Tribute: J. Geils

John Warren Geils Jr.: 20 February 1946 – 11 April 2017

Wow – I happened to hear this announced on one of the radio stations that I was listening to when I was out and about earlier today. From CNN:

John Warren Geils Jr., the guitarist and founder of the eponymous J. Geils Band, has died, police in Groton, Massachusetts, said.

Police came to Geils’ home for a well-being check, police Chief Donald Palma said. The 71-year-old was found unresponsive and was declared dead at the scene…The J. Geils Band was one of the most popular American touring bands of the 1970s. It did not achieve commercial fame until the 1980s, when they released radio mainstays such as “Centerfold,” “Love Stinks” and “Freeze-Frame.”

Born in New York in 1946 and raised in New Jersey, Geils’ first love was cars — a passion he inherited from his father along with his ear for jazz, he told Autoweek in 2012. He met band mates Danny Klein and “Magic Dick” Salwitz at Worcester Polytechnic Institute, where he was studying mechanical engineering. They formed the J. Geils Band in 1967 with lead singer Peter Wolf and drummer Stephen Jo Bladd.

“That was the end of engineering school for all three of us,” he told the magazine.

The group released a string of albums in the 1970s but would not achieve commercial success until the 1980s, starting with the release of “Love Stinks,” its first platinum-selling record, according to Rolling Stone. Their 12th album, “Freeze-Frame,” featured its popular title track as well as chart-topper “Centerfold,” which spent six weeks at the top of the Billboard Hot 100 in 1982.”

The J. Geils band was one of my favourites to listen to in high school and afterwards, and I had a number of their albums. You could hear the songs “Centerfold” or “Freeze-Frame” played nearly every day on the radio, and MTV was more than generous with playing those hits, as well as the awesome song “Love Stinks.” From Rolling Stone:

Formed in Worcester, Massachusetts in 1967, the J. Geils Band became fast local favorites and released their self-titled debut in 1970. They broke through on the Billboard 200 in 1973 with their record Bloodshot, and over the course of the next decade honed a sound that blended blues rock, R&B, soul and pop. During the Seventies, the J. Geils Band would release eight studio albums and two live records while touring relentlessly – but they wouldn’t hit their commercial peak until the beginning of the next decade.

In 1980, the J. Geils Band released Love Stinks, their first platinum-selling record, while the following year they notched a Number One with their 12th album Freeze-Frame. That album featured the group’s only chart-topping hit, “Centerfold,” while its title track also reached the Top 10 of the Billboard Hot 100.

However, the band began to fall apart in the aftermath of its success. Wolf did not appear on the J. Geils Band’s final album, 1984’s You’re Gettin’ Even While I’m Gettin’ Odd. The J. Geils Band officially split in 1985, but began to play the occasional reunion show in 1999. In 2012, however, Geils officially quit the group and sued his bandmates for conspiring to go on tour without him and unlawfully using the band’s trademarked name.

Outside of the J. Geils Band, Geils remained busy as a musician. In the mid-Nineties, he released two albums with his band Bluestime and during the 2000s, he returned to his jazz roots with three solo records.”

I often played their lesser-known songs on the radio when I was a DJ, and would get compliments on the song and band trivia that I’d toss in here and there. “No Anchovies, Please” was one that I memorized and would recite to friends at slumber parties – only on request, of course! Many fond memories always come to mind whenever I hear a song from the J. Geils Band, and always listen to them with a smile. I chose five rarely-heard ones to close out this tribute to a musical genius. Rest easy, Mr. Geils – you won’t be forgotten.

R.I.P., James Cotton

James Henry Cotton: 1 July 1935 – 16 March 2017

Every Sunday, I listen to B. B. King’s Bluesville on Sirius XM Satellite Radio. This is how I heard that yet another blues legend has passed on: James Cotton, a.k.a “Mr. Superharp,” the best-known virtuoso of the mouth-harp, died on 16 March at the age of 81.

The “mouth-harp,” better known to the average layperson as a harmonica, is an instrument that is familiar to anyone who listens to and loves the blues, and James was the master! He played with B. B. King, Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf, Santana, the Grateful Dead, Gregg Allmann, and many others. From Rolling Stone:

Blues harmonica virtuoso and onetime Muddy Waters sideman James Cotton died on Thursday at a medical center in Austin of pneumonia. He was 81. A rep for the musician confirmed his death.

