Thursday, January 30, 2014

Celebration Day

I did not watch the Grammy’s and from what I hear, I didn’t miss much. But odd timing in that I just got Celebration Day from the library – Led Zeppelin’s Grammy winner for best rock album for a Live recording made in 2007. Huh?

Anyway I was looking forward to listening so this morn I popped it in the CD player on my way to work.

I like Led Zeppelin a lot; mostly their first two albums. But apart from the oddness of a 2007 recording getting a 2013 award … what gives?

For starters their timing is just way off. Plant starts singing too soon, leaves out entire sections of lyrics and well he just doesn’t have his old voice anymore. (His voice works just fine with Alison Kraus and I fully expect him to do something with his latest girl, Patty Griffin and I’m sure that will be good too) Mr. Page still has pretty good guitar chops and that kid, Jason Bonham is every bit the drummer his father was and more. But collectively they just don’t hold up.

If Led had never won a Grammy before or somebody just died I’d understand how this was needed. But they are in the Hall of Fame, nobody questions their impact on rock-and-roll and their standing as one of the top bands of all time, so why?


I am still reading “Thank You For Your Service”; an excruciatingly painful and hard book to read but I feel like I owe it to somebody to finish it. The stories are sad and what makes it even sadder is that there are bound to be hundreds more than the ones told in the book.

This morning (after a brief listen to some Led Zeppelin) I popped Guy Clark in the CD player. Not much better than good ole Texas music. Somewhere in the middle I heard this:

"Heroes" by Guy Clark

He brought the war home with him.
Still got sand in his boots.
He's wrestling with the demons and the cold hard truth.
And something ain't right about him.
He came back different.
Something in his eyes said he'd seen too much,
Something in his leg said he'd had enough.

Heroes, everybody needs heroes.
Even heroes need a little help.
Heroes can't always be heroes.
Who's gonna save the hero from himself?

He had a picture from Baghdad, with him and his buddies.
They're just horsin' around, gettin' ready.
One by one, he watched them die.
Just scared kids and he don't know why.
He's the only one to make it out alive.

Heroes, everybody needs heroes.
Even heroes need a little help.
Heroes can't always be heroes.
Who's gonna save the hero from himself?

Ten thousand clicks away in his head
He could smell the smoke, he could smell the dead
A silver star and a pistol in a drawer
Morphine just ain't working no more.

Heroes, everybody needs heroes.
Even heroes need a little help.
Heroes can't always be heroes.
Who's gonna save the hero from himself?

When I was a kid, we knew some folks and occasionally the phrase “shell-shocked” would be used to describe one of the men in my family’s circle of friends. The problems have newer names and initials but I guess as long as we send men and women to war, some of them are going to come back damaged beyond repair.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Sycamore Row

I've been reading John Grisham since The Firm which caused me to back up to his first novel, A Time to Kill, which still ranks as one of my all-time favorite books.

I usually read all his books except for Calico Joe and something else set in Italy.

So I had high hopes for a fun "can't-put-this-one-down" read of Sycamore Row, his latest.

Sorry to say, I didn't have the patience to stick this one out. I read less and less fiction all the time but this promised to have lots of money, greed, family issues, a clever legal case and as usual some sort of racial component. Plus it has been billed as a sequel of sorts to A Time To Kill.

I read about 75 pages and found myself looking for some other book to pick up first before I settled on this. I just wasn't able to care about the characters. Maybe I should try again; not sure but reluctantly I returned it to the library today. I was faced with paying a 25 cents-per-day fine to keep it and it just wasn't worth it.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Split Second Decisions and Instinct

Friday night I was heading out to pick up my daughter at a local church pizza party. There was still some ice/snow/slush frozen on the roads but not too bad.

The first half mile to our little town is hilly. As I topped one, I was startled to see a neighbors truck and horse trailer sort of sideways in the road trying to come up the hill toward me. Standing next to the trailer was Michelle.

