Friday, December 28, 2012

For the Lonely at Christmastime

Commercials showing happy couples may be enjoyable to most, but to some those ads sting. TV or movie scenes of people coming home to appreciative family and friends can warm the heart, unless you don't have that in your particular life. The classic cliché of kissing a loved one at the stroke of midnight on New Year's Eve is sweet, unless you don't have that special someone who'll let you kiss 'em.

For those who are lonely throughout the year, this season only sharpens the pain. What to do about it? Here are a few suggestions for your consideration:

First, God loves you, regardless of who you are or what you've done. That's not the same as His being your vending machine (which is a great topic for another time).

Second, you already have permission to love yourself. That's not to say you have clearance to do self-destructive things for your enjoyment. For example, I love to eat. If I eat a large pizza each day as part of "loving myself", that ain't love.

Third, I'd suspect each of us has something we like to do that is uplifting, that clears our heads, that has a positive effect in our lives. For me, getting outside in fresh air always clears my head. Going for a long drive can be exhilarating as well.

In any event, making active choices can lift one from those holiday doldrums. That act of choosing an uplifting opportunity doesn't depend on anyone else being around. Yep, you can choose a different path.

How do I know all this to be effective and true? Let's "ask" the late Levi Stubbs...

Friday, December 21, 2012

The Longest Night

No, this isn't the title of some comic book miniseries. Tonight, somewhere downtown, a bunch of folk will gather to remember the homeless who have passed away in 2012. It's a yearly observance. Other cities do similar:

I'm not saying this is a God-sent calling for my life. I do admit, I seem to relate to some on the street better than the "haves" I encounter.

Somebody should remember them.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Bob (not his real name)

I'm blessed to be retired. There is a measure of freedom that I appreciate.

One thing I do to stay involved is volunteer, serving the homeless. One guy in particular opened my eyes in a few areas. Let's call him "Bob".

He was about 6-foot tall, kinda lean (as you might expect), and had a goofy sense of humor. First time I met him, I said something silly and he responded as Moe Howard of the Three Stooges. I responded in kind as Curly, and it got sillier from that point forward.

From time to time, when I saw him, he'd have the shakes. I didn't know if it was Parkinson's or some other condition.

In the months to come, we got a chance to talk about many things, some serious and others light-hearted. He opened my eyes to life on the street. I had no idea the nature of the dangers after dark on the streets. More than once, Bob would tell me about some guy who got into a fight in the wee hours of the morning. Also, when Bob described the level of savagery, I was shocked. Also, there was a lot of theft between folks, which would also set off fights and arguments.

I can't say we were friends in the classic sense. I never even knew his last name. But, we had started to get to know each other enough to have in-depth, real conversations on a wider circle of topics. He helped me grow in new ways.

In my limited exposure to that society, I initially held the impression it was a loose-knit type of communal environment. It was a lot more dog-eat-dog that I'd ever considered. Bob mentioned several incidents where  some guy jumped him, and left him bruised. A couple of times, Bob ended up in the hospital to recover.

One Thursday in mid-October, Bob and I talked about the coming winter and his provisions for staying warm and dry. He also mentioned that a few nights before, he had awakened to a larger guy pummelling him around the head and shoulders. Bob wasn't visibly bruised, and not necessarily emotionally shaken. He seemed more resigned to the fact that such acts were part and parcel of life on the street.

The following week, as I was starting to set up, another homeless guy came up to me and asked "you heard about Bob, right?" The guy went on to tell me several guys took turns beating on Bob late one night, for reasons unknown. Apparently, during a pause in the assault Bob crawled away from the scene of the attack to a nearby point of concealment in an attempt to prevent a follow-on attack.

Bob's body was found at sunrise.

In the days that followed, I scanned the local paper for a mention, maybe an obituary. Nothing. Week after week, no mention.

I realize some murders capture the community's attention in a sudden way. Others may be noted, but the story soon fades. Some get ignored. I don't know if the local police are in the midst of investigating, or if they are stymied by lack of leads. This is not to disparage their efforts to keep the streets safe.

To think that Bob died alone on some downtown street, by the hand of others, and has been all but forgotten is heartbreaking.

Life is such a gift. There are so many signs around us that reveal just how much we've forgotten that fact.

The take-away I offer is this: take the time to consider what your existence means. What does your life symbolize? What do you stand for?

P.S., in mid-November, I got word that a different homeless guy I know (let's call him Carl) also suffered an attack from a group of guys, apparently just because.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Q: "Where you been, old dude?"

