Thursday, November 28, 2013

A Tradition Worth Sharing (Just Don't Tell the ASPCA)

Greetings All:

It's Thanksgiving, a time of traditions.  For some, it involves the trek across town or across the country to spend time with family and friends.  As I write this, please join me in a nod of thanks and appreciation for those who are not within a car ride of friends or family who instead find themselves in a cold and dangerous place.  For them, Thanksgiving dinner will be served not on fine china or even a chipped plate, but on a plastic one.  They may get to watch football, but more than likely, they will be back on duty.  To all those working and serving today, you have my profound thanks.  I hope next year you are back home, eating your fill and getting to see all three games, if you wish.

Today, we are going out to eat.  For those who might call that heresy, I'd point out that my wonderful wife Dawn cooked a fantastic Chanukah dinner.  We had over a few good friends and the evening was terrific.  My cleaning up was a small contribution to the day-long cook-fest that took place in our kitchen.
The Festival of Lights kicks off at our place last night.  (Photo by Jeno Berta.)

The other reasons we're going out to eat is that there are only 5 of us and my Dad will be opening his bar later.  The Green Bay game kicks off that great tradition of football and this gets him back there for that.  For those who might take issue with him being opened on T-day, this is truly by his choice.  I'll likely do another blog post on the bar one day, but for now, please rest assured that my Dad is just fine with working today.

Now there are a couple of traditions that I have (ahem) skipped today.  I'm not watching the parade.  (You seen one Snoopy balloon, you've seen them all.)  I also did not make it to the Turkey Trot.  Sure, it would make it tough to get to dinner on time.  (Yes, we're one of those families that eat way early.  Again, the Green Bay game!)  But truth being told, it's 19 degrees outside.  Sorry, but getting all geared up for the privilege of running 5 miles in the cold is not necessary for me to capture the joy of the day.  And besides, the YMCA already processed my payment and I got my t-shirt.  

Now there is one tradition that I do want to share.  It's the viewing of the WKRP "Turkey Drop" bit.  For those of us lucky enough to remember this show, it is everything GREAT about the late 70s.  This is perhaps one of the funniest episodes and the link below shows it.  I am making the good-faith presumption that since it has been on YouTube for a while and the "share" feature is enabled, it's cool to share it.  (Now, if whomever owns the copyright has an issue, you have my apology and I'll cease and desist.  In the meantime, please see the embed video below.)  I am sure no turkeys were injured in the taping of this episode.

I wish everyone a great Thanksgiving, Chanukah, St. Nicholas Day, Kwanzaa (Dec 26th this year) and whatever else you elect to celebrate.  Have fun (and for God's sake be safe!) and enjoy whatever traditions you want, goofy, serious, or somewhere in between.

Be well my friends,

My bib from today's race.  It's a "treadmill trot" for me.  (Photo by Jeno Berta)   

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

An Evening with Theresa Caputo

My ticket from Theresa's Show

Greetings All:

Two weeks ago, I attended Theresa Caputo live at the historic Adler Theatre in downtown Davenport.  I went with my wife and a few of her friends.  For those of you who do not know who Ms. Caputo is, she is a Medium.  If you watch TV, you may have seen her show, "The Long Island Medium" over on TLC.  Although I do not watch a ton of TV, I do enjoy her show.  So long as my beloved Green Bay Packers are not playing over on NBC (and please, Aaron, get well!) I'll often check it out with my wife.  She's a fan and I'll put myself in that camp as well.

So what is a "medium?"  According to our friends over at Wikipedia, mediums are individuals who can, "...mediate communication between spirits of the dead and other human beings."  Here's another definition from James Van Praagh:

"A medium is a psychic who has fine-tuned his or her extrasensory perception and can interface with the spirits in other dimensions. They are able to feel and/or hear thoughts, voices, or mental impressions from the spirit world. A medium is able to become completely receptive to the higher frequency or energies on which spirit people vibrate."

That's the theory, how's it work in practice?  Basically, the medium will receive a message from someone who has crossed over to the other side (yes, I mean, that other side).  I do not claim to understand a lot about the process but I've seen other mediums work prior to seeing Theresa so I can talk about the process in layman's terms.  The medium will first connect with a spirit and then will ask the audience (it can be one person or an auditorium) a series of questions.  Such as, "I am feeling a father figure presence."  Or, "Whose mother has passed?"  The medium will then ask a series of follow up questions to "validate" the spirit.  One example of such validation is the medium will ask, "What is the connection with roses?"  Or, "Is there something unusual on your loved one's headstone?"  Sometimes connections are made, sometimes not.

