Fractious times

October 20, 2017 Leave a comment

A Facebook post from a friend of mine got me thinking. Social media has been part of my professional life for over a decade now and it gives one pause to watch its effect on  the level of debate in the world, but especially that realm.

There have always been agenda bias. Cronkite was lefty, whatever. Growing up, my folks watched John Chancellor because he never got to excited in case they needed news naps (with five kids that was often) and wanted to know about the world through sleep osmosis. Well rested and informed is a good package.

The point of the post was to highlight how much information has become devalued, that we have become a nation that talks like we are all posting comments in a feedback thread. I can’t disagree at all. He’s correct. We have become a nation of ADHD when it comes to gossip. We aren’t informed as much as we are cast adrift in sea of scuttlebutt. Technology has made it possible for any potential information flood to come from any number of directions and at all times. The President came out against freedom of the press because he doesn’t like what they say about him. I guess he didn’t think about that part of the job.

As more and more avenues for potential information have appeared, the more lazy and scared we’ve gotten. Instead of seeking out information, we are looking more for what we want to hear, not what we need to know. It’s more than a little concerning that that is the primary goal of our executive branch.

We need to do more than that. Double standards are becoming wrote.  A favorite singer of mine once opined before starting a song that “Blind Faith in anything will get you killed.”

There is an awful lot of truth that as intolerance and ignorance grow.

There is an often repeated piece of video from Aaron Sorkin’s “The Newsroom” that speaks in a little Capra-esque way about the decline and it centers on how “we were informed.” We weren’t catered to, we were informed.

If you haven’t seen it, here ya go.

Now we deride and are derided. There are people who are okay with “Fake News” as a label for information they don’t like. Instead of fully resolving, we have become whining “what about-s?’ The current leadership has practically made that attention deficit policy. What we want to hear is drowning out what we need to hear.

The aforementioned Sorkin both enlightened and annoys me, but he does have a way with a phrase.

“I say these are fractious times, professionally, personally and socially…It seems to me that more and more we’ve come to expect less and less from each other and I want us to start bucking that trend. We need each other badly. ”

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Categories: Current events

Bullet the Blue Sky

October 6, 2017 Leave a comment

I still like heading out for live music. As I’ve gotten older, I prefer the smaller circumstances, but occasionally a big spectacle is a good thing. I was able to forget all that was bugging at me during a big U2 show a few weeks ago. There is a joy there that you can’t capture in many other places.

The horror of gun violence in Las Vegas had ruined that release for  countless number of people forever. The scope of it has all of us thinking more than just twice as any gathering is more and more clamped down. In recent days, news that the shooter was selecting what music festival to commit his actions is even more unsettling. I’m sure there is a stronger terminology for that, but it escapes me currently. All I know is that 58 music fans aren’t coming home from what was supposed to be a fun night out and countless others will never be the same.

Could anything have stopped that person once he got everything stuffed into that hotel room? Doubtful. I don’t blame the guns as it was the person doing the shooting, but to leave it at that alone seems irresponsible, especially with 58 dead and over 500 injured. It was terrorism, horrible, tragic and stomach churning all at once. That has to bother people in power if they have any kind of conscious at all.

Air Force One departs Las Vegas past the broken windows on the Mandalay Bay hotel, where shooter Stephen Paddock conducted his mass shooting along the Las Vegas Strip in Las Vegas, Nevada, U.S., October 4, 2017. REUTERS/Mike Blake – RC1585FEE8C0

No one is ever coming for your gun. I don’t want it. The last adminstration was accused of coming for your guns. They never were. Congress never was. I was shown around guns by folks who did have them and treated them with respect and care. I respect them enough to know that the one one I need is a super soaker. inaction on the part of our leaders just continues a cycle whose numbers are horrible tallies with no real end in sight.

Total bans aren’t likely to occur, but there are some workable notions out there that might reduce potential incidents. Can you completely eradicate? Again, probably not, but that doesn’t mean you don’t try to take some steps forward. The only risk is the NRA doesn’t contribute to your election coffers as much.

Courtesy of an actual thoughtful facebook discussion (there are such things, however rare, here are some actual notions that could help the cause

1) universal background checks.

2) close gun show loophole.

3) Allow the ATF to keep electronic records and study gun crime. They can’t make a database to track people who are buying lots of weapons. They have to work on paper and the chances of nipping a trouble spot or even seeing it disappear when you have to surf through reams of paper.

4) Quit gutting the ATF budget so that they can actually enforce the gun laws on the books.

5) Ban assault-style rifles.

6) Ban stock repeaters.

7) Increase mental health funding (instead of trying to gut it through all the failed repeal and replace votes and the new tax ‘reform’)

8) Reinstate the mental health checks for gun purchasing. You know, the one that Trump just repealed.

9.) Let the ATF enforce the laws on the books already.

These are all small steps that won’t really impact anybody in the populace and will keep most guns right where they currently reside. What they might do is slow down the possibility, make it a little harder for someone off their rocker individual to go picking off citizens. If they have to work a little harder, perhaps something evil can be averted.

It isn’t perfect, but it is something. When the only thing happening is the pointless assigning of blame, it’s a start.


