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Action Bob Markle

Music, theater, and my personal life, not always in that order. I try to keep it interesting, I rarely hold back, because one thing I truly believe in is the shared experience of this reality we call life. We're all in this together, people. More than we even know.

Monday, April 30, 2007

Travel light

Sometimes, all a guy really needs is a guitar, an extra pair of socks, and a change of underwear. That's exactly how I traveled this weekend, with the clothes shoved in my gig bag.

Actually, I think I could have done without the socks.

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Guitar crazy

Sue bought her first guitar this weekend. A Jasmine made by Takamine. She said it felt good holding it over another one she was looking at. Almost the same guitar, price-wise at least, but yeah, even I could feel the difference in weight.

This morning the grass in the orchard seemed to be lit from a light coming from underneath, from within the earth.

And I thought about Sue learning the guitar. She knows A and D. The next is E. Three chord progressions...every rock 'n' roll song in the world is built on three-chord progressions. But D...three fingers in a little triangle on three strings. A easy chord to learn. And the look on her face was sheer delight, to coax that sound out of some strings. You can play the same pattern all the way up the neck. It's almost the same sound the grass was making this morning, in that light.

Sue and I don't have much money, which can be a good thing. It forces us to really choose what's important to us. We'll scrimp on food to buy books or music. She wondered if we were crazy, pondering the purchase of a guitar...? A little bit, maybe. But a little crazy is good.

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Friday, April 27, 2007

Don Imus, Sheryl Crow, and Curt Shilling's bloody sock

One was replaced by the other then the other.

What happened to Imus? Given the furor I would have thought he would have been hung upside down like Mussolini. But we haven't heard a peep about him. He's off our radar screens.

BTW, we went after the wrong guy when we went after Imus. Can you say scapegoat? His shtick for 30 years was to say whatever it was, no matter how outrageous, to attract people for advertisers. CBS, MSNBC, and all them getting up on their moral high horses was so much bollocks. The powers that be--and we know they're mostly all fat white guys in suits--were no more morally outraged by Imus's remark than they were outraged by any other thing he said. What they were outraged about was that he threatened their cash flow. That's why he was fired. As soon as you understand that television, radio, film, and probably a helluva lot of theater is simply an advertising vehicle...as soon as you understand that it's not an entertainment vehicle...you'll be in the clear. You'll suddenly be able to sleep nights. The content is there solely to attract you and me to advertisers...as moths to the flame. And the network's moral outrage was so much posturing to mollify the public. If 12 naked belly dancers rapping about nappy-headed hos sold toothpaste, trust me, that's what we'd be seeing.

Then suddenly Sheryl Crow elbowed Imus off the cover of the Herald for suggesting we should use only one square of toilet paper per visit to the toilet. Did she? Really? I'm too tired and apathetic to really care enough to investigate. But Crow's someone who should just stay on stage. I actually like her music, but she's a home wrecker, having weaseled her way into Lance Armstrong's life and prying him away from his family. (What the eff is it with us guys who give it all up for some ditz?) Her idiotic face and comments during the Tour in 2005 when Lance won the Tour for the 7th straight time were a joke. She's just someone who thinks more of herself than the rest of us do.

Today the big news is Shilling's sock. Was it blood or paint?

Tomorrow I'm hoping for a sock puppet of a rock star who spouts profanity.

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The magnolia tree

A couple of days ago I mentioned to Sue that the magnolia tree in the courtyard outside my window will soon be in full bloom, and the air will be intoxicating.

Today, on such a crummy day (45 degrees and dumping rain and my feet will be soaking wet and my pants damp for the duration of the day) the stunning purples and whites were screaming against the gloom. A peacock among pigeons.

In past years I would sit at my desk at home and see that tree outside my window, and no matter how bad the day was going, I would suddenly have hope. I've learned to enjoy the free things in life. I don't have a lot of money, and I have expensive tastes. Funny how that happens in life, because I know so many people with money who are so damned cheap. But I've learned to enjoy and appreciate the things that are just there for the taking.

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After the bomb scare

Al said they caught the person responsible for the bomb scare. Nicest kid in the world, she said. Always friendly. Always smiling. Surprised everyone that it was him. She said he was upset because of a test. Who knows...?

Don't say it: It's always the quiet ones.

There's so much more to it than some stupid, cliche response. A lot of times my heart goes out to the troubled...to people who seem to have been pushed to the edge...farther than most people are pushed so they have no idea what it's like to inhabit the fringes of sanity. Been there, I'm either sorry or proud to say. Or really neither. It just is...hopefully somebody, some angel, with a little compassion and skill will coax the poor soul back where it's a little safer.

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Thursday, April 26, 2007

Bomb scare

Yesterday I got an IM from Al telling me there was a bomb scare at her school. Classes were cancelled, and buildings were closed.

Most people I told just shrugged it off; it's probably a hoax, most said or thought. The thought crossed my mind, but when you're a parent you don't think like that. Well, maybe some parents do; I don't.

But it is our world, isn't it? More crazies are out there, and the chance that someone we love more than life itself could die from some nutcase...am I overreacting? I think ten years ago I might have been, but the world is continually changing, and I don't think people get it...I don't think most Americans get it, and certainly not the somnolent ones in the suburbs.

Bomb-sniffing dogs didn't find anything, and classes resumed.

I'm hating the world more and more. I just don't like what I see.

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Travelin' blues

About five minutes before my train for Boston comes in the morning a freight train slides through going west. And more than once I've thought about breaking free from the crowd standing on the platform, grabbing a rung on one of the ladders bolted to a boxcar, and not looking back.

Can you imagine the looks on the faces of my fellow commuters?

Sue said this morning that she's planning either three weeks in China or Europe this fall. Not sure where I fit in those plans, so I guess I better start thinking about hoisting my pack on my own again. I've done it before...it's nothing new.

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Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Willie Nelson let go


Willie Nelson was fined $1,024 and placed on probation for six months for marijuana possession in Louisiana.

Leaving the courthouse he signed autographs and said, "Thank y'all" to his well-wishers. Just keep your nose clean for six months and you're scott free. It's not hard.

That's really his guitar. He was playing it last year when I saw him. It has a big hole knocked in the top.

Mamma's don't let your babies grow up to be cowboys...hell, why not??

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Deja Vu (All Over Again)

Did you hear 'em talkin' 'bout it on the radio
Did you try to read the writing on the wall
Did that voice inside you say I've heard it all before
It's like Deja Vu all over again

Day by day I hear the voices rising
Started with a whisper like it did before
Day by day we count the dead and dying
Ship the bodies home while the networks all keep score

Did you hear 'em talkin' 'bout it on the radio
Could your eyes believe the writing on the wall
Did that voice inside you say I've heard it all before
It's like Deja Vu all over again

One by one I see the old ghosts rising
Stumblin' 'cross Big Muddy
Where the light gets dim
Day after day another Momma's crying
She's lost her precious child
To a war that has no end

Did you hear 'em talkin' 'bout it on the radio
Did you stop to read the writing at The Wall
Did that voice inside you say
I've seen this all before
It's like Deja Vu all over again
It's like Deja Vu all over again

-John Fogerty

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Rambunctious Boy

My oh my I'm a restless guy
Got a home everywhere I go

Well I ain't good lookin'
And I ain't so smart
But baby I'm a sensitive guy
I ain't done everything there is to do
But I'll damn sure give it a try

I'm a lookin'
I'm a lookin'
For a big time bookin' with you
So come on baby
Let's go howlin' at the honky-tonk moon

I'm a rambunctious boy
Rambunctious boy
Oh my I'm a restless guy
Got a home everywhere I go
I'm-a trouble on the run
Heartbreakin' son of a gun
Oh yeah I'm a rambunctious boy

