Monday, April 13, 2009

Happy Birthday Thomas Jefferson

Thomas Jefferson, born 266 years ago today, is different things to different people. I suppose his everlasting legacy will be, "All men are created equal." But of course we puzzle over his owning slaves. He opposed a strong central government, and had little or no say in the writing of the Constitution. Yet when he became president he stretched the powers of the executive branch many times, not the least of which was the Louisiana purchase, which doubled the size of the United States and used federal money to do so. He stated his discomfort with slavery, but unlike George Washington he did not free his slaves upon his death. He was an uncontrolled spender and left huge debts. He was a man of science and evidence, yet upon his wife's death he locked himself in his room for weeks on end and could not be consoled. He opposed organized religion and wrote of his disbelief in Jesus as the Savior, but proclaimed himself a Christian. So, in the end I view him as a great man... a man with the same failings as all of us.

And perhaps the model for all Americans.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Those without a soul

At last...Navy Seals rescued the American captain, killing three Somali pirates and restoring American pride! Not. How does this happen in the first place? What I think is wrong all over the globe is lack of respect. People have lost their soul, their greed has taken over from thought and reason. If you have no hope then I suppose the consequences of your actions have no meaning. Thus killing, robbing, and who knows what else does not bother you. There are what? 6 billion people on earth? That's a lot, probably more than the earth can realistically provide for in a meaningful way. Thus a large percentage are hungry, poor, and without hope. Now that doesn't mean they have all lost their soul, but when you have so many people and so many without hope, you are talking about so many without a soul, even though that may be too strong a way to put it. So you get 9/11, you get suicide bombers, you get pirates, you get American cities where there are at least one murder every day, and on and on. Is it any wonder that Palestinians throw rocks at Israeli soldiers, that Iraqis blow themselves and American soldiers to pieces, that North Korea and Iran want nukes, that a poor inner city kid kills someone for laughing at him?

Perhaps the economic slowdown will turn our thoughts back to where they should be, family, friends, and finding meaning within ourselves as to why we are all here.

Saturday, April 11, 2009


On April 11, 1945 American troops liberated the Buchenwald concentration camp in Germany. I cannot even begin to imagine what both the liberated and liberators must have thought that day.

Friday, April 10, 2009


It's sometimes really hard to believe how far down the scale America's reputation has fallen. Here's an American held hostage by four Somali pirates and they are very much laughing at us. It's humiliating. The world once looked up to us, but those days are long gone, and nothing has really changed since Mr. Obama was sworn in. Maybe in time it will, but Washington seems to be doing things as usual...which is nothing.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

We MUST have educated and healthy chidren

I returned home yesterday after an 11 hour drive from Slidell, Louisiana to Sebastian, Florida. During our stay in Louisiana we got to see some of the destruction caused by Katrina. Now interestingly enough, the French Quarter in New Orleans, at least the major streets that we saw, were in excellent condition and well worth the visit. But outside the tourist areas is a different picture. There are still entire areas that are nowhere near being restored. I can't imagine where all of those people are living now. But that is not my point. My point is: Why are we still sending money to countries that despise us, who hate America, and would like to see our way of life ended. There was a time when this sort of thing made at least a little sense. But it makes no sense to me when so much of our own country, and our own people, need help. President Obama promised change. Sorry dude, but I see the same old Washington throwing good money at bad. Why not help Americans? Why not say "Screw you guys who ruined GM," that's capitalism. You go up, and sometimes you go down. But the root of our country is the people. If people are not happy and healthy and have a decent job and food on the table then what are we?

Just last week I learned that our local public schools will be cutting back, way back. Lost jobs. Good teachers out of work. Can anyone justify giving billions of dollars to the Defense Department, almost by a ten to one over education? How many weapons do we need? We already spend more on defense than the rest of the world COMBINED! This has to stop.

The bottom line is that if we do not have educated and healthy children then we are a third world country. It is time to speak up. Write to your Senators and Congressmen and Congresswomen and tell them, "I'm fed up and I'm not going to take it any more." I have written to Senators Nelson and Martinez and Congressmen Posey here in Florida dn to a man they do respond. How about you do the same wherever you live.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009


Hank Aaron hit his 715th home run on April 8, 1974. To many folks this was sacrilegious, a black man passing Babe Ruth. Luckily today we seem to be past this, but now we get the Barry Bonds issue. Baseball just isn't the same anymore.

Also, one year later Frank Robinson became baseball's first black manager.

I suppose if we were all color blind none of this would matter.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Tv and Fil imitate life

April 7, 1927, Commerce Secretary Herbert Hoover read a speech in Washington which was viewed on television by an audience in New York. It was the first ever demonstration of long distance television transmission.

