesterday I spied one from afar–

in Lowe’s big parking lot, a bright red Model T.

ModelT

It surely was not driven here, I thought,

this rickety, hundred-year-old  machine.

And yet its metallic gleaming my attention caught–

‘t’was such a curious cherry red dream.

I looked at that crank on the front. I mean,

I’m wond’ring is this an old cranky car, or what?

Such a sight seemed strange to me, as if I were in a dream–

Maybe next I’ll see Henry Ford, or Orville and Wilbur, or even old King Tut.

As it turned out, and I learned later, t’was no dream.

This curious machine is driven by a fellow I work with at Lowe’s.

His classic car’s been in the family since 1915.

They’ve always taken care, so that old Ford just goes and goes.

I asked Alan later, does he use that crank to make the old car start.

He said the crank would start it, just as smooth as can be.

But his uncle who owned it when a car was just a motor’d cart,

had installed a starter in his old Model-T.

ModTfr

To think that folks starting their Ford back in 1915

did fire up their motors with a steel handle-cranky,

is like stroking a smart-phone screen, now in  2016,

to crank up some driving directions. So swanky!

Glass half-Full

No Time for Melody

March 20, 2016

Symphony

These moments in a grand concert hall before the orchestra performs are like no other. Onstage, a half-hundred or more musicians dutifully make last minute preparations while the assembling listeners anticipate the unveiling of their symphonic presentation.

There are, it seems to this viewer, as many ways of making musical preparation for such orchestral events as there are musicians. Violinists are fine-tuning their instruments; many of them dance their fingers rapidly across wooden neck boards, rehearsing that difficult passage in the allegro or that five-measure solo transition in the andante. Beneath bright stage lights, brass-blowers sit together in the back row busily manipulating key-stops on gleaming metal; in the middle of this instrumental world oboes, clarinetists and bassoonists blow into their various tubed configurations with steadily progressing precision. Over in the back corner, percussionists tap, turn and tinker on this, that or the other big drum or little sound-making something-or-other. Polished wooden basso fiddle bodies shine under the lights; soldierly stand-up stringists stand beside them thumping and thinking very hard about that bottom line in the booming rondo or overture that is yet to come. The flutists’ silvery cylinders glint with theatrical brilliance as their masters breathe virtuosity into them. A lovely harpist plucks perfectly strung-up sounds.

Observed all at thece same time, the assembling orchestra appears to be a cacophony of disparate confusion. But as the moment of musical inception draws near, a subtle decreasing of the noise begins to take hold; the senseless soundings wane. A violinist stands, setting his bow to the instrument; then from somewhere inside the collection of sound-contraptions, a solitary musical oboe tone rises above it all, commanding the vacant air with a single, sustained A note. Immediately, as if they were waiting for some specific sound leadership, all the other members respond with their uniquely-voiced A-notes. As the volume of their first unison builds, harmonic thirds, fifths and octaves high and low emerge through the thick air of audience anticipation.

For only a brief moment this preparatory approach to harmony is heard. Then silence.

From behind the side-curtain, the bringer of Symphony walks into the midst of what had been quasi-musical confusion.

He is smiling. So are most of the audience. The thousand-or-so seated congregants express, with applause,  their approval of what is about to happen, implying also with their enthused ovation polite appreciation of what has happened in this large hall many times before.

A symphony. Tonight. March, 2016.

A moment later, in the midst of breathless silence, the Conductor raises his arms, lifting the baton high. Then abruptly he lowers them. And the chaos of sounds that had dominated the stage only a few minutes before has been instantaneously transformed into music, coordinated and arranged in order to express thoughts or feelings about the world.

Two hundred and fifty years ago, the music composed for such an event as this was not the same as it is today. Mozart’s skill, for instance, plucked melodies out of thin genius-air and worked them into intricately woven musical masterpieces that beat through the air with perfect precision, like a clock on a Vienna tower.

In the 1700’s Mozart wrote music for an emperor. Emperors and empires imposed a certain kind of order on the world. Mozart’s music expressed that order in an exquisite way. His music was precision and perfection manifested in orchestral form.

