Monthly Archives: March 2010

Innocent Until Proven Otherwise

Now Playing: “Carrowkeel,” by Alison Brown. If you’ve never heard her, you should. Trust me on this one.

Short post today. Got to get rolling on some projects. I read this morning where one of the defendants in the Eve Carson murder case claimed Durham police beat him when they arrested him and got a confession. My first thought: Great. You deserved it, you son of a bitch. (Carson was the UNC student body president who was kidnapped and shot to death. Atwater and another man – he was 17 at the time – are charged with murder.)

That thought was wrong. The key word is “charged.” And one of the enduring great things about this country – and there are many, despite the bitching we do about it sometimes – is that suspects are innocent until proven guilty.

Police have no right to beat anyone, of course, even if they are guilty. I don’t believe they usually do apply greater force than necessary to subdue a suspect. (Two Charlotte cops are my neighbors, and two finer people you could not find. I can also vouch for at least three Matthews police officers.)

Does that mean that police brutality never happens? Of course not. But let’s give them the same benefit of the doubt we give accused criminals.


“I can’t see my reflection in the mirror; I can’t speak the sounds that show no pain; I can’t hear the echoes of my footsteps; and can’t remember the sound of my own name.”
Tomorrow is Such a Long Time, Bob Dylan


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You Can Have the Good Old Days

Now Playing: “Carolina Morning,” Micky and the Motorcars.
“I’ve had Carolina mornings and California nights; Good times and places in between; I’m bound to be alright; But it feels so good that it’s understood; I’ll show up without a warning; And I’ll love you on a Carolina morning.”

It occurred to me after I posted yesterday that I’ve been griping in Rants ‘n Raves lately about how much better professional wrestling and concerts used to be “back in the day.” Not that it wasn’t true, mind you. But the last thing I want to do is turn into one of those grumpy old guys who thinks everything was better when he was growing up.

Because believe me – I don’t want to go back to the old days and ways.

I don’t want a world where people were judged by the color of their skin or their gender or their sexuality. No thanks.

I don’t want a world where leaders of the major countries keep a finger on the button. Mutual Assured Destruction. Madness indeed.

I don’t want a television that only picks up three channels, four if you could get PBS. I was lucky in southern Va. In addition to the Roanoke and Lynchburg stations, we could pick up channels in Greensboro, Raleigh and Durham – and if the weather was right, in High Point and Winston. Not that they didn’t all show the same stuff, but at least if Billy Graham was on one channel, there was sometimes an alternative. For all its many faults, I’ll take cable – home of favorites such as Mythbusters, Top Chef, Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives, and on and on and on – every time.

I don’t want to go back to AM radio, with its strict top 40 playlists. Not that over the air radio is anything special these days. Then there’s the insipid talk radio, left or right, news or sports, it doesn’t matter, most of it is garbage. But satellite radio RULES.

I don’t want to be in a world where Richard Nixon could be elected. And re-elected. What were people thinking?

I don’t want to take my chances on 1960s and 1970s era roads in cars from that period. I’ll take today’s safer cars and trucks, and its better – if congested – roads.

I don’t want a world where the only salad dressing choices are French, Thousand Island, oil and vinegar, and if you’re really lucky, Russian. Give me my ranch or balsamic or Caesar or blue cheese or ….

I don’t want to live in a world without an Internet.

That would be a world without blogs. What would I do?

“Come mothers and fathers Throughout the land And don’t criticize What you don’t understand. Your sons and your daughters Are beyond your command. Your old road is rapidly agin’. Please get out of the new one If you can’t lend your hand For the times they are a-changin’.”
– The Times They Are A-Changin’, Bob Dylan

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Taking note of it all

Now Playing: Christmas in Washington, by Steve Earle.
“So come back Woody Guthrie; Come back to us now; Tear your eyes from paradise; And rise again somehow.
If you run into Jesus; Maybe he can help you out; Come back Woody Guthrie to us now.”

There was a thing going around Facebook last week about first concerts. The idea was, you were supposed to paste it into your status. I wouldn’t have done it anyway, too much of a joiner thing for me. (I’m the one who wants to start Anti-Social Media, remember.) As it turned out, I can’t remember my first concert.  Let me just say that I’ve lived a full 52 years as a baby boomer.

But I do remember a few concerts that stand out, and I thought I’d reminisce a bit about them.

Biggest name band I’ve ever seen: The Who. It was at the Greensboro Coliseum, I think in 1975 (could have been later, but it was definitely before Keith Moon died in 1978. Fantastic show. They did a lot of stuff from Tommy, closed with Won’t Get Fooled Again and then smashed their instruments. Damn, it was good.

