Sunday, June 28, 2015

Great Music

I usually share a song on Facebook, Google+, Tumblr and Twitter on Sundays. It is my version of #SongSunday. It is a rather eclectic mix that goes from some 1930's swing to some recent songs. Recently I have been posting whatever song was #1 that week in 1965. That was a great year for music. The Beatles and every other British group had invaded us. The Beach Boys were going strong. Motown had many stars and hits. There were still some of the old pop crooners around. Folk music was fading but still alive. There has always been country music on the charts. 

Radio was the main provider of music in 1965 and it was the AM band. There were very few FM stations and no FM radios in cars. Car radios were one of the primary sources for our music. The radio stations and the Top 40 back then were not as specialized as today. It was not unusual to hear a Beatles song followed by Frank Sinatra, followed by The Temptations, followed by Brenda Lee, followed by an instrumental, followed by a country tune and so on. I'll show some examples later in this post. 

I grew up in Jacksonville, FL which is a fairly large city. We had at least two great Top 40 radio stations all the time and usually a couple of other stations trying to break into that lucrative market. WAPE, the Mighty 690, was the big gorilla on the dial. It had a 50,000 watt transmitter and could be heard from central Florida to North Carolina along the Atlantic coast. Here is an example of what WAPE sounded like in 1965 -

The other big radio station was WPDQ, 600 on the dial. PDQ was always the #1 button on the car radio and The Big Ape was #2. The other three or four buttons varied based on what the parents listened to and what other stations were popular at the time. The only other station I remember listening to was WIVY that was somewhere in the 1200 frequency. I had a friend who was a radio DJ wonk so at some time during my youth I visited all three radio stations studios. WAPE was a stand alone station south of town in Orange Park with an indoor/outdoor pool that flowed into the lobby. WPDQ was in downtown Jacksonville in an old office building. WIVY was in San Marco in what  was then a new small office building. My friend and I could easily go there after school and watch the DJ at work. I think all three stations are gone now, at least their AM versions.

All the albums and singles were on vinyl back then. Albums were on 33⅓ RPM 12" LPs. Singles were on 7" 45 RPM records. Even the radio stations played vinyl records. Most radio studios had at least two turntables and queueing up the records was a DJ skill so there was no delay or scratchy static before the music started. Most of us didn't have a large collection of records for two reasons. One was they cost money and two most homes had one record player and it wasn't in the kid's room. Radio was the free alternative. Many of the DJs back then were pretty entertaining too.

So, back to the main topic. Top 40 music was diverse. Here are some of the top 20 songs from July 3, 1965

  • #1 (I Can't Get No) Satisfaction - The Rolling Stones
  • #2 I Can't Help Myself (Sugar Pie, Honey Bunch) - The Four Tops
  • #3 Mr. Tambourine Man - The Byrds
  • #4 Wonderful World - Herman's Hermits
  • #5 Wooly Bully - Sam The Sham And The Pharoahs 
  • #6 Cara Mia - Jay & The Americans
  • #8 What The World Needs Now Is Love - Jackie DeShannon
  • #9 Seventh Son - Johnny Rivers
  • #10 I've Been Loving You Too Long - Otis Redding
  • #12 Hush, Hush, Sweet Charlotte - Patti Page 
  • #15 What's New Pussycat? - Tom Jones
  • #16 For Your Love - The Yardbirds
  • #17 Crying In The Chapel - Elvis Presley
  • #18 Back In My Arms Again - The Supremes
  • #20 A World Of Our Own - The Seekers
That's a pretty diverse list of some pretty terrific songs. I'm not saying that every week was like this, but it was not that unusual. Some of the popular groups of the time missing from this weeks hits are The Beatles, The Beach Boys, The Dave Clark Five, The Temptations, The Miracles and many others. These other groups would be in the top 20 in a week or two. Here are the top 100 songs of 1965. Artists and groups often recorded two, three, maybe four full albums in a year so it often wasn't long between hits. 

It was a great time for music. Rock, R&B, Soul, Folk, Pop, Country and who knows what other genres were in play. Now days we are more diverse as a country but our music outlets are far less diverse. It is impossible to hear Country music on an Urban radio station or Rap on an easy listening station. If you want diversity in your music you have to make your own playlists in Google Music or iTunes. You can also shuffle diverse stations on Pandora or Spotify. In 1965 the radio DJs did the mixing and shuffling for us with information and humor between songs and all for free. 

I'm not complaining, I have plenty of options for music these days. I'm just glad that my options in 1965 provided me with great diverse music. I never got locked into one genre. I can't imagine listening to only one genre of music all the time. If you do, expand your horizons. There is a lot of good music out there, often in surprising places. 


Friday, June 26, 2015

It Seems Simple To Me

This has been quite a week for social change. First we had the uproar over the Confederate Battle Flag ignited by the white supremacist's terrorist murder of eight African-American people. Then today we had the US Supreme Court's ruling on same sex marriage. The SCOTUS decision is more historic, but both events are important. They push our country toward a more free and equal society. I already wrote a post about the battle flag dustup.

