Monday, December 31, 2012

The Best Male & Female Singer of the 20th Century

   The holiday season provides a good selection of singing talent from the mid thirties to centuries end. Before then the technology was in its infancy and couldn’t provide a true representation of the artist’s voice. But since that time nearly all top vocalists recorded a Christmas song or album and this season gave me the opportunity to stage my own American Idol contest.

   The question: Who was the best male and female singer of the 20th century?

   What’s interesting is that I don’t have a horse in this race. Very few of the singers from my generation really qualified. This is not to say we lacked great singers, we didn’t but in this competition the singers were rated by their ability to sing at all three levels. Soft ballads (James Taylor, Karen Carpenter, Perry Como) Mid range (Sinatra, Johnny Cash, Judy Garland) and pure power ( Robert Plant, Amy Lee, Robert Goulet) and frankly the singers of my era (mid-sixties on) could do one or two easily but rarely all three.

   Surprisingly, one singer, once you really pay attention, truly stands out. And when I compared his singing to the other well known male greats (Sinatra, Nat Cole, Perry Como) you realize just how much fuller, stronger and more resonate his voice is. This especially surprised me because I had been listening to him sing on TV for the better part of my young life and hadn’t really paid attention. But once I did I was impressed. Who is it?  It’s Der Bingle, Bing Crosby himself. Helluva voice, helluva talent, but not the winner.

   “Another even better, there is!” says Yoda

   On the female side, there is one who, like Crosby when compared to the rest really stands out. She can sing ballads and has done many well, breezes right through mid-range songs and when called upon has shown she can belt it out with the best of them. “Whoszat?” you ask. Why it our favorite Mama, Cass Elliot. Truly a great voice. Second runner up is Karen Carpenter, another great voice, who, like Cass died before she had the chance to break from her comfort zone and really show us what she could do.

   But there is one still better.

   Before we go to the final selection I will point out that my choices come from well known popular singers. I’m not going to entertain suggestions that this opera singer, or that country western vocalist, or some obscure gospel singer was much better. My position is if they were indeed that much better, they would have been more well known.

   The winner in both categories is well known, one more than the other but both pack a wallop when it comes to talent. My standard of judging was simple I used that old saw: THE TRULY GREAT ONES MAKE IT LOOK EASY. The Muhammed Ali ‘s, the Babe Ruth’s,  the Albert Einstein’s, the Tiger Woods, The Zackary Richards’,The Beatles. And so I chose this male singer because of his performance of this Christmas song

   It starts as a ballad become mid-range in the middle and goes full blast power at the conclusion. This guy handled all three forms with amazing ease. Perhaps the best representation of this guy’s awesome vocal talent.

   I chose this female because of her duet in this song     The male singer is steady giving the female the room to light up the tune with vocal pyrotechnics, going from near whisper in the beginning to mid-range to full blast power with amazing ease.

   And select one or more of these truly great books for your electronic device. And they all come with a 30 day money–back guarantee should you not like it. How many other companies offer that kind of deal?

   That being said, Happy New Year everyone!

Monday, December 24, 2012

A Christmas Without Presents

   Following my divorce, and with the missus out of the picture, (so far out she refused to tell anyone where she lived for the first few years) me, my daughters and the other family members had to make adjustments for the holidays. My family, as well as my brother’s and sister’s usually went to our mothers for dinner on Christmas Day, but that came to an end when my mother turned 80 and although she claimed she loved having the family over, it was clearly time for a changing of the guard.

   When I was young everyone in my family lived within an hour’s ride of each other and we’d all usually meet at my grandparent’s place. Then as they grew older, it switched to my mother’s. It was pretty much expected to switch to mine once my mother threw in the towel.

   But the world had changed.
   For one thing nobody lived within an hour’s ride anymore. Some of us had to work at least part of Thanksgiving or Christmas. And there had been divorces which complicated things with the kids having to spend the holidays with the parent they weren’t living with.

   If progress had made things so much easier, why was there so much more stress?

   One issue was with my oldest daughter, who at the time was in her final year of college, was flying all over the country to meet with potential employers, plus she was holding down a job. 

   We ran into each other in a video store shortly before Christmas and were desperately trying to work out a schedule so we could all be together Christmas Day. I won’t bore you with the details but a lot of things had to be moved around.

   We were at the counter ready to pay for our movies and had just about finalized the rescheduling when the counterman asked: “And would you like to contribute one dollar to benefit the helpless, starving,  babies of  Elbownia?” ( Or some charity, I don’t remember which.)

