Prepare to enter a world of both shadow and substance

Take a journey of body, mind and spirit where you'll encounter things you won't find anywhere else.

Saturday, January 5, 2008

The Rockford Files

Back in the 1970's, when Friday nights rolled around, you can be sure that I could be found in one place - plumped in front of the television watching The Rockford Files. The show ran concurrently with my high school years and I never missed it. The show was well-written, wry and humorous at times, and starred James Garner, who is a much better actor than he's ever given credit. He simply makes it look easy, like he's not acting at all. Since it's initial run, the show seems like it's always been on somewhere in syndication, so I tried not to miss any opportunities to catch repeats. Because of that, I feel like I know every episode by heart.
One thing I always thought was original about it, was the opening credits. At the beginning of each episode you hear James Rockford's, the main character, answering machine go off and someone leaves a message for him. They're usually miniature scenarios that have nothing to do with the plot of the episode that follows. I've tried on several different occasions to collect these up into a group to have and listen to. Since every episode had a different message, I've never quite gotten all of them to complete the job. But, now.... the episodes are being remastered and released on DVD in season sets, which since I'm such a fan of the show, I've purchased every one as soon as it was released. So far, they have released the first four seasons, with only two more remaining. If you're as big a fan of the show as I am, you'll want to be sure and get your very own sets from wherever you buy your DVD's, because these are a must have! Owning these discs like I do, which are top quality, I have started my old project again, knowing that this time I'll be able to finish it and have the best possible sound in the process.
I've seen different fan-operated websites dealing with The Rockford Files, and have, in fact, supplied information about the show to one or two of them. Here's the link for one of my favorite fansites, The Rockford Files Homepage. One little fact I'll bet the average person doesn't know is this: Did you know that the small trailer which Rockford calls home was used onscreen before it was parked at 29 Cove Road, his address? Yes, the very same trailer was used in at least one movie before becoming part of the sets used on The Rockford Files. It was featured in a 1974 made-for-television movie of the week called The California Kid, starring Martin Sheen and Vic Morrow. This was just mere months before the trailer got called up for duty in the quintessential private eye show of the '70's.
So, if you're a fan of The Rockford Files like me, or know someone who is, you'll want to have this collection of answering machine messages for your very own! Click here to download all the messages from Season One of The Rockford Files. I'll be posting the second, third and fourth seasons soon, so be sure to check back from time to time. And just as soon as the final two seasons are released, I'll make those messages available, too! Beep....

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Repeal The No Smoking Law

My thoughts are this: We need to repeal the new Illinois no smoking law right now.
You may remember from a previous blog where I mentioned Illinois has passed a new law that makes it illegal to smoke in any restaurant, workplace or bar, and it became effective on January 1st, 2008. As I was driving home today, I heard a commercial on the radio that talked about this new law and how it was going to make healthier enviornments for every employee and customer. It seems to me that the state of Illinois shouldn't have to still be "selling" this law, as they already got it passed. The ad is probably only being broadcast to try and stem the backlash that they're undoubtedly going to get from it.
I want to reiterate now and for the record that the state of Illinois is not concerned in the least about our health. That is just a bunch of hocus-pocus to mask their true intentions. (Which we all know is chiefly that the federal government gives every state money to enforce certain laws they want passed, and the states, by accepting this money, end up not having to enact more taxes for their constituents, thereby keeping them pretty content.) Because of this new Illinois law, which was ostensibly enacted to protect my health, I now have a cold developing today. I caught it last night because I was at the Moose Lodge where I play every Wednesday night and it's due to the fact that everybody who smokes kept running in and out to obey this idiotic new law, the place was like an icehouse and I caught a cold.

Does that sound like they're worried about our health?

