Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Go away

"In America, anyone can become president. That’s the problem." — George Carlin

IT'S TUESDAY, January 31, Florida primary day. I consulted my Magic 8-Ball, and it said, "All signs point to the Newt biting it." Okay, not really. But if I had a Magic 8-Ball, I'm pretty sure that's what it would say.

I'm not sure how much longer he'll hang in there after he loses today, but we can start the countdown. (And this would be me doing the happy dance. Picture Snoopy with feet a-flying.)

The bad news is that he'll continue to be a bloodsucker pedaling influence, lies and whatever else will keep his half a million dollar credit line open at Tiffany's.

Here's a pithy column written for the New York Times by Thomas Edsall about the forked tongued, cold blooded one. No, not the pretty little salamander — silly.

Scary-looking, but harmless.

Scary-looking, but dangerous.

Newt Gingrich and the Future of the Right

In 1999, shortly after the Senate voted to acquit President Clinton on two charges of impeachment stemming from his affair with the intern Monica Lewinsky, Paul Weyrich — mastermind of the union of the Republican Party and the Christian right, a founder of the Heritage Foundation, the Moral Majority and the Free Congress Foundation — threw up his hands in despair.

In a letter to his ideological allies, Weyrich declared: “I no longer believe that there is a moral majority. I do not believe that a majority of Americans actually shares our values.”

Weyrich declared defeat:

Cultural Marxism is succeeding in its war against our culture. The question becomes, if we are unable to escape the cultural disintegration that is gripping society, then what hope can we have?

In the face of this onslaught of moral corruption, Weyrich counseled withdrawal from society at large. A “legitimate strategy for us to follow is to look at ways to separate ourselves from the institutions that have been captured by the ideology of Political Correctness, or by other enemies of our traditional culture,” he wrote. “We need to drop out of this culture, and find places, even if it is where we physically are right now, where we can live godly, righteous and sober lives.”

What would Weyrich, who died in 2008, make of the fact that Newt Gingrich — who was himself having an adulterous affair during the Clinton impeachment proceedings (one of several conducted by the former speaker, according to his own testimony and a number of lengthy journalistic investigations, including this one from CBS and that one from the Daily Beast) — won the 2012 South Carolina Republican primary with a plurality of voters who described themselves as evangelical or born-again Christians?

Exit polls show that Gingrich beat Romney by 44-22 among born-again and evangelical Christians, and by 46-10 among voters who said the religious convictions of the candidates mattered “a great deal.” His margins were equally strong among supporters of (and sympathizers with) the Tea Party, a constituency that closely overlaps with religious conservatives.

In fact, the Gingrich campaign reveals the current state of the Christian right, its status anxieties, its desperation, its frustration and in particular its anger. The extreme volatility of Gingrich’s primary season bid reflects not only the success and failure of his own tactical maneuvers and those of his opponents, but also the ambivalence of the Republican electorate in choosing between ideology and pragmatism — an intraparty struggle dating back to the candidacy of Barry Goldwater in 1964.

In strategic terms, religious conservatives need to be motivated to turn out in high numbers. Republican consultants have developed tools to identify and inflame what they call conservative “anger points.”

The consultant who pioneered this work, Alex Gage, now works for the Romney campaign.

But it is Gingrich who is the quintessential “anger points” candidate.

Richard Land, the host of the nationally syndicated radio broadcast “For Faith & Family” and president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, noted as others have that Gingrich won the hearts of many devout voters two weeks ago when he exploded in anger as CNN’s John King asked him to respond to the claim made by his second wife, Marianne, that he had refused to give up his six-year affair with Callista Bisek and offered his wife the option of an “open marriage.”

Gingrich’s reply to King brought the audience to its feet, capturing one of the most deeply felt conservative “anger points” — hostility to the mainstream media:

I think the destructive vicious negative nature of much of the news media makes it harder to govern this country, harder to attract decent people to run for public office. I’m appalled you would begin a presidential debate on a topic like that.

The way Land sees it, Gingrich’s answer went beyond merely nodding toward the anti-media spirit among conservative Christian voters and reached forward instead to what they imagined would be an apocalyptic, nearly eschatological campaign between Obama and Gingrich. “They would love to see a false smarty pants decapitated by a real intellectual,” Land told me. “He would tear Obama’s head off.”

