27 November 2009

Music: Watching Judas

Music is a universal language to those who can hear.

Today, I am talking about WATCHING JUDAS, a band. This band of young men hails from St. Charles County in Missouri. Yes, I've met them. I'm a musician-singer, and one of the two brothers in WATCHING JUDAS, Eric Barfield, used to play piano in a small group with me and some other musicians. This is not saying that I'm merely claiming that something is good because I know of the group. No, I don't automatically say something is decent: I have standards. WATCHING JUDAS has met those standards on their recording entitled "MARY MEETS SALLY", a CD (which appears to be a very small LP, if you own a copy --- yes, it looks like a RECORD)...well, this CD features a song I feel deserves attention, "LONG WAY FROM EDEN". This track has echoes of many groups, and one can draw your own conclusions with a good mind's eye as to whom has inspired the band to write and record this tune. I haven't asked Eric or Christian Barfield if this was written by one or both brothers, but it does sound like something they would have compiled as part of this overall good recording.

The Barfield brothers were in the studios of KFUO Radio several weeks ago and talked about their efforts. They've also been featured on other radio stations across the region over the past couple of years, and they are embarking on yet another "tour" of venues where they can ply their trade to various audiences, mostly under 60 (but I wouldn't rule out some over-60 people liking this music, too...as there are some sounds on this which remind many of us of late 1960s Beatles music/production).

The produced CD was recorded in Memphis and St. Louis, mixed in St. Charles MO (not to be confused with St. Charles IL, outside of Chicago), utilizing the four main musicians associated with WATCHING JUDAS, Eric and Christian Barfield (both sing, although unless you have heard both in person, it may be difficult to say which one is singing the lead), who play keyboards and synthesizers, Paul Nahrgang on Bass, and young Aaron Wahoff on Drums/percussion. They added family members Mary Barfield on cello and Sarah Wahoff on violin in the recording process. Executive Producer Baird Risdon helped Eric and Michael Barfield (now that's keeping it familiar) in the production of the process for "LISTENING HOUSE" records. And if you're a St. Louis native, you may recognize the setting captured by photographer Edward Crim as the "pickle pans" (that's what I call them) from Bob Cassilly's City Museum in downtown St. Louis. Even with all the local angles and angels (one would think) associated with this recording, it took a lot of personal money from the Barfield family and friends to make "MARY MEETS SALLY" a reality. It is a slice of local music, a slice of American ingenuity, talent bestowed upon these young guys, and part tribute to fans of WATCHING JUDAS that such a recording has been brought out.

I think that if you listen to the music of the past 45 years, you'll find something on this CD to enjoy, so long as you don't care that there are NO guitar riffs. Yes, there are no guitars used in the recording of "MARY MEETS SALLY" (except bass), which means that the production values had to be just a smidge more creative than others have attempted or accomplished. By no means am I attempting to say it singularly outshines Phil Ramone or Phil Spector, Brian Wilson or Brian Eno, but it is ladled with production gravy (sorry, yesterday was Thanksgiving, so the mind drifted to that metaphor) from the very first seconds of the opening title track.

Before it becomes a nationally successful band, I want to proclaim that WATCHING JUDAS is worth watching and hearing. I may not be the very first to think this way --- but I am looking forward to the day when I can say "I remember when WATCHING JUDAS was merely a group of nice young guys looking for a break." I think their break is this CD, and more specifically, the song "LONG WAY FROM EDEN".

Call your local radio station music directors and ask them to play this song. If they give "LONG WAY FROM EDEN" some airplay, hopefully others will request the song and the stations will start adding the tune to their playlists. At that point, WATCHING JUDAS will no longer be a well-kept secret to those of us who have already heard them.


Check out WATCHING JUDAS at http://www.watchingjudas.com as well as http://twitter.com/watchingjudas

Oh...and Watching Judas is also on myspace and have a few videos on youtube.

12 November 2009

Irrelevant: Generation X, and Me

Today, I realized that I am irrelevant.

As I sat in the basement this morning, I reflected upon my life. Since I was born in 1965, I am a member of Generation X. A few years ago, there was a term that was largely associated with Generation X members, but I always felt did not apply to me --- called the "slacker". I worked two and three jobs, six and seven days a week, in order to become relevant. But, I suppose because I am a member of Generation X, things have become more denigrating to those of us who are labeled Gen-X. Perhaps it's that label of "slacker" which defined some in our generation, and cast a pall over our very existence within Generation X. Because we're now "middle aged", and no longer in our youth, we have become special to Gen-Y and the Baby Boom generations, as well as...well, not sure that we've given a true name to the younger than Gen-Y kids yet, but I may as well not look it up on the internet because I'm already irrelevant.

Ya see --- outside of those they identified more than a decade ago as slackers, Generation X doesn't even get noticed on the blip of the RADAR GUN that is our national media. CBS' Katie Couric is a Baby Boomer. NBC's Brian Williams is a Baby Boomer, and so are their respective backup anchors, Russ Mitchell and Lester Holt. Looking over at the other news desks --- well, okay, after you get away from retiring boomer Charles Gibson, there are a few anchors who may have a shot at the ABC News desk who are in Generation X...but, frankly, I doubt that the Baby Boomers in charge at ABC will allow a non-boomer to fill that chair as anything more than a co-anchor.

No, you see my point is not only am I, personally, feeling irrelevant. But it seems a lot of us in Generation X are being deemed irrelevant in this economic crisis. Some would say we're too small a generation to have as great an impact on the financial world as "boomers" --- even though we're in the middle of our best spending years. However, we Gen-Xers are also in the middle of being given pink slips or told our job skills don't match the open job positions which are largely being offered up to or snapped up by those who are Gen-Y --- not because we're unqualified for the positions, but because we don't match the financial requirements.

Huh? We're in this economy, making more money on average than the younger generation and we don't qualify? How can that be? Well --- it's BECAUSE we don't make or take less money than those who are younger that we don't match the financial requirements. That, by the way, is the lie that the Human Resources departments are counting on to get them through whatever minor hiring stage they set. Companies are suggesting the HR people not hire someone over 30 these days because of financial needs of the company are paramount. In reality they only want to pay for those who have just exited their formative educational years (high school, trade schools, colleges, and universities) and will gladly accept a smaller paycheck than those of us who have anywhere from five to 25 years in their career fields.