Today's Lesson

Listen up, class. Today's lesson is this, so repeat after me:

Guns do not kill people,
people kill people.
Class dismissed.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Paradise Lost

As of January 1st, 2008, it is now against the law to smoke cigarettes in public places here in Illinois. Mind you, it's not illegal to purchase cigarettes, only to smoke them. I am not a smoker, never have been and never will be, but I do enjoy my God-given freedoms that are so carefully spelled out in the Constitution of the United States of America. We all know that the state of Illinois is not worried about our health and safety. If they were, they would outlaw automobiles, for they pump more noxious and harmful chemicals to humans into the air than any amount of burning tobacco products could ever hope to match. Did you know that the United States government gives out grants to states like Illinois just to fund extra enforcement of the seatbelt laws? I can get a ticket if I'm not buckled up, and have gotten tickets for that. It seems to me, though, that if you would go after the drunk drivers and all the other hazardous drivers that are on our roadways, you'd save a lot more lives. If I don't wear my seatbelt, I am not jeopardizing anybody's life, not even my own! The state of Illinois is aware of this, but yet, they continue to pass law after law that take away a little bit more of our freedom and rights to choose. And we all know who is telling them to do this, don't we?
It is also mandantory here in Illinois to have insurance on your car, so that if you are involved in an accident, you're covered. All I know is that since that law became enacted, my insurance rates have skyrocketed through the roof. It now costs me $328 per year, just to have liability insurance on my one car that I drive regularly. Before this happened, I paid only $294 per year to have liability coverage on 3 cars! Where is this all leading? Just wait and see.
I want to leave you with this one little extra before I go. It is a paraphrasing of something that Pastor Martin Niemöller said when the Nazi Party took control of Germany in the 1930's, before World War II. You remember, "In Germany, they came first for the Communists, And I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Communist, etc.?" Well, that same thing applies to this world we live in today. Only it goes like this:

In America, they came first for the Christmas displays on government property,
and I didn’t speak up because it didn’t apply to me.
And then they came for the people not wearing seat belts,
and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t one of them.
And then they came for the people who didn’t have car insurance,
and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t one of them.
And then they came for the smokers,
and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a smoker.
And then.... they came for me....
but by that time there was no one left to speak up.

Now, think about just how free you really are.

Monday, December 31, 2007

Who Are They?