   Just as I thought my daughter and I had worked everything out, I remembered something else that would cause more juggling. Now even more frustrated and not paying attention to the counterman, I only caught part of what he said, so I spun my head to him and in a clearly irritated voice said, “What!?”

   At that point my daughter had come up with a way around my problem and as she explained, the counterman again asked if I would like… contribute… to help… blah, blah, blah, Elbownia…”

   I quickly spun back to him and said, “F*#k ‘em.”

   Apparently not expecting that answer, he pulled back and said, “F*#k the helpless, starving babies of Elbownia?”

   That comment caught my attention and I again spun and said, “What the hell are you talking about?” And as the words flew from my mouth I saw the big orange button on his vest featuring some hungry waif with hands extended in that Oliver Twist, “Please, sir. May I have some more?’ expression.

   At this point my daughter is howling with laughter as is the counterman. Furious with myself and everything else, I contributed whatever singles I had and left with my daughter. As we walked to our respective cars I apologized for my behavior.

   She , of course, said she understood. “It’s Christmas season, everyone goes a little crazy this time of year. I’m only halfway done with my Christmas shopping and there’s only a few days left. It’s hectic, what can you do?”

   “This isn’t what Christmas is supposed to be about,” I said, really meaning it.

   So when we all gathered on Christmas day, I said that since none of us had any young children, I suggested we stop giving each other presents at Christmas and instead have a catered dinner at my house for the entire family.

   That suggestion received overwhelming support, and a considerable number of sighs of relief.

   So that’s what we’ve been doing the last 8 years. And so tomorrow I’ll be dining with my mother, sister, brother, daughters and their boyfriends along with Bella the bull dog and Stewie the Italian greyhound.

   Plus they’ll be one new addition.

   My daughters asked if my ex (their mother) could come as well.


   Ah, what the hell, it’s Christmas, right?

   So from me and mine, to you and yours, have a wonderful Christmas and may your days be merry and bright.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Self Righteous Douche-bags Doth Vex Me

   I didn’t do my usual posts on Facebook over the weekend, just a few pretty pictures in the hope of raising spirits following Friday’s horrific event in Connecticut. What I did notice was the self-righteous douche-baggery of some of the Facebook comments. 
   Following the tragedy came the usual call for the immediate ban of all privately owned firearms. And as usual, the people calling for disarmament were from people who don’t own guns, have never owned guns, would never own guns and cannot understand why a person who does own guns wouldn’t immediately dispose of them in light of the recent school shootings. And as usual these commenters completely ignored the horrifically violent consequences of attempting to forcibly disarm the American public, or that a disarmed populace could fall under the rule of a dictator or at the very least find themselves at the mercy of some lunatic who has broken into their home.

    Apparently it’s more important to these people to bemoan cruel fate and point accusingly at those not as enlightened, than it is to buckle down and create possible solutions.

   People need to remember the United States is a cowboy country, birthed in blood and violence. The American people have always had the right to own guns and have handled that responsibility well over the last 200 plus years considering what a diverse nation we are. Since the school shootings are a relatively new event, we should instead look into what has changed over the past two decades.

   One possibility may be the ultra-violent video games. Having written several young adult novels and having met these teens during my book tours, I can tell you from firsthand experience that young people are VERY impressionable. So our first step should be  to stop them from viewing games that promote cruelty, sadism and torturous violence and instead reinforce the basic values we were taught as kids. My suggestions:
·             No graphically violent video games may be sold to or viewed by anyone under 18. Shops that sell them would be under the same restrictions as selling alcohol. Adults owning such games would be required to keep them locked away. And if any child is found in the possession of a violent video game, the owner of that game would be fined $1,000.00
·             If you don’t already, staring bringing your child to religious services. My generation was dragged to our respective houses of worship every week and overall, we turned out all right. Instilling a strong sense of right and wrong early can keep a kid on the right path when life gets tough and may help cut down on the rising rate of teen suicides.
·             Teach your kids to defend themselves. And back them up when necessary. Most of these rampages were from kids who were bullied and ostracized. When my daughter was bullied in the 2nd grade, I went to the principal and told him to make it stop. He explained that the bully came from a broken home and had ‘Issues’. I explained that the next time that kid laid a hand on my daughter, she was going to retaliate. So I taught her how to fight. The next time he punched her in the stomach, she gave him a black eye and a fat lip.   
He never bothered her again.

