Sunday, July 23, 2017

Roller Skating During It's Heyday

Ran into this article earlier, and thought it was a bit of fun to go back in time to when roller skating was far more hip thing, and when roller rinks were one of the coolest places that you could go to.

Indeed, as this article suggests, roller rinks had everything! It was a place to go rolling around in, skating, of course. But you almost always had some fun places to eat, music blaring (which is always a turn on for young people, of course), and you also often had some extras, such as a built in arcade. Remember when arcades themselves were a thing, before the home video game systems basically put them out of business? 

Well, in any case, this article was a bit of a throwback to a different time. Or, at least, it might help you to remember a different time, when it was still a bit easier to go out and have a good time, when there were more places for young people to go.

Roller rinks used to be all over the place, much like arcades and bowling alleys. All of these things seem to be going by the wayside these days, because the focus, again, has been so much on having these conveniences at home, that many people hardly go out at all anymore. Or, they go out to nightclubs that blast that really crappy techno music, which tends to grate on my nerves, personally, and which, speaking for myself, I can only take in very small doses. 

In any case, here is a link that allows you to reminisce about roller skating at it's height, if you are so inclined. Please take a look:

Roller Skating Was Crazy Awesome!, Uncategorized | July 12, 2017:

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Paul McCartney Handles Protests From the Westboro Baptist Church Brilliantly

If Paul McCartney did not show us all a way to deal with people who take themselves way too seriously, and who show absolutely no sense of humor at all, then I have no idea how best to deal with it at all.

We all know that this world has no shortage of extremists and lunatics in this world. Why, just earlier today, while driving, I saw someone in front of me driving a pickup, and sporting a "Extremely Rightwing" bumper sticker on.

Now, I know that extreme sports and extreme things in general seem to be having their moment in the sun of popularity in our culture lately, but it still amazes me that there are so many people like that, who take such obvious pride in their admittedly extreme political positions. It also seems to me that they are trying to make their presence felt, trying to make sure that everyone knows that they are there, almost as a form of intimidation. Which, of course, is what fascists tend to do. Because if there is anyone politically who champion taking things to an extreme, it would be fascists, of course. And these days, we have someone in the White House who was endorsed by outright fascists groups and organizations and sympathizers, and who himself is often accused of being a fascist - and not without some justification!

The Westboro Baptist Church take extremism to a whole new level, and often even put rightwing extremist nut jobs to shame. Hell, they go so far as to piss some rightwing extremists off with some of the things that they do, such as protesting at funerals for little girls shot during random mass shootings, or protesting at funerals of soldiers fighting faraway wars. 

Of course, the Westboro Baptist Church people protest everywhere, and almost everything, because the world does not fall in line with their extremist, literal interpretation of the Bible. They protest everywhere, far and wide, and that certainly includes certain aspects of popular culture that they feel are just signs of this society's decadence, including concert.

Even someone who most people would feel is quite tame by way of comparison to many of the artists out there, these people decide to target. After all, there are some bands and musical acts who truly do show far more extreme signs of decadence and outright disrespect for the Church (especially the Westboro Baptist Church) or the Bible in general. 

And so, there they were, protesting just before a Paul McCartney concert. Trying to make their presence felt, being visible and making sure that everyone heard their extremist, excessive views, and their disapproval of the lifestyles of  pretty much everyone who was attending the concert, despite the fact that they most likely knew almost no one personally who was going. Why should a little thing like a lack of knowledge in this regard stop them? It never stopped them before.

Anyway, Paul McCartney lightly made a joke of it, thanking the Westboro Baptist Church for their warm reception and welcome, which seems to me like him taking the high road, acknowledging their presence while expressing no anger or anything. Frankly, he showed far more class than any of them did in the process.

If you want to read a bit more about how he handled it specifically, then please click on the link below, which will take you to an article all about it. I recommend it, because indeed, the former Beatle handled himself quite well under the circumstances. 

 Paul McCartney posts meme mocking the Westboro Baptist Church following protests outside Kansas show  By Rhian Daly Jul 20, 2017

Friday, July 21, 2017

RIP, Chester Bennington

Man, this is getting ridiculous!

All of these talented musicians and artists are dying off, just like last year. This time, it is Chad Bennington, the former lead singer of Linkin Park, and he also filled in for the Stone Temple Pilots for a few years. 

According to reports, Bennington was found dead in his home in Palos Verdes Estates, in California, earlier today. Like Chris Cornell, he died by suicide, and like Cornell, he specifically died by hanging himself. 

