Monday, June 30, 2014

Paul was a Maniac

"In 18 years they've never been rained out." — Tom Zmolek, music promoter and founder of the entertainment company, Zen

FRIDAY NIGHT Paul was privileged to play with 10,000 Maniacs for the Des Moines Art Festival. He had a blast, and so did the audience. 

We were worried about the weather; it's been raining and raining and raining here in central Iowa. It rained Thursday, Friday morning, Saturday, Sunday and today (boy howdy, did it rain and hail and blow today!!) — but it cleared off Friday afternoon and ended up being perfect weather for the concert Friday night.

A few days before the concert, Paul and Tom Zmolek, music promoter and the guy who hired him and the band, were discussing the dicey weather. Tom said that the Maniacs hadn't been rained out for 18 years (apparently they were rained out one time in in the mid-90s) and exhorted Paul to trust the Maniac karma. 

It must have worked because Friday night was beautiful.

Wow, does that band work hard and put on a good show! They played for at least an hour and a half straight through with no break. 

Two of the original founders are still in the band: Dennis Drew, on keyboards, and Steve Gustafson on bass. Drummer Jerry Augustyniak has been with the band since 1983, so just two years short of the beginning. Mary Ramsey who sings and plays the viola has had two stints with the band: from 1993 to 2001 and from 2007 to the present. Guitarist Rob Buck, who was one of the original founders of the band, died in 2000 and Jeff Erickson, who had been Rob's guitar technician, stepped in and continues to be "maniacal." Melanie Luciano on acoustic guitar and vocals joined the band two years ago.

Before the show, founders Dennis and Steve introduced themselves to Paul and the other two horns Paul had lined up, Dave Bohl and Jim Romain — and me — making a point to get our names straight. There was no reason for them to include me (I was just sitting there with the boys) other than old-fashioned, good manners.

So here's the inside scoop on 10,000 Maniacsthey're all genuinely nice people. No divas, no big egos; just very talented and incredibly hardworking.

After the concert I said to Mary, "Holy moly! Aren't you exhausted?!? You sang and played on every single tune without a break!" She said in a no-big-deal voice, "Oh no. But I will be tomorrow morning when we have to get up at 4:00 AM to catch a plane to Cleveland."

I told you they were hardworking!!

Below are a few pictures I took with my iPhone, their setlist from the night, and their touring schedule. I recommend that you catch 10,000 Maniacs anywhere you can. Paul's parents, who are in their 80s, went and they loved it as much as the rest of the audience did.

From left to right: Jeff Erickson on guitar, Paul, Melanie Luciano on acoustic,
Jerry Augustyniac on drums, and Mary Ramsey.

The horn line in back: Jim Romain, Dave Bohl and Paul. Melanie and Mary harmonizing.

Melanie, Mary, Paul, Steve Gustafson and Jerry on drums.

Dennis Drew rockin' out on keyboards.

The setlist from Friday night:

What's the Matter Here?
Like the Weather
Trouble Me
Can't Ignore the Train
It's a Beautiful Life
More Than This
Stockton Gala Days
Because the Night
Candy Everybody Wants
Sister Rose
Rainy Day
Everyday People
These Are Days
Few and Far Between
Just Like Heaven

10,000 Maniacs 2014 Schedule

July 5 — Aurora, IL
July 11 — The Palace Theater, Greensburg, PA
July 12 — Veteran's Park, Springfield, OH
July 17 — The Kessler, Dallas, TX
July 18 — One World Theatre, Austin, TX
July 19 — Dosey Doe, Houston, TX
Aug 1 — Columbus, OH
Aug 2 — With Peter Frampton, New Lenox, IL
August 7 — Madison Beach Hotel, Madison Beach, CT
August 8 — The Verve Crowne Plaza, Natick, MA
August 10 — Rocky Mountain Music Festival, Littleton, CO
September 20 — Taco Festival, Chicago, IL
October 4 — Infinity Hall, Hartford, CT

For the 10,000 Maniacs website, click here.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Dog wants a kitty

"You cannot share your life with a dog, as I had done in Bournemouth, or a cat, and not know perfectly well that animals have personalities and minds and feelings." — Jane Goodall

HEY. Me again. I'm sharing this very short video that I promise will make you LYAO!

Friday, June 27, 2014

A medical marijuana primer

"And I’m happy to tell you that within the first administration, Charlotte went from having a seizure every 20 to 25 minutes – that’s 400 a week guys – down to zero to one per week." — Josh Stanley

I FEEL LIKE apologizing for writing a Hey Look post almost every day for the last two weeks. For whatever reason, my contract with myself is that I will blog every other day. I don't have to actually publish every other day, but at the end of the year, that's what I want the average to be.

So far I've managed to do make my goal for three years now.

I kinda think I'm a wacko for doing it, but I must like it because I haven't stopped yet. It helps me stay (or try to get) sane; if I can't change things that I think are wrong in the world, at least I can complain about them, and boy howdy do I, as you know.

