Thursday, April 30, 2009

A Swine Flu Reality Check

The onset of the swine flu pandemic is serious and should be treated as such. But there seems to be mounting, almost irrational hysteria about the situation- much of it driven by YouTube, TWITTER, and social networking sites where one person's opinion too often has become another person's (false) reality.

Below, from Canada's CTV Newsnet is one of the best, most comprehensive, and above all rational looks at the situation.

Also, here's a report from WCBS TV's Dr. Holly Phillips in New York explaining the similarities and differences between this strain of swine flu and seasonal varieties of flu.

Hey guys....wash your hands, build your immune system (supplements and vitamin C), get plenty of sleep, and above all stay calm....its going to be OK.

the joshua blog: Fair & balanced? More like 100 days of Fox attacks Obama

the joshua blog: Fair & balanced? More like 100 days of Fox attacks Obama

Some comments from THE JOSHUA BLOG, which came via a TWITTER post from MSNBC's David Shuster.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Rep. Virginia Foxx- Matthew Shepard's Murder Not A Hate Crime

On October 6,1998 Matthew Shepard was beaten, tortured and murdered (he died Oct 12) near Laramie Wyoming by Russell Henderson and Aaron McKinney. Shepard was targeted by Henderson and McKinney, according to witnesses at their trial, because Shepard was gay.

Today the Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Bill was debated in the United States House of Representatives. What Republican Representative Virginia Foxx of North Carolina said on the floor about the crime has to be seen and heard to be believed. First, COUNTDOWN with Keith Olbermann, and then a video from MEDIA MATTERS.

Indeed Rep. Foxx. After seeing this I feel numb...not angry, but baffled on how a person like her manages to get elected and stay there. And what's more disturbing...there are more like her out there, elected officials who just don't deserve to be in the halls of government.

The Swine Flu; My Take

"We're as doomed as doomed can be!"....I must say!

Well...somebody has to joke about the 24/7 doomsday scenario. And it might as well be me.

The First Hundred Days

I'd like to apologize for succumbing to the temptation to grade President Barack Obama's first 100 days of office. But since the rest of the world is doing so, I might be just as presumptuous and comment on his performance so far....not that he gives a damn about what I think or even reads this little outpost in the blogesphere. But if he does read this, by all means, Mr. President, drop a comment or two. After all the emails "Barack" sends me asking for another donation to the DNC, I feel like he and I are old buds.

The whole notion of the value of the "first 100 days" is interesting. After Napoleon escaped from exile on Elba in 1815 he reestablished power for 100 days in France until the Duke of Wellington crushed the Emperor's forces at Waterloo in June of 1815. More recently when President Franklin D. Roosevelt took office in 1933 he pushed a large number of bills through Congress in his first 100 days, during the depths of The Great Depression. That set the benchmark for all subsequent American chief executives.

The number "100" has a certain symmetry and quasi religious symbolism.. There were 300 Spartans who defended Thermopylae from the invaders during the Persian War. Moses and the Hebrews wandered the desert for 40 years before reaching Canaan. Jesus prayed and fasted in the desert for 40 days, Lent lasts 40 days, and when God destroyed the world he caused it to rain for 40 days and 40 nights. All even numbers, no silly fractions to worry about...exact and precise. And the first 100 days of a president's term has attained that type of mythological stature.

It makes little sense to go into the particulars of what things like the stimulus package, the Iraq timetable for withdrawal, the troop buildup in Afghanistan, or most of the legislation proposed or signed into law. To judge that at this moment is as ridiculous as judging the winners and losers of this past weekend's NFL draft one day after the fact. We won't know those winners and losers for a couple of years. And so it is with any of the effects of these first 100 days of the Obama administration.

There are opponents and pundits who are screaming doom. There are supporters who yell success. The bottom line is, we cannot grade a president's performance like we would a sixth grader' s ability to grasp algebra or social studies. Time and perspective are required, and necessary.

So if you were looking for a letter grade from ain't gettin' one.

President Obama's greatest accomplishment, so far, is that he has given most Americans a sense of hope- that he can change things, that the economic bleeding has, if not stopped, has slowed to a point where we can prepare for a recovery. Wall Street's bear market has become a bull market again, poised for a slow climb. There will be dips and drops at any sign of bad economic reports, but it appears that buyers will out number sellers in the near future.

Much like Ronald Reagan, Barack Obama is a skilled orator, a great communicator, and above all, he appears to be a strong leader for a nation and world that is in desperate need of stability and direction. All and all, so far, his is a job well done.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Specter Switches, And Prepares For November Fight

Did you hear the one about the Republican Senator who didn't think he would win his party's nomination in a primary, so he switched to the Democratic Party today?

I thought you between getting the bejezzus scared out of you from the 24/7 reports on the swine flu outbreak, there was some pretty earth shaking news in DC today.

Sen Specter was told that he had no chance of gaining the GOP nomination against challenger Pat Toomey by aids last week. After 28 years in the Senate, Specter concluded that the Republican Party had become too conservative for him- he supported the Obama stimulus plan, and recently saw several hundred thousand former Republican voters leave the party to vote for Barack Obama in 2008.

The Washington Post gives a very detailed look at the story and its ramifications down the road, plus analysis and Q&A from readers. What I find interesting is that though Specter had little chance of gaining the nomination against the upstart Toomey, by switching to the Democratic side he would become the odds on favorite to win the general election in November.

One source has said that Toomey was urged not to run against Specter...because Specter was the only chance the GOP would have to hold unto the seat they have held for 28 years.

The Republican Party has no house seats in New England. In the Mid -Atlantic states its numbers are dwindling. Though its not quite at the stage where they are a regional party, they have a solid base in the South and in the West (but not the West Coast). The problem they face, after eight years of mostly ruinous governance by the Bush administration, is one of credibility. Just cut taxes, reduce spending (while the nation is in a deep recession and fighting two wars), and keep calling up National Guardsmen (some older than me, a Vietnam Era vet) to fight on forever in Iraq and Afghanistan...and all will be right with the world.

Oh more thing...just be against anything the Democrats are for, just to keep the conservatives, the neo-cons, and the theo-cons of the party's base happy....even though the rest of the nation has swung to the left, or at least towards the center. And keep throwing those names out there...all of the lefties will destroy this nation.

As if the last eight years were America's equivalent of Rome's Golden Age under "The Five Good Emperors".

This morning on my Twiiter page I found this- Senator John McCain's response to the UAW-Chrysler deal.

UAW eventually owning 55% of Chrysler stock and the U.S. Gov owning the rest – if that isn’t socialism, what is?

My response to the Senator

Sir- With due respect; better the workers who build the cars and US taxpayers than the miserable leadership since Iacocca.

Senator McCain was the candidate for the Republican Party in last year's presidential election. And the best he can do in this time of economic crisis is yell "socialist" instead of finding some real answers. Allowing Chrysler to collapse, and perhaps cause more hardship, pain and economic calamity to thousands of loyal workers and parts makers, should be unthinkable.

