Windsor Road Dispatch: Where do you get your ideas from?

As a professional writer, the question I’m most often asked (other than “Can I get fries with that?” or “Where have you been, I called Uber an hour ago?”) is: “Where do you get your ideas from?” For $14.95 a month you can join the service ‘Ideas.com’ where plots, characters, and themes are sent via email, all rights given to subscribers to choose from what they want.

Ah, if that were true.

The truth is, I have no idea where I get my ideas from. Snippets of conversation overheard, something that pops whole cloth into my head, Frankenstein creations stitched together in my frontal lobes, things broken off from other ideas I might have used or discarded, who knows? What I do know is that it seems there is only a finite amount of good ideas floating around out there for us all to grab, that it is ever harder these days to come up with something wholly original and maybe the old axiom that everything has been done already, is true.

The amount of sequels, previews, offshoots and reimagining we see seem to prove this point.

I live pretty darn close to the Broadway theatre scene in NYC. I have been privy to (but usually can’t afford to pay the exorbitant ticket prices for) Disney properties like Mary Poppins or The Lion King becoming successful theatre musicals, as well as older popular movies reimagined for the stage, like Sunset Boulevard, 9 to 5: The Musical, Spamalot (which I did see actually). In many of these instances, it becomes a case of fitting a round peg into a square hole, and I’d say more of these movie-to-staged-musical conversions fail than make it (either commercially or as productions worth seeing), or they have such a never-ending well of money behind them they simply can’t close.

As of late American, T.V. seems to have even Broadway beat with taking from one medium and making anew. I just caught the commercial for the new T.V. series “Frequency.” Based on the fairly decent 2000 movie-but not a particularly huge hit-somebody somewhere ran out of ideas and thought…’Hey, why not make Frequency into a television series?’ Also, will come “Lethal Weapon” this fall (from a more popular movie then Frequency) and God knows what else we will see?

Unlike M*A*S*H* of years ago, one of the most beloved television shows of all time taken from Robert Altman’s powerful 1970 satire, movie-to-T.V. conversion, like movies-to-Broadway musicals, like a Star Wars’ offshoot, like any prequel or sequel, even someone else taking a beloved wizard and writing a whole new book or stage adaptation about him, at the very least often does not add anything to the original story or, at the worse, bastardizes it to the point we can’t ever again go back to the original. We all know this, but like much else wrong with life, we just ignore the ill-conceived ‘new’ works and hope maybe this new thing will just go away quietly after a time.

Stealing I get, taking off from a popular franchise makes commercial sense, even maybe remaking something for a newer audience who probably have never seen the original (though in most cases there is really no need to make the thing anew as almost always the original has done it better), all of this I understand. But really, have we come to the place now where new ideas have come to die?




Olympics No More

olympicsgraf_0I had the hots for Olga Korbut, but that all happened years ago. I was glued to the set during the U.S. vs. Soviet hockey match-up, but I had lots of national pride and ‘anti-commie’ fervour in my twenties when I thought that kind of sentiment mattered. The 2016 Rio Games…sorry, I’m passing.

My cynical mind just chews through the controversy this year from the seemingly deplorable conditions facing athletes and spectators both, but there have been controversies at Olympics before. It’s hard for me to get into what used to be much purer match-ups prior to 1986 before professional athletes could compete in the games, but pretty much all sports are corrupted one way or another these days. And if people want to be fooled by modern technology, like the Chinese managing through computer animation to add to their 2008 opening games firework display, though I think that deception sucks, what can I do about it in the end?

Is there just more occupying my mind as a crusty old 54-year-old then there was when I was in my teens and early 20’s? Surely. Have I not exactly kept up with who is competing, who my country is rooting for presently, save for a Michael Phelps who looms ever so large I can’t ignore him? Probably. Do I not give a monkey’s dingle on who beats who in a race, pummeling a pommel horse, who does the breast stroke the very best. Certainly.

Sad as it is, though, I do respect any person who works as hard as Olympic athletes do to get into the peak physical condition they have to even get the chance to try to get to Olympic consideration, let alone into the games. There is just something about the pomp and circumstance of it all that just doesn’t do it for me anymore…not that it ever did. Maybe it’s seeing Matthew McConaughey up on his feet, seeing celebrities posting Instagram video of their congratulations and searching round horrific pics of past Olympic villages now gone to seed that makes me wonder, that for these few weeks, is any of this really worth it?
Economies fall, athletes deplete their family’s good will and bank accounts trying to get to the games and hopefully land a metal and an endorsement deal, as the diversion of watching has left me cold and wondering, what the hell is it all really for in the end? Can a gold metal even be melted down and sold in the end for any real substantial money?




The Windsor Road Dispatch: Another Good Man Down

Where I come from (and still live) we don’t know much about addiction. Yes, I grew up with a whole host of teens who drank and smoked some pot, surely I saw my fair share of out-of-control behaviours one might term compulsive and my friends and I chased enough women in our day you could say that at times we seemed obsessed (or just horny) but addiction, Nah, I have been lucky enough not to have seen so much of it. Even now when I hear somebody bandy about the term ‘alcoholic’ I realize they are flippantly self-diagnosing, I question contemporaries currently seeing a therapist more than once-a-week (or those many many more people one hears of taking pills to quell anxiety) and I wonder if we are all jumping to conclusions, being led and fed by social media and/or political correctness, aren’t all too afraid of our own shadows and want to even the highs and lows when in fact it is the highs and lows that make us us.