Before I discuss the show, a nod to any skeptics out there reading this.  I respect the right of people to believe what they wish on this subject.  I believe, strike that, I know that people of good will can have honest and passionate opinions and disagreements.  This is also a subject that can, understandably, generate a LOT of emotion.  As someone who has lost my Mom, I take comfort in my belief she's on the other side, and doing great.  I mention this for if you are someone who elects to not believe mediumship exists, then you may not want to read the rest of this post.  I have no delusions that my free blog post is going to change anyone's opinion.  Then again, perhaps you'll find the post amusing.  In any event, with that bit of housekeeping out of the way, let's go back to the Adler Theatre.

We arrived plenty early, or at least I thought.  I was way wrong.  It was a mob scene.  I have not seen this kind of crowd since the Bix 7 run back in July.  I found a place to park in the ramp, the top level.  I was skeptical that the event was sold out.  Not anymore.

The lobby of the theatre was jammed with people eager to both get close to the action and out of the cold.  To say the crowd was mostly ladies would be correct.  I became acutely aware of just how many women were there when I went into the men's room and there was a line of ladies waiting.  When I asked one of ushers if I could leave to use a bathroom in the hallway by the convention center, here's the discussion:

Usher:  "They're women in the mens' room?"
Me:  "Yeah."
Usher:  "Oh, but there's a restroom downstairs."
Me: "That's where I was."
Usher:  (Pausing to do the math in his head that this was likely both against city code and certainly unstoppable) "Fine, show starts in 10 min."

We got to our seats shortly before the show started.  I thought it was a class act that before we started the announcer asked us to rise for the National Anthem.  The video screen on stage flashed with the American Flag and Theresa's assistant sang the national anthem, and quite well, I might add.

Then, it was show-time.  The lights dimmed and the audience roared its approval.  To a thunderous round of applause out came Theresa.  For those of you who have not seen her, she is a self-described Long Island housewife.  About five feet, adorned with her signature shoes and her blond hair styled high, she makes an impressive appearance.  The other thing about her are her finger nails.  They are done with precision and are long, but not over-done.  (Like I know anything about nails.)

With Theresa, what you see is what you get.  She is someone who cares, simply put.  Being genuine matters, especially in her line of work.  I also like the fact that she is someone who is utterly comfortable in her own skin.  She does not hide who she is, she embraces it.

This matters.  Here she is in the middle of the country, a time zone away from home.  She is talking to an audience of about as Midwest as they come (and I say that with affection) so there was not that natural connection.  Yet she made one.  At one point, she came up to our section and she was a few feet away from me.  I was so impressed with how someone could be celebrating who she was and yet connecting with folks she had never met before as if they lived down the street.  It was fun to watch.

I have no doubt that several people came away from that evening lighter, much lighter than the evening began.  One person in particular had been grieving a son's loss for nine years.  In that almost decade of a time, she had been wracked with grief.  How could she not?  The loss of a child is something I can intellectually understand but emotionally, I am utterly incapable of feeling.  However, I could see this person's burden lifted, albeit only partially, when Theresa passed on a message that her son was just fine on that other side. 

Is it possible this was all a set-up?  Sure, anything is possible.  But realistically, nah, not a chance.  For Theresa to have set up something this elaborate it would have taken more time and money than it would be worth.  (After all, we're talking about Davenport, Iowa, after all.)  From what I saw and experienced, I conclude that Theresa Caputo has a gift.  She chooses to share her gift in her wonderfully funny, caring way. 

Richard Bach wrote Illusions, the Adventures of a Reluctant Messiah in 1977 as a follow-up to Jonathan Livingston Seagull.  Here's one of my favorite lines, "Your only obligation in any lifetime is to be true to yourself." (p. 47).   Theresa, in my opinion, is someone who meets that obligation.

Mr. Caputo (Larry) and me at the Alder 

Prior to the show, I got to meet Theresa's husband, Larry, or "Big Larry."  Theresa and Larry have a son, Larry, Jr., thus Larry is the senior, a/k/a "Big Larry."  I was very glad I had the chance to meet him.  He was gracious enough to pose for a photo.  There is no doubt that Theresa is the show.  But let's give Larry his due.  He is a wonderful supporter of his wife and may be a silent partner, but is a partner nonetheless.  If you have watched the show, you quickly come the conclusion (at least I do) that these are two people who are very much in love and their collective lives are so much better with each other.  In a world where "Reality TV" common plot line is self-destruction and betrayal, Larry and Theresa's story is a welcome change.