I'll say it again...its better to have the workers have a majority share in this deal and give them OWNERSHIP in their jobs, than have another twenty years of incompetence calling the shots at Chrysler. And maybe if the plan succeeds, the government can get out of minority ownership. I hope and pray that it does work.

Where is the leadership from these guys in the GOP? Where is the sense of economic patriotism? Its always about being against something, but what do they stand for?

Sadly,they seem to stand for very little. At this moment a once great political party is now wandering in a wilderness of its own making.

Good Weekend For The BIG EAST in NFL Draft

Here's the trivia the 2009 NFL Draft the USC Trojans had five picks taken in the first two rounds. What school was second with four picks?

Give up?

Basketball powerhouse the University of Connecticut had four players picked on Day One, during rounds one and two. Not Alabama, Florida, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Penn State, or Michigan, or any of the big boys from any of the mega powers and the Old Guard was UCONN, from the conference all people in the rest of the country love to hate, the Big East.

Running back Donald Brown led the way when the Indianapolis Colts took him in the first round, the 27th overall pick. The second round saw Darius Butler (DB), (OL) William Beatty, and (DE)Cody Brown picked by New England, the Giants, and Arizona respectively.

And the conference also saw Rutgers WR Kenny Britt (30th, Tennessee) and Louisville center Eric Wood (Buffalo) selected in the first round. An eight team conference with three first rounders isn't too shabby.

All in all, 27 Big East Players were drafted. Cincinnati had six players taken, Rutgers five, UCONN four, Pitt four, West Virginia three, Syracuse 2, Louisville 2, and South Florida one.

The most intriguing choices were that of second round pick QB Pat White from West Virginia to the Miami Dolphins where he will play as a quarterback behind veteran Chad Pennington. Some had seen White as a wide receiver because of his explosive talents with his legs. I always thought Pat was a good, very under appreciated passer, who could play QB at the next level. The favorite offense of the year in the NFL, the WILDCAT offense, should show what a talent White is to some fans who had never seen him play in college.

Another pick I like is the Eagles choice of RB LeSean McCoy from Pitt. The Eagles have had all kinds of problems in short yardage situations last season. As much as Brian Westbrook brings to the game at tailback for the Birds, he still is a diminutive guy running into a bunch of trees on the goal line. McCoy is a power back who should had a different dimension to the Eagles running game.

And there is the sixth round pick of Rutgers QB Mike Teel by Seattle. Many saw him as not being drafted at all. I say you have to look at any guy who had thrown six TD passes in a game against Pitt (on the road), and later seven TD's on Senior Night at Rutgers Stadium last was greatest performance by any player that I had ever seen in person at any level. Mike can be hot and cold....but he learns from mistakes, is resilient, and bounces back from adversity. With Seahawks QB Matt Hasslebeck aging (and now with a bad back) perhaps this sixth round pick could end up paying dividends early. And after all, Hasslebeck is a starting quarterback who was not even it is possible for Teel to make that leap, in time. Other non drafted quarterbacks include Mark Bulger and Hall of Famer to be Kurt Warner.

The kid has a shot.

More info on the Big East and the draft can be found here.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Remembering "The Ace"; A Final Thought

On Saturday we buried my uncle, the guy we called "Ace" (he's in that picture from 1947), the second from the right in the last row. My father is the good looking guy in the center of picture, middle row. And their younger brother is third from the left, back row. That was from a semi pro football team from 1947, The Avenel Panthers, here in New Jersey.

A funny thing happened before I went to the viewing on Friday. I had on a suit and tie. My neighbor, across the street yelled, "Where you going, to a funeral?" I tried not to laugh....and I yelled back to her...."As a matter of fact, I am!"

After she apologized up and down for the next five minutes ( and I told her not to worry, no problem) she left a Mass card and a condolence card in the mailbox while we were at the funeral home.

Its good to have nice neighbors. Who said Jersey people are rude and insensitive?

My brother and my sister in law drove in from the Midwest for the services. Altogether, I was told, there were 365 people who signed the guest book. Uncle Ace would have loved it. He had a strange kind of fascination with numbers and obscure facts. Three for each day of the year. He could have done a half hour monologue on that.

There were tears...but there were even more laughs. Alot more. Ace had his faults, and his quirks, and sometimes he went to the extreme. But no one ever doubted his love of family.

And his greatest legacy was the family he left behind...five terrific people who in turn began families of their own, and found happiness with their spouses and their life partners. Collectively, they are some of the finest people I know..and I'm proud to be a part of their family.

It was the end of a life....and a remembrance and a celebration of a man who had a life well spent.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Ashes to Ashes Update-Episode 8

Warning!!! Massive Spoiler Alert!!! If you are an American fan of A2A and have copied, Tivoed, or taped the last episode, the final of Series One, and haven't seen it yet...stop reading....NOW!!!

Ok...I think they got the message.

Now, anyone who's read my reviews of the A2A over the past few weeks knows by now that I'll give you a synopsis, but I never reveal the ending.

Until now...because the secret revealed at the end of the show is one of the main reasons we watch....and without talking about the conclusion there would be little sense in writing this entry.

As the day approaches when Alex Drake's (Keeley Hawes) parents are killed in a car bombing, Alex decides to intervene to change destiny, and in the process end her imprisonment in 1981 and send herself back to the 21st century. At a Gay Pride parade she commandeers a tank and crushes the Ford Escort she believes will be carrying her father and mother to their deaths. She arrests her parents, Tim and Caroline Price, for drug possession....Alex planting the evidence....and tries to have them held in custody overnight and past the time they would die.

While this is happening Arthur Layton, who shot Alex in 2008, is released from prison in 1981. Alex sees him as the culprit in her parents murders...but cannot prove he is responsible for a crime yet to happen.

Meanwhile, Tim and Caroline are released from custody, and leave for a trip with young Alex. Alex and Gene Hunt (Philip Glenister) race to the scene where the bombing will take place. Adult Alex sees the car stopped momentarily ...the car is borrowed from Evan White, also a Ford Escort....and young Alex gets out to chase an escaping red balloon. Adult Alex looks into the car, driven by her father Tim; and while David Bowie sings Ashes to Ashes on the car radio, Tim is transformed into the sinister Clown . The Clown detonates a bomb....and Caroline and Tim/The Clown are blown to pieces. Gene grabs young Alex and carries her to safety.

Back at headquarters Alex, Gene, and Evan look at a video tape made by Tim Price explaining why he was performing murder/suicide, taking out himself, his wife Caroline, and young daughter Alex....its out of revenge for the affair Evan had with Caroline. A shocked and speechless Alex watches, realizing for the first time that her own father was intent on killing her. Evan asks Gene and Alex for a good word from them in his attempt to adopt young Alex. Then Gene destroys the tape, so that young Alex will never know that her father tried to murder her...while the adult Alex looked on, sadly knowing the reality of it all.