   But clearly those suggestions won’t be enough. We need to come up with a reasonable compromise on the rules that both sides can agree on. For example:
·               Any person ever diagnosed with a mental illness may not purchase, receive or possess any type of firearm EVER.
·               Any person owning a gun must be able to provide a receipt of that purchase. Doesn’t matter where it was bought but there must be a proper bill of sale and if that person loses it, he/she would have to turn in the gun to authorities. 
·               A person convicted of a crime indicating a lack of personal responsibility like drunk-driving, domestic violence, child abuse, or illegal drug possession, would be banned from possessing a firearm.
·               Any person purchasing a firearm would have to prove they possess a security system to prevent theft, like an alarm system or gun safe.
·               All gun owners would be required by law to have trigger locks on ALL their guns when not on their person.
·               And most importantly, the gun owner would be held personally responsible for any action or crime committed by the use of that firearm. 

   My point? Self-righteous douche-baggery begins with one person trying to force his or her views on someone else without taking into consideration the valid points of the opposition. Gun ownership is an American right, but that being said, it is also a HUGE responsibility. And if gun-owners want to keep that right, they MUST make absolutely sure they are the ONLY person with access to their firearms and in addition, should wholeheartedly support severe penalties on gun owners and gun sellers who are lax, irresponsible and whose weaponry is getting our loved ones killed.

   If you agree, SHARE on Facebook or Retweet.

Monday, December 10, 2012

My Plans For World Domination

   After I have seized power and my quest for world domination has been achieved, the first thing I am going to do is enact two new laws. The first is the Dark Side Law and the second is the Too Stupid to Live Law.
   I’ll explain.
   We, as a people, have become addicted to feeling good about ourselves. Everyone raves about the latest ‘feel good’ book, or movie of the year. Nowadays, everyone is ready to forgive and forget as long as the criminal appears repentant and more importantly, the criminal act didn’t involve them or anyone they care about.
   Although mankind consists mostly of puddin’heads, the hypersensitive and assorted doofi, they, for some inexplicable reason, consider themselves intellectuals and socially enlightened, and will likely continue to philosophize and attempt to fathom the unfathomable for as long as it makes them feel all gooey and warm inside, or until the bad guys climb the stairs of their Ivory Towers and kill them.
   Ergo, the necessity of enacting these laws.
   Both the Dark Side and the Too Stupid to Live laws are easy to understand. Under the Dark Side law, those who intentionally go to the dark side will be required to accept whatever happens to them while there.

  For example: Pizza Guy is cleaning the oven with industrial strength oven cleaner. Bad Guy comes up from behind, pulls a gun and threatens to kill him if he doesn’t empty the cash register. Instead of complying,  Pizza Guy spins around and sprays cleaner into Bad Guy’s eyes, permanently blinding him. With the Dark Side Rules in effect, the robber would have no legal recourse, no access to welfare or disability compensation, nothing. The point is, he knowingly entered the Dark Side by pulling a gun and attempting to rob Pizza Guy. No need for police, lawyers or insurance people to get involved. No bewailing of life’s cruel fate, no calls for compassion, pity or understanding as to why one man would try to rob another. It would simply boil down to this: The robber pulled the lever on the devil’s shot machine and instead of winning the Jackpot, it took his eyesight.

   Thank you for playing.

   The Too Stupid to Live Laws would protect us from stupid people, whose actions endanger us and those we love. We all know how bad the weather has gotten. Every day there’s another story about some place being blown to smithereens, buried by an earthquake or wiped out by a tsunami, and there are always those who insist on staying behind to ride it out.

   They have every right to do so.
   But like the Dark Side law, once they make that decision they have to live with the consequences. Take this theoretical example: The national weather service has announced a ‘Run like Hell’ warning to residents of the states bordering the Gulf of Mexico. Reporting that Superstorm George Clooney has winds of 600 miles an hour and has ripped the island of Bermuda off the map and dropped it somewhere north of New Orleans. Hoards of meat eating locust have essentially ‘chowed-down’ on the kind folks of the Mississippi Delta. Godzilla has touched down in central Texas and immediately instituted his own form of barbequing, unfortunately the barbequees were the residents of the area. 

  When interviewed, a lifelong resident of the most afflicted area, colorfully named ‘Rootin-Tootin’ Sam McBob, claimed he ‘wasn’t afeared. And that he ‘wasn’t going to let a little wind and rain chase him from his home of 30 years, no sir!’