Evidence in support of Land’s analysis can be found in a webcast on the Internet site of Don Wildmon’s American Family Association. On the site, during an interview with Matt Barber, an aggressive promoter of a socially conservative agenda, one of the hosts, Ed Vitagliano, voiced unalloyed joy over a video from Jon Stewart’s “Daily Show” that likened the Gingrich-King confrontation to a nature show. Laughing, Vitagliano describes how Stewart showed the exchange between John King and Newt Gingrich and had footage of a lion chasing down a zebra. And then after the lion kills the zebra and looks up with its fur with blood, they switched back to a picture of Newt Gingrich with blood over his face as if had just made a meal out of John King.

Gingrich is the first conservative presidential candidate to campaign on a package of traditional values from which he is exempting issues relating to personal sexual behavior. And there are reasons why this strategy worked on Jan. 21: The moral vision of the religious right is collapsing everywhere, including within its own ranks.

There are fewer and fewer “traditional” families in the United States; the number of secular voters is growing at a faster rate than the number of those who are religiously observant; women’s rights and homosexual rights have become  broadly accepted; births outside of marriage are now routine among whites, Hispanics and African Americans.

While some religious conservatives are backing the former Pennsylvania senator Rick Santorum, many partisans on the moral values right have lined up behind Gingrich, including a good number who formerly sympathized with Michele Bachmann and Herman Cain. Joining Gingrich’s National Faith Coalition are Tim and Beverly LaHaye (Tim LaHaye is the author of “Battle for the Family” and Beverly LaHaye is the founder of Concerned Women for America, the largest women’s pro-family advocacy group in America); Dr. Jim Garlow, the California pastor who presides over the website ProtectMarriage.com, which backed the Proposition 8 campaign against gay marriage; and Don Wildmon, whose American Family Association website features his unshakeable commitment to “Strengthening Today’s Marriage and Family Movement.”

In South Carolina, we saw the consequences of this. Gingrich’s strength as the tribune of conservative rage at liberal elites trumped his long history of personal failings. He violated the very family values and the sanctity of marriage that social conservatives profess to believe in, but it was much more important that Gingrich was the enemy of their enemy.

It may well be that in this period of unprecedented moral upheaval, voters in Florida will decide differently from those in South Carolina. Under assault from his competitors on the topic of his multiple marriages, his ethical failings and his role as a Washington influence-peddler, Gingrich pulled in his horns. He seemed almost quiet. He has not been as effective a spokesman for the right’s “anger points,” which have propelled his success so far.

In the immediate aftermath of his South Carolina victory, Gingrich was riding high in Florida, where the next primary will be held on Tuesday. In three separate polls conducted on Jan. 23 and 24, Gingrich had a seemingly firm advantage, running ahead of Romney by margins of 8, 9 and 5 points.

Seeking to mute the building crescendo of assaults from his competitors, Gingrich abandoned the tactics of an insurgent in favor of those of a front-runner. Gone was the almost violently aggressive debate posture in favor of a surprisingly passive strategy.

“You know, there is a point in the process where it gets unnecessarily personal and nasty. And that’s sad,” Gingrich declared in the Jan. 23 debate in Tampa.

That is not what his potential supporters want to hear. They want red meat. The more Gingrich backed away, the less he stoked voter anger and the more his numbers dropped.

In the eight most recent polls reported by Real Clear Politics on Jan. 26, Jan. 27 and Jan. 28, Romney has pulled ahead, by 7 to 9 points, rising to an 11 to 16 point advantage on the 28th.

What does this political volatility say about the conservative movement and the Republican Party?

First, that although the Christian right is now in decline, it remains powerful, making up roughly 35 to 40 percent of the Republican primary electorate. But its preoccupations are less and less those of Americans taken as a whole. The Christian right might become increasingly marginalized and as the movement shifts to the periphery, it becomes more of a liability to the party than an asset.

Second, the Republican Party will, over time, struggle to develop a coherent moral stance that does not conflict with the leftward drift, both in values and behavior, of the electorate.

Gingrich’s swings from low to high to low to high to low — his success in South Carolina and his increasing desperation in Florida — suggest that his candidacy is more a burst of light before the candle dims than the latest iteration of a vital conservative insurgency.

The larger issue facing the Republican Party is how it will respond to political market forces, to the pressure of changes in public opinion. The party could open up beyond its core believers to accommodate old-school Republican moderates and hold on to its libertarians and still have decent size, strength and power.

But the country is going through a profound restructuring in moral and economic thinking and the danger for Republicans is that their current coalition might become obsolete. If the party doesn’t adapt, the alternative is that its power centers — the Christian right, anti-immigration forces, and proponents of policies that benefit the affluent at the expense of the less well-off — will refuse to adjust, in which case the party risks going the way of the Studebaker.

