B-Musings – Get Up, Stand Up Edition

12 01 2017

“B-Musings”… sharing random blurbiage and ping-pong balls rattling around my dome.  

The Purge – Every year, I make a conscious effort to trim down my Facebook Friends List. Not to be mean-spirited or anything like that… it just a process of cleaning up my timeline. It’s kind of a “new year” thang.

unfriendI tend to “friend” people haphazardly. If you reach out to me, and we have a few friends in common, I’ll usually make the connection. I’m always eager to expand my network. But once a year – usually in January – I trim down the list.

If I haven’t had any meaningful dialogue with someone in the past year, he/she gets whacked. That is my only requirement, except for people in my list who have passed on. If you die, we are friends forever. Weird, I know…

But this year I was forced to add some new criteria, mostly because of the heightened political atmosphere. Tough decisions were made, deleting some long time connections.‪ But at the end of the day, social media is supposed to be fun. Right?

So if we are no longer connected, some of the reasons are below:

  • Our morality differed… for example, I don’t make jokes about gun violence.
  • You bullied my other friends.
  • You repeatedly shared fake news or websites to further some agenda (whether I agree with that agenda or not).
  • You were a dick.

Doesn’t seem like much, but it added up to 159 people. Sorry… do better. Be nicer. Don’t be a dick.

Social media was invented to be fun. (Well… Facebook was actually invented so Zuckerberg could get laid. But that’s fun, right?)

We may not always see eye-to-eye, and if we disagree I always appreciate a good, respectful argument. So, I’m glad we are still friends… for now!

Feral MerylMy mail carrier is terrific. She is consistently on time, and knocks the door when delivering a package. She is always smiling and happy. But while she is very good at her job, her political views are not important to me.

nixonelvisI’m not a fan of celebrity. I respect and appreciate the talents of actors, musicians or sports figures, and anyone who excels in their chosen fields. Are you an expert on politics because you’ve won an Oscar, Emmy, Grammy or a Super Bowl? Um… no. I don’t tune in to a movie or sporting event to hear the news or political opinions. I’m escaping from that stuff.

Sports figures, especially coaches, hate when they are questioned about tactics or strategy. The general public knows nothing about the intricacies of their sport. So why should we care about your political views, Charles Barkley?

Meryl Streep is the best actress in history. Challenge that statement, I dare ya. So when she took the stage this week to accept a lifetime achievement award, I expected her usual funny and humble acceptance. And when she launched into her political speech I started to cringe.

Don’t get me wrong… I agree with every syllable of her speech. It was delivered beautifully, and it clearly resonated with the audience in the theater and around the world. Of course it did… she is the best actress on the planet reading from a very professionally written script. But I turned the TV on that night for entertainment, not a political speech.

I love you, Meryl. I agree with your statement. You deserve every acting award in the world, and I will continue to watch your movies. Now sit down and shut the fuck up.

You too, Scott Baio and Ted Nugent! (Trying to be fair…)

An Appreciation – I wrote these words last April: “At the end of the day, I want my President to represent our country positively and professionally, and be committed to keeping my family safe.”

fullsizerender-19For the past eight years, I’ve had that with Barack Obama.

I didn’t always agree with his policies. In fact, I sometimes disagreed strongly. But that is to be expected with the complexity of issues faced by a President.

But in January of 2009, he entered the office with so much raw energy, optimism and hope. He still has all of that, and a few more gray hairs. We pretty much knew he was a good man, and he proved it to us. Every day, he worked tirelessly for his country while facing unprecedented opposition and unfathomable hatred.

And for every minute of those eight years, President Obama and his family have represented our country with dignity and grace. History will determine if he was a good President – I think it will show him to be a great one.

Like many people, I’m scared for my country. But I won’t dwell on that.

Today, I’ll just thank the President of the United States for a job well done.

As with anything I write, I welcome your comments and spirited, respectful debate. 





Ten Fingerprints On My Imagination

31 10 2016
elvisme

EC, and some bald guy…

I’m always eager to offer opinions on my likes or dislikes in any conversation about music. If you are familiar with me at all, you know that I willing and ready to offer opinions on everything!

My range of musical preferences is wide. I’m a rock guy, especially the 80’s… but I like a lot of different genres from classical to some jazz to oldies to… whatever! But I do draw the line at country music… ugh.