Best music at a show: Little Feat,  at Carmichael Auditorium (I will never, ever call it Carmichael Arena) in Chapel Hill, in September 1978, just a few months before Lowell George died. (Recognize a pattern here? I also saw Keith Whitley not too long before he died.) Sat in the next to the last row, but my God, the sound was great. Many artists criticized the acoustics at Carmichael, and Little Feat put them all to shame.

Most fun: Bad Company and Kansas, in Greensboro. Bad Company must have played “Feel Like Making Love” for 15 or 20 minutes. This one was great. Couldn’t hear for a week but had a fantastic time, even though some friends had a tire go flat during the show. We stayed to help them change it and I got home late as hell. But who cares?

Loudest: This is a no-brainer. Ted Nugent, who almost blinded me too with a flare as he came onto stage. He was playing with Montrose, fronted by Sammy Hagar. Can’t say much for the quality of the show but it had the volume.

Seen most often: This is easy. I’ve seen Lyle Lovett six times, I think, in small venues and large, with small bands and large, with small playlists and large. Never, ever been disappointed. And it might have been seven times …

Underrated: .38 Special at Camp Lejeune. There might not have been 200 people there, but the guys played their hearts out anyway.

I don’t go to shows too much anymore. Next month, I’m going to see Richard Thompson and this summer I’m going to catch James Taylor and Carole King. But those are few and far between.  I’m 52, with kids and kats and the best wife in the world to take care of. The last few I’ve been to, I haven’t enjoyed as much as I used to anyway. (I still enjoy the music, or course, and the company.) The bottom line is, concerts used to be raw, dangerous … fun. Now you sit in assigned seats, watched choreographed moves, stand only when everyone else does. It’s too safe.

But I don’t mean to be an old grump. I’ve still got my memories. Or at least some of them …

“As I walk through; This wicked world; Searchin for light in the darkness of insanity.
I ask myself; Is all hope lost? Is there only pain and hatred, and misery?
And each time I feel like this inside, There’s one thing I wanna know:
What’s so funny bout peace love & understanding?”

– Elvis Costello, (What’s So Funny ‘Bout) Peace, Love & Understanding

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One ring to bind them all …

Now Playing: “Lungs,” by Townes Van Zandt.
“Fingers walk the darkness down; Mind is on the midnight; Gather up the gold you’ve found; You fool, it’s only moonlight.
If you try to take it home; Your hands will turn to butter; You better leave this dream alone; Try to find another.”

No, I’m not talking about the one ring from the Land of Mordor, where the Shadows Lie.

The One Ring when I was growing up was the professional wrestling ring. I loved wrestling as a kid, but I don’t anymore. These days, it’s too ‘roided up, scripted too precisely and aimed to much to the endless pay-per-views. Maybe it’s too “adult.”

But back in the day, it was lots of fun. Growing up in Southside Virginia, I watched Mid-Atlantic Championship wrestling on Saturday afternoon on the Roanoke station and at 11:30 every Saturday night on WRAL from Raleigh.

The dominant good-guy team was George Becker and Johnny Weaver, who was always derided by the bad guys as “Skinny-necked” Johnny Weaver. The funny thing is, ring announcer Joe Murnick would introduce Johnny Weaver as the “Most Popular Young Wrestler in the Country Today” while Weaver was late into his 40s. He used the Sleeper hold, while Becker – who had to have been about 65 years old – used the Abdominal Stretch.

But I was never too thrilled by George and Johnny, or by George and Sandy Scott, or Nelson Royal and Paul Jones, or the other heroes of the day. No, my favorites were the bad guys: There were the Masked Infernos (one of whom had a loaded boot – I can still see him kicking the toe to the mat to “load” it, then pounding the heel to it to get it back to normal before the always clueless refs could check it; Rip Hawk and Swede Hansen – Rip favored the pile driver, regardless of whether it was legal at the time or not; Aldo Bogni and Bronco Lubitch; and the Royal Kangaroos. And I always had a soft spot for the Missouri Mauler, whether his partner was the nefarious Hiro Matsuda or the tragic Brute Bernard, who wasn’t evil, just misguided with a limited intellect. I still can imitate Baron von Raschke, with his claw hold: “That is all the people need to know.”

Still, my favorite team back then was the Anderson Brothers, first Gene and Lars. It only got better when Ole replaced Lars (after Lars seriously injured his knee – in reality Lars moved to Hawaii). The Andersons, the Minnesota Wrecking Crew, practiced what they called “scientific’ wrestling. They always concentrated on one body part, usually the arm but sometimes the leg or back, and pounded at it until the opponent submitted or was injured. I knew wrestling wasn’t real, but it seemed to me that if it were, this would be the proper strategy. I stuck with the Andersons when Gene left and was replaced by Arn. They were still the smartest, dirtiest team of them all. And the fact that their “cousin” was Ric Flair only made it better.