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Monday, January 30, 2012

Newtering the Newt

"Gingrich primary mission: Advocate of civilization, definer of civilization, teacher of the rules of civilization, leader of the civilizing forces." — Newt Gingrich, describing himself

AND MEGALOMANIC, if I might add.

If elected, by the end of his second term, the Newt says he'll have a colony on the moon. Uh huh. Is he volunteering to be the first resident? Once again I ask, do his ears hear what his mouth is saying? 

He does rather look like an alien being.

But why listen to me wax on about him when there are others who are such excellent writers? Here's a piece by Charles M. Blow that appeared in the New York Times January 27.

Lunar Colonies, Lunacy and Losses

By CHARLES M. BLOW Published: January 27, 2012

Newt Gingrich is spaced-out. Literally.

Anyone who remembers him from his days as speaker of the House in the ’90s remembers how erratic, unpredictable and off-the-wall he could be, but, so far, this campaign season he has managed to conceal his many absurdities and eccentricities.

Furthermore, many Republican primary voters seem willing to forgive and forget his past. Others seem not even to remember it. He has been able to pass himself off as a wise elder statesman — a historian without a history — able to capture the anger and anxiety of the right and articulate it with force, lucidity and gravitas.

Oh, it is to laugh! That is if you’re on the left.

But for those on the right with firsthand knowledge of working with Gingrich when he was in Washington, this is a nightmare scenario. The outside possibility that Gingrich could win the nomination and wreck the party scares them to death. Their panic over this has reached a fever pitch.
And this is not without merit.

An NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll released this week found that Gingrich now enjoys a 9-point lead nationally among registered Republican likely primary voters. However, Gingrich fared worse than all other Republican candidates when tested against Obama. The poll suggested that Obama would trounce Gingrich by 18 points.

(Luckily for Mitt Romney, Gingrich’s surge in Florida may be fizzling. A Quinnipiac poll of likely Republican voters in that state found that Romney leads Gingrich by nine percentage points. If that holds, Romney and the establishment Republicans will have dodged a bullet like Neo in “The Matrix.” A Romney loss in Florida would call his candidacy into question and send the party scrambling for a more attractive replacement.)

One of the latest establishment Republicans to try to avert the Gingrich catastrophe is former Senator Bob Dole, who wrote a letter to the Romney campaign on Thursday saying: “I have not been critical of Newt Gingrich, but it is now time to take a stand before it is too late.” It only got better from there. Dole continued, “hardly anyone who served with Newt in Congress has endorsed him, and that fact speaks for itself. He was a one-man-band who rarely took advice.”

Dole’s concern in his statement, and the concern of countless others, is: “If Gingrich is the nominee it will have an adverse impact on Republican candidates running for county, state and federal offices.”
As Peter D. Hart, a Democratic pollster, told MSNBC, “Gingrich is Goldwater.” He continued, “In the general election, Gingrich not only takes down his ship, he takes down the whole flotilla.”

Part of the reason for this is Gingrich is thoroughly unlikable among the electorate at large and utterly nonsensical in his approach to real problem-solving. The fact that he has convinced some primary voters that he is an intellectual is one of the best electoral sleights of hand I can recall. As Dole said of Newt when he was in Washington: “Gingrich had a new idea every minute, and most of them were off the wall.”

To that point, Gingrich told a crowd on Florida’s so-called Space Coast on Wednesday that “by the end of my second term, we will have the first permanent base on the Moon. And it will be American.” And he said that he would push for the introduction of a “Northwest Ordinance for Space” so that when the number of colonists reached 13,000, they could petition for statehood.

(By the way, I find it interesting that Gingrich didn’t insist on answering the question about Puerto Rican statehood at Thursday’s debate, yet he’s advocating for a state on the Moon. Earth to Newt: phone home.)

In the speech, Gingrich implied that he was “bold” and “romantic” and called himself “visionary” and “grandiose” in the vein of Abraham Lincoln, John F. Kennedy and the Wright brothers. Gingrich is a virtual supernova of megalomaniacal madness.

In a way, the space speech made sense. Gingrich was doing what he does: tossing out random ideas like darts at a board, hoping to score. He was repackaging the idea of Manifest Destiny for the Moon and appealing to an area of the country whose pride and purpose were wounded by the ending of the space shuttle program.

But, on the other hand, this is exactly the kind of election-year lunacy that establishment Republicans have been worrying about. Florida has one of the highest state unemployment rates in the country and has one of the highest foreclosure rates in the country. The last thing that people who can’t hold on to their jobs and houses here on Earth want to hear about is a colony on the Moon. The whole thing bespeaks a man detached from the real world concerns of real people.

As Dole’s statement went on to say, “In my opinion, if we want to avoid an Obama landslide in November, Republicans should nominate Governor Romney as our standard-bearer.”