Cotton, who was born on a cotton farm in Tunica, Mississippi on July 1st, 1935, came to prominence in the Fifties when he cut two singles for the fledging label Sun Records and performed gigs with Waters. As a child, he’d become obsessed with harmonica player Sonny Boy Williamson II’s King Biscuit Time broadcasts and, at age nine, moved in with the elder harpist to learn the instrument…Cotton, dubbed “Mr. Superharp,” formed the James Cotton Band in 1966, with the group issuing a self-titled debut the next year. His fellow musicians at the time were guitarist Luther Tucker and drummer Sam Lay. Cotton would later find himself playing with Matt “Guitar” Murphy and Hubert Sumlin, and would go on to explore blues-rock with performances with Janis Joplin, the Grateful Dead, Led Zeppelin, B.B. King, Santana, Steve Miller and Freddie King, among others.

In the Seventies, he recorded for Buddha and Capitol, reuniting with Waters for LPs produced by guitarist Johnny Winter. The first, Hard Again, came out in 1977 and won a Grammy. He also made appearances on albums by Sumlin, Memphis Slim, Steve Miller and others, and welcomed Miller, Winter, Dr. John, Todd Rundgren, David Sanborn and others onto his own recordings.

Cotton continued to record throughout the Eighties, including a run on Alligator Records, and won the Best Traditional Blues Album Grammy for his Deep in the Blues LP in 1997. His most recent album was Cotton Mouth Man, which came out in 2013 and was nominated for a Grammy.”

I don’t think that I can say anything about this man that would do him the justice that his talent and sheer genius deserves, so I’ll let his music speak for him. Rest easy, James…you shall be missed.

Good-Bye, 2016: Year-End Round-Up

Well, this year is drawing to a close. In some parts of the world, it is already 2017. It isn’t quite noon in my neck of the woods, however, so there are still 13 hours left in what has been a year of sorrow. Still, it has had many joyful moments – for me and mine, at least!
I’m thankful to have not suffered any personal losses; for the health problems some of my family members have, they are still here – and I’m very happy and grateful for that. So, I’m starting off with the celebrity deaths that impacted me the most, which is my disclaimer for not mentioning every single one who passed – it’s quite a long list as it is, and I dedicated entire blog-posts to the most notable ones.

Natalie Cole: technically, she passed away on 31 December 2015, but her death wasn’t announced until 1 January of this year – so, I’m including her in the list. She was a phenomenal singer, and I loved the posthumous duet she did with her father, the late, great, Nat “King” Cole – the song “Unforgettable.”

David Bowie: A fantastic man, in my estimation. I loved his singing and his acting, and was shocked to hear of his passing on 10 January, a mere two days after his 69th birthday. He battled cancer quietly and privately, putting out an epic album during that time.

Monte Irvin: A great athlete and baseball player, who nearly broke the “colour barrier” in Major League Baseball before Jackie Robinson did, passed away on 11 January. He played seven seasons with the New York Giants, served as MLB’s first Black executive, and was elected to the baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown.

Alan Rickman: A fantastic actor, best known for his role as Professor Severus Snape in the “Harry Potter” films, but also played roles in “Die Hard” and “Robin Hood: the Prince of Thieves.” He died on 14 January.

Dan Haggerty: The man who was “Grizzly Adams,” a show that I watched regularly when I was a child. The rugged, bearded, gentle giant roaming the forests and mountains with his bear companion, was always something to look forward to. He died of cancer on 15 January.

Jimmy Bain: The former bassist for Dio and Rainbow, died over the weekend of 22 – 24 January. I thoroughly enjoyed the music of both bands, and his bass-playing stood out in nearly every song that they played.

Abe Vigoda: The character actor best known for his roles in the movie “The Godfather,” and roles in television such as “Fish” and “Barney Miller,” died on 26 January at the age of 94.

Maurice White: One of the founding members of the fantastic group Earth, Wind, and Fire, died on 3 February. Their music was played often on the radio while I was growing up – one of many bands that influenced my musical tastes during my childhood and pre-teen years.

Keith Emerson: Musician, keyboardist and composer, best known for being one of the founders of the progressive rock supergroup Emerson, Lake & Palmer. He gained international notice for his work with the Nice, which included writing rock arrangements of classical music. He passed away on 11 March.

Prince (b. Prince Rogers Nelson): Fantastically versatile, a true genius of a performer. He was a singer and songwriter, a talented multi-instrumentalist, record producer, and actor. His music was what I listened to quite a bit during my pre-teens, “teens-ages,” and early 20s. An iconic titan who only stood 5’3″, yet was head and shoulders above many other musicians during his time, in my estimation. He was taken far too soon, passing away on 21 April from an accidental overdose of Fentanyl, a powerful opioid-based painkiller. His death, and that of David Bowie, hit me the hardest.

Muhammad Ali (b. Cassius Clay): Boxing titan, named “Sportsman of the Year” by Sports Illustrated, and known worldwide as the greatest heavyweight champion. He was the youngest person to take the title away from a reigning champion, and soon after winning the title, he converted to Islam and changed his name from Cassius Clay to Muhammad Ali, which was a controversial move that drew the ire and hatred of most whites – even in this day and age. He died on 3 June.

