Out Of Thin air…..

I was watching an old blurb on PBS the other night and Steven Sondheim was center stage. It was a celebration of his eightieth birthday and the publishing of his new book. Steven is one of the great lyricist of the twentieth century.

Listen to Send in the Clowns from A Little Night Music. Done in the 70’s it is still incredibly  poignant. Anything from West Side Story where he collaborated on the score with Leonard Bernstein is beyond relevant. Sweeney Todd. This guy knows how to write words that rip your guts out or have you humming.

As I write, I listen to opera or classical music. I am not really so clever that I know the story line, the words of a particular aria or what movement in E flat this is. I don’t care. It sounds great. And really gets my juices going.

Think about Mozart, Beethoven, Puccini, novelists, epic journalists. The Beatles, The Who, Paul Simon, Billy Joel. Safire, Woodward. Dali, Reubens, Da Vinci. I just get blown away by the creative arts. They are so good at putting everyday in the realm of the spectacular. Moreover their reach is universal.

How do we raise creative kids? One of the best things for us was Genessee, Colorado. Just outside of Denver we lived there in the early eighties. Cable hadn’t gotten to us and we got two Denver channels that were fuzzy at best. Our kids had to make up their own games, forts and plays. It was twenty minutes to a grocery store.

It was pretty beyond imagination. We skied on weekends and the kids walked to the pool. I think they were bombarded by color and nature. The nights were silent but deafening with nature noises.

I think I have told many of you of the book “How to Think Like Leonardo DaVinci. Maybe we are too far gone but our kids and grandkids could sure use it. The basics are to engage your five senses in everything you can. By doing so you engage so many facets of your brain. It literally jumps alive.

They took two groups and taught them a detailed task. One class was well lit with beige walls and fluorescent lighting. The other had fresh flowers, vibrant colored walls, classical music and soft fabrics. Who do you think learned better and faster ?

Lastly is the whole concept of rote. Our educational systems today rely on measurements of what you retained but not what or how you thought. You are taught to give back to the teacher the answer he or she is looking  for. What if there are two or three right answers?

Kathy and I might be hacking around, talking about this or that and somehow I get a funny idea in my mind. I start taking off saying this, that leads to that. Easy everybody I am talking about jokes here. All of  a sudden we are laughing. As she says life is never dull with you, Ted.

I try to be cogent in my writings. To follow a theme, structure and basics of development. But then sometimes I just want it all to spill out. I just start ripping and it all comes out. Don’t stay within the lines. It’s more fun out here. I guess that is what they call stream of consciousness.

I wrote something once. I shared it with my dear departed older brother. It was crazy spoof on a friend of ours. Sarcasm and satire oozed. He asked me how long it took to write it. I said, “about twenty minutes”. He marveled and I shrugged my shoulders.

But you see I don’t feel like I am anything special. Sure I can twist a word or a phrase. Maybe I see irony or meaning in something stupid but so do you. You just need someone to point it out…or better yet you just have to look.

We spend our lives too often in aimless wandering. We have an appointment or a game in two or three hours and we wonder how we are going to “kill time”. We gaze blankly at the Olympics to see if we won. We miss the beauty of striving and defeat. The sheer humanity of failure.

Look outside on this beautiful summer day. It could be sunny or raining but it is alive with color. Walk down the street or look over the golf course and tell me how many different shades of green you can see. And then in your mind just cogitate that my green is different than the one you see. Simply put, we all see life differently and that is marvelous.

We all want to be right or left or black or white. We passionately want people to agree with us when our strength is our diversity. Don’t agree with me but please, oh please just hear me out. Try to take one little strain that might make sense and just consider it.

I have had so many life experiences over the last few days I kind of scare myself. Some horrible. Some heart wrenching. Some euphoric. Some so simple. All have touched my soul. It really is great to be alive. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

As Always

Ted The Great

Factoid:

Google “Send In The Clowns” or West Side Story. Listen a bit. Dream a dream. Be Wistful. Glenn Close’s version of  “Clowns” is particular. Not really a factoid but what the hell?

Gracenote has 97,206,484 songs in the data base. Some are different renditions of the same song but we go a lot of listening to do.

Again…How to Think Like Leonardo DaVinci by Michael Gelb. Better than Montessori or advance placement classes for your kids.

