Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Emitt Rhodes

Emitt Rhodes had a talent for pop songs. He led the '60s band, The Merry Go Round, which in looks and songs brought to mind the Beatles. Here they are on TV in 1967 doing their hit, “You’re a Very Lovely Woman.”

Rhodes himself, who wrote the songs, sang lead, played guitar and piano--at age 17, I might add--went on to a solo career. The Merry-Go-Round owed the record company one more record, so after they broke up Rhodes recorded The American Dream in 1969. In 1970 he came out with his masterpiece, his self-titled album, Emitt Rhodes.

Not only was the album self-titled, it was self recorded on a four-track machine in his parents' garage in Hawthorne, California. "With My Face On the Floor" is my favorite from that album, and what you're hearing is all Rhodes, multi-tracking his own instruments, vocals and harmonies. He maintained total control. It's the way he recorded his next two albums, also.

The album took a year to produce and Rhodes' record company, which had a contract with him to produce an album every six months, decided to sue. This put a damper on Rhodes' spirit, but not his creativity. He did two more solo albums, Mirror and Farewell to Paradise. This song is from his last album. It was done in 1971 for British TV and looks like a very early music video.

Rhodes retired from the recording business at age 24 and went on to other endeavors. A few years ago an Italian company put out a documentary, The One Man Beatles, about Rhodes. It's always interesting to me that foreigners have to tell us how great our music is. The Germans sent us imports of our own bluegrass music, and several compilations of the blues were being sold in Europe to music lovers, artists whom the American people had forgotten. Ditto Japan, which came out with their own Rhodes compilation before this American set was released.  The Emitt Rhodes Recordings 1969-1973, a double CD with all four of Rhodes' solo albums, is a domestic American product. It can be bought through Amazon for $29.99, not exactly cheap. It's released by A&M, A Universal Music Corporation, a surprise in itself. This is big business, and a commitment to this treatment seems rare, especially to an artist from decades ago when current rock acts have the lifespan of a fruitfly.
Rhodes' exceptional voice and songwriting skills remind me of Paul McCartney at his peak. Emitt Rhodes, the gifted songwriter, singer, performer of nearly four decades ago is now 60 years old. I think it's time for Emitt Rhodes to get his proper due. Linda Ronstadt did a version of Rhodes' "You're A Very Lovely Woman," retitled "She's A Very Lovely Woman," and this is a rare clip from the Johnny Cash show, circa 1969. I'm surprised more artists didn't pick up on Rhodes' songs, which are full of catchy musical hooks.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Are men expected to read women's minds?

A recent letter from a husband in advice columnist Carolyn Hax's newspaper column asked: “Why do women expect men to be mind readers?” He then followed up with his reason for asking: “My wife has been grousing around lately. She finally erupted, ‘Just once I'd like to come home and find you made the salad for dinner!’”

He responds to his wife, “You want a salad? Call/text/e-mail and it's yours!” To which [the wife] replied with those killer words, “I shouldn't have to!”

I have sympathy for this man, but Carolyn Hax is not nearly so understanding in her response to him:

“Why do people attribute to an entire sex the behavior of one person?” Hax is calling out the guy for making a broad generalization and based on his question using her own broad generalization.

She defends the wife by saying the husband should “see her as a person . . . like you.” Well, duh.

Hax, being female, gives the feminine perspective on this: “. . . your wife has an idea of the way a romantic relationship is supposed to look. Apparently, she believes a loving mate will study her wants and needs, and then step up wordlessly to satisfy those needs.”

Toward the end of her lecture she tells the man, “. . . so ask her what the salad thing is really about — feelings, not food. “I feel discouraged/frustrated/lonely, and here's why” invites you into each other’s thoughts. That's what intimacy is about.”

Without answering the man’s question directly, Hax has gone over to the woman’s side and basically told the man he should be able to read his wife’s mind by knowing that the “salad thing” is not the real problem, it’s that he won’t find out what’s really wrong with her. And the poor man is left more puzzled than ever, compounding the mysteries of his wife’s behavior with the answer from another female.