Alex realizes (as Supertramp sings Take The Long Way Home in the background) several things. One is that her mother really did love her, and was about to take a sabbatical when she was killed, and she wanted to be with and was intent on spending more time with Alex. Also, Alex realizes that she may not ever get back to 2008...what she thought she needed to do to return had failed, and that she may never see her own daughter again. And she becomes aware, but puzzled by the prospect and reality, that it was Gene Hunt who brought her to safety that day in 1981.

Shaz Granger meets Alex and the group at Luigi's. Still recovering from her knife wounds, Shaz refers to Alex, who saved Shaz's life (in the previous episode), as her "guardian angel". Alex and Gene have a drink together. She tells the Gene Genie that he wasn't there "that day". And Gene answers that he's always there.

And there you have it.

Just maybe, in the mythology of A2A, that the "Great Beyond" is this parallel universe, very much like and yet unalike that of our own. And maybe a "life after life" gives us a different role or responsibility in it. Gene Hunt as a "guardian angel"? Why not? Its his role to rid the streets of crime, and scum, and filth...even if he has to do it with almost fascistic methods. Perhaps Alex really is dead, and is serving a role as a guardian angel of sorts....who says God has to run things in linear time...He can do what he wants to. That's' why He's the Real Boss. We believe in popular mythology that spirits of the past return in out times of trouble. If you can accept that, believing in a visitation from the future isn't so much of a stretch.

Then again...I could be wrong.

And I probably am!

Its been an interesting ride...and its not over yet. It seems that Series Two will be making its debut in America shortly because of the interest Series One garnered in America. Its been fun...and I can't wait for more.

For more info on this week's episode, click here. And this week, there's rather short musical playlist, but worth a listen anyway.

Thursday, April 23, 2009



Ladies and gents, my get up and go has got up and went..........and I do have some family issues to attend to the next few days.

So here, to amuse you- and to get me motivated...are old friends
The Scottish Falsetto Sock Puppet Theatre.

Blind Lemon Sock ROCKS!!!!

Wednesday, April 22, 2009


This is probably the most unusual post I've ever entered on this blog. Usually the blog entries center on a band or a solo artist, and their music and works. But in this case, its a song dedicated to someone lost to our family today.

You can read about it if you like here

Ray Davies, the singer and principle songwriter of The Kinks wrote the song about a man who failed in a suicide attempt. That failure led to a new affirmation of his life. Its been a song that's been playing in the back of my mind ever since we knew that the death of a loved one was imminent.

Here's Life Goes On by the Kinks, audio only, from the 1977 album SLEEPWALKER.

I'll do a thorough history of the Kinks at a later date.

Seeya in a few.

Remembering "The Ace"

"The Ace" was my uncle, my father's younger brother. He left us just hours ago. I was about ten years old when I learned that his real first name wasn't Ace. I have one younger brother and ten younger first cousins, so I knew Uncle Ace longer than even his five kids had.

I may have known him longer than his kids, but obviously, I could not have known him any better than they did.

I remember Memorial Day cookouts when I was little, and a basement full of kids every Christmas, and family reunions at my cousin's place every August, come rain or shine....the Ace was part of the scene. He was a character- in the best sense of the word- who was part of my life in varying degrees for more than fifty years.

When I was a kid Uncle Ace took me to the old Yankee Stadium for the first time. The bunch of us, my cousins, my uncle, and I, saw the Yanks versus the Detroit Tigers in 1965, the year the decline of the Yankee dynasty started. But that didn't matter. This was the Original House That Ruth Built, the monuments in centerfield, Death Valley also in centerfield, the bullpen tunnels beyond the left and right field fences, the subways buzzing past the rightfield bleachers, and of course, the Facade that ran along the inner roof. And there was Whitey, and Joe Pepitone, Clete Boyer and #7, The Mick. Grass was never greener than at Yankee Stadium in those days, uniforms never whiter, days were brighter, and the seats-and the food- was so much cheaper. The next year we went to see a night game against the Tigers again....Mickey hit two that night. I'm not sure if that night was the last time Mickey Mantle hit multiple homers in a game.....but I confess, I tell people it was. It just makes for a better story.

And....if you haven't noticed....I'm a little bit of a Rutgers sports fanatic. And its all Uncle Ace's fault.

Heres' how....he got the ball rolling more than thirty years ago when my Mom and Dad, the Ace, and my aunt went to a Rutgers game at William and Mary. It was Uncle Ace's idea....and the four of them became hard core Rutgers fans for the duration. They went to games in Piscataway at the rickety old 22,000 seat stadium of the Frank Burns/Dick Anderson eras, and for the Rutgers games against the 'bigger time" opponents, which were played in the more spacious Giant's Stadium. In those days I went to games with them on occasion, but most of the time from 1978-90 I was living Colorado or Florida, with visits back in New Jersey in the fall. But its when I moved back to New Jersey for good in 1990 that I really started to bleed Scarlet....and its been going on for twenty seasons now.

Uncle Ace was part of each of my football Saturdays...and some Thursday nights....from 1990-2001. It wasn't like what the fans see today at a Rutgers game. As far as the games we had glimmers of hope every year, usually extinguished by Hurricanes, Hokies, Orangemen, Mountaineers, or Nittany Lions before Columbus Day. There was the heroics of Terrell Willis, Ray Lucas, and Marco Battaglia...but it was never enough...those guys couldn't play defense, too.

The new Rutgers Stadium was at best half full most of those seasons after 1993, and by the time those cold November games rolled around and the team was 2-7, the place became like a ghost town- the only thing missing was the tumbleweeds. It seemed that the all of the people in the stands knew each other on a first name basis- there were so few Rutgers football fans in those years.

But it wasn't about the was about the gameday experience, done with family, the people you cared about, and who in turn cared about you. Sure it hurt to watch the team you love go 2-9 or 0-11, but the games were secondary to the rites of fall; that's something the casual football fan can't grasp.

We were family....and by our association with Rutgers sports and the university, the players, the coaches, and the administrators became part of our universe, and even occasional visitors. Uncle Ace was with us for the 50-49 1992 win against Virginia Tech on Halloween when the fans stormed the field...that was a preview of things to come in the Greg Schiano Era. He was with us for the first Big East football game ever, a win against Boston College....he was with us on trips to Navy, Army, and Wake Forest. He was a fixture in the Scarlet Lot for our tailgate parties for a decade, in the little grove with the trees about 20 yards from the West Gate entrance.

He gave me Scarlet Fever....and for that, I'll remember him always.

Its one of the mysteries of life of how one isolated incident from decades ago can manifest itself years later. To those of you have have dropped into this blog to read my opinions on Rutgers sports, the Mulcahy/ Star-Ledger affair, or anything involving Rutgers University consider this....if Uncle Ace didn't talk my folks into going to a football game that few cared about in 1978, I more than likely wouldn't be writing about RU in this blog; that is, if I decided to start a blog at all. Who knows?

Lives impact other lives, usually in ways that don't become obvious until many years have passed. That's something that each and everyone of us needs to remember.

The Ace was in failing health for the last seven years...and ironically, after all of the seasons of watching losing Rutgers teams, he started to fail physically at about the same time Rutgers turnaround began, with the Greg Schiano Era. Yesterday I was in a room with him for the last time- my Dad, my aunt, several of his kids, and a daughter in law. It was in a hospice. And as I type this, I'm sure he's in a better place now.

