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Thursday, February 25, 2010

Health Care Reform: Do or Die, Literally



Last night, Keith Olbermann dedicated his Special Comment section of his show to addressing America's Health Care debate through the personal experiences he's been having with his sick father. If you have a moment, please watch:


I was moved to tears watching this. Not sobbing and bawling, but to hear what the Olbermann family is going through really hit home for me, more than any other pundant or commentator ever has on this issue.

In the last four years, I have seen three very close relatives of mine pass away: my grandmother, my aunt, and my father. With the exception of my aunt, who had died unexpectedly in her sleep (we had later discovered that she had been sick, and hid this from everyone), my grandmother and my father struggled hard and long through their illnesses, and ultimately to their deaths.  Mr. Olbermann's comments regarding his father's plea for the pain to stop, even if it means ending his life...well, it broke my heart to hear that. It broke my heart because my grandmother literally did the EXACT SAME THING. She was struggling through the pain of dialysis to the point where she just wanted it to stop...all of it, to stop. And she knew what that meant.

My father fought colorectal cancer for four years. He fought it so hard that doctors were SHOCKED that he had lived as long as he had. Even at one point, after a couple of years of chemo, the cancer went into remission. Then it came back...and it came back HARD. To see what that disease did to him...it literally sucked him dry. And it got to a point where there were no more treatments to employ, no more drugs to try. And it got to a point where the pain was so severe, that he couldn't do it anymore. And he stopped fighting it. Two days later, he died.

All three of them had the best health care they could get. My father and grandmother were cared for by good hospitals, by decent medical professionals. Especially with my father-- at one point, maybe 2 months before his death, was given an option to use a certain medication that, even under his insurance, would cost him $3000 PER WEEK. You know what happened next? His doctor found a loophole, and exploited it...enabling my father to get the medication for $70. From $3000 to $70. And ONLY because the doctor knew how to game a broken system.

It makes me think of how lucky we were. It makes me think that there are others, MILLIONS OF OTHERS that are not that lucky. It is more than a goddamn shame that this country, that most would like to say is the GREATEST COUNTRY IN THE WORLD...can't and won't take care of it's citizens. Do we have great doctors here? Yes we do. Do we have great hospitals here? Yes we do. But GREED is killing us all. What good are great doctors and great hospitals when people get turned away for no insurance...or if you have insurance, and get rejected for a multitude of reasons...or GO BANKRUPT when you have to give your life away so that YOU CAN LIVE?! Please tell me what sense that makes-- SOMEONE PLEASE TELL ME why we live this way?!

Today, President Obama is meeting with Democrats and Republicans for a televised summit on health care in America. Anyone that has been paying attention to this discussion (and you SHOULD BE paying attention, because this is about ALL OF US), knows that politics has been getting in the way of anything substantive getting done. Politicians will bicker, bitch and moan about any and everything JUST so that they can save their jobs-- a lot of these people just seem to live from election cycle to election cycle. I don't care what political party you are affiliated with-- ultimately, political parties mean nothing to injuries or disease. This is important. We need to fix health care in this country. There are far too many people dying and going broke NEEDLESSLY. And that, in the long run, WILL ruin this country, if it hasn't already.

Say what you will about the President (and I have, believe me), but he is doing SOMETHING. Yeah, maybe he's not attacking his critics enough, maybe he hasn't brought in Health Care Legislation in the time he said he would...but I was not expecting him to walk on water. American government has been taken over by corporate interests. This has been going on for damn near 30-40 years. And it's not going to end over night; that's all their is to it. It's too ingrained, too embedded in our system...like a cancerous tumor. You just can't yank out a tumor...it has to be killed...bit by bit. And it's not just with health care, it's our education system too-- which leads to ALL OTHER ISSUES ON THE TABLE. We, the American people, need to be more educated about what is happening to our country. If you say you care, PROVE IT. We have all done our parts in voting against our interests. It's like with sports-- you may not watch it during the season, but we ALL WATCH during the big games. And like politics, most people just don't pay attention...until the BIG election. That's gotta stop.

