Monday, December 25, 1995

1995 Top Ten

10. Take a sad song a make it better. Fifty years from now when people look back at 1995, there is one single event that will probably get the most conversation time. For whatever it is worth, years from now 1995 won't be remembered as the year of the Contract with America, the Simpson trial, our involvement in Bosnia, or the tragedy of the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin, but rather people will be talking about how Cal Ripken Jr. broke the record to end all records, Lou Gehrig's consecutive game playing streak. The pictures of the moment, the night of Cal's 2131 consecutive game remain etched in mind, and during a time when doing your job day in and day out is an increasingly hard trait to find in people, this record is one to celebrate.

9. And if I ever saw you, I didn't catch your name, but it never really matters, I will love all the same. Years back when NBC was in dire straits, finishing last week after week in the Nielsen ratings, they decided that if they were going to be perpetually stuck in last place, it was better to finish last with good programs rather than finish last with bad programs. So instead of canceling Hill Street Blues, Cheers, St. Elsewhere, they stuck with them despite the abysmal ratings. Eventually the strategy worked out as people began to watch the shows that were getting the critics' raves. Years later it is CBS that is facing a similar situation. Have they learned from history? Not exactly unless you count Central Park West, Dweebs, and New York News as well written, quality shows. In a year when the crud of day time talk garnered Congressional attention, it's even more apparent television execs have little regard for the intelligence of their audience. Unfortunately this meant the scheduling of a GREAT show, ABC's Murder One, against last year's mega hit, ER.Murder One is the best dramatic series network television has offered since the glorious first season of Hill Street Blues. The concept of following a singular case throughout a season, the strong writing, the great acting (particularly lead actor, Daniel Benzali), this show is one worth watching. Now it may be too late.

8. Half of what I say is meaningless, but I say it just to reach you... In a year when I saw three spectacular Bob Dylan concerts, the most moving live performance I witnessed probably was Liz Phair's April appearance at First Ave. It was a night when things, for an instant, came into focus and the confusing line between expressing, creating, entertaining, self enlightenment, and being enlightened by another whose personal experience has nothing to do with one's own, disappeared. She's not the most dynamic performer, but fighting through her legendary stage fright to share her strong songs made for a nice intimate night.

7. But still it leads me back, to the long and winding road. Those of you who haven't caught any of Dylan's recent shows on his "Never Ending Tour" are really missing out. His constant reworking of his unmatchable catalog of songs and his desire to redefine the art of performing makes each show an inspiring performance. The Target Center's Mr. Tambourine Man was incredible. Dylan shows nightly a song isn't just lifeless notes on a piece of paper, but rather a living breathing entity that can capture the mood of the moment.

6. Joan was quizzical studied metaphysical science in the home. My favorite song of the year? Joan Osborne's One of Us, which asked the musical question, 'what would you do if God sat next to you on a bus?'

5. The world is treating me badddd, oh misery. My favorite album of the year? John Hiatt's Walk On. He just seems to get better and better playing to a smaller and smaller audience. This is a stunning set of songs that wonder about whether one should wander, while answering that one must keep wandering, and wondering.

4. It's getting better all the time. My favorite movie of the year? Granted, with the exception of the outstanding Crumb I didn't see many of the ones currently making the critics' top ten lists. The movie I enjoyed most was the bittersweet documentary I Just Wasn't Made for These Times about the rise and fall, and comeback of Beach Boy Brian Wilson. The music was infectious, and somewhere behind Brian's weary face and wavering voice lies the calmer mind of a genius.

3. Sont les mots qui vont tres bien ensemble. In 1995, I went online and discovered cyberspace is a good way to reach out and keep in touch.

2. Whatever happened to, the love that we once knew? Can we really live without each other? Francis Albert turns 80, two Sandra Bullock movies, a search to make a house my home, a friend, my family, Cheapo, Max.

1. And in the end, the love you take, is equal to the love you make. It's the story of a boy and his friend, who happens to be a stuffed tiger in other people's minds. The boy tries to make sense out of the confusing world around him, and when he gets home at the end of another weary day, he is knocked off his feet by his feline friend, happy to discover that part of the meaning behind it all is to be able to have that friend to share it all with.

Monday, December 18, 1995

One for My Baby

"...After Sinatra (who patterned his phrasing on Dorsey's trombone), no instrumentalist would rival a singer as the essential player in pop music. While learning much from the melodic qualities of bel canto and from Bing Crosby's crooning (both forms emphasizing the sound of lyrics rather than their sense), Sinatra sang with a sure understanding of American speech- Crosby deployed words as mellifluous syllables; Sinatra interpreted them, and in doing so, not only made language matter in a way it had mattered only in blues, folk and country music, but, however unconsciously, paved the way for Dylan and the language experiments of '60's songwriters. Sinatra's colloquialism, too, helped make American music the world's primary popular form."
-Rolling Stone Album Guide

Back in the mid-80's every Saturday afternoon there was a two hour radio show on WMCN-FM 91.7, that featured the music of Frank Sinatra interspersed with the strange musings of a zany local DJ. The show opened with the song High Hopes and usually concluded with the DJ apologizing for his own performance over the previous two hours.

On one particular blustery autumn afternoon, something inside the disc jockey seemingly snapped and he went into a tirade that rivaled Howard Beale's in Network in the annals of broadcast history, only the DJ's tirade wasn't so much about the medium, it was about whether or not he was just sitting in an empty studio playing music with no one listening, and talking to himself. Surprisingly enough, people throughout St. Paul called in sympathetically, to tell the DJ how much they had enjoyed his show, his attempts at humor, his hijinx and above all Mr. Sinatra's music. The lesson learned was that no matter how badly you screw up, a Sinatra song can go a long way towards cleaning up the mess ("riding high in April, shot down in May").

Sinatra himself is notorious for his bouncing back from an up and down career. When he left Tommy Dorsey he was the bobby socks teen throb crooner. When he left Columbia, he was finished. He came back with Capitol where he made his best music, and his career was revived by a brilliant performance in From Here to Eternity. In the early 70's, supposedly retired, he came back with the remarkable Madison Square Garden Main Event Concert. Watching a video of that performance, one can't help but be mesmerized by the charisma of the singing and STYLE. Whenever someone counted him down and out, he would comeback strong, etching his way into the fabric of 20th Century American music.

He invented performance art before it became a fad for throwing blood at the audience. He poured his soul out into his art; listen to songs like One For My Baby, Nancy (With the Laughing Face), I'm A Fool To Want You, sheer heart breaking, skin tingling stuff. Whatever song he does (with the possible exception of Mrs. Robinson), he makes his own, records the ultimate version.

I became a skeptical, but life long fan during the summer between my freshman and sophomore years of college. My best friend and I took a trip to his cabin in Osakis, and on the drive there, he played his Sinatra tapes. At first it seemed silly- old timers music, being the hip guy I was, but it struck me odd that I knew all the songs (classics), and as we sang along, I grew to admire Sinatra's interpretations. The man somehow gets under your skin. For awhile all I wanted to hear was another Sinatra reading of another favorite song.

The LP that really got me was a 1964 recording with Count Basie called It Might As Well Be Swing. Frank and Splank. I soon wore that record out and with the additions of Songs for Swingin Lovers, and Sings for Only The Lonely, the artistry was appreciated more and more despite the reputation, the Vegas, finger snappin' Mafia rumors act. What is there to admire? How about the who cares what people think, I know I'm right and I'm going down that path and you're all going to follow me and we all might fall, and we all might stumble, but in the end the journey will be worth it so enjoy the ride, attitude? A few years later when I sat in an empty station, the failed DJ, and did my part to turn another generation on to the Chairman's music, it seemed a noble thing to do.

SO, this past Thursday evening as I was trying to make it to my niece's band concert, and unfortunately got myself wedged in a snow bank on the corner of Summit and Wheeler, I got myself home in time to see the final part of the big birthday bash for Francis Albert. All the stress, the anger of the day dissipated yet again as I listened and watched and smiled along with Frank. When I find myself in times of trouble, it ain't Mother Mary that comes to me, it's Sir Francis Albert. The songs speak for themselves. The LP's, the movies, the many concerts, he has become an American icon. And he did it his way.

Monday, December 4, 1995

007 with a 1007 Temperature

My name is Maeda, David Maeda. I'm your secret agent of sophistication, suave, and feeling a bit under the weather. Since you've somehow managed to find your way back to this part of the newsletter, you may have already noticed that this week's issue has lacked a little flair, a little polish, a little of its usual zany humor. Well I'm sorry, you'll just have to excuse me. I'm not feeling well.

Please let me describe for you my symptoms. My head is beating like it's inside of Keith Moon's bass drum. Thumpa thumpa thumpa. Not only is that very annoying, each beat hurts, stabbing like (insert your favorite OJ joke here). Ouch. I'm clammy. That's right, clammy. Between bouts of the chills, about every five minutes it feels like I have Malaria. Clammy Malaria, I think I dated her once in college. She may have been my undoing. My joints ache. So do my elbows, knees, knuckles, and ankles. Ba doomp ba. My stomach is playin games with my head, telling my brain that it feels hungry, knowing the very thought of food makes my brain send back a message of sickness to my stomach, causing it to churn and turn. Sweaty cold, hungry nausea. There's a nice tug of war match going on within me! As I look in my mirror, my eyes appear to be even more glassy than usual.

Max the Cat has seen plenty of mopey behavior during his stint as my roommate. But even his eyes are propped open wider by the quality of moping he has witnessed these past few days. Not even laundry night had its usual luster. A normal man wouldn't be sitting here doing this newsletter, he'd be in bed. But no one in this company has ever said a normal man is doing the newsletter. Or another way of putting that, a lesser man wouldn't be doing the newsletter, but then again, I can't be any lesser a man...

But enough about me. That wasn't supposed to be the topic of this week's piece. Instead we were going to try to make a point about the traps of nostalgia, how people for whatever reason seem to cling on to false visions of the past, believing that yesterday was somehow better or more important than today. Now that we are being force fed another wave of Beatlemania, and what with another Bond movie out, the sixties (or the way I'm feeling, the "sickties") once again are being enshrined as a golden age. Enough already.

