A New Opportunity

I have several so-called “dream” jobs I’d love to be able to call my own. Exactly what qualifies as one of these–and what they are–are subjects for another post. For now, let’s just go forward with the knowledge that I’ve qualified for one of them.

This is one of the reasons why I scaled back my posts here. The hours I’ll be doing this work are from 6 am to 2:30 pm. I used to enjoy writing my BCT posts around midnight–sometimes much later. What I was doing then allowed me to have that schedule. Now, I can’t. It seems that by the time I get home, relax a bit, take a shower, eat some dinner and spend some time with the rest of the family, it’s time to get to bed.

And, that also explains why there hasn’t been anything new in a while. I do plan on putting up some new posts–in a week or so, probably.

I first started performing the activities of this job as far back as 1981. Throughout the years I’ve steadily built on that experience, and around the turn of the Millennium I was hired by a company that would afford me the possibility to more fully develop those early skills.

Sometimes things fit very well together…sometimes–well, they don’t. This position isn’t what many would consider all that great of opportunity…but it’s one of the things I really enjoy doing.

I’ll have more to say on all this later.

Bravo! Jason Collins is first gay man to ‘come out’ as an active athlete on a US major sports team

It has finally happened, and it’s about time.

A 2011 Gallup poll conducted among US adults revealed that 25% of America’s population is thought to be gay. This estimate is hardly scientific, as there is no empirical data to correctly assess the number of gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender individuals in the general population.

Still, the argument has often been made that whatever that percentage might be, if it’s a given that at least some LGBT persons make up the general population, shouldn’t a similar number exist in the ranks of professional athletes? After all, except for superior athletic skill and prowess, these are for the most part average human beings from many different nations and all walks of life. It would seem absurd to believe that there aren’t at least some that would have a sexual preference different from the majority.

There has also been a prevalent belief that these athletes are frightened by the prospect of rejection from their teammates, fans and society in general…should they publicly admit these sexual preferences. Although it’s not the “official” reason, it could be a powerful justification for appearing straight, which at least for some must be the same as living a lie.

So, bravo to Jason Collins of the NBA’s Boston Celtics to be the first to openly admit that he is gay.

Sixty-six years ago Jackie Robinson became a hero to many when he became the first player of African-American descent to play on a professional American baseball team in the modern era. He is remembered fondly as the man who broke the “color line,” opening the door to allow players of any color or nationality to play baseball…and, later, all sports.

Now, it would seem that Collins should be remembered in much the same way.

There is an excellent piece by Dan Levy on the site BleacherReport.com about a recent Sports Illustrated article concerning Collins and his decision to “come out.” Here’s a Collins quote from the SI story:

No one wants to live in fear. I’ve always been scared of saying the wrong thing. I don’t sleep well. I never have. But each time I tell another person, I feel stronger and sleep a little more soundly. It takes an enormous amount of energy to guard such a big secret. I’ve endured years of misery and gone to enormous lengths to live a lie. I was certain that my world would fall apart if anyone knew. And yet when I acknowledged my sexuality I felt whole for the first time. I still had the same sense of humor, I still had the same mannerisms and my friends still had my back.

Levy makes this point, one of many thought-provoking ones in his story:

Being a minority isn’t easy in this country, but most minorities don’t have the choice to hide who they really are.

We can’t hide the color of our skin or the texture of our hair or the shape of our nose. We can’t choose our skin color or our nose or our hair or any other characteristic that defines who we are physically.

We can’t choose our thoughts and our feelings, either, but they are so much easier to hide, making something like homosexuality very confusing for society and very difficult for those within that community to admit and fully understand.

If you knew you felt a way that would bring ridicule and shame upon you within your community, but you had the ability to hide it from everyone, wouldn’t you do that?

That’s what gay athletes have been doing for years, and until more brave people like Collins and former U.S. National team soccer player Robbie Rogers come out and proudly admit who they are, there may still be the stigma that being a gay man in American sports is something to hide.

It is not.

Being gay should make no difference in judging an athlete’s performance than if he or she is white, Catholic, vegetarian, left-handed–or, all or none of those things.

I’m not a fan of the NBA…but I just became a fan of Jason Collins.

My Favorite Music Videos, Part Twenty-Two: David Lee Roth’s ‘Just a Gigolo/I Ain’t Got Nobody’

A video that’s probably best known for poking fun at other videos makes up today’s “Favorite Music Videos” offering.

