Wednesday, December 25, 2019

Merry Christmas from 1968 and Apollo 8 (2019 edition)

Christmas morning of 2017 I visited American Digest because I knew Gerard would have several good posts about Christmas and the entire Christmas season, and Lo and Behold he had the same exact Christmas Eve Apollo 8 video that our pastor played for us during church services on Christmas Eve.

Our pastor's message was that even though the year 1968 was so divisive, violent, and chaotic, the Apollo 8 mission at Christmas united the country, and the world, and “saved” 1968.

Hard to argue with that, and in any case I won’t try, because I loved Christmas Eve 1968. It is probably my warmest Christmas memory.

I was nine years old, and everything that happens when you're nine years old remains very vivid forever, so that's part of it. But that Apollo 8 mission at Christmas time, when mankind launched a space mission to orbit the moon -- and then come back safely -- was absolutely riveting. It's hard to imagine today how amazing this was back in 1968.

It made Christmas 1968 even more amazing and filled with wonder than it already is every other year. 

Have a great Christmas, all!

Saturday, November 09, 2019

Books That Can Change Your Life: “The Road Less Traveled” by M. Scott Peck

Yesterday I had good cause to look up M. Scott Peck, the author of one of the most important (and best) books of the last 50 years: “The Road Less Traveled”.

This part straight from the M. Scott Peck Wikipedia page is very relevant to someone who is very, very close to me. Right now.


In The Road Less Traveled, Peck talked of the importance of discipline. He described four aspects of discipline:
  1. Delaying gratification: Sacrificing present comfort for future gains.
  2. Acceptance of responsibility: Accepting responsibility for ones own decisions.
  3. Dedication to truth: Honesty, both in word and deed.
  4. Balancing: Handling conflicting requirements. Scott Peck talks of an important skill to prioritize between different requirements — bracketing.
Peck’s book begins with the profound truth that “Life is difficult”. We must attest to the fact that life was never meant to be easy, and that it is nothing but a battlefield of problems. We can either moan about them or solve them. It is here that the vital role of discipline assumes significance.

Peck defines discipline as the basic set of tools we require to solve life’s problems. These tools are delaying gratification, assuming responsibility, dedication to the truth, and balancing. These are techniques of suffering, means by which we experience the pain of problems in such a way as to work through them and solve them successfully, learning and growing in the process. Most of us do not want to wrestle with our problems because of the pain involved. Yet, it is only in grappling with our problems that life has its meaning.

The book has the potential to change your life —  the way you look at your own life, and the lives of others, and the choices that we all make, and the rationalizations we tell ourselves and others — if you let it.

We all encounter trouble in our lives, somewhere along the way. I know I have, multiple times. There have been times when I felt like I was hanging on by just a thread. 

Everybody fights demons of one kind or another, at one age or another. Struggle is a part of life. Like it says above, “Life is difficult”. 

But the one thing that shines through all of that is the power of attitude. 

And I didn’t fully understand this as a young person, or even a thirty-something married man with kids. It seems too trite and obvious.

But it’s true: our attitudes and reactions to events in our lives inform everything we do, think, and say. 

When faced with situations we don’t like or don’t understand, we can try to adapt, or give up. Some of us give up right away, and some of us try to adapt for a while, and then run out of energy or ideas on how to deal with the situation. But some of us push through, all the time, always trying to adapt (even after painful setbacks), never giving up on themselves, or losing faith that they can find a way out, someday. 

There is remarkable power in this ability to adapt, to push forward no matter what. 

Young people can’t be expected to understand this, really, but Life is primarily about Never Giving Up.

Live to fight another day. Keep your attitude good and you can accomplish great things. Don’t dwell on mistakes or errors – learn from them and move on. God knows, I’ve made some mistakes of my own, and I still beat myself up over them, though less than I used to. You can’t fix what you already did by beating yourself up, so it accomplishes nothing but does kill your spirit and energy that you need to face the day. 

So to my cherished loved one, I say, hang in there and keep plugging away and life will get better. Treat mistakes as lessons learned, try not to repeat them, know that everyone makes mistakes and that’s okay, and slowly, life will get better.

And to everybody, I say read “The Road Less Traveled”. Buy it, read it, lend it to friends, read it again every year or two.

Friday, November 01, 2019

Thursday, August 22, 2019

Al Green “Sha-La-La (Make Me Happy)”

Pure magic from the master. Turn it up. Louder.

Things I love about this record:
  • Drumming, just like on every Al Green record
  • Intro
  • Al’s vocals, so dynamic 
  • Guitar fills after some of the lines, simple but effective
  • Horn riffs
  • Perfect production quality, a little bit raw and that’s just how we like it
  • It makes me happy

Friday, August 02, 2019

“You are SO Money!”

“You’re like a bear with big f—king claws and she’s just a little bunny”

From “Swingers” of course and if you have not seen it, I would recommend that you do. Several classic scenes including this one and “John Favreau Leaves Many Little Bitch Voicemails in a Row”.

Vince Vaughn (and others) roll with the “you are SO money” line many times throughout the movie, trying to help their loser-ish friend.

Sunday, June 02, 2019

Delbert McClinton “Bright Side of the Road”

The hottest version of this great Van Morrison song — the slide guitar and Delbert’s vocals are spot-on.

Turn it up!

Sunday, March 17, 2019

The Four Seasons “Let’s Hang On”

The records these guys made are fun and addictive, not to mention creative and of extremely high quality in the craftsmanship department.

The songwriters on all of their material are genius-level creatives, in my eyes. Most of their material was written by Bob Gaudio (their bass player) and Bob Crewe (their producer). Gaudio went on to have a very successful career as a producer and was a major force behond Jersey Boys as a writer, among many other projects.

And then there are those voices. There is literally nobody else in music history that sounds like this group. They invented a new niche and occupied it alone, for 60 years now.

As far as I’m concerned, they do not get nearly enough credit, even after the success of Jersey Boys and the attention that came with it.

(here is their Wikipedia entry)

Thursday, January 24, 2019

John Prine "Spanish Pipedream"

We blew up our TV
Threw away our papers
Went to the country
Built us a home
Had a lot of children
Fed ’em on peaches
They all found Jesus
On their own
John Prine “Spanish Pipedream”