This consideration was once again brought to the fore for me over the recent problems of “The Prince of Darkness” himself, Ozzy Osbourne. Ozzy and his wife Sharon have recently been having some trouble because of an extra-marital affair Ozzy was in. But it seems the couple (Ozzy and Sharon that is) are going to stay together, especially in the light of Ozzy admitting (as it seems most contrite celebrity men do these days) that he is suffering from sex addiction.

Surely, when it comes to addictions you’d tend to believe Ozzy would be a candidate for one-he certainly is a man who has suffered through addictions I could never understand from my suburban bubble upbringing-but is he sex addicted? One tends to one wonder (at least if one is me) if something that is not even defined or mentioned in the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), a term with a veritable cottage industry built from it, something that has become a widespread cause célèbre, might the idea of sex addiction just be something thrust upon the world in the modern need to emasculate the hetero male and make money from him?

As heterosexual men are the one’s almost always the folks sex addicted I will admit that yes we can be (I happen to be a heterosexual man so I feel I can speak with some authority here) very much distracted by an upturned lady’s ankle, the feminine smile, even a slightly revealed cleavage; it’s in our DNA to respond to visual stimulus (something about perpetuating the species, look it up, I’m not lying). I can’t speak to the visual stimulations of heterosexual ladies, homosexual men or women, transgendered folk, all I can say with any certainty is that straight guys (and again it is straight guys you always hear about admitting to sex addiction) can be easily led by their sexual urges. Sprinkle in some celebrity (celebrity=time, money, recognition) then is it any wonder guys like Tiger Woods, David Duchovny, and Ozzy ‘branch out’?

Should these guys cheat on their spouses, of course not! But are they sex addicted? Might there be other reasons for their compulsions, which might not even figure into how much sex they like to have? Might it be easier to place a label on behaviour that might be, for many, morally repugnant? Might there just be such juicy press in the words ‘sex addiction’ we are all addicted to think the label real?

Like I said, I don’t know about addictions.




The Windsor Road Dispatch: The Simple Things

The Simple ThingsIt is said that the simplest things in life are the very best things of life. While I would champion anyone’s desire to accumulate riches, spend their money on just about any diversion they wish and indulge to your heart’s content, time and again I do find pleasure from the very simple, the hastily rendered, the accidental.

I happened down the main market street thoroughfare of my home the other night, aptly named Market Street. I have traipsed down this row of stores too many times to count in my years, know every Tom, Dick nook-and-cranny of the place (even though in the half century I have lived in my town lots of those stores have changed) and pretty much do take solace and pleasure from the these places I known so well, selling their various suburban wares.

I happened across a little boy, his mom and grandma sitting outside one of the many eateries down the street on this particular night. Running from the front door of the store to the ladies sitting not a mere few feet from him on a bench, as little kids are want to do, this boy (who I later learned was just a few months last his second birthday) was running to and fro, in the exact same path, to his encouraging mom and grandma, his waddling feet and big grin just delicious to witness. As luck would have it, when I came across the little guy he was halfway into his run, so I stopped, we all laughed and I bade him pass me.

Then I got a better idea as he looked up at me trying to determine if I was friend or foe. I simply said to him, “I’ll race with ya, come on,” and I ran back with him to the bench (he simply giggled and followed, kids catch on so fast as if they are thinking, ‘why wouldn’t you want to run/skip/play with me?’) and we proceeded to run back and forth from the bench to the doorway.

I begged off after about ten times, knowing fully well I could be stuck there for an hour repeating this action. What got me most, though, beyond the fact that I wasn’t as tired as I thought I would have been, is that each half way stop, the little guy looked up and let loose with that specific baby giggle that might be the very best sound you ever get lucky to hear.

I went to conduct my business, came back, talked to the ladies a bit, waved goodbye to my racing companion and literally skipped home thinking that that little moment of play, and hearing that two year’s giggle over my participation in his night, may indeed have been one of the simplest and best things I had encountered in weeks.




The Windsor Road Dispatch: Being Social

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What I have heard about the “latest outbreak of Pokémania” Pokémon Go? Was some prognosticator of the new game trying to convince the radio personality interviewing him that there was indeed a social component to people walking around with their cell phones held high, faces set on its screen and engaging a free app that has players imagining that they are interacting, in the here and now, with the creatures from Pokémon. It seems in certain cases people were meeting for the first time on the street over their shared ‘playing’ and that this first big augmented reality game actually has, as this gamer talking-head was trying to prove, some social aspect to it.

I guess it comes down to what your definition of being social is.

Yeah, I know, I am an old fart who is not changing for or even acknowledging these wonderful times we are living in. But Facebooking, Snapchatting, Instagramming, even texting is not my idea of being social…nor is chasing down animated characters suddenly popping across your phone’s screen while you are out and about in the real world. For me, being social is meeting folks face to face, looking them in their eye as you attempt to hold a conversation, sit across from the at dinner or even running your gaze up and down the body of a person you might be attracted to, as they either attempt to ignore, or invite your scrutiny. Hand holding, hugging and kissing hello, slapping someone on the back when you’ve shared a joke, leaning in close to take a friend’s hand when they are relating something that saddens them, this is human interaction with other humans and it is the stuff that makes us great.