I'm sad to see my uncle pass on....but I can't help but smile when I think of him during those very special (and fun) afternoons and nights we spent together over the years.

Here's to you, Anthony Francis....we'll have that beer I promised you a couple of weeks ago....hopefully in about 30 years.

Before he became a Rutgers football fan, The Ace was a big fan of Army football. He left us a couple of days after Doc Blanchard did. I'm sure he'll swap some stories with him, just like he did with all of us.

But if Doc is just a bit busy at The Pearly Gates....why not spend some time with Lawrence Welk?

Miss you.........and God bless.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Twittering My Way Through The Blogesphere

Alright....I admit it. TWITTER is soooo cool! And I spent a good portion of the past few months resisting the temptation to join. But the immediacy of getting information as it happens is pretty fabulous. Some of it is superfluous, and I hate to say it...."useless trivia". But getting the information from people as it happens, unfiltered, is pretty neat.

Sigh....if I had only known!!!!

Here's what's happening as a I type this...

New Jersey's own director KEVIN SMITH is watching the Devils-Carolina hockey game, and is going ballistic because the Devs are ahead.

MEGHAN McCAIN, the cutest Republican on the planet (and that's coming from me, a loyal Dem), is fighting for a place in her party with Christian conservatives who think that GOP social moderates are outsiders....and she's tweeting her little heart out.

DAVID SHUSTER is giving kudos to the COUNTDOWN team at MSNBC...David is filling in for the vacationing Keith Olbermann.

ELLEN is telling everybody to tune into her show tomorrow for Earth Day...BEYONCE will be her special guest. When I think about saving the planet, I too always think of BEYONCE.

And OMG...DIDDY is out sick!!!!

This is so much inner geek has been unleashed!

Monday, April 20, 2009

Oprah Pulls Columbine Show

One of the immediate benefits of signing on to TWITTER is that sometimes you get to the direct source of news, unfiltered.

On Oprah Winfrey's TWITTER page she "tweeted" about why she pulled today's scheduled show marking the tenth anniversary of the COLUMBINE MASSACRE.

I pulled the Columbine show today-After reviewing, thought it focused too much on killers-hold a thought for the families, hard day for them

My was a very classy and gracious gesture on Oprah's part.

We're Now Using Twitter!!!

So....the question was asked..."What are you doing?"

But I ask it with a Jersey accent, and exclaim, passionately...."WHAADAYA DOIN????? (IDIOT!)"

Yes, young Skywalker....the lure of The Dark Side was too much...I signed on with TWITTER. And I have to go check out what my politically diverse friends John McCain and Rachel Maddow are doing....

So TWEET me if you dare....the new gadget is installed right under my profile.

So you later, oh fellow Twitter Critters!

We're Now Using Twitter!

OK...I've gone over to THE DARK SIDE, and have signed on with TWITTER. So check out my gadget under my PROFILE, and check out what me and my BFF Diddy are doing.

Tweet me, dammit!!!

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Ashes to Ashes Update- Episode 7

The next to last episode of Season One of Ashes to Ashes (on BBC AMERICA) had a bit of successful gimmick casting. The story involved the shooting wounding, and robbery of a man named Gil Hollis (played by Keeley Hawes' real life husband Matthew Macfadyen) who traveled around the UK raising money performing bizarre stunts to raise money for needy children (both are pictured above). The robbers were supposedly a "Bonnie and Clyde" man and woman combo....but Gene Hunt(Philip Glenister) thinks that somehow Hollis was in on his own robbery...and, to borrow a line from a popular song of that era, "gets physical" with Hollis, causing a rift between Hunt and Alex Drake (Hawes).

The mysterious (and deadly) Clown makes several appearances...and speaks. And in this episode "Shaz" Granger (Montserrat Lombard) gets to do more than shuffle papers and laugh at her male co-workers in the precinct. The relationship between Alex and Evan warms up.....but she still has Gene on her mind (and Gene has Alex on his).

Next week is the last episode of the series currently being shown in the US....and it takes place on the day when Alex's parents are killed in a car bombing.

More on A2A here.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Rutgers Spring Football Game 2009

It was about 80 degrees and cloudless, we had on our sunblock, shorts and sandals....and all we could say is "RU ready for some football"? It was time for the annual "Scarlet and White" intrasquad football game that drew close to 16,000 Rutgers fans to a game in Piscataway that didn't count...but was a dry run for the season, not just for the team but for the fans as well.

For the record, the Scarlet beat the White, 31-3 with new quarterback Dom Natale throwing for 187 yards, 11 of 19, and one touchdown. Folk hero in training Joe Martinek rushed 19 times for 79 yards and three touchdowns, and speedster Tim Brown had five catches for 116 yards. RU head coach Greg Schiano might have a good kind of problem...where to play freshman Mohammed Sanu, the four star defensive back who had four catches for 43 yards and a TD as a wide receiver.

But for the fans, the day was really all about getting the tailgate gear out of the garage, gassing up the grill, and getting your appetite whetted for the 2009 season, now a mere 142 days away . This is where we, the Loyal Sons (and Daughters) of Rutgers start counting the days until the first REAL game against Cincinnati on September 7th. You know those ladies who start their Christmas shopping in July with HSN and QVC? Those crazy "Countdowns To Christmas" when its 97 degrees outside?

Well, that's what spring football is to the bonafide football junkie...its the countdown to our "most wonderful time of the year". Sure, I love summer as much as the next guy. But I'm one of these crazies who'll watch every minute of next week's NFL draft, and mark my calendar until the NFL camps startup in late June. Spring football is the dry run....the beginning of the countdown...and the appetizer that has to last you until late summer.

I like baseball as fact I love baseball...but I love it differently. Maybe in the way Laurence Olivier said he loved his...."food" in SPARTACUS; sometimes he preferred oysters, and sometimes he preferred prawns.

I guess that means I must be a latent "bisportsial".

For more info on the Rutgers Spring Game click here.

Friday, April 17, 2009

A Tim Russert Video Tribute

I was having kind of a "brain-locked" day, trying to think of something funny, profound, or interesting to write about, with no luck. So while surfing the net, I somehow ended up in the EMMY AWARDS section of YouTube, and came upon a video tribute honoring the late Tim Russert of NBC NEWS that I'd like to share.

The video was posted last October on YouTube. Very shortly we'll mark the first anniversary of Tim's passing. Sunday mornings have never quite been the same since his untimely death....he was like a familiar friend, though we'd never met.

And he is missed.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Texas Governor Rick Perry On Secession From The Union

The video says it all.

(Sigh)....I thought this was all settled in 1865.

Governor...before you secede....can you just send us Willie Nelson?


Baseball and Rock- Opening Day at "New" Yankee Stadium

For the, April 16th, 2009 the New York Yankees opened the new Yankee Stadium with a 10-2 loss to the Cleveland Indians. Johnny Damon had the first hit in the new park, Jorge Posada the first home run....but Cleveland's Grady Sizemore had the first grand slam in a nine run 7th inning that crushed the Yank's home debut.

