30 April 2006

Songs of the Week, April 30 edition

Well okay so maybe Songs of the Week may be overstating it a bit. But I've been busy, and also quite a bit busy trying to figure out where I want this blog to go and whom/what I want to associate it with in the future. I've had offers, but I also want to know what the others are saying and approving of, too. Ahh, the lunacy of the need to have total control.

This 'week' then features some oldies but goodies: a practically unheard of band from the 1980s called David & David and the decades-strong supernova that was otherwise known as Queen.

In true 80's style, with the limited guitar solo, bad hair, and lighting that would have made Michael Mann in his "Miami Vice" days particularly proud, David & David made a one-hit wonder that I am always singing to whenever I hear it (and it's rarely played, even on the 80's stations). To the best of my knowledge, unfortunately this is the only song they ever 'made it' with entitled, ironically enough: "Welcome to the Boomtown". Shame, really, they had the hook and knew how to 'paint' an image, too. This was the stuff Don Henley and Glenn Frey (both post-Eagles and in full solo careers by then) were trying to do. This song is so LA, even twenty years on from when it was first released.



Lyrics:

"WELCOME TO THE BOOMTOWN"
by David & David

Ms. Cristina drives a nine four four
Satisfaction oozes from her pores
She keeps rings on her fingers
Marble on her floor
Cocaine on her dresser
Bars on her doors
She keeps her back against the wall
She keeps her back against the wall

So I say
I say welcome, welcome to the boomtown
Pick a habit
We got plenty to go around
Welcome, welcome to the boomtown
All that money makes such a succulent sound
Welcome to the boomtown

Handsome Kevin got a little off track

Took a year off from college

And he never went back

Now he smokes too much
He's got a permanent hack
Deals dope out of Denny's
Keeps a table in the back
He always listens to the ground
Always listens to the ground

So I say
I say welcome, welcome to the boomtown

Pick a habit
We got plenty to go around
Welcome, welcome to the boomtown
All that money makes such a succulent sound
Welcome to the boomtown

Well the ambulance arrived too late
I guess she didn't want to wait



VH1 has a very brief biography on them here.

David Baerwald's website (well, a fan web site anyways as this guy is still unknown, and the duo split up almost as soon as they had the one hit single) is here.



___________________________________________________________

Now compare that unknown ditty to the lunacy of megastardom Queen, at least when the late and great Freddie Mercury still ruled the planet. Thanks to 'Ready Freddie's' stratospheric vocal skills and the superb instrumentation of the three backing musicians (who essentially, even at '11'...think Spinal Tap here, folks, for the joke...could never hope to hold a candle to Freddie), Queen commanded huge throngs of fans the world over. People forget how great they were until you see taped concerts of them performing live. Despite all the hoopla at the time, Live Aid (the original in 1985) was Queen and then everybody else...I dare you to remain unmoved by Queen's performance at Wembley Stadium. Freddie had everyone in the crowd and those watching via TV eating from his hand...and for good reason. Queen may not be the best rock n' roll band, but Freddie (regardless of his death, affairs, or sexual persuasion) certainly was one of the best, if not the best, rock n' roll showman. May he rest in peace...especially now that his former glory-riding band now appears on "American Idol" on TV and, worse yet, has descerated the memory of Freddie by replacing him with the awful Paul Rodgers (formerly of Bad Company). Some greatness should just be left the hell alone.



The video below is a favourite of mine, from the songs Queen did for the movie (which then became a successful TV series) "Highlander". This is "Princes of the Universe". So powerful, so over the top, so machismo, so electric, so abso-fucking-lutely Queen. Enjoy the majesty that was Freddie.




Lyrics:

"PRINCES OF THE UNIVERSE"
by Queen
Here we are, born to be kings
We're the princes of the universe
Here we belong
Fighting to survive in a world with the darkest powers

And here we are, we're the princes of the universe
Here we belong, fighting for survival
We've come to be the rulers of your world
I am immortal, I have inside me blood of kings
I have no rival, no man can be my equal
Take me to the future of your world

Born to be kings, Princes of the universe
Fighting and free, got your world in my hand
I'm here for your love and I'll make my stand
We were born to be princes of the universe

No man could understand
my power is in my own hand
Oooh, oooh, oooh, oooh
People talk about you
People say you've had your day
I'm a man that will go far
Fly the moon and reach for the stars
With my sword and head held high
Got to pass the test first time - yeah
I know that people talk about me I hear it every day
But I can prove you wrong cos' I'm right first time

Yeah, Yeah, Alright, Watch this man fly
Bring on the girls

Here we are, Born to be kings
We're the princes of the universe
Here we belong...
Born to be kings, Princes of the universe
Fighting and free
Got the world in my hands
I'm here for your love, and I'll make my stand

We were born to be princes of the universe


The official Queen website here.

And a very thorough Wikipedia entry can be found here about their magnificent success.

