Saturday, May 23, 2015

Saturday Song Selection - The Rascals: Groovin'

“We'll keep on spending sunny days this way.
We're gonna’ talk and laugh our time away.
I feel it coming closer day by day.
Life would be ecstasy, you and me endlessly,
Groovin' on a Sunday afternoon” - Cavaliere/ Brigati

This time out, Saturday Song Selection features a favorite from my youth reflected in hazy reminiscence and awash in gauzy nostalgia. The mundane and common fable to follow may or may not be fully factual, but rather more a scenario imagined while listening to Groovin'; a pleasant reverie in the form of a fond, far distant recollection from a summer long ago. Whether the exact occasion ever actually occurred or is merely a fanciful and fuzzy compilation of childhood experiences blurred and bettered by middle-aged melancholy and an adult’s longing for the wistful romanticized charms of what seemed like a simpler time (you know, Vietnam, riots in the streets, assassinations) is as much a mystery to me as the origin of the universe, the events beyond our passing, and the appeal of Jimmy Fallon.

Summer 1967 - your blog host, nycityman, was then but 8 year old statenislandboy, and if one wished to keep creative accounts of his thoughts, opinions and deeds, he did so with pad and pen.  All we knew of computers was Colossus: The Forbin Project, they were humongous, room-sized, punch-card spewing monstrosities with giant tape reels for heads, as likely to destroy civilization as to serve it. 

There was still a month and a half left to go before the return of pencils, books and teacher’s dirty looks (ah, the innocent and simple blissfulness of a responsibility free summer vacation from school.) The weather cooperated, Tex Antoine and Uncle Wethbee did mostly right by us, and the backyard trees provided sufficient shade to keep the assembled uncles, aunts and very active, kid cousins cool and comfortable for the consumption of an array of grilled meats and iced sweetened beverages. There were more little Italian kids running around that backyard than would be fleeing a Vatican parade of Cardinals in Saint Peter’s Square and, thirsty from activity, we enjoyed sips from the full flavor variety of Pantry Pride soda, sugary as a Sunday Sermon and twice as gassy. We were a lower middle class clan grateful for the largesse of store coupons, and subsiding on a diet of store brand knock-offs and cheaper competitors to brand name products. Under certain circumstances, I might still shudder and quake at the mere memory of C&C Cola or Suave Baby Shampoo “almost no more tears formula.”

In a few hours when day turns to dusk, some will rush inside to catch that evening’s Mets game on the black and white portable in the kitchen with Ralph Kiner, Lindsey Nelson and Bob Murphy announcing the inevitable loss – some things never change. But while still chaise lounging on the equal part weeds-equal part grass lawn, entertainment was provided by the 6 transistor radio, tuned in, as always, to 77 WABC, the nation’s premiere top 40 station. Each hit song was played in such constant rotation and repetition that any man, woman, child or particularly clever cockatoo within earshot would have lyrics committed to memory like the birth date on a fake ID, and could sing along like a member of the Pips. And, with the traditional talk-up introduction that continued far too long into the body of the song, DJ Ron Lundy bestowed upon his listeners the still popular chart-topper, Groovin’, the ideal number for this easy, lazy Sunday day bereft of worries, adult apprehensions and obligations.

Spring 2013 - the frequently contentious and famously feuding Rascals are convinced by Steven Van Zandt of the E Street Band to reunite for a limited and triumphant run on the Great White Way (no, not the floor of Congress) their first performance together since 1972. I gleefully attended and 46 years, 100 odd pounds and millions of fewer hairs later, was still immediately and happily transported to this earlier era of my life. The success of the Tony Award nominated Once Upon a Dream precipitated a national tour with a planned return to Broadway, and I had my second set of tickets in hand. However, despite a hoped for mellowing of age, the acrimony between band members never truly ceased and plans were scrapped mid-tour, making it very unlikely that we will ever see this Rock and Roll Hall of Fame ensemble play as a cohesive musical unit again. As with pleasant recollections of childhood, those of us who were fortunate enough to see this short-lived second go-round will always have our memories.

“Groovin’” earned a gold record and was a number one hit that spent 4 weeks atop the Billboard charts in 1967. For many of us of a certain age and era, it’s just one of the myriad, beloved rock and roll classics from Felix Cavaliere, Eddie Brigati, Gene Cornish and Dino Danelli - the legendary Rascals.

 Any comments, questions, criticisms, candid confessions, cash contributions?  Contact me at butchersaprons@mail.com.

Monday, May 18, 2015

The Conservative Invention of Obama or The Modern Prometheus

Yee haw, your ass is mine, Texas!