I'll be workin' all week in the big boss yard
I 'bout had it up to here
I ain't got time for a caribean cruise
Just give me a song and a beer

I feel like rompin'
Stompin'
And bronkin' it up real loud
So come on baby
Tell your girlfriend
There's a crowd

I'm a rambunctious boy
Rambunctious boy
Oh my I'm a restless guy
Got a home everywhere I go
I'm-a trouble on the run
Heartbreakin' son of a gun
Oh yeah I'm a rambunctious boy

I'm a rambunctious boy
Rambunctious boy
Oh my I'm a restless guy
Got a home everywhere I go
I'm-a trouble on the run
Heartbreakin' son of a gun
Oh yeah I'm a rambunctious boy

-John Fogerty

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Baseball Japanese style




From the Associated Press:

Boston Red Sox pitchers Daisuke Matsuzaka, left, and Hideki Okajima pose in their dugout at Fenway Park in Boston Tuesday, April 24, 2007 with students from Showa Boston, from left, Ayano Muroi, Erika Gomi and Michiko Sogawa, after they presented the players sets of Senbazuru, which consist of 1,000 paper cranes tied together. In Japan, Senbazuru are sometimes used to wish a sports team well and may be hung in the dugouts of baseball teams.

Baseball in Boston, or anywhere in the U.S. ain't never going to be the same. And I kind of like the international flavor. I like the Latin players, and now the surge of Japanese. Remember when baseball went to Canada, years ago? To Toronto and Montreal? It's ain't American, some people said.

I like knowing Senbazuru will be in the dugouts. How about a shrine to Buddha in the corner, with some incense burning, right next to the box of sunflower seeds and Skoal?

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Baseball 30 years ago

"The pitchers were meaner, and if you hit some home runs, you were going to get drilled." --Yanks coach Larry Bowa

The game played the way it was meant to be played.

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Inhabitable planet discovered

Astronomers have discovered a planet outside the solar system -- it's only 120 trillion miles away -- that is potentially habitable with Earth-like temps.

Just in the nick of time, too.

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Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Border's Books and Harry Potter

I wanted to reserve a copy of the upcoming Harry Potter book for my fifteen-year-old daughter. Borders wanted name and address and email address. Maybe phone, too, but I don't remember.

"Why do you want an address?" I asked. "Are you sending out postcards when they come in?"

"No, there will be too many reservations to send anything out" the young female sales clerk said. "We need it to reserve the book?"

"Why do you need an address to reserve a book if you're not sending anything out?"

"That's the process," she insisted.

That's not the process I, or any parent who's thinking, will follow. What the heck is Border's thinking? I guess I could give my name, but that lessens the excitement for my daughter.

Just one more case of a company not really thinking about its customer base.

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Catholic Church: Show me the door

The pope has decreed that Eucharistic consistency requires respect of human life from conception to natural death and family values built upon marriage between a man and a woman.

Abortion, same-sex marriage, euthanasia, and embryonic "tampering" are verboten.

Dang, I struck out swinging, didn't I?

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John Fogerty

I knew Sue was a keeper when she agreed to go to a Willie Nelson/John Fogerty concert with me.

Really!?

That was me. Surprised. Not too many people I know like John Fogerty. A lot of the people I hang out with like me despite my hillbilly tendencies. But that's Sue. And don't you know she knew all the words to his songs?

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Hot Rod Heart

Ooh, let's go ridin'
Cruisin' down the open road
We can put the top down
Listen to the radio
Big ol' Buick
And a big ol' sky
Wheels on fire
And I'll tell you why
I got a hot rod heart

Ooh, let's go prowlin'
Sneakin' like we used to do
Way back in the country
Cut across the cornfields too
Big ol' Harley
And a big ol' moon
Big ol' 'gator
Puttin' on the zoom
I got a hot rod heart

Got a one-way ticket to the open road
Come on
Got a red line engine
And I'm rarin' to go
Put the pedal to the metal
If you want to ride
If you want to ride
Let's go

Ooh, let's go ridin'
Rollin' down the open road
We can put the top down
Listen to the radio
Big ol' Buick
And a big ol' sky
Wheels on fire
And I'll tell you why
I got a hot rod heart

Got a one-way ticket to the open road
Come on
Got a red line engine
And I'm rarin' to go
Put the pedal to the metal
If you want to ride
If you want to ride
Let's go

Ooh, let's go ridin'

-John Fogerty

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Monday, April 23, 2007

Libra 4.23.07

Travel to a destination that offers insight, development, and entertainment. The people you hang out with and the groups you get involved with will inspire you to take on new challenges. Don't let laziness be your downfall when you have so much potential.

You know, a destination doesn't necessarily have to be a physical spot on the planet.

Once again, the lyrics to Neil Young's song, Thrasher, come to mind. I feel like I'm making hard, tough decisions in my life, leaving behind people, dropping people, cutting off people who just aren't good for me, who aren't good to me, who I've outgrown...

Woh-woh-woh, you keep hangin' round me
and I'm not so glad you found me
You're still doing things that I gave up years ago

--Lou Reed, Hanging 'Round

...and I'm searching...because that's what I do...it seems that's what I was meant to do in this life.

It was then I knew I'd had enough,
Burned my credit card for fuel
Headed out to where the pavement turns to sand
With a one-way ticket to the land of truth
And my suitcase in my hand
How I lost my friends I still don't understand.

They had the best selection,
They were poisoned with protection
There was nothing that they needed,
Nothing left to find
They were lost in rock formations
Or became park bench mutations
On the sidewalks and in the stations
They were waiting, waiting.

So I got bored and left them there,
They were just deadweight to me
Better down the road without that load
Brings back the time when I was eight or nine
I was watchin' my mama's T.V.,
It was that great Grand Canyon rescue episode.

Where the vulture glides descending
On an asphalt highway bending
Thru libraries and museums, galaxies and stars
Down the windy halls of friendship
To the rose clipped by the bullwhip
The motel of lost companions
Waits with heated pool and bar.

But me I'm not stopping there,
Got my own row left to hoe
Just another line in the field of time
When the thrashers comes, I'll be stuck in the sun
Like the dinosaurs in shrines
But I'll know the time has come
To give what's mine.

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The Low Anthem at Tommy Doyle's Friday night

Never saw them.

Well,that's not quite it...we saw them, we just never heard them.

They were supposed to play at 9:30 after another band and Michelle Lewis. At 9:30, equipment was still getting put up on the stage, the Red Sox/Yankees were still on television, and I had a train to catch in an hour.

The place was loud and the crowd was made up primarily of young tweakers. I don't even know why places like that even have music.

If I only had a dollar
For every song I've sung
And every time I've had to play
While people sat there drunk
You know I'd catch the next train
Back to where I live
Oh, Lord, stuck in Lodi again


Took the Red Line to South Station, and down in the Harvard T station suddenly the real world opened up...there was a singer busking, a guy selling jewelry on a blanket, and people of all shades and colors who didn't look like they were raised on Wonder Bread.

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Friday, April 20, 2007

Lucero

This guy I work with IMed me saying, if you like that country stuff, check out Lucero. He said it was like Kurt Colbain singing country.

Yeah, it kinda is.

Love Just That Kind Of Girl.

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Low Anthem will be at Tommy Doyle's tonight

I saw these guys a couple of months ago at All Asia and was pretty impressed. Kind of folksy/indie stuff--really good melody and heart-felt lyrics. Not as close to the bone as I normally like, but they're darn close.

They tour a lot and are in the Boston area every so often.

The Low Anthem will be at Tommy Doyle's tonight (the one in Harvard Square, not Kendall Square) tonight and playing at 9:30.

Definitely check them out if you're around.