A lot of irrelevance in 2009 is based upon money and age. Much of it is based upon the age at which Generation X has going for it on the positive side --- we are young enough to work a lot of hours and experienced enough to know what we're doing, so we are in the right age range to make the wages that companies no longer wish to pay.

This is NOT limited to Generation X people. No --- a lot of boomers a few years under retirement age but above Gen-X are under the same guns. They, too, are fired upon by the institutions which they thought would allow them to retire as their parents or older cousins had done. Or maybe simply put --- fired, dismissed, trimmed due to budget constraints, laid-off indefinitely. How many other ways are there of saying "we are trying to protect our bottom line before we can protect your bottoms" --- or "assets before saving others' asses"???

It doesn't really matter, anyway, I suppose, which age category you fall into these days. The economic depression exists, while the government says otherwise (two different parties, two different administrations...neither will admit this is more than a serious recession). Unfortunately, it's leading to the downfall of the United States of America in a financial sense. Maybe we're going to be able to band together in the spirit of American brotherhood to get us through this mess. Or maybe we're going to crumble and fall prey to those who hold all the money in assets (not just bank notes --- banks are failing, insurance companies are failing, and Wall Street will fall again, too).

I just know this much --- I reflected upon my irrelevance this morning and have come to one conclusion: I don't see a way out of this for myself. I work in an industry which is befuddled by money-hungry investors, managed by people who don't understand the industry basics, and has consistently let go, fired, dismissed, etc., the base of people who understand how to keep it going and thrive...and although I have a part-time job...I could apply to literally thousands of outlets and be given no more of a chance than I have at my current employer to become full-time with benefits.

No...it seems my days of making that path to financial freedom were over long ago. Perhaps as long ago as half-a-career ago, the path was being broken up by owners who only wanted enough money to cover their middle-age and retirement years. The greed set out by people way above me in broadcasting 15 or more years ago has left me feeling tired and cold. Yet I am somewhat employed, while others I have known are working for peanuts or trying to move-in with their children or parents because they've been unemployed for a long enough period of time that it is as simple as being broke in a down economy.

Sure, I'm a victim of sorts: Of my own belief in my abilities taking me beyond what others have been willing to allow; of an industry which allowed itself to be taken over by money-grubbers who know nothing but their own crooked ways; of trusting that things would become better for all of us sooner, rather than later, because "some of the older generation will have enough sense to buy up the businesses and put us back in the driver's seat". Boy, was I banking without money...just like the banks do these days!

No...it's the end of 2009...I'm still going to work today, part-time. But I am a true Generation X member. And I am ever so irrelevant.

I just wish Andy Rooney would recommend that CBS fill his job position at "60 Minutes" with me, so my irrelevance would earn me a healthy and respectable paycheck for a few years.

30 September 2009

Radio Broadcasting, Media & Business

I've been a media member since...well that depends on my "real roots". I suppose it goes back to when I was a young child who, like so many Americans, loved listening to the radio personalities up and down the dial (when it really was a dial). Times were great for listeners: personalities were plentiful, and radio station owners paid those personalities enough to make a decent living, for the most part. It stayed that way up until perhaps the late 1980s or early 1990s before the dying breed --- the local owner --- could no longer afford to continue paying the "developmental personalities" at the smaller stations. The economy was not very good.

Consolidation laws FIRST forced the radio broadcasting (TV, too) industry to change - to accept larger allowable ownership groups. It had the potential to help, we were told. Then we watched as "deregulation" was forced through the FCC and Congress. Along the way, computers helped us out, giving us new ways of making "radio magic"...unfortunately, that was followed by brutally harming the program hosts with "voicetracking". Sure, it made it possible for us to do a break ahead of time so we could take a lunch break, but it also allowed station management to think "we can cut payroll with this feature". And cut payroll they did, except for their own pay. They took away the livlihood of hundreds of thousands of radio personalities, opting to show a "profit" for their quarterly or yearly earnings. Then they took the shareholders' money and ran to the bank with their bonuses.

Broadcast industry job cuts even made news this week. How about the way Westwood One CEO Rod Sherwood as well as Executive VP/Business Affairs and General Counsel David Hillman ordered mandatory five-day employee furloughs in Q4 2009, then "schedules" further salary cuts for 2010? The employees weren't very happy about these moves. You wonder how much Hillman will get as a reward for this kind of change --- Hillman's been specializing in this move for more than five years, before he was a VP. Ahh, the "esquire" must be entitled. Right? Keep combing through the press releases and watch for his "bonus" in 2010. It will happen.

With just only 25-year-long career in broadcasting, I have come to realize that the only place where radio's "personalities" will soon reside is where people are listening to them. That may not simply be a radio station: it will be a particular online "channel" as well as on your cellphones, media devices such as mp3 players, etc.

I'll boldly predict that such days are coming as soon as by the fall of 2010.
By fall of 2010 --- your favorite air personalities will be available for listeners on MANY media platforms. I should add this word: again. Many of these personalities have been out of the spotlight or unemployed for too long.

Frankly, I'm looking forward to this because of all the media applications where we will see this personality-driven "channel" exist...it'll be numerous platforms and the applications where they will be featured will be widespread, thus leading the various listeners/viewers (some will want the personalities on video, too) to seek them out.

I'll admit I am looking forward to this new "channel" because I will take part in its existence and shaping.
Q: Why?
A: Because I want to...and because someone has to get "radio" back on track, even if it's not always or only on the radio airwaves of AM and FM.

The good news is: the air-personalities will band together.

These men and women are already picking up on the fact that this is one development coming, as we/broadcasters who are personalities either shake our heads or laugh in disgust at the idiots currently running and ruining "radio as we know it".

Frankly, I am not a household name today.
Ahhh...but wait until "tomorrow" and see/hear what happens.


A sincere thanks to all those who want to participate in this new chapter of radio broadcasting.