   His wife Clarabelle McBob echoed his sentiments. “Sure as shootin’ we ain’t goin’ nowhere.’ When asked if her husband’s colorful name was due to his self-sufficient, pioneer spirit, she replied, “No, he got named that due to his jock itch and flatulence problem.”

   Sure enough, once Superstorm George Clooney hit, they were singing a different tune. Clinging to the top of a flagpole for dear life, and surrounded by increasingly turbulent waters, they desperately called 911for help. But under the Too Stupid to Live Laws, there would be no one to answer because the first responders, after evacuating everyone,  followed their government’s ‘Run Like Hell’ directive and like all the other responsible, clear-thinking people were now toasty and warm and out of harm’s way.

   Sadly, Rootin-Tootin and Clarabelle didn’t make it but more importantly, no first responders lost their lives attempting to rescue them. They knew the risks of pulling the lever of the devil’s slot machine hoping to win praise and admiration from their neighbors. Instead it took their lives.

   Again, thank you for playing.

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Monday, December 3, 2012

Intelligent Design is NOT Creationism

   I believe that everyone has a right to their core beliefs with the exception of one topic; Science. You may choose what deity, or lack thereof, you wish to subscribe to but you don’t get to choose your science. Real science is provable facts verified by empirical evidence and the ability to replicate those results by others.

   I do not believe in Creationism because real science has proved that the world was not created in 6 days but that instead has evolved and changed considerably over billions of years. Real science has also shown that some animals have evolved and changed to adapt to their environment

   What Real Science hasn’t proven is that man has evolved from the ape or has any genetic attachment to any heretofore believed ancestors (Neanderthal, Java man, etc.) Although many claims have been made that we (the Cro-Magnon) carry the DNA of the Neanderthal, there has been NO empirical evidence to that theory.  In the attempts claiming to show a link, the evidence is so minute and so laden with the possibility of outside corruption, that no court in any country would accept such finding as evidence to prove or disprove anything.

   Still many members of the scientific community continue to claim we evolved from apes.

   Attention Scientific Community! Stop making these claims until you verify it with solid provable evidence. Just because you want to believe something, and it has some similarities to other scientific evidence, doesn’t make it scientific fact. Stick to the facts or risk doing to the respected field of science what Fox News did to the once respected field of journalism. And as for proving Mankind’s evolution… frankly, I don’t think you can because here’s what I think happened:

   I believe we were visited by a superior race who, although our atmosphere didn’t support their species, it did permit them to splice their genes with creatures already here.

   (I can already hear the scoff-scoff, ridicule-ridicule smug dismissal, apparently ignoring the fact that we do it all the time. You’ve all likely seen that human ear growing on the back of a mouse)

   And so these advanced visitors started this project by wiping out the dinosaurs. (The meteor theory doesn’t wash because that only would have wiped out land bound dinosaurs not the equal amount that were living in the sea, yet they disappeared at the same time) With the dinosaurs gone they started gene splicing on larger animals (which is why there is also no known link between the sabertooth tiger and today's tiger as well as no link between the Wooly Mammoth and today's elephant. Then they moved on to create the early stages of man and as the technology progressed, improved upon it, bringing about Java and Neanderthal. With each improvement they wiped out the earlier version, (which is why Neanderthal disappeared shortly after we, Cro-Magnon, arrived.

   Now lets take this theory one step further. Scientists have theorized that the Sphinx, unlike the pyramids, which were constructed many years later, may be as old as 36 thousand years, which is approximately the time we showed up. So considering the fact that we were all primitive cavemen at the time, who built it?

   You’ve all heard of Atlantis haven’t you? Plato mentioned it in his dialogues. And what about the Mayans? They supposedly built these elaborate pyramids and had this advanced system of mathematics yet these same technically advanced people were ritualistically murdering each other at an unbelievable rate.

   Doesn’t quite add up does it? 

   Then suddenly these superior beings disappear taking all their stuff with them.

   I worked in corporate for many years and frankly, when a project’s budget is pulled, the offices are vacated, the equipment removed and the prototypes put into storage with the occasional review to see if any part of it can be cannibalized to further advance an existing one.

   Which brings us to UFO sightings.

   Now here is where my theory runs into trouble. I don’t believe in intergalactic travel because Einstein’s theory of relativity shows that to be impossible.

   But that’s only a theory.

   As is mine regarding how we got here.

   Same for Evolution. 

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