Let's all pay attention to these people. And if they're not doing what is best for us, not for their jobs...we need to do OUR jobs, and get rid of them.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Abbey Road Studios is Declared a National Landmark

 

On August 8th, 1969, at approximately 11:30am, an English rock and roll band called The Beatles walked across Abbey Road for a photo shoot for what would become their final recording together.

On February 3rd, 2010, British Culture Minister Margaret Hodge announced that Abbey Road studios, where The Beatles recorded almost all of their albums, has been declared a national historic landmark.

Many bands and many recordings have been made at Abbey Road, but most of us know it as the place where the Beatles made their magic. It's a mecca for any fan that makes it out to London. There's even a website with a collection of photos of people emulating the famous album cover. I know I used to stare at that cover, along with Sgt. Pepper and Magical Mystery Tour's book, with much wonder at awe of this little band from Liverpool that gave so much to all of us that love good music.

Hopefully I'll make my way out there, and do my own walk. Don't know if I'll take a picture of it, because I'm just not that kind of person...but just being there, and seeing it with my own looking-balls...that'll be pretty cool. But as of today, it'll also be pretty historic.

Where I Have Been: NowPublic



Hi all! Or, should I say "Hi, you," as I'm sure you're the only one reading this blog. And if you do read this blog, or check in every now-and-then, you may notice that the consistency of my postings have dropped off in the last month. I had recently discovered a new place to flex my writing muscles, and I decided to give it a go for a little while. And I did.

The place is called NowPublic. It's a news site that is powered by the people (or "Crowd Powered Media", as they call it). Basically, any Tom, Dick or Harry (or Jane, Lucy, or Martina) can blog about major or not so major news stories. Could be politics, movies whatever. It seemed to me like an interesting place to write my more political stuff, since most people that read my blog couldn't care less about politics (apparently...maybe I'm wrong, I dunno-- there's really no way of telling that for sure).

I must say that my articles have been widely read-- more so than they have here. But the one thing that I have noticed is that I have an amazing amount of freedom here. I can pretty much write whatever I want here, an no one from Google is climbing up my ass about it. NowPublic has a series of content police, or "Editors", as they like to call them, that will deem whether or not you have an article worthy of their space. Sure, I mean, that's totally legit. Annoying, but legit.

Another thing about the site that's worth mentioning are the people that visit and post their. They are mostly Conservative (I was told that the site owners are Conservative-leaning). I get quite a response from people that comment on my work, often by angry, bitter little people that have nothing intelligent to say-- they just want to bitch at me. Then I respond to their bitching, and you know what happens? They disappear. Nothing else to say. Big mouths, no balls. It's very funny. It's especially interesting when I talk about race. There are some sensitive White folks out there, let me tell you! Nothing like having a Black guy tell you what's wrong with you, huh?! But seriously, not everyone has been like that. Some have, but most have not. All-in-all, it's been an interesting experience.

At this point, I feel as if I've OD'd on politics for the time being. I really have not a thing more that I want to say about the f*cking idiots running our country. But if you're interested in what I've been saying over there, check it out here.

In the mean time, I'll be here...writing about all the fun stuff that I usually like to write about...and junk...

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

We Are Plastic Ono Band @ BAM

 
I have to be honest. I knew very, VERY little about the musical works of Yoko Ono until about 2 years ago. You see, my lady friend is a HUGE fan. She's a big of a fan as you can get, as far as Yoko is concerned. She knows facts and stories that one would never know, unless you were a true fan. And until she educated me, the only thing that I really knew about Mrs. Ono-Lennon was that she was a conceptual artist, who dabbled in music, and may or may not have broken up The Beatles. Well, the Beatles thing I knew on my own-- of course she didn't break them up; they were on there way to break up land before The White Album was made. 

What I didn't know was that Yoko Ono is one of the most prolific and influential artists in music. Listening to her work, it's clear that she has been a strong impression on modern music for the last 30-40 years. People tend to bust her chops for her vocalizations, but that's not the only thing that makes up her sound. The beats, melodies, arrangements, variations in style-- it's almost hard to believe that this is all coming from this one (tiny) person; she was Beck before Beck! From Stereolab, to Pink Floyd, to The Pixies, to Sonic Youth-- you name it. You hear her sound virtually EVERYWHERE. It was shocking to me that this once-maligned woman is, in fact, an amazing force in modern music-- with, or without, John Lennon. 