Instinctively I hit the brakes (mistake #1 on the downhill side of a hill covered with aforementioned ice etc.) I started to slide of course. My next worry was hitting either Michelle or Carl's truck or trailer. Did I mention he has a prize-winning cutting-horse inside?

All I could do was try to guide my slide (clever phrase huh?) so I headed to the ditch on the side of the road. It's not a deep ditch but more of a swale to handle water runoff and stuff. That slowed me down but not before I hit something that made a loud "thunk." Almost immediately a tire pressure warning light came on so I assumed I had blown out a tire. But first things first, I had to get down the hill without hitting anybody.

I made it down OK and stopped to get out and go back and see if there was anything I could do to help and all. Carl and Michelle had things under control so after exchanging a few words, I headed onward to pick up my daughter.

(Note: I did not blow out a tire. I guess it "knocked the breath" out of it, enough to make a warning light come on but nothing else. I crawled under my tiny car yesterday to see if I had damaged anything and could not find anything so ...)

Follow me here.

Some of our friends and relatives know we have a daughter with Asperger's; that thing that used to be its own diagnosis but now is lumped back in with Autism per the DSM 5 revisions.

Asperger's, if it is anything, requires some counter-intuitive actions and responses. I can't tell you how many times I get into a situation and try to do the right thing, the common sense thing but it backfires. We've all been in certain situations dozens of times and when certain things happen, we do or say certain responsive things.

With my daughter, I need to take a beat and NOT do the routine, instinctive thing. I'm not talking reverse psychology or trying to fool her, just NOT doing the normal neuro-typical thing every time.

So my object lesson from my slip-and-slide (and hopefully going forward), don't always let my gut or my instincts rule. It almost got me in trouble when instead of remembering I was on slick snow/ice etc. and thinking DON'T HIT THE TRUCK/WOMAN/TRAILER, I should have thought to slow myself down considering the conditions first, then work on avoidance. If I couldn't have controlled my slide, I was going to hit somebody/something anyway.

As parents, we usually know what to do or say. But sometimes (even with non-Asperger's children!) it doesn't always work out right.

As for Asperger's, my 2014 goal is to think first, then speak or act; if necessary. Going to be tough for me. I'll let you know how it goes.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Stitches and The Things They Carried

As 2013 ended I wrapped up two books; just two of the countless books I've read this year: Stitches by Anne Lamott and The Things They Carried by Tim O'Brien.

I've read several of Ms. Lamott's and while this one was OK for me, not my favorite. Still full of her own brand of wisdom, insight and slant on Christianity. She's not going to be for everybody but if you can take a little irreverence with your take on Christian life, then proceed. Help, Thanks, Wow! (her previous book) was more readable and applicable.

To O'Brien. I can not explain my fixation on the Vietnam War but I enjoy reading most everything I can find about it. But this one will go to the top (or near top) of my favorites list.

It's certainly different. For the first few chapters, it reads normal; i.e. laid out like others; albeit one of the better written "novels" about Vietnam I can recall. I put novel in quotes because somewhere it shifted to a different genre or type for me. In film they talk about not piercing the 4th wall; the one that separates viewers from actors. O'Brien crashes right through it. And by the end, I'm not always sure if I'm reading stuff he made up (fiction) or reported. He talks about "true stories" and how sometimes there is more truth in the story (all, much or some of it made up) versus the truth which we might expect (yea, right!) from a journalist.

So my guess or interpretation is that for some of his Vietnam experience and the stories that arise from it, he uses traditional narrative in novel form to convey those truths. For other perhaps less-true stories, he resorts to reportage.

Either one is fine for me and I read plenty of both. It is just rare to encounter both of them in the same book and where chapter divisions don't always make it clear exactly where we are going and where we've been.

Regardless, if you are interested in war "fiction", Vietnam or in general just plain old good writing, find a copy. It is not new; written in late 80s I think.