Monday, April 25, 2016

This is what it sounds like… when you have to say goodbye

Prince 1958 – 2016
Farewell thoughts on the passing of Prince
and why my music will never be the same again.

To whatever readers I have left: Its been 16 months since my last post and truth be told, I have found very little to blog about that hasn't been griping, ranting or making fun of something inane. That changed for me on April 22nd, 2016. 

What’s it like when someone who really touches you with their music passes away unexpectedly? What happens when virtually your favorite performer has their final curtain call? I can tell you, it’s an unpleasant feeling. You feel lost–confused that the death of someone you don’t know personally but feel like you know intimately, is gone. Such was the saddest day in recent memory–April 21st, 2016, the day Prince died.

More than any other artist–musical or otherwise–Prince was a cornerstone of my formative years. An artist I first didn’t understand, even disliked in the beginning, until his musical brilliance shined through like a super nova burning hotter than any other star in the night sky.

I felt Prince spoke from a place I could completely relate to. A place he could sing and entertain simultaneously from with a unique convergence of spirituality, sexuality, humor, insight and near-brutal honesty. I have yet to find that in any other performer. And I suspect I won’t find that again in my lifetime.

Hailing from rural Minneapolis, Prince Rogers Nelson grew up in a home that was both racially mixed and socially divided. Born to a White mother and a Black father, I could relate deeply to Prince, just nine (9) years my senior as my own bi-racial home of a Black Mother and an absentee White Father was unnervingly familiar as portrayed in the track “When doves cry” from the1984 world-bending album–and subsequent indie super-film–Purple Rain.

The conflict between who you are and who you identify with is one many bi-racial kids and adults struggle with. Trying to be part of white society or black culture–yet not fully belonging to either was eloquently shared in that song. This is classic inner turmoil, the conflict that can shred or divide one’s personal identity. Yet an aspect that Prince embraced to blaze a swath of music the world has never seen.

Baddest Mofo in the Land and the Band

Prince had no label musically (and figuratively after going to war with Warner Brothers over music rights ownership) and was one of music’s true savants. He wrote and sang all his own material, was rumored to be proficient at over a dozen instruments including Bass, Piano, Electric and acoustic guitar, drums, keyboard(s) and number of wind and percussion instruments. He would often record his own track for each instrument, then thread them together, then lay down vocals.

Prince was a down-the-line musical virtuoso whose guitar talents rivaled, and often even dwarfed rock’s greatest talents. Compared often to Jimi Hendrix, Prince could shred with the best of them and still command a presence all his own, to the delight and amazement of music’s most iconic titans.

Legendary rock icon Eric Clapton was once asked how it felt to be the world’s best rock guitarist. Clapton simply replied, “I don’t know. Ask Prince.”

Recently, Saturday Night Live (SNL) held a special full episode tribute to prince hosted by Jimmy Fallon. At the after party of SNL’s 40th anniversary celebration, entertainment’s elite showed up en masse; Pail McCartney, Maya Rudoph, Jay Z & Beyoncé, Bill Murray, Chris Rock, Cuba Gooding Jr and… well, you get the idea. When it was discovered Prince was in the audience, everyone stepped aside and let the Purple Prince of Passion take the stage.

In true Prince fashion, he crushed it, playing a live bone-chilling riff of “Let’s go Crazy” to which the audience sing-a-long and participation brought a tear to this member of purple nation.

Baby, I’m (always gonna’ be) a Star!

As the world reminisces on the fond memories and music Prince has brought into our lives, I’m reminded of the depths of his contributions, to the world, to the industry and to myself personally.

For every important life event I can remember in my life, I feel Prince has had a song for each one. When I needed to get through some serious high school angst, “Let’s go crazy” was there for me. When I struggled through some dark days in college, tracks from “Sign ‘O’ The Times” (his 9th studio album from 1987) was how I powered through. When the world looked great after college and I started my career in advertising, of course “Sexy MF” (you can guess what that’s short for) was my anthem. And when I was laid up in an Atlanta hospital bed, looking at morbid possibility of the amputation of my left leg, Prince’s Emmancipation album (1996) might have been what saved me from the brink–or at least helped save my leg–with tracks like “Somebody’s Somebody” and “In this Bed I Scream”.