Now, I cannot pretend to be as big of a fan of Bennington's work as I was with Cornell. Soundgarden was a main staple for me in the 1990's, and they were one of those very rare bands that came to mean more to me over the course of the years then they did early on. I also liked Cornell's work with Audioslave, and other musical projects that he had, plus all of his solo works.

The only stuff that I specifically knew from Bennington was with Linkin Park. I saw them once or twice, definitely at least once at one of the Ozzfests. They were huge at that time, and seemingly on the rise. They had a unique style that brought together the heavier sounds of metal and hard rock along with hip hop, and they did it quite well. Their first album, "Hybrid Theory," was a smashing success. There were some amazing songs on there that were easy to rock out to. I even liked their remix of that album, "Reanimation."

Yet, that album came when I really still mostly appreciate the hard rocking stuff. Years later, they came out "Minutes to Midnight," which featured some highly successful songs. It featured "What I've Done," a song that really spoke to me, taking a protesting activist perspective on all of the damage that our society is doing in the world. 

Some bands never seem to take a stand on any issues, while others take softball stances, remaining in that safe zone, where you can kind of tell that consideration of their profit is greater than the thought that went into whatever message they are trying to deliver. But somehow, Linkin Park, and perhaps especially Benningfield, seemed to have something more than that. The lyrics and the message seemed to be a bit more heartfelt and sincere, as well as intelligent and insightful.

Still, that was not the song from that album that wound up meaning the most to me. That would be "Shadow of the Day," which features some thought provoking lyrics on a more personal level. At the time, I was going through some things - depressing things - and that particular song just really spoke to me. Whenever I hear it come on, it instantly takes me back to that time period, and the somewhat intense feeling of loneliness (not in a good way) and even betrayal that I felt. That song was one of the very good things that I can remember from then, and almost became, for me, the soundtrack of that era of my life, particularly around either late 2007 and certainly well into 2008. 

Later, Bennington joined the Stone Temple Pilots while Scott Weiland.

It is with bitter irony that Bennington hung himself, as he was the Godfather of Chris Cornell's son. Chris Cornell, of course, also hung himself just months ago. 

I was very saddened to hear about Bennington's death today. May he rest in peace. And let us also wish the very best not just to his family, but also to the Cornell family, who once again have to endure a very bitter loss by suicide.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

⚜ ⚜ ⚜ Paul McCartney in Québec - July 20, 2008 ⚜ ⚜ ⚜

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Picture of one of the stickers of this concert that I got years ago. 

Yes, I know that I have mentioned this concert before, and it may seem strange that I'm bringing it up once again, seemingly out of nowhere.

But, you see, I recently went to my storage and found the copy of my DVD from this concert (it was broadcast locally in Québec) probably a few months after it took place. The thing is, I had never made copies of it, and until I did, I was hesitant to play it, not wanting to damage the disk, or anything.

So, I took it out of storage, and brought it back with me, and without delay, finally made copies, now that I had the real opportunity to do so.

Finally, a few days later, with a day off and alone at the apartment, I got my chance to watch it again. The entire concert in full, from beginning (in fact, a lot of it is talk - in French - before the concert) right to the end.

As I was watching it, a lot of it began to come back to me.

The memories of feeling suddenly excited to hear the first time when my father and brother both told me that Paul McCartney was going to visit the city of Québec for a free concert on the occasion of it's 400th anniversary. They wanted all of us to go together, but in the end, it was just my then wife and our son, still then a baby, who wound up going.

The excitement of arranging things with my work, particularly my then weekend job (the concert was on a Sunday, and going up there would require the entire weekend off, which for a chance to see Paul McCartney for such a huge and momentous occasion, I was only to happy to take off for), and beginning to really know that this was going to happen. Then, driving up, arriving in Canada, then arriving in the city of Québec, a second trip there in 2008, for the 400th anniversary, and sensing the excitement building in the city. The concert was the big thing that everyone seemed to be waiting for, and for me, that anticipation was perhaps the best part. Perhaps, but the concert, and the aftermath, were pretty sweet, too!!

Everything felt magical for that trip, and it was, again, the last time that I did anything like that with my then wife, and our beautiful then baby child. I still mention to him now how he was "there" for the big concert, although he fell asleep by the third or fourth song, and nothing from that point on could wake him up, not even the fireworks!

It happened seven years ago today, and I have just been thinking a bit about it. My son was not even three years old, and he was more curious than interested on that day with what was going on at the stage so far away. He listened, but did not get too much into it during the warm-up, which we were blessed to be able to watch. For the actual concert, he stayed awake for maybe three or four songs, then lay down in his chair, and went to sleep. Not even the fireworks woke him up. Nothing woke him up that night. He only awoke the next morning, when the festivities were by then done.

