growing up, music biz, politics

A More Perfect Union

I grew up surrounded by unions; union-made clothing, union-employed family members, unionized teachers, union awareness… I vividly remember the grape boycott in the 1960s due to the farm workers’ strike. https://www.history.com/news/delano-grape-strike-united-farm-workers-filipinos My first paychecks had union dues deducted from the net – the woman who trained us to be cashiers at E.J.Korvette was a die-hard union gal! There were jingles on the radio; “Look For The Union Label” and films like NORMA RAE and THE PAJAMA GAME presented unions in a supportive light.

I joined Local 802 of the American Federation of Musicians in 1973 and worked “on the card” as much as possible. While I never got a gig from hanging out at Roseland, I went through reams of manuscript in my years as a music copyist and joined AFTRA & SAG when I began singing on recording sessions. When I moved to Chicago, I joined 10-208 – when we moved to Los Angeles, I joined Local 47.

With my own favorable experiences working in unions, I was distressed when Ronald Reagan (a former SAG union president himself!) took aim at the air controllers union in the early 1980s. Workers’ unions have always been under attack, but especially so over the past 40 years, as politicians and corporations have tried to divide us by vilifying the very idea of workers pulling together to demand safe work conditions and fair wages. (the nerve! how DARE we?)

There have been as many changes to unions over the years as there have been to the world at large, and some of them are not positive; more than once we’ve brought a problem to the union and not had our concerns taken seriously, or taken at ALL! (I’m remembering a New Year’s Eve gig where I had a signed contract with a club and got stiffed… and then there was the time the union didn’t follow up on thousands of dollars in residuals that were due to us and the singers we’d hired! A Dime A Dozen). Graft and corruption have seeped into the handling of pension plans, for example, and, as in many other business dealings, there’s always been the tendency for contractors to hire others on the basis of friendship (or kickback!) rather than merit.

But most musicians I know have only fantasized about enacting some of the behavior in ON THE WATERFRONT. In a more perfect world, unions would be more perfect, but in the world we actually HAVE, they are plenty good enough.

AND should be done under safe conditions, with fair wages!
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music biz, politics, Jingles

Deconstructing The Con

Lately I’ve come across some interesting recordings while archiving old cassettes to mp3s on my computer – including jingles I composed over 40 years ago. This has led me to ponder the “art of persuasion” that is advertising itself.

Not as overt as 3-card monte, the jingle is still a bit of a con, as it makes assumptions; about who you are, what you need, your self-image and identity, and a host of other attributes that the advertiser hopes will lead you to embrace their product, service or idea.

…with special attention to #3, #14, #16, #21, #22 and #30!

The following lyrics were for a Honda motorcycles pitch, and the only “given” from the ad agency was the tagline “what life oughta be”; an idealistic, dreamy message, full of hope and promise. My first attempt:


I was told this was too confrontational, ominous and maybe even a little threatening. So, back at the drawing board, I softened the message:

(You can see I was pretty enamored with the phrase “dreamin’ out loud” and wasn’t going to give it up without a fight!) But my attempt to express the urgency of how riding a Honda would change your life tracked as impatience – the underlying message being WTF is WRONG with you? Get GOING already! So – once again, a new tune with a more authoritative “leadership” narrative and slightly less punitive tone:

Ultimately I don’t think I managed to capture the right balance of the Carrot & Stick approach because I didn’t sell any of these jingles, but I certainly tried! Listening to them now, I can’t help but notice the similarities between my ultimatum messages (of life fulfillment-via-motorcycle) and that of the Trump re-election campaign; the promise of making America “Great Again!” coupled with the threat of dystopian apocalypse should anyone else win the White House.

With this much apparently at stake, it behooves us to remember that there’s only one sure-fire way to win at 3-card monte:

Refuse To Play!
Just walk away!
If the Associated Press says it, it MUST be true!?!
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music biz, growing up, politics, family

The Mail Must Go Thru

All the current scuttlebutt about destroying the Post Office brings to mind the many times I’ve interacted with the USPS; from early childhood I remember how special it was to receive a card or letter from Nana – with MY NAME on the envelope! – and how I signed up for penpals thru ‘TEEN magazine (which I subscribed to and received in the mail every month!!)

Getting mail is a privilege and a right for Americans thru our Constitution and it’s illegal and immoral to attempt to destroy this precious service that helps us communicate and stay connected.

