Wednesday, June 30, 2010

The Return Of L-Boogie, Maybe!

Twelve years ago, before what my wife calls "Beyonce fever" began in America, there was a brilliant CD released called "The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill". It was the breakthrough recording all hip-hop and music heads in general had been waiting for. Lauryn had sung her "you know what off" on the Fugees breakthrough CD and was showing up solo on recordings by Nas and others, as well as on the soundtrack to everybody's favorite urban black love story, "Love Jones." Our appetites were wet for a Lauryn Hill solo CD.

Who thought... who knew that Wyclef would be the breakout star? Everybody knew it was going to be Lauryn. Everybody said that those "other two guys" (Pras and Cleff) would go the way of The Commodores without Lionel, The Blue Notes without Teddy, and to some extent, The Jacksons without Michael.

The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill won multiple Grammies, Lauryn won "Best New Artist of the year", and then... and then... nothing. Lauryn has barely been seen or heard from since 1999. Despite universal accolades, she only released one album after 1998's Miseducation... 2002's "MTV Unplugged". Some wondered whether the erratic artist, who demands to be addressed as "Ms. Hill" (if you're nasty), had a nervous breakdown.

But, Lauryn (now 35 years old), finally explained her mysterious absence to National Public Radio's Zoe Chace, who scored a interview with the artist following a rare performance in Santa Rosa, CA. How come she stopped recording? "There were a number of different reasons," Lauryn explains. "But partly, the support system that I needed was not necessarily in place. There were things about myself, personal growth things, that I had to go through in order to feel like it was worth it." she said.

Lauryn didn't miss a chance to take a shot at the music industry. An industry that she says didn't nurture her with enough care or patience. She says, "Often times, the machine can overlook the need to take care of the people who produce the sounds that have a lot to do with the health and well-being of society. And, it's important that people be given the time that they need to go through, to grow, so that the consciousness level of the general public is properly affected."

"I don't know if you know this, but I have five children," she tells NPR. (We knew it!) Her children's father is Lauryn's longtime love Rohan Marley, son of the late reggae legend Bob Marley. "The youngest is 2 years old now, so she's old enough that I can leave her for a period of time and know she's going to be okay. I think it's just time to start performing again", she says. "I'm starting to get excited again. Believe it or not, I think what people are attracted to about me, if anything, is my passion. People got exposed to my passion through music and song first. And, I think that can be infectious."

Of course, we've heard all of this before (a few years ago), along with the rumors of a Fugees reunion. This time, I hope it's true. I'm praying that L-Boogie is returning.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Some Of My Best Friends Aren't Democrats!

You know, President Obama could nominate Mother Theresa or Jesus Christ himself for the Supreme Court or to be a federal judge and some Republican somewhere would come from out of the woodworks and find fault with them, simply because it's this president's choice and their entire reason for living is to attack everything he does, regardless of what it is.

Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan pledged at her Senate confirmation hearing on Monday to show the "evenhandedness and impartiality" the Constitution demands if she is confirmed, and to offer proper deference to Congress and the laws it makes. The court must ensure that "our government never oversteps its proper bounds or violates the rights of individuals," she said before a rapt Judiciary Committee and a nationwide television audience on the opening day of her hearing. "But the court must also recognize the limits on itself and respect the choices made by the American people."

The 50 year old solicitor general and former Harvard Law School dean appeared on track for confirmation before the high court opens a new term in October, as she delivered a brief statement at the end of a day of senatorial speechmaking. Kagan stopped by the Oval Office of the White House to receive best wishes from President Barack Obama on her way to the hearing. A few moments and little more than a mile distant, she strode with a smile into the committee room and took her place at the witness table, where senatorial ritual then required her to sit for hours while lawmakers delivered prepared speeches from an elevated dais across the room.

Finally, at mid-afternoon, it was her turn. "I will listen hard, to every party before the court and to each of my colleagues. I will work hard and I will do my best to consider every case impartially, modestly, with commitment to principle and in accordance with law," she said.

Kagan faces hours of questioning, both friendly and otherwise, when the panel meets on Tuesday, a grilling that she has spent hours preparing for under the tutelage of White House advisers. Already the political fault lines are well-drawn. "I believe the fair-minded people will find her philosophy well within the legal mainstream," said Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT), the panel's chairman. "I welcome questions, but urge senators on both sides to be fair. No one should presume that this intelligent woman who has excelled during every part of her varied and distinguished career, lacks independence."

But, the committee's senior Republican signaled that Kagan can expect tough questioning. (See what I mean?) "It's not a coronation but a confirmation process," said Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama. He said she had "less real legal experience of any nominee in at least 50 years." And, he said her decision to bar military recruiters from Harvard Law School's career services office was in violation of the law, a legal conclusion disputed by the White House. And, the battle goes on. They would say that Jesus Christ drank too much wine if he was nominated or that Mother Theresa was too much of a pacifist. Nobody nominated for anything by President Obama could just get a free pass and be liked by all. That's just not how it works.

I know someone, a stauch Republican, who happens to be black and in my fraternity, believe it or not (which is probably the only reason I deal with the brother at all), who states that the constitution grants us all the right to question our president and hold him accountable as well as respectfully disagree with his policies and nominations. I couldn't agree with him more. He agrees with me that the "tea baggers" or "tea party" crowd (whatever) are a bunch of ignorant zombies being led by (and, this is his term) "entertainers" (Rush Limbaugh, Glen Beck, and Sean Hannity). He finds them embarrassing and he finds Ann Coulter to be mean-spirited and racist. So why does he align himself with a party that uses said "entertainers" as its standard bearer? You tell me... I'm trying to figure that one out.

I bring my friend and fraternity brother up because, while we manage to agree on some things and feel the same way about some of the same people, he still spouts the Republican Party line and sees President Obama as "close to being a socialist." He was once a Democrat, but feels as though the Democratic Party has betrayed black people and taken them for granted, which is something I can't completely dispute. He finds fault in everything this president seems to do and he is one of Elena Kagan's staunches critics. He says she is "too left-leaning."