Da Vinci was left handed dyslexic and a procrastinating perfectionist who left many of his paintings in sketch form or unfinished. There is hope for us all.

Trying To Make Sense……

There is a pall over Colorado as there is most of the United States. It is not the first time nor will it be the last. Maybe it’s particular to me because that movie theater is but a few miles from my front porch.

I sat there Sunday morning reading the newspapers and doing the Sunday crossword puzzles. All was calm but all was not bright.

The simple question I keep asking myself is “ How did we get here?” Some say the gunman was sick. Some say he was inherently evil. We all watch footage after footage searching in vain for an answer. We will probably never know. There are guns. That won’t change. There are terribly sick people out there. We have 330+ million citizens. Some are just not right. Don’t try to hide. You can’t. It’s the world we live in.

Then I asked myself if such is the case, what can we do? Mental illness is caused by one of or a combination of four factors: heredity, a horrible  experience, chemical imbalance or environment. That may be too simplistic for you scientists but for the moment let’s just take it as a given.

The only real culprit we can even begin to attack is our environment…..our world. I think back to my formative years and I try to compare that to today. A little overwhelming. I can’t help but feel we have let the world rule us. We have such an urge for acceptance that we have forgotten how to be HUMAN beings. Everything is served up. Nothing is questioned. We eat it all.

We have made it easy for bullies. They don’t hang out in schoolyards. They reside at keyboards. You don’t have to spread rumors by whispering. You can just text anonymously. In seconds. Bullies aren’t just young kids. They are our rumormongers, shit stirrers and spin doctors. Throw it out there and see if it will stick. Who cares about facts?

As you know I try to listen to both conservative as well as liberal radio and TV to keep myself grounded. Not easy. Both sides are incessant. Depending on your flavor, you can in three short hours get so whipped up for or against you might just go out and shoot someone. Think that’s crazy? Just listen to the unending tirades and imagine cooped up somewhere inhaling that every day, week in, week out. Something or someone just might snap.

Go to a dinner party. Have a few drinks. Watch how seemingly civil people get so bent out of shape that rational conversation just goes out the window. And we consider ourselves the intelligentsia. I had dinner with a friend who is both smart and influential. As I tried to engage him I could see his heels digging in. He has since sent me emails by the truckload. Some to be considered. Many laced with vitriol and bile. I am not shocked but saddened by the hatred.

Most of all we have all sought out and are very comfortable within our cocoons. Rich. Poor. Left. Right. East. West. North. South. We love hearing what we want to hear. Complex problems are solved with a huzzah. Go get’em. Kill the son of a bitch. Boy, that feels so much better. “You rich bastards don’t know what it’s like.” “You stupid jerk. Get a job!”. We are sure we are right. And right is might.

After 9/11 we had a wonderful resurgence of love and respect for one another. We all were hit. We were all one. Our cocoons were broken open and we really did walk a several miles in other people’s shoes. But how soon we forgot. That was just a passing fancy. Had to get back to the real order of things. Climb back inside. How sad.

It may sound redundant or even hyperbole but we have to change. From Washington down to Main Street. It could start with the elections. Tell me what you can do that’s positive and not what an asshole the other guy is. Will it happen? Probably not. But don’t forget they do it because you and I buy it. Negative sells.

I am not one of those that think I have the answers. I am struggling  not only with Aurora but what we have become. We are so aloof to the world and each other. There is so much bad. But then again there is and could be so much more good.

I am going to ask you to try just two things. First of all I would like you to go out today and engage someone you have never met. Just say hello and tell them your name. Ask them to do the same to someone else. That’s it. A simple but very attainable bit of connection.

Secondly, I would like you to answer a question. Just what did you do this day or week to make the world a better place? Several years ago I sat in Jim Hesburgh’s den. His brother, Fr. Ted Hesburgh of Nortre Dame was there and we drank a few scotches. I finally asked him what drove him. He said, “Every day of my life I try to correct injustice.” What an incredible way to live.  There is no way I could put it any better.

As always

Ted The Great.

Factoids:

The US has about 270,000,000 guns or 90 per 100 people. The 100 includes children.

