Four-Play (Week #1)

This new day finds me in a DJ mood… perhaps spurred by some lingering REM phase dream (re the radio career I never had)? Regardless of what may’ve motivated me… my blog experiment is to feature a four track long musical set per week per post… for the next 13 weeks.

Don’t expect any in depth musical analysis because I present the selections you hear here purely for the enjoyment of great music.

I do realize that tapping into my vast musical library can involve genres, which cannot possibly please all the people all the time. So… if today’s selections are not your “cup of tea”… do click back again… you never can tell what you’ll be listening to next week.

Blog response will act as my Arbitron / Nielsen “radio ratings”… so… do tell me if you like this week’s program.

Pink Martini – Let’s Never Stop Falling In Love

Jose Feliciano – Billie Jean

Papas Fritas – Way You Walk

Santana – Evil Ways

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The “To Die For” Lawn

Many of us have seen how amateur homeowners and professional groundskeepers, alike, have attained their manicured, “fine tooth combed” to perfection lawns… lush, verdant, crisply edged carpets where nearly every last damned, two inch, 90° angled blade of grass is standing tall… like countless battalions of soldiers.

This certainly is an impressive sight to behold. However…

The hazardous chemicals used to attain this breathtaking work of art can also, literally, take away our breath… as well as cause cancers… neurotoxicity / nervous system failure… liver and kidney damage… endocrine / hormonal imbalances… reproductive system disorders and birth defects… and last but not least… DEATH!!!

Let’s deconstruct the stages of this self-inflicted, life threatening, environmental devastation… step by step, closely examine how some gung-ho, herbicidal maniacs are forward marching into battle… engaging in their, take no prisoners, flat out war vs. weeds.

In the weeks leading up to the last snows of the season, the lawn care industry has already begun its annual advertising barrage… one designed to get the consumers to march in lockstep… EITHER by signing maintenance contracts with lawn care companies OR by doing it themselves by making a beeline over to their local retailers to buy, Buy, BUY megatons of these “weed and feed” concoctions.

Hard to say which is worse… the stench of this Madison Avenue, madman / adman brainwashing blitz or the actual miasma wafting off from the products, themselves. Let’s just call it close tie… a formidable, one-two, KO punch that can easily get everyone’s heads figuratively and literally spinning.

It matters not whether or not these overly impressionable, budding lawn farmers even bother to read the instructions printed out on the bags of this noxious crap. That’s because the manufacturers have led them down the garden path.

Indeed, they do deceive folks into the misguided belief that lawn chemicals are as safe as mothers’ milk. It’s about that time that another foolish adage kicks into high gear, namely, that “some is good more is better” nonsense. That ‘tude, shared by both sellers and buyers can only make a bad situation worse.

SIDEBAR #1: Folks, I am not making this stuff up. The results of my very first Bing search re the generic phrase “some is good more is better” offered up this article… right at the very top of the list.

So we’re stuck with greed driven capitalists who only care about (what else?) the corporate bottom line. Their goal #1 is to do whatever it takes to augment their fortunes and, unfortunately, in the process, degrade our environment. Ergo, in the end, these nasty, lawn care chemicals get indiscriminately dumped on lawns all across the “free” world.

SIDEBAR #2: I also speak from personal, frontline battlefield experience. On the frequent fitness / nature walks I go on, my own nose has made me aware of entire neighborhoods that stink so bad that I can smell them from half a mile away! If I don’t avoid these regions like poison, their poison will make my lungs constrict, stomach turn and head reel. And just because the human olfactory organs may not always detect fumes outside that danger zone, this does not mean the peril does not exist. To be sure, here, even fumes we cannot smell can (and do) do us bodily harm.

Once the application of these toxins has occurred, eventually, the heavy rains will roll in. That’s when these lawn chemicals work overtime to make the grass grow faster than metastasizing tumors. This deadly chemical mixture then runs off into the curbside, storm water catch basins and outward to underground water tables… as well as into streams, rivers, lakes and oceans… inevitably polluting our entire ecosystem.

Foraging animals wind up drinking this noxious swill and feeding upon unnaturally growing vegetation… the plants which have both flourished and been poisoned.