Most of the brothers steer clear of talking politics with him. We keep our conversations mostly on the fraternity, sports, sex, and typical guy things where we find common ground. But, every once and a while, politics rears it's ugly head into the conversation and this poor guy, the lone Republican and Obama-hater in a pool of Pro-Obama, Democratic, and left-leaning brothers, gets shouted down. If you mention George Bush and HIS record, we get... "Okay, how long are you guys going to keep hanging on to that?"

Again, I bring this brother up, because he is my only avenue into the "Republican mind." He's not the only Republican I know... not even the only black one... but, he is the only one that I like otherwise, in spite of his politics. No, I take that back. I have an ex-girlfriend who "thinks" she's a Republican. If my fraternity brother and friend think so narrow-minded and one sided, I can imagine what long-time members of Congress and the Senate must be like... Poor Barack, you just can't win! Poor Elena Kagan... you just might get through this and then what?

Perhaps, we should all be like Brother Charles Williams. Brother Chuck is not a Democrat or a Republican... he holds both parties and their candidates accountable and votes for the candidate that best serves his particular interests at the time. Now, that I can certainly get behind. Oh, and he voted for Barack Obama! (Just thought I'd throw that in there.)

Monday, June 28, 2010

Random Thoughts

1. Do we sometimes hear what we want to hear and miss what we ought to hear?

2. Do we stay in a bad relationship sometimes because we are just too lazy to walk away?

3. We have all been pulled over by the police at one time or another in our driving lives. Does anybody ever think about how good a driver a serial killer has to be?

4. Is it just me or have you noticed that the bigger butthole a man is, the more a woman stays devoted to him?

5. If you're addicted to drama, here's $10.00... go check out a good movie and stop making everybody around you miserable!

6. Somebody tell me when was the last time that worrying changed the outcome of any situation?

7. They say you should follow your heart, but in doing so, keep your eyes and ears open.

8. Everybody's a genius in the shower. The problem is, after you've dried off, do you remember those dreams? Are you going to put them in action?

9. Deal with people as if you're mining for gold. Don't look for dirt, look for the gold!

10. Lies don't have strong legs, but the truth always stands tall!

Friday, June 25, 2010

Weekend Humor

Two young engineers applied for a single position at a computer company and they both had the same qualifications. In order to determine which individual to hire, the applicants were asked to take a test by the department manager. Upon completion of the test, both men missed only one of the questions.

The department manager went to the first applicant and said, "Thank you for your interest, but I've decided to give the job to the other applicant."

"And why would you be doing that? We both got 9 questions correct", asked the rejected applicant.

"I have based my decision not on the correct answers, but on the question you missed", said the department manager.

"That's a load of crap! Now, just how would one incorrect answer be better than the other?", the rejected applicant inquired.

"You really wanna know?", asked the department manager.

"Yeah, I wanna know!", said the rejected applicant.

"Simple," said the department manager. "Your fellow applicant put down on question #5, ''I don't know. And You, genius... YOU put down, 'Neither do I'.''

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Coffee Anyone?

Like a lot of people in my age bracket, I suffer from hypertension or high blood pressure. I also have high cholesteral. Because of that, had to severly limit my consumption of beef... fewer to no hamburgers, one New York strip steak a month, one to no racks of barbecued ribs, hardly no pork chops, etc. You get the idea. All of the things I loved to eat for my entire life, I have to cut down on.

Today, while streaming the health news, I heard that something I do love, having my morning cup of joe (coffee) could actually be good for me and keep me from getting cancer down the road. The latest study shows that java junkies like myself are significantly less likely to develop head and neck cancer... and the more coffee consumed, the lower the risk. (I never knew there was such a thing as head and neck cancer.)

Those who drank 4 or more cups of coffee a day were a whopping 39% less likely to develop tumors, according to the American Association for Cancer Research, which publishes Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention, the journal that published the study.

The study, which looked at pooled data from nine previous studies, didn't answer the question of whether decaf had the same anti-cancer effect as caffeinated coffee... but, it found no evidence that drinking tea affects the risk of head and neck cancer. The study was associative, which means although researchers found a strong link between coffee drinking and reduced cancer risk, they can't say for sure that it's the coffee doing the trick.

"Since coffee is so widely used and there is a relatively high incidence and low survival rate of these forms of cancers, our results have important public health implications that need to be further addressed," said Mia Hashibe, Ph.D., Assistant Professor in the Department of Family and Preventive Medicine at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City, and the lead author of the study. And, this isn't the first study to suggest that coffee has an anti-cancer effect.

Last December, Harvard University researchers presented data showing that coffee consumption lowers the risk of prostate cancer. Men who drank the most coffee were 60% less likely to get an aggressive form of the disease than men who didn't drink coffee. And, English researchers recently published a study that found that brain tumors were less common in people who drank at least five cups of coffee or tea a day. (I don't drink that much... one cup in the morning usually does it for me!)

Does light or moderate coffee consumption lower the risk of head and neck cancer? "We didn't see a clear association for the moderate drinkers," Hashibe told AOL Health. "But, coffee is a really complex set of chemicals. I wouldn't recommend that everybody drink that much coffee. If you do, at least you have something nice to think about as you struggle to fall asleep."

Of course, these studies shift back and forth a lot. Next year, someone else might be saying that coffee can cause cancer... you never know. Maybe, if I'm lucky, someone will say that steak, pork chops, ribs, fried chicken, and the like will lower blood preasure and cholesteral! What do you think? Nahhhh, it's not likely... but I can dream, can't I?

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

This G.I. Gets A Stitching...

I wondered (and I suppose many of you wondered too) when the Prez would get angry. I mean, enough has been said and done to him that any reasonable person might have blown his top by now. I blow my top everyday at least once over things that aren't nearly half as bad as what President Obama must go through. I imagine when he's out of range of probing mikes and prying eyes (like in the bathroom or something), he has probably kicked a trashcan (or two) or punched a stall room door. Oh, okay... that's only me, right?