RANDOM ramblings about "business".
"I'll give him/her 'the business'."
"That's nobody's business but their's."
"I own my business...built it from the ground up!"
"In Business News..."

When one wonders about the economy...it's often because the "regular" news and the "business" news become closely related, or even the same.

"New Auto Production Down As Mexican Plants Begin Sending Inventory North"
"Fewer Americans Filing For Unemployment As Part-Time Jobs Are Filled"

Hooboy, to be an economics pundit in 2007 and predict the economic collapse (the way some actually did). Wow...someone could make fortunes off the writing of that history book.

Here's the question: What business can suck the life out of some and make others wealthy at the same time?

Unfortunately, the answer is: ANY business in 2009.


Who else thinks the business climate in 2010 will look mighty good for some compared to 2009?

20 July 2009

Yet I Wonder What Happened To Excitement

The weekend weather was incredibly mild in the St. Louis area and much of the midwest --- about the eastern half of the United States --- and I wasn't about to miss it. Or was I?

I just realized that outside of mowing the lawn on Saturday, taking out trash, going to the mattress retailer to pick up a bed frame, and not much else, the only outdoors thing I did all weekend was to attend a backyard barbecue (which was wonderful, I must admit, even though we only stayed for about 3 hours or so).

This leads me to ponder the question (as I get ready to go to work) --- what can and will I do for excitement on a Monday?

Perhaps before the end of the day I will have the answer. At least I can say this much without reservation: I'm blessed, whether it's with family, friends, co-workers, or otherwise known acquaintances --- I will enjoy the talents of all these people today. And even if I don't conscientiously acknowledge those talents outwardly, by the end of today I will be glad that I've had the chance to see them in use.

Tomorrow it's a different set of talents to observe and enjoy.

It's funny to me, but I don't sound excited in my head --- but when I read it on the page, it appears to me that I am excited about the days ahead. It's not something I'm questioning...I just find myself in wonder.


I share a funny video --- I love how these things just show up in life. A friend and author from Houston TX, Andrew Lazo, shared this on Facebook this morning. Being I am from Generation X, this video was a direct hit for me. Actually, it was TWO hits for me. View it and laugh:


"And that's the way it is. Good day!"

18 July 2009

The Thumbnail For Sale On Ebay

You never know what you'll find out on Ebay, or if you will ever bid on an item. Occasionally we grow curious and wonder what is behind the bidding process for the party/parties involved. In this case, I know a person whose mission this week is: selling a broken thumbnail on Ebay.

I give you the transcript of my interview with "shukuacacia" --- the seller of this item.

Here's the link: http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&item=130319448837


Tell me about this nail. How did it break?

Umm, I dont know honestly. I was drunk...but possibly from punching a wall.

Which nail broke?

Right thumb nail.

(Here's a link to the ebay listing and picture)

Does the thumb nail area hurt?

No actually, it broke down in the "pink" area so I didn't want to finish the break in fear of pain and blood, so I just let it be for a week and a half...and I was very careful not to break it, but then when I was rolling up my window the other side of my nail broke...so then on either side there was a break in pink part, and as time went on the break got bigger until it was all the way across. But my nail was still on because just above that break there was the nail...still pink, attached to skin. And, after it being like that for two days, it finally just came off with no pain or blood.

Wow...how lucky do you feel?


It's not the most mainstream item found on Ebay --- WHY sell your thumbnail?

(To)just see what will happen...will anyone buy it? If so, how much will they pay for it, and will someone get into a bidding war for it??

It's all a very thrilling experience to see what happens to something most people just ingore/throwaway.


That's the thumbnail sketch of why she's selling a thumbnail on Ebay.

16 June 2009

Illinois General Assembly Clashes With Residents

The latest budget passed by the Illinois General Assembly is causing a DEEP divide.

Traditionally a column starting with that sentence is discussing the two main political parties in the U.S.A. --- but this time it is the residents of the Land of Lincoln against the state legislature. And, to borrow a coined phrase, it ain't pretty.

In times of economic troubles, all parties are worried about money. Residents are praying they can keep their jobs or find new ones to replace the ones they have lost or are losing. Government officials are grinding their teeth as they crunch numbers, and legislators are clashing as often as ever over what money is coming in, what money can be spent, and where to spend the money which comes in from taxpayers and the U.S. government. And in the middle of it all is a man who is charged with leading all of those parties --- following two "leaders" who were riddled with scandal --- Governor Pat Quinn.

Governor Quinn doesn't want to be known as a governor who lost control before he really had it. It appears he's been doing as much as he can during his tenure in the Governor's office and has offered solutions to a difficult balancing act: the next fiscal budget. Yet as his budget proposals were discussed in General Assembly committees, they were combing it over, dissecting it, and then "enhancing" it to the point that it no longer looked like the proposal Governor Quinn had given the legislature. In fact, the cuts the state senators and representatives decided upon make Quinn's budget pages look like baby swiss cheese. The state government would lose about 10-thousand jobs alone. That's the state of Illinois' payroll going down at the same time that the rest of the state finds it more difficult to do business with some agencies --- especially those who look for "customer service" in social service agencies. The proposal which came out of the General Assembly and eventually the president of the Illinois senate will cause literally tens of thousands of job losses before August the governor is forced to sign the current version of the General Assembly's budget.

So, if you're the parents, the siblings, the actual state residents who stand to lose their jobs or training from the drastic funding cuts to social service agencies and programs, NOW is the time to stand up and call the legislators and the media.

Which will get you better results?

Call your local newspaper, radio station and especially TV stations --- and let them know how upset you are that they're cutting services to the weakest among us: those with disabilities and the elderly, as well as children.

Perhaps they'll give this some daily coverage until a new budget - with a temporary and slight tax increase is included to alleviate the problem - helps restore the funding to so many of the public and private concerns which HELP these citizens.

02 June 2009

I'm Anti-Death Until God Calls

I'm what most people would call a moderate, middle of the road --- politically --- person. I feel that humans deserve the chance to talk, discuss, vote for, and rally over their positions in life.

I give you the death by gun of Dr. George Tiller, known by most as an abortion provider in Kansas. Dr. Tiller was killed at the doors to the church where he served as an usher this past Sunday, allegedly by someone who was a vehemently anti-government conservative.