Plus I just can't help but be so Irish and want to help everybody. If I run across something that might prove useful, I'll fidget until I tell you.

I said all that to say this: I got behind in February, and this month I'm determined to catch up, so that's why I've been buzzing in your ears so often.

This is a Ted Talks video from You Tube about medical marijuana and pediatric epilepsy that I've been meaning to share with you for a long time. Fascinating.


Wednesday, June 25, 2014

I am not resigned – part II

“Ever has it been that love knows not its own depth until the hour of separation.” — Khalil Gibran

This post is for me. It's my partial list of those who have left a hole in my heart. Two of them are people I've never met, but because of who they were and the lives they led, their absence is still keenly felt. 

P.D. Sargent
Bob Johnson
Richard Logli

Hank Brooks
Jennifer Lewis
Henry Irwin
Kevin Sargent
Sharon Stein

Baby Kitty
Dorothy Porter
Eddie Lybbert
George Carlin
Laurie Knapp
Margaret Johnson

Cecil Bolsinger
Chuck Shea
Don Easter
Doug Dixon
Elizabeth Edwards
Jay Loftis
Karen Grode
Katelyn Gabus
Paula Forsma
Randall Winters
Tom Hamilton

Monday, June 23, 2014

Can you spell that for me please

“I don't see any use in having a uniform and arbitrary way of spelling words. We might as well make all clothes alike and cook all dishes alike. Sameness is tiresome; variety is pleasing. I have a correspondent whose letters are always a refreshment to me, there is such a breezy unfettered originality about his orthography.” — Mark Twain, speech in Hartford, Connecticut, May 12, 1875

THE SCRIPPS National Spelling Bee was held May 25 through the 30th in National Harbor, Maryland, and something happened that hasn't for 52 years; there was a tie. Not only that, but Sriram Hathwar who is from New York and Ansun Sujoefrom Texas, were such amazing spellers that the organizers almost ran out of questions!

Ansun Sujoe on the left and Sriram Hathwar on the right.

I thought you might be interested in the winning words from this and recent years. I haven't even heard of these words!!

The list is from NBC News, except for the 2014 winners which I found in a article. The photo is from CBS News.

2004: autochthonous - indigenous, aboriginal; used especially in nature
2005: appoggiatura - a melodic tone
2006: ursprache - a hypothetical parent language
2007: serrefine - a small forceps for clamping a blood vessel
2008: guerdon - something that one has earned or gained
2009: laodicean - lukewarm or indifferent in religion or politics
2010: stromuhr - a tool for measuring blood flow speed through an artery
2011: cymotrichous - having wavy hair
2012: guetapens - ambush, snare or trap
2013: knaidel - a traditional Jewish dumpling
2014: stichomythia - a dramatic dispute between two actors
2014: feuilleton - a special supplement of a European newspaper

Unfortunately, the win by Ansun and Sriran generated racists remarks because both co-winners are Indian Americans. Below is an article from The Washington Post that talks about the ugly backlash.

Scripps National Spelling Bee draws racially charged comments after Indian Americans win again
By Lindsey Bever 
May 30, 2014

For the first time in more than 50 years, two young wordsmiths were declared co-champions of the Scripps National Spelling Bee on Thursday night. However, some on social media seemed more preoccupied with their heritage than their way with words.

Sriram Hathwar, 14, of Painted Post, N.Y., and Ansun Sujoe, 13, of Fort Worth, Tex., shared the win after almost exhausting the 25 designated words in the final round.

Both boys are Indian American. In fact, the past eight winners and 13 of the past 17 have been of Indian descent, a run that began in 1999, the Associated Press reported.

The fact was seemingly too much for some on social media — who tweeted, for example, “Where are our American kids?”

"wow that blows the spelling bee ends with a tie thats so friggin un-American no wonder the kids that won it are Indian" — Chris Uhl Jr. (@the_best_uhl_c) May 30, 2014


"Nothing more American than a good spelling bee.. Oh wait all the Caucasians are eliminated" — Cale Pieczynski (@CalePie) May 30, 2014

Journalist Jeff Chu collected them. Then he tweeted a message of his own:

There’s more where those came from.

Sriram is from Painted Post, a village in Steuben County, N.Y. He’s an eighth-grader at Corning’s Alternative School for Math and Science. He was the only one with a perfect score from written tests and one of the few contestants who did not write out words on his hand or arm before spelling them. He devoured words like “quatrefoil” and “favus.”

“It’s almost like GPS, like, see the word in my head. I just envision it,” he told Reuters.

Ansun is from Euless, a suburb outside Fort Worth, where he is a student at Bethesda Christian School. He plays piano, guitar and bassoon. He likes chess, programming robots and volunteering in nursing homes. And he almost laughed as he spelled his first word “laulau” correctly during the semifinals of the spelling bee. “Oh laulau!” he said.

