Sunday, November 30, 2008

The Light That Came Into the World

Today is the first Sunday of Advent, that period where Christians the world over begin building up their enthusiasm towards the celebration of Jesus' birthday at Christmas. It also marks the beginning of an official new year in the western Christian Church.

The name derives from the Latin word 'adventus', which means 'coming', and so during Advent we are anticipating the coming of the Lord. During Advent the Catholic Church expects that we will prepare ourselves "worthily" for Christ's coming by making our souls "fitting abodes for our Redeemer coming in Holy Communion and through grace".

 It is a period of preparation for all Christians. We are to take this time to prepare our bodies and souls for Christ's arrival.

For Catholics, this is an outstanding time to get back to the Sacrament of Penance. We should all set time aside to find out when our particular Church will be holding Penance services, and take the opportunity to cleanse ourselves of the sins that keep us from a fuller relationship with the Lord.

In some cases these sins and our inability or unwillingness to confront them are keeping us from the Church itself. Advent is the most appropriate time to set aside our egos and recognize that we are part of something bigger in the Church community.

The period of Advent last for approximately four weeks, and one of the traditions in the Catholic Church to mark the progression through this period is the Advent wreath.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Decking the Halls

It's that time of year again. Time to transform the Veasey Ranch from the fall decor to the Christmas decorations. This is not an easy transformation, and it is most definitely not a one day project.

First step is the putting away of the fall stuff. Various candles, artificial flowers, window displays, yard displays, nick-knacks, and more need to be gathered up, packed up, and put away.

Next comes the cleanup. A little dusting, wiping, window cleaning and, worst of all, gutter cleaning. Yuck. I have not moved into the 21st century as yet. The Veasey Ranch has not advanced to those 'protected' or 'covered' type gutters. Ours are still exposed, and we are surrounded on all sides by massive trees that dump innumerable leaves onto the yard and into the gutters.

Step one in this particular project is to get the right weather day. I will not do this on a wet, rainy day or on a day that is too cold. I am either a wimp, or a procrastinator looking for an excuse, or both. Unfortunately, today is a nearly perfect weather day, so step one is complete.

Second step involved walking across the street and borrowing my neighbor Nick Zecca's huge ladder. He has one of those enormous extension things that is a bear to maneuver, but that enables me to safely reach the gutters at their highest points. So I trek across and bum the ladder.

And now the fun part, alighting the ladder and getting my hands dirty, pulling all those leaves and muck out of the gutters. It takes about ten moves of the ladder all around the house, and so twice that many trips up and down, over a period of about an hour or so.

Once the gutters are cleaned out, there comes the blowing of the leaves. The old leaf blower comes out, the leaves get blown into manageable piles, and then the concrete walks and patio get a little hosing down for their own cleanup.

Finally, fall has been shoved aside and tucked away, and the actual putting up of the Christmas decorations can begin in earnest. We have our traditional display of bright white 'icicle' lights that string across the top of the front of the house.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Indecent Exposure

You are never going to hear me advocate forced censorship or book burning. I never have, never will.

I leave true censorship to the ultra-liberals who want to support things like the deceptively named and unfair "Fairness Doctrine", a blatant attempt by liberal ideologues to shut down or drastically reduce conservative talk radio.

True conservatives would never go down that road. We believe in a free exchange of ideas, as long as it is done with responsibility. Liberals just want to shut up the opposition.

The debate on the radio issue will be covered here another day. Today it just sets the stage for discussing what is appropriate for our kids to see, and where, when, and how they should be exposed to certain language, images, and ideas.

I truly believe that each of these decisions not only should be made within the sanctity of each home, but also surrender to the fact that this will be the case no matter what type of restrictive legislation anyone attempts to place on media.

If you are a practicing Christian who home schools their child, there are certain things that you are going to teach that child, and certain things that you are going to severely restrict.

Just the same, if you are an ethnic or racial minority, there is TV programming and music that you are going to expose your child to that teaches them an appreciation of their culture. Sometimes that will be to the neglect of teaching them responsibility to and affection for their wider American culture.

If you are an Aryan white supremacist, you are going to expose your kids to other ideas, and not only restrict them from multi-cultural experiences, but teach that these are somehow inherently evil.

As parents, we hold a great deal of sway over our children's education, no matter what they see and learn at school.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving

With everything going on in the world that makes life difficult for us, there remain so many gifts from God for which I am personally thankful on this Thanksgiving Day when we set specific time aside for such reflections.

I am thankful first of all for God Himself and the relationship that He has inspired in me with my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, and for the blessings of inspiration bestowed on me by the continuous presence of the Holy Spirit.

I am thankful for a tremendously loving, forgiving, understanding, and growing family:

My wonderful wife who provides me love and caring every day and night as the best partner and friend that I could ever want. My daughters who provide me with affection, challenges, and inspiration as they continue to grow and mature in their own lives. My grandchildren who provide me with pure joy, encouragement, and hope for the future.

My dad and brother and their families who provide me with that long term familial base, that loving bond that stretches across time and distance. My further extended family, my wife's family, my co-workers and friends who make life full and its experiences deep, and provide me with perspective.

I am thankful this year for the Philadelphia Phillies and the gift of their World Series title that was so utterly thrilling and enjoyable.

I am thankful for our brave police officers and firefighters who help protect and secure our families and neighborhoods and nation every day. I am thankful for the American troops and all those who fight for freedom around the world in any way that they do so, be it physically or spiritually or ideologically.

For all these people and the relationships that they provide, for all the gifts that the Lord has given me, including the gift of being able to express myself at this website and in other forums, I am forever thankful.

