Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Not this guy again.

And speaking of torture...

Here's what happened yesterday with an audience at the University of Colorado:

"The first question came from a woman who asked if Ashcroft would be willing to be subjected to waterboarding.

'The things that I can survive, if it were necessary to do them to me, I would do,' he said."

Wow. Talk about a non-committal commitment.

This is how how he defends the Patriot Act:

“Let’s look at the law and see what we can do that would help us. We need to think differently, think outside the box . . . never think outside the Constitution.”

Looks like somebody's got a case of the contradictions.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Here comes Johnny singin' oldies, goldies.

While his younger brothers followed the rock-and-roll path (see below), my oldest son John chose the life of a bluesman. By day, he's employed by a government contractor helping the Indian nations preserve their financial records and tribal history.

But when the time is right for racin' in the streets, John either picks up his guitar or his pool cue and goes to town.

He used to jam with the K.C. blues guys at Blayney's in Westport. Recently, he's been more serious about the nine-ball tournaments, and it looks like he'll be headed for Las Vegas in the spring for the national tournament.

Of all the gifts the guys have received, I guess I'm most grateful for music. (Though I can also make a good case for humor!) Music was their lifeline through high school, and it continues to get them through the challenges of young adulthood. When I hear their cars arrive for family gatherings, basses thumping and neighbors scowling, it makes me feel like we did something right.

And when I hear each of my sons playing music, whether it's on stage or on the basement couch, I'm moved by the power of humans to create something new, powerful, and beautiful from the joy (or pain) in our souls.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

The von Jackson family non-singers.

If you haven't heard my kids' post-rock instrumental band, do yourself a favor and discover Brainbow!

Our family's rock-and-roll fantasy began when Joey received his first guitar, a Mattel Jaminator, in 1988. This precursor to Guitar Hero played amazing heavy metal leads. ( Just add attitude and imagination.)

Steve (Dad) had played keyboards in The Aces Wild, a favorite combo at University of Virginia frat parties other east coast venues during the 1960s. The lead guitarist in Steve's band was John Andrews, who later became semi-famous in Tracy Nelson's band, Mother Earth. So in spite of my history as a marching band clarinetist, our boys have rock and roll in their blood.

Their first actual band was the Knuckleheads, who played in our basement when the kids were in kindergarten, first, and second grades. We recently found one of the "basement tapes" and were reminded that the music consisted of random and anarchic notes and drumbeats, punctuated with people saying "poo-poo" and "butt."

Then the kids started getting lessons, and the music became more serious. Valium was formed in middle school, and they actually had a few paying gigs at local coffeehouses. Valium evolved into Jekas, cycling through a series of lead singers with ego issues. After dealing with temperamental behavior from the guys who actually had no musical talent (these were screaming thrash metal bands), Brainbow emerged as an instrumental only, all-original niche band.

So give it a listen and see what you think. The music's signature quality is its joyful energy and precise musicianship. All four guys participate in the songwriting, and they rehearse in a rented storage locker so as not
to disturb the peace in their respective neighborhoods.

You can catch them at Kansas City and Lawrence, Kansas, clubs including The Bottleneck, Jerry's Bait Shop, The Brick, The Mission Theatre, The Hurricane, The Record Bar, Mike's, and The Gaslight. See you there!

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Winnie the Wonder Dog

I try not to be the kind of animal lover who talks like this about her pet:

"Winnie's the best ol' dog in the whole wide world. Yes she is. Yes she is."

However. We do have a very cool quirky dog. And she has a story.

Back in 2004, the winner of the Westminster Kennel Club's Best in Show was "Darbydale's All Rise Pouchcove," a.k.a. "Josh," a Newfoundland. We'd watched the whole show and had been rooting for Josh throughout. The champ reminded us of Marley, a friend's Newfy we'd met back in the 80s, when it had been love at first drool.

The night after the show, Steve had a dream that a Newfy climbed into his lap. The very next day, in the Petco parking lot, a beat-up old pick-up truck was parked next to a sign that read "Newfoundland puppies." We stopped to look at them and within five minutes had seen photos of the pups' parents, written a check for $175, and brought Winnie home.

Here she is hanging with our beloved former Golden Retriever, Rosie.

Given the circumstances of her adoption into our family, is it any wonder Winnie loves dog shows? She was particularly taken with this Saluki in 2006. For the record, the truck full of Newfies turned out to be a truck full of Labs. We still love her.

