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Monthly Archives: August 2009

Requiem for a Grandpa

Kennedy Funeral

I think it’s fair to say that my political leanings are far more to the right of Ted Kennedy’s, but having a strong sense of history I decided to watch the Senator’s final farewell on Saturday.  After all, the Kennedy calamaties are like a side of the road accident that you just can’t turn your face away from.  In the pundits’ commentary after the funeral mass and before the Arlington Cemetary burial, I learned a little about the liberal lion that every conservative loves to hate.

As a 6’2″, 200 lb. reciever out of Harvard in the early 1950’s, he was briefly recruited to play professional football for the Green Bay Packers.  Yeah, that would have been for the great Vince Lombardi.  He declined and joined the Army for a short stint…inauspicous and non-risky, but service nonetheless.  In late 1968, after burying yet another brother, Ted set out on a sail from Hyannisport with no particular harbor as a destination and did not return for eight weeks.  He was a great lover of music and loved after dinner sing alongs.  Over his 47 year career, more than 1,000 laws have his fingerprints with over 300 written by his own hand.  There is no U.S. Senator who has had more lasting effect on government than Ted Kennedy.  While I don’t agree with many of his programs, I have to respect the body of work of a dedicated public servant.

It is a true testament to the man that the most cherished job in DC for a staffer was to work for him.  That’s because you had to be the best of the best to work on Kennedy’s staff.  He required smart, confident people to work long, arduous hours, but as a Kennedy colleague you would be on top of every issue and basically have your ticket punched for bigger things if you so desired.

While Kennedy deserves respect for his hard work and dedication to his ideals to provide a better life for those with no voice, his foibles cannot be overlooked.  One has only to re-read Michael Kelly’s GQ piece from 1990 to be amply disgusted by Ted’s lavicious behavior through liquor and women.  If his name had been Edward Moore, would America and history have been so kind?

The Greek-like tragedy of the Kennedys is well documented and many Americans – conservative and liberal, Democrat and Republican – have followed the triumphs and trevails of this large, political family of priviledge.  I’m a lover of biographies…always have been.  As a youngster, I read everything available on John F. Kennedy and his brief, shining moment.  After absorbing all I could from JFK literati of the day, I moved on to Jackie and RFK, but probably the most prolific book that I’ve read on the subject of the Kennedys is, in fact, The Kennedys: An American Drama by Peter Collier. 

Written in an informative style and pulling no punches, the book explored the various generations of the Kennedys and how they came to be in America.  It explored their inauspicious migration from Ireland and the true political kingpin of the family, Rose’s father, Honey Fitzgerald.  In excruiating detail, the authors explored the hubris and audacity of Papa Joe Kennedy in women, business and politics and the dramatic accumulation of wealth through bootleg liquor, moving pictures, and advantageous real estate during The Great Depression.  Shrewd in both business and personal matters, Kennedy used every connection and acquaintence to build a monumental fortune.  One that would sustain a very large contingent for generations.

There are/were a lot of imperfect Kennedys.  Perhaps that is why the nation has identified with the family over the years.  Despite their immense wealth and priviledge, the Kennedys are accepted as “one of us” due to their overwhelming loss and calamity.  Most people’s barometer of fairness balances the Kennedy wealth and prosperity with their unfathomable tragedy.  If the loss of oldest brother, Joe, in WWII, and oldest sister Kathleen shortly after the war, were not devestating enough, the very public and horrific deaths of government servant brothers, John and Robert, ensured permanent and deep sorrow from America for this seemingly congenial, “All-American” family.

After all, didn’t hundreds of thousands of families understand the loss of a son to war?  Didn’t millions of families lose daughters to horrific accidents?  Didn’t millions of families have mentally difficient children?  Didn’t millions watch the assassinations of young, vibrant change agents with dread and indignation?  Yes, America’s love affair with the Kennedys is one born more of pity, than envy.  Additional tragedies and scandals of the next generation have added to that pity, but none greater than the epic loss of the treasured John-John — that sweet young boy with barely a recall of his fallen father who had grow up to be so smooth, so handsome, and with so much hope in a Kennedy redemption.

While “Uncle Ted” attempted to atone for past sins over the last 40 years, his real reckoning was only realized after meeting his second wife, Victoria.  I may be biased, but Cajun women have a way of straightening out troubled men.  When Ted met Victoria, his life was really in the shitter.  Having to publicly reveal details of drunkedness and debauchery in his nephew’s (William Kennedy Smith) Florida rape trial, it looked to be the beginning of the end for Ted Kennedy.  After Vicky, Ted seemed to settle into his patriarch role more comfortably and she appeared to wean him off of alcohol and the irresponsible behavior he used to act out his grief and self-failings. 