OK...what does all of this have to do with classic rock?

Well, during the opening day ceremonies, with all the former players and the pomp and circumstance, was former leader of CREEDENCE CLEARWATER REVIVAL John Fogerty, complete with a bat shaped guitar, to sing "Centerfield". So, I thought, how about a baseball theme for the blog entry? For a Yankee fan (like me) the music eases the pain of the loss...well, just a little.

So here's a triple header with Fogerty, The Boss, and Meat Loaf (with an assist by #10, Phil Rizzuto).

Hey...we'll get 'em tomorrow. We've got Joba Chamberlain...and they don't!

Madden Memories

I was mildly surprised when I heard the news of John Madden's retirement from broadcasting, but I wasn't entirely shocked. Last year he missed a game for the first time in his TV career, sitting out a late season game that would have entailed traveling from one coast to the other for a third consecutive week. Travel is not a big deal in your 40's or 50's, or even in your '60's...but he was going on 73, and he just might have been feeling a little more stress than in previous years.

There was a time when I wasn't a Madden fan- that was when he was coaching the Oakland Raiders in the 1970's. When I got out of the service I moved to Colorado, and I got sucked into "Bronco Mania" in 1977, the year Denver put it all together behind Craig Morton, Otis Armstrong, and "The Orange Crush" defense. Madden was the guy coaching the the hated "Ray-dahs". He was big, overweight, bombastic, with flailing hands and a manic style that made me think of a guy in a B-horror flick of that era going completely nutzoid. The Raiders- and Madden- were the mortal enemy of anybody within a 200 mile radius of Denver.

Madden could be a wildman on the sidelines, but it was because of the passion he brought to his job. And he took that same passion with him to the broadcast booth when he moved from coaching to his new role as NFL game analyst in 1979. John Madden became the standard by which others were judged- he redefined the role with his knack of looking at the game from a coaches angle. And he became a first class entertainer as well- he gave us the six legged turkey on Thanksgiving Day...not to mention the "turducken".

One of my favorite Maddenisms was a late season game in Chicago between the Bears and the Eagles. It was a cold December day, about zero degrees. A player on the Chicago bench removed his helmet to expose his shaved head....and steam from his perspiration pillared skyward. Madden got his telestrater, drew a circle around the guys head and asked, "How cold does it have to get before you can't sweat anymore?" His partner, the great Pat Summerall, played straight man for went on for a few minutes, never to be resolved...but it was just fun watching the two of them having fun with themselves, and with the audience. And there was the time he used his telestrater in Green Bay to prove his theory that you had to have alot of smoke in order to have a successful tailgate party.

Of course, there was his catch phrase....BOOM! Boom could be on offense, like a pancake block from an "O'" lineman, but more often than not the best "BOOMS" came on defense, from Singletary and Lewis and the "Original LT"...

John Madden wasn't the reason you tuned into a game, but he was instrumental in making the three hours in front of the tube time well spent. First with Summerall, then with Al Michaels, Madden was able to successfully able to blend the roles of football analyst and entertainer, and made us more knowledgeable about the game while making us laugh at its lighter moments.

I wonder if the death of Harry Kalas, the voice of the Philadelphia Phillies and of NFL Films, at age 73- the same as Madden- played a role in his decision? At any rate, Madden's last game as an analyst was this past Super Bowl, a classic game won in the last seconds. Maybe that was the best way for a legend to bow out.

There is a generation out there who have never known the NFL without John Madden. The games will still be there, but they just might not be as much fun.

More on John Madden from ESPN.

John Madden Announces Retirement

Moments ago on MSNBC a statement was read submitted by Hall Of Fame NFL coach and broadcaster John Madden announcing his retirement. He said it was time for him to step down, citing his age (73) as a factor.

More information and personal commentary will follow.

More on John Madden's retirement and career here.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

One Day Only! ...Bob Barker Returns To THE PRICE IS RIGHT!

On Thursday, April 16th TV legend Bob Barker returns to the show he hosted for 35 years, The Price Is Right to promote his new autobiography.

Here's the CBS NEWS video of the story.

And here, some additional information from the Huffington Post.

Presenting "The YouTube Symphony Orchestra"

Yesterday I had a local PBS station on at lunchtime, and they had the fascinating story of the creation of You Tubes's "Internet Symphony Orchestra"

Here's the description, from the Orchestra's You Tube Channel

"Play your part in music history.

We called for professionals and amateur musicians of all ages, locations and instruments to audition for the YouTube Symphony Orchestra by submitting a video performance of a new piece written for the occasion by the renowned Chinese composer Tan Dun.

Finalists are selected by a judging panel comprised of the world's most renowned orchestras. Vote for your favorite instrumentalists on YouTube from February 14-22.

Winners are announced on March 2nd and will be invited to travel to New York in April 2009, to participate in the YouTube Symphony Orchestra summit, and play at Carnegie Hall under the direction of Michael Tilson Thomas.

All the Tan Dun submissions will be compiled into a mashup video which will be premiered on this channel on April 15th".

Check out the orchestra's channel for additional videos and stories of its creation.

Tea, Anyone? Hello...Are You Still There?

Keith Olbermann of MSNBC on a certain 24 hour cable news channel and their "fair and balanced" coverage (ie "involvement") in the planned anti-tax "tea parties" scheduled for today, April 15.

Okay, let me see if I get this. They own TV stations and networks, cable systems and satellites. They package the news...and now they want to be part of MAKING the news.

Didn't somebody make a movie about something like this? No, not older one, with ORSON WELLES.

Why did you just say......"rosebud"?

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Lindsay's Back On The Market Again!

Hey gang!

You might have heard some rumors about Lindsay Lohan....I mean, do you live in a cave or something?

Anyway...its true....she's using a dating service! Now I'm too old and grumpy, and just a little too conventional for her.

But you could be the guy/gal of her dreams.

Check out the vid!!!

One thing you have to admit.........she does have a sense of humor about herself.

Ritchie Blackmore- 65th Birthday Today (April 14th)!

Ritchie Blackmore, co-founder of Deep Purple, Rainbow, and currently fronting Blackmore's Night with his wife Candice turns 65 today.

To do a thorough bio of Ritchie might require my writing a short book- it would include two separate stints with both DEEP PURPLE and RAINBOW and would span five decades- so I'll hit the highlights, using sources like Pete Frames ROCK FAMILY TREES, Ritchie's bio (from the Blackmore's Night website), trusty old WIKIPEDIA, and my own personal recollections of his career (and my attending my first metal concert way back in 1971, featuring Ritchie and DEEP PURPLE).

Born in Weston-super-mare on April 14, 1944, Richard Hugh Blackmore first picked up a guitar at age 11. Early influences were Gene Vincent and British rock n' roll guitarist Hank B. Marvin. He became proficient on guitar, and became a session musican in the early 1960's. Ritchie joined the Crusaders, a band fronted by singer Neil Christian, in January 1965, having left the British group the Outlaws, which he had been a member of since October 1962....with brief stay with Heinz and the Wild Boys in 1964.