The truth is that the Republican Party has no good choice at this point. It only has bad choices and worse choices. And the American public is beginning to recognize that. As the Republican courtiers of incompetence beat up each other, knock down each other and reveal each other’s flaws, a number of recent surveys have found that President Obama’s poll numbers on a number of metrics have begun to trend upward.

That’s because an election is a choice, a zero-sum game — the worse the Republican field looks, particularly if Gingrich is at the front of it, the better President Obama looks by comparison, regardless of one’s misgivings about his first term.

Establishment Republicans understand this simple, painful truth: Romney is no guarantee of victory, but Gingrich is an absolute guarantee of defeat. At least here on Earth.

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Sunday, January 29, 2012

Thirteen to three

"Where's the fire, what's the hurry about? You'd better cool it off before you burn it out. You've got so much to do and only so many hours in a day." — Billy Joel, Vienna

PAUL TAUGHT AT a jazz band clinic yesterday held at Ankeny's new high school. It started at 8:00 AM and ran straight through until past 9:00 PM — enough of a strain by itself, but the poor guy was running on only three hours of sleep. 

We've had so much work to get out under so many ridiculous deadlines that we've both run ourselves into the ground. Paul was up half the night Thursday and early in the morning Friday being a magician, not to mention a mindreader, to get an exhibit made and in-hand in Vienna — as in Austria — by Thursday, February 2. 

Meanwhile, Jordan and I had been working in nanoseconds to make sure a comp brochure for a metal fabricating company was done by today so the client can take it to Minneapolis tonight. I finally imploded Thursday night and slept until 1:30 in the afternoon the next day, but Paul soldiered on all day Friday working on a website for the Drake University music department and making sure that Vienna doesn't wait for [us] — a little Billy Joel joke.

Dead on his feet, naturally Paul was hoping to do some prodigious sleeping Friday night, but his on-switch had gotten stuck on, and he just couldn't sleep. So there he was yesterday teaching and playing for thirteen hours straight on three hours of sleep. He's tougher than I am.

Since I had hardly seen him Friday and not at all yesterday, I stopped by at the clinic on the way to the office (still working on the comp brochure for today) and got to listen to him teach for a little while; then I came back for the last two hours when the bands played their evening concert. The teachers, John Kizilarmut, Andy Poppen, a sax man I didn't know and Paul all played solos with the bands during the concert. Paul was wonderful. 

So today he's sleeping and sleeping. I'll have to wake him up about 3:00 so that we can go into the office and assemble that comp and drive it to Ames to meet our customer on his way to Minneapolis.

We're crazy-busy, but I'm thrilled that Paul is able to spend more time being a trombone player because that's what he loves.

Friday, January 27, 2012

That slithery salamander

"I think one of the great problems we have in the Republican party is that we don’t encourage you to be nasty. We encourage you to be neat, obedient, and loyal and faithful and all those Boy Scout words." — Newt Gingrich

IT'S NO SECRET; I can't abide the Newt. And I can not fathom that 40.4% of those who voted in the South Carolina Republican primary chose him!! It makes my head hurt.

The Newt is a perfect example of how saying the same lie over and over again eventually changes reality. Of course, it doesn't actually change reality, but it changes people's perception of it, which is all that seems to matter in politics. 

This one doesn't lie.

The Newt says he wasn't a lobbyist, and poof, he wasn't. He touts his leadership of Congress and magically waves away the fact that he resigned from Congress on ethics charges and that a majority of those in Congress who actually served with him including those in his own party, talk about what a BAD job he did and actively oppose him.

Amazingly enough, he criticizes opponents for being Washington insiders while boasting about the time he spent in Congress — which is located where? Oh yeah, Washington — and despite his having made millions peddling access there.

He throws bombs at his opponents' morality and life choices while excoriating anyone for asking about his! Doesn't anyone actually listen to what comes out of his mouth?

Obviously HE doesn't, since the things he says disprove the things he says! 

Here's a snappy piece by Timothy Egan that appeared January 26 written for the New York Times. Here are his credentials, by the way.

Timothy Egan worked for The Times for 18 years – as Pacific Northwest correspondent and a national enterprise reporter. In 2001, he was part of the Pulitzer Prize-winning team that wrote the series How Race Is Lived in America. He is the author of several books, including The Worst Hard Time, a history of the Dust Bowl, for which he won the National Book Award, and most recently, The Big Burn: Teddy Roosevelt and the Fire That Saved America.