But if asked about my favorite artist, the sun rises and sets on Elvis Costello.

I first heard his music in 1979 when my friend’s sister played the “This Year’s Model” cassette in her car, and I’ve been hooked ever since. No artist speaks to me with a clearer voice. I’ve purchased every record, and have searched and downloaded dozens of rare and live performances over the years. I have seen him live about thirty times, and met him in person at a book signing last year. THAT was a great night…

I love his music and songs, but not every one of them. I don’t think it possible to like everything someone produces over such a long career. I always say that while Elvis has taken his fans on a very varied musical journey for close to forty years, he’s really not concerned much whether we are enjoying the ride. But without exception, every record has some gem that keeps me coming back.

nashville

October 17, 2016 – Nashville

Elvis has been on my mind more than usual. I was on a business trip to Nashville recently, and was surprised to find out he was playing at the Ryman Auditorium that very night. All other planned activities ceased, and I was witness to a fabulous night of music. Completely unexpected, completely enjoyable.

Inspired by that night – and just for fun – I thought I would list my Top Ten Elvis Costello songs. I’ve attempted a similar list on this blog, so I will state the same caveat: The criteria is completely subjective. This is MY list. I’d love to hear your comments, and I hope you like my choices. If you don’t, go make your own… So there!

A quick message to fellow EC fanatics… I’m sure you will have additions and subtractions, and hopefully an appreciation of the difficulty producing a top ten list from the roughly one thousand songs that I have on my iPod.

My Top Ten Elvis Costello Songs (So Far):

10. Mystery Dance from My Aim Is True – I’ve attended several shows where this was the opening song. It starts with drums in concert, and guitar on the record. Would any other artist write and perform a song about sexual inexperience with such raw, frenetic energy

9. She from Notting Hill Soundtrack – Yeah, it not written by Elvis so quit yer bitchin’! Costello sometimes tries to round out his sharp edges by slowing things down and speaking with a softer tone. He doesn’t succeed very often, but he does with this beautiful love song. Strong lyrics that he makes his own, sung with so much heart.

8. Man Out Of Time from Imperial Bedroom – I remember Rolling Stone called this record a “masterpiece”. And at that point of his career it was exactly that, but just a small peek into how he would expand his musical reach. This is the best song of the fantastic bunch.

7. Shot With His Own Gun from Trust – In 1980 I traveled to Toronto for the New Wave Festival “Heatwave”. After a long day of great music, I got my first ever live glimpse of Elvis Costello and the Attractions. I’ll never forget the lone spot on Steve Nieve, then the second light on Elvis, and his announcement “Good evening, we are the Clash.” (who had cancelled the week before). After that, the opening bars of this song… I was hooked.

heatwave

6. Deep Dark Truthful Mirror from Spike – This song is when I figured out that Elvis Costello was more than a singer-songwriter… he was a poet. “One day you’re going to have to face a deep dark truthful mirror. And it’s going to tell you things that I still love you too much to say.” I’m not sure how I missed it for so long… I think the awareness may have coincided with maturity. But that realization of caused me to go back and rediscover so much of the lyrical magic of his catalog.

5. Brilliant Mistake from King Of America – It could be argued that this record was Elvis’ second masterpiece… a great of example of his eagerness to change, to try new things with new musicians. This song always reminded me of his road traveled, and all of us. Beautiful music, heartfelt singing, and pure poetry.

4. Big Tears from This Year’s Model (Bonus), Taking Liberties – I loved this song immediately. The production and mix was so clean, separating the drums and guitar. I loved it even more when I heard that Mick Jones from the Clash played lead guitar. I would have loved to have heard those conversations…

3. I Stand Accused from Get Happy!!Get Happy!! was Elvis’ fourth album in his first three years and contained twenty high energy pop classics… TWENTY!! This became my favorite Costello record, and that ranking still remains. The story goes that the recording sessions were madcap, alcohol-fueled affairs, and this song clearly captures that raw energy and unabashed fun.

2. How To Be Dumb from Mighty Like A Rose – Supposedly this song is Costello’s final response to the very unflattering book written by Attraction’s bass player Bruce Thomas. Have you ever walked away from an argument thinking you could have done better.. should have accused him of “masquerading as a pale powdered genius”! Elvis was early typecast as the angry, young man… to me, this was only the only song where he deserved that description. Is there such a thing as hateful genius?