Ritchie stayed with Christian and the Crusaders until May, 1967...except for a brief period in late 1966/early 1967 when he teamed with "Screaming" Lord Sutch (The Savages) to form The Roman Empire. Leader Sutch required his band to wear Roman gladiator outfits...mercifully, the band collapsed, and Blackmore returned to the Crusaders. Blackmore went to Hamburg and was a band that lasted only a couple of months called Mandrake Root...which was later the title to an early Deep Purple song.

Deep Purple was formed from the ashes of a band Ritchie formed with ex-Flowerpot Men keyboardist Jon Lord and bassist Nick Simper called Roundabout. They were together for only a few months in early 1968. By March of 1968 the group had gone through several changes of personnel, and had finally settled on a lineup of Blackmore, Lord, Simper, Ian Paice on drums, and new vocalist Rod Evans. This lineup played one gig as ROUNDABOUT, and then changed their name to Deep Purple .

The first DEEP PURPLE lineup had several hit records on both sides of the Atlantic, including "Hush", Kentucky Woman", and "River Deep, Mountain High". Trouble reared its head when the band's US label folded. There was a period of inactivity and uncertainty about the group's future. Simper and Evans left, and were replaced by two former members of Episode Six, bassist Roger Glover and singer Ian Gillan in 1969. This second version of DEEP PURPLE is usually regarded as the classic version, and its most successful lineup. Their albums began with "Concerto With Group and Orchestra" (featuring the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra), and then the harder sounds of "In Rock", followed by "Fireball", "Machine Head", and the classic live album "Made In Japan". Hits included SPACE TRUCKIN', HIGHWAY STAR, and SMOKE ON THE WATER. This lineup made one more album in 1973, "Who Do We Think We Are?", at which time both Gillan and Glover left DEEP PURPLE.

In 1974 a revamped DEEP PURPLE (Mark III) consisted of Blackmore, Lord, Paice, and new vocalist David Coverdale, and former Trapeze bassist/vocalist Glenn Hughes The albums "Burn" and "Stormbringer" were recorded by this lineup. Blackmore grew increasingly dissatisfied with DEEP PURPLE, and left the band in the spring of 1975. Tommy Bolin, an American guitarist who replaced Joe Walsh in THE JAMES GANG was brought in as DEEP PURPLE's new guitarist. This lineup recorded "Come taste The Band" , but by July, 1976 DEEP PURPLE disbanded.

Meanwhile, Ritchie Blackmore joined forces with Ronnie James Dio and his band Elf, which was renamed Ritche Blackmore's Rainbow (later shortened to Rainbow) in May 1975. Soon there was an almost entire turnover of musicians, which over the years included drummer Cozy Powell, keyboardist Don Airey, former Uriah Heep bassist Mark Clarke, and even old band mate Roger Glover. Dio left to join Black Sabbath in April, 1979. Replacement vocalists
Graham Bonnet and later Joe Lynn Turner fronted RAINBOW into the 1980's. STREET OF DREAMS, sung by Turner on the album "Bent Out Of Shape", might have been the most successful song Rainbow had as far as widespread commercial success and public acceptance.

In 1984 Deep Purple (Mark II) reunited and began touring and recording again, with some success. Old tensions between Gillan and Blackmore resurfaced, and Gillan was fired and replaced briefly by Joe Lynn Turner. Gillan evetually rejoined DEEP PURPLE, but Blackmore left for good in November 1993. Blackmore then reconvened Rainbow with a new lineup featuring singer Doogie White, but after recording one album, "Stranger In Us All" Rainbow folded for good in 1997.

Since 1997 Ritchie Blackmore has fronted a Renaissance themed band with his wife,Candice Night called Blackmore's Night. Their music is similar to the old Annie Haslam led band from the 1970's, Renaissance

Blackmore's Night has a strong following in Asia and a growing one in Europe. Ritchie seems happy and contented with his music and his life at this stage...and that's just about all anyone could ask for. Good for him.

For more about Ritchie click here.

Monday, April 13, 2009

How A Time Traveler, An Angel, and a Designing Woman Saved This Little Old Blog From Extinction

Lame Attempt At Humor Department by "Hugh Jee"

As the late Rod Serling used to propose on The Twilight Zone.....
Submitted for your approval- here we have a man using the screen name of "Hugh Jee", writing about the things that interest him- sports, books, films and a massive doses of politics, on his little corner of the blogesphere, a creation with the somewhat warped name USELESS TRIVIA AND MINDLESS RANTS. After a small dent in readership after its creation in the fall of 2008, the little blog grew steadily but slowly through the election cycle of 2008. And after the election of President Barack Obama, the interest in his blog ceased. His readership began Christmas shopping (never to return); Hugh Jee made a big Thanksgiving dinner, dutifully got his flu shot, and three days later he got the flu; and upon recovering he too went Christmas shopping, vowing to return after the first of the New Year....and when he did, his readership was gone. And so was his inspiration. He didn't have George Bush or Sarah Palin to kick around anymore. Like BB King used to sing...."The thrill was gone".

And that didn't even include the cataract operation dear old Dad had in January- I did alot of driving for him, and took care of the things he was unable to do for most of the month.

But this blog was in the tank...the only thing missing was Ed Grimley, I must say, pronouncing this blog "as doomed as doomed could be". So after a month of apologies about the lack of new content (and the lameness of anything new I did manage to write), it became was time to shift the focus of this blog from 90% politics to something more balanced. As told in the blog description, much of what you see here is modeled after CBS SUNDAY MORNING. It still deals with current events, and I still talk about politics. But this version is a blog that gets political rather than being a political blog. One thing I wanted to do was talk about people, and make it more people-centric I wanted to shine a light a people you may have heard of, but tell you somethings you may not know about them. I think with the steady flow of bad news everyday we needed to hear some positives.

I also wanted to include some more pop culture. Now, I despise reality TV; in my opinion, its indicative of the dumbing down of America (but that's another story for another entry). There are about 6-10 shows on TV that I really like, most of which were or are limited series, with a beginning, a middle and an end. And I if you haven't noticed , when I like a show I become like a tent show evangelist, combing the world for converts.

And of course, I deal with sports alot...I did a series about former Rutgers athletic director Bob Mulcahy and his ouster, and the role the Star-Ledger had in his demise. And I talked quite a bit about college sports- particularly women's college basketball. I've been a season ticket holder for Rutgers games for years.

Now, if you're still reading this you're probably thinking....where is he going with all of this stuff? But bear with me- its all going to come together.

I began a series called Making a Difference, talking about celebrities and about everyday people, and the things they do to make the world just a little bit better. We had Derek Jeter and his work with kids, Warrick Dunn and his building homes for those who need them, rock star Dave Mason and his devotion to the cause of getting American war veterans back on their feet with jobs and education.

