out of the blue

political and social comments sent screaming into the void

Contest with cool prizes — 24 October 2015

Contest with cool prizes

You link, you get more chances. So I am…


The mortality of heroes — 28 June 2015

The mortality of heroes


Our heroes are usually older than we are. And one of the things about life is, we have to watch them age and die. I wonder if that’s designed to prepare us for our own deaths.

Thinking about aging rockers — the Beatles, the Stones, CSNY — they’re older than I am. They’re still creating, still performing. But they’re slowing down, changing. In some ways, they look like old guys acting like kids — foolishly strutting around saying “Watch me!”.

Part of me thinks “Act your age for God’s sake.”

But then you tap into the joy that doing what you love radiates — the pleasure you bring to those around you, especially to those who love you. And foolishness becomes a shallow judgment. The depth is in the commitment, the love, the joy of creation, and the way it can touch the people who care.

There will always be those who say, “Act your age for God’s sake.” But they are not the people who matter. They have their own heroes who will fade and eventually die.

The rest of us want our heroes to go on as long as they can, to bring their cleverness, passion, creativity to us as long as possible. We feed on their generosity (and feed them with our attention and our love).

Yes, it’s sad to watch them age, especially as it mirrors our own. But it’s wonderful to have them around as long as they’re willing and able to be around. And they are models, in that way, for ourselves.

If we can learn to stay in the zone, bring our talents to those who admire us, bring our love to the world, and keep being engaged, we’ll have great lives and be at peace when our time comes.

Rock on, boys.

Nuclear energy: Squeezed from both sides and unsustainable — 6 November 2011

Nuclear energy: Squeezed from both sides and unsustainable

Our friend Andy Mannle recently wrote a piece for HuffPo that takes a look at the hard reality of nuclear energy as a possible replacement for the coal and oil that’s been heating up our planet and making our air less breathable.

While nuclear has long been touted by its supporters as a viable alternative that will help clean up our air and reduce carbon emissions, here’s the harsh reality:

If the world goes nuclear, supplying half the power we need would require building a new plant every other day — forever.

Yep, you read that right. The full story is in the article, and it’s another reason why we simply must focus on renewable energy. The costs — both in the risk to people’s lives and in terms of the actual outlay of funds required — are simply too great.

Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts! — 14 September 2011

Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts!

I think Elizabeth Warren is a breath of fresh air in the stale smokey back rooms of politics and financial shenanigans. And, really, is there much difference anymore?

Of all the public faces of the Obama administration, Warren was the one I felt best about. She actually stood up for the normal humans who have to deal with mortgage lenders and credit card companies. She is smart, articulate, funny, and real. Naturally, the Right wants to take her down.

Now that corporations are people, too, we can’t have some rogue like Liz roaming the halls of Congress.

But I say, “Yes, we can!” dammit. Maybe if enough of us regular folks get together to fend off the corporate takeover of government, Elizabeth Warren can become the next senator from Massachusetts. We’ll see. Worth a shot.

Fear and Drano — 25 September 2010

Fear and Drano

A friend forwarded one of those classic anxiety-provoking emails — the kind you are supposed to SEND TO EVERYONE ON YOUR MAILING LIST!!!!

No, it wasn’t the one about the latest virus that will chew up your hard drive and send your data to the Russian mafia. No, not the one about identity theft that you can avoid by turning off your electricity at the circuit breaker when you go to bed at night. No, not the one about the president being a socialist Kenyan whose jackbooted death panels are trying to kill your grandmother and make you pay for it with your own taxes. (Okay, I made those first two up.)

Nope, this one was about real bombs that real idiots can make with plastic bottles, Drano and a piece of aluminum foil. Some actual kids have lost actual fingers. So says Snopes.com, anyway.

The friend asked me what I thought about the email.  Here’s part of what I said:

I think people love scaring the shit out of other people. It gives them a sense of power and control over their otherwise powerless lives…  So they build stupid Drano bombs. Or they write panicky emails. Or they hold Tea Party rallies. Or they push conspiracy theories.

The internet is full of fearful people sending fearful information to all their friends.

We live in a world that seems to be driven by fear. And I think this is why. It gives the people who spread it control over us, And it makes them powerful. But it also gives us a focus for our anxiety.

The economy sucks. The future is wildly unpredictable. Everything  you thought you knew is wrong. And if you can focus that anxiety on something external, it helps you feel better.

We are such easy prey.

What I hope is that people stop worrying so much about minor problems and focus their anxiety on important ones: Climate change. Human rights. Funding education. Personally, as I told my friend,  I think the odds of my being blown up by a Drano bomb are pretty slim.

Why do we think the world is a TV show? — 1 January 2010

Why do we think the world is a TV show?

Hell. Maybe it is.

John McQuaid makes a good point in his article “The Jack Bauer Decade“. The series 24 both embodies and shapes the policies of a lot of people in international politics. And the character of Jack Bauer has become a “hero of the Right”.

I won’t reiterate McQuaid’s whole argument here. I know you guys can read. But I want to lift two salient excerpts:

What gave the “dark side” political force has nothing to do with its function as government policy. The allure of taking the gloves off is in setting aside and repudiating government policy — as well as broader ethical and moral constraints. Jack Bauer operates outside the rules because the rules themselves are a point of vulnerability that put us in danger. There is a kind of nihilism about government and democracy itself lurking just beneath the political discussion of these issues.