It’s the same argument I have heard parents of teens try on me when I express disgust on how much the kids of today are on their phones, how they do not even actually call anyone even with those devices, and how you can be at a party where instead of the youngin’s talking and flirting with one another like a normal teen of eons ago used to, they sit side by side texting or Snapchatting with someone not at the party. The argument to my disgust is that kids today are indeed being more social, are more in contact, interact with each other more than we did back in the day. But I say within the method, lies the illness. As with getting out and about playing Pokémon Go?, nobody is talking, looking, enjoying the humanness of their fellow by being present right there, right then in front of their fellow enough to notice their fellow. It’s as if everybody has someplace they’d rather be, as if nobody can keep their mind on only one thing, as if walking through a nice summer day isn’t reason enough to be outside, instead people are chasing some ‘trainer’ character that doesn’t rightly exist.

But hey, people are being social, aren’t they?




The Windsor Road Dispatch: Rock And Roll T.V. Is Not For Me

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These days there are lots of writers dreaming about contributing to the seemingly endless need for new television programs; new networks and streaming services seem to be popping up all the time and they are sure to need content. And into this new content once again the writers/show runners and powers-that-be try to take on the world of rock and roll…and once again fail.

The fate of H.B.O.’s “Vinyl” sealed just a few weeks ago (it was cancelled after only one season), Denis Leary revealing his limp song-ed 2nd season of “Sex&Drugs&Rock&Roll” and Cameron Crowe debuting “Roadies” just recently (and these are just the American T.V. offerings) make it painfully clear in 2016, as in any year in the past, that rock and roll and television do not mix. A subjective opinion, certainly (and I watched all of Vinyl,” have tuned in and will continue to for “Roadies,” as well as for “Sex&Drugs&Rock&Roll”…though I could never actually tell you why I watch) but in trying to portray the very insular weird world of the slicing serpent’s tail end of the music business, television has always and will continue to always, fall short.

As with any entertainment where characters populate the media, we need interesting characters, not caricatures here. In Leary’s defense, his mining of caricature on “S&D,” and the fact that each of his episodes is only a half hour long, makes his offering inoffensive at best. Still, there are too many smarmy clichés in this program, the characters never live up to the potential of their supposed depths and as I mentioned, the songs are God awful, douche-chill inducing insipid nuggets of self-absorption.

You’d think Cameron Crowe’s offering would be better. This is a man who lived this stuff from a very early age (as his brilliant “Almost Famous” reveals…rock and roll does work in movies, where there are only ninety or so minutes to tell the tale and then get the hell out of dodge.) But Crowe has nothing much to say in “Roadies,” the banter we have heard too many times before, and the circumstances and inside intrigues are figured out within minutes.

“Vinyl” was just too bad to even comment on, and it had Martin Scorsese and Mick Jagger producing. If these two can’t pull off rock and roll on T.V. (and in the freer cable environs of H.B.O., no less) then nobody is going to be able to, I fear.
As video certainly killed the radio star (and we are all still paying for the culture-killing debacle that was MTV) television almost always will lay waste to fictionalized rock and roll programming. The only time I ever truly saw rock and roll and television work was when dear old Freddie Mercury, the lead singer of the rock group Queen, would thrust his mike stand so far away from his face while obviously lip syncing in one of the group’s videos you couldn’t help but laugh at the statement he was making on how obviously silly rock music in such a visual medium was.
Once again, we can learn well from Freddie Mercury; rock and roll and television do not mix.




The Windsor Road Dispatch: Reach Out And Touch Me

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Believe me, my clothes are well pressed from the irony.

It seems that in this day and age when we can-and pretty much do-communicate with one another ad nausea, we seem to be doing so ever more ardently over the mundane then over that which is important. It’s a hard lesson I have come to learn that ever better facility seems to breed laziness; our smartphones are not making us smarter, social media isn’t making us any more social and people are doing business in ways that seem completely counter-productive.

Or is it just me?

I make my meagre living as a professional freelance writer, sometime musician. Un-agented as most of my work comes to me, I have to go out and find my gigs. A good percentage of my day is spent on scoring new clients, looking at job postings, sending out resumes and the occasional sample. I can do the schmooze in person as good as the next guy but across the net, all that is left to me really is email and the occasional Skype call. The problem is, it’s hard to network, even begin working for someone who has indeed hired you, when the person or persons you are attempting to communicate with doesn’t communicate back.

Yes, everybody is busy (actually nobody is as busy as they claim to be, but I’ll go along with the charade if you want me to). Yes, we all get way too many texts, emails, Facebook prompts clogging up our day. But if you are conducting business with me (and I you) then bloody well conduct it, man! Reply to my email as I have replied to yours, send me what I am asking for (and you have agreed to send me) so I can complete the work you have hired (and in some cases) paid me for already.