Last year’s winner, Arvind Mahankali, was the sixth Indian American in a row to win the bee. And of this year’s 281 spellers, almost a quarter had names pointing to South Asian origins, Reuters reported. But past bee champs are of a variety of origins.

“I don’t think there’s any secret or anything innate in Indian kids winning spelling bees. I don’t think there’s a spelling gene,” said Nupur Lala, who started the South Asian streak in 1999, according to Reuters. She starred in the documentary “Spellbound.”

Scripps National Spelling Bee does not note ethnicities in its speller statistics.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Grandmothers as bridesmaids

“We should all have one person who knows how to bless us despite the evidence. Grandmother was that person to me.” — Phyllis Theroux, American essayist, columnist, teacher and author

THIS IS one of a series of short videos from The New York Times' online Style section called "Vows." You can't help but love it.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Jazzman Marcus Roberts

“Who's the greatest American musician most people have never heard of? To me, it's Marcus Roberts.” — Wynton Marsalis

IN JUNE of 2014, I wrote a HLSS post as a heads-up for all my lazz-loving friends: Marcus Roberts was being interviewed on 60 Minutes, the following night, June 22. That wasn't much notice, so now that the segment is available on line, I've attached a link to it for you. It's below the short CBS article that appeared a few days prior to the show promoting it.

Jamming behind the scenes with jazz greats

A 60 Minutes shoot never quite looked – or sounded – like this before. Life for jazz greats Wynton Marsalis and Marcus Roberts is a non-stop jam session

What's it like to hang out with jazz musicians? Just ask 60 Minutes producer David Browning, who teamed up with CBS correspondent Wynton Marsalis this week to report on the remarkable, little-known jazz pianist Marcus Roberts. Watch Marsalis' 60 Minutes profile on Sunday, June 22 at 7 p.m. ET/PT.

"Having a rollicking good time with jazz musicians, for me, is really, really easy," says Browning. "I can't think of anybody I'd rather hang out with, very frankly. They're great conversationalists. They have tremendous senses of humor, Marcus and Wynton particularly. So for me, this was the ideal assignment."

60 Minutes camera crews captured one of those rollicking scenes at a tiny house on the outskirts of Jacksonville, Fla., where Wynton, Marcus, and his mother, Coretta, all joined in for an impromptu gospel jam. Then, at the neighborhood Baptist church around the corner, everyone but the cameraman took a turn pounding the keys of an out-of-tune piano.

"If there's an instrument around, somebody's gonna be playing it," says Browning. "It's their way of speaking. They literally live and breathe the music, 24/7."

But there can be challenges to producing a piece that involves one jazz musician interviewing another jazz musician. Paige Kendig, another producer on the story, says working with jazz artists means setting your watch to something she calls, "jazz time."

"As producers, our job is to keep things really on task," says Kendig. "But when you have two jazz musicians there, any second of downtime, there was music being played...When you're trying to keep a time schedule, sometimes it became a little difficult."

Kendig says the producers purposely set up one interview between the two jazz greats in a room without instruments. No piano, no trumpet. But as you'll see in this week's Overtime, Wynton and Marcus still found a way to kill time with a behind-the-scenes jam session.

"For jazz musicians, we come from the communities. We're down home people," Marsalis tells 60 Minutes Overtime. "Playing is a way of life with me. Nobody has to beg me to play. I'm honored to play. Elementary schools, somebody's house-- the more informal the playing is, the better, for me."

Click here to see the segment.

Friday, June 20, 2014

I am not resigned

"I am not resigned to the shutting away of loving hearts in the hard ground." — Edna St. Vincent Millay

A FACEBOOK friend's adult son died very recently, and the post she wrote about the heartbreak was moving. As part of it, she included Dirge without Music, a poem by Edna St. Vincent Millay. I'd never known it before.

It's been nine months since we lost our much loved Sharon Stein. I haven't been able to write a proper eulogy to her yet. It's still too close. I will, though, when I can. 

At the time of her illness and death, I was awash with emotions; one of them was anger. I was enraged that we had to part with her, and that there was nothing I could do about it.  

After what we knew would be our last visit with her, someone told me that it wasn't good for me to be so angry — that it would be better for me to be able to accept such things with more equanimity. 

I don't know if that's true or not. I kinda am who I am, and generally speaking, I'm not going to go down without a fight — at least on behalf of someone I love. And according to almost everything I've read about the process of grief, anger is very often one of the stages.

With the Edna St. Vincent Millay poem that I'm sharing with you below, at last I've found something that puts my feelings about losing people I love exactly into words.

Dirge without Music
by Edna St. Vincent Millay

I am not resigned to the shutting away of loving hearts in the hard ground.
So it is, and so it will be, for so it has been, time out of mind:
Into the darkness they go, the wise and the lovely. Crowned
With lilies and with laurel they go; but I am not resigned.
Lovers and thinkers, into the earth with you.
Be one with the dull, the indiscriminate dust.
A fragment of what you felt, of what you knew,
A formula, a phrase remains, --- but the best is lost.