A Good Walk Unspoiled

October 1, 2017 Leave a comment

A late summer day after the tourist season has closed can renew you, especially if you pick the right spot. For me, it was a hike across Goat Island in Niagara Falls. It is a lovely area and takes a lot of guff that it doesn’t deserve because of comparisons to all the building across the border, but I like it as is. Maybe its me

The walk on the three sisters island removes you from all the hub bub.

 

and It was refreshing too.

Niagara Falls has some fun parts, just have to look as there is nothing like a sudden 90 degree day to make the hurricane deck  at the Cave in the Winds feel forcefully invigorating, a truly fun day off.

You won’t even mind the flip flops.

I Will Follow

September 5, 2017 Leave a comment

So, a few buddhas of my youth have been touring on their laurels a bit. Both Bruce Springsteen and U2 celebrated or are celebrating albums from 30+ years ago. Initially I was of mixed emotions about this. Both are quite capable of putting out worthy brand new music and have new records in the can, but chose victory laps for highly regarded records from sometime in their past.

While initially I was in the “but the new record…” camp in both places, I’m shutting up. If a band can play like they mean it, I guess we should sit back and enjoy that. If the passion is there, it remains a sight to be seen. It’s our classical music. I mean nobody is upset that there isn’t any new Beethoven floating around.

When Bruce announced a tour to celebrate the 35th anniversary of the release of “The River,” I thought fine. The companion album of outtakes from one of the prolific periods of Bruce and E Street Band was a nice treasure and musically the band hasn’t lost a step. The steeple chasing spectaculars are definitely a bygone era for understandable reasons but these cats can play. The show wound up being a top to bottom playing of the River, an introductory outake and a mix of other stuff. I was fine with that. They were great. Treated myself to another show, and it was more historical as Springsteen released his autobiography. It’s a good book and again, hearing songs that don’t get much airplay get well played was great.

But….you get a little further away from new music.

I guess that is okay, as the group owes its fans nothing, having given their all for decades. Bruce’s upcoming Broadway (and likely West End) solo offering makes you think the end is in site, but you know he’s got more to say. The selfish fan hates to admit it, witness everybody calling into E Street radio to grouse. You hate to see the fear that the mass audience of the 80s might not be there be the reason. As the man himself said “what’s to be afraid about playing the new stuff? They’re not going to clap as much?”

I remember thinking, watching a show in Pittsburgh on this tour as Bruce and the band started “Incident on 57th Street,” that there was a noticeable increase in beer aisle activity. I thought if those philistines leave during “Incident” to get overpriced beer, they deserve to be stuck in line for the “Rosalita” that followed.

Stevie Nicks was quoted in Rolling Stone as not being interested in making a new Fleetwood Mac record because she is afraid nobody would buy it. I say if you have the muse, turn it loose.

This brings me to U2. I first saw them in 1983 on their tour for the “War” album. I “blame” their current tour on the success of the River tour. They are also celebrating a record I’ve purchased in many formats with “The Joshua Tree.” It is a great work. There is part of me that wants to go see them just so I can hear “One Tree Hill,” a long time favorite song of mine. They have always taken a long time between albums, so it was a little maddening that this victory lap was undertaken, but ever was it thus. A new record is coming. While I’m still deciding what I think of “The Blackout,” I’m happy they got a new record ready and when it is released, I’m sure I’ll snag a copy.

When Bruce puts out any of the finished records fans have heard about, I’d snarf that up as well.

People talk of nostalgia or greatest hits shows like they are bad things and I guess the shows shouldn’t be seen that way. Billy Joel tours regularly but hasn’t put out a new record in 20 years. Because he has such a vast catalog and plays like he means it, folks go to the show and have a grand time. I guess that would kind of be the point, wouldn’t it.

It’s our classical music to be sure. The seemingly endless supply of music related deaths over the past year or so makes a rock fan feel his mortality a little bit, that some of things that have always been there from when you first started looking in the racks at Twin Fair, National Record Mart, Cavages and the mighty Record Theatre are always going to be there in the mass quantities that they were. Even the music stores are going by the way side.

You feel your own musical mortality a bit as a rock fan when one of your heroes takes up a 12 week Broadway residency so he can go home each night. I can’t blame him. I just hope we meet again along E Street as Broadway is a little too pricey for this working stiff.

So hopefully U2 has a great show tomorrow, I’ll look forward to the bootleg, er, the download.

This Old Geek

July 19, 2017 Leave a comment

Ladies and Gentleman, boys and girls, Geeks got to explore. There is stuff that geeks gotta do. There are some worthy rambles to be taken.  That’s doesn’t immediately mean Comic-Con (not that there is anything wrong with that), but there other worlds to conquer.

There is a vast world of geekihood out there, that calls out to step away from your screens, and come look at ours. One of the things that music geeks (you know who you are, current downloaders, former gawkers at Carly Simon album covers while you listened to Zep or AC/DC over the record store sound system, thrift store rummagers,  the t shirts in your wardrobe that aren’t superhero laden) and make the pilgrimage to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland.