The future of the top U.S. General in Afghanistan hung in the balance yesterday as the White House summoned him back to Washington to explain remarks he made that were critical of Obama administration officials. Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Gen. Stanley McChrystal had "made a significant mistake and exercised poor judgment" after an article in Rolling Stone recently, in which aides called one top Obama official a "clown", another a "wounded animal", and the general himself made disparaging remarks about officials.

This certainly appears to have gotten President Obama's dander up. Didn't Gen. McChrystal know that the President reads Rolling Stone and possibly Vibe Magazine too? Somebody should have told him. Gen. McChrystal was quoted as saying he was "betrayed" by Ambassador Karl Eikenberry, his diplomatic partner in Afghanistan. He accused Eikenberry of raising doubts about the reliability of Afghan President Hamid Karzai, only to give himself cover in case the U.S. effort failed.

I'm a retired military man myself and I served under Presidents Reagan, Bush (Sr.), Clinton, and George W. Now, you know what side of the political spectrum I fall under right? I wouldn't be exaggerating if I said that most of my commanders were a little closer to the right (hell, a LOT closer to the right) than I'll ever be. I never heard one officer EVER criticize the Commander in Chief (President of the United States) or his administration... and certainly not in public or in the media.

Now, we all snickered about President Bill Clinton's escapades in private amongst us G.I.'s, but nobody would dare say anything to the media critical of him because he was still our leader. So, for this guy to say something in Rolling Stone like he is accused of saying is a revelation to me.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates offered no clue as to whether Gen. McChrystal, the commander of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan, would stay in his job. "Gen. McChrystal has apologized to me and is similarly reaching out to others named in this article to apologize to them as well", Gates said in a statement. President Obama's press secretary, Robert Gibbs, pointedly declined to say Gen. McChrystal's job was safe.

The first victim in the controversy was the Pentagon's PR official who set up the interview with Gen. McChrystal. NBC reported that Duncan Boothby, a civilian member of the general's public relations team, was "asked to resign." According to administration officials, Gen. McChrystal was ordered to attend the monthly White House meeting on Afghanistan and Pakistan in person today rather than over a secure video teleconference.

Gen McChrystal is expected to explain his comments to President Obama and top Pentagon officials. The president was described as being "furious" about the remarks while the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Adm. Mike Mullen, told Gen. McChrystal of his "deep disappointment" in a conversation late Monday, a spokesman said.

All I can say is, I'm sure glad I'm not in THIS guy's shoes!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Who Stole The Soul II? (Very Little Has Changed)

I've got a new plaything. It's really not new because some of you have probably been using this for a while. It's called Pandora. Pandora is an automated music recommendation service and custodian of the Music Genome Project. Users enter a song or artist that they enjoy, and the service responds by playing selections that are musically similar. Users provide feedback on their approval or disapproval of individual songs, which Pandora takes into account for future selections.

While listening, users are also offered the ability to buy the songs or albums at various online retailers. Over 400 different musical attributes are considered when selecting the next song. These 400 attributes are combined into larger groups called focus traits. There are 2,000 focus traits. Examples of these are rhythm syncopation, key tonality, vocal harmonies, and displayed instrumental proficiency.

However, I'm not really writing about Pandora per se... Pandora just helps me find a lot of music that I used to love and songs just like it. While you can stream it on your mobile phone, iPad, or what have you, I access it through my computer.

As you can probably guess, I use it to find rare R&B (or Soul Music) cuts from the 70's, 80's, and 90's and rare hip-hop from the 80's and 90's. There is not too much from the past ten years that I call up and the reason why is sadly because so much of the newer music doesn't interest me anymore.

At first, I thought it was just because I'm getting older, but then I started hearing chatter on Facebook and other blogs by people young enough to be my kids that they are also less than satisfied with the state of today's music.

I was reading a post by 12Kyle in which he stated that today's music and it's artists are all about profit, getting paid, and extremely less and less about putting out good music. He said that they are only interested in putting out one good single where in the past you got an entire albulm of good music.

He brought up a humorous point that goes along with one observation I made a few years ago... Nowadays, you'll hear more about a collaboration and "who" produced "what" than what is actually on an album. I also noted a few years back that there were more engineers on a track than actual musicians.

Autotune (which I deplore) takes care of pitch and tone problems. It makes "singers" out of people who can't hold a note and takes real singers (like Usher and Mary Mary, who unfortunately use it) and makes you scratch your head.

Why would they waste their obvious talent with the gimmick of the moment? There are other gimmicks that help people who have no talent cover that up and slick marketing which hypnotises you into buying or downloading music that generally sucks, for lack of a better word.

So, in a world where apparently nobody has anything interesting to say, we get boring, unchallenging music... which makes my love for Pandora grow even more. I just call up all of the truly inventive good music I know/knew and Pandora calls up like music with no stale substitutes. I withdraw from this reality and languish in the music of my past.

I get people who can really sing without autotune and gimmicks; musicians who can (and actually do) play instruments... not samples and loops played ad nauseum; real songs that meant something and were actually written by somebody and not by a producer and several people who never met but have to be credited because their original song was sampled and looped on to a clever hook; and rappers like Rakim, Chuck D, Biggie, and Pac who took their craft seriously and actually had something to say.

Don't get me wrong... Mary J. Blige, Mariah Carey, Anthony Hamilton, Angie Stone, Leela James, Seal, Jaheim, Erykah Badu, Sade, Jill Scott, Maxwell, and even Drake are some of the contemporary artists that I call up on Pandora from time to time, but these artists are few and far between.

Still, hopeful person that I am, I still wish for the next big thing and hope that it's real and pure. It is, after all, a new decade.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Weekend Humor

One night, a Delta twin-engine puddle jumper was flying somewhere above New Jersey. There were five people on board: The pilot, Tiger Woods, Rush Limbaugh, the Dalai Lama, and a black rapper. Suddenly, an illegal oxygen generator exploded loudly in the luggage compartment and the passenger cabin began to fill with smoke. The cockpit door opened and the pilot burst into the compartment.

"Gentlemen..." he began, "I have good news and bad news. The bad news is that we're about to crash in New Jersey. The good news is that there are four parachutes and I have one of them!" With that, the pilot threw open the door and jumped from the plane.