Attrell Stephen Cordes, Jr.: Musician, singer, rapper, songwriter, and record producer, best known as the lead vocalist of the group P.M. Dawn, going by the stage name Prince Be. He was the frontman and lyricist for that excellent group, blending rap with singing, and adding ethereal beats and aspects of mysticism and crypto-Christian imagery to his songs. Both he and his band were “underappreciated and quietly influential,” according to the New York Times. I agree with, and can relate to that, 10,000%! He died 17 June. The song “You Got Me Floatin'” is done by P.M. Dawn, and is featured on the album Stone Free: A Tribute to Jimi Hendrix.

Bernie Worrell: Massively talented keyboardist and composer. He was one of the founders of Parliament-Funkadelic, who also did work with the Talking Heads, and died on 24 June. He was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1997.

Gene Wilder (b. Jerome Silberman): One of the funniest men I’ve ever had the joy of seeing on the big (and small) screen. I first saw him in “Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory” when I was a kid, and he epitomized that role to perfection. He was a film and theatre actor, screenwriter, director, and author. Later on, after the death of his third wife, comedienne Gilda Radner, he became very active in promoting cancer awareness and treatment, founding an association in her name. He died on 29 August.

Gwen Ifill: A phenomenal, inspirational woman! She was an American Peabody-award winning journalist, newscaster, and author. She was the first African-American woman to host a nationally televised U.S. public-affairs program with Washington Week in Review, and was the moderator and managing editor of Washington Week. She also co-anchored PBS NewsHour, and was the co-managing editor of that program. Her best-selling book is Breakthrough: Politics and Race in the Age of Obama. She died on 14 November.

Sharon Jones: Soul and funk singer, best known as the lead singer of the group Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings, who were based in Brooklyn, New York. Fame found her later in life than many singers, male or female, but she made herself well-known during that brief, shining moment. She died from complications of cancer on 18 November.

Greg Lake: Bassist, guitarist, singer, songwriter, and producer. He gained prominence as a founding member of the progressive rock bands King Crimson and Emerson, Lake & Palmer. He wrote the ELP hit song “Lucky Man” at the age of 12, and became a full-time musician at the age of 17. He died of cancer on 7 December.

Yes, I know…there are many others who I’ve probably missed due to all of the hectic political nonsense of this year, but I did say that I was listing the people who had an impact or influence on me and in my life!
On the personal level, 2016 was relatively quiet. Tightening up our budget and making house repairs cut into any long-distance travel, but we managed to make it to my very first convention: PAX West 2016 in Seattle, Washington! It was fun to attend, crowds notwithstanding, because I got the chance to meet some of the people behind the scenes of the game that I’m unashamedly obsessed with: The Elder Scrolls Online. I took tons of pictures, got my face and character avatar on their live Twitch broadcast, and geeked out in general! I don’t get to do that often, so I enjoyed myself more than I expected to. I definitely need to get some sort of cosplay gear ready for the next time…yes, there will be a ‘next time!’

As far as resolutions, I have none. I never really make resolutions anyway, because as far as I’m concerned, resolutions are a daily thing. For example, learning something new on a regular basis is something that I strive for. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle is also a good habit, which allows me to indulge in decadent food or drink from time to time…I don’t believe in self-denial, LOL! So, why make a resolution once per year? It’s more satisfying, for me, to be resolute every day.

With that, I’m turning on the end-of-year jukebox, so crank it up and rip off the knob! Here are my 10 selected songs to ring in 2017. Enjoy, stay safe, don’t drink and drive, don’t text and drive…hell, just don’t drive! I’ll talk at you all next year – later, ‘gators!

😎

Godspeed, John Glenn…Tribute Post

John Herschel Glenn Jr.: 18 July 1921 – 8 December 2016

Ah, John…I knew that your time was drawing near. You’ve gone places that I’ve only dreamed of; you have walked where I hope to tread, someday. You were the first American to orbit the earth, and your near-death experience at that time was still talked about with awe when I was in grade school. From the official NASA website:

On February 20, 1962, NASA launched one of the most important flights in American history. The mission? Send a man to orbit Earth, observe his reactions and return him home safely. The pilot of this historic flight, John Glenn, became a national hero and a symbol of American ambition. In 1958, John Glenn participated in a series of tests designed to select the first group of astronauts for the newly formed NASA Manned Space Program. Each astronaut candidate, from an original pool of 508, had to meet seven criteria.