The upholding of the right for LGBT couples to marry was too long in coming. I fully understand the religious objections to this ruling. I support their right to refuse to allow gay couples from marrying in their churches or for priests, pastors, rabbis, mullahs or other clerics refusing to perform those marriages. I don't agree with them, but they have that right. I don't think that governments and public enterprises have that same right. They are here to serve all segments of our society. 

I find it amusing that so many people fear that this SCOTUS decision will ruin our country. About 3½% to 4% of out population identifies as LGBT. How can that small a percentage take down the most powerful country in the world? Seems a little paranoid to me. All people in the United States deserve the opportunity to be happy. They deserve to be treated equally. 

The "slippery slope" argument is another example of grasping at straws. What if the next push is by pedophiles to allow marriage to children. What if someone wants multiple wives. What if brothers and sisters want to get married. What if a father wants to marry his daughter or a mother her son. Well, children are a special circumstance. They are not able to make adult decisions or enter into binding contracts. Harming a minor, not just sexually, is a crime. I can't imagine that incest would ever be a big issue. How many siblings do you know that would willfully cohabit after adulthood. Multiple wives, if all parties are adults it doesn't much bother me, as long as multiple husbands is also OK. It seems to me we currently discriminate against certain religions that allow multiple spouses. Isn't that a violation of religious freedom? Oh wait, for the most part religious freedom in this country actually mostly means Christian religious freedom. 

Here is my simple solution to all opposed to same sex marriages. Live and let live. Allow the LGBT community to have the same rights as the heterosexual majority. If you are against same sex marriage, don't marry anyone who is the same sex as you. Likewise if you are against interracial marriages, don't marry anyone outside your race. If you are against marriages between people of different religions, marry only within your religion. If you are against marriage outside your nationality, only marry within your culture. The list goes on. The solution is always the same, marry only those you want to. Nothing in the SCOTUS decision says you have to marry a gay or a Black or a Hindu or an Italian or a blond or someone who is short, left-handed, tall, bald or blue-eyed.

Just say no but allow the rest of the adults in this country to make that same choice. It only seems fair to me. It also seems to be the compassionate, empathetic and tolerant attitude.

It seems simple to me.


Overreactions "R" Us

Many people are unwilling to let any tragedy go without overreacting. I have written before about how the pendulum of public opinion swings widely from left to right but very rarely settles in the middle. The most recent example is the uproar about the Confederate Battle Flag.
At the peril of being called a racist I am adding a picture of the flag in question. It is part of our country's history, an ugly and tragic part, but nevertheless a part. 

Before I get too far into this post, let me state unequivocally that I do not think that the battle flag or any other flag of the Confederacy should be flown at a state capitol or many other government sites. I will not go so far as to propose banning it completely from all government property because there are probably state owned museums, battlegrounds and cemeteries where I think it would be appropriate. I don't think states should issue "specialty" license plates with the Confederate flag on them. Mississippi needs to remove the stars and bars from their state flag. 

That being said, those that are demanding the banning of the battle flag are completely delusional about what freedom of speech entails. Freedom from being offended is not part of the deal. If Walmart, Amazon, eBay, Sears (does anybody still shop at Sears?), or other retailers want to stop selling the flags or products with the insignia that is their choice. I can't imagine that these products were a big seller that contributed much to their bottom lines. What I am sure is that there will be a huge surge in the sale of these items and a cottage industry will be born. 

A couple of weeks ago no one was talking about the Confederate Battle Flag. Now it is the cause of all racism in this country. Many staunchly proud or mislead Southerners are outraged that the flag is under attack. Many African-Americans and civil rights activists are outraged that the flag hasn't been banned. The right needs to admit that this symbol does not belong at a state house. The left needs to accept that the flag is coming down at government sites and hopefully will soon at the South Carolina capitol. If the South Carolina legislature is too stupid to remove it then there should be protests and boycotts every day until it is. 

Regardless of what the various state and local governments decide there is no way we can justify banning the flag. If people or businesses want to display the symbol that is their right. In fact, it will make it easier for us to determine businesses we may or may not want to avoid or people we may or may not want to associate with. I'm not saying everyone that supports or displays the battle flag is a racist. Many are proud southerners who believe the flag represents that pride or honors their ancestors who honorably fought on the side of the south in the Civil War. Most of the Confederate soldiers were not slave holders although they did probably support slavery. Remember, it is almost always unfair to judge our ancestor's behavior based on today's mores. 

I consider myself a proud southerner. I was raised and educated in Florida. I was always thankful that my parents moved to Florida when I was very young, especially when we went back north on vacations to visit the relatives. I have lived virtually my entire adult life in Florida, Georgia and Texas, all staunch Confederate states. There is much for the south to be proud of. There are also things in the south's past, some fairly recent, that she should not be proud of. 