She could probably be a Frisbee champ if we worked with her. And she talks, saying "I love you" with about as much predictability as Michigan J. Frog's song-and-dance trick. Like I said, she's a wonder dog.

The best ol' wonder dog in the whole wide world. Yes she is. Yes she is.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Not gonna dread it.

I'm changing my ways. It's November 10th, and so far I haven't told anyone how I'm dreading a) winter or, b) the holidays.

It's not been a conscious choice. Some kind of epiphany must have occurred during my sleep, because I'm actually looking forward to Christmas this year. I caught myself looking at some new tree decorations, and I'm skimming the catalogs with an eye toward gift-giving. (The past five years, I've chucked them all, muttering "Bah, Humbug. Money grubbing retailers. Wake me after New Year's.")

I doubt if I'll be hitting the malls on the Friday after Thanksgiving. And I will continue to cringe at the jewelry store commercials implying that if you don't get your honey a big honkin' rock, it's not actually Christmas and, by the way, you're a slacker/loser.

But I believe there are ways to enjoy the holidays without buying into the whole commercial, materialistic hairball. For instance, I'm planning to find some live holiday music every weekend. And buy some new boots so I can walk in the snow (if we get any). I'm going to start writing my holiday cards next week, and I'm going to try to track down/stalk the old friends who haven't kept me in the loop, address-wise.

I probably won't bake, because much of that yummy stuff is poison to me, but I do plan to do some healthy cooking to keep the house cozy and welcoming.

Some years we've had a big party, but this year I think we'll opt for inviting a few friends at a time for a relaxing meal and maybe a game of Scrabble or two.

The internal holiday adjustment will be more of a challenge. Both of my parents died at Christmastime, and it's become a habit for me to view the "most wonderful time of the year" as "Parental Death Season." This year I'm determined to keep the grief in perspective. It helps to consider this observation by C.S. Lewis:

"Part of every misery is, so to speak, the misery's shadow or reflection: the fact that you don't merely suffer but have to keep on thinking about the fact that you suffer. I not only live each endless day in grief, but live each day thinking about living each day in grief."

Huh! It's not just me who romanticizes personal tragedy. And now that I've acknowledged the unfairness for this year, I can get on with reinventing the holidays for my family and myself.

Maybe it will never again be pure joy like when my sister Lisa and I were kids (photo above). But dreading anything is lazy and bad for the soul.

So death to dread!

And Merry (Early) Christmas!

Friday, November 9, 2007

My best Thursday night friends (Kelly, Toby & Ryan) explain the WGA writers' strike

It seems like a no-brainer to include internet revenue in the TV writers' fair share. How much do the media conglomerates need?

Sunday, November 4, 2007

My father-in-law is probably more famous than your father-in-law.

My husband's father, Jay Jackson, would have turned 87 today. In addition to doing dozens of voiceovers and TV commercials (he was the voice of Crest toothpaste), Jay was an early host of Tic-Tac-Dough and Twenty Questions. His most famous role, though, was as game show host Herb Norris on the "$99,000 Answer" episode of The Honeymooners. TV Guide named that episode the 6th funniest TV episode of all time, and a clip was used on "The Sopranos."

A sample of his wit: One day Jay and some friends were discussing the comparative merits of Long Island golf courses.

A friend noted, "Perry Como belongs to your country club. I've heard he's a hell of a guy."

Jay's reply: "Yes, I've heard that, too."

He was a one-of-a-kind man with a million stories to tell. And as a far-removed celebrity groupie from Minnesota, I was easily dazzled by his encounters with Lucille Ball, Louis Armstrong, and a cast of other larger-than-life characters.

My kids loved having him as a grandpa. One running gag involved my son Joey. We'd put him on the phone so grandpa could quip, "Hello, Joe. Whaddya know?" And Joey, a toddler, would reply. "Hey, Jay. Whaddya say?"

And we have some sweet recordings (somewhere) of our oldest son, John, singing "Little Sir Echo" with Grandpa Jay.

Steve and I think about Jay especially at certain times...during Ohio State and New York Giants football games, at the end of golf tournaments, and especially those nights when we wind down for the night watching classic game shows on tv.

Class, wit, warmth, and a booming baritone. That was Jay Jackson. And I'm toasting him today.