A: Procrastinating, mostly.

Don't mind admitting, after the Aurora, CO shooting this summer, I did wonder "who cares about what movie you watched or what tune you heard?" Some of the stuff I wanted to post seemed pretty shallow.

So, we go from Aurora to shootings in Texas, Wisconsin and now Connecticut in a matter of months. People all over are asking "what can we do differently to prevent this in the future?" or "how do we explain it to our kids?"

I wish I had answers.

I do have a few thoughts, though. One, let's stop with the "we never thought it would happen in this neighborhood" mindset. The proof has been long evident that this kind of horrific attack can happen anywhere.

Let's also stop with the "he didn't seem like the kind of person to do this" view. Any of us are capable of great evil in a specific circumstance.

You want to explain it to your kids? Tell 'em evil has always been a part of life on earth. Tell 'em not to add to the evil that exists. Tell 'em the value of every life.

My bigger concern is "why do so many people feel that when they are hurting, it's appropriate to inflict hurt on innocents?" As much of a opinionated windbag as I am, I can't get my head around this fact. When did this perspective seemingly explode and pollinate virtually every corner of the globe?

Am I advocating increased gun control? No.

I advocate for increased "people control". In our society, we need to change the nature of discourse. I don't think we're asking the right questions. I was talking with some friends yesterday, and we all agreed that hearts need to change. The sanctity of life needs to be reaffirmed. Our approaches dealing with mental disorders or even personal challenges need to be re-evaluated.

Will I post about movies, music and other goofy stuff in the future? Yep. But, I can't shake this feeling that with all we have in this nation, we are falling apart faster than most are willing to admit.

Part of the recovery after heartbreak or tragedy is the desire to re-connect with some semblance of normalcy. It's tough, but we are compelled to pick up the pieces and go on.

See ya somewhere down the road...

Sunday, July 15, 2012

What's on my iPod - "Don't Stop Me Now" by Toto

Number seven of my ten favorite Toto songs is the instrumental "Don't Stop Me Now"

Lyrics - 

Off the "Fahrenheit" album from 1986 is this gem of a track.  Miles Davis lends his legendary trumpet skill to the track.  Miles Davis!  When I saw his name on the liner notes, I thought it was some gag, or maybe some studio sampling thing.  But, it was no joke, the man was present & gettin' it done.

Lukather and Paich are credited as co-writers.  A mellow groove guitar lick leads off, followed by piano and a light jazzy touch on drums.  Then, Davis rolls in.  He really "takes his time", his notes floating in and out of the arrangement.  After verses and chorus, Davis takes the outro solo, with a little "scat"-style free form piece.  It was a neat close to a brilliant track.

This track sets a great mood - it evokes images of "after six", formal nights out, great company and great times.  It's classy and not rushed at all.  Fans of Davis' work would not consider this out of place in his catalog.  It was a great collaboration.  

The band's history of extensive studio work and resultant work relationships made team-ups like this possible.  It's a big part of why I am such a big fan.  You can't predict what any given Toto album is gonna sound like. Their work isn't stale or pre-conceived.

Next time, number 6 - "These Chains"

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Happy Bastille Day

...and it's my birthday, as well.

Admittedly, I'm not the strongest Francophile.  I've flown over France a few times, and have watched "The Three Musketeers".  I've read a bit on the overthrowing of the Bastille and the resultant changes in French governance and society.  Now that I'm retired, I have time to perhaps dig in more into French language, culture, etc.

Mostly, 14 July is a chance for me to eat pie and ice cream with no guilt.  Now that I'm solidly in middle-age, I can't consume the cake and other fun stuff as much as I like.  Today, I can.

Having said that, for the folks in France and other areas celebrating today, Vive le France!  Vive le Republique!

What's on my iPod - "Bottom of Your Soul" by Toto

As my list of favorite Toto songs marches on, number eight is "Bottom of Your Soul".

Lyrics -

This song is from the 2006 release "Falling In Between".  This is the most recent studio release by the band (as of this posting).  While this album didn't get across-the-board supportive reviews, there are interesting ideas all over the ten songs.

David Paich is credited as this song's writer, with Steve Lukather and Joseph Williams sharing lead vocal duties. The lyrics are a call to the listener to raise awareness to the troubles and suffering around the world.  

Percussion starts this one, with longtime Toto ally Lenny Castro making a great contribution. Greg Phillinganes, who had been playing with the band for a while before this release, fits seamlessly with expert piano and smooth backing vocals.  Bassist Mike Porcaro shows his usual deft touch teaming with drummer Simon Phillips nailing the rhythm section.  Also, listen for backing vocals from Chicago bassist Jason Scheff.  