So that's my story of the evening with Theresa Caputo.  I enjoyed the whole experience.  Oh, and by the way, Theresa had no message for me.  That was fine with me.  She could not get to everyone, or even a fraction of the audience.  For the people that she did pass on messages to, they were genuinely moved.  One woman who did have a connection said, "This is my third time seeing you."  I guess sometimes the third time is the charm.

Be well my friends,

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Fair Weather Fan

The temp at about 8:00 this morning in my backyard.  (Photo by Jeno Berta.)

Greetings All:

Today, I am a fair weather fan.  I will own it and to my friends who are bearing the cold outside of Kinnick Stadium, I tip my (stocking) cap to you.  It's gotta be cold out there and I suspect the stadium concessions will do a brisk (bad pun, sorry) of selling hot coco.

I thought I was going to the game.  I split tickets with my friend and I had reason to believe this was my game.  I was looking forward to it as my beloved Iowa Hawkeyes are playing our arch-rival Michigan.  It is the last home game of the season and the Saturday schedule has shook out that I could make the game.  Then I found out that this was not my game and another friend was unable to go up with me.  I had no concerns about being able to buy a ticket.  For some games, you'll pay premium and like it.  For today's game, I suspect I could get a ticket cheep and then really cheep if I waited until after kick-off.  (The only problem with that is you miss the National Anthem and that is a no-starter with me.)

So I was on the bubble about heading to my school, the University of Iowa.  It's a short drive and I always like being back on campus.  I like universities and take pride that my Alma Mater is a state school.  True, it ain't Harvard.  Then again, Harvard has not educated generations of sons and daughters of the prairie.  My school has.  The older I get, the more I wish I would have taken advantage of the buildings actually within the campus as opposed to all the "public houses" that were located outside of the campus.  I am particularly impressed with the medical school.  We in Hawkeye country help heal a bunch of folks.  It's another thing to be proud of.

Today, however, is not about books but blocking.  It's a football Saturday.  I understand that for some people, football has no appeal.  I joke that I have taken my wife to precisely two games at Kinnick early in our relationship-her first and her last.  She's just not into it and that's her right.  I made the miscalculation that she, being a nice Jewish girl from North New Jersey, would love to be out in the cold watching a sport she barely understood for hours at a time.  She told me later, "I liked it because you liked it."  Makes perfect sense to me.

So here I am on a Saturday, about an hour away from kick-off, warm and inside.  Does that make me a fair weather fan?  Yeah.  I think what pushed me into the "NO" vote for today was realizing at 10:30 last night as I waited to pick up my daughter and her friends from the latest Hunger Games movie that I would be spending a good hour getting all my cold-weather gear together.  Nope, going to bed.  Not only am a fair weather fan, but a tired one, too.

Had I made it up to the game, I would have brought another one of these home with me.  (Photo by Jeno Berta, fair-use claimed of any copyrighted images displayed.  ANF stands for, "America Needs Farmers.")

 One of the things about being in my 40s is that I've got a perspective that I did not have earlier in life.  I am not claiming that makes me blessed with some "special gift."  If anything, it's akin to saying, "...and I'm also breathing oxygen right now."  Part of my perspective is that in figuring out how I approach my down-time is looking at the "true time cost."  What that means to me is that whenever you do something, it is not just the time cost of the event.  There is also the coming and going, the stopping of one thing and the re-starting of another.  At my age, there are other people to consider and their schedules.  Then, there is the matter of having some pure unscheduled time.  Ori Brafman in his new book, The Chaos Imperative, talks about finding "white space" to think and work.  I think that in both our work and non-work time, we need those blocks of time when we're not going or doing.  That was also part of my thought-process about the game today.

Who knows, today might be the greatest Iowa win in years.  I hope it is, especially for those fans who brave the cold.  (I do not include in this the idiots who will paint their chests and be exposed in the cold.  That's not passion, that's just dumb.)  You will deserve it.  For me, I'll have to settle for watching it on TV.  For this fair weather fan, that will have to do for today.

At least I got the flag up before kick-off.  (Photo by Jeno Berta, flag owned by Jeno Berta, fair-use claimed of any copyrighted images.)
 Be well my friends and Go Hawks!