So --- here are the coming rubs for me:

As it is my blog, my column, I am allowedto make the rules up as I go along. Thus, I will modify the names of the groups to which the world has been clinging for much of the past 35 years, since Roe V Wade, or, Roe vs Wade, depending upon how you've viewed the title of that ruling.




Dr. George Tiller was murdered. Both groups hate that fact, whether you want to believe it or not. I'm sure why the Abortion-Choosers are upset, and I know why the Anti-Deathers are upset --- because it will be painfully obvious that many of those who are on the side of the Abortion-Choosers will speak up and claim that, as a group and in whole, Anti-Deathers are the ones behind the murder of Dr. Tiller as well as the murders and maimings of those abortion providers who have suffered injuries, including deadly injuries, since the Supreme Court voted to allow abortions in the United States.

Let me not forget to show the two sides that I'm in the middle on this issue, lest more than one of the sides think I'm clearly siding with just one.


Effecting change is good.

President Obama campaigned on that premise. Having a profound effect upon society, he maintained, can be done by one person. The nation agreed and thus favored Barack Obama over the rest of the U.S. presidential candidates. I'd say President Obama has effected change since his coming into office. So did President George W. Bush in his eight years in the White House. And we all may have an opinion on what the changes were in the far past and recent past, but today I will fall upon my faith to do some of the talking for me.

I grew up in a Christian home. My Roman Catholic mother and grandparents helped to raise me and my siblings within the Holy Catholic Church. Now to push for a moment what I've learned over the past many years --- if you're going to discern between Christian and Catholic, you really don't know that both stand for the same thing: Jesus Christ was God the Son. Christian means Jesus the Christ was the son of God, and to be catholic means to be a Christian believer.

I'm in the middle here. I've been working with Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod pastors for more than four-and-a-half years, but have been friends with many Roman Catholic priests in my lifetime, too. All of a sudden the left-leaners are telling themselves that I'm a conservative, and that surely this person voted for McCain-Palin at the ballot box last November. Nope. I did not. I can effect change just the same as anyone by not voting for a ticket with which I disagree upon issues --- I won't tell you for whom I voted except to say it was not for McCain-Palin. Suddenly the conservatives are saying "oh, great...a wishy-washy conservative who won't see the big picture and vote for the pro-life candidate". Well, again, I know that the conservatives would like to be correct 100% of the time, just the same as the liberals would like to be correct 100% of the time. Thing is --- I am not going to judge who is correct and who is not. I'll be judged by some, and others will realize that it doesn't matter what my views are UNLESS I CAN EFFECT CHANGE.

Bear with me for a moment.

I cannot applaud the person who murdered Dr. George Tiller. No, that's not right, and I am not the only person who says this. Conservatives such as Marjorie Dannenfelser of the Susan B. Anthony List agree that murdering Dr. Tiller is not good for anyone.

On the other hand, I want to point to some people who like me are in the middle of the road --- moderates --- and don't believe that we can "effect change" in the world.

When someone asks whether ONE PERSON can "effect change", perhaps it's painfully obvious to some, but not so much to others. But I assure you that ONE PERSON can, in fact, have a dramatic effect upon the society in general. [did you read what I said about President Obama?]

Dr. George Tiller effected change...

...60-thousand fewer human beings came into the world.

As an Abortion-Chooser --- in Dr. Tiller's case he not only performed abortions but funded the very clinics where these tens of thousands of deathly acts were performed --- Dr. Tiller violated a fundamental dichotomy of his own doctoral creed in putting to death all of those humans.

Dr. George Tiller chose death as his calling card. I don't see him as compassionate toward women. I see him as an opportunist.

Sadly for Dr. Tiller, Scott Roeder was an opportunist as well. He took the opportunity to shoot to death Dr. Tiller. Mr. Roeder will be punished accordingly, I'm sure.

BUT WAIT! I, too, am an opportunist and looking forward to death.

Suddenly I am confounding all sides. Not for long, though.


"I'm Anti-Death Until God Calls" --- is the title of this column because...when God calls me to my death, I'll be all for death. I'm a believer in Christ as the Savior of the world. I look forward to the day the Lord God calls me...so I can see heaven.

As Dr. Dale Meyer, president of Concordia Seminary in St. Louis, says: "Thanks for thinking."

30 May 2009

YouTube Charm: A Few (thousand) Views Later

This is easy to say: I'm a fan of YouTube.

When I can, I search YouTube for music videos. Not necessarily the MTV/VH1/BET/etc. kind of music videos, but the videos which COULD be used in those applications, as well as videos of musical groups taken by professionals and amateurs who have found a "gem" performance by an individual or group. A "gem" to me also means that the music is good quality, or at least good enough to hear a wide range of things: high hat on a drum set, for example, as well as the depth of the bass, the vocals of everyone in a group setting, and so forth. See, although I'm not technically called an audiophile, I am rather picky about what I hear on these videos, which leads me to listen to literally thousands of video files on YouTube. And it is interesting how widely varied the songs and performances I have found.

Given that I am a fan of different genres of music, there is no shortage in finding something different every day. Last night (although this has been going on for days), I was sitting and going through dozens of videos of the band Chicago [and a few of The Buckinghams and The Beach Boys]. Chicago's been around for about 42 years --- no small feat in the world of music --- and they recently stopped in St. Louis for a concert on their latest tour. Sorry to say, I still have yet to hear them in concert. I'll have to wipe that one off the TO DO LIST sometime soon, I suppose...although the current lineup has been static for more than a decade, with original members Lee Loughnane, James Pankow, Walter Parazaider and Robert Lamm, and longtime members Bill Champlin (a man who has been writing hits almost as long as Chicago has been performing), Jason Scheff (he's the man who had to fill the role of bassist Peter Cetera when the latter left for a solo career in the 1980s), Tris Imboden (he's the poor sap who eventually took over from legendary drummer Danny Saraphine when DS was given the boot for creative differences), and guitarist Keith Howland.