Tiger Woods was on his feet in a flash. "Gentlemen..." he said, "I am the world's greatest golfer, the world needs great golfers. I think the world's greatest golfer should have a parachute!" With these words, he grabbed one of the remaining parachutes and hurtled through the door and into the night.

Rush Limbaugh rose and said, "Gentlemen... I am the world's smartest man. The world needs smart men. I think the world's smartest man should have a parachute too." He grabbed one and out he jumped.

The Dalai Lama and the black rapper looked at one another. Finally, the Dalai Lama spoke. "My son..." he said, "I have lived a satisfying life and have known the bliss of true enlightenment. You have your whole life ahead of you; you take the last parachute and I will go down with the plane."

The black rapper smiled slowly and said... "Hey, no problem Pops. The world's smartest man just jumped out of this plane wearing my backpack!"

Thursday, June 17, 2010

I'm Gonna Say This About That!

Well, it's time to create a new recurring post folks. This is the first installment of what will be a recurring post that will essentially be a mini-blog post... short and sweet (also, because I'm a bit under the weather and I don't have a lot today).

A newspaper reporter from my hometown wrote under a photo of President Obama... "OBOMBA", a clever way (according to him) of saying that the President's speech failed to inspire or reassure the American people that this leak can be cleaned up and plugged up anytime soon.

I'm gonna say this about that! Just what do people expect the president or his administration to do? While we are on this subject, let me ask if any of these reporters were as critical of George W. after Katrina? This President has come up with (I think) Twenty million in aid and he has said that BP (that's short for "Biggest Polluter") will pay something to the victims and for the clean up operation.

So, I ask... what more do you want him to do? He, and by he I mean President Obama, was there on the beach, in the mud and muck, shortly after this disaster and is even taking responsibility for something that is not his or his administration's fault. I don't remember a simular course of action by George W. I believe he was somewhere enjoying dinner at the time of Katrina.

I'm gonna say this about that! People really need to get a grip. If there is any blame to be assigned or fingers to point, there is a big yellow and green sign that reads BP in the horizon.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

What The Hell?

I first heard about this story on the Michael Baisden radio show a day ago but I was too busy doing research on the Alvin Greene story. Michael Baisden is a "friend" of mine on Facebook and I just happened to be reading the status updates when this story came up again. I had to say... "Wow!" Then, I had to say... "What the hell?" I haven't written anything for my recurring bad and bizzare behavior post recently. Here is more fuel for it...

When Jaretta Hamilton made the request for maternity leave, she was asked by her boss when the child was actually conceived. When she told her boss the date, he fired her because it was several weeks before she was actually married. He then told the entire staff of the school and called the parents of all the students in the class about why she was fired.

Now, first off... Keith or any member of my family might have had some choice words for this school principal for even asking a personal question like that. It was really none of his business and it had nothing to do with a request for maternity leave. And, if it was none of his business when the baby was conceived, then it was certainly not the business of the staff or any of the parents of children in the school. The woman was married now and the child, would not be born out of wedlock. Whether it would have been or not is no reason for a person to be fired or to have her privacy violated.

This was not very Christ-like on behalf of the School Principal, John Ennis. It's more what I would call "bitch like" behavior for a man... any man. Let's look into his past and see what size shoe is parked underneath his pious covers. Naturally, of course, Principal Ennis declined to talk to the press, citing a lawsuit filed by Hamilton against the school. But, in a pre-recorded report filed by Mike Taibbi of NBC News, Ennis was asked if he stood by the firing. “Yes, absolutely,” he replied.

Jaretta Hamilton is now suing because there was no conduct policy regarding out-of-wedlock sex. Contrary to popular opinion, an African American woman meets someone, falls in love, actually gets married, and is now punished for it. Sisters can't win for losing sometimes, can they?

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Something Fishy In South Carolina

I, like everybody else who follows the strange sport of American Politics was amazed at the "victory" of Alvin Greene in South Carolina last week. I said that it was improbable in this bastion of Dixie that a Democrat and a black one at that could win a state election. Maybe it still is...

I am not a conspiracy theorist, but I'm hearing disturbing stories that Alvin Greene might be a Republican plant. These theories are coming from his fellow Democrats, black and white. If that's not disturbing enough, I heard the man speak in an interview this morning and he can't put a sentence together.

He's 32 years old, he lives with his mother, he's unemployed, and it has been reported that he has less than $100.00 in his bank account. Okay, now you tell me how he could afford to run a state-wide campaign for the U.S. Senate?

Here's another thing... I can't find one person who remembers his campaign or any ads, commercials, or grass roots campaigning for him. He seems to have come out of nowhere and won an election. This doesn't sound fishy to you? Here's what a newspaper article from South Carolina had to say about the matter:

The No. 3 Democrat in the U.S. House called on federal authorities Thursday to investigate how an unemployed South Carolina military veteran entered and won the state's Democratic primary for U.S. Senate.

"Here is Alvin Greene, unemployed, he goes into the Democratic headquarters and pays $10,000. That's no little bit of money for an unemployed person," House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn, D-S.C., said. "This guy, who is he? Where did he come from?"

Greene, 32, stunned the Democratic Party establishment Tuesday night when he handily defeated Vic Rawl, a four-term state lawmaker and former judge, for the party's nomination. Rawl, who had campaigned little but already raised $186,000, was forced to scrap a fundraiser planned for Thursday night.

Greene has not reported any fundraising, run any ads, put up signs, or a website in his challenge of Republican U.S. Sen. Jim DeMint. He had been considered such a long shot that neither his opponent nor the media bothered to check his background, which includes a November arrest on a charge of felony obscenity.

"There are a number of things that are taking place in the South Carolina political process that I find suspicious," Clyburn said. "I believe there's a coordinated effort to circumvent state and federal laws and seriously subvert the electoral process. Something needs to be done." Greene, who says he left the military last August after 13 years in the Army and Air Force, has said he paid the $10,440 filing fee by saving up two years of his service pay. On Thursday, Clyburn said he's skeptical Greene paid the fee himself and demanded that federal authorities investigate where the money came from."