David Lee Roth gained prominence as Van Halen‘s lead singer in the mid to late 1970s. His crazy stage and video antics–as well as his great talent for not taking anything too seriously, including himself–provided a great comic persona that music video really needed in its early days. Many video artists took themselves quite seriously…it was a pleasure to watch a clown who could also sing and had a certain sex appeal.

Unfortunately, Roth’s ego and personality evidently did not sit well with the rest of the band, and he left in 1985, eventually replaced by Sammy Hagar. While many liked the new lineup, most of the band’s fans still longed for Roth’s return.

From Roth’s Wikipedia entry:

In early 1985, while still a member of Van Halen, Roth released “Crazy From the Heat”, a popular solo EPof off-beat standards. Singles for “California Girls” and “Just a Gigolo/I Ain’t Got Nobody” succeeded largely due to their innovative music videos (produced by Jerry Kramer and co-produced by Glenn Goodwin and Bobby Diebold), which featured ridiculous characters created by Roth and his Creative Chief Director, Pete Angelus, who’d previously directed Van Halen’s Roth-era videos.

On April 1, 1985, Roth and Van Halen parted ways. In his 1998 autobiography, Crazy From the Heat, Roth characterized Van Halen’s music just before his 1985 departure as “morose”. Roth wished to record an album quickly, tour, and then shoot a movie, (for which he hoped Van Halen would record the soundtrack. The film, entitled Crazy From The Heat, was budgeted at $20 million by CBS Studios; however, the project folded after the consolidation of CBS Studios.

Some of the musical artists lampooned in this video include Michael Jackson, Cyndi Lauper, Billy Idol, Willie Nelson, and Boy George of the 1980s band Culture Club. It’s well thought out and conceived, and is amongst the funniest I’ve ever seen. Roth is particularly gifted in that he knows how to play to his audience for laughs and isn’t above using slapstick, much like the comedic performances of greats like Lucille Ball and Dick Van Dyke.

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(If the video won’t load or play click here.)

Some things you might not have known about David Lee Roth (again, from Roth’s Wikipedia entry):

In April 1993, Roth was arrested in New York City’s Washington Square Park for buying what he described as “$10 worth of Jamaican bunk reefer” from an undercover police officer. The arrest made headlines and became a late-night television punch-line. When asked by Howard Stern whether the bust was a publicity stunt, Roth said, “Howard, in New York City this small of a bust is a $35 traffic citation. It literally says ‘Buick, Chevy, Other’. Your dog poops on the sidewalk, it’s $50. If I was looking for publicity, I would have pooped on the sidewalk.”

In March 1994, Roth released Your Filthy Little Mouth, a musically-eclectic album produced by Nile Rodgers. The album failed to achieve positive critical or commercial success, proving to be Roth’s first solo effort not to achieve RIAA Gold or Platinum status shortly after its release. The support tour found Roth playing smaller venues in the U.S., and larger venues in Europe. Your Filthy Little Mouthsaw a remastered re-release in 2007.

In 1995, Roth returned with an adult lounge act, performing largely in Las Vegas casinos, with a brass band that featured Nile Rodgers, Edgar Winter, and members of the Miami Sound Machine. It also featured several exotic dancers, who in Roth’s words were “so sweet, I bet they shit sugar!”

In the late 1990s, Roth trained as an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) in New York City, and worked as one for some time. He occasionally told stories about his experiences as an EMT on his 2005 radio show, which replaced Howard Stern’s legendary radio show, after the latter moved to satellite radio.

In 1997, Roth wrote a well-received, New York Times best-selling memoir, entitled Crazy From the Heat. The 359-page book was whittled down from over 1,200 pages of monologues, which were recorded and transcribed by a Princeton University graduate who followed Roth around for almost a year. The book received mostly positive critical and reader reaction, and helped to reinvent Roth’s image as a popular wit and adventurer, with a bon vivant personality.

in 2012 Roth rejoined Van Halen. The reformed band released A Different Kind of Truth, their first full-length studio album with Roth on board since 1984 and a huge commercial success.

By way of explanation: to my readers

I thought it might be a good idea to explain what’s going on with Brood Coffee Talk these days.

First, allow me to offer an apology. I know from comments I have received that many of you read this weblog to get an idea what’s going on in the world of technology…specifically, smartphones, tablets and computers.