I'm not the big fan of Chicago that some are, but I do see the history of this band for what it is: lengthy, storied --- both good and not so good, and sincerely super because of great songs which both hit the charts and simply became legendary tunes. But the videos on YouTube are what has drawn me into their history even more over the past several weeks. I mean I already have been listening to a couple of different "Greatest Hits" compilations by Chicago over the last 15 years, so I already know there are vastly different recordings available to fans --- but YouTube has made me a bigger fan AND made me want to tell some other fans to shut their typing fingers up unless they have something other than the same old "Terry Kath is rolling over in his grave" posts in the comments columns on some of the videos. Terry Kath has been dead for 31 years and the band went on without him. As a musician and fan I will admit that claims of Kath's being the "soul" of Chicago in their early years bears noting: clearly he had a rock/soul style that fit into the band and helped transform it from a group of young guys in the Chicago area to a worldwide phenomenon. But that doesn't mean the group had to die when he died. That would be like saying the U.S.A. had to die when Warren G. Harding died in office: people move past troubled times in history, and Chicago the band did just that.
The fact that there has been historical evidence that Kath was not as pleased with the direction of the band during its most successful period is nothing new. All bands evolve, rock or otherwise. I play in a band with a 46-year history. We have one original member left performing: we don't disband our group because the original members are dying off --- we still perform the songs they performed in the 1960s and 1970s because that's what the listeners demand. And just because our original singer isn't part of the mix these days (he decided to retire from performing...and he comes to our performances at least a couple of times each year...and rarely will he actually get up on stage with us to sing) doesn't mean the band has to go to the pile of groups which no longer exist. And the same should be said about Chicago: they are musicians, each with their own soul. They decided that the death of one member was not going to keep them from performing. Another member left...they fired another member...they changed lineups, and in fact it is an evolutionary process that one can see by watching the videos of Chicago in "live" performances as documented on YouTube. In fact, you'll notice videos where Lee Loughnane or Walt Parazaider are not part of the lineup --- this shouldn't surprise anyone because they are human and would likely want some time away with family, or as some have suggested may have health concerns and not make some dates. This gives other musicians the opportunity to play with a legendary group and fill-in for one of those legends --- a feat many musicians would give their left kneecap to accomplish just once.

It's a great media form such as YouTube that gives us all the opportunity to take a look into the greater depths of things --- such as the performing history of a band such as Chicago, a kid playing ukulele, or a video of a family reunion in which you can almost smell the barbecue.

There are millions of things to do on the internet: I find YouTube gives me a sense of yesterday and today. YouTube is one website I will gladly use regularly as long as it exists.

29 May 2009

Eating In St. Louis: Why Aren't We ALL 672-Pound Humans???

If you've lived in the metropolitan St. Louis area, you are always finding new places to dine-in, take-out, mixture of both (I like to do that with pizza or chicken...eat-in sometimes at Porter's Chicken, but usually take it home to the family...same with the original location of Fortel's at MacKenzie and Heege), or places to purchase your ingredients and take them home to combine and cook them in the kitchen or on the grill. This IS St. Louis, after all, so we have options galore for breakfast, lunch, dinner, brunch, late night, even the middle of the night.

So --- I've not given my opinions on a blog before, but I'll give a few of my favorites today just because I have been inundated with food since I got up at dawn.

If money is no object, this list is beyond lengthy, so maybe I'll give myself a $4000 account for the week. That should be more than enough anyway, right?

An option that is good at any time of day for me is GINGHAM'S. It's a family-style restaurant that most people would see and think "Denny's style" or even "Bob Evans like". And since the family that started the restaurant split the business up just a little bit, they have "two" locations --- one in St. Charles at Highway 94 and Sherman, the other in South St. Louis County at Lindbergh and Lemay Ferry --- both are good, although I have been partial to the South County location for many years since I've lived closer to it for the past 15 years. REASONS TO GO: If someone thinks that "Uncle Bill's" is a good pancake place...I invite you to do a comparison. To my taste, GINGHAM'S is clearly the better pancakes. But, that having been stated, do yourself a favor if you are actually hungry when you go into GINGHAM'S and like omelettes --- order your favorite kind of omelette and get the 3 pancakes option (the other option is hash browns and toast for if you want the omelette and aren't as hungry). You can get your fill and enjoy the flavors. For whatever time you go in --- they're open 24 hours a day --- I suggest the iced tea and/or coffee with your meal. They have great dinners, too, so don't limit yourself to the vast breakfast menu.

Okay. So we can find other options for breakfast for certain...let's just say that we were going to meet at Gingham's for brunch instead so we'll need an early morning option. I'm thinking doughnuts. Hoo-boy...do we have options here in St. Louis...and I'll be up front in saying that I'll hear from people about the places I'll be leaving out of my short list. These are simply because I don't frequent them --- not because I don't like them. I've eaten at nearly every good doughnut shop in the region, and some of the less-than-good shops, too.

If you think it's tough to find a place for breakfast and stick with it --- doughnuts are even tougher to dedicate yourself to just ONE of these places. But if I have to find a place that I can count on for consistency, it's EDDIE'S SOUTHTOWN DONUTS at S. Kingshighway and Murdoch, just a block from the Christy/Kingshighway firehouse. Eddie's cake doughnuts are soooooooo good. Oh my heavens...I'm a cake doughnut fiend, and it takes my strongest will to keep from going there every single day. There are so many different doughnuts to try, too --- and it's not easy to walk in early and figure it out...which is why I usually wait until after 8 AM, so there are fewer options (crazy, you say? Naw...makes it easier to choose!)! EDDIE is there most mornings early on, so if you're up early go in and tell him Buzz sent you.
That having been said, they're not alone in my visits each month, due to location of my drive path to and from work. You see, not far from there at the corner of ChippeWatson at Donovan (it's what I call it because Watson and Chippewa meet there) is DONUT DRIVE-IN. They've been there forever, it seems, with a good variety of doughnuts. I am easily suckered in there...there are memories for me from 9/11/2001 (walked in with my family that morning and heard the news on WCBS/KMOX - we'd been listening to a Veggie Tales recording until that moment), and I still enjoy their custard doughnuts a lot - more because of location for me than otherwise because: THE BEST CUSTARD DOUGHNUT EVER is found at DONUT DELIGHT at 3605 Dunn Road in North St. Louis County. I've eaten hundreds of pounds of custard doughnuts with chocolate icing on top --- DONUT DELIGHT is the hands down winner of this category. I even was told how good "COUNTRY DOUGHNUTS" in Crystal Lake, IL was --- and they are very good doughnuts, and overall are fantastic (if you want to drive the 300 miles from STL to Crystal Lake, go ahead...just don't make it your only stop - that would be silly unless you grew up there) --- but the custard doughnuts at DONUT DELIGHT still win my devotion. But, why? Let's start with the size: it is larger than almost any other filled doughnut around. Go with texture of THE CUSTARD being textbook good. Let me reassert that I am a cake doughnut eater and not easily persuaded by non-cake doughnuts, yet I still love this particular doughnut. Filling: again, spot on because it's not supersicklysweet nor too tart --- it's a good mix. Topping the top: the chocolate on top has a chocolate flavor --- as if someone took the time to care about making the icing with real cocoa. Overall, it's my favorite doughnut outside of the realm of cake doughnuts.