A Challenge to the Right

“I’m mad as Hell, and I’m not going to take this anymore.” – Chayefsky

“We'll fight the powers that be just
Don't pick our destiny 'cause
You don't know us, you don't belong.” – Twisted Sister

Today’s blog takes a little bit of an unusual and unexpected twist from our familiar progressive dissertations, for rather than addressing our normal audience and demographic group, those of us who were raised with the Smothers Brothers, Jefferson Airplane, Eugene McCarthy and George McGovern among the liberal lions whose life work and litany of opinions, points of view and accomplishments helped shape the open-minded ideas of so many, instead, we reach out and extend an olive branch (albeit, one chock-full of piney and thorny danger) to those who occupy and virulently defend the right flank of the American political system, the Republican and Conservative base, and their political representatives subsisting on the corporate dole who, in this modern Obama-era, have sadly and increasingly been dominated by the intolerant, the ignorant, the white is right crowd and the Christians in name only who far too willingly subvert Jesus’ message of love and tolerance for all, into one of hatred for anyone slightly differing from a narrow lifestyle and perspective.

All I Want is the Truth. Just Give Me Some Truth.

Hot on the heels of the latest sorrowful episode of that contagious conservative malady, Obama Derangement Syndrome, the outrageous allegation that we are just precious moments of freedom and liberty away from Jade Helm 15, big bad Barack’s invasion and occupation of Texas for the purpose of creating a liberal Utopia and theme park, Hussein-land, perhaps the time has come for a peaceable tete a tete between partisan participants, with an examination of some of the “truths” and “facts;” those less than prescient, perilous predictions that have been the immoral ammunition volleyed at this 44th Commander in Chief, lo these last 7 years (did a Right Winger shatter a mirror?) While just a stone’s throw away from Obama’s fare thee well and Hillary’s inauguration, somehow End Days yet remains at bay. We’re still waiting for Obama to kill our grandmothers, confiscate our guns, declare martial law, begin his dictatorship, hand over the U.S. to the U.N. one world government, terminate Constitutional rights, institute Sharia Law and incarcerate us all in FEMA prison camps.

Conservative cronies, while factual exchanges and encounters may not be your usual stock in trade, I beg of thee, fess up – free your souls and your consciences and finally admit that which has been the genuine motivation behind almost a decade of ugly and unbelievable prevarications. For the good of your long term mental health and well-being, and for the vigorous future of a nation that you declare great passion and patriotism for, acknowledge that the reason you accept and believe so many incredulous and impossible claims that have not, and never will come to pass; that the impetus for your irrational, unreasonable and illogical hatred toward Barack Hussein Obama is solely because his pigmentation is not as pale as you prefer for a president. Deep down inside, Tea-baggers, you truly knew that none of those ludicrous accusations could ever occur. You’re also well aware that he is neither a Muslim nor Kenyan born, that allowing tens of millions more American citizens access to affordable health care is not the worst thing since slavery, or Nazi Germany, and that our nation has not descended into a maddening maelstrom of Marxism (neither Karl nor Groucho.) If pressed in a court of law, hand upon the King James, you’d most likely confess that our President is also not the Anti-Christ. Not even this vilest and wiliest of Oval Office occupants can inhabit a fictional character.  You revile the President of the United States merely for his ebony hue. Just admit it, express it and let’s all move on to a brighter tomorrow. Share and shout out your truth to the world. Release your pent up resentment and your festering, furious foolishness. Announce your ire with the exuberance and gusto of a settee and loveseat winner on the “Price is Right.”

Children of Chayefsky

All Republicans, Conservatives, Tea Partiers, please partake of the following cleansing exercise – as if a cast member of the classic Paddy Chayefsky film “Network,” fling open your windows, lean as far out as your little bitter bodies will allow and cry out to the world at full lung volume and capacity, “I hate you because you’re black!” Repete - “Je vous déteste car vous're black!” Surely, no negative consequences will result and in the unlikely event that they do, compassionate citizens will feel it well-deserved, and prejudiced primates such as yourself will believe it justification for your asinine attitudes. Own your ignorance.

The hate filled harpies of the GOP and its affiliated organizations of contemptibly, close-minded conservatism suffer from the powerful paranoid belief that for the length of the Obama presidency they lost control of a world that they previously dominated, and so all of the ugly racism that most had hoped was left in the past, but instead was hidden and boiling and gestating beneath the surface, reemerged and was brought fully to the fore when a black man dared dwell in the White House.

In conclusion, more aggressively assertive aggravation with some mad, musical protestations from a group of guys who, from all obvious and outward indications, clearly have absolutely no intent on ever taking it, I wouldn’t even broach the subject with them if I were you.