Thank you God, and thank you all. May He bless you all today on Thanksgiving Day and throughout the holy Christmas season.

Islamism Series: Mumbai

Radical Islam has once again reared its ugly head, this time in Mumbai, formerly known as Bombay, the financial and entertainment capital of the largest Democracy on the face of the earth in India.

This attack marks yet another major strike by Islamic forces against the free world in their efforts to spread the rule of Islam around the globe - which is their ultimate goal.

Their aim in attacks such as this is not only to kill, injure, and generally terrorize those in the free world, but it is much larger.

Their aim in Mumbai was the same as in New York, in Madrid, in London, in Paris. It is nothing less than creating enough fear and damage, both physical and psychological, to effect political and societal changes in those nations that will make it easier and easier over time to effectuate the ultimate control of these nations by Islam.

Their ultimate goal is to unite the world in a new Caliphate, the rule by Muslims of every nation under Islamic Sharia law.

They will play governments such as those in Pakistan and India, Russia and the United States, China and Tibet off against one another anywhere that they can to use existing differences to undermine these governments.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Turkey Tails

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving Day here in America, and at some point in the morning my wife Debbie will awake and unpack our turkey for the traditional dinner.

At some time tomorrow afternoon she is scheduled to slide the nice 17-pound Butterball out of our oven. I'll move into position with the electric carving knife, and peel off nice slices and pieces of white meat. Then I'll flip that bad boy over and go after the dark meat on the bottom.

We will then put the turkey out on our table with some veggies and fixings that will most definitely include mashed potatoes, stuffing, corn, spinach, rolls, and gravy. Then we will join my daughter Kelly and her boyfriend Jay in digging in to the annual feast.

Ours will be a relatively small dinner, but there will be many around our town, region, and nation that will be much larger. Families will gather from far and near, taking days off from work, returning from school, going back home for the holiday.

At the vast majority of these dinner tables, the turkey will be the featured attraction. But why? Where did this all start? Why turkey and not roast beef, or pork chops, or spaghetti (no, my South Philly Italian friends, your pasta course does not count.)

Turkey is the main dish at Thanksgiving, what we all look forward to so much on this particular day that we don't have this dinner much, if at all, at other times during the year.

The turkey was a wild bird original to North America, native to the eastern United States and northern Mexico.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Giving Thanks Every Day

There are many Catholic and other Christian families all around the world who begin each of their meals with the practice of saying 'grace'.

Used in this context of a prayer said before a meal, grace literally means 'thanksgiving'. You are supposed to be thanking God for the gift of His bounty supplying the most basic of human physical needs.

Many people believe that this prayer is obligatory, not optional, and that it should be said not only before the meal, but also after the meal.

Christ gave us a tremendous example as he broke bread with His disciples at the Last Supper, and many other times throughout his ministry.

In early monasticism, each dish would be brought out separately, and prayer would be said prior to each of these dish courses.

Throughout the history of the Church, saying 'grace' or some prayer before each meal has been a traditional staple of the faithful, and teaching your children the proper way to say grace was a key educational effort for families.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Monday Morning Quarterback

There is so much going on right now that one entry here needs to be devoted to a number of topics.

So I'm driving home after dropping my daughter off at her boyfriend's home this past Friday evening and one of her neighbors has their house decorated for Christmas.

I mean, that would make it November 21st, just one day after my birthday. A week before Thanksgiving Day. It's just too soon.

When I was a kid, nothing 'Christmas' happened until after we had gobbled down the turkey and stuffing in late November. The day after, in fact. That became known as 'Black Friday', almost a national holiday itself, when all the Christmas shopping would begin. Now a great holiday unto itself is being shoved aside more and more.

Moving on to the Eagles...do I really have to? After my hopeful entry just 48 hours ago, the 'Playoff Express' ran completely off the rails in yesterday's second half in Baltimore.

A promising beginning rapidly deteriorated for Donovan McNabb, and he was yanked at halftime of a 10-7 game that was a must-win for this franchise to have any hopes of a 2008 playoff appearance. Frankly, he was awful, but he has been awful early in games before and rallied himself and the team.

This was a close game against a top defense on the road. And this is where Andy Reid chose to make the switch to Kevin Kolb? Kolb was at least as bad as McNabb, the game spiraled out of control, the Birds lost 36-7 while all their playoff competitors won, and the 2008 season officially ended. It's time to let the Kolb Era fully begin, with more roster changes to come quickly.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

TV Watch: Crossing the Goal

EWTN, the 'Eternal Word Television Network', is the American television network which broadcasts Catholic-themed television programming.

The network has come under some attacks and criticisms since Mother Angelica, the pithy nun who founded the network in 1981 and grew it into the most recognizable world wide media voice of the Catholic Church, left the network in 2000 due to health concerns.

These attacks have generally been from that ultra-conservative wing of the Church that sees Vatican II as a form of blasphemy and its modernization as a bastardization of the faith.

The facts are, of course, far from what these radicals would have you believe. God inspired not only the early Church leaders in the time of Christ, but also many holy men and women prior to His arrival here on earth, and many more since He died for our sins, rose from the grave, and moved on to His kingdom in Heaven.

The very modern EWTN mixes rebroadcasts of traditional Catholic elements, such as a taped version of Mother Angelica herself leading a saying of the rosary, with more modern stylized programming. The goal of course is to not only grow the Church, but reinforce its teachings and its principles to today's Catholic community.