I can safely say that a visit to other doughnut shops is not uncommon for me all over the metropolitan area, but I will for certain say that since the Kolache Factory took over on Brentwood Blvd., I sure miss the apple fritters which used to fill my stomach on certain days.

An old favorite lunch spot from the time I was a kid is Woofie's. It's in Overland on Woodson Road just north of Page, in a tight spot for turning in and out --- perfect for anyone who loves the numerous varieties of hot dogs and sausage of similar ilk. I still can't tell you which is my favorite there --- my mouth is in the mood for something different each time I stop there. It's a MUST for your friends from Chicago when they're in town watching the Cubs being demolished by the Cardinals. Treat them to this: Chicago-style hot dogs make with Vienna beef --- yum --- because they'll need it with the next Cardinals sweep of the Completely Useless By Septembers.
There are numerous places with great lunch deals --- I can't tell you how many different places my mouth has found happiness and my pocket found some relief because someone told me about a $6.75 lunch special which included an entree, sides and drink. I'll let you decide your favorites for lunch...but if you are like me and sitting in South County with a Chicagoland native who wants a hot dog...you make the drive up to Woofie's ANYWAY.

Okay --- here's a tough item for anyone in St. Louis.


Why is this so difficult? Well, because St. Louis has its own pizza. And that's a bone of contention and some contentment depending upon where you were raised. If you were NOT raised in St. Louis, you are probably not a fan of Imo's Pizza, Cecil Whittaker's Pizzeria, and numerous others who use PROVEL CHEESE on their pizzas.
My personal recommendation is CUSUMANO'S Pizza and Italian Restaurant (formerly of North County/Glasgow Village - now in the third generation, now located) at 1120 Technology Drive in O'Fallon MO --- on the northeast corner of Highway K at Highway 40-61 --- from the simple cheese pizza to your favorite toppings, these are done the old-fashioned way, with a thin crush. The Cusumano's Pizza special has: Sausage, Pepperoni, Bacon, Mushroom, Onion, Green Pepper, Ham & Shrimp. A bit out of the ordinary, right?

If you're in St. Louis proper and don't wish to drive out to O'Fallon MO, finding one of these operations with a good track record, such as the CWP on S. Grand (hello Laura) or the one at Lemay Ferry and Forder (hey, Greg) is the best idea. At Cecil Whittaker's, my preferred toppings are black olives, mushrooms and sausage. I'm not a big pepperoni fan, but these two locations do have good pepperoni as far as I am concerned --- it's not too greasy.

There's a St. Louis homegrown pizza restaurant which serves a variety of pizzas that I'd have to say is a favorite of both St. Louisans and non-St. Louisans. That is FORTEL'S Original Pizza Den at the corner of MacKenzie and Heege Roads. You'll find a variety of options with different sauces, different toppings...it's a little on the gourmet side, yet it's not too "foodie" for regular pizza fans. Tell Shelly that "Buzz on the radio" says "hi". No, you won't get a deal, but you'll make me smile if when I go in next to say "hi", Shelly tells me someone came in because I said you should do so.

If you were raised on non-St. Louis pizza, there are a few options. But I honestly will go with the masses here: PI. That's some FANTASTIC pizza --- I had some recently and found out what all the hubbub is about --- oooooo it's sooooooooooooo good! I'm sure to find a reason to be on the Delmar Loop area and stop at Pi again soon. I want my daughter to find out why we like different styles of pizza --- she's going to like this, too. Having experienced Pi, I know why the president wanted some for himself. It's how Chicago-style pizza, or Napoli-style pizza is done. And out-of-towners love this place, especially if they're avoiding the native St. Louis style cheese and sauce.

In St. Louis some of the best pizza is Spanish pizza?
WHAT IS THAT? Only my FAVORITE PARTICULAR PIZZA. For the best veggie pizza, you have to go to THE HILL to GUIDO'S. GUIDO'S PIZZERIA AND TAPAS on Shaw Blvd. is where you'll find this delightful treat. The sauce is spanish, the veggies are piled up high...it's a thin crust, and when you're done with a piece on the edge, take one from the middle and find out how different it is. Then, when you're done, take it home and put it in the fridge and have a piece in the morning. It will turn into many cold pieces of pizza --- this is the best cold pizza on the planet, too!

There are lots of opinions here. I enjoy PORTER'S Fried Chicken for my take-out --- and because I'm a big fan of their fried okra as a side item, I go there more often than almost any other chicken place. Occasionally I will sit in their little dining area and eat some of their fish, too. Many of my friends have come to agree that the home-fried taste is worth the repeated trips.

My honorable mention for chicken goes in the DINNER category. So...