I mean the place is literally calling to one’s inner and outer geek. We are all collectors in some fashion, be it comics, dvds, blue rays, what have you and if you schlep around the first few floors of the Hall of Fame, you can’t help but think you got in on somebody else’s treasures. You did.

Journey forth and be one with the music geeks, some of us, hell most of us are playing in these multiple dimensions. Okay, so you might not be a Springsteen acolyte, a Deadhead, but as that seer, sage, soothsayer Ice Cube notes: “Rock and Roll is a spirit.” There is so much to move the spirit inside these walls, even beyond the gift shop.(Photo: Author)

Regardless of your dispensation, part of your record collection is lurking in there, along the way, you will find some things that ought to be. You might a few bands that made you change the radio dial with manic like lightspeed, but there is also bands that you stayed in the car waiting for their song to finish on the radio. This was my second spin through the Hall, and just like rummaging through found comics or album covers, there is good stuff waiting to be checked out.

(Photo: Author)

(Photo: Author)

Prince wore this ensemble when he literally made his guitar gently weep in a tribute to George Harrison some years ago.

(Photo: Author)

Elvis’ chopper, presumably for leaving the building

(Photo: Author)

This is the B-3 organ that Gregg Allman played on stage for many years with the Allman Brothers.

(Photo: Author)

Springsteen, a longtime presence for me.

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(Photo: Author)

This piece of history literally speaks for itself(Photo: Author)

This is a pretty awesome site to see. Most of the artifacts can be found on the first two levels, the next two are lot of video and audio offerings including the Sirius Radio home and numerous theaters, all worth checking out. The main theater was dedicated to “The Power of Rock” an exhibit that runs into the fall. That show was a compilation of the best bits from performances of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Induction dinner, but there are some amazing legends to that voodoo we love em to do. The featured exhibit does change with some frequency so it is worth heading to the Hall’s site to have some heads up knowledge ahead of time (and to buy tickets ahead of time).

(Photo: Author)

(Photo: Author)

Lest you think geek worlds don’t collide, as my son and I walked passed the AC/DC exhibit, a young voice yelled out “Hey, the Iron Man song.” No, it didn’t come from either of us.

(Photo: Author)

Gotta go, I mean, what other museum will have action figures….Go, now.

Categories: Commentary, Music, travel Tags: , ,

Train in Vain

April 10, 2017 1 comment

I’ve been following the kerfluffle about a proposed new train station for Buffalo for sometime. I don’t have a real strong opinion about it as improvements are almost always good things and well, I finally have a good car. The current station is such a shack that it needs the Property Brothers to come to its aid or be replaced. There is a large amount of rail around the region that has been abandoned and forgotten about that you almost wonder if the fixings were possible to make the Metro rail more than the semi-straight line if we were fine with it going above ground more, but I digress. To call the current station a Fixer Upper would charitable.

It doesn’t exactly scream “Welcome to Buffalo.” It is such a hole that folks tend to wait in their cars and that was even before part of the ceiling gave way. The debate is interesting because there are positives and negatives to all sides in this. It leaves this semi-interested citizen hoping that reason wins the day. After watching Niagara Falls build a station and apparently then talk to Amtrak, I hope my city thinks thoroughly about where to drop much monies. I wasn’t really cognizant of the Exchange Street station until my daughter used Amtrak to get back and forth to school for a couple of years. When it was open, not many folks went in.

I don’t have any real strong opinions or preferences in that it doesn’t feel like we are looking to build the next Union Station or anything but you hope the folks who are signing off do what is actually best for the region, not just what is in vogue, popular or nostalgic or all of the above.

The popular talk centers on the old Central Terminal. I sort of liked that idea as it does reuse a building made for that very purpose and trains actually do still go by it. It might be a bit misnamed now as it isn’t central. My admittedly bleeding heart liberal inner-preservationist self would like to see it come to life and maybe give an economic engine to an area of the city that hasn’t one in years. But my pragmatic self thinks that it would need by in from our local transportation authority as a transportation center to make a go of it and I don’t think they are feeling it.

Other folks want to shove it into Canalside as that is an area enjoying on-going success. While I can appreciate that notion, I’m of a mindset that not everything needs to be shoved into the canalside area. It’s a recreation area, access to water, and generally working pretty well. The planned stage, merry-go-round, all good things. There is a museum going up soon as that is fine, leaving another plot of land to develop and somehow having the trains schlep on through there doesn’t work for me, not that it is up to me. You hope the area stays to true to experiences, letting Canalside be the spot for the good times (sort of makes it sounds like a casino). After all it wasn’t long ago that a youtube video taught folks how to find the place.

Again, not like Buffalo has a Grand Central Station coming, but you hope the committee is thinking ahead not just for right now. Let there be connections to taxi, buses, ride sharing with some place to park to pick up folks or drop off and things that get people to all parts of the city. Maybe a new facility should be put right where it currently stands, where all the taxi, buses, cars can get at them.

Wherever the landing place, it going to take some effort to get most local folks to not catch the train….in Depew.

Animal house

December 1, 2016 Leave a comment

Here’s some of the folks I worked with this year.

Categories: Animals
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