Deconstructing a Demagogue

By Timothy Egan

January 26, 2012

When not holding forth from his favorite table at L’Auberge Chez François, nestled among the manor houses of lobbyist-thick Great Falls, Va., Dr. Newton L. Gingrich likes to lecture people about food stamps and how out-of-touch the elites are with real America.

Gingrich, as he showed in a gasping effort in Thursday night’s debate in Florida, is a demagogue distilled, like a French sauce, to the purest essence of the word’s meaning. He has no shame. He thinks the rules do not apply to him. And he turns questions about his odious personal behavior into mock outrage over the audacity of the questioner.

After inventing, and then perfecting, the modern politics of personal destruction, Gingrich has decided now to bank on the dark fears of the worst element of the Republican base to seize the nomination — using skills refined over four decades.

Deconstructed, Gingrich is a thing to behold. Let’s go have a look, as my friend the travel guide Rick Steves likes to say:

The Blueprint. Back in 1994, while plotting his takeover of the House, Gingrich circulated a memo on how to use words as a weapon. It was called “Language: A Key Mechanism of Control.” Republicans were advised to use certain words in describing opponents — sick, pathetic, lie, decay, failure, destroy. That was the year, of course, when Gingrich showed there was no floor to his descent into a dignity-free zone, equating Democratic Party values with the drowning of two young children by their mother, Susan Smith, in South Carolina.

Today, if you listen carefully to any Gingrich takedown, you’ll usually hear words from the control memo.

He even used them, as former Assistant Secretary of State Elliott Abrams wrote in National Review Online this week, in going after President Reagan, calling him “pathetically incompetent,” as Abrams reported. And he compared Reagan’s meeting with the Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev to “the most dangerous summit for the West since Adolf Hitler met with Neville Chamberlain in 1938 in Munich.”

The Method. Even a third-grader arguing with another kid over the merits of Mike and Ikes versus Skittles knows better than to play the Hitler card. But Gingrich, the historian who never learns, does it time and again. Thus Democrats, he said last year, are trying to impose “a secular, socialist machine as great a threat to America as Nazi Germany.”

He has compared the moderate Muslims trying to erect a mosque and social center near Manhattan’s ground zero to Nazis, and made the same swipe at gays. People who love members of the same sex, he said, were trying to force “a gay and secular fascism” on everyone else.

Deny the Obvious. Gingrich is the rare politician who can dissemble without a hint of physical change, defying Mark Twain’s maxim that man is the only animal that blushes — or needs to. He’s also skilled at attacking the very things he practices. In the South Carolina debate last week, when Gingrich went ballistic over a question on an ex-wife’s claim that he wanted an open marriage, he said he had offered ABC numerous witnesses to rebut the charge. In fact, his campaign admitted this week, there were no such witnesses — only character rebuttals by children from a previous marriage.

His claim that he was paid at least $1.6 million by the mortgage backer Freddie Mac for work as a “historian” was a laughable fiction. This week, those contracts were released, and show no mention of historian duties; it was old-fashioned influence peddling.

He got caught by Mitt Romney Thursday in a classic political move. After Gingrich blasted Romney for investments that contributed to the housing crisis, Romney turned around and asked him if he had some of those same kinds of investments. Um, yes, Gingrich admitted, he did.

Go for the Hatred. It was Gingrich, even before Donald Trump, who tried to define the president as someone who is not American — “Kenyan, anti-colonial.” And there he was earlier this week, pumped by a big audience in Sarasota, Fla., reflecting back at him these projected fears. When he said he wanted to send President Obama back to Chicago, the crowd took up a chant of “Kenya! Kenya!”

Calling Obama “the best food stamp president ever” is a clear play on racial fears. In the crash of the last year of George W. Bush’s administration, food stamp use surged, but Gingrich would never associate a white Texan president with dependency.

A favorite target is the press. He’s snapped at debate moderators from Maria Bartiromo of CNBC, Chris Wallace of Fox and the preternaturally fair John King of CNN for asking relevant questions. It was a tired and predictable ploy when he tried it on Wolf Blitzer Thursday — he tried to deflect a question on his attacks by calling it a “nonsense question” — and Blitzer didn’t back down. But the outrage is selective and always calculated.

So, Gingrich was the picture of passive redemption when the Christian Broadcasting Network asked him, twice over the last year, about his many wives. In one case, Gingrich said he cheated because he loved his country so much. This week, he said his infidelities made him “more normal than somebody who walks around seeming perfect.” But he never flipped out at the Christian questioner, as he did at King, calling the CNN reporter’s query “close to despicable.” (Another favorite word.)