I wanted to be Ric Flair, to be the kiss-stealin’, wheeler-dealin, limousine-riding son of a gun who took the ladies for a ride on Space Mountain. Whoo! I rooted for him against Ricky Steamboat, Sting and all the other pretenders. And don’t get me started on Dusty Rhodes.

Not so much any more. I still love Ric, but the fact that he’s sold his Whoo! to so many sports teams – not to mention the North Carolina lottery – has kind of cheapened it. Ric also has let his legacy be tainted through his association with Vince McMahon. True story: I once had a sit-down interview with Vince, who attended East Carolina University, when I was at the Jacksonville paper on the N.C. coast. This was before Vince became the arrogant, evil Mr. McMahon, but let me tell you, he didn’t have far to go. Anyway, Vince was pretty guarded. The best response I got from him was when I asked him which wrestler Jacksonville was most like; he said the Junk Yard Dog. True story.

I always regretted that I never saw Ric wrestle live though. I went to some shows over the years, back when they came to high-school gyms and smaller venues. I saw Andre the Giant, Lex Luger and some other stars, but never the Nature Boy. Maybe it was for the best, though. It was always kind of dicey cheering for the bad guys in small gyms in rural Virginia. You got some funny looks. You never knew when somebody would grab Gen. Homer O’Dell’s loaded cane or Jim Cornette’s loaded tennis racket and whack you with it.

But I really miss those days. Through all the pile-driving and arm-breaking, they seemed nicer – and a lot more fun. And that is all the people need to know…

Happy weekend, all.

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Get In On the Ground – er, dirt – Floor

Now Playing: “Look Out for My Love,” Neil Young.
“There’s a lot to learn
For wastin’ time
There’s a heart that burns
There’s an open mind.”

A short one today as I continue to look for a real job. Of course, that’s a short-term goal. I’ve got plans, big plans, for the long term.

Scheme, I mean, Plan No. 1, is a longstanding goal. I want to set up my own think tank, dominated mainly,  if not totally, by my own thinking. I’ll call it the Institute for Frivolous Thought, and that’s what its fellows would do. We’d settle the big issues, such as, “If the Fonz was so cool (and he was), what was he doing hanging out with Potsie and Ralph Malph (not that Richie was any great prize, either)? That could require years and hundreds of thousands of dollars to consider adequately.

And before you pooh-pooh that notion, I once had a professional fundraiser swear to me that she was pretty sure she could find me public and private grants for such an enterprise. I know, what am I waiting for? After all, there are plenty of issues that need considering: Greatest UNC point guard of all time – the easy answer is Phil Ford, but cases can be made for Ty Lawson, Raymond Felton, Kenny Smith and even Jimmy Black (the PG for Dean Smith’s first championship team).

Musical Interlude: “Tangled Up In Blue,” by Bob Dylan. “But me I’m still on the road; Heading for another joint; We always did feel the same; We just saw it from a different point of view; Tangled up in Blue.”

That’s the long-range plan. But as I’ve started to use Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, I’ve been forming the seeds of another venture: Anti-Social Media. It would be like Facebook, with a few major differences. It would most definitely have the much-discussed Dislike button for statuses instead of the “Like” one. And when you hit comment button, it would open a screen that would say, in flashing letters, “NO ONE CARES WHAT YOU THINK.” If nothing else, I think it would attract every person who has ever worked at a newspaper or magazine in this country. Or all the people I know anyway (I wonder what that says about me?).

The drawback here is finding a way to make money off it. Only a special kind of advertiser/sponor would want to reach the kind of people who’d be attracted to Anti-Social Media, but I’m sure that sponsor is out there. In the meantime, I need to find an angel investor (and there’s some irony there) or investors to provide my startup costs. If anyone’s interested I’ll be glad to set up a Paypal account. You never even have to meet me.

The big payout would come – and here’s some irony rolling back around again – when Jerkbook, as I’m dubbing it, has an initial public offering of stock. That’s right, we’ll know Anti-Social Media has succeeded when it goes … public.


“Love was once a crazy dream; Now it’s my new evil scheme.
And I’m as happy as can be;
It’s the age-old story, How an evil boy meets an evil girl,
We’ve got love strong enough to rule the whole wide world;
We both maniacally laugh at all the same stuff;
I found my other half; Yes, I’ve got an evil love.”

“Evil Love,” with my sincere apologies to Karen, as sung by Dr. Doofenschmirtz to his unidentified girlfriend on “Phineas and Ferb”


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The things I like, I really like

Now Playing: A weird version of “Questions,” by Buffalo Springfield.