Over the years I wrote and received letters and cards I treasure to this day; a letter from a neighbor who had moved away, encouraging me to keep writing poems and songs when I was a teenager, a stack of love letters and greeting cards from when my husband and I were courting, the final PAID-IN-FULL invoice from my college loans, and decades of letters from my dad… might not matter to anyone else but they sure mean a lot to ME!

One of my favorite memories of receiving mail was when Mark and I lived in NYC and would receive thick envelopes every month or two from his dad, who lived in Tucson. Enclosed with his note would be a stack of coupons he’d clipped from newspapers and magazines. In the early 1980s, Tucson was a test market for a lot of new products, so there would be coupons for items we’d never even heard of…! Dad LOVED his bargains and we felt like we could splurge trying out new things because we had those coupons he’d sent to us!

Mostly we knew he was thinking of us, and that was the best thing of all. Nothing takes the place of a letter from home.

We depend on our postal service to ship our sheet music and CD recordings to our customers. Reliance on the USPS is a non-partisan issue; personal and professional. The difficulties being heaped on our postal service now are indefensible; at every turn, postal employees are being cheated, service hours are being truncated and critical deliveries are being delayed. Today I spoke with our carrier who delivered a shipment from Germany, bills and advertising circulars and a box of vitamin supplements – and I reassured her, “we have your back. We’re union people, too. And America will not let the postal service die!”

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music, politics

I sang with Gabby Giffords tonight

There are heroes in our midst and sometimes they just appear from the dark on a Sunday evening in the park.

In addition to the fresh air, one of the greatest pleasures of attending an outdoor concert by the Tucson Pops is conductor László Veres. He is a man of steady habits; every Pops concert begins with The Star Spangled Banner and ends with the gorgeous Carmen Dragon arrangement of America The Beautiful. Every time I hear them, I get a little choked up. Between those two selections, there may be musical trips to other lands, but they’re always colored by the affection the Maestro has for the USA; he makes the audience proud and glad to be in America, just as he is.

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The Maestro is a naturalized American citizen who escaped from his native Hungary during the Holocaust, and he treasures his adopted country with a fierce passion that’s apparent in everything from his repertoire choices to his stories and patter between numbers. He’s written an excellent autobiography about it:  No Regrets.   László is a survivor, much like our former congresswoman, Gabrielle Giffords.

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We sang “Edelweiss” from THE SOUND OF MUSIC, accompanied by the Tucson Pops Orchestra in Reid Park tonight. After the intermission, Gabby had ridden up on her recumbent bike nearby to where we were seated and while the audience hummed the tune, her voice rang out clear and strong through the dark, unmistakably Gabby; “Blossom of snow, may you bloom and grow… bless our homeland forever”.  It brought me to tears, knowing how she has blessed Arizona with her leadership, and continues to bless the world with her example of fortitude and courage.

I just had to tell her how much we love her – how much it means to see her persisting in spite of challenges – how much strength it gives me to know that she’s still with us, carrying on with grace and perseverence. And how much I want her husband Captain Mark Kelly to become Senator Kelly (AZ). And how wonderful it would be to hear President Giffords sing “Edelweiss” someday.

It could happen, I assure you. Tonight, after we sang together, I shook her hand, and she’s one strong woman!

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politics

Vacationing In SorkinWorld

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I didn’t watch Sports Night when it first ran on ABC from 1998-2000 – having never been a fan of sports, I figured it just wasn’t for me. But I’d enjoyed Aaron Sorkin’s writing in A Few Good Men and The American President, and then experienced the buffering relief that The West Wing brought to the Dubya Years; watching smart people doing admirable things for the best reasons was a balm for my soul. So eventually I got around to appreciating Sports Night, to the extent that we purchased the DVD set, to be able to revisit the characters again whenever we wanted.

And lately, we have wanted… in a big way.  The nonstop insanity of current events has made it imperative to once again spend time with the fast-talking smartypants-es at CSC, reveling in their rapid-fire banter, good humor and mutual admiration. I can overlook Sorkin’s inability to create multi-dimensional female characters who, though bright and beautiful, can never manage to handle their love lives with any degree of aplomb. And I don’t have any trouble with his personal drug struggles, as I’ve been battling a few addictive tendencies of my own this lifetime. The show reminds me of happier times when I, too, was employed in an office filled with creative types who were passionate about their work; when choices were at least sometimes made on the basis of meritocracy, and not totally on nepotism, greed and self-interest.