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TourFilter nominated for a Webby

Tourfilter has been nominated for a 2007 Webby Award!

WE NEED YOUR HELP to win the People's Voice Award, in the «MUSIC» category.

vote here!

Note: You will have to complete an only minimally painful registration form with a nice "no spam" checkbox.

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National Day of Mourning for Virginia Tech shootings

Today is a national day of morning for the 32 people who died in the gunsights of Cho Seung-Hui.

To date, 134,222 have died in the War in Iraq. I wonder what the people still alive in Iraq would think of a day of mourning for 32 people who died violently from a crazed man with a gun.

Just wondering...

Don't get me wrong...it was terrible what happened in Virginia...but Americans are so insular. 32 people die here tragically, violently, and we cry and moan...this goes on in the world everyday...there are places on this planet where they'd take 32 deaths in a day...

Yes, we should be outraged...for it all, not just for the 32, but for everyone who has ever suffered this way.

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Broadcast backlash to Virginia Tech shootings

There is a hue and cry among the populace that the media shouldn't have run the pictures of Cho Seung-Hui pointing a gun at the viewers. That it shouldn't have printed pictures of bloodied students being carried out of the dorm.

No...no, no, no, no. We need this stuff shoved in our faces.

The day after it happened I was going to post on this blog that I applauded the Metro for running the picture of the bloodied student. (I didn't because my job is causing me to shut down...lock down into my own selfish world...and I hate it, hate that I'm becoming once again some apathetic, self-absorbed office worker.) Finally, we're just starting to see the real effects of violence. And the image of Cho pointing his weapon of choice into the camera...someone wrote into the Metro that it disturbed her so much she had to cover the picture to read the story.

Good. Damnit...we should be disturbed. We're too sheltered. We can't see images of the carnage that goes on in wars around the globe...we're not allowed...the public is squeamish...it's all so anesthetized.

Yeah, it's ugly and frightening and horrible to look at. But it's the world. It goes on all around us...and if we started to see the blood and carnage maybe we all won't just sit around on our fat asses and we'll start doing something about the killings that go on in the urban (folks, that's the sanitized word for "black") neighborhoods. We'll start to use our voices in the way we vote against our government's warlike foreign policy.

But no...we'd rather just ignore it all...ignore all the ugliness...

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Thursday, April 19, 2007

Death predictor

The new and improved death predictor

John: At age 89 you will be hunted by a strange apparition resembling
Andy Griffith, and subsequently commit suicide after the stress proves
to be too much.

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Death tally

32 dead in Virginia.

Baghdad bomb kills 166.

The thing is, and I'm not desecrating the deaths in Virginia, but there's a good chance no one will die in Virginia today, but lots will die in Baghdad. And we'll still be reading about Virginia tomorrow, and asking why, and wondering how.

The United States is so insular. We are in our own little bubble, seemingly not knowing or caring that there's a whole 'nohter world out there...and if we were a little more attuned to it, maybe less of what happened in Virginia will happen again, or maybe we'll just be able to wrap our minds around it a little better, or maybe we'll do what we can to make the killing stop everywhere.

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Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Easy Way Out

You'll take advantage 'til you think you're being used
'Cos without an enemy your anger gets confused
I got stuck on a side you know I never chose
But it's all about taking the easy way out for you, I suppose
There's no escape for you except in someone else
Although you've already disappeared within yourself
The invisible man who's always changing clothes
It's all about taking the easy way out for you, I suppose
Well I watch you making mistakes
I wish you luck, I really do
With the problem, with the puzzle
Whatever's left of you
I heard you found another audience to bore
A creative thinker who imagined you were more
A new body for you to push around and pose
It's all about taking the easy way out for you, I suppose
It's all about taking the easy way out for you, I suppose

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I'm guess I'm a successful businessman

Two days ago, the 16th, I got a call from my accountant. My taxes were ready. Gulp. But as it turns out, things weren't that bad. I did owe money to both the state and the feds, but I thought it was going to be thousands. Instead, I owed a couple of hundred to each. As a matter of fact, I owed my accountant more than I did either governments.

I guess I did something right last year in my last year of business. Cut costs. (Cut spending dramatically; I still can't live within my means though. Someday.) Bring in business. Do things as efficiently as I could. Nose to the grindstone stuff, day-by-day things that, when you're in the middle of doing them you think (I thought) I was doomed, but sticking to the basics worked.

I took this legitamate office job (I don't call it a full-time job because I actually work less hours at this job than I did when I was on my own) because I wanted big agency experience, something that certain potential clients wanted, and the chance to work on some really big accounts again.

But one stipulation I gave myself was I wasn't going to go work for someone else because my own business failed. I didn't want to do it with my tail between my legs. I wanted to leave a winner. I wanted to freelance, I built a business, I did it, and now I'm ready to do something else.

The proof seems to be in the numbers.

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The NW comes to NE

It's been raining since Saturday night. This is the reason I could never live in the U.S. Pacific Northwest. I'm definitely solar-powered; I need the sun. Cold and wet is for things that live under rocks.

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Tuesday, April 17, 2007

If

If, by Rudyard Kipling, always bears revisiting...

If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you
But make allowance for their doubting too,
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don't deal in lies,
Or being hated, don't give way to hating,
And yet don't look too good, nor talk too wise:
If you can dream--and not make dreams your master,
If you can think--and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you've spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build 'em up with worn-out tools:

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it all on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breath a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: "Hold on!"

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with kings--nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you;
If all men count with you, but none too much,
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds' worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it,
And--which is more--you'll be a Man, my son!

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A meatloaf sandwich

Sometimes that's all I want. On a really crummy day, it's real comfort food.

You know, if when I die, if I come back as anything, I'd like to come back as a meatloaf sandwich. Something simple, that tastes even better the second time around.

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The entitled white upper-middle class

A friend of mine still vehemently supports the war in Iraq, saying Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. Okay, we won't even argue that one, but...

...she has two sons, and when asked if she would support a draft, she said if her sons were drafted they'd move to Canada. Her reasoning? The American soldiers in Iraq knew what they were getting into when they signed up.

The majority of the personnel in our armed forces are poor and people of color. And my well-to-do white friend is saying that their lives are less valuable than her children's lives, and they should lay down their lives to protect her two gorgeous little white angels.

And that, my friends, is the self-centered, entitled, white upper-middle class shouting from the mountaintops.

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Thrasher again

It was then I knew I'd had enough,
Burned my credit card for fuel
Headed out to where the pavement turns to sand
With a one-way ticket to the land of truth
And my suitcase in my hand
How I lost my friends I still don't understand.

They had the best selection,
They were poisoned with protection
There was nothing that they needed,
Nothing left to find
They were lost in rock formations
Or became park bench mutations
On the sidewalks and in the stations
They were waiting, waiting.


I know I posted those lyrics a week or so ago...just can't get them out of my head. So many of my "friends" fit this bill...and I fit the singer...I hate to turn my back on people...but sometimes I think I have to for my own protection...

I know so many people who have compromised their lives. They have the big houses, and the stuff...the most expensive coffeemaker ever made, huge everything...cars, refrigerators, even their beds...the best things money can buy...their clothes, their shoes, the clothes their kids wear...why is it all I see is a gilded cage? Why is it all I see are golden handcuffs?

And to protect their stuff, they compromise their ideals and their dreams and their values. The important things, the things I think are important, like family and friendships, are cast aside. But they don't see it this way...all the stuff is part of the "good life" and success. I know I sound like some naive teenager (I've always said there's a part of me that stopped growing at age 17) or like some over-aged hippie, but if a song like Thrasher was written, if there are people who sing along to it...isn't there some validity to the message?

Or do we just reach a point where we give lip service to our old dreams?