A guy can unknowingly upset a wife who looks at him while he is grimacing and thinks the grimace is directed at her. Suddenly she may withdraw into a zone where she could be thinking, “What did I do to make him angry? Why did he give me that look? Did I under cook the fish we had for dinner? Is he upset with me over spending too much money? Why won't he say anything to me? What did I do and why won't he tell me?” Actually, he’s grimacing because he just saw on the TV listings his favorite Thursday night show, Survivor, has been canceled for an ice skating special. It would be great if he could read her mind and tell her, “Hey, honey, that sourball look wasn't directed at you, honest. I’m not mad at you and the fish you fixed for dinner was delicious!” He'd be a lot better off, because later, when he decides he’d like to get romantic with her she will turn a cold shoulder and then he’s left to wonder, “What did I do?”

He may ask, “Honey, what's the matter. Is something wrong?” to which she will probably respond, “'s nothing...I just have a slight headache...” rather than address her concerns. In this way the simplest misunderstanding can escalate.

Decades ago my wife and I had talks about this very thing. Many women who detect feelings with a finely-tuned female radar, expect men to be the same. We’re not. Men just have a different way of communicating than women, and the sexes often misunderstand each other. Men have a much more direct way. My old Army sergeants told me in no uncertain terms what they wanted, man-to-man; no non-verbal communication there.

I’m not surprised the man writing to Carolyn Hax assumes that women expect men to read their minds. In a way they do, because as Hax admits they expect their significant other to be responsive to their feelings and needs. Some simple advice for both men and women: it helps to tell your partner what you want. A simple request from her, “When you get home from work I’d appreciate you getting the dinner salad. It would help so much.” The guy can then say, “Sure! You want vinaigrette dressing on that?” and she can say, “I'd like Italian, because I’m fixing pasta.” Great. The guy has clear cut instructions. He’s thinking, “I know what I’m having for dinner and all I have to do is fix the salad,” and the wife is thinking, “Maybe tomorrow night I can get him to take out the garbage!” He probably will, too, if she doesn’t expect him to look into her brain and see what she wants.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Words women use

This is one of those e-mails that floats around the Internet. My friend Peggy sent it to me with a note, "There's a lot of truth in this." More than you know, Peggy. At one time or another, and sometimes more than once, I have heard one or more of these expressions from a woman. Men, take note. Paying attention may save a relationship, a marriage, or even save you from a night in the doghouse.

(1) "Fine" : This is the word women use to end an argument when they are right and you need to shut up.

(2) "Five Minutes": If she is getting dressed, this means a half an hour. Five minutes is only five minutes if you have just been given five more minutes to watch the game before helping around the house.

(3) "Nothing": This is the calm before the storm. This means something, and you should be on your toes. Arguments that begin with nothing usually end in "fine".

(4) "Go ahead": This is a dare, not permission. Don't do it.

(5) Loud Sigh: This is not a word, but is a non-verbal statement often misunderstood by men. A loud sigh means she thinks you are an idiot and wonders why she is wasting her time standing here and arguing with you about nothing. (Refer back to # 3 for the meaning of nothing.)

(6) "That's okay": This is one of the most dangerous statements a women can make to a man. That's okay means she wants to think long and hard before deciding how and when you will pay for your mistake.

(7) "Thanks": A woman is thanking you, do not question, or faint. Just say you're welcome. (I want to add in a clause here - This is true, unless she says 'Thanks a lot' - that is PURE sarcasm and she is not thanking you at all. DO NOT say 'you're welcome'. That will bring on a 'whatever').

(8) "Whatever": Is a woman's way of saying Fuck YOU!

(9) "Don't worry about it, I got it": Another dangerous statement, meaning this is something that a woman has told a man to do several times, but is now doing it herself. This will later result in a man asking 'What's wrong?' For the woman's response refer to # 3.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Happy birthday, Don Henley

Don Henley is 63-years-old today.