So when Yoko revived The Plastic Ono Band in "Between My Head & The Sky", with son Sean acting as producer/performer, I was very interested; I really enjoyed Sean's two solo albums, and his work with Cibo Matto. The album is great, and like all great music, needs to be played over and over again to truly take it all in. I don't think I am really ready to talk at length about it, because there's just a lot to take in. 

Flash forward to February, 2010. Brooklyn Academy of Music presents "We Are Plastic Ono Band." Needless to say, my lady friend was ALL OVER THAT. We saw both performances; the "Dress Rehearsal" and the main show. And both nights were fantastic!

The show begins with a short film (edited by Sean), chronicling the life and times of Mrs. Ono-Lennon, starting with baby pictures, then flashing forward to her life as an artist/filmmaker, which then leads to where most people know her best; her collaborations with Beatle John. The film ends with John's death, and Yoko's eventual rise to where she stands today. And when the projection screen ascends, Yoko walks out. And then the show begins.



The show was divided into two acts. The first, with the new incarnation of the Plastic Ono Band, featuring Sean Lennon, Cornelius, and Yuka Honda. The first set was a mix of old and new-- with songs like "Mind Train", "Walking on Thin Ice", and "Higa Noboru". To see her up there, that little tiny, 77 year-old woman (she is so small!!!) dancing and singing and doing her thing-- how could you not love her?! I had had this impression of her as being a very passive, meek woman who hardly spoke. But what I saw was someone full of life, effervescent, fun and funny! But that was just the beginning...


 
 

 
The second act was full of special guests, who each did their own covers of Yoko songs. The Scissor Sisters came out first and covered "The Sun is Down", and kicked ass (as always). Then Sean did a duet of "Oh Yoko" with Gene Ween (wow!).  Justin Bond (Kiki, of Kiki and Herb) covered "What a Bastard the World Is" brilliantly, with a flair of irony that was not lost on the audience. Paul Simon did a duet with his son Harper Simon, and covered "Silverhorse" and John Lennon's "Hold On" (Holy Crap!). BETTE MIDLER freakin' covered "I'm Your Angel" in an incredible performance that Sean had compared to something that one would find on Brian Wilson's "Smile" (he said that Bette arranged the number herself, even teaching him a thing or two about how the drums should be played...'cause he played drums on the song!!!).  There was also an amazing rendition of "Mulberry" with Yoko, Thurston Moore and Kim Gordon (Sonic "feakin'" Youth!!!).


One of the show-stoppers, however, was the reunion of three of the original members of the Plastic Ono Band, featuring Klaus Voorman, Jim Keltner, and Eric Clapton, with Sean Lennon. Everyone practically died when they did a rendition of "Yer Blues", with Sean filling in for his dad (he seems to have the same tendency to flub lyrics, like the old man-- but it was outstanding!). CLARIFICATION: My lady made a great point, regarding the "flubbed" lyric, which was "My mother is of the Earth, My father is of the sky"...which, in context of his life as opposed to lyrical accuracy, makes perfect sense). And finally, the show ended with everyone back on stage to join in "Give Peace a Chance". All-in-all, it was a great show...but that was not the end of things.

Through a special connection, we were able to attend the wrap party after the show, which was held in the café/restaurant on the second floor. This was it-- the moment that my lady had been waiting for-- her chance to have a one-on-one meeting with Yoko Ono! And let me tell you, it was nerve-wracking and TOUGH.

The place wasn't all that crowded, but there were quite a few people there. We were at the party for about 20 minutes before I spotted Yoko. I thought she was small on stage-- wow! Tiny lady. But my lady got super nervous, and said she couldn't do it. But that's not right-- we came this far, this HAD to happen! So she suggested that we try Sean, first. Now, you have to understand that there were people CONSTANTLY approaching these two, all vying to be seen and be recognized and be acknowledged by this legendary musical family. So when I stepped to Sean, every single time there was an opportunity to say something, someone else jumped in!! Pain in the ASS!! But I understood it, and I didn't want to be pushy. The reason we were there in the first place is because our connection knew Sean; so, he was expecting us-- which was perfect! But when I had my next opening, someone says to Sean "Come on-- we have to sing Happy Birthday to your mom!" (her birthday is this week-- 77 years old!).

