Archive for category Opinion

Music tells us of days gone by

You can tell a lot about a particular era by listening to its music.

My Dad was a veteran of WWII, and a member of the Greatest Generation.  He was also a music lover, and had a record collection that included many albums from that era.

Listen to the music of this generation and you’ll hear tales of hardship, sorrow, hope, and perseverance. They struggled through the Great Depression (Brother, Can You Spare a Dime), fought a war in Europe (Praise the Lord and Pass the Ammunition), celebrated the return of prosperity and youthfulness (Rock Around the Clock)  and mourned the loss of innocence with the assassination of a president. And that only brings us to the 1960.

The power of musical storytelling was particularly strong during the war years. In The Last Time I Saw Paris, Kate Smith reminisces about the French city and ends with, “No matter how they change her, I’ll remember her that way.” A sobering ending– she’s referring to the Nazi occupation of Paris.

Songs also brought hope of life and love after the war. The White Cliffs of Dover imagines a return to normalcy in war-torn England. (“The shepherd will tend his sheep; the valley will bloom again; and Jimmy will go to sleep, in his own little room again.”), as well as We’ll Meet Again (“Don‘t know how, don’t know when, but I know we’ll meet again some sunny day.”) Likely a theme for many separated couples.

There was also humor, most prominently from Spike Jones and his City Slickers (think Weird Al Yankovic, circa 1940s) and Der Fureher’s Face (“When the Fueher says ‘We is the master race,’ we Heil! Heil! Right in the Fureher’s face.”)

It would be difficult to overstate the role music played during the war. With television still years away from the mainstream, radio was the entertainment media of choice, and combined with the popularity of Saturday night dances, the songs and lyrics spoke to my Dad and others of his generation.

For those of us who follow, there are lessons about that difficult time in our nation’s history, and about the people who pulled us through.

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A dozen of the most interesting things drivers do

Texting while driving is against the law in many states, but people do many other, um, interesting things in the car.

He’s one observer’s list of unusual things drivers have been seen doing:

Putting on makeup
Playing air guitar
Brushing their teeth
Shaving
Playing with a dog (although it looked like the dog was actually driving)
Changing clothes
Eating a sandwich
Flossing their teeth
Reading a newspaper or book
Car dancing
Arguing/Yelling at kids

And my favorite …. Playing the trumpet

Your turn. What have you seen other drivers doing? Better yet, which of these have you done?

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Just thinking …

Instead of blogging about a single subject, this week’s looks at a series of topics…

  1. Why doesn’t my spell check know that Facebook is one word?
  2. Prediction: in 50 years, we’ll have electricity delivered without the use of wires, eliminating power outages caused by storms and falling tree limbs.
  3. The gang on Scooby Doo, Where are you? always demonstrated the special effects employed by the villain, but they never explained how a dog could talk.
  4. Does drinking smoothies mean that I’m too lazy to chew my food?
  5. Someone posted a YouTube video entitled “160 Greatest Arnold Schwarzenegger Quotes.” After watching, I decided that it represents one of the basic differences between men and women. BTW, a sequel video shares 130 more quotes.
  6. Yes, we have to deal with lots of snow in Maine, but on the plus side, we also have shorter checkout lines at the supermarket.
  7. I wonder if other people are able to spoon yogurt out of the container without splashing it on the counter and cabinets.
  8. When you really think about it, shoveling snow is pretty much the act of moving the white stuff four feet.
  9. Addition to bucket list: meet Stephen King.
  10. The bank account I had as a kid paid 5 percent interest. Now that I actually have more than $87.65 in an account, I’m earning 0.20 percent.
  11. I’m hoping for a Ghostbusters 3.
  12. How hard does Santa really work? I mean, it’s only one night a year.
  13. Everything in life really can be explained by a Seinfeld episode.
  14. I’m certain that Bigfoot is so elusive because it’s hiding from Chuck Norris.
  15. I’ll never understand how the State of Maine can justify asking residents to pay sales tax on items purchased in tax-free New Hampshire.
  16. The exclamation point, the most overused punctuation element, must have a tremendous team of lobbyists behind it.
  17. Perhaps the Flowbee was ahead of its time.
  18. Wise words from the Rolling Stones: “You can’t always get what you want. But if you try sometimes, you just might find, you get what you need.”
  19. Why is squash healthy but ice cream not? Can’t it be the other way around?
  20. The airplanes of today offer comfort, speed, and a record of safety that’s better than ever. Yet, with all this grand technology, the announcements from the crew are impossible to understand. Can’t they ask Bose or someone to help with that?
  21. Commercials for a medication to treat erectile dysfunction show a couple relaxing in bath tubs in the middle of a field. Ever wonder how they get water?
  22. Finally, a serious note: My Dad and uncles served in WWII. We should always be grateful for the sacrifice of that generation. And for those in the armed forces today.

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Letter to Washington: Let’s work together

Dear Elected Officials in Washington,
It’s time we have a long overdue talk. Americans are growing weary of the constant political cackling and lack of action as the nation faces many challenges, most notably the still-struggling economy.

I must confess a disdain for anything political, but I do vote and pay my share of taxes, so I guess that technically makes me your boss — one of many millions that you should be accountable to.