A few decades later, Beethoven came along and rearranged all that preposterous musical order, catapulting thunderous innovations into it. Orchestral music, having found intricate construction in the hands of Bach, Vivaldi, Handel and others, had found its fullest precision under Mozart’s imaginative mastery.

But when the European world was shaken to its roots by the American revolution, French revolution, Napoleonic bluster and God-only-knows what other political and military juggernauts that were rolling like thunder across the civilized world at that time, a new kind of music was called for. A music that expressed not order, but disruption and passion.

And so there was Beethoven. The first eight explosive notes of his 5th symphony blew a hole in the old order and proclaimed a jousting field of new ideas, new forms of government, and new music. It was a revolutionary age. Even Mozart could get lost in the cataclysm.

Great Music captures the spirit of the times in which it is composed; it captures that spirit and interprets it as  audible, lyrical art.

Last night, we were in Charlotte listening to the Charlotte Symphony perform Sergei Rachmaninoff’s Symphony No. 3 in A minor. This interesting piece of music was, to my ear, a musical experiment. While a few of Rachmaninoff’s piano concertos are widely acknowledged as masterful expressions of his musical romanticism, this third symphony communicates a timely, profound disturbance, more-so, I think, than compositional perfection. Sergei Rachmaninoff the early-20th century Russian composed in it 1936.

I call it an experiment because it seems to be a series of dynamic, instrumentally dissonant thrusts; they mount up in rhythmically disparate crescendos, but never  fully resolve in a way that I can thematically identify. In my ear,  it is a tensioned symphony in search of a theme. In search of, perhaps, a melody.

So I was trying to explain to my wife as we left why there’s no way Rachmaninoff could have absolved his musical angst in 1936 by resolving it inappropriately with a catchy melody.

He was living, for crying out loud, in Stalinist Russia; and not only that, half a continent away Hitler’s Third Reich was assembling, under the radar of the Versailles treaty, a massive wehrmacht war machine. In a few years the whole damn world, or half of it anyway, would erupt up in full-blown war. The only order that was emerging in 1936 was the construction of destructive war machines.

It was no time to celebrate an inharmonious world with pleasantries such as harmony and melody.

Here’s a YouTube of the Russian Novosibirsk Philharmonic performing the piece:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h44ZGVe4zCQ

Perhaps my cynical assessment of Rachmaninoff’s Symphony No. 3 is shaded by my own artful projections. A few years ago, I wrote and published a novel, Smoke, which is all about the year 1937. That writing project was also an experiment, albeit a literary one, in telling the story about a young American who might have sojourned through Europe during that same time of imminent disaster foreshadowing World War II.

Smoke

Troubled Waters on American Pond

March 16, 2016

As I was strolling by the Pond one bright March morn,

I came upon an old duck, but he seemed forlorn.

I said, Mr. Duck, what has stricken you so sad?

He said, There’s just no way I can still be glad.

DukUgly

He said, Now our honorable ducks have all gone down

since superTuesday’s primaries brought these honking’ geese around.

Politics has sunken to new depths of mudsling crud.

I just wanna stick my head in some watery mud.

DucksFeedng

Now these honking’ geese think they own the place;

they strut around; they honk in your face.

I wish I could just get away from them–

that loudmouth Trumpy gander, and Hillary the honky Hen.

GeesStrut

I just wanna  be like those turtles over there,

sitting in the sun without a care,

but for the future of our Pond I fear;

things will never again be safe around here.

TurtlsGees

With all the contention between ducks and the geese

we’ll have no more quiet, no still waters, no peace.

No civility, no serenity–it’s all downstream from here.

and masked bandits will rob us blind, I fear!

Raccoon

Oh, woe is US, I say;

woe is USA!

Glass Chimera

“Save The Doyle” effort exceeds goal, will continue

March 15, 2016

Community now seeking long term protection of historic hotel along the Appalachian Trail.

Source: “Save The Doyle” effort exceeds goal, will continue

The Scarecrow some of us have known

March 11, 2016

We put ashes of my nephew away yesterday, in the cold ground. It was a sad event, tragic that a young man could strive through the difficult decade of being between age 20 and 30, only to have it end abruptly.