There is an old saying... "If it looks like a duck, waddles like a duck, and quacks like a duck, chances are it is a duck." This is after all that very strange state of South Carolina and this could turn out to be the lamest duck of all.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Cable Story

As I write this on a lazy Sunday afternoon, I realize that today I have two 27-inch flat screen television screens in two areas of my home. One is in my living room and the other is in my bedroom. I have been blessed to have cable tv boxes hooked up to both, with a digitally advanced picture that is among the best (thanks to my provider, or so they advertise). Today, practically everybody I know has cable. You almost have to have it to see sports and movies, and to hear an inordinate amount of foul language in your home.

But, when I was in college (circa 1981), that wasn't so. Most Americans watched CBS, ABC, NBC, and the three or four UHF stations that were available. UHF... I'm sure that nobody born after 1981 even knows what that means anymore. However, there was cable but it was limited to certain areas.

In Philadelphia, the only people who had cable in 1981 either lived in South Philly or the suburbs outside the city. There was no MTV, VH1, BET, or ESPN yet, they were all about two or three years away. There was HBO and Showtime. HBO (or Home Box Office, as we called it back then) had little more than movies and boxing at the time and this was before "The Sopranos", "Sex & The City", and "The Wire". Still, the little one-horse town that my college was in had cable and my big city only had it in limited areas... imagine that!

I was in my senior year of college and my five other roommates decided to get cable. Now, mind you... it was a struggle for us to pay the rent, electric, water, and gas bills. Buying groceries was a luxury, but we wanted cable. Well, we got it and soon our apartment was the place to be.

If there was a big fight (i.e. Muhammad Ali vs. Larry Holmes, Sugar Ray Leonard vs. Tommy Hearns, etc.) we had it and we could charge a dollar a head to get in to see it. We'd have a keg of beer in the bathtub, which was full of ice, and buckets of fried chicken from the local KFC. It was "on like popcorn"... good times!

However, much can be written about the genius and ingenuity of poor folks. We have always found a way to make it in this society or "get over", if you will. We had a neighbor, who I'll call Johnny... he lived in the apartment above us, had some extra cable, and a little electronic know how. He hooked his television into our cable box somehow or other and was able to "jump" off of our cable.

We knew he was doing it. Who cared? We were all from Philly, going to college in upstate Pennsylvania, and trying to make it. So, live and let live, right? For a while, it worked out. We were all able to keep the crowds coming (and paying) to see our cable and we were all happy. Now, I told you that it was a struggle for us to make rent, electric, water and gas payments every month, so you can imagine that it was no different with the cable.

Despite the money coming in, sometimes we paid our bills and sometimes we didn't. New clothing, new shoes, weed, a date with a fine honey or whatever often took the place of paying a bill. When we were three months behind in paying the cable bill, the cable service went off. This meant that Johnny no longer had cable either.

Most of us didn't care. In 1981 there was still enough on so-called "free TV" to keep us entertained. Johnny, however, didn't feel that way. He stormed down to our apartment and demanded to know... "How come you guys don't pay your bills?" I reminded him that he hadn't donated a red cent towards the cable bill. Then, he said... "Do I look like I'm working? I'm gettin a check from my mom to cover my bills." After I finished laughing, I said... "How nice for you!" and closed the door. The nerve of people, huh?

It would be ten years before I would ever have cable service again. By then, I was married, working, and living in my own place with just two people... my wife and daughter. I was also older. Today, on this rainy Sunday afternoon, I'm enjoying some lemonade and watching my television with cable and chuckling at that first memory of having it, nearly thirty years ago.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Today Is The Day In Philadelphia!

Walk for Autism... Walk for Cerebral Palsy...
Walk for Down Syndrome... Walk for all disabilities...
Saturday, June 12, 2010 at the Philadelphia Art Museum, 8:30am

Well, even though the day began with clouds, you'll be happy to know that the sun eventually came out and not a drop of rain fell from the sky. As a matter of fact, it is now 6:30pm and we are still waiting for the thunder storm that was supposed to start around 12 noon. My cousin and his family also participated in the walk, so we traveled as a group of 6 adults and 3 children. This was the first walking event I ever took part in and I must say, it turned out to be a great day of fun, exercise, and purpose. Now, that just goes to show you who is really in charge of the weather... to God be the glory!

Photos of the Day
[click on collages for a larger view]

Thank you to everyone who supported me in this effort!
Click here to see my personal "Walk With Me" page

Friday, June 11, 2010

Random Thoughts

1. So many people are alive, but they ain't livin'.

2. Gary Coleman's wife is trying to sell photos of him in death in the hospital. Isn't this a little extra yucky?

3. "One of the most tragic things I know about human nature is that most of us tend to put off living." -Dale Carnegie. Real talk right there!

4. Okay, my Flyers lost, but they had a good run. They exceeded what was expected of them. Spoken like a true loser, I know.

5. How long is it going to take them to finally plug up this oil leak?

6. If you want to get out the hole you're in, stop digging it.

7. A Smile is one curve that sets everything else straight.

8. I don't know if good guys always win, but I know that determined guys seldom lose.

9. Ladies, if you've been with a guy for over five years and he hasn't put a ring on your finger, chances are he's not planning to do it.

10. In the words of the late black playwright, August Wilson... "Confront the dark parts of yourself. Your willingness to wrestle with your demons will cause your angels to sing!"

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Who Is Al Greene ?

Okay, I'm always raggin' on the great State of South Carolina and its embarrassing and bizzare politicians. Recently, Al Greene won the Democratic nomination for U.S. Senator in that state. No, not the Al Green who sang "I'm Still In Love With You" and "Let's Stay Together"... this is Alvin Greene.

Now, mind you... this is the same state where a congressman yelled, "You lie!" during the Presidential State of the Union address last year. This is the same state where the married Republican Governor went jogging and wound up in Argentina with his beautiful latin mistress.