As I watched the ceremonies yesterday, I wasn’t particularly impressed by the President or past Presidents, nor the 57 Senators in attendance.  What really gave me a new appreciation was the Senator’s son, Teddy, Jr’s remarks.  His particularly poignant story of his father’s caring and determination with getting the younger Ted to climb up an icy hill on his new prosthetic leg as a 12 year old, showed the love and dedication of a father.  The other compelling  tribute was from his grandchildren

I completely understand what it is to be the grandchild of an imperfect grandfather.  The whispers, insults and disdain of a philanderer, of which you have no understanding.  To these children, Ted Kennedy was the grandfather that they sat on the porch with, sailed around Cape Cod with and who dotted unabashedly about them.  Their words were the most compelling and most humanizing of Ted Kennedy.  At the end of the day, Teddy was simply Grandpa.  Dad.  Uncle Ted.  Brother, son, father, grandfather.

And, despite significant failings and shortcomings, he was loved.  Not only by his family, but by his God.  The tenants of Catholicism are centered around forgiveness.  There are ample opportunities to be forgiven and it is likely that Ted Kennedy begged that forgiveness over his last 14 months.  His sins were grave, but no graver than the rest of us, for all sins are considered of similar consequence.  In his letter to the Pope earlier this summer, Ted Kennedy tried to explain his life.  He asked for prayer from The Holy See, while offering his own prayers for the Pope and the Church.

While there is a particular duplicity to the life of Ted Kennedy and many refuse to acknowledge the positive impact that Ted Kennedy has had on our country, the fact is that you can’t deny that this “baby brother” steered the helm of the Kennedy ship through its’ darkest, most tumultous waters with stoic determination, compassionate understanding, and loving support.  In the end, Ted Kennedy’s honed leadership skills were the most appropriately used where they made a bigger impact than legislation…a family’s legacy.

Rest in Peace.

  Waiting on an Angel, Ben Harper

 
6 Comments

Posted by on August 30, 2009 in memorials

 

Filled with Glee

glee

All I can say is….wonderful.

The programming geniuses at Fox have a knack for finding talented, new programs and then “pimp” them behind perennial ratings buster American Idol.  Hit shows like House, 24 and Lie to Me have shared the coveted spot following ‘Idol’ and I doubt that they would have been as readily accepted if they had debuted on Thursday nights.  The Fox guys use the golden Tuesday night time slot to showcase their next new “thing”.  Well, Glee certainly fits the bill.  Click here to watch via Hulu.

Glee is Fame meets Friday Night Lights meets Welcom Back Kotter and is pure fun.  In an unrealistic world of blue-eyed, blonde bombshells and muscle-bound pretty boys who portray the “perfect” Americans on most shows, Glee brings Geek America to the forefront.  Let’s face it, more people relate to the Geeks than the Greeks, right?  Of course, Glee puts our motley crew in the starring rolls (for once) and makes the audience root for the underdog — one of their favorite pastimes.

Fox was smart to take advantage of the ‘Idol’ season to debut it’s next hit, however the season will not continue until the fall (when ‘Idol’ is on hiatus).  They were also brilliant in putting a musical show after a musical show that millions of tweens and teens watch.  I’m betting that middle schools and high schools across the nation are buzzing about Glee this morning.  My prediction is that ALOT of people will be talking about Glee come the fall.

Here is an extended trailer….tell me you cannot identify with SOMEONE in these scenes.

My identification with the show and it’s characters isn’t so much through my own experiences and it is through my kid’s.  It is excruiating to watch your child be pushed aside or left behind.  The worst is seeing them made fun of because they aren’t tall or they aren’t thin or they aren’t rich…especially when you know the wonderful soul that resides in that imperfect body.  That’s what I like most about Glee.  That it will showcase the normal, brave kids who risk and overcome by throwin their talent into the spotlight and getting their voices heard.

Bravo.

 
6 Comments

Posted by on August 28, 2009 in Uncategorized

 

On This Day…1977

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No mention on the news.  No acknowledgement that I’ve seen today.  However, today is the 32nd anniversary of the death of Elvis. One place that never, ever forgets Elvis is his home town of Memphis.  Death Week festivities culminate with the “vigil”, each August 15th.  Having witnessed this firsthand during our six year stint in Memphis, I must say that seeing the thousands upon thousands standing silently with candles and moving through the gates of Graceland is quite touching.

My Elvis love has been well-documented in several posts, here, here, and here.  As I reflect on the death of Les Paul and his dramatic impact on modern music and Rock & Roll, in particular, I can’t help but also think about Elvis’ significant influence.  These people made HUGE changes to their worlds.  Makes me wonder….just where are this generations change agents?  Miley Cyrus?  The Jonas Brothers?  Where are the new “originals”?