If you were here yesterday, you learned that I hate bananas … and lots of other things. (

But there are plenty of things I like. And as I tell Karen, the things in this world that I like, I really like. (She’s one of them, of course, as are the kids and kats.)

I like my neighbors.

I like Lyle Lovett. And Cowboy Junkies. And Uncle Tupelo. And John Hiatt. And Tom Waits. And Austin Collins.

Interlude: “Angel from Montgomery,” by John Prine. “Make me an angel that flies from Montgomery; Make me a poster of an old rodeo; Just give me one thing that I can hold on to; To believe in this living is just a hard way to go.”

John Wayne Westerns. “The Searchers” is one of my all-time favorites, but I like “Big Jake,” “Rio Bravo,” “Rio Lobo” and a bunch of others, too.

Elvis. Nuff said.

People who aren’t phonies.

The noir movie, “Out of the Past,” starring Robert Mitchum (and Kirk Douglas).

The Great Gatsby and The Sun Also Rises.


Hummus and guacamole. Curry. Bundt cake (That’s for you, Paul. I still love and miss you, my friend.)

Jeopardy. (For Final Jeopardy, we have a game in my house. We try to guess the question without knowing the answer. We call it Ultimate Jeopardy, and we’ve on occasion even won it.)

Spain. (Well, I’ve never been to Spain, but I kind of like the music.)

A good cup of coffee. And it doesn’t have to cost $5.

Dancing With the Stars. And American Idol. (You know, no one ever admits to watching these shows, but somehow they remain at the top of the ratings. Think some folks are being dishonest?)

“Let us go then, you and I, when the evening is spread out against the sky Like a patient etherized Upon a table.”

“‘Twas brillig and the slithy toves, did gyre and gimble in the wabe: All mimsy were the borogoves And the mome raths outgrabe.” (I’ve always wanted a vorpal sword.)

Dr. Strangelove. “Gentlemen, you can’t fight in here! This is the War Room.”

The Tar Heels. And honestly, it’s hard to me to understand why everyone doesn’t like them.

Going barefoot.

Pizza. Goat cheese. Bacon.

The Kurwood Derby.

The original Star Trek. Especially City on the Edge of Forever. (More on that another day.)

Led Zeppelin.

And soccer. (Go Arsenal.)

Reubens. The sandwich. Not the painter.

But I still hate bananas.

“I think Mr. Mellish is a traitor to this country because his views are different from the views of the President and others of his kind. Differences of opinion should be tolerated, but not when they’re too different. Then he becomes a subversive mother.” – Sharon Craig, “Bananas”


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I hate bananas … and lots of other stuff

Now Playing: “Roses Are Black,” Austin Collins

I hate bananas, and the rest of the world loves them. It’s not so much the taste. It’s the smell … and the consistency. Back in the day, when I was running a newsroom in Eastern North Carolina, I once forbid reporters and fellow editors from throwing banana peels in newsroom trash cans. Why? They draw fruit flies, for heaven’s sake. Anyway, my minions got me back. The hid banana peels under my chair, desk, table. It was disgusting getting rid of them – the peels, not the people. What really pains me about hating bananas is that I know Elvis loved them.

Thinking about bananas got me to thinking about other things I hate that most people don’t (One of my favorite sayings to Karen, when she says most people would do this or that in some situation, is: Honey, I’m not like most people. It drives her crazy, of course.).

This is just a partial list, by the way:

Tom Hanks. I know, he’s a nice guy. Everybody loves his movies. But not me. I took an instant dislike to him in “Splash,” when all he could do was whine about Darryl Hannah being a mermaid. Wake up, dude! That’s Darryl Hannah. Stop the whining. (By the way, I think her greatest role was Elle Driver in the Kill Bill movies.) To me, he hasn’t changed since. Always whiney. Don’t like him. Don’t watch his movies. (One exception: Philadelphia, mostly because I do like Denzel.)

Star Wars. Saw the original. Not only didn’t like it very much but felt like it ruined science fiction movies for years, maybe decades. I do like Darth Vader, though not enough to care about his back story.

Indiana Jones. Just stupid, to me. (And believe me, I do like me some stupid movies.)

The Eagles. Actually, before “One of These Nights,” they were OK. And even that LP has a gem – “Take It to the Limit.”

Nirvana. Don’t get it. (This was the first of many popular music signs that I was getting old.)

The whole gangster TV/movie thing. The Godfather was pretty good, but that pretty much filled me up forever in that genre.

Queen. Particularly Bohemian Rhapsody.

Coach K. Need I say more?

Peace. (Coming tomorrow: There’s stuff I like …)

“I went to church incognito
When everybody rose the Reverend Smithy
He recognized me and punched me in the nose.”
_ “No More Mr. Nice Guy,” Alice Cooper


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