Psycho Spam

Remember the song Psycho”?  It was written by Leon Payne, an incredibly good songwriter who wrote many top hits for country singers. He was known as the blind country balladeer, partly because he was blind and partly because he was a country balladeer. The song was actually inspired by a particular incident.

In 1966, a man named Charles Whitman strangled his mother to death, stabbed his wife, and then headed to the top of the University of Texas library tower and opened fire on an unsuspecting crowd, using his Marine Corps sniper rifle, killing sixteen people. Whitman was gunned down by police.

Apparently Whitman complained for a long time about headaches and strange feelings, and an autopsy later revealed he had a brain tumor. On the day he purchased his rifle, Whitman also bought a can of Spam.

The version of “Psycho” that inspired Elvis Costello’s version was recorded by Jack Kittel, although George Jones (yes, that George Jones) and Eddie Noack both recorded it previously. In the remake of Hitchcock’s Psycho, the song was recorded by Teddy Thompson.

Now, about getting smaller (I have derailed again. I tend to do that, and some readers think I’ve gotten weird, if not psycho, as well. I ask them to assure the newbies that they may continue reading without losing any more grip on reality than they are willing to lose). I moved from a big place to a small place, and in that process I parted, sometimes happily, sometimes with tears, with things that have been held precious for generations from many childhoods.  Many things belonged to my wife Jennifer who got her wings on September 25, 2011. No one wanted the things she had held dear, and I did not have room for them. Some things were donated, but others, like an old clay pot, are now landfill and giving back to the earth. My possessions are fewer, my struggle for money is less important than breaking the shackles of dependence on material things, and my life is simpler.  In a world of belonging and longing, I have gotten smaller.  Getting smaller is not age-reliant, but it is one of the benefits of getting older, and I will say that getting smaller can make you feel bigger. Ridding yourself of Stuff is cathartic. When you tell that to someone attached to their stuff, they may indeed think you’re psycho.

Anyone paying attention to the Charles Whitman story would have quickly seen that someone buying both a gun and spam had issues, but isn't a lot of material stuff a little like spam? No one really likes it or knows what it is, but everyone has had it at one time or another.

So, what part did “Psycho” play in this piece?  Really, none. As I said, I derailed myself, but I’m sure it made things more interesting than 500 words on landfill, and there is nothing like adding a bit of information to my esoteric ramblings on life.

There’s more on Spam on the shores of Rambling Harbor.  I hope you’ll join me there.



Jack White, Kanye West, and Other Thoughts

Jack White is one of the more talented of the recent crop of rockers. The song “I’m Shakin’” takes one listen, and it’s stuck in your head (in a positive way). I’ve been shakin' for days through Rambling Harbor, looking a little strange, as difficult as it might be to look strange here. The video is a lot of fun. Check out the featured dancer in the video on YouTube, and if you’re in the mood for a mind minder, watch the video “Sixteen Saltines” or “Would You Fight for My Love.” Jack White’s videos are strange, to say the least, and there seems to be some element of Nick Cave running through his mind. Sometimes I find it disconcerting to relate to people like Nick Cave, his album Push the Sky Away, and his cover of Bob Dylan’s “Death Is Not the End.” There is an unsettling genius in people like Jack White and Nick Cave.

Recently I had to disagree with a statement made by Jack White. In an interview with Dan Rather on The Big Interview, he recalled once saying to Bob Dylan, “In a way, you guys had it so lucky in the sixties. All these recording techniques that had never been tried before, the Civil Rights movement was coming to a head, the Vietnam War…the whole world was changing…. There was so much to sing about. It was like shooting fish in a barrel."

Jack White was right about the recording techniques, but he was wrong about the artists and the people of the sixties. Artists wrote songs about the issues, political and social, of the sixties, and many people latched on and got involved to make things better, but it wasn’t any easier then than it is now. What is needed now is the spirit of the sixties: artists who are willing to say something about issues that matter, such as peace and equality, and people who are willing to lose the apathy, step outside their own comfort zones, and offer support, as we did in the sixties.