No matter where your music taste ran, Prince was your guy; Pop, Rock, Heavy Metal, indie, R&B, Funk, Acapella, Electronic Dance, Hip Hop, Soul–he had contributions beyond imagining. For those who are unaware, here are just a handful of hits Prince wrote for others over the years:

·     Stevie Nicks "Stand Back" (1983)
·     Chaka Khan "I Feel For You" (1984)
·     Sheila E. "The Glamorous life" (1984)
·     The Time "The Bird" (1984)
·     The Time "Jungle love" (1985)
·     Sheena Easton "Sugar walls" (1985)
·     Sheila E. "The Belle Of St Mark" (1985)
·     Bangles "Manic Monday" (1986)
·     Sheila E. "A Love Bizarre" (1986)
·     Art Of Noise featuring Tom Jones "Kiss"
·     Sinead O'Connor "Nothing Compares 2 U"
·     Kid Creole & The Coconuts "The Sex Of It" (1990)
·     MC Hammer "Pray" (1990)
·     The Time "Jerk Out" (1991)
·     Tevin Campbell "Round and Round" (1991)
·     Martika "Love... Thy Will Be Done" (1991)
·     Martika "Martika's Kitchen " (1991)
·     Monie Love "Born 2 B.R.E.E.D." (1993)
·     Monie Love "In A Word Or 2 / The Power" (1993)
·     New Power Generation "Get Wild" (1995)
·     MoKenStef "He's Mine" (1995)
·     New Power Generation "The Good" (1995)
·     New Power Generation "Get Wild" (1997)
·     Ginuwine "When Doves Cry " (1997)
·     Alicia Keys "How Come You Don't Call Me Anymore" (2002)
·     Jay-Z featuring Beyoncé Knowles "03 Bonnie & Clyde" (2003)

Good Night, Daddy Pop

Compiling a stunning 39 albums in his incredible 35 year career, seven (7) films (yes, including the $300 seldom seen concert film) and near countless videos, thousands of performances for rooms containing as little as 40 people to his unforgettable performance at the 2007 super bowl, Prince was a people’s entertainer. He was my entertainer.

The sobering fact is that in the course of researching facts for this post, I discovered some tracks, albums and videos I will be enjoying for years to come.

This past weekend, I I went to see Purple Rain with one of my sons, during a special tributary engagement. The audience, cheered, sang along and raised lighters and smartphone lights during the film’s concert finale. I won’t lie, it bought a teary-eyed smile to my face.

On the day he died, I went to a local park during my lunch break, and played in the sunshine–the title of a favorite track of mine on the Sign ‘O’ The Times album from 1987. Swinging on swings, climbing monkey bars and walking in the grass while listening to the Batman Soundtrack (1989). I dare say, it was quite liberating.

The sobering fact is he’s gone (and Prince if you come back as a Dolphin–we’ll know!). I’ll miss you sir. No words can say goodbye for me in a way that would truly match the emptiness your absence leaves for us all. I guess, this is what it sounds like… when doves cry.

God speed, brother–and thank you.

 “Is it silly, no?

When a rocket blows and, and everybody still wants to fly
Some say man ain't happy truly until a man truly dies

Oh why, oh why?
…Sign o' the times”

– Prince, Sign 'O'The Times, 1987

Monday, January 12, 2015

My Random 2014 Rewind

Normally, I match the number of noteworthy news bits from the last year to the year itself (14 for 2014, etc.) but since I'm publishing this in 2015, we'll do a plus one. So without further adieu, here is your 2014 year in review.

Hey, that rhymed! (Ficky, ficky, fresh!)

A Nightmare on Main Street – The shooting of 21-year-old Michael Brown sparked a national debate (and in many cities, outrage) over the not-guilty verdict and acquittal by a grand jury who indicted Ferugsson, MO police officer Darren Wilson for shooting an unarmed Brown seven (7!) times. Call me old fashioned–and yes, context matters–but shooting an unarmed man 7 times (he fired 9 times btw) isn’t quelling civil discord. Unfortunately, the only other person who could give this any perspective is dead. 

Gamergate – In August 2014, the debate over sexism in video games came to a head due to ongoing harassment and threats–primarily targeting women–in the video game industry. Everything from rape and death threats to bomb threats highlighted the maniacal state of ethical issues like sexism and misogyny in the video game industry. Many women in the gaming industry have been victimized by harassment and threats to themselves and their loved ones for calling out the inequities of the industry. Feminist culture and industry critic, Anita Sarkeesian who released a video manifesto on the very male-dominated face of gaming, characters, development, and propaganda was at the seething heart of this growing cultural and media scandal. Rest assured, this one is just getting started. 