HODAK'S is known for it's family-style chicken. Ahh, yes, the chicken is delightful. But let's go in for the dinners. Always served faster than you can imagine, always freshly made, hot where necessary, and cold items are cold, too. I love the sides here, in addition to the complex menu. Sure, the chicken is terrific. I love the chicken livers. Let me repeat --- I go for the sides. The mashed potatoes and gravy is great standard fare...always good with the meal. Turkey and stuffing is also good --- these folks know their birds. I cannot think of one time I've ever gone in and not enjoyed my food. This is a city location: Gravois between Jefferson and I-55. The parking is good, and the food is worthwhile...oh, and the staff is quick, friendly, and worth putting an extra five to ten percent in on the tips. Seriously, this is a good destination for someone who wants to make sure that the kids, the adults and the senior citizens are all going to find something at dinnertime.

What? We have to boil it down to one, two, or three places? Sheesh. I can't do that.
My favorite spaghetti and Italian salad is served NOT ON THE HILL, but in Fosterburg IL --- the Castelli family has operated the Moonlight/Castelli's Moonlight at 255 --- for generations...the fourth generation serves you today. The bolognese sauce is my preference because of the spiciness. The HOUSE SALAD is a love/hate thing. Most people will enjoy it, but don't eat it if you have allergies to nuts --- I suspect there is nuts in "secret" recipe, but I've never heard for certain. To find out why I love this place, drive Northbound 255 on the Illinois side and keep going until you exit at Fosterburg Road, turn left and go until you see the sign. It's an Alton area favorite and worth the drive. Okay --- that's my Italian restaurant pick, but I will put up that Cunnetto's House of Pasta (on The Hill) serves my favorite fettucine alfredo, while Charlie Gitto's downtown makes me happy with their variety of Italian fare, Zia's salad (on The Hill) is among the best anywhere, and Mama Campisi's (on the Hill) is high on my personal pick list.
I will state that my favorite spaghetti sauces outside of the restaurants are made by hand in my kitchen by me...but I am not selling it to the restaurants...they'd have to hire me because I can change up the ingredients depending upon what I have available at home. Homemade sauces are still the best.

Too tough to call, in reality, because there are so many reasons to say "somebody's backyard" is better than to have to pay for it at a restaurant. But if I had to come clean about where I go before any other place --- BANDANA'S is still my preference. Yes, I like Phil's, Pennie's, and several other places, but BANDANA'S smoky flavor and choices make it my first choice of the restaurants. Keep in mind that as I have heard that Three Monkeys is good, I haven't yet experienced their food...that's coming soon, I hope. The menu looks good to me.

This is a personal favorite because in 1986 I lived above the restaurant in downtown Washington MO --- COWAN'S RESTAURANT. Breakfast, lunch, dinner...and THE BEST PIES around. I really don't care if you're a bakery fan or not --- Jerry's pies are the ones made with love and experience, and if you get there when they have the chocolate-peanut butter pie, get it room temperature or cold...don't get it warmed up. But if that's not your preference or you have allergies to nuts, try to get something with merengue on it --- lemon is great, chocolate, banana cream pie...oh man, now I wanna drive the 55 minutes to Cowan's and get some pie --- and it's not even lunch time yet.

Since Velvet Freeze is no longer an option, I'll go with something you can find. Maybe I should say different places and options.
For ICE CREAM, it's OBERWEIS --- several locations in Illinois, but I am nearest the Telegraph Road location. They even have a terrific "no sugar added" chocolate yogurt soft-serve.
I'm going to be judicious and make it a tie for FROZEN CUSTARD. I grew up in North St. Louis County --- so I'm always going to love the variety of flavors and toppings at FRITZ'S in Old Towne Florissant (been to the one in O'Fallon MO, too and enjoyed it - there are a few locations around now), even though I now thoroughly enjoy MR. WIZARD'S on Big Bend in Richmond Heights --- and since I've lived south of the Highway 40 Mason-Dixon/Equator Line...yes, I enjoy trips to TED DREWES --- I used to live near the S. Grand location --- I like the fact that I can get a good mint topping and pistachios.

This is where I go back where I began...GINGHAM'S. Why? It's the old person's hangout. This means that the food is as good at 1 AM as it is at 10 AM. Coffee late at night with a waffle. Sounds good, doesn't it? But if it's just a good piece of pie you're looking for, enjoy it. And if you're just wanting to try something different, see if you can put your paws on the biscuits and honeybutter (if you like honeybutter...this is special!). Or get a burger, even the toasted ravioli, or a milkshake or...well, you have such a choice, that fire for a midnight snack can be extinguished with a trip inside.


Let me make one distinction for all: GINGHAM'S allows smoking. These are NOT smoke-free restaurant(s). I would prefer a non-smoking environment at all times, but still go to Gingham's as a frequent to regular customer despite that enigmatic downfall (I am always looking for the ANTI-SMOKING SECTION in restaurants). If you're allergic to smoke, you may want to skip the trip. Their exhaust system is antiquated and not worth putting your life in jeopardy.

27 May 2009

Stronger Than Strangers: The Big C

My life is not much different than many people my age. As aging continues, little things become more prevalent in life, including the death of people who are younger, as was the case earlier this year with someone I knew from when we both were in the same high school. I hadn't seen her since she was 14 or 15, and I had frequently wondered about her since 1983. She'd been married and carried the burden of cancer off and on for a few years. Her husband is left to carry on raising the children without her. She was all of 40.

A few years ago I changed jobs and began working where I am now. Things always are shifting around and last summer I began working with a new radio show. In so doing, I made some new acquaintances and friends. One of these people is Scot Kinnaman, who is a Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod pastor and editor at Concordia Publishing House in St. Louis, and a regular contributor to The Afternoon Show on AM 850 KFUO.

Scot and I have a rather casual but cordial relationship, in that we rarely see each other, speak about once per week on the phone before he goes on the air to discuss the Treasury of Daily Prayer, a book he has edited from several great writers and sources. We found out each other was on Facebook and added one another. I have occasionally looked at his blog just to see what it is he is discussing, and it's possible he's read some of my blogs or notes in the past as well, although I've never asked.

Tonight I saw something more dramatic than usual. He posted on his Facebook and Twitter that the tests he had undergone recently for prostate cancer --- came back positive. Scot has to go through who knows what kind of physical beating (again) to fight the battle against the big C.