The answers quick & keen, the honest look, the laughter, the love,
They are gone. They have gone to feed the roses. Elegant and curled
Is the blossom. Fragrant is the blossom. I know. But I do not approve.
More precious was the light in your eyes than all the roses in the world.

Down, down, down into the darkness of the grave
Gently they go, the beautiful, the tender, the kind;
Quietly they go, the intelligent, the witty, the brave.
I know. But I do not approve. And I am not resigned.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

One way or another

"We'll never change the name. It's that simple. NEVER -- you can use caps." — Daniel Snyder, owner of the Washington DC NFL team, May 2013

AS YOU MIGHT imagine, I'm doing the happy dance today because yesterday the US Patent and Trademark Office canceled six trademarks belonging to the Redskins football team. The Office deemed the trademarks offensive to Native Americans.

Ya' think? If you look up the word redskin in the dictionary, here's how it's defined:

Unfortunately, it doesn't mean the team and its asshole owner (I've been making a real attempt to avoid the a-word in writing and speech by substituting "juice box" for it, but surely the introductory quote gives you some idea as to why I'm making an exception here), Daniel Snyder, can't use the name or logo, but it does mean that there is no longer any protection against anyone and everyone knocking off merchandise or anything else using them.

Maybe we're going to have to kill off this NFL football franchise's name and mascot with a thousand tiny cuts instead of one decisive blow —  kinda like how the police couldn't nail Al Capone for racketeering or murder, so the Feds got him on tax evasion. 

I've attached an article from that explains the ruling. Below that is an article from ThinkProgress that cites seven things that swayed the Patent Office to cancel the trademarks.

US Patent Office cancels Redskins trademark registration
By Ryan Wilson
June 18, 2014

The United States Patent and Trademark Office has canceled the Washington Redskins trademark registration because it considers the team's name “disparaging to Native Americans," reports the Washington Post.

The case, which was on behalf of five Native Americans, appeared before the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board.

“This victory was a long time coming and reflects the hard work of many attorneys at our firm,” lead attorney Jesse Witten, of Drinker Biddle & Reath, told the Post.

Added Alfred Putnam Jr., the chairman of Drinker Biddle & Reath: “We are extraordinarily gratified to have prevailed in this case. The dedication and professionalism of our attorneys and the determination of our clients have resulted in a milestone victory that will serve as an historic precedent.”

The victory won't have any immediate impacts on the Redskins organization, or owner Daniel Snyder's decision to keep the team's name. The Redskins will appeal the ruling, but should the ruling be upheld, it would mean that the Redskins would lose its federally trademarked protections.

As explained by last month, "The effect would be large because federally registered trademarks keep others from selling items with the team's logos, although even then the team could try to keep unauthorized merchandisers from using the marks through common law and state statues."

Adds Trademark law experts Christine Haight Farley: "I think it is entirely possible for a court in that circumstance to say, 'You've come to a court of equity with unclean hands and we are going to deny you your remedy.' We don't really know what would happen."

Snyder proclaimed in May 2013, "We'll never change the name. It's that simple. NEVER -- you can use caps."

But should the team lose the appeal and the trademark protection that comes with it, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell might feel differently.

When asked Wednesday morning about the ruling, Snyder declined to comment.

Back in January, the Patent and Trademark Office rejected a request from a company that wanted to sell pork rinds called "Redskins Hog Rinds" because it considered the term "derogatory slang."

In a letter dated Dec. 29, the agency wrote: “Registration is refused because the applied-for mark REDSKINS HOG RINDS consists of or includes matter which may disparage or bring into contempt or disrepute persons, institutions, beliefs, or national symbols.”

Oneida Indian Nation Representative Ray Halbritter applauded the ruling earlier this year.

“The USPTO ruling sends a powerful message to Washington team owner Dan Snyder and the NFL that in the name of basic decency and respect they should immediately stop spending millions of dollars to promote the R-word,” Halbritter said at the time.

“This is a huge potential precedent-setter rooted in the painfully self-evident truth that the Change the Mascot campaign has been reiterating: The R-word is a dictionary defined slur designed to demean and dehumanize an entire group of people. The federal government was right to declare that taxpayers cannot and should not subsidize the promotion of that slur through lucrative patent protections.”

7 Things That Convinced The U.S. Patent Office To Cancel The Redskins Trademark
JUNE 18, 2014

The landmark decision by the U.S. Patent Office, first reported by ThinkProgress, canceled the trademark “Redskins” for Washington’s NFL franchise. Ultimately, the decision hinged on whether the term Redskins “disparages Native American persons.” The law prohibits trademarks on disparaging terms. So the Native Americans challenging the trademark needed to convince the office: 1. The term was still referring to Native Americans, and 2. It was disparaging toward Native Americans. Here are seven things that persuaded the Patent Office:

1. This picture of cheerleaders

From the decision: “The Redskinettes also had appeared wearing costumes suggestive of Native Americans, as shown in the 1962 photograph of them reproduced below, which contained the title ‘Dancing Indians’ and the caption ‘Here are the Redskinettes all decked out in their Indian garb and carrying Burgundy and Gold pom-poms.’”