One particularly insightful and well done show that highlights this combination of modernity with tradition is the Friday night "Crossing the Goal". The show uses a sports talk show inspired styling and theme to direct spiritual teaching particularly towards today's men.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Donovan and Eagles at a Crossroads

Despite what the gloom and doom crowd at 610 WIP AM Sports Talk radio would tell you, the Philadelphia Eagles football team does not stink. Their coach does not need to be fired. Their quarterback is not washed up.

Eagles fans have become spoiled by the Andy Reid era. That is a fact. They must have forgotten the Ray Rhodes era that preceded it, when the team went 29-34-1 over a four year period. Or perhaps the Rich Kotite era before that, when the team went 36-28 over four years but only made the playoffs once.

Maybe they loved those brash Buddy Ryan years before that, every one a winning regular season. Of course there was that little matter of zero playoff wins. None. Marion Campbell, the 'Swamp Fox', and his 17-29-1 over three years and no playoffs? Forget those.

Fact is that since the end of Dick Vermeil's final full season in 1981 and the start of the Reid Era, the Eagles floundered, sputtered, and crashed after brief periods of soaring.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Time for Christmas Shopping

Okay, the zaniness of 'Black Friday' is still a week away, but now is the time to really start your Christmas shopping. By next weekend, and for each of the final four weekends afterwards before the actual holiday, the rush at your local mall is going to only get worse and worse.

Oh yeah, I know, there is some 'financial crisis' or whatever the doomsayers are trying to sell you on today. So there won't be any Christmas shopping this year, right? Probably will be short lines and plenty of stock on the shelves at the stores, right? You can put it off until later this year, right?

Wrong! You and I both know that you are going to be out there buying gifts for your kids and grandkids, your siblings, your parents (right girls?) as well as other close family members and friends.

So let me give you a hint. Get out there this weekend! Things began to pick up last weekend at the malls and stores. They are going to get worse next weekend and every one after that through December.

This is the time to take advantage. Get out there, beat the real mad rush. Grab exactly what you want without fighting too much of a crowd. Oh, it will be crowded. But this rush is nothing compared to what is going to be happening for the following five weekends.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

47

Happy Birthday to me! Well, to me and everyone else celebrating today. I share this birthday with baseball's J.D. Drew, football's Mark Gastineau and Joey Galloway, comedians Richard Dawson and Dick Smothers, musician Joe Walsh, and a trio of gorgeous actresses: Bo Derek, Sean Young and Veronica Hamel. This was also Bobby Kennedy's birthday. I woke up a little over an hour ago after a pretty good night sleeping, and my 47th birthday started out about as good as I could ever hope. My wife Debbie Veasey was already awake and nearly ready to leave for work, but before she left she greeted me with a big smile, a hug and kiss, and a sincere "Happy birthday, honey!" And she had a birthday card for me too. One of those with a real nice message and signed off with her love. It really doesn't get any better than that. Now here I sit alone at my dining room table just like many other mornings. A fresh, hot cup of Wawa coffee beside me, loaded up with their irish cream, which I understand that they are discontinuing. Wawa is one of life's pleasures, the local chain store for food, cigarettes, newspapers, and other essentials of American daily living. Here at the Veasey Ranch, we buy bags of their coffee so that we enjoy the brew not just on the run, but right here at home. The irish coffee creamer product that Wawa produces at their dairy is my personal favorite add-in. It's creamy and tasty, and along with a couple of packets of Equal, helps make the perfect pick-me-up beverage in my world. I hope the rumors turn out false about the irish cream. Don't you just hate it when some store discontinues some product that you have enjoyed for a long time? So it is with me and birthday cakes. As a boy growing up in South Philly, my local corner bakery shop was a little place called Hier's Bakery at 3rd & Wolf Streets. You could live and die right there at that intersection, which was just around the corner from our little house at 2321 S. American Street. The four corners at the intersection of south 3rd Street and Wolf Street featured Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church on the southeast, the Murphy-Ruffenach funeral home on the northeast, a doctor's office on the northwest, and Hier's on the southwest. Those institutions are still on those same corners today, though the actual doctor practice has changed, the funeral home gone through a merger, and the bakery ownership has also changed a number of times. When it was Hier's back in those 'Wonder Years' days for me of the late 1960's and early 1970's, they always featured a cake that became my birthday cake every year. The cake was layered with a chocolate layer on top of a yellow cake layer. Running between the two cakes was a delicious, thin strip of white cream. Surrounding the whole creation was the most incredible, full, sweet, dark-colored chocolate icing. And then at the top was another layer of that same white icing that ran through the middle. I would always take a slice and eat the yellow layer first, making sure that my fork took the thin vanilla icing layer with it. This was only the opening act though. Then I would move on to the upper chocolatey world. There was something about the interplay between this particular chocolate cake, chocolate edge icing, and white top icing that exploded in your mouth. I can taste it still this morning, even though I have not had a piece of that cake in about 25 years. At some point during the 1980's, whomever owned the old Hier's business sold out. I did go in a couple of times and inquired about the cake, but the new owners didn't seem to know what I was talking about. I never saw my birthday cake again. My guess is that the recipe is likely laying around somewhere, maybe in some drawer at the home of a former bakery owner. Maybe the recipe has been passed along, and the cake is being made today in some bakery out there that I have no idea even exists. It is one of those little things in life that was a regular feature of my childhood that is now gone. It is something that was here, is gone seemingly forever, and that I do miss. To find it again one day would be a miracle akin to a Christian explorer locating the Holy Grail itself. Well, okay maybe that's a bit of a stretch, but you get the idea. I hope that little slice of heaven from my childhood is not repeating itself here in my middle-aged adult life with the Wawa irish cream. But one thing that I have learned over these 47 years that I celebrate the anniversary of today is that things change. But as to those things large and small that we have come to welcome and enjoy in our lives, the little things that make life just a wee bit more enjoyable, they will stay with us forever, at least in our memories. I thank God for that childhood birthday cake. I thank God for Wawa irish cream. I thank God for the woman that I woke up to this morning. And I thank God for these past 47 years. Happy birthday to me!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

How Old is Too Old?