On April 7, 1862, two dozen men hatched a plan to slip behind Confederate lines, steal a locomotive, and run it north destroying track along the way. They actually pulled this off, and Private Jacob Parrott became the first recipient of the Medal of Honor.

Buster Keaton, my favorite comedian/director of all time made this into one of, if not the, best silent films ever made...The General.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Music Day II

Here is the second installment of my musical history tour.

As for most folks my age, The Beatles were number one. They were simply magical. Everybody else in rock music was a distant second at best. But this is not about rock. it's about jazz, or several permutations of jazz.

Most music fans think of fusion as some awful combination of muzak and pop. But way back when fusion was called jazz-rock. And many of my favorites were rockers crossing into jazz. I suppose the first band that I thought of as rock-jazz was Cream. Now maybe that tag doesn't really fit, but their improvisations playing live went into areas I was pretty much unfamiliar with. Wheels of Fire was on my turntable maybe more than any other recording of that time period. There were other bands more closely tied to rock-jazz like Blood, Sweat and Tears, Chicago, Lighthouse and one obscure band whose tunes stick in my head to this day...Battered Ornaments. Never heard of them? Yes, neither has anyone else. But it was cutting edge music back in the day. If you ever come across their second album titled Mantlepiece, do not hesitate. Chances are you never will. Their leader was Pete Brown who wrote many of the lyrics for Cream but should never have tried to sing. Speaking of Cream, Jack Bruce was in the forefront of many rock-jazz projects most of which hold up very well some 40 years on. Try to listen to Things we Like with John McLaughlin, and the 3-CD Spirit which has several BBC shows with Jon Hiseman and Dick Hekstall-Smith.

And who can forget Soft Machine. Their album Third is a classic of rock-jazz. I'm sure I'm forgetting lots of folks...

More next time on jazz-rock.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Tippecanoe and Tyler too

On April 4, 1841, William Henry Harrison died of pneumonia. He was our ninth president but only for one month. He is remembered due to his short stay in the Oval Office and for Tippecanoe and Tyler too. Actually the Battle of Tippecanoe did not take place at the Tippecanoe River as reported by Harrison. His most famour victory on the battlefront was the Battle of Thames but try rhyming with Thames. Harrison favored slavery, and fought hard for Indiana to be a slave state.

Harrison became quite ill about three weeks after the inauguration, thus putting the lie to his catching cold because he didn't didn't wear a hat or coat that day. Colds don't take that long to materialize. Anway, he was treated with opium, castor oil, and Virginia snake oil. Ugh. Anyway, he probably dies of a virus and the inablity to get any rest. The White House was a wide open public building in those days, and hangers on and job seekers were everywhere.

The interesting thing about his death was that it tested the Constitutional succession clause. Nobody was exactly sure that John Tyler, the VP, was actually next in line to become the permanent president. It was then decided that once he was sworn in he did indeed become the president.

Oh, and on April 4, 1968, Martin Luther King was assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Happy Birthday Cell Phones

On April 3, 1973 Martin Cooper made the first portable cell phone call. He worked for Motorola and invented this miracle that people now use to annoy each other all over the globe. Thanks a bunch Marty. I'll remember you the next time I'm in line at Wal-Mart and the lady in front of me is holding the line up by talking as loudly as possible about absolutely nothing.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Ponce Goes to Florida

On April 2, 1513 Ponce de Leon stepped onto a beach somewhere near present day St. Augustine and named the land Florida. He had been told by Indians in Puerto Rico that there was an island of gold and a fountain of perpetual youth. Had it been one day earlier perhaps Ponce would have taken this information with a grain of salt, but the pursuit of gold and youth was overpowering and off he went. His three ships sailed around the southern end of Florida but seeing no hotels in Miami they continued up the west coast. Since it was already April he figured that Spring Training was over so headed back to Puerto Rico.

Not one to quit so easily, Ponce returned to Florida eight years later. Though there were still no hotels in Miami, at least with air conditioning, he was determined to establish a settlement and perhaps build a fancy hotel all on his own. He brought along 200 men, horses, cattle, and supplies, but no air conditioners. Little did he know that the land was already occupied. Early land speculators, also known as the Calusa Indians, did not take kindly to these fancy shmancy Europeans trying to grab up the good spots. And they meant business. One of the Indians, being known as On Target by his fellow warriors, struck old Ponce with a poison arrow and killed the dude. He was buried in Puerto Rico. Originally his tombstone was to read, "Here lies No Fountain No Gold" but they thought better of it and instead are inscribed the words, "Here rest the bones of a lion."

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Liberty Bell renamed!!!

Did you know that Wal-Mart today bought the rights to the Liberty Bell? It shall henceforth be named the Save Money Live Better Wal-Mart Liberty Bell.