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Monday, April 16, 2007

Kurt Vonnegut and the existence of God*

"No matter how corrupt, greedy, and heartless our government, our corporations, our media, and our religious and charitable institutions may become, the music will still be wonderful. If I should ever die, God forbid, let this be my epitaph: The Only Proof He Needed for The Existence of God Was Music"

~Kurt Vonnegut (1922-2007)

I wonder if he would have included Neil Young and Joan Jett?


*thanks Dede

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The Year of Vonnegut

Kurt Vonnegut's home town, Indianapolis, Indiana has been celebrating Vonnegut's literary works in a "Year of Vonnegut."

Despite so many tragedies in his life, Vonnegut still had fond memories of the place: "Indianpolis was my home. I had a brother and sister and a dog and a cat and a mother and father and the whole thing, uncles and aunts and tons of cousins," he was quoted in today's Metro to the AP. "It was all here for me -- music, science, people so smart you couldn't believe it, people so dumb you couldn't believe it, people so nice or so mean you couldn't believe it."

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Remembrance Day of the Holocaust

Yesterday Remembrance Day was marked yesterday in Boston.

Never forget. People who were persecuted for no reason other than hatred and ignorance and meanness. What hurts is the loss. What hurts is how so many Nazis got away with it. I understand the Jews who, to this day, don't stop looking for Nazi criminals. It's not fair, it's not right, when people get away with acts of cruelty. Who destroy lives and leave the pieces for others to pick up and put back the best they can.

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Boston Marathon memories

Today is Patriot's Day and the running of the 111th Boston Marathon. The Marathon used to be one of my High Holydays, but no more. Today will be the third time I've missed it in the 27 years I've lived in the Boston area. Last year was the second time, when I didn't have anyone to go with and didn't feel like standing out there alone. Today is a work day.

But...there is a nor'easter blowing out there. Runners may get hit with 50mph head winds. The rain is pelting down, and the wind chill factor may dip into the 20s. Horrible weather.

I used to run like a demon. No more. The last time I ran hard was a few years ago when I vowed I'd run the Marathon before I turned fifty. I was clocking around 14 milers when my back blew out on me (really my hamstrings) and an October qualifying marathon came and went. Just life, I guess.

Now, I'm feeling fat and bloated. Sitting here in this cube, at this desk, eating and doing nothing active is killing me. It's killing all of us...not the life I ever wanted, but I have to dig myself out of a financial hole somehow...

Years ago, I think it was around 1984, my then wife and I hosted a bunch of runner from Ohio. Buddy John, his friends Bart and Ellie, and Ellie's sister from Oregon or Washington, I forget which. Bart had chance at qualifying for the Olympic trials; his number was something like 38. Johnny was already living in Boston, so on the appointed day, he and I headed to the airport to pick up the rest of the bunch. We got there, hugs and intros all around, and Ellie's sister noticed someone sitting on the floor of the airport who she knew from her health club.

Long story short, this woman and Ellie's sister had talked, sis had told the other woman, a single mom who's last name I remember was Proudfoot (what a name for a runner, huh?) who used her savings to buy a ticket and hope she could mooch a place to stay with the sis. Sis was furious; I can understand why, probably feeling used. I saw a tearful woman, and my heart went out to her. I was a runner, we were all runners, we all had our dreams. I told her she could come to my house. Proudfoot didn't want to come at first, feeling bad, but I told her she had a race to run and shouldn't have to worry about where she was going to sleep. Sis was still madder than a wet hen.

Interesting weekend with all of us crammed in one apartment. Runners sleeping on couches and the floor and spare beds. She brought her own food, nuts and granola and all foods with complex carbs, and she set up a picture of her kid on the floor next to her sleeping bag.

Bart blew his race and didn't qualify. Proudfoot didn't run well either. Johnny and Ellie's sis did fine.

I still think of Proudfoot every so often, particularly on Marathon Day. She chased her dream, and didn't get it that day, but I hope she found it, or maybe even something even better, later on.

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Friday, April 13, 2007

An open letter to Kurt Vonnegut

This is a letter I wrote to Kurt Vonnegut years ago. I still think it has merit today. I wrote it a long time ago...longer than the date suggests.


June 2, 1992


Mr. Kurt Vonnegut
c/o G. P. Putnam's Sons
200 Madison Avenue
New York, NY 10016


Dear Mr. Vonnegut,

I've been meaning to write to you since Sunday, October 27, 1991.

On that day I was sitting with my wife in a birthing room at Brigham and Women Hospital in Boston, the same birthing room, I might add, in which my first daughter was delivered. My wife was being induced into labor in order to deliver our second child, Kathryn, who today is a delightful, blue-eyed seven-month-old. My wife and I had been told we were going to have a lot of time on our hands as the labor-inducing medication slowing dripped into her veins, so, along with the the Boston Globe and New York Times, I brought along a copy of Fates Worse Than Death.

I was delighted by the book. I have been reading your books since I was a teenager, and Fates, along with Palm Sunday, Slaughterhouse Five, and Deadeye Dick is one that I pick up periodically to reread.

But that's not the reason I've been wanting to write to you, although I am glad for the opportunity to tell you how much I have always enjoyed your work.

I wanted to tell you that on the day I was waiting for my daughter to be born, with my wife connected to a slow-drip IV and surrounded by beeping, winking, shiny medical gizmos, while women from surrounding rooms periodically shrieked and screamed and cried out in pain during their own deliveries, I found it rib-splitting hilarious that Christopher Lehmann-Haupt, a Times book reviewer, told you that he couldn't stand to read you anymore, and that you were treated like something the cat dragged in by Walter Cronkite, the most trusted man in America. Imagine that, you wrote.

Imagine that, indeed.

Personally, I couldn't think of a better book for any prospective parent to be reading during the final hours before the birth of a child. Very few people can write as simply and truthfully as you do about what is happening to our world. (With kids, as you probably well know, the best thing to do is stick with the truth.) Your writing voice has always been as clear and sharp as the peeling of a bell, or a good karate kick to the ribs. A reader knows exactly what you are trying to say. I've learned a lot from your books, and I've always found delight, not despair, in what you have to say, not just because you are truthful in saying what you believe, but because I believe you are correct in your evaluation of the human condition.

I work as a corporate hack at a computer company, a position you probably have more experience at than you'd like to admit. Occasionally, after giving a speech, a vice president will ask me what I thought, and if I had any suggestions on how he or she might improve his or her delivery. I'm always so sorely tempted to tell the truth: "You found your way to the podium on your first try, you said all the words in correct order, you didn't fall down on your way back to your chair. You did beautifully." But instead I tell them they did fine, or make some benign suggestion to give them the feeling we are working together because I have a beautiful wife and two beautiful children who I want to provide the best for, whatever that may be.

I also write for the local paper, a job for which I earn the kingly sum of $10.00 per column and which my wife refers to as my real job. I just faxed off a column in which I said Ross Perot articulates his thoughts like a yahoo who drank too much Lone Star beer at a barbecue. I'm really proud of that line because it is the truth as I see it. My father-in-law, however, also will consider me with all the regard of something the cat dragged in. (No offense, Mr. Vonnegut, but he also regards you in the same light. He and I can discuss books as long as I stay away from you and Raymond Carver, neither of whom he's read, and stick with his favorites such as Elmore Leonard and John LeCarre, who I also enjoy. I'm willing to do this because he's only human and I love him dearly as a second father, which is a lesson I learned from your books.)

You and your writing also fill me with pride regarding my Midwestern and German heritage. My mother, whose maiden name was Knecht, which translates from the German word for servant, was born on a farm her grandfather gave to her father on the occasion of his marriage. That farm is now listed as a homestead in Brookville, Indiana. She died from cancer in 1985 in a hospital in Boston, far from her home in Cincinnati, and her death affected me as deeply as it seems your mother's affected you.

