Thursday, January 31, 2013


I had one of these when I was a child and it was my favorite toy. It's a Dennis the Menace doll, in case you didn't recognize the character.

When I was too old to play with it, it sat at the end of my bed with my teddy bear named, Bo-Bo, and a stuffed dog named Fluffy.

When I got to be a teen, I'm not sure what happened to it. My mother probably put it in a plastic bag (which is something she did with a lot of thing; used dry cleaning bags--the really dangerous ones that come with a warning not to let small children play with them) with Bo-Bo and Fluffy, and then put it on a shelf in a closet.

I imagine when I went away to college she threw it away. She did that with a lot of my stuff. (Don't worry, Mom. If you can somehow read this, I was never upset when you did that.)

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Buddy Miller: I Worry Too Much

Yup. Can't help myself. I'm a worrier. 

If Sue walks to yoga, I worry about her getting mugged. 

If she drives, I worry about some crazy drunk broadsiding her. If I have a headache, I swear it's a brain tumor. If Sue catches a cold, I'm convinced it's the end. 

I worry about money. About not enough, and crazy: about too much and it will run out. 

And I've actually gotten better over the years, but I'm still an insomniac, which I've been since I was a teenager. I remember so many late nights/early mornings sitting up in my bedroom on Lester Road, sitting on the edge of my bed looking out the window. I would spend a lot of those nights reading and writing.

Yep, I worry too much. 

Sing it, Buddy. 

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Two Artists Doing Neil Young Songs

Not better. Just different.

How artists can put their own twists and bends. How they can put their own personal mark on a song.

It's a big topic in theater. Playwrights hand over their work, and Lord knows what could happen to it.

The Timmins family, and Gillian and David are some of the most talented musicians today. So, what do you do when your work falls into the hands of "artists" (ahem) less talented?

Honestly? I think I actually like the Junkies version of Powderfinger much better. It's more controlled. Crazy Horse does it like a ride down the Colorado River rapids. Which is their style. But Margo Timmins? She reminds me of something I once heard about James Taylor. She could sing the phone book and make it sound good.

(If you don't know what a phone book is, I can't help you. I guess you could Google it.)

Monday, January 21, 2013

The Presidential Inauguration, Forty Years Ago

Today, Barack Obama was inaugurated for his second term.

Forty years ago (actualy, January 20, 1973; thank you Wikipedia) Richard Nixon was inaugurated for the second time. I was there protesting.

I commented today on Facebook about this. I hadn't thought about this for many years. But forty years is a long time, and it's actually a funny story. It was a different time then.

I had a friend named Valerie. We were in high school together and Valerie and I were platonic friends, but I loved her, as only a teenage boy could love a girl. She didn't know it though. I was a hippie. I had shoulder length hair, and wore patched blue jeans and flannel shirts like Neil Young. She was a hippie, too. She had long straight hair, and also wore jeans and flannel shirts. She lived with her single mom, and went out with a guy, another hippie, named Micheal.

I was cool with all that because, well, hippies were cool with everything.

One afternoon Valerie called me. Hey, she said, we're going to Washington to protest Nixon's inaugeration. Do you want to come?

I swear this is what happened next. I turned and yelled to my mom in the kitchen. Hey mom, it's Valerie. She's going to Washington to protest Nixon's inauguration and wants to know if I can come.

And my mom, who I think was probably at her wits end with her youngest child, said sure, why not.

Valerie, Michael, some guy who I've forgotten, and I all crammed into a Volkswagaon Beetle (what else?) and drove through the night to Washington, arriving in the early morning to what I can still remember to be onel of the biggest assemblies of hippies the world had ever seen.

Pot smoke was in the air. We did some sightseeing (you have to remember we were high school students from Ohio on a road trip) but everything was closed for the expected violence. I looking at the Lincoln Memorial with my jaw on the ground. The mall and the Washington Monument were all closed, at least to long-hairs like us. That's what we were called. Long-hairs and freaks and hippies.

I remember signing up with the SDS, only later thinking the table was staffed by the FBI and there would be an agent at my home when I arrived. I mean, there was no email, Twitter, Facebook, anything. What was the SDS going to do? Send me a brochure?