1. Peace, Love and Understanding (What’s So Funny’Bout) from Armed Forces – So many reasons why this epic song lands at the top of my list. Yes, it’s a cover of a brilliant lyric by Nick Lowe, but Elvis Costello and the Attractions made it their own and set the stage for their tenure as one of the best touring band in the business. The song is a timeless message of optimism that still works today. The casual fan knows that Elvis closes almost every show with this gem, and I’m sure he wants to leave us with that optimism.

PLU is not just my favorite Elvis Costello song, but my favorite song by any artist. I play it a couple of times a week, especially when I need a little pick-me-up. At a show I raise my arms and jump out of my seat when the opening notes begin, and I dance, sing and pump my fists. Then, toward the end, I get sad because I know it’s the last song of the night. And I’ve shed a tear or two, for the realization that I don’t know when I will get to experience an Elvis show again.

I had the same feeling recently in Nashville, but as always that optimism returned quickly. I hope to spend another night with the King very soon.

>> Check out another one of my Top Ten Lists 





B-Musings – Pants On Fire Edition

18 04 2016

“B-Musings”… sharing random blurbiage and ping-pong balls rattling around my dome.  Haven’t done this in over a year, but it doesn’t mean my brain is resting peacefully.

liar_liar_pants_on_fireLiars – Not so long ago, calling someone a “liar” was one of the worst insults you could say. In this supercharged political season of today, it’s commonplace. Every presidential candidate has said  the “L” word frequently, certainly exacerbating a campaign that has been definitely not “presidential”.

It’s not just in politics, I’ve seen it occur in the workplace as well. I’m not sure what’s worse… the ease at which people wield this knife, or that the increased frequency of the sin that makes the accusation so normal. It’s just another subtle decline of our values, part of a larger landslide.

Beautifully Played – If you have read my blogs before or know anything about me personally, you are aware of my love for soccer. I watch, coach, live and love the beautiful game. I’m not writing this to expand my thoughts further on these feelings, but today I was reminded what the game is about for me.

the-beautiful-game-shirt-alt_grandeAs I said, I am a coach. For most of the last twenty years or so I have been involved in youth soccer. I’ve held several official and administrator roles at various times, but I’ve always been a coach. Sometimes I’ve been a good one, sometimes not so much. But I’ve always tried to teach my players to respect the game and their opponents. We don’t always win, but we try to play with integrity.

I knew going into my U-13 match this weekend that I would have some trouble fielding a team. Some players were sick, some had some family conflicts, etc. But we had the full eleven side and started the match. At halftime, one of my defenders had to leave to attend his lacrosse game. The opposing coach saw him leave and immediately took one of his players off the field.

I’ve been in this situation before… on both sides of the ball. What to do depends on many factors, and a somewhat meaningless spring soccer game made it easier to make the sides even. And he did that.

Sometimes in youth sports you see examples of adults behave badly because of a skewed sense of proprieties… not that day. It really doesn’t matter who won the match, and these kids all played beautifully. Clearly, I love this word…

It was a beautiful thing, on a beautiful day, and it’s all part of the beautiful game.

GeorgeClinton1Funkified – I’ve been feeling funky lately. No… not George Clinton Parliament Funkedelic funky, but I’m not above posting a picture of him to add some color to all your lives… you’re welcome!!

I’ve just been in a rut. I’ve been busy at work, travelling, more work, etc. I’ve also been distracted by many things, like politics and the unbelievable rise of Leicester City Football Club (that could be an entire blog post). So I haven’t been reading and writing much in the last couple of months.

Reading a book usually gets me out of these funks, and that simple act rescued me again over seven flights in the past two weeks. This time it really made me think, as I am reading the autobiography of my favorite artist – Elvis Costello.

To be honest… this is a good book, not a great one. If you are familiar with Costello’s career you know that he’s pretty much done whatever he wanted, sometimes risking success and certainly record sales. In this book he tells his story… the one he wants to tell. It is sometimes boring and sometimes exhilarating. The chapter stories are told randomly, without regard to his chronology.