It's bad enough that this time of year is especially one where we are encouraged to become nostalgic and do our best to put a little glow on the years gone by. It's great to remember good times. Hell, there may even be a purpose to getting a history degree (but darned if I ever figured that out). But the line is crossed when whole industries are formed and people spend their time and their money dickering around in the past as their current lives could most certainly use some attention.

I'm sorry, this is going nowhere fast. As I was saying, my summer photos of the Grand Canyon really did turn out nicely. The horizon always looks better in the distance don't you think? The red sand, and vast openness of it all. Takes your breath away. One could easily fall in love in the Grand Canyon. But then again, one could easily fall to one's death in the Grand Canyon. Same thing? Don't look at me. Did I mention that currently, I'm not feeling very well? I'm not looking for sympathy, really. I just want someone to please turn down that lousy drumbeat in my head. I just wanna die with a little dignity.

Is it just me or did it suddenly get about a zillion degrees warmer in here? Brrrrr. My mouth is so dry but I ain't thirsty. Promise me, my faithful readers, that if I don't make it, someone will find Max a good home (he'll probably need lots and lots of counseling). That you'll do your best to take up the slack and drink lots and lots of Lemon Sunkist. That you'll remember me with a less critical eye, and forgive me for my role in the Royal Family scandal? Strike that, I just remember I told you not to waste your time and energy looking back. Except for the last newsletter issue of the year, keep your eyes in the forward position. Satchel might be gaining on you. Excuse me, I must go now. I need some sleep.

Monday, November 27, 1995

Public Enemy #1

My career as your faithful civil servant friend began over five years ago. It was a position that I obtained through very little effort of my own, it just sort of happened out of a series of random events. During the past five years, there have been times when I have looked at my situation and thought about how if I were doing similar tasks in the private sector, I could be making a whole lot more money, and my customers might be more appreciative towards my efforts. And although I'm not making a claim to be the most noble government worker you might run across, I do think I have continued working for the State of Minnesota because part of me really does want to improve my small corner of the world, and by serving the public to the best of my abilities, at least some of the time I can feel a sense of accomplishment that I am making a little bit of difference.

But there are days where I look at the work being accomplished around me, and the attitudes of some of my co-workers and I can see why the tenuous relationship between government and its constituents has become more and more difficult. I think that in any line of work you can find plenty of people who just do enough to get by, and really don't care one way or the other about their work. But the reputation that particular attitude is festering in government work is a hard obstacle to overcome. There are days that I look around me, at the red tape, and the lackadaisical efforts, at the waste and bureaucracy, and I just want to be anywhere but where I am. And the voice telling me that to make a difference you have to try and change things from within, step by tiny step, gets more and more faint as it feels more and more isolated. The urge to walk away is becoming more and more urgent especially when I look at what is being done here at Cheapo.

It really does impress me what the management together with you employees of our little music company are trying to accomplish. Having read some of the material used in the PFK program, I must say that a lot of what is going on, the effort to create a company that helps the employee excel and thus creates an exciting environment for its customers, is something that if you're at least not a little bit proud to be a part of, you certainly should be. It is rare to find a system that asks its employees to take responsibility for their own errors, find ways to improve, and celebrate their successes. Retail companies come and go, stores open and close, and even in our neck of the woods the changes our company has undergone in the short time I've been affiliated have been staggering. But the changes now being made are ones that all successful companies are going to have to employ. Success starts with the employees, and we now seem to have a good process to hire quality people, and give them standard training to help them achieve what the rest of the company has already envisioned and learned. And there are opportunities for all employees. More and more how far you go in the Cheapo Empire is inherently related to how far you want to go. That creates situations where you can help decide and impact the future of the company itself. That's admirable and sadly all too rare stuff.

At the State, I have tried in my own small way, to implement some of the ideas I have learned from Al, and through these pages. I've tried slightly different methods than the State norm, to try to be innovative in the way I supervise, and the way I want my employees to take ownership in improving the work that we accomplish. There is nothing wrong in making a mistake. There is something wrong with denial, and looking for someone else to blame. With the government I'm dealing with a rigid system that too often rewards its employees based on mere competence and longevity rather than actual success through hard work. The rewards given to someone who puts in extra effort, who cares about their work enough to do things that aren't written in their job description, is almost exclusively based only on self satisfaction for doing a good job. Due in part to the union structure, and the system itself, the compensation available comes in the form of a thank you, a positive performance review, recognition from peers, or maybe slightly more significant work assignments, rather than what many private sector employees almost expect: monetary compensation, promotion or some kind of tangible benefit.

It is often difficult to appreciate what you have until you compare it to what someone else has. There are many different ways to run a business. I'm really not trying to be a company shill here. Traditionally, things flow from the top down. Management knows how they want things done, and what needs to be done. It is all too easy to bark commands, raise expectations and get frustrated when things don't get done the way you want things done. To break from that is a difficult process. Your experiences at Cheapo may sometimes get frustrating, but the beauty is you do have a voice in the company. The end result of that is better customer service, more satisfied customers, better satisfied employees, and ultimately, an extremely successful company.

Monday, November 20, 1995

Foot Tappin' Good Time

If there is one thing I hate more than running out of peanuts first in a hand full of Doo Dads, it is a pointless meandering drum solo that goes on and on and on... In the next few days and weeks we are going to be stormed by a barrage of Beatle related sounds and accompaniment. Thus it is probably the proper time to say that my favorite drummer of all time, because of his subtlety, is Ringo Starr and dammit, I'm quite serious. In many ways, Ringo represents what made the Beatles ultra-popular. His drumming style mimicked their appeal, their simple but universal message.

Ringo's drumming is often underrated. One of the most exhilarating musical moments in Beatle history is his 23 second drum solo at the end of Abbey Road. Any drummer can bash their way through a solo, using technique rather than inspiration. But in that brief solo, the rhythms, poly-rhythms and understated pure expression of finally being let loose show Ringo to be a true artist. Although I'm not exactly what you might call a percussive type guy, even I can admit that at times a good drummer can add something very special to a performance.

All this of course, is a roundabout way of mentioning that I saw the British drum group, Stomp, play at the Ordway last Monday night. They were nothing if not percussive, putting on the best musical show that featured garbage cans that I have ever seen. Stomp is a five year old, eleven member drumming, dancing ensemble that puts on quite a spectacle by making music from the most common objects one can imagine. The show opened with the group sweeping the stage and then running amuck pounding their brooms and swishing in rhythmic frenzy. Later, the group utilized many basic household objects including cigarette lighters, plastic grocery bags, newspapers, and wood saws, everything you might say except the kitchen sink- au contraire mon ami, they even had a bit that featured that item.

Sitting in the audience three memories pounded their way into my mind. For some reason I remembered as a kid watching the Muppet Show where the guest was Buddy Rich. Buddy and his two drumsticks went nuts, running around and pounding objects all around the set. It was terribly entertaining. The next thing that popped into mind was attending the University of Minnesota marching band's indoor concerts while my brother was a prominent member. The band really rocked the house, and probably the most entertaining parts were the drum cadences that got everyone tapping their toes. The last memory, long suppressed was attending a high school dance, one of the few I did, and ending up the evening entertaining everyone by dancing (quite skillfully) with a cafeteria chair. This may have furthered my reputation as being somewhat of an eccentric. What do all these memories have in common and why did seeing Stomp unleash them? It's all in the beat, Pedro.

Stomp is more than a novelty act; they are entertainers extradonaire. Their show is full of impressive variety, humor and athletic dancing. Similar in nature to their far east cousins, the Japanese percussion group Kodo, Stomp leaves their audiences impressed by the rhythm, the music, and the universality of a good drum beat. The pure endurance of the group was impressive by itself. The show ended with all the hipsters in the audience snapping their fingers like the suave upper class Vegas loving crowd that a venue like the Ordway tends to attract. Still, the humor of Stomp cut through any of the pretentiousness that otherwise might have existed. Physical humor, subtle humor, wacky humor, the show was great fun. Perhaps most impressive of all were the dynamics of the show. Rather than using volume as flash, the group relied more on the intricate weaving of rhythms. What the show lacked in spontaneity was made up for with the precision of the pieces. While not exactly inspired music making, Stomp nonetheless proved once and for all that percussionists can be expressive and effective musicians.

Monday, November 13, 1995

One Last Goodbye

"A little bitty tear let me down. Spoiled my act as a clown. I had my mind up not to make a frown, but a little bitty tear let me down."

It was either Plato, Aristotle, Shakespeare, or Paul Simon that said there are many different ways to say good-bye. Recently once again I got to test that axiom out, but I can't say I'm getting any better at it. It wasn't even supposed to happen because at the time it began I wasn't into looking for friendships. Over the last few years she has been someone who listened, shared and who I looked forward to seeing. Still, I was a bit surprised at how hard it hit me when she said she was going away. She was my friend and in these more than confusing times amongst the rapid flux of fluid changes, that isn't something to take too lightly. Careers go out the window, dreams are tossed aside, opportunities lost, and the echo of a long forgotten conversation sometimes is all that lingers. The only lesson to be learned is the importance of always knowing what you want.

We talked nearly daily on the phone for business purposes, before we ever met. It's kind of the nineties thing to do in this age of conference calls, fax machines, and Internet e-mail. "Brand spankin' new," she would say as I would relay yet another date of incorporation to her. The phrase annoyed me nearly as much as it amused. me. Her always cheerful, smile in the face of it, voice was a welcome change from the rest of the stress. Driving out to see her for the first time I couldn't picture what she might look like, but somehow she was exactly what I expected. Her sense of humor mixed with her ability to converse, to care, impressed me constantly.

One of our first experiences together was a business excursion as I began my search for a different professional direction. We went to see the CEO of her company, Pete Dawkins, Heisman Trophy Brigadier General Time Magazine cover boy, at a fancy Bloomington hotel luncheon. The enthusiasm of her colleagues (they kept saying they were "pumped') was scary, with their near cult like devotion. Yet the way she tried to make me feel comfortable was appreciated, and to see her in her element was fun.