Friday, November 22, 2013

Our Parents' Pearl Harbor

President Kennedy lies in repose, East Room of the White House, 1963,, Public Domain Photo

Greetings All:

"I suppose the only place anyone remembers where they were was when Pearl Harbor was attacked."  

I remember hearing the voice of John F. Kennedy saying that on some history program.  Pearl Harbor was a horrible day and horrible days have a way of burning their way into our memories.  Fifty years ago, another horrible day occurred with the death of President Kennedy.  

All throughout the news there will stories on the 50th anniversary.  The conversation will turn to the assassination and conspiracy.  People of my parents age will almost certainly be able to tell you where they were when they heard the news.  Time stood still.  It was our parents' Pearl Harbor.  For a series of ugly, long days, the nation stared at the lying in state.  Its heart collectively broke at the image of the child's salute to his father's coffin.  I asked my Mom once to describe how she felt and she offered a one-word answer:  "Numb."

When I think of Kennedy's assassination, I cannot help but think of the parallels to 9/11.  Both were days of such shock and horror that those of the age of memory will recall exactly where they were and what they were doing.  It was our  JFK killing.  It was our shared moment of tragedy.

I would suspect some may take issue with my comparison as being less than parallel.  After all, in '63 one person was killed.  In '01, it was 3000.  Kennedy's killing was a shock to the nation's system.  9/11 was an act of war.  The list goes on.  My point is not to conduct some mathematical calculations on the degree of tragedy.  It is instead to make the point that since 1941 there have been three events that impacted our nation across the board.  I am not aware of any other such event that could trigger in millions of people an immediate, common response of, "I was _____ when I heard the news."

Unlike Pearl Harbor, the Kennedy's assassination played out on T.V.  Unlike the assassination, 9/11 played out on the internet.  The medium for sharing the news and experiencing the details changed yet the emotional landscape remained the same.  That medium was inside every person's thoughts.  Tragedy transcends technology.

And I suppose in 38 years there will be similar pauses as there are now for 9/11.  I am in favor of remembering 9/11 every year just so long as it doesn't have the word "SALE" in front of it.  I hope that as we recall the Kennedy assassination, we honor the man for his good deeds and amazing oratory.  I hope we also remember he was a man, a man of limitations and personal failings.  Those limitations do not distract from his works, simply remind us they were works performed by a mortal like the rest of us.

I believe an honest review of our leaders empowers us to best learn from them.  To learn from them at their best and the other times.  Unlike Pearl Harbor, where the formal investigation was almost a non-story, 9/11 was THE story.  The 9/11 Commission's work was broadcasted, reported,  written, praised vilified and everything in between.  Here's the link to the 585-page report:

Then there was the JFK commission and the debates of just what happened in Dallas.  My local movie theater was replaying "JFK" a couple of days ago.  I suspect they will be playing it again 10 years from now.  My guess is we will never know all that happened.  I do know that if it had happened today, investigators would have thousands of iPhone videos to review.

Fifty years ago, our parents had their Pearl Harbor event.  Twelve years ago, my generation had our JFK moment.  What will be our kids'?  Perhaps none.  I doubt it.  I hope I'm wrong, but I doubt it.  

I was going to the post with that line but found it to be too negative. I try to be an optimist.  Not so much that I ignore reality but still try to find the good, the positive somewhere.  When thinking about JFK and its place in history, its impact on those of us in the present, I'm coming up short.  Time for a call to the booth, so to speak:

I'll wrap up with a reading from the third chapter of Ecclesiastes:  "There is an appointed time for everything...a time to be born and a time to die...a time to love and a time to hate...a time of war and a time of peace."  This was one of the prayers offered at the funeral Mass.  

We have an appointed time before us- today.  It is our choice to do with it what we will.  Just my two-cents, but it seems to me that regardless of what tragedy we know, from history or personal experience, our actions going forward become our recognition, our ownership of it.  When we do good deeds, act kindly, practice gratitude or simply choose to be happy, we pay tribute.  It is a silent one, known only to us and God.  It will never be in the history books.  No one else will ever say, "I was _____ when..."  Therein lies the beauty, and the fitting tribute.  It's a tribute as unique as ourselves and it shows that we reject the legacy of hate and darkness of those days.  Who knows, if enough of us do this enough times, perhaps our kids will not have their "moment."

It's something to think about.  R.I.P., JFK.