*As an aside, but another irony I feel worth mentioning…it’s been my experience that I don’t come to chase employers down all that much for money, most of my clients pay up and pay up when they say they will. I just seem to be chasing them for their time. Go figure*

I’m a big boy. If you do not want me for the project, just tell me…don’t leave the question of possible employment open-ended so I email or call you again and again (when you tell me to keep doing so.) I am a freelancer, after all, my first order of business is to always be going after the potential job. In the end, usually, this is about how best I can help your business, write that web copy, deliver that blog; if you don’t communicate with me or get me stuff late, it only hurts the work I am doing for you.

Dummy.

Yes, I hear people say all the time that this is the new way of doing business. That the younger generation is less proactive in the way my generation is, or the generation of my father’s time was (in my dad’s day, he wouldn’t dare attend a business meeting in anything less than a suit and tie and he hated to use voice mail). That the seeming mind-candy clutch of constant social media-ing is currently the way to better business in the 21st century, I will concede this paradigm shift (especially when I neither condone nor understand it). But at the very least, if you are online all the time anyway, have your Dick Tracy-like Apple Watch forever ready on your wrist like some skin scratching familiar, are a’twittering and a’twattering 24/7, can you at least shoot me back an email or text to tell me that I’m simply not cool enough for your job, or that the couple of hundred you just sent across PayPal is for a project work you’ll get back to me about in the next couple of weeks.
Really, you might be surprised to hear, but I got stuff to get to in the meantime.




The Windsor Road Dispatch: The Smell of Summers Past

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As I have opined more than once in blogs, too often in the fiction and songs I scribble, is mostly always churning in back-burner of my mind, I am one of those people who “chase the madeleine” in life. Lots of people live in the past; I want to buy a furnished condo there! And having lived where I have for most of my 54 years (and when not here for ten of them I lived not a mere five miles away) all too readily I am thrust back to past times by the look, feel…but mostly, the smell of summers past.

Yes, it’s that time again here in suburban New Jersey on the northeast coast of the U.S. where the insects buzz, the days stay lighter longer and I smell just that right combination of scents (from where and what I do not know exactly) that throw me whiplash-like to my earlier days (and daze). Surely, many of us look back on our youth with rose-tinted glasses, but I find these scents such heady inducements my glasses are akin to those “Joo Janta 200 Super-Chromatic Peril Sensitive Sunglasses” featured in the seminal sci-fi satire The Hitchhikers Guide To The Galaxy. The character Zaphod Beeblebrox often wears these glasses when trouble is on the way, with the first hint of something untoward the JJ200S-C PSS’s lenses turns totally black, thus preventing the wearer seeing anything that might alarm them.

My glasses, only ever show me the very best memories of my youth.

Deleted are images of break-ups, long hot days of trying to find something to do other then walk the neighbourhood, waiting for my best friend Tom to get home from his job working at a Chinese restaurant, or trying to figure out how to talk to the small gathering of girls hanging around with us at the park those lovely fragrant nights of my teen years.

As we all know, from Jack Finney novels to any good science fiction T.V. show episode, if you were ever to really go back, you’d only muck things up. Sure, try to kill Hitler as a baby, but then travel back to your time and see what other kinds of evil you let loose by messing with time.

Paradoxes are a bitch nobody wants to contend with.

I don’t want to go back, really, despite some very real pining. I warn Facebookers time and again that looking up old high school sweethearts is a recipe for disaster. It’s tempting to relive, I grant you that, and that soft slightly cloying breeze wafting through my window even now tempts me to undue rumination of when I first heard Hotel California or received my first kiss. But in the end, I have no choice but to stay in the here and now and deal with it, best I can, even while sniffing the that breeze.




The Windsor Road Dispatch: A Cast Of Characters

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One of my local cable stations has just begun running repeats of a few T.V. series I so loved. “NYPD,” as well as “Kung Fu,” as well as “The Wild Wild West” are showing weekly (in NYPD’s case nightly) and I am having a ball recalling episodes I thought I’d forgotten, and seeing anew one’s I caught so many years ago it seems I’m watching them for the first time.

It’s thrilling to enjoy these old programs, especially stuff like “Kung Fu” that meant so much to me growing-up and still ‘plays’ well now.

Watching these shows, I once again realize what it is about T.V., movies, any entertainment like this that really makes it great for me: they are populated with characters I give a shit about.

From “Star Trek” (original series thank you very much, which plays every Saturday night on a different cable network), to NYPD Blue to just about any show I adore-even some new ones, though they are few and far between I’m sorry to say-if I care about the characters presented on the show, even if they are alien to me, or not even people I like very much, I am drawn into the show. I recall an interview with Bruce Dern (an actor I have always loved) saying that when he and Jack Nicholson were first starting out they realized they did not exactly come from the chiseled-chin leading man school of good looking actors. But Dern would say to directors, “Yeah, but we’re interesting,” meaning he and his unconventional looking peers had something to offer in not just their abilities, but with a certain look in their eyes (granted, in Dern and Nicholson’s case, often a crazy look), that because of who they were they could make real the nuisances of interesting characters who a viewer would come to care for, that they knew the difference between surface and substance, and that they could make a writer’s words live through how they played these characters they so respected.