Don is two weeks younger than me. He's got looks, the talent and (presumably) all the benefits of a long and successful music career going back over 35 years.

This is my favorite song of Henley's, recorded in the 1980s while on hiatus from his usual band, The Eagles. In comparisons between the two of us, both born in the hot month of July 1947, all I can say that we have in common is we're both boys of summer.

So with that nifty intro, take it away, Don! Happy birthday!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Munchausen Syndrome

A special education teacher in Pennsylvania has been charged with 12 felony forgery counts. She falsified medical documents, including forging a doctor's signature, in order to gain medical leave for an "inoperable brain tumor." When confronted, she resigned. Leslie Herneisey, 51, had been a teacher for 25 years, and had been nominated for Teacher Of The Year twice.

This story sounded familliar to me when I read it, because at different times I worked with two women, Brenda and Ann, who did something similar. Both told coworkers they had cancer, they needed time off for surgery and/or chemo, and yet they weren't really ill. Not physically, anyway. After exposure as frauds both of them left the school district, but in the case of Ann, not by being fired. The school district human resources office was advised by their lawyers that the woman was diagnosed with a mental illness. It's against the Americans With Disabilities Act to let someone go for mental illness. A year after being exposed as a fake and abuser of medical leave policy Ann finally quit. The school district got lucky with that. But it makes you wonder, mental illness or not, what the hell was she thinking?

Like the Herneisey woman in Pennsylvania, the other woman, Brenda, told everyone she had an inoperable brain tumor. She told everyone she had only weeks to live, even describing in great detail what stages she would go through, and by August "she'd be dead." Of course she was showered with love and attention but August came, then September, then it was Christmas, and Brenda was still among the living. She announced that her doctor said the tumor had shrunk away to nothing; she didn't have cancer anymore! A miracle! Well, that was all too much for the human resources department who did a bit of investigating and found out Brenda never had cancer, brain tumor or otherwise. So, she agreed to leave. Several incidents she was involved in after she left showed the rest of us how disturbed she was.

I did a little Internet research and came up with some interesting articles on the subject:

". . . why on earth would anyone actually pretend to have a serious illness?

Some do it simply for profit. Others have a disorder called Munchausen Syndrome - a mental condition whereby people feign illness in order to gain attention, or money or profit in some other way. The payoff is usually tremendous for the people faking the illness. They get a sympathetic ear, constant attention, gifts, cards, emails, money and the time and energy of medical professionals. An area where this syndrome is growing is the Internet. Support groups for people with hundreds of different diseases and conditions are easily accessible and the payoff is often just as good – and actual - as in real life. People have been sent checks, money orders, clothing and supplies, as well as endless on line hugs, emails, letters and attention.

No dummies are they! People who fake these illnesses are actually quite smart. They are well-read in the areas of their “conditions” and know how to talk the talk. They know how they should sound, feel and look. They use medical terms and go as far as to shave their heads and eyebrows to prove that they are receiving treatment."
". . . Often, of course, there are mixed motivations, and the person faking illness has many reasons to keep up the pretense of being sick for as long as possible. Some people really do have a disease — not cancer but a mental illness known as a factitious disorder. People with this disorder pretend to have an illness (usually a terminal one) and often go to great lengths to maintain the hoax."
As disturbing as it can be to be fooled, in some ways I understand people who have these syndromes and need what they get by claiming cancer. To fake it would take a special kind of person, in desperate need of something.

In the eyes of the law these fakers, if they forge documents, make false insurance claims or accept money under false pretenses, are guilty of a crime. And I'm aware that some people are pulling confidence games and scams. But there are a percentage of people who claim these things who are mentally ill. It's criminalizing mental illness I disagree with.

Cancer is bad, cancer is scary; we even have a visceral reaction when we hear the word. I can't imagine faking cancer, but I can't imagine what it must be like to be in the particular mental state of some of those who do. If Herneisey just did it get out of work then throw the book at her; if she's got a factitious disorder then she needs help, and I hope she gets it.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

"How religious were they?"