For the moment, I have temporarily suspended coverage of that topic.

While the obvious question is why, the answer might not be so obvious. Frankly, I got tired of all the back-and-forth sniping and negativity.

I’m not so much talking about any of that from the users of those devices…but rather, from the tech press. For example: each day I’ve been looking, trying to find something good to say about Windows 8. Instead, for the most part, all I saw was the usual “Windows 8 is awful! Microsoft is doomed!” stuff. So, I wrote about that.

I was taught that if you are going to criticize something, you better have a solution–or at least a suggestion for improvement. Whenever I could, I tried to include that.

Windows 8 is not awful–trust me on this. What’s disappointing is how much better it could have been…but it’s not unusable. Heck, even Vista worked for a lot of users.

And I haven’t forgotten about Samsung vs. Apple…or Apple vs. Samsung, or what the freak ever. Both companies are doing quite well, thank you very much. Both make great products and neither is going away any time soon.

All the same is true for Android vs. Apple. In fact, the very cause of my recent intolerance could be due to this argument.

Recently I included an excerpt and link to an Andy Inhatko three-part article about how he switched from iPhone to Android, and his reasoning behind it. This is quite notable in itself, in that he’s been a staunch Apple supporter for many years. I’ve been following him since around 2002, and have a certain respect for his opinion–not because he’s an Apple fan, but because what he says makes sense. So, when he provides good and compelling reasons for making the switch to a competitor, I can find little fault with it.

For the immediate future I’ll be limiting what tech news I feature here. This is not a permanent action, and if anything major happens I’ll still be reporting on it.

In the meantime, please check out my past tech posts, and if you have anything in particular you’d like to see discussed please leave me a comment. And, as always, thanks for reading Brood Coffee Talk.

Live on.

–anasazi4st

My Favorite Music Videos, Part Twenty-One: ‘Til Tuesday’s ‘Voices Carry’

Sometimes being good isn’t good enough…it can be hard to catch lightning in a bottle more than once.

An good example can be found with today’s entry in the Favorite Music Videos series, ‘Til Tuesday‘s 1985 hit “Voices Carry.” The song is haunting enough…but the clever way the music and lyrics are linked to the story told in the video easily make it one of my favorites.

That story features the band’s lyricist and singer Aimee Mann and her involvement with a high-society pretty boy who doesn’t understand her blonde spiky hair with braided rat tail, the punk/new wave style of dress or the music she plays with her band (the rest of ‘Til Tuesday), and wants her to conform so she can better fit in to his upper-class society. After several attempts to rebuff her style he confronts her, forcing her to sexually yield to him.

As the video ends we see the couple seated amongst a well-dressed audience at a Carnegie Hall concert, waiting for the performance to start. Mann’s partner turns toward her and his eye falls on the braided hair tail, and he pulls his arm away in apparent disgust. Slowly at first she starts to sing along with the song’s words–“He said, shut up! He said, shut up! Oh God, can’t you keep it down?”–her voice gets louder and louder and soon she is standing and has removed her hat, revealing her spiky blond hair, while he is hiding his face in his hands. By the end she is waving her arms and enthusiastically belting out the words.

(If the video fails to load or play click here.)

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Early success came with a price for ‘Til Tuesday. The band did not have another major hit after “Voices Carry”…and although they were critically acclaimed, the record sales steadily declined. They had disbanded by the 1990 release of their third album Everything’s Different Now, mostly due to Mann’s departure to pursue a solo career. She was hampered by the band’s contract with Epic Records, however, which prevented her from releasing her first solo album (Whatever) until 1993. Since then she has released seven more solo works and has contributed to various tribute albums and soundtracks.

Mann remains very active in writing, recording and releasing music, as well as the occasional television or film appearance.

One man’s eloquent thoughts on the Boston Marathon terrorist bombings

As the news has come in about the horrific tragedy today in Boston, we are left with the same feeling we got last December after the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings…in the early morning of 9/11/01…or even as far back as eighteen years ago this week–April 17, 1995–the Oklahoma City bombing….

Is there nowhere that we can feel safe?

As of this writing, three people are now dead from the explosions–one of them an eight-year-old child–and the FBI is calling the bombings “a potential terrorist attack.”