Be well my friends,


Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Thus So Nobly Advanced

Lincoln at Gettysburg, 1863, National Archives, Public Domain/Fair Use claimed

Greetings All:

150 years ago, Abraham Lincoln issued his best known speech, "The Gettysburg Address."  It has become an iconic example of the man and power of his oratory.  Although I think it is an amazing speech, I happen to be more partial to his second inaugural address.  Still, today is the anniversary of the speech at the Soldiers Cemetery and I do want to pay it homage.

In honor of Lincoln's mastery of brevity, I will attempt in my own feeble way to keep this blog post shorter than my other ones.  Therefore, I am going to defer any lengthy historical references to the battle that previous July or of the details of the speech.  I do think it is proper to offer the speech in its entirety, all two minutes of it:

"Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal. 

Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this. 

But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate -- we can not consecrate -- we can not hallow -- this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us -- that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion -- that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain -- that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom -- and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth."

Abraham Lincoln
November 19, 1863

 This is amazing to read.  Without a doubt, Lincoln was the right man at the right time to issue these words.  Nothing is wasted.  It reminds me of the quote from Antoine de Saint-Euxupery, "Perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away."  There is nothing to remove from this speech.  While Lincoln doubted if any words could dedicate this ground, he got it right.  It's still right today.

As I read it, as I try to do every time this year, some new part of it stands out to me.  This year it is the line, "...thus far so nobly advanced."  Lincoln is paying tribute to those who fell at the battle.  Whether at Little Round Top or repelling Pickett's Charge,  those whose final resting place was to be Gettysburg had done their part.  Lincoln honored what they did.

I also believe that Lincoln was using honesty as a currency, or more like a line of credit.  He was saying to the nation, "These men buried before us made an installment payment on freedom.  The next bill due is ours."

In perhaps a larger sense, Lincoln knew that the war itself would not right all with the nation.  While that too would be a cause "nobly advanced" further, it was not the end of the line.  More work would lie ahead.

It is why I find his second inaugural even more powerful.  That might be heresy, especially on this day, but I offer this reason why:  Lincoln used this address to offer a second volume to The Gettysburg Address.  He carried forward the message of the noble advance to complete the task.  It was a practical yet ambitious goal.  Here is the last line of that speech on March 4, 1865:

 "With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation's wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations."

In a way, it was as if he was telling the nation, "That bill coming due I foretold at Gettysburg, here it is."

On this anniversary, it is good to recall the words of Lincoln.  But for the bullet from Booth, that work might have gone on.  The malice that became Reconstruction would have likely not come to pass had Lincoln lived.  Instead, Lincoln's work ended.  It was up to those who followed to follow his noble example.  Unfortunately, they failed.

We all can ponder the words of Lincoln and determine how in our own way to decide how we can give our devotion to that unfinished work.  We do not have to have the oratory of Lincoln or the courage of the 20th Maine to make that contribution.  So long as we seek to make our own sincere efforts to a "just and lasting peace," then we can say (with satisfaction) we too nobly advanced that cause first mentioned 150 years ago.

Be well my friends,

Monday, November 11, 2013

The Handshake of a Hero

Photo from Jeno Berta, November 11, 2013

Greetings All:

Today is Veterans' Day.  Thanks to all our Veterans.  Whether you did two years in Germany in '79 or 14 months in "The Sandbox," you did what was asked of you.  To anyone who wore our uniform at anytime, this is your day.  The degree of service and sacrifice is different for everyone.  As that saying goes, "...some gave all."  If truth is the first causality of conflict, then fairness is the second.

Here's President Kennedy's take on it:

"...there is always inequity in life. Some men are killed in a war and some men are wounded, and some men never leave the country, and some men are stationed in the Antarctic and some are stationed in San Francisco. It's very hard in the military or personal life to assure complete equality. Life is unfair."  --"President's News Conference of March 21, 1962 (107)"  Public Papers of the Presidents: John F. Kennedy, 1962.

Life is unfair.  For all the times I think of some petty setback or silly inconvenience I see dressed up as a crisis, I need to recall I live the life of Reilly compared to the men and women we honor today.  The poem that follows is my amateur effort at a poem to pay homage to one veteran.   As I have said before, I’m a bar stool poet.  Still, this is from the heart.  Thanks for reading it.

The Handshake of a Hero by Jeno Berta

The old man who limps along,
Will shake your hand with a grip strong;
His face is weathered, his hair gray and thin;
Yet his eyes sparkle and he’s quick to grin.