Is it even a fair question to ask? Fact is that as we age, our bodies break down. Things that we did when we were in our 20's and 30's become much more difficult in our 40's and 50's, and in most cases they become downright impossible when we hit our 60's and older.

Of course there are exceptions to every rule. Some people are, or at least are very close to being, as healthy, attractive, and fit well into upper-middle age as they were in those younger days. They eat right, exercise regularly, and otherwise take care of their bodies. An even smaller group simply has a genetic 'gift' if you will that keeps them looking youthful longer than the rest of us.

Many people can stretch out their youthfulness by simply refusing to 'act their ages', maintaining a fun-loving, positive, youthful attitude that exudes energy. Call it 'mind over matter' if you will. You know, you're getting older, but if you don't mind it don't matter.

However, the fact has also been that there are some professions that embrace and even require youth. Take female news anchors for instance. Anyone who follows local news broadcasts over a period of time has seen a parade of young beauties take over for one another over the years, and Philly is no exception. From Jessica Savitch in the 70's through to Alycia Lane in the 21st century, local news has seen it's own parade of gorgeous women in anchor chairs.

The issue of 'how old is too old?' for the ladies is playing itself out in a couple of high-profile instances right now. Up in Canada, 44-year old Kimberly Ouwroulis (pictured) and 45-year old Barbara Sanderson are suing their employer, New Locomotion, for firing them in what they describe as an act of age discrimination.

Kim and Barbie, you see, are exotic dancers.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Goodbye, Tim Simpson

I didn't find out until about five minutes ago. Last night, I went to bed at around 11pm, so I missed the news at that time. Just waking up this morning, I poured myself the first cup of coffee of the day, and fired up the computer. Then a local news anchor said those words on TV:

"Our top story, the Philadelphia Police Department is again in mourning this morning..."

My head whipped around to the TV screen. Sergeant Tim Simpson of the 24th district was dead, killed in a horrific car crash at approximately 10:45pm last night. He was killed at Aramingo & Allegheny while responding to a robbery call, possibly by a drunk driver who was speeding.

This is the second officer killed in an auto accident in the last few months, with Izzy Nazario killed back in the late summer. It is the fourth Philly cop killed this calendar year, the fifth in the last year, the sixth on-duty in two and a half years stretching back to Gary Skerski's murder in spring of 2006.

With Walter Barclay's death from wounds that he received decades ago in a shooting, it marks the seventh Philly cop to die of an on-duty incident in that time period.

My stomach flips again, and I say a prayer for the officer, his family and friends, his co-workers, and all police officers. It's beyond ridiculous now. We got almost, almost, a two month break this time. We deserve years without such tragedy at this point.

Monday, November 17, 2008

JaJa Beats the Merion Girls

This 'equality' thing has simply gone too far. Let's face reality: men and women, boys and girls, are different than one another. Sure, we are all human beings. But one is male, and one is female. We were created differently by God, and sexual organs were not the only difference. Men are generally bigger, faster, stronger than women. Not always, of course, but in general and in the vast majority of instances.

In school athletics there have always been boys sports and girls sports, and athlets should stay playing within their sexes. Could you imagine allowing, for instance, Koby Bryant to play on Lower Merion's girls basketball team when he was a student at the school? Simply stated, Lower Merion would be unbeatable. Also, Bryant would be taking a roster spot from some girl who would have made the team were it not for his becoming a ridiculous interloper.

A similar bastardization of 'Title IX' played out this past Saturday in Whitehall, Pennsylvania as Wyoming Seminary defeated Merion Mercy in the PIAA Class AA field hockey championship by a 3-2 score. A junior at WS, JaJa Kentwell, scored two goals to provide the margin of victory. Kentwell had missed WS' semi-final victory while away in Germany, playing for the U.S. indoor team, but made sure to come back for this state title match.

Kentwell was playing for the U.S. Men's indoor team, that is. Kentwell is a boy playing with the Wyoming Seminary girls team.

After WS won the game, Kentwell, the only boy on the field, was asked how he felt. "It's hard to describe", he said. Let me describe it for you then, JaJa. You just beat a girls team. Congratulations, pal. Hope that you're proud, big guy.

This is not meant to be a knock against women athletes in any way, especially Merion Mercy's team in particular. The fact is, Merion Mercy was the best girl's field hockey team on the field. Unfortunately, the other team was co-ed and used not only a boy, but a world-class boy who plays for his country. WS should be ashamed, but they probably aren't. There is, of course, a rule that allows for such things. That rule is a joke.

Merion Mercy should be congratulated for putting up such a good fight and making the final result close. Their girls outscored the WS girls by 2-1. But WS ultimately won the championship, thanks to their world-class boy player. Congratulations, Wyoming Seminary. Don't forget to thank the boy who just won your 'girls' (sic) championship.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Goodbye Again to 'Ordinary Time'

The Church has divided her year into periods of time, and the most common of those is about to call it quits once again. 'Ordinary Time' occurs in 33-34 weeks each year, and will make its final appearance next Sunday, November 23rd.