They had to be test pilot school graduates in excellent physical shape, less than 40 years old, shorter than 5 feet 11 inches, qualified jet pilots, and they had to have at least 1,500 hours flying time and bachelors’ degrees in engineering. Glenn met all the requirements. He also had a reputation as one of the best test pilots in the country. In July 1957, he had set a transcontinental speed record by flying from Los Angeles to New York in 3 hours and 23 minutes. It was the first transcontinental flight to average supersonic speed…After three years of training, John Glenn rocketed into space aboard the Mercury capsule Friendship 7. He became the third American in space and the first to orbit Earth. The historical flight was no easy feat. At the end of his first orbit, a yaw attitude jet clogged, forcing Glenn to abandon the automatic control system and use the manual electrical fly-by-wire system. In 4 hours and 56 minutes, John Glenn circled the globe three times, reaching speeds of more than 17,000 miles per hour. The successful mission concluded with a splashdown and recovery in the Atlantic Ocean, 800 miles southeast of Bermuda.”

You inspired so many, myself included, to shatter bonds and reach for impossible dreams. From the official John & Annie Glenn Museum website:

John H. Glenn, Jr., was born in Cambridge, Ohio, on July 18, 1921, the son of John Herschel and Clara Sproat Glenn. At age two, young John moved with his parents to New Concord, where his father opened a plumbing business. After relocating to New Concord, the Glenns built a home that doubled as a rooming house for students from nearby Muskingum College.

Glenn would write many years later of his childhood, “A boy could not have had a more idyllic early childhood than I did.” Surrounded by older students, encouraged by a father who liked to travel, and tutored by a devoted mother, John developed an early interest in science, a fascination with flying, and a sense of patriotism that would define his adult life.

He graduated from New Concord High School and attended Muskingum College. Shortly after Japan attacked Pearl Harbor, Glenn enlisted in the Naval Aviation Cadet Program and became a Marine pilot. He flew 59 combat missions in the South Pacific during World War II. When the Korean conflict began, Glenn asked for combat duty and flew 63 missions. For his total of 149 missions during the two wars, he received many decorations, including the Distinguished Flying Cross six times.

After the Korean conflict, Glenn attended test pilot school and then joined the Naval Air Test Center’s staff of expert flyers. He served as a test pilot for Naval and Marine aircraft, including the FJ3, the F7U Cutlass, and the F8U Crusader. One of Glenn’s most notable accomplishments during this period was the 1957 speed record he set flying from Los Angeles to New York in three hours and 23 minutes. “Project Bullet” secured Glenn’s reputation as one of the country’s top test pilots and provided a stepping stone for his participation in the emerging space exploration program.

Glenn’s experience and skill made him a logical candidate for the astronaut corps being formed during 1958. He entered the space program as a participant in the National Advisory Committee on Aeronautics’ “G” force tests. When NASA put out a call for pilots to participate in its suborbital and orbital program, Glenn volunteered without hesitation. In 1959, NASA selected him as one of the first seven astronauts in the U.S. space program. On February 20, 1962, atop an Atlas rocket, he rode into space and piloted the Friendship 7 spacecraft around the globe three times, becoming the first American to orbit the earth.

Glenn’s ride into space, a great technical accomplishment, held even greater significance for the country. Having lagged behind the Soviet Union in the “Space Race,” Americans saw the event as a political as well as scientific milestone. Across the country, they welcomed Glenn as a hero who had conquered the bounds of earth and given new wings to America’s spirit.”

I’ve been almost obsessed with space since I was a child, and every article about outer space that I’ve ever read has always included this amazing man. It isn’t lost on me that people who looked like me were excluded from the “Space Race,” but that never stopped me from being fascinated with what lies beyond the stratosphere. John Glenn has always been synonymous with outer space for my entire life, and his passing does not end it for me – he will always be the original “Rocket Man.” That song is the first of three that I play, here, to send him to the stars. Enjoy.

Ah, Sharon…

Sharon Lafaye Jones: 4 May 1956 – 18 November 2016

I had a couple of posts ready to publish, including a blogging award nomination…but then, I saw this headline. So, in lieu of what I was planning on posting, here’s my little tribute to the late, great Sharon Jones, lead singer of the soul and funk band which had her name at the head of its title: Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings. She battled pancreatic cancer for a number of years, finally succumbing to the disease today at the age of 60. From the New York Times:

Sharon Jones, the soul singer and powerful voice of the band the Dap-Kings, died on Friday of pancreatic cancer that had been in remission but returned last year. She was 60.

Ms. Jones’s death was confirmed by Judy Miller Silverman, her publicist. She said Ms. Jones was surrounded by members of the Dap-Kings and other loved ones when she died.

She continued performing throughout the summer, even while undergoing chemotherapy that she said caused neuropathy in her feet and legs and restricted her movements onstage. But Ms. Jones remained undeterred.

