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.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

They Don't Care About Us

A chilly October morning. Fresh coffee is brewing. I have the day off. Here's what is on my mind today.

The presidential election is less than a month away and it can't come soon enough. I can barely bring myself to look at social media right now. Almost everything is politically charged; one person argues Clinton is horrible while another counters Trump is awful. Both sides are convinced their candidate can do no evil while the other is Lucifer incarnate.

Friends are getting upset with friends, brothers are fighting with sisters. Can we just stop?

Here's they way I look at it, and be mindful I claim to be neither Republican nor Democrat; in fact, I think a huge problem with American politics is the two party system (I will get to this later). This is a complicated nation; it is a melting pot of many religions, races, creeds and philosophies. I don't think we can be dumbed down to a simple two party system any longer. It's not the 1820's anymore.

I am also not a Rhodes scholar. I'm not a political scientist and I've never claimed to be the brightest bulb in the Christmas tree. But this is how I see this election:

Both candidates are embarrassing. Neither are good, decent people. In fact, most politicians aren't.

Hillary Clinton has probably slit more throats (in some cases literally) on her way to the presidential nomination than any other politician in U.S. history. She's bulldozed her way to the top without a single damn being given of the consequences. She's dishonest, spiteful and a hypocrite.

Meanwhile, Trump is less a politician and more of a businessman. He's shady. He's a predator. He's the definition of a creep. Why anyone in the Republican party thought he'd be the best candidate for President of the United States is beyond me. But money is power*. Unfortunately for the GOP, they've made their bed.

When we look back on this election, I am guessing the death rattle of the Trump campaign came when the Billy Bush tape was released, where Trump was bragging about trying to seduce a married woman, "I tried to fuck her..." (his quote, not mine). Regarding women, he claimed he can "grab 'em by the pussy," because he's "a star, they let you do that" (again, his quote, not mine).

Trump says he will continue to talk about Bill Clinton's infidelities if more tapes are leaked (which tells me there is more). I'm not sure why, though. I'm guessing Hillary Clinton couldn't care less about Bill's sex life at this point.

This was all dirty pool, however, because you know darn well these tapes were leaked by the Clinton campaign. In an odd twist, Billy Bush is an extended member of the Bush family. Both George Bush and George W. Bush have refused to endorse Trump's nomination, even though they are members of the same political party. As Arte Johnson used to say, "Verrrry interesting."

What bothered me is how Trump supporters responded to this latest controversy.

Trump apologists say, "but this happened 11 years ago!", as if Trump was still immature then (he was 59 years old) and he's all grown up now.

It was quickly pointed out that Bill Clinton did exactly the same thing while in the Oval Office (and before... and probably after) and Trump defenders say that Clinton was unfit to serve as President of the United States.

They are absolutely correct.

Here's the double standard: both of these pukes have the same pattern of predatory behavior, yet Trump is fit to serve as President, but Clinton was not?

Politics is a funny thing.

In the end, there are two massive problems with American politics and this is why it really does not matter who wins this presidential election:
  1. The two party system
  2. No term limits for members of Congress
You see, it will be politics as usual for the next four years. The graphic below illustrates my point. Click on it and look at it carefully. It names specific organizations and individuals. This is where the the decisions are made, decisions which effect you and me, in the unclean bowels of Washington D.C.

We the People need another choice. Don't simply give us choice A and choice B. Often, we are forced to choose between the lesser of two evils. Why should we settle for this? We need a viable choice C; a legitimate third party to rattle the complacent foundation of Washington D.C.

It's always been the same: politicians campaign and say what they need to say to get your vote.

We the People elect them and they go to Washington D.C. with their own agenda.

They reap the benefits of the highest bidding lobbyists. Said lobbyists then line that politician's coffer for the next election, and thus starts the cycle (because in politics, money is the lifeblood of any campaign*).

All the while, they enjoy free travel/amenities/healthcare on the People's dime and a pension that most Americans would give their right kidney for.

Don't believe me? These folks have made more than a career out of politics: John Conyers (52 years), Charles Rangel (46 years), Thad Cochran (44 years), Don Young (44 years), Patrick Leahy (41 years), Chuck Grassley (41 years), Ed Markey (40 years), Orrin Hatch (40 years), Barbara Mikulski (40 years), Richard Shelby (38 years), Jim Sensenbrenner (38 years).

All are still serving.

In fact, 77 members of Congress (57 in the House, 20 in the Senate -- look it up, I did) have been serving for at least 20 years. Familiarity breeds corruption. This is why it is always business as usual in D.C. This is why new ideas are frowned upon. This is why the game will never change.

And this is also why all of this mudslinging on social media is really a waste of everyone's time. Politicians do not care about you. You are a number. They only want your vote.

The only people who care about you are your family and your friends.

Be nice to them.

Saturday, October 8, 2016

Some Thoughts...

Today is my birthday. I came screaming into this world 47 years ago.

But one thing you will never hear me complain about is growing old. As the old saying goes, "Never complain about getting old; it is a privilege denied to many." I'm paraphrasing there... and I do not know who said it. But it is very true.

And I was reminded of this truth on Wednesday. My brother's soulmate, my sister-in-law, Kathy, passed away in the early morning hours of October 5th.

Kathy battled cancer for several years and she was a warrior. In August, she made the courageous decision to withdraw any further chemo treatments as they were making her incredibly ill. Her choice was to live the rest of her life on her terms, doing things she enjoyed, rather than spending her days in and out of hospitals with no quality of life.

She made this resolution knowing her time was short and she embraced every moment she had left. It was simply a measure of her bravery and faith. She did it her way and I don't think she ever knew what an inspiration she was to so many, certainly including me.

Kathy was one of the most selfless people I've ever known. She was always giving to others. She was extremely artistic and creative; in fact, just four weeks ago she gave my children a couple of craft projects she had made just for them. They adore these little works of art and they are proudly displayed in their bedrooms. They are treasures; made, given and received with love.

The photo below is one of my favorites. It was taken July 23, 2011 at Kathy and Bob's home. I call it the "three sisters-in-law." Kathy is in the middle. My sister-in-law Marilyn is in red and my wife, Beth, is in blue. We never got together as much as we wanted to and we always looked forward to enjoying each others company. I cherish these memories now more than ever.

This incredible woman will be laid to rest tomorrow, but it is not goodbye. Her grace, her spirit and her inspiration are immortal. Her memory lives on in every human being touched by her kindness and I think she would be thrilled to know that.

Kathy, you did good.

So these are my thoughts on this, my birthday, October 8th, 2016.

Make every single day count.