In New England recently we saw the power of protest and peaceful demonstrations as the workers of the Market Basket food chain went on strike even at the risk of losing their jobs, and they won.  McDonald’s employees are starting to fight peacefully for better money. Someone should write a song about these things. Write about what people are doing now and what needs to be done. “Blowing in the Wind” may have been inspired by the people, but the song kept the people believing. It starts with a whisper, Jack, help make it a roar.

There are more words on this, on football violence, and on Kanye West, who can’t make the crippled stand (so much for the Jesus thing, Kanye). Come join me on the shores of Rambling Harbor.



Ray Rice and the Mud and the Blood of Football

One in every 4 women in the United States has been severely or physically assaulted by an intimate partner. It’s appalling. 

I know abuse. I was an abused husband. My first wife was not cruel, she was sick. We were married some 46 years ago, and she was 15 years older than me. I carry the scars, both emotionally and physically.  Some people need help, so why stomp them when they’re down? Domestic violence is in the news, as it should be. In no way do I condone the actions of Ray Rice, but he does need anger management and counseling, and his wife, Janay, probably needs counseling too. It’s not uncommon for a domestic abuse victim to defend the abuser, and she wrote, “I woke up this morning feeling like I had a horrible nightmare, feeling like I'm mourning the death of my closest friend. To take something away from the man I love that he has worked his ass off for all his life just to gain ratings is horrific.” Maybe we need to help Ray Rice and his wife, and not make him a scapegoat for all the abusers and other offenders in the NFL.

It’s fall, a time of spectacular color in our land. There are fairs, pumpkins, and colors of blue and yellow and red, as in blue and yellow bruises and red blood. It’s fall, it’s football season.  Imagine what a 6’1”man of solid muscle, weighing 198 pounds, who can run forty yards in under 5 seconds—under 5 seconds!—could do.

Deion Sanders ran a 4.27-second 40-yard dash in 1989. Now here comes Deion at that speed colliding with another man who is just as fast and as big, and each one, as my coach use to say, is going in hell bent for leather, and smacko! Is this normal behavior? Or does it take a certain mentality to even think of doing this?

I loved playing football. If I could have, I would have gone pro. We all have a current of violence running through us. It’s human.  A lot of opposing players took a good beating instead of my math teacher. I saw this gladiator charging at me, I could see his face, his eyes, and suddenly this Irish preppy football player turned into my Professor Isosceles Triangle, and whack! he would go,  whack! I would go, arms and legs, contorting through the air. Oh, what sweet relief! But I left it on the field (no, not my brain but the mindset).

Michael Vick could kill dogs and still play, and Dante Stallworth, convicted of manslaughter and DUI, served only 30 days. Ray Lewis, at a Super Bowl party, got into an altercation with two men who were later stabbed to death. Lewis became a prime suspect after blood was found on his suit as well as in his limo. He went to trial and had all counts dropped, and the murder remains unsolved.  Don’t make Ray Rice pay the price when others have gotten away with a slap on the wrist. The NFL should treat players equally, and then, when appropriate, offer help.

There are more thoughts on the mud and the blood of football, and who knows what else, on the shores of Rambling Harbor. Come on over and give a listen.




I’ll Be Watching You, Paparazzi


Just when I thought the great Justin “Dweeber” may have grown up, he proved me wrong when his ATV collided with a mini-van in Canada on August 29 and he was arrested on assault and dangerous driving charges stemming from an alleged fight after the crash.  Justin Bieber's lawyer said the singer was being chased by people with cameras when the incident happened.

You may have thought I would never say anything in defense of a rich kid who thinks he can get away with anything, but if the statements by Bieber’s lawyer are true and he was being chased by paparazzi (and even if they’re not true in this case), there really needs to be some type of protection from the privacy-grabbing, picture-taking creeps we know as paparazzi.  

The word paparazzi originated in the 1960 film La Dolce Vita, directed by Federico Fellini. One of the characters is a news photographer named Paparazzo. Robert Hendrickson, in his book Word and Phrase, said that Fellini took the name from an Italian dialect word describing a particularly annoying noise, that of a buzzing mosquito. As Fellini said in his interview with Time magazine, "Paparazzo ... suggests to me a buzzing insect, hovering, darting, and stinging.”