And it was that weekend when I learned about the nature of political movements. A lot of people came just to party, get high or drunk, and cause mayhem, because they were young and bored and just as entitled and young people are accused of being today. Intellectuals weren't any better represented then than they are now. Smart people are always in short supply. I remember seeing a long-hair pounding on the hood of car that held a bunch of straight people, yelling his outrage at them. Then, straight meant mainstream. It has a different meaning today, but I still use the word with its archaic defiinition.

There's a good chance that guy went back to his suburban home in New Jersey, and later worked on Wall Street. That's what happened to those times. Even Neil Young has turned into kind of an old fogey, interested in selling his music in $500 CD collections.

Me? I wrote on Facebook today that then I was 17-years-old, had long hair, and a penchant for blue jeans and flannel shirts. For me at least, plus ca change, plus c'est la meme chose.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Lance Armstrong: Heroes and Villians

Tomorrow and Friday Oprah will air her interview with Lance Armstrong when he will supposedly admit, to a greater or lesser degree, that he participated in doping for his entire career.

Do I care? I'm mildly interested since I'm a fan of cycling.

Am I hurt, disappointed, or mad at a person I've never met?  No, I am not.

This is just one more act in the circus called the American media.

But I guess I can say that because I figured out long ago never to bet on a horse if I'm not riding it. I learned not to get emotionally tangled up with sports teams and players, because what logic is there in wanting to slash my wrists after, say the Red Sox blow a ten-game lead in the standing in a matter of weeks? There's nothing I can do about it, and when it comes out that grown men who are making tens of millions of dollars are acting like children, or worse, like drunken sailors on shore leave, why should I care?

It's just one more lesson in human behavior that the Greeks understood 2,500 years ago and we still haven't learned yet. Their gods and heroes were flawed, and why are we always outraged when a human being plummets from the heights of Olympus is beyond me.

We all know sports organizations and athletes are not the squeaky-clean enterprises and gods and goddesses we make them out to be. It's just part of their branding in order to sell overpriced tickets and logo clothing and eight dollar cups of crap beer at their venues. It's marketing, folks, and frankly most of the marketing goes to stem the tide that most sports are going the way of professional wrestling. It's all phoney and geared to make the most money possible.

I was, though, a huge Lance Armstrong fan and have been a fan of the Tour de France since I was a kid and rode a Schwinn Varsity, my first bike, and American Greg LeMond was wearing the yellow jersey. I was following le Tour when people here in the United States were calling it the Tore day France (rhymes with pants) if they were even talking about it at all. What am I saying?--there are still people who pronounce it that way.

During the heyday of the U.S. Postal Services' team's dominance of the Tour, when Lance (see, I call him by his first name, as if I really know him) won seven Tours in a row, for 21 days in July I'd be incommunicado. I still had a television set then, and I'd get up in the morning around 6:00 and watch the race on the Outdoor Network Channel. Then in the afternoon I'd watch the highlights and that night I'd watch the entire race all over again. Wonderful races, very dramatic, and of course in the back of my head I'd wonder if he was doping. What do you think I am?--an idiot?

The same way I imagine any baseball fan with half a dose of common sense had to be wondering about the likes of Mark Maguire, Sammy Sosa, Barry Bonds, and Roger Clemens when they had their runs as sports giants.

Yeah, Clemens (notice I don't refer to him by his first name) was called before Congress, but they let him off. I still don't understand why Congress cared what Clemens shot in his big butt, but, like most people, I don't understand much of anything that Congress does.

I just got finished reading Neil Young's autobiography, Waging Heavy Peace, (don't read it unless you're a crazy Neil Young or music fan; it's terribly written) where he admits he wrote all--and he does mean all--his songs while high. When he was writing his book he had quit all drugs including alcohol, and wrote that he had writer's block and hadn't written a single song since going clean. Is anyone saying, hey, Harvest or After the Gold Rush suck now since you wrote them under the influence? No. But then again, everyone knows that drugs play a role in music--as we should just admit in sports.

But I'm digressing. Lance is a little different from the other boys.

After Lance's time on the hero's podium, he's going to have to serve his time getting raked over the coals of the American judicial system, better known as popular opinion run by the media. He didn't just bamboozle us in the hero department, he jeopardized the income of a lot of big names: LiveStrong. Oakley. Nike. Trek. Giro helmets. 24-hour Fitness. Anheuser-Busch. Radio Shack. The Discovery Channel.