He won’t brag and most won’t ask,
Of what he did those years past,
When he was young and he was  strong,
In a company of heroes he did belong.

In a jungle, or on a hill,
He faced an enemy,
Who wanted to kill.

He lost friends, he faced fear,
He smoked Luckys and drank beer.
He saw the worst that man can do,
Yet to his cause he remained true.

Then it was over, he came home.
But his mind would still roam,
Roam back to that place so long ago,
Where everyone was named Joe.

He still mourns his friends whom he lost,
In exact change, he’s paid war’s cost,
Yet he has lived a good life,
On decade six with his wonderful wife,
Kids and grandkids make his day,
And the first great-grand one’s on the way!

He is the reason that on honor him today,
Who fought against tyranny’s decay,

So if you meet him, shake his hand,
And know that, because of him,
You are free,
In this land.

Be well my friends,

Friday, November 8, 2013

A Pop Star's Tribute

"Off to War - Canadian Expeditionary Force recruits in Alberta, Canada", circa 1914, Public Domain,

 Greetings All:

Monday is Veterans' Day.  For anyone reading who is a veteran, please accept my thanks for what you did.  I may write more on this before the weekend is over but for tonight, I'd like to focus on our neighbors to the north, Canada.  Here's why:

A quarter-century ago (man that sounds so much worse than saying, "In 1987...") Bryan Adams released his Into the Fire CD.  I remember reading a Rolling Stone interview where he had proclaimed his desire to sell a "loud" amount of records.  In other words, surpass the hype of his uber-successful Reckless album (and it was an album back then) and all its sugary-pop hits.  He did hit his goal (sort-of) with selling 2 million copies and peaking at #7 on the charts.  He also wanted to be taken more seriously as a song writer.  To that end, he wrote a song entitled, "Remembrance Day."  As a college kid, I had a vague idea of what he was writing about, the Canadian version of our Veterans' Day. 

One might wonder why I am profiling an 80's pop star in this blog?  For whatever reason, I was thinking about this song and when I went to YouTube, I found the video below.  I presume that since this has been posted, there are multiple share options and no protest by the suits in Ottawa, it is OK to share this and Bryan is cool with it, so please, don't sue me, eh?  Thanks!  Now, with that leap of faith, here's the video:  (Public Domain and/or Fair Use Claimed)

As I listen to the song, there is, no doubt, an 80's sound to it.  It opens with a bold, rockin' sound.  The drums and guitars sound like, well, drums and guitars.  But as the song goes on, there is a maturity that comes.  One of the earlier lyrics jumps out at me:

"We'd face the fighting with a smile - or so we said
If only we had known what danger lay ahead."

Mr. Adams captures what was the smug attitude of many at that time in 1914.  The great powers of the day were spoiling for a fight.  Each side was equally sure they'd be home by Christmas, safe and victorious.  Didn't play out that way.  The powder keg that was Europe erupted from the spark of an assassin's bullet and did not end until four years and millions of deaths later. 

I haven't listened to this song in years and after listening to it again for a couple of times, am still impressed with it.  Adams wrote this at arguably the height of his fame as a rock star.  Yet he tackled a somber subject and, in my opinion, did it justice. 

Here are the lyrics, feel free to judge for yourself.

"For our king and our country and the promise of glory
We came from Kingston and Brighton to fight on the front line

Just lads from the farms and boys from the cities
Not meant to be soldiers we lay in the trenches

We'd face the fighting with a smile - or so we said
If only we had known what danger lay ahead

The sky turned to grey as we went into battle
On the fields of Europe young men were fallin'

I'll be back for you someday - it won't be long
If I can just hold on 'til this bloody war is over

The guns will be silent on Remembrance Day
There'll be no more fighting on Remembrance Day

By October of 18 Cambrai had fallen
Soon the war would be over and we'd be returnin'

Don't forget me while I'm gone far away
Well it won't be long 'till I'm back there in your arms again

One day soon - I don't know when
You know we'll all be free and the bells of peace will ring again

The time will come for you and me
We'll be goin' home when this bloody war is ended

The guns will be silent on Remembrance Day
We'll all say a prayer on Remembrance Day

On Remembrance Day - say a little prayer
On Remembrance Day

Well the guns will be silent
oh There'll be no more fighting
we'll lay down our weapons
On Remembrance Day.”