No, this is not a review of a long-lost album by the Who. It was my response to something that was told to me by an employee of Wal-Mart.
Regular readers of my blog know that I record my own albums of Christmas music. To do that, I not only have to be the artist and the back-up band, I also have to be the producer and recording engineer. And to be the recording engineer means that I employ headphones when I'm laying down tracks. Working like I do next to my computer, it is imperative that each track doesn't pick up another sound. For instance, when I'm recording an acoustic guitar track, I don't want the sound of my vocals bleeding over onto it. I want each track to be "pure," that is, when I go to mixing them down and choosing their position in the "stereo picture," I want each track to be clean so that they will be heard in the precise area of the overall sound picture that I am looking for. To do this most effectively, it requires a good set of headphones, the kind that go over your head and cover your ears completely. What is known as "earbuds" will not work.
Two days after Christmas, I went to purchase a new set of headphones. Having not needed to purchase new ones for a couple years, I just assumed it would be an easy task. Why shouldn't it be? You need headphones, you go pick out headphones and then you buy headphones. Simple, eh? Wake up, America!
I don't normally buy electronics at Wal-Mart, because.... well - you know why. They're usually not worth buying there. But, this time, I figured to try them, because headphones are a pretty simple thing, and they should have some that are of a good enough quality to meet my needs. Wrong! This time, I looked and found only two pairs to choose from, one being under $5 and other pair under $9. And neither pair really covered the ear, just kind of sat on the ear. I could see they weren't worth bringing home, so I asked an employee if they had any others to choose from. This is what that employee said to me:
"They say nobody wants them anymore, everybody wants earbuds."
Well, everybody does not want earbuds! When I carefully tried to explain this to her, she just shrugged and repeated what she had said, "They say nobody wants headphones anymore."
I calmly asked her who "they" were. She didn't know who "they" were, but apparently believed everything "they" said.
I would love to solve this very important question because "they" seem to have opinions about everything these days and whether or not we need various items. Let's not forget the debacle of about four years ago that I went through in trying to buy a pair of hightop tennis shoes. I went to 11 different stores before I finally found one single pair! Fortunately, they were in my size. But, the response I was getting from most of the various retailers was this: "They say nobody buys hightops anymore." When I replied that possibly it was due to the fact that they didn't have any on their shelves for people to buy, the clerks just looked at me like I was crazy. I swear they were thinking, "If nobody buys them anymore, why should we even carry them?" People will only buy what is there for them to buy. It's a simple fact. Remember when the hightop craze hit about ten or 15 years ago? You couldn't hardly find regular tennis shoes during that time. Having weak ankles, I've always worn shoes that came up over my ankle for extra support - hightop tennis shoes, hiking boots, work boots - all just above my ankle in height.
I want you to spend a few extra minutes the next time you go to a store to buy something. Any store, any product. Look around their shelves and note the fact that there are less choices for you to pick from than the last time you were there. This is not an exaggeration. My sister noted this only a few days ago to me. She buys cans of refried beans to make burritos at home for movie night. 6 months ago, she said, there used to be 6 to 8 different brands to choose from at this certain store she shopped at. She went out to this same store last week and there were now only two brands to choose from. What happened to the selection, or the choice?
This is not really a rant about Wal-Mart, but I'm going to mention them again, so maybe it is. In one of my local communities, they had a fine Wal-Mart store where I purchased several items that I used a lot. Items such as cd jewel boxes, (The original, thicker variety), high-quality cassette tapes for recording my band live, the large, economy-sized baby shampoo, (I want my hair to smell just like hers....!), the larger-sized bag of cough drops. Well, you get the idea. Wal-Mart decided that they needed a super store in this town, so they built a new one across the highway from the old one. When it was finished, they moved from the old one and closed it down. They also stopped carrying a lot of things in the new store that I used to purchase at the old one.
I thought the idea of a "super-store" was to carry even more items than a regular store, not less? I can now no longer find high-bias cassettes, only the cheap grade. They only sell the slim-line cd jewel boxes, and then, not many of those. The large bag of cough drops are nowhere to be found, only a smaller, 30% more package that does indeed have 30% more of the regular-sized package, only it's still not many. When I asked where the large bottles of my regular baby shampoo were located, an employee only told me that nobody bought them any more, so they stopped carrying them. Mind you, this was only in the brand I used, which they still had the regular small bottle on their shelves. They had baby shampoo in two other locations from where they kept my brand and in both of those other locations, they had the larger economy size in the other more expensive brands. If nobody is buying them, why are they still carrying those? Nobody that works at Wal-Mart can answer this question for me - not even the manager. I know, because I've asked to speak to the manager on many occasions. It seems like I'm speaking to the manager of Wal-Mart about every time I go there any more. But still, I get no answers. Nobody knows the answers.
But this is not an isolated Wal-Mart occurrence. Just look around you - you are getting less choice for just about everything you buy. It's only symptomatic of a deeper issue, which I will detail in another blog. Suffice it to say, it is something which is affecting the entire population of planet Earth.
I finally found a set of headphones, at Radio Shack. This is no endorsement for them, for I was trying to buy a simple, countertop cd player for a Christmas present and the Radio Shack near my hometown could not seem to get one for their stock. I went back three times after the initial inquiry and each time, the clerk said one hadn't come in yet. Once again, we are being offered less and less choice. All you have to do is look around to notice it. And when you do see for yourself, be sure to tell someone else. If enough people realize this, maybe we can make our voice loud enough to be heard. At least, while we still have the freedom to voice our opinions. That may not last much longer, either. Oh, the times they are a' changin'.

By the way, here are the headphones I ended up buying:


The eagle's wings are blue at sunrise. Bravo Charlie Vector.