There is that wonderful moment in the greatest film of our generation, Pulp Fiction when Uma and John are on their "date" and Uma makes the observation that you know you have really found someone when you can enjoy a moment of silence together. Well, that's what we had. She could be goofy, I could be moody yet there was always a great pleasure in her company.

She told me she wasn't good at good-byes so she was going to make it short and sweet. But it was a fond farewell as she told me what I meant to her, "one of her closest friends" and as she shared her dream of organizing a foundation, in memory of her mother, to help out families enduring the pain of the illness and loss of a parent. In this world of corruption and cynicism, her sweetness never wavers. There was so much more to share, so many times we never had, that it hopefully will continue somewhere on down the line.

We can't all be as cool as Bogie, kissing off Ingrid Bergman because life ain't exactly like a movie. There are those of us constantly looking for a well defined beginning, middle and end, and when that doesn't happen, walk around confused within our own time frames. She wasn't really a part of my every day, run of the mill events that make up my regular routine. When exactly will it be that I realize she is gone, and I will miss her? Probably when a day isn't going well, when things are piling up, when the steam is accumulating, and I need that phone call to get my mind off of things and remind me that maybe I'm not the worst human being on the face of the planet.

There has been a feeling for several years that this has been a period of transition. Well that period has been long drawn out, and things that were temporary have become fixtures, and things that I hoped would be permanent have gone off to bigger and better things. She appeared from out of the blue, when another's voice disappeared, and her sensibility made some of that hurt not seem so bad. The time has flown by much too fast. Over the past few years she has played a role in the production and inspiration of these pages. She was the one that contributed our articles by Og Mandino. Our business dealings constantly showed me the importance of planning for the future. She has been one of the strongest supporters of my writing, always believing in what I could do. I wish her all the best, thank her for all the kind words, the encouragement, and the shared moments.

So with much sadness I say so long to my friend- adios amigo, ciao, au revoir, and sayonara...

Monday, November 6, 1995

That Was Sometime Other Than Now

When I first started working for Cheapo West back in the late fifties, probably one of the few things that resembles anything close to the way you all are doing things today was all of us employees got to take turns picking in-store music to play. One of my very first picks on my very first day was John Hiatt's recently released Bring the Family. At the time I knew little of Hiatt's work other than he was often called the "American Elvis Costello" and that he had written The Way We Make A Broken Heart covered by Rosanne Cash, and Across the Borderline covered by Bob Dylan.

Immediately upon my first listening to Bring The Family, I became a Hiatt fan. As side one (yes back in those days we used to have two sided discs that the kids called albums) finished off with the emotional slide guitar work of Ry Cooder on Lipstick Sunset and the intensity of the confessional Have a Little Faith In Me, I wondered why everyone in the store wasn't in tears like I was. Wow what songwriting!

The follow up releases, Slow Turning, and Stolen Moments made me yearn for even more, so I bought all of Hiatt's back catalog that I could find. He soon stood out at the second tier of my music listening pleasure, often played when Bob, Frank, or Paul weren't on the stereo. The only time I was disappointed was upon the release of Perfectly Good Guitar two years ago. For methat effort came across as work of a craftsman rather than an artist (with the exceptions of the excellent Straight Outta Time and Buffalo River Home). It was a perfect example of how John's biggest strength can also be his biggest weakness. He can be extremely clever with a turn of a phrase, a sarcastic line which can either be funny and effective, or cloying and a device to hide his real emotions. Perfectly Good Guitar was full of moments of good lines that didn't say that much about the writer.

Thus it is of great news that John's newly released Walk On is a complete turnabout from PGG. It reminds me more of the personal, introspection of Bring The Family than any other Hiatt CD but yet shows sign of an artist maturing into the middle years of his career. The first track (and single) Cry Love has one of the catchiest hooks John has ever written. Yet along with the strong melody comes a solid set of lyrics (despite the use of the cliché "tears of an angel, tears of a dove" refrain which can be excused by the energy of the song -what other words rhyme with "love"? "glove" "above" and uh...) that set the tone for the rest of the CD. John recently said in an interview that he can no longer write unless he is on the road, and Walk On gives us a glimpse inside of that statement. The theme throughout is one of a weary soul on the road, trying to cope with the isolation one must endure as he goes from town to town accompanied only with the power of memories of long away homes, past places of comfort.. "Let the river take you away. All the words that you and I could never say, in the silence darling let us pray. Let the river take us away."

David Immergluck's mandolin playing gives the tracks their distinct flavor. Guest appearances by the Jayhawks and Bonnie Raitt indicate the respect other musicians have for Hiatt. The title track, Cry Love, You Must Go, I Can't Wait, and Your Love is My Rest, are among the most heartfelt songs written by a man who has made a career out of writing heartfelt songs. Wrote It Down And Burned It is downright spooky. Shredding the Document shows John at his wittiest with its pseudo-Beatlesque arrangement right down to the harmonies and the harpsichord solo. It is a clever commentary on the current American popular culture so based on TV trash talk shows. My favorite track is Your Love is My Rest which is a simple love song, almost a nursery rhyme/prayer. "I gotta pick up speed, just to get what I need. The end of the line guaranteed, your love is my rest," John sings passionately to a sparse backing. It's a song about a man with one eye on the road, and one eye remembering what keeps him inspired enough to keep coming home.

I think I mentioned in these pages not too long ago a friend's quote to me after I gave her a Liz Phair disc and she said it was a little too downbeat for her tastes. "Music is supposed to be happy," she said. Walk On is not a happy disc, yet with each listen the power of the music is truly uplifting. This is the work of an artist at the top of his powers, searching and expressing and above all else, enjoying the release from the combination of singing, playing, and sharing the words and the music. Some say this may finally be John's breakthrough effort, one that will finally get the masses listening. And since no one is writing better songs these days, that is indeed great news.

"Now I'm out in the backyard leaning on a tree; I have no way of knowing. Can't lean too hard, that's my philosophy; man that tree is growing. Maybe I'll never grow up to be straight and tall, but you can lean on me baby, I won't fall. Maybe in the deal I can learn to bend, learn to listen like that tree, baby, like a good friend."

Monday, October 30, 1995

This is Ten Times Worse

I recently was at my parent's house, or as I like to call them, Mom and Dad, and as I drove up, they were busy bundling some branches they had cut down. I of course had my hands full so I couldn't help them, but as they were hard at work, Mrs. Weeklund, who used to baby-sit my brother and I, walked by with a friend. She stopped and chatted with "Mom" and "Dad" and they asked her if she remembered who I was. She said she did, that in fact she was just telling her friend that she remembered the time she baby-sat my brother and I, and I wouldn't stop crying. She asked my brother what I wanted, and he told her I wanted to hear my record of Yellow Submarine. And damn it, I wouldn't be happy until I did.

Yes, even as a kid, I had a fondness for the music industry. I wasn't merely fascinated by things that went round and round and made noise, I was transfixed and calmed, and entertained by music. My one talent as a child was long before I was able to read, I could pick out of my pile of 45's any song I had that anyone requested. To this day no one quite knows how I managed to identify my records which had identical labels, and all I can remember is looking at the grooves and knowing.

Last Tuesday, October 24th, I saw Bob Dylan perform live for the 13th time in my life (please no jokes about how in his Dome appearance in 1986 Bob didn't show any signs of life). All those shows have taken place in the last nine years so during that time, I've seen Bob more than: 1) the number of times I've cleaned my refrigerator; 2) the number of times I've seen my "buddy" since she's moved on; 3) the number of times I've managed to do something right. Bob is fast becoming like an old friend but lest you think I've gone overboard, one of the things I've discovered as I've surfed the Internet, is there are people who've seen Bob hundreds of times and make me look like a virgin, as far as my knowledge, so to speak.

This time around the venue was larger than I have become accustomed to (the Target Center), and I actually went with a group of ten as opposed to the solo excursions I've become used to. It was great sharing the moment with somebody, even if I had to let that somebody violate my code of rules and touch me, but Bob as usual was his incredible self. He opened the show with Drifters Escape from 1968's John Wesley Harding, and for me it wasn't quite the forceful opening as the spring's Crash the Levee or last year's Jokerman. Still, some have wondered if this choice of an opening number might not have something to do with current events in this country. Most of the vocals were lost in the imbalance of sounds but one could clearly hear Bob sing, "The trial was bad enough, but this is ten times worse. Just then a bolt of lightening struck the courthouse out of shape, and while everybody knelt to pray, the drifter did escape" (which of course got people howling).

An early highlight for me was the second song, If You See Her Say Hello (along with a later impassioned performance of a similar in theme number, I'll Remember You). My favorite tune from Blood on the Tracks used to be You're a Big Girl Now, a song about the hurt of loss and reconciling one's self with that loss and moving on and not being able to move on, but I might have to reconsider that after hearing If You See Her live, because this particular performance struck a place deep inside rarely visited these days. "If she's passing back this way, I'm not that hard to find. Tell her she can look me up, if she's got the time."

Other highlights included a cover of the Grateful Dead's Alabama Getaway, and also the acoustic Mr. Tambourine Man where Bob sang the song with his 1995 sense of renewal, discovery, and really knocked the audience, hanging on every word, swaying with every note, dead with a harmonica solo that crescendoed into something spellbinding. Just Like a Woman, Masters of War, Watching the River Flow, Highway 61 Revisited (very much the rocker unleashed at last year's Woodstock), and the searing God Knows made even the most skeptical and nostalgic in the audience rise to their feet and applaud the performers who were obviously putting a lot into this night's performances (including some electrifying and funky lead guitar work by Bob).

