Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Religio et politico

So Hillary is trying anything she can to sling mud at Barack Obama by saying that Jeremiah Wright would not have been her pastor. So maybe she should stick to making sure she tells the truth about her record instead of trying to sling mud. She was not under sniper fire when she went to Bosnia-Herzegovina. She was walking with U.S. troops!

So Hillary is trying anything she can to deflect interest away from the fact that she lied about where she went and how she got there. She is behind, and is trying anything she can to make herself look presidential. But lying is not presidential - unless you are Hillary's husband. He certainly has a doctorate in deception.

I really wish they would all go away. None of them seems to have what it takes to lead the greatest nation in the world. Not that McCain would be that much better. A vote for McCain is more of the Same (sounds like Jesse Jackson, huh?)

And the 4,000th U.S. soldier died this week in Iraq. Four troops got blown up by a roadside bomb, and that put the total over the 4k mark. The Iraqis seem to let someone else do the heavy lifting and the dying and they will take advantage of what is left. And the corruption in the oil markets in Iraq continue to rise. Pipelines are busted, the oil is drained, and then when the stuff is refined, the truckers dump water in the tankers instead of diesel fuel. And this is what our tax dollars are paying for.

Meanwhile, the Pentagon reported that it mistakenly shipped the nose cone of a Titan Missile to Taiwan instead of a case of helicopter batteries. Excuse me? They Titan nose cone looks nothing like a helicopter battery. And we want to export this crap to other countries?

Monday, March 24, 2008

Superman got into the kryptonite

So Tiger lost - big whoop. Did we really believe that anyone - even Tiger Woods - could go undefeated? Nah. C'mon. He didn't lose by much a couple strokes.

But people thought the New England Patriots would go undefeated, too. And we all know how THAT worked out.

But Mr. Woods is still the baddest man to swing a bent stick and get through all the horrible stuff in the way.

So the Masters is in two weeks. Look for Tiger to be back on the prowl.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Hoops and pickers

One of the pleasures of this job is that you actually get to do something that you would want to do if you didn't have to work. One of the things I like to do is talk to musicians, about music, about their work, maybe play a little.

I have had the honor of talking to Dr. Billy Taylor, the late James Brown, George Clinton, and Victor Wooten. This week, I got a chance to chat with country star and Grammy winner Vince Gill.

Turns out Vince is a big fan of the Belmont Bruins, the Nashville, Tennessee school that was playing Duke in the first round here in Washington at the Verizon Center. I saw him on the big screen and grabbed my recorder and chatted with him at halftime of the game.

I have to admit I was a little intimidated to talk to him. I mean he's not here for an interview; he's here to watch a basketball game. But nothing ventured, nothing gained. And we have a mutual friend. A good friend of mine went to church with Vince's wife Amy Grant, Michael W. Smith and Brown Bannister when she was in school at Vanderbilt. So I screwed my courage to the sticking point and asked him a few questions. I also had to remember, he's a musician, I am a musician, we have that in common.

"How are you liking the game so far," I asked.

"It's a lot of fun, I think these teams match up pretty well, so far. Duke is obviously a better ball club, with better players," he said.

"Did you graduate from Belmont or are you on the faculty there?"

"No I am just great friends with (Belmont Coach) Rick Byrd. We have been friends and I have been going to their games for about 20 years now. I tease him and say that 'I am your Jack Nicholson; the Lakers have Jack Nicholson, and you have me."

"What's your latest project, what are you working on right now?"

"Well, I just last month won a Grammy for the last record I had out called These Days. And I will probably work on another record and get out and do some touring. My world doesn't change much from year to year, it's pretty similar, " he answered.

It was LOUD where we were talking. The Pep bands from both Belmont and Duke were blaring away and there were about 20,000 people in the building.

But we kept chatting.

"So, I was talking to a Belmont student earlier today who is a music business major. What advice would you as a working musician give to young kids who are coming up and hoping to get into the music business?"

"You know, the funny thing is, the way I grew up, the business is not that way any more, so my advice is almost pointless, because the era of today is not really comparable to the era I grew up in. The bottom line is, great music is great music, and if you can find a way to steer towards that and bet on that, and always put art before commerce, it will benefit you greatly.

I asked him about the American Idol phenomenon, where some folks seem to get fame at a younger and younger age - especially this year. Vince told me that its very different now.

"To compare the music business of today to the music business of 30-35 years ago when I started is crazy. But it still holds true, today is such a visual age. Everybody watches music, even in the way you record it, with the computerization, the way it's done it all shows up on a screen. And you look at music more so now than you listen to it and I grew up in my bedroom just listening to music, figuring out with my ears how they did it. And its very different because people want to see it. But once again, hard work will create an awful lot of good luck. But the things like American Idol that you are seeing, it doesn't matter how you get your foot in the door. The bottom line is once you get your foot in the door if you have talent you've got a chance. That's never going to be any different."