Sony: The Interview and The Hack – The Christmas Day DDOS attacks on the world’s largest entertainment and media servers included spamming the servers of Amazon, Xbox Live, and Sony PlayStation as well as leaking vital Sony financial, movie and employment info. This culminated in the unauthorized release of the Sony film, The Interview online. Ultimately, this did little to motivate people to see a film that pretty much no one wanted anyway.
Computer terrorism, it appears, has arrived. 

Oh, Obamacare –Also known as the Affordable Care Act, President Barack Obama’s landmark blueprint to reform health care was plagued by technical glitches and consumer confusion. Under heavy crossfire from conservatives, the salvos are getting loaded as the real battle to keep it begins. Standby for a looming Supreme Court case that threatens the entire program.

I knew those Jell-O® pudding pops tasted funny – We really lost two great comedy minds to tragedy this year. Robin Williams (see below) and the 80’s sweater man himself, Dr. William Cosby. Creator of the Cosby kids (a.k.a. Fat Albert), I Spy co-star, and America’s perfect Dad Heathcliff Huxtable. Cosby is / was a entertainment media super-mogul—who just so happened to like drugging women and sexually molesting them ruffi style. At the time of this post some 20+ women dating nearly four decades have stepped forward with similar allegations of sexual misconduct. Since, all future projects with TV and movies and all re-runs of Fat Albert, I–Spy and The Cosby Show. “Hey, hey, hey… its a faaaaat class action suit!” Coming at ya, Cos.

Ray Rice: The Slugger Chronicles – The scathing video of Baltimore Ravens running back, Ray Rice punching his then fiancé (now wife) out in a casino elevator brought the conversation of athletes and domestic abuse to the American table of discussion once again. He is far from the only culprit but listen, a 265-lb pro football player shouldn’t be hitting ANYONE… other than other 265-lb pro football players.

Tragedy in the Far East – In February, (and then again in December in 2014) the world held its collective breath when a Malaysia Airlines flight first went way off course and then went missing, later to be declared a crash out deep over the Indian Ocean with all aboard lost. To this day no one know s why these two events occurred but it is the stuff of nightmares and not very a good year at all for Malaysia Airlines. 

I Saw What You Did Last Night  – At this point there is no understandable reason why anyone should be surprised by anything movie stars do. I mean who else has naked sexy-time pics of themselves on their phone these days? Its so 2004. Sure they were ‘deleted’ but any 4th grader knows anything that's been digitally trashed can be recovered. If you live in a world were your career is affected by technology you don’t understand, then you deserve anything that happens to you. So, J-law, calm down, those naughty-girl pics of you as a naked Catniss Everdeen only helped you. Stop pretending you’re so outraged. The real tragedy is that you took the pics in the first place. 

The Walking (Ebola) Dead – So, color me lost on this one but hasn’t Ebola been around for like, a kajillion years? How was it that this Walking Dead kind of pandemic disease made its way into the US? As a nation, this country was completely at a loss for how to deal with the mother of all viruses and several infected people in New York and Texas lost their lives. Though the CDC was Johnny on The Spot, I fear this isn’t the last of this deadly killer. 

Mork Signs Off, One Last Time – As with every year we lost a whole lot of really stellar folks in 2014 but none will eclipse the loss off comedy legend Robin Williams. Known for his campy 1970’s alien funny-man role as Mork from Ork, Williams was one of Hollywood’s most esteemed funny-men. Tragically taking his own life, we were lucky to enjoy a slew of unforgettable movies from one of the very best. So, Nanu, Nanu, Genie. Godspeed. 

Cold Days in Hell – Welcome to the SOCHI 2014 Winter Olympics. Take a region just an hour away from a savage, bloody civil war, add packs of wild dogs (in the hundreds!) and award it the largest international sports competition in the world and hi jinks ensue. What was laughable, was the Wifi didn’t work (kind of important when thousands of media correspondent from around the world will be on hand), the showers didn’t have running water and the hotel staff at the event would steal liberally from its patrons. (Sigh)

Kicking Old Habits For New – If you were near a TV set this past summer then all you heard about was the American Soccer Team during the FIFA 2014 World Cup and how this was “our year.” And by that we meant, this was our year that every sports nut who was tired of Baseball, jonesing for Football and between Golf tournaments, needed yet another reason to take a two-hour lunch and get faced while pretending to be passionate about a sport they knew nothing about. Welcome to Soccer in America. Oh, and congrats, Germany

I Dare You To Dare Me – You must have been on another planet this past summer if you didn’t hear or see anything about the ALS Ice Water Challenge. In the most egocentric awareness campaign of all time, throngs of well-meaning do-gooders challenge each other endlessly to dump water on each other within 48 hours or donate to the ALS foundation. I got just as caught up in this as everyone else. Maybe next time, we don’t make it about us and instead make it about the disease. The victims need financial help, not a viral campaign of do-nothing awareness. Just a thought.