“Getting out on that stage, that’s my therapy,” Ms. Jones said in a New York Times interview published in July. “You have to look at life the way it is. No one knows how long I have. But I have the strength now, and I want to continue.”

The summer tour promoted “I’m Still Here,” a single with the Dap-Kings that detailed Ms. Jones’s birth in a brutally segregated South, a childhood in the burned-out Bronx, and a career hampered by record executives who considered her “too short, too fat, too black and too old.”

Ms. Jones was that rare music star who found fame in middle age, when she was in her 40s.

In addition to working as a correction officer at Rikers Island and an armed guard for Wells Fargo, Ms. Jones, who had grown up singing gospel in church choirs, initially dabbled in professional music as a session singer and the vocalist in a wedding band, Good N Plenty.

After meeting Gabriel Roth, the producer and songwriter also known as Bosco Mann, Ms. Jones made the leap from backup singer to main attraction. Desco Records released her debut 7-inch vinyl single, “Damn It’s Hot,” in 1996. She was 40.

With the encouragement and songwriting of Mr. Roth, who co-founded the Brooklyn soul and funk revival label Daptone Records and serves as the bandleader of the Dap-Kings, Ms. Jones’s full-length debut, “Dap Dippin’ with Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings,” came out in 2002. She would go on to release four more studio albums and two compilations on the small label, a point of pride for the fiercely independent Ms. Jones.

“A major label’s going to do what?” she said to Billboard last year. “I sing one or two songs, they give me a few million dollars, which they’re going to want back, and then the next thing you know, the next record don’t sell, and then they’re kicking me to the curb. With us, this is our label, this is our project.”

Sharon Lafaye Jones was born on May 4, 1956, in Augusta, Ga., though her family lived just across the border in North Augusta, S.C. In “Miss Sharon Jones!” the singer recalled that her mother had needed a cesarean section, but because of segregation in the Jim Crow south, she was not allowed in the hospital’s main unit and was instead relegated to a storage room.

After her parents separated, Ms. Jones, the youngest of six children, moved with her mother to New York and was raised in the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood of Brooklyn. “But New York in 1960, no peace to be found,” she sang on “I’m Still Here.” “Segregation, drugs and violence was all around.”

She went on to attend Brooklyn College and acted in “Sister Salvation,” an Off-Broadway play, before turning her focus to music.

With her late start, Ms. Jones recorded and performed at an unrelenting pace, and in the last year and a half of her life she made two albums, opened two national tours for Hall & Oates, was featured in a television commercial for Lincoln (performing the Allman Brothers’ “Midnight Rider”) and starred in “Miss Sharon Jones!,” a documentary about her life.

The film traced her life from the diagnosis of Stage 2 pancreatic cancer in 2013 through her triumphant return to the stage in 2015. Ms. Jones is survived by four siblings, seven nieces and three nephews.

I saw her on The Colbert Report when she was promoting her album titled “I Learned the Hard Way,” and immediately bought it on CD. I absolutely loved her old-school style of recording and the sound evoked on her album, and the energy that she poured into her songs and on-stage performance were infectious. She idolized James Brown, and was called the female version of him due to her “roaring voice, frenetic energy, and gregarious personality.” She used music as a form of therapy for her cancer diagnosis, which was eventually classified as Stage 4 and metastasized to her lungs, liver, and lymph nodes – the pancreas is one of the lymphatic organs, from what I recall of med school and related biology and physiology courses.

Rest easy now, Sharon…you shall be missed. You join the pantheon of the greats – you deserve to be in their company, as you certainly earned it. Jimi, David, Prince, and many others await your presence…and give James a big-ass hug!

I’ll close with the three songs that I enjoyed the most, from the first album of hers that I bought. I’m definitely going to purchase the others before the month is over.

R.I.P., Gwen Ifill…

Gwendolyn L. Ifill: 29 September 1955 – 14 November 2016

Ah, me…the last person who inspired me to study journalism passed away today. Gwen Ifill, award-winning newscaster, political reporter, and author, succumbed to complications of uterine cancer at the age of 61. From the New York Times:

Gwen Ifill, a groundbreaking journalist who covered the White House, Congress and national campaigns during three decades for The Washington Post, The New York Times, NBC and, most prominently, PBS, died on Monday at a hospice in Washington. She was 61.

The cause was complications of uterine cancer, her brother Roberto said.

In a distinguished career, Ms. Ifill was in the forefront of a journalism vanguard as a black woman in a field dominated by white men.

She achieved her highest visibility most recently, as the moderator and managing editor of the public affairs program “Washington Week” on PBS and the co-anchor and co-managing editor, with Judy Woodruff, of “NewsHour,” competing with the major broadcast and cable networks for the nightly news viewership. They were the first all-female anchor team on network nightly news.