I doubt few other people would make the link to this pop culture song and the famous, haunting poem of John McCrae listed below, yet I can.  I see it as a bookend, a pop star paying tribute to a war, albeit from the safe distance of history.  The fact Adams elected to commit a song off his album to such a somber topic, one that his audience demographic knew only from history, says something.  In his quest to be taken seriously, this subject was a good choice.  I have no idea if Adams had relatives who fought in either World War, but I suspect he did.  Even if he did not, this was a sincere way to pay respects for all who fought.  The photo below is of the carnage of Flanders Field and the poem follows., public domain

In Flanders Fields
By: Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae, MD (1872-1918), Canadian Army
"In Flanders Fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.
Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields."

Is it a stretch to link a Bryan Adams song to a famous poem?  Sure.  Then again what I like about this blog is that I can share certain connections I come across that happen to stick around long enough for me to string nouns and verbs together.  For whatever reason, this happened with this song.  There are times when force must be used.  There are times when it is worth the cost.  However, there is a cost.  This weekend and Monday we pause to remember those who served (and are still serving in dangerous places far from home and ten free wings at Hooters) and say thanks.  Bryan Adams did so in his own way.  I'm glad he did.

Here is the link to the information about Into the Fire: 

You can purchase the song "Remembrance Day" here at iTunes:

Be well my friends,

p.s.- Did you check out the YouTube video?  Did you watch it all the way?  If you're a fan of the "Where are they now?" then watch the vid all the way through.  It's worth it.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

The Also Rans, public domain
Greetings All:

It's election night.  In New York City, there will be a new mayor.  In New Jersey, the Governor is sticking around.  In Virginia, the race is too close to call.  If you've read my blogs, you may have noticed that I tend to stay away from controversial contemporary matters.  I'll stick with that theme and not weigh in on the larger matters.  Instead, I want to give a nod of thanks to the countless candidates who ran and will wake up tomorrow...unelected.  They are the also rans.  For some, it may be the beginning of a brilliant political career.  For others, they never stood a chance.  There are those who ran at the urging of friends and neighbors.  Then there were the candidates who barely got on the ballot.  Still others were running on a single issue.  Whatever their reason, I say to all who ran and did not win, thanks. 

Thanks for getting involved in the process.  Thanks for giving up nights and weekends to walk your neighborhood, knock on doors, pass out literature and update your website.  Thanks too to your families for supporting you in this noble endeavor.  I do not use the word "noble" lightly.  I think democracy is a noble thing.  (We don't always treat it that way, but that is a subject for another day.)  This noble thing only works when people are willing to get involved, spend their time and money, energy and passion to pursue public office. 

I especially want to tip my hat to those local candidates.  They had no press secretary, gave no stirring ovations to packed halls and thunderous ovations.  Not one talking head offered any comments on their platform or their "story."  There were no fancy fund-raisers in some swank hotel ballroom, more like a keg of beer in bar's backroom.  Maybe they made up lawn signs.  Now that the election is over they have the melancholy task of taking them all down.  There are those who subscribe to the expression I said in school years ago, "Elections come and go but the campaign never ends."  For some of the also rans, this may be true.  They will collect their signs with the care of a rare book and stack them securely in their garage for the next race.  I suspect that most of the also rans will "retire" from public life and never seek the ballot again.  I hope they save at least one sign.  It's a memory they have earned the right to keep.

Or maybe not.  As I write this, I think about the candidates who are bummed out that they lost.  The more I think about this, it may be the case that they are happy as clams.  Maybe once they got a taste of politics and government, they decided it was not for them.  Or perhaps it was missing ballgames and scout meetings, of coming home to a house with everyone asleep while the candidate was out at another "forum," speaking to the same 18 people at the last two events.  And by the way, all 18 had already voted by absentee ballot.

Whatever the reasons for their defeat or their feelings about the outcome, their race is over.  So long as they honored the process of running an honest campaign, then they all deserve our thanks.  I hope that the winners will consider asking these former candidates to serve on boards and other civic work.  Even if the campaign was less than (ahem) cordial, put aside the personal feelings.  Who knows, maybe the irritation the winner felt on the campaign trail to his or her opponent was something more.  Perhaps it was fear that they might lose to this challenger.  If so, good.  That means you, Mr./Ms. Elected Official had to work hard to win the election.  Your opponent brought out the best in you on the campaign trail.  Now bring that person, the also ran, into the governing process.  We'll all be better for it.

Be well my friends,