SIDEBAR #3: In the hours leading up to the day’s dawn I, personally, have seen with increasing frequency how herds of deer (displaced from their wilderness homes due to urban sprawl / the construction of human homes) are paying visits to our cities and suburbs… wandering by to graze on homeowners’, overloaded with lawn chemicals grass. Eventually, hunters shoot these deer and then serve up this poisoned flesh right on their own dinner tables. Need I even remind that these lawn chemicals are totally unfit for human consumption and are inconsistent to life itself?

By this time, the growing out of control grass requires the revving up of the lawnmowers… thereby saturating the air with unburnt petrol and the greenhouse gas, Carbon Dioxide. Any increase of CO2 eventually causes the grass to grow even faster… necessitating even more frequent mowing. A vicious cycle is born.

Around and around and around it goes and where / when it stops… nobody knows.

SIDEBAR #4: In my younger days, I was asthmatic and, although my symptoms have eased up thanks to a decade’s worth of allergy shot therapy, it is still not unusual for me to still feel a bit sick whenever I smell that combination of fresh cut grass / unburnt gas.

Of course, this frequent mowing schedule also causes the fragile blades of grass to turn sickly brown. Then in a pathetic panic, often the split second after these groundskeepers kill their lawnmower engines, that’s when they turn on the sprinklers… and then these oft poorly monitored, irrigation systems run and run and run… sometimes even during rainstorms! Collectively, they waste multimillions of gallons of our precious drinking water.

SIDEBAR #5: Whenever I see these out of control sprinklers I am reminded of these sobering facts: ONE BILLION people in our world have no access to safe drinking water. 5000 people drinking contaminated water die each day!

Since many of our ecological problems start with the use/abuse of lawn chemicals, I have to ask, what’s the big deal if a mixture of clover and other greenery grows amongst the blades of grass? After all, a more botanically heterogeneous lawn requires less mowing and watering so, even in times of drought, it’s less prone to withering and turning brown.

Beyond the global warming and the consequent catastrophic, violent climate change… beyond the perils to ALL life on Earth… the multimillions of bucks blown on gasoline used to run lawnmowers, sooner or later, wind up in the pockets of terrorist organizations.

Unless there’s a drastic attitude adjustment, all the life on Earth is doomed to die just to sate the lawn care industry’s greed… and the consumers’ lust… for the “to die for” lawn.

Musical Compositions “Decomposed”

The above clip aurally sums up a recent plagiarism lawsuit… the case where the estate of Spirit’s guitarist / songwriter, Randy Wolfe (a.k.a. Randy California) had claimed that, in 1971, Led Zeppelin’s “Stairway to Heaven” composers  Robert Plant & Jimmy Page had ripped off the guitar riff to Wolfe’s 1968 instrumental song, “Taurus”. Well, yesterday, a jury settled the matter in favour of Led Zeppelin… and I’m not totally convinced they decided correctly.

In this next clip, guitarist TJR, further showcases these two songs, practically “decomposing” them down to their atomic structure. He also demonstrates the similarities between Zeppelin’s “Babe I’m Gonna Leave You” and Beatle George Harrison’s “While My Guitar Gently Weeps”.

Of course, forty years ago, Harrison, himself, had been found “guilty” of subconscious plagiarism re his 1970 recording, “My Sweet Lord”… that song being deemed a musical clone of Ronnie Mack’s composition, “He’s So Fine” (recorded by the Chiffons in 1963).

There have been other similar sounding tracks, which have caught my ear, as well, over the years… including “Things We Said Today” released by the Beatles in 1964 and the Hollies’ 1966 track, “Bus Stop”.

 

It was only about a week ago, while I was playing the John Lennon / Paul McCartney composition, “Help”, on my piano, when it suddenly dawned on me that George Harrison had kinda / sorta, “ripped off” his own band mates… had employed the exact same chord progression [A – C#m – F#m – D – G – A] for the bridge to his composition, “Something” (once the key signature shifts from C to A).

 

So… why does this happen? Well, I’d say with our brains, for the most part, all being wired in a similar fashion… with multiple millions of musicians limited to playing within the confines of western music’s 12-note octave, the possible (pleasing) sequences of these notes are not infinite and, as such, whatever plagiarism issues which arise… well… let’s just say that this should not come as any big surprise.