What do they say about Bernie Madoff? Why was he the only person from Wall Street who went to jail? Because he ripped off the 1%. The U.S. Postal Service ponied up about $30 million to sponsor the team. South Australia is considering suing him for appearance money paid to him. The Sunday Times is suing him for $1.5 million for a libel settlement. Money, money, money, money. Everybody was making huge sums of money of each other. Now there's hell to pay.

And Lance jeopardized his own income and this poor boy from Texas who rose to those dizzy heights of wealth and popularity isn't going down without a fight. I'm not so enamored with Lance that I don't realize he's probably behind all this noise. He--or rather, his brand, that third-person entity that is composed of not flesh and blood, but rather public opinion--is at stake here.

If I can say one thing about Lance, he did a lot of good. He took his fame and used it to fight cancer. Maybe his story was hokum--a superhuman defeat of the Big C--but it still got people to fight cancer. That's a lot more than a lot of rich celebs ever attempt to do. Seriously, what does Mick Jagger do with all his millions and fame? Of course, Mick Jagger doesn't try to come across like Glinda the Good Witch either. He is who he is, and Lance is who he is, too.

I still think it's our society that's at fault here, as much as Lance. Our society seems rife with people who will do anything for success. And we let them and even encourage them, and then get mad at them when they let us down.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Every day...

Every day, I try to do three things:

1) Something good for myself.
2) Something good for someone else.
3) Something good for the world.

If you think it sounds easy. Try it once. And keep trying it everyday.

Even the first one is hard to do.  We have so many encroachments in our lives. Things that exert demands on us for our time and energy that sometimes we don't even have time for a meal, much lesss time for something that will really be good for us. We have to really like ourselves to pull this one off with any degree of consistancy, because the biggest obstacle is the idea that if we do something for ourselves, we're being selfish.

The second is easy to do if the opportunity presents itself. Taking time to listen to your spouse/partner. Smile at a stranger on the subway. The second one is usually my favorite.

The third is hugely egotistical, isn't it? I'm going to do something for the entire world. I tend to think small. I think recyling in my mulch pile is helping the world. Walking instead of driving to the store. That sort of thing.

What do you think? Are these good ideas? What do you do for yourself, for others, and the world?

Friday, January 4, 2013

Alejandro Escovedo: Bottom of the World

For me, it's usually the melody that hits me first. 

Then I listen and pick up a few words here and there, and then maybe a line sticks. 

And then I'm hooked. 

Ever been just down and out? I mean really down and out? This song gives a good feeling of what it's like. The world used to be one way, you used to be on top of the world. And then, wtf, you found yourself at the bottom and you're a changed person.

Anyway, there's no better person to write and sing about it than Alejendro Escovedo

Austin’s changed, it’s true
Show me what hasn’t
Tonight the tv’s throwing colors on the wall
As I watch the cities of the world reduced to ashes
From where I sit, at the bottom of the world

Oh, there used to be a phone booth
Down here on every corner
He used to call me up just to say my name
But now all anybody gets is a busy signal
No you can’t call home, from the bottom of the world

She said, hey newspaper boy
Don’t you think it’s time you delivered?
I said, say the word, your wish is my command
Well she ran me over like an eighteen-wheeler
And dumped my body at the bottom of the world.

You might think you know all there is to know about me
You might think the beast is in the cage
But everything you see is just an illusion
It’s about to get real, at the bottom of the world.

Oh, hey little boy, little boy you look a little frightened
For these aren’t the kind of streets for walking alone
So why don’t you get yourself home back to Houston
No I don’t think you’re ready, for the bottom of the world
No I don’t think you’re ready, for the bottom of the world.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Crazy Horse Never Would Have Used A Smart Phone

"Change was a part of life, Crazy Horse advised. Yet it is wise to hang on to the things that make us all happy and worthwhile as Lakota. In the days of the far past the lance gave way to the bow and arrow as a hunting weapon, yet the essence of being a hunter didn't change. Trading for a blanket or a length of blue cloth didn't have to change the person trading for or using the blanket or the cloth, Crazy Horse was certain. Anything in the hand didn't have to be given the power to change what was in the mind or the heart. And that, he understood, was at the root of many fears, that the essence of being Lakota could be so easily changed by new and different things. It made no sense." --The Journey of Crazy Horse, Joseph M. Marshall III. 