Last spring, she and Ms. Woodruff were the moderators of a Democratic primary debate between former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Senator Bernie Sanders, reprising a role that Ms. Ifill had performed solo between sparring vice-presidential candidates in the 2004 and 2008 general election campaigns.”

She was a huge inspiration for me in junior high and high school, especially after I began volunteering at, and then working for, the local radio station in the little community that I lived in at the time. She, along with Walter Cronkite and Paul Harvey, were the people that I looked to for facts, honesty, and humour in the news and daily life. Looking to them, I learned that facts are always important, even if the truth is ugly and difficult to digest. Ms. Ifill, however, filled me with a sense of confidence and pride. Seeing someone that I could relate to gave me hope that I could achieve similar goals. She was someone who taught me steadfast resilience, and gave me the courage in refusing to let others dictate what I could accomplish. She exemplified many qualities that I strive for on a daily basis, including exceeding other peoples’ low expectations. She spoke of this, and other things in this excellent interview in Mother Jones:

For a decade, Gwen Ifill’s been a fixture on PBS’s Washington Week and The NewsHour, the mild-mannered staples of capital-S serious TV news. “You may not see me tweeting soon,” she confesses, but she says she’s happy to see bloggers burst the Beltway bubble. Mother Jones caught up with Ifill during a schedule packed with nightly shows and a national tour for her new book, The Breakthrough: Politics and Race in the Age of Obama. Ifill shared her thoughts on moderating Sarah Palin, being spoofed by Queen Latifah, and checking the rabid fervor of Obamamanics: “Calm down, people…Prepare to be disappointed—that’s almost inevitable.”

Mother Jones: In your book you describe politics as like sandpaper, moments of friction that rub up against one another and then we reach a smooth new place. Is that politics in general or specific to racial progress?

Gwen Ifill: I think it speaks to politics in general; the degree to which it’s unique or specific to racial politics is that race is itself the ultimate sandpaper in our culture. So if you take the conflicts we are used to dealing with, race over the years in America, and you combine that with the desire or aspiration to political power or taking power from other people, which is what politics is all about, you end up with a lot more friction than you would normally see with just straight-ahead politics. It’s a very complicated and ever-changing evolution, race and politics in this country, because of the history of the nation as well as the nature of politics.

MJ: What’s it like being in more than 3 million homes each night? Do you take particular care to reach a broad audience?

GI: I think I would do that no matter what I was doing. Even though I am in television now, I spent my career trying to speak to the broadest possible audience whether it’s in print or whether it’s in television. Because I would never work for a niche publication or a niche program on television and because I am a journalist and not an opinion person, my job is to try to see how many different points of view I can represent or how. It’s not even a question of who you don’t offend because you are always going to offend somebody. The question is how can you get people to listen to the information you have to present. You don’t do that by telling them, My way or the highway; this is what I think. And you don’t do it by saying, Let me just talk about this one slice. Barack Obama didn’t get elected president, would never have been elected president, had he decided to run as a black candidate. In order to reach the broadest number of people you have to speak to their interests as broadly as you can.

MJ: And yet cable news at least is full of pundits, and from Rush to Rachel, there’s a definite personality worship going on. Is opinion taking over, and what does that say about the role of the media?

GI: I don’t think it takes over, but it’s different; they do a different job than I do. I don’t think if you ask Rachel Maddow if she’s a journalist she would say she is. Jon Stewart doesn’t say he’s a journalist. Sean Hannity, I don’t know what he’d say, maybe he goes back and forth. But to me it is really incumbent on us to be as clear in our definition as possible of what we mean when we say media. Because media could be anything. I think it’s great to have a vibrant and lively public debate out there about points of view, as long as you’re willing to listen to the other side, too. I don’t see myself as a pundit and I take great pains not to be one because I always want to consider that the other guy might have a point, too. Otherwise, I couldn’t do my job. So I don’t think it’s taking over. I just think we as consumers of information media must be very clear what it is we are consuming. Whether we are choosing to get our information by listening to people fight about it. Or whether we’re choosing to get it by listening to the facts or watching the facts as they’re laid out and then reaching our own conclusions. It’s very different ways of info gathering, but it’s not all journalism.

MJ: Have Americans come to rely more on punditry versus reportage?

GI: I hope not. I don’t think so. I think that, for instance, and this isn’t punditry per se, but people who laugh at Jon Stewart. I have a lot of college students say to me, That’s all I watch. I guess I am supposed to be dismayed by that, but I’m not, because in order to laugh at Jon Stewart you have to understand the underpinnings of the joke. You have to know who Nancy Pelosi is; you have to have your basic information. That’s true for a lot of people who watch shout shows. They are also getting their information from someplace, their basic information. Some of it is flawed, some of it is not. But at least they’re taking it in, which for, you know, pre-cable I went to college at a time when people weren’t even reading the paper. So I want them to be getting some sort of engagement, even though it might not be the kind of engagement I would choose to give.