There have been many incidents where paparazzi may have caused an accident. We all remember the death of Princess Diana and all the theories that have whirled around that for years. An inquest that began in London in 2004 and continued in 2007–2008 attributed the accident to grossly negligent driving by Henri Paul and the pursuing paparazzi.

No degree or license is required to work as a paparazzi photographer, but the job requires that you consistently capture professional-quality photos of celebrities in a variety of situations. Often the subject you attempt to photograph is uncooperative or even hostile to your efforts. If you have a camera, a good camera, you could go out stalking some celebrity and call yourself paparazzi. What you would really be, though, is a loose nut with a camera who wants to make a buck with little regard for your safety or anyone else’s.

I still think “the Bieb” has a lot of growing up to do, and I think old friend Kanye West had his brain screwed in backwards when he said the way he is treated by the paparazzi is like being raped. But I also believe a jerk with a camera and a desire to make money at all costs should be legally restricted from blatant buzzing and stinging and possibly causing the death of an intended subject. A certain amount of lost freedom and privacy comes with billion-dollar paychecks or fame or both, but even the super-famous are human beings.

There’s more on this and other things on the shores of Rambling Harbor.  Join me there and give a listen.




Spinning Boobs for Dollars

We’ve watched and left behind the MTV Boobs, I mean Video Music Awards, which some of the females almost got dressed for. Don’t get me wrong. It worked for me, and I’m sure it gave many males across the country a reason to watch yet another awards show for zillion-“dolly”-ers.  Though I admit I gave up on the boob tube broadcast early on, I did see Justin Timberlake, who thankfully was clothed, win Music Video of the Year for “Mirrors,” a case where a really good video saved a mediocre song. (Traveling in time, the first winner of that award was The Cars in 1984 for “You Might Think.")  Oh, and let us not forget Miley Cyrus, who presented a new twist on jail bait.  She chose Jesse Helt, a homeless Salem, Oregon, native to accept her award to draw attention to the homeless youth problem in this country.  Almost instantly, it was discovered he was being sought for violation of probation, stemming from previous charges including criminal trespassing and criminal mischief, and he turned himself in to police the next day.  Good idea, Miley, but next time, get ‘em after they’ve been in jail.

The 66th Annual Emmy Awards, with Seth Meyers as host, was way more worthwhile in at least some respects. Sofia Vergara, spinning around like desserts on a Lazy Susan (take your pick from the goodies), no doubt kept many male viewers watching, but most noteworthy was the film The Normal Heart,  originally a Tony Award­-winning play written by gay activist Larry Kramer, which deals with the rise of the HIV/AIDS crisis in 1981 New York City. The film received 16 nominations (almost every actor was nominated), and it won two Emmys, the top honor for Best TV Movie and a Creative Arts Emmy for Outstanding Makeup (Non-Prosthetic)in a Miniseries or Movie. 

A sad note in the world of entertainment was the passing of Lord Richard Attenborough, President of the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, on August 24.  With such great film credits as Miracle on 34th Street, The Flight of the Phoenix, Gandhi, and Chaplin  as  Actor, Director, Producer, and Father, it bothers me that he might be most remembered for Jurassic Park. 

In other news, Allstate Corp. has confirmed my belief that Boston has the worst drivers in the country. According to Allstate’s recent survey, a Boston driver will get into an accident every 4.4 years. The full report included 200 cities, and Boston ranked 199, ahead of only Worcester, Massachusetts, an industrial city of 181,000 people 40 miles west of Boston. The large U.S. city that boasts the best drivers is Phoenix, where a driver, on average, will get into a collision every 9.5 years. Could it be that all the retirees there don’t drive fast enough to hit each other, or are they just better drivers?

The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, an event that seems ridiculous on the surface, at least to me, has raised $88 million, which proves that stupid behavior can pay off if the reasons are good enough.

There’s more on boobs, drivers, spinners, and actors, as well as whatevers, on the shores of Rambling Harbor. I hope you’ll grab your favorite driftwood seat and give a listen.  


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