28 April 2006

Hercules Mulligan at Tir na nOg

Saw a charming little band last night at the Tir na nOg Irish Pub & Restaurant last night in Raleigh. It features a very comical front man, who has been singing Irish songs for the last 13 years (and is actually the only Irish member of the lot), and 3 very skilled mostly bluegrass-trained musicians as backing. Apparently last night was their 'audition' show at Tir na nOg, and for a Thursday night in the middle of downtown, I think the turnout was good and the audience very favourable. I'm still working on names, as I talked to three of them...but I *believe* the names are Mike (fiddle, exceptionally good), Zach (exceptional standup bass and mandolin, also backup smartass to the lead singer), Chris (lead singer and very loose, easy-going with the crowd), and Mark (rhythm guitar, also exceptionally good). (Ed: 6/28/06: rhythm guitar player is named David, which I got confused when I was initially posting this here.) Amazingly, this is was the first or second gig of all 4 coming together as a group...they've played together in pieces of 2 or 3 before, but this was the first 'show' of the group...and it was a very pleasant surprise for me, especially as I only went into the pub with a friend for the sole purpose of finding a decent beer. I didn't even know live music was on the bill. After the show, I spoke to the guitarist a bit and I might be getting some 'official' information on them from him...and when/if I do, I'll post that here. I took a few pictures as well, but unfortunately I did not know the memory card was out of the camera, so now I'm trying to figure out how to download to here when the computer isn't even recognizing pictures exist. I hope to have this resolved and the pics posted later today.

I highly recommend them, and if in you're in Raleigh, give the Tir na nOg a (pronounced 'tear na NO og') a call at 919-833-7795 and ask when they're coming back. The manager/owner there said they were definitely welcome, and I hope they can get a weekly gig there. The pub is located at 220 South Blount Street, downtown Raleigh, near City Market. Their web site is: www.tirnanogirishpub.com . Three of the guys had to break camp a bit early as they were off west to go see Merlefest, which sadly I can't make it to this year.

I'll finish by saying the only drawback I saw with them is Chris not knowing the full lyrics of "Molly Malone", lyrics here. That will have to be rectified. If an Aussie pub rock band fave of mine (The Ordinary Fear of God) can have it in their encore with Elvis Costello, Hercules Mulligan can surely have it when people are ordering the third and fourth rounds.

However, on the plus side, they did play a song that I loved immediately but had never heard before: "Alice, Who the Fuck Is Alice?". Sometimes you really just need a song like that when drinking a few beers and unwinding after one less day on Planet Earth.

Lyrics:

"ALICE, WHO THE FUCK IS ALICE?"
by GOMPIE (Smokie)

Sally called when she got the word
she said I suppose, you've heard about Alice
Well I rushed to the window, well I looked outside
I could hardly believe my eyes,
a big limousine rolled (drew) up into Alice's drive.
IDon't know why she's leaving
or where she's gonna go
I guess she's got her reasons
but I just don't want to know
'cause for twenty-four years
I've been living next door to Alice
(Alice, who the fuck is Alice?)
Twenty-four years just waiting for the chance
to tell her how I´m feeling maybe get a second glance
Now I've got to get used to not living next door to Alice.
(Alice, who the fuck is Alice?)
We grew up together (We walked together) two kids in the park
we carved our initials deep in the bark - Me and Alice
Now she walks through the door with her head held high
just for a moment, I caught her eye, as a big limousine pulled
slowly out of Alice's drive
Don't know why she's leaving...
(Then) Sally called back and asked how I felt and she said
hey I know how to help get over Alice.
She said now Alice is gone, but I'm still here
you know I've been waiting for twenty-four years
and the big limousine disappeared
I Don't know why she's leaving
or where she's gonna go....

25 April 2006

Great Music, Great Travel and Great Aussies Bearing Chocolate

To say it's been a maelstrom at work may be an understatement...sorry for the every other day posts, folks.

That said, and in the interest of not sending an email to a friend who seems to be dodging me and therefore preventing a major geopolitical incident (at least in my mind), I've been vegging out looking at the following sites. Enjoy and know that my sanity (what I have, anyway) will return soon...hopefully by the end of the week.

YepRoc Records (based in my home state of North Carolina). Home of legends such as Billy Bragg, Paul Weller, John Doe (formerly of 'X' if you can't place the name), and some new blurs, too, including The Reverend Horton Heat (must see!), Southern Culture on the Skids, and Chatham County Line. Commercial radio (and listeners' intelligence) could be saved if more people listened and bought more YepRoc.

Virtual Tourist is everything one could want from a travel blog, but is far more comprehensive. Complete with pictures and a healthy dose of do's and don't's from people who've been there...almost as handy as a well-traveled travel professional (ahem...cough cough), and certainly better than 95% of what else you'll find travel related out on the web these days. I also highly recommend the "Travelers To Go!" site (click on the "join our travel discussions!" link first...may require membership to EzBoard to participate in the wonderful forums)...it's loaded with all the goods from people who insanely love to travel and see the world's limitless wonders.

And, something for a lighter note and also to satisfy the inventor Aquarian in me: Pimp My Snack, which, yes, pimps your favourite snacks up to gargantuan proportions. Think a literal overgrown gorilla-size peanut butter cup, or a massive bag of those kettle fried potato chips (crisps). Personally, I can't wait until I'm back in Oz (or have some Oz friends from here who'd like to volunteer? hint hint) to do this with some Tim Tams ®. Not only do Tim Tams ® need to go global, they need to go big ass global. And now. The Aussies will take over the world, folks, and any resistance to them is futile...they know the recipe to Tim Tams ® and they're not afraid to make them. Conquered by beer drinkers with funny accents and plenty of chocolate..worse ways to go.

23 April 2006

Leave it to "The New York Times" to come up with a timeline

And the saga with the alleged gang rape involving Duke University lacrosse team members continues...