In knowing Scot Kinnaman for as little time as I have known him, I have never seen him in a cross mood (well, in the mood to discuss Christ's cross, yes...but in a bad mood --- not thus far). Reading his website (www.scotkinnaman.com), I now know more about him personally. His battle against a deadly disease just a few years ago was won because medical personnel quickly reacted to his symptoms AND because of his faith in God and Jesus that showed to his family and friends. Scot's a winner, and although he is perhaps feeling a bit down at having had to wait for the "verdict" that tests were positive for cancer, he also appears to be poised to fight in order to win the battle against prostate cancer.

I urge you, whether you know him or not, to pray for the healing of Pastor Scot Kinnaman.

Memorial Day: Tribute to Two 1st Lieutenants

I wrote this past Monday, Memorial Day, and posted this to my Facebook notes. Today, I was looking at it again and realized more. This was about two 1st lieutenants in the USAF, yes. But it was also about two different wars, two different eras, two people of different genders. Here's the column:
Today is Monday, 25 May 2009 --- MEMORIAL DAY in the United States of America.

Today is not just any day. This is Memorial Day, when much of America just shuts down in remembrance of our fallen and wounded soldiers. This means the stores are closed --- no running off to buy eggs or milk or Pepsi. So today is a day the convenience stores get a little extra business. On the way home from work I was served notice to pick up something from the convenience store. It's raining cats and dogs as I stopped in St. Louis at Gravois and Weber Road. As I began to leave in the downpour that had been overhead for nearly 30 minutes, I saw myself and all the rest of traffic being stopped for a funeral procession. In all honesty I did not know for another 25 minutes that the procession was for 1st Lt. Roslyn Schulte, killed in action in Afghanistan this past week. To say that the procession was long would be an understatement. That is a good statement, actually. I would rather that she be remembered by hundreds, if not thousands, MORE St. Louisans. Lt. Schulte was a graduate of the United States Air Force Academy, a native St. Louisan who joins around five-thousand U.S. military personnel on the deceased list since the invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan. Her death is not being taken lightly by most people, I would imagine --- but not all are following the news of another local member of the military having died --- sometimes we get caught up in our daily lives and don't hear the names and reflect upon their role in combat or even hear of their death. Please realize that we are talking about a HUMAN BEING. But in this case it's a special human to Americans: this is a fallen soldier being buried ON Memorial Day.

Yesterday, we visited Jefferson Barracks National Cemetary in south St. Louis County. I mentioned to the occupants of the vehicle in which I was riding that I was given a privilege to cover the re-interment of 1st Lt. Michael Blassie as a reporter. It remains one of my most poignant memories, not just as a reporter, but as a resident of the United States of America, because of the nature of the services. Lt. Blassie was killed during the Vietnam War, 11 May 1972, and his remains were returned to the U.S. unidentified. Later, in 1984, his remains became interred at the TOMB OF THE UNKNOWN SOLDIER at Arlington National Cemetary as the Vietnam War's Unknown Veteran. This happened before there was such a thing as DNA evidence which helped to identify the remains of soldiers who had died in combat. The military had gathered Lt. Blassie's belongings near the area the military thought was his crash site, but due to the difficulty in positive identification of the 1972 crash, his remains were listed as unknown up through his 1984 burial and until 1998, when the evidence was reprocessed and he was positively identified. My role was as an observer --- as a reporter, I was given an assignment to gather the moment and file a couple of reports to my local radio station and to the ABC Radio Network. Later that evening it sunk in how special my day was to be: I had one of the lead stories in the national news that July 1998. But moreover, I was given a duty and helped Americans hear a story that needed to be told. It is still a source of honor for me to have been given the opportunity to cover his re-interment.

Other than the commonalities that both were 1st Lieutenants in the U.S.A.F. and St. Louisans, today I was able to bear witness to one of the most impressive things that the military can do to honor their fallen comrades: the jet flyby. I was home this time, just a few hundred yards from where Lt. Schulte was being laid to rest --- and this time I was not covering the story for the news. However I felt the same chills as the jet flew overhead. It is that chill which makes me realize I am free because of the service by these two individuals who by all accounts could have led extraordinary lives had they lived beyond their military years.
I hope that when I pass an Air Force 1st Lieutenant next time I recognize them and their rank and thank them. You see, I think that way because I have come to realize it could be that person being buried the next time I witness the flyby.

Thank you, heroes.

26 May 2009

Music, Media, Blogging, and Public Relations...and CAKE!

As if you couldn't figure it out, this is going to be a blog dedicated to forms of music, media, and public relations.

My 25th anniversary as a broadcaster is this year, and I celebrate that long as a journalist even though that predates my on-air days by a couple of years by virtue of the "time off" I did take between my junior year in high school and my time as a news reporter/anchor in radio.

Today, I freely admit that I am more likely to do public relations in tandem with interviews, reporting, etc., because it's more interesting to find the story and help the person with the story TELL it.

My first example is Michael Brinkley. I've known Michael for nearly 20 years. He is an artist and has always been creative. I've seen musical instruments he has created, drawings, movies, and other interesting endeavors...but his new one takes the cake --- literally. Designer Cakes.

Yesterday, Memorial Day 2009, I ate dinner with Michael and his wife and family. He brought a cake. It wasn't just any kind of cake --- it was a special Memorial Day Cake. He created it and made this specialty/gourmet cake specifically for this family gathering...and I must say it was scrumptious...delicious. It fit the day of remembrance to a tee --- and if you read his blog, http://designercake.blogspot.com, you will understand the meaning of the stars and stripes and decorations. Michael has only done a few different designs thus far, but he promises to expand his horizons and create new cakes for those who are looking for a special event cake.

Keep in mind that if you order a Designer Cake from Michael Brinkley, it's going to be personally made --- this is not some store-bought brand thrown together at the last minute.

Go to his blog first and check out the pictures of the cakes. Then consider emailing him and discussing your particular need for a cake or cakes. I guarantee he's not charging $1000 like some of those other cake artists are doing --- he's not a price-gouger or bait-and-switcher. If there's something wrong with the concept he may create for you, haggle with him. His artistry is an open-eared/open-minded creativity and he'll work with you on making and baking a great piece of deliciousness!!!