A semi automatic weapon can usually fire 45-60 projectiles per minute. The shooter in Aurora supposedly used an AR15 with a 100 round drum magazine. I can’t verify so it is only a semi factoid.

59 million adults and children play video games. 89% of the best sellers are labeled violent. You can win points by murder, rape and overall violence in the eyes of the judges. What a country!

In defense of violent games:

“What regulators fail to recognize is how violent video games can actually benefit adult gamers.

For one, violent video games allow a player to enter and control a fantasy world to act out scenarios he or she otherwise wouldn’t.

“[A] teen can try out different identities — how it feels to be a hero, a trickster, a feared or scorned killer or someone of a different age or sex — in the safe fantasy world of a video game,” said Cheryl K. Olson in a New York Times article.

Don’t you feel better now.

.

Moses Where Art Thou?

With all this heat I wonder what is was like for the Jews wandering around in the desert? Imagine trudging aimlessly for years not weeks? Food was short and so were tempers. But this one dude by the name of Moses got out in front. He could talk to God or at least he said he could and people believed him.

Now who was going to mess with him? He went up on a hillside and came back with a tablet and ten numbers. He didn’t even have a chisel. He came back and saw the gang messing around with a gold statue of Justin Biebershitz and blew a fit. Got their attention when he tossed a fifty pound IPad made of stone at them. He took it back to the God App store and got a new one just like that. This guy was good.

He got even better. He could bring down bread from the skies. When he went to Red Sea he decided the shortest way between two points was a straight line when the Egyptians were in hot pursuit. So like every other self respecting Jewish leader would do, he parted the sea. Very cool. Look out Bebe. You are a rookie when it comes to this stuff. Takes years for you to build settlements. Moses put the sea back to where it belonged in a matter of moments. Tough act to follow even for a politician.

Point being there was grousing and bitching among the underlings. They had their Harry Reids and Nancy Pelosi except their names were Reidstein and Pelosiburg. Boehner was Weiner and Cantor played himself. They had become professionals at wandering and it suited them just fine.

Now as it came to pass Moses was getting sick… and tired too. He looked all around for a successor. Someone who had class and of course chutzpah. Not some schmuck. He needed someone to help lead them out of the wilderness. It was going to take new ideas because the old ones weren’t working. He would have to be the bearer of bad tidings. Straight Talk Express.

You see they had worn out the God App and the batteries were low. Solar hadn’t been invented yet so they needed a new source of power. They had to look deep into their hearts and souls. Aha! That’s the answer!

They began to realize they had to depend on ingenuity and hard work. Things sucked and they weren’t going to get better for awhile. They would have to give up the big tents and entourages because there was no way they could pay for them and still make it to safety. They might have to reach out and help their fellow wanderer.

They would have to stop grousing like old Jewish grandmothers. Weeping and wailing, saying the condo in Boca West was too small. The doctor didn’t understand them and they were dying. Oy Veh! Cool it ladies. You were not dying. None of  them were. They  were too fat and had been spoiled all our life. They had taken and taken and gave nothing back. Hmm. Sound familiar?

But Moses searched and searched in vain. You see the leaders weren’t leaders but bull shitters.(Yiddish term) As long as they were lost they had a job. And the troops were gullible. They would believe anything that promised them what they wanted to hear. Some wanted the status quo. Some wanted change. Nobody really thought through the repercussions of their philosophies.

There had to be snake oil salesmen in the crowd. Asp…en and tonic has a nice ring for the newer set. Diamonds for everyone. Ooops, we forgot about the diamondback  part. You could make anything palatable but even then they knew deep down there was no such thing as a free lunch. There is poison in everything but you can last a long time if you just take it in small doses. As a matter of fact you can feel downright immune. Until the BIG ONE.

So fast forward. Some of the Jews became Christians. Perish the thought, some became Muslims. Intermarried. Heaven forbid. New ways of thinking. New beliefs. Some couldn’t bear parting with the past. Some thought they didn’t have to work for anything. Fighting just like the good old days.

But there is no Moses today. Beards are out and Armani has yet to come out with flowing robes. Gucci was never into sandals. We really need someone to step up and bite the bullet. We kid ourselves into thinking he or she is here. That false idol thing. We listen to platitudes and promises. They are in the heat of battle and are so soon forgotten. Then we wait another four years for a new face. Moses, where art thou? We could really use you.