There is an old axiom about live theatre, that if “it’s not on the page it’s not on the stage.” I’d follow that with, unless you have interesting characters on that stage (no matter where or what that stage is) ‘it’ is not going to play at all…or be something we’d still be enjoying decades later.




Words Have Meaning

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During a friendly debate, my buddy Bob and I were having over how influential The Beatles actually were, I realized we were as much considering innovation as we were the Fab Four’s influence. These two words made our separate cases as we were both elaborated happily and knowingly on the distinction, another example in Bob’s constant claim that “words matter.”

Another close friend of mine Tom comes to me weekly with clear examples of people not being precise in their day-to-day language (yes, I do have some very smart friends with very wonderful vocabularies who try their very best to mean what they say and say what they mean.) He consistently hits divots on-the golf course-of-life with co-workers revisiting a problem because they weren’t precise with a question, or Tom having to all but school his colleagues over just why what they are asking doesn’t make any damn sense.

Bob, Tom and I are not the grammar police. Truly, I could give a dingus what words you use, or how or when you use them. I try to hold my tongue when someone slips up on their grammar…simply because I do it myself from time to time. But I try, I really do, when communicating to be as precise and descriptive as possible. I simply assume that if you are going to ask me a question, or direct me to do something for you (and I am such an amiable guy I pretty much will do something for almost anybody) or I send you an email to prompt a reply, that we’ll both do our best to use the right words (or a well-chosen one where two or three might belabor a point) and be as specific possible.

Tom, Bob and I are constantly being chastised over this often thought persnickety need for specificity, given the old stink eye when being such sticklers on language usage, but I’m sorry, I’m not going to ‘dumb it down’ for you just because you are lazy, or don’t care when you muddle-up saying what you really mean. If you say to me: “Can you unbutton your pants and lie back on the table” as a doctor actually asked me recently during a routine physical, without even realizing it I will say (as I did during that examination), but with truly no malice or mocking: “I can, but do you want me to?” And if you tell me to take the first chair of two that are sitting side by side, don’t be surprised (or give me that cold eye stare) if I turn and ask “Which one is the first chair?”…another incident that happened to me, mere days after the doctor visit.

I know we love shortcuts. I know LOL suffices for “Laugh Out Loud” (though, really when did I ever use that phrase before five years ago?) I can be blamed for abbreviating in text messages (which is actually Bob’s pet peeve, while mine is too much texting). All this concern over word meaning, the correct use if grammar, my little nagging concerns over what was said and how it was said, is what is called a small world problem. But remember, for some of us, words do have meaning, how they are used is important and we’re not just being pain-in-the-ass sticklers when we question something you said because you weren’t being clear enough.

Words do matter.




The Windsor RD Dispatch: Hef, The Man In The Mansion

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A 20,000 square-foot palace built on one man’s need to push the limits of sexual freedom, has just been sold. Hugh Hefner, 90, is allowed to live out his days on his property in L.A., but his infamous Playboy mansion, is currently under contract to be bought by Daren Metropoulos.

And so the bunny continues to hop.

The Playboy mansion is a place of legend, intrigue and not a fair amount of naughtiness to be sure, but less we forget the man who created the place, built the Playboy brand and who championed not just nude picture taking, but modern literature and our right to read and write it.

That ‘I read it for the articles’ quip men would defend with when challenged on why they subscribed to Playboy, for many was not a misnomer. Seeing that the magazine continued to publish some of the very best writers of the day-Saul Bellow, Ian Fleming, Ray Bradbury, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, to name but a few-and in many cases publish what would become famous stories for the very first time, one could easily argue Playboy was a place to go to read some very good stuff. Then there were the interviews, with such notables as Ayn Rand, John Lennon, Alex Haley And less we forget that Hefner was as much publishing writers who had been blacklisted, as much as he championed activist/comedians like Dick Gregory and Lenny Bruce in their free expression across comedy stages.

I like to look at naked pictures. I believe the women (and men) who pose for those pictures have the right do so. I think Hugh Hefner built a brand, as he freely admits, on the desire of hetero men to look at naked ladies. I think there is more salacious history embedded across Hef’s mansion’s lawns, in the infamous grotto, in its movie rooms and bedrooms then any of us could imagine. But I also believe that Mr. Hefner, like Larry Flynt, fought the good fight for freedoms by championing often times controversial, but never staid writing, speech, and thought.




The Windsor RD Dispatch: The Tude ‘Over There’

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For that which the U.S. gets a bad rap-our seeming excessiveness fed by what many consider and out of control Capitalism-I champion and adore. I love that fact that in my country you can try to pursue your filthiest money hungry desires. I will concede therein lies the root of many problems for Americans personally, as well as our society overall, but give me this freedom over any other system, I say.

But I also err on the side of being polite, of lifting my nose up from my cell phone screen to regard others with a good morning, to holding a door or giving-up my seat for a lady (women’s liberation be damned). Nothing warms my heart more than when folks are nice to one another and yes, here in the U.S. I do actually see daily examples of civility even as we chase the almighty dollar.

But I think in overall laid-back-ness, other countries might have us beat.