Ordinary Time occurs just after Christmas season, and then again just after Easter. It covers a large period at the end of winter, through the entirety of spring and summer, and into mid-fall. It is the entirety of the year outside of Advent, Christmas, Lent, and Easter.

The name of Ordinary Time does not denote that there is something less special, or in other words the common meaning that we give to the word 'ordinary'. Instead it draws its name from the word 'ordinal', which means 'numbered', because the Sundays that make up Ordinary Time are indeed numbered.

During this time all the days, but especially the Sundays, are devoted to the mystery of Jesus Christ in every aspect of His existence. The first Ordinary period of a calendar year begins after Mass is said on the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord, which falls the Sunday after the Epiphany. Thus the Mass on that day is said to be in Christmastide, but the Evening Prayers would fall in Ordinary Time.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Bring Back Pat the Bat

I just wanted to take a brief moment to interject my baseball and Phillies-loving opinion into the Pat Burrell issue. There are two things that I feel are most important here. First, the 30 homeruns and 100 rbi that he provides every year do not grow on trees. Sure, the guy is a speed liability. But with Shane Victorino and his Gold Glove covering centerfield, Burrell does not need to cover a lot of ground out there. He has a sure glove most times, and he has a strong arm. The guy is a power hitting left fielder who can handle the fielding position just fine. Secondly, he is the senior Philly starting position player, and the longest-tenured player overall, but is not an old man. He is a leader in the clubhouse, and this team has one of the best chemistry mixes that I have seen in a long time. His value stretches beyond those on-field statistics all the way back into the locker room, where championships are often won and lost over the course of a long season when diverse individuals have to live and die with one another every single day. Personally, I think that the Philadelphia Phillies would be foolish to not bring back Pat Burrell, assuming that the price does not get ridiculous. What that 'ridiculous' would be is tough to say, but his return would be in the best interests of this team on a baseball level.

Rock & Roll Heaven, or Gone to Hell?

This past week I've brought you a series of mini-bios on rock stars who died young: 60's & 70's hippie icons Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, and Jim Morrison; 80's MTV generation star Michael Hutchence; 90's grunge-rock star Kurt Cobain.

Each of these young people died at those youthful stages of their lives thanks to conditions largely brought on by themselves: illicit drug use, excessive alcohol abuse, sexual promiscuity.

In general, they were killed by their full immersion into the 'sex, drugs, and rock-n-roll' lifestyle.

There really is not a lot of redeeming value, but there are plenty of valuable lessons to be learned. They all seemed to have some similarities in background including unusual or unstable family situations as youngsters.

Most were the loner, artistic types whose outwardly extroverted lifestyles belied a depressed introverted reality only made worse by their substance abuse. They simply couldn't manage to face life squarely.

Many didn't become parents themselves, never found the joy that raising a child and caring for something deeply outside your own self brings. They never grew up. And they often left a trail of death and destruction in their wakes.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Rock & Roll Heaven: Jim Morrison

How many times have you heard the old adage 'These things happen in threes' concerning the deaths of famous people?

In July of 1971, while the youth of America in general and the rock world in particular were still reeling from the dual deaths of Janis Joplin and Jimi Hendrix just months earlier, the third domino fell.

Jim Morrison, the electrifying lead singer of the rock band 'The Doors', snorted some heroin, climbed into a bathtub, and died there of an overdose of the drug. He was just 27 years old. Is that age of death getting to sound like a broken record?

Morrison was born in Florida in 1943 to a U.S. Navy officer and his wife. His father, George Morrison, fought in the Pacific theatre of World War II, was intimately involved in the 'Gulf of Tonkin' incident during the Vietnam War, and became the youngest Admiral in the history of the Navy. He is still alive today, about to turn 90 years old this coming January, nearly four decades after his son's death.

As a small child, the Morrison family moved to New Mexico, and he became fascinated by many of the customs and the culture of the Native Americans in the area. At only four years of age, young Jim was out in the desert for a drive with his family when they witnessed the aftermath of a horrific auto accident that resulted in death and injuries to members of a Native American family.

He would later go on to say that it was the pivotal incident in his life, one that he would repeatedly make reference to and draw upon images of in his songs. The move to New Mexico was just one of a number of family moves in his childhood that included California, Virginia, and Florida stops due to his father's military duties.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Rock & Roll Heaven: Michael Hutchence

Sex, drugs, and rock-n-roll. It's the oldest cliche in the business. Rock stars are legendary for their booze consumption, drug abuse, and sexual escapades.

Some, including the legends already profiled in this "Rock and Roll Heaven" series - Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, Kurt Cobain - have died from this excessive lifestyle.

In April of 1997, the popular Aussie rock band 'INXS' released their new album, and front man Michael Hutchence and the rest of the group commenced a tour to support the work. They wound down this leg of the tour in Australia in November and were preparing for a big 20th anniversary world tour for the band.

Hutchence was in a generally upbeat mood. The band was doing well and he had a new girlfriend, Paula Yates. Life was good for the 37-year old star as he went out to dinner with his father on Friday, November 21st. Later that night he drank and partied with a couple of friends back at his hotel, but the next morning he would miss a hastily arranged breakfast with a former girlfriend.

At noon on November 22nd, the maid went to his room and found Hutchence hanging from the door's spring lever by a belt wrapped around his neck. He was naked, and the room was reportedly littered with booze bottles and prescription drug containers.

An investigation revealed there was no foul play, and there was no suicide note. Interviews with family and friends found it highly unlikely that he had committed suicide, though that was the officially recognized cause of death.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Rock & Roll Heaven: Kurt Cobain

The tragic, untimely loss of young superstar talent in the rock-n-roll world has often been associated with the hippie-era, flower child period of the late 1960's and early 1970'2.