2. This picture of the marching band

From the decision: “The Washington Redskins marching band had worn Native American headdresses as part of its uniforms between the 1960s and the 1990s, as shown in the image below from the 1980s.”

3. This press guide

From the decision: “Between 1967 and 1979, the annual Washington Redskin press guides, shown below, displayed American Indian imagery on the cover page.”

4. Its similarity to other racial slurs

The decision cited an excerpt from the 1990 book “Unkind Words: Ethnic Labeling from Redskin to WASP”:

Nearly half of all interracial slurs …refer to real or imagined physical differences. … Most references to physical differences are to skin color, which affirms what we have always known about the significance of color in human relations. Asian groups were called yellow this and that and Native Americans were called redskins, red men, and red devils.

5. The dictionary definition of Redskins

We further note the earliest restrictive usage label in dictionary definitions in Mr. Barnhart’s report dates back to 1966 from the Random House Unabridged First Edition indicating REDSKIN is “Often Offensive.” From 1986 on, all of the entries presented by Mr. Barnhart include restrictive usage labels ranging from “not the preferred term” to “often disparaging and offensive.”

6. The opposition by the National Congress of American Indians

The decision cites a 1992 resolution from the organization:

[T]he term REDSKINS is not and has never been one of honor or respect, but instead, it has always been and continues to be a pejorative, derogatory, denigrating, offensive, scandalous, contemptuous, disreputable, disparaging and racist designation for Native American’s

7. Letters of protest from Native Americans

The Patent Office also considered letters protesting the name from individual Native Americans. One sample:

Since you continue not to believe that the term “Redskins” is not [sic] offensive to anyone, let me make this clear: The name “Redskins” is very offensive to me and shows little human interest or taste…If you think you are preserving our culture or your history, then may I suggest a change? To live up to your name, your team would field only two men to the opponents eleven. Your player’s wives would be required to face the men of the opposing team. After having lost every game in good faith, you would be required to remain in RFK stadium’s end zone for the rest of your life living off what the other teams had left you. (Which wouldn’t be much.) Since you would probably find this as distasteful as 300,000 Indians do, I would suggest a change in name. In sticking to your ethnic theme, I would suggest the Washington Niggers as a start. … This would start a fantastic trend in the league. We would soon be blessed with the San Fransisco [sic] Chinks, New York Jews, Dallas Wetbacks, Houston Greasers, and the Green Bay Crackers. Great, huh? Mr. Williams, these would be very offensive to many people, just as Redskins is offensive to myself and others. You can take a stand that would show you and the team as true believers in civil rights, or you can continue to carry a name that keeps alive a threatening stereotype to Indian people. People, Mr. Williams. We don’t want the Redskins!

(Me again.) Any questions? And as a reminder:

Change the Mascot is a national campaign to end the use of the racial slur "redskins" as the mascot and name of the NFL team in Washington, D.C. Launched by the Oneida Indian Nation, the campaign calls upon the NFL and Commissioner Roger Goodell to do the right thing and bring an end the use of the racial epithet. 
  • Write to Roger Goodell at NFL Commissioner, 345 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10154
  • Call the NFL league office at 212-450-2000.
  • Send a message to Commissioner Goodell on Twitter @nflcommish with the hashtag, #ChangeTheMascot

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

10,000 maniacs (and Paul)

Life is about not knowing, having to change, taking the moment and making the best of it, without knowing what's going to happen next. — Gilda Radner

I LAUGH at myself a lot. If there's a way to misunderstand or misconstrue a headline or something someone says, I'm there!! I am definitely Emily Litella through and through. 

It happens on too regular a basis for me to keep track of examples, but here's one I happen to remember because it was so completely ridiculous, but sad to say, entirely typical. It was years back while I was staying in California for two months. I was riding in the car with friends, when one of them mentioned having seen a guy walking along the highway with a muffler on his neck a few days earlier.

I probably don't have to spell out the punchline. Yup, I said, "Well, what happened? Did his car break down or something?"

Honestly, I'm really not a stupid person; I just don't necessarily always connect the dots in the right order. 

But c'mon' there's a certain logic to my illogic. There is. Really.

In the first place, I was in California which, no matter what month of the year it is, equals balmy weather in the mind of a person from Iowa, so I wasn't thinking "warm, fuzzy scarf." 

Secondly, the guy was "walking along the highway" which made me think "car" because California freeways are bumper to bumper with them. So I put two and two together and got seven. I visualized some poor guy who'd had the muffler fall off his car, walking down the highway carrying it, and since I have little idea what a car muffler actually looks like, it was easy for me to imagine that maybe it has hoses or something that would make it reasonable to support and carry it on his neck and shoulders.