I know we can’t turn back time, but I like that I can at least visit, 22-minutes at a pop.

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growing up, Home, politics, self-acceptance

Why Can’t a Moose be President?

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I became aware of the “double standard” pretty early, but I was stunned when my dad explained dating once I hit puberty; he told me that many men see women as “pieces of meat”, as that had been his experience growing up and especially while serving in the US Marine Corps during WWII. In my early teens, I had a great deal of resistance to this idea; having read a lot of magazines, my head had been filled with romantic notions, aided and abetted by pop songs of the 50s and 60s. Even back then, “I Want To Hold Your Hand” sounded pretty innocent and non-threatening.

It often takes me a while to process difficult emotions, and this past year has been especially challenging in that regard. Like every woman I know, I’ve been sexually harassed, and although such abusive treatment has diminished in my advancing years, it’s still a fact of life which grieves me deeply, as I’d hoped we would have made more progress as a society in regards to treating ALL people equally and equitably. Alas, that has not been the case – a fact that has been rubbed in our collective faces, especially since Election 2016 when DT became PussyGrabber in Chief.

I almost wish I could just point the finger at “toxic masculinity” and leave it at that, but I think that having the inequities of our society in such bold relief, in regards to race as well as gender, has encouraged intolerance and contempt for one another. It’s no surprise to me that more people are coming forward these days with their stories of being molested – there have always been “dirty old men”, but as I feared, these men have become emboldened by the so-called leadership of our country. It’s now officially Open Season  on the female gender. What else can we do besides #metoo ?

I’ve recently taken comfort in revisiting YouTube videos featuring kinder, gentler men from my youth, the cadence of their voices and the kindness in their demeanor – men like Art Linkletter, (whose warmth and humor reminds me of my uncle Larry), Mr. Rogers, who liked you “just the way you are”, and my favorite, Captain Kangaroo  The Captain sang, told sweet stories, dealt with challenging cohorts like Dancing Bear and Bunny Rabbit – he even did his own housekeeping! And he featured the absolute BEST political candidate: Mr. Moose – whose campaign promise, “if you elect me, every American will have antlers! (or uncles!?) … and all of our friends will be bunny rabbits!”

Sounds a lot better to me than promoting pussy-grabbing.

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politics

Getting Past the First Chakra

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When I was younger, I was too involved in pursuing my music career (and love life!) to pay much attention to politics; I avoided it, actually – since I didn’t have a TV, chose to listen only to music on the radio, didn’t read newspapers regularly and didn’t care much for current events. I’d been broken-hearted by the 1968 election results and my time as a protester was very short…

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I marched against the war on Washington, DC, along with a million other students in November 1969 – but the Vietnam War didn’t end until “they” were ready to end it in 1973. 

and I didn’t vote until strongly encouraged by my husband in 1980.  Like many millions of Americans, even just a few years ago I could never have imagined that THIS clown would ever be even nominally the Leader of the Free World:

You'reFired!

Every day I see that more people are turning off the news due to overload on our current political climate. Hallmark Channel viewership surge  While we want and need to know what’s going on in the world, #45 and his colleagues continue to demand our attention with a daily assault on our country. Nonstop crisis is overwhelming and we need to reclaim our consciousness from these bullies.

What I’ve been feeling this year is a lack of safety. I know I can’t return to the 1970s, just tuning out the news entirely, but I want to cut WAY back on my consumption of the sensationalism that pervades our culture right now.

With the shenanigans going on in our government, no one can afford to be completely uninformed, but I know I’ve got to feel safer to explore the higher chakras, so I’m going to resist the clickbait and start tuning out more often.

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Home, politics

My Undumpy White House

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As accustomed to the frequent barrage of BS from the current administration as I’m becoming, I confess to being more than a little taken aback by #45’s critique on Tuesday of his current digs; “That White House is a real dump.” Over the past 196 days, #45 has said and done some doozies, but something about dissing The White House itself, a spectacular home which is paid for by our taxes, just boggles my mind. I picture him leaving his dirty socks all over the West Wing, littering the White House with greasy fast food wrapping, the way he’s been littering our country with trashy hate-filled speech and Twitter tweets.

