Tuesday, October 12, 2010

an unexpected gift

My special lady and I recently enjoyed a weekend at the FOXWOODS RESORT in Mashantucket, CT. Gambling is the main attraction at this venue. But, once a year or so, we go mainly to see a comedy act or a concert.

Hearing Sheryl Crow sing live at the MGM Grand Theater at the resort was our primary objective. Although I’m not in love with the acoustics offered by this hall, I do like the size (not too big or small) and the seating is very comfortable (I hate being crammed and jammed while watching an engagement). I knew Sheryl would perform magnificently-and she certainly did.

We had no idea though who would open up for her. And when the opening artist and band were introduced-the name Brandi Carlile only slightly rang a bell. I am also not a viewer of the ABC drama, Grey’s Anatomy, so I was unaware that a few of Ms. Carlile’s songs had been featured here. However, just a few harmonics later and we did know that we were the recipients of a bank error in our favor. This was no opening act and a show. It was a double header.

I enjoy many different kinds of music. To my delight, Brandi Carlile has a unique way of blending rock, country and folk qualities into her renditions while she mixes in and reveals a wide range of singing ability. She appears young, yet self-assured and powerfully energetic. And her vocal cords possess the smooth acceleration of a finely tuned V8 engine.

Differing styles aside, but similarly having previously known nothing about someone, I couldn’t help feeling some familiarity to having heard Bonnie Raitt for the first time back in the 1970’s and instantly becoming a follower. Déjà-vu, I suppose, in the form of another big voice, with obvious talent, artistry and an upward aura.

It was a no-brainer then that I would want to head for the lobby and purchase a CD during intermission. About a thousand other people had thought along those lines too. Even with the announced knowledge that an autographed copy might be possible, I gave the notion little consideration. Instead, I hyper focused (zoned out-as I sometimes do) as I weaved my way to the glass enclosed displays of merchandise available. I drowned out all the crowd noise around me and requested ‘that one’ while pointing in redundancy to the clerk in attendance. Then, at the exact moment I was handed the disk, my peripheral focus returned and I heard a woman next to me say, ‘I’ll take that’.

Standing beside me and to the right was Brandi Carlile. As she autographed my purchase I wanted to comment all about my déjà-vu, her energy, her range, her wit of lyrics and her guitar playing. But, suffering under the weight of an unexpected gift being tossed in my lap, I mundanely declared ‘great voice Brandi, great voice’ as I moved on to make room for the next new fan.

Considering that for the past two weeks her songs are pretty much all I have listened to while navigating my way around town, I thought that if you too are looking for a gift that doubles as a gem you may want to check out the music of Brandi Carlile.

© 2010 Christopher’s Views

Friday, October 1, 2010

the right tool for the job

I often guide my way through life’s journeys and detours by referring to axioms. The dictum which reminds us that the first step to getting out of a big hole requires us to stop digging is an old favorite of mine. And perhaps this message needs to be run 24/7 on a Times Square billboard.

America has been toiling in a massive hole for a couple of years now, since being declared healthy enough for removal from life support (meaning no more bailouts). We muddle by with mind boggling government debt, extensive unemployment, an aging infrastructure, an overextended military, tremendously high foreclosure rates, upside down home ownership (owing more than a house is worth), huge personal and business debts, and a frivolous denial about global warming in the real sense as well as in the creating some jobs sense.

Are people angry? Of course they are. Are there times and places for anger? Of course there are. The tricky thing though about the emotion of anger is how it can work well within a healthy personal relationship at times, and yet can wreak havoc within business or public relationships. Within a strong personal relationship, anger sometimes sounds the alarm that problems need to be addressed. And if they are, the relationship can grow and become even better. However, in a business, group or public setting, anger often transcends being an emotion. Interest in mending or improving the relationship can quickly take a back seat to the gathering of allies, winning of the battles and later to losing the war.

I fear that this is the current state in much of American politics and culture today. Carl Paladino, running for governor of New York State as a Republican this fall, perhaps exemplifies the angry man of today most aptly. He holds himself together as he declares himself to be ‘mad as hell’ in a video clip on the paladinoforthepeople web site. I get the angry Tea Party coziness of his statement. I wonder though if he gets the Freudian slip side of being one who is ‘mad as hell’ as in crazy, nutty and irrational. As in someone who would send a letter to Andrew Cuomo, the Democratic choice, running for governor in the Empire State, in which, on September 20th, Paladino made several remarks about Mr. Cuomo and his lack of ‘cojones’. Or someone would refer to former NYS Governor George Pataki as a ‘degenerate idiot’. Or someone who thinks a well thought out idea is to 'take a baseball bat to Albany'. Or someone who would attempt to make an analogy that connects Sheldon Silver, the NY Assembly speaker, with Hitler and an Antichrist. Or boil over into some kind of implied threat when taunting, ‘I’ll take you out buddy’ ,while arguing with a New York Post editor in a hotel lobby near Lake George. And certainly he would not connect being ‘mad as hell’ with the extreme divergence of judgment required between wanting to lead a State of 19 million people and forwarding racist, vulgar and immature e-mails without thought, in what he has labeled ‘poor judgment’, as has been reported in the media. Notwithstanding the madness, this trendy position of showing anger without discussing solutions to the individual, public, current and future problems only serves to divide our energy and will likely keep us mired in our hole right up to the midterm elections in November and beyond.

On the opposite side of the spectrum, President Obama (the unruffled man) and his administration have disappointed many by the lack of tangible projects and solutions brought forth to get the country back on track following the disastrous Bush era. I am not so sure that Andrew Cuomo can get the job done with any less disappointment here in New York.

But when I enter the voting booth on November 2nd, I will pull a lever that I believe provides a chance for focus, strategy, equality, progress, growth and maturity. Snowballing anger, void of sincerity, usually just begets more anger and little gets solved. No matter what party I look to I want to vote for someone with ideas and principles that make good sense, not good punch lines.

It is currently very hard to for me to see any individuals who meet those criteria because the shovels are still largely in hand and tons and tons of bulls@#$ are still being tossed around in the emptiness. Forget the baseball bat; negotiating our way out of this stink hole may require each of us to be packing a can of Lysol.

© 2010 Christopher’s Views