One year I was a poll watcher for an election. One of my duties was to read people's hand-written names and cross check them with a printed list. Granted, people's writing can be awful, but it wasn't so much that I couldn't read the names as the spectacularly improbable conclusions I came up with.

I'd get a slip with someone's name written poorly and say, "I think it's Jobson." 

Fortunately there were two of us. 

"No, they've just mushed the h and n together. It's Johnson," corrected my co-worker. 

"Oh yeah. I see it now." 

Over and over again I arrived at the most improbable assumption. 

I also often get wild ideas from headlines because I inadvertently put the emPHAsis on the wrong word, or I mentally insert a comma or leave one out.

The supremely talented Gilda Radner as Emily Litella.

But what I'm wondering is: is it a communicable affliction?

Paul got a a text message from a promoter on Monday asking him if he wanted to play in a horn line at the Art Festival for 10,000 maniacs. 

He considered it for five or so minutes, and muttered to me, "I hope the Art Festival is a success and all, but there's no way they're going draw a crowd of 10,000 for a concert. That's just unrealistic." 

Then it dawned on him, "Oh wait, he means the group 10,000 Maniacs! Yes! Yes, I want to play with 10,000 Maniacs."

Never mind.

The concert is the Friday night, June 27. He's excited.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Galen and David's excellent (Des Moines) adventure

"The great thing about rock and roll is that someone like me can be a star." — Elton John

YIKES! You wouldn't think in our business — branding, building websites, collateral development and exhibit design — there would be emergencies, but surprisingly, we have them — and in this case Paul was up literally all night Sunday dealing with one.

A company phoned Friday after business hours to ask us if we could create a 10-foot exhibit and have it in their hands in Las Vegas by Tuesday. Holy crap!

Paul sent a flurry of emails and made a bunch of calls to vendors to see how we could possibly pull it off. One of our vendors said he'd check; maybe they could print and ship on Monday and send it next day air. Paul finally heard back late Saturday that they could do it if they received the art by early Monday. 

Problem solved. Not hardly. 

Then we had to wait to hear back from the client to see if the management had given the project the green light! Finally Paul got a call Sunday night at 6:30 PM — while we were walking up the hill carrying trombones and stands to his Music Under the Stars gig — giving him the go-ahead. Paul played the concert, then was up all night helping the client make the art step-by-step. Paul didn't get to bed until 5:30 AM.

That was just the last thing he did this weekend, but hardly the only thing. 

Paul played a Dixieland gig for jazz band camp at Roosevelt High School Friday morning. Friday night we were guests for hors d'oeuvres and drinks at Art and Sue Wittmack's beautiful South of Grand home as part of a series of Rotary Goes Home events that my club, The Rotary Club of Des Moines, held last week. Dick Reasons provided the food, and it was a sumptuous spread with all sorts of unique treats: thin slices of grilled egg plant used as wraps with roasted red peppers and other vegetables inside, five kinds of unique cheese, six kinds of brownies and so much more. I ate way too much.

Saturday morning the delightful duo of Galen Brooks and David Voight spent four hours of their cross-country trip with us. When they left us, they headed to northwest Iowa where Galen grew up and where he still has family and friends, before continuing to San Francisco to visit more friends.

Paul's mom said, "I thought you were just Facebook friends." 

Our mutual pal Karl Schilling did indeed introduce us via Facebook, but you can't know Galen and not be smitten, so over time we've become IRL friends. Paul and I are the richer for it.

Paul said he believes that Galen might be the most diversely-interested man he knows. He's a retired MD psychiatrist, gourmand and music and art lover. He taught himself to play the carillon and became the carillonneur for Frederick, Maryland while he lived there. Five churches were located within earshot of the carillon, and every week he'd get the benediction hymns from all five churches, transcribe the music for the carillon (because of the nature of the carillon, you can't just play ordinary music) and play the five hymns as the churches let out.

David is a gentle, patient, loving man. He and Galen are such world travelers, so much that Galen learned French to facilitate visits to France.

The four of us walked around the East Village, popped into the Iowa State Historical Museum, and as fate would have it, there was a special Al Bell exhibit going on.

If you were an Iowa school child during the years 1949 to 1979, you need no introduction to Al BellAl was a globe-trotter extraodinaire traveling to all kinds of exotic locals. Then he'd come home to Iowa and give talks and show movies to auditoriums full of school children all over the state.

Galen was delighted, and David had already heard so much about Al that even he was pleased. Galen said that Al was a great inspiration to him, and he's certainly done his best to follow in Al's globe-trotting shoes!

David (left) and Galen in front of a quilt of all of Iowa's 99 counties.

After the historical building, we trekked up to the State Capitol followed by lunch at the little Greek restaurant in the EV.