This is also the state where an Indian woman is also running and fending off accusations of having affairs with not one, but two men. This, ladies and gentlemen, is South Carolina and that is where Alvin Greene comes from.

Who is Alvin Greene? I'm glad you asked. He is a 32 year old unfunded, unemployed veteran who is black and lives with his mother in Manning, SC, but ran away with the Democratic nomination for the Senate in the Palmetto State last night. In the November general election, he will face first-term GOP incumbent Sen. Jim DeMint, who many expect to seek the GOP presidential nomination in 2012.

If elected, Alvin Greene will become only the fourth black person elected to the U.S. Senate since reconstruction and the first from the south. But, let's pause here for an important question: Just what the hell is going on in South Carolina?

Alvin Greene, who is completely unknown to Democratic officials in South Carolina or anywhere, put his win in dramatic historical perspective, as he told the Greenville News... ''I want to thank all my supporters for making history in South Carolina. 'It's been over 100 years since a black person has won the nomination of a major party to the U.S. Senate from this state.'' He ain't just whistlin' dixie!

South Carolina, which is nearly 29% black and ranks fourth among states with the largest percentage of black citizens, has elected only one African American to Congress in the last 100 years, and that person is the current Democratic Majority Whip in the House, James Clyburn.

Democrats just don't win statewide races in South Carolina anymore, so there is almost no scenario that plausibly explains a Greene victory over DeMint in November... but on the other hand, there is no plausible explanation of how he won the Democratic nomination in the first place. The possibilities are intriguing.

You know what I say? Go get 'em, Al!

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

They're Angry Now?

So, what is this I'm hearing about how angry the American voting public is lately? For the past two or three weeks, I've been hearing that the American people are angry and that they are in a mood to "throw the rascals out." Oh, really? I'm sure that news like this makes the tea party people extremely optimistic. Well, tea baggers, tea partiers, and whatever... before you start popping the champagne, you better stop, look, and listen to the public. While people arguably may be angry and upset about the way things are or have been going, that anger may not be completely aimed at who you think it is aimed at. We won't really know until election day in November, but here are some things that are already known...

With polls showing a sullen electorate, there was no shortage of sub-plots as voters in nearly a dozen states chose candidates for Congress and governors' offices. Californians decided whether to lead the fall GOP ticket with a pair of wealthy businesswomen campaigning on a promise to cut spending and tea party activists tested their muscle in Nevada, backing Sharron Angle in a multi-candidate race to select a Republican opponent against Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid in a state where unemployment was 13.7% in April.

I get emails from a progressive group that is trying to unseat Democratic Senator, Blanche Lincoln. The thing is, the people trying to unseat her are Democrats... younger, liberal, and a little more left to the center. Democrat Blanche Lincoln battled to survive union opposition and an anti-establishment tide that's already drowned two fellow senators, and political outsiders from coast-to-coast tested their strength Tuesday on the busiest day of an unpredictable primary season. The folks opposing her are definitely not the tea party types. They are the exact opposite... young, informed, and radicalized leftists.

Nevada's Republican governor, Jim Gibbons, faces strong opposition for re-nomination after a term marked by a particularly nasty and public divorce. Why people care about private stuff like this is just beyond me. At the same time, a pair of former governors, Republican Terry Branstad in Iowa and Democrat Edmund G. Brown Jr. in California, hoped to take the first steps toward reclaiming the power they once held. In the House, one Republican incumbent and one Democrat faced what amounted to ideological purity challenges. Republican Rep. Bob Inglis in South Carolina sought re-nomination in his solidly conservative district in a race in which his vote for the 2008 financial bailout was an issue.

And, California Democratic Rep. Jane Harman, a member of the Blue Dog moderates' coalition in Congress, faced a liberal challenger for her safely Democratic seat. The races took place in the shadow of the worst recession in decades, stubbornly high unemployment, dispiriting day-by-day images of the damage caused by an offshore oil rig disaster, and poll after poll that reported the voters are angry and eager for a change.

While I understand all of this, part of me screams... "NOW, they want a change? Now, the public is angry? Where have they been for the past ten years? Why are they suddenly so angry now? The public slept during the booming late 80's and the go-go 90's, when all we seemingly were concerned with was Bill Clinton's bedroom partners. The country was in a prolonged state of shock back then that lasted throughout George Bush's presidency. Outrage after outrage, lie after lie, and misstep after misstep, the sleeping public said and did nothing! NOW... now, the public is angry?

Republicans hope to challenge Democrats for control of Congress and the two parties vie for three dozen statehouses midway through President Barack Obama's term. So far, Sens. Bob Bennett (R-UT) and Arlen Specter (D-PA) and Reps. Alan Mollohan (D-WV), and Parker Griffith (R-AL) have been defeated, a balanced set of one incumbent from each party in each house of Congress.

Blanche Lincoln, a two-term moderate Democrat, narrowly led in balloting in a primary on May 18th, but was thrown into a runoff with Lt. Gov. Bill Halter three weeks ago when she fell short of a majority. She had this to say... "There are very few who come out on the battleground and dare to say, 'Where is the common ground? Where do we solve these problems?' One of the reasons I've been beat up is I've gotten out of that foxhole. I'm out here in the middle."

Yup, and being in the middle is not where I'd want to be right now in this current political climate. Organized labor, angered over Lincoln's positions on health care, union organizing proposals, and trade poured more than $5 million into an effort to lift Halter to the nomination. Union leaders said they were intent on demanding accountability from lawmakers who make promises and then fail to follow through. Still, Halter declined consistently to state a public position on one of labor's big priorities, the proposal to make it easier for unions to organize workers. The winner will face Republican Rep. John Boozman in the fall in a race that the GOP has made one of its top targets.

There were gubernatorial primaries in California, Iowa, Maine, Nevada, South Carolina, and South Dakota. South Carolina State Rep. Nikki Haley, running to become the first female governor in her state's history, battled several rivals as well as claims that she has had trysts with two men. She vociferously denied the allegations of infidelity and relied on support from tea party activists and an endorsement from former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin to aid her in the race with Rep. Gresham Barrett, Lt. Gov. Andre Bauer, and State Attorney General Henry McMaster. A runoff will be held on June 22nd if no candidate gains a majority. Is Sarah Palin running for anything? She sure seems to be doing a lot of campaigning for a private citizen? I'm just saying.

