Flashback: “Gallant Men” by Senator Everett McKinley Dirksen

With the passing of one of the all-time great United States senators this past Saturday with the death of Arizona’s John McCain, (Some would also say he was a controversial figure, but I will refrain from doing so while respects to him are being paid.) I thought I’d be a good time to play this hit from late 1966 and early 1967. And yes, this was a hit, peaking at #16 on the Billboard charts.

Mr. Dirksen was a legendary senatorial figure from Illinois, serving in his fourth term as senator upon his death on September 7, 1969. Before that, he was elected as a Congressman from the state in 1930, winning his re-election as a representative seven times.

The 1966 recording broke one distinct statistical mark of the time, with Sen. Dirksen holding the record for a couple of years (later broken by the then 75-year-old Moms Mabley in 1969 with her recording of “Abraham, Martin, and John“) of being the oldest person with a top 40 hit.

I’ll be back after Labor Day – have a safe weekend.

That Wasn’t In The Game

person holding game pads
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I’m pretty aware that nothing I say on this blog will likely change the world. I only try and comment on the world I see through my eyes. Some might agree – some might not. But I feel what I do here is for a greater good, to serve as a document as to what’s going on in my time.

The events in Jacksonville that took place this past Sunday (captured live on an Internet video stream) hit me in many ways. I’ve been playing the John Madden video games back to when you need a PC to play them. One day in 1990 I went to Radio Shack and bought one of the first computer versions of the game. I didn’t have a PC back then, but my workplace, WTAN, had a PC that I thought would work with it. It didn’t, so I wound up giving the game away.

I’ve also been to Jacksonville Landing before in my radio travels – as one of my radio buddies took me to the Hooters there when I was working for the People’s Radio Network in White Springs.

Fast forward to the 2000’s, the oughts, or whatever was this last decade before the current one. I would religiously watch a reality/sports series called Madden Nation on ESPN. The best gamers back then would ride a version of the “Madden Cruiser” across the country and play games to decide who the champion would be, and a $100,000 prize went to the winner.

The show had some flaws to it. During one season, one player got into a fight with another on the bus, resulting into an ejection the show’s producers had to abruptly explain. As the tournament started to head towards its conclusion, tempers would flare through some spirited trash-talking that gamers would do with each other.

In real-life sports, if trash-talking takes place, there is usually an effort after a point where referees or umpires would step in to tell the players to cease their efforts or be ejected from the game. After a point, the smack becomes useless, because the players are aware that their foe isn’t going to sending them a Christmas card. What shocked me watching the series was the lack of anyone stepping in, a producer or some sort of official to hem the trash-talk in.

I remember thinking that someone would take the ill feelings to an extreme one day, not knowing how prophetic that thought wound up being in 2018.

I can’t help but feel bad for John Madden, who’s now retired at the age of 82. I’m sure he’ll get some of the blame for all of this, wrongly. I don’t think when he created the series with Trip Hawkins back in the 1980’s that he could have ever envisioned a tournament where emotions ran so high that gunshots were fired, fatally, and tragically. My condolences to the victims and their families as well.

The shootings will be used as a political football (no pun intended) for both sides. I can’t help but notice that there is one common thread through all of these shootings, regardless of the motivations of the shooter. That seems to be poor mental health. We are all, on one level or another, addicts to the technological advances of our society. We are all encouraged to consume the technology in a number of ways. Not too many have the courage to tell us the ways all of this consumption harms us.

On days like this Sunday past in Jacksonville, we are reminded of the harms. Then, the games, real and simulated, played on.

Terry Who?!?

I was sitting in my bedroom/office on Thursday was the phone rang. Who was calling, I wondered.

“UNKNOWN CALLER,” said the caller ID on the phone. This sounded like a challenge – I picked up.

Once again, it was a phone call wanting to reduce my credit card interest to some ridiculous rate. You may have noticed during the annals of this blog that I have been getting these calls for years, and every call seems to be its own battle. Not finding a strategy that is successful – I change gears, never throwing the same “front” out there twice. Sometimes I pick up, sometimes I don’t, sometimes I get insulted, and sometimes someone accuses me of being somebody named Terry Makichute.

(Unfortunately, Terry isn’t a person but a rather foul and NSFW insult.)

With no other option available but to press “1” and speak to somebody live, I do so. If I hang up, the process just starts all over – so that’s not an option that would solve the problem. The caller asks if I was interested in the “credit offer” (which I hear is bad news – they want the digits to your credit or debit card to pick you clean), and I firmly decline.

“I’m not interested today, I’m not interested tomorrow – I’m not interested forever,” I explain to him.