Yes indeed, twenty seven years after Mrs. Weeklund couldn't quite calm me down by finding my then favorite tune, this evening wound me up, and lightened the burden just a little tiny bit. The music was scorching and inspiring and above all else, way cool. Rumor has Bob hitting another West Coast swing, which I may have to see. I may fast becoming the very thing I hated in college (like a Deadhead) but this is too good to miss. I don't know if I hate being a groupie more than I love the passion of the music and how on a particular night, for a particular moment it can still knock down the walls of defense and cynicism. I dare to find anyone who is giving better and more convincing performances than what the masses saw at Target Center last Tuesday Night. I would even take my worst enemy to one of these shows. And all of you too. Mercy and Amen.

Monday, October 16, 1995

Out of the Blue

A free newsletter tip in the form of three simple words for all of you who like me spent the entire summer sun tanning- "MOISTURIZE MOISTURIZE MOISTURIZE."

Next time you run out of after dinner mints, a great replacement/altnerative are those little globs of toothpaste leftover in the sink. Once they harden, they make a tasty, breath cleaning, mouth watering delight sure to liven any party!

I have adopted the following philosophy after reading yet another self help book: "I can't wait 'til tomorrow because I keep getting better looking every day..."

One of life's more difficult concepts to grasp is not being fully able to appreciate what you have until you place all of it in its context with the events, struggles and triumphs that make up your past. Sometimes it is easy to complain about the troubles of the day without remembering how hard it was just to make it to that point anyway. YOU DON'T KNOW WHAT YOU GOT UNTIL YOU LOSE IT! If you've never been there before, you'll never be there again. But go forth with caution! Those that choose to proceed from this point do so at their own risk! Self indulgence lies ahead! There is nothing I like to talk about more than my personal life. Those that know me best know I just love using my feelings and my knowledge to enlighten others about who we really are. I am nothing if not a people person. My long drawn out "blue period" has been well chronicled and discussed about in all its glorious detail. DIRTY LAUNDRY, BUT CLEAN BOXER SHORTS! Yes, there was a time not all that long ago when you might say I wasn't doing very well, or certainly not as well as I could have been doing. Those around me might not have noticed had it not been for my incessant outbursts of crying. NOT EVEN THE CHAMBER OF COMMERCE COULD OFFER A LOAN BIG ENOUGH TO BEGIN TO SOLVE THIS HERE MESS! So how did I get past that and move on to my now burgeoning and successful life? Some say it may or may not have to do with the high volume of Prozac I consumed, or the many hours spent in my Primal Scream therapy sessions; maybe it was the pile of gin bottles I left behind; or maybe even it had to do with my dear, dear devoted wife Samantha; I like to think it had more to do with an inner change- I sunk to such a low that I could sink no lower, and after a while, I developed the philosophy that nobody else's opinion mattered much anymore. If I was going to screw up, I was going to screw up my own way, on my own terms, and damn all those who with or more commonly without malice, tried to knock me off the long lost beaten path. WANNA TALK ABOUT BEAUTY? I've seen it personally. She exists and I don't know exactly which one she is but I know she is part of my life. I used to truly believe that somehow I missed that day in school when they explained to everyone what all of it is about, the very meaning of our lives. Yes it was like me to miss the one and only day of school that was invaluable. THE JOKE WAS ON ME. BUT YOU KNOW, THERE ARE WORSE THINGS IN LIFE THAN BEING THE PUNCHLINE. LIKE BEING A HUMAN PUNCHING BAG! There are so many souls out there with self esteem issues, and as inscrutable as I was and still sometimes am, that fortunately was not one of my problems. Rather you might say my problem was quite the opposite, I had such a large self assured ego that when the kite string began to unravel, I wasn't ready for any of the self searching/ questioning going on, and couldn't understand why others weren't all that shocked I was falling apart in front of all their beady little eyes. Thus it was a still secret, but often silently thanked individual who came along and called me on my own terms. She may have well as bonked me over the head with a sledge hammer, but it took that much to get her message: trust yourself, and pick yourself up because damn it, no one else should have that responsibility, and more importantly, no one else can carry that load. Some may say it is a bit selfish when you are reaching out to someone that they decide to let go, but sometimes it is exactly what you need. And no one believed in me quite so strongly. Self confidence ain't necessarily the same thing as self belief, but they are at the least distant cousins. Once you learn how to believe that the mind's eye is the vision you should be following, and following alone, that is when you begin to show signs of self confidence and that is when others begin to acknowledge that and trust your judgment, tainted as it may or may not be. The little outer environmental successes lead to stepping stone sized strokes to that all important inner voice. Once you decide to take that HUGE step, the one that comes from trusting yourself, and believing you have the ONLY voice that should be listened to without question, is when others begin to see you in different shades of light. BUT DON'T GET COCKY KID! Your voice is your voice alone and as much as it pays to share it, no one else can really listen to it without hearing all those others that may or may not lead them astray. You call her up not when you need her but when you want to. Hers is a voice that sings to you and you listen not because she knows what is right or wrong, but because hers is a voice that knows what you know. You got to remember how to forgive as well as you remember to forget. Being lucky has nothing to do with being blessed. SHREDDED COASTERS. The old isolated predictions ring like a bell, but you know? IT DON'T MATTER. It was all in French.

Monday, October 9, 1995

Second Hand News

On a brisk fall morning, car pooling with a certain influential individual, the usual quiet of the shared space hung heavy in the air, when I made the declaration that the most powerful man in America was not then President Bush, but the king of prime time television, Bill Cosby. As was her nature, she jumped all over me and called me on the outrageousness of my statement.

My point was not to provoke the wrath of my car pooling partner. I would be the first to admit politicians set the agenda, they make the laws and determine what topics are to be addressed. Since they also determine where money is to be spent, they do hold power that many people don't examine. But people these days hold so much cynicism towards the system and believe that there exists in the political arenas so much corruption, that they believe solutions are inevitably tainted and nothing important actually gets done. People thus tend to tune all this out and discount it, but every night they do go home and watch lots and lots of television. Our current discussions don't deal so much with the incredible historical changes Congress is proposing for the welfare system, but rather the latest episode of Friends. Television creates for its viewers surrogate feelings they no longer get from their day to day lives. What can possibly be more powerful than that?

I was wrong in my declaration however. I wasn't mistaken in identifying the forum of where true power exists, I was wrong in picking the proper area of the entertainment world. Prime time television sends undeniable political messages, but the real filter in which people's thoughts and feelings are formed is born in the newsrooms across America.

Back in the days when I was studying journalism as a possible profession, I used to go out to cover a story and inevitably a feeling of fear would well up inside. I would go and witness an event, interview some people, jot down some notes and head back to my typewriter where I would try to come up with a story. And a story it felt like- I always felt like I was fakin' it and what I was putting down on paper wasn't exactly what really happened, or my own personal bias colored the true important message of the story. I was trying to make sense out of what made no sense. And when I would read the end result the next day in a publication, I always wondered if others believed what I wrote to be the truth.

The amazing thing to me is people either have no idea, or don't care that all the news they get is being influenced by the ears and eyes of the reporter. We tend not to question what we read or hear if it comes from a credible news source simply because that's what news is and has always been in this country. One reporter may go to a city council meeting, listen to all the agenda items and lead with a small bit of information that came about at the very end of a minor discussion. Another reporter may attend the same meeting and pick something entirely different for the lead and the emphasis of the story. Both reporters may or may not have been oblivious to what the council members, or the attending public thought was the most important thing that happened that evening.

Covering a news story is not easy because life's events most of the time don't exactly qualify as stories. We don't often enjoy the luxury of knowing when there is a beginning, when the climax of the story occurs or when the actual end happens so we can gleam the meaning of the entire episode. Chaos is more often the norm, and bits and pieces of common and diverse elements make up our lives. It is too easy to fall into the trap of looking for greater meanings that often don't exist. Things don't always happen for a reason, sometimes they just happen. There is a danger in attaching all encompassing lessons to what we read and hear about through the news without thinking for ourselves what biases may or may not exist. There are far too many who think they know what's going on because they heard it on the news.

The most disturbing lesson on display from this past week was not so much that our country's justice system does not work; or that the abuse of power is as frightening as the abuse of money; or that there are deepening rifts existing between races; nope the overwhelming message emphasized was that in our current culture, the way people assimilate information is through a filter of second hand knowledge learned through the incredible influence of the media.