A column rising up toward the dome at the State Capitol.

David and Galen in the law library at the State Capitol.

Galen generously brought two trombones with him for Paul, both of which were horns he played. One is a really fine student horn that Paul will give to just the right up and coming student player as is Galen's wish, and the other is a vintage horn made sometime between 1917 and 1930 that was Galen's grandfather’s before it was his dad’s before it was his!!! It's gorgeous with ornate engraving all over the bell, and it has a lovely tone. Paul gets to continue the tradition of playing it, and is so honored to do so!

As soon as Galen and David were on their way northwest, Paul had to jump in the van and drive to Greenfield for a sound check and gig with Hot Rod Chevy Kevy.


And now.

Which brings us fill circle back to Sunday when Paul first had rehearsal for Music Under the Stars at 3:00 in the afternoon followed by the performance at 7:00. You can imagine, he was a tuckered out guy by the time he was able to close his eyes at 5:30 AM! 

BTW, if you live in central Iowa, MUTS is a great free event. Bring a lawn chair or a blanket, a snack or two if you wish, sit on the State Capitol grounds and enjoy concert and big band music. Next week Tina Haase Findlay is featured, and she's awesome.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Unlikely friends

"If having a soul means being able to feel love and loyalty and gratitude, then animals are better off than a lot of humans." — James Herriot 

THIS is a video that Paul found. It's not possible to not feel love and joy when you watch it.


Saturday, June 14, 2014


"If you let Americans do their thing, there is no scarcity, right? They said we're going to run out of food 200 years ago, and then we're going to have another ice age. Now it's, we're heating up,” — David Brat, Virginia Congressional candidate and climate-change denier 

AS THOSE of you who follow American politics already know, there was a big upset on the Republican primary ticket in the 7th congressional district in Virginia. Unknown Tea Partier David Brat defeated current House majority leader Eric Cantor.

The forensic postmortems started before the results were official. Here are a couple of takes on it: the first by one of my favorite New York Times columnists, Gail Collins, and the other by the NYT Editorial Board. I thought you might find them interesting.

Unfortunately Iowa has its own wackadoodle candidate in Joni Ernst. Steve King and her? It's embarrassing.

I guess they did! The question is: will we be saddled with someone
even more detrimental? Please save us, Virginia voters!
We'll try to do our job here in Iowa.

Putting a Cap on Cantor
Why Did Eric Cantor Lose in Virginia?
Gail Collins
June 11, 2014

Pardon me. I’m having trouble getting my thoughts together today. I’m so upset about Eric Cantor.

Yes! The House majority leader was tossed out of office Tuesday in an apocalyptic, stunning, incredible earthquake of an election in Virginia that has left the nation absolutely floored in shock.

“This is a 10 on the political Richter scale,” announced Representative Steve Israel, the chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. The Democrats were sort of gleeful about the whole situation, to tell the truth.

Cantor was beaten — trounced, really — by David Brat, an economics professor at Randolph-Macon College, who had no money and so little name recognition it’s possible that Cantor himself could not have picked him out in a crowd.

What could have happened? Was it Tea Party rage that sent nearly 14 percent of the eligible voters in Virginia’s 7th congressional district stampeding to the polls, delivering a message that shook the nation to its core? Or was it something personal? Cantor’s not the most charismatic guy in the universe. Do you think his constituents sensed that he was spending election morning in a D.C. Starbucks, at what The Washington Post described as a “monthly meeting with large donors and lobbyists?”

Americans always get a little kick out of David and Goliath stories, even if — as in this case — David turns out to be a pet of right-wing commentators, who ran on a “no amnesty!” platform. We don’t actually know a whole lot more about Brat at this point. His hobby is “pickleball,” which is apparently a mixture of badminton, tennis and Ping-Pong. It sounds very interesting, although not as much as Paul Ryan’s hobby of walking along a stream and trying to grab catfish by their throats.

The website for Brat’s candidacy noted that he served on Virginia’s Joint Advisory Board of Economists under two governors and claimed that everyone in the state comes to him for budgetary insight “knowing that he tested his rural values against the intellectual elite while at Princeton.” Actually, he went to Princeton Theological Seminary, which is an entirely different place. But at the moment, people are more fascinated by the fact that his entire election budget was $200,000, which is only slightly more than what Cantor’s campaign spent on steak dinners.

There are definitely some downsides to this development. Brat, who leads Randolph-Macon’s BB&T Moral Foundations of Capitalism program, once co-authored a paper on “The Moral Foundations in Ayn Rand,” and there is possibly nothing the nation needs less than a new Ayn Rand fan in Congress.

Also, we really do not need the Republicans in the House to become even more paranoid about a primary from the right. They’ve been nervous for a long time, but this is a whole new scenario. It’s the difference between worrying about burglars and hearing that a gopher in your neighbor’s backyard suddenly grew to be 6 feet long, broke down the door and ate all the furniture.