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The comment kept coming to mind the past couple days, until it occurred to me to consider my own concept of “home”. And I realized with a start that MY home is my body – where I live, the physical manifestation of my being – and that in the past I have been treating MY White House as “a real dump” – every time I don’t take care of it. Every time I overindulge in food or decide to stay up too late or make myself jittery with too much coffee. Every time I blow off exercise and fritter away hours window-shoppping and doing stupid puzzles online. I’m offended at #45’s lack of respect for his home because I’ve been disrespecting my own home.

I’m actually grateful for the wake-up call. I can only hope that #45 will tune in and hear himself as clearly as I am hearing him now. Because where we live is NOT a dump, unless we make it so. You don’t have to be a billionaire to figure that one out!

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politics, religion

I Am Spartacus! (I hope!?)

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When I saw the news item about the next administration establishing a Muslim registry, I was aghast and thought, “well then, we ALL must register as Muslims! They can’t eliminate ALL of us!” And I would so like to think I’ll have the courage to do just that, should this registry of Muslims in the USA actually come to pass (tho I keep hoping that the Electoral College will do the right thing and elect the person who actually won the popular vote in last week’s election!)

screen-shot-2016-11-19-at-3-26-35-amI remember marching against the Vietnam war in November 1969 – standing with so many other people for hours, freezing my toes in stylish but totally inappropriate moccasins. I was ready, willing and able to hitchhike from Storrs, CT to Washington, D.C. because it was a stupid war that had already claimed the lives of my fellow students, with no end in sight – and it was the right thing to do. I took all kinds of chances those days – I was young and felt invincible!

My 17-year-old self would have had no problem signing up for this commitment to register as a Muslim, in protest. I was raised as an atheist (who got to enjoy all the “candy and dress-up holidays” like Halloween and Easter, as well as the “gift and feast holidays” like Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s), became intrigued by Christian Science and joined the Mother Church, and then got baptized as a Lutheran… at this point, I’m pretty much convinced nobody really cares what I believe or who/what I worship! (and since this is America, what business is it of theirs, anyway?)

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I tell myself I should just sign up and be counted as someone who won’t allow this Muslim registry thing to happen without a fight. But then I think back on the most recent election cycle; how divisive and ugly it got and continues to be – how I didn’t see a single bumper sticker for either party on any vehicles, and only a few lawn signs anywhere – how even now, 10 days later, no one seems to want to reveal their own political leanings until they know how the other person voted.

So even though I live in a very safe, quiet neighborhood, I feel more vulnerable now than I felt living by myself in NYC in the 70s, walking home in the dark from a gig, getting ogled and catcalled by strangers, slapping away creepy hands on the subway. I feel targeted, even though I’m gray-haired and overweight, that I could be pussy-grabbed or worse by some newly emboldened jerk. I’m concerned that hateful acts may happen to me and my loved ones should no one else stand up and cry out, “I’m Spartacus!

But I’m even more afraid to live in fear, in a country dominated by racism, sexism and xenophobia. Guess it’s time to take a refresher course at Model Mugging!

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learning, politics

How Could It Be A Blessing?

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Oil On Water – Anamaria Campbell

I’m wracking my brain trying to figure out how Election 2016 could be a blessing – because to me it appears disastrous not only for our country but all of humanity. And yet the laws of spiritual reality insist that it MUST “work together for good” somehow.

What has been brutally uncovered in this political campaign? For starters, the confusion, ignorance, pain and fear of millions of my fellow Americans. Maybe it’s a blessing their distress has been brought to light so graphically. Maybe it’s better that we actually KNOW how many racist, misogynistic, homophobic and ignorant sentiments infect the hearts of so many of our citizens. Maybe this becoming known and felt is the only way we can become educated and compassionate enough to change?

Maybe it’s a blessing for the media to confront the way they misused their power; perhaps the news outlets will realize the folly of hyping the “drama” of this election for advertising revenue at the expense of actually reporting the NEWS truthfully and even-handedly?

It could be a blessing if enough citizens reawaken to the preciousness of our democracy – the value of the vote, so that the 46% of eligible voters who were “no-shows” this time around actually take the time and make the effort to educate themselves on the candidates and issues and weigh in next time!?

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Oil Upon Troubled Waters – Aurelius Cat

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