The concert was the huge event that captivated the entire province of Québec that weekend. Every station was talking about it, or playing Paul McCartney songs. After the concert, every station, it seemed, was playing some of the songs from the actual concert.

We had to get back home, and as we drove the next day, the radio from Québec City faded, yet those from Montréal were playing Paul McCartney stuff, as well. I stopped somewhere in Trois-Rivières, presumably to get some gas and pick up some newspapers, which I was collecting after the event. The cashier looked at me, and she asked if I had gone to the show. She looked amazed when I nodded yes, even though it was a free concert, and we were only one hour outside of the city. But not everyone can go, to be sure. That said, I still feel blessed to have gotten the chance to go, and to have capitalized.

Especially on that day, when Paul McCartney honored the city, and really the entire province, of Québec, on the occasion of the 400th anniversary. What a show he put on for us all, too!

And so today, I remember what took place on this day, nine years ago on the Plains of Abraham in Québec City. It was on these fields that numerous battles took place, including when the English defeated the French and essentially took over all of North America. Years later, Benedict Arnold and General Montgomery would invade Canada and come to the walls of Québec City, only to be repulsed. These fields of the Plains of Abraham are like the Central Park of that city, and it was fitting on many levels that an Englishman would come to the Plains, but this time be embraced and welcomed. He gave back generously, putting on an amazing show that I, for one, will not soon forget.

Je me souviens!

Fêtons Nos 400 Ans! - Ville de Québec

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

With Caitlyn Jenner Pondering Senate Run, We Have to Ask When This Political Circus Will End

This is the article that I ran into yesterday, which got me on the whole topic of the political circus that the United States seems to be completely taken by.

When I thought about it some more, however, perhaps it seemed more inevitable than anything else. After all, if there is one thing that this country has become, it is that it is completely obsessed with celebrity culture. Everything and everyone has to be famous, at least anything and anyone worth any consideration. That seems to be the underlying message, although it is rarely expressed outright, as that would seem harsh and excessively judgmental to most people's ears.

Still, some truths are nevertheless rarely if ever stated outright, and in America today, the obsession with celebrity culture and so-called reality television (which bares very little resemblance to the actual reality that most people live) has taken over. Perhaps a sign of the times, when I was working for the Guardian Liberty Voice, it was hard not to notice the unfortunate trend that articles of substance rarely received many views, while articles about celebrities - particularly the Kardashians - regularly received tons of views. Since our pay was related to how many views each article received, it was perhaps understandable that some of these writers would focus on celebrity culture. 

However, the problem is that the more you feed this particular beast, the more normalized this circus becomes. Case in point, we now have a reality television star who has been elected president, with absolutely no qualifications The only thing that he really had going for him was his fame and his fortune. 

Now, he has been president for half a year, and he is showing just how unqualified he is for the job. He claimed he would come up with a healthcare plan that would cover everyone, and would basically be satisfactory to everyone. Instead, he lent his name and support to three disastrous bills, each of which would have seen more than 20 million Americans lose their healthcare. The most recent one, which just died yesterday when two Republican senators announced that they would vote no (and McConnell and the Republicans had zero votes to lose) had 15 percent approval rating by Americans, although that was not stopping Trump and the GOP from trying to impose it on Americans. Now, Republicans want to pursue repealing Obamacare, and will try to replace it later. For that matter, Trump has humiliated himself and disgraced the nation with his poor conduct with other world leaders. The whole world was disgusted when he announced that he was withdrawing the United States from the Paris Accord, and he was so presumptuous, that he seemed to seriously believe that other nations would rework this already signed and binding agreement to make the exception for America. Almost immediately, numerous world leaders confirmed their own commitment to the Paris Accord, and clearly rejected any possibility of making an exception for Donald Trump or the United States. Numerous world leaders of allied nations also made clear that they no longer feel that they can rely on the United States.

Talk about poor leadership. That is the exact opposite of the strong leadership that many Trump supporters insisted he would bring to the office. 

Unfortunately, though, we live in a time when people believe whatever they want to believe. Facts do not seem to matter in this age of "alternative facts." And so, despite the overwhelming evidence that Trump is every bit as bad as his detractors predicted he would be, he nonetheless continues to be given a free pass by his supporters.

And since he is viewed as a success, it seems to be inspiring other celebrities without qualifications to run for high office, as well. Kid Rock appears to be getting ready to make a run for Congress, and now, so apparently is Caitlyn Jenner. 