Searching for love, with a false start or two, and fathering two young ones into this world along the way, Erik had just started to turn the corner between bittersweet street and true love way with his very own soulmate, Nora. Then he passed away. Absolutely no one was expecting it. It was a tragedy for our large extended family. On a perfect March day, we put what was left of his earthly remains away, but not the memories.

His sister Samantha, my niece, pierced the hearts of us all with her tender remembrance of Erik’s life–his unique presence in the history of our world, his wry humor, his fierce determination to provide for the young family despite all the pitfalls of finding and retaining work in this fiercely competitive world. More importantly though, his sister brought to our gathered attention his intense love for his children, his blooming love with his newfound bride of five months. And then his sister mentioned the bluebird.

In many ways, the young man who passed reflected the troubles of our times. At age 30, he was a tender shoot, untimely snipped by death’s sharp shearing. In sibling Samantha’s sensitive eulogy, she explained why Erik called his wife, his true love, “bluebird.”

It was a reference to a very timely, profound love song by a young singer I had never heard of. But at the memorial ceremony, a recording of the ballad was played for us to hear as we reflected up the life and childlike legacy of the deceased.

As an aging songwriter of sorts myself, I was struck dumb with admiration when this line–about the power that is unleashed in a lonely heart when absolute love is at last discovered– poured out of the sedate funeral home sound system:

“In my heart stands a scarecrow, and if he’s hurt he doesn’t say so; he chases everything he loves away.

But at night, when it’s colder, there’s a bluebird on his shoulder, and he whispers that he’ll hold her one bright day. . .”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9WfwNwjbbpA

Such a love song I have never heard. And such a life as Erik’s will never again be lived again. John Fulbright’s tender love tune came to my attention through this memorial to Erik, his beloved widow Nora, and his sister’s remembrance of it all. The song, linked above, captures more than I could ever explain in words.

Thank you, Sam, for sharing this rich love of life lived by your brother, which has now been passed to us by his passing.

Glass half-Full

Mad

March 9, 2016

They say all the political powers that be are quaking in their boots because voters are mad and nobody can accurately predict what’s going to happen.

Young Dems,  hyper venting under the rhetorical influence of Bernie, are magnetizing progressively leftward toward a newly-discovered frigid frontier which must be the absolute dead-0 Socialist north-pole, heretofore unseen by any yankee marauders, but well-known to their European vanguards. They better get to their fragile pole quick because that could-be black-hole which used to be a white-hole , having been sighted now at the Leftward arctic pole hole is–it is wholly disappearing fast, having fallen under the destructive influence of global warming, climate change and them infamous heat-seeking carbon emission missiles.

Channeling the wicked witch of the North, the possessed pole is reportedly melting because Dorothy blew in from Kansas or maybe it was Texas and put a crimp in their plans by drillin’ in some frickin’ fracking destructionics down south where people are living and taking up space and generally messin’ up the planet. But it’ll be a high tide in hell before anything gets done to stop the global carbon juggernaut, even though they’ve pointed out, from Paris, Lima, Copenhagen and Kyoto,  poles are melting, according to the polls.

Speaking of Poles, where’s Lech Walesa when you need him?

But I digress, although I think it should be pointed out that the opposite of “digress” is “progress”, which I used to advocate until the Democrats absconded the term for their own socialist identity crisis antithesis. That said, I like progress, not progressive.  Progress is what Republicans used to facilitate with their capital by investing it in American industry before all the derivatives and CDOs and MBSs and credit default swaps, and the debilitating .gov regs, and the nuts and bolts stuff  getting moved offshore or wherever it went after Nafta and Chairman Mao got a hold of it.  Now you understand of course you’ll have to take that with a grain of salt as I move into phase II of my political analysis.

Republicans, on the other hand, unlike the hyper-magnetizing Dems, are furiously de-magnetizing, which is to say they’re falling apart at the seems under the hyper-influence of Trump’s methodical craps-table croupier call of snake-eyes, which will damn-shure be a rude awakening for them when those two little black dots show up on white dice, staring back at them, instead of the Seven that the republican rabble thought would turn up when they staked all their chips on Donald Duck, or excuse me, that other Donald. You thought there was trouble in Paradise and Camelot, just wait and see what happens in Dodge City when the chips fall where they may, probly long about May of 2017, after the Donald has terrorized all Washington’s heretofore decent and proper bureaucratic denizens  by trumping their full suited straight-flushes and de-levitating their long-standing no-trump pipedreams of legalese and illegal ease.  After he will have  been yanking their yonder inside-the-beltway chain-games for a few months with very little response from the sedentary Establishment, he’ll get flustered enough to fire them all if not even call down the goons on em. “Get ’em outa here; get ’em outa here,” will be the order of the day.