But the passing years have shown that it is not times that are to blame, but the choices these individuals made within a culture and lifestyle that often encourages those choices.

The perfect case in point came over three decades after the deaths of Janis and Jimi, with the death of garage band, grunge-rock legend Kurt Cobain. On April 5th, 1994, Kurt Cobain, lead singer of the popular band 'Nirvana', killed himself with a shotgun blast to the head at his home in Seattle.

Cobain had chronic suicidal tendencies that manifested themselves many times over the years, and increasingly in the months leading to his death. These incidents, and indeed his final demise, likely grew out of a bout with classic, severe depression made worse by the abuse of alcohol and drugs, particularly heroin.

He was just 27 years old. Sound familiar? The more things change in the rock world, the more they stay the same.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Rock & Roll Heaven: Jimi Hendrix

The rock world's loss of Janis Joplin at such a young age was an especially difficult blow for the youth of America in 1970, in large part because it was their 2nd such blow in a short period.

Just two weeks before Janis' death by drug overdose, on the other side of the world, legendary American rock guitarist Jimi Hendrix had died under somewhat mysterious circumstances.

In London, England, Hendrix attended a late-night party on Thursday night, September 17th. He was picked up from the party in the early morning hours of Friday the 18th by his girlfriend, Monika Dannemann, who drove him back to her apartment at the Samarkand Hotel. Dannemann's story, which frequently changed, was that Hendrix then took nine of her sleeping pills.

What is definitely known is that at 11:18am the next morning, someone made a phone call for an ambulance to go to the room. The ambulance crew arrived just nine minutes later, and found the door to the flat was open. They saw a man lying on the bed, and there was no one else in the room.

As they looked closer, they found the man in what they described as a 'horrific' condition. There was red and brown vomit covering him, and covering the pillow and bed as well. The man's airway had been completely blocked, and he was clearly dead. Police arrived quickly as well, and the man was transported to the hospital where he was officially pronounced as dead on arrival.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Rock & Roll Heaven: Janis Joplin

It is hard to believe that it has been nearly four decades now. On Saturday, October 3rd, 1970 Janis Joplin had stopped at Sunset Sound Studios in L.A. to listen to the instrumental for a song that she would be recording the following day. She failed to show up on Sunday for that recording.

The producers became upset and sent a roadie to the Landmark Motor Hotel where Janis had been residing since the end of August. He found her custom-painted psychedelic Porsche in the parking lot, and proceeded to her room. No doubt he was likely thinking that the hard partying 27-year old was sleeping off a Saturday night hangover or high.

On entering her room, however, he was stunned to find her dead on the floor where she had collapsed after an overdose of heroin during a night in which she had also been drinking alone.

A small, private funeral service was attended by her immediate family, and Janis was cremated with her ashes scattered by plane into the Pacific Ocean and along California's Stinson Beach.

Just three days earlier, on October 1st, she had made what she never realized would be her final recording, a birthday greeting of the song "Happy Trails" for John Lennon. Lennon's birthday was October 9th, and the recording did not reach his home until after Joplin's death. It was like receiving a gift from the grave, the haunting voice of a ghost.

But the tragedy of Janis Joplin's death is not that she died so young, with so much talent, and with so much still to offer the world.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

California's Sane Marriage Proposal

"And the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam and he slept, and He took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh thereof; And the rib, which the Lord had taken from the man, made He a woman, and brought her unto the man.

And Adam said 'This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh: She shall be called woman, because she was taken out of Man.' Therefore shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh." - Genesis 2:21-24

Let's face it, no matter what the radicals, the profane, and the borderline insane will try to tell you, there are two sexes. They are male and female, just as Adam and Eve in the Genesis creation story.

The main differences are their physical and sexual characteristics. Man was created with a penis and sperm. Woman was created with a vagina and eggs. For anyone who thinks normally and rationally, the ramifications are obvious.

Genesis explains in clear terms how God created man, and then created woman for a purpose. That clear purpose is that the two different sexes will unite together as one. This is the origin of the concepts of marriage, the very concept of family itself.

Throughout the history of mankind it has always been understood that the natural order called on men and women to join, have children, nurture those children in family, and propagate their genes to help foster the growth of mankind.

There have always been those among us who were deviant, and rather than become attracted to those of the opposite sex, they were instead attracted to those of the same sex. But this was always, in every culture in man's history, considered a deviance, a negative to be avoided. It was considered an extremely unnatural act, the joining of two people of the same sex in a sexual union.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Danica Visits Aunt Debbie



Debbie's niece Cheri Harvey (daughter of Deb's sister, Arlene) was over with her man John Shaver for a visit to Matt and Deb's home on Saturday November 8th. They brought along their daughter, Danica, who Aunt Debbie was extremely happy to hang out with during the afternoon.

Islamism Series: Challenging Obama

Welcome to the real world, President-elect Obama. It was one thing to use speaking eloquence and the Chicago political machine to rise to power.

It was one thing to win a U.S. Senate seat, and then use dissatisfaction with the status quo to rise to the Presidency. But that inexperience is about to catch up to you.

A few years in the Senate, most of it spent running for President, is simply not enough experience to be the leader of the free world. We in America and the entire Western world have to hope that the man is a fast learner.

Just a day after Barack Obama received his first official security briefing from the Director of National Intelligence, Mike McConnell, the New York Sun reports that Obama and the American public will soon receive a video address from none other than Osama bin Laden himself.

