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Category: News & Politics

When we have finally learned to fully hate who will ever be able to teach us to love ?

November 24, 2013



Netflix, which I have had for a few months, is full of movies both theatrical and TV, dealing with the supernatural, the paranormal, demons, ghouls, and other forms of terrifying, blood-sucking, stomach-churning, eye-popping things-that-go-bump-in-the-night. There are also movies that instill fear regardless of the time of day, such as Jaws, featuring sunny days and the beach but condemning the viewer to fear going into the water.  Now a TV movie has brought the water to us in Sharknado, portraying L.A. swamped by the ocean as sharks swim down Hollywood Boulevard (and incidentally show no interest in the Brown Derby restaurant where all the Hollywood sharks use to dine).

Possession shown in movies such as these is just one kind of possession.  House possession is another kind. The S.P.I.R.I.T.S of New England is an organization that investigates places believed to be haunted, and a friend of mine involved in the organization and her team were privileged be to allowed to spend two nights in one of those places, the USS Constitution. What she saw and heard confirmed that our life force lives on.

Another type of possession is portrayed in classics such as The Exorcist, featuring the girl with the spinning head, and The Shining, with Jack Nicholson’s famous line “Heeere’s Johnny,” which he added to the script.

I love this stuff, but I don’t go for a lot of violence. I do not need to see a body split in half before my mostly covered eyes. Scare my mind with the possibility of reality, though, and you’ve got me. I believe a series like Sleepy Hollow is more a possibility, if you can get past the headless part, which seems a bit farfetched to me. The point is I do believe in spirits and that some people may be actually possessed. (Perhaps Ted Cruz has been overtaken by Dr. Seuss?)

But back to why I called this piece “Possession Obsession.” So many movies and TV shows revolve around the occult and spirits, witchcraft, and on and on. Is it because all of us, myself included, are searching for something we can’t explain, something that goes way beyond what we see as reality, something that no one can explain but seeing it makes it real? I think we are obsessed with the desire to find that other place. If we can’t go to the source of the mystery, we will let the magic of the movies and TV bring the mystery to us, and after watching a good movie or show, think, wow, that really could happen.

Hear more on mysteries on Rambling Harbor.


November 10, 2013



Last Wednesday, November 6th, it occurred to me that Guy Fawkes Day, November 5th, had just passed (how did I miss it?). Also on November 6th the CMA awards show was telecast. For those few wondering what CMA stands for (he says with tongue in cheek), it’s Country Music Association. I hardly ever watch any awards shows these days, and I did not watch the CMAs although there was a time when it was almost demanded by my profession, and it was my desire to watch every awards show going, from the best kitchen spoon players to the empty paper towel tube marching band.

At one time in my dusty radio career I played country music. I did this in a town that thought country music consisted of a bunch of fiddle-playing hayseeds. Say “country” to a blueblood Bostonian back then, and you would think I had held garlic to a vampire.  During my career, I played country and rock in all its forms, as well as MOR, or middle of the road music, way back in the day.  The MOR format was an attempt to please everyone, and during the 1960s and the 1970s, the beautiful music radio stations were "MOR radio.”  Its contemporary analogues are the smooth jazz and soft rock, or “adult contemporary” stations.

I worked at one country radio station where in the middle of the night the program director called me and asked if I had seen the format. I said yes I had, and I threw it out. He said he could tell, and it sounded good. All I had done was a bit of cross blending of musical genres.

 But I digress.  I believe I was going to tell you why I didn’t watch the CMA awards: I was in a small audience listening to a true genius, singer-songwriter legend Arlo Guthrie. For the few who do not know who he is (no tongue in cheek), have you ever heard “Alice’s Restaurant,” which most radio stations play on Thanksgiving?  Or have you heard “Coming into Los Angeles” or “Massachusetts”? If not, you probably at least know about his father, Woody Guthrie.

I listen as this man known primarily as a folksinger said he was not a folksinger.  He said there had to be something called folk music because it became folk-rock, but what is rock, what is country? Why genres? I enjoyed beyond words hearing Arlo speak on many subjects, and I especially loved that he reaffirmed my belief that labels should not be used to condone or condemn any type of music:  There is great country, good country, and gosh-awful country as well as folk rock and blues and on and on. Great music can be found in every format. You just have to look for it.

I also believe that all these genres can blend one into the other, but commercial radio stations have to pick their demographic and draw the line in the sand based on what they think you like, and DJs are supposed to stick to the resulting playlist.

Arlo Guthrie said there is great music everywhere if you look for it and give it a chance. Keep your mind open and look around, and maybe at 3 am some morning another DJ will decide to blend music from all across the scale, and it will be fun for DJ and listener alike as you wonder what the DJ is going to play next.

There’s more on this and other matters at Rambling Harbor.  Give a listen.

November 3, 2013

Baseball, the Memory Game


In 1958, my father and I took a trip to Yankee Stadium. It was a hot New York day filled with the smell of hot dogs and popcorn and all the excitement of baseball. We had seats in the bleachers, but to me they were the best seats in the house. We were sitting behind Mickey "The Mick" Mantel, the greatest switch-hitter of all time. Casey Stengel said "He's got more natural power from both sides than anybody I ever saw, and Bill Dickey called Mantle "the greatest prospect I’ve seen in my lifetime.”  Most people have forgotten that “The Mick” could hit the lace off a ball from either side of the plate.

The number 7 on Mickey’s back seemed magical, but 7 was not his original number. Originally, Mantle was assigned uniform number 6, signifying the expectation that he would become the next Yankees star, following Babe Ruth at number 3, Lou Gehrig at number 4, and Joe DiMaggio at number 5.  He was assigned the number 7 after being sent to the Yankees farm team in Kansas after a slump. When he returned the number 7 was vacant, so that’s the number he got.

And there I was sitting directly behind Mickey Mantle, a vision as clear now as it was then. I don’t remember who the Yankees played that day, and I don’t know who won. But I had hot dogs and popcorn and sat in back of Mickey Mantle with my dad and created a memory I still cherish as an old man.

Last Wednesday, 55 years later, another legend continued his well-deserved march to Cooperstown and into the memories of young boys and girls forever—David Ortiz, the fire, the hammer, the spirit of the Boston Red Sox, held in awe even by his own teammates. The Boston Red Sox won the World Series, and I watched on TV.

After Mantle's high-school graduation, he signed for $140 per month ($1,374 today) with a $1,500 ($14,717 today) signing bonus. On January 16, 1961, Mantle became the highest-paid player in baseball by signing a $75,000 contract ($585,885 today). David Ortiz's most-recent contract pays $12.5 million, and he makes an additional $5 million a year in endorsements.

I have a problem with highly paid (overpaid?) celebrities, movie stars, and athletes, among others, and the cost of everything that supports them. The average price of a hot dog at the stadiums is $6.50. If a father takes himself and two children to a ball game, he has to pay $19.50 for one hot dog apiece. If this same father went once a week, assuming he could afford the ticket price, just those hot dogs would add up to $1,014.

I don’t know what the cost was when I sat behind Mickey Mantle in Yankee Stadium in 1958, but I do know many parents now who can’t afford even the ticket price. One box seat at the World Series last week cost $12,000.

Of course, all things cost more today, including the price of a baseball game, and most of the cost for entertainment is what we are willing in to pay for it. My fear is that we have priced ourselves and our children out of the memory game.

There’s more on the ballpark at Rambling Harbor.

Also a thought or two on acquired servant syndrome and the urban dictionary. Give a listen.