 

My Appreciation For The Recognition!

Several days ago, I became a nominee for a Blogger Recognition Award.

Q: Why have I opted to “break the rules” to acknowledge this honor in a less customary manner?

A: I feel that if my writing can sufficiently motivate another blogger to pay me such a marvelous compliment… well… I now ask… what better recognition / award could there possibly be than writeshefali’s blog comment… itself… as follows…

“I am nominating you for Blogger Recognition Award. The first blog that I came across was of how a woman in a flight was frightened by a man doing mathematical calculations beside her, ever since then I have liked your insights and information that you spread across. I like your blogs so keep writing.”

Your encouraging words have made me aware that my blogs can and do make a difference here on the www. By your taking the time out of your busy day to say so…

You have made my day! You have rekindled my inner light! I will treasure all you said to me… till the day I die!

I thank writeshefali! I like your insightful, informative writing, too. I will continue to follow your blogs and also recommend other bloggers / readers do the same.

Remembering Dad

It’s oft been said that nothing ever dies on the Internet. That’s why I immortalized my late Mom in my Mother’s Day blog and now do the same for my late Dad in this Father’s Day posting… as follows…

One of my earliest childhood memories involves my waking up in my crib at night… seeing the streetlight’s steady, pale glow on the bedroom wall… listening to the steady rainfall on the roof above me… all that interspersed with frequent flashes of lightning and crashes of thunder.

The reason I had not felt fearful and cried was because I could also hear my Dad snoring… and just knowing he was still nearby had allayed my fears and lulled me back to sleep.

From that point forward I grew to better understand my father. Dad had parlayed his multiple college degrees (the sciences, math and education) into a distinguished, four decades long, teaching career in the public schools of his native Minnesota and in Michigan. He was multilingual (speaking Latin, German and several Slavic tongues). And this consummate educator’s devotion to all things intellectual hadn’t ended when the final school bell of the day had rung.

His lesson plans for Sis and me focused on a rock-solid preschool experience inclusive of educational toys, mathematical flashcards, children’s literature, etc. And he kept on supplying us with other knowledge-enriching materials from K – 12 and throughout our college years.

Countless hours of quality family time / recreation involved us gathering around our piano to play our duets and solo pieces. We’d also sit at our dining room table to play Scrabble and card games like 500 Rummy and Cribbage.

I also fondly remember Dad teaching me how to ride my bike, pitch a baseball and fly a kite. I would’ve likely given up trying had he not shown me how a kite’s “tail” (not provided in the kit) is what actually stabilizes it. He also showed me the fine art of hammering nails when we teamed up to build a doghouse and picket fence.

He also stood in my corner to figuratively nail school bullies… bring them to the attention of the school principal who had the power to do something to end my sorrow… but did nothing. So, that task was left up to my Dad, who actually had to verbally confront our newspaper delivery boy, no less… order him to stop teasing me or else we’d cancel our subscription. Shortly after that, that tyrant quit his paper route. Well, at least, momentarily, that kid did suffer a financial setback.

Dad’s Christmas 1963 gift to me was a Lionel electric train set. For the Christmases to follow he bought more trains and related paraphernalia. Eventually, I wound up with the best possible track layout (multiple routes, featuring a triple looping spiral, trestles, 45 degree crossings, switches, lights, accessories and, eventually, the ability to run two trains at the same time). Doubtlessly, Dad and I wiring up all the necessary circuitry to make everything run properly is what had later spurred my interest in Electrical Engineering.

Of course to help pay for everything, Dad had to supplement his meager earnings by coaching his school’s sports teams, running the football scoreboard and being the basketball scorekeeper/ public address announcer. He also served as the school newspaper’s advisor and wrote a weekly science column for our hometown’s weekly edition.

He covered the school sports beat for a much larger publication, too. He once told me how, while apologizing to the sports desk staffer (for being late in phoning in his story), he had casually mentioned the reason… his inability to use the phone due to a police investigation of a breaking and entering at the school.