Fanatical hate preacher Omar Bakri has led chats in extremist Arabic chat rooms announcing that the new video will likely come when Obama names his cabinet, and will warn Obama that "We will fight him if he fights against Islam."

A key Iraqi al Qaeda propagandist, Abu Omar al-Baghdadi, made an Internet speech in which he told Obama that "it's better for you and us to withdraw your forces and return to your homes."

Friday, November 7, 2008

Rock & Roll Heaven ?

"If there's a rock-n-roll heaven, you know they got a hell of a band" are the famous lyrics from a song that was itself called "Rock and Roll Heaven" released as a comeback reunion hit by the 60's duo The Righteous Brothers.

 In 1974, the song rose to #3 on the U.S. charts, talking in its lyrics about the untimely deaths of a number of rock, soul, and pop music stars.

The song perfectly leads into a special series that I will be doing here at the blog next week called 'Rock and Roll Heaven'.

Each day from Monday through Saturday, barring some incredibly major world news event, I will do a mini-bio on some of the legendary rock stars over the years who have died young. I will explore how they died, how they lived, their contributions to music, their home lives, etc.

For diehard fans of particular stars, it may be old ground. But for many, it will be a nostalgic trip back in time, and not just to the psychedelic 60's and turbulent 70's, but also to the 80's and 90's and beyond. And hopefully for everyone, I will mix in enough lessons to be learned from those lives.

There will be good, bad, and ugly, and there will be criticism of legends. The following is the schedule: Janis Joplin (Monday), Jimi Hendrix (Tuesday), Kurt Cobain (Wednesday), Michael Hutchence (Thursday), Jim Morrison (Friday) - and then there will be a wrap-up piece.

If it goes well, and folks want to see a few more, I will consider it as an ongoing feature into the future. So stay tuned here each day next week to find out whether they have a hell of a rock band in heaven, or whether simply these burned-out stars went straight to hell.

NOTE: all entries in this series into the future can be viewed by simply clicking on the 'Rock and Roll Heaven' link at the bottom of each article in the series

Thursday, November 6, 2008

TV Watch: Brotherhood

The bad boys of Boston are back for a 2nd season on the Showtime cable network. 'Brotherhood' is all about Irish-American family life, politics, and organized crime, and is set in the modern day in Boston, Mass.

It is the story of two brothers, Tommy and Michael Caffee, one supposedly a 'good guy' and one the proverbial 'bad boy', but sometimes it becomes hard to tell which is which.

The actors who portray these characters are asked to carry the load for the show, and they do it incredibly well. Tommy is played by Jason Clarke. He is a billed as an old-school ward politician who lives by the credo 'loyalty = votes, votes = power'. Tommy will do anything for his family and his constituents, as well as to further his own career, and is extremely loyal on the home front.

Michael is played by Jason Isaacs. The show began last year with his return after seven years from an Irish mob-imposed exile. He quickly exhibits what are billed as 'bull in the china shop' ways of operating in trying to re-establish his mob affiliations and power.

Needless to say, having a criminal like Michael as a brother is never a good thing for an ambitious politician like Tommy, and it causes frequent friction between the brothers.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

An American Mandate for Change


"Change is the law of life. And those who look only to the past or present are certain to miss the future. - John F. Kennedy"
The American people went to their respective polling places yesterday and voted, and when they were done the election result was not even close. In a truly historic victory, Senator Barack Obama of Illinois was elected to the Presidency. He was elected by a 53%-47% margin over his Republican challenger John McCain, a far greater margin than this writer believed was likely or even possible. In doing so he becomes the first African-American ever elected to the highest office in the land. That may not be too significant for the younger generation raised in a largely racially integrated society. But to those of us who were alive in the 1960's and '70's, the election of a black man to the Presidency is truly remarkable. Forty years after Martin Luther King was assasinated in Memphis, Tennessee, his dream has taken its largest step forward into becoming reality. Could even the great Dr. King have had the foresight to see this happening in America this quickly, if ever at all? In electing him, the American people have shown unequivocally that we have fully matured beyond the racial prejudices and barriers that previously separated us. In a time of Islamofascist terrorism, the American people overcame fears and elected to the Presidency a man with a Muslim-sounding name and at least a familial Islamic past. In a time where Americans are believed to be divided racially, the American people overcame those perceptions and elected to the Presidency a man whose mother was white, and whose father was a black man who abandoned them. The key factor in the Obama victory was the simple but effective theme of his campaign: Change. After 6 years of war, no matter how necessary, Americans were tired of it. They have grown tired of talk about terrorists, Osama bin Laden, Islamofascism, Iraq, Afghanistan, Iran. They have grown weary of a Bush administration that, though keeping America safe since 9/11, has done little to address any substantive issues beyond security here at home. Liberals wanted Bush impeached, but did not have the power to put him through the type of trial to which Bill Clinton subjected himself. In my opinion, last night's vote by the American people was all about Democrats and dissatisfied centrists ceremonially tossing George W. Bush out of the White House. Unfortunately for John McCain, an obviously good and decent man and a true American hero, he was standing in the shoes that Bush was unable by our laws to stand in himself. It likely would not have mattered in the end who was the Republican nominee for President or Vice-President. This race was certainly not decided by a dissatisfaction with a potential President McCain, or even any real problems with a VP Sarah Palin. This race was a referendum on the Bush administration, highlighted by the Obama campaign's primary message in the closing weeks that a McCain victory would signal a '3rd Bush term' and a continuation of its ideals. Hillary Clinton must really be kicking herself this morning. For years she was seen as the next great Democratic hope. She was not only the clear front-runner just a year ago, but she was the only real candidate in the race on the Dem side. Had Barack Obama never emerged, she would be celebrating her own history-making election today as the first female U.S. President. That is how much the people of America wanted a change. In the end, Republicans across the nation were fighting a battle that they had almost no chance of winning. Yesterday, Barack Obama swept to the Presidency thanks to a mandate for the very change that his campaign brilliantly called for, and he brought along a boat load of U.S. Senators and Congresspersons in his considerable wake. America will be a fundamentally different nation over the next few years. Whether that change is for the better or not is yet to be determined. I personally do not hold out the same hope that Obama's followers feel this morning. But one thing is certain, America will change, because it has been mandated by a clear majority of the people. Congratulations to President-elect Barack Obama, to Vice-President-elect Joe Biden, their families and campaign staff, and all those who voted for them. When possible and as best we can, we Republicans will support you as our President. We will also oppose you vocally on issues that we feel are key to our nation and our American culture. And as we all move forward from today, may God bless America as He always has in the past.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