Sunday, October 1, 1995

Good as I've Bean to You

Dans un reve je regarde dans un miroir et ne vois pas ma reflexion mais un visage d'un etranger. Et en tant que lui me continue se voient se trouver. Se situer dans un lit legerement eleve avec une lumiere solitaire simple juste au-dessus de la tete du lit. Périodiquement une femme a habille tous dans le blanc ouvre la porte et signe juste pour voir si je suis toujours la. Et la majeure partie du temps je suis. Et alors je réveiller et penser où je dix année il y a et comment étroit et loin parti qui sembler et ce point je connaître là aucun tourner dos tel que mon cerveau non arrêter et sommeil échapper pour repos nuit juste comme alors. Il n'y a rien tout à fait si effrayant en tant que commande perdante de votre esprit. Dans bon trame esprit je rendre compte comment je pouvoir jamais pouvoir pour oublier que temps et tout qui amener, mais en même temps je devoir jamais oublier combien je avoir accomplir depuis et à quel point chanceux je pour où je considérer où je. Vous ne vous rendez pas compte vraiment que non seulement à quelle distance vous pouvez tomber mais comment rapide qui la chute peut être. Et une fois que vous êtes tombés que loin l'élever en arrière est déchiqueté et difficile et vous vous trouvez mettre tellement l'énergie en faisant quelque chose que vous aviez l'habitude de prendre pour accordé. Je souvent sentir comme tout ces année il y a je atteindre proverbial fourchette dans route et voie d'accès je choisir pour suivre faux un et je devenir désespéré perdu essayer pour trouver mon voie dos et I quelque point juste devoir recevoir que je jamais trouver que autre voie d'accès encore mais jusqu' pour faire meilleur hors voie d'accès je maintenant en fonction et surtout d'autre mouvement en avant et non en arrière. Il était très difficile, et extrêmement pénible que de venir au point où j'ai dû prendre cette décision si j'ai même voulu continuer. Et réaliser alors la seule voie que je pourrais continuer était de découper mon passé et d'essayer et commencer encore une fois. Cette philosophie a signifié l'essai encore mais dans une voie prudente. La coupure I toutes mes amitiés passées sachant j'ai dû seul aller à la trouvaille moi-même. J'ai obtenu un travail mais un qui n'importeraient pas tout que beaucoup si je ne pourrais pas l'entailler et ne le détruisais pas par la suite. J'ai entré jour après jour et ai délibérément fait le mon mieux à juste fais les tâches professionnelles bien et pas ai laissé n'importe lequel de lui matière et ne pas atteindre tous avec émotion attaché à tout ce qui continuait autour de moi. Et j'ai réussi. C'était à ce point que j'ai découvert la réponse à un des questions qui se sont attardé. J'étais venu pour me demander si l'intérieur de douleur une question du sentiment trop ou ne se sentait pas du tout. Par les tâches menial il est apparu clairement qu'un des raisons que je pourrais prendre que le pas en avant est pour la première fois dans un moment le sentiment du sentiment trop et de ce fait le grillage et ne pas se sentir du tout sont partis. J'étais engourdi mais c'était un bon genre d'engourdi. Et la clé devait faire ce pas en avant. Une fois que cela se produisait d'autres éléments de ma vie ont commencé à réapparaître. J'étais amoureux. J'ai développé la meilleure amitié que j'ai jamais eue. J'ai trouvé ma voix et mon écriture est devenue plus comme elle était avant. Je suis devenu navré mais il était bon d'une voie de voir que mon coeur était toujours là et pourrait la prendre. Je me suis déplacé en fonction de ce travail à un qui m'a donné davantage d'un défi et de plus d'une récompense. Une partie du passé ne m'a pas tout à fait hanté de la même manière qu'elle a eu avant. J'ai progressé jusqu'ici cela le printemps dernier à ma réunion I d'université de dix ans trouvé admettant à un classmate (tout à fait par surprise) que j'étais plus heureux puis que j'avais eu lieu dans tout à fait un moment. Mais il est comme une fois que vous admettez que vous vous êtes maudits. Et les choses rapidement ont démêlé encore. Et je la trouvaille moi-même dans un endroit où je ne me pense pas jamais ai maintenant été tout à fait ceci malheureux avant. N'est pas étant enfoncé une question d'être juste triste. C'est une question de ne pouvoir pas sentir n'importe quel type de joie. C'est différent. Je sais que j'ai détruit quelque chose ici que je n'ai pas voulu détruire. Je me sens perdu à ce que faire et effrayé que la confusion me mènera à cet endroit j'étais et avoir vécu dans la crainte de depuis. La sortie de l'obscurité ne devait pas s'attendre à quelque chose de d'autres. Plutôt elle devait trouver la voie à l'élasticité de me encore. Cette dernière amitié a signifié cela à moi. Il s'est senti bon d'être le type d'ami que j'étais pour elle. Dans le retour elle a renvoyé l'élément de l'amusement dans ma vie encore. Elle était comme tourner en arrière l'horloge. J'ai dépensé tellement le temps et l'énergie par le voyage essayant à la trouvaille moimême; maintenant je me sens comme je trouvais cet individu et n'aime plus cette personne. L'amitié a offert tellement des possibilités intéressantes et tellement aller plus loin pourtant j'étais heureux à à où nous étions. Maintenant elle est allée et le trou est mesurablement plus grand. J'appuie sur mais je sens plus que détruit. J'essaye de voir que ce n'est pas identique, ce ceci est juste un de pertes décevantes inévitables de la vie. Mais l'équilibre est allé et j'ai frappé le dur moulu encore. Je puis seulement espérer que la terre est un bit plus plein cette fois autour. Je ne veux pas tomber cela loin toujours encore. Et bien que le weariness vienne et alarmes que je veux juste apprécier tous j'ai parce que je sais où j'ai été. Quelque chose de précieux et rare, disparaît en air mince et il semble si injuste

Monday, September 25, 1995

Dave's Manifesto

Nobody out, nobody on, batter hits a grounder to short. Blinkey, the saddest clown in the whole damn circus, playing catcher, follows through on his duty and runs with the batter down to first to back up the throw. The batter flings his bat back. The bat twirls barrel over handle, past the baseline, and though Blinkey tries his best to deflect it with his arms, the thick aluminum barrel still strikes him on the forehead.

Had Blinkey been a lazy player and remained squatting behind the plate, the bat would not have hit him. Still as he woozily finished out the game, he marveled at how sometimes when you do your job the little things can go unnoticed. He had already saved a couple of errant throws earlier in the season, yet most catchers weren't quite so conscientious in performing all the tasks of the position. He understood however, for a team to be successful the importance of all members of a team contributing all the little "extras" that made up the difference between winning and losing. And thus he didn't mind the throbbing inside his head. It was all part of the job in the name of teamwork.

Later that night, as he sat in his aluminum sided apartment contemplating what to make for dinner in his stainless steel pan, Blinkey wearily removed his makeup mask, one that had grown more and more into a face of stunned disbelief. The mask still cloaked his face in decency even though Blinkey, the saddest clown in the whole damn circus, had dropped out of the spotlight long ago. He glanced through his cupboards and his wheezing refrigerator. The milk was sour, the cheese moldy; the bananas had gone brown and the shrimp salad was rancid. Upon further reflection, all he owned, all he was holding on to shared the exact same expiration date! Who would have thunk it?! Everything had gone bad at once! Blinkey now was the most unlucky clown in the whole damn circus!

The store was too far away and thus it struck him that what he wanted was quite out of grasp both in time and distance. What was in front of him was frustratingly as out of reach because of its expired dates, as that which lie far far away. He went to bed that night with a bump on his noggin, cold, hungry and a wee bit disoriented.

He had wanted to call up one who was many miles away, still traveling within the greatest show on earth. He still saw her in all that was beautiful. He knew that her words would give him a different perspective on the way things were going than he could think of by himself. But he had no idea where the show was, and how he could ever reach her again if he ever had in the first place. Did he regret not being out there? No not really. Maybe she would even have been proud of what he was accomplishing most days.

Blinkey did soundly sleep unlike most nights which were spent restlessly tossing and turning. He was tired and perhaps the benefit of his injury was that his head was truly in a different time and place than normal. The image of the flying bat etched its way through his mind. Slow motion. By the time his alarmed buzzed in the morning, he had almost been able to convince himself that his head didn't hurt. He still had his job to do and that was all that mattered these days.

Smile Blinkey, he said to himself. Teamwork, TEAMwork, TEAMWORK!!! The tasks of his job did energize him. He knew whatever he felt, he needed to do his work because what he did had an impact on those around him. That in itself made him feel a little better. It may not have been like the game he had been involved in the night before, but a job was a job, a role a role, and this was his duty now. He turned on his computer and checked his Internet mail. The mask he wore certainly could continue to shield him and prove most effective. Flying bats flew by the wayside, expiration dates continued to pass and go but Blinkey wobbly as he now felt, would continue to press on. He thought about the way things had been going and he began to laugh like he never laughed before. He laughed so long. So long.

Monday, September 18, 1995

Infinity Goes Up on Trial

Those of us who are now experts at the game of golf, can tell you the most intriguing thing about the game is that you can hit bad shot after bad shot, hole after hole, but it's that one good shot, the one that you stroke just right, that keeps you going. For just that instant instance, everything falls into place, and all seems perfect.

The game of golf began in Scotland. Don't think it merely a coincidence that many years later, I decided to attend Macalester College, a college with proud Scottish traditions. Those who know me well know that I'm nothing if not a golfin' fool. There is after all, a certain female player on the women's side of the PGA, with whose career I have closely monitored over the last few years and wondered what might have been. Indulge me now if you will, back to another day, another time.


Once upon a time, a much simpler time, a boy could wake up earlier than usual on a Saturday morning, amble out into the streets, and find himself a good parade to watch. There was marching band music forever swirling in the air, with floats filled with smiling local celebrities throwing candy to the onlooking kids, and kings and queens with their screw in a light bulb waves riding in shiny convertibles. These were days when most people didn't know what a FAX machine was, when a PC was something as wacky and as far into the future as the OJ Simpson trial. These were days when people didn't wear high fashion designer sunglasses, but rather, on a sunny day they would place their hand to their forehead in a mock salute, creating their own mini-visor. Those who were too lazy to do even that would do the next best thing, they would squint.

It was a gentler time when a boy could be smitten with a girl, creating a wave of creativity never again matched. So smitten was this certain boy, that he was equally as miserable as he was happy. He felt sublimely, infinitely inspired. But as is so often the case in these mini Romeo and Juliet sagas, the romance never quite blossomed the way the boy would have liked. And to add to the confusion, the boy soon also became infatuated with the young lass' sister. So for the one and only time in his young life, the boy now was interested in two members of the same household.

The two sisters were of a different variety. The older was serious, an excellent student with a quiet determination that impressed the boy. She was musical, graceful and possessed all the traits poets throughout the years have written about. The younger was more cynical, spunky and athletic. She teased the boy's sense of humor, chiding his silliness while at the same time encouraging it. The only common connection the boy felt for the two sisters was the inescapable feeling that through all the other faces and souls he encountered on a daily basis, somehow these two knew him without him having to verbalize his thoughts and feelings. There existed a certain fizz between them.

There really isn't much more to the story between the boy and the two sisters. They went their separate ways and the only thing that remained were a few motivated memories of the times, a lingering feeling of remembering how he once used to feel, plus an occasional news clipping about the younger sister who sort of established herself as a competitor on the women's professional golf circuit.

There were many, many years in between, but meanwhile, the boy found another who somehow ties into the mixture of the fizz. Her encouragement and humor take him back while at the same time pushing him gently ahead to accomplish all that is left to accomplish. Like the two sisters, she speaks his language, and best of all, understands it. After a shared golfing outing last week, he as always, thanked his lucky stars for her continuing friendship. Together they moved forward striving for a common goal. At times one of them would land in a trap, in the wilderness, but somehow they always managed to find their way back on to the course. The flags might have marked a final destination, but there was still much, much more ahead. Inspired, infinitely inspired.