This track got a bit of attention when the album was released, but not enough to chart. The folks at gave the track a highly favorable review, and strongly supported the album overall.  

This album was a great summation of all the skills and techniques the band has learned over decades of playing and composing.  This may very well be the band's last studio album - if so, it's a superb closing statement. This song is a high point of the album.

Next time, number 7 - "Don't Stop Me Now"

Thursday, July 12, 2012

My novel - second update

I've incorporated red pen-and-ink changes.  Three friends graciously offered to "peer review" it.  I eagerly await their candid inputs.

Goal is to self-publish late summer/early fall.  We'll see...

Old Dude, Old Movies - "Stormy Weather"

This 1943 release starred Bill "Bojangles" Robinson, Lena Horne and Dooley Wilson, along with a host of top African-American entertainers from that era.

This is an amazing presentation of talent.  Given the social mores of the time, too many people missed out on a treasure.

Like most musicals of that time, the plot was just a vehicle to get the stars on screen, doing what they do best.  Mae E. Johnson, singing "I Lost My Sugar in Salt Lake City".  The Nicholas Brothers, dancing up a storm.  Horne, singing the title number, a tune that would become her signature song.  Fats Waller and Cab Calloway make solid contributions as well.

This movie is one of the best musicals ever made.  I'd strongly recommend it to anyone.  Seek it out; it's worth it.

What's on my iPod - "Goodbye, Elenore" by Toto

In my ongoing listing of my ten favorite Toto songs, "Goodbye, Elenore" is number nine.

Lyrics -

This song is from the 1981 release "Turn Back", the third studio album from the group.  After "Hydra" (where you can find the single "99"), the band went in a different musical direction.  "Turn Back" was an attempt to do more arena rock-ish songs.  It was considered a commercial failure, but according to Wikipedia it sold 900K units.

David Paich is credited as writer, with Bobby Kimball handling lead vocal duties.  It starts with a drum roll, followed by a heavy guitar riff.  First verse has a guy trying to impress a girl he desires, while backing vocals echo her negative response.  Steve Lukather throws in a sung line of warning, then Kimball finishes the verse and heads off for the chorus.

Chorus is the admission that she doesn't feel the same way as the guy does.  She has broken his heart "for the last time", he declares.

Second verse is constructed similarly, but viewpoint now is our hero trying to convince his buddies of her worth, while the backing vocals' response is one of their collective disagreement.

The original lineup was present for this album, with David Hungate on bass.  Hungate's bass work was stylistically different from successor Mike Porcaro, but enjoyable nonetheless.  Hungate's rich, round tone fit well with this song.

Great drum fills from Jeff Porcaro, "dive bomber" runs by Lukather on guitar, intricate synths and keyboards by Paich and Steve Porcaro.  This song is a real roller-coaster ride of a tune.  Always brings a smile to my face whenever I play it.

Next time, number 8 - "Bottom of Your Soul"

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Old Dude, Old Movies - "The Petrified Forest"

This 1936 release starred Leslie Howard, Bette Davis and Humphrey Bogart. - this entry notes a couple of things that jumped out at me, noted by a  reviewer identified as "gmatcallahan"

First, the reviewer noted how the two African-American characters provided a great contrast on how black men were portrayed in movies at that time.  One was shown in a stereotypical subservient role, while the other was a wise-cracking equal with his peers.

The second thing the reviewer posted was the "colorful witticisms and engaging banter" throughout the picture.  I really like the script.

After many small roles, mostly as gangsters or swells, Bogart finally got a role he could sink his teeth into.  His Duke Mantee was a rough customer who knew he was doomed, but he had a romanticism under the cold surface.

I loved this movie, and would strongly recommend it.  It's on TCM now (as of 6pm MDT).

Thursday, July 5, 2012

FOSTER, playing Friday night in Colorado Springs

Foster is an up-and-coming local band, playing an infectious brand of alt-rock.  Their next gig is Friday, 6 July. - then click on "Calendar".  They're doing shows in support of their new EP, "Emerald Lights, Fast Cars".

News about the band can be found here:

Disclosure:  my son is the drummer.

Heroes just passing through

Yesterday, I visited with some friends for a little 4th of July cookout.  Just before sundown, I got a chance to see something neat.