The sports desk immediately transferred his call over to the main news desk so he could report the known particulars. Well, for his news exclusive my father got to see his byline in print and his name filled in on the “pay to the order of” line of a bigger paycheck.

Dad had become aware of how his nation’s international dealings could localize problems for him. During WW-II he had made the tragic mistake of publically speaking with an acquaintance… in German. Someone reported them both as suspected Nazis, but after a brief interrogation, Dad and his friend were cleared and freed.

Dad also made me the Democrat I am today, too. He had high praise for all the good things President John F. Kennedy had been doing to end discrimination and poverty… as well as for his lofty plans to actually send a man to the moon! Of course, on Friday, November 22, 1963, there we were, our family of four sitting together with the rest of America / the free world… in deep mourning over the tragic loss of our assassinated leader… watching JFK’s dreams for a better global society get buried with him.

With the arrival of the mid-sixties, teachers had no sooner won the right to bargain collectively for a living wage and better working conditions, when they discovered negotiating toward that end was easier said than done. Prior to meeting with their school board, Dad and his colleagues would meet, sitting right at our family’s dining room table.

I was allowed to observe and I became privy to how unions work… and how the school board would not work with them… flat-out refused to bargain in good faith. Long story short, after their six-day strike, complete with picket lines, the teachers wound up winning most of what they had hoped to gain. However, one of the teachers’ concessions was that they promised to never discuss this union / management dispute with their students. Hmmm… what ever happened to free speech in America?

Well, true to his educator roots, Dad had made use of this labor / management dispute to privately tutor me… to make me aware how unionization and fighting for a living wage is essential. He also taught me to never, ever cross picket lines… for any reason… and, over the years, I have had several occasions where I’ve fully respected / honored striking workers.

Well, once that strike was history, our family dinner table once more became the place where we’d sit down to consume Dad’s “to die for” hamburgers. They were heavily seasoned with black pepper, smothered in browned onion rings, and slathered with mustard and dill pickle slices… everything piled high between lightly toasted buns.

That, too, was the same table where Dad and I would spend many a hot, muggy summer evening, talking about life while listening to Ernie Harwell’s play by play of Detroit Tiger baseball games on our radio tuned to WJR 760 AM. I can still remember the subtle fizzing sounds of my can of cold cola as well as the June beetles pinging away at the screen door… and later on in the season… the chirping sounds of thousands of crickets while we waited for our team to get those base hits and home runs.

The 1968 season was the first time, in then recent history, where our Tigers had made it to the very top… thanks to a great team effort, inclusive of two pitching aces, the regular season, 31 game winner Denny McClain and the three World Series game victories turned in by Mickey Lolich.

Time wise, it was a couple of years “down the road” when Dad had taught me how to safely drive a car… briefed me on the finer points not always mentioned by my driver-ed textbook. After I had earned my learner’s permit, he had, somehow, managed to summon up the courage to sit in the front passenger seat sans wearing a crash helmet. But, the hours I spent behind the wheel, with him at my side, made it all possible for me to ace my road test and get my full driver’s license on the first try.

Within the next five years, I got to twice see the pride on Dad’s face on both my High School and College graduation days… in spite of my opting for a more creative than analytical career path. He had been correct to warn me that radio / TV broadcasting jobs were hard to get… as I would soon find out while doing my 30 years worth of hard time in my Retail Hell prison.

Even when I’d sit at our family dinner table griping about a few of my unreasonable bosses (how they were making my life miserable while I was slaving away in their nonunion sweatshops), Dad was there to commiserate / share his own sad stories of his own pre-union days. Some of his strategies, e.g., always turning in top quality work, in spite of the bad work environment, could and did work towards my getting some respect from my managers.

Well, not too long after that, my Dad’s health began to fail. What could be worse than that? Well… the fact that he had done it to himself. He had wrecked his lungs with tobacco and overeaten himself into obesity… his cancers, hypertension, heart / lung disease and diabetes all conspiring to send him, at age 75, to an early grave.

But… even in death… my Dad had remained true to his deep, educator roots. He had taught me the invaluable lesson to never make the same poor lifestyle choices he had made. And I have steadfastly opted in to healthier living. So… will any of that pay off? Will I live past my Dad’s 75 year mark? Well… I guess I’ll find out 13 years from now.