"So it's like 10% inspiration and 90% hard work, right?"

"Yeah, you gotta work really hard, You've got to be willing to starve. A lot of people aren't. A lot of people want - the age today people want to be famous. You know people like Paris Hilton are just famous for being famous, not necessarily for doing anything. And I think there's a lot of singers, and musicians and rappers that are the same way. But a true musician just wants to be great at what they do."

I could tell I should wrap things up - I mean I didn't want to take all Vince's time - he might have to go to the bathroom or something. But I wanted to get in a couple more questions.

"So tell me, I have friends - and myself included - who would play music for free because it's their passion. Is that true of you?"

"I would and did and will again (Laughs)." With that, I thought I had enough and walked back to my seat. But it was great to chat with him. God help you when two pickers get together. There's much I would have loved to ask, but maybe later.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

N-C-blah, blah, blah

Okay sports fans, it's that time of year again. Time to fill out brackets and watch games and suffer heartbreak and feel the rise of hope. Time to believe in the impossible - until your team plays North Carolina or Duke.

I write this from the press room at the Verizon Center in Washington, DC, where Xavier has just disassembled Georgia and Purdue is wiping the court with Baylor. It's the same setup as the last time I did this - the Wizards' practice court is converted into a press work room and interview room. Big tables, lots of people with laptops, expensive food, cheap snacks and lots of waiting.

The excitement is actually on the court - especially if you are a basketball fan. But here in the press room it is all about pouring over stacks of stats, trying to produce audio reports, watching three different games at once and putting up with BS from editors.

But it is a chance to get out of the office. For that I am deeply grateful.

I got the chance to talk to some Belmont fans - their team, the Bruins, plays Duke in the first round. Belmont could be the new word for bye bye in a couple hours. But the fans made the trip from Nashville. One of them - a music business major - said that while Vanderbilt might be better known, his school will give it's best.

I fear it will not be enough. Duke is a second seed, and former champion. Belmont is where????????

And so the games will most likely go to the better teams - Duke, North Carolina, Memphis, Tennessee, Xavier, UCLA. But Cinderella has to try on the shoe anyway. Back to work.


Thursday, March 06, 2008

Here he is ....

This is Snickers, a 12-week old Schnoodle we adopted this week.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

New Additions

We have two new additions at our home and both are challenges. The first is an actual addition - a Florida room - that was started in November and still hasn't finished.

The second is a puppy.

Both are challenging and both require exact steps to ensure success.

The Florida room was full of surprises - the first being that the deck on which we had been living and on which the room will be built never passed final inspection from the county.

Okay, go to the county office, sit there for hours, take the plans to get approved, get them approved by (1) zoning and then (2) the mechanical people. Schedule an inspection for framing and then for concealment. Okay hoops jumped, what next.

Then the carpenter who designed the Florida room decided he would rather live in Florida, so he moved. Didn't bother to tell us, just up and left. Hmmmmmmm.

Then we had to get the braces reinforced for the hot tub that has been sitting on the deck for about three years now. Tub people didn't tell us that we needed any inspection of the deck or any reinforcement - just sold us the tub. So tear the deck up, reinforce the bracing, wait for the inspector, pay the county more $$$$$$$$$$$$$.

Okay, more hoops jumped through. Then we find out that the contractor we hired to build the room is not licensed to build anything but decks and porches (the Florida room started out as a screened-in porch, but evolved into a full-fledged addition).
So he has to upgrade his license or work under someone who has a higher-class license. More hoops, more money, more time at the County Office. Uggghhhhhh!!!!!!!

And in the midst of all this we adopt a puppy!

We must be mentally ill.

And now it's all about puppy, puppy, puppy. But that's backwards. We are supposed to give attention, affection, food, treats, etc to our older dog first. Okay, so that requires a paradigm shift.

The puppy cost $250 to adopt, then more money for his tag$, his crate, his blanket, any chew toy$$$, and in the midst of all this he's a puppy. A four-legged poop machine in my house.

So the past few days has been “walk the puppy, take the puppy out to pee, to poop, to learn to walk on a leash. Crate the puppy, don't let the puppy bite me, play with the puppy.” All while still working full time and living life.

But there is hope: puppy obedience school! We have signed up and the classes can't start soon enough for me. In the interim, the older dog has to be first in the affection-food-toys-attention department. Crate the puppy, play with the older dog, feed him, etc. (Of course after we eat!).

I have taken to likening the situation to a rookie on a football team. Veterans get preference. Rookies have to learn the system and get taped to the goal post. I'll post more later, including pics of both projects.