My friends live along the route firefighters used as they headed out to fight the remnants of the Waldo Canyon fire.  Numerous residents along the route held up posters with encouraging messages.  Others applauded, waved and offered "thank yous".

The folks in the firefighting vehicles and staff trucks appreciated the attention and heartfelt encouragement.  Virtually all of them waved back, and some passed on a few words about their progress fighting the fire.

To see people sacrifice & put themselves at risk for their fellow man is encouraging.  Maybe there is hope for the future of mankind, after all.

What's on my iPod - "Right Part of Me" by Toto

Those who know me well know I am a huge Toto fan.  I've always enjoyed their musicianship and versatility.  Over the years, I've collected most of their releases.  I'll indulge in this space, listing my ten favorite releases by this exceptional band.  First up is number ten on my personal list.

Lyrics -

This song was a part of the "Toto XX" release, celebrating the band's 20th anniversary.  That disc was a compilation release of rarities, studio tracks, etc.  I found out about it in early '99, and ordered it off

The song was originally recorded in '84, but not released on any of their previous albums.  David Paich and Bobby Kimball are credited as co-songwriters, with Kimball singing the lead vocal.  Lush strings, piano in the forefront, sweet but short guitar solo, Jeff Porcaro on drums (R.I.P.).  It's a nicely done love song.  Don't know if it would have ever garnered radio airplay, but it's the type of song people would like if they heard it.

Next time, number 9 - "Goodbye, Elenore".

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Old Dude, Old Movies - "The Two Mrs. Carrolls"

First, a few things about me:

One, I'm retired.  Yep, done with work, thank God.  Two, I'm divorced.  Three, I am a bit of an insomniac.  

Since I have lots of free time & I don't sleep through every night, I find myself awake at weird hours. So, I dial up different movies and other shows previously recorded.

In this installment of O.D.O.M., is a movie I saw recently, "The Two Mrs. Carrolls" (1947), starring Humphrey Bogart and Barbara Stanwyck.


Overall, I liked the movie.  I am a huge Bogart fan, and post-Casablanca he delved into a wider variety of lead roles.  Here, he plays a villain, a bit driven and closed-off, possibly psychotic. Stanwyck was a versatile, highly capable lead actress.  In this movie, her character was more vulnerable than some of her more familiar roles.

A revelation was the young Ann Carter, as Bogart's daughter from his previous marriage.  She was very comfortable in front of the camera, and almost too self-possessed for one so young.

Alexis Smith, as Bogart's latest love interest, was luminous.  In her scenes with Bogart, she held her own quite nicely.  I enjoy her work, in this and other movies like "Hollywood Canteen" (where she had a cameo as herself).

One thing that struck me was how Bogart played the villain role.  While wooing Stanwyck's character in the beginning of the movie, he seemed more well-rounded, more human.  There was a connection between the two characters that seemed real.  As he proceeded, he seemed more one-dimensional.  In subsequent scenes, we get little explanation as to why his personality changed for the worse.  

As a non-critic movie buff, there are other roles of his I enjoyed more.  I would watch this movie again, though.

Happy Independence Day

Have a great one, and be careful out there.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Danger and bravery

Thank you to the firefighters, police and all others risking their lives to fight the Waldo Canyon fire.

I live east of Interstate 25, and have a clear view of the damage left in the fire's wake.  Following the story this week, I can't help but feel profound gratitude to all those fighting the fire & keeping the peace in the midst of this situation.

In addition, thank you to all those volunteers housing the evacuees, those donating food and other supplies, and those who are ministering to those who lost homes and other resources.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Saw "Taking the Hill" at church tonight

At my church, we have quite a few members of the military (along with families), veterans and retirees among our congregation.  Our pastor grew up in a military household, and has a heart for the troops.

Each year, around Memorial Day, we hold some sort of observance to recognize those who served as well as those who made the ultimate sacrifice in defense of our nation.

Tonight, we saw the film listed above - "Taking the Hill".  It's about four men who served together as Marines in Vietnam.  The point of the movie depicts how God's grace has helped each of these veterans put their lives back together.

I won't spoil it here, but if/when you have a moment, take the time and click on the link.  It's a powerful story.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

My novel - First update

I'm back.  Been out and about, and will fill in those details in a post soon.

However, I also want to use this space to provide updates on a novel I've drafted.  I don't want to go into a lot of detail here, but I will post progress reports in this space.

I am teaching myself to edit this thing.  Got out my red pen and everything.  It's gonna be fun.