By this point, my lady is getting a bit discouraged. But as far as I was concerned, this was not over(!). So, after "Happy Birthday", I had my chance. After Sean had finished talking to the latest person, I put my hand on his should. He turned to face me, and I said "I promised (insert connection's name here) that I would thank you for inviting us up to see you guys after the show."  And he smiled and said to us "Oh, you came! Great!" And then...some freakin' blonde jumps up to Sean, screeching about what a big fan he is, and how much she loved the show, and can she get him a drink...and that was that. He turned away, and moved on to the others. F*CK!!! My lady was not pleased. So I said, "We're going back to Yoko!"

And back to Yoko, I found a way in! Her assistant was there, introducing Yoko to different people. This could work...! So I stepped to the assistant, introduced myself, introduced my lady, and briefly told our story. She looked at me and said, "Just give me a minute." And five minutes later, my lady and John Lennon's lady were meeting! She was so nice, and so sweet, and very gracious! And as I watched Yoko give my lady a hug, I couldn't help but feel happy. Then, as Yoko made her way to their VIP area, my lady looked at me and said, "I'm ready to go home." And we did.

It was a great night. And the Lennon's are very talented, very sweet people. The show and the night itself had such a nice, familial, and happy vibe...you couldn't leave that building without being feeling good. I'm not sure if anyone will ever be able to experience what turned out to be a night of firsts, and possibly a night of only's. But it was, for sure, a night that no one in attendance will ever forget.
Two Thumbs Up for The Plastic Ono Band!!!! Or, rather, two fingers....

Peace.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

"We Are The World" Redeux: I Wish They Didn't



CNN just aired the remake of the 80s classic "We Are The World", once again featuring an all-star cast. But unlike the original, it also featured a lot of awful singing...if you even want to call it singing.


I mean, it was one of the worst things I have ever heard. Maybe it's because I'm "old", I dunno. When I had first heard that they were remaking the song, the first thought that came to my mind was "why?!". There was nothing wrong with the original. They could have just remastered and re-released the original and called it a day; it would have sold very well, and they could have made a new video with intercut footage of the Haitian tragedy, and I think most people would have been happy with that; I know I would have bought a remastered version of the original song. But this monstrosity that they debuted tonight...it was garbage.


Watch the original, and compare it to the new one (as of this posting, a link does not exist, other than this report from Entertainment Tonight). In the original, you see and hear people actually singing. In the new one, it's a bunch of people screaming and yelling. You have Wyclef Jean sounding like someone gutting a cat. Then you have Li'l Wayne singing with that ROBOT VOICE crap that all the non-singers are using today. Are you kidding me?! All of this, and people like Gladys Knight, who was in the chorus, doesn't get a major part?! Oh sure, you give a part to Fergie, but not Gladys Knight?!

The media was making a big deal out of the fact that Vince Vaughn showed up at the recording of the song. I heard many people asking whether or not he could sing. But let me tell you, listening to this remake of a classic song...NONE OF THESE PEOPLE can sing. None of them. Yeah, Usher was there-- so what? Or the Jo-nass brothers-- big deal. You're going to hold them up to Ray Charles, or Stevie Wonder, or Michael Jackson, or even Daryl Hall, or Huey Lewis, or Cyndi Lauper?! Not. Even. Close.

I hate to be negative about this, because it is a worthy cause; the people of Haiti really do need our help. But why not make NEW songs?! Where are all the song writers out there to come up with new songs for a noble cause?! Why repackage a song, that did not need to be remade, and see crap to people?! To me, that's not taking the cause seriously. Things were different in the 60s, 70s, and 80s, when people wrote original songs whenever there was a cause to be brought to the forefront. Even with 9/11, they remade Marvin Gaye's "What's Goin' On"; and I hated that too.

My advise to all that care...listen to the original. And this time, instead of Ethiopia, think of Haiti. You'll at least be far more moved to do something.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Is Health Care Reform Really Dead?



Health Care dying


Well, well, well...Maybe we can't after all, if we're to read into President Obama's seemingly somber tone with regard to Health Care Reform legislation:

"... if Congress decides we're not going to do it, even after all the facts are laid out, all the options are clear, then the American people can make a judgment as to whether this Congress has done the right thing for them or not,"

Defeatism at its finest.