All of this will be very interesting to see when the dust settles. I'm just afraid that Americans have been mostly sold a bill of goods by Palin, Limbaugh, Hannity, Beck, and the tea party folks. These folks are nothing more than carnival barkers and snake oil salesmen. If they are the reason the American public is now "angry", then that is just a plain ol' crying shame. If the American public is righteously angry because we are now paying the price for close to ten years of mismanagement and lies, then that's a positive. But again, I'm wondering what took everybody so long?

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Under Regulation Has Brought Us To This

The Republicans are fond of saying that they don't like "Big Government" and they don't want the government in every aspect of American life. What they really mean is that they don't want the government involved in American business life. In their minds, the free market ought to be able to do what it wants and everything else will take care of itself. The only thing wrong with this is that human beings, flawed as we are, are greedy, dishonest, and not too trustworthy when we are not being watched.

An intriguing aspect of the BP oil spill is that, before the accident, deep water drilling seemed to be a technological triumph. About 80% of the Gulf of Mexico's recent oil production has come from this kind of deep water operation, defined as water depths exceeding 1,000 feet. In 1996, it was 20%. Jack-up rigs, which are oil platforms on stilts in a few hundred feet of water, have given way to the Mobile Offshore Drilling Unit (MODU). It keeps its position through the interaction of global positioning satellites and on-board engines that activate directional propellers to offset ocean currents and wind.

Seismology and submersible robotic technology have also advanced. The Deep Water Horizon rig was not testing new limits. It was drilling in about 5,000 feet of water, whereas others have approached 10,000 feet. The safety record was good. The American Petroleum Institute, the industry's main trade group, says that since 1947, oil companies have drilled more than 42,000 wells in the Gulf of Mexico and recovered about 16.5 billion barrels of oil. Against that, spills totaled about 176,000 barrels from 1969 to 2007. In a typical year, it was a few hundred barrels. By contrast, recent production is about 1.6 million barrels a day.

Cost-cutting by BP, careless rig operators, and lax regulators have all been fingered as plausible culprits in the blowout. President Barack Obama has appointed a commission to investigate the causes and the Justice Department has launched a criminal investigation. There will be extensive analysis, I'm sure. But the stark contrast between the disaster's magnitude and the previous safety record points to another perverse possibility: The success of deep water drilling led to failure. It sowed overconfidence. Continuing achievements obscured the dangers. Once again, deregulation and the absence of strong government controls is the culprit.

This pattern applies to other national setbacks. Consider the financial crisis. It was not the inherent complexity of sub-prime mortgages or collateralized debt obligations (CDOs) that caused the crisis. It was the willingness of presumably sophisticated investors to hold these securities while ignoring the complexity and underlying risks. This behavior was understandable at the time... understandable then, but foolish now.

The economy seemed to have become less risky. High inflation had been suppressed. Since 1982, there had been only two relatively mild recessions, from 1990 to 1991 and again in 2001. Economists talked of the "Great Moderation." The stock, bond, and foreign-exchange markets had become less volatile. Day-to-day price movements were smaller and less erratic. One study of the 2004–2006 period found that stock-market volatility in seven advanced countries had dropped about a third from historical averages and that bond-market volatility was down almost a fifth.

So, it stands to reason that, if the economy and markets had become less risky, traders and investors could take what once would have seemed greater risks to increase profits. They did and they created new vulnerabilities for markets and the economy. The belief that past economic and financial instability had been quelled encouraged future instability and foolhardiness.

Or, take the recent Toyota car scandal. Few auto companies enjoyed as envious a reputation. Although I'm a Nissan man myself, Toyota consistently did well in surveys of reliability and customer satisfaction. This success, as well as the resulting image inside the company and among government officials, helps explain why Toyota reacted so slowly to problems with its accelerators and why government officials were not as assertive as they should have been. Problems were minimized because they seemed out of character for Toyota. Do you see the pattern here?

One theory of the oil spill is that the deep water technology is inherently so complex and dangerous that it can't really be understood or regulated. The safety record before the BP spill seems to rebut that. The problem is that the system broke down so, let's just admit that, okay? Careless mistakes were made or regulators were co-opted by industry and paid to look the other way or not look at all. Judgments were botched... something the post-crisis investigations will presumably fill out in the final story. Still, they may miss the larger question of why.

Nobody has yet suggested that the blowout reflected a previously unknown geological phenomenon, something in the oil formation, or a quirk of technology that no one could have anticipated. Perhaps studies will reveal one or the other. But, the prevailing assumption is that this accident was preventable, meaning that human error was responsible.

There's a cycle to our calamities or at any rate, some of them. Success tends to breed carelessness and complacency. People take more risks because they don't think they're taking risks. The regulated and the regulators often react similarly because they've shared similar experiences. The financial crisis didn't occur so much because regulation was absent (many major financial institutions were regulated), but because regulators didn't grasp the dangers. They, too, were conditioned by belief in the Great Moderation and lower financial volatility. It is human nature to celebrate success by relaxing. The challenge we face is how to acknowledge this urge without being duped by it.

In relaxing, we can't make the mistake of becoming lax! But oh, we've already done that... and now, we have to pay the price for our laxness and our deregulation of damn near everything.

Monday, June 7, 2010

It's Nice To Be Important, But...

"It's nice to be important, but it's more important to be nice."
Coach Wooden 1910-2010

John Wooden had a lot of sayings. I'm sure the guys who played for him on those legendary UCLA Bruin teams that won a record ten straight championships probably heard a lot of them, but the above quote is my favorite and it's the one that brings to mind the subject for this post.

Of course when someone dies, you always hear nothing but tributes and good things said about them and you rarely hear the negatives. I could be wrong, but I haven't heard nor do I expect to hear one thing negative about John Wooden, who was a husband, father, basketball player, and coach. This brings to mind another would-be basketball icon-to-be who I can't seem to hear anything positive about...