The caller, notwithstanding the fact that they called me, tells me to do something that rhymes with truck off. (They hate it when you call them, by the way – they often complain that it wastes their time as if they don’t waste ours collectively.)

I’ve noticed an increase on YouTube of videos and users that solely focus on “scam-baiting” these calls to increase recognition that they are indeed scams. Some of these artisans have live streams, and I was in a chat room of one on Friday night. I groused a bit too much about how most of these scams seem to emanate from India, therefore I must have sounded like some sort of xenophobe.

One of the moderators set me straight.

“Not every scammer is from India,” the user told me, “And not every Indian is a scammer.”

Needless to say, the thought gave me a new perspective. Checking back at the history of this blog alone going back to 2011 shows me these scams began over here in the United States. Most of us being wise to these frauds, it’d make natural sense that these companies gravitated to Asia – where workers would be happier with fewer wages than the average telemarketer makes here. In other words, they went where they could to make more money by paying less.

Maybe it’s karma for being a telemarketer myself – though I’ve always tried to be one with a conscience. Call me demented, but you should periodically try to find a dignity in life – even if it has to be devised.

Flashback: “Infatuation” by Rod Stewart

Word broke out last week that Rod Stewart is considering doing an album of duets with one of my favorite singers, Bonnie Tyler. (I guess Bonnie’s solo album that was going to be produced by Johnny Cash’s son hit a snag – it has still yet to come out.)

Naturally, that got me thinking as to what my favorite Rod Stewart song is. He’s had a lot of hits all over the years, but I always liked this hit from 1984 – reaching #6 on the Billboard charts during the year.

As for the Rod and Bonnie collaboration, it will either be a very good album or a total bust. I think it will all depend on whether or not Bonnie has that one hit left in her that I’ve suspected all these years she might have.

The Tell Tale Tape Recorder

black and white cassette tape
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It’s the summer of 1984. I’m in between the seventh and eighth grades in middle school. I’m too young to be working, so I’m spending a summer day at my home in southwest Largo, listening to some music on a Friday morning.

Compact disc players were a relatively new thing, so if you had one, you had to be in some money. My old man tended the get the new “gadgets” as they came along relatively first – provided he could get a good deal. This was back in the era where those good deals were in the Sunday St. Petersburg Times, so he’d frequently ask me to accompany him.

One this one particular summer Friday morning, I was listening to a cassette he had recorded off of his vinyl collection. He had a cassette deck that you had to press inward to activate the buttons, like fast forward, play, and so on. This one morning, fate wasn’t too kind to me – I pressed the fast forward inward, and it jammed itself.

Panic, needless to say, set in. I’m a 12-year-old kid, and I began to wonder at that moment if I would live to see the age of 13 in a few months.

Some kids admit all they know in a situation like that. Me, I hadn’t developed that sense of courage yet, so I hid the sunken fast-forward button with a cassette tape box as if that was going to cover things up forever and ever. At some point during the night, my parents must have figured out what I did wrong – because instead of confronting me about it, they had a little fun with me.

They waited until the next day to bust me, milking it like the time on The Tonight Show when Don Rickles had busted Johnny Carson’s cigarette box. With an aunt and uncle visiting to revel in my misery and subsequent breakdown, I confessed to the foul deed and was sent to my room in shame.

It was quickly fixed, I was quickly admonished (which wouldn’t have happened had the fast-forward collapsed inward on THEM) for my Watergate-like cover-up, and life went on.

Greyhound Diary

I just got done re-reading this comedic gem of a book by comedian James Inman. His half-hour stand-up routine captured on this YouTube video are direct excerpts from the book and accurately captures what riding on these trips is like, albeit with a healthy amount of cynicism.

Everybody should take a trip on Greyhound or Amtrak at least once in their life, even if over a short distance. I took three cross-country trips on Greyhound between 1996 and 2000, and if I ever do it again – I’m writing a book about it.

What did I like about it? When you or I travel by air, which we do because we want to get from point A to point B as fast as we can for as cheaply as we can – we don’t see the country in between. That can’t be said going Greyhound or taking Amtrak – you see what the country is like in a fuller view, even if what’s there to be seen really maybe shouldn’t be seen.

I haven’t seen half the craziness Inman has seen either, as I’ve never really had that much trouble on my trips. My trip from Marietta, Georgia to Las Vegas got delayed three hours in Denver in the late spring when the weather wasn’t an issue – and that’s been about it. Oh, and an old man caused a disturbance by walking around the bus and babbling incoherently on a trip between Chattanooga and Nashville on Interstate 24 – and the driver had to shut him up, later reporting his unruly conduct.

Other than that, that’s been about it.