I have come to approach these senseless takings of lives in an admittedly imperfect way, almost as if they are out of our hands–like natural disasters such as the Japanese tsunami, Hurricane Sandy or random tornado destruction–where a few poor souls just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. As the saying goes, “When your number’s up, your number’s up.”

Of course, this is in no way meant to diminish the grief of those who have lost loved ones through these tragedies, or to pardon or excuse the actions of those that caused the injuries and deaths. The fact remains that it could have been prevented, it didn’t have to happen…unlike natural disasters in which the only way to be safe is to be many miles away, because we have no way–at least not at present–to control the forces of Nature.

LIke I said, it was just my way to cope with it, so I don’t just stay inside every day and live in fear of potential terrorist attacks. Even then, one on a citywide scale or in my neighborhood could still fell me in my own home.

One of the only good things about Facebook and Twitter (some would say) is that both allow an individual or group a way to spread a thought or message across the country and around the world. So much the better if it’s a positive one.

This post was on Facebook this late afternoon. I’d like to share it with you. There is some strong language, but it’s not just for show–he is understandably upset and concerned, as I think we probably all should be, at least a little. After all–when will it be a sporting event we participate in or watch…an elementary school our child attends…an office building that we work in?

From Patton Oswalt:

Boston. Fucking horrible.

I remember, when 9/11 went down, my reaction was, “Well, I’ve had it with humanity.”

But I was wrong. I don’t know what’s going to be revealed to be behind all of this mayhem. One human insect or a poisonous mass of broken sociopaths.

But here’s what I DO know. If it’s one person or a HUNDRED people, that number is not even a fraction of a fraction of a fraction of a percent of the population on this planet. You watch the videos of the carnage and there are people running TOWARDS the destruction to help out. (Thanks FAKE Gallery founder and owner Paul Kozlowski for pointing this out to me). This is a giant planet and we’re lucky to live on it but there are prices and penalties incurred for the daily miracle of existence. One of them is, every once in awhile, the wiring of a tiny sliver of the species gets snarled and they’re pointed towards darkness.

But the vast majority stands against that darkness and, like white blood cells attacking a virus, they dilute and weaken and eventually wash away the evil doers and, more importantly, the damage they wreak. This is beyond religion or creed or nation. We would not be here if humanity were inherently evil. We’d have eaten ourselves alive long ago.

So when you spot violence, or bigotry, or intolerance or fear or just garden-variety misogyny, hatred or ignorance, just look it in the eye and think, “The good outnumber you, and we always will.”

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Happy Birthday, Lowell George!

Today marks the birthday of one of America’s overlooked great songwriters and musicians, Lowell George.

If you think you’ve never heard of him or his music, I would bet that you’re wrong. His music industry influence in the mid- to late-1970s was far-reaching, and at least a few of the songs that most any radio station will play on any given day are certain to be Lowell George compositions.

A founding member of the band Little Feat in 1969 (along with keyboardist and existing member Bill Payne), George took the band through eight albums until his death in 1979, when “Down On The Farm”–the recording George and the group had been working on–was released. This marked the last studio album with the existing lineup: the 1981 compilation “Hoy-hoy!” consisted mostly of unreleased and live tracks.

George had reportedly become disenchanted with the direction the band seemed to taking, as evidenced by his departure from the stage during the live performances of “Day At The Dog Races,” a jazz fusion piece reminiscent of the band Weather Report. As a result, he had been working on a solo album (the brilliant “Thanks I’ll Eat It Here!”) and rehearsing for the subsequent tour when he passed away on June 29 from an apparent heart attack.

According to a story that appeared in The New Musical Express on July 7, 1979, there were some unanswered questions as to the events of the morning after George’s death:

IT WAS cruelly ironic that Lowell George, former leader of Little Feat, should die, aged 34, in the Twin Bridges Hotel, Marriott, Arlington, Virginia, across the river from the only town in America that embraced his talent.

The night before he died, George performed before a standing room only crowd at the Lissner Auditorium in Washington. It was the first time he’d been back there since Little Feat split up two months ago.

Observers said the performance was a great success, better in many respects than the recent Little Feat shows.

George had grown extremely fat, partially as a result of the debilitating hepatitis that laid him low for much of last year, he probably weighed close to 300 lbs. The nights of the Lissner show he wore his ubiquitous white overalls and one fan said that he seemed to have a dangerous amount of energy for a man of his size and health record, performing for ninety minutes and an unusually long encore.