Barry H., sincerely-- what the 'F'? I have to say this, and I like you a lot...I think you really messed this up. BIG time. And there was NO NEED for it! You and the other DUMB-ocrats allowed the GOP to control the debate with crazy propaganda and lies-- LIES!!! The "Summer of Death" of 2009 was aptly named, not only for the celebrities that died, but for Health Care Reform as well.

The momentum is gone, ladies and gentlemen. Looks like we have just witnessed the latest president's failure to bring affordable health care to the masses. And you know what the worst thing of all is? We ALL should take the blame for this. When I say "all", I mean everyone that voted for Obama. That's right, I said it.

People get too caught up "in the moment", and do not carry that momentum through to fruition. Electing Barack Obama should have only been the beginning of the work required to bring real change to America. The problem is that when the streamers and confetti have fallen, and the champagne bottles are empty...everyone goes home. Practically no one is interested in doing the unglamorous work that lies ahead. It's all "Good, we got him elected!! Let's go home!!" No. That's where you ALL are to blame. You all expected this man to do EVERYTHING. And when you leave all of your problems up to one man to solve, guess what happens? NOTHING. That's what's happened here.

We are seeing all this happen to the teabaggers right now. What started as a somewhat grassroots effort (propagated by Fox News and Glenn Beck) has been whittled away to nothing but fringe groups and corporate takeovers. Why? Because the people's passion burned out. There's only so far you can ride out on anger and posters and crappy costumes. After a while, you have to have a consistent and persistent point to take away. The only thing I ever really understood about the teabaggers is that they're pissed at Obama because he's a socialist and blah-blah-blah. That made it easy for the GOP, who themselves are falling apart, to try to co-opt those people to convert them into votes to use...against Obama.

Health Care Reform will die as the passion dies. I mean, with American Idol and Lost starting their new seasons, who will have time? And what about jobs? And what about the three wars we have going on? Or is it one war in three countries? My brain hurts. I guess what I'm really wondering is...are we going okay with putting our lives and livelihood into the hands of inept politicians? Are we all really, seriously, leaving it all up to them? Are we depending on Obama to handle these people all by himself? And if so, why didn't we help him AT LEAST be electing the right officials? Do we really expect him to get anything done with DUMB-ocrats and Re-PUNK-blincans?

It's true-- if we really want to get anything done, we have to take matters into our own hands. It's not enough to just get these people elected and walk away. We ALL need to take more of an interest in what happens in our country. It's clear, to see the way these clowns operate, that the American People do not care enough. And if we are putting all of our faith into this lot, we'll get what we deserve; NOTHING.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Death of the thong.


In February's issue of Cosmopolitan magazine, the thong is pronounced dead. As a heterosexual male, I can't say that I disagree with that. Now, before you men out there get all goofy, hear me out.

As I mentioned, I'm straight. Love women. Love their bodies. Love the lady-tush. And when I was in my 20s, I loved thongs on my girlfriends. There was something sexy about seeing that string ride up in an area that I wanted to get all Magellan on. I loved to see the "whale tale" peeking over low-rider jeans. I loved the idea of putting my hands on a girls waist, and twisting my finger around that strap. I thought that stuff was H-O-T. But now, I'm in my late 30s...and whenever I see a woman wearing a thong, I think of jello-shots, and bubble gum perfume, and body glitter, and Spring Break, and all things immature that I outgrew over a decade ago. In other words...not interested.

My love of the tush has not died, though. But there have been other ways to accentuate the area that I have come to love. I like a nice, high-waist cut. I love those "boy shorts". That, to me, is S-E-X-Y. The thought, at this point, of having to deal with or see a thong is not too pleasing to me, or "stinky string" as they are known by some (Eww).

I'm not sure if Cosmo is still relevant, or if most women had not already known about the drop in popularity of the thong, but this is one death I can get behind (no pun...oh, whatever). I cannot get behind Cosmo's alternative uses for the thong, such as a scrunchie, or a penis-lasso (hey, I didn't make that up!). It's been fun, however...it's time to move on. R.I.P.

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