The general public can read this particular character X-ray, given that Gingrich’s unfavorable rating is off the charts, higher than any other major politician’s. And so could his former Republican colleagues in the House; witness the paucity of endorsements from those who served with him.

But he has a vocal constituency, weaned on the half-truths of conservative media. It makes perfect sense, then, that Gingrich this week demanded that crowds at future debates be allowed to cackle, whoop and whistle at his talk-radio-tested punch lines.

Let’s grant him his wish, and allow audiences to vent at will, as they did Thursday night in Florida. This kind of noise — from Republican debate crowds who have booed an American soldier serving overseas, cheered for the death of the uninsured and hissed at the Golden Rule — is a demagogue’s soundtrack.
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Thursday, January 26, 2012

Mice type

"Beauty is not caused. It is." ― Emily Dickinson

I'M REMISS FOR not giving a huge shout-out to Andrea Levine for following in the footsteps of British Parliament member Jo Swinson in cracking down on blatantly dishonest cosmetic advertising. Andrea is the director of the National Advertising Division of the Council of Better Business Bureaus which undertook to investigate whether or not Covergirl NatureLuxe Mousse Mascara actually adds "two times more volume" to bare lashes as it claim in its advertising. 

False advertising literally and figuratively.

One day after the NAD launched the probe, parent company Proctor and Gamble withdrew the ads and said in a press release that it has "permanently discontinued all of the challenged claims and the photograph in its advertisement." 

Here's what Andrea had to say, “You can’t use a photograph to demonstrate how a cosmetic will look after it is applied to a woman’s face and then – in the mice type – have a disclosure that says ‘okay, not really.’” 

Translation: STOP LYING!!! You go girl!! I'm sending her a thank you letter on behalf of duped women everywhere. If you'd like to as well, here's her mailing address.

Council of Better Business Bureaus
4200 Wilson Blvd, Suite 800
Arlington, VA 22203-1838
Phone: 1 (703) 276.0100
Fax: 1 (703) 525.8277
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Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Work samples

"The very existence of flame-throwers proves that some time, somewhere, someone said to themselves, You know, I want to set those people over there on fire, but I'm just not close enough to get the job done." — George Carlin

I'VE MENTIONED MY work at Brainstorm Marketing; here's an example of it. Below is a cover wrap for GEN Magazine that Jordan and I designed and the inside cover page for the same issue. The client is Advanced Analytical, a biotechnology company that makes an instrument called a Fragment Analyzer that's used in genetic sequencing.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Work, work, work

"Who was it who said, "Blessed is the man who has found his work"? Whoever it was he had the right idea in his mind. Mark you, he says his work--not somebody else's work. The work that is really a man's own work is play and not work at all. Cursed is the man who has found some other man's work and cannot lose it. When we talk about the great workers of the world we really mean the great players of the world. The fellows who groan and sweat under the weary load of toil that they bear never can hope to do anything great. How can they when their souls are in a ferment of revolt against the employment of their hands and brains? The product of slavery, intellectual or physical, can never be great." — Mark Twain, A Humorist's Confession The New York Times1905 

GUESS WHERE I am? The office.
Guess what time it is? 11:09 PM.
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Sunday, January 22, 2012

Burnin' with Buddy

"Every drummer that had a name, had a name because of his individual playing. He didn't sound like anybody else, so everybody that I ever listened to, in some form, influenced my taste." – Buddy Rich 

THE FIRST Turner Center Jazz Orchestra concert of the year, Burnin' with Buddy, was October 20, 2011 held at the Turner Center on the Drake University campus. It was an homage to famous drummer Buddy Rich

Click here to check out a music clip of Love for Sale.

Paul is the second from left in the trombone section in a black shirt with fine white stripes. I told him that he can't wear that shirt anymore when he's supposed to wear black because from a distance it reads gray.

The first sax solo is John Morgan. The second, wild sax solo is by the famous and infamous Don Jaques; Mike Short plays bass trombone and John Kizilarmut is on drums.

Click to hear Okay with Jay. The band's leader, Andy Classen, is on trumpet.

Backwoods Sideman really burns. Click here to take a listen.

The next TCJO concert, Jazz for Lovers and Friends, is Valentine's Day February 14, also held at the Turner Center. For tickets click here. Paul and I designed the website, and I took all the photographs.

Left to right: John Morgan, Clarence Padilla and Jim Romain.

The intense Mr. Jaques and John Kizilarmut on drums behind him.

Here's my stud-muffin!!
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Saturday, January 21, 2012

Finally succumbed

"Illness is the doctor to whom we pay most heed; to kindness, to knowledge we make promise only; pain we obey." — Marcel Proust

AFTER THE LONG hours, no days off in three weeks, the stress of rushing about to travel and working a show, I finally got sick Wednesday. I'd been fighting it off for two or three weeks, but finally lost the battle.