As always

Ted The Great

Moses was an aristocrat. His mother put him in a basket and he went cruising down the Nile….right into the Pharoah’s daughter’s hands. Kind of like Romney coming up from Mexico.

Moses was actually a stutterer. It took him a long time to get to the heart of the matter. By that time people had forgotten where he was coming from. Kind of like Obama.

Moses like many great leaders never saw the fruit of all his work. He went unsung. Nobody named hospitals or freeways after him.

One of the ten plagues he whacked the Pharoah with was mosquitoes. Several of his kin have settled in New Jersey and Minnesota. Hey, it could have been boils or locusts.

Surf’s Up

Yeah I know we live in Colorado but a group brought the ocean to the mountains and bridged a gap of oh too many years. 16 strong,  we climbed the Red Rocks and danced and sang and just had a ball in this crazy world. A fabulous evening. We went nuts during a three and a half hour marathon known as the Beach Boys 50th Anniversary Tour.

To start with, our mighty group of wannabes was beyond eclectic ranging from a ranch owner with a thousand head of cattle, bond guys of old, a lawyer and a mortician, John Horan. The head body snatcher provided two stretch limos and we left from of all places the mortuary parking lot. Champagne and tail gating as only you read about. Our own brand of Epsom Downs. Wood Allen, where are you?

If you have never been to the Red Rocks Amphitheater in Denver I probably won’t do it justice. It is carved in the foothills about ten miles west of Denver. As you rise to 6,000 feet the stage has the skyline as its backdrop. The seats are lengths of pine or oak spanning the whole row. Your location is simply marked and you could get a bad case of fanny fatigue if you sat too long. We didn’t worry about that

It was magnificent how the dwindling light played tricks with the sky and your soul. Not a lot of crazy lighting and none of it strobe. You had purple mountain’s majesty meeting with amber waves of grain and they melded effortlessly. Nimbus clouds floating lazily in the setting sun were the only warm up act needed. And then they appeared.

We had gone to a Kingston Trio concert a few years ago at the Vilar Center in Beaver Creek and it was embarrassing. They carried canes instead of tunes. Not so tonight. The huge stage sported 14 musicians and five were the Beach Boys. There were drums, sax, piano and of course driving guitars.These guys knew how to do it.

The 9400 attendees were just as much a part of the show as the main attraction. We fumbled through the verses and sang long and loud for the choruses. We were in Row 28 of what is probably 100 staircase steps and it was the greatest people watching experiment you could have as you looked back up the hillside to people just having fun and singing and dancing to the music.Incredibly they did over 40 songs. They claimed 51 and I don’t doubt them. If so they should rename the place…Area 51.Mike Love is the lead singer and Brian Wilson the pianist of great repute. They left nothing in the bus.

Sure it was surfing music to a large degree and who cared. Critics would probably pan the repertoire and good for them. There was an air of melancholy of years gone by. Simpler times. Innocent times. Lost loves? Lost dreams? Not really. Kath was by my side and we just got lost in time and space as she reluctantly danced in the aisles with me. She never looked happier….or prettier.

For over three hours we just had fun and it felt so good. You didn’t worry about Libor or Libya. Grease seemed more appropriate than Greece. Diamonds were in the sky and not the one at JPM. Obama? Romney? Who are they? There were no drunks. There were a handful smoking pot. Just a bunch of old farts enjoying themselves.

There were two things that really struck me. These guys really know how to harmonize. The falsettos weren’t as crisp as you would like but when they hit chords they really knew what they were doing. There was no grandstanding but each one playing his part. Taking his bow. Making sweet music.

The second was the fact that our state has been so devastated by fires. Thanks to some timely heavy rains that has abated somewhat. But we also could realize what a great place this world is. We will find a way to heal and regrow. We might have to sing in a totally different way. But right now we need some singers that know how to recognize each other’s talent and blend effortlessly rather than singing off key at every chance. And of course we need a good lead singer to show us the way. If any of our politicos wants to step up to the mike we all will be in the cheering section urging on at every note with no stones to be thrown.

That’s it for now. Stayed up way too lateI have got to get some sleep. I hope you enjoyed the show.

As always

Ted The Great

Factoids:

The monoliths that form the natural walls of the amphitheater contain fossils that go back 250 million years.