Just when I had lost hope that somebody...anybody...in the news media would come up with a timeline that could be stated without all the emotion..."The New York Times" has (almost) in today's paper. There are still some factual issues I would still argue with...such as the Kroger grocery store being local to the Duke campus when, for whatever reason, both women bypassed the Durham Police, the Duke University Medical Center, and at least half a dozen convenience stores that would be open then, too, which are much closer...but at least this timeline's a start.

I hope I'm wrong, but I have a feeling that the truth is already out there...and it's just not being seized and pieced together like it should be. Either way, Durham burns in heightened racial tensions and suspicion.

"Call to Escort Service Began a Night of Trouble at Duke"

22 April 2006

Hey, hey, my, my...may brave Neil Young never die

Thank God not everybody in the entertainment biz has become a kiss-ass politically when it looks like they should have wised up, and spoken up, ages ago. (Dixie Chicks back in favour with everyone now? What was done to them, and is still being done to them, was an absolute, pathetic shame.) And Thank God that the likes of Neil Young, almost 40 years on now from when he first started, still has the balls to speak the truth to power...maybe it's become 'PC enough' now for other entertainers to grow a set and Mr. Young can be their role model.

Mr Young has entered the virtual age, though, and has started a blog, and it's here on blogspot, no less. (Something strangely weird in saying I share a blog 'address' with the likes of the legendary Mr, Young, but hell my life is all about having its daily contradictions, I suppose.) Read his blog, and remind yourself what education and truth you've been missing recently: "Living With War" .

He will also be releasing his new song (which advocates the impeachment of Dubya as President) over the internet starting next Friday, 28 April. Go to his main web site for additional details.

Reason, wisdom, and sanity still does exist and it still does have a voice. Good onya, Mr. Young.

20 April 2006

Updating the whirlwind media storm that is the Duke Lacrosse Team Rape investigation...

Quick post, as I'm still updating my timeline and trying to fill in the gaps so far of what has come out and what is still under investigation...

Two sources of information came out yesterday, one a video report from Dan Abrams and MSNBC showing some of the time-stamped photographs taken at the now infamous party on the morning of March 14, 2006. The first link is to the story itself, the second is a discussion of the same from the local Raleigh NBC TV news with anchor Sharon Delaney.

MSNBC's "Abrams Report" with Dan Abrams: "Video: Exclusive Photos in Duke Case"

NBC-17's (WNCN) interview with Abrams about the photos, investigation so far (watch video)

Meanwhile, the CBS TV affiliate at Channel 5 from Raleigh, (WRAL), has come out with a timeline that makes it a bit easier to keep all of the various details about this case straight: "Duke Lacrosse Investigation Timeline".

Disappointingly, "The News & Observer" newspaper from Raleigh published their own rather incomplete timeline in yesterday's edition, but unless that gets corrected, I will not be using that one here as comparison.

18 April 2006

Biodiesel America: A Fuel Alternative Worth Checking Out

I listened with great interest this afternoon to Allan Handelman's talk radio show about America's dependence on foreign (namely crude) oil and how it could all be avoided. Now, like so many others here, I have to give great pause when filling up my gasoline/petrol tank...and I am lucky as hell to live as close as I do to my workplace, so I only need to fill up twice a month these days. I also am insanely lucky to have a dependable light duty truck which has suffered well its owner (go, Argentio!) and I don't have children or endless errands to run. Except for the odd trip out of town (or more likely the odd trip out of state or even the country), I try my damnedest to stay and support my local businesses, vendors, and neighbours...and also limit my unnecessary consumption.

Now with $4/gallon USD gasoline/petrol predicted as early as this July, I know I am not alone with rediscovering a need to try and hem in even more on my expenses. While costs of living raises do not keep up, my creditors and others really could care less, so the cuts are going to have to come from somewhere. So it was with astonishing surprise that I learned today that biofuels...fuels that can be grown, recycled, refined and used in regular car engines, totally independent of crude oil...are not a thing of some sci-fi show on the future, but something that many people are using everyday, now. That perfectly normal people with cars far more costly and refined than my dear war horse are filling up, and operating on, fuels made from soybeans, corn, or even recycled cooking oil. And that their owners, savvy people that they are, are making such fuels themselves in some cases...and are doing so at a cost of about 50 cents/a gallon. That 50 cents a gallon is the equivalent of what most citizens in North Carolina pay alone in fuel taxes per gallon pumped, every time they fuel up at the local station.

I can't begin to do the whole thing justice, but for the sake of your peace of mind, independent spirit, and especially for the sake of your pocketbook, give the Biodiesel America site some serious exploring. It explains in great detail the many options being explored, which ones are easily viable now and where to find them, and the whole philosophy of why Americans should take control of their fuel consumption alternatives now...and not wait for the industry-affiliated politicians in Washington to (maybe, if ever) discover these alternatives.

The author and commentator on this is Josh Tickell and you can read his biography here.

I have one more bill to pay off (3 credit cards paid off this year already and also 4 other accounts as well...yeah budgeting and some sacrificing does work), and then I am seriously going to pursue this. From what I have read, it may be as simple as adjusting my truck's engine computer to a different fuel/air exchange ratio (which I could get a mechanic to do for me) and then finding fuel that I can buy here locally. You also can contact dealers and buy it in drums for safe storage in a garage or patio or deck, as it's far safer than regular fuels. I may even return to the 'scene of the crime', so to speak to find my future motherload: my former job at a movie local theatre...supposedly used popcorn oil can be especially well used as a biofuel and, as it has been used already, can be easily found and may be even free to acquire. And, Lord knows, these days, I'm all about free.