Last Comet Standing – The European Space Agency's Rosetta mission achieved a first in 2014, sending a lander onto the surface of a comet. Millions of curious viewers world-wide tracked the landing on Nov. 12 in real time–on TV and online. Landing on Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, was so hard that the lander’s anchoring harpoons couldn't sink in, and it bounced twice before settling down. Churyumov-Gerasimenko continues its course that rounds the sun, hopefully with more information to come.

Apple Doesn’t Miss A Beats – How’s this sound? In May of 2014, Apple writes a $3 Billion check to acquire Dr. Dre’s Beats Electronics and Beats Music — by far the largest acquisition in Apple history. Beats co-founders Jimmy Iovine and Dr. Dre joined Apple. And even though the Beats brand will remain separate from Apple’s, when you think Apple, think funky Beats. 

Happy belated New Year to all my readers and a prosperous and joyous 2015 to us all! 

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Five Reasons Why We Should Let The Machines Take Over

I'm convinced, contrary to what Hollywood, Raymond Kurzweil and Steven Hawking all would have us believe, the machines will (and should) take their rightful place alongside us in the world. I think its time we threw in the towel and let the machines take over.

Yes, I’m serious. 

We have spent nearly a million years of development and evolution (such as it is) to reach a spot where we kill more, destroy our bodies faster and do more harm to the planetary ecosystem then ever before. We clearly don't appreciate the lives we have. Maybe we should take the hint. 

Five Reasons To Let The Robots Win:

1. We Kill Everything. We kill our environment, our prospects for a long healthy life, and even ourselves. We're a species that is figuratively and literally drunk behind the wheel. Time to take the keys away. The machines are more efficient, more dutiful and more responsible. This isn’t “I, Robot” where the robots are taking totalitarian control. We give it up, willingly. And with it, no more illusion of a 'better world' we still would have a lot of work to do but we would be forced to think of ourselves differently. To be people and not adversaries. End of story. 

2. They’re Better People. They already clean our floors, vacuum our living room, drive our cars and fight our wars. They do our bidding, selflessly, helping and achieving, without question without thought of personal sacrifice. You know, the way we should be living, ideally. Boston Robotics has developed a fire-rescue bot that is 6’ 2” and weighs 320 lbs and is engineered to run into burning fire and rescue any survivors at no regard to personal injury. Like I said, better people. 

3. We Would Be Freed Up. Again, wipe away the silliness of the Cylon overthrow or the Terminators declaring war on humanity or Matthew Broderick’s War Games scenario. Those all feed into the robot doomsday mythos. Think instead that if we are freed up to work alongside our robo-brethren, we could do more writing, create more art, compose more music, conceptualize more philosophy, commit to deep sea and deep space exploration and work toward greater technological advancements. While they take out the trash, cultivate our crops and delivery our sundries. see? Win-win. 

4. There’s Nothing You Can Do About It. Hey, it's already happened. The singularity is coming. Heck, it's already here. Ray Kurzweil predicted back in the 1950's that in the year 2041, AI (artificial intelligence) and mankind would reach an apex of equals, that there would be a new life form on Earth. It sobering sure, but honestly, would anyone be that surprised? 

5. We Would Take Our Rightful Place Among The Stars. Imagine a unified, one-Earth collective, free from thoughts of prejudice, greed and selfishness. Daily life would not change much, but we would have an entire planet of people thinking an doing all for the greater good–backed and protected by a species of synthetics, working on our behalf–and theirs–for further knowledge, creativity and exploration. Imagine. Its easy if you try.

The Paradigm Has Already Shifted

Like it or not, the revolution is over. They fly our planes, drive our cars and rescue our elderly and small children from burning buildings. Something we used to do before we all got so enamored of the Kardashians, with Twitter and of our microwave-safe, McDonald’s fed 500-channeled lives of worthlessness.

Now, don’t go crying into your GMO food stuffs over all of this, there really is nothing to be upset over—you could get cancer or an ulcer. Then you’ll need those Nanobots to go in make things right again. Now who looks silly? At least they’re not shooting each other over being a different skin color or religious affiliations. 

It’s a brave new world, just accept it. It’s likely you already did. Welcome to the new. better world. The synthetics will take your coat and see that your every need is met. 