That's really all I wanted to say. Uncle Walter and the venerable NYT aside, there are still many people who want to know what's kicking around in your head.

Regards,


John Greiner-Ferris

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Happy Casual Friday

Noticed something kind of funny with people today on the train, then it hit me with kind of an older banker kind of white guy with silver hair. He was dressed in jeans and a open necked dress shirt. Casual day at the office. Just a little perk to keep everyone mollified. A nod to their humanity.

I'm really not cut out for this world...this life...I'm really not.

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Thursday, April 12, 2007

More Kurt Vonnegut

"Everything Was Beautiful and Nothing Hurt."

See...see...see what I mean.

(Thanks Dede.)

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Conquest of the South Pole

Buddy Jason Beals just keeps rolling along. Nice work, dude.

And yes, I'm going to see the show.




STAGE REVIEW
Fascinating 'Conquest of the South Pole' is a worthwhile journey
By Terry Byrne, Globe Correspondent | April 5, 2007


When despair sends four unemployed men on an imagined journey to the South Pole, the trail is fraught with difficulties. German playwright Manfred Karge's "The Conquest of the South Pole" plays like a fever dream, and Molasses Tank's bare-bones production at Charlestown Working Theatre toys with the outer edges of sense, which doesn't always work. But this play is such a fascinating mix of domestic drama and epic adventure, it's impossible not to fall under its spell.

Written in the mid-'80s, before the Berlin Wall tumbled, "Conquest" emerges out of the German theatrical tradition epitomized by Bertolt Brecht. Karge is a member of Berliner Ensemble, the company founded by Brecht, and the play's dreamy tone captures the characters' desperate effort to maintain their sense of humanity and individuality in the face of hopelessness.

Written with an enchanting poetic rhythm reminiscent of Dylan Thomas but filtered through Brecht's rough social context, the play follows four men in a small German town who struggle with the loss of purpose that comes with long-term unemployment. They find comfort in one another, "pinball and schnapps," but when one is driven to attempt suicide, their ad hoc leader Slupianik (Jason Beals) distracts them with the powerful story of Amundsen and his triumphant Norwegian team's conquest of the South Pole.

Using the attic room in one man's home as their clubhouse, the quartet, which includes Büscher (William McGregor), Braukmann (George Saulnier III), and Seiffert (Bob Mussett), reenact the explorers' journey as a way to help themselves face their own nearly insurmountable odds. As they proceed, Slupianik's commitment to realistic touches leads to some high jinks and petty thievery for equipment, displayed in a hilarious tableau. Their mischief incites the anger of La Braukmann (Janelle Mills), with whom Slupianik negotiates a tryst to encourage her patience with their "monkey business."

Like the television series "Lost," "Conquest" dismisses exposition and throws us into the midst of the struggle so the connections unfold as we go. Characters become our anchors, and the most interesting one in this group is Slupianik, a man who seems utterly unsuited to the job of leader and yet rallies his company onward again and again. Slupianik is a loner who cannot forge relationships with anyone but his South Pole crew. Beals plays him with strength, revealing a lovely bit of vulnerability when Slupianik decides he must go on for the sake of the child La Braukmann is carrying.

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Victim of Circumstance

"You ain't lookin' for no trouble. It just finds you.
"So we wrote a song about it. It's called Victim of Circumstance."
-Joan Jett, December 31, 1981

The police were waitin' when the sun came up
You better move your ass
Or we'll really get rough
I never wanted trouble
But I sure got enough
I'm bad at bein' subtle
But I ain't that tough, no

Just a victim of circumstance
Didn't you know
Just a victim of circumstance
Doesn't it show
I'm just a victim of circumstance
Wherever I go
Just a victim of bad reputation
I go no chance of shakin'

Really gets you down when you don't belong
An' everyone around says you growed up wrong
But why do they resent it, I ain't doin' anything
They say that I'm demented an' I never could sing
Then everywhere I went I caused them such alarm
You know I never meant to cause anybody harm, no

Just a victim of circumstance
Didn't you know
Just a victim of circumstance
Doesn't it show
I'm just a victim of circumstance
Wherever I go
Just a victim of bad reputation
I go no chance of shakin'

I've been laughed at, I've been shut out
But let there be no doubt
Never been afraid of chances I been takin'

The police are waitin' when the sun came up
You better move your ass
Or we'll really get rough
I never wanted trouble
But I sure get enough
I'm bad at bein' subtle
But I ain't that tough, no

Just a victim of circumstance
Didn't you know
Just a victim of circumstance
Doesn't it show
I'm just a victim of circumstance
Wherever I go
Just a victim of bad reputation
I go no chance of shakin'

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I'm through running for trains

Dawdled this morning and when I pulled into the parking lot in Framingham I heard the 7:47 express train coming into the station. I could have made it if I had hustled to pay the parking fee and had run to the platform. But eff it. Running would have just gotten me to work fifteen minutes before the next train, and for what? I'm getting dumped on at work because of bad planning on a huge project. (I sat around for months with hardly any work while this project got further and further behind. Then I was put on it. Just stupid.) I'm done with killing myself for companies, corporations, agencies, or whatever.

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Black Thursday: Kurt Vonnegut is dead


He died last night.

I can't think of another writer whose ideas had more of an influence on me than Vonnegut, unless it was Bill Gaines, the old publisher of Mad Magazine. I was about fourteen or fifteen when I first read Slaughterhouse Five, one of the best books about war ever written. I've since read just about everything he wrote. Some would say he was bleak and cynical. I think his view was normal and truthful of the world and the way it is.

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Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Ya gotta love Google

go to google.com.

Click on maps.

Click on get directions.

From New York, New York.

To Paris, France.


Then read line #23.

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Find the "C"

Courtesy of Jack:

Find the C


OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO
OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO
OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO
OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO
OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO
OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO
OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO
OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO
OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO
OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO
OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO
OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO
OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO
OOOOOOOOOCOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO
OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO
OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO
OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO
OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO
OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO
OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO
OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO
OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO

Once you've found the C..........


Find the 6!

9999999999999999999999999999999999
9999999999999999999999999999999999
9999999999999999999999999999999999
9999999999999999999999999999999999
9999999999999999999999999999999999
9999999999999999999999999999999999
9999699999999999999999999999999999
9999999999999999999999999999999999
9999999999999999999999999999999999
9999999999999999999999999999999999
9999999999999999999999999999999999
9999999999999999999999999999999999

Once you've found the 6...

Find the N! (it's hard!!)

MMMMMMMMMMMMM
MMMMMMMMMMMMM
MMMMMMMMMMMMM
MMMMMMMNMMMMM
MMMMMMMMMMMMM
MMMMMMMMMMMMM
MMMMMMMMMMMMM
MMMMMMMMMMMMM
MMMMMMMMMMMMM
MMMMMMMMMMMMM

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Coffee, coffee, coffee, coffee

Life is good. They fixed the coffee maker here at work.

It's pathetic, isn't it, when something like that makes your day? Gotta get a life.

I noticed a label on the coffeemaker. "Van Houtte. A taste of Europe in your cup."

No it isn't. What's a taste of Europe? It's coffee, and not very good coffee to boot. I'm supposed to think I'm in effing France instead of jammed into a cube in an office building (veal fattening pens, Sue calls them) my brains leaking out of my ears from writing insipid copy on...well, self-survival tells me not to name the client.

I'm a copywriter, and you gotta remember that some idiot just like me wrote that moronic line.

I'd prefer more of a line like, liquid artificial stimulate to chemically energize you to get your brain working in a way it doesn't want to work.