My brother and I are non-religious, as were our parents. My wife's family is mostly non-religious except for a couple of people who are evangelical types, born again Christians. I'm all right with that. I think people should find comfort and solace--or even answers to the age-old questions, "Why are we here?" and "What can I do to make life as painless as possible?"--where they can find answers. I just don't want them trying to convince me they have the answers for me.

I usually don't need answers because I don't have the questions. Being non-religious means I don't go looking for answers by any supernatural means.

Note I said non-religious and not atheist or agnostic. My personal feeling, based on dealings with some atheists is that they can approach their atheism with a religious fervor. In the same way a zealous Christian might try to convince me to bring Jesus into my life so do some atheists try to convince me there is no God. An agnostic is a person who doesn't know. I could fall into that category except that not only do I not know but I don't care. So I guess I'm more comfortable referring to myself as non-religious and letting it go at that.

Because this is America, where free expression of religion is allowed--as long as it doesn't involve human sacrifice, that is--many religious people like to mix their religion in with politics. I'm also all right with that, as long as they understand this is a secular nation, and the taxpayers don't have to support religion. But, these religious people say, our nation was founded on religious principles. Well, perhaps. The men who founded our country are very much a mixed bag when it comes to religion. To say they were all devout is misinformation by the patriotic religious people who propound such talk.

In a recent article in my local newspaper, "How religious were they?" some of the American founding fathers are examined. There were some very religious members of the group, Patrick Henry for instance. There were some for whom religion was more or less accepted, but not practiced. For instance, according to the article, George Washington ". . . was a Freemason who embraced a deistic view of God as Providence but rarely mentioned Jesus."

John Adams ". . . rejected the Trinity, the divinity of Christ, human depravity and predestination, like most deists, believed reason was a gift from God to find the truth."

Thomas Jefferson ". . . revered Jesus as a moral teacher but did not see himi as Son of God or Savior . . . but [Jefferson] regularly attended and liked church services."

Bejamin Franklin " . . .declared 'some doubts' about Jesus' divinity." He prudently contributed to every sect in Philadelphia, including a Jewish synagogue."

Sounds to me like Ben wanted to cover the bases.

Every time there is political turmoil in America, and there has been quite a bit in recent years, the religious right demands that America return to "Christian values," which are defined as being what they, the religious right, point to and say are the values. They like to point out to their congregations the Founding Fathers who they imbue with spirituality those FF's probably didn't have. But who cares? Most Americans couldn't name three Founding Fathers, much less know how religious they were.

When I see a cringe-inducing painting like the above, I'm reminded of the power of propaganda. Depicting Jesus with the constitution is implying it came to us through divinity. There wasn't anything divine about it; it was based, like most things, on human experience. What has worked in the past, what hasn't, and how can we improve the lot of our citizens without making them subjects? It ignores the fact that even though we had a constitution we didn't always believe what it says, especially if it disagreed with our personal prejudices. The Constitution and Declaration of Independence are the holy grails of freedom-loving Americans, but they were framed during a time when it was legal to own human beings.

The Founding Fathers were a group who had a lot to lose with a revolution, made a big gamble and luckily it turned out in their favor. They could have easily turned out footnotes in the history of the American colonies, hung for insurrection. That was a combination of a lot of factors that had little to do with divine intervention. Read some history or even watch the History Channel. When they tell the story of the American Revolutionary War Jesus doesn't show up anywhere.

As one of my friends said when we discussed all this, "How bad would we have it right now had we stayed under British control? How much worse would it be in this country?" His belief is that not much would be changed, as witness Canada and Australia, two great countries who seem to do just fine. It's a topic for another time.

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Whither blogging?

Copyright © 2010 Parade Publications, Inc.

This Danny Shanahan cartoon was in the July 4, 2010 issue of Parade magazine, a Sunday newspaper supplement.