In this age, where non-conformity is the norm, it is hard to appreciate just how odd and different Elvis was.  Coming out in the Deep South, where good, upstanding citizens listened to clean cut white boys in the vein of Pat Boone, Elvis’ loud clothes, swiveling hips, provacative dance moves, and strong R&B leanings were not exactly embraced by the adults of the South (or otherwise).  But, the kids got it and they LOVED it.

America loves an original, and Elvis was definitely original.  In the thirty odd years since his death, I’ve often thought about what Elvis would have done, had he lived.  Would he have joined the fitness revolution and slimmed down?  Would he have realized that overuse of prescription drugs IS drug abuse and checked himself in to Betty Ford?  Would he have made a big comeback?  And, just WHAT would he look like at 74?  Well, wonder no more…

ElvisPresleyAgeProgression 

Oh, to go back to when Elvis was Young & Beautiful….

 
 

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The Original Guitar Hero

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Les Paul, 1915 - 2009

A real revoluntionary of the music business is gone.

Les Paul, inventor of the electric, amplified guitar and picker extraordinnaire passed away today from complications of pneumonia at the age of 94.  Born in 1915 with a love of music, Les Paul began playing harmonica and guitar on the street, while still in his childhood.  When a listener critiqued the volume of his guitar playing, Les was determined to find a way to increase the sound.  While gainfully employed as a musician throughout his teens and early adulthood, Les continued to tinker until he created “The Log” — a 4″ X 4″ with amplified strings with a guitar body attached for asthetics.  

As early as 1939, Les Paul brought his “invention” to Gibson Guitar company where he was summarily laughed off the property.  However, they eventually worked with Paul to create the legendary solid-body design that caries his signature and name.  Probably one of the most famous Les Paul models is “Lucille”, B.B. King’s infamous instrument.

bb king lucille 

Generations of guitarists have chosen the signature Les Paul Gibson as their axe of choice, including guitar greats Eric Clapton, Jimi Hendrix, Elvis Presley, Keith Richards, Pete Townsend, Jeff Beck, Jimmy Page, John Mayer, Mark Knopfler and Les Paul’s close buddy, the late, great Chet Atkins.  Chet’s half-brother, Jim, was a member of the Les Paul Trio, who famously played throughout the 50s and 60s.  Both Les and Chet have been major influences in the evolution of the guitar as a forefront instrument.  They were good friends with a strong, mutual respect for each other.

  The Birth of the Blues, Les Paul & Chet Atkins

Amazingly, Les Paul could not read music.  However, his superb ear and creativity provided ingenuity in playing that basically made the guitar speak.  He brought personality to guitar.  He also brought it to the recording studio.  Using his wife, Mary Ford’s pure voice, Les Paul began over-dubbing and multi-track recording, revolutionizing how recordings were made and producing rich sound that resonates deeply within.

There are so many facets to Les Paul and the genius of his 94 years.  I strongly encourage you to look him up on YouTube and Google and watch the documentaries and performances about this icon who literally changed the face of modern music. 

Perhaps Guitar Hero will add a Les Paul version to honor the Original Guitar Hero.  (They may need to add a looping accessory….)

 

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The Demise of American Idol

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It’s official.

Paula Abdul has confirmed that she will not be returning to judge American Idol Season 9.  Just another nail in the coffin, folks.  As I have extolled over the last few years, AI has been jumping the shark since that magic season when the silver haired soul singer won.

I have been on record regarding idol madness and their obvious lack of creativity in keeping the franchise fresh and interesting.  The plethora of copy cat “talent shows” that have diluted Idol’s appeal, in combination with the producers’ hubris in maintaining the same old cheesy format have assisted in sounding the death knell of the reality show talisman.  It was fairly transparent that the addition of Kara Dioguardi as the “fourth” judge was but the first step in replacing the wacky, somewhat unreliable Paula Abdul.

However, what the producers fail to understand is that Paula is one of the things that makes Idol, Idol.  No more crying tirades, no more “just what is in the Coke cup”, no more Simon/Paula love/hate exchanges….definitely the ending of an era.  My prediction is that Idol will trudge through Season 9 with little of interest between the judges — much like the other three judge panels of American reality talent contests.  Ratings will continue to drop and limp into Season 10, which will be the last season. 

You heard it here, first, folks!

As for Paula, I’m figuring that she’ll continue to make money like she always has and is likely well set after her eight seasons on AI.  What I’m really hoping is that she’ll write a tell-all memoir of all the backstage shenanigins that we all know go on.  She just might be ditsy and pissed enough…

 

Here he comes….

 
5 Comments

Posted by on August 5, 2009 in american idol, TV

 

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Wakin’ Up with Donovan…

Love me some Frankenreiter….Happy Weekend.

  Lovely Day

  If It Don’t Matter

  Swing On Down

  Call Me Papa

 

 

 
4 Comments

Posted by on August 1, 2009 in acoustic, Music Today

 

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