It might be that other places are a hell of a lot older, or the fact that in Europe folks of different languages and customs freely interact on a more regular basis then across the big continent of America, or maybe all that time for vacation from your work makes you all a lot happier, but traveling recently from my home mere miles out of NYC, into Heathrow, then later on to Amsterdam proved to me that things might just be a lot chiller off my continent.

Across the U.S. we are currently suffering through airport security lines that in some cases take travelers longer to get through, then the airplane ride they are trying to get through airport security to get to. Luckily leaving the U.S. I didn’t encounter this kind of problem (though I left plenty of time to) but I noticed the lines at Heathrow-coming in and leaving-and in and out of Amsterdam’s big airport, moved smoothly and when presented with a problem, the security, and customs at these handled things we aplomb.

In fact, I could have easily caused a big snafu, forgetting as I did to account for that carry-on liquid conundrum. But even with my bags ‘pulled’ and searched, the agent couldn’t have been nicer, never raising her eyebrow or voice over my stupidity (or laziness, pick one) and things just flowed smoothly. There was none of that ‘put-upon’ air I find too often with American TSA agents, even when you try your best to be as friendly as possible.

Again, are Europeans just that much nicer? Maybe it’s the accents (accents at least to my ears) that have me believing people are being sweet when in fact they are telling me off. But from the Victoria and Albert Museum’s wonderful and slightly naughty “Undressed: A Brief History of Underwear exhibit, to walking through the rain-drenched muddy fields of the Cotswolds, to marveling at the horrors that had to be Anne Frank’s family’s life in her little house on the canal in Amsterdam, to finally seeing the famed red lights bounce of a nighttime canal, to eating pancakes too much like crepes to really be pancakes, the places I saw were thrilling and the people ‘over there’ amazed me with their civility.

I do love America, would never live anyplace else, but there is something to be said the ‘tude over there.




Windsor Road Dispatch: We All Have A Voice…

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Thank God, We All Have A Voice… Now, Would You Please, Shut Up!

It would prove to be a very wacky summer here in the old U.S. of A.…if I could come to give a donky’s dingle about the current presidential race. But I believe what Mark Twain said about voting: “If voting made any difference they wouldn’t let us do it.” So I will once again let the chips fall where they may and not get involved, as once again, I come to regard all the brouhaha as the circus it is.

Less we think the current Clinton/Trump/Whomever thing is anything new, ever since Kennedy and Nixon and the infamous sweating lips vs. the east-coast golden boy T.V. debate, what’s been happening in America politics for many a year is less about anything of substance and more a popularity contest. But for what’s happening presently this popularity contest might be between debate questioners, cable T.V. pundits and the great unwasheds’ tweets, as much as, and maybe even more, so then it is between the Presidential hopefuls.

And therein lies the scarier proposition; while it might matter to some if their particular candidate doesn’t ‘get in,’ I wonder why we seem to care all that much, and sometimes to exclusion of seemingly expert opinion or even opinion from the source itself, about what others have to tweet, post, say?

Yes, every citizen should have a voice and feel free to express that voice. No one person’s opinion is any more or less important than anyone else’s, but must I have to hear every single one and hear/see it scuttling across television programs I am barely paying attention to? No one has yet convinced me Facebook “liking” leads to anything but ego stroking. That Instagram posting isn’t much more than just an enormous time suck. That all this media social-ability is making us better socially. It seems that if anything, being able to spew forth from anonymity makes it less likely one will ever get out and about and meet others, let alone prompt one to learn about, or want to tolerate, any one else sputum.

I am not, nor will I ever be part of the cult of Facebook. I don’t take selfies. Snapchat, Instagram, Twitter is not for me. And I truly believe that in all this communicating the cream is no longer rising to the top really, there is just too much cream. Beyond the opinions of my loved one’s (and barely even in their case) do I give a donkey’s for any one’s opinion really or seek any out…I barely even consider my own opinion relevant most of the time.

Come to think of it, blogging seems to be….

Part of the solution or part of the pgem, now I;m not too sure.




Windsor Road Dispatch: Another one, and yet another and…

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2016 is not proving to be a good year for musicians. Here’s a short list of who died, and we’ve only just jumped into May: David Bowie, Paul Kanter, Merle Haggard, Billy Paul, Papa Wemba, “Gato” Barbieri. Phife Dawg, Frank Sinatra, Jr. Lee Andrews, Sir Peter Maxwell Davies, Keith Emerson, George Martin, John Chilton, Johnny Murphy, Denise Matthews (Vanity), Prince, Dan Hicks, Maurice White, Signe Tole Anderson, Jimmy Bain, Glenn Frey, Dale Griffin, Clarence Reid, Pierre Boulez, Paul Bley…to name but a few.

Am I getting old enough now that my contemporaries and/or the people I worshipped die, or is there something in the air?

It certainly sucks, that’s for sure.

There was a time when some of the people above certainly were royalty to me, the makers of the music of my growing-up, Gods really. Figuring out now that they were not more than ten or so years older than me, back in my teens when I was listening to their music, trying to emulate their style as much as sound, I thought them so so much older…actually never even considered their ages as they seemed not even born of terra firma really.

Maybe adulation is a provenance for the young, when you are still wide-eyed, see so many years ahead you can’t calculate five years in the future, let alone the next week. When you still have dreams to be dreamed that these men and women seem to be living for you.