Are there any regrets on my part? Well… as is typical of most males… there are some magic words, which fathers and sons never seem to say to each other often enough. Ergo, my advice to all of the sons and daughters, who may be reading my words… after you say, “Happy Father’s Day”, today, be sure to follow that up with your heartfelt…

“I love you, Dad!”

Time To (NOT) See The Light

According to an article published in the journal, Science Advances, 99% of European and North American populations “live” under light polluted conditions, which means that most of humanity rarely, if ever, actually sees the night skies the way nature had originally intended. We now have entire generations of folks who have never even seen the Milky Way galaxy.

Bright, manmade lighting turning night into day has far more serious implications than one might expect. If you’ll excuse the wordplay, let’s turn to two brilliant guys who’ll enlighten us.

According to U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration scientist Chris Elvidge…

“For several generations, people in large urban centers have had their view of the Milky Way blocked. This is an aesthetic loss, and perhaps a spiritual loss in terms of feeling a connection to the cosmos.”

University of California, Berkeley, Psychology Prof. Dacher Keltner concurs…

“The bright night sky and its stars has long been a profound source of awe and inspiration, which we know to stir creativity, generosity, good will and innovation. Losing a clear night sky will harm our capacity for wonder and put a dent in our spirit of common cause.”

Studies and experiments have corroborated what these learned men stated above. Our having a sense that we’re part of something larger really does humble us. In that state of mind, our behavior becomes more altruistic and sympathetic… and less narcissistic and barbaric.

It’d be a safe bet to say that calloused, hubristic, egomaniacs (such as Donald Trump, Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan) have rarely, if ever, seen the real night sky.

My being an amateur astronomer, in my light polluted suburban region, I can attest to the fact that even with the aid of my 90mm refractor telescope, I can no longer see the subtle lighting of the Milky Way. That sight has been relegated to the realm of a fond boyhood memory.

We humans really need to experience those “Oh WOW”, goose bumps producing moments. If we cannot see what the real night sky has to offer, we could easily become more artificial than the artificial lighting, which is rapidly condemning us all to that nightmarish fate.

If we ever hope to “see the light” / hope to better ourselves, then we must not see too much light at night.

 

 

Mitch & Paul’s Moment Of Silence (Lip) Service

My heartfelt condolences go out to the grieving families and friends of the 49 gun violence victims who died in Orlando this past weekend. My wholehearted wishes that there can be a speedy recovery… to the fullest possible extent… for the 53 wounded in this attack.

I wish “our” legislative Republican “leaders” could actually feel the sorrow as I do.

Oh… sure… yesterday, in memory of the Orlando mass shooting victims, both Speaker of the House Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell presided over their somber moments of silence.

But, as far as these two holey [sic] “men” were concerned (if “concerned” is even the operative word), that was that!

They neither could nor would go beyond that. These spineless, soulless, unconscionable creatures were just phoning it in. For them, there would be no wake up call moment. Neither would truly lead america [sic] to a better day where mass shootings / gun violence would begin to become a thing of the past.

NOPE… neither of these “men” said, “Hey everybody, let’s get down to the serious business of legislating some stronger gun control laws!”

To be sure here, these legislators mollycoddle gun nuts. It’s almost as if each and everyone of this boneheaded, knuckle-dragging mindset is actually counting on these mass murders occurring so frequently that we, as a society, will be brainwashed into blind acceptance of them… will shrug and say, “Oh well, that’s just the way it is.”

True, there were a few bold Democrats who did try to open their Republican opponents’ closed eyes / minds… open up a meaningful discussion to prevent future, Orlando-type carnage. Here’s what went down in the U.S. House following yesterday’s moment of silence.

Needless to say, House Speaker Ryan shot them down by gleefully banging his little wittle “toy” gavel. Let’s watch.

Of course, what else could We The People expect from these little wittle, childish righties? Indeed, in the wake of these ever-increasing with frequency shootings, they can only be relied on to provide lip service “religious” services.

That’s because both House Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell willingly and willfully kneel before and give succor to the NRA.