The Importance of the Electoral College

One of the most important institutions in America is also one of the least understood. I am talking about the Electoral College, the select group of voters who actually determine the winner in Presidential elections such as those taking place today between Barack Obama and John McCain.

There are many who believe that the election should be a simple popularity contest, with the candidate who receives the most votes by the general public declared the winner.

In their view, if John McCain receives 50,000,001 votes and Obama receives 50,000,000 then McCain is the winner.

Simple logic should tell you that is a poor way to choose. After all, we all understand that there is fraud in some voting precincts. Would you want a close election stolen by dozens of votes across the country cast by Mick E. Mouse, among others.

Also, America is made up of diverse populations and communities. Why should a few states with large urban city populations such as New York and California determine who the President will be, with smaller rural states such as Oklahoma, Louisiana, Missouri, and Tennessee always at the whim of these cities?

So this brings up two important questions. First, why have a popular vote at all? Second, who makes up this Electoral College, and how does it work? Let's take the 2nd question first.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Election Eve

Well, it's finally here: Election Eve. Just one more night of these incessant commercials that end or begin with: "I'm _______ (insert politician name), and I approve this message." 

The majority of the opinion polls are calling for a Democratic Party victory across the board for the Presidency, in Congress, and in the U.S. Senate. 

The major network news stations and the majority of the print media have been gleefully reporting these results to the public. 

There is no doubt that the prosecution of the Iraq War and the recent plummet in the stock market have hurt the Republicans most. Congress deserves as much blame as President Bush, if not more, but that just doesn't matter. 

President George W. Bush has been a target since first being elected back in 2000 in the closest American Presidential vote ever, an election that Dems believe to this day was stolen from them by the Supreme Court. 

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Halloween 2008 on Larkspur Street



Starring Matt and Debbie as candy-giving hosts, Kelly Veasey as 'Boy George', Chrissy Veasey as 'Crazy British Britney', Elysia Bellina as 'Rocker Chick', Reznor Lloyd as 'A Pepper' and assorted other super heroes, animals, and neighbors visiting the Veasey home in Somerton on Halloween 2008.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Thank You, Philadelphia Phillies !

This blog has taken a break from talking about politics, religion, and culture for over a week now while my beloved Philadelphia Phillies were playing in and winning the World Series. Now, the parade is over, and what a parade it was! The foul weather that we endured in the Series games broke for warmth and sunshine on Victory Parade day in Philly, and millions turned out for the celebration, overwhelming public transportation and jamming the roads to join a tremendously joyful, peaceful celebration on Broad Street. For me, this has been a twice in a lifetime event. I was not only alive to enjoy the 1980 season, but I was a full-blown 18-year old fan who had been attending games at 'The Vet' for years, watching the club on TV, following them in the papers. My heroes were named Schmidt, Carlton, McGraw, Luzinski, Bowa, Boone, Maddox, McBride, Trillo, Ruthven, Reed, Bystrom, Brusstar, Green, Owens, Ashburn, Kallas, and even a big, fuzzy, wide-eyed thing born in the late 70's and still beloved throughout the region known to us simply as 'The Phanatic'. This past week and a half, I have felt that same joy. This 2008 Phillies World Series champion has reached that exact same level of respect. In 1993, when I was a 31-year old man still playing the game myself and having just gone through many major changes in my life, another Phillies team came along who caught mine and everyone else in this area's hearts. They may not have had Hall of Famers playing for them, and they fell just short in their shot at a World Series title, but they were much more fun and lovable than the '80 squad. Their names were Kruk, Daulton, Dykstra, Hollins, Schilling, Williams, Incaviglia, Eisenreich, Stocker, Thompson, and a big lug of a manager who in a couple years would hit on my wife right in front of me named Jim Fregosi. What this 2008 bunch did was something that seemed impossible. They combined the skill and greatness of the 1980 team with the fun and pleasure of the 1993 team, beat both of them for drama, and became perhaps the greatest Phillies team of all-time, at least on a par with that '80 club. For the rest of our lives we will remember the names: Utley, Hamels, Howard, Rollins, Lidge, Burrell, Moyer, Myers, Victorino, Werth, Ruiz, Feliz, Dobbs, Coste, Blanton, Madson, Romero, Jenkins, Bruntlett, Durbin, Condrey, Stairs, Kendrick, Gillick, and that old, overweight, country boy of a manager named Charlie Manuel. There is only one thing left to say before cutting off the baseball talk, and getting back to the important topic of the Presidential election that is now just a few days away. That one final things is: 'Thank you, Philadelphia Phillies, for the fun, the thrill, the joy, and the victory!" Man, did we ever need that.