Let your agents go all Jack Bauer and they might kill a few terrorists. But there’s going to be excesses, collateral damage, disastrous mistakes. And no accountability. In the movies or TV, such inconvenient fallout is airbrushed out. Not in real life. Conservatives take note: that’s how bureaucracies work.

This combative, revenge-driven attitude pervades our politics and our lives.

Being nasty has become acceptable and certainly entertaining. Angry, snide remarks pop up everywhere, from Fox News to Comedy Central to MSNBC to C-SPAN. Want to get read on Twitter? Say something mean. Take revenge. Get ’em back.

Don’t agree with Obama? Paint a Hitler mustache on him. Scream “You lie” at him during his address to congress. That’s what Jack Bauer would do.

Somehow, we need to get around this and get back to talking to each other. The ridiculous process The Party of No went through with the Party of WTF in “crafting” healthcare reform makes us end up with lousy laws and nobody’s real interests addressed.

This isn’t TV, boys and girls. Can’t we talk intelligently?

Birthday Bash — 8 December 2009

Birthday Bash

My cousin Paul is the god of mix tapes and playlists. He put together hours of great stuff for my recent birthday party, and then posted a condensed version on his blog, Tasting Notes.

If I can figure out how to embed the list here, I will. Meanwhile, it’s well worth a click.

I thought I’d comment on each song, just so he knows I’m listening. 🙂

King Bee Well, okay. I certainly was one at my party Saturday night. Slim Harpo uses his high nasal buzz just right.

Greenback Dollar I’m not sure that I don’t give a damn about money, but I do understand a whaling song and a good guitar, I’ll give you that. And I did used to play this for Paul when he was about 9 and I was about 14.

One Note Samba Love me them sambas. Suddenly I’m poolside on Mad Men.

Hang On, Little Tomato Never heard it before now, but it must hearken back to our childhood somehow.

Barcelona One of my favorite cities in the world. Now with a touch of Woody Allen.

Sailing Whoa. Shades of my wedding to Nicki (Noah’s mom) in 1980 in Pensacola. It’s a beautiful song.

I Wanna Be Seduced Don’t we all? (Written by my good friend and co-harmonizer Gary Tigerman.)

The Sandman, The Brakeman Folk music was a big part of my childhood, and this is right there. Glad it’s coming back.

Little Red Rooster Did a lot of Stones songs as lead singer my high school band The Niche. And a lot of blues since. Perfect!

Sénégal Fast Food Paul Simon introduced us all to World Music, but my wife Patricia really got me into it. One of our first dates was a World Music concert hosted by Tom Schnabel of KCRW. I knew then I was in love.

My Babe Blues harp is fun to listen to, but even more fun to play. Little Walter is one of the classic greats.

Richard Cory Simon and Garfunkel were my inspiration and my idols, and they were still amazing at the Rock n Roll Hall of Fame 25th Anniversary Concert, where they sent chills through the audience. This takes me right back to my freshman year of college.

Djangology I took a class in the History of Jazz at UCLA and it opened my eyes and ears forever. Thank you, Paul Tanner, wherever you are, for showing us the wonders of Django Reinhardt.

It Takes a Lot to Laugh, It Takes a Train to Cry The Bob. What more need we say?

Dunmore Lassies I got to play with a professional Irish band at my brother Jeff’s 50th birthday party. I’ve always loved Celtic music. That night, though, is seared into my memory. I was awestruck.

Jolie Louise Powerful song by Daniel Lanois. Just learned to play it a few weeks ago!

Aganju I love Bebel Gilberto. Lots of inherited talent running in those lovely Brazilian veins. Did you know she was performing with daddy at Carnegie Hall at age nine?

Darling Patricia She is. The love of my life, the mother of my younger son, and the planner of my party. Talented, brilliant, centered, genuine, beautiful. I’m so lucky to have her in my life.

Soul Kitchen Cooking has been a big part of my life and of my history with Paul. If not gourmet dinners, then furry black puppies. (Ask him.) The Doors knew how to cook, too.

I Put My Trust in You We end it where we began. With the blues the way they should be played. But John Lee Hooker bemoans the trust he put in his friends. I’m thrilled to have trusted mine.

Paul, thank you for your friendship, your creativity and your passion. You rock.


Fear vs. hope? Can’t we ever talk? — 30 November 2009

Fear vs. hope? Can’t we ever talk?

It seems that each of us lives either in a world of fear, or in one built on possibilities. Once I got that through my skull, it all made sense.

We start out filled with hope. Anything is possible. Life is good. Change is fascinating and filled with options, with learning, with new people and new experiences.

As we age, we start to become more afraid. We learn that danger lurks in unexpected places. We have things to protect — property, a family, savings, a career, a reputation. And we discover how scary it is when things change. We see how vulnerable we are. We try hard to hold onto what we have, even if it means not risking, never dreaming. Continue reading

Pulp Friction — 16 November 2009

Pulp Friction

Joe and Barack deal with the Socialist Problem.
Apologies to Messrs. Tarantino, Travolta and Jackson

My son made this t-shirt for a friend over the weekend. (Yesss!!)

Click the photo to see it big.

To the Right: Think about who’s listening — 23 September 2009

To the Right: Think about who’s listening

Census worker Bill Sparkman found hanged in Kentucky
Census worker Bill Sparkman found hanged in Kentucky

Despite what Ronald Reagan claimed, the government is not our enemy; it’s us. We elect it. It attempts to provide what we’re looking for. If it doesn’t, we vote the bad guys out and try again. If we don’t do that, it’s our own fault and we get what we get. Eight years of George W. Bush, for example.

Continue reading

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