For a useful resource, I bought a copy of Writer's Market "Guide to Getting Published", from the editors of Writer's Digest.  This resource is quite helpful, and the insight I've gained has been an encouragement.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Old dude watching old movies - #1, "The Enchanted Cottage"

I'm a big fan of Turner Classic Movies.  Some of the movies from the 1930s-1950s are an interesting view into life in this country at that time.  I really get a kick out of the World War II-era flicks.  The dialogue was sharp and witty, the guys were dapper in suits and fedoras, and the ladies were feminine and sharp-tongued.

From time to time, I will mention movies I like.  Some are well-known, while others may not have the same widespread appeal but are enjoyable nonetheless.

Last week, I recorded "The Enchanted Cottage", released in 1945.  Robert Young and Dorothy McGuire were the leads.  The picture is set around the time of World War II. It was a remake of a previous silent movie released in 1924.

You can go to the Internet Movie Database or Wikipedia to see all the details.

[Spoiler]  There are a few scenes that caught my attention.  One in particular was when Laura (McGuire) was working at a wartime "canteen", where troops soon to ship out wanted a last bit of dancing and dining with local girls.  Laura was in the kitchen doing dishes when the lady who hosted the canteen insisted Laura go out and mingle with the soldiers, sailors and marines present.  Being a rather homely girl, Laura reluctantly went out into the ballroom area.  At that moment, men and women were pairing off to dance.  To Laura's dismay, one by one several guys took a look at her and either went in another direction or (in one case) bent over and pretended to tie his shoe instead of approaching her for a dance or a chat.  The look on her face as she held back tears while grabbing her coat and hat to leave the canteen was heartbreaking.

The ending was an uplifting one, that showed how true love can change the way one looks at life.  True love isn't based on outer appearance.  I found this picture a pleasant surprise.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

What's on my iPod - "Lonely Boy"

This is intended to be an irregular series that touches on songs I hear, know and like (and maybe some I don't like so much).  There's over 1200 songs on my iPod on as of now (not to brag - just stating a fact).  Between that and SiriusXM, I get a chance to indulge my musical tastes whenever I want.

My tastes go from oldies, doo-wop, soul and R&B, "country AND western", gospel, 80s New Wave, disco (yeah, I said it), bits of metal and hip-hop.  So, when I post a SotD, you might find anything in this space.

From time to time, I will mention a song that caught my attention that day, compelled me to sing along, or simply brought a smile to my face when it came on.  This isn't meant as a scholarly deconstruction of the lyrics, arrangement, etc.  More so, this is just to share how it struck me or maybe how it became associated with a certain time or mood in my life.

Today - "Lonely Boy" by Andrew Gold.  It was a popular song during my senior year in high school (fall of '77).  It was performed by the same guy who was later known for the song "Thank You for Being a Friend", popularized by the sitcom "Golden Girls".

I have always loved the musicianship and arrangement.  According to Wikipedia, Kenny Edwards (who worked with Gold in the band Bryndle) played bass guitar on the track.  In addition, Linda Ronstadt sang backing vocals.  The roster of players on this track are a list of first-rate musicians, and their work shows in the polish of this track.

The percussion really drives a sense of poignancy with the lyrics.  The guitar and electric piano hearken the best of southern California 70s studio-craft pop music.

I know some folks who say the lyrics appear self-absorbed. For me, I miss the days of the confessional story-song.  In a way, it almost feels like a precursor to today's Twitter/Facebook environment.

Yeah, it is also one of those songs that make me wanna drive fast on the interstate.  But, given my recent history with traffic court, I have to learn to enjoy this song while driving at a slower speed.

Monday, April 30, 2012

I like sports

One of my favorite teams is the Memphis Grizzlies (NBA).  Memphis is the city of my birth, and it has had few pro-level sports teams over the years.

Sunday night, they were leading the Los Angeles Clippers by plenty, at home no less.  I went to sleep at the end of the 3rd quarter. What happened later was a collapse of epic proportions.  I wonder how the team will respond when game two tips off on Wednesday.
Why I blog...

On some level, I do this as an outlet.  It would be overly simple to say "I'm bored".  However, I have all sorts of things rattling around in my head.  This is a way to work that stuff out.

I plan to share thoughts.  I also plan to share progress towards publishing my first novel.  I will also attempt to post things I think are interesting, funny stuff I encounter, music I like, etc.

What I don't plan to post is inflammatory stuff, demeaning stuff, overtly gross/distasteful stuff.

Since I tend to not sleep through every night, I may from time to time post things during the wee hours of the night.

So, here goes.