17 April 2006

Melancholy Mood (aka Needing to Get Away)



...and so wishing I was there (in Sydney) today, lazing on a park bench, looking at all the photo-happy Japanese tourists and wondering why I worry so much about the things I shouldn't.

My beloved Sydney Harbour Bridge from the underside on the southern shore. The Opera House (unseen) is to my direct right along this same railing and sidewalk, a bit of a stroll away. The historic amusement area of Luna Park (also unseen) is on the opposite shore to the left of this vantage point. What is still in view is the quaint and pricey suburb of Kirribilli, which is on the northern side and is also the home of my favourite hotel, The Glenferrie Lodge on Carabella Street. (Taken December 2005.)

16 April 2006

Too little, too late? US to give tips to its citizens how not to be 'an ugly American'

In what must be one of the more remarkable laughs I've had in a bit (being as I'm a fairly frequent traveler and have also worked in the travel and hospitality industry), I read today in a UK (yes, nothing about here, mind you) newspaper that an active campaign is underway to help Americans improve their image when travelling overseas. In short, be the more polite, less arrogant, less demanding, and generally better behaved tourists we should have been all along. Coordinated in part by Dubya confidante Karen Hughes (who also recently led a disastrous PR campaign to the Middle East, where she discussed how Muslim women could become more independent like American women, among other things), a non-profit group is producing guides for American travelers and business people to follow. The goal is to improve the country's image overseas (which, I wonder, would maybe also improve greatly if our political leaders read same guides??) and to aid in the general business and cultural exchange that occurs when in foreign lands.

From the "UK Telegraph" : 'Speak softly, don't argue and slow down' .

I especially have to wonder what Ms. Hughes' influence is with regard to handling the political discussion, namely, the 'don't argue' element of the guide.
  • "If you talk politics, talk - don't argue. (Steer clear of arguments about American politics, even if someone is attacking US politicians or policies. Agree to disagree.)"

Personally, and I realize this is where many Americans abroad get into trouble being loud and obnoxious, I think political discussion overseas should actively be encouraged. If an American tourist actually has to learn something about another country's politics or (God forbid) has to actually defend some of our own from here, a pathway to understanding can be laid. Instead of shying away from talking to the locals, Americans should be trying to talk and learn about anything from them...this is how trust and friendships are developed, and that is how the image of the 'ugly American' is killed before it takes root. Unfortunately, that image is something we frequent travelers have to contend with everywhere we go now...and, given our recent politics, it's only getting worse. What's more troubling, though, is that our dear government has frightened people so with the 'US versus them' attitude that any potential travelers from the US are just staying on North American shores instead. After all, according to Dubya et al, the terrorists are everywhere and they're all against us.

But if you get around the Propaganda (where is the next Charlie Chaplin when we need him, anyways?), though, you'll find there is a wonderful, huge, beautiful world out there...and full of equally dynamic people eager to meet and make friends with Americans. But as much as they want to learn about us, it's important we learn from them, too, or else the whole reason for going in the first place is lost.

It wasn't until I went to London for the first time did I realize just how wealthy (and inaccurate, in my humble opinion) the British thought everyday Americans are...the friends there were and are still flabbergasted that I actually live paycheck to paycheck somewhat and budget all the time. I also learned invaluable tips about how to deal with the patented British 'stiff upper lip' in confrontations, and I actually prefer it now to the way we generally handle arguments. Civility still does exist, although it's a dying art.

It wasn't until I went to Italy did I fully appreciate how much Americans take things like long showers, dependable public transportation, and a relatively corruption-free government for granted (and, yes, I was in Rome). I don't care how many travel books you read, nothing teaches you about learning a language quicker than being there and lost in a piazza and having to find someone, anyone, who knows some English to help you get out and back to your smallish (and egads! perhaps non-air-conditioned) hotel. Nothing humbles you more than not being able to even say the fewest phrases in their language, but them knowing yours fluently.

It wasn't until I went to France did I realize how very different the social and welfare systems are from here...and why, at the very minimum, Americans should understand why this frequently puts the two countries 'against' each other on the world stage. The French may still may not be 'my kind of people', but I understand them, and their generational motivations, much more after being there. The time spent with the elders and the students gave me insights that hell even further explained the French Revolution.

The same goes for Spain, as the dear Spanish are always wondering why Yanks are always in such a hurry, always needing something more, newer, more expensive...in short, why we can't just settle the hell down and be happy with what we have got so far. They pride themselves on keeping their priorities and taking things at a simpler pace and if they make less money, so what? They'd contend they're much happier. When will we reach that point, they ask, aren't we tired of running the rat race already? And, you know, those are very legitimate questions and they demand to be asked to every tourist that travels that fine country.

In my beloved Australia, the dear Aussies are nothing short of petrified of becoming the 'next America', ruining a wonderful way of life that they have created with much blood, sweat, and tears. I have learned so much from them...everything about how they value their families, how they have to respect the outdoors and what fickle Mother Nature has given them, how they so desperately try to live and let live with others as much as they can...you can't help but wonder how long they can hang on to these principles that we've cast aside in the US. Happiness for them is having a barbie with friends and family, maybe with the cricket game or footy game on in the background, and a few cold stubbies (short-bottled beers) in the eskie (cooler) and not working 50, 60 or more hours a week to maintain that lifestyle. Australia is unfairly dubbed as America but just 20 years backward. For the most part that's not true, but God Bless them, they do still hold onto the ideals of family and fun of an America that ceased to exist about 30 years ago. And every American tourist needs to be reminded of that, first hand, and often. Seeing what we've given up as a society is just as important as what is we've never had.