Cantor’s district in Virginia is heavily Republican, so the Democratic nominee — Jack Trammell, an associate sociology professor at Randolph-Macon College — is a long shot. But you never can tell. Brat could wind up being a terrible candidate. In one of his first interviews after the victory, he was asked for his position on raising the minimum wage and replied: “I don’t have a well-crafted response on that one.” Now, you could understand why a guy in his position wouldn’t have a detailed plan for what to do about Syria, but an economics professor who has spent the last several months telling people that he wants to help working-class America really ought to have thought this one out.

And, by the way, what do you think is going on with the faculty at Randolph-Macon College?

But the election comes later. Why do you think Cantor blew the primary? Many observers think he’d lost touch with his constituents. This comes up a lot in congressional races, but generally not with lawmakers who live within a two-hour drive of the Capitol.

Armed with a 26-to-1 cash advantage, Cantor apparently couldn’t resist introducing voters to his hitherto unknown opponent by running attack ads, howling about “Liberal College Professor David Brat” and featuring pictures of Democratic Gov. Tim Kaine, who was in office for part of the time that Brat was on the economic advisory board.

In Virginia, Democrats and independents are allowed to vote in the Republican primary. Maybe some of them saw the ads and thought: “Great! A liberal professor! And Tim Kaine was a great governor. At least he didn’t get indicted like the last one.”

Maybe not. But as the sun sinks on Eric Cantor, we have to reflect that one of the plusses to this story is that the House majority leader may have lost his seat because he made a mistake in presuming that Americans hate college professors more than professional politicians.

In G.O.P., Far Right Is Too Moderate
In Virginia, Eric Cantor Trounced by David Brat
JUNE 11, 2014

The forces of political nihilism not only remain alive and well within the Republican Party, but they are on the rise. Witness the way they shook Washington on Tuesday by removing from power Eric Cantor, the House majority leader, who had been one of the most implacable opponents to the reform of immigration, health care and taxation. His crime (in addition to complacent campaigning)? He was occasionally obliged, as a leader, to take a few minimalist steps toward governing, like raising the debt ceiling and ending a ruinous shutdown.

For that he was pilloried in his Virginia district by a little-known resident of the distant extremes, David Brat, whose most effective campaign tool was a photo showing Mr. Cantor standing next to President Obama. By falsely portraying the seven-term incumbent as just another compromiser, just another accommodationist to the power of big government, Mr. Brat managed the unimaginable feat of bringing down a majority leader in a primary, and by double digits.

“Cantor is the No. 1 cheerleader in Congress for amnesty,” Mr. Brat wrote in The Richmond Times-Dispatch on Friday. This is utter nonsense. More than anyone else in the House, including Speaker John Boehner, Mr. Cantor was responsible for the chamber’s refusal to vote on the Senate’s immigration bill. He personally refused to allow a vote on an amendment to give legal status to undocumented immigrants who serve in the military.

He did publicly muse about the possibility of a bill that would provide a path to citizenship for children brought to the country illegally, perhaps aware that the long-term future of the Republican Party requires the support of some Hispanic voters. But after voting down the real Dream Act in 2010, he never brought his own bill to the floor. He sent fliers around his district saying the “Obama-Reid plan to give illegal aliens amnesty” would ignore the rule of law and “reward people for illegal behavior.” He was nonetheless called “amnesty-addled” by one of Mr. Brat’s talk-radio surrogates.

Mr. Cantor did vote repeatedly to raise the debt ceiling, as Mr. Brat likes to point out in his most irresponsible smear. But Mr. Cantor is better remembered as the leader who, along with Mr. Boehner, openly encouraged the House Tea Party class of 2010 to begin a series of high-stakes debt standoffs with the White House that nearly plunged the country over the brink of default. Having unleashed the most destructive political impulses of his party, he finally fell victim to them.

Those impulses continue to batter the party around the country, producing candidates who are light-years from the mainstream. Chris McDaniel, who has a strong chance of winning the June 24 runoff for the Republican nomination to Mississippi’s Senate seat, was the first to sign a new anti-immigrant pledge not to grant amnesty and to prevent growth of legal immigration. Joni Ernst, the new Republican nominee for Iowa’s Senate seat, is anti-amnesty, hates the Clean Water Act, and wants private Social Security accounts.

Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, who won his primary on Tuesday, supports immigration reform but placated conservatives by regularly going on talk shows to bash Mr. Obama’s foreign policy and suggest the possibility of impeachment.

Mr. Brat will probably go to Congress next year, joining Republicans like these who will face a momentous choice for their party. Now that Mr. Cantor has agreed to step down, will he and other members of the leadership be replaced by even more divisive politicians determined to stage confrontations with the president at every juncture? Will they continue to ignore a stagnating economy, inadequate education and decaying cities? If they do, they will create an opening for Democrats. The majority of Americans remain appalled by this extremism and want better choices than the one in Virginia’s Seventh Congressional District.