Well, it needs work. Needs to be shortened up a bit to fit on the coffeemaker, but that's the gist of it.

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Boston Area Rape Crisis Center

Yesterday in South Station there was an amazing, heart-wrenching display of t-shirts hung up with messages decorated with paint and magic marker from people who had been raped. Almost all from women; I think I saw one from a man. The messages were so personal it was as if the person was right there, talking, looking in your eyes. Many were directed at the person who attacked them, who hurt them, who damaged them, and while there was anger in the messages, there also was a feeling of even more than surviving, but of living.

I stopped and looked when I arrived in Boston in the morning, and I spent time for the couple of minutes I had before the evening train.

And the thing I couldn't understand was the people who were standing by, not seeing or noticing. Maybe they had already looked and read and were just taking it all in. Maybe it was too painful to think about. Maybe they just didn't give a s**t.

It's always hard for me to figure out what's going on in another person's head.

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Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Holliston High's opening day

Kathryn made starting shortstop on the JV team. Very cool. Two of her teammates from all her teams made varsity, but I hate to say it but they'll sit on the bench more than they'll see playing time. I'm really happy Kathryn will be playing JV and not varsity.

Yesterday was supposed to be their first game, but it was called because of the field conditions in Norton. Today they open their season with Quincy.

She and I hung out last night in a Chinese restaurant, chomping on chicken wings and talking softball. I coached all those years, most of the seasons, at least. Bench coach, though I did fill in for the head coach at times. I know her teammates as well as she does. Maybe I know them better in some other ways she doesn't. This one has a attitude that's going to get her in trouble. This one has trouble at home.

It's one thing that Kathryn and I have together, and some of my fondest memories of her growing up are sharing them with her on a dugout bench. One night, sitting under the lights, her playing finished for the night, and me not having to worry about too much and just shooting the s**t, spitting sunflower seeds. Playing catch and long ball in the outfield.

She's a tough little character, and more than once playing second she'd take a hit from a sliding runner. She'll see a lot more of that now that she's playing short. She seems to like it.

There were injuries. A turned ankle sliding into second, with me coaching first and giving her the signal to go for two. Another time a runner took a nail off her thumb. She came off the field with blood all over her glove and uniform. Already this season one of her teammates clocked her on the back of the neck with a bat taking a practice swing.

My job pretty much keeps me away from her games. Granted, they are in the afternoon, but having missed only a couple in my life, this season is going to hurt. I'm sure I'll get away for a couple, though. Cough, cough. I can already feel a cold coming on.

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Boston Red Sox: Opening day

A big group of young people on the train today going in Fenway Park for opening day.

My big question: It isn't why aren't they in school? It's, Where the hell do they get the money to do something that expensive? I can't afford to go to see the Red Sox.

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Boston is Angrytown

Co-workers in Detroit refer to Boston as Angrytown. When they come here they say they're going to Angrytown. How's things in Angrytown? they'll ask me.

Detroit is still in the friendly Midwest, and people who live even in that rough city still think Boston is unfriendly.

Boston is unfriendly. No doubt. Another co-worker from the valley in Ca. says it's amazing that people even have babies here, meaning that two people have to be on friendly terms to "do it."

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Today I'm just pissed off...

...and sometimes that's a really good thing.

Imus was suspended for racist remarks. Good. And I like Imus in the Morning. But sometimes I just turn it off because sometimes I think we've have gone way off the mark about what is good and decent and acceptable just in the name of the ratings game.

"Making what you wear work." Corporate training experts telling me what to wear to work. Get this: I'm an effing writer. Today I'm wearing a plaid shirt that Sue affectionately calls my Opie Taylor shirt, a la Mayberry R.F.D. that she looks so good in on a Saturday morning, a pair of jeans that haven't seen the inside of a washing machine in a couple of weeks, and my oldest pair of comfortable cowboy boots. This isn't a career folks. I'm paying the bills here.

Cape doctor pleading the battered woman defense. She allegedly shot and killed her husband. Sorry, if it's true, it doesn't make her any better than him.

What seems like miles and miles of t-shirts in South Station decorated by women who were raped. It's heartbreaking to read the messages on those shirts. That someone could destroy someone's life the way theirs were. (I have a particular disdain for people who ruin other people's lives and get away with it. It's the Libra's sense of justice that does it.) And one shirt noted that 1 in 7 boys are sexually abused. I bet it's more than that. One of my best friends has a nasty scar on his lip where the rifle slipped when he tried to end the pain. Don't effing tell me it doesn't happen to boys, too. You just don't hear it as much.

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On the way home

When the dream came
I held my breath
with my eyes closed
I went insane,
Like a smoke ring day
When the wind blows
Now I won't be back
till later on
If I do come back at all

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Monday, April 9, 2007

Is this deja vu...

...or just a chemical imbalance in my head?

I'm not kidding.

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One blog today...that's all? One measly blog?

Could it be that I actually don't have anything to say?

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What doesn't kill us...

...will be replaced by something that will.

Suddenly, we're not supposed to microwave our lunches in plastic storage containers?? When did this happen?

Well, it seems it happened right in time for me to have access to a microwave, something I've lived without for, oh, about seven years now.

I just finished eating a lunch of leftovers from Easter dinner that Sue's mom made. I was warned to put it on a paper plate first. I didn't. Neither did the guy who was waiting behind me to use the microwave.

We're all gonna die.

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Friday, April 6, 2007

Ok, Borders clerks don't suck

Went over to Borders and asked a clerk if he could check to see if I had any coupons attached to my account. Money's tight for me, but man could I use a fix.

He handed me an e-coupon for 30% off. "Here," he said, "you walked in with this."

This afternoon, I didn't eat lunch, but I will be cranking Lucinda's Essence, which someone copied for me but won't play on my home system, so I just keep it in the truck. Right now I need food for the soul more than I need food for the body. It's a choice.

And that was really cool of the Borders' dude.

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My dirty little secret

Because I've lost so many socks in the wash, I'm rarely wearing a matching pair.

Now you know.

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Kindness is Darwinian

Riding home on the train last night, I had just put down the Herald and just sort of leaned back when I noticed some graffiti scribbled on the seat back in front of me:
"Mankind is kept alive by beastial (sic) acts."

Not true. It couldn't be further from the truth.

Mankind is kept alive despite bestial acts.

We are the only species capable of destroying itself (and sometimes we seem hellbent on doing it.) Our very survival depends on qualities like hope, sympathy, love, and kindness in the true Darwinian sense. Just as the polar bear developed its heavy coat to protect it from the snow, so have we developed personality characteristics that will ensure our survival. Without these qualities to temper aggression, we’d surely destroy ourselves.

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An old joke

This is an oldie but definitely worth repeating. An old joke that got passed around years ago. The comments are the best part. Just something light just to prove I'm not as depressing as I sometimes can appear.

If you yelled for 8 years, 7 months and 6 days you would have produced enough sound energy to heat one cup of coffee.
Hardly seems worth it.

If you farted consistently for 6 years and 9 months, enough gas is produced to create the energy of an atomic bomb.
Now that's more like it!

The human heart creates enough pressure when it pumps out to the body to squirt blood 30 feet.
O.M.G.!

A pig's orgasm lasts 30 minutes.
In my next life, I want to be a pig.

A cockroach will live nine days without its head before it starves to death. Creepy.
I'm still not over the pig.

Banging your head against a wall uses 150 calories a hour.
Don't try this at home; maybe at work.

The male praying mantis cannot copulate while its head is attached to its body. The female initiates sex by ripping the male's head off.
"Honey, I'm home. What the...?!"

The flea can jump 350 times its body length. It's like a human jumping the length of a football field.
30 minutes..lucky pig! Can you imagine?