On March 2 I did a profile of former QVC host, fashion designer, and President of Miss America's Outstanding Teen Kim Parrish and her role in mentoring young women in a society that has fewer female role models, and her organization's part in helping charities such as The Children's Miracle Network. And something very odd happened....and very gratifying on several levels.

I checked my blog stats several weeks ago to see what were the most queried topics from GOOGLE on this blog. In the middle of March, the Kim Parrish entry accounted for nearly 50% of all visits to this blog. A week later, the same entry surpassed 50%.

And for the entire month of March, the Kim Parrish entry was the reason 70% of all visitors clicked onto this blog. UCONN TRIVIA was second, with 10%. In January this blog had a minimum of 255 kilobytes per day downloaded. In March it was over 5,000 KB, and peaked recently at 8,712 KB's downloaded in a day. The GOOGLE page rank went from a "0" to a middle of the pack "4" and rising.

But there was more....

The UK discovered this blog as well, because of our entries chronicling the BBC show that debuted in the United States last month, Ashes to Ashes, and because of interest in the stars, Philip Glenister and Keeley Hawes (and yes, I do devote alot of webspace to Keeley, Philip, A2A, Life On Mars, David Bowie, and even Roxy Music...I'm like an unpaid publicist for the BBC!) Now, A2A accounts for less than 10% of all traffic to this blog... but for the month of March 87% of all search queries from the UK were A2A related- about the show, the actors, the music, the BBC....and of course, for David Bowie.

And they say on the show....everything is significant.

Then on March 31 I wrote a piece on the women's NCAA tournament, the first two regional finals on the "Road to the Final Four". And in closing, I did some final thoughts about what I had just seen. Louisville had just beaten a favored Maryland team to advance to St Louis and a date with destiny. Louisville star Angel McCoughtry felt disrespected by ESPN's Kara Lawson, and in a post game interview she called out Lawson on national TV. Here's what I had to say.

Notes.....Angel McCoughtry called out ESPN's Kara Lawson for her lukewarm feelings about Louisville, and really came across like The Louisville Lip, Mark II. Earth to Angel....Kara Lawson has won a NCAA championship at Tennessee, a WNBA championship with the Sacramento Monarchs, and an Olympic Gold Medal in Beijing last year...just focus on St.Louis and the Oklahoma Sooners, and Stanford or undefeated UCONN down the road. And please, the whining and the negative body language and facial expressions aren't going to cut it at the next level.

After Louisville had lost to UCONN in the National Championship game I wrote a piece about the superior numbers UCONN always seemed to get in the recruiting wars, and that's how they remain a mega power in women's basketball, with all challengers chasing them. A portion from that entry was quoted on a Louisville website, as were my reaction to Angel McCoughtry and her facial expressions and body language....when calls went against her, she always looked like you ran over her puppy with a steamroller, and then you wanted her to clean up the mess.

Because of a few sentences and one blog entry about Angel McCoughtry, roughly 30% of all traffic to this blog last week were about her body language, her expressions, and her feud with Kara Lawson. Teamed with the Keeley Hawes/ A2A traffic and the Kim Parrish queries, the Angel article resulted in the most successful overall week this blog has ever had, with the 8,712 KB's in a day that was mentioned before.

And the Angel article was responsible of a jump in page rank of 200,000 spaces(!) in the TECHNORATI blog ranking. Yeah I know...that's a pretty big jump caused by a short paragraph of three sentences.

Had I known that was going to happen, I might have chided her sooner.

But that's it...three articles about three very different ladies, and we're back in business ladies and gents.

Now.....the cynic may say that my combining more information about these three women in this long winded pat on the back for the success of this blog might be a mere cheap stunt to get even more readership to these pages.

All I can say to you is....don't be so cynical.

But then may be right.

Martha Irvine; "Are You A Twit If You Don't Want To Twitter?"

Martha Irvine of the Associated Press writes about the burnout some are feeling because of overuse of social networking sites.

Do you have that feeling?

Click here for the story, from the AP and Yahoo! Tech.

Paul Krugman; Tea Parties Forever

From The New York Times. Professor Krugman talks about the "tea parties" I wasn't invited to this Wednesday.

Op-Ed Columnist
Tea Parties Forever
Published: April 13, 2009
Everything that critics mock about the recent antitaxation demonstrations has long been standard practice within the Republican Party.

Click here.

Captain Phillips Freed In Heroic Rescue

Captain Richard Phillips was rescued from the captivity imposed by Somali pirates in a rescue that Hollywood producers would dismiss as too improbable. The standoff that began last Wednesday ended yesterday, Easter Sunday, when Phillips' three captors were killed with three individual headshots from US Navy Seal snipers into the life boat being towed by the USS Bainbridge. Phillips, the captain of the the MAERSK ALABAMA was free, five days after being taken a prisoner on the Indian Ocean off the Somali Coast.

Phillips offered himself as a hostage to gain the freedom of his crew, in one of the most selfless acts of heroism imaginable. Today he's on his way home, in a story that had a happy ending.

Somalia is a stronghold for pirates preying on the shipping lanes of merchant vessels in that oil rich area of the world. When most of us were believing that piracy at seas was something you saw on THE HISTORY CHANNEL or comic movies starring Johnny Depp, we all got a reality check- this is no "Pirates of the Caribbean". These are gangs of murderers and thieves who are preying vulnerable vessels at sea. Pirate leaders have vowed retaliation- already today a plane carrying New Jersey Congressman Donald Payne was fired upon while leaving Somalia. More than 200 seamen have been captured by Somali pirates, and are being held for ransom.

Ridding the sea of these pirates should not be the job of America alone- this is a problem for any country that uses those waters for commercial purposes. The United States should provide leadership, but we should not go it alone- that's a lesson we should have learned after the fiasco of Iraq.

As for Captain Phillips and the Navy Seals who freed him....a standing "O". In the past few months we've seen too much greed and inhumanity (ie Bernie Madoff) and not enough heroism.

Its something this world needs just a little more of.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Ashes to Ashes Update- Episode 6

On A2A this week on BBC America Alex Drake (Keeley Hawes) has a dream in which she feels herself dying, and falling into an abyss, then into a bed, with someone else on the otherside of the bed (she figures this is Evan). There is the return of The Clown, and references to a Rubik's Cube , which she tried to solve as a child....the Rubik's Cube was a gift from Evan when she was a kid.

On the job Gene Hunt (Philip Glenister) recognizes the MO of a thief he "nicked" in Manchester, Chas Cale, in a robbery of a post office in London. The investigation leads to a dead end when Gene and Alex question Chas and his wife about the crime, and he apparently has a rock solid alibi.

But then again....did Chas have a proxy or an accomplice, and was Chas the mastermind behind the theft?

A suspect is brought in, along with the guy's 8 year old nephew...and he's given a Rubik's Cube to play with while the uncle is interrogated.


Meanwhile, Alex feels that she is about to die....and wants desperately to tell Caroline that she, Alex, is actually Caroline's daughter.

Also the love-hate relationship between Gene and Alex takes another step forward, in a manner of speaking....but as hot as they were a few episodes ago (trapped in the vault), this episode may have left one of the main characters just a bit cold.