The above can't be found from reading a travel book, or watching a TV show, or even talking with friends over the internet. For the longest time, Americans have been acting like John Wayne in the Badlands...unquestioned king of the domain. I'm guilty of it, all Americans abroad are guilty of it for some reason or another. It's how we deal with challenges abroad that will define us in other people's eyes. Regardless of military conduct or economic policy, we have a duty to be a world citizen when we travel and learn about others...and more importantly, not be afraid to learn about ourselves, no matter how we may dislike the reflection projected back. This guide is too little, and far too late, in my opinion, but maybe it will help some folks on their first travels. Instead, we should have had this guide decades ago...when the die was being cast, when education about other countries wasn't tied to political propaganda so much, when Americans were less fearful of our neighbours and our neighbours were more trusting of our intentions. It's an uphill battle from here on out, folks.

14 April 2006

Doing Good Works...Bono's Calling Your Name

I'm a big believer in doing good works. Sounds naive, even simplistic, but there it is. Slowly as we become more and more independent from one another due to technology and what have you, thinking about doing good works is a major event for most folks these days...let alone doing them. It's become far, far too easy to just not find a way to help someone else out...even someone we don't know...in favour of numbing ourselves into oblivion in front of our television. Damn good thing most of the Western countries are long such established, for Lord only knows what each country would have been like if populated by the citizens of today. Find anything, something on a small scale, give it a whirl, and build from there. I don't care if it's even as minor as holding the door for old ladies (which in the South here used to be called 'good manners' and not necessarily a 'good work', but those days are passe), start somewhere and start today.

I, for one, previously never quite understood the fascination of making good works seem 'appealing' to the masses, but after volunteering for years with the likes of everything from a homeless shelter to EMS to Habitat for Humanity, I now have a very distinct picture of why that issue must not only be addressed, but conquered. Frankly a charity or organization needing volunteers to come help has to 'look cool', has to show potential volunteers there's some 'gloss' sometimes to being associated with the cause somehow. Another ugly fact about the state of things, but there it is. If you don't believe me, look at some notable charities and/or causes and their financial support and network...those that have the 'cool' or 'celebrity' or 'it' factor will win out, hands down. The 'celebrity' factor is especially crucial, as we seem almost transfixed on finding out about and following our favourites to an endless degree. And frankly I thought that was what Bono (lead singer from Irish megaband U2) was all about...becoming another celebrity endorsing some other cause I should feel guilty about.

Over the last few years, when he hasn't been giving slightly arrogant interviews about U2's place in rock n' roll history and doing the worldwide mega tour, Bono has instead become the cause. Not in the sense that Whitney Houston has in the warning about the harms of crack cocaine (allegedly), but in the sense that Bono has a vision to help recruit help and money for not just one issue, but for a whole continent, some say world, of issues. I've never been one to watch my rock stars mingle with politicians (images of Elvis and Nixon circa 1973 come to mind and produces a shudder), but I have to admit watching Bono in a news conference with a former US Treasury Secretary, Microsoft creator Bill Gates, officials of the World Bank, and several UN ambassadors of African nations...well, it gives one pause, much like one gets when coming on an 'almost' accident. You cannot turn away, period. You also can't help but stand back and watch in awe, but you also stand far enough back to maybe duck in case things get real ugly, real quick. There is a reason why Bono is a singer and not a politician...diplomacy is not his forte, but power to that, I say.

I cannot even begin to touch upon what Bono and his movement (yes, movement, he was nominated seriously for a Nobel Peace Prize in 2003 and he was a co-winner of last year's "Time" magazine Person of the Year) have been attempting, are attempting, and even have on deck. To say a full-body assault is on with the Western world's consciousness would not be too preposterous a statement. Admittedly I don't have his money, recognition, nor media influence, but there are somedays when the biggest obstacle for me is just finding my shoes and even that can be taxing to my feeble noggin. Bono, on the other hand, wakes up and decides he wants to have Africa's foreign debt forgiven and is making it happen. I don't know which is worse: that my biggest obstacle somedays is finding my shoes or that Bono stands out so much as a maverick for attempting to do this when no one else apparently will. To read more about this and his other goals, go to the following: DATA (Debt AIDS Trade Africa) and ONE (The Campaign To Make Poverty History).

Today I read where he's been at it again and may have hit (in theory, anyway) the motherload: he's found a way to have donations come in on 'auto-pilot' by creating "Red" products that makes donations to African AIDS relief every time the product is bought/used, much like airline miles are accumulated by using a specific airline's credit card. So non-sacrificers can still be shopaholic capitalists yet feel good about helping out the hungry, homeless and disease-infected...and still be cool, hip, and attached to the uber-trendsetting Bono et al. What's not to love? While I'm underwhelmed with the rollout as discussed in the article below (and why not try a major rollout in the US??...I've never heard of this before, anywhere over here, and I actually read up on Bono regularly), I am hopeful that maybe some momentum can be started somehow...and save this idea from the scrap heap of really good ideas that just got ignored by a stupid public. Read more about it in "The Wall Street Journal"'s article: "Products Turn Red To Augment AIDS Fund" ,(April 13, 2006).