George was officially pronounced dead on arrival at Arlington Park Hospital at 1.10 p.m. Friday afternoon. The circumstances behind his demise are coloured by inconsistencies. Marion Perkins, Warner Brothers spokesperson, said that he died of a heart attack. A spokesperson for Arlington County Police affirmed this but Arlington County Hospital officials and at least one other police official said the cause of death was not known.

The body was white-lipped and the bluishness around the eyes, observers said, were consistent with post mortem symptoms of a drug overdose.

One police official said that was why an autopsy was being ordered while officer Mark Nell, the policeman who responded to the call, said that the reason an autopsy was called was because of George’s age.

Nell, the officer who filed the report on George’s death, said that the case was strictly routine. He continued. “I did not find any drugs and there was no evidence that the room had been cleared of drugs either.” There was no sign of any blood or foul play he said in his report.

A post mortem report later stated that heart failure was the cause of death.

According to Perkins, George had complained of chest pains after Thursday’s show and again on Friday morning. “Around 10 am,” she said, “George’s wife called road manager Gene Bano to their room after George complained of breathing problems. When the singer/songwriter said that he was feeling better his wife and Bano left the room to get some breakfast.

Hotel officials said Mrs George returned from breakfast with her two children some time after 11 am to find George lying unconscious on the bed. She called the main desk saying that her husband was very sick. A rescue squad of police were despatched and a Hotel Engineer, certified in first aid, was sent to George’s room to offer immediate assistance.

The engineer said that by the time he arrived George had stopped breathing. He tried to administer mouth to mouth rescuscitation but “it was no use he had been dead for a while.”

Arlington County Rescue Squad’s No.75 arrived shortly afterwards. According to one of their officials they tried administering cardiac respiration but it was futile. The Squad officer in charge said George had been dead for at least 45 minutes and maybe two hours. This contradicted Mrs George’s report to the police that said he had been dead for ten minutes before the squad arrived.

Bano was present in the room with Mrs George when the police arrived, Nell said, along with the Rescue Squad and the Hotel Engineer. Nell said that he did not ask many questions because Mrs George and Bano looked “very distressed”.

It is not clear what George did after the show. One hotel official said that some members of the band were partying until seven the next morning but a waiter who brought food up to George’s room said there was nothing peculiar happening there. “They didn’t even order any drinks; Mr George asked me where the game room was and that was it.”

The next morning a maid accidentally walked into George’s room around lOam to clean the room. Her employers said she saw George’s body curled on the bed and was immediately told to leave by George’s wife, who said that her husband was sick.

The most baffling question is the presence of drugs on the morning of George’s death. Rescue Squad officials and police said that they found no evidence of drugs but the engineer who was supposedly the first person other than Mrs George and Bano to enter the room said that he saw a “Large phial of white powder about one half the size of a tennis ball cannister which was practically empty.” He also said that there were about four or five containers of prescription drugs, all of which were out in the open but none of, which were present when police arrived minutes later. The engineer said that he left the room once before police arrived and another hotel employee said that in his absence there was a flurry of activity in George’s room prior to the police’s arrival with “Lots of people walking in and out of his room.

Band members, family and friends checked out of the Twin Bridges Hotel at 6.30 p.m. Friday hopping on a bus that was headed back to LA -the band’s hometown.

Lowell George was cremated in Washington DC on 2nd July 1979. His ashes were flown to Los Angeles and, in accordance with George’s wishes, his mother, wife and children will scatter them into the ocean from a fishing boat.

Lowell George is succeeded by his wife Elizabeth, three sons, Jed, Forrest and Luke, and a daughter, Inara.

From Mark Brand’s biography of Lowell George, Rock and Roll Doctor: Lowell George: Guitarist, Songwriter and Founder of Little Feat:

Brend excerpt edit

There are four men who have passed on that I wish I could have spent some (more) time with: Jesus Christ, because of the inner turmoil and emotional chaos he must have faced, and how he was able to come through it; Abraham Lincoln, for the same reasons; my father, because I did not know him very well as I was growing up….

…And Lowell George. He was an amazing talent. Bonnie Raitt–a musician who has been around a while and for whom I have great respect–would be a good judge of that.

Happy Birthday, Lowell. Rest easy, man.  You might have left us, but you’ve passed on, through those that knew you, a great legacy.