Monday, September 11, 1995

Bye Bye Now Amy

This past week history was made. The record for the most consecutive baseball games played by one player, two thousand one hundred and thirty, held by Lou Gehrig, was surpassed by Baltimore Oriole shortstop Cal Ripken Jr. For the longest time while Ripken was pursuing the record I for one, remained unimpressed. What's so damned impressive about just doing your job by showing up everyday? Why should that be recognized? But the more you think about it, the more impressive Ripken's streak is. For the past thirteen years, day in and day out, he has done his job in a quietly effective way. Most of us would do well to accomplish the same.

The reverence toward its own past is one of the reasons baseball remains our national pastime. Certainly there have been flashier records broken over the years: Hank Aaron blowing by Babe Ruth's career home run record; Roger Maris beating Ruth's single season home run record; Pete Rose steady pursuit of Ty Cobb's hits record; and Rickey Henderson overcoming Lou Brock's single season and Cobb's career stolen base record; these are all records of outstanding skill and ability. Ripken's consecutive game record is one more built on determination and endurance than sheer talent. Yet to play every game for thirteen years means you have to be good enough for the team to want you out there. Ripken is a steady fielder who yields a better than average bat for a shortstop. He is a consistent player, one who may not impress with flashy plays, but one who also never hurts his team with untimely mistakes.

Thirteen years ago, I was the original wiener boy, fumbling my way through high school. All these years later the one thing I have retained is my wienerability, but most everything else has changed. To think that there has been an athlete who every summer has gone out day after day, night after night, and has played one of the most difficult positions, and played it damn well, is admirable. Steadiness, longevity and dependability are traits all too rare in any field these days.

Thirteen years. Wow. For me the only comparable streak during that time was I didn't miss an episode of Late Night with David Letterman for the show's first six seasons. That's an impressive amount of TV watching if I do say so myself. And because of that streak, an inner growth occurred. Back in 1982, one of Dave's shows featured two guests- Bob Dylan and Liberace. I had just bought my first Dylan LP, Infidels, and was lukewarm toward the artist. His appearance on Late Night didn't really change any of that. It was a unique performance to say the least. Letterman allowed Dylan to play three songs (an unprecedented amount of the show's time); Dylan agreed to appear as long as he didn't have to talk to Dave.

Thus with a certain irony, the first song performed was a cover of Sonny Boy Williamson's Don't Start Me Talkin. The backing band, comprised of members from the group the Cruzados, tried its darndest to keep up with Dylan's lead. It was a ragged performance and I remember thinking at the time, "Who is this guy, and why is Dave fawning like a gap toothed idiot?" The next song, License to Kill was unrecognizable from the version on Infidels. Since this was my favorite song on the LP, I was a bit taken back. The last song, Jokerman again was very different than the version I had heard. To top it off, while the band was still playing, Dylan swaggered out of the camera's sight as the band repeated a riff over and over, grabbed a harmonica which was not in the right key, wandered off camera again, only to reappear with another harmonica to close out the song in a stumbling chaotic way. I couldn't wait until Liberace reestablished some calm to the show. Had it not been Dave, I probably would have turned off the set.

Thirteen years later, as I re-watch Dylan's appearance, I have a much different reaction. The strength of Letterman's show was the ability of Dave to come up with bits that broke through the usual TV frames. No other musical guest has done the same thing as electrically as Dylan did on that 1982 night. His singing is mesmerizing. His guitar playing and the screeching harmonica, counters with the rest of the band who is just trying its best to keep up and not let the whole thing fall apart. As he often does, he is playing on the edge, taking us all to that unknown place. The fire in Dylan's eyes, his awkward stage presence, it all makes for hypnotizing TV viewing.

Yes indeed thirteen years is a long time, an eternity in many ways. As Ripken rolls on, and continues his amazing quest and durability, it brings comfort to know that among all the incredible changes that time brings, there are still things out there that never let you down, that never leave, that you can always count on, and yet you can still look at things differently and appreciate something today that you might have overlooked yesterday.

Monday, September 4, 1995

Love and Mercy

The difference between the old images of a young Brian contrasting with the current version of what's left of the man is stunning. The effects of the breakdown, the years of drug abuse and the depression of professional and personal heartaches, show a man who has a hard time with his speaking, with his motor movements and whose thought patterns seem a bit scattered. Yet when listening to new versions of some of Brian's better songs, seeing the therapy and meaning of music to the man, and the musicianship that obviously still exists, one senses there is still something great underneath the shell that remains.

The one hour length of the documentary prevents any in-depth look at any specific period in the story of Brian's life. We learn of the Beach Boys rapid rise to stardom, of Brian's troubles with his oppressive and competitive father, and his own private obsession with musical perfectionism and the need to recreate for the world the complex sounds that rang in his head. Perhaps the most interesting part of the story is Brian's breakdown following his artistic differences with the rest of the Beach Boys and the thundering failure at the apex of his creativity, the legendary Smile.

Was' direction at times, also gets in the way. His decision to film the documentary in black and white and the off framing of some of the interviews comes across as distracting and pretentious. The musical re-recordings of some of Brian's most moving songs, are frustratingly shown in short clips. It's great to see Brian sing some of his old songs, particularly a stunning Caroline No, yet disappointing that none of the songs are shown in their entirety, and are marred by the quick cut style of an MTV video. Parts of Brian's life are glazed over in all too obvious ways. When talking about Brian's troubling relationship in the 1980's with his psychiatrist for some reason the decision is made not to identify Eugene Landy by name. Thus we hear people speak of "the guy" who dominated Brian's contact with the others in his life. Besides Carl, none of the other Beach Boys are interviewed. Brian's daughters, Carnie and Wendy are interviewed for an all too short period of time at the very end of the documentary. Indeed, one of the most uplifting parts of the documentary is when Carnie and Wendy back Brian on a rousing version of Do It Again.

A comparable problem is found in another current documentary about an artist of our times, Crumb. Both documentaries use intellectual analysts to describe the importance of non-conventional artists' work. This analysis is condescending and silly. We don't need the cultural elite trying to justify the relevance of Brian's or Crumb's art. We can judge for ourselves the tortured genius of both men's work. Great art speaks for itself. If there is one thing I Just Wasn't Made For These Times makes clear, it is that Brian's music comes from some deep place within all of us that transcends pain and time.

Monday, August 28, 1995

Reheating a Souffle

I made one of my rare public appearances last week and my informant who unfortunately wasn't there to witness the event told me the report on the grapevine the next day was, "He was in a great mood. He even was letting people touch him!" Reports of my happiness were greatly exaggerated. Honestly, I left a happy hour anything but, cursing myself at trying to recapture something I never grasped to begin with.

I saw someone I hadn't seen for awhile. She was someone I once was in my own dweebish terms, smitten with (see last year's summer newsletters for details...). It was a bit of a shock to the system to see her this night. Her hair was styled different. Her eyes still had the nervous energy, and she looked like she was enjoying herself. At the beginning of the evening she sat far away, the other side of a combination of tables. By the end of the night, she was next to me, back turned without a word of acknowledgment. Meek was I, wondering if perhaps everyone else around could feel the discomfort in the air. Was I back in junior high?

I should've known better. Life has its magical moments, and the biggest mistake you can make is to try and go back and experience the same feeling, the same moment over again. Why bother re-lighting a spent match? Strike a new one. No matter where you are, you gotta keep moving forward. As that great philosopher once advised, you should never look back.

A few weeks ago in these pages, we ran an article written by Peter Glen, an elderly gentleman, who warned that once a person stops learning, they stop living. We have admittedly ran a lot of filler in these pages, but this particular article struck a nerve with me. There has been some discussion within our company on the merits of tying pay with gaining knowledge. Some seem to feel reading a book should not be connected with getting a raise. I disagree. It is knowledge that helps us all do our jobs better. And yes, knowledge more often than not, is gained by on the job experiences, but it is up to us all as employees to show that we care enough about our jobs to demonstrate our education on the job in tangible ways. If you've been exposed to new ideas, new concepts, perhaps a few of them will begin to eventually sink in. We take too much for granted these days, and expect everyone to automatically notice our efforts and our accomplishments as if they owe us that much.

Life really is about having to prove yourself over and over. What happened yesterday isn't of much consequence unless you can show you learned from past events. Experience isn't necessarily knowledge. Some of us never catch on and make the same mistakes over and over again. The oldest Catch-22 in the book of employment is that most organizations want to hire people with experience, but how is a person supposed to get experience if no one will hire them? Just as you work your way out of that dilemma, you find that more and more, our culture rewards being young. This is unfortunate. We should really be honoring, listening to, treasuring those out there who have traveled the long road and have managed to somehow survive. Too often we are consumed with the current fad, with what is visually appealing to us now rather than honor that which has somehow managed to transcend time and remain true and valuable.

So I returned to my so called life, this so called happy hour wondering how I was going to react or respond to the downward turn of events of the evening. Would I let it effect me as much as a similar experience would have in the past? If it didn't was this a sign of progress, of maturity or was it a sign of a continual deadening, a cynicism inside? I didn't sulk, I merely shrugged. One of the hardest things to learn is how to deal with disappointments. You think those of us who have had so many would eventually get the hang of it. Unfortunately, I don't think you ever do.

Often the best you can do is to learn how to put yourself in situations where you will have the best chance of succeeding. Learn to apply the little knowledge you've gained to put yourself in the right place at the right time. This is no small talent to learn. These may be small victories, but you take what you can get. And when you do fail, you do so in a way where you can fool some of the people. File away them failures and dissect them for the lessons they contain. Don't dwell, don't let them be the end all, the giving up point. As the great green little fella once sang, "Keep on trying, keep on smiling, keep believing, keep pretending..."