Yes, we still have their music, their contributions to fashion, their images writ large on video or across our album covers (and for those too young to know what an album cover is, your life is poorer because of this ignorance, believe me). But things will never be the same with these men and women gone and the many more I haven’t named who worked in other arts that we lost this year already. And from what I have been hearing and seeing in the past decade or more, their like will never come this way again, I dare say.

Cynicism? Sour grapes? Ignorance on my own part to all the wonderful stuff being produced these days? Nah. The greats are dying in great number out there and we have nobody to take their place.




The Windsor Rd Dispatch: Great Muggers of Our Time

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I read a recent article about the great tradition of satire, as specifically perpetrated by both Steven Colbert, on his Colbert Report and Jon Stewart, his Comedy Channel mate, on his The Daily Show. And while I did agree with the author’s point that satire is very much an instrument of the time/tropes it is wielded at/for/to, that Mr. Stewart and Colbert’s references don’t play well these many years after whatever they were skewering has come and gone, I dare say I disagree with the author’s assumption that Mr. Stewart, Steven Colbert or even supposed political satirists like Bill Maher claim themselves to be, are indeed, satirists. Argue with me though you might (especially if you are fans of these gentleman and their shows) but I’d reason that Maher, Stewart, Colbert (back in the day, as he’s simply a genial late night host these days) are not satirists; they are the great muggers of our time.

Ask yourself this question: How is Bill Maher and Bill O’Reilly, Jon Stewart and old Steven Colbert alike (and I’d argue that Maher, Stewart, Colbert are alike in many ways beyond the fact that they all had/have late night T.V. shows)? Beyond the talent these men display in their given time slots-like them or not- these T.V. talking-heads play to-mug at-their audiences to a sickening degree, in fact to the detriment of their supposed attempts at satire (though to his credit, O’Reilly, a great mugger, does not claim to be a satirist). One can’t damn these dudes, they have worked hard to build an audience, rally a network round them, gain and keep long-term momentum in a field where anyone might suddenly get thousands of hits on Youtube in a day’s time. No, I do not object to the fact that Steven Colbert, O’Reilly, Maher and their ilk have found a pulpit and have exploited their positions from it (this is show biz after all), but I think we need to at least acknowledge that mugging is taking the easy way out, and mugging is not satire.

The cornball asides, the shit-eating grins, the wide-eyed staring into the camera, the chuckling to one’s self, the repeating of one word or phrase; I know you’ve seen these ticks and tricks for getting their crowd, who are already pretty much along for the ride anyway, to bray, clap and laugh at everything said and done by these guys. It’s akin to buying a ticket to see a comedian and he simply stands on stage reciting worn jokes you’ve heard hundreds of times before, but when he gets to his catch-phrase the audience applauds loudly in recognition to what they know (in the case of the examples above, what they believe) and hope will hear again and again. Maybe this is how success trips us up, that we begin to play only the hits, act as everyone expects, mug. But true satirical comment, this does not make.

How does this affect me directly? Well, attempting to make a living in the writing I do, I try to never mug. Not that I have had any real success where I could easily coast on some story, play or song I have written that the masses love, nor do I think I ever will (not because I do not want to, or am playing at self-modesty; I just don’t play in the commercial field) it’s just that I feel it is the easy way out to give the audience what they are too ready to stroke you for. I remember the first year or so after Barrack Obama was elected all Bill Maher had to do was punctuate a joke by saying the name George Bush and his H.B.O. crowd would come unglued. Or how many times have we seen Bill O’Reilly make that face like he’s smelled bad tunafish after one of his “Watter’s World” man-on-the-street segments? Watch Steven Colbert’s Late Show these days and listen to his monologue and aside and tell me if he isn’t playing to the claps and “woo woo’s” he just knows he’ll get when he mocks one political candidate over another (not that they all don’t surely need mocking.)

Surely whatever you current political bent, religious need or sexual provocation you will be able to find someone on television, radio or across the Interweb to make you feel better simply because they are mugging to you, just for you, with you until you feel all warm and fuzzy. But how much talent does it take to play to your audience and how much real satire is one revealing here when they do this?

In the article I mentioned above, the author mentioned Jonathan Swift in some sort of wrap-up example to what satire started as. But to mention a Stewart or a Colbert in the same essay as a Swift (or even a Twain) certainly shows that the author, like the muggers, doesn’t know much of what he speaks. And he certainly doesn’t speak of satire.

 




The Windsor Rd Dispatch: Beware The Butterflies

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For 49 of the 53 years I have existed on this planet I have lived within the same five mile radius. I have not been afraid to travel, indeed I have visited plenty of states in the U.S. and countries in Europe and even now work in quite a few. I neither offer up this bio as a defense or to illicit sympathy, it is simply a ‘this is how it is’ situation. I love the slightly upper middle class suburban N.J. environs I will always consider home, adore my family, friends and neighbors and take comfort in the familiarity of what I see around me every day.