Construction was part of a WPA grant and began in 1936 and took 12 years to complete.

Harry Belafonte, the Beatles, the Grateful Dead, Stones are but a few of the performers who have been there. Almost to a person they say it is one of the greatest venues they have performed in.

The Beach Boys are the longest continuously performing rock group in the country.Two have died over the years. One from a tragic accident and one from cancer.

Happy Birthday Baby…..

Or maybe I should say we have a come a long way baby. Either way I am sure I am not politically correct but then again it is not the first time. I am getting studious on this the Fourth of July,2012.In between sips of my vodka and diet tonic, I am reading the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States Of America. Just like Georgetown.

As for the Declaration you really have to picture beautiful downtown Philly on a hot summer’s day in 1776. Everybody in the Northeast is screaming today because the power has been out for a few days. Can you imagine being cooped up for several days in a small meeting room with your buddies dressed in stockings and wool coats? NO A/C. No fans. Some shower. Some don’t.

A  most striking fact is that these insolent subjects of the king were actually quite religious. Speaking of Divine Providence and The Supreme Creator during their Dear John letter to King George you kind of wonder how we have gotten so secular? I am not saying we should all be one religion but when we quote “life liberty and the pursuit of happiness,” theology does seem to play a role from the very beginning.

Reading further the king doesn’t seem that heinous but on a few points he really struck a nerve. The boys and girls in DC better watch out or TTG might submit a new declaration for your ratification.

Now the Constitution is actually quite amazing first for its simplicity but secondly for its duration. These guys were good. They were to the point and readable. It is intriguing as some of the amendments followed they became more circumspect and verbose. Probably had more lawyers involved.

I like that no title of nobility shall be conferred. But if that is so why do we call Newt, Mr. Speaker and good old slick Willie, Mr. President long after the fact? We do the same for judges, senators and mayors. As a matter of fact I don’t know why doctors always insist their full title be put on their golf bag or locker. You know good old Ted Kenny is located right next to Dr. Bruno Von Lipshitz. Who cares?

The road to amendment is both long and arduous and it should be. For this reason how in God’s name did they get everyone to agree on the Volstead Act which became the 18th amendment in 1919? It did allow for “medicinal whiskey” which why Uncle Louie to this day gets smashed getting himself better on the demon rum. They didn’t repeal it until 1933. By that time Al Capone and other notables had gotten rich. It was time

All my meandering aside they both are really fascinating documents. There really is no provision for healthcare but there is the “promote the general welfare.” One of the bitches with the king was that he threw up too many barriers to immigration. Sound familiar? It provides for the approval by Congress of treaties, judges and ambassadors. But this was meant as a check and balance not a political ploy. It speaks of free exercise of religion but does not say that exercise has to be behind closed doors.

Long and short is that you can read into them any definition you want. That is why we have a Supreme Court and constitutional lawyers. But let’s not get so far afield that we can’t also rely on our own common sense. Let’s spend as much time on the spirit of the law as we do on the letter.

I ask Washington to stop playing games. Those originals did not foresee representatives staying for 20,30,40 years. They did not make provision for entrance of big money in a government “by the people and for the people.” They weren’t bickering. They were trying to get a country started and moving in the right direction.They were young and naïve but it seemed to work.

Let’s say Happy Birthday Baby and hope we are just getting our second wind. We have so much going for us. Let’s not blow it. I don’t need Uncle Sam as a new hospice patient. He has been battered and beaten but he has a lot of fight in him.  Let’s get him back to health. All of us.

As Always

Ted The Great

Factoids:

Betsy Ross was commissioned to sew the first American flag in May or June before the Declaration on July 4,1776

The Liberty Bell was rung to gather all the citizens of Philadelphia to hear the official reading of the Declaration. There was no Weather Channel but I think we can assume it was hot. Damn hot!

Both Thomas Jefferson and John Adams died on July 4,1826 exactly fifty years after the signing.

The origin of Uncle Sam probably began in 1812, when Samuel Wilson was a meat packer who provided meat to the US Army. The meat shipments were stamped with the initials, U.S. Someone joked that the initials stood for “Uncle Sam”. This joke eventually led to the idea of Uncle Sam symbolizing the United States government.