This quote was in reference to how Crazy Horse's father, a medicine man, thought. Crazy Horse at this point in his life still had his boyhood name, Light Hair, so called because, unlike most indigenous Americans, he had brown, wavy hair.

Things do change us though.What Crazy Horse was referring to was changing a way of life. In this case, some of the indigenous people were lounging around Fort Laramie waiting for blankets instead of hunting elk and caribou to make their own blankets, and they were waiting for allotments of beef instead of hunting buffalo. The question is, what makes up a way of life? Of course free blankets and beef made the harsh life the Lakota sometimes had to endure easier. But at what expense? What did the Lakota gain from living as one with the elements? The answer of course, is not just knowledge, but wisdom about the natural world that shaped an entire culture. That's nothing to sneeze at, or to blithely let die.

(Note to right-wing fundamentalists: that last paragraph is not in any way a commentary on what is commonly referred to as the welfare state. Some people do need help, and if nature made it hard on the Lakota in the late nineteenth century, I think our society makes it even harder on some people today.)

I ask that question all the time regarding technology in our own modern lives. I love technology and what it can do, but you can be a slave to it. Right now I'm blogging, and I'm not writing plays. What am I gaining here, and what am I losing?

As I said, I love technology. I do, though you might not expect that from a person who chooses not to have a smart phone and hasn't owned a television for almost six years now. Some people think I'm behind the times, but I think I'm ahead of the curve.

Here's why:

I tell this to people all the time: throw out your televison. Make a party out of it and get all your friends and go up to the second floor and push it out a window so it makes a loud crash when it hits the ground. And here's what will happen: After about six months or so you will have your first original thought since you were about six years old. That's about the time you started into the school system and really got indoctrinated into society.

People don't realize how manipulative television is. Oh, I know you think you're making choices, but you're not. You may even be one of those people who say, I don't care that I'm being manipulated, I like my shows. Or you may be someone who waves the standard of your intelligence and good breeding and only watches PBS and the history channel. You're still being manipulated, in so many ways. You're watching your favorite liberal newscaster, making all those deep, learned statements, and you're identifying with that person, thinking yes, that's exactly what I think, and at the same time you're looking at his/her hair and his/her clothes and you're subconsciously deciding that's how I'm going to dress and wear my hair. And then you go out and spend your hard-earned money on the haircut he has or the suit she's wearing, when the real you is supposed to be wearing t-shirt with Howard the Duck on it and a pair of bowling shoes, but you'd never find that out because the television is blinding you of that fact.

Or something like that.

To people who say they can't live without their shows or their televisions, this is what I say: That's exactly what the heroin addict says about his needle.

Throw out your television for six months. Seriously, what have you got to lose?

I've also made the concerted decsion not to buy a smart phone. Aside from saving myself I don't know how much, I simply don't want to be that person sitting on subway with my nose in a phone instead of looking around and being an active participant in my world.  I sure as heck don't want to be walking down some street in some strange city with my nose against a phone instead of using all of my senses to experience all the new sights of where I am. I don't want some phone telling me where the nearest Italian restaurant is. I want to find it for myself, just like the Lakota should have hunted their own buffalo. I don't want to be told by whoever it was who paid the most money to Google to tell me where to eat. Some of the best experiences of my life came from serendipity. Discovering that little bistro down an alley. A delightful exchange with a stranger when I asked directions, or they asked them of me. I don't want to give up that part of my life.

I'm still connected to the world, but I choose how I'm connected and where I connect. To answer my own question above, I'm blogging right now because I'm choosing to reach out digitally to the world in this manner. I will settle in and work on a play later today.

And I keep up on current events, probably just as well or maybe even better than the person glued to CNN/PBS/Good Morning America/Fox News. The difference is I choose what I'm looking into, and where I get my information. For all you smarty pants out there, PBS is still making decsions for you. Here's the difference: You watching PBS is like you going to a restaurant and choosing from the menu. You can only eat off that menu. The way I do it is like cooking a meal in your own kitchen.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

The End of the University as We Know It

Well, I just published a post about not knowing what to post, and then I head over to Twitter and see this piece, and I'm all over it. This is from Elizabeth Scarborough from 

She tweeted this article from The American about the end of the university as we know it. 