The catfish has over 27,000 taste buds.
What could be so tasty on the bottom of a pond?

Some lions mate over 50 times a day.
I still want to be a pig in my next life...quality over quantity.

Butterflies taste with their feet.
Something I always wanted to know.

The strongest muscle in the body is the tongue.
Hmmmmmm......

Right-handed people live, on average, nine years longer than left-handed people.
If you're ambidextrous, do you split the difference?

Elephants are the only animals that cannot jump.
Okay, so that would be a good thing.

A cat's urine glows under a black light.
I wonder who was paid to figure that out?

An ostrich's eye is bigger than its brain.
I know some people like that.

Starfish have no brains
I know some people like that too.

Polar bears are left-handed.
If they switch, they'll live a lot longer.

Humans and dolphins are the only species that have sex for pleasure.
What about that pig??

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A nice surprise in my pocket

No, not that kind of surprise...

Pulled on a pair of jeans this morning, which is what I wear just about everyday unless I'm going to a wedding or a funeral, and found a nice surprise in the pocket.

Usually I reach in and find a stray guitar pick.

And isn't it nice when you stick your hand in your pocket and find a dollar or two?

This morning I found sand. From a time most recently when I was sitting on the beach.

I need the ocean in my life the same way I need oxygen to live. When I'm near the ocean I can breathe again (which is what I say about Sue, too.)

Just a little of that life-sustaining stuff in my pocket.

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Thursday, April 5, 2007

Boston MBTA Transit Police

Every morning I race through South Station and see a group of MBTA transit police standing in a cluster.

Today I saw six or seven.

Then it hit me...shouldn't they be spread out a bit? Covering different areas? Communicating on walkie-talkies? What is this: Safety in numbers?

I guess you could say I have a problem with authority figures.

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Greenpeace

Walking through Downtown Crossing today, minding my own business, munching on one of my favorite snacks -- fast-food french fries -- when I see a small group of people wearing green windbreakers. About the same time the lone woman in the group catches my eye. She hesitates, then breaks free and comes over to me. Hmmm...it's nice to know that some women still find me attractive, even if it is a tree hugger.

"Excuse me," she says, then launches into Greenpeace, global warming, all that. Is it me, or is she nervous? I'm wondering .

"Okay, we know about Greenpeace and we know about global warming," I said. "What do you want me to do?" I am such a man of action. Is she imagining me striking a pose on the bow of a Zodiac, fearless in the face of a Japanese fishing factory? (Aliteration can be so much fun sometimes.)

They were there to get people to join. Monthly donations. All that. I told her -- I promised her -- that I'd check the site. Which I did.

And which I'm passing on to you, now, gentle reader, thinking that this will assuage a bit of my guilt for driving a gas-guzzling pickup. (Actually, it won't. I love my truck. Face it, in that regard, I'm an ass***e.)

If your guilt is worse than mine, or at least existant, here's where you can donate.

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Jan Garbarek

Finally found some great music to put in the CD player in the alarm clock. Jan Garbark's Officium.

Sue turned me on to Garbarek. She heard him in concert in a cathedral in Poland, the way this music is meant to be played and heard. Renaissance and medieval music with a sax. Religious music, so beautiful and sexy at the same time. Not sure the church meant for it to be that way, but there it is.

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The Rose Kennedy Greenway

They tore down the Central Artery here in Boston and put up a parking lot.

When they tore down the ugly girders of the elevated Central Artery for the Big Dig, the plan was to make that huge swath of land between downtown Boston and the waterfront a green space named after Rose Kennedy.

But what are they doing? Just bricking it over. It's looking more and more like Government Center, much criticized for being just this barren open spot that's hotter than Hades in the summer and feels like Antarctica in the winter.

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Coffee crisis

Oh, no, life can be so terrible...

The coffee maker here at my end of the floor is still on the fritz. It only fills the cup halfway. Horrors. My life is really tough, huh? I actually have to walk to the other end of the floor to get my free cup of Joe.

I found this out when I was getting my third cup of the morning. Yes, if a doc told me that I'd have to cut out coffee or die, I'd say, oh well, call the undertaker.

This morning I actually thought about my coffee consumption and almost reached for the decaf instead of the high test Kenyan. Then I compromised and grabbed the Maison Melange. Good grief. What is the effing world coming to? Does it make it taste any better to say house blend in French? Some might think so.

I thought about this as I trudged up the hall to the other coffee maker and said eff it. I like my whiskey neat, my beer without fruits and nuts in it, my women feminine, and my coffee strong.

I got the cup of Kenyan here by my elbow, to the devil with it all.

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Wednesday, April 4, 2007

Future of Music Coalition

The Future of Music Coalition is a not-for-profit collaboration between members of the music, technology, public policy and intellectual property law communities.

The Coalition is sponsoring a petition for Net neutrality. What is that? From their site:

The last decade has seen an independent music revolution powered by the Internet. An obscure band like OK Go rockets to national attention on the strength of a clever YouTube video. Clap Your Hands Say Yeah sells thousands of records based on blog buzz, and Sufjan Stevens sells out concert halls solely on the basis of Internet play. Fans have never had such a dizzying array of music choices before, and artists have never had an easier time reaching receptive audiences. And that's just music - the net has opened the door for a wide range of media from political bloggers to amateur filmmakers. A big reason these changes have occurred is because the Internet treats all users the same. Whether they are major players like iTunes or an independent record label like Dischord, everyone has equal access to the Internet. If the web has worked so well, why change it?

Some cable Internet service providers such as Verizon and AT&T have proposed charging Internet content providers for having their web sites load faster. It's essentially a toll for using the Internet "highway" these ISPs have built. The proposal would create a "tiered" web. Companies that are able to afford the fees would have better service. Those that can't pay would be relegated to slower service. In the worst-case scenario, ISPs might even block certain web sites.


Sign the petition

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Keith Richards did not snort his father's ashes


Keith Richards has denied that he mixed some of his father's ashes in some blow and snorted it, as he was quoted in a magazine article.

For some reason I'm just a bit disappointed.

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Going over the same painful ground

Just going over the same painful ground.

There was some time this morning before running for the train to practice the scales and continue trying to learn some bar chords.

Bar chords are hard. Everyone will tell you that. Eddy Vedder will, too. He tells a great story of stealing a music book from church that held nothing but open chords. But I don’t want to keep playing the same old basic chords. I don’t want to keep strumming the same old C-F-G, A-D-E progressions with a few minors thrown in for spice. Even though it sounds pretty.

I’ve gone over this ground so many times…hearing that same dead sound…Bm7…seeing my fingers bent and twisted like the legs on a dead spider…Bm…been frustrated so many times the same way…knowing where my fingers are supposed to go. But if I want grow I know I have to keep doing it, though there is no promise that I’ll get it, really.

The other chords sound so good. You’d think it would get easier. It doesn’t. But…I finally got F, didn’t I? F. Named well. F, like effing F.

Going over the same painful ground.

We do the same things over and over again in our lives. Making the same ugly sounds. Twisting ourselves in ways that hurt, trying to make beautiful music. And it keeps coming out ugly.

Are we truly condemned to keep making the same mistakes over and over again until we get it right? One life after another until finally we’re beautiful? Over the same painful ground until we’re beautiful?

Sometimes it seems I just keep swapping positions.

Someone hurt me as badly as I hurt someone else.

One night, it seems so long ago, I told Sue if she totaled me up and described me to her friends, the bottom line would be they would tell her to run like hell. She told me, in essence, that there was more to me than my sum total.

And I remembered another night that what Sue said to me I told someone else. And I thought, don’t make the same mistake she did.

Swapping places.