Flashback: “Bridge Over Troubled Water” by Buck Owens

I originally planned to run this piece yesterday but delayed it until today when word broke of Aretha Franklin’s passing on a couple of days ago – so this week, you get two for the price of one.

I confess. I am quite the sucker for a good cover of “Bridge Over Troubled Water” and there are so many good covers of this epic tune out there. How can you pick just one?

This particular version I stumbled upon this week – Buck Owens (of Hee Haw fame) took this cover and turned it into a country Top 10 hit in 1971. Buck always seemed to me to be someone who enjoyed himself whenever he was performing, no matter the song he sang. Plus, he had that easily identifiable red, white, and blue guitar of his.

Someone ought to do a collaboration of all of the versions of “Bridge Of Trouble Water” out there for a YouTube video – I think there are at least 50 of them.

Flashback: “Respect” by Aretha Franklin

Word broke yesterday that the Aretha Franklin had died at the age of 76. Here’s the hit the “Queen of Soul” is probably most famous for, released in the spring of 1967 and reaching the top of the Billboard Pop and R&B charts.

But did you know – the song was originally performed by Otis Redding?

A Blast From The Past

This is one of the earliest (but not the earliest) videos I’ve ever shot for YouTube. I noticed, one day back in 2007, a thunderstorm approaching the house – so I conducted an experiment to see if I could get the footage on a digital camera I was using.

I was lucky to catch a lighting bolt landing just north of me – but overall, it was a foolish effort.

They Get You Either Way

smoke fume cigarette fag
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I’ve been thinking this week about the way various goods get you addicted to them. A couple of decades ago, we learned through a gentleman named Jeffrey Wigand how various tobacco manufactures get people hooked on cigarettes. (Totally recommend the Al Pacino movie The Insider to you from a couple of decades ago – great flick.)

Yes, we make the individual choices to put the cigarettes in our mouths – but once that happens, these “big tobacco” companies make sure you stay hooked. I tried smoking when I was 18, and I think I lasted less than a week, so I suppose I was one of the lucky ones.

You can make that case about sodas, too – which I suspect got me into health trouble. These companies load all that sugar into their drinks, and if recognize that your health is going down the tubes, don’t worry – they have diet soda for you. Of course, they don’t tell you the diet drinks have aspartame in them, which is much worse for most people than a regular Pepsi, or Coca-Cola.

Then there are those sports drinks you see in abundance if you go to a high school football game or some sort of local athletic contest. Take Gatorade – loaded with sugar. They’re probably better off drinking sodas – or how about just plain old healthy water?

But yet, nobody focuses in on how these food and drink industries turn us into addicts as “big tobacco” did to a few generations. Might not be a bad idea to look into it, despite the various political preferences that exist out there.

First, They Came For Alex…

black and silver cassette player
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I think it’s perfectly normal that when the big events of our time and in our lives happen. that it’s fair to seek out answers – even from outlets and people you wouldn’t ordinarily think of.

The first time I ever heard of conspiracy entertainer/talk show host Alex Jones was back in 2004, maybe 2005. I had gotten a DVD through the grapevine of a symposium hosted by actor Ed Begley, Jr. and introduced by Jimmy Walter which had suggested that the 9/11 attacks were an inside job. The theories of the different presenters varied a bit – some were more liberal, some were staunchly conservative, but the purpose was to get your interested in the idea that 9/11 wasn’t what the media represented it being. One of the snippets presented on the DVD was a much younger and less raspy Alex Jones and his “Road To Tyranny” documentary.

I certainly don’t agree with everything Jones has said – for instance, there was a time when he called Rachel Maddow, the MSNBC host, “Mr. Maddow” on his shows. I thought that was grossly homophobic. I also don’t deny that he’s probably 100% accurate when he said he was an “entertainer” in a recent court appearance. Talk show hosts are entertainers by definition – they present premises in a manner that tries to get more viewers than a given host’s competition.

Where I draw the line is what the social media outlets did on Monday – censoring Alex Jones solely from Apple, Facebook, and YouTube among other social platforms. Why just him when there are dozens of other lesser-known hosts on radio stations and the Internet that do exactly what he does all over the world? Making one person a scapegoat when others do likewise – that’s always a slippery slope. Makes you wonder why it happens now, three months before the mid-term elections, and why it didn’t happen two years, five years ago, whatever.

I don’t like playing social justice warrior – but I took my little itty bitty shot at Apple in response. I took their podcast app off of my phone, and don’t intend to listen to any podcast anytime soon. A small gesture, but if they are going to tell me not to listen to such-and-such a show, why listen to any show Apple offers? They should allow me, their consumer, to make such choices.