Any comments, questions, criticisms, candid confessions, cash contributions?  Contact me at butchersaprons@mail.com.

Saturday, May 2, 2015

The Corporate Thunderdome – Many Enter. One Survives.

The Pointless Nightmare Bushwah of the Brainstorm

Death of True Creativity in Corporate America

“Square pegs,
One size does not fit all” – The Waitresses

I’m dull. I’m dreadfully, dead-fully dull (please do not take this as a cue to curtail your reading now.) Yet, in the company of certain acquaintances, I’m the Oscar Levant in the clique (so you won’t immediately stray from this communiqué, I’ve included his Wikipedia link - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oscar_Levant.) But amongst others with similarly skilled creative inclinations, I am the Jackie Vernon (this may grow tedious - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jackie_Vernon_comedian) on a dais deep with Sam Kinisons.
Oscar Levant, back in the days when alcoholism was considered wonderfully charming
Jackie Vernon, the hardest picture to find online.
In my job, we have brainstorming meetings on a far too frequent basis. And I balk at their regularity, primarily because I’m to brainstorms what Rand Paul is to polygraphs, an imminent mishap lurking ‘round every corner. Without a doubt this has negatively affected my rise in the company (non-existent) leaving a one-time, promising career in a state of stagnation that the Cuyahoga River would envy. The importance of the corporate brainstorm, like so many team-building trends of the past, will most likely fade into fad history like click-clacks, flagpole sitting and Craig Kilbourne. But for the present, we ad-lib challenged participants must try our best to muddle through and BS with the best, as unadulterated malarkey is the chief currency of value in these wearying wing-dings.

I can pen a passable, possibly even, praiseworthy narrative, but my command of immediate, clever, concise and witty repartee is as embarrassingly deficient as Miley Cyrus’s armoire. I simply don’t possess the prompt parodistic  powers of a Jonathan Winters or a Robin Williams, or for that matter even the lesser lampooning  skills of long-deceased comic, Sandy Baron, renowned for leading many an agonizing improv session on the Mike Douglas talk show.  Rarely was off the cuff as off the mark as when being painfully performed by Baron, Douglas, Bobby Goldsboro, Vicki Carr, Stan Kann (the Gadget Man) and the ubiquitous Dr. Joyce Brothers. Yet, upon returning to my desk, that which so aggravatingly eluded me in the confines of the populated board room will flow as freely as uncontained and irrational anger from the Hulk or his half-brother Governor Chris Christie.
The Brainstorm - ever stimulating
Faking it is an option, and is recurrently employed. There’s the annoying technique of just parroting an idea already contributed with slight differences in language and presentation.  We also have a team member who has found success in incessantly repeating either “yes” or “right” in response to the highest ranking people in the room. Less maddening, but still time-wasting and mind-numbing, are the attendees who believe every syllable conceived by their still evolving young brains to be Dostoyevsky-like genius, for inexplicable reasons always peppered with sci-fi and comic book allusions, and so self-editing of thought is but a distant dream we all just once had.  And although my pride has goneth before my professional fall long ago and far away, I still will not behave such, it’s embarrassing, humiliating and as obvious as Jeb Bush’s Hispanic self-declaration.

Equally alarming is the rapid progression in intent of the brainstorm meeting from a forum for the free flow of ideas to blood sport - a highly competitive, mean-spirited, backstabbing clash in which the strong survive and thrive, while the weaker melt into a puddle of that morning’s mocha-latte.

Ah, the ideal creative atmosphere
I’m a writer (just ask me, I’ll tell you) not an improvisational actor. I produce best in quiet and solitary, contrary to the current corporate mindset of privacy prohibited, and tightly-bundled cubicles purchased from the Billy Barty Collection. I didn’t train with Second City, or the Committee or even The Ace Trucking Company (Wikipedia-wise, you’re on your own) but I did study creative writing in many of its myriad varieties, as well as English and American Literature, in one of the nation’s most renowned universities for such pursuits (yes, I peaked at 22.)  And to engender true quality creative one needs time to think, time to conceive, to rewrite, to perfect and to hone, for those steps are inherent in the writing process.  As long as we continue down the current path and follow the lead of trends and business degrees and audience research sessions, original thought and creation will wither in favor of that which is inoffensive and popular.

In the words of this theme from the short-lived but affectionately-remembered T.V. series “Square Pegs,” - in that show’s high school, as well as in business environs and the world as a whole, “one size does not fit all.”

Any comments, questions, criticisms, candid confessions, cash contributions?  Contact me at butchersaprons@mail.com.