Thursday, November 10, 2016

It's All You've Got

As this incredible election fades away in the rearview mirror, I feel I should mark time here. I know most people will stop reading right here because I mentioned "election," but there is something I feel I should say based on what I'm witnessing around me.

Social media has become a poisonous place, especially post-election. I am troubled that friendships are being destroyed and families have become divided over this election. Think about what we are doing to one another.

I know this is a Simple Simon idea, but there is one solitary truth that everyone should understand...

No one cares about you except your family and your friends. 

Believe it or not, Hillary Clinton really didn't give a damn about you. She wanted your vote. She had her own agenda.

Donald Trump doesn't give a damn about you. He wanted your vote. And he has his own agenda.

Yet, with limited time on planet earth, we are slashing each other's throats over two vile human beings who wanted just one thing: the most powerful office in the the world, the Presidency of the United States.

We should not be surprised of this violent post-election backlash. Both campaigns were founded on fear of the other candidate. Americans were pitted against one another. Both candidates were downright hateful to each other; it started at the top and trickled down to me and you. We should all take a moment to think about that.

We should be embarrassed.

The only way we can make this a better nation is to be better people. Be kind to each other. Be respectful to each other. We can agree to disagree; hate is not the answer. It starts with me and it starts with you.

I'm normally not a Polly Anna type, but there is no other option.

Believe it or not, the sun came up on November 9th. And you know what? Loved ones were still dying of cancer. Parents were still going through divorce. We still needed each other.

Friends and family: in the end, it's all you've got.

And that's all that really matters.

Saturday, November 5, 2016

My Mom's Favorite Sport

An unforgettable and historic World Series has come to a thrilling conclusion and somewhere up there, my mom is smiling.

My mom loved baseball. It was probably her favorite sport. In fact, the main reason I enjoy baseball to this day is because it reminds me of her. Of course, she loved the Minnesota Twins and when I was a kid, the Twins play-by-play was tuned in on our kitchen radio every summer evening (this was back when we only had one t.v. channel -- yes, only one! -- and it was very rare to be able to watch a regular season Twins game).

I am so thankful she was able to see the Twins win a World Series in 1987; she was absolutely thrilled. She had her favorite Twins sweatshirt which she wore all the time. I have just one picture of her wearing that shirt, but for the life of me I can't find it.

In fact, when my mom died unexpectedly on May 2, 1990, she was wearing that shirt.

I found this picture online. It is identical to my mom's favorite Twins shirt.
But here is a little known fact that has probably been long forgotten: my mom was also a Chicago Cubs fan.

The truth is, I probably would have forgotten this myself if it wasn't for the wonderful letters she wrote to me in the late 1980s (and yes, I kept them all). One of those letters contained a sentence which I remembered after all this time, and it was the reason I was pulling for the Cubs during this year's World Series.

I had to sort through dozens of pages to find it. It took a little while, but here it is, in my mom's handwriting:

The letter is dated October 10, 1989. She writes, "Vikes did pretty good didn't they? but my darn Cubbies got beat."

 I did a quick bit of research and this refers to the Chicago Cubs losing to the San Francisco Giants in Game 5 of the 1989 National League Championship Series on October 9, 1989.

Sadly, Mom passed away just seven months after writing this. She never got to see the Twins repeat another World Series championship, which happened just two years later.

And 27 years after writing this letter, my mom's Cubbies finally did it.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

My Pet Peeve

My "favorite" time of year is approaching. No, I'm not talking about the election, although heaven knows I will be glad when it's over.

I'm not talking about Halloween.

I'm talking, of course, about the nominations for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

This is truly my pet peeve.

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame makes me crazy. I've been critical of it for years because it is simply not done right. While the pretentious nominations committee have recently allowed fans a token online vote, in the end the committee will nominate who they darn well please.

In short, the nomination process is controlled by a small number of individuals -- most of them frustrated journalists -- who allow their own personal tastes and the smell of their own farts to get in the way of blatantly obvious choices.
For years I screamed at the Hall for their refusal to even place KISS on the nomination ballot. Forget the fact that no other American band has sold more gold records, and the fact that KISS's image has permeated our culture; their image and brand is iconic, yet it took the RRHF almost 20 years of eligibility* to nominate the band, finally feeling the pressure of millions of rock and roll fans who signed a grass roots petition to get the band on the ballot.

This also explains why the disco sensation Chic is up for their 11th nomination in 14 years of eligibility, while Def Leppard -- one of the best selling bands in rock and roll history and still selling out arenas around the world -- hasn't been nominated once in 12 years of eligibility. 

[*An artist is eligible for nomination 25 years after their debut album]

This year, as I look over the nominees, I see more of the same. Joan Baez and Tupac Shakur will be shoo-ins, even though neither played a note of rock and roll in their careers (because that's what the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is all about).

For the first time ever, Journey is nominated. My only question is why did it take 16 years of eligibility to finally get on the ballot? They have sold more than 90 million records worldwide, including fifteen Top 40 singles. Everyone in the world knows at least one Journey song. But I doubt they will be inducted simply because I think they should be.

The Cars are nominated for the second consecutive year. This is another band snubbed for far too long.

Electric Light Orchestra, Depeche Mode, Jane's Addiction, Pearl Jam, and Steppenwolf round out the remaining major names up for nomination.

I am guessing Pearl Jam will most likely be nominated from this group. Don't get me wrong, I like Pearl Jam. But there are so many artists that deserve to get in before them.

Now, I'm not one to complain unless I have a solution to the problem. If I was in charge, there would be four artists who would be immediately inducted. So how would I do it?

Not everyone knows who Dick Dale is, but that doesn't mean he doesn't belong front and center in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. He is the inventor of surf music; he was the first guitarist to experiment with reverb and effects on record. Jimi Hendrix and Eddie Van Halen both credited him as a major influence. Without Dick Dale, there would have been no Beach Boys and no Jan and Dean.

It would be wonderful to see Dale inducted while he's still alive (he's 79 years old and still playing live gigs), but I doubt the majority of the pompous twits sitting on the Hall nominating committee have even heard of him. He has been eligible for induction for 30 years and he's never been nominated. Get him in.

Willie Mae "Big Mama" Thornton
How about the Big Mama Thornton? Her "Hound Dog" and "Ball 'n' Chain," were massively influential on youngsters like Elvis Presley and Janis Joplin. This pioneer's vocal style was imitated by thousands of young, would-be rock stars. Ironically, the RRHF itself is on record saying "Ball 'n' Chain" is one of the most influential songs in rock and roll history, yet she's never been nominated. Get her in.

The Godmother of Rock and Roll
Speaking of pioneers, Sister Rosetta Tharpe is called the "Godmother of Rock and Roll." She was studied and imitated by Chuck Berry, Little Richard and Jerry Lee Lewis. In fact, during his induction speech at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Johnny Cash said Tharpe was his favorite singer when he was growing up. Her influence in rock and roll is incalculable.

And yet, she's never been nominated. Get her in.

It is unreal to me that the Madman of Rock and Roll is not in the Hall of Fame. While Black Sabbath was inducted in 2006, Ozzy Osbourne as a solo act has been continuously snubbed. He is the embodiment of rock and roll excess and has done more to, er, "promote" the image of a rock star than anyone else on the planet. Yet he's never been nominated. Get him in.

How about Harry Nilsson? Jim Croce? New York Dolls? T. Rex? Thin Lizzy? Pat Benatar? Are you kidding? All of these artists were so influential, so groundbreaking, but they don't even get a whiff.

So that's why I grit my teeth this time of year. The presidential election will come and go but the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame will be a pain in my ass for years to come.