Monday, August 21, 1995

What I Did on My Summer Vacation

Los Angeles Dodger pitcher, Hideo Nomo, pitched his team to a 7-5 victory last Tuesday night despite giving up eleven hits in six and two thirds innings. It was the most hits Nomo had allowed in a game since May 11, 1994 against the Seibu Lions. The crowd of 48,449 was heavily populated with Japanese fans. It was yet another indication that I wasn't in Minnesota anymore. In fact, there may have been more Japanese faces in Dodger Stadium that night than reside in the entire state of Minnesota.

Nomo is another in a long line of celebrity sensations residing in Southern California. A walk through the Little Tokyo section of L.A., one can't help be impressed by the sheer amount of Nomo merchandise up for sale. He has even gained popularity in his home country where last year his win/loss record was a very average 8-7. Yet in the culture of Los Angeles, anyone with a different angle can, and often does, become a star. Of course as Nomo left the game in the middle of the seventh, there were those among the throng that couldn't resist saying the obvious, "No more Nomo." When in Rome...

The next night in the studios of CBS entertainment, Bonnie Hunt taped the first episode of her new sitcom, The Bonnie Hunt Show, in front of an impatient studio audience. The taping was delayed for over an hour as Ms. Hunt and producer (former David Letterman headwriter) Rob Burnett rewrote sections of the program.

Ms. Hunt, best known as Charles Grodin's wife in the Beethoven movies, and also as the waitress in Rain Man (the one who was a bit freaked out when Raymond recites her phone number, and when Raymond tells her how many toothpicks fall on the floor) starred in a short lived sitcom last season, one of the few highlights on an otherwise miserable CBS schedule.

The premise of this new show is yet another of Hollywood's comedies set in the entertainment industry, this one has Ms. Hunt playing a reporter for a newsmagazine. The running gags were established early: a mother who constantly calls to check up on Bonnie; a ditzy neighbor who also works in the newsroom; a hunky boss who seems to have impossible work demands with little or no sense of humor; the boss' assistant who is out to sabotage Bonnie's enthusiasm to impress on the job; and a sarcastic co-worker who helps balance the wackiness of the newsroom full of characters (a vendor named Sammy Sinatra who does imitations, a hypoglycemic editor with more nervous tics than your average midwestern town).

Every show needs a gimmick and this one has a fairly interesting one. Ms. Hunt films clips of interviews she does with real live people, and those clips are used in the pieces she does for her fictional newsmagazine. This utilizes Ms. Hunt's great ability for the ad-lib, the witty conversation that is necessarily stilted within the confines of the setup-punchline format of the sitcom. The most impressive thing about watching the taping was in the retakes where Ms. Hunt improvised new lines take after take, improving each time out. It was refreshing to see some spontaneity, life without a script.

Hollywood and its culture are such a long way from the quiet suburbia of Roseville, it is like visiting a foreign country. It's a city that amplifies the very concept of the "melting pot." Hundreds of different cultures are forced to coexist within its sprawling limits. To its natives, the rest of the country is somewhat insignificant. The industry and the culture supersede all else. The city itself sometimes only seems to exist to entertain the rest of the world. It is a town that builds up anyone for celebrity status if only to tear them apart and bring them crashing down. It sometimes seems more real than life. As the rest of my family continues on their journey -next up a visit to a huge hole in the ground- I come home to face the familiar grind of the work day week.

And almost as if to prove you can find just about anything you want if you look hard enough in L.A., while shopping in the Santa Monica area I walked by a Heidiwear shop, and jokingly asked my sister if she cared to go in. We glanced in the small store, with its racks of intimate apparel, looking for a glimpse of Charlie Sheen perhaps -no luck, but darn if the woman folding some clothing didn't look familiar... Yes indeed, it was Heidi Fleiss herself, the woman responsible for many nights of entertainment for many of our biggest entertainers. She looked a little sad and forlorn, perhaps with her jail sentence firmly in mind. It was a bit of a jolt to see a face only seen previous through a TV screen, but such is life in L.A.

Monday, August 14, 1995

Bringing it All Back Home

There used to be a big tree outside my window the home of squirrels and birds that Max the Cat could watch. Although the tree was physically unreachable to Max, he still ruled it with stern authority because it was part of his outdoor domain (who rules his indoor domain has never been in question).

This spring and summer, the tree never budded, never sprouted, never leafed, and even on the hottest days, the barren branches gave the illusion of one of the grayest days in winter. Last week, a truck of men came by and chopped off the branches, sawed down the trunk, dug up the roots, and spewed swirling sawdust into the air. Max didn't know what to make of all the commotion. He cried out the meekest of meows, crying out for his tree, crying in fear of all the noise, and crying out not knowing what to make of the situation.

I tried to comfort the little fellow, but the confusion in his eyes didn't go away. Max has a set routine, and any movement outside of what he is familiar, takes a while to assimilate and deal with. But he got over it. He has never been one who firmly understands the difference between reality and fiction. The disappearance of his tree is no more real than the imaginary dust bunny he has to dart after in the spur of the moment. Max still gazes out of the same window, his view now treeless, looking in curiosity at things that were previously blocked from his view, while at the same time unsure of what is missing or why the change was made.

Life for Max isn't so much something new and full of wonder, it's more of a continuation, of trying to make sense out of the random surprises that occasionally pop up. Still, he can get excited about his breaks from the norm, a cob of corn, an early morning bowl of milk, a dab of his hairball medicine. His life is calm, simple, mostly predictable, and a nap in the sun.


Back in my formative years at that last bastion of quality higher learning, Macalester College, my roommate Spunky and I used to have conversations about the world around us. We noted there was an air of hypocrisy floating around the campus, with a bunch of middle to upper class students trying to revive the '60's activism they read about in their history books. It was a kind of sheepish guilt, of trying to take social responsibility, to carry on the mantel of political changes that meant so much to the people that came before, namely their parents. It was almost as if many of our peers were feeling guilty that their parents had abandoned their activism and settled into corporate jobs that paid enough money for them to send their kids to an expensive Midwestern liberal arts college. Thus many of the staged activities in protest of current concerns, Apartheid, Reaganism, flag burning, the concern dujour, had to be taken with a grain of salt. It was as if many of the students were involved not because they believed in the cause, but because they felt guilty if they weren't there.

All this comes back to mind with the news of Jerry Garcia's death. There was a period of my life when the Grateful Dead were my least favorite group in the world, not because of their music, but because of the culture that surrounds their music. The whole "Deadhead" movement of worshipping the communal lifestyle of tie died T-shirts, living in vans, the drugs, and the rituals of concert going- what did any of it really have to do with the music? Was there any value in yet another live fifty minute version of Truckin? The Dead seemed to exist merely to carry on the culture of the '60's without any true concern about the substance of the causes. They existed only for another excuse to drop responsibility and party.

My views have softened over the years. Yes, the lack of sincerity or maturity in many of their followers bothers me. But there aren't any other bands who get so much loyalty and devotion from their fans. The notion of being out on the road, of playing another concert, of adapting a song to fit the mood of the evening, seems in retrospect, a great goal to strive for. The corporate culture that surrounds the band, and the pseudo-cultural atmosphere that follows their every move, in the end isn't really the point. It's an extended family, a belief in the art, and a live for today attitude that sets the Dead apart from other rock bands. There is a comfort and sensibility in settling into a 9-5 routine. Yet like my cat, my eyes are torn between what's on the horizon, and the light in my microwave oven. Inventorying paper clips really is no more grown up than living out of a van. I may never be a Deadhead, but I think we should all mourn the passing of yet another of the few individuals in an increasingly homogenized culture.

Monday, August 7, 1995

Mickey Mouse Loves You

The secret word this week is, "potent." Memorize it, use it as often as you can, and share it with all of your friends. Potent, positively potent.

It's already been a year for the history books. A year we're all bound to remember. Today's world is an ever changing place, now more than ever. Faster than you can say, "Windows '95," OJ replaces the soaps, Michael marries Lisa Marie, Hugh Grant does a bad thing, Waterworldmania floods our consciousness, and in the most important event in a long, long time, Disney buys ABC. Nineteen billion bucks and the world will be a happier place- guaranteed. Things will be different in a Disney world. With their success at marketing, can a Ted Koppel action figure be too far away? Expect to see a newly animated Hugh Downs soon. And no more shots of Dennis Franz's butt. Nudity can be covered up. Monopolies are good if they are good for the kids. Money is nice but love is better.

Everything is always sunny in a Disney world. Life zooms by in a blissful blend. Like a Monet painting, lines and colors blur together; a green dress becomes blue, words are jumbled into a puzzle only to be sorted and put back together, better than ever. It may last for all too brief a moment, but beauty is always in front of you, so close you can almost touch it. If you whistle while you work and wish upon a star, it won't matter who you are, not even another's bearish attitude will hold you back.

For awhile in the 70's and early 80's, Disney was down and out. They have since made a stunning comeback. How did they do it? Their message remained consistent, but they got better at getting it out more effectively. They knew kiddies held the keys to our future and colored images are all that were needed to take care of our past. Reach for the kid in all of us and their message would eventually be heard again. They learned early on the camera is the recorder of our soul, that film is a vital tool in stopping time for a moment and capturing history for posterity. The picture is what matters, not so much the substance behind the snapshot. They are the most successful framers of pictures ever seen. They know better than anyone what goes around the picture colors how we look at what's inside the frame.

A hole may be burning in our sky, but that is only to let in more light. Strange viruses may be escaping from the Rain Forest, but they are happy little viruses, not meant to destroy, but to add their song to our world. The oceans may be more and more polluted with toxic waste, but they are still inhabited by cute little mermaids wearing seacup bikinis. Yesterday's news may be painful to swallow, but even if an elephant falls from the sky, with the right go get 'em attitude, our darkest days can be filled with rainbows. There is always more than one way to look at our past, so why dwell on over-analyzed pains? If you see ugliness, look the other way for beauty is right down the street.