I've been a blogger for over four years, and have found that no matter what else is going on in my life, blogging provides an outlet. "Blog" has become an all-encompassing term. Originally it was "weblog," a diary kept online. The word "blog," nonsensical as it is, describes what I think of as a newspaper column online, written by non-professionals as well as professionals. If you travel far into the blogosphere you can find all sorts of blogs, from the most personal to the most general, and everything in between.

I've seen blogs that are nothing more than collections of photos, meaning nothing to anyone but the blog author and family or friends. I've seen blogs that have a strong political viewpoint, some that are outright rants. It's OK. I can't read them all--not enough hours in the day--but I love them all because I love the idea of them all, which is self-publishing.

When I was 14-years-old I published a magazine devoted to comics, printed on an old spirit duplicator my dad brought home. I found the idea of publishing my thoughts, my opinions, irresistible. There's something in some people that causes this, and the bug bit me early. The thing is, I never aspired to be a paying, published author. I never thought of going into newspaper work, or writing magazine articles for pay, or being a best-selling author. I just figured that was for other people who had the discipline or the ideas to work on paper. Even so, I used to study authors' methods. I remember reading that when Irving Wallace researched a novel he wrote everything on index cards and then pulled out the cards for reference. Some writers, like Harlan Ellison, could without planning sit down at his portable typewriter--once he did it while sitting in bookstore window--and come up with a salable story. I soon came to understand that whatever gets a writer going is fine; there is no set way to be creative.

It's been a long time since I was 14; I'm 63 now and retired. I was working when I started the blog, "Paranoia Strikes Deep," in 2006 and named it that because I was paranoid. I had a paranoid boss since 1988. I've said paranoia is catching, but it can go away, too, when you're not being infected by the paranoia bug around you. Retiring on January 1, 2009, made much difference in my mental health. Then I found out I had cancer and needed an operation. I got through that, and now I feel I've been through a couple of growing experiences. What doesn't kill you makes you stronger. That old cliché is true.

Blogging is another thing to me: freedom of the press. When I was 14 and told people I wrote and published my own magazine one of the first questions I got asked was, "Do you need a license for that?" and I pointed out the first amendment. I was surprised, even at that age, to hear that question because I thought it was a given that Americans would know anyone can publish without having to ask for official permission.

So, whither blogging? I recommend it. I'd like to see everyone in the world who has access to a computer and the Internet do their own blog. It would be wonderful to know that everyone was sharing their thoughts with the wider world. The Internet has made it possible, and I'm grateful for it.

Get a blog!

Sunday, July 04, 2010

Fourth of July

I'm borrowing from myself here; I originally showed this song, "Fourth of July," on November 11, 2009 for the occasion of singer-songwriter Dave Alvin's birthday.

The other day I was listening to a program on National Public Radio. I wish I'd caught the name of the woman speaking, but she went into a rhapsodic remembrance of the first time she heard this song. I had finally heard someone who appreciated it like I did.

On the Fourth of July, here's "The Fourth of July" by Dave Alvin from Austin City Limits:

Saturday, July 03, 2010

The People Whisperer

Sally and I don't have a dog; we've never had one since we've been married, although I had a dog when I was growing up, and as a part-time business Sally pet sits for dog owners.

Still, I watch The Dog Whisperer with Cesar Millan on National Geographic Channel and enjoy the show. Millan, who is 41-years-old, came to the U.S. from Mexico as an illegal immigrant when he was 21. Jada Pinkett, now Jada Pinkett Smith, put him with an English tutor for a year, and the rest is history. He became a U.S. citizen, and his show has been the top show on NatGeo several times, even though it's been severely criticized by animal rights groups. Cesar is seen as an abuser by some for his training methods.