To read all about the sponsors and contributors with this program, go read about Product Red.

I think I just found some additional incentive to save up for some new shoes.

13 April 2006

This seems to say it all...for now



Forgive the language, folks, but I happened across this sign/magnet and took a picture, as it just seemed to 'fit' the consensus of the local attitude around here lately. And, yes, I do live in the more metropolitan area of the state.

(I can't find the manufacturer nor the distributor information for this, but to cite correctly it does have © Kalan SM159. If I can find a link where these can be purchased or what have you, I'll include when I can.)

Blame this temporary (?) attitude on the full moon if that makes you feel any better about us.

11 April 2006

Homesick for a dream left on an empty plain

It must be a full moon, or the oncoming spring, or the loss of a very kind woman that has me dreaming again...of a promise that I once chased through my dreams as a child, awed at as a teen, and foolishly outran as an adult. When you come from a small town with an even smaller mindset, all you can think about when growing up is what else is 'out there', what other, more exciting adventures only other people get to experience. You pray for a break from the mononity of the day...for anything, literally anything...that will cause even a temporary respite from the tick-tock of yet one less day in your life.

I was sheltered as a child, I see that now, living less than a mile from an underused railroad track and an even less used and overgrown baseball diamond. I begged to silent ears for an escape, as I was ready to leave the day my family arrived. But when living there, the sun was always hot in my face and the dusty grit was always on my tongue...and it made me want something better, more civilised, more perfect, and cool, and urbane. I left when I could (and I wonder still if I left too late), and although I have traveled to many places the world over, I realize there is no perfect place where every day is full of new, hushed and unspoken adventures. The landscape of life is what we make of it...whether it be in the USA on a farm, or in a flat in London, or a near a drought-parched riverbank in Australia. I still can hear that once-daily railway blast, mingling with the honeysuckle and the robins of my dreams. I still long for yet another game of catch with my beloved, and departed, father. I still chase the sun, I still taste the grit on my tongue and I realize all of these landmarks shall never leave my soul. Somedays that upsets me, somedays...like today and yesterday and the day to come as I must lose another patient...I want so desperately to just go home to my childhood window and wonder heavenward again. I'm sure now, absolutely positive in fact, that I've missed the signal I should have taken heed to years ago.

My departed friend was from the great empty lands of the Plains as well, and what we lacked in trees as children we more than made up for imagination. I would not meet her until many years later when we had both moved East, in search of some Utopian fantasy we had been sold on television...and both had been shortchanged when we wanted a refund...and I wonder now where, and even if and indeed when, we shall meet again. Years apart in age and experience, we could share little except our playlike childhoods. And tornados and storms...such glorious storms, filled with lightning and broken windows and runaway dogs and mobile homes unprotected from almighty God. When I learned of her death, all I could think of was our stories from the unforgiving Plains, and how we both had searched longingly upward, each for an answer we still had yet to find. I can only hope she has found hers now, and that one day I will indeed find mine.

I found and love this wonderful video not for its majesty of nature, but because I could not escape how it so brilliantly displays what she and I shared from our multi-coloured memories. Violent, grand, indecisive, dark and moody in its storm, light and sunny through its rays. And it's real, the hunter and the hunted simultaneously. What a wonderful thing to see in action as we must welcome the finality of it all...and to think, we'd seen these wonders for years as children. Perhaps that's what one sees when you've accepted, and even find, your dream...a child's innocence, returned.

Rest in peace, dear friend, rest in peace. I love you still.

(The video below has music to it, added by the original photographer and editor, so it might be advisable to turn down the volume, if necessary.) Enjoy and be awed, as I always have been.


09 April 2006

Been a long, bizarre weekend...questions

Hell is freezing over somewhere, I'm convinced. Too many tirades to go into now, but suffice it to say whatever seems to be going 'wobbly' (as Lady Thatcher would put it) in the outside world, seems to be only doing more so for me privately. Not that they ever have, but people have really stopped making sense.

Questions that I am pondering, with no immediate satisfaction:
* when people already have enough of what they need, why do they steal more? (and yes, I am aware of how naive this sounds in relation to money, etc., but think more physical items)
* when did it become politically and socially (and whatever the hell this internet community is called-ly) unacceptable to defend a friend's honour?
* when did it become okay to 'pile on' to a person's perceived reputation, no matter if it's positive or negative, when the facts aren't even known, let alone in?
* why is it we all try like hell to be more 'connected' with one another, even complete strangers we try really hard to make peace with, and all we've really accomplished is just another way to bring each other down?
* why is jealousy such a dominating emotion, especially misplaced jealousy?
* whatever happened to self-discovery for discovery's sake? why must all riddles be solved?
* how did I get from being judged not for my words, not for my actions, not for my appearance, and not even for the company I keep, but instead vilified for words, actions, or appearances of those I don't even know that well, but support in their arguments, principles?
* why is it always easier to slam a door on someone nowadays than peek through the window, let alone even open that door a little, before passing down judgment?
* why is it getting harder and harder to stand up for myself, my principles, and those that I believe in?

I'm now accepting any and all alternative answers, because I'm fresh out of ways to make acceptable excuses.