Kobe Bryant, now 32 years old, owns four NBA Championship rings. He is a multiple all-star great defensive player, he has offensive skills that are out of this world, and he could be on his way to a fifth championship ring. He should be idolized in the way Michael Jordan was and still is to this day. Obviously, he is as talented as Jordan was at a similar time in his career, but people just don't like Kobe as a person. He's just not viewed as being... well, for want of a better word, "nice"

I thought it was just Philadelphians, who never forgave their native son for coming here in 2001 and not only thrashing the 76ers, but saying that he lived in Los Angeles (now) and that was his home. You don't come back here and say something like that! The very next year, the NBA All-Star game was held here and every time Kobe touched the ball, he was resoundly booed by the notoriously bad-behaving Philly fans. I actually felt embarrassed for him. I believe he won the NBA All-Star MVP award during that same tournament and he was still booed. I think the fans just recently stopped booing him whenever the Lakers come here... but for a few years, it was terrible.

If it was just Philly, people would say... "Well, you know how they are." But, Kobe gets no love in New York, Boston, Chicago, Miami, Dallas, etc. I talk to people on Facebook from all over the country and except for Californians, almost everybody is unanimous in their dislike for Kobe. So, I ask myself, Why all this hatred? What has this man done so to make people dislike him this much? Well, we can go back a few years before he gained the national stage, when he was just known in Philadelphia as a basketball prodigy...

In the mid-1990's, Kobe Bryant could do no wrong. I remember me and a buddy watching him play in the Sonny Hill League and the Baker League. Anyone from Philadelphia knows that this is where the very elite of Philly's schoolboys and street basketball players play. Here he was at 16 years old and out playing some of the rookies from the Philadelphia 76ers who took part in the tournament. I said then, "He's the next Jordan!"

Then, Kobe graduates from high school, goes off to the Lakers, and it is then that I start hearing things about him that... well, weren't too cool. One of his Lower Merion High School teammates went to Los Angeles to visit him. Mind you, they had been very close and had won the state championship together. He said that the entire weekend he was out there, he only saw Kobe twice and he didn't have time for him. Further, he said that all he got from the deal was a couple of Lakers tickets. He wrote this in an article that was featured in one of the local sports columns here in Philadelphia. He was heartbroken and felt as though Kobe had changed.

After that, you might remember that there was a friend of Kobe's who was charged with a robbery. His alibi was that he was with Kobe that weekend, dee-jaying a party in West Philly. Understandibly, Kobe could not come back to Philadelphia to testify at his trial because it was the middle of the season... but, when he was asked to videotape his testimony, Kobe refused to do it for some reason and the guy was convicted of the crime and sent to prison. Those two incidents caused Kobe to lose a lot of street-cred in Philadelphia to the guys on the corner because he wasn't loyal to his friends. Have you ever wondered why Allen Iverson (who was not born or raised here) is treated more like a native son in Philly than Kobe (who was born and raised here)? There it is... A.I. is seen as more of a "man of the people" than Kobe.

It's not even about playing for a team that might thrash the 76ers. Rasheed Wallace is also a Philadelphia native, who plays for the "hated" Boston Celtics... yet, nobody boos "Sheed" when he comes home to Philly, regardless of whether the Celtics thrash us or we get lucky and beat them. Nobody boos Jameer Nelson of the Orlando Magic when he comes home to Philly or any of the other Philly natives who just happen to play for other teams... only Kobe.

There's something about Kobe and his personality (or lack of one)... people just aren't warm to him. Even his teammates on the Los Angeles Lakers had to "get used to him". They had to "eventually" warm to him and he to them. I say all of that to say this... he might just win another ring and he may just go to the Hall of Fame... but, he may just be the most unpopular player to achieve all of this accalades. Part of me grieves for him... I think the man is mostly misunderstood.

There is one one thing that he should have learned though... it's nice to be important, but more important to be nice.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Weekend Humor

A guy was sitting quietly reading his paper when his wife walked up behind him and whacked him on the head with a magazine. "Heyyyyy! What was that for?" he asked. "That was for the piece of paper in your pants pocket with the name "Tamika" written on it," she replied. "Aww no baby, look here... see two weeks ago when I went to the races , Tamika was the name of one of the horses I bet on." he explained. "Oh baby, I'm sorry. I should have known there was a good explanation. Please forgive me babe." she said. "Sure, sure... you gotta learn how to trust a brotha." he said.

Three days later, he was watching a ballgame on TV when his wife walked up behind him and hit him in the head again. This time, with the iron skillet which knocked him out cold. When he came to, he asked... "Owwww! What the hell was that for?" She replied, "Your horse just called!"

Have a great weekend, everybody!

Thursday, June 3, 2010

21 Years Ago Today...

I married my best friend!

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

What I've Learned

1. There was a time when a guy would buy a guitar or a drum set and learn how to play it. Now, cats want to be D.J.'s and "make beats". I must be getting old. What happened to making music?

2. My mother always taught me to take my highs with my lows. Nowadays, that message seems more relevant than ever!

3. Writing or telling a good story relies more on instinct than intelligence, though you do need both to pull it off.

4. When you come from a large (and loud) opinionated family, you have to have some sort of mental toughness in order to be taken seriously.

5. Never try to recreate a good day. It'll never turn out the same. There will always be a variable that will make the experience different.

6. Life should never frighten you... it should exhilarate and validate you!

7. The older you get, you find there are fewer people's advice that is actually relevant.

8. The truth is, it's not until your life becomes about something much bigger than you, that it really becomes fulfilling.

9. I have said that I wanted to live to be 100 years old ever since I was in grade school... but now, I'm thinking about how many people you probably have to say goodbye to en route to that milestone and it doesn't seem quite as great anymore.

10. When I die, I hope I can feel the way I did the day I graduated from high school... "This was great, but now it's time to move on to the next thing."


"Mommy, can I go to Timmy's blog and play?"

Click on image to enlarge for reading

Click on image to enlarge for reading

Click on image to enlarge for reading