Facts-schmacts. You can often get your point across without knowing all the details, without all the facts. Depth is not the only thing that matters, the surface counts too. If you can't see it, why dwell on it? As long as you're earnest, the mistakes and omissions don't really matter. It's the essence that people care about. Pastel lilies and wondrous curves lead us into a magical place. Dreams mix with desires and reality can be mortgaged for another day. The new world isn't so new after all. The only difference is that with so many lost and cynical souls, it is critical the message get out through as many channels as possible. Nineteen billion bucks therefore, goes a long way.

Disney is an empire that preaches and practices the Capitalist Doctrine with such plucky aplomb that one can't help but admire their success. They may be guilty of overindulgence at times, but they succeed with a happy family message, with cute cartoon figures who show that if you are good at heart, the ending will always be happy. The American Dream need not be corrupted by all those negative thinkers who criticize those that believe. Tell a lie and it will catch up to you. Tell the TRUTH, and nothing can touch you. Hard work, deep moral beliefs and a forgiving soul, and anything can be overcome. Put on a happy face, and smile smile smile! Potent, positively potent.

Monday, July 31, 1995

Playing to Win

As was pointed out not too long ago in a scoop from our friendly Fridley folks, there's no "i" in the word team. I like to point out there isn't an "i" in the word abalone either. So I ask you, between the two "i" less words, which has a harder time seeing? Do we see better functioning teams than we do abalones?

We're (and when I say "we're" I'm including I) coming to the close of another softball season, and this is the perfect time to look back, reflect, and evaluate all the lessons that were learned. Playing for two different teams, won/losswise it was far from a successful season. The combined records of those two teams was five wins and nineteen losses. That's a winning percentage even lower than our lovable Minnesota Twins. During a long and difficult season, there were a couple of feats pulled off that I for one never thought I'd see on a slowpitch softball field- getting shutout, and watching an opposing pitcher strike out the side on us one inning.

The lack of success in the win/loss category made me have even more sympathy for our local baseball lads. As a player, I realized it's a lot more difficult to play well when the team is struggling as a whole, and you constantly find yourself behind and trying to catch up. It's hard to remain focused when everyone on the team is making those little mistakes that add up to another loss. Mistakes breed upon themselves. You find yourself making mental and physical errors you have never made in your life.

Losing is an unhappy attitude that is contagious. You begin to question your teammates' abilities and they look back at you and wonder when will be the next time you make a blunder. The little things all seemed magnified, and whatever enjoyment just playing the game once held, doesn't seem to bring any satisfaction anymore. Everyone is just sort of going through the motions, waiting for the mistakes to happen and knowing the outcome of the game before it is even played.

To develop a winning team, there are several things you have to learn and practice every week. Attitude is more important than ability. My Wednesday night team has played together for several years. The last few seasons we were clearly playing teams with more ability (not to mention youth) but we won as much as we lost. The only way we managed that was because we played exceedingly well as a team. We knew what each other was and was not capable of doing. When that key hit was needed, it always seemed we had the right guy at the plate. When we needed an out in the field, it always seemed the batter would hit it to a sure pair of hands.

This season has been a different story. It's the same group of guys, but early season mistakes, and games kicked away built a different attitude. Instead of expecting to stay close and win our share of games, we began to play as if we were afraid of losing. Almost every week one of us would make a mistake at a crucial moment of the game, and then the rest of us would follow by not being able to overcome the errors.

My Thursday night team is a fairly new team. It took us a while to get to know one and other so the first few weeks we struggled. But come the third or fourth game of the season we began to gel. The team wasn't blessed with a lot of talented players (bit player, journeyman David was perhaps the best overall player on the team, more of a comment on the lack of talent than any glowing scouting report on David's alarming deterioration as a useful player). But we hit a little winning streak simply because it was a team that didn't make a lot of mistakes to beat ourselves. Then the wheels fell off. We stopped playing as a team and while individuals were hitting better, we never were able to string hits together for a big inning. Someone would make a nice play in the field but it was negated because a teammate wasn't ready for the throw. The last few games were sheer torture as none of us played particularly well together. We expected to get beat, and we seriously did.

Thus the lesson learned this summer was to succeed, a team has to be able to play together and pick each other up. The attitude brought into a game was perhaps the most important thing that got away from us. When both of the teams started looking for ways we were going to lose, we were very successful in finding them. Individuals might play well, but the teams as a whole lost their focus and we no longer played trying to win, instead we played trying to avoid losing. There is a big difference.

The Tangled Web We Weave

Depending on how much you like Sandra Bullock, her newest picture The Net is either a) a deep philosophical look at one woman who has questions about the meaning of her own existence; or b) a thriller which aptly points out that sometimes we are being followed by more than just that little electronic shadow our computerized world has cast upon us.

As we move more and more into a world where people's memories are stored in megabytes on their hard drives rather than the electronic synaptic connections inside their brains, our reliance on what we know and what we remember and who has access to our most private information is a political and moral issue that needs to be focused upon. In our society, it is becoming more difficult to go anywhere or do anything without having to deal with information stored on a computer. Checking into a motel, bank transactions, reserving airline tickets, paying a restaurant bill, checking into a hospital, are all examples of activities that have become standardized and computerized. The amount of information about any single individual found in many separate though sometimes linked databases is staggering.

Thus the premise of The Net is that Bullock's character, Angela Bennett, finds herself in a whole lot of trouble when she accidentally stumbles upon a program that allows the villains access to any of the world's databases, with the ability to change and control information. Bennett, a computer program analyst, becomes the target of the villains who erase her existence in key databases creating a nonperson, as they try to kill her in the physical sense of the word too.

The suspense created by all the computereze is actually pretty good. Having personally come off a week where an ATM machine confiscated my cash card telling me I was committing an "unauthorized use" of my account, the movie struck a nerve. Worried that someone had gained access to my checking account and my vast fortune of twenty six bucks, I called my bank. The customer service representative checked the Norwest database, and found no discrepancies that should have flagged my card's abduction, yet I had my card taken away nonetheless. She could offer no explanation at what might have caused the error. I was assured a new card would be mailed shortly, not to worry about my money, and given an apology for the inconvenience. Inconvenience? Not having cash? No problem.

The Net falls apart however because it becomes this year's version of last year's annoying chase movie, The Firm. We get Sandra being chased on the beach; Sandra being chased at an amusement park; Sandra being chased at a crowded convention; Sandra being chased on the Santa Monica freeway; and finally Sandra being chased on a rooftop. She has men chasing her, women chasing her, and the law chasing her. After awhile, you want to tell her to stop her damn running and deal with the creeps face to face.

Bullock has received good reviews for her work in the movie. As in her other roles, she comes across as a likable actress. Whatever way The Net succeeds, it is due mainly in part because of her screen presence. There are a few suspenseful moments that get the old thrillmometer creeping ever so high. Unfortunately, it isn't until Bullock does stop running and begins to use her knowledge of computers that the movie hits its own stride of sorts. There is a point being made somewhere in the story about our proceeding in a computer reliant world without addressing some really important moral and data privacy issues. Who controls information will control the future. Ultimately the movie argues that computers can be fixed, but the human mind cannot. Bullock stumbles or rather runs into this revelation by which time even her spunky charm has been overrun by cliche.

Monday, July 24, 1995

You Don't Need a Weatherman to Know Which Way the Wind Blows

Sitting here on a Friday night with the closing sound of rolling thunder, ominous looking clouds on the horizon, as the storm blows towards me, wondering if one of these wall clouds is going to drop the final curtain down, I study the progress of my mutual fund (steady as always- keep long term in mind) and check my horoscope (five star day, -keep short term in mind). Thus it's an evening of introspection and reflection.

I learned this week, as if there wasn't enough to make one feel insignificant and small, the statistic that there are more people alive today then the total amount of people who have died since the beginning of time. And in approximately eighty years, the size of our current population will double. Talk about the individual being just a small drop in the bucket of primordial substance.

There has been one constant with all those people. When you slide further down the age/time continuum, you begin to feel the need for lessening the shock of the unexpected by trying to anticipate the future. Several of our noblest professions are devoted to predicting how future events might unfold. From stockbroker to weatherperson, from oddsmakers to gypsy fortune tellers and horoscope writers, there are many here among us who earn their livings off reassuring the rest of us on how things will be.

As you pass through more and more days, the gift of intuition tends to replace any desire for a greater imagination. Values change and any wish one might have held for spontaneity takes a back seat to the peace of mind of routine and knowing what comes next. Some people look up at the sky and see cumulonimbus wall and funnel clouds, others look up and see cats and clowns.

Skeptics might observe that the ironic part of all these future seers and experts is that the "legitimate" ones, the stockbrokers, the meteorologists are right about as often as the fortune telling, horoscopic, crystal ball reading, palm readers. Somehow the fancy suits with their formulaic models and the scientists with their Doppler radar give us comfort with their technology and education while most of us take the words of the spiritual with a grain of salt. Yet what was the last lucrative stock tip you got? When was the last time you heard an accurate weather forecast? I read my horoscope every morning. It tends to hit the mark more often than the chance we are told of precipitation that day. So with one eye currently gazing at the spinning clouds coming my way, and the other eye reading my day's horoscope telling me I'm having an excellent day, and with one ear listening to the serious, glum doomsayers telling me to take cover in my closet, and the other ear trying to hear the score of the Twins game, I continue to type away.

Yes there is some boredom in waking up every morning at 5 a.m., using my morning coffee as a replacement for sleep, working my ten hour days and coming home to a microwaved meal. Seems to me in another age I used to be a tad less predictable, but the paychecks are steady, and the mood swings are less drastic. The old eccentricities haven't exactly disappeared, they have changed themselves into different forms. In a year where the externals are wild and drastic, the internals have balanced out and become a source of comfort. There may be another lesson to learn if the roof over my head flies off into the sunset, but for right now I guess the only thing I can think of is that reassurance only goes a little ways. Ultimately it is the self, the little voice inside the individual that must guide the way into the future, and try to make sense of what happened in the past. The radar may have more visible technology than the crystal ball, but in the end it's that stuff inside the person that must decide what the hell all this is about.