Let's try to not overreact to the current situation. The terrorist who killed those people in Charleston is a racist. The Confederate Battle Flag is not why he did it. The talking heads and activists on both sides of the issue are fanning the flames. Hyperbole is the norm.

The white supremacist terrorist murder of those eight people in Charleston is an atrocity. The flying of the Confederate flag and laws governing that in South Carolina are wrong. This too will pass hopefully with further steps towards equality for all. Let's all work toward fixing our racial divide and let's all never support banning words, ideas or symbols.


Monday, June 1, 2015

Very Random Thoughts - May 2015

  • Regardless of how much or how recent the rain, someone's sprinklers will be on. Seems the bigger the house the more likely the faux pas. 
  • I remember the Mission: Impossible TV show. That crew outwitted the bad guys and rarely used any violence. Tom Cruise has completely trashed the franchise with standard violent over the top action movies. 
  • How come when you forget an item at the grocery store it is the exact ingredient you needed that night.
  • Believing in god is not the same as believing in religion.
  • When we get self-driving cars will we still need a designated driver for nights out on the town?
  • I've often wondered how political reporters and correspondents can keep a straight face. I would be tempted to laugh out loud and shout WTF when listening to politicians.  
  • Granting others equal rights does not mean you lose yours. 


College Playoffs

There is a big problem with college playoffs. It is the sheer number of games. I don’t mean a problem with finding teams, I mean the problem of finding competent announcers for all the games. The college baseball tournament is now underway and we are in the final stages of the softball championships. Both sports have 64 team post-season fields as does basketball plus a couple of extras. Football only has a four team playoff bracket, but they do have almost 40 bowl games although not in as condensed a timeframe are the other sports. Wait, the bowl games do have a problem finding enough eligible teams.

A 64 team bracket means there are 32 first round games usually played at 16 locations. So we need at least 16 announcing teams. That is 16 play by play guys or gals and 16 analysts. Most also have a field reporter which is often the token female on the crew. That doesn't count all the talking heads that populate the studio shows. 

There may be 16 competent announcing teams in the country, but it's not that simple. The analysts or color commentators are almost always specific to one sport. Sure, an NFL football or MLB baseball guy can probably commentate on that college sport but you will never see a baseball guy doing a football game. The play by play guys are often more generic and can cover multiple sports but not always. Some strictly stick to their niche. There are also the top guys who although capable only do pro games. Another limiting factor is that most college playoffs and bowl games are broadcast by ESPN with the exception of basketball. Some of the best announcing teams work for other networks. You will never see Al Michaels and Cris Collinsworth or Joe Buck and Troy Aikman doing a football game on ESPN. Same for other sports. Let's not even bother with the onfield/sideline reporters. 99% of them are useless.

So, you have those 16 announcing teams from a limited field. Let me assure you, there are not that many competent ones. You get Mr. Cliche, grating voices, over and under talkers, people who point out the obvious or maybe worse don't recognize the obvious, know it alls (although they were never that good), the in my day ones, the over critical, the under critical, the homer who may try to disguise it and multiple other things that grate on sports fans.

Same problems for the studio personalities. The network needs to have enough talking heads for 12 or 16 hours of coverage per day. These folks actually are usually worse because they have no live game action to break up their inane blabber. 

Let me give you an example of the lack of competence and stupidity I heard in the last couple of days. I was watching a regional baseball playoff game. I don't remember who was playing and don't know who was announcing. It was the last inning and the team at bat was down by five runs, bases loaded, two outs. This alleged baseball expert analyst said that the at bat team didn't want the batter to hit a grand slam home run, they wanted a base hit so they could get more base runners. They needed baserunners. Well you know what, they also needed runs and a home run would have produced four of them. Next guy up has a chance to tie it with a dinger or become one of those precious baserunners. Last I checked the winner of a baseball game is not who has the most baserunners but the team that scores the most runs. 

I know, a solution is to turn the sound off. I sometimes do. I also sometimes, especially during playoff times, have more than one game on at the same time (TVs, PC, tablet, phone) so obviously I don't have the sound turned up on all of them. Still, if I am listening to the game I like competent commentary. It can add to the experience. The announcers can give you a heads up that something important is happening, as can the crowd noise, if you are not watching the screen. They can give you info on an injury or an official's ruling or rules interpretation. Maybe insight into a lineup decision or substitution. 

I am not hopeful that this situation will improve. The few times a year there is a need for all these announcing teams does not allow the networks to keep enough dedicated folks on payroll. There is also the trend where hype and sensationalism trumps competence. 

Soon the first round of the baseball tournament, the regionals, will be over and we'll be down to eight locations and then comes the College World Series. Eight teams in one location, probably two announcing teams. The featured network announcers are often pretty inane too but they are usually a little more polished and have added network support. I do wonder how some have kept their jobs.

I am a sports fan and I am grateful that so many games are broadcast on TV, cable and the internet. I'll keep watching with or without the sound on.