Given the above set of circumstances I experience plenty of moments of time travel. I only have to walk down a tree-lined expanse a few blocks from the brick-faced Tudor I grew up in, or a trek to the park at the dead end of my parent’s street and I can mentally travel back to any number of moments, good, bad, indifferent that happened to me in these exact spots. I’m not sure if I have been blessed with a good memory per say, as much as it is tickled to consistent use living where I live. Quite often the recall comes upon me when I least expect it, as if a constant movie trailer of ‘this is your life Ralph’ plays in my head; I don’t as much go looking for the memory, they spark-up as I pass a place or spy a neighbor.

Facebook and to lesser extent Linked-In and other social networking protocol are our modern day time machines. I merely step out my front door or drive over to the Quick Check and have memories roll up on me, but too many of us are purposely delving deep across the net to find ex -grammar school class mates, family or worse, an ex-lover. And very much like stepping off that path to crush Mr. Bradbury’s butterfly (and if you don’t understand this reference might I refer you to Ray Bradbury’s “A Sound Of Thunder” in fact, might I refer you to every damn one of Ray Bradbury’s stories!) we run a huge risk when we purposely step into our times machines for a journey back.

I can’t count the many people I know who are ‘on’ Facebook for the sole purpose of looking for an ex. The dangers in this are too countless to name: our x doesn’t want to become ‘friends’, our ex doesn’t even remember who we are, our ex remembers all too well and begins a plot revenge of decade-old wounds, or the worst case scenario, we actually begin again a romance with the x that has no way of surviving beyond two people desperately trying to build on that which they had decades ago but is no longer alive.

Go ahead, try fitting that round plug into your square hole (or anyplace else).

Or how about those folks so stuck in looking at old class pictures or reconnecting with their graduating class some half a century on. I have seen a group of my grammar school mates-grammar school!-posting old class pictures and sharing ‘likes’. Yes, it’s fun to have to entertain a moment of recall, live in the past for an afternoon, but where is all this time traveling leading us?

We all want to go home again, but usually they have moved the furniture or sold the land for condo development. Not in my case of course, because I never really left home, but I’d like to think I have stayed more out of a desire to live in a place I simply like (the season change in New Jersey alone is enough to keep me here) then that I want to live in the past. Hell, maybe I am kidding myself and I’m just as guilty as my Facebook brothers and sisters?

Jesus, banish the thought!

All I can say for all of us is: careful where you tread when stepping out of the time machine; butterflies are too easily crushed.




The Windsor Rd Dispatch: Beware The Butterflies

monarch

For 49 of the 53 years I have existed on this planet I have lived within the same five mile radius. I have not been afraid to travel, indeed I have visited plenty of states in the U.S. and countries in Europe and even now work in quite a few. I neither offer up this bio as a defense or to illicit sympathy, it is simply a ‘this is how it is’ situation. I love the slightly upper middle class suburban N.J. environs I will always consider home, adore my family, friends and neighbours and take comfort in the familiarity of what I see around me every day.

Given the above set of circumstances I experience plenty of moments of time travel. I only have to walk down a tree-lined expanse a few blocks from the brick-faced Tudor I grew up in, or a trek to the park at the dead end of my parent’s street and I can mentally travel back to any number of moments, good, bad, indifferent that happened to me in these exact spots. I’m not sure if I have been blessed with a good memory per say, as much as it is tickled to consistent use living where I live. Quite often the recall comes upon me when I least expect it, as if a constant movie trailer of ‘this is your life Ralph’ plays in my head; I don’t as much go looking for the memory, they spark-up as I pass a place or spy a neighbour.

Facebook and to lesser extent Linked-In and other social networking protocol are our modern day time machines. I merely step out my front door or drive over to the Quick Check and have memories roll up on me, but too many of us are purposely delving deep across the net to find ex -grammar school class mates, family or worse, an ex-lover. And very much like stepping off that path to crush Mr. Bradbury’s butterfly (and if you don’t understand this reference might I refer you to Ray Bradbury’s “A Sound Of Thunder” in fact, might I refer you to every damn one of Ray Bradbury’s stories!) we run a huge risk when we purposely step into our times machines for a journey back.

I can’t count the many people I know who are ‘on’ Facebook for the sole purpose of looking for an ex. The dangers in this are too countless to name: our x doesn’t want to become ‘friends’, our ex doesn’t even remember who we are, our ex remembers all too well and begins a plot revenge of decade-old wounds, or the worst case scenario, we actually begin again a romance with the x that has no way of surviving beyond two people desperately trying to build on that which they had decades ago but is no longer alive.

Go ahead, try fitting that round plug into your square hole (or anyplace else).

Or how about those folks so stuck in looking at old class pictures or reconnecting with their graduating class some half a century on. I have seen a group of my grammar school mates-grammar school!-posting old class pictures and sharing ‘likes’. Yes, it’s fun to have to entertain a moment of recall, live in the past for an afternoon, but where is all this time traveling leading us?

We all want to go home again, but usually they have moved the furniture or sold the land for condo development. Not in my case of course, because I never really left home, but I’d like to think I have stayed more out of a desire to live in a place I simply like (the season change in New Jersey alone is enough to keep me here) then that I want to live in the past. Hell, maybe I am kidding myself and I’m just as guilty as my Facebook brothers and sisters?

Jesus, banish the thought!

All I can say for all of us is: careful where you tread when stepping out of the time machine; butterflies are too easily crushed.