07 April 2006

It's Friday 7 April...time for A Great Australian Moment of Zen

It's been a tough week, and not just because work sucks right now and I don't want to do anything really at home, either. However, the good news is (thankfully! as I hate the cold) spring is finally coming on here in North Carolina. I'm hoping to force myself out this weekend and take some pictures which I'll then post. The news around here has been far too grim lately, and I need something to cheer me up.

And, now courtesy of www.YouTube.com and a user named 'atomman', I bring you reasons (complete with excellent editing and music, no less), on why my beloved future home of Australia is indeed called The Lucky Land. Watch, admire, and enjoy.

In my heart today, I'm down at Darling Harbour: (the last series of buildings you see here before the aerial shot takes over at the end, one building...the National Maritime Museum looks like it has a sail for its roof), sitting on some stairs watching the buskers (street performers) and enjoying a vanilla bean and mango gelato from Gelatissimo. (Read the 2003 "Sydney Morning Herald" article about them here .)

Ah, hell...even my dreams have flavours.


06 April 2006

E-mail of profound disrespect, suggested cruelty

The levee broke yesterday at Duke University and its Mens' Lacrosse Team. And unfortunately the flood waters being held back were darker, more sinister, and incredibly vile...and that's just from one e-mail that's been publicly released from a formerly sealed search warrant.

The lacrosse team coach resigned yesterday, or was asked to leave, but that wasn't wholly unexpected...locally, he has been widely regarded as being far too passive about events when they were first revealed. And that's from what is known at this juncture. The season and any practices have also been stopped, no word yet from Duke administration as to whether calls from several professors on staff that the current team be disbanded will actually see the light of day. Sooner or later, the coach was gone; let's hope that his program is not later shown to have festered a team monster or two.

And now onto the monster portion of this post, which I cannot report any better than "The Smoking Gun" did yesterday. It truly falls under the 'read it and be shocked, then weep' status. TSG's site has the complete unsealed search warrant details, including the horrific e-mail that can be found off page 5 from their site. Read "Duke Rape Case E-mail Shocker...After alleged assault, player wrote of killing, skinning strippers". The e-mail's author, who at the least should be sent for psychiatric intervention and God only knows what else I can come up with, was also 'suspended indefinitely' yesterday from Duke. He'll be lucky, given the open hostility that exists in Durham now, if he can make it out of town without any further incident...actually, that could now apply to the entire (former) lacrosse team.

05 April 2006

Follow-ups to the Duke University lacrosse team investigation

Just a quick update this morning, as I have too many irons in the fire to really do justice to the blog here (that's not anything new, actually). I'll try and make it back tonight to elaborate on these with some commentary.

Transcript from April 3 "Rita Cosby: Live & Direct" show from MSNBC TV network (referenced in yesterday's post).

Some additional items from the local newspaper, "The Durham Herald-Sun" , which is chronicling the fallout amongest the city of Durham and Duke University, as well that between Duke University and nearby predominantly black North Carolina Central University (the university where the alleged victim of the attacks is attending school part-time). The articles below all appeared in "The Herald Sun" yesterday, April 3.


04 April 2006

It's official...the media circus has now taken up residence in Durham

I'm just so glad that the likes of Durham, North Carolina...which, at best, has been plagued with racial incidents across all groups that reside and work there since I have moved here well before and since 1992, including the 6 years I lived and worked there...now has to have this case of alleged rape by Duke University lacrosse players made into a full-blown racial debate by the major media outlets. Yes, race is involved, as almost everything is in Durham. Yes, Duke students are known for their money and partying ways (some, but certainly not representative of the majority). Yes, some sort of abuse (according to anonymous reports given to the local press, anyways) went on that fateful night. And yes, everybody in Durham and at Duke University...regardless of age, economics, or background...wants justice served and some semblance of a normal life returned here. Unfortunately, no, that's not going to happen. Why? Because the circus...aka the media...has come to town.

Since Sunday, the alleged rape story has been the main news story on nothing less than the AOL sign-on page, a featured article in "The New York Times", and then yesterday was a major debate on MSNBC's TV show featuring Rita Cosby, on "Rita Cosby's Live and Direct." Not to mention being picked up by countless news wires, blogs, and home pages nation and worldwide. And what is disturbing about that, you ask? Just that no new news has broke yet from the case, essentially...except that now the media is hellbent to create some to fill the void. The only thing we 'know' today that we didn't last week is that now the Durham District Attorney says DNA evidence will now not be available until next week (second time thus delayed). After that, it's speculation that is being turned into news, if for no other reason than sheer repetition and hope for ratings. Local community, local race relations, local town and gown partnerships be damned. May is sweeps month, after all..

The truth is out there regarding what really went in that house on Buchanan, but God only knows if that truth will ever see the light of day...a person actually living here locally just senses the news 'needs to go a certain way' to please the media covering the story. And the sad thing is, that said, neither side is going to be a 'winner'. Welcome to the circus that is journalism these days, circa 2006.

Here's the link from the MSNBC's page for Rita Cosby's coverage of the case: Rush to judgment in Duke rape case?

When available, as it should be sometime later on today and/or tonight, I will also include a transcript link to Cosby's show last night (2 April), which featured about a 6-7 minute debate about how inconclusive or even negative DNA findings against the lacrosse players may still be enough to have them charged with rape. It also features snippets of an 'in shadows' interview MSNBC had with the alleged victim's father.