MJ: Shout shows?

GI: Shout shows. People who sit in different boxes and yell at each other. I call it more heat than light.

MJ: Do people just want to be told how to interpret events as they happen?

GI: Some people just want someone to agree with the conclusions they have already reached. I don’t think people are looking to make up their minds on these shows. I think they’ve already made up their minds. If you’re watching Keith Olbermann or Rachel Maddow, you have probably already made up your mind what you think, and you want someone to say, Doggone right—that’s what I thought. [Laughs.] You know, we praise people who agree with us. But that means they formed their opinions somewhere else. There’s nothing wrong with having reached your conclusions about your opinions; it’s just not what I do. And I don’t think everyone, I don’t think most people are that hard and fast. Rather, there’s that sponge-like quality. They want to know more.

MJ: The PBS ombudsman said of The NewsHour that he finds it “sometimes too polite, too balanced when issues are not really balanced.” What do you think he means by “too balanced”?

GI: In the media universe we’re in, where there are people screaming on one end, there is no problem at all with having a little bit of extra politeness. At the NewsHour, our goal is not necessarily to be polite but to be respectful, of various points of view. Now, what we struggle with sometimes is the notion of false equivalency, which I guess is what he’s alluding to, the idea that you have engaged an evenhanded debate when there is a clear point of view that is unchallenged. I can’t think of an example, but that is one of those endless inside journalism debates we all have.

But at The NewsHour we really think our role is to vet as many points of view as possible, put as much information on the table as possible, and assume, I think correctly, that the people at home are willing to take that information and make up their own minds. We’re never going to say, This is the truth, or, This is the end, this is the way you should believe. We like to think that maybe, just possibly, conceivably, people are smart enough to make up their minds for themselves. I have time after time after time found that to be true. That people are engaged in, that people want to be engaged in getting the information but they don’t necessarily always want to be told what the conclusion ought to be. And The NewsHour is very—we are very careful with our prize, which is an hour of commercial-free time every night, to go as deeply as we can into subjects, to lay out as many, sometimes five points of view about a single thing and try to just lay it all out there for viewers to make their own conclusions. And our viewers are really smart. They really do figure it out on their own; we don’t have to lecture them.

MJ: Alternately, The NewsHour has been criticized for catering to the right and center more than to the left. What is your response?

GI: The joy of The NewsHour is that we’ve been criticized for catering to everybody. The right is as unhappy with us as the left; the middle is as unhappy with us as either the right or the left. And after a while you don’t spend a whole lot of time pulse checking for who’s been criticizing you today and do the best job you can on a certain day, and one day you will displease one side and another day you’ll displease the other side, and hopefully you’ll displease them all at once on occasion.

MJ: I guess that means you’re doing your job then.

GI: Yeah, that’s my thinking.”

Rest in peace, good lady – you were a huge inspiration and a shining star in my life. You will be sorely missed during the next few years…your intellect, fairness, and sense of justice is needed more than ever, these days.

Ah, Gene…

Gene Wilder, b. Jerome Silberman: 11 June 1933 – 29 August 2016

Gene Wilder, best remembered for his role as Willy Wonka in the timeless classic Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory; based on the book Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, by Roald Dahl, passed away in the wee hours of the morning. From the New York Times:

Gene Wilder, who established himself as one of America’s foremost comic actors with his delightfully neurotic performances in three films directed by Mel Brooks; his eccentric star turn in the family classic “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory”; and his winning chemistry with Richard Pryor in the box-office smash “Stir Crazy,” died on Sunday night at his home in Stamford, Conn. He was 83.

Eric Weissmann, who was Mr. Wilder’s lawyer for many years, confirmed the death. A nephew, Jordan Walker-Pearlman, said that the cause was complications of Alzheimer’s disease.

Mr. Wilder’s rule for comedy was simple: Don’t try to make it funny; try to make it real. “I’m an actor, not a clown,” he said more than once.

With his haunted blue eyes and an empathy born of his own history of psychic distress, he aspired to touch audiences much as Charlie Chaplin had. The Chaplin film “City Lights,” he said, had “made the biggest impression on me as an actor; it was funny, then sad, then both at the same time.”

Mr. Wilder was an accomplished stage actor as well as a screenwriter, a novelist and the director of four movies in which he starred. (He directed, he once said, “in order to protect what I wrote, which I wrote in order to act.”)