I felt really sick yesterday, but I still put in nine hours at work, as did Paul. Just too much to do. When at last we made it home at 6:30, it was headache, soar throat, coughing and chills. Last night I slept 15 hours straight.

Regardless of how hard I've been working, however, Paul has been working harder. He had to put in two days of hard, physical labor back to back Thursday and Friday.

I'm supposed to be at a Democratic platform committee meeting, but "wouldn't be prudent," to quote George Bush I. Speaking of him, how did he end up with such an idiot son?

So today is going to be a day of staying quiet and consuming lots of orange juice and chicken soup. Paul bought a huge sack of oranges and has been squeezing the juice fresh for me, and he put loads of long-simmered onions in the soup he made. Onions have lots of something or other that's effective against infection. Here's what Wikipedia has to say about the medicincal property of onions. Paul says the stinkier they are, the better.

Wide-ranging claims have been made for the effectiveness of onions against conditions ranging from the common cold to heart disease, diabetes, osteoporosis, and other diseases.[17] They contain chemical compounds believed to have anti-inflammatory, anticholesterol, anticancer, and antioxidant properties, such as quercetin. Preliminary studies have shown increased consumption of onions reduces the risk of head and neck cancers.[18]

In India some sects do not eat onions as they believe them to be an aphrodisiac. In many parts of the undeveloped world, onions are used to heal blisters and boils. A traditional Maltese remedy for sea urchin wounds is to tie half a baked onion to the afflicted area overnight. A similar traditional cure is known in Bulgaria. Half-baked onion with sugar is placed over the finger and fingernail in case of inflammation.

An application of raw onion is also said to be helpful in reducing swelling from bee stings. In the United States, products that contain onion extract are used in the treatment of topical scars; some studies have found their action to be ineffective,[21][22][23] while others found that they may act as an anti-inflammatory or bacteriostatic[24] and can improve collagen organization in rabbits.[25]

Onions may be beneficial for women,[26] who are at increased risk for osteoporosis as they go through menopause, by destroying osteoclasts so they do not break down bone.

An American chemist has stated[27] the pleiomeric chemicals in onions have the potential to alleviate or prevent sore throat. Onion in combination with jaggery has been widely used as a traditional household remedy for sore throat in India.

Shallots have the most phenols, six times the amount found in Vidalia onion, the variety with the lowest phenolic content. Shallots also have the most antioxidant activity, followed by Western Yellow, pungent yellow (New York Bold),[28] Northern Red, Mexico, Empire Sweet, Western White, Peruvian Sweet, Texas 1015, Imperial Valley Sweet, and Vidalia. Western Yellow onions have the most flavonoids, eleven times the amount found in Western White, the variety with the lowest flavonoid content.

For all varieties of onions, the more phenols and flavonoids they contain, the more reputed antioxidant and anticancer activity they provide. When tested against liver and colon cancer cells in laboratory studies, 'Western Yellow', pungent yellow (New York Bold)[28]and shallots were most effective in inhibiting their growth. The milder-tasting cultivars (i.e., 'Western White,' 'Peruvian Sweet,' 'Empire Sweet,' 'Mexico,' 'Texas 1015,' 'Imperial Valley Sweet' and 'Vidalia') showed little cancer-fighting ability.[28]

Shallots and ten other onion (Allium cepa L.) varieties commonly available in the United States were evaluated: Western Yellow, Northern Red, pungent yellow (New York Bold), Western White, Peruvian Sweet, Empire Sweet, Mexico, Texas 1015, Imperial Valley Sweet, and Vidalia. In general, the most pungent onions delivered many times the effects of their milder cousins.[28]

While members of the onion family appear to have medicinal properties for humans, they can be deadly for dogs, cats, and guinea pigs.[14][15][16]

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Friday, January 20, 2012

Hotel, restaurant and golf

"I guess there is nothing that will get your mind off everything like golf. I have never been depressed enough to take up the game, but they say you get so sore at yourself you forget to hate your enemies." Will Rogers 

THE ONLY SMALL pleasure we were able to enjoy in San Diego, or Sun Diego as I prefer calling it, were the meals we ate at our hotel. The hotel, called the Handlery Hotel and Resort, was okay, but nothing to write home about. We couldn't quite figure out the "resort" part, but I think it's because it's adjacent to a golf course.

In case I've never shared my sentiments about golf, I'm in complete agreement with Mark Twain who so succinctly opined, "Golf is a good walk spoiled."  