Personally, I don't see the show as being about training dogs. I see it as training people. Cesar has an innate ability to understand animals. Some people are like that. Temple Grandin, who is high functioning autistic, can understand how an animal feels, and makes a living using that skill. I don't think Cesar is autistic, but he does understand dogs. The problem is people, who think dogs are other people. We have a tendency to anthropomorphize animals, and they are just doing their doggy thing, looking at us people as being part of their pack. So Cesar teaches people to be pack leaders. The plan is to have the dog recognize them as dominant, and hopefully the dogs will fall in line. He tells people to be calm and assertive, to have good posture, to walk the dog every day. What's bad about any of that? Sounds good to me.

So The Dog Whisperer is really a misnomer...people love their dogs, but most don't have a clue how to raise or train dogs. The show should be called The People Whisperer. Cesar is talking to people, while demonstrating with the dog how the owners should act. By doing what he says he changes people behavior, and that in turn changes the behavior of their dogs.


This is Kim, who was with my family from 1956 to 1972. And yes, we made every mistake with Kim a dog owner could make. We didn't have the benefit of watching Cesar on TV.

Thursday, July 01, 2010

Those oh-so-sexy vampires!

Yet another of my major disconnects from current popular culture: the series Twilight, which just had its third--is that right? third?--installment, Eclipse, show up in theaters, has been eagerly awaited by fans of the book and movie franchise.

Stephanie Meyer, the creator/writer of the Twilight series, is known as a Mormon housewife, and much is made of that. I'm not sure why. Being Mormon or a housewife shouldn't matter. Being a writer should matter. If she can come up with good characters and an interesting storyline that engages her readers that should be enough. The other day I saw an article about Mormon symbolism in the Twilight books and I wouldn't know, but as long as the books appeal to a broad audience who cares? A lot of books and stories have religious symbolism, and it doesn't mean anything to me...just as long as it engages its readers.

Despite saying that I probably won't read the books, although I might take a look at the first movie on DVD at some point, just to see what all the fuss is about.

My wife shrugged her shoulders at the sex appeal of any of the actors, as have I, but then neither of us is in that young demographic the movies are aimed at.

I don't care about Twilight, the story, but I am interested in why vampire movies and stories continue to be popular. Bram Stoker's Dracula has been popular for over a hundred years. Someone makes a movie version every few years. Hammer Films in England hammered out quite a few of them, all starring Christopher Lee, someone indelibly identified with the role.

My personal favorite vampire book is 'Salem's Lot by Stephen King. I liked that the vampire was a monster. In the television movie version with David "Don't Give Up On Us Baby" Soul, Reggie Nalder played the vampire, and he was a fright for four eyes. Max Schreck played Count Orlok (top of the page) in the Dracula rip-off, Nosferatu, in the silent movie days. He was presented as a hideous monster, more bat than human. In my mind, living for centuries, drinking the blood of people, would tend to turn one into something inhuman, not some sexy, sensitive type.

Shadow Of the Vampire, starring Willem DaFoe and John Malkovich, used Nosferatu as a springboard for a story of Max Schreck, in this case a real vampire, starring in a movie about making Nosferatu. For some reason Shadow Of the Vampire didn't find its audience and it's a shame, because it's excellent. Maybe nobody wants to think of vampires as monsters. Maybe young women think of them as cuddly, sexy types who have may have wild, passionate sex and bite necks, and the blood is kind of, you know, secondary. "I mean, he may have sunk his fangs into my jugular and sucked out a couple of pints, but he really, really loves me, Mom!"

But of course we know vampires don't exist, except in that world of fiction. The writer can create any kind of vampire he or she wants. Meyer's is to the first decade of the 21st Century as Anne Rice was to the last few decades of the 20th.

Movies about zombies, serial killers, slashers, have reached a saturation point with me. We don't need any more because none of them are saying anything new. But money says a lot. Every time a new Twilight movie comes out and breaks open the box office it speaks to movie people, telling them we need more vampire movies and TV shows. Like Dracula, no matter how many times you stick a stake in the guy, before long he's out of the box and biting again.

This article came out of a 1952 comic, Sensation Mystery: