I’ll Fly Away…

Amp cart 095I lost a good friend this week. Not only me, but a good many local musicians, the Colorado music community, music educators in general, and the town of Denver, period. We all lost a friend, a buddy, a musical partner, part time peace keeper, referee, and all around musical good guy.

Rich McDaniel had, for many years, been the founder, mentor, leader, and driving force behind a seventeen piece “kicks” band named “Swing Incorporated”, or “Swing Inc.”if you like the shorter version better. The band’s primary purpose was to play selected charts from the big band era. Charts by wonderfully talented composers that not only suited the band’s capabilities, but were also dependent on whether we could make them swing or not. Many rehearsal nights saw the volume as well as the room temperature go up several degrees when we couldn’t, and sometimes even when we could! There was however, just like in any other volatile, stormy, domestic situation, plenty of rise and fall, and nothing ever stayed the same very long!

Rich was the victim of a disease called Multiple Sclerosis. Most of you know what it is without too much elaboration, but to watch it in action is enough to chill you to the bone.  It’s a cold, cruel, crippler that destroys muscle function and leaves you helpless with no way out but for the assistance of others. In this, Rich’s wife Linda has been a godsend. She has dedicated her life to the enrichment of his, and has been the driving force that made so many of the things he was able to accomplish, possible. Linda, thank you so very, very, much.

There are always plenty of stories to tell, and in this particular case there are probably enough stories to fill half a dozen blog pages. However, after a little consideration, I think the most important story to be told is just what a good, honest, straight ahead person this man was. No matter the time of day or day of the week, you always got the best (or worst) Rich McDaniel had to offer, and sometimes after an especially good, (or sometimes not so good) performance, we all got to see some of both! Rich was never embarrassed to tell us when we sounded great, nor was he afraid to tell us when we stunk the place up! He was an equal opportunity appraiser and I for one, now have a huge hole in my life to fill. That… is going to take a little time. We will all miss you Rich!va-hospitals-cartoon-zyglis-495x399

The other side of the musical coin is that I would be remiss if I forgot to thank all those wonderful people who faithfully contribute their hard earned money which allows me to play some healing music at the VA Hospital, North Suburban Hospital, and other local facilities where folks who may not have financial means, enjoy and benefit from music just as much as those who do!

Music is an equal opportunity helper and healer and it really doesn’t care whether you’re rich or poor, hearing it in a room at the local hospital or a box seat at Boettcher Concert Hall, it’s purpose is singular and direct, and that is, to make your day more enjoyable and for a few moments, a better place to be!

Every time I think of musics’ soothing qualities, I’m taken straight back to childhood and my father’s farm at milking time. The barn would be warm and cozy, there would be plenty of fresh hay in the mangers, the music would be playing, the milking machine would be humming along, my Dad would be whistling some fiddle tune and those cows couldn’t be happier! Years later, somewhere along the way, I ran across a dairy whose slogan was, “Milk from contented Cows,” and I couldn’t help thinking how much the guy (or girl) who came up with that one was really on to something! Without the music, that picture would have been incomplete! Music is the “not so silent” sales tool for shopping malls and business offices everywhere, making life a little more pleasant for all of us, and for that, we can all be thankful.

Please send your comments and critiques. I’ll be sure to read them all and use them if I can.

Thanks, and have a great week everybody.

Rod

 

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Music To Smooth The Rough Spots!

This week, for my volunteer shift at the  VA Hospital here in Denver, I asked if it might be possible to play in a different locaguitarmajiction from my usual area on the 4th floor. No sooner were the words out of my mouth than Jack Fletcher took me down to the main floor, in the main lobby area where the patients all take a seat and wait for service. It’s a fairly large area and on any given day it’s full of veterans with various medical needs that require attention. Sometimes the wait gets a little long and tempers get a little short, so in an effort to make people a little more comfortable while they wait for their names to be called, there’s a free coffee kiosk in the corner with coffee probably supplied by donations from one of the local VFW branches. Along with the coffee, ladies with hearts of pure gold have baked cookies and cupcakes and all kinds of other goodies which they hand out to the folks waiting for service to help make the monotony a little more bearable. This week, as an added bonus, they parked me right between the coffee and the cupcakes!

For all my friends out there who have had to put up with me crying the blues about how tough life can be on us poor musicians having to struggle along with just your instrument, a meager little bit of talent and not much else, you don’t know how good you’ve got it until a guy with an arm or a leg missing, rolls up beside you in a wheel chair, watches every move you make and then tells you how he used to be a musician until he went in the service and ended up getting half blown up in some lost, Godforsaken corner of our planet! Those kind of things break your heart and then you stop thinking about it long enough to thank God (or the great dice roller up in heaven) who made it possible for you to have all your fingers and toes and still be able to play a few tunes for this nice young guy in the wheel chair who you know would give anything if he could just trade places with you for a couple of minutes!

Also this week, in a different town and a different place, another white cop with a gun killed another black kid without a hell of a lot of reason for doing so or at least that’s the way it seems. Fifty nine years ago, in August 1955, we killed another young black teenager named Emmett Till.  When you stop to think about the spilled blood between then and now for reasons that still escape most people, you just sit and shake your head.

Maybe it’s because of the trade I’m in that so many of my so called “heroes” had a skin color different from mine. Those guys were the pioneers. People like Louis Armstrong, Count Basie, Charlie Christian, Chuck Berry, Wes Montgomery, even Ray Charles and James Brown plus many more who got to sleep in their cars many nights because no one would rent them a room in a good many cities. You wonder why they went through it all just to be able to ply their craft, and you sometimes wonder why they even stayed in this country at all! Many of these folks were the pioneers who put down their markers. Without their talent and the standards they set, the music we play and listen to today, would still have a long way to go!texasbordertaxi

One last thing, I think I have a home for all that extra hardware the police departments in a great many cities have that they don’t need. Since all the politicians are screaming about arming the border, why don’t we send all those personnel carriers, grenade launchers, riot gear, automatic weapons, tear gas, millions of rounds of ammunition and all that other left over military paraphernalia down on the Texas/Mexico border to protect us. You never know, those little five year old Mexican kids can be tricky!!

Please send your comments and critiques. I’ll be sure to read them all and use them if I can.

Have a great week everybody.

Thanks again,

Rod

 

Is Congress Even Necessary??

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In the past, those of you that I’ve known either in the work place or socially, have never accused me of not  having an opinion about things of a political nature. Plenty of you have run for the hills when I begin ranting and raving about the total waste of time and tax dollars created on a daily basis by the egomaniacs we call Congress, but you’ve all been nice enough to agree and nod your heads wisely until I run out of gas and cool down.

For months now, I’ve been on kind of a one man crusade to put congress either on a part time basis (since they’re usually on vacation anyway,) or a commission basis, or piecework, or some other kind of compensation plan that allows them to get paid for what they do, not for what they say they’re gonna do! I’m sure that all my trips to fantasy land haven’t been anything unusual or anything most of you haven’t already done on your own so let’s indulge ourselves a little and put our druthers to work to see what we can come up with….OK??112th-Congress

  • Let’s put Congress on the same pay scale as food service workers and see just how fast a $15 per hour across the board wage scale would get passed.
  • Let’s create an app. that allows folks (once registered) to vote via their cell phones. This way, once you’re in the system, voting is a simple push of a button and you’re done! You dial a number, enter your ID, and when it lets you in, that’s it! No more waiting in lines. No more voting stations. No more limited voting times or days, that’s over! What the hell? If we can check our bank balance, buy a DVD or make a date with someone we’ve never met, this should be a cinch! We’ve already got the voter’s information and it can be verified and cross checked just as easily as any methods we’re currently using. We could also get rid of all the voodoo redistricting BS that political parties currently use to stack the deck and suppress votes among minorities and give themselves an advantage in the voting districts.
  • Is it possible that since congress has gone on their well deserved FIVE week paid vacation, we could pass an immigration bill that would pass the smell test? I know that’s asking a lot but since this country was founded on immigrants, (not according to the Indians) why couldn’t people of ordinary intelligence and common sense come up with something that allows people from other countries to emigrate into the USA without making it look like an episode of the Beverly Hillbillies?
  • This week, in conversations I’ve had with friends and acquaintances, most of them were not aware that congress was on vacation. Even though there’s a situation that’s heating up in Iraq, the voters don’t seem to feel that the country was operating any differently with, or without congress and, as a matter of fact, most did not know who their congress person even was! The obvious conclusion is that the scale to which voters (taxpayers) have turned off to our governing bodies and couldn’t care less if they are in session or not, has reached a level that makes you wonder why it’s even necessary to have a congress at all!