What can be said that hasn’t been said already, or will be said by those who knew him and loved him best? All I can say is, this man was a genius. His comedies have kept me laughing through the years, from when I was barely potty-trained through my early 20s. The first movie I saw him in was the one he’s best known for. I enjoy the newer version starring Johnny Depp, since it is truer to the book, but Gene Wilder will always be “the REAL” Willy Wonka in my eyes! I loved him alongside Richard Pryor in the movie “Silver Streak,” and he was hilarious in “The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes’ Smarter Brother,” along with Marty Feldman and Madeline Khan. Those three, together, guaranteed laughter from the first scene of any film they were in. Another movie that my brothers and I watched, when the ‘rental units were out of the house, was “Start the Revolution Without Me,” with Gene co-starring with one Donald Sutherland – it was one of the funniest things I recall seeing in my young life.

He was married four times, but I recall his third wife the best and most fondly: Gilda Radner, who died of ovarian cancer in 1989. Her death got him actively involved in promoting the awareness and treatment of cancer, and he founded the Gilda Radner Ovarian Cancer Detection Center in Los Angeles; and co-founded Gilda’s Club.

I have no words…I just want to remember the laughter he brought to millions. I’ll close with three of the best clips from “Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory.” Rest in peace, good man…your light will always shine brightly in my universe.

Monday Musings…25 April 2016

It’s a nice quiet Monday after one hell of a busy weekend! Had to attend a retirement dinner for friends of family on Saturday, which entailed a bit of driving around in cruddy traffic. Portland, Oregon, has some of the worst traffic in the country, and Seattle isn’t much better! Trying to time how bad traffic will be at any given time, weekday or no, is next to impossible. Still, all of the hassle was worth it because I got my noms on hardcore: oysters and sushi at my two favourite places to go on the rare occasions we dine out! I’ll download and post the pics later; damned cell-phone update has my settings buggered, so I need to mess with it a bit!

Billy Paul: 1 December 1934 – 24 April 2016

I wanted to note the passing of a legendary singer, Billy Paul. He is best known for the hit song “Me & Mrs. Jones,” which a good friend of mine, Earl “The Pearl,” covered on a regular basis at a local karaoke hangout in Seattle. Billy Paul sang many other epic songs as well, so if you get a chance, look up a few of his other hits – I don’t think that you’d be disappointed!

Speaking of karaoke, did you know that yesterday marked the beginning of National Karaoke Week? I used to be a karaoke superstar in a way, LOL – one of the few singers that did service to that form of entertainment! Yes, I entered a few local (non-televised) contests, and yes, I won money! I wasn’t enough of a performer to win first place, but I definitely placed high enough on a regular basis that I had my own fan-following, LOL

Speaking of entertainment, I have supposedly gotten the notice of the gamer known as SypherPK – “he” has a comment waiting for publication, but I figured I’d go one better and dedicate a post solely to the comment, and my imaginary response, since it isn’t as if we’re having a standard dialogue! If such a major gaming celebrity took the time to notice my Random Ramblings and Myriad Musings, then tried to correct and “man-splain” The Elder Scrolls Online to me, someone who is actually IN a fucking video-game, I figured that “he” deserves a post acknowledging his privilege and prowess! Stay tuned…you all will get a kick out of it, I’m certain! I’m also working on my long-overdue response to TheHumanFloyd, another gamer who seems to think that he knows ALL about the role-playing community. That respective community is extremely exclusive in the way that the Ku Klux Klan is…so, my verbal shredding of that bigot will be almost as enjoyable as taking down “Sypher!” I’ll be deactivating my Enjin guild-site soon and moving it to Facebook, as well. I’ll have a Facebook account of sorts, very soon…and I’m not quite certain how I feel about having to do so, LOL!

This movie just started on TV, so I’m off to watch it…it’s hilarious, and I could do with some laughter in the midst of my mourning…enjoy the clip!

Friday Tributes…

Happy Friday before a Full Moon…can you feel it? I’ve been very busy this week. I think that my brain officially imploded due to all of the notable passings of the past three weeks, but the political quagmire is what has finally broken me. That steaming pile of shit just got even deeper during the past few days! I have several long posts in the works, but wanted to pay tribute to the legends who have gone on. It’s also been 648 days, in case anyone has forgotten. #BringBackOurGirls

Music while I dive back into my projects…and I hope that you’re able to find the hidden comedy link!

😀

David Bowie, b. David Robert Jones: 8 January 1947 – 10 January 2016

John Howard Getty “J. J.” Johnson: 18 October 1947 – 7 January 2016

Alan Sidney Patrick Rickman: 21 February 1946 – 14 January 2016

Daniel Francis Haggerty: 19 November 1941 – 15 January 2016

Glenn Lewis Frey: 6 November 1948 – 18 January 2016

There is less magic in the world

…now it’s up to the rest of us to fill the void left. I’ll do my best, you can count on it!
😉

Adventures and Musings of an Arch Druidess

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