This is quite different from what, say, Ted Cruz would do.

You see Ted is mad too.

“We’re all mad,” he said to Megyn Kelly yesterday when she asked him something about who is mad or why the people are mad, or something like that.

There we were in closed venue, which happened to be a church in North Carolina, about 600 of us Americans listening to Megyn Kelly interview Ted. I mean, sure, it was a friendly crowd, not like the 47%ers.

Political America

And he said that, yes, the people are mad, and something needs to be done to change the way things are done in Washington, so that the .gov reflects the will of the people instead of imposing the .gov’s will on the people.

He mentioned a few revisions, long overdue, such as  abolishing superfluous federal agencies that presume to do for the people what the people can actually do for themselves. Hence, phase out:  the Departments of Education, Energy, Commerce, Housing/Urban Development. He mentioned repealing Obamacare and Common Core, defunding Planned Parenthood, and abolishing IRS by implementing a flat tax.

All of which should be done, but systematically–the way a, say, Constitutional attorney would do it, legislatively organized and judiciously authenticated. Not undertaken recklessly like a Trumpian bull in a china shop would do it.  Let’s just get our government back to Constitutional basics. That’s all we can afford without taxing We the people into scurrilous  servitude.

However, it is obvious that the whole streamlining process could prove to be disruptive.

Therefore, the formidable task of deconstructing our overbloated, overbudgeted, overdeficited Federal government should be entrusted to someone with a Constitutional conscience.  I’d trust Ted to lead it before I’d trust a high-rollin’, trash-talkin’ robber baron with a smirk on his face who’s got a bouncer at the door.

Just sayin’.

Glass Chimera

Time and Towers

March 4, 2016

In this life, things aint what they used to be. In fact, they’ll never be what they used to be. Things are–have always been–what they will be.

My life, for instance began as a gleam in my daddy’s eye. That shining life force moved, somehow, into mama’s domain, then emerged nine months later as me. My entrance into this world was  really a stretch, like maybe a kid passing through the eye of a needle. But I got through it all right, mama did too, and here I am still kicking, sixty-four years ago.

I remember hearing a special song almost a half-century ago; Joni Mitchell sang, “Something’s lost and something’s gained in living every day,”

Which is so true.

Now the something lost could be something small and insignificant, maybe a coin, or a hat, or a credit card. Or the something lost could be something important and irreplacable, maybe a rare work of art, a diamond ring, or a person dear to you.

In this picture from the year 1997, you see two buildings that no longer exist.

NY'97

To reflect on the their absence, maybe we could think of it this way: the two are gone, but today one is erected where the missing two once stood.

This is a little bit like life itself. In my case, probably yours too: there were two that stood for awhile, mama and daddy. But now they are gone.

In their absence, I remain, a tower of my own imagination and God’s enabling grace.  There I am in 1997 on the right side of the pic.

On the other end of the picture, my nephew Erik stands next to my son. But something tragic has happened.  As of yesterday, Erik is gone. Like an early March bud taken by the last frost, he was suddenly taken from us.

But that young man had become a father. So, while he sojourned with us for a while before departing,  now two children–a boy and a girl– remain in his absence.

This is the way it has always been for us. Mothers and fathers can procreate and love their children. Children can honor and cherish their parents.

For the children who remain, life as it is now will not be the same as it was for mom and dad. The world is a different place.

But however it turns out for you, I hope you can agree with me: Life is, by God, pretty dam good. Live it while you can because one day it won’t be there for you any more.

 You may be one of those stubborn persons, like me, who believe life goes on after death.  I know someone who has actually gotten through that whole death thing and lived to tell about it.

As for me and my nephew, I look forward to seeing him again on the other side.

Glass half-Full