I own every second of Elvis Costello’s published music, plus hours of concert stuff and radio shows. I’m guessing I’ve seen him live close to thirty times. He’s recorded about a thousands songs… I love some, I like some, and a few I don’t like at all.  But I always respected his commitment to be his own artist, and he always inspires me.

You are reading this now because this week, he inspired me to read and write… and get funky.

Turn the sound up and enjoy my favorite Elvis Costello song… and maybe ask that same question. Enjoy your day!





Go Raibh Maith Agat

28 11 2013

thankful4

“Go Raibh Maith Agat” is gaelic for Thank You. That’s for you, Mom… 

Just a few of things I’m thankful for today…

2013 has been a good year, thus far. I’m in a nice place in my life right now. Could I be happier? Of course… who would answer “no” to that question? But this year has been full of smiles, laughs, creativity and change. Many people had a big part in that, and I’m grateful.

I’m thankful for the creative people I’ve been fortunate enough to spend time with, and learn from. All of my marketing and social media friends – Chuck Hall, Lynette Young, Rick Toone, Jen April, Pat and Peggie Walsh, and Christina Kristofic. I’ve been amazed by the creativity of authors Dennis Tafoya, Jonathan Maberry and the members of the Philadelphia Liars Club.

My love for soccer has been enriched by the passion and creativity of others… John Whitesall, Mark Jenkinson, Kelly Christine Delaney, Kenny Hanson and Earl Gardner… and all of my fellow Sons of Ben. And I can’t forget PPL Section 110 friends Sean and Allison Malloy, and their son Declan… each match I’m thankful to see the love of the game through a child’s eye.

I’ve spent time with you all this past year, and am happy to count you as friends.

Friends go in and out of your life. I am rich with friends, but there is that close group. I used to say, “I don’t want to make new friends because I don’t have time to see the friends I have as much as I’d like.” Those people are my core… Laff, Ness, Dick, Nimh, Fluge, Chas and Helene. Last night proved… I’m at my best when I’m with you, your spouses and your families.

Sisters are a pain in the ass, and I don’t know what I would do without mine. Can’t wait to see you both today because “Ah… family. It’s what it’s all about.” Families named Taylor, Zlakowski, O’Hagan, Carr, Macowski, Cohen… sounds like the Eagles offensive line, and they provide protection too. They take care of me.

I have good boys. My oldest, John, has an unbridled enthusiasm for life and he is a fierce friend. He has great work ethic, and I’m so happy about how he is getting down to business and making things happen for himself. Colin is just starting out in his journey, and I know he will embrace his challenges with thought and good humor. He is the funniest person I know, with a smart understated wit and just the right amount of cynicism. Not sure where he gets it, because he has stated on numerous occasions that I’m not funny at all.

I’m proud of them both, every day. My Mom always said to me that “you are judged by the company you keep”. Both of my boys have made great choices there, fostering long and wonderful friendships. I’m an extremely fortunate Dad, because my sons are my friends.

No matter what happens in my day, my week, my life… I can always count on the best welcome when I walk in the door. Stan is the man…

All credit for these “three” boys goes to their Mom, who’s every decision is made with the well-being of her children in mind. I’m continually awed by the work she does with cancer patients everyday. Most amazing is that she puts up with my lunacy and I haven’t been tossed out on my ass… yet. And she makes me coffee. Sometimes…

bigstockphoto_Thanksgiving_Turkey_Face_3638124

Quickly… I’m also thankful for the wonderful craziness of Penn Emblem and ImprintsUSA, the brilliance of Elvis Costello, the hilarity of Kevin Smith and Ralph Garmin, the quirkiness of Sheldon Cooper, the energy of PPL Park, the community of Academy Sabres, the old friends from Bandon Drive, the tradition of Manchester United, the grapes on the Ryan High School vine, and for discovering the many wonders of Cape May.

I live in the City of Brotherly Love, and there is nowhere else I want to be. Everything I need is right here. I’m in a good place, because of all of you.

Happy Thanksgiving!





Music To My Ears

18 06 2013

parabol-1I’ve been bouncing this idea around for a couple of weeks.

As I noted in a previous post, I delight in all types of music. I’ve set out to do a Top Ten List of my favorite albums, but whittling down to ten favorites has proven to be an insurmountable task. Hard decisions had to be made. When you love these records as much as I do, it’s like choosing your favorite child… then throwing a few of them an honorable mention.