02 April 2006

Songs of the Week: 2 April 2006

Survived April Fool's Day, a 4k walk, car repair, and the preparation of a making of a 'penis cake' for a bachelorette party. And I finished the rest of my Chinese food leftovers, unfortunately I then fell asleep and then missed the best comedy on television: professional wrestling. Absolutely stunning weather here yesterday.

My brain is frazzled this am, could be from the future reduction of yet another hour's sleep. (Would somebody tell me why we are doing this still? I mean in Australia it's so variable they decided to 'hold back' their daylight savings time change this year until the completion of their Commonwealth Games, so obviously we don't need it. And, what, half of the state of Indiana never changes still? Somebody give me a reason, as I think this 'tradition' has lost its meaning.)

That said, I have two songs going around in my head that I CANNOT FREE MYSELF FROM. It's sad, I was humming both the other day while at work...in the bathroom, which amplifies all sorts of humming a few decibels. Hereby let these two be the virginal inductees into my Songs of the Week category.




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The first: "Steady As She Goes" by The Raconteurs (new project co-fronted by White Stripes' member Jack White). An infectious, stripped down, bouncy little hook that is like the love child between punk wannabes and mainstream fast food french fries.

  • View the band's website here. (Very retro early '80s 'Pong' type of site.)

  • (Love the cows. We can all thank Dave Stewart from The Eurythmics for that trailblazing detail.)
  • Lyrics from here (and printed below as well).

Lyrics from "Steady As She Goes":

The Raconteurs - Steady As She Goes

From the album "Broken Boy Soldiers"
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Find yourself a girl, and settle down
Live a simple life in a quiet town

Steady as she goes (steady as she goes)
Steady as she goes (steady as she goes)
So steady as she goes

Your friends have shown a kink in the single life
You've had too much to think, now you need a wife

Steady as she goes (steady as she goes)
So steady as she goes (steady as she goes)
Well here we go again, you've found yourself a friend, that knows you well
But no matter what you do, you'll always feel as though the truth has failed

So steady as she goes

When you have completed what you thought you had to do
And your blood's depleted to the point of stable glue

Then you'll get along
Then you'll get along

Steady as she goes (steady as she goes)
So steady as she goes (steady as she goes)
Well here we go again, you've found yourself a friend that knows you well
But no matter what you do, it always feels as though the truth ends
So steady as she goes
Steady as she goes

Settle for a girl from the upper-town
Send it to the crowd that's gathered round
Settle for a girl from the upper-town
Send it to the crowd that's gathered round

So steady as she goes (steady as she goes)
Steady as she goes (steady as she goes)
Steady as she goes (steady as she goes)
Steady as she goes (steady as she goes)
So steady as she goes (steady as she goes)


Steady as she goes
Are you steady now?
Steady as she goes
Are you steady now?
Steady as she goes
Are you steady now?
Steady as she goes
Are you steady now?
Steady as she goes



(lyrics from: www.leoslyrics.com here)
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The second song is also a little catchy ditto, but more appealing to the 'mainstream' audience at large. KT Tunstall's "Big Black Horse and a Cherry Tree" has the potential to make it big...if she can get the right stations to play it, and if/when they do, they don't overdo it for her: I like her voice and really want to hear some more.
  • View her official website here. (This is the debut album for the Scottish songwriter...great outing.)

  • (Simple, no gimmicks, nothing flashy. Nothing irritating, either.)
  • Lyrics from here (and also below as well).
  • Special treat: the guitar chords and tablatures for this song from here.

Lyrics from "Black Horse And The Cherry Tree"

K T Tunstall - Black Horse And The Cherry Tree

From the album "Eye To The Telescope"

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two, three, four
(woo-hoo, woo-hoo)
(woo-hoo, woo-hoo)
well my heart knows me better than i know myself
so i'm gonna let it do all the talking.
(woo-hoo, woo-hoo)
i came across a place in the middle of nowhere
with a big black horse and a cherry tree.
(woo-hoo, woo-hoo)
i fell in fear, upon my back
i said don't look back, just keep on walking.
(woo-hoo, woo-hoo)
when the big black horse that looked this way,
said hey lady, will you marry me?
(woo-hoo, woo-hoo)
but i said no, no, no, no-no-no
i said no, no, you're not the one for me
no, no, no, no-no-no
i said no, no, you're not the one for me
(ooooo, woo-hoo)
and my heart had a problem, in the early hours,
so it stopped it dead for a beat or two.
(woo-hoo, woo-hoo)
but i cut some cord, and i shouldn't have done that,
and it won't forgive me after all these years
(woo-hoo, woo-hoo)
so i sent her to a place in the middle of nowhere
with a big black horse and a cherry tree.
(woo-hoo, woo-hoo)
now it won't come back, cause it's oh so happy
and now i've got a hole for the world to see
(woo-hoo, woo-hoo)
but it said no, no, no, no-no-no
i said no, no, you're not the one for me
no, no, no, no-no-no
said no, no, you're not the one for me
(ooooo, woo-hoo) (not the one for me, yeah)
(ooooo, woo-hoo)
said no, no, no, no, no, no, no
you're not the one for me
said no, no, no, no, no, no, no
you're not the one for me
big black horse and a cherry tree
i can't quite get there cause they've all forsaken me
big black horse and a cherry tree
i can't quite get there cause they've all forsaken me

(lyrics from: www.tophitsonline.com here )

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