Sometimes things outlive their shelf life. The way congress has performed recently, is it possible that they have reached their expiration date? In the past years we’ve seen blocked votes, government shutdowns and every form of excuse for non performance since “the dog ate my homework!” We are a nation that believes in efficiency and through engineering and technology, getting things right the first time. We’ve put men on the moon, we’re creating cures for diseases and yet, time and again, our governing bodies don’t seem to know how to tie their own shoes. It just might be time for a change. Who’s gonna tell them?

As usual, send me your comments and critiques. I’ll be sure to read them all and if I can use them, I certainly will.

Have a great week everybody.

Thanks again

Rod

 

 

 

 

 

Is Big Oil Fracking the New Tobacco??

10303772_10152421728353838_6309156073461181113_nA lot more years ago than I care to remember, the biggest event to happen on my family’s farm was the day we got our first TV and entered into a brand new world of make believe. Far off places and beautiful people now entered our living room every evening and brought with them all kinds of products with glamorous advertising. Among them were all the current brands of cigarettes and tobacco ads with their brainwashing jingles singing the virtues of tobacco.  “LSMFT” and, “Winston tastes good like a cigarette should!” and, “More Doctors smoke Camels than any other cigarette!” They almost had you believing that in order to be healthy, you had to smoke their product and plenty of us did! 

That was the game that got played back then. The government allowed it, the citizens bought it, and the tobacco companies loved it! We bought their story hook, line, and sinker and never did we imagine (or allow ourselves to,) that those same companies with their healthy slogans and cigbeautiful, flowery TV ads, were selling us a product that was potentially killing us….but they were!

Now, we’ve moved on to another generation and another product that’s being pushed at us almost as hard as any tobacco product ever was! Every day you turn on your TV set, you’re inundated with a menagerie of ads telling you about the virtues of horizontal well drilling (or “fracking” if you like the slang term better!) When the ads come on, they’re usually panoramic rural scenes of farms or ranches with Mom, Dad, the kids and the dog, driving herds of fat cattle through the lush green grass while a soothing voice (usually female) tells you about the virtues and safety of this new energy independence and how it’s going to do everything but milk the cows and raise the kids for us! (Kind of gives you that warm fuzzy feeling doesn’t it?)

Who’s supplying the money that’s paying for all this beautiful advertising? That would be the people who want you to buy their story right? Are they the same ones who gave us the Exxon Valdez, the BP oil spill in the gulf, the Yellowstone river spill in Montana and a host of other disasters too numerous to mention? By the way, are the same two brothers who are spending millions to make big oil sound like Mothers Milk involved? Want a fracking well in your back yard? The TV ads say yes but the president of Exxon says hell no!

I don’t know much about fracking but from what I’m reading, it takes plenty of water, a lot of sand, (and some other chemicals they don’t want us to know about) to frack a well. Since Colorado is known for having a moderately dry climate (not recently!) and since we’ve been undergoing a drought in the southwestern states for the last few years, water is becoming an important commodity for everyone including the fracking industry to think about.

I read an article written by a lady named Sharon Wilson for Earthworks. She called it “Fun with fracking social math,” and it had some interesting things to say about fracking a gas shale well which is something we might see quite a bit of here in Colorado. The example she used was the Barnett Shale in north Texas and here’s just a few things from her article.

  • Sand requirement to frack one well, 2500 tons
  • Water requirement to frack one well. Between 2.5 to 9 million gallons
  • Barnett gas shale has 15,000 wells
  • That’s a minimum of 94,110,000,000 gallons of water and 37,500,000 tons of sand to frack 15,000 Barnett shale wells

Now, I’m not against energy independence and I’m not anti progress, but aside from the monumental water and sand requirements for this industry in the middle of a drought (to say nothing about the earthquakes caused by forcing all this stuff into the ground,) we have other problems to look at such as transportation, storage et al. Right now we’re looking at railroads barely capable of hauling all the oil we’re producing, and we’re battling over a proposed pipeline that will pass right through the bread basket of our nation to transport crude from Canada, to the refineries in Houston, and sold offshore to other nations. Not one drop for our consumption!

Please don’t scream at me about all the jobs it will create. Those jobs are during construction, not for maintenance.

I’m not asking anyone to close their mind to this type of energy. Just think about it. Think about those ads, question the motives behind them. Remember, “When something sounds too good to be true, it usually is!”

Please send your critiques and comments. I’ll be sure to read them all and use them if I can.

Thanks and have a great week everybody.

Rod