My criteria is completely subjective. This is MY list. I only count albums that I owned at some point in my life… so while you may have enjoyed the hell out of “Sing Along With Mitch Miller”, it ain’t making the list! These records are special to me for “whatever” reasons. It could be significant memories associated with the songs, the artist or the time. It may have been my introduction to an artist or genre. The entire album is on my iPod. I must listen to the songs in order. These albums are just damn good, in my humble opinion.

I’d love to hear your comments, and I hope you like this list. If you don’t, go make your own!! And I reserve the right to make changes/additions at any time. So there!

My Top 10 (+3) Favorite Albums are:

  1. The BeatlesMeet The Beatles – The first record I ever owned, a gift from my cousin Mary on a trip here from Belfast. I still have it, and can still smell the old tubes heating up on my parents record player every time I hear “I Saw Her Standing There”.
  2. Sex PistolsNever Mind The Bollocks, Here’s The Sex Pistols – Late 70’s popular music was a wasteland. Although conceived as a publicity stunt, and no one considers them musicians… the Sex Pistols changed my view of what music should and could be, and paved the way for a ton of artists. Like the next two on my list…
  3. The ClashLondon Calling – Beginning to end, an epic achievement by four punks who at that point weren’t on the American radar.
  4. Elvis Costello and The AttractionsGet Happy!! – My favorite record, by my all time favorite artist. Twenty high energy explosions, still smart and clever 30 years later.
  5. Bob DylanBlood On The Tracks – What can you say about a record that has “Tangled Up In Blue”, “Simple Twist of Fate”, “Shelter From The Storm” and “Idiot Wind”? All classics!
  6. Bob Marley and the WailersLegend – The album title says it all.
  7. Warren ZevonExcitable Boy – Simultaneously the most brilliant and frightening collections of songs I’d ever heard. I used to worry about this guy, now I just miss him.
  8. Johnny CashAt Folsom Prison – My earliest memory of Cash was how cool he was on TV… dressed in black, guitar slung around his back like a rifle. And my friend who had “Boy Named Sue” on 45 and we used to play it over and over to hear the curse word. I got the Folsom Prison record after the movie… awesome.
  9. Bruce SpringsteenBorn To Run – I still think of these songs every time I get on the Garden State Parkway going to the shore. “…what else can we do now? Except roll down the window and let the wind blow back your hair.”
  10. Peter FramptonFrampton Comes Alive – THE record in high school, dominating the radio stations. Saw that tour.
  11. Elton JohnCaptain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy – Definitely NOT part of that 70’s wasteland. My first concert ever, right after this record came out. Classic, smart, beginning to end.
  12. Midnight OilBlue Sky Mining – Enough energy to power a train. Smart, fun, meaningful. Midnight Oil’s diamond, and they had many shining moments.
  13. SqueezeArgy Bargy – Can’t exclude these guys, and hard to pick just one Squeeze record. So many great songs, but this is when I discovered them.

My many honorable mentions, iPod alphabetical by artist…

10,000 Maniacs – In My Tribe, The A’s – The A’s, Alice Cooper – Welcome To My Nightmare, The Beatles – Abbey Road, Billy Joel – The Stranger, Bob Dylan – Desire, Boomtown Rats – The Fine Art Of Surfacing, The Cars – The Cars, Counting Crows – August and Everything After, Elvis Costello – King of America, My Aim Is True, Graham Parker and The Rumour – Squeezing Out Sparks, Joe Jackson – I’m The Man, Kiss – Alive, Louis Prima – The Wildest, Paul McArtney and Wings – Wings Over America, The Police – Outlandos D’Amour, Pretenders – Pretenders, Prince – 1999, Queen – A Day At The Races, A Night At The Opera, R.E.M – Murmur, Ray Charles – The Best of Ray Charles, The Atlantic Years, Rolling Stones – Some Girls, Simple Minds – Once Upon A Time, Squeeze – East Side Story, Steve Forbert – Jackrabbit Slim, Supertramp – Breakfast In America, Talking Heads – Talking Heads ’77, They Might Be Giants – Flood, Thomas Dolby – The Golden Age of Wireless, Tom Petty and The Heatbreakers – Damn The Torpedoes, U2 – Boy, Rattle and Hum, The Wallflowers – Bringing Down The Horse