Jenner is, of course, a Kardashian. And let us remember that the Kardashians have thrived on the basest, lowest common denominator kind of popular culture. Frankly, I am not even entirely sure what they are famous for, other than being sex objects. But they are "reality tv" stars, and in today's America, that apparently qualifies them to believe that they could and should pursue high political office. You know, because that has worked so well thus far.

To the extent that Americans collectively take a strong interest in politics at all, it almost always winds up being fluffy and no serious. Having these celebrities add themselves into the mix of what really is a rotating circus act is just par for the course. It is certainly a symptom of the dumbing down of America, and it's continuation is contributing to this process continuing and gaining momentum.

Right now, it is not a stretch to believe that we have the dumbest leader in the world, and certainly the most narcissistic and out of touch with his own people. That very well may have been the case when George W. Bush occupied the White House, as well. This is a trend that we need to end, because it has contributed to the deterioration of both our reputation and our ever declining standard of living, which used to be the envy of the world.

Enough is enough already. Let us please put the clown show behind us already!

Caitlyn Jenner considers running for Senate By Mark Moore July 16, 2017

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Today is International Mandela Day

“During my lifetime I have dedicated myself to this struggle of the African people. I have fought against white domination, and I have fought against black domination. I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve. But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.”

~ Nelson Mandela

Yes indeed, today is International Mandela Day.

It is quite cliché for me to say this, but this, to me, recalls a time when the world seemed a more innocent, hopeful place. Even when you saw evil in the world, people seemed to believe that there should be some justification for that. Case in point, apartheid in South Africa. It was an officially racist system, and the leaders of the National Party (the predominately Afrikaner party) made every effort to legitimize the system on an intellectual basis.

They were reprehensible, to be sure. Yet, as Mandela suggested in his autobiography, at least you knew what you were dealing with, and who believed in what. These days, we have invisible multinational corporations hording and hiding wealth, and trying to exert influence in the world's affairs. 

Still, fighting against apartheid took some doing. It was the law of the land, and protesting that meant severe repercussions. Mandela was obviously imprisoned for a very long time - 27 years. He could not really see his family grow up, and he probably lost the best years of his life during that time.

Yet, he stuck to his guns, so to speak. He felt that apartheid was wrong and unsustainable, and he endured many years of hardship, most famously on Robben Island off the coast of Cape Town, while outside of the prison gates, his legend grew. He symbolized the hopes for a new South Africa, the potential for the "rainbow nation" that, in fact, did eventually emerge.

Mandela was released from imprisonment early in 1990. From there, he led negotiations to end apartheid and establish a multiracial democracy in South Africa with FW DeKlerk. I actually went to the United Nations in New York City to see him in 1991, and saw his entourage (and him in a car, but mostly just his shape) as well as Winnie Mandela and other personalities, including Mike Tyson and Don King. I still have fond memories of that day.

Ultimately, Mandela's ANC won the 1994 election, the first multiracial election in South African history, and the rule of the white minority government finally ended in South Africa.

In his inaugural speech, Mandela mentioned that no longer would South Africa be the skunk of the world. Funny, because part of what makes this world today so murky and uncertain in my eyes is that I feel that in many ways, the United States has replaced South Africa as the skunk of the world, particularly since the election of Donald Trump to the White House. It is a sad truth, but one that I feel is largely true. Among developed nations, the United States seems to be the basket case, as it remains the only developed nation that fails to provide it's citizens affordable, universal healthcare (South Africa was the only other developed nation that did not have it during the apartheid years, although they quickly established such a healthcare system once apartheid ended), it has the most prisoners by far in the world because of the for profit prison system, and it is the only nation in the world that denies the science of climate change.

All of that is just a reminder that the struggle to create a better world remains, and that nothing is easy or to be taken for granted. In that struggle, we look to figures in our past, who inspired with the power of their words and thoughts and actions. In that regard, few figures in history were quite as towering as Nelson Mandela.

Guide: what you can do on Mandela Day, 17 July, 2017:

1000's to walk in Cape Town on Mandela Day by James de Villiers, News24, 2017-07-18:

Kenya celebrates International Mandela Day by Sarah Kimani, 18 July 2017:

This Political Circus Needs to End Now!

Recently, I ran into a news article with a title that, I felt, pretty much aptly sums up the situation in the United States today.

It is from the Miami Herald, and the title is this: "Who cares what's wrong with Donald Trump? What's wrong with us?"

Yes, this spoke to me, because too many people focus exclusively on the cult of personality, for better or for worse. Many Americans seem to think that their one and only duty is to go out and vote, and then allow whoever you voted for to do their job once in office, assuming that they take office. If they do not win office, then many Americans seem to slap bumper stickers to the effect of suggesting not to blame them, because they voted for the other guy.