The high cost of an education in the United States is one thing that drives me crazy. Everyone goes to college, and in the good old days (when I was an undergrad student) college was basically finishing school for the middle class. That was okay because it really didn't cost that much and there were plenty of jobs to go around to pay off what amounted to pittance in loans. Now there's no middle class, and what's left of of the middle class is getting charged up the yin yang for a diploma that is becoming as worthless as the one dollar bill.

Thirty years ago, when I started out in business as a writer I didn't need a degree. All you had to do was prove that you could write. Then colleges noticed a hole to fill and started communication curriculums, and today, if you don't have some kind of communications degree (communications or journalism or English) on your resume you won't even be called in for an interview.

I'm not saying degrees aren't important (the Masters I just earned, for instance, was invaluable for jump starting me as a playwright), but there are plenty of jobs that you don't need a degree for, copywriting being one of them.

I've seen and worked with people who have these communications degrees, and I just bite my tongue. My last gig there was an editor who emailed me a jpeg they were going to use on the web site, asking me to email it to one of sources I used, who she knew better than I did. Um, instead of emailing me, why didn't you just email it yourself, I wanted to ask, but of course I didn't. She was too busy "strategizing",which is business for "we don't know what the fuck we're doing but we're going to make it look like we do."

A lot of these people couldn't smell a story if you smeared peanut butter all over it.

But I'm digressing. I do think there will be a huge change soon in higher ed. People simply won't be able to afford it anymore, but they'll still have a thirst for knowledge. When you put people under pressue, they can be awfully resourceful. And God love the Internet for continuing to shake things up. People are learning to ignore the gatekeepers in our society to get what they want, and universities are definitely gatekeepers. As I pointed out, without their sanction you can't even be considered or a job writing marketing swill, and trust me, it isn't that hard. But they make it out like it is, just to justify their own existance.

Again, I want to make it very clear that I think degrees will continue to be important. I mean, copywriting is one thing, brain surgery is quite another.

But after I graduated from BU, I wanted to take a summer course from one of my professors, who was a terrific teacher, and her six-week course was $5,000! I simply can't afford that, and BU doesn't even give discounts to alumni. And frankly, is six weeks of modern drama really worth $5,000? No, it isn't, even from the best of teachers.

But Sue and I consider leaning a life-long pursuit. We have a cabinet filled with Great Courses' material, material that home schoolers and yachties use. We have their series on the history of music, relativity, quantam physics (which I haven't done yet), mythology, and the Greek tragedies, which I'm part-way through. In the spring I'll be taking two music courses from Berklee through Coursera. I just came home with a pile of books from the Boston Public Library. You don't need a lot of money to get an education.

Finally, I'm reminded of this:

Lack of Focus

I'm not sure how long I'm going to keep this up, but each year, like a resolution to lose weight or stop smoking, I come here to Blogger and here on Weebly and write. I'm not sure why, at least each year I understand less and less why I blog.

I try to write in my journal every day. I don't always do it, but I record dreams and my thoughts and sometimes I just vent. A journal is one of the best places to write down what you had wished you said, which is the reason why when I die I want all my journals either deleted or burned. No use leaving that behind.

But then, back around '08 or so, I started blogging. It was all the rage. And I figured I write in my journal, so blogging is really the same.

But blogging isn't like writing in a journal. At least I don't approach it that way. I've seen some blogs where people share everything, and by everything I mean everything. I'm too private of a person for that. I sure don't share what I write in my journal (that's nobody's business but my own) and so I find myself sort of tweaking what I write here. Then what I write becomes compartmentalized. Random thoughts here on Blogger. Only theater here on Weebly.

So I start getting crazy. I start going down this path of thinking, what difference does it make what I think about something? And then I think, well, it makes a difference to me, but what do I care if anyone cares what I think? Just live your life.

In the past decade I've given up worrying what others think in general, or what they think about me specifically. I see it as a mark of growing up. Maturing. Gettin' old. And it sure makes me a lot more comfortable in my skin, but I'm not sure it makes for a good blogger.

Anyway, I can spot rambling when I see it, and this is nothing but rambling. We'll see what tomorrow brings. I'll promise I'll try to focus better.

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