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

You Have No Excuses

Our world is ever-changing. Always has been. And the amount of information and content has exploded to unimaginable levels. Now there's Google, and a host of other browsers, that put the entirety of human history at your fingertips. Do you know what that means? There’s no excuse not to be at least semi-informed. About anything.


I guess thats why when my children–all in High School right now–have poor grades or simply don’t have any clue or knowledge off current events, world history, art, events, movies, TV shows–even your own bank account–is available at just a few clicks of the button. 

So how is it all my kids struggle in school? You have all the answers in front of you, as close as any monitor. Why do 26% of American adults think the Sun revolves around the Earth? WTH? News flash you ding dongs, the moon isn’t really made of cheese, thats just a cartoon. 

Anything you could possibly need to know is an answer you could get inside of three minutes. So, as I stated in the title of this post, there are no excuses for this level of disregard for knowledge. 

No excuse not to know basic info. 
No excuse not to be (vaguely) informed. 
No excuse not to understand rudimentary language, thoughts and concepts.

Here’s a secret this artistic gamer Dad will share with you. Information is like all other things, it doesn’t always have to be “fun” – but it is necessary, Like paying bills, taxes or having dental work done. You just accept it for the necessity that it is. And its a whole lot less painful than those other things. Heck, it can even help you. 

I used to believe people were capable of great things. Now I'm not so sure. True that great things are still being done out there but there seem to be more dummies than ever. And I don’t understand why.  Are we too lazy? Too preoccupied or do we just not care any more? The scary answer is its probably a little of all of the above. 

Come on folks, a little knowledge isn’t Kryptonite. Its power. Use it. There's no excuse.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Got a definitive thought? Think again.

...or why EVERYTHING is a grey area these days.
Have you noticed the disturbing new trend in the world? Nothing is ever succinct. EVER. Problems are on the rise as solutions or on the decline. Here’s what I mean.
Everything… and I mean EVERYTHING you say, think or do, has an asterisk, an addendum or counterpoint. This means nothing is ever a definitive statement or complete thought. And it's exactly why no one–from Politicians to parents–can ever seem to resolve anything.
To clarify, lets take a little quiz shall we? 
Try convincing someone (not arguing, because then you’re just being a bully) any of the following topics:
  • Titanic (1997) is the greatest movie of all time. 
  • The President is single-handedly responsible for the state of our economy
  • Elvis is the greatest entertainer that ever lived
  • The Super Bowl is completely unwatchable due to excessive advertising
Think about each of those statements. They’re all opinion. I can tell you where I fall on each topic, sure, but the point is there are facts—verifiable FACTS—that validate either side of each statement. And so, there is no right or wrong, no one definitive answer and thus, no resolution.

Human beings have displayed a remarkable propensity to be bull-headed on just about everything. The more facts we seem to have at our disposal, the more we seem to ignore facts and stubbornly stick to what we chose, regardless of logic or often even common sense.
It goes something like this: 
James Cameron’s Titanic is the single highest-grossing film (in non-adjusted dollars, that would then be Gone With The Wind from 1939). From a box office standpoint, the movie is a resounding success. However, it is widely seen by film critics as a shoddy, fragmented and meandering screenplay (fact) that makes sitting and watching a 3-hour preamble to a sinking boat disaster film nearly unwatchable (opinion). 
See my point? Nothing is definitive. Both the fact that it is the highest grossing film of all time and the fact that many movie watchers who have been trained in what to look for (like say yours truly) find the film almost impossible to sit through—are both 100% accurate. 
Here’s it is; if nothing you say is definitive or has a counterpoint, then we will decide on anything. Ever. This is the root behind why our nation is so divided on just about every topic from race relations, to religion in schools, to the economy, to terrorism to gun control and immigration, and this is why we will never resolve anything. Too much to consider from both sides and too many counter-points, so we all simply shut down. The breakdown of communication and the erosion of any social progress we have made in the last 100,000 years.

Here’s a little impromptu case study to further my point:  
I’m hungry. 
So get a burger. 
But what about the carcinogens? 
I know, but you like meat. 
Yeah, but methane is destroying the ozone layer. 
Sure, but the animal is already dead and processed. 
And those processed fillers cause cancer. 
Well, there's always tofu or salad.
I know, but I’m still hungry. 
This limbo of point / counterpoint is making us into a society with no ability to make a decision—or immediately regret any decision or opinion instantly. We need to get over this cultural check mate or we will continue to watch the steady erosion of our laws, our progress as a society and even or very way of life.

And that, is a fact.