Looking in another’s eyes and knowing you’ve known that person your whole life, all your other lives. And knowing they just don't get it. Knowing you’ll do it all over again. That same ugly music. Those same contortions.

So…pick up the guitar. Again and again and again.

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EMI and Apple sell DRM-free music

EMI and Apple have agreed to sell DRM-free (digital rights management) music on iTunes. DRM is the coding on CDs and music files that keep you from copying them.

This agreement between Apple and EMI means that you can download a song from iTunes, and you don't have to have an iPod to play the file, and you can do whatever you want with the file: share it, burn it, play it on any kind of device you want.

The files will also be higher quality, so they'll sound better.

This is all great for the consumer.

EMI doesn't have a lot to lose here. EMI doesn't sell hardly a percentage of what, say, Sony sells. Sony's sitting back to see how this works.

Apple knows that it's supreme coolness factor (translation: awesome marketing prowess) will keep it alive and kicking.

But...the price of a download will go up from 99 cents to a buck twenty nine? Why? There is no reason to raise prices when EMI is doing exactly what it should have done in the first place: share quality music.

So...the greedy bastards just can't contain themselves, can they? You can't change a leopard's spots. They're clinging to the old business model, and it ain't working. Hint to EMI: you're not going to build loyalty by bilking people. Why don't you leverage what could appear to be far-sightedness and dare I say coolness and hipness and really entrench your customers? And do what Apple does and continue to deliver cool products to cool people?

But again, EMI is on the ropes. This move is desperation as much as anything.

Stay iTuned.

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16 people murdered in Boston

Sixteen people have been murdered in Boston so far this year. Officials are pointing fingers, the mayor, the chief of MBTA security. The Guardian Angels are in town. Governor Patrick is looking for more money to add police to the streets.

People are scared, outraged.

This is Boston. Imagine if we were living in Baghdad.

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Tuesday, April 3, 2007

Borders Bookstore clerk is a s**t

Not that I should have been spending the money, but I went to Borders, always a dangerous place for me because there is so much there I want to buy...so many CDs, books, and magazines.

Went upstairs to the music section (I can hear Richard Pryor's great routine on the crack pipe calling him.) Walked up to the sales table. Figured I'll just finger those couple of CDs I was looking at last week. But...

...what the...?

Songs for lovers? Songs for your baby? Songs for the hopelessly romantic? Songs for when you're alone. What is this s**t? I'm not making up these titles.

I asked a clerk, "There were CDs on that table last week..."

"Oh," he said, "we change that monthly. That was last month. Those are back on the shelves."

"Oh," I said, turning.

"And they're full-price now." Did I notice a bit of a gleeful smile (smirk?) on his squirrelly little face?

I'm into people who share things. Who are interested in making the world a better place. The clerk is a...clerk. I'm sure he thinks he's working beneath his station in life, but I don't think so. It's just that opening for the person who licks the penguin crap off the rocks at the aquarium was filled.

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Powderfinger

Shelter me from the powder and the finger
Cover me with the thought that pulled the trigger
Think of me as one you'd never figured
Would fade away so young
With so much left undone
Remember me to my love,
I know I'll miss her.

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Time

When kids are little parents try to get them to understand the concept of time by saying things like, "We'll be at grandma's in the time it takes to watch two Barney's," referring to a popular, annoying TV show when my kids were little. (I don't even know if Barney is still around, or thankfully some TV studio has hung that stupid purple costume up on a hook somewhere to mold away.)

This morning I told Kathryn she could sleep a little longer: as long as it took Bob to eat his breakfast. Even in her dreamy, half-asleep state she smiled. Not sure why, if the reference took her back (way back, to her) to her toddler years, or she knows that Bob inhales his food and she didn't have a lot of time to snooze. He can eat an entire roast in less than a minute and come around sniffing for more.

Anyway...time is just a concept, a marker. Time doesn't exist, it's just like zero, it's just something we use to measure something. It's a placeholder. Time isn't the thing; it's the thing we measure what's important.

Not too many people can wrap their heads around that, though.

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Monday, April 2, 2007

Boston Red Sox opening day

I guess I should make some mention that major league baseball season starts today. Baseball is ingrained in me as much as Catholicism. It was such a big part of my life. I grew up in Cincinnati during the days of the Big Red Machine with Pete Rose, Johnny Bench, and Tony Perez, with the three "Bs": beer, baseball, and brats.

But last year, I didn't go to a single baseball game. I just can't afford the price of a ticket, though maybe that's not quite true. Just today I spent $60 on a concert ticket. Over the years I've just gotten ot the point where I think the players are just a bunch of overpayed babies.

Hopefully this year I'll be under the stars with maybe a bucket of chicken watching the Cape Cod League.

Now that's baseball the way it's meant to be watched. A warm summer night, sitting on a blanket on the grass on a hillside with your sweetheart, maybe your kids. They pass the hat instead of charging for tickets.

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The Secret History by Donna Tartt

I was on a roll back in January and February, reading books on the train at a clip of about one a week. My old pace. I used to read three and four books at a time. Then things, mostly theater, that selfish whore, encroached on my time and the books starting stacking up next to my bed.

But part of the problem was just finding a book that I like. With all the books you see when you walk into Borders or Barnes and Noble, you think finding a good book wouldn't be so difficult. But I've maintained that percentage-wise there is more crap in a bookstore than on television. Factor in the self-help books and the ghost-written "autobiographies" of not-so-talented but popular personalities and you'll see what I mean.

Sue handed me a book within minutes of my walking into her apartment this weekend. We both love to share books and music. She says The Secret History is a goodie. I just started it yesterday morning when I got up before Sue and was drinking a cup of coffee and sitting on the floor with old Bob. I read a little more today on the train. Set at a liberal arts college in Vermont and dedicated to Bret Easton Ellis, there's no doubt I'll be living with privileged, snotty, self-indulgent twerps for the next week.

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Thrasher

It was then I knew I'd had enough,
Burned my credit card for fuel
Headed out to where the pavement turns to sand
With a one-way ticket to the land of truth
And my suitcase in my hand
How I lost my friends I still don't understand.

They had the best selection,
They were poisoned with protection
There was nothing that they needed,
Nothing left to find
They were lost in rock formations
Or became park bench mutations
On the sidewalks and in the stations
They were waiting, waiting.

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The reason God made blogs and country music

Years ago a man was engaged to a woman, but today he and another man have been together for 18 years. Long ago, he didn't know he was gay. He probably didn't know what to feel, what he was supposed to feel.

One more reason for this blog. Just to let others know there's one more miserable human being out there...just doing the day-to-day, just doing the best he can, and sometimes that isn't very good.

Last week I was reading (in No Depression? American Songwriter?) about how depressing country music can be. And the really good country can be real wrist-slashing, I'm-going-to-hang-myself music. But, at least according to the article, the reason people listen to it isn't because they want to feel miserable, it's just the opposite: It's so they'll know they're not alone. When you're going through the miseries, you tend to feel completely alone. And it helps to know you're not.

So much of everyday life is stigmatized. So much of what we go through we hide through shame. God bless the person who isn't afraid to talk. God bless the person who isn't afraid to listen.

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First Encounter Beach, Cape Cod

A bottle of wine, a baguette, ripe cheese. Apples. In a knapsack. A spread from Sri Lanka. A guitar. A dog. A man. A woman.

High tide went to slack to low.

The wind came up.

We got back in the truck and took the long way home.

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Old Silver Beach, Cape Cod

Out off the causeway the water was so clear, right down to the weed beds.

Nestled in the rocks, the sun tightening the skin on our faces, and just off a can's bell started tolling. A Cape Cod moment. People travel miles to see what we see when we look out our back door. In that moment, there is nothing but peace. No anger, fear, no worries, not even love. It's just the moment.

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