(Hmmmmm again!)

And that's all I'm going to say....look for the rerun, or ON DEMAND, or crank up your DVR's.

Check out the BBC America website for more info, and for this week's ITunes playlist ( Michael Jackson, Roxy Music, Soft Cell, Smokey Robinson, John Lennon and more).

Below, a BBC interview of Keeley Hawes, Philip Glenister, Dean Andrews (Ray Carling), and Marshall Lancaster (Chris Skelton) on the A2A set.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

JIMMY BUFFET; Videos For Your Inner ParrotHead

Its Easter weekend, and a frigid 43 degrees, rainy, dreary, miserable, and ugly out there.

What to do?

Time for a quick trip to Margaritaville!

Here's a Buffet buffet, y'all!

Click here for "the online state of mind".

Happy Easter, one and all!

Friday, April 10, 2009

Another View of Easter From Spricket24

I know- I got just a bit personal in my previous post, something I rarely do on this blog....but I try to put some variety in it, something serious, something humorous, and sometimes even the downright weird.

So here we go, from the the more sublimer-er....

Karen Alloy, aka spricket24, is an actress and a bonafide YouTube superstar!

Here's her view on Easter.

For more about Karen (aka spricket24) click here.

Have a great holiday....and if you drink, I'll drive.

Easter Weekend 2009-Some Personal Thoughts

I don't often get into religious topics on this board, and that's by choice. Religion and belief in God is a personal matter, and it can be divisive. Yes, the sub-heading of this blog says "for your inner iconoclast". But religion is always a hot button issue, particularly with Americans. We pride ourselves with having freedom of worship, a constitutional right- but all too often we become intolerant of the beliefs of others. The rest of the world looks at Americans like we're a little bit crazy because of this duality. And I do tend to agree with the onlookers. Thomas Jefferson wrote in the preamble to the Declaration of Independence that we are "endowed by our Creator with certain inalienable rights", yet this nation that was born with the concept of religious tolerance often allows itself to be torn apart by religious differences.

I have written in my profile, which you can read if you wish, that I am a "proud Cafeteria Catholic". There are some who would use that term as a pejorative- but I won't, and can't, because that is who and what I am. But I'll back track a bit.

I grew up as a pretty religious middle class Roman Catholic kid in the transitional period from LEAVE IT TO BEAVER to THE BRADY BUNCH. We went to Mass every Sunday, confession at least once a month, religious instructions on Saturday mornings-with an extra two week dose in the summer when we turned 12, in preparation for Confirmation. Everything went according to schedule until The Sixties happened.

First we watched a young and beloved president murdered in Dallas, and then we watched his alleged murderer killed on live TV less than two days later. Then the Beatles, the British Invasion, Watts, Newark, Detroit, Vietnam, Tet Offensive, murdered RFK, murdered MLK, Haight Ashbury, The Fillmore, and sex, drugs, and rock n'roll (in no particular order).

I won't dwell on the details- but let's just say I was indulgent in those long ago days, even to excess on more than a few occasions. Perhaps that's part of the appeal that TV shows like LIFE ON MARS and ASHES to ASHES have with me; every once in awhile I ask myself "Did I really buy it in those days, and is all of this really an illusion?"....and then I become lucid again.

Religion and Catholicism became less a part of my life until middle age. I never stopped believing in God, I just explored other avenues, like Eastern religion, Islam, and pantheism. But strangely, I never really stopped being Catholic, at least deep inside. When I decided to give organized religion another shot, it was a brief flirtation with the Episcopal Church. That was kind of like Catholicism minus the guilt and angst, and to the untrained or unchurched, a Episcopal Eucharistic service and a Catholic mass seem to be 98% the same. But for whatever reason, that didn't stick....and I went back to using Sundays for sleeping.

There were health issues involving my parents and my grandmother, and after two decades spent primarily in Colorado and Florida, I returned to New Jersey for good in the early 1990's. Ten years ago last Thanksgiving my dad started to experience chest discomfort. We rushed him to the cardiologist- he needed a triple bypass. The surgery lasted about six hours, and was successful. However, on the day Dad was to be released from the hospital, he started to experience wild fluctuations in his heart rate- I was in his room watching his monitor; he'd go from 60 beats a minute to 110 in a matter of seconds, and back down again. The doctors told us he'd have to stay in the hospital until his heart rate stabilized to a normal rate. Needless to say, the stress on all of us reached a higher level- it was really difficult to see him hooked up to a monitor, and wonder if and when he'd have a stroke from the fluctuations in his pulse.

I excused myself, and walked to the hospital chapel on the ground floor. I sat in the pews, but didn't pray. But I did talk to God. I said, "Can You just get him through this?. That's all I'm asking. Just give him a few more years with us".

There was a King James Bible in the pew. I opened it up, randomly. It opened to John 2:1-13, the story of the miracle of Cana. I read of the wedding feast that ran out of wine. Jesus was told by His mother of the situation, and He ordered the servant to fill some jugs with water...and then jugs became filled with wine.

Then the thought filled my head....its already done. All you had to do is ask.

That same night my father's heart rate stabilized, and we took him home the next day.

A coincidence? No God sent miracle, but a miracle of modern science? Maybe. Or perhaps a combination of the two.

These two incidents marked my return to the Church. It didn't signal my total acceptance of the whole plate of Roman Catholicism. I still have problems with its dogma, and how it relates to our modern world. For instance, I still shudder at the denials and the "shoot the messenger" mentality of some of the church hierarchy during the deplorable and shocking sex abuse scandals of the past decade. The attitude of "the church must be protected at all costs" was the paramount of hypocrisy. So little regard was given to the victims and of the damaged lives that too many of them have had to live. And the worst part is, I question to this day, how far up the chain did the knowledge of the abuse go, and who knew what and when?

And that brings me to the doctrine of "Papal Infallibility". We are told that the Church considers all human life to be sacred, and that the Pope's judgement, in matters of the faith, is infallible. Therefore, if the Pope is infallible in the 21st century, the Popes of the 15th century must have been infallible in matters of faith as well. Infallibility is defined as "freedom from liability; perfection". Infallible is defined as "incapable of errors; reliable".

But didn't these infallible pontiffs of the 15th century create and sanction Inquisitions that arrested, imprisoned, tortured, and burned alive tens of thousands of Jews,non-believers, and "heretics"? Were their lives any less sacred? Or were these particular Popes any less infallible?

Its difficult to reconcile these conflicts I have with the Roman Catholic Church, some of its doctrines, and some of the actions of some of its hierarchy. To an outsider it might appear to be an almost irreconcilable thing- but its not. Because no matter what has happened to me over the years, and what has changed in this world, I never stopped feeling deep in my bones that I am a Roman Catholic...maybe an unconventional believer, and a somewhat rebellious one, but a believer none the less.

And all I can say to those who may question me, or my beliefs, all I can say to them is....please don't wag your finger at me. Because this is my church, too.

Have a Happy Easter....or Passover...with your family and friends.

"Hugh Jee"
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