Additionally, as a long-time public relations professional, I can offer a few tips to help you navigate these choppy waters:

Listen to Mom
Remember the lessons your mother taught you about being polite, playing fair, and compromising? She was right. Can we put an end to the finger pointing and begin working together? The founding fathers had personality conflicts, but they were able to compromise and create a new nation. And did a pretty good job, too.

Look outward
It’s not about you, or your party. It’s about the American people — those who work hard to make a living, put food on the table for their family, and make a better life for their kids. And speaking of the next generation, let’s set an example for those who come after us. After all, they inherit what we leave behind.

Stand up for what’s right
Too many sound bites focus on what the other party is doing wrong. Is that really necessary? New Jersey Governor Chris Christie (R) raised the hackles of many Republicans when he expressed gratitude to President Obama for helping his storm-ravaged state after Superstorm Sandy tore through the region. Attacking the other party may generate better headlines, but in the long run, it’s counterproductive.

In closing, America needs its elected officials to step up to the plate and put the nation’s interest first. These are historic times, with great opportunity ahead. It would be a shame to let political posturing ruins that.

Please give that some thought. Either way, I’ll see you at the polls…

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Okay readers, your thoughts?

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7 ways that sports make a difference

What’s happening to professional athletes? Long gone are the days when stars like the late Yankee Joe DiMaggio protected his reputation like security guards at the U.S. Mint.

The sports world has always had its share of problem players, although the numbers seem to be increasing, particularly in the NFL, which has seen dozens of players arrested during the off-season.

Nevertheless, sports play an important role in our society, and we should focus on the benefits, not the bad apples.

All together now
It sounds cliché, but playing a sport really does teach kids what it means to be a team player, something that will serve them well in their work careers.

Where are you going?
Competitive sports are all about setting team and individual goals — making the team, hitting .300, placing at regionals, winning the league championship, etc. — and working toward those targets.

See you tomorrow
It takes discipline to run, swim laps, or practice putting every day. And the more you practice, the better you become — teaching athletes that hard work pays off.

Good sports
More than ever, amateur sports are teaching kids to win gracefully and lose with dignity. They’ll all face a life full of successes and failures, and the lessons they learn on the sports field will teach them how to deal with each.

Character building
While the news is full of examples of athletes behaving badly, you’ll also see positive stories:

  • Players who visit hospitalized children
  • Athletes volunteering in the community
  • Coaches giving a kid with a disability a chance to play in a real game

Good coaches teach more than sports skills; they teach life lessons.

Howdy, neighbor
Following a local teams builds a sense of community. Whether it’s a Friday night football game or a Tuesday afternoon field hockey match, a sporting event is a great opportunity to meet new people and connect with friends.

Lifelong friends
Joining a team gives kids, particularly shy ones, a chance to make friends. Wearing the same uniform immediately offers something in common, and sharing  a goal (see above) builds bonds.

Your turn. What did you learn by playing a sport?

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50 things to celebrate this Independence Day

America is truly the land of the free and the home of the brave. There are many things that make this country special. Here are 50 of them:

    1. Democracy
    2. Norman Rockwell
    3. Our 50 states
    4. Firefighters, rescue personnel, and police
    5. The Grand Canyon
    6. The American dream
    7. Picnics
    8. Freedom of speech
    9. M&M’s
    10. Summer vacation
    11. The Constitution
    12. Niagara Falls
    13. The Greatest Generation, our WWII veterans
    14. The East and West Coasts
    15. Baseball
    16. Blue collar Americans
    17. Disney
    18. Fireworks on the 4th
    19. The Statue of Liberty
    20. Hamburgers and fries
    21. New England
    22. Mount Rushmore
    23. Farmers
    24. The Rocky Mountains
    25. Presumption of innocence
    26. Milk shakes
    27. Teachers
    28. Route 66
    29. Barbeques
    30. Seinfeld
    31. Our military personnel
    32. Redwood trees
    33. The founding fathers
    34. Drive in theaters
    35. Apple
    36. New York City
    37. The Grinch
    38. Facebook
    39. Health care workers
    40. Wrigley Field
    41. County fairs
    42. Bruce Springsteen
    43. High school football
    44. Mark Twain
    45. Cheerios
    46. Lincoln Memorial
    47. Bigfoot sightings
    48. U.S. Olympians
    49. Kids
    50. Fall apple picking

Your turn. What’s on your list of the great things about America?

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South earns its reputation for hospitality

I recently spent a week in the Deep South, exposed to a culture and lifestyle that differs greatly from that of my home state of Maine.

While the food was heavier (think deep fried pickles) and the pace a bit slower than what we’re use to in the Northeast, the courtesy of the people lived up to its reputation.

People at nearly every turn and every venue, from Atlanta Braves staff to passengers on public transportation, were exceedingly polite to this visitor, with extra helpings of Sir and Thank you. After a few days, I began to think my humble Thank You was insufficient, and started adding a Ma’am or Sir.

The South certainly doesn’t have an exclusive on courtesy — I’ve seen shop owners in New York City go far out of their way to help a tourist — but in terms of consistency, the South gets my vote.

I wonder if the common denominator is that Southerners see people as fellow human beings, while those in the fast-pace, always-on-the-go Northeast see coworkers, vendors, and customers. Either way, it speaks to the power of culture, and its impact on the smallest of interactions.

Your turn. What differences have you seen among cultures or regions?

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