Speaking of golf, on the flight from Denver to SD, I sat next to a golf pro. He was working a New York Times crossword puzzle; at least he got part of his recreational pursuits right. I didn't help him exactly, but from time to time I'd look at an area where he was stumped and say, "Oh you know the answer to that," and by gummy, he'd get it. 

I was curious about his career. He was in his mid-60's, I'd guess. I asked him if I could look him up on Wikipedia and see his accomplishments, but he said that his glory years were before there was all the profuse record keeping there is now and before golf was cool. Now he works with current pros, some of the biggest names in the game. 

I asked him if he had his whole life to do over, if he would still be a professional golfer, or would he choose something else. He said that the only regret he had in life was that his wife was no longer with him; she died. 

He was a very tan, silver-haired, handsome man, and I had wrongly figured him for a 'player' on more than the golf course, so I was surprised and touched by how open he was about such deep emotion. He also said, "We have a daughter." I loved how he used the word "we" and the present tense of the verb, as if his wife is still alive and with him. 

His second wish was that his daughter's husband were still alive. She had gotten married at what might be thought of as a usual age. The man she married had three children from a previous marriage. Three years later her husband was killed in a car crash. She raised those three kids to adulthood, and when they were grown, she went back to college and became an attorney. He said, "She's my hero." 

It reminds me that we can never judge a person's insides by their outsides.

We had also misjudged the restaurant based upon our nondescript hotel in which it was located. We were wrong. They have a chef and a sou chef, and the food was excellent — actually excellent. Who knew? Again, a reminder to not judge a book by its cover.

I had fresh grilled mahi mahi the first night; Paul had prime rib. The made-there balsamic vinaigrette was superb, the soup was great, and the olive oil for dipping bread into had something swirled in it that was deep red, sweet and delicious. The chef wouldn't tell us his secret. 

The next night Paul had a shrimp-with-two-kinds-of-sausage dish, I had barbecued salmon, and we indulged in creme brulee for dessert. I'm a sucker for creme brulee. (Sorry about the lack of appropriate accents marks, but I don't know the key caps for them.) The following morning I had steel-cut oatmeal with apples and cinnamon cooked in, and Paul had some kind of breakfast burrito thing that Paul said was fab. The chef said they host a lot of weddings and other parties at the hotel where there is, more often than not, too much alcohol consumed, so he invented the dish as a hangover cure.
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Jane Goodall

"The least I can do is speak out for those who cannot speak for themselves." — Jane Goodall

LAST NIGHT I was lucky enough to hear Jane Goodall speak in person as part of the Smart Talk series in Des Moines. She was luminous. I was, and remain, in complete awe. 

At the age of 77, she travels 300 out of 365 days a year in advocation of saving chimpanzees and their habitat and the planet as a whole. What a wondrous woman; what a life lived! 

Jane's mother was her unflagging supporter and life-long inspiration, and the two maintained a remarkable and remarkably-close relationship throughout her mother's life. The stories I enjoyed hearing the most were about the ways her mother encouraged and believed in her and her dream from the time Jane was a very small girl. I can't imagine what that could possibly be like.

She has many books out. I recommend reading anything by her or about her.

No wonder two interesting, adventurous men fell in love with her.
She married one and left him after 10 years for the other. I admire her for
having the courage to follow her passion and her heart.

She had this little guy with her last night. She takes him 
with her everywhere. It was given to her by a blind man, 
who has such an amazing life story himself. 
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Wednesday, January 18, 2012

The f-bomb

"In certain trying circumstances, urgent circumstances, desperate circumstances, profanity furnishes a relief denied even to prayer." Mark Twain

I find old-fashioned British expletives quaint. Though I don't swear often, when a colorful comment feels imminent, I make an effort to limit myself to blast, drat, dang or balderdash. Sometimes I throw in an I'll-be-dashed or dash-it-all. I figure I may as well choose one that also amuses me, and probably won't offend anyone in the process.

My theory is that it's a good habit to have, so that in stressful moments, I won't inadvertently say something regrettable. I can do that well enough on my own without adding vulgarity to the charge.

So if and when I haul out the f-bomb, you know I've been pushed way, way beyond my limit. I won't mention the circumstances under which I was pressed to this extreme, but I said "@*#< you" approximately 150 times on Sunday and Monday. Okay, that's an exaggeration; it was probably only 75.

I said it to the air, the empty room and Paul. Mind, it was never about or in reference to Paul, who was, in fact, in utter sympathy and agreement with my sentiments. It referred to someone else's extremely bad behavior. Would that I could have said it directly to the deserving recipient.

To whom it may concern: @*#< you.
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