This is something that I have never personally understood. Frankly, voting seems to me to be the bare minimum that a citizen can partake in to try and do their patriotic duty in an effort to make the country better. The fact that almost half of the country's voting population could not even be bothered to do that much last year is telling.

Eight years ago, many people seemed to think that voting for Barack Obama was a major positive, a huge victory for the country. Yet, he did not keep all of his promises, or even many of his promises, and many of the things that were most alarming about President Obama was what he did not change. He did not shut down Gitmo, he did not completely end either the war in Iraq or Afghanistan and, in fact, he got the country involved in other conflicts, such as Libya and Syria. He kept many of Bush's taxes that benefited the very wealthiest, and Obama certainly did not go after Wall Street criminals who almost ruined the economy and plunged the country into the "Great Recession" back in 2008. Indeed, Obama was not the progressive that many seemed to believe him to be back in 2008, but most Americans did not seem to pay attention to this, effectively giving him a pass, and admiring his speeches or his style or his family, and not putting his feet to the fire in terms of policies that were detrimental to the country.

This has been the trend now for decades, with politicians both to the left and to the right obtaining high office, and then reneging on their promises, yet people giving them a free pass. Case in point, just last night, I received an "urgent" email request by someone who passed on a message by New Jersey's own Cory Booker, who stood opposed to the proposed "repeal and replace" healthcare bill that Republicans are trying to cram down America's throats, despite it being massively unpopular, and despite many experts suggesting that this healthcare bill would essentially lead to tens of millions losing their health insurance within a few years.

Trump is not what many of his supporters think he is. They think that he can relate to their plight, that he has sympathy. They think that Trump really cares about their plight, and has the answers and the know how to implement successful solutions to those strategies.

The truth is that Donald Trump has never really cared about anyone but himself. He clearly thinks incredibly highly of himself, to the point that he is his own favorite topic of conversation. Has there ever, in the history of the world, been anyone more in love with themselves than Donald Trump?

Yet, to show just how screwed up our political climate is, instead of getting some kind of a wake up call during his presidential campaign, which revealed staggering levels of ignorance and arrogance (talk about someone with a false sense of entitlement!), we, as a country, opted to elect this man to the highest office, to represent us.

He is so transparent about being a con artist, yet in this nation, where get rich quick schemes essentially still dominate many bookshelves, and where there is still no shortage of scam artists trying to fleece people who want and are encouraged to believe in virtually impossible dreams, perhaps it is fitting that this man should be our president.

And it does not even end at Donald Trump! He has no business in the White House, yet apparently, he has inspired other clown acts to run for office. This includes Kid Rock, which my brother informed me of, and now, it includes Caitlyn Jenner.

What a ridiculous farce our political situation is right now! Kid Rock and Caitlyn Jenner are running for Congress. Because, you know, they are so insightful, and live the kinds of lives that we can all relate to, right? The Trumps are bad enough, let's not get so absurd that we start to give people like Kid Rock and the Kardashians some belief that they could and should jump into the political arena themselves.

These people are famous, although in each case, from Donald Trump to Bruce/Caitlyn Jenner to Kid Rock, they have all made public asses of themselves, repeatedly. They are also each showing an unbelievable sense of entitlement, for that matter. We already made the horrendous mistake as a nation to officially elect Donald Trump as President. He clearly is unfit for office, so he needs to be voted out of office, although my suspicion is that despite all of the staggering levels of nonsense, he could and very well may win another term in 2020. And despite clearly being unqualified, Kid Rock and Caitlyn Jenner might have a serious shot at winning Senate seats.

Indeed, politics in this country has been viewed as not really serious by many people around the world. I still remember when Johnny Depp suggested that American politics was like a dumb puppy. You can play with it, but ultimately, it is hard to take any of this too seriously.

For decades now, the country has been reaching new lows. George W. Bush was quite ridiculous, yet President Trump makes him look positively like an enlightened and dignified statesman by way of comparison. Somewhere along the line, we went from brilliant and inspiring leaders like Washington, Adams, Jefferson, Madison, Lincoln, the Roosevelts, Eisenhower, and Kennedy, to staggering levels of mediocrity. Frankly, I am not sure that Trump even qualifies as mediocre, because there are no words that describe him better than awful, a failure, a complete inept, a manchild, and yes, a clown.

Let us finally nip this nonsense in the bud, and get rid of these clown acts who think that being famous truly serves as qualification to run for and hold political office. We can do better than all of this pathetic nonsense.

Frankly, we could hardly do worse than what we are doing.

Who cares what’s wrong